Improve Your Site Search with These SEO Principles

While just about every e-commerce website I’ve worked with optimizes for Google search, it amazes me how many underestimate the value of effective internal site search. If you’re not dedicating some effort to improving your internal search, you’re losing business.

Conversions aren’t the only thing impacted by a properly optimized site search (although it certainly is the most important). Internal site search can provide clues that have implications across the board and help you effectively manage your bricks-and-mortar business, too.

Here’s a short list of SEO principles that, if employed, will help you get the most from your internal site search (and boost conversions!):

Set up site search tracking in Google Analytics. It’s simple and you can do this right inside your current Google Analytics account.

Step One: You need to determine the query parameter your site search is using. Simply perform a search, any search, on your site. Look at the URl of the results page and identify the designation immediately following the question mark. For the example below, I went to a popular outdoor clothing and equipment site and did so.

As you can see, it’s a “q” in this case.

search-query-parameters

Step Two: Go into your Google Analytics account and click Admin, View Settings and scroll to Site Search Settings.

google analytics search query parameters

Step Three: Under the heading Site Search Tracking, simply click the slider to the “on” position. Look for the heading Query parameter and add the character that designates a search in your URl. In this example, it was “q”. Click the Strip query parameters out of URl button and save.

This will enable you to view the terms visitors searched on your site within Google Analytics.

Add often searched query terms to your keyword research. Once you know what people are searching while on your website, you’ll not only gain insight into ways to optimize your search terms for products and/or categories but you’ll get great ideas for new products.

NoIndex your search result pages. If someone performs a generic Google search hoping for a quick answer and lands on your internal search page instead, it may not result in a good experience. Google thinks it is less likely to. That being the case, it makes sense to block them.

Never display “No Results Found”. It serves no useful purpose to you or the user. If the item they’re searching for is out of stock, consider displaying related products. If the term is completely unrelated to any of your products, serve up a list of your best selling items with a blurb that reads “We couldn’t find the item you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re interested in one of the best sellers below.”

Don’t pass up a chance to ask for a sale. Proper use and optimization of your internal site search has been done to dramatically improve, even double in some cases, conversions. A designated Google Analytics Partner since 1998, the digital marketing team at Beacon has a wealth of knowledge regarding internal site search and ways in which it can be leveraged to improve your bottom line. Questions? Email me or call a Beacon team member at 1.866.585.6350. We’re ready to discuss ways in which we can help y make your online business more profitable than ever before.

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2017-09-01T09:55:13+00:00 September 13th, 2017|SEO|Comments Off on Improve Your Site Search with These SEO Principles

SEO & Your Redesign: Don’t Be a Flintsone

If you’re reading this article on your desktop monitor, guess what. You’re a dinosaur, my friend. More than likely, there are far more people reading this article on hand held devices. Particularly those between the ages of 18 and 29*. But, since there are still holdouts like yourself, any website needs to account for this audience as well.

With that in mind, it’s time we talk about responsive website redesign. So, put those rocks down and follow me.  We’re going to cover a lot of ground in just a few words. We’ll look at some major SEO considerations with an added emphasis on mobile redesign factors.

Structured Schema Data & The Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes

A redesign is a great time to give your new website an organic visibility boost. By adding structured or schema markup, you can give search engines a little bit more help with interpreting your pages, thereby improving the quantity and quality of your traffic. Think of it as the secret handshake of Lodge brothers. You establish a familiarity on a higher level – it’s an engagement booster. And when better engagement metrics follow, so do better search rankings.

HTML tells the user’s browser how to display the information in the tag. Using a microdata format, schema markup tells the browser what the text within the tag means. There are markup types for different business categories, entertainment types, articles & review sites, products, and events. And those are just a few types of schema. You can see why schema markup is a great way to showcase your website content.

Yabba Dabba DON’T forget about page speed.

Page speed has always been important. With mobile devices, page speed is absolutely critical. Consider the numbers given earlier regarding mobile users. They’re young. Very Young. That means the average mobile user has an attention span similar to that of a common house fly.  Factor in questionable mobile connections and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. There is no such thing as too fast.

