Everything you need to know about SEO and website design

Everything you need to know about SEO and Web Design

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Your website is the center of your digital marketing world — the place that all digital rivers run toward. And of course, the largest of its traffic sources is generally organic search.

Yet all too often, businesses don’t think about SEO until after having a website designed (or redesigned), and these sites are often sadly lacking on the SEO and digital marketing front. They may look shiny, but if the marketing smarts are not cooked in at design time, then you will be running the marketing race with a wooden leg. Or at the very least, faced with going back to the drawing board and wasting a whole load of time and money.

In this post, we look at how SEO should be an integral part of your website design (or redesign) process. We are going to look at what you need to consider to have a site that is built for search marketing and lead generation — and how focusing on happy users keeps the Google gods on your side.

We will also take a look at some of the common pitfalls that can befall businesses looking to build a new website that is central to your digital marketing efforts.

In brief, I am going to help you ensure your next site is a lean, mean SEO and digital marketing machine.

Developing an SEO-friendly website

At a fundamental level, an SEO-friendly site is one that allows a search engine to explore and read pages across the site. Ensuring a search engine can easily crawl and understand your content is the first step to ensuring your visibility in the search engine result pages.

A search engine utilizes a web crawler for this task, and we are trying to work with the search engines rather than against them. Unfortunately, there are many ways to make a website, and not all technologies are built with search engine optimization in mind.

Building an SEO-friendly site requires careful planning and a structured approach to representing your business and the services you provide. For many businesses, this can be complicated — it’s not always easy to document exactly what you do.

As a marketing tool, your website should be built upon a solid digital marketing plan with a clear business model and value proposition. If that’s unclear, then you need to revisit that first.

Assuming you have all that good stuff in place, let’s dive in.

Fundamentals

There are a few core elements that set the stage for a well-optimized website design process.

Domains

Your business may use example.com as the primary domain. But you may have others. Ensuring your domain makes sense and relates to what you do is super-important. Ensuring that all variations and subdomains correctly point at the main site and redirect to a single canonical version of the site is important.

Our business is called TurkReno. We operate in the United States. We are a web-based business. It naturally follows that our domain is turkreno.com. All subdomains 301 redirect back to the main URL turkreno.com. We have few domain variations that 301 redirect back to the main URL. This all makes sense.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that having-my-keywords-in-my-domain.com helps. It just looks daft. It can help a little for local businesses, but ensure you are mapping to the real world. Be sensible.

Hosting

Your hosting is also important. A slow site makes for unhappy users. Your hosting should follow common-sense rules. Be situated where your audience is situated. Be fast. Be platform-specific, if necessary. We have a great hosting platform.

CMS

The CMS (content management system) you choose for your business can hugely influence how successful you are. WordPress is a great option in many situations, but it’s not the only one. It certainly is wired up at a basic level in a way that Google can understand. This is not to say it is the best choice for all situations, but certainly, it’s a good starting point for most businesses. Just be sure that the CMS you choose is the right one for your situation, rather than the one your chosen web company prefers to work with.

Crawling & accessibility

The first step is ensuring a search engine can crawl your site and understand what it is that you do (and where you do it).

Indexation

To understand your site, they have to be able to read the content of the page. This means that the main content of your site should be text-based behind the scenes. Not images. Not flash or video. Even in this ever-advancing world, your main content should still be text-based. There are some great tools, like web fonts, that mean you can still look the part, and your images have a place, but be sure to talk in clear language about what it is you do so the search engine can read and understand your offering.

Images, videos, PDFs and content are also important and can be a source of search engine traffic. Again, these need to be discoverable and indexable.

Link structure

To index your content beyond the home page, you need internal links that the search engine can crawl. Your primary navigation, search engine directives and tools like XML sitemaps all help the search engine crawl your site and discover new pages. Tools like Screaming Frog can help you ensure that your site can be easily crawled by a search engine.

Information architecture and structuring your site

I have always like the filing cabinet analogy for website structure. Your site is the filing cabinet. The major categories are the drawers. The subcategories are the folders in the drawers. The pages are documents in the folders.

  • Cabinet: your website
  • Drawer: high-level category
  • Folder: subcategory
  • File: individual document/page

Context is indicated not only by the site it exists on but also by the position within that site. Our own site has a drawer for services, and each service has sub-services in folders. Your site will be largely the same.

If we consider the following structure of the Bowler Hat site as an example:

Home

– Services

– – Service Area

– – – Individual Service

Home

– Services

– – SEO

– – – SEO Audits

So, there is a page in this information architecture that is simply /audits/.

The /audits/ page exists in the SEO folder in the services drawer. Nice and organized. This can follow through with other SEO elements to clearly indicate context far beyond that which can be indicated by the document alone.

This is relevant to blog posts, articles, FAQ content, services, locations and just about anything else that is an entity within your business. You are looking to structure the information about your business in a way that makes it understandable.

Some sites may take a deep approach to structuring content. Others may take a wide approach. The important takeaway here is that things should be organized in a way that makes sense and simplifies navigation and discovery.

A three- to four-level approach like this ensures that most content can be easily navigated to within four clicks and tends to work better than a deeper approach to site navigation (for users and search engines).

URLs

Context is further indicated by the URL. A sensible naming convention helps provide yet more context for humans and search engines.

Following are two hypothetical sets of URLs that could map to the Services > SEO > SEO Audit path laid out above — yet one makes sense, and the other does nothing to help.

www.example.com
www.example.com/services/
www.example.com/services/seo/
www.example.com/services/seo/audits/

www.example.com
www.example.com/s123/
www.example.com/s123/s1/
www.example.com/s123/s1/75/

Of course, the second set of URLs is a purposely daft example, but it serves a point — the first URL naming convention helps both search engines and users, and the second one hinders.

Navigation

Your navigation is equally important. When a site is well-structured, the navigation works with the structure, the URLs and other components, like XML sitemaps, to help solidify what each page or piece of content is about.

Navigation is more than just the menu at the top of your website. It is how you signpost users to the most relevant part of your site. Navigation can be a tool to raise awareness of additional services and includes not just text links but content on all pages and in the templated design elements of your site.

I have always liked the signpost analogy. I walk into a supermarket and look for the signs to find what I need. Your website is no different. If a user is referred and searches for your brand name, then they will land on your home page. They then need a signpost to get them to the relevant service. And it had better be easy to find!

It is very easy to get this wrong, and careful thought must be applied — before you build the site — regarding the needs and wants of your users. A website is a digital component that should execute the strategy from your marketing plan. Understanding users here is crucial so you can ensure you are meeting their needs.

Navigation should not need any real cognition — it should not make the user have to think. The following image is a sign from my local home improvement store. Which direction takes you to the car park and which direction takes you to the deliveries entrance?

My brain follows the “customer parking” line from left to right, so I of course turn right. However, the customer parking is to the left. There is nothing there to clearly illustrate which is right or wrong.

I have to think. Or in practice, I go in the wrong direction a few times before I learn. However, if users don’t find what they are looking for on a website, they will return to the great ocean of competition that Google search results represent.

Ensure your navigation is crystal-clear — if one user can make a mistake, many others can, too.

Common problems

There are many potential issues with content that can’t be found or can’t be understood by the search engine that can work against you. For example:

  • Orphaned content that can’t be found
  • Content only available via site search
  • Flash files, Java programs, audio files, video files
  • AJAX* and flashy site effects**
  • Frames — Content embedded from another site can be problematic.
  • Subdomains — content split into subdomains rather than sub-folders

* Google has gotten a lot better at reading AJAX pages, but it is still possible to obscure content with pointless effects.

** Flash is going to be retired by December 2020.

Be sure that important content is easily discoverable, understandable and sits in the overall structure of the site in a way that makes sense.

