What You Need to Know About HTTP vs. HTTPS
Consumers spend nearly one million dollars online every sixty seconds, vulnerably entrusting their personal and financial info into the hands of business owners. While this is obviously great for the bottom line, attackers are becoming increasingly skilled at getting a hold of sensitive login and payment info such as credit card and bank account numbers. These annoying hackers don’t discriminate and will go anywhere regardless of the type of business or location. All they need is an untrusted router or IPS. This means that all public WiFi networks can be vulnerable to security threats. You need to know for certain that your website isn’t going to be one of them.
What is HTTP & HTTPS?
There are protocols for the transfer of sensitive info to the internet and this is where HTTPS and HTTP come into play:
HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol.
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.
HTTPS encrypts HTTP requests and responses, ensuring that hackers do not see specific payment info. Instead, they see random, nonsensical characters. Basically, it’s like shipping off your household documents in a fireproof, indestructible lockbox with a secure combination. Only you and the recipient would know the combination. If the box were to fall into the wrong hands, your documents would be secure. The “wrong hands” wouldn’t have the combination.
What you should know is that multiple things occur during the formation of a HTTPS connection, but the most important thing to note is that HTTPS relies on Transfer Layer Security (TLS) encryption in order to secure connections.
Now, a lot of things happen when a HTTPS connection is formed. Mainly, HTTPS relies on TLS (Transfer Layer Security) encryption to secure the connections.
Let’s talk about TLS Certificates:
TLS (also known as SSL or SSL/TLS) certificates are a type of digital certificate issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). Installing a TLS certificate on your server is the only way to enable HTTPS protection on your company website.
The CA acts as a trusted third-party in the relationship between server and client. While TLS certificates can be issued by almost anyone, browsers only support publicly trusted CA’s. It’s easy to check website TLS certificates by clicking on the lock icon in the browser’s address bar. You will also be able to see the issuing CA and you can easily click through the certificate to review info such as the “issued to:” line. There are various types of validation protocol for TLS certs which determine whether the certificate will be free or paid.
- FREE TLS CERTS only do domain validation and they come with your hosting and CDN plan. A CDN is a network of servers linked together with the goal of delivering content as quickly, cheaply, reliably, and securely as possible.
While basic domain validation is great for websites and blogs that don’t utilize consumer personal and payment data, you’re going to need more than the basics for your business website.
- DV TLS CERTS give the appearance of security, but have no “Issued to:” line on their icon. “Let’s Encrypt”, a non-profit CA, issues the most common DV TLS cert which is used by most companies who offer automatically renewable, free TLS certs. DV-only certificates are the only TLS certificates issued at scale automatically.
- Organization Validation (OV) & Extended Validation (EV): It’s likely that your website collects sensitive payment info, so EV might be the better solution as its verification process is more rigorous. EV runs about the same price as OV and it is considered to be more trustworthy.
- Wildcard & SAN TLS certs are fabulous multitaskers as they secure numerous (sub)domains simultaneously and side step the need to purchase more than one TLS cert in order to perform multiple functions. EV TLS, for example, would be great for mcs.com, however an additional cert would be necessary for blog.mcs.com.
Wildcard certs also multitask in securing innumerable subdomains. SAN certs can also secure multiple domains.
HTTPS strengthens SEO
HTTPS beefs up your website’s privacy, security and SEO goals via:
- Verifying that the website is the correct one on the server.
- Mitigating third party tampering.
- Ensuring greater security for consumers.
- Communication/URL encryption.
- Personal data protection (browsing history, credit card info, etc.).
- Preservation of referral data.
- Lightweight ranking signal.
- Enhances security and site speed.
Furthermore, there is a strong theory which suggests that HTTPS has the potential to improve website dwell (a strong ranking factor). Also, bear in mind that if your company website is on HTTP and you are relying on Google Analytics, for example, for website analytics, referral data will NOT be passed from HTTPS to HTTP pages. Most of the web runs on HTTPS which is how most clicks on links from other websites (your referral traffic) is sourced.
HTTPS also utilizes modern protocols (such as TLS 1.3 and HTTP/2), enhancing your website’s overall speed and security. This might not make sense as HTTPS can appear slower than HTTP on paper due to the multiple added security layers, BUT it is a prerequisite for the utilization of modern security measures and up-to-the-minute performance technology. Staying current is crucial as Google views page speed as a lightweight ranking factor.
The Setup Process:
- Start with HTTPS at the onset. This will avoid migration errors and you won’t need to worry about HTTP. Your hosting provider or WordPress maintenance services Jacksonville can easily guide you through the necessary steps in support of the most current HTTP and TLS protocol version. The final step: implement HSTS.
