Ask Yourself These Questions Before Starting A Shopify Store

Shopify FailsI’ve worked on my share of Shopify and e-commerce sites over the years, I’ve even built a few of my own. When Shopify store owners contact me –  many of them have had stores built and designed with no thought about the niche they’ve chosen or what comes after the site has launched.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to fully understand what’s involved in building a Shopify store or any website.

Regardless of the type of website or business you want to create ask yourself the following questions and be honest with yourself. Thinking these questions through may save you a lot of time, money and unnecessary frustration.

 

Is the market you’re looking to get into saturated?

Do you want to sell clothing, sunglasses or hunting gear? Those are pretty saturated markets with businesses that have been around a lot longer than you will be. They will have a head start on their SEO. They will also have stronger brand recognition and social media following. They will probably have their paid search campaigns dialed in and performing well. How will you compete? What makes you different and how do you plan to catch up in a market where you’re already behind?

 

Are you selling something unique?

Have a unique product or service no one has heard of? Are people searching for a what you offer? If not, how will they find you? Your strategy needs to be mapped out in detail before you even think about building a site. If you solve a problem no one is looking to fix, how do you plan to educate the market? Are you prepared for the uphill battle?

 

What do you know about marketing?

Educate YourselfAre you an expert marketer?  No? You should learn about marketing and how it works and how complicated it can be before building a Shopify site. You may find that after you invest money in building a site that you don’t have the knowledge or the budget to start and maintain any sort of marketing.

SEO is a great way to capture free traffic however, it is a long-term strategy. Also, the keywords you try and go after matter. Trying to go after a search terms such as “crib” will be too hard to ever rank on page one for. However, “natural wood baby crib” is a phrase that people do search for and is not as competitive as just the term “crib”. Understanding SEO and keyword research is important.

Link building is also important. Without links your content won’t rank. Do you know how to get links? Where to get them and where they should point to? Content alone won’t be enough to rank the site.

 

Are you well versed in paid search and  shopping ads?

While SEO is kicking in over the next 12 months you can use paid search and shopping ads to drive in sales. However, do you know how paid ads work? Can you set them up? Do you know how to create a shopping feed from within Shopify? Once you figure that out you need to be able to set up a Google merchant account and connect it with you Google Ads account.

Once there you will need to manage each product and bid on each product accordingly. You’ll also need to manage it regularly and remove keywords that your products show up for that are unrelated. Not something that’s easy to do for a newbie. Unless you’re willing to pay a pro to do it for to you.

 

What do you know about social media marketing?

Social mediaWhat do you know about social media? Is your audience there? Have you done any social media marketing before? Posting your kids photo to Facebook doesn’t count. 🙂

Perhaps you think throwing a product on Instagram or Facebook is enough to get traffic to your site, it’s not. Building a following takes a lot of time and effort.

What about, paid social ads? Do you understand what each platform’s features are and their limitations? Again, how much time do you have to learn marketing, grow a following and manage social media campaigns?

 

Can you write?

Are you a blogger? Can you crank out several blog posts a week without getting writers block? Will it contain keywords and phrases to catch buyers in the “research” phase? Do you have catchy social media titles? Will your content be lengthy and informative? Can you craft an editorial calendar and stick to it?

 

Sounds like a lot of work?

This is just a short list of some of the things you will need to consider before starting your online store.

The goal of this article is not to discourage you from creating an online business using Shopify or any other platform for that matter. As a marketer that deals with many small business, entrepreneurs and startups –  many don’t think about what’s required after the site is built. Too many people get hung up on building a site based on gut feelings and never think about research. Or they build a site and then think of marketing as an afterthought with no budget. Doing that will set you up for failure.

 

If you’re thinking of a building a Shopify, drop shipping or ecommerce store, consider the questions above. If you’ve had past experiences that you can share please comment below.

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Joe Balestrino February 22, 2019 0 Comments
Businessman clicks on a virtual screen and selects "PPC". Blue background. Business concept. Mixed media

The One Reason Why Google Ads Aren’t Working for Your Business

Google Ad TipsI have small business owners contact me all the time about managing their Google ads accounts. Which I LOVE! I truly love improving existing campaigns and building new campaigns every chance I get. When you’ve spent more than a decade managing accounts, you have a lot of knowledge and past experience that can take accounts to new heights.

While being able to set your own budget in Google ads is great,  you still need to have a reasonable size budget. Many “small businesses” want throw a tiny amount of money at advertising hoping to somehow magically get all the data they need to determine the future success of their account. Which is not the case.

Here is an over simplification of how PPC works.

  1. You research keywords that reflect your product or service. You place those keywords into campaigns and ad groups, set a bid on each keyword and let it run.
  2. As each keyword / phrase is shown and clicked you collect data.
  3. As you collect the data on each keyword those that exceed a predetermined CPA are paused.

