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Simple SEO Fix: Robots.txt File

The robots.txt file is a small text file that is placed on your website server that tells web crawlers like Googlebot or Bingbot if they should access a file or not. Improper usage of the robots.txt file can hurt your SEO ranking because the robots.txt file controls how search engine spiders see and interact with the pages on your website.

Do I have a robots.txt file?

You can check this from any browser. The robots.txt file is always located in the same place on every website, so it’s very easy to determine whether a site has one or not. Just add “/robots.txt” to the end of a domain name as shown below.

www.connect4consulting.com/robots.txt

If you have a file there, it is your robots.txt file. You will either find a file with words in it, a blank file, or no file at all.

Is your robots.txt file blocking important files?

When your developer creates your website, he or she will add code to the robots.txt file to make sure that it’s not indexed. This code is User-agent: * Disallow: /”.  If your robots.txt file says this, you won’t appear in Google’s organic search results.

What to do next:

  • If you see “Disallow: /”, talk to your developer immediately. There could be a good reason it’s set up that way, or it may be an oversight. If there’s content after the “Disallow: /”, then the robots.txt file could be set up correctly, but it warrants a discussion with your developer.
  • If you have a complex robots.txt file, like many ecommerce websites, you should review it line-by-line with your developer to make sure it’s correct.

Not ranking for your brand name? Easy SEO Fix

Search Engine Optimization can get highly technical and complex quickly, but there are also easy SEO fixes. So before anyone convinces you to tackle an SEO list a mile long, ask the simple question:

Am I ranking for my brand name?

If the answer is no, then this needs to be the very first item you optimize on your website. After all, how will anyone find you if you they can’t even search for your business name?

What to do? Type site:yoursite.com into your google search engine and you’ll immediately see how many pages on your site are being indexed by Google.

site:connect4consulting.com

Connect4 Consulting is ranking for 1,350 results. Looks like all of our blog posts are working well for our brand name ranking.

What to ask:

  • Is that amount the number of results we are expecting to rank?
  • Are there pages in the index that we don’t want ranked?
  • Are there pages that should be appearing that aren’t ranked or indexed?

What to do next:

  • Do another search and and check different groups of pages on your site and see if they are ranking as well.
  • Check and see if subdomains are indexing.
  • Check old versions of your site and see if they are ranking instead of, or in addition to, your new version.
  • Look out for spam – a good indicator if your site was hacked – you could have spam that is on your site and also indexed by Google.
  • Figure out what’s causing all of the indexing problems and then optimize your site for better SEO results.

 

 

 

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.

Seven Obsolete SEO Tactics

Search Engine Optimization has changed dramatically over the years and what worked before doesn’t necessarily work anymore. Some of the old tactics you are using may now be a waste of time or money and it’s also possible that some obsolete SEO tactics may actually now harm your search engine ranking.

Obsolete Tactic #1: More Backlinks Means Higher Ranking

Although more backlinks used to mean a higher search engine ranking, this is no longer completely true. These days you’ll notice new sites with few backlinks that rank better than old sites with hundreds of backlinks. What’s going on? Google is prioritizing backlinks – rewarding backlinks that are more relevant. This just shows that you don’t have to focus on backlink quantity. Focus on building highly relevant links that are topical to the content of your website.

Obsolete Tactic #2: SEO is About Writing Keyword-rich Content

If you want to rank for a term like “business loans,” you would need that phrase on your web page, right? That used to be the case, but Google’s algorithm uses latent semantic indexing.

Latent Semantic Indexing is an indexing and retrieval method that uses a mathematical technique called singular value decomposition (SVD) to identify patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text. LSI is based on the principle that words that are used in the same contexts tend to have similar meanings.

In other words, Google sees the words “corporate loans” as being similar to “business loans”. That means that if you used the word “business” instead of “corporate” you would still rank for both words.

Instead of trying to write keyword-rich content, write content that is user-friendly. If you put your users first and you write what’s best for them, Google will naturally figure out what terms you should rank for and will place you there.

Obsolete Tactic #3: SEO is Just Links, Code, and Content

This is what SEO used to be five years ago. Sites with tons of links, good on-page optimization, and mediocre content ranked really well. That’s not the case anymore.