Make sure you address page speed. If you can’t get a straight answer from your design partner regarding site speed, use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test to find out for yourself. It will measure mobile friendliness and compare the load times of your site on mobile and desktop. Additionally, the tool will suggest improvements. Take this handy little report and give it to your design partner.

CSS, JavaScript & The Great Gazoo

In the Jurassic days of website design (last Thursday), it wasn’t unusual to use JavaScript to ensure that your design renders as intended. Page speed was not as great a factor in the Google search algorithm as it is today and page speeds didn’t have to account for mobile use.

However, side by side analysis suggests overuse of JavaScript and CSS can be a big mistake. Recent split tests indicate that if one were to strip the JavaScript from a page and use CSS to render it instead, performance would improve. In fact, if one were to split test the JavaScript pages versus the pages not reliant on JS, the latter sees roughly 5% more organic traffic.

Like the character in the cartoon, CSS and JavaScript mean well but they they’ll likely create more problems than they solve.

They don’t use Flash down at the quarry anymore.

There are some good things about Flash. It’s great for course animations and online presentations. Now, let’s list a few of its limitations.

  • It’s not supported on iPhone.
  • Or Anything, really.
  • Google has trouble crawling and indexing it. That means lousy search visibility.
  • It isn’t easily updated. If you have very, very deep pockets, this isn’t a problem.
  • It’s proprietary so Adobe can hold you hostage.

With the changing technologies, Flash simply should not be used any longer. Flash isn’t supported on mobile devices. If your redesign partner insists on using Flash in your new redesign, run for the hills.

Bold choice, Mr. Flintstone! You’ll go far in this company.

While all of the above must be considered in your redesign efforts, it all starts with your choice of a forward-thinking design and development partner. That’s where Beacon comes in. If you have any questions regarding SEO and your upcoming redesign project, I invite you to email me or call a member of our digital marketing team at 1.855.847.5440.

*According to the Pew Research Center

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2017-07-31T12:52:45+00:00 July 26th, 2017|SEO|Comments Off on SEO & Your Redesign: Don’t Be a Flintsone

Questions to Ask Your SEO Partner

Unfortunately, there are some companies in the SEO trade that are damaging the reputation of the entire industry. Over time some local businesses and medium-sized companies avoid paying for SEO management services for fear of being ripped off. Or, they have been led to believe from past experiences that SEO isn’t effective. This is unfortunate because when done right, SEO can be a great equalizer throughout a variety of industries.

There’s no way of knowing if even larger SEO companies will fulfill their SEO guarantees. However, here are some questions you can ask to probe the legitimacy of your current SEO partner.

Let’s Get Started

Ask your current SEO partner if they outsource work or if they have a dedicated internal team. The last thing you want to deal with is an SEO company outsourcing work to other countries with poor SEO tactics. Unfortunately, not every Country where SEO is popular follows best practices. For example, freelancers in other Countries may auto-generate articles, buy links or spam websites.

Paid Backlinks

It should go without saying but buying links is not a viable strategy. Nor is publishing auto-generated articles a feasible content creation strategy.

Duplicate Content

Consider This ……

The web is 25-30% duplicated content according to Matt Cutts. It’s no wonder search engines prefer unique content that provides value.

Bottom Line: You want to work with an SEO agency that does their work in house and holds their team accountable.

Next, link building can be a great SEO strategy when done appropriately. However, if done in a manner that causes Google and other search engines to raise their eyebrows there will be problems or penalties. If you engage in any sort of link building with your SEO agency ask them what their approach or strategy is. Even if it is passive link building where they reclaim links and monitor your brand. It is smart to have a rough idea of the type of link acquisition strategies they may be employing.

If you hear any of these terms thrown around then it is time to switch SEO partners:

  • Link Exchange
  • Blog Networks
  • Widget Backlinks
  • Advertorials
  • Buying Links – Paid Links
  • Article Directories
  • Hidden Backlinks
  • Auto-Generated Backlinks

 

Bottom Line: Link building can be a good strategy when done correctly. Ask your potential SEO partner what their approach is and see if they mention any of the terms above.

