Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the domains/URLs Category

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.

WE hope you’ll  Like, Tweet or +1 this post if you found it helpful.

Even More Unfortunate Domain Names

Does your domain name get you ridiculed?

We’ve written before about webmasters who chose domain names without fully thinking it through. Our first article on the subject was back in 2006. It was pretty amusing, but only a year later there was a new compendium of unfortunate domain name choices.

I thought the rather widespread exposure would result in those domains getting fixed. No such luck. Many of them are back in a new compendium from BoredPanda. Some of the new ones, though are equally striking:

  1. Effective IT Management from RegencyTechnologies
    itscrap.com
  2. A French arborist
    lesbocages.com
  3. Scrap metal recycling
    americanscrapmetal.com
  4. All about North Lake Tahoe
    gotahoenorth.com
  5. A Bait & Tackle Shop
    masterbaitonline.comPay attention to your domain name selection
  6. An emotional healing therapist
    therapistinabox.com
  7. Educational astronomy website
    analemma.org
  8. All about Winters, California
    wintersexpress.com
  9. High tech hardware from Dickson
    dicksonweb.com
  10. Directory of therapists
    therapist.com
  11. Top MP3 songs
    mp3shits.com
  12. A toy consignment service
    kidsexchange.net
  13. Travel website
    choosespain.com
  14. TV personal advice celebrity
    bendover.com
  15. A cafe in Serbia
    bitefartcafe.rs
  16. Language teachers
    teacherstalking.org
  17. A bedspread company
    ladrape.com (Update: Looks like this one has bitten the dust.)
  18. Formal wear for kids
    childrenswear.co.uk

If you’re about to register a new domain …

I wrote a helpful article awhile back listing 5 rules to keep in mind. Perhaps it’s time to add a 6th rule: eliminate alternate unfortunate interpretations.

Like this post? Please Like it or share it with your friends via the links above, or +1 it in the link below. 

Are You At Risk For an Exact Match Domain Slapdown?

For a long time, SEOs and some website owners have known the value of selecting a domain name that exactly matches a keyword that a site is optimizing for. If you want great search rankings for the keyword “NJ real estate lawyer” you might attempt to register the domain NJRealEstateLawyer.com or RealEstateLawyerNJ.com. It used to work very well and the owners of those websites enjoyed a quick and easy path to the top of the search engine rankings.

Are the good times over?

Has your exact match domain gotten you a Google slapdown?

Last fall, Google released its EMD algorithm update. EMD stands for Exact Match Domain, and this update is designed to reduce or eliminate the preference given for domains with an exact keyword match like those above. It’s not designed to penalize them, but just to reduce the tendency to give preferential rankings to low quality or mediocre websites just because their domains were an exact match for a popular keyword.

In our experience, the EMD update has begun to do what’s intended. It doesn’t seem to be 100% effective yet, but the trend is clear: exact match domains no longer own the top rankings. According to an article in Search Engine Journal, these are some notable EMD websites that have seen significantly reduced rankings

  • www.bmicalculatormale.com
  • www.charterschools.org
  • playscrabble.net
  • www.purses.org
  • www.teethwhitening.com

Has this affected you?

If you’re not sure whether this has affected you, you need to do some monitoring of your keyword rankings. If you know you’ve suffered as a result of this update, the solution is to improve the quality of your website with appropriate SEO techniques. A high quality website should not feel any pain from the EMD update.

How to recover

The article linked above at Search Engine Journal has a good list of steps to take to recover from any EMD slapdown you may have suffered. Rather than duplicate them here, I refer you to that article.

Of course, if you need help with any of that, Rank Magic is here for you.