Summary

If everything is done well, a human and a search engine should have a pretty good idea what a page is about before they even look at it. Your typical SEO then just builds on this solid foundation that is laid out by your information architecture and site structure.

Mobile-friendly design

We live in a mobile-first age. Sites optimized for search engines should give equal consideration to the mobile layouts of their websites (rather than just bolting on simple responsive website design).

Yet, in 2017, responsive design is not enough. Five years later, with massive technological progress and greatly improved mobile data networks, your future customers are using mobile as the first, and often only, device to interact with your business.

To create a truly mobile-friendly design and maximize results from mobile search, you must think of the needs and wants of mobile users. What a user will do on a phone is often far different from what they will do on a computer. And even if your conversions tend to be on a desktop, that crucial first touch may well be on mobile.

From an SEO perspective, it is worth noting that mobile-friendliness is a confirmed ranking factor for mobile search. However, far more important, mobile is how your prospective customers are searching for and browsing your site.

Work hard on optimizing the user experience for mobile users and you will reap the rewards for your efforts in terms of traffic and user engagement.

Page speed

Another key consideration in the mobile era is page speed. Users may be impatient, or they may not always have a great mobile data connection. Ensuring your pages are lean and mean is a key consideration in modern SEO-friendly website design.

A great starting point is Google’s mobile-friendly test. This tool will give you feedback on mobile-friendliness, mobile speed and desktop speed. It also wraps everything up into a handy little report detailing what exactly you can do to speed things up.

Suffice it to say, page speed is yet another important consideration that spans how your site is built and the quality and suitability of the hosting you use.

Usability

Web usability is a combination of other factors: device-specific design, page speed, design conventions and an intuitive approach to putting the site together with the end user in mind.

Key factors to consider include:

  • Page layout. Important elements should have more prominence.
  • Visual hierarchy. Make more important elements bigger!
  • Home page and site navigation. Clearly signpost directions for users.
  • Site search. Large sites need a sensibly positioned search option.
  • Form entry. Make forms as lightweight and easy to fill as possible.
  • Design. Great design makes everything easier.

This is just scratching the surface here, and usability really has to be customized to the individual site.

The content marketing funnel

Your website has a hell of a job to do: it must help your business get in front of prospective customers on search engines, and then it has to engage and convert those customers.

Your site needs content to help with all of these stages of the customer journey. Content and SEO is an important combination here, as you may get in front of a customer as they look for similar services from another company they are already considering.

A structured way to consider the content you need here is a typical marketing funnel:

Awareness — top of the funnel

Awareness content will typically be your blog and informational articles. We are helping your prospective customer understand the problems they face and illustrating your experience and credibility in solving them.

  • Blog posts
  • Informational articles
  • Webinars
  • Comprehensive guides
  • FAQs

Consideration — middle of the funnel

The content at the consideration stage helps your prospect compare you against the other offerings out there. This tends to be practical content that helps the customer make a decision.

  • Case studies
  • Product or service information
  • Product demonstration videos
  • User guides

Conversion — bottom of the funnel

Bottom-of-the-funnel content drives conversions and should gently encourage a sale or lead.

  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Free trial
  • Free consultation

Remember that customers will search across this entire spectrum of content types. Therefore, ensuring all of these areas are covered aids discovery via search engines, consideration and conversion.

SEO nuts & bolts

As you can see, there is a lot to consider before we even look at the more familiar elements of optimizing your site and pages. We should only really start to think about keywords and basic on-page optimization once we have this solid foundation in place. And hopefully, if we have structured everything correctly, then the actual optimization of the pages becomes far easier.

Keyword targeting

Nailing your keyword strategy is so much easier once you have a solid structure without internal duplication. If we look at our previous examples for site hierarchy and structure, then adding keywords is relatively straightforward (and is something we would often do in a spreadsheet pre-design).

– Services
– – SEO
– – – SEO Audits

www.example.com/services/
www.example.com/services/seo/
www.example.com/services/seo/audits/

If I use these pages as an example, we have a natural progression from broad keywords to more refined search terms. We can even consider basic modifiers such as location if we are a local business.

Home

– digital marketing agency

– digital marketing company

+ Mobile

+ AL

Services

– marketing services

– digital marketing services

+ Mobile

+ AL

SEO

– SEO

– Search Engine Optimization

+ Company

+ Agency

+ Mobile

+ AL

SEO Audits

– SEO Audits

– Technical SEO Audits

+ Agency

+ Company

+ Mobile

The point here is that a well-structured site gets you a good way toward determining your keyword strategy. You still have to do the research and copywriting, but you can be sure you have a solid strategy to target broad and more detailed terms.

HTML title tags

The <title> tag is the primary behind-the-scenes tag that can influence your search engine results. In fact, it is the only meta tag that actually influences position directly.

Best practice for title tags are as follows:

  • Place keywords at the beginning of the tag.
  • Keep length around 50 to 60 characters.
  • Use keywords and key phrases in a natural manner.
  • Use dividers to separate elements like category and brand.
  • Focus on click-through and the end user.
  • Have a consistent approach across the site.

Even in 2017, we still see a lot of overoptimized page titles. We want our keywords in the title tag, but not at the expense of click-through and human readability. A search engine may rank your content, but a human clicks on it, so keep that in mind.

Meta description tags

Meta descriptions don’t directly influence rankings. We all know that, right? But of course, that is completely missing the point here. Your meta description is the content of your advertisement for that page in a set of search engine results. Your meta description is what wins you the click. And winning those clicks can help improve visibility and is absolutely vital in driving more users to your pages.

Meta descriptions must:

  • truthfully describe the page content.
  • advertise the page and improve click-through rates.
  • consider the user’s thought process and why they will click on this page.
  • include keywords where relevant and natural to do so.

The search engine will highlight search terms in your page title and meta description which help a user scan the page. Don’t use this as an excuse to spam the meta description, though, or else Google likely will ignore it, and it won’t lead to that all-important click!

There are also situations where it can make sense not to create a meta description and let the search engine pull content from the page to form a description that more accurately maps to a user’s search. Your brief meta description can’t always cover all the options for a longer-form piece of content, so keep this in mind.

Heading tags

Heading tags help structure the page and indicate hierarchy in a document: H1, H2, H3 and so on. Text in heading tags correlates with improved rankings (albeit slightly), but what really matters is that alignment between the structure of the site, behind the scenes optimization like page titles and meta descriptions and the content itself. Line everything up, and things make more sense for users, and we help search engines categorize our content while eking out every last bit of simple, on-page optimization we can.

Remember to align header tags with the visual hierarchy. Meaning the most important header on the page (typically the <h1>) should also be the biggest text element on the page. You are making the document visually easy to understand here and further ensuring that design and content are working together for the best end result.

Page content

The content should generally be the most important part of the page. However, we still see archaic SEO practices like overt keyword density and search terms with a lack of connective words used in the copy. This does not work. It certainly does not help with your SEO. And it makes for a poor user experience.

We want to make sure the context of our page is clear. Our navigation, URLs, page titles, headers and so on should all help here. Yet we want to write naturally, using synonyms and natural language.

Focus on creating great content that engages the user. Be mindful of keywords, but certainly don’t overdo it.

Considerations for page content:

  • Keywords in content (but don’t overdo it)
  • Structure of the page
  • Position of keywords in the content — earlier can be better
  • Synonyms and alternatives
  • Co-occurrence of keywords — what else would other high-quality documents include?

Rich snippets

Rich snippets are a powerful tool to increase click-through rates. We are naturally attracted to listings that stand out in the search engine results. Anything you can do to improve the click-through rate drives more users and makes your search engine listings work harder. Factor in possible ranking improvements from increased engagement, and you can have a low-input, high-output SEO tactic.