Finally, ask your current SEO partner what their content creation strategy is. What you want to find out is are they writing unique content or regurgitating keyword stuffed content.

Also, when it comes to targeting keywords in content pieces be aware of diminishing returns. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to using keywords within your content. Add a few keywords and you start gaining rank. Add some more and it doesn’t really make any improvements. If you keep adding keywords then you start to see some declines in rank. I am not saying you shouldn’t have keywords within your content but it is important to add variations and use related keywords.

Bottom Line: You want your SEO partner to go easy on the keywords while providing relevant content.

Side Note – You also don’t want them creating a bunch of pages that are only targeting one keyword either. Instead, it should be a good mix of related terms.

Hopefully, this will help you when researching SEO companies or deciding if it is time to switch vendors.  If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out or get a Free SEO audit to see how you currently stack up.

Happy Rankings!

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-07-20T09:21:37+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Digital Marketing, SEO|Comments Off on Questions to Ask Your SEO Partner

How to Zero In On The Consumer Purchase Funnel

Search Engine Optimization is tricky and to make it harder consumers are constantly in various stages of the buying process. Fortunately, we can craft content to appeal to searchers at various stages of the customer buying cycle. By digging into the consumer journey and considering searcher intent within the funnel we can tailor our content accordingly.

Consumer Purchase Funnel

Awareness

In this stage of the customer buying funnel, searchers have identified a need they would like fulfilled. They are also not aware of your company or its services and products. The goal here is to create Top of Funnel Content to target specific pain points utilizing PPC and SEO. The content needs to be informational and highlight a problem or pain point.

For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce site and you sell hardware typically used in home repair. You could create:

  • Detailed informative blog posts
  • Case Studies
  • eGuides & eBooks

For example, you could create editorial content like ‘How a Renovation can Increase a Home’s Value’. It is important to conduct some exploratory research initially. This can be accomplished by visiting forums and listening to what your community is saying. Epicbeat Epictions and Buzzsumo can be a robust tool when it comes to targeting the right funnel channel. These tools give unique, insight into the types of content your target market is consuming. At this stage, you can gain insight into different types of informational content is performing well in your niche.

This type of content is best suited for your blog section of your site. You can also use this as an opportunity to create link worthy content or clickbait content if you are so inclined.

Familiarity

During this stage, you will still be creating top of funnel content. Searchers are aware they have a pain point but do not know how to satisfy it. This content is still largely informative in nature. Think blog posts, case studies, infographics etc. The goal here is to show searchers how to solve their particular problem and create an additional touch point with your brand. In the end, your goal is to inspire the searcher to take action. Make searchers aware of your brand.

You can uncover insights in the familiarity stage by:

  • Forums – “they are a treasure trove of data”
  • Keyword Research – Keyword planner tool
  • Social Media
  • Google Alerts
  • Specialized Content Research Tools

Let’s say you have an e-commerce company that sells furniture and you are implementing a customer buying cycle. You could build out some content on “Hardware needed for a bathroom renovation”. In our fictitious example, you address a specific problem and a group of people who are experiencing this issue.

Our next step would be to motivate them to take action. At this point, you have a few options. You can ask them to subscribe, leave a comment, or send an inquiry.

Consideration

At this point, searchers are further down the funnel. They are familiar with your brand and are looking for a solution to their problem. They know they need a solution and roughly what they are looking for. In this part of the funnel, you want to optimize middle of the funnel content. This is the part of the funnel people typically optimize for and forget the other sections of the funnel. Don’t be one of these people. Optimize for each stage of the customer buying process for search engine optimization bliss.

Typically this type of content may take the form of product/service related category pages.

You can uncover insights in this stage by:

  • Keyword Research – Keyword Planner Tool
  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics – Site Search Analytics

For example, continuing with our previous example let’s say you want to target this funnel. Depending upon the industries you cater to you could produce content for each category page. You could target:

  • ‘Decorative Kitchen Hardware’
  • ‘Cabinetry Hardware’
  • ‘Ambient Lighting Solutions’

In these category pages, you can inspire confidence in your services and explain how you can help solve the searcher’s problem. This is also a great time to get searchers to take action. Consider building out micro-conversions at this point. Such as, “download our buyer’s guide”, “Sign up to receive special offers”, “register for our workshop”.

