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By OppGenetix

SEO: Everything You’re Doing Wrong

One of our more recent blog posts shared our top 10 local SEO audit insights. One of those insights was that the majority of our SEO audits received an F. That post covered a lot of the more technical aspects of SEO, but where can businesses (or anyone, for that matter) improve in terms of content?

Well, there’s clearly a lot that people are doing wrong in that category, and that’s what this blog post aims to achieve: what you’re doing wrong with SEO, why it’s wrong, and what you can do to fix it.

 

Keeping duplicate content

Duplicate content is content that shows up in more than one URL on the internet. In many cases, this is not intentional; RavenTools.com found that a little under a third of the internet is duplicate content.

Click tracking and analytics can cause duplicate content problems. Having different site versions is another issue (http versus https or www versus non-www sites).

You can fix these issues with a 301 redirect from the duplicated page to the original page or by using the rel=canonical attribute. Both of these options help search engine crawlers know where to find the original content and rank those pages instead of the duplicate(s).

A third option is to set your preferred domain in Google Search Console, which works well if you’re dealing with having different versions of your website.

To see if your website (or any others) has duplicate content, you can use this tool.

 

Copying and pasting content from other sites

Technically this could fall under duplicate content (it is a type of duplicate content), but this particular item is separate for a particular reason: it is plagiarism.

In an ideal world, people should know better than to plagiarize, not just for the sake of their website’s search engine page ranking, but simply because it’s unethical. If ethics aren’t enough to convince someone to avoid plagiarism, then this might:

You can be sued for plagiarism under copyright law, and if you’re the one copying, the law is not going to be on your side.

Do yourself a favor and do not plagiarize content. Either write content yourself or hire someone to create it for you.

 

Misleading headlines

Admit it. You’ve been disappointed after clicking on an article with a really interesting title because the content didn’t live up to the hype. So why would you do that to your audience?

Consider Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines’ E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). E-A-T is indicative of a website’s quality. If your website has an attention-grabbing headline but unrelated content, you’re not making the case that your site is trustworthy.

To quote those guidelines: “Websites and pages should be created to help users. Websites and pages that are created with the intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help users, should receive the Lowest P[age] Q[uality] rating.” (Emphasis is Google’s.)

Don’t disappoint, mislead, or deceive your audience — Google will make sure you and your site pay the price if you do.

 

Keyword stuffing

Long gone are the days where keyword stuffing was an acceptable practice. Google’s bots and AI are smart enough now that they can “read” pages close to how we do. If you’re clearly writing for a bot, people will notice — and so will Google.

Write for a human audience, not for a digital one.

 

Link stuffing

Ease up on including those internal links. You don’t need to link back to the same page with each word. Include internal links on the first or second mention of a sentence or keyword that is relevant to those links. There’s no need to link to your SEO page every single time the word “SEO” pops up in the text.

As for outgoing links, don’t overdo them, either. If your website has a lot of outgoing links lacking the nofollow tag, Google might view your site as a link farm and kick your website down a few in the search rankings. If you are going to have outgoing links, be sure that you are linking to reputable sources (E-A-T strikes again!).

 

Buying links

Building backlinks is important, but you must do it organically. It’s not something that can be done overnight… and if you do it overnight, well, you definitely didn’t do it in a way Google approves of.

Buying links is obviously not organic growth. Circling back to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines and E-A-T, in what way does buying links help your audience? Are these websites relevant to what your site offers? Are they quality sites?

If websites with the intent to harm users are the ones you’re buying links from, you’re hurting business and yourself by associating your website with them. Once again, Google will notice and will dropkick your website lower in the rankings.

It’s more important to focus on the quality of backlinks than the quantity of backlinks. SEO is a long game. You’re not going to leap to Page 1 of search results overnight. It can take months to hit the second page, let alone the first.

 

Spamming links

Don’t go around spamming your own website’s links in blog comments and social media posts. It’s perfectly fine to share your latest blog post on your social media sites, but don’t leave the same comment and link on the posts of the 25+ big names in the industry. That’s not a quality backlink; that’s a lazy, spammy backlink that won’t do you any good.

If you are trying to share what you’ve written, do it in a way that shows that you’re not just selling something. Imagine you’re attending an in-person networking event. There is someone who’s walking from person to person in an attempt to sell their product without so much as saying hello. What do you think of that person? Probably that they’re annoying, are selling a bad product, and/or ended up at the wrong event.

You’re not going to buy from them, let alone interact with them. Nobody is. So why are you acting like that person online?

Don’t write a cookie-cutter comment that you can copy and paste on people’s posts. Customize it for each person you’d like to read it. Read what they have to say. Start a conversation about that first, and then share your blog post or product — if it’s relevant.

 

Remember: E-A-T

At the end of the day when it comes to SEO and content, remember E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.  Those three qualities will help users, and as a result, bump up your SERP position.

