Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the domains/URLs Category

All About Domains (Infographic)

What is a domain? And how is it different from a website?

A domain corresponds to a physical location on the Internet. It’s analogous to a street address. And in that analogy, your website is like the building at that street address. For example, an address may be 135 Main St. But what’s there could be an office building, parking garage, a mansion, or small house. In this analogy, 135 Main St. is comparable to a domain, and the building that resides there is comparable to a website.

You might think of your domain as the brand name of your website. You may change your website (and probably should every few years) but your domain typically remains the same.

For a new business, selecting a domain name is very important. In the past we’ve suggested some rules for selecting a domain. A few years later, the Search Engine Institute came out with their own rules, which didn’t differ greatly from our own.

There’s actually a lot more to know about domains

The folks at Hosting Tribunal have published a very informative info graphic on the subject. Here it is.

Everything you ever wanted to know a bout domain names (almost).

Join the conversation — share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Need some help getting your own domain to show up better in Google? Reach out to Rank Magic — we can help!

Protect Your SEO Investment: Own Your Domain

True Story: A Cautionary Tale of Domain Ownership

Do you know who owns your business’s domain name?

A client of mine was a local chiropractic center. They had a reasonably acceptable website, but it had never been optimized. Without SEO, they just did not show up in search. To fix that, they hired us to optimize their site. When it came time to apply our optimization to their site, they had a falling out with their website design company. It was so bad that they decided they needed to move to a new company to host and support their website.

Their old web person had registered their domain for them; let’s call it LocalChiropractor.net. When it came time to move it, their web person wouldn’t allow it, wanting to retain the income for hosting the website. Suddenly it became clear that this client did not own their domain name. Their web company had registered it in their own name and refused to release it.

Aarrgghh! Domain ownership isn't always obvious to a small business owner. But it's important.

Make sure you own your own domain name.

Moving to a brand-new domain name would have caused them to lose all SEO benefits and search visibility that had been earned by the old website. Only because they had no visibility at all yet did they really have nothing to lose. And fortunately for them their web company had registered them a .net domain name. Having a .com domain instead of a .net domain is important for small business.  Fortunately, I was able to help them register LocalChiropractor.com which matched their previous domain except with .com. We optimized that and they now have enviable visibility on Google.

If this client had earned good Google rankings on their old domain, all of that would have been lost and they would been starting from scratch. It would have taken them many months to catch up to where they had been before.

Moral of the story

Make sure you, and not your website or marketing company, own your own domain name. It’s your business and you’re entitled to full control. If you’re not sure, check with whoever registered your domain for you.

We welcome you to join the conversation in the Comments section below.

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Finally, how do you show up when someone searches for you without knowing your company name? It’s easy to find out! Just click here.

Make Your Small Business Website Secure with HTTPS

HTTPS padlock icon

What is HTTPS?

Many normal website URLs start with HTTP:// which specifies the standard language for a browser to download a website.

Unfortunately, that’s not secure enough to protect things like your login to your bank or any other site where you share important information like credit card numbers.

A secure site begins with  HTTPS://. HTTPS encrypts all the data between the browser and the website, protecting it from prying eyes. You should always check before filing out forms with sensitive information; the easiest way is to look for the green closed padlock symbol to the left of the URL.

What if my site doesn’t take credit cards?

It feels like it shouldn’t matter for a small business website that never asks for anything sensitive like a social security number or credit card. Therefore, why bother? Why spend money to change your site?

The Google logo.Because Google cares! As far back as 2014 Google said they were using it as a ranking signal and that they would weigh it more and more heavily as time went on.

Moz reported in 2016 that the portion of HTTPS sites on the first page of Google results had increased from about 5% to about 30%. Surely it’s even higher now.

Why small businesses need HTTPS

As a small business owner, you understand how tough it is to compete with larger, more established competitors. Every little thing that helps you rank better against them is critical to your business. Even though HTTPS is not yet one of the half dozen strongest ranking signals on Google, it’s getting more important day by day. I believe now is the time it’s become important enough that it needs to be addressed, and earlier this year I converted this website to HTTPS.

Even your local small business competitors may be getting the jump on you by securing their own websites. You don’t want to be late to the party. Just see how widely this has become a “best practices” tool for you.

How tough is it to do?

Here are the three steps involved, thanks to Amy Gideon at TAG Online, Inc.

Step 1: Obtain a secure certificate.  The type of certificate can vary depending upon your hosting company and the level of security you want and need. So make sure to first check with your web hosting company on what type of certificate you need.

HTML coding may be required to make your site secure.Step 2: Once the certificate is installed, update your site to ensure that all links within the site are relative That means if your site displays an image called photo.jpg, the code that makes that image appear should be (assuming the image resides in the main directory): <img src=”/photo.jpg”>  as opposed to <img src=“http://www.yoursite.com/photo.jpg>. This is good practice for many reasons, but it also prevents the site from loading non-secure images, as the “http://” prefix will no longer work and would be insecure. Also update your site to ensure that there are no links or references that display content (PDFs or images, for example) linked from outside sites that are not secure. Here is a link to a tool that will scan your website for non-secure content: https://www.jitbit.com/sslcheck/.

