SEO is Not About Ranking First

SEO is no longer about getting your business name in the top search results. I know this will come across as a shock to many people outside of the SEO industry, but think about your user experience with Google. It’s interesting because our SEO expectations are out of alignment with reality. First of all the way we search now is very different from the way we searched a few years back.

We don’t just type tennis shoes into the search bar. Many of us ask a longer type of question. Some of us don’t even use a search engine or browser to ask the question. We use Siri or one of Siri’s sisters instead.

Let’s take a look at a few searches. I searched for tennis shoes and you’ll see that there are 18.3 million results. On the first page Google shows me a list of stores that sell tennis shoes and then a map with local places that sell tennis shoes.


Then I searched using a longer tail keyword “law firms in dc” and still find that many of DC’s top law firms are not on the first page of the search engine results.


So maybe you’re wondering if it’s even possible to rank on the first page of the Google search results? If you’re committed to finding the right long tail keywords, you can definitely rank on the first page of Google. To be completely transparent, you won’t rank for the term “IBM” or “Yahoo” anytime soon. Those are head terms, not long-tail keywords. They are also trademarked, talked about, and dominated by large and established businesses.

Check out this great Quick Sprout post that explains how to rank on a first page of search results for long tail keywords.

Nonprofit SEO – Optimizing On-Page Content and Generating Backlinks

A well-optimized webpage can keep sending high quality traffic to your nonprofit’s online presence years after it was first published. A web page that is search engine optimized is like a little worker bee. However this also means that your SEO work is never done. SEO should be an ongoing process. Web pages can always be better optimized and they should be refreshed to reflect changes in keyword strategy or to adapt to changes in Google’s SERP strategy – and Google is constantly changing SERP priorities.

Start With On-Page SEO

You have the most control over your on-page SEO. You can start by analyzing what you currently have going on. If it’s been a while since you took a look at your keyword list, time for a fresh look. Perhaps your constituents were previously most concerned with improving their professional certification and credentials. But now maybe they may have greater concerns about their options for climate change. One approach is to take a close look at what new issues people may be emailing you about. What are your people talking about on social media? Find out what new questions and concerns they have. Are they asking similar questions but in different ways.

Brainstorm a new list of keywords based on what you learn. Use the keyword list to refresh existing content and build a new topic list. Then start publishing content that reflects your potential constituents’ new priorities.

A second way to do some ground analysis is to grade your website’s current SEO status. HubSpot’s Website Grader will point out some quick wins and areas that need further development. If your pages load slowly, or your site isn’t optimized for mobile, the Grader will let you know. It will also provide some direct SEO tips where it thinks a page is falling short.

Google constantly changes its SEO algorithm and tag properties. Google recently pushed organic results further down the page by inserting a fourth paid ad spot. Google also expanded the character count for titles and meta descriptions. You may want to rework all (or just some) of your organization’s webpage titles and meta description tags to keep up with the changes.

Also review pages to ensure they’re optimized around one choice keyword, and that all your possible tags and headings are SEO-optimized. Do your blog posts tend to be long stretches of text? Write keyword optimized headers (and tag them appropriately — H1, H2, etc.) for a collection of your most relevant posts. Google reads images – do you have alt-text for all of your images? (BTW – did you know that alt-text for images is used by voice recognition systems for reading aloud your pages. As hands-free laws are becoming more strictly enforced, this tag will become important as people rely more on “Siri” and her counterparts to read your organization’s webpages to them while driving, etc.)

Off-Page Backlinks

Backlinks – links from an outside website to your website – validate your website’s authority and are critical for SEO. You can put social sharing icons on all your pages to help people link to your site, but if you want to take your backlink SEO strategy to the next level, you have to get proactive.

Try including some context-specific sharing Call To Action by your social icons. If you have a blog post reviewing popular professional resources that members of your trade organization might use, you can add copy at the end of the post that specifically encourages your colleagues to share this list with their colleagues. “Share this on Facebook:  Fellow CPAs – heads up! Get the new Guide to financial services standards [yourURL]. Will bring in new clients!”