Purchase

In this stage, you will target searchers in the bottom of the funnel. Consumers are aware of your product or service and are looking for confidence building material. This is a good time for user generated content, testimonial pages and consumer reviews.

consumer reviews

Customer reviews and testimonials have an immense impact on organic traffic and conversion rates. According to a survey by BrightLocal, “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations”. Essentially, you can spread word of mouth on your product level pages and generate content around it.

Of course, you also want to motivate searchers to perform an action at this stage of the funnel. We want to drive purchases of course. The buy button or ‘shop’ option needs to be prominent.

buy button

Loyalty

In this stage of the funnel, we are targeting the bottom of the funnel searchers. The goal of this funnel is customer retention. The tools in your arsenal to achieve this goal is our email subscription pages, sales related pages and any community-related forums that you can implement on your site. Wayfair is a good example of a company implementing a sales page stuff full of clearance items in a user-friendly way.

wayfair sale page

Also, you can also build a community forum page where customers can ask product related questions and gather advice for specific problems and issues.

The customer buying cycle represents a framework for visualizing the searcher’s journey with your brand over time. By properly tailoring content around each stage in the buyer’s journey, you can foster growth and sales over time. By creating tailored content you will be able to target customer wherever they are in your funnel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2016-11-18T14:47:45+00:00 October 24th, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on How to Zero In On The Consumer Purchase Funnel

Here’s How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Search Results Appearance

It’s not everyday that the SEO world catches a break from Google, but they’ve recently connected two of their greatest resources for us. You may have noticed a new tool in the  Acquisition section of your Google Analytics reporting – the Search Console Beta. This report closes the gap between Search Console and Google Analytics, providing a new level of insight into what’s happening with your SEO efforts. Now, in addition to seeing the typical behavior and conversion metrics next to your landing pages, you can see the information that has been siloed in Search Console for years:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • Average Position
  • Sessions

Now, how do you leverage this data to improve your visibility and organic traffic? The simplest thing you can do is identify pages that aren’t garnering the amount of clicks they should be. In the video below, I use advanced filters to show only pages with an average position on the first page of Google (by selecting less than 11) and also have a click-thru rate of less than 1.5%. Of course, you can set these thresholds to whatever you like, but this is a good starting point. In my opinion, any URL ranking on the first page of search results should have a pretty good CTR. Once you’ve filtered out the better performing URLs, you’re left with a list of URLs that need some improvements. Export this list and make updates to your title tags and meta descriptions. It’s helpful to run a few queries and see what other sites are showing up on the search results pages along with your pages. There’s clearly something better about their results, so take a close look and see how you can out-write them with stronger title tags and meta descriptions. Don’t forget to come back in a few weeks, or however long it takes to collect significant data, and conduct a before and after analysis on those URLs. *Take note, that the first thing I do is set the date range to include 90 days worth of data, but not the 2 most recent days. Search Console data lags a couple days and only back-logs 90 days’ worth.

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2016-11-18T14:47:46+00:00 July 25th, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on Here’s How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Search Results Appearance

Google’s Latest Algorithm Update: Bacon

The sizzling algorithm update you probably haven’t heard about: Bacon.

It’s no secret that Google releases dozens or hundreds of updates to their ranking algorithm every year. Of course, some of these updates have a larger impact on search results than others, you may be familiar with the Panda or Penguin updates, which targeted content and link quality. These two updates have seen a series of on-going updates over the last few years as they continually make tweaks to improve the de-spamming of search results pages.