By OppGenetix

Birds of Prey Changes Title for Better SEO

When a movie isn’t performing well at the box office, what can a studio do? In the case of Warner Bros.’ most recent DC Comics movie, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), changing the title might help. The movie’s opening weekend made $33 million domestically, which was short of the projected $50 to $55 million.

There’s been a lot of finger-pointing at what’s to blame for its disappointing opening weekend (sexism due to the female cast and director, its R rating, bad marketing, etc.), but one explanation could be its title.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is not only a mouthful; it’s bad for SEO. It’s long, so most people aren’t going to type the entire thing.

Then throw in recognition. The Birds of Prey aren’t nearly as well-known as Harley, whose name is on par with other big DC Comics characters, like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Joker. 

As Ahrefs’s keyword explorer shows, “harley quinn” has greater search volume than “birds of prey.” The movie’s original title has significantly less search volume than both “harley quinn” and “birds of prey.”

The new title, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, is easier on the tongue and search engines. It puts the well-known character front and center. That’s good since Harley Quinn is searched more than Birds of Prey. Plus, if someone searches for either “harley quinn” or “birds of prey,” this new title will help them find the movie easier.

Even though the new title isn’t in Ahrefs’s keyword explorer, it’s worth noting the change is recent. The fact it’s not in the database can be positive in terms of outranking the competition. As more people search for Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, the movie’s local showtimes will probably be the first results.

In the meantime, we’ll have to wait to find out just how much of a difference the SEO-friendly title makes in the box office.

 

Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube © Warner Bros.

By OppGenetix

Write, Review, and Revise: How to Adjust to Google’s New Core Update

Google’s aptly named January 2020 Core Update went live on January 13, 2020.

In a tweet, Google’s Public Liaison of Search Danny Sullivan referred to a blog post published in August 2019 regarding search algorithm updates for guidance.

Like previous core updates, Google didn’t share any specifics about what this update entails, leaving those discoveries up for dedicated SEO analysts and experts. 

The best way to stay on top of the January 2020 Core Update is to pay attention to search rankings for the following days and weeks.

If you notice your rankings were negatively affected by the core update, take the time to re-evaluate your website with the following items in mind:

 

1. Update and revise quality content

To quote Google’s August 2019 post about core updates: 

Pages that drop after a core update don’t have anything wrong to fix.

So, what’s the big deal, then? Why did your website’s page drop after the core update if there’s nothing wrong with it?

The answer to those questions might be found in a page’s content. You should try to offer the best content you can. The best content is thorough, up-to-date, and provides original information.

If your page had a high SERP position prior to this core update, it may be worth your while to see the last time your page was updated. It could be that some of the information the page provided is outdated.

If the websites that rank higher than yours have more recent information, it certainly would not hurt to get your content up to date.

 

2. Review search quality rater guidelines

Algorithms are very much works in progress. Google knows this, which is why the company hires search quality raters. These raters give Google further insights about algorithms’ effectiveness. If an updated algorithm isn’t coming up with better search results, the raters will inform Google.

Though the raters have no control over how pages rank, they do give feedback for how effective Google’s algorithms are working. Think of raters like customer service feedback request forms. If you fill one out after a shopping experience, the feedback shows what that business is doing well as well as areas of improvement.

Thankfully, Google has shared its search quality rater guidelines, so you can review what these search quality raters (and Google as a company) consider to be quality content.

 

3. Write for humans, not an algorithm

On October 25, 2019, Google introduced a search algorithm called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short. BERT reads searches and content like a human being would. 

Before BERT, Google’s search algorithms processed words based on the words around them. BERT reads each word one by one in order, allowing it to take the full context of a word into account. The way BERT “reads” gives it a better understanding of the reasoning behind a search query.

“It’s more important than ever to write like a person,” said Will Stockton, Senior SEO Lead at OppGenetix. “That may sound strange, but the days of tricking search engines by writing for a machine are over. Google is closer to reading like a human than ever before, and everyone should start writing content for who they should have been writing for all along — other people.”

By OppGenetix

Business Owners Still Don’t Understand SEO, and It’s Not Their Fault

How much do business owners know about SEO? The answer might surprise you.

Fractl surveyed 977 people, with 394 of them being business owners, on SEO knowledge. The majority of these business owners (219) ran companies with fewer than 5 employees.

This survey found that:

  • Nearly a quarter of business owners were either vaguely familiar or not familiar with SEO.
  • 55% of business owners reported being mostly or very familiar with SEO.
  • 1 in 3 business owners had little or no understanding of how Google determines search rankings.
  • When asked to describe common SEO terms, business owners were more confident than the general public, but…
  • …When quizzed over these basic SEO terms and concepts, both business owners and the general public failed. On average, business owners scored 48.7% while the general public scored 38.7%.
  • About 26% of business owners don’t see SEO as an important aspect of the health of their business while 18.4% think it is very important.