Step 3: Test your site using HTTPS: if the green lock appears in the browser, then you can ask your web hosting company to redirect all requests to HTTP to now go to HTTPS.

Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or have your webmaster  do it, it’s time and effort well spent.

Comments, opinions, and disagreements are all welcome below. Join the conversation!

Need help with this or other aspects of optimizing your website? Give us a call.

Too Many Keywords In Your URL?

Keywords in your URL are a good thing.

Keywords in your URLHaving keywords in your URL can help your rankings. For example, our web page describing the value and process of building inbound links to help with rankings has this URL: https://www.rankmagic.com/seo/link-building.shtml.  It contains the keywords SEO and link building.

But blog posts in particular can get pretty long because often by default the entire title of a blog post becomes part of the URL. For example, our blog post titled 6 Ways Small Business Owners Can Get More From Their SEO has this rather long URL:https://www.rankmagic.com/blog/2013/09/6-ways-small-business-owners-can-get-seo/

Is that URL too long?

A few years ago, Stephan Spencer published an interview with Matt Cutts (“The Google Guy”) and that very question came up. Since we often recommend our clients establish and maintain a blog because of the many ways it can help search engine rankings, I thought it would be good to address this now. Here’s what Matt had to say about that:

If you can make your title four- or five-words long – and it is pretty natural. If you have got a three, four or five words in your URL, that can be perfectly normal. As it gets a little longer, then it starts to look a little worse. Now, our algorithms typically will just weight those words less and just not give you as much credit.

The thing to be aware of is, ask yourself: “How does this look to a regular user?” – because if, at any time, somebody comes to your page or, maybe, a competitor does a search and finds 15 words all strung together like variants of the same word, then that does look like spam, and they often will send a spam report. Then somebody will go and check that out.

So, I would not make it a big habit of having tons and tons of words stuffed in there, because there are plenty of places on a page, where you can have relevant words and have them be helpful to users – and not have it come across as keyword stuffing.

Would something like 10 words be a bit too much, then?

It is a little abnormal. I know that when I hit something like that – even a blog post – with 10 words, I raise my eyebrows a little bit and, maybe, read with a little more skepticism. So, if just a regular savvy user has that sort of reaction, then you can imagine how that might look to some competitors and others.

There you have it. Don’t go too overboard with using keywords in your page file names and URLs, but within reason there’s nothing wrong with ensuring you have essential keywords in them.

Do you have any thoughts on Keyword rich URLS? Let us know in the comments below.

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Why Did Your Nice, New Website Destroy Your Search Rankings?

Loss of RankingsIt’s sad to say, but we see this all too often. An old website gets a facelift, and the new site looks great. But it’s not long before the website owner notices that they’re no longer getting any business from people finding them on the web. What happened?

We’ve written before about why good SEO consultants make lousy web designers, and vice versa, and there are just some SEO techniques that great web designers don’t really think much about.

The two mistakes that kill your online visibility

There are two main factors that govern where you rank in the search engines: Relevance and Reputation. A significant problem with either one of them will cost you rankings in the search engines.

Keyword relevanceRelevance

During the website redesign, the text copy on your pages may be updated. Certainly the HTML code behind the pages is changed. It’s not at all uncommon for the new copy to fail to use some of your essential keyword phrases or for them not to be included appropriately in the code. This makes it difficult for search engines to recognize that your page is an appropriate match for those keyword phrases.

The solution to this is to go back to your original optimization recommendations and re-apply them to your webpages.  (You do have optimization recommendations to reapply, don’t you?)

Reputation

This accounts for 40-50% of where you rank in Google. It’s important in other search engines as well, but Google weighs it more heavily than the rest of them. Your reputation (sometimes called  “authority”) is measured by your link popularity:” the number and quality of other websites that link to yours. Over time, the pages on your website have earned significant link popularity, helping them to rank well in the search engines.

URL changes can hurt your rankings

Unfortunately, most website redesign projects result in new URLs for the pages on your website. Without explicit action, all the link popularity earned by you or previous page URLs is simply lost. This is related to the issue of canonicalization we discuss in the SEO portion of our website, as well as in our blog.

The solution is to do the proper kind of “redirect” from the old URL to the new URL so that the new URL can inherit the link popularity and reputation earned by your previous version of the page. There are multiple kinds of redirects that will ensure that anyone who tries to go to your old page will be sent to the new one. But only one kind, the 301 permanent redirect, will also redirect the link popularity value from the old URL to the new one.

Don’t Panic

Don't Panic!

Obviously, if this happens to you you need to jump on it as quickly as possible and get things fixed. Better still would be to anticipate this potential disaster and deal with it before your redesigned website even goes live.

If this has happened to you and you need help recovering from the loss of search rankings, Rank Magic can help.

Has this happened to you? Share your experience in the Comments below.

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