The snippets that are most relevant to your business will depend on what you do, but schema.org is a great place to start.

Image optimization

Image SEO can drive a substantial amount of traffic in the right circumstances. And again, our thoughts regarding context are important here. Google does not (yet) use the content of images, so context within the site and the page and basic optimization are crucial here.

As an example, I am looking for a hobbit hole playhouse for my five-year-old, and the search brings up image results:

kids hobbit hole playhouse Google Images

I can dive right into those image results and find a multitude of options, then use the image to drive me to the site that sells the playhouse. Optimizing your images increases the chance of improving prominence in the image search results.

Image optimization is technically straightforward:

  • Image name — provide a name that clearly describes what the image is.
  • Alt text — use descriptive alt text to help those who can’t see the images to reinforce the image content.
  • Add OpenGraph and Twitter Cards so the image is used in social shares.
  • Use the image at the right physical size to ensure fast downloads.
  • Optimize the image’s file size to improve loading times.
  • Consider adding images to your XML sitemap.

Image optimization is relatively simple. Keep the images relevant. Don’t spam the filenames and alt text with keywords. Be descriptive.

Common problems

SEO projects at Bowler Hat often include an SEO audit as the first port of call. We can’t cover every eventuality here, but the following are the usual suspects that crop up and that web designers should be mindful of.

Duplicate content

There tend to be two kinds of duplicate content: true duplicates and near-duplicates. True duplicates are where the content exists in multiple places (different pages, sites, subdomains and so on). Near-duplicates can be thin content or substantially similar content — think of a business with multiple locations or shoes listed on a unique page in different sizes.

Keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization refers to the situation where multiple pages target the same keywords. This can impact the ability of your site to have one page that strongly targets a given term.

Where the site architecture and hierarchy has been carefully planned, you should eliminate this during the planning and design stages.

Domains, subdomains and protocols

Another potential issue where duplication crops up is where the site is available on multiple domains, subdomains and protocols.

Consider a business with two domains:

  • Example.com
  • Example.co.uk

With www and non-www versions:

  • Example.com
  • Example.co.uk
  • www.example.com
  • www.example.co.uk

And the site runs on HTTP and HTTPS:

  • http://example.com
  • http://example.co.uk
  • http://www.example.com
  • http://www.example.co.uk
  • https://example.com
  • https://example.co.uk
  • https://www.example.com
  • https://www.example.co.uk

Before too long, we can get to a situation where the site has eight potential variations. Factor in the site resolving on any subdomain and a few duff internal links and we can often add things like “ww.example.com” to the list above.

These kinds of issues are simply resolved with URL redirections via Apache, but again, they deserve consideration by any web design agency that takes care of hosting and is serious about the SEO of their customers’ websites.

Botched canonical URLs

Another common issue we see is an incorrect implementation of canonical URLs. What typically happens here is that the person building the site looks at canonical URLs as an SEO checklist kind of job. They are implemented by dynamically inserting the URL in the address bar into the canonical URL.

This is fundamentally flawed in that we can end up with the site running on multiple URLs, each with a canonical URL claiming that they are the authoritative version. So the canonical implementation exacerbates rather than resolves the issue.

Canonical URLs are a powerful tool when wielded wisely, yet they must be used properly or they can make matters worse.

SEO Image Gears

Hiring the Right SEO Company

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SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a powerful tool which is nowadays used in all businesses. Without proper SEO, your website will not be placed among top search engine listings on sites such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Usually customers click the top three links in Google. When you are not ranked in that, your website is left out. In order to avoid this, search engine optimization plays a vital role. The best SEO Company can form the right SEO campaign and strategy for you based on the needs of your business.

What are some tips for hiring the right SEO Company?

Here are a few things you can keep in mind to select the best SEO company.

  • Check the experience of the company and how long it has been in operation.
  • Look for the team and check how skillful they are. You should also have a word with the SEO specialists of the company who should give you details you about the procedures they follow.
  • Check their company website. This will help you learn about their previous clients and what kind of work they have done.
  • Check out testimonials of the previous customers on Yelp, Facebook, and Google. This will give you an idea of how well they are working and what kind of quality and value they have delivered to their clients.

By checking these things, you will get to know better the internet marketing services that they will be providing you.

Assigning a SEO specialist to your project

Since each and every project is vital to the company, the best SEO services company will assign a SEO specialist who will look after all the SEO work that will be done for your company or business. As per to that, they will check whether the work is going in proper accordance or not. Also the right SEO strategy will be followed to ensure that you can see visible results in sometime only.

Forming the right SEO campaign for your business

Since different kinds of SEO strategies are followed by different web design companies, the right SEO campaign will be formed based on your business. The SEO company you choose should form the perfect SEO campaign, including PPC click, social media optimization, etc., so that your business can build a positive online reputation on the Internet. With a good and positive online reputation, your business sales and online visibility will increase.

You can go through the website of the top SEO company in Mobile, Alabama to check out the different kinds of services they offer. This way you will be able to discuss with their SEO specialist more clearly your expectations and also make any suggestions based on the nature of your business.

Code Header Description Title

Everything You Need to Know About Meta Descriptions

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The meta description is about a 160 character snippet, a tag in HTML, that summarizes page content. Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched for phrase is contained in the description. Optimizing the meta description is a very important aspect of on-page SEO.

The function of a meta description for your page is simple: its main purpose is to get the visitor from Google to click your link. In other words, meta descriptions are there to generate clickthroughs from search engines.

What is Metadata in HTML

Metadata is information about your HTML document that isn’t visible on a page, but is in the search results. Metadata usually specifies the page description; author of the asset; the date of publication or the date of the last update; keywords, etc. Metadata is supported by all the major browsers such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, and Safari.

Search engines don’t use metadata as a ranking factor in their algorithms and SEO experts discourage website owners from adding meta keywords to the HTML of a page. Why? Mainly because these meta keywords don’t help anyone with anything apart from showing your competitors what keywords you are trying to optimize your pages for. So better skip on meta keywords.

On the other hand, there are meta titles and meta descriptions which are still super important for any HTML document. In this piece of writing, we are going to explain how to write a meta description and what the benefits behind it are.

What is a Meta Description?

Meta descriptions display preview snippets for a specific page, giving a clear idea of your site’s content straight from the search results and encouraging users to click-through to your site. This makes it a paramount part of search marketing. A meta description is a short HTML attribute of about 155 characters – including spaces – and displays under the title tag and link in the search results.

Description in META tag

“The description tag is one of the most important elements shown to the users for the typed query. The meta description is presented as a snippet of your content. It tells your potential visitors what kind of information they can find on your web page.”

Optimal Meta Description Length

“The meta description is used by Google to present your website’s content on a search engine results page. The amount of characters that could be displayed is limited, though. Shorten the description of your site and try not to exceed 160 bytes.”

Meta Description Code Example:

<head>

<meta name=”description” content= “When migrating your website, there is always a risk to lose your keyword rankings. Discover everything you need to do to avoid SEO migration disaster.”/>

</head>

Meta Description in Search Results:

Meta Descriptions in Search

WordPress Meta Description: (by Yoast SEO)

WordPress Yoast Meta Descriptions

Its function is to summarize the content of a particular page. The better written your meta description is, the more click-throughs it drives. Meta description optimization is a necessary part of on-page SEO.

The best examples of meta descriptions come from search engines themselves. Anytime you want to check how to create yours, look at Google, Bing or Yahoo.

Is a Meta Description a Ranking Factor?

A meta description tag isn’t a direct ranking factor; however, there is a strong correlation between higher rankings and a well-crafted meta description. That’s because this short paragraph provides a unique chance to advertise your content to the searchers and convince them to read further.

