The Importance of Fresh Content for SEO

The Importance of Fresh Content for SEO

If you’ve spent any time researching SEO strategies, you’ve undoubtedly heard or read that “content is king”.  As the search engine’s algorithm continues to align with a human reader’s experience, this statement continues to be increasingly important. Optimizing content for SEO is also very much a dynamic process though and while many people are now focusing on rich content when they build their website, too often the content is neglected after the initial launch. To better understand the importance of dynamic content, let’s analyze how the first page of the SERPs (search engine results page) is determined.

HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK

In determining which search results to show first, Google is constantly crawling the web and collecting topical, chronological and behavioral information.

Topical information comes from the text on your page, and also from SCHEMA, if you have configured this markup. Your text and SCHEMA tell Google what your page is about, so it can determine for which search queries your page should be returned in the results.

Chronological information comes from the dates on your page. It tells Google how long the page has been around for, as well as when it was last updated. These metrics help Google to determine which pages are the most accurate and up to date.

Behavioral information comes from the data on your page. Data tells Google how many people click on your page, how long they stay on your page, and how often they reference it. This information helps Google determine which pages are deemed to be informative and provide the best experience for viewers.

OPTIMIZING CONTENT FOR THE SERPS

In order for a website to rank on the first page, the content must satisfy all of the above metrics. While it may sound a bit daunting, the metrics do complement and dovetail with each other nicely.  If you’ve taken the time to write good, high quality, relevant content for your website, the topical information metric should already be achieved when your site is launched.

The chronological metric is one that many people overlook, thus creating an opportunity to outrank those neglected sites by keeping your website updated with fresh, current content. There are a couple ways to effectively provide fresh content.

The first, and most effective way is by adding a new page or post. In addition to the chronological metric, the number of pages and/or posts is one of the factors that Google contemplates when determining a website’s authority score, therefore the SEO benefits of fresh content via a new page or post are twofold. Additionally, a new page or post also provides an opportunity to optimize for a new keyword or phrase, as well as to potentially add some new internal links.  If you do not wish to write your own material, offering a guest blog post can be an excellent alternative, provided that the post is relevant to the subject matter of your website and that the backlinks created are of good quality and not deemed spammy.

The second method for providing fresh content is to simply update an older page or post. While Google does perceive an aged website to have more authority than a brand new website, the opposite holds true with content.  When determining which results to show in the SERPs, content that is up to date will be served ahead of content that has an older published or edit date. This latter method does not add to the site’s authority score, but it is a quick and effective solution for those times when writing a new post or page is just not in the cards. If you have a page or post that had ranked well in the past but has dropped over time, updating the edit or publish date and forcing a recrawl of the url will more than likely give it just the boost it needs to rank once again, and with minimal effort.

The behavioral metric is a bit tougher, in that it is only partially in your control. Obviously you cannot control what actions a viewer takes when they click on your page; however, by providing relevant, up to date content and ensuring a positive UI/UX experience on the page, a viewer will certainly be encouraged to stay on your page longer, which will in turn tell Google to rank your page higher in the SERPs for similar search terms. As the SERP position increases, so too should the clicks by viewers and you should be well on your way to organic growth.

 

Affect of Performance & Speed Score on SEO

Affect of Performance & Speed Score on SEO

Performance Score Affect on SEO

While it may feel like a huge victory to get that “100%” on GT Metrix or Pagespeed Insights, for SEO purposes, the performance score is mostly insignificant.  The search engines do not care if you’ve removed static query strings, deferred parsing, minified HTML and/or CSS, or any other line item in the list of recommendations. Furthermore, none of these issues are visible to a website’s visitors, so they have no bearing on user experience or conversion rate either. Time spent trying to achieve a perfect performance score would be more wisely invested on improving elements that the search engines (and viewers) do care about, such as improving load time.

Load Time Affect on SEO

Unlike performance, the time it takes for a page to load does play an important role in SEO. A slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation. Google’s sweet spot is currently at 4 seconds or less for the time to full page load, and I would not be the least bit surprised to see even more aggressive load time expectations with future algorythm updates. I’m going to contradict myself a bit here to say that if there are any unresolved performance issues that are directly contributing to page load latency, then those performance issues should be addressed so as to improve the page speed. Optimizing images, minifying HTML & CSS, and using G-Zip compression are performance issues that do have a direct impact on load time and thus, does affect SEO.

The search engine algorythm takes into account users’ expectations and is continuously striving to improve the world wide web. Website visitors today have come to expect nearly instantaneous results on initial load, as well as while navigating within the website.  Recent statistics indicate that 25% of visitors will bounce if the page is not fully loaded just past the 4 second mark. By 7 seconds, the bounce rate increases to 50%, and the remaining potential visitors steadily drop until total abandonment is reached right around 11 seconds. If you’re not already optimizing all of your websites for speed, you should definitely consider making this a standard practice!

Conclusion

Performance score is only important in as much as the line items that directly affect page speed.  Load time; however, is equally important for search engine indexing, user experience, and conversion rates. If your page is not fully loaded in 4 seconds or less, additional optimization is crucial.