You could also set up an influencer program. Influencers are people who regularly share content to people who fit your target market. You can start your search for influencers at home by looking at your constituents, board members, and corporate partners to find people with some social media traction.

Make sure you don’t overlook people who aren’t yet part of your organization’s family, such as bloggers who write about your industry and relevant online publications. Do some social media research to find bloggers and sites that are also using your keywords or talking about the same issues as your organization.

Reach out to them individually. See if they’ll write a post for you, or interview one of your association’s executives on a hot topic, or write a review on a piece of your organization’s content that would be of particular interest to them. Many online publications are starving for new content. They’re always on the lookout for posts or new content for their sites.

Are you getting into video yet? Video has begun as the next major shift in online consuming habits. Start your YouTube channel with whatever video content you already have: talks at events, constituent testimonials, education videos. Like a blog post, each video has its own set of SEO tags you can use so it gets found. Each video is also another source to link back to your website or blog. Videos are also highly shareable, which means other people will be generating back links for you as well.

Strive for SEO Success

The key is to never be content. With constantly changing constituents and Google’s equally constant adjustments to search results parameters, you can always find ways to build on your past SEO success.

7 Elements of Keyword Research Success

Keyword research should be the very first step of every SEO strategy. You should start by thinking about the words you want to rank for, but the keyword research process can be daunting. This post provides some strategies to keyword research success.

Execute Your Keyword Research Correctly
Researching keywords the right way takes time. Dive into the language that your audience uses. Which words do they use? What terms do they search for? The result of your keyword research should be an extensive list of keywords you would like to rank for. Make sure you update this list regularly. As your audience or products change, so does your keyword strategy.

Aim for Realistic Keywords
Some niches are very competitive. If you’re just starting your website or business, it’s very hard to rank in a competitive keyword niche. If you’re new, you should focus on long tail keywords (which are easier to rank for and have a higher chance to convert).
For example, if you are a yoga instructor, it will be too hard to start ranking for the term ‘yoga’. Find out which aspects of your services and business are unique and try ranking for those terms. Perhaps you specialize in chair yoga for disabled military veterans. Aiming to rank for ‘adaptive yoga or veterans’ could be a good strategy. In that case, you should also aim for ‘disability yoga’, ‘exercises for disable vets’ and so on.
If you have been around in your niche for a little longer and you’re succeeding in ranking on long tail keywords, you could aim to rank for more competitive head terms as well. Ranking for competitive keywords should be part of a long-term successful keyword research strategy.

Use Relevant Keywords
The keywords you are aiming to rank for should be the same words your customers use. You should always use the language of your audience.

Use Singular or Plural Keywords
Always check whether you should use the plural or the singular form of a specific keyword. Should you aim to rank for ‘cupcake’ or for ‘cupcakes’? Do people search for ‘holiday home’ or ‘holiday homes’. Always check whether you should use singular or plural with Google Trends.

Make Sure All Your Keywords Have Traffic
Long tail keywords are a great way to start your keyword strategy. These words gain less traffic, but you’ll have a higher chance to convert your visitors into buyers or returning visitors. People that use specific terms to search for exactly that thing you’re writing about are just a very good match. However, if your keyword is too specific and doesn’t get any traffic, it won’t help your SEO. So make sure to aim for those long tail keywords that actually have some traffic!

Evaluate Your Keyword Research Strategy
If you’re aiming to rank for certain terms, make sure to check whether you succeed. You need to evaluate regularly if people actually find your articles. In order to do so, you should definitely google your proposed focus keyword every now and then.

Focus On More Than One Keyword Per Post
If you write a decent blog post, you could aim to rank for more than one search term. If you’re able to do that (without just stretching it), you should definitely do so.

For a comprehensive list of keyword research tools, I highly recommend Yoast.