A compelling meta description makes people click-through from SERPs, positively impacting your click-through rate. CTR already belongs to the list of behavioral factors that have a strong influence on search rankings.

Meta Description Length

Your meta descriptions should accurately convey and wrap up what your page is about within one or two sentences.

Search engines have limited space and aren’t capable of displaying long meta descriptions on SERPs. So the character limit of a meta description is 155 characters. – This is what can be fully displayed without any cut offs. Longer descriptions will end up being cut in the middle of what you wanted to say. So make them engaging but concise.

Search engines can also add some extra snippets to your results, making your meta description even shorter. So don’t go for the maximum meta description length, find your optimum instead. For instance, we usually stick to 150 characters.

Incorporate CTA

Your meta description should work for you. As the name itself suggests, it should be descriptive and written in a way that encourages clicks. The second part of your meta description should promise to benefit readers in some way and make them click in order to find out more. At the end of your description write “Find out more” / “Learn more” / “Discover more” or any other incentive to boost clicks.

Keywords in Meta Descriptions

Even if search engines declare that meta descriptions don’t improve your ranking (meaning, incorporating keywords is not a must), write them anyway.

As you can see on the screen below, when you type in a particular phrase into a search box in Google, like for instance – meta description – you are provided with a list of results with all the keywords appearing in bold. This also refers to keywords in meta descriptions.

Meta Descriptions Example

So including keywords in this short HTML snippet will at least draw more attention to your page when a user searches for a particular phrase. And this is a substantial advantage.

Use Rich Snippets to Enrich Your Meta Description

Structured data is a very useful element to add to your metadata. Depending on the type of content that you publish, factors such as ratings, price, and date of publication can determine whether a user clicks on your resource or not.

So always leverage rich snippets to make your meta description even better and more detailed for searchers. Add structured data to your results using WordPress plugin – schema.org – or if you aren’t using WordPress, you can use Google markup helper to help guide you through the process of adding rich snippets to your pages by adding the missing tags.

Uniqueness is Key

Make sure that all your meta description tags are unique on each page, as the repetitive ones can cause you some serious duplicate content issues. You can check the uniqueness of your meta descriptions using Google Search Console. Go to → Search Appearance → HTML Improvements → Duplicate meta descriptions. There you will be provided with the full report.

How to fix duplicate meta descriptions?

It’s best to rewrite them or entirely get rid of them. In the short movie above, Matt Cutts explains that it’s better not to have any meta descriptions rather than have duplicate meta descriptions across pages.

If no meta description has been specified, search engines will display an excerpt from the page instead. Search engines can auto-create a meta description by choosing the most relevant part of your text on a page. Matt Cutts suggests that in some cases, it can be the best solution, especially when you aim to avoid duplicate content.

Where to start if you have a big website?

Check out your best-performing assets in Google Analytics regarding sessions and the trial conversions they generate. To do so, go to BehaviourLanding Pages and add the proper Goal.

Then, click on the sessions column to organize your data, and note the best volume pages down. Afterward, go to the goal column and organize the results in a similar manner, and once again, jot down the best pages.

This research should give you a clear overview of which meta descriptions to optimize first. The correct optimization of metadata should boost their performance.

However, independently from the research, start with your homepage.

Homepage Meta Description

The homepage meta description is a very particular case. This is your most valuable resource, so an excellent approach is imperative. Craft and optimize a meta description for your homepage first, remembering to incorporate your primary strategic keywords. Try to wrap it around a compelling marketing message that emphasizes your unique selling points.

Your homepage will usually show up in the search results along with site links underneath. Site links highlight other relevant pages that are deeper in your domain and are meant to help searchers navigate your website, as they enable to jump directly to a page of interest.

One-line site links, as well as two columns site links, are generated automatically by search engines, and the decision of what to display is based on the relevancy: what results can potentially be the most useful to a particular searcher.

You can’t decide on your end what will be displayed, but you can make sure that your results have great meta titles and meta descriptions.

So once your homepage meta description is done and well-crafted, the next priority is optimizing the metadata of pages that appear below.

Homepage meta description from Google

Once you are done, you can go back to the results of your research. Remember to follow all the rules included in this piece of writing! Finally, use the TurkReno On-Page Optimization tool to see if your meta description for a particular URL is correct. Go ahead, check them all!

Happy optimizing!

Does Blogging Help With SEO?

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Does Blogging Help SEO? Still Skeptical? Here are 6 reasons why your business needs to be blogging to help your SEO rankings right now.

When we first started trying to SEO our website, we began by picking some keywords with decent search volume and began building links to that page. That worked OK for a while, but there was really something missing in this strategy.

We know this is true for many of our web development clients, and you might even be familiar with constantly checking your keyword rankings and feeling the frustration of not being able to control their movement.

When we speak to these clients about the importance of blogging for SEO purposes the most common response is:

“Does blogging help SEO? Let’s focus on link building – we don’t really think blog posts are going to achieve what we’re after.”

This thought process is the biggest flaw in SEO strategy for your website.

You’re focusing on ranking for a few terms instead of focusing on providing what your customers want. Sometimes customers come in and know exactly what they want. But most of the time, they are going to have a bunch of questions. They know they want to buy something… but they aren’t ready, yet. We know in our business, we hear the same questions over and over.

What about YOU? Do you ever wind up answering the same customer questions again and again? We’re sure you do, and this is where blogging for SEO can really help both you and your customers.

Some examples of questions we get asked are:

  • How will I migrate my site to BigCommerce?
  • Do you offer product photography services?
  • How do I remove negative seller feedback on Amazon?
  • What type of Adwords campaign is right for me?

This got us thinking… Maybe, just maybe there’s a better way to go after clients and rank for keywords that matter to them. So, we started answering the questions our clients had in the form of blog posts. Do you know what happened? We started ranking on the first page of Google within 12-48 hours for these posts and our website traffic grew leaps and bounds! Turns out, the same questions and problems people were asking us on the phone, they were also Googling!

So, does blogging help SEO? Yes, and it can help your SEO too!

If you’re not using blog posts to help your SEO strategy – you are missing out! If you’re a small business owner who’s still wondering “does blogging help SEO?” – here are six undeniable reasons start blogging now.

1. Create Blog Posts If You Want to Attract a Following

When you initially launch a blog, it probably won’t receive much traffic – and that’s okay. As your blog grows and becomes more popular, it will generate a strong following of loyal visitors. These visitors may follow your blog and/or its RSS feed on a daily basis, checking to see when new content is published.

2. If You Want To Announce New Products or Services

A blog is the perfect platform on which to announce new products or services. If your business recently added a new product to its lineup, let the world know by writing about it in a blog post. Assuming your blog has a strong following, this can bring invaluable attention to your business’s new product.

3. Blog Posts = Lead Generation

Of course, blogging is also an effective method for generating leads. You can install a newsletter signup form, for instance, allowing users to enter their email address in exchange for email delivered by your business. Alternatively, you can set up an inquery form where visitors enter their personal information to learn more about your business or its products/services.

4. Blog Post Can Target Local Search Optimization Too

Blogging can also prove useful in local search optimization (LSO). If you are trying to rank for geo-specific keywords (e.g. your city + business niche), you can write high-quality blog posts containing those keywords. Search engines will notice these keywords when crawling your site, encouraging higher search rankings in the process.

5. Be The Authority

You’ll present your business as an authority figure in its respective industry or niche by maintaining a blog. If a prospect is forced to choose between a business with a blog and a business without a blog, they’ll probably choose the one with a blog. Why? We already talked about this a little… but by answering your potential customers’ questions, you are establishing yourself as an authority in your industry. This instills trust and confidence in your knowledge and services. The key thing to remember, however, is that you need to publish high-quality content on a regular basis.