- If your website is already HTTPS enabled, ask your hosting provider to guide you through the process of checking for common errors. You probably aren’t set up correctly.
- If your website is still running HTTP, the difficulty of migration will depend on some variables: website size/complexity, type of CMS, hosting provider and technical abilities.
While you might be capable of doing the migration yourself, here are some things you should take into consideration:
Review your CMS/server/hosting documentation and cautiously proceed. You’re going to need to take your time as there are multiple steps which must be executed on the migration checklist. This process could take a TON of time to complete and there’s no guarantee that you will be able to perform it correctly. Consult WordPress maintenance services Jacksonville in order to ensure a future-proof implementation and your sanity!
Sidestepping HTTPS migration mistakes:
Even if you could complete the entire HTTPS migration checklist, you’d probably still come across some errors. Here’s the deal:
In 2016, 10,000 top-ranking domains were found to have the following HTTPS mistakes:
- Sub-optimal HTTPS on 90.9% of domains.
- 65.39% of domains did not have HTTPS working as it should.
- Temporary 302 redirects on 23.01% of domains rather than permanent 301s.
It was pretty gruesome. You’d be wise to check for the most common migration mistakes:
- Are all of your website pages on HTTPS? Crawl your website thoroughly in order to find leftover HTTP pages (review your migration checklist). Ensure your crawler is up-to-date with all the required URL sources. You don’t want to leave any of those pages unchecked, however, be sure to note that pages which are not included in your sitemap which have zero links pointing to them won’t be discovered via crawling. Unfortunately, this happens with dedicated PPC landing pages quite frequently. You can export the URL list from FB Business Manager. Google Ads is another ad manager from which you could export a URL list. Next, ensure proper migration of orphaned pages and update to the newer HTTPS format in your campaign dashboard.
- Do you have HTTPS pages with HTTP content? A common mistake which occurs when the original HTML file uses HTTPS while loading BEFORE a resource file was updated to HTTPS. This particular issue is manifest in crawling and internal pages reports.
- Are your internal links updated to HTTPS? Unnecessary redirects occur when internal links to HTTPS are not updated, so be sure to update, update, update!
- Are your tags updated to HTTPS? Canonical and Open Graph tags and URLs need to be updated to HTTPS. Canonical tags inform Google regarding the most authoritative pages among a collection of duplicate (or similar) pages. Open Graph tags are used to optimize social media posts, some of which require URL tags. The easiest way to find pages with HTTP canonical and OG tags: set up a custom filter in Page Explorer and rewrite to https:// once migration is completed.
- Do you have failed redirects? A simple site audit will allow you to spot failed redirects. Just review the report and correct the issues. Upon clicking on “View affected URLs,” you’ll see a full report with default columns and metrics, allowing you to get a detailed breakdown of all the affected URLs.
Split up the redirects, but strive for the least number of redirects.
Review the number of inlinks (URLs that link to the URL affected by the redirect chain). Exchange the links on those pages for URLs that return a 200 HTTP status code and click through the number of inlinks to review all of them. Be sure to check the redirect chain URL inlinks as they will be tagged “standard 301 redirects” in the 3XX Redirects report when performing subsequent crawling.
Between 88-99% of Chrome browsing time is spent on HTTPS websites which means that the majority of high-traffic websites use HTTPS. While there is still much to be desired regarding TLS support quality, the migration process isn’t the “be all, end all” of HTTPS setup. Consumers will benefit from your efforts to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to trends in web performance and security. They will appreciate your implementation of up-to-the-minute features as manifest evidenced in your company’s bottom line.
How to Stand Out in Search Results
Getting your business website on the first page of Google search engine results is a BIG DEAL – the ULTIMATE goal for every business owner. As your company website’s chief SEO champion, you need to know how to stand out among your competition as consumers eagerly scour the web for brands that speak to them. Furthermore, you want traffic to flock to your site in order to actually click THROUGH it, not just ON it!
Search engines such as Google pull data from your website to list in the search results. There are two key elements that form the title and description that show up on the results pages:
- Title Tag: an HTML code tag that allows you to give a web page a title. It is located in the browser title bar as well as in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Optimization of title tags is important as they play a crucial role in affecting your organic ranking (SEO).
- Meta Description: an HTML tag summarizing webpage content. It’s normally around 160 characters long (referred to as a “snippet”), appearing below your page title in SERPs.
Both your title tag and meta description should be unique for each page on your website. Don’t use the same title tag and meta description on every page! That’s a no-no!
Here are some tips to remember when authoring your title tags and meta descriptions:
- Keep things simple and watch the length. Don’t be curt, but don’t get long-winded either.