The data we gather will also allow us to find out….

  • The keywords produce leads and sales.
  • Identify the keywords that are not converting and need to be excluded. (no, we don’t know ahead of time.) Researching your competitor’s terms and placing them in your campaign doesn’t guarantee they will work for you.
  • Which devices drive lower cost per conversion. Sure, you could only advertise on mobile, but do you want to risk losing conversions at a possible lower cost? If you don’t test, you won’t know.
  • Discover the days of the week and hours of the day that produce the cheapest and most expensive conversions.
  • Identify gender and age groups that convert the cheapest for you or the most expensive and exclude them.

ThinkingDo you think you can get this data from a campaign spending $10 a day? The fact is; the average keyword cost a minimum of $5 – $25. If your budget is $10 a day; after one or two clicks and you’re done for the day. Even if you ran your ad only during business hours, by mid-morning your ads will have stopped running. That is if Google will even show your ad because your budget is too small. You don’t want Google to over spend, right? So, if your set bid is $12 and your budge for the day is $20 Google may not even show your ad. It’s not worth Google running a campaign that may be paused in a short amount of time.

How am I, the manager going to get the data I need to make the correct decisions? I won’t and therefore I can’t. When the campaign with an insufficient budget fails clients assume paid search isn’t for them. This is why i recommend a sufficient budget and if the client can’t afford to increase the budget – I turn the client away with some alternatives outlined below.

 

What should you do if you have a small budget?

  • Save! Save until you have enough money to run your campaign 24/7 for at least 30 – 60 days. In the beginning your Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) will be high, but as you collect more data that will drop.
  • Focus on less keywords. The more keywords you have the longer it will take to gather data to make informed decisions.
  • Advertise on another platform, such as Bing or Facebook.

If you haven’t figured it out yet the one important factor you need in order to run a successful PPC campaign is a sufficient budget! You need a budget that will allow you to run your campaign for at least 30 – 60 days depending on how many keywords you have in your account. If your campaign is managed well the CPA and budget will decrease as more data is collected.

If a person or agency is willing to work with such a small budget, they don’t really care about your performance. It’s unfortunate to hear agencies taking on clients even though they know (or should know) that smaller budgets can produce poor results. They will just agree with the budget you suggest in order to get a management and setup fee from you.

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Joe Balestrino February 20, 2019 0 Comments
High risk level

10 SEO Tactics that Could Get You In BIG Trouble

Black Hat SEOEvery website owner eyes the same exact thing: the number one spot in search engine results. There are right ways to achieve this goal, and there are wrong ways. If Google’s algorithms catch you practicing the wrong SEO tactics, it could get you in big trouble.

What Is Black Hat SEO?

When most people hear the term black hat SEO, they know that the name has a negative connotation. Black hat SEO involves the use of unethical SEO practices that fail to honor search engines’ guidelines.

In the past, SEO professionals leveraged black hat SEO to manipulate the algorithms in their favor. Search engines have since cracked down on what they consider to be bad SEO. It also caused Google to release two algorithm updates that punish those who practice it: Panda and Penguin.

Why It’s Risky

Search engines discourage the practice of black hat SEO, simply because it can get your site penalized. It can even get you excluded from search rankings. Imagine having to lose out on all that free traffic!

Google and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines list all the SEO strategies you should avoid. These guidelines alone provide a wealth of knowledge into what you shouldn’t be doing.

Strategies to Steer Clear From

Black HatIf you choose to go down the rabbit hole of black hat SEO, it will only lead you to a dead-end road. Don’t make this mistake. You’ll have a better chance of success if you apply the right SEO strategies the first time. Some website owners don’t even realize that they’re practicing bad SEO. While they may not mean any harm, there’s no guarantee that the search engines show mercy for not knowing the rules.

Google’s algorithms get smarter as the days go by. They make algorithm updates between 500-600 times per year to keep up with new black hat SEO tactics.

Think of it this way: before you try a new SEO strategy, make sure that it provides value to your visitors. Try not to spam them with content that doesn’t help them find what they’re looking for. Cater to the searcher’s interests, not the search engines. This helps you determine if your strategies align with search engines’ best practices.

Common SEO tactics include:

Focusing on quantity – No matter how many blog posts you publish per month, you’re wasting your time if the level of quality isn’t there. Google’s algorithms now prioritize quality over quantity when determining a site’s domain authority. If you want to see results through your SEO efforts, keep this in the back of your mind.