6. It’s Easy to Create Blog Posts

Blogging is actually easier than most business owners realize. Thanks to user-friendly blogging platforms like WordPress, you can have a blog up and running in minutes. Creating new content for your blog is also easy, as WordPress and similar content management systems (CMS) use a web-based interface.

Don’t want to do it yourself?

There are plenty of blog writing services out there just like the professional blog writing services offered by TurkReno Incorporated who will:

  • Research and validate ideas for blog posts that are PROVEN to be a hit with your audience
  • Pitch ideas to you and you can approve or reject.
  • Vet, hire and train writers specifically to produce HIGH QUALITY content,
  • Format it in a way that’s easily readable on the web (What Google’s Looking for).
  • FULLY optimize your post for SEO including title tags, h1s, internal links and external links.
  • Post directly to your blog for a completely hands-off experience.

These are just a few reasons why your business needs a blog.

Try it! See first hand the positive impact blogging for SEO can have on acquiring new leads for your business.

SEO, search engine optimization

Google: Do you need an SEO?

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SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site. Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including:

  • Review of your site content or structure
  • Technical advice on website development: for example, hosting, redirects, error pages, use of JavaScript
  • Content development
  • Management of online business development campaigns
  • Keyword research
  • SEO training
  • Expertise in specific markets and geographies.

SEO Word Cloud for SEO in Mobile, AlabamaKeep in mind that the Google search results page includes organic search results and often paid advertisement (denoted as “Ads” or “Sponsored”) as well. Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results. Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in our search results, and it costs nothing to appear in our organic search results. Free resources such as Search Console, the official Webmaster Central blog, and our discussion forum can provide you with a great deal of information about how to optimize your site for organic search.

Before beginning your search for an SEO, it’s a great idea to become an educated consumer and get familiar with how search engines work. We recommend starting here:

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.

Some useful questions to ask an SEO include:

  • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories?
  • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business?
  • What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? How do you measure your success?
  • What’s your experience in my industry?
  • What’s your experience in my country/city?
  • What’s your experience developing international sites?
  • What are your most important SEO techniques?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • How can I expect to communicate with you? Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?

While SEOs can provide clients with valuable services, some unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to manipulate search engine results in unfair ways. Practices that violate our guidelines may result in a negative adjustment of your site’s presence in Google, or even the removal of your site from our index. Here are some things to consider:

One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place “doorway” pages loaded with keywords on the client’s site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO’s other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it.

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: http://www.ftc.gov/ and click on “File a Complaint Online,” call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
Washington, D.C. 20580

If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, please file it at http://www.econsumer.gov/.

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

    “Dear google.com,
    I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

    Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
  • Be careful if a company is secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or “throwaway” domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google’s index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it’s best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to “help” you. If an SEO has FTP access to your server, they should be willing to explain all the changes they are making to your site.
  • You should never have to link to an SEO.Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of “free-for-all” links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don’t affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines — at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.
  • Choose wisely.While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.
  • Be sure to understand where the money goes.While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they “control” other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn’t work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you’re considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.
  • What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?
  • What are some other things to look out for?There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It’s far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:
    • owns shadow domains
    • puts links to their other clients on doorway pages
    • offers to sell keywords in the address bar
    • doesn’t distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear on search results pages
    • guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway
    • operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info
    • gets traffic from “fake” search engines, spyware, or scumware
    • has had domains removed from Google’s index or is not itself listed in Google

Originally found at “Do you need an SEO” on Google Webmaster Center and is so incredibly helpful that we felt like sharing.

Local SEO

Step By Step Guide to Local SEO

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SEO Infographic

Click here for one of the best Local SEO Infographics available.

If you run a local business then you don’t need us to tell you how competitive it is out there these days.

You’ve been running a local business for years. You work really hard and your customers love you. You love what you do and you’re a proud member of your local business community.

But there’s one thing that’s really bugging you. You’ve noticed that some newer competitors have sprung up and they seem to be getting the top rankings in the search engines.

How are they doing that? You’ve been around for years – surely you should be getting the top ranking.

But you’re really busy and the online marketing side of things isn’t really your thing.

But what if I told you that there is a predictable formula for getting top ranking that you can use.

Now I know you might be skeptical about this. You might be thinking that this is either going to be too complicated, too time consuming or too expensive.

But bear with us. I’ve prepared a step by step process that anyone can do. You can do it in your own time and at your own pace and it will give you amazing results.

So, are you ready to claim the top ranking in your area? Well read on because it’s all here in our Definitive Guide to Local SEO – print it off, stick it on the wall where you’ll see it and just tick off each step as you do it.

 

Set up And Optimize Local Listings

Here we’re talking Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and Yahoo Local.

But don’t just create your listing and think it’s done. You need to optimize it fully. That means adding all the information possible. As well as the obvious like name, address, hours of business and a map you need to add all the extras like keywords, photos and videos.

Get Reviews

Do a search on your industry and town in Google. Notice something that the top ranked sites have in common? You got it – reviews. The websites with the top listings generally have more reviews.

Just get into the habit of asking for reviews. Start with your best clients. You know who they are and the chances are they’d jump at the chance to give you five stars.

Don’t go crazy in the first week and get fifty reviews though or Google might think you’re trying to game the system. Just commit to picking up reviews steadily over time.

Get NAP Citations

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone. Citations are just mentions of your business in local business listings that Google trusts.

Most of these are free but some will charge a fee. You need to make sure that your listings are correct and up to date so if you change your address or phone, be sure to update these.

There are dozens, even hundreds of NAP sites to choose from. Again, no need to go crazy, just choose the ones you want to go for each month and get listed there. Easy!

Industry/Niche Directories

Is there a specific industry directory that you can get listed in? Run a search in Google for them. Also check where your competitors are getting listed.

Getting listed in these directories sends strong signals to Google that you are in that industry or sector.

Maybe you have a professional or industry accreditation. Again, check these because they will usually offer you a free listing as part of your accreditation.

Or are you a member of a trade association. Again, double check these as they are quick easy wins for getting a valuable trusted link back to your site.

Create Separate Service Specific Pages

Check that you have a separate page for EVERY service that you offer. Don’t bunch them together on one generic ‘Services’ page.

The reason is that you mustn’t spread your content to thinly. If you have a particular page for each service then that sends a strong signal to Google to present that page when someone is searching for that service.

For example, if you are an printer and you offer lithographic printing, digital printing, poster printing, business card printing, t-shirt printing, etc., create individual pages for each rather than one page listing them all.

Add Content To Your Pages

Now that you have individual pages you need to add more content to them. A minimum of 500 words, but ideally 1000 words. Yes, you read that correctly.

Why? Google loves long pages with loads of relevant content.

Where do you get all that content? It’s probably on your hard drive, in your outbox, or up in your head.

Look at presentations you’ve done or think of frequently asked questions. Or just have an imaginary conversation with a prospective new client and write out the answers to the questions. This type of content is perfect for your service pages.

Optimize All Pages

Don’t let the jargon worry you. Optimization is just the process of presenting your website’s pages so that Google understands them.

Use the following list to guide you:

  • Identify a keyword for each page (printer in TOWN)
  • Create Metatags for each page (these just tell Google what that page is about)
  • Add the keyword to the URL of each page (e.g. www.yourdomain.com/digital-printing-TOWN)
  • Create an H1 Heading with the keyword for that page (Headings are like the ones you use in Microsoft Word or Google Docs to give structure to the page)
  • Add your keywords to the text in a natural way and around 2 to 3% of the total text
  • Link to the other pages from the text

Get Some Backlinks

Backlinks are when other websites link to your website. Google notices this and good links are a major factor in your ranking. Start with easy backlink wins. Things like:

  • Your social media profiles allow you to link to your website
  • Give testimonials to local suppliers and say they can link back to you to demonstrate it’s a genuine testimonial
  • Consider high authority paid directories like Business.com

Get Fast, Secure Hosting

These days Google prefers faster, more secure websites. In fact both speed and security are Google ranking factors.

