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seo tips

Meta Elements – Everything You Need to Know About Meta Tags

By | Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, seo tips

Meta elements or meta tags are text elements of any website that help search engines in identifying the content subject matter of a page. Meta elements are never visible to end users, as they’re hidden in the page’s code.

WordPress users might be familiar with the ‘tagging’ of content, a way to categorize content based on subject. Meta elements work in the same way, but they’re part of a web page’s underlying HTML. They’re usually placed in the ‘header’ part of a web page, and are usually the first to be seen by search engine crawlers.

Meta Elements – Why They Matter for SEO

In the realm of SEO, knowledge on how to effectively use meta elements is part of the most basic of trainings. Meta elements are not as important to a page’s SEO as they used to be, thanks to advanced search engine algorithms that can analyze and deduce what a page’s content is about.

To view a page’s meta tags, all you have to do is right-click anywhere on it and click on ‘View Page Source’:

view sourceThere are several different meta tags available, but their usefulness varies quite a bit. In fact, there only a handful of meta tags that search engines such as Google understand.

Important Meta Elements for SEO

As mentioned above, Google understands a select number of meta tags. And perhaps the most important of these meta elements, which will have an impact on your site’s SEO are:

  • Meta title tag – <title>Title of the page</title>: The contents of this tag are shown as the title in search results.
  • Meta description tag – <meta name=”description” content=”some content” />: This tag provides a brief description of the page. A summary of a summary, as its length is very short.
  • Meta robots tag – <meta name=”robots” content=”arg0, arg1”/>: This tag specifies what search engine crawlers should do with the page.
  • Meta keywords tag – <meta name=”keywords” content=”kw0, kw1..”/>: This tag specifies a set (or array, specifically) of keywords that are relevant to the page.

Meta Title Tag

The meta title tag is perhaps the most important of all meta elements, because it’s going to be processed by search engines and then shown as-is to search users.

Whenever you make a search on Google, you’re presented with a set of search results. The main titles of those search results are actually the meta titles of those pages.

Meta title tags are also visible at the top of a browser:

meta titleThe meta title tag is important because it is one of the few meta elements which is visible directly to web users. A badly worded meta title is going to drive away search users, thus severely affecting its click-through rate.

Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag is just as important as the meta title tag, as it can be seen by users in search results.

Usually, the meta description tag contains valuable and actionable information about a page’s content.

meta descriptionWhat most SEO specialists try to ‘fill’ a page’s meta description with highly-searched keywords so the page has better chances to come up in search results. This is a good practice, as long as you don’t go overboard with keywords.

Usually, Google will choose to display the first 155 characters of a meta description, so try keeping it brief and to the point, with well-chosen keywords.

Meta Robots Tag

The meta robots tags act as instructions for search crawlers on what they should do with your page. These tags are generic, and are used to control the behaviour of all search engines, not just Google.

The robots tag can be specified with different arguments based on what you want the search crawlers to do (default values are index and follow):

  • noindex: Prevents the page from being indexed by search engines.
  • Nofollow: Prevents search engines from following links on the page.

Meta Keywords Tag (Deprecated)

The meta keywords tag is not recognized by Google anymore, since it was notorious for being abused by search engine marketers to ‘steal’ traffic by using popular (but unrelated) keywords for web pages.

Optimizing Meta Elements for SEO

Meta elements still play a vital role in determining how well your page will be ranked by search engines. As such, it is important to come up with meta elements which are produced using SEO strategies such as keyword research.

There is no simple formula to help you come up with meta titles and descriptions that will be viewed more favorably by search engines. For titles, it is absolutely important that you include the core keyword once. For meta descriptions, many users make the mistake of ‘stuffing’ them with keywords. This has an adverse effect on readability, and thus reduces reader confidence and trust.  

Pop-up Ads: Does Google Hate Them?

By | Internet Marketing Service, Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates, seo tips

The internet as we know it today wasn’t always the way it is. Advertisers saw the potential reach of the internet back in the early 90s and started using it aggressively to advance their marketing goals. And the pursuit of capturing the internet user’s undivided attention resulted in the creation of the revolutionary pop-up ad. Today we’ll be discussing how pop-up ads were invented and why Google has come to severely penalize websites that use them.