SEO Copywriting Mistakes You Should Avoid

Want to rank high in your particular field? SEO copywriting is critical. The copy – the text and words and ideas that make up your website – is the most important driver of website rankings.  If you create lots of unique, high quality content and don’t make the following mistakes, then your site will rank higher for your desired keywords. SEO copywriting is not just about creating blog posts. Make sure you don’t make the following copywriting mistakes:

  1. Not starting with keyword research – SEO copywriting always starts with keyword research. Think about the terms you want to be found for. Yoast has a great detailed free guide on keyword research.
  2. Bad, unoriginal content – content is king. High quality content will probably help you rank faster than any other SEO approach. However, never write content purely for SEO purposes. Remember your ultimate goal – it’s not just to rank high in search results. For most small businesses, the ultimate goal is to convert website visitors into paying clients. Good, readable content that answers prospective client questions will help your SEO as well as helping you increase your client base.
  3.  Keyword stuffing – do not mention your focus keyword in every sentence. It makes the text awful to read and you will risk a Google penalty for over-optimizing your text.
  4. Focusing on only one focus keyword – don’t focus too much on only one keyword. Try to rank for multiple kewords, key phrases and synonyms.
  5. Unreadable texts – copy should always be easy to read. People should be able to understand what it is you’re trying to tell them.

Conclusion on SEO Copywriting Mistakes

SEO copywriting mistakes are made when people don’t focus enough on the quality of the information they are providing. Website text should be informative and should have an original idea. Text should be easy to read. Text should be optimized for search engines without compromising readability.

Connect4 Consulting specializes in SEO copywriting. Contact us for more information.

Get Free Backlinks And Boost Your Search Ranking

A backlink is a link coming from another site to your own website. Some of the backlinks you may have you received passively with no effort of your own, but there are quite a few ways to get free backlinks and boost your search rankings.

Create and maintain a steady blog with great content.

Create great blog content that people naturally want to link to. This is the easiest way to get free backlinks and boost your search rankings.

Link to other blogs on your blog.

Blogs are supposed to be social and informal. The more you link to other blogs, the greater the likelihood that someone you link to will return the favor.

Write guest blog posts.

Writing guest blog posts is another good way to get free backlinks. Most media outlets allow you to submit original articles on topics relevant to their audience. Here are guest blogging instructions for some of the top media outlets online.

Curate and publish helpful resource lists.

Resource lists accomplish two goals – people love to link to them and they often also consist of helpful content for your audience. If you create a comprehensive resource list, it will be easy for other people to link to.

Create case studies.

If you make your clients look great in case studies about their business, they will definitely link to your site. But the key here is that they have to be great. This means choosing companies that have seen the best results (from your work), like you a lot, and know your product or service.

Write book reviews.

If you provide a book review about another author’s content, there’s a good chance they will link to it. Just remember to review the site on your website. There’s no backlink/search rankings value for you with a review somewhere else.

Create slideshare presentations.

Slideshare presentations are popular but content and quality is key. Make sure that whatever you do is compelling. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time. Read this Hubspot guide to nailing your next powerpoint presentation.

Sponsor or speak at an event.

Events usually give their speakers and sponsors great website publicity. You can also negotiate inbound links into your terms to be sure your time and resources yield a marketing boost.


What Are Backlinks and Why Are They Important for SEO?

A backlink or inbound link is a link coming from another site to your website.

The person receiving the link is the one who refers to the link as a backlink. In other words, if someone links to your site, you have a backlink from that person. Backlinks are very different from outbound links (links from your site to another website) and internal links (links from one internal page of your website to another internal page of your website).

Backlinks are important for SEO (search engine optimization) because they:

    • They drive traffic to your website.

If someone posts a backlink on their website to your website, one of their readers might click on it and you will benefit from that referral traffic.

    • They can help you rank higher in search results.

Backlinks tell search engines that your website is an authority on a certain subject. So the more backlinks you have from high quality, high traffic, high authority websites, the better your website will rank in search engine results.

A good inbound link comes from an authoritative website, and uses natural anchor text. Anchor text is simply the text copy that’s hyperlinked, like this. (The anchor text there is “like this.”) Natural anchor text means you’re not just hyperlinking keywords left and right. Google understands the context of a link, so more generic “learn more” and “click here” anchor text can be just as valuable as keyword-optimized anchor text.