  1. Automatically generated content – A method of content creation that involves the use of an automated content generator.
  2. Keyword stuffing – Repeatedly using the same keywords on your website to increase your ranking authority for those keywords.
  3. Exact match domain names – The use of a domain that matches a keyword you want to rank for.
  4. Automatically generated content – A method of content creation that involves the use of an automated content generator.
  5. Copied content – The act of pulling content from another website and using it as if it were your own.
  6. Link directories – When a website owner adds a directory on their site to direct more traffic to certain pages, they’re using a link directory.
  7. Automated links – If it’s one thing that Google doesn’t take lightly, it’s spam. Repercussions can be detrimental when they catch a website with spammy links. Automated link building platforms only triple the number of spammy links built. Whatever you do, don’t go this route.
  8. Doorway pages – A series of website pages that each has different keywords they’re ranking for, but they all link back to one single page.
  9. Sneaky redirects – A link that redirects you to a completely different page than the page you expected to land on.
  10. Paid links – A shady link building tactic used to manipulate a site’s search engine rankings. Instead of earning links the organic way, some instead try to buy their way to the number one spot.

Don’t Self-Sabotage Yourself

You don’t want to get into hot water with the search engines. There are millions of online users who depend on them to find places and things. As I mentioned before, I would hate for you to miss out on all that traffic. Although black hat SEO has its small wins, the long-term consequences aren’t worth it. Opt for white hat SEO techniques instead.

Have you been doing SEO wrong this whole time? Consult with me for SEO strategies that won’t penalize you.

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Joe Balestrino February 18, 2019 0 Comments

5 SEO Questions To Your Web Developer Before Starting A Redesign

As someone who’s worked with many developers over the years it’s very common for me to see how SEO to easily forgotten. Developers are great at developing sites to your requirements. Their job is to follow your direction. If you list out a ton of new functionality, remove key navigational pieces, requests pages with tons of images and little content – that’s what you will get. In many cases whatever the customer wants is what they will get, most of the time. The impact on SEO will fall on you the client as you requested these few features and pages that aren’t SEO friendly.

You can’t really blame developers – I mean you could; but it’s up to you to do your research and to ask the right questions so that you can work with a developer who will help maintain your hard SEO work.

Why am I writing this article?

Site Traffic dropUnfortunately, sites can be redesigned without much thought on how the new changes will impact the web sites rankings. Many assume that changing a site has little impact on search results and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

A good majority of inquires that come to me are from clients had recently gone through a redesign and are confused by the loss in traffic. While a small loss and fluctuations are expected – a 40%+ drop is not.

It’s also discouraging for someone who has spent a substantial amount of money on a redesign to now have to pay an expert to solve issues that could have been prevented. Plus, the client may also need to pay to have the same developer implement these changes. My hope is that I can educate buyers on what they need to ask before they start spending money.

Ask the right questions!

Before you start to work with a development company, individual or agency that you know as much as you can about their SEO knowledge and ability. I’ve laid out the top 5 issues I’ve seen over the years that have “killed” a site SEO.

Does the agency have a dedicate SEO Expert?

If your development company doesn’t have a dedicated SEO expert on staff, hire your own. When hiring a company look past industry words such as “SEO friendly” and “SEO best practices”. These terms are vague and is no guarantee that SEO expertise will be involved in your project. The following points will outline why this is important.

Do you understand how Google crawls websites?

The short answer is through links of the site. The ideal number of clicks is 3. It should take no more than 3 clicks to navigate through your entire site. If your home page is a box search box, guess what? Google’s won’t be crawling your site. If you have pages with only one way to get to them, Google won’t rank those pages.

Do you keep track of changes made on the site?

Monitor ChangesThis next one is more for ongoing site changes, unless your redesign is going on in stages (I hope for your sake it’s not) on a live site. This is also a good tip whenever you’re having work done on your site.

This question is very important. If a change is made to your site constantly and rankings drop, what do you do? Freak out? Call your web developer and ask them what’s going on? Pay a third party to investigate? Well, if your agency is tracking changes they can easily go back to a few days before traffic dropped and easily identify what changes were made to the site.

This saves you, the client a lot of stress. The best-case scenario is that the changes can be reversed and traffic be restored. Even, if that doesn’t help and SEO expert can still use this data to help solve the problem.

Are you familiar with canonicalization and how to prevent issues?

Canonicalization is a very serious and real issue I see way too often. It’s typical to see after a site’s been upgraded to a secure url structure. However, it’s not uncommon to see after a redesign or new site build.  All of these versions of your site to search engines are different:

  • www.example.com
  • example.com
  • example.com/
  • example.com/index.html
  • example.com/
  • https://example.com
  • https://www.example.com

You get the point. All of these should resolve to one final url. If you can type any of these variations and they don’t resolve to the final url (that you or your development choose as the final url) or the redirects are not set up properly, you have issues that should be addressed ASAP.

How do you handle 404 pages?

404 issuesBroken pages (404 status) are okay to have. You don’t want them in large numbers, but having them won’t hurt you. Ask your developer how they typically handle broken pages. If your developer automatically redirects broken pages to the home page. These will trigger softy 404 issues which over time can impact your SEO. This produces and result Google and other search engines frown upon. If you sold woman’s clothing and you discontinued a particular shoe, the expected result is that the page is not found. You could redirect users to a similar shoe made by the same designer or a similar type.