- Once again, don’t repeat titles & descriptions. Make them unique to each page.
- Study up on relevant keywords!
- Put the most important words first in title tags.
- Be sure to include your brand name in title tags.
- Entice users to click.
- Write for people!
Good meta descriptions are written almost like a mini advertisement. The goal is to entice consumers to click through them. For example:
Lonely Planet does a fabulous job implementing some pretty basic tips. Optimal title tag length is between 50-60 characters. Check! Anything in excess of 60 characters will cause the title tag to become truncated in some search engines.
The Lonely Planet title tag and meta description both accurately reflect the content on the page itself. Consumers don’t like to be duped, so don’t write about free monkeys in your title tags and meta descriptions only to have a user click through to discover that nothing you’re offering is free and you don’t stock monkeys. You need to be very clear with your tags and descriptions about your brand and what you have to offer. Don’t get customers excited about something you never intend to offer! That’s just rude!
Be sure you are creating UNIQUE title tags and meta descriptions. This practice is one of the best ways you, as a business owner, can entice consumers to click on your website in search engine results. If your stuff looks just like everyone else’s, consumers won’t be compelled to click on your website. No one wants to look at 100 pictures of the same dog over and over again. The same principle applies with your meta descriptions and title tags.
As a business owner, you take pride in what you have to offer and that which makes your brand different. Placing these concepts into simple phrases should be a fun and easy task that is sure to make all the difference for browsing consumers and your bottom line!
Best Word Press SEO Plugins for Your Website
In today’s world, it is absolutely paramount that business owners have the right tools and implement the best strategies in order to make their business websites attractive to Google. As a business owner, you want your company website to rank high in Google search engine results.
Choose the right SEO plugin.
WordPress SEO plugins are the bomb! They have the ability to:
- Affect page loading speed and overall performance.
- Boost SEO.
- Augment your business website’s security.
- Bring up backlink information, important stats and keyword rankings.
- Improve your business website’s rankings in search engine results.
- Fix broken links.
- Conduct comprehensive SEO audits.
- Help you find authoritative posts and pages.
- Reorganize your company website’s structure.
- Effectively optimize your company website.
- Keep you ahead of the competition.
- Increase brand visibility.
A reliable hosting service for your WordPress site is a great way to earn SEO ranking and beef up your website’s speed, however it’s only the beginning. In fact, 75% of consumers who search using Google admit to never clicking beyond the first page of search engine results. This is why your website optimization (in collaboration with smart keywords, knowledge of search intent, content readability and image files sizing) is a MUST. It’s the only way to earn traffic that is organic (free) and relevant, which will boost your conversion rate. Furthermore, a solid SEO plugin will help speed up your optimization tasks more efficiently (sometimes automatically), freeing you up to strategize with your marketing team in order to stay on top of the latest SEO data and quickly employ strategic, results-based plans in order to boost productivity. The benefits are truly endless.
Obviously, when it comes to optimization, a good SEO plugin makes all the difference, BUT… How on earth do you tell the good from the bad?
Good WordPress SEO Plugins:
- Yoast SEO is user-friendly, especially for beginners, and offers:
- Page Optimization which allows you to easily manage page titles, URLs and meta descriptions. You can easily create an optimized, customized web page title via the user interface along with an SEO-friendly URL and unique meta description. You can then review your SEO report which will allow you to improve blog post optimization. In addition, you can easily switch on the robot tags or turn them off. This function allows you to manage your web page’s “discoverability”.
- The Robots.txt file communicates with search engines in regards to which pages are crawlable. The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to change your robots.txt via the user interface which is a time saver. There is no need to install, modify and upload the robots.txt file with each and every change, plus the file is protected from accidental overwrites resulting from system updates.
- Google Search Console allows you to authenticate your company’s website by copying and pasting an HTML code into the Yoast user interface. This is a huge benefit as it allows you to capture powerful SEO data. It is also further code protection against accidental overwrites when it is added through the plugin. Yet another time saver as you won’t need to re-add the code post site-code modification. Frankly, web developers and SEO specialists are experts at carefully handling theme modifications and WordPress updates, but I digress.
- Sitemaps are crucial for SEO as they provide search engines with lists of pages to crawl on your business website. Yoast’s auto generated XML sitemap automatically updates as you post new content to your website. You can improve search engine accessibility to certain website sections via the user interface through the XML sitemap.
- The free Redirection Plugin from WordPress’ plugin repository is fabulous for managing redirects and preventing your users from getting 404 error messages. These are easily managed via the user interface in your WordPress dashboard. The plugin is updated regularly, is secure and is also user-friendly, aiding you in reporting errors on alternate servers (broken links, 404 errors) with info entailing the way in which the error was accessed.