Simple tips for getting yourself to appear more often in Google searches

The following tips will help you appear more often in Google searches:

  • Make sure your website is up to date. Make sure it says what you want to say about yourself and your company. If you can change the language every few months (or more regularly) do so.
  • Write a blog and post frequently
  • Contribute content on someone else’s blog as long as your site is linked
  • Get your clients and business partners to link to your website. Make sure the link language is consistent. .org’s and .edu’s carry more weight.

Make sure you have a Google+ page, get people to review you on Google+, create your Google local pages. Even though Google+ is not the success Google hoped it would be, Google is still dominant so Google+ content has Google search value.

SEO Myths That Don’t Work in 2016

SEO – search engine optimization – has changed so much in the past couple of years that many marketers don’t know what’s outdated, what’s still important, what will actually have a positive impact, and what’s just wasted energy.

This post will point out common myths and assumptions about how SEO – search engine optimization – works in 2016, so you can use your energy and time wisely and productively.

Myth #1 – I must submit my website to Google.

The idea that you have to submit your website to Google directly is nonsense. While a brand new site can submit its URL to Google directly, a search engine like Google will still find your site without you submitting it. Whatever you do, don’t pay someone to do this for you.

Myth #2 – More links are better than more content.

In the past, SEO – search engine optimization – worked by building as many links to your site without analyzing the linking domain. It didn’t matter whether the site linked to your site had anything to do with your site content. Links are still a very important part of SEO, but how you build links is more important than the overall number of links. And if there is a choice between creating good content and building links, then you should spend your time and money creating good content. Why? Because people will naturally link to good content. When you invest in content, that content can be used for web pages, blog posts, lead generation offers, and guest posts on other sites – all content types that will bring more links with them over time.

Myth #3 – Having a secure (HTTPS encrypted) site isn’t important for SEO.

Some URLs start with “http://” and others start with “https://”? Maybe you have noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online. Put simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms, which means if your website still relies on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result. For now, however, HTTPS remains a small signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (according to Google). So while it’s clear that Google wants everyone to move over to the more secure HTTPS protocol, don’t worry if you haven’t done it yet. Connect4 Consulting can help you transition to a HTTPS site. Contact us if you want to learn more.

Myth #4 – SEO – Search Engine Optimization – is all about ranking.

While there’s a strong correlation between search results placement and clickthrough rates, ranking is not the supreme end goal that it used to be. There is a big misconception — that higher rankings mean more search traffic. It is true that people will see your listing, but it does not mean you will get more click-throughs. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. You do not have the correct keyword strategy because you are trying to rank for keywords that are unrelated to your field.
  2. Your meta descriptions are not appealing and inviting for the user.

To solve these problems, try using Google Adwords to create a great keyword advertising strategy relating to your business, and be sure to use enticing meta descriptions to get people to the site. It is a good rule of thumb to think about what would entice you to click a link.

Myth #5 – Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings.

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that concisely explain the contents of webpages. Google announced, all the way back in 2009, that meta descriptions (and meta keywords) have no bearing on search rankings. That’s not to say, however, that these descriptions aren’t important for SEO. On the contrary: Meta descriptions present a major opportunity to separate yourself from the riff-raff and convince searchers that your page is worth navigating to. So – meta descriptions are critical for clickthrough rates but they don’t impact search ranking.

Myth #6 – Keyword optimization is THE FOUNDATION of Search Engine Optimization.

It used to be important that you write your content with the keyword incorporated exact match, but Google now uses something called latent semantic indexing (LSI), which was conceived in 2004. With this type of indexing, webpage contents are crawled by the search engine and the most common words or phrases are combined and identified as the keywords of that page. Latent Semantic Indexing also looks for synonyms that related to your target keywords.

Today, it’s important to optimize your page entirely for user experience; this means that you do not have to place your keywords word-for-word in the content. Write the content for the user. By using synonyms and related terms, the search engines will still understand what your goal is. It’s important to realize that Google has moved beyond keywords. Google is trying to understand the intent behind the keywords so it can match intent with relevant, authoritative content.

Myth #7 – Keywords need to be an exact match.

Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content. In a headline, in particular, you only want to use a keyword (or keywords) in a way that makes the most sense to your audience. The goal should be to write a great headline (somewhere between 4-9 words) that clearly explains what a piece of content is about.