Stay tuned for future posts on how to improve page speed!

Which SEO plugin is best with Divi?

Which SEO plugin is best with Divi?

At least once a week, I see this question posed in one or more of the Divi groups, occassionally with the inference that an SEO plugin is directly responsible for whether or not a site ranks.  The fact of the matter is that any and all of the SEO plugins are not magic bullets; they are merely tools that provide a visual checklist to help a user identify the core elements that go into on-page optimization. Just as you’d write down a grocery shopping list, the SEO plugins help ensure that you don’t forget that all important ingredient. It’s not going to guaranty a gourmet dinner; that’s up to you to prepare.

There are several SEO plugins available in the WP repo, as well as some premium options. For the purpose of this post, I will be focusing on the 2 most popular: Yoast and All In One SEO.  For some additional and less widely known options, a detailed overview of the 15 best SEO plugins for 2017 can be read here.

PROS AND CONS OF ALL IN ONE SEO

I personally find All In One SEO to be lacking several very important metrics. While it does include the handy character counter for optimizing the SEO title, keyword and meta description, the visual metrics end there. I do like that the noindex and nofollow radio selectors are front and center, unlike Yoast where these options are out of main sight under the advanced tab; however, this minor convenience is not enough to overcome the much more significant shortcomings of All In One SEO.

Most importantly, All In One SEO does not alert a user if/when the focus keyword has already been optimized on another page, nor does it indicate if the current page contains any internal links to another page that is optimized for the same keyword. If you remember only one thing from this entire post: DO NOT OPTIMIZE MORE THAN ONE PAGE FOR THE SAME KEYWORD/PHRASE, AND DO NOT LINK INTERNALLY TO A PAGE THAT IS OPTIMIZED FOR THE SAME KEYWORD. Doing so will cause keyword cannibalization. (Cannibalization in a nutshell: Google only shows 1 result from your site for any given query (unless it thinks you’re REALLY relevant).  That means you want the page that shows up to be the one with the greatest relevance and conversion potential.  If you have multiple pages that target the same keyword, Google will end up confused and display the non-optimal page over your desired landing page, or will show neither page at all.).

Another extremely important metric that All In One does not display is keyword density.  This is another critical metric, as a page that is grossly diluted will not likely rank and similarly, a page that is overly saturated will likely be flagged for keyword stuffing and will be penalized. Avoiding either extreme is crucial. Ideally, keyword density should be 1.9%; however, a slight deviation in either direction is perfectly acceptable.

All In One SEO also lacks metrics for H1-H2 tags, ALT tags on images, and content word count, all of which are important elements of on-page optimization. While an experienced SEO tech might instinctively know to check for these elements, an SEO novice who is less familiar with standard on-page protocol would definitely benefit from a visual checklist that includes these elements as a reminder.

In conclusion, I find All In One SEO to be sufficient for an advanced user; however, grossly lacking several important elements that an SEO novice might easily overlook if not presented as a line item on the visual checklist.

Moving on…

PROS AND CONS OF YOAST

The only pitfall that I find with Yoast is that users have an inherent desire to achieve the “green light”. For SEO novices especially, it’s quite easy to unwittingly abandon best practices in order to change that daunting amber light to green when in fact, “green” is not always best. The only metric that absolutely MUST be green is the line item for “You’ve never used this focus keyword before”, otherwise keyword cannibalization occurs.  There is another metric that only appears if the condition exists, and that is an alert that you are linking to another page for which the same keyword is optimized. If this alert appears, remedying this issue is also critical to avoid cannibalization.  A nicety that Yoast includes is the “eyeball” so in the event that improper linking does occur, clicking on the eyeball will highlight and quickly identify the troubled link, which can be a significant time saver. Aside from this one metric, amber lights are not necessarily SEO suicide.

Best practices indicate that content should not sound contrived or unnatural. We’ve all seen that site that reads like “For the best dentist in Dallas, contact the best Dallas Dentist today!”  NO…just don’t. If your content reads like it was authored by the love-child of Dr Suess and Yoda, move it to trash and select “empty trash”.  Seriously.  Content should be written for human readers, not for a green light. If keyword density is too low and additional content can be added to include another naturally sounding occurrence of your keyword, have at it.  Do not stuff another instance into a contrived sentence just to go for the green.  The search engine algorithms become more and more “intelligent” with every update and have abandoned the days of black-hat, keyword stuffed, contrived content and will even penalize a site for this.  Readability has become equally as important in the on-page optimization equation and if you are writing good, relevant, readable content, Google is going to find your page whether your keyword density indicator is amber or green.

THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE PLUG-INS

The SEO plugins, particularly Yoast, is a good start for on-page optimization. Will following these guides explicity guaranty that your site will rank on page 1 of Google?  Well, that depends on what you’re going after.