Most of the time, Google’s updates are focused on demoting websites that are using black-hat SEO tactics, have low content quality, or have a bunch of junky links pointing to the site. Historically speaking, these are all the things “spammers” have been doing for years to try and game the system.

google-bacon

So what’s the deal with the Bacon update? Well, as with all things, Bacon makes it better! Simply putting the word ‘Bacon’ in your on-page optimization efforts is a sure-fire way to improve the rankings of your site. Recent studies have shown that bacon-optimized pages are 17 times more likely to rank on the first page, experience a 243% increase in click-thru rate, and cut bounce rates in half! How do you go about making updates to optimize your site for Bacon? Follow these simple steps:

  • Add Bacon to the beginning of your page titles
  • Work Bacon-related content into your keyword-rich topic pages
  • Include the word Bacon in your page headings
  • Configure URLs to include Bacon
  • Anchor-text links loaded with Bacon
  • Add Bacon images on every page of your site

With these bacon-optimized updates, you’ll be cooking in no time!

 *if you made it this far and haven’t looked at the nearest calendar yet, April Fools! This is of course, total non-sense and you should in no way, shape, or form make any of the changes mentioned above (unless you actually run a bacon-related website)

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2016-11-18T14:47:46+00:00 April 1st, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on Google’s Latest Algorithm Update: Bacon

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

Imagine that you and your staff have spent countless hours creating engaging content for your website, only to discover that much of it has been stolen and repurposed by others – without your consent.

The appearance of duplicate content could adversely affect your website search rankings, making it more difficult for prospective students, alumni and the community to find you. And as we all know, good content rules. So, why let others break them (the rules, that is)?

At Beacon, we’ve seen what unethical practices such as copy scraping can do. Having personally experienced the theft of our content fairly recently, I thought I’d share the steps I took to alert Google to this offense and protect our company from the negative fallout that can follow.

Here are six easy steps for getting back at the thieves who steal copy.

Step 1 – Verify that your suspicions are correct.

Perform a quick Google search to determine where your copy is showing up across the internet. You can randomly select copy from a webpage (copy and paste a few sentences in a Google search box) to run a query. The search results will indicate if your copy appears on another site on the web other than your own.

For example, here are the results from my search.

Scraped Content

The search results will provide you with a list of webpages where that content appears (including your own, of course). As you can see in this example, there is another website using content I wrote without my consent (see the red arrow above).

Step 2– Investigate the extent of the theft

Stolen ContentScraped Content

When investigating the extent of plagiarism, check to see if your content was been copied verbatim. Also, you’ll want to check if this is an isolated event or if the website in question has copied multiple pieces of content. In our example above, you will notice multiple instances of stolen content. It’s time to take action.

Step 3 – Reach out to the website’s administrator

Reach out to the webmaster of the website that stole the copy. If the webmaster’s email contact isn’t readily displayed, check the about or policy sections of their website. The webmaster’s address is often hidden within these pages.

Once you’ve found an email address, notify him that you are aware of the offending activity and request that he remove the stolen content within a defined period of time. A week to ten days is more than enough.

Should the webmaster voluntarily remove the stolen content, your job is done. Have a latte. However, most nefarious webmasters will ignore such warnings and hide behind a perceived veil of anonymity.

Now, the fun begins.

Step 4 – Contact the hosting provider

It’s time to perform a who-is-lookup. This online tool provides you with the webmaster’s identity and more importantly, their website hosting provider. Armed with this new information, I reached out to the hosting provider and let them know that a website they host had blatantly infringed on my intellectual copyrights. I respectfully requested that they take down the website in question.

Step 5 – File a DMCA request

If the hosting provider fails to respond, then it’s time to file a dirty DMCA request. Only take this step once you have exhausted the other options. Also, keep in mind that you need to have the authority to act on behalf of your organization prior to filing this request.

You have the option of drafting your own DMCA takedown request or downloading this DMCA Take Down Notice Template to customize and send to the offending website owner. After you have sent the DMCA notice, give the website a week to ten days to respond. If you don’t hear back within the time you designate in your notice, it’s time to elevate the complaint to Google and get some sort of resolution.

Step 6 – Request Google remove the stolen content

Log into Google Search Console: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice. This will take you to the copyright removal section within Google (see below). Simply follow the instructions and be sure to describe the nature of the