Myth #8 – The H1 is the most important element on the page.

It really doesn’t matter what header tag you use, as long as you present your most important concepts upfront and closer to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your page for users first and foremost, which means that you want to tell them ASAP what your page is about through a clear headline.

Myth #9 – My homepage needs a lot of content.

Think of your home page as the gateway to your business. It’s your chance to make a first impression on visitors and tell them what you are all about. Your home page content should be long enough to clarify who you are and what you do, where you’re located, what your value proposition is, and what visitors should do next.

Myth #10 – I need many pages of content.

Some people think that the more pages a site has, the more visitors they will get. Just like link building, creating content for content’s sake won’t get you anywhere. Make sure you focus on content quality and not quantity.

Myth #11 – Good user experience is not a requirement.

If Google sends you to a web page, they want to make sure you have a good experience on that page. They are after all a business too, and thus they want to delight their users. Think about it from the search engine’s point of view: they didn’t create the webpage themselves, but they are endorsing it. They need to ensure that users have a good experience on that page to keep people coming back to Google.

To improve user experience, you will want to focus on:

  • page load time
  • bounce rate
  • time on page
  • page views per visit
  • how far a person scrolls down a page

Myth #12 – Local Search Engine Optimization doesn’t matter anymore.

If you’re a local business, optimizing for local search won’t only help you get found, but it will help you get found by people who are nearby and more likely to buy from you. The bottom line is that local SEO matters more now than it ever has before.

Myth #13 – Google will never know if I have bad sites linking to me.

Google knows everything. Don’t try to fool them or you will be penalized.

Myth #14 – Images don’t require optimization.

For many years, it was okay to neglect the images on your site and still rank without using alt text and image file names to boost your page relevance. However, on-page SEO is more important than ever, so excluding images will prevent your website’s SEO from being the best it can be.

Search engines cannot see images on websites, so it is important to give the image an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google knows what the image is about. If you don’t create this text, you lose a huge opportunity to be as visible as possible online.

It also helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image, too, so always try to reference your images in your text, close to where it lives on the page, using keywords similar to the alt text/filename of the image.

Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant. Name your image files something that is indicative of what the image is itself, rather than something like IMG2394870.jpg. Yes, keywords matter here!

Myth #15 – I don’t need to optimize for a mobile users.

In the spring of 2015, Google had a algorithm update called “Mobilegeddon,” which expanded Google’s use of mobilefriendliness as a ranking signal. The update rewards mobile-friendly websites and penalizes those that aren’t fully optimized for mobile in mobile search results.

If your web presence screams 2009, you should be thinking about a comprehensive strategy to modernize your site and bring it in line with consumer expectations. The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapt to the visitor and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately so it’s easy to read on whatever device he or she is using.

Conclusion – Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher.

If you can take one thing away from this blog post, it’s this: More than anything else, Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query.

Free SEO & Website Analyzers

There are tons of free Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Website Analyzer tools online. Some are better than others. Check out this list:

Be Ready For Google’s Mobile Update on April 21st

What does your company’s website look like on a mobile device? Be ready for Google’s algorithm update on April 21st.

On April 21st, Google will begin taking mobile-friendliness into account a ranking signal in search. What does this mean? Websites that are not mobile-friendly will see a severe negative impact on their search ranking and organic traffic. Site that are mobile-friendly will likely see a boost! Site that are not mobile-friendly will be penalized by Google.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What exactly is a mobile-friendly website?

A mobile-friendly website is a website that is dedicated to the mobile user experience as well as the restrictions that result from smaller screen sizes. Some mobile websites are separate stand alone sites, but all Connect4 Consulting websites are responsive in that they change adapt automatically depending on the screen size.

If I hire Connect4 Consulting to design a mobile site for me, will that work for Google’s mobile SEO site update?

All Connect4 Consulting websites are built to Google’s standard for mobile search.

How can I know whether my site is mobile-friendly?

Google has a simple tool you can use to determine whether your website is mobile-friendly according to Google. Simply go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and enter your url. If your site is not mobile-friendly, or if your site is mobile-friendly but has errors, you need to make some changes to your site as soon as possible.