Sites that rank well are sites that have a large social following. The more popular your site is on the social web, the more eyeballs you will draw to it. And the more people see it, the more backlinks it’ll get.

Check out this great Social Media Tutorial if you want to build your social following yourself.

Obsolete Tactic #4: You Need to Track Your Rankings

Rankings are irrelevant. Sure you want better rankings, but search has changed into a long tail game. Just look at the data: search volume for head terms is down by 8%, and sites are starting to see the majority of their traffic coming from long tail phrases.

The beautiful part about this is that you no longer have to track your rankings. Instead, you need to focus on creating a long tail strategy by using content marketing.

Obsolete Tactic #5: More Pages Means More Traffic

If the pages aren’t high in quality, you won’t rank well. Instead of actually helping you, adding too much content, especially mediocre content, can hurt you.

Google released an update called Panda, which targeted sites with low quality content. Such sites got penalized, and their search traffic dropped.

Don’t create sites with thousands of pages. Focus on creating high quality content.

Obsolete Tactic #6: Higher Rankings Means More Traffic

There is a big misconception in the SEO industry that higher rankings mean more search traffic.

It’s true that more people will see your listing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get more clicks because the keywords you are targeting may not get much search volume. Or your meta tags may not be appealing, which will cause people to not click on your listings.

You can solve this by doing two things:

  1. You need to start using the Keyword Planner tool by Google to find the right keywords to go after.
  2. You need to optimize your click-through rates.

 

Obsolete Tactic #7: You Need A Lot of Text to Rank Well

Until recently, you needed as much as 2,000 words on a page to rank well, but this is changing dramatically. Sites like upworthy.com have very little text but rank well.

This shows that text isn’t the only form of valuable content. Videos and images also do well in the rankings, which is what Upworthy typically uses within its posts.

If you want high rankings, use different types of content to reach this goal. From podcasts to videos and quizzes, there are many possibilities.

Conclusion

Stop wasting your time on obsolete SEO tactics, and start focusing your energy on strategies that will boost your traffic.

How to Fine-Tune Your Existing Website for Better Search Engine Optimization

Search is changing. It is now more personal, more engaging, more interactive and more predictive. Search Engine Results Pages no longer just display 10 blue links — they have become more useful and more visually appealing across all device types.

Google’s Hummingbird update in August 2013 brought semantic search to the forefront of these changes. Beginning with user intent and interpretation of the query itself, semantic technology is used to refine the query, extract entities as answers, personalize search results, predict search queries and more — providing a more interactive, conversational or dialogue-based search result.

In order to leverage the benefits of semantic search on your own website, you’ll have to understand how semantic search works at a conceptual level.

1. Optimize for User Intent

semantic-searchGoogle is now using “form based” queries at scale in real time. Take a look at the image to the left. Suppose you are a travel agent. If you do a quick search for “flights from dc to”, you’ll see the most common user search queries for that structure of question in the dc area. Well, let’s say you are in the travel industry and you have offerings that would apply to someone traveling to “chicago, orlando, boston or miami”, (e.g., tourist attractions or some sort of event). You might want to make sure your page content includes that destination (entity or city or airport) as well as activities and items geared toward the interest of your target audience.

 

2. Align Your Search Engine Optimization with Social Media Campaigns

Identify your social audience and their interests. Write content that covers those interests, your offerings, and the intersection thereof. You can find a great example here, detailing how Virgin leveraged big data to create an interest graph, thereby creating a more targeted content strategy.

3. Make Sure You Leverage Google+ to Its Full Potential

Google+ is critical when it comes to how Google will view your business (and you, too, if you elect to create a profile for yourself). With regard to Google+ for business, here is a great and comprehensive resource from Simply Business.

GoogleplusguideforbizbyGoogle1

4. Ensure Your Web Pages Use Structured Data Markup

Paying special attention to HTML markup vocabulary from schema.org, as that is recognized by most major search engines at this point in time.

There are several great new tools currently available to assist with the process of adding this HTML markup to your pages, including various WordPress plugins and code snippet generators (including Google’s own Structured Data Markup Helper).