- The WP Internal Link Juicer plugin works specifically to help optimize your company website’s internal link structure, automatically linking phrases and keywords from your posts and comments to relevant blog posts, pages, tags and categories. This plugin avoids fraudulent SEO practices while creating internal links.
- MonsterInsights helps you track your business website’s analytics and performance, is user-friendly and sends Google Analytics data straight to your dashboard. This is great for measuring customer engagement on your website as well as understanding how consumers search for you. You are able to monitor frequently visited pages via the content reporting feature. MonsterInsights is a simpler alternative to the more complicated Google Analytics as it streamlines the gathering and interpretation of data. You’ll never need to login to your Google Analytics account
- Improve your company’s web page speed with the WP Super Cache plugin which allows you to test loading speed across several of your company website pages. You can then leverage Pingdom tools or GTMetrix. Simply turn on the caching features after you install the plugin.
- Really Simple SSL streamlines the process of hard coding the HTACCESS file configuration for the domain-recognized setup of an SSL address in WordPress. If this is Greek to you, it’s because this is a complicated task best left to experts in search engine optimization Jacksonville. In layman’s terms, simply download Really Simple SSL, ensure your website domain’s HTTPS version is the default address and the plugin will do the rest. It will also make sure SSL encryption and encryption protocols are automatically updated in order to protect against cyberattacks.
- Rank Math also aids in website content optimization, offering real-time content insights via your WordPress dashboard. Snippet previews allow for easy optimization of titles and meta descriptions, reducing the amount of SERP display errors on search engines. This plugin is optimized for better speed and now has IndexNow integration resulting in quick alerts to search engines regarding changes to deleted or new content, redirects and much more. No need to wait for weeks on end for Google to crawl your content.
- Easy Table of Contents enhances user experience which boosts your SEO. This plugin presents a table of contents for users who wish to jump to key content. In addition, an HTML table is automatically added to your business website’s posts and pages, generating internal hyperlinks within each page. Auto generated links are an added perk as they are based specifically on page content headings. Your table style can be easily configured within the dashboard settings.
- Weglot offers the most accurate translations to date. Translation is a huge component of SEO as Google considers grammar and copy to be major ranking factors. Unless you employ interpreters in every language, you need this translation plugin which will reflect the way languages are spoken in order to properly articulate your brand’s story and what you offer.
Bad WordPress SEO Plugins:
Unfortunately, there are harmful WordPress SEO plugins. While the good ones help boost your company website’s ranking and visibility, there is a risk with any plugin authorized to access your business website:
- Exploitable vulnerabilities.
- Unsupported or outdated.
- Incompatibility with existing site code or plugins.
- Lack of adequate testing.
- Scam related.
Always ask your search engine optimization Jacksonville based expert to review the plugins in which you are interested prior to installation. Be sure you select a WordPress plugin which automatically backs up your business website while simultaneously guarding it with the correct SSL protection. There are many free WordPress plugins which can accomplish this for you. Add reputable WordPress SEO plugins to your website, properly configure them and enjoy the benefits of improved URL and content accessibility. Your organic traffic is bound to increase and your business website’s SEO rankings are bound to soar very quickly!
What Are Backlinks & How Do They Work?
What is a backlink?
Backlinking occurs when someone links to your website or vice versa. If you link to theirs, you are creating a backlink for them. When they link to your website, they are creating a backlink for you. For example, this phrase links to our local seo page, so it now has a backlink from us.
Why do they matter?
Backlinks are a crucial component of your business website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). They help to establish your company’s authority while fostering an environment where additional credible industry sources “vouch” for the credibility of your own company’s website.
Backlinks attract search engines. In other words, Google, for example, considers a backlink as a qualifying factor in determining your website’s credibility. Sixty-eight percent of online experiences begin with a search engine, so it stands to reason that the more backlinks, or qualifying factors, your business web pages accrue, the greater the likelihood that you will rank higher in search engine results. This means your website will attract greater organic (or free) search traffic.
Backlinks establish greater discoverability for your company web pages. Search engines function by revisiting popular pages in order to check for new links. If your company website pages are gaining backlinks from prominent pages, your content will be discovered at a much faster rate.
Backlinks are a great means of organic traffic referral. The primary purpose of a backlink is to direct users to resources which are useful and relevant to their search queries. This is also the reason that backlinks are clickable because when a user clicks on your website link, you automatically gain free (organic) traffic based on referral. This is crucial because the average cost of buying a link is $361.44. “Organic” means more cash in your pocket.
There are good backlinks and there are bad backlinks.