You don’t want to send users to the home page as the user is expecting to see shoes and Google knows this because Google has crawled the page before and knows what it is about.

You can set up reports in Google analytics to report on pages marked “not found” and you can then manually review them to find the most relevant replacement if one exists. It’s also a good idea to create this report monthly to catch any potential issues such as pages accidentally being deleted or pages that were mistyped sending traffic to pages that don’t exist.

What if I’m already in the middle of my project?

If you’re already working with a developer and don’t like the answers you’re getting to these questions then it’s time to hire an expert like me!

I’ve also linked here and here to similar articles if you’d like to have a more extensive list.

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Joe Balestrino February 15, 2019 0 Comments
Positive And Negative Feedback

How Too Many Negative Reviews Harm Your SEO

How Too Many Negative Reviews Harm Your SEO

Is your business suffering from too many negative reviews? It might be the very thing that’s harming your SEO efforts. Consumers review businesses online daily.

There’s never a shortage of feedback on sites like Google My Business, Angie’s List, and Yelp. From customer service complaints to public backlash for quality-related product or service issues, negative reviews are tough to avoid.

Why an Influx of Negative Reviews Isn’t a Good Sign

Many consumers rely on reviews to make buying decisions. Google also utilizes them to determine a site’s ranking authority. In fact, Google rewards businesses with positive online reputations by placing them at the top of their search engine results. When businesses suffer from a massive decline in rankings, too many negative reviews are sometimes the culprit. Moz previously reported that businesses risk losing close to 22% of incoming business if the first review on their profile is a negative one.

The Wrong Way to Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

All third-party review sites share one common goal: to be a safe space for valid, truthful customer reviews. Some businesses try to take shortcuts by cheating their way to a positive online reputation. If you’re planning to take this approach, prepare to get blacklisted.

You can get penalized for publishing fake reviews and soliciting positive ones. You must use precaution when you ask your customers to review you on sites like Yelp. While Yelp can’t force you to refrain from doing so, solicited reviews go against their guidelines. They’ll go to great lengths to track and remove them.

Handling Negative Reviews Like a Champ

Negative reviews come with the territory of being a business owner. You just have to make sure that you have a plan-of-action to diffuse them.

When you take a question-based approach to a review response, it shows that you resolve customer issues while they’re at a head. Do everything you can to mend fences with your unhappy customers. If you’re able to get on their good side after they post a bad review, they might be willing to remove or update it after the fact. It never hurts to ask!

When You MIGHT Be Able to Get Rid of a Bad Google Review

Angie’s List and Yelp reviews used to have a major impact on Google’s algorithms. When Google launched their own review platform, Google My Business, it gave Google the upper hand on where users look for reviews.

Are you hoping to get a review removed from Google My Business? You better have a good reason for it. There are only a limited number of ways a review could violate Google’s guidelines.

Google will sometimes remove a review, if:

  • The review is contradictory.
  • Competitors have received the same exact negative review as you.
  • A reviewer uses multiple profiles to post a series of negative reviews about your business.
  • You recently received a negative review during the same time a competitor received a stellar review. If the user who posted the review has a bolded profile, it might be from one of your competitors.
  • A reviewer accidentally posted a negative review on your site that was meant for another business.
  • Your business has several locations, and a customer that only visited one of your locations posted a negative review regarding them all.
  • A current or previous employee leaves a negative review.
  • You get an influx of negative reviews after receiving bad press.

If you can prove that a reviewer published false information about your business, you might be able to report and request the removal of it. Don’t expect to hear back from the review site right away, however, as there are sometimes delays with them getting back to you.

I understand your frustration with negative reviews and their harmful impact on SEO. I can’t promise you that they’ll go away if you dispute them. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re handled in an effective manner.

Are you having a difficult time developing a response strategy for those negative reviews? I’m always available to assess your needs and help you come up with a plan. Connect with me anytime.

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Joe Balestrino January 20, 2019 0 Comments

Online Reputation Management for Local Businesses

Online Reputation Management for Local Businesses

I’m willing to bet that word-of-mouth is how you get most of your business. With unlimited access to the internet, your customers can publicly share their experiences with your business in an instant. It’s no secret, however, that not all publicity is good publicity.

A one-star rating on Google or Yelp could tarnish your business’ name for years and years to come. That’s why you need an online reputation management for your local business, as it will lay the framework on what it will take to protect your brand’s image.

What It Takes to Protect Your Online Reputation

Reputation management isn’t something you can avoid, especially as a local business owner. Your business can have the number one spot on Google for an SEO keyword, but that serves you no value if you have a poor online presence.