5. Use Standard SEO Techniques

The standard SEO techniques that worked previously are still important:

  • Optimize page load times,
  • Optimize sitemaps and website architecture,
  • Cross-platform optimization

The last one is more important than ever with the rise of mobile devices, especially since sites that offer a poor mobile experience may find themselves hurting in mobile rankings.

 

Search Engine Optimization Tips

Even though Google is constantly adapting its algorithm to deliver what it deems the truest answer to a particular query, there are basic search engine optimization guidelines that all sites – large and small – must follow to improve in search engine ranking. These are:

Code – Keep it simple

  • Follow standards and get as close to validated markup as possible
  • Make it easy for search engines to crawl your site
  • Make CSS class and ID names obvious, especially for section div tags
    • Name your header dive header
    • Name the CSS ID of your right sidebar div right-sidebar

Web Design – Less Navigation is More

  • Websites should have clean vertical internal linking
    • Every page links to the home page.
    • Every page links to every category level page. This is your main navigation.
    • Sub-category pages link to other sub-categories within the same category only.
    • Sub-category pages link to their own topic pages only.
    • Topic pages link to sub-category pages within the same category only.
    • Topic pages link to their own article pages only.
    • Article pages link to each sub-category page within the same category only.
    • Article pages link to each topic page within its own sub-category.
    • Article pages link to other article pages within the same topic.

Content – Engagement & Agility

  • Emphasize community and conversation
  • Create content that people will want to link to and talk about
  • Embrace agility – update content frequently
  • Update your old content – particularly advertorial content

The Truth About Search Engine Optimization – How To Rank Higher on Google

Let’s face it – everyone wants to rank #1 on Google.  After all, doesn’t ranking #1 on Google mean that you are the best in what you do? The truth about ranking #1 on Google requires a discussion about search engine optimization.

The idea behind search engine optimization (SEO) is to put great content on a web site that is designed in a manner that helps attract visitors and entertain them enough that they will return to your web site and tell other people about your web site.  Depending on how you go about doing this, there is a very wide range of possible outcomes. Be wary if anyone promises that you will rank #1 on Google.

The fact is that you give yourself the best opportunity for higher ranking if you provide quality content, use a search engine-friendly design, and encourage people to link to your site. Let’s take a look at these three critical ways to rank higher on Google.

Good Content

The single most-effective way to get good rankings is by providing good, fresh content. A search engine’s objective is to deliver answers that are most relevant to a particular search query. The only way to develop that relevance is by having keyword-rich content on your web site. Suppose you sell personal technology gadgets. It is imperative that you provide as much content and commentary regarding personal technology gadgets as possible.

Search engines place a lot of weight on the content of each web page. After all, it is this content that defines what a page is about, and the search engines do a detailed analysis of each web page they find. The detailed analysis is called a semantic map which seeks to define the relationship between the concepts on your page. The search engine uses this match to present the best web pages for a particular user’s search query.

Search Engine-Friendly Design

When two sites provide similar content – using our personal technology gadgets provider as an example – a search engine-friendly design can be the deciding factor between success and failure.

Search engines cannot see images, text in images, Flash files, pictures within Flash files, audio and video files, any content contained within a program (e.g. AJAX), embed tags (not visible to all search engines), frames and iframes.

Search engines rely on HTML (good content), the page title, Meta keyword and content descriptions, alt attributes for images, and content that is rich with keywords relevant to search terms.

Good Links

In the early days of the Internet, many web sites relied on the Field of Dreams logic – If You Build It They Will Come. Now, with millions of web sites competing for eyeballs, one of the most important and difficult things you can do to improve your search engine ranking, is to increase the number of links to and from your site.

Search engines like Google place a range of value on the links that point to your web site and the ones your site points to.

Bottom Line

Search engines are constantly evolving. Google now provides search results that are optimized for each unique searcher. This means that your personal technology site might rank #1 for the keyword “personal technology” for my search but not for yours. So what does this mean for search engine optimization and the auspice of ranking #1 on Google?

The Bottom Line is that your objective should be to increase web site traffic so that more people will enjoy the value you provide through your content and the products and services that you offer.  If you do this, you will improve your search engine ranking.