Unfortunately, not all backlinks are good as they are based on variables such as utility and quality. Search engines value relevant backlinks as they are more likely to be clicked. For example, if a Jacksonville dentist has backlinks from three pages, but one is about short giraffes, one is about big and tall jumpsuits and the third pertains to cavities, then the third backlink is of greatest value because it is actually relevant. Anyone searching for a Jacksonville dentist likely isn’t looking on behalf of a short giraffe. This same logic applies to your website domain. Traffic at Jacksonvilledentistry.com is going to be much more likely to click on a Jacksonville dentist’s website than traffic at shortgiraffes.com. You get the picture. Relevance is key.
Page authority works in correlation to organic traffic. If your business web pages have backlinks from solid web pages, those backlinks are considered a greater authority and will usually transfer more easily than backlinks from a weaker web page/authority. But, this isn’t ALWAYS the case as Google claims to equally split authority between all outbound links on web pages. Stay with me here because this is important. If your web page has backlinks from two pages, the first page carrying more outbound links than the second, the link from the second page transfers greater authority, all else being equal. Supposedly. I say this because there are innumerable patents and various methods for the process of assigning value to backlinks, especially with Google. In addition, a page’s authority can be boosted by contributing internal backlinks as well.
High-traffic page backlinks typically generate greater referral traffic than those from lower traffic pages. The question is whether or not high traffic page backlinks affect rankings on a more positive note than low traffic page backlinks. Simply put, the correlation is meager and the number of referring domain backlinks and web page authority are of greater value.
Prominently placed links are more likely to gain clicks, thus passing on more authority. In other words, colorful links in a bold font which are placed in main content areas of a page and contain verbiage which is attractive to users have a higher rate of clickability. This means they could generate a decent amount of page rank, but if a link consists of less desirable features that aren’t as attractive to a user, it becomes less likely to gain a high volume of clicks. This “weaker” link is less likely to pass on a decent amount of page rank. Keep in mind that you don’t want your link winding up in a site’s footer, so invest your time into other stronger options.
While “nofollowed” backlinks don’t typically affect page rank, they certainly can. Link building is a labor of love, requiring a tremendous amount of time and dedicated effort, therefore it makes more sense to go after “followed” links. Nofollowed links might still throw some SEO value your way, but don’t concentrate your efforts on those.
How to Spot a “nofollow” link: You’ll have to look at the code to identify a nofollow link. A follow link does not have a rel=”nofollow” attribute and will appear as: <a href=”https:/marlincs.com”>.
A NoFollow link has the rel=nofollow component and looks like: <a href=”https://marlincs.com” rel=”nofollow”>. To check for a nofollow link, right click it and click “Inspect.” Then check the code for that link for the inclusion of rel=”nofollow”. If there is no rel=”nofollow”, then you know you’re working with a follow link.
Why do nofollow links exist? Google uses links as a ranking factor in order to interpret which websites are linked to the most. The quality of a website is determined by the number of links, therefore higher ranking sites have more links. Unfortunately, underhanded SEO manipulators know that more links are all it takes for a website to wind up on page one of Google’s search engine. They tend to use “tricks” that go against Google terms and best practices, incorporating all kinds of junk simply for the purpose of gaining links. This method consists of leaving nonsensical comments on websites, the creation of junk websites and paying black market and higher-authority websites for links and backlinks. Google utilizes rel=”nofollow” in order to avoid the spread of spammy websites and bad backlinks. Website owners use rel=”nofollow” as a means of identifying advertising-related or paid links.
Anchor text: clickable words which form backlinks which affect Google’s original patent rankings. The correlation between anchor text and rankings is somewhat weak, but it still matters! However, when acquiring backlinks via outreach, the anchor text will be out of your hands when linking to your own business website. While no one likes to lose control, this is a benefit as it indicates that the link is of a better quality.
You can check backlinks in Google Search Console in order to learn about your company website’s performance and organic search traffic. The good news is that it’s free to do this and you need only to sign up for your free account then verify your website ownership. Next, click “links”. There is a number which reflects the total number of authentic backlinks to your website listed under “external links”. Below that number, you will see “top linked pages”, “top linking sites” and “top linking text”. You can easily view the most linked pages on your company website, the sites with the most backlinks to your company website and the most used anchors when linking to your company website. We advise beginning with “top linked pages” followed by a click on any URL in order to learn of the various websites linking to a given page. You can also click on any site to see which pages are linking to that page.
You can also check backlinks for a website you don’t own using a third-party backlink checker. Ahrefs offers a free backlink checker where you simply enter a URL and click “check backlinks.” The total number of referring domains and backlinks will appear in addition to the top 100 backlinks. Each will contain information such as the anchor and surrounding link text, traffic, strength of linked pages and the linking website and referring page.