One bad review (or even two) won’t hurt your business, but that’s only if you have a plan for handling the flak. With a well-thought-out online reputation management strategy, you can detract attention from negative reviews and prepare effective response tactics to refute them. Doing so can also reduce monetary consequences.

Online Reputation Management Tips for Local Businesses

Local ReputationHave a website. Let’s create a worst case scenario. Say you have an angry customer who one day decides to publicize a social media smear campaign about your business. They even had a website published to attack you even further.

Without a website of your own, or some trace of an online footprint, that customer’s website might be the first search engine result that users see when they look for your business online. What’s worst? You can’t get the website taken down unless the creator agrees to it. Needless to say, you don’t want this happening to you.

Establish an active online presence.

Your customers should at least be able to find you on the following websites: Google My Business, Facebook, Manta, Twitter, Yelp, and YellowPages.

There are also industry-specific directories that you should set up for your business if it fits the niche. For instance, many companies in the home service niche have active presences on Houzz, Porch, and Angie’s List. Lawyers and law firms will oftentimes list themselves on Avvo, HG.org, Lawyer Central, and FindLaw.

Before you set up any profiles for your business, perform a brief online investigation to see if any profiles were already created. If you find any profiles during your search, check to see if they are claimed or unclaimed.

You can easily gain ownership of an unclaimed profile by registering with the designated online platform. Keep in mind 

Local Reputation

that sites like Yelp and YellowPages require an extra step to claim their profiles: a phone verification.

If you find profile for your business that are already claimed, check with your employees, and your digital marketing company if you have one, to see if they created profiles for the business in the past.

If they are also unsure of who set the profiles up for you, there are other ways that you can gain access to them. Many directories and social media profiles have support lines that you can contact in the event that you need to recover a login this way.

Protect your brand’s good name.

If you have a business that’s been around for a while, and it also has quite a bit of online traction, your increased visibility will only magnify negative reviews. Bad reviews that are associated with a branded search term are more impactful than bad reviews with a generic one, as the focus is mainly on your business rather than you and your competitors.

Keep tabs on company staff.

There are some business founders and executives who have their own online presences. Commonly referred to as practitioner listings, these individual profiles should also be taken into account when developing your local business’ online reputation management strategy.

Do the work, or hire someone to do it for you. Think of online reputation management as an investment. The more time you put into it now, the less damage control you’ll have to do later. Doing the opposite might result in costly repercussions, from profit loss to more time required to clean up your online presence.

Neglectful mismanagement of your online presence could jeopardize your business in more ways than you can imagine. You can cause more harm than anyone else to your online reputation, especially without the proper knowledge and resources. If you need professional assistance building a solid online reputation management strategy for your local business, schedule a consultation.

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Joe Balestrino January 4, 2019 0 Comments
News

How To Improve Google News Stories

3 Ways You Can Improve Google News Stories

Over the last 15 years I have worked with many publishers both large and small. I’ve consulted for some of the largest publishers in the U.S as well as many small niche publications. There are three key points that they all have in common.

  1. They lack writers who understand how people use search engines.
  2. Not providing writers with the right tools or motivation
  3. Not giving writers their own “beat”.

Now that news is more digital – there are still some organizations that produce print publications.

Google NewsMany times, the writer who produced the print content is also repurposing the content for digital. In most cases using the same headlines that are used in print are used on the website. You can get away with flashy, vague or dull titles in print because the person has already paid for the paper – the writer doesn’t have to work at getting his or her article read.

Keywords are important for SEO because in many cases people are already aware of what’s going on in the news. They may have heard it on TV, radio, a friend or another news source. People who want to know more details or breaking updates will perform a search.

If you think about how someone who has heard about a news story would perform a search to learn more, they would probably remember the basics.

  • Who was involved
  • What happened
  • When it took place
  • Where it took place

These facts will never change and so when writing a headline – the more of these facts you can add to the headline and answer in the story the better chances you will have for ranking.

Writers should have tools that not only help them find the right trends, hashtags and key terms to use, but also to create content that can drive epic amounts of traffic.

Here is a list of some very useful sources:

Creating interactive charts and graphs around topics is a great way to build links, authority and repeat traffic to your site. News has a very short shelf life and the more you can do to lengthen life of your content the less you’ll have to work to maintain or grow your existing traffic.

NewspapersI’ve worked for organizations that provide real time reporting on traffic to news stories so that writers could see real time how many visits and shares their articles were getting. This will also allow writers to see how they stack up against their coworkers. I’ve seen news organizations offer prizes to the writers who drive the most traffic at the end of a month.

Also providing writers with their own reports of their top stories will help them review why some stories did better than others. This can help them to fine tune their skills.

Why should writers have their own beat or niche? It makes it easier for a writer to become an expert on a topic. Readers are usually interested in following writers who write about specific topics. This increases the chances of readers subscribing to RSS feeds, newsletters and the social media of writers which will increase the amount of repeat traffic.