The gaps in SEO knowledge, particularly for business owners, are eye-opening. How is it that 55% of business owners said they were mostly or very familiar with SEO while failing to pass a basic SEO terminology quiz? Even though business owners’ average quiz results were better than the general public’s, a failing grade is still a failing grade. It’s easy to pin the blame on those surveyed for their lack of knowledge, but what if that is only part of the problem?

What if the digital marketing industry is doing a poor job of educating clients about SEO?

 

Bad and Good Teachers

Bad teachers are teachers who fail at their main task: educating students in a way that makes sense.

We’ve all seen our share of bad teachers. There’s the math teacher who insists there is only one way to solve a problem even though there are several other ways. Maybe you’ve had a chemistry professor who cannot explain complex concepts in a simple way — but instead uses a lot of scientific jargon with the assumption that the students understand.

On the other hand, you may have been fortunate enough to encounter a good teacher. Good teachers simplify confusing or difficult concepts, encourage multiple ways of problem-solving, and inspire their students by revealing what can be achieved with a thorough education.

Just as there are good and bad teachers, there are also good and bad digital marketing agencies. A good digital marketing agency is a lot like a good teacher. They both educate and communicate with the items below in mind.

 

Being Transparent and Honest

If a digital marketing agency says it has a secret formula or won’t disclose a list of its clients, that’s a red flag. That might mean they don’t value educating clients, they don’t feel comfortable educating clients, or they have a reason to work in secrecy.

There is no reason to keep SEO ranking factors a secret, especially when some factors can easily be found in a Google search. However, there are still aspects of SEO that may require an agency’s expertise, so don’t go waving off a partnership with one immediately. Some organic search ranking factors weigh more heavily than others, and that isn’t necessarily information business owners can glean from just anyone’s blog.

Ideally, a digital marketing agency will teach clients as much as they know about SEO so their business can meet their goals, whether that be lead generation, booking more appointments and consultations, or increasing sales.

Hiding any of that information could have a negative impact on a client later down the road, leaving them worse off than they were before.

 

Encouraging Growth to Succeed

The most experienced digital marketing agencies want to see their clients succeed. They won’t string people along with vague answers. They’ll do whatever it takes to see their clients rise to the top.

The best digital marketing agencies will create a customized SEO strategy that’ll help clients meet their unique goals. They also know to communicate that it takes time to see the effects of any optimizations that have been made to the client’s website and content.

Growth does not happen overnight. It may take months before a client sees an increase in sales or consultations. An agency that tells its clients that growth will be immediate may not be the most honest or experienced agency.

 

Creating Personalized Strategies

Everyone learns differently. In an ideal world, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education.

Business owners who receive “cookie-cutter” services from their digital marketing agency may want to look elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if this agency has some of the highest organic keyword rankings for their clients. Just because they had great success with a few clients using the same strategy does not mean they’ll be able to boost your business to achieve the same results.

Before starting a marketing campaign, a strategic marketing agency performs a digital audit and analysis so they can figure out the areas where SEO and/or PPC clients succeed and the areas in need of work.

 

Bringing It All Together

It is imperative to educate business owners about SEO and PPC campaigns and what sets apart the best digital marketing agencies from their counterparts.

For business owners:

If you work with an agency, ask them to explain topics in more depth instead of giving summaries. If you don’t understand something, ask them to slow down or give another example. 

Just as business owners tend to be knowledgeable about their respective industries, digital marketers have some expertise in theirs, too. They might not know the ins and outs of what running your business entails or certain terms, but that doesn’t mean you think they’re complete buffoons. Marketers don’t think that about you. They know you’re seeking their help and won’t think any less of you for asking what you might feel is a stupid question.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so ask anything that comes to mind.

For digital marketing agencies:

Explain things on a basic level before getting too deep into the lingo of SEO and PPC. If your client looks or sounds confused or frustrated, stop and ask an open-ended question like, “What can I make more clear?”

Asking “Does that make sense to you?” makes it easy for clients to nod along, even though they have no idea what you’re saying. Open-ended questions encourage you to listen carefully to clients, which shows you take them seriously. That can strengthen your relationship with clients.

Business owners and digital marketing agencies are not enemies. They are partners that could not exist without the other. Educating one another is key to successful marketing campaigns, and by utilizing all this information and transforming them into strategies, we can start to close the SEO knowledge gap.

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SEO: Everything You’re Doing Wrong
Birds of Prey Changes Title for Better SEO
Google Search Console Dashboard View
Top 10 Local SEO Audit Insights from 2019
Write, Review, and Revise: How to Adjust to Google’s New Core Update
Business Owners Still Don’t Understand SEO, and It’s Not Their Fault