You can acquire more backlinks by creating them, building them or earning them. When people discover your business website content (blog posts, for example) via social media, search engines, etc. and link to your page, you’ve officially earned a backlink. Earned backlinks are organic (free). When you create authentic, relevant content on your business website which compels people to want to link to it, you improve your chances of earning more backlinks.
Created backlinks are formed by manually adding links to your business websites from other sites. Every time you leave a blog comment or reply to a forum thread, for example, you can create a backlink.
You can build links by requesting other website owners to link to your company website pages. In fact, 73.6% of domains have reciprocal links, therefore, if you link to certain sites, there’s a good chance they will link to you in return. You can also:
- Offer to guest blog for another website.
- Suggest your working link as a replacement for relevant dead links on other websites.
- Ask authors to make the mention of your brand clickable if they are mentioning your brand in an unlinked fashion.
In closing: There is a direct correlation between backlinks and search engine ranking but not all backlinks are created equal. Variables such as placement, relevance and more, play a role in the utility and quality of a link. Hard work always pays off in the end because easy-to-obtain links won’t be nearly as valuable as the ones you work for.
How to Respond to Customer Reviews
Reviews are crucial to the success of your business as 93% of customers base their purchasing decisions on consumer reviews. If your overall review rating falls below 3.3 stars, consumers won’t engage with your business.
Your responses to your company’s reviews play an equally important role in consumer engagement, influencing purchasing decisions. When you fail to respond, you send a message that you do not care about your customers.
Questions to Ask Your SEO Expert
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is paramount to the success of any business. Consumers are more likely to click on links that appear on the first page of search engine results. The first search result averages 45% of all the clicks and the first three results have a combined average of 60% of the clicks while the first page gets 89% of the clicks. If your company doesn’t show up on that first page then consumers probably aren’t aware you exist. SEO boosts website traffic fueling greater brand awareness, increasing sales, and improving revenue.
Many business owners lack the expertise to improve SEO. While the basics are easy to grasp, it takes experience and skill to master the process and your SEO needs are likely well beyond what you can learn or manage independently. Hiring an expert is only logical, however, entrepreneurs often feel the process is costly and overly technical. In reality, hiring an SEO expert is simple and the expense yields a high return on investment if the expert’s strategies are effective.
The right SEO expert will be highly experienced and not a fly-by-night, self-proclaimed authority who has been in business for only six months. The expert will have a track record of improving local search results and expertise in local SEO techniques. Your business should appear when locals search for keywords relevant to your company. A truly experienced SEO professional will incorporate your company’s address, website meta descriptions, and title tags as well as list your website with Yahoo, Bing, and Google business directories servicing specific zip codes.
The right SEO expert will have glowing testimonials and gracious responses to reviews. The testimonials and reviews should speak well to the results the SEO professional has achieved for various companies and business owners with specific examples of increased traffic and revenue, fantastic customer service, and timely responsiveness to questions and progress reports. The expert’s response to those reviews is equally important.
Ask for a list of past and present clients and their contact info. Verification of past experience is imperative and clientele will eagerly corroborate that the SEO expert was able to improve search ranking, website traffic, and conversions.
The right SEO expert will explain in layman’s terms exactly what needs to be done in order to increase traffic to your website. The professional will voluntarily outline the methodology and strategies by which they intend to increase your search ranking and provide a realistic estimated timeline by which to achieve the agreed-upon SEO goals. The expert will perform a technical review of your website, identifying problems resulting in lower search ranking, and provide on-page optimization making your website as conducive to SEO as possible. The expert will also work to develop web page titles, tags, and headings, improve the linking structure and strengthen your website’s URL. Part of the strategy should consist of providing off-page SEO which elevates awareness of your website’s content on other sites via social media platforms, press releases, and even blogs. The contribution to your SEO will be multifaceted and you will be asked many questions which you might formerly have thought to be irrelevant.
The right SEO expert will strictly adhere to webmaster guidelines. Google’s webmaster best practices prohibit poor SEO tricks such as the incorporation of automated spam and the addition of hidden bogus links and text. SEO experts who fail to abide by the guidelines risk abysmally low website ranking on search engine results which could invite a ban of your website from those results.
The wrong SEO expert will personally guarantee you will achieve a number one ranking on major search engines. Consider that a major red flag. Only the search engines themselves can control the level at which your company website will appear in their search results. No SEO expert can have an inside relationship with search engines.