If you need additional help with training and educating your editorial staff you can learn more here or contact me.

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Joe Balestrino November 4, 2018 0 Comments

How To Identify Site Issues Using Search Console

How Do I Fix Crawl Errors in Google Search Console?

Site IssueSearch console is a very important to me as an SEO. I use it to mostly to investigate and fix issues involving traffic and ranking drops.

While ranking reports and analytics are very useful, but when you combine that data with search console data you can build a more complete picture of the potential issues.

In this article I’ll show you how I use search console to identify the most common issues I run across and how I solve them. It’s time to put on your detective hat and investigate where the issues lie. At the very least, you’ll be able to come up with a timeline where “issues” began. You can then take the data back to your team and start looking into possible causes from a website (coding, design or backend) standpoint.

Important:

ImportantBefore we begin I want to make this clear. You must verify the correct domain in search console. If your site resolves to http://www.abc.com do not verify http://abc.com Google will only provide data on the version of the site you verify. The same goes for subdomains and mobile urls. You must verify those separately as well.

However, if your canonical urls are not set up properly you may be getting traffic from both secure and non secure or www and non www urls.

If traffic seems low to you (compared to analytics) –  besure you verify that all possible url combinations point to the proper “final” url. Also, verify that the redirects are 301 and not 302, java redirects or meta redirects. You can use this chrome extension to see the types of redirects in place.

Error Reports:

404 Errors: What are they are why they can be problematic?

A 404 status means that a page cannot be found (broken) this could be due to recent site changes, database issue etc. Broken pages aren’t inherently bad and all sites have them. However, this becomes a problem if there is a large amount of these pages and/or they are increasing.

Search Console 404 error report

How to Fix 404 Pages?

Search console will allow you to export a list of the recent 1,000 pages. Go through the list and try to identify the reasons why these pages are broken. If the pages that longer exist such as old products, former employees or service pages are there similar pages that these pages can be redirected (301 permanent) to. In some cases you can identify a pattern that may be easy to fix.

For example; if you sold blue sneakers model 123 in black and blue, but no longer carry the blue – you could redirect the blue page to the black page.

If a former employee has left your company, you could redirect their old page to the main company directory page.

Perhaps offered a service and recreated a similar page you can redirect the old url to the new one. However, if you no longer offer the service and there is no comparable page then it is okay to leave the page broken.

Do NOT redirect the url(s) to the home page. Redirecting pages to the home page or mass redirecting a large number of broken pages to the home page or other sections of the site can trigger a soft 404. When Google triggers a soft 404 Google is indicating(to you) that the redirects in place appear irrelevant. This will provide a poor user experience and therefore should be corrected.

How to Fix Soft 404 Errors

A large number of soft 404 pages will impact your rankings. Google has stated that there is no penalty for soft 404 errors on your site. However, in my experience a large amount of  soft 404 pages will always impact rankings.  Keep in mind these pages were once ranking (and driving traffic) are now gone from Google as they are now being redirected. Therefore, the old pages will drop from Google and they won’t be driving organic traffic anymore.  Second you’re wasting your site’s crawl budget having Google crawl redirects from pages that no longer exist.

Important tip: If you see a large amount of soft 404s verify that the 404 pages are returning a 404 status. I’ve seen many instances where 404 pages were returning a 200 status and Google will flag those as a soft 404!

Crawl Stats:

Why are crawl stats so important? We want to be able to see how many pages Google is crawling and how long it takes Google to crawl that content.

PAges crawled in search console

If you don’t add a lot of new content the “pages crawled per day” will stay the same. If you see a lot of spikes in this graph you will need to research why google is crawling more pages on some days and less on others. This graph above was from a client that had technical issues and once they were fixed, Google started indexing more pages.

Google search console bytes per day

This section is only important when comparing this to the other two graphs in this section. If the other two have spikes this section should as well. If the other two section are steady – so should this one. This shows how much of your site Google has crawled. If you see large spikes in this section it can be a sign that Google may be crawling sections of the site it shouldn’t be.

This could be due to Google crawling site search results, duplicate content or infinite redirect loops.

Time spent downloading a page

In this section shows how much time Google has spent downloading pages. The lower the number the faster Google is crawling your site. Longer download times can cause indexing issues. The graph above shows a drop-in download time. This was due to adding AMP pages to the site.

Fetch as Google

You can use this tool…

  1. To force Google to crawl a page or the entire site. Useful when updating your site/page after fixing technical issues. Great to use after launching or redesign.
  2. Ensure you’re showing Google and visitors the same version of your site.

Fetch as GoogleIf you ask Google to crawl the site – Google will report back the code that it sees when it crawled the page. This is helpful when identifying the code Google is seeing on the page and the type of redirects in place, if any.