If you’re going after a low competition focus keyword and/or targeting a rural or small town area, chances are pretty good that your site will rank well with nothing more than proper on-page optimization. The odds of ranking by on-page optimization alone will decrease in proportion to the competitiveness of the keyword and/or the density of the targeted location.  What does this mean in practical application? If your keyword is “how to milk a porcupine”, odds are pretty good that following an SEO plugin as a guide will be more than sufficient to rank your site (For the record, there are actually 557,000 results returned by Google for that search. Who knew???).  If your keyword is “law firm in NYC”, you’re not going to see the first few pages of Google just by following along with Yoast or All In One SEO, but following these guiding principles will still lay a good foundation to be built upon by other SEO techniques.  In these cases, long-tail keywords and LSIs become increasing important and will help leverage the competition.

There are also very powerful elements that plugins do not even take into account such as silo structure, Google map embeds, GEO-tagged images, embedded EXIF data on images, and schema mark up. These techniques go beyond the intended scope of this post; however, stay tuned for future posts covering each of these optimization techniques in more depth.

Why Header Sliders Suck

Why Header Sliders Suck

The header slider is always a hot topic of debate among designers. More often than not, our own opinion is circumvented by the client’s insistance on having one and it’s a tough battle to win when our position is based on emotion rather than cold, hard facts. I hope that the following post will arm you with some factual evidence that you can use when trying to dissuade even the most stubborn client from the header element we’ve all come to despise…the slider!

The technical reasons why sliders suck for SEO

Using the appropriate HTML heading order helps search engines sense the hierarchy of information of the page. Ideally, a page should have only one H1 tag, preferably with the keyword or phrase included, and the <H1> should be at the top of the page. The rest of the page should include H2 – H6 tags as needed. It is advisable not to skip heading levels; however, it is ok to go from H2 to H3, then repeat another sequence of H2 and H3 again if needed. If you are using the native Divi slider, the theme’s default value of the slide title is <H2>. Therefore, if using the slider as the header element followed by the page title below, the H2 tags in the slider module will precede the H1 title tag and will disrupt the natural hierarchy of the HTML elements. While it is difficult to pin down an exact statistic as to the degree of harm caused, Google itself recommends not doing this and personally, I’m not one to piss off Google when I want my sites to rank!

There is also the aspect of load time. Yes, a slider can be optimized to minimize it’s load time but there is inevitably going to be some appreciable increase in load time when using a slider versus a static image.  Load time is a factor that is considered in the search engines’ algorithm, therefore most SEO experts are of the mindset that it is not wise to sacrafice even a fraction of a second of load time for an element that does not offer much return in terms of user experience or conversion. I agree wholeheartedly.

The UX reasons why sliders suck for SEO

It is easy to blur the line between SEO and UX, as the two intrinsically dovetail.  In my opinion, the entire purpose of SEO is to convert viewers into customers, therefore user experience is just as crucial to the process as the technical on-page SEO protocol. Extensive research and A/B testing has been conducted for the last decade as to the effectiveness of a home page slider, results of which consistently show a click thru rate of 1% or less. There is where I could bore you to tears with 300+ links to relevant case studies, but I will refrain. You’re welcome. If you can’t sleep; however, I strongly encourage you to go read a few dozen case studies.

The following graph is a compilation of studies done by Notre Dame University, the results of which are consistent with all other similar research. The Notre Dame case study showed the BARELY ONE PERCENT of viewers clicked on a slider. Of those viewers, 84% of those clicks were on the first slide.  The slides in the 2nd, 3rd 4th and 5th position received a dismal amount of clicks varying from 8.8% down to as little as 1.7%. Keep in mind that this is not 8.8% and 1.7% of overall viewers but rather, 8.8% and 1.7% of the initial 1% that took any action on the slider.

For the sake of making the results more tangible, on a site that had a hypothetical 10,000 visitors, only 100 of the visitors (1%) took any degree of action on the slider.  Of those 100 people who clicked through the slider, 84 of them clicked on the first slide and 8.8 clicked on the 2nd slide. Out of those same 10,000 visitors, a whopping 7.2 people followed through to slides 3, 4 & 5 collectively.  This is pretty convincing evidence to prove that sliders are ineffective and viewers are not the least bit compelled by them.

Sliders have become the visual equivalent of the annoying 1990’s telemarketer – that intrusive guy with his masterful skill at cramming the company’s entire mission statement and sales pitch into hopefully less time than it took for the call recipient to untangle the phone cord and walk the receiver back to the wall-mounted base for the dramatic hang-up. (For those readers under the age of 40, Google “rotary phones”. The struggle was real.)  The extensive studies conducted over the last decade unequivocally indicate that viewers do not want, nor do they react positively to, the intrusion of a slider.  As designers, we are doing our clients a disservice if we are wasting this prime real estate with something that is proven to be ineffective for conversions.

We live in a fast paced, instant gratification world. Viewers expect fast load time, clear navigation, skimmable content, and the path of least resistance to find whatever it was that lead them to the site. If your website does not meet these expectations, a viewer will simply move onto the next search result and that conversion opportunity will be lost to a competitor.

So if not a slider, then what??? 

Stay tuned for the next post, which will explore SEO-friendly header options (spoiler alert – they don’t slide!)