For faster hosting look no further than SSD Hosting. SSD stands for Solid State Drive and these are the future of data storage and are hundreds of times faster than traditional hard drives.

For security consider switching to HTTPS by setting up an SSL Certificate.

Go Mobile

The web is going mobile. Mobile is clearly the direction of travel and your customers and prospective customers are no longer just sitting at a desk browsing. They are out and about with their mobiles, tablets and other mobile devices.

Again, Google favors mobile friendly website design, so the sooner you get this sorted out the better.

You can either switch to Responsive Design or if budget is an issue then get a side by side mobile version of your website.

Get Blogging

Google prefers websites with more content. A blog is the best way to achieve this.

WordPress is free and is usually available as a one click install with most hosting companies.

Think of your service pages as being the sales pages of your website but your blog is an ongoing conversation with your customers and prospective customers.

Use your blog to post content of interest such as answering ‘How to’ type questions and use proven types of popular content such as:

  • List based content
  • Expert RoundUps
  • Buyers Guides
  • Product Reviews
  • Local Guides / What’s On Guides
  • Seasonal Content
  • Product / Service comparisons
  • ‘Best Of’ Content
  • Best Practice
  • Case Studies

The important thing is to create content consistently and regularly.

When you create content, make sure you optimize it in the same way you optimize your service pages using the checklist above.

Use Video

Video is very underused by local businesses. But there is a huge opportunity for those local businesses who take the time to create videos.

The reason is that there is much less competition. These days most mobile phones have excellent quality digital cameras so it could be as easy as videoing a quick repair or showing how to do a particular task or a short video where you explain a tip.

Keep them short – one to two minutes is fine. Once you’ve got them upload them to YouTube and then get the embed code from YouTube and add them to a blog post and transcribe the audio into text so that you have more written content.

Conclusion

Getting a high ranking in Google is achievable for any local business. You just need to approach it methodically and patiently.

Start with the local listings and make sure you optimize them. Start to pick up reviews and get them consistently. You’ll need NAP Citations and links from other websites. Start with industry websites and local suppliers.

Make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thinly – create service specific pages and make them long – minimum 500 words. Optimize all of your pages too so that Google can understand the content of each page.

Google like fast, secure websites. Switching to SSD hosting and get HTTPS hosting with TurkReno will give you a tick in each of these boxes.

Google rewards websites that create useful and engaging content on a regular basis. Adding a WordPress Blog section to your site will allow you to do this. Finally, start using video on your blog and include in your blog for extra content.

These are all realistic targets for any small business and over time you will definitely start to see positive results.

If you’d like for us to help you out, take a look at our Local SEO page on our site and grab a free site analysis.

Website Hosting Server

Website Hosting – What Does It All Mean?

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We understand the terms and products relating to running your own website may be new to many of you. In this section, we will attempt to explain what all of this means in order to assist you in determining which products you need. If, after reading the information contained here you still aren’t sure, you may email us and we will offer recommendations.

Domains
A domain represents the unique name assigned to an organization or individual on the Internet. For instance, we are all familiar with names such as google.com, microsoft.com, and so on. A particular name (domain) may only be owned by one person or company. To use an analogy, a domain represents your “street address” where you live on the Internet.  A domain is the “home” address where a particular website resides.

The domain name is comprised of several parts. The last part of the domain (.com for instance), is referred to as the top-level domain (TLD). In theory, the TLD represents a type of entity: for instance, .com stands for “commercial”. It was originally meant to be for commercial enterprises (business), but has become something of a misnomer as even people with personal websites use the .com TLD.

Other popular TLDs include:

  • .net – originally meant to signify Network orgainzations such as Internet Service Providers (ISP)
  • .edu – Education establishments (colleges/universities)
  • .mil – Military
  • .org – Non-profit organizations
  • .gov – Government organizations
  • .biz – a business
  • .name – individual/person
  • .info – information service There are others as well such as .aero, .pro, .coop, and so on. In addition, there are TLDs assigned to countries (e.g., .ca for Canada).

If you plan to have a website on the Internet, you will need a domain name for that site. If the name you want is already taken, you will have to find a different one. For example, if you wanted the domain CandlesForSale.com, that is already taken. However, the name CandlesForSale.biz is (currently) available. You could select the .biz name, or try to find an alternate such as Candles4sale.com (which is also currently taken).

There are literally millions of domains already taken so you may have to be creative in finding the name you want. But if you plan to put your own site on the web, you will need to identify an available domain. Once you do so, you should register that name immediately as it may not be available the next day.

When you go to our Domain Name purchase page, you will find a feature that lets you look up a name to determine whether or not it is available. It can be frustrating so be patient.

Hosting Plans
In order to make your website available it must be located on a “hosting server”. The type of hosting service you need depends on a number of factors:

  • the number of pages you plan to have
  • if you will have large files such as databases or numerous graphics or pictures
  • the number of visitors you expect each month
  • whether you plan to use your site to sell products
  • whether you plan to design the site yourself, or have someone do it for you
  • whether you plan to use scripting languages such as PHP or ASP
  • what type of database support you require (if any)
  • whether you have a preference for a Windows or Linux server

All of the plans offered by TurkReno include a significant amount of Hard Drive space, more than most people will ever need. This is the space on the hosting server reserved for your content (HTML, graphics, pictures, databases, etc.). Even the lowest priced plan provides for significant storage space. In most cases, this is more than enough for a personal website, even if you plan to include a large number of pictures. For instance, if you plan to post photographs with an average size of 100k, 5GB of space would allow you to store nearly 500,000 photos!

Database files (MS-Access, MySQL, etc) are typically very large. However, even if you plan to offer several applications using MS-Access or MySql databases, 5GB would ordinarily provide more than enough space. Also keep in mind, if you find that you require more space than you anticipated, you can also upgrade your hosting plan at a later date.

The amount of “bandwidth” you may require on a monthly basis is also a factor in deciding which hosting plan you need. You can think of bandwidth (or information sent out from the server) as a water pipe. The more water you need to put through that pipe during a given timeframe, the larger the pipe you need.

For instance, let’s say the total size of your site content (text and graphics) is 1 Megabyte (1 Mb). If you expect 1,000 visitors to your site each month, and assumming each visitor viewed every single page on your site (a BIG if), your bandwidth requirement would be 1 Gb per month. On the other hand, if the total size of your site was 10Mb, you would require 10Gb bandwidth for those same 1,000 visitors. In short, your bandwidth requirements will be determined by the total size of your site, along with the total number of monthly visitors.

If you plan to develop applications that run on your site (e.g., database access, games, etc.) you will need a hosting plan that supports the particular programming language those applications are written in. These would include PHP, ASP, and others. It doesn’t matter if you code these applications yourself, have someone else code them for you, or purchase/download the application from another site (and there are quite a few free applications available for download), the hosting service will need to support the language the application was written in for it to work on your site.

All of the hosting plans offered by TurkReno Incorporated already provide free forums, blogs, and other common applications so you may not need to add any additional ones. If you do, we offer plans that include PHP, Perl, ASP, ASP.Net, and Java. We can also provide other prepackaged applications such as shopping carts.

If you plan to run one or more applications on your site that require database access, you will need to make sure the hosting service you use supports that database. Depending on the hosting plan, we offer support for MS Access, MySQL and SQL Server 2012.