Crawl as Google

If you ask Google to crawl and render Google will show you a visual of how to pages looks to Google and to the visitor.

Fetch and Render Search Console

Here you want to be sure Google is seeing the same “page” as the visitor. If Google is seeing something different then it could be that there is a script that is being blocked from Google. Developers sometimes block CSS files, javascript and other files to improve load times. Doing this will cause rankings to drop within Google if left too long.

If scripts are taking too long to load and / or are being blocked – consider reducing the number of “calls” a script does by minifying the files. I would also consider creating AMP pages to improve load times and performance.

Site Performance

Reviewing the impressions and clicks within search console will help you identify issues. Here is an example of a site that had traffic decrease in Google after a site update.

impressions in Google search console

This data is very valuable as search console will give you dates as to when traffic has dropped. This is valuable information because we can now research what changes were implement to the site before and on the day of the drop. If there were no technical changes done to the site you can start looking at other issues such as a manual or algorithmic penalty such as bad inks, duplicate content etc.

Pages Report

You want to view this section to determine if all of the traffic is going to the home page. In the example below, you can see while impressions are increasing in Google the average position has dropped.

Traffic drop showing in search consoleIf you go through pages and sort by position you can see which pages have high impressions but a low CTR. This is an indication that the content that is ranking high is irrelevant for the search term it is ranking for. You need to investigate as to what could have happened at the time the positioning dropped.

CTR

So, what happened? The client actually changed the site architecture and ranking for pages dropped. While impressions from Google were increasing to do increased pages in the sitemap rankings dropped for many key terms.

Why did the navigation impact rankings? Google needs to be able to crawl the entire site in 3 clicks or less. Visitors should not need to hit a back button. Your site should rely on a search box only. Google can only crawl links, the harder it is for Google to find the links the less likely those pages will rank.

Search Queries

search query

What keywords are showing in the “search query” section? Desired keywords? Branded terms? If only branded terms show up in this section it could mean:

  1. You have been hit with a penalty
  2. Your site isn’t optimized for keywords or…
  3. The keywords you’re targeting are ranking poorly
  4. Interior pages could be blocking Google from either the robots.txt file or no,index tag on individual pages.

Most of the time sites aren’t optimized properly for their targeted terms. If the site ranked for key terms before and now only ranks for branded terms, I’d check number 4 above before assuming it is a penalty.

Did you find this article useful? If so, please share it. If you still need help identifying site issues contact me!

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Joe Balestrino November 2, 2018 0 Comments

How to Push Down Negative Search Results on Google

Reputation Management: How to Push Down Negative Search Results on Google

There are many wonderful things about living in the age of the internet: instant connectivity, access to practically infinite information, and the ability to keep in touch with people almost anywhere in the world are just a few of the many benefits of this incredible technology.

However, one of the major downsides is that anything you post on the internet can stay there practically forever. One false step and suddenly any Google search for your name could potentially show future employers, for instance, some seriously unflattering or negative material. This may leave you wondering how to remove or push down negative content from your Google searches.

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Push them down by setting up as many public profiles for yourself as you can

Push Down Negative Search Results on GooglePublic profiles on big-name websites will typically rank more highly than any negative and unflattering search results you might currently be dealing with. After all, if you can’t delete them, the next best thing is to bury them on the last pages of your name’s Google search results, where people are highly unlikely to be looking. (Almost no one looks past the second page of search results.) For any of these profiles, it’s important that you have them set so that they’re publicly viewable, and therefore show up in any listings.

You can even make an extra effort to set up these profiles so that they’re a positive reflection of you and your interests. Use good grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and be sure that anything you post is something you’d be happy with everyone being able to see, both friends and employers. In essence, anything you post on these profiles should be a reflection of your best and most professional self.

Also, try to keep these profiles as active as possible. Having signs of current engagement makes these profiles a much more positive influence on your overall reputation.

Here are some websites where you can easily create high-ranking public profiles (a great start):

If you link to all your other profiles on these individual profiles, they’re even more likely to show up high in Google search results. That’s among the key methods that Google uses to decide to rank certain sites more highly: if many different sites post links to a site, that’s taken as evidence that it’s worth listing among its top search results. You can take advantage of this by interlinking your social media and public profiles as much as possible. This way, you’ll suppress negative search results quite effectively.

Make a domain name for your name

It’s almost always a great idea to have your own website, whatever field you happen to be in. Here, you can showcase your portfolio of work, positive reviews, have a blog, and convey an overall image of professionalism and high quality work.

In addition to the standard benefits of having a website, having a domain name that contains your full name will mean another potentially high-ranking search listing—one you can customize entirely to your liking. This is a great way to gain greater control over your online reputation, and with its other included benefits, it’s almost a no-brainer. Be sure to share all your various social media profiles on your website as well.