First, let’s talk about where pop-up Ads came from and their history…

Pop-Up Ads: A Brief History

Back in the early 90s, there were less than 4 million internet users in the entire world. But the internet was gaining popularity at a swift pace and by 1995 the total number had grown to 16 million people. This rapid growth was something that marketers and advertisers could no longer ignore and soon the world of online advertising was born.

The first online ads were nothing more than images with some marketing text in them. These are now more commonly referred to as banner ads.

By the late 90s, online advertising was commonplace and advertisers were working hard at finding new ways of getting the internet user’s attention. But there was a problem. Advertising technology was still in its infancy and that led to online ads being placed on random websites. As one car company found out when they realized that their ads were being served on an adult website, which they believed would negatively affect the reputation of their brand. Thus, online advertisers had to find a way of disassociating the ad from the website they were being served on. This effort indirectly led to the invention of the pop-up ad.

Ethan Zuckerman, the inventor of the pop-up ad, designed it to cover a part of the website’s content underneath it. The pop-up ad had its own design so it stood out from the website it was being served on. This created a strong disconnect between the website and the ad itself and so the reputation of the brand being advertised would stay intact (in theory), while ads could still be served freely on any kind of website.

The pop-up ad proved to be a hugely popular way of advertising online. By 1997, popular websites such as AOL and the New York Times were pushing advertising through pop-ups.

This popularity was one of the major reasons for the pop-up ad’s demise. It was being overused, and that led to people being frustrated because of the way it hindered access to a website’s content. A study conducted in 2004 found that 95% of internet users reacted negatively to pop-up ads.

How Pop-Up Ads Work

Pop-up ads work through the use of web page scripts (predominantly JavaScript) that allow them to jump in front of the website’s content. Pop-ups may appear as separate windows or as part of the web page, obscuring the content of the web page being accessed, to instantly catch the attention of the visitor. Want to find out what Google thinks of your website? Get a free SEO report here!

Pop-up ads are designed to deliver “in your face” advertising. They’re something that cannot be missed and usually needs to be closed. Because the pop-up is guaranteed to get at least one click (meant to close it), it can be misused to instead redirect that click to another website. This is why most people find pop-up ads to be a deceptive or misleading form of advertising. In worst case scenarios, pop-up ads have been known to run malicious scripts designed to collect sensitive data or install spyware.

What Google Thinks of Pop-Up Ads

As annoying as pop-up ads were, they were never really on Google’s radar and as such the search results of a website with pop-up ads weren’t affected. According to our Search Engine Optimisation specialists, that quickly changed as smartphones gained popularity and a bulk of searches started to come from mobile devices.

From 2015 onwards, Google started implementing some new search engine measures that favored websites providing good mobile user experiences. The first of these measures was the mobile update which was announced in the autumn of 2014 and rolled out on April 21st, 2015. This update included search results which showed a “Mobile-friendly” label for websites that had been optimized for mobile devices.

Google SERP Penalties for Intrusive Pop-Ups

The push for better mobile user experiences led to Google penalizing websites that showed intrusive pop-up ads (or interstitials, as the company calls them) in early 2017. According to Google, an intrusive pop-up is anything that takes unreasonable amounts of screen real estate and generally impedes the user’s access to a website’s main content. The following are clear examples given by Google of pop-ups it deems to be intrusive:

  • A pop-up/interstitial that is displayed on top of a page’s main content immediately after a user has navigated to that web page from Google search results. This can also include pop-ups/interstitials that are displayed while the user is reading the content.
  • A pop-up/interstitial that forces the visitor to dismiss/close it before the content of the page underneath can be accessed.
  • A pop-up/interstitial which has been incorporated into the design of the page and appears at the above-the-fold portion of the page, with the original page content appearing after the interstitial.