If you plan to sell products from your website, or if you will be taking personal information, you need a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate. The SSL has two major functions. First, it let’s the people who visit your site know that you are in fact who you say you are (by verifying your certificate). Second, it encrypts (or scrambles) any personal or sensitive information (such as credit card numbers) before that information is transmitted over the Internet. If you have ever shopped at eBay, Amazon or other such sites, you have probably noticed the “key” or “lock” that shows up in your taskbar. This tells you that you are on a secure connection. That secure connection is a result of your SSL Certificate.

Another consideration when trying to decide what hosting plan you need is the number of email accounts you require. For a personal site, you may require very few email accounts, if any. The 500 accounts that come with the smaller plan should be more than enough for your family and friends.

If you plan to use your website to run a business, you may require more email accounts. If that is the case you can either purchase one of the other plans, or you can simply purchase additional email accounts for a small annual fee. In any case, your email accounts will allow you to have an email address with your domain name (e.g., turkreno@mydomain.com). The email accounts we provide are web-based so you can access them anywhere you have Internet access. As with the other items, you need to think through how you plan to use your site.

We also offer both Virtual Dedicated Servers and Dedicated Servers. Both of these give you full control of the server (as if it were located in your home or business site). Dedicated Servers are usually required by larger business or those wanting to provide hosting to other people. If you need additional information on our Dedicated Server plans, you can check out the plans in our “product store”, or email us at the link below.

Shopping Cart and Merchant Account
For those of you who plan to use your site to sell products, you will need both a shopping cart and a merchant account (if you don’t have one already).

The shopping cart allows you to build an online “store front” and product catalog similar to what you see at Amazon.com and other sites. We offer an inexpensive application called QuickCart that should fit your needs.

The Merchant Account gives you the ability to accept credit card payments online (through a shopping cart or other means). If you are already running your own “bricks and mortar” business you probably already have a merchant account. If that is the case, you will need to check with them regarding the ability to take online payments. If you don’t currently have an account, or you are just starting your business, you may want to check the Merchant Account we offer.

Search Engine Optimization
There are literally millions of businesses online. In order to compete with these, you will most likely want to ensure that you are placed in “Search Engine” results with the highest ranking possible. One of our products, Search Engine Visibility, will do that for you. It will evaluate your site and make suggestions to give you the best search engine rankings possible. You can also use Search Engine Visibility to submit your site to Google, Yahoo and dozens of other search engines, as well as web directories. One of the really great features in Traffic Blazer is an Search Engine Visibility tool that will tell you if there is a problem with your site that would prevent it from being listed in the search engines. For instance, many of the search engines will not list sites that have internal “broken links”. Search Engine Visibility will notify you regarding issues such as that.

Google AdWords
AdWords is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising feature that will allow your site to be listed in the Google “Sponsored Sites” area of their search engine results pages. If you aren’t sure what this is, just go to google and search for “candles” or some other item. You will see the sponsored ads on the right. These can be highly effective depending on your type of business.

Placement of AdWords links are based on how much you “bid” for each click. That is, if you bid 35 cents for each click you will get a higher placement than if you bid 25 cents. The amount for each bid is deducted from your total credits only when someone clicks on the link to go to your site.

Closing
If you still aren’t sure what you need for your particular site, please feel free to contact our support staff.

SEO Word Cloud for SEO in Mobile, Alabama

What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

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One of the hottest topics on the Internet is that of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There is no question that optimizing your site to the extent possible is an important function. The operative phrase here, however, is “to the extent possible”. You can burn a whole lot of time and energy trying to follow every last “tip” you get for SEO (nevermind the fact that some of these tips turn out to be contradictory). In this article we will explain some of the fundamentals of SEO.

The actual programs that go out and look at all the sites built by Google, Yahoo! and Bing on the web to collect, classify, and rank them for the search engines are called “spiders”. They are also know as “bot”, “crawlers”, and a number of other names. Basically speaking, the spiders look through your site to see what you have.

Content
First and foremost, it’s all about content. We are talking about text content here; relevant content. Search engines love content rich sites. Flash intro screens may be all the rage, but they tend to be a problem for search engines and also are being discontinued. They can’t pick up any discernible content from Flash intro screens. Same thing applies to sites that have more graphics than content. Pleasing to look at, but they don’t do anything to help your page ranking. As it relates to SEO, you can actually wind up shooting yourself in the foot by making your site too flashy.

So when you design your site, make sure it includes lots of text-based information. You also want to make sure that the keywords you believe people will search for are used within that text. If at all possible, you also want to have more than just a few pages. A minimum of 20 pages would be our recommendation. Spiders just love to crawl around interconnected pages.

A number of years ago, many webmasters used a little trick of embedding and repeating “hidden” keywords on their pages. This is done by having text the same color as the background. For instance, if someone ran a dog grooming site, they would place “dogs” and “grooming” on the page in all the available areas not used by visible text. Don’t use this technique. The spiders see it for what it is and will actually penalize a site for “keyword spamming” as a result.

Spiders also love “fresh” or new content. Sites that don’t change much tend to lose page ranking. No one is interested in seeing the same information over and over again. So try to add new content as often as possible. Two great techniques for this are discussion forums and blogs. If you can get other people to participate in your forums and blogs, they in effect, provide content for you.

Meta Tags
Most spiders don’t really pay that much attention to meta tags, but even so, you want to use them. Your Title tag should be short and concise; no more than 60 characters or so. Same thing for the description tag: short, concise, and containing some of your keywords. Maximum length shouldn’t be more than around 160 characters.

We all put our keywords in the keyword meta tag, even though we know that most modern spiders don’t care. But there are things you can do that will hurt more than help. Spiders really don’t like seeing the same keyword over and over. No word should be used as a keyword more than three times. Using the dog grooming analogy again, having your keyword list contain dog, dogs, dog grooming, grooming dogs, dog salon, and so forth is NOT a good idea. This is more keyword spamming. If you can’t think of a more varied list of words or phrases, then just keep it to a few relevant words. You also want to keep the total character count for keywords to no more than 120 or so.

Links
The number of “referral” links you have (links to your site from other sites) is one of the factors considered when determining page ranking. Of course, link quality matters. Having people come to your site from cnn.com or msn.com carries alot more weight than having them come from one-eyed-llamas.com.

Try to get as many other sites to link to you as possible (many sites offer a reciprocal link feature). You have to work at this. It may cost you a little money, but putting ads on sites such as classifiedads.com or others like that certainly won’t hurt. For a small fee, classifiedads.com will “blast” your add to thousands of other ad sites. This serves two purposes. First, if your site is for business, it may get you sales or leads. Second, your site link will be distributed to other potential “referrer sites”. Even if you have to pay to get your ads or banners on larger sites, it may be worth it.

Site Map
A site map is nothing more than a page that provides a “road map” to all the other pages on your site. The spiders seem to like this (there is some debate) because if provides an easy means for them to access all the other pages you have. This can be particularly effective if you have a content-rich site.

Closing
At TurkReno, we live, eat, breath, sleep and work SEO, SEM and SEV. We’d love to help you and your business be found online, no matter how complex or simple the project is. Give us a call today, (251) 279-0278, or contact us.

Is It Time To Shut Down Your Website?

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This was a very interesting article we picked up on from Twitter. Worth the read considering who it’s referring to and how Social Media continues to shape the Internet landscape.

Just last month, the U.S. State Department announced that it was shutting down www.America.gov, the website launched to provide cultural and policy content to the world. Instead, the State Department will focus on using social media to get out its message. The aim is to communicate in a more interactive way with today’s networked audiences around the world—like those blogging Egypt’s revolution from Tahrir Square or documenting Syrian unrest on YouTube.