In order to maximize the ranking of your website in your Google search results, be sure to incorporate SEO (search engine optimization) as you’re creating it. This article in Entrepreneur offers a quick and easy checklist as a way to get started with SEO for your website.

Comment on articles/blog posts

How to Push Down Negative Search Results on GoogleOne way to get your name out there in a positive light is to use your real, full name as a commenter on various popular blogs and news websites. This way, not only can you create even more search results to help bury the negative content you’d like to hide, but you can also positively reflect your own perspective and make yourself look even better to potential searchers.

As you do this, it’s especially important to ensure that all of your comments are the best possible reflection of yourself. This means they should be polite, well-written, and not too controversial. (After all, if you’re unable to delete the comment, you don’t want it to be something else that you’ll regret in five years.)

Ask Google to take down links/content about you: four different options

Wondering how to remove negative information from the internet?

1) A 2014 EU court ruling states that people have the “right to be forgotten” on the internet, so Google was forced to allow users to request that links to personal information be taken down. You can submit the request using this online form. In the process, you have to submit a fair amount of information, including your name, address, and a form of photo ID. However, since this was a European ruling, if you’re located in the United States or in any other countries, this avenue might be less effective.

2) You can also try using Google’s URL Removal Tool. This applies only in specific situations. It’s on option when you’ve altered or deleted the unwanted content from a site (say, an old MySpace profile), but Google is still showing it in their search results. This can happen because sometimes search results take a while to update and become current.

3) If the material that you want removed is something that could potentially be in violation of the law, you can also request that Google remove it here: Legal Removal Requests.

4) Finally, if the content is very serious, is defamatory, and you think it’s worth the effort to do so, you can reach out for professional legal help. Obviously, this is going to be an option that is not affordable for everyone. Additionally, the content that you’re concerned about actually has to adhere to the legal definition of “defamation” in order for you to have a case. Here’s the Digital Media Law Project’s definition of a defamatory statement: “A false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, causes him to be shunned, or injures him in his business or trade. Statements that are merely offensive are not defamatory.” In this case, you might choose to talk to an attorney who has experience dealing with First Amendment and defamation issues.

These methods may or may not work, but there are some ways to potentially remove negative content from Google.

Don’t despair

As frustrating as this can be, there are ways to remove negative content about you from Google searches. Be methodical, and it’s very likely that you’ll improve your Google search results so that not only are they no longer negative, but they’re even a positive representation of you and your brand.

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Joe Balestrino June 17, 2018 0 Comments

5 Tips That Will Improve The CTR Of Your Google Adwords Grant

5 Tips That Will Improve The CTR Of Your Google Adwords Grant

Google Adwords Grant has made some new changes that have many grant holders worried about losing the accounts.

Google wants to improve the quality of traffic that is being deliver to websites by adding some new restrictions. This should help deliver a better user experience to searchers. This will also help organizations because the higher click through rate will result in better quality traffic. I should also mention that my Google grant management service has done this successful for other organizations.

Some of these changes include:

  1. Adwords account must maintain a 5% CTR
  2. No brand keywords – unless it’s your brand
  3. Avoid using single word keywords
  4. Geotargeting campaigns
  5. Keyword QS no less than 3
  6. Two sitelink extensions must be active

This article will just discuss how to improve the click through rate on your campaign since this is one of the biggest concerns for Adwords grant owners.

The tricky part here is to know how far back to go in your account to go to make these changes. It depends on the current performance of your campaign. If the previous month your campaign was less than 5% CTR – you need to start with that time frame. You should always try to aim higher than the 5% CTR – because some keywords will perform much better and others may fall short. Give yourself some wiggle room.

Also, this strategy is to just get the account under control for the meantime. This is not a long term strategy. If you can get the CTR well over 5% you can then test new keywords, run new ads, landing pages etc.

Here is a list of what I’ve done to be improve the CTR on accounts:

  1. Go through all the ad groups you have active in your account. In each one you need to go through the “search term” report and excluded keywords / phrases that don’t at least have a 10% CTR. Unless there is more than 1 conversion. If there are keywords with more than 1 conversion add them to the adgroup – providing the CTR is 5% or more.
  2. Go in to the adgroup itself and pause any terms that don’t meet the required click through rate. You’ve already added all the terms that have converted and had a high CTR from the search term report.
  3. Look at ads that have a low CTR and pause them.
  4. Look at devices. Are some devices performing better than others? Bid up on the devices that have a higher CTR and lower on those that don’t.
  5. You can also look at demographics and see if a specific gender and/or age group is producing lower CTR. I wouldn’t do this only if you have a lot of data to make a solid determination. I would recommend going back at least a full year before trying this tip.

There some other items you can look at but so far the formula above seems to work best for improving the click through rates on Adwords grant accounts.

If you are still having trouble with your google grant account feel free to contact me .

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Joe Balestrino January 17, 2018 0 Comments