The wrong SEO expert will offer cheap rates. You truly get what you pay for when it comes to hiring an SEO expert. While some SEO experts charge by the hour, the most common fee structure is project-based and can vary widely depending on complexity. Experts who typically serve small businesses often charge less based on monthly and hourly rates. Inquire as to how often invoices are generated and when payment is due. Verify late payment interest charges and fees for early contract termination. Ensure that all optimized web content is owned by you and will remain unaltered by the expert upon contract expiration or early termination.
The wrong SEO expert will fail to communicate or will only respond to negative feedback and pressing questions and even disappear altogether at crucial times. A top-notch SEO expert has nothing to hide and will eagerly volunteer information such
as an SEO audit of your website, an analysis of your website’s link profile, optimized content, and articles linked to your site which is also published on additional websites. Experienced professionals want to look good to their clients. It stands to reason that you will not have to pry information from your expert and that your questions will be answered eagerly to your satisfaction within a reasonable timeframe. A great SEO professional will want to communicate with you regarding admin access to your CMS (content management system), Google analytics and webmaster tools, social accounts, ask for a list of target keywords, and review past audits. It is only to the benefit of the SEO expert to maintain open lines of communication with you. If the expert never requests access, the job isn’t getting done. In addition, you should expect frequent reports entailing (at minimum) progress thus far, methods utilized to increase SEO and their impact, and recommendations for driving continued growth.
Ignoring SEO is costly and can be likened to walking through a wind storm blowing money towards you only to collect that which blows directly onto your face. SEO attracts volumes of consumers otherwise directed to your competitors and establishes your organic online presence enforcing your interest in consumers. Neglected SEO is the equivalent of hiding from consumers and perpetuates entrepreneurial oblivion. SEO is the link between your business and your consumers enabling you to keep in touch with the needs of your audience, improving consumer experiences with your website thus strengthening your responsiveness.
Fish with a net instead of a rod! Attract consumers and increase profits by hiring an experienced professional to amp up your SEO. The expense is worth it and the return on your investment will only benefit your company.
Does ADA compliance apply to Real Estate Websites?
ADA compliance issues appear to be on the rise for real estate professionals. But what is ADA compliance when it comes to websites. To put it simply, ADA refers to the American Disabilities Act, which requires all public spaces to be accessible to those with disabilities. This includes things like handicapped parking spaces, ramps, and bathrooms. In late 2019 the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Dominos Pizza after a federal appellate court ruled that a blind customer could sue the chain under the Americans with Disabilities Act because he could not fully use their website through screen reading software. You can read more here.
Although non-compliant websites are not technically illegal, if an individual with disabilities comes across your website and is unable to access certain features of it, they can sue on the basis of the ADA. Because most courts have interpreted websites to fall under the category of “public space” as defined in the ADA, most judges rule on the side of the plaintiff and companies have to either settle out of court or pay large fines. We have recently learned that a very large number of realtors in Florida and at least one local Real Estate Association has received demand letters and complaints from a law firm alleging violations of the federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts. The firm alleges that the realtor’s and the association’s websites fail to provide accessibility options for the disabled.
These notices have been received by real estate professionals statewide. Though it does not appear that the actual complaints have been filed in federal court at this point, the demand letters threaten litigation. If an association receives such a letter, the association should contact the local board attorney and the National Association of Realtors® immediately. If a realtor receives such a letter, the realtor should contact their broker and attorney. Deciding whether to fight a demand or settle a claim is a legal decision.
We have been working with real estate professionals for close to 10 years. ADA compliance is a problem that we can help them solve. We have partnered with a company that is transforming web accessibility by replacing a costly, manual process with automated, state-of-the-art AI technology. This allows us to rapidly roll out a cost-effective solution that not only protects against lawsuits but also and even more importantly creates a more inclusive website.
This solution helps:
- Achieve WCAG 2.1 & ADA Compliance
Ongoing WCAG & ADA compliance even when website updates
- Get a Certification & Statement
Accessibility statement and certification of performance
- Receive Daily Compliance Monitoring
Re-scanning and fixing accessibility issues every 24 hours
- Ensure Monthly Compliance Auditing
Emailing you a professional compliance audit every month
If you or a real estate professional you know is in need of help with compliance. We are here to help. With a cost starting at only $490 per year per domain up to 1000 pages. We will get you set up and install the code on your website at no cost as long as you provide us with the required access. If you want to sign up and install it your self just click here.
Getting Started Can be the Hardest Thing Sometimes.
As business owners continue to adjust and adapt to a what seems to be a new normal. Getting started can be one of the hardest things to do, you may ask yourself what do I do first? Everyone is now looking online, where do I start? These have been common questions over the past few weeks. To help our clients and friends we have compiled a basic checklist of things that you work on. Use this check list to not get pulled in several directions at the same time.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, and Get Started.