Shutting down your website to communicate solely through social media channels might seem like a crazy idea for any large organization. But then again, there is some logic to it. The Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks receives over ten times as much traffic to its Facebook page (19.4 million unique visitors each month) as to its corporate website (1.8 million). For Coca-Cola, the divergence is even starker: 22.5 million visitors on Facebook vs. just 270,000 to its website—over 80 times as much traffic.

A decade ago, the corporate website had become the new “must-have” communication tool. But now, as web users spend increasing amounts of time on social media, traffic to static corporate websites appears to be on the decline.

Facebook vs Website Traffic for 2 Brands

Facebook vs Website Traffic for 2 Brands

But before you rush out to pull the plug on your own web site, it’s worth considering the benefits of each approach.

Benefits of Social Media

1. Inherently interactive. That’s where the term “social” comes from. Unlike a static HTML website, designed to read and click, social media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are designed around sharing, responding, and interacting.
2. Where people are spending time. With over 500 million active users on Facebook, most Web audiences are spending more time there than browsing company sites. Just be sure that’s true for your own demographic (e.g. Facebook is a nonstarter in Japan) and your own industry (most users still do not use Facebook for learning about b2b topics).
3. Easy to acquire. Clicking a “like” button on Facebook or “follow” button on Twitter is a lot easier than filling in the sign up form on a web page. So it’s no surprise that many companies find it easier to build a large following on social media platforms.
4. Virality. When your audience interacts with you on social media platforms, it is instantly visible to their own friends and contacts. This digital “word-of-mouth” can be one of the most powerful tools for reaching new audiences.

Benefits of Your Own Website

1. Control the design. Have you ever tried designing a page on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? The experience is like trying to swim with one hand tied behind your back. Having your own website allows you complete control, which may be essential if you have a lot of content or options that you need to organize for different audiences.
2. Own the data. Social media platforms are owned by the companies that run them, and, as such, they are the only ones holding all the data on your customers and your interactions with them. On your own website, you own all the data.
3. Targeting and personalization. Owning data and controlling design allow for much more targeted interaction with your customers than is possible on social media platforms. If you know which emails a customer in your database is clicking on, you can ensure her follow up emails, Web landing pages, and ecommerce experiences are much more suited to her particular interests.
4. Reach all your audience. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other services which might reach large segments of your customers, your own website is available to 100% of them. (That is, as long as your website has been optimized to work on a mobile phone.)

So, unless you are so small (e.g. a one-person enterprise) that you lack the resources to maintain both a Facebook page and a website, you almost certainly need both. (Even the State Department still kept its main website after shutting down America.gov.)

Fresh Approach Needed

But as you hold on to your familiar company website that’s grown a little musty over the last decade, be sure to give it a fresh look. Are you using the unique design capabilities of a stand-alone site? Are you capturing and leveraging data? Are you interacting and building a database with your most loyal customers who care enough to do more than press a “like” button for you? If not, your website needs a revamp to be worth keeping it alive for next year.

David Rogers examines the five core strategies of successful networked businesses in his newest book, “The Network Is Your Customer: Five Strategies to Thrive in a Digital Age.” He teaches Digital Marketing Strategy at Columbia Business School, where he is Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership. Rogers has advised and developed marketing and digital strategies for numerous companies such as SAP, Eli Lilly, and Visa. Find him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/david_rogers.

Now our own thoughts on this are mixed. Not every client needs a website. Some clients need a boost in their Social Media strategy, some need a website and some need both. We’re here and happy to give you a free analysis on your online presence. In any case, we’re about to publish this article and it syndicates to Social Media. Why the U.S. State Department isn’t using this exact same strategy to balance out their numbers and create a stronger presence is a bit baffling. Please feel free to share your thoughts!

PlayStation Network Down

Sony PlayStation Network Outage; Amazon Brings Countless Millions Offline

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Sony has released a Questions list that can be found here: http://us.playstation.com/support/answer/index.htm?a_id=2356

  • April 19th – Amazon:

Dear Amazon Web Services Customer,

We’re excited to announce the launch of live HTTP streaming for Amazon CloudFront, AWS’s easy-to-use content delivery network.

Using Amazon CloudFront with Amazon EC2 running Adobe’s Flash Media Server and Amazon Route 53 (AWS’s DNS service), you can now easily and cost-effectively deliver your live video via AWS. And, we’ve made it simple to get started by creating an AWS CloudFormation template that handles all of the provisioning and sequencing for all the AWS resources you need for this live streaming stack.

Portal 2 on Steam, XB360 and PS3, SOCOM 4 Launches.

  • April 20th – GigaOm:

The first graph gives an idea of normal Amazon EC2 response times over the last 30 days, but notice the US-EAST region start to spike at April 20.

The outage that affected a hundreds of applications running in the provider’s US-EAST region is almost resolved, more than 24 hours after a “networking event” took down a number of popular services, including EC2, Elastic Block Storage and Relational Database Service.

We continue to see progress in recovering volumes, and have heard many additional customers confirm that they’re recovering. Our current estimate is that the majority of volumes will be recovered over the next 5 to 6 hours.

First 24 hours of outage (worldwide)

EC2 Outage

Foursquare, Quora, Amazon, Sony, Apple, Reddit, Hootsuite, Wattpad – All went down.

  • April 21st – Sony:

While we are investigating the cause of the Network outage, we wanted to alert you that it may be a full day or two before we’re able to get the service completely back up and running.

  • April 22nd – Sony:

An external intrusion on our system has affected our PlayStation Network and Qriocity services.

  • April 22nd – ZDNet:

Amazon’s Web Services outage: End of cloud innocence?

  • April 24th – 1:42 AM Amazon:

Service disruption: Database instance connectivity and latency issues

In line with the most recent Amazon EC2 update, we wanted to let you know that the team continues to be all-hands on deck working on the remaining database instances in the single affected Availability Zone. It’s taking us longer than we anticipated. When we have an updated ETA or meaningful new update, we will make sure to post it here. But, we can assure you that the team is working this hard and will do so as long as it takes to get this resolved.

At the time, Amazon’s AWS Service Health Dashboard was at red.

  • April 24 – 2:08 PM Amazon:

The number of Database Instances without access continues to reduce steadily. As the access to these remaining database instances is restored, they will become usable without additional action on your end. If your Database Instance is not yet available, you also have the option to initiate a Point-in-time-Restore operation using the steps outlined in our previous post at 10:08 AM PDT. We are in the process of contacting this small set of customers who still do not have access to their Database Instances.

  • April 25 – 8:20AM Sony:

I know you are waiting for additional information on when PlayStation Network and Qriocity services will be online. Unfortunately, I don’t have an update or timeframe to share at this point in time.

As we previously noted, this is a time intensive process and we’re working to get them back online quickly. We’ll keep you updated with information as it becomes available. We once again thank you for your patience.

  • April 25 – 7:39PM Amazon:

We are digging deeply into the root causes of this event and will post a detailed post-mortem.

Amazon and Sony appear to be taking a very similar approach. So was the attack on the PlayStation Network, on Amazon Web Services, or are they one in the same? The answer is: No, they are not.

Others blame Anonymous who had taken credit for a separate hacking attempt earlier in the month towards SCEA. Some believe that this is also partially motivated by Geohot’s impending court rulings. First IANAL, but it would seem there’s a certain level of legality that has been crossed. Clearly he’s not getting hired right now by Sony at the moment because he’s probably being prosecuted by the US DOJ because he’s IN FEDERAL COURT. When a Corporation files a complaint of that caliber, especially one with a DMCA, Copyright Infringement and allegations of Computer Fraud and other crimes, that could be the act of a number of different things including faking the identify of Sony, misuse of the Sony logo or other things that we’ll never hear about. “Geohot” may deserve what’s coming to him just like any one who has walked across a line that fine. He alone will decide what he does with his life at that point.