Examples of Pop-ups/Interstitials that negatively affect Google SERP rankings

This, however, shouldn’t be confused as a blanket ban on the use of pop-ups, for advertising or otherwise. Google just wants to discourage the use of intrusive pop-up ads that lead to a sub-par mobile user experience. The company has set clear guidelines for the types of pop-ups/interstitials that will not cause penalties for websites:

  • Pop-ups/interstitials that have to be used due to a website’s legal obligations. These can be age verification dialogs (for websites with mature content) or cookie-usage policy disclosures.
  • Pop-ups/interstitials that block access to a website that provides paid access to its content. The interstitials could be used for providing customers a way to login or to block the general public from accessing the original content of the page. An example of this would be news websites where a user needs to pay a monthly or weekly fee to be able to access the website’s content.
  • Pop-ups/interstitials/banners that take a small amount of screen real estate and can be easily closed by the user. Some common examples of this would be notification prompts or app-install banners that are shown in an above-the-fold portion of a website.

Examples of pop-ups/interstitials that are permissible according to Google

The Reasons Behind Google’s Dislike for Pop-Ups

1. Pop-Ups Lead to Subpar Mobile User Experience

Smartphones have limited screen real estate due to small physical display sizes. A pop-up ad can potentially take up all of the screen’s available space, thus forcing the user to either dismiss or follow through on what the Ad wants. This leads to frustrated users and a bad mobile experience in general.

2. Pop-Ups Disrupt the User Experience

The pop-up was invented to create a strong disassociation between ads and the websites they were being served on. Needless to say, this clearly hints at the fact that pop-ups rarely deliver content that is relevant to the website’s visitors. Not only that, but they’re also frustrating to encounter as they hinder access to what the user is really there for – the website’s content.

3. Pop-Ups Encourage Aggressive Advertising Tactics

Pop-ups have been designed to grab a user’s attention whether they like it or not. Pop-ups that are displayed successfully will always be able to show their content to the user. This has given advertisers the opportunity to include ‘click-bait’ content that is designed to get the most amounts of clicks. The focus here is not on the quality or relevance of the ad, just the number of clicks it can get from visitors.

Important Factors of Pop-Ups that Impact SEO

Pop-up ads can have a direct impact on the overall success of the SEO strategy of a website, even when Google’s penalties are not taken into account. We have seen this happen first-hand at A.P. Web Solutions.  The following factors should be considered when implementing pop-up ads on a website:

1. Timing

The timing of a pop-up ad can often decide whether it’s going to be considered as intrusive and frustrating by the user. Pop-ups that are displayed immediately after a webpage is accessed, are deemed intrusive by both Google and most internet users.

As such, it is advisable to display such pop-ups after the user has browsed a certain length of content on the page. Ideally, pop-ups should be displayed when the user has reached the end of the content and is likely to leave the page. If the user likes the content, they’re more likely to click on the pop-up and not leave with a bad impression of the website. If you want to consider hiring professionals to do the job for you, learn more about SEO pricing here.

2. Interaction

A pop-up should be easily dismissible by the user. This can include a clear “X” mark at the corner of the pop-up or a button which closes the pop-up ad. Considerations should be made to close the pop-up if the user clicks outside of the pop-up (this shows intent to access content).

Final Thoughts

The pop-up ad has revolutionized the way online advertising is delivered to web users. However, user response to this has been overwhelmingly negative. That is why most modern web browsers now include built-in pop-up blockers. But the pop-up ad is not going to disappear any time soon – it still remains a reliable way of capturing the attention of a website’s visitors.

Why SEO Takes Time & Is It Worth It?

By | Internet Marketing Service, Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, seo tips

Many disgruntled website owners turn to SEO to improve their search engine visibility and rankings. But they soon find out that even after months of painstaking SEO, the website’s performance in search engines shows little signs of improvement. At this point, many of these owners will start questioning their SEO consultants and their capabilities.

why search engine optimization takes time to workThis is mostly because marketing through online ads produces swift results, and many website owners get the wrong idea that SEO will do a similar job for them. The truth of the matter is that SEO takes time. But if it takes time, is it worth it in the end? In this post, we’ll be discussing the answers to these important questions.

Why SEO Takes Time to Work

Competitor Analysis is Tricky and Takes Time to Perfect

There’s a great chance that many other online companies are selling products and services very similar to yours. These are your competitors and the ones you want to target are those on top of the search results.

That is, of course, easier said than done as everyone is constantly trying to get there. And the ones who’re already there make every effort to keep their place.

importance of being patient when doing search engine optimizationDethroning these websites requires that you do a thorough analysis of their SEO strategy. This takes both time and resources and can be a tricky thing to get right. Make no mistake, you will not figure out a strategy that works for you the first time.

There will be a lot of hit-and-miss involved and many times you’ll see other competitors crop up and take the place of SERP leaders.

The Variables Involved in SEO Strategy

SEO is a vast domain, and there are a lot of variables to keep track of just to stay relevant. Let’s take a look at some of these and how they’ll affect your website’s SERP.

  • Age of Your Domain and Website: The older your domain is, the more time Google or any other search engine has had to crawl through it. You will see many people looking for “aged” domains just because search engines know these exist and they’ll have a better chance of being indexed.
  • Website Design: Websites with great user experiences are favoured by Google. A crucial part of your SEO strategy should be to weed out any bad design elements on your website. This requires skill and time to get right.
  • Reaction to Trends and Regular Content: Your website should be constantly updated with fresh content so that it’s on the radar of the search engines. Trends are also something to keep in check as they bring up new keywords and if your website reacts to popular keywords, search engines will take notice.
  • User Activity on Website: If users are spending a lot of time on your website, it means they’re getting what they came looking for. It also sends good signals to a search engine as it shows your website has relevant content.

A combination of the variables discussed above will determine how well you fare in the search rankings. Keep in mind that keeping track of these variables is a time-consuming process.

Not sure where your website is at with search engine optimization? Get an instant online SEO report (link opens in a new window)

For example, you may find that a website design flaw is causing visitors to leave your website. That may take some time to fix and those users may take time to come back. This will have to be repeated until you find the perfect fix that keeps visitors on your website for longer.

This is what it takes to implement a successful SEO strategy for any website. SEO isn’t a single process; it consists of many smaller but equally important processes that need to be executed efficiently and effectively in order for the overall strategy to be successful.

Any SEO expert worth their salt will inform you of these factors and give you a realistic timeline to see progress in your website’s SERP performance. Agencies that promise you swift results are looking to make a quick buck and obviously don’t care about their reputation.

Why SEO is Worth It

Now that we’ve seen the effort that goes into executing a successful SEO strategy, we can appreciate the time it takes for the strategy to show results. But in the end, is such a time-consuming process really worth it? Let’s take a deeper look at why it is.

People Use Search Engines to Get Content

SEO matters, and it’s more important now than ever. Google alone processes 40,000 searches a second, so it’s obvious that a lot of people are using search engines to find what they need. What’s more, search engines have become very sophisticated and they now favour websites that follow SEO rules responsibly.

Without search engine recognition even if your website has a huge amount of useful content, it won’t be able to reach the end user. At A.P. Web Solutions, we focus on drawing attention to the content you produce. Click here to find out more about our SEO services and find out how you can get a complimentary website analysis.
More importantly, all of your competitors are already using SEO, so you’ll have to use it as well if you want to stay relevant.

It Produces Organic Growth

SEO remains the most sure-fire way of getting real, organic growth of traffic for your website. You might be fine using online ads for some time, but they’ll cost you exorbitant amounts of money after a while and the returns will be diminishing.

SEO, on the other hand, benefits you in two important ways: it increases your SERP ranking and gets you, real followers. These followers are more likely to share your content on social networks which can give your website a huge boost in both traffic and rankings.

This is called organic growth and this is the only viable growth strategy if your website is going to be in business for a long time.

Google Assistant Vs Amazon Alexa: What Voice Search Means For Local Businesses

By | Internet Marketing Service, Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, seo tips, Voice SEO

voice SEO, voice search engine optimization

Voice search is dramatically shaping the future of search engine optimization (SEO). Marketers should embrace the changes and learn more about voice SEO techniques that are associated with the mobile age.

Bing stated that voice search accounts for up to 25 percent of all organic searches on its platform although this technology is still under development. However, this does not mean that marketers should pay less attention to the voice search, which goes back to the early 2000s when Google began exploring how voice recognition software could apply to its suite of services. Google’s voice searches have increased significantly since 2008.

Research studies revealed that the ability to get faster results is one of the most important motivators for using this type of search. This trend demonstrates how voice search changes the way users find the right content online. Intent plays a major role in voice searches than traditional queries.

Over the years, the technology has evolved and it has been adopted by several tech giants, including Apple that introduced Siri, its voice search application. Although Siri is associated with the iOS, Apple’s operating system, it is an independent application developed by a third party developer. Apple eventually acquired the application and integrated it with the iPhone 4s in 2011.

What’s the Difference? Typed Searches vs Voice Searches

Text-based and voice searches deliver relevant results that are closely linked to the users’ intent. Search engines rely on advanced algorithms to determine the context of the spoken or typed keywords. However, text and voice searches provide varying experiences when it comes to results.

Voice queries are becoming more functional and accurate as voice recognition software evolves. According to a report published by Google, the majority of users turn to voice search for quick queries. These include searching for the nearest restaurant and other queries linked to local search engine optimization. Traditional search is used mainly for complex or sensitive subjects, such as healthcare.

Many people also prefer text-based searches for queries involving adults-only intents. On the other hand, it is rare for users to conduct voice searches when it comes to social media. Experts attribute this trend to concerns surrounding the possibility of voice-enabled technology spying on user activities.

Phrasing, tone and word choice are key factors that differentiate between typed and voice searches. This means search engine marketing (SEM) practitioners need to focus on the vocal communication patterns of their customers. Unlike traditional search queries, voice search typically comes in the form of questions. Users express themselves through natural language.

It’s common for the searches to reflect a conversational tone and the queries are aimed at obtaining quick answers. For this reason, marketers should strive to adapt their voice SEO strategies accordingly. Long-tail keywords play an important role when aiming to attract traffic via voice search. The same applies to optimizing site content for direct answers to common questions posed by user’s queries.

For their part, search engine algorithms have become more accurate when detecting user’s intent thanks to artificial intelligence.

Google Home Assistant Vs Amazon Alexa

Google voice searchAmazon Alexa and Google Assistant provide high-quality products for the living room. It comes as no surprise that the two brands have been hogging the limelight in the digital assistant market. The products are compatible with smart speakers, phones and a wide range of smart home devices.

Google Assistant is powered by advanced artificial intelligence software. It allows users to enjoy an interactive experience when using a Google Home speaker and Android phones. It is Google’s version of Siri.

Alexa works with Amazon’s products like Echo smart speaker and the Fire TV remote control. The digital assistant makes it easier to enjoy added convenience at home or on the go. Users can receive a traffic update or dim the lights using a voice command. Google Assistant and Alexa are both compatible with a wide selection of third-party products designed to promote smart living.

Here’s a real-time graph of interest (based on the number of searches worldwide over the last 12 months) comparing Amazon Alexa vs Google Home:

The technology behind the digital assistants is getting smarter by the day thanks to continuous research and development efforts by Amazon and Google. Many people find Assistant impressive because it offers a more natural experience. Google taps into the vast knowledge derived from its internet search platform to provide an intuitive experience.

As a result, Alexa has been playing catch up and it began showing significant improvements in recent years. Assistant has the ability to answer more questions than Alexa. Advanced artificial intelligence displayed by Assistant is impressive. It can answer complex questions like “When are taxes due in Australia?” The technology can even skip to the next song when the user provides an adverse comment about a track that is playing on Spotify.

Meanwhile, Alexa does not support thumbs up and down, thus spoiling the experience. On the upside, the product has its own set of strengths that users will find useful. The digital assistant allows users to take advantage of short words (wake words) to activate a device. In addition, it offers a number of apps designed to expand functionality. With the apps, users can play music on radio stations, perform guided meditations or peruse recipe books. The features are known as ‘skills’ and users have a choice of more than 25,000.

Google’s version of the ‘skills’ is available in the form of ‘actions.’ However, Assistant offers a limited number of options than Alexa. Users can choose from hundreds of actions.

How Businesses Should Adapt to Voice Search SEO

Voice search has dramatic implications on search engine marketing (SEM) and also presents a challenge to SEO experts. Unlike traditional search queries, voice search does not focus on exact keywords. Instead, users are conversational in tone. This means businesses need to respond to the dynamics of voice search by providing quick answers to user’s questions. Long-tail keywords and FAQ-type content reign supreme.

Marketers should not limit the frequently asked questions (FAQs) sections to a static list. It is important to vary the content to provide accurate and relevant answers that meet the user’s expectations. The approach is beneficial for both traditional and voice search.

The content should be optimized for mobile and voice search since a significant number of internet users connect via mobile devices. Good content performs well on mobile and desktop platforms.

SEO Update Jan 2018 – Google’s Page Speed Announcement

By | search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates, seo tips, SEO tools

On 17th January 2018, Google announced an upcoming update that will supposedly come into effect in July 2018 and will affect rankings directly. They are calling it…

“The Speed Update”

Now, page loading speed has been a ranking signal for 4-5 years already. You might have read some of our other articles talking about the importance of faster loading speeds. So why is this important? What has changed?

Well, in total there are more than 200 factors in Google’s algorithm that are “ranking signals” which affect your website’s placement in the search engines. But not all ranking signals are created equal and some of these are far more important than others. So while “page speed” has been a ranking signal for some years, it was rather low on the list and has become more and more important over the last year. And now with this announcement, it safe to say that it has made the Top 10 List.

In other words, fixing your page speed will no longer be optional in the near future if you want to rank. It used to be that a specialist could rank a website without maximizing the website’s speed but this is no longer the case. The last thing you want is to build a great looking website, only to find out people are getting frustrated because it takes too long to load!

fix your page speed SEO update 2018

What exactly is considered “fast” page speed?

We finally have a specific answer from Google. Their current benchmark for fast-loading web pages is…

3 seconds or less

So basically if your site does not load in less than 3 seconds, your rankings will likely take a hit. Google has mentioned the rankings will be affected on mobile devices. But remember that Google is well on their way to moving towards a “Mobile-first index” meaning that their Mobile Index will become primary (which has also been estimated to go fully live in 2018)

When does this Update come into effect? The real deal

Google’s official announcement says July 2018 but we know from history how misleading those dates can be. As it was with the Mobilegeddon update of 2015, it is likely that Google has already started rolling out this update. It is much more practical for them to roll it out over a period of months rather than suddenly in one day.

What can you do about it?

The time to take action is NOW to make your website lightning-fast to load, which secures not only your rankings but provides a better experience for your potential customers and website visitors (thus helping with conversions). Google generally reveals very little information on how to get organic traffic so when they make an announcement like this, it is certainly something you should address.

First things first. You need to know what your site’s current score is.

To check this, go to gtmetrix.com and note the following numbers: PageSpeed Score & Fully Loading Time (in seconds), both highlighted below:

While a grade of B+ or B used to be perfectly fine, your website really needs an A to perform well in 2018 and beyond, with a loading speed of 3 seconds or less.

If your scores are less than that, get in touch with us and we guarantee to boost your Site Speed as high as possible and get that Grade A score.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

If your website is built with WordPress, it can be enticing to simply install a plugin that promises to fix all your page speed issues in an instant with one click. You don’t want to do that! Why?

  1. While there are some plugins that can effectively take care of issues that might be contributing to page speed issues (such as suppressing large images), there’s isn’t a single reliable plugin that can fix ALL those issues.
  2. Plugins create conflicts. The more you install, the more you make your site vulnerable, both in terms of functionality and security.

It is best to do the work manually, especially delicate work like minifying JavaScript & HTML. Getting a plugin to do this sort of work is literally asking for a disaster. So it is best to get your SEO expert involved!

A.P. Web Solutions is an SEO Agency based in Melbourne, Australia and working with local businesses all over Australia to help with getting organic traffic and leads. More information here