The 3 Pillars of Local SEO Dominance for Small Business
Building a strong local SEO presence in Florida comes down to three key aspects. First, you must optimize your Google My Business page with verified information, Google Posts, and reviews from your customers. Once your Google My Business page is optimized, you should then move your focus onto your website. Optimizing your website for local SEO comes down to your internal linking structure, meta-content, location pages, local content, and how mobile-friendly your site is. The last step to dominating local SEO involves building your external links from directories and other authority sites within your industry.
Optimizing Your Google My Business Page
Optimizing a Google My Business page gives you the benefit of showcasing your business information right on the Google search results page when potential customers are searching. Optimizing this page involves ensuring all information is verified, posting to your GMB(Google My Business) page, as well as receiving and responding to customer reviews.
The first step to setting up your Google My Business page involves making sure Google has accurate information and getting that information verified through Google. This process is streamlined with a simple registration process. Once all information is filled out and accurate, Google will ask if you’d like to verify this information. Verifying your information is the key to getting your page to appear in search results. They typically send a postcard to your business address with a pin number to verify your mailing address. Sometimes there is an option to verify with an automated phone call. If you already have a GMB you can sign in by visiting https://www.google.com/business
Now that you have a verified Google My Business page, you can start posting to that page. This involves creating short articles related to your business and posting them through your Google My Business. These posts are a great opportunity to build customer trust by showing you truly know what you’re talking about. You can also tailor these posts to your local area to improve your local search engine results.
You’ll also want to try and build a steady flow of reviews from your customers. There are systems available to help you get your customers to submit reviews. Our local reputation management platform is one of those systems. Once you start generating reviews, you’ll want to respond to those reviews. Responding helps you demonstrate to Google that you are an active and engaged business. It is also recommended you set up Google My Business notifications as well.
Optimizing Your Website for Local SEO
Now that your Google My Business page is all set up and verified, the next step is optimizing your website. This comes down to optimizing your home page, Meta Data, setting up your internal linking structure, building out content, and adding a location-specific page.
Your home page should clearly state who you are, what you do and where your business is located as well as the areas you serve. Internally your website’s page title, header tag and meta description should echo this.
While the ranking of Meta Data factors is debated, it is a fact that they play a big part in a visitor’s first impression of your website.
Now setting up your internal linking structure helps your users to easily navigate your website and for Google to index your website accurately. Typically this involves setting up an XML site map. There are plenty of tools to create this. There should also be a link to an HTML version in the footer of your website.
Next you’ll want to build out content and optimize that content for local SEO. This involves setting up meta descriptions, accurate URL tags, well thought- out headers, and image alt-descriptions. Setting up these internal content structures as well makes for a great way to include all of your local keywords in your content without overloading your site with keywords and making it awkward to read. Doing the basics right is an easy way to beat your competitors in search results.
Adding location-specific pages makes it easy for Google to determine what areas or locations your website is most relevant to. These pages can be incorporated into the “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages which are found on most sites. This involves a simple extension into Google Maps that can be applied through a wide number of plugins. This will also link your website to your Google My Business page.
Finally, you’ll want to start writing blog posts applicable to your local area and the services you offer. While it may seem counterintuitive, offering information about how your customers can do the work themselves is a great way to build consumer trust and drive traffic to your site. You’ll find most people end up contacting you for work once they realize the skill required to actually do the work.
Building External Links
Now that you have an optimized Google My Business page and a great website that is ready for traffic, you’ll want to find other websites and directories in your industry that can provide links to your site. The number of links directed to your site makes a huge impact on your ranking in search engines. This can be accomplished through local directories like your local chamber of commerce, large business directories, and other authority sites in your industry.
A great way to build links from high authority sites in your industry can involve offering to write a piece of content for them in exchange for a link. This will help you build your audience by allowing their visitors to see your knowledge within the industry and possibly visit your website. By having links from other authority sites it shows Google that your site provides value to your customers as well as the other websites. Most high authority sites have an email address you can contact, so start emailing these sites today with an offer of writing content in exchange for a link!
While each of these areas may seem like a lot of work, they do work and make for a great investment of your time. Local SEO is a great lead generator for any industry. If you work at it and your website ranks well it becomes an extremely inexpensive channel that generates a recurring stream of customers. Organically generated customers typically have a higher confidence level. And tend to have a higher conversion rate. It is worth considering allocating budget for local SEO, as part of your ongoing marketing efforts.
Local SEO: A Deal Maker For Local Businesses
The concept of ‘local search’ plays a key role in the success of the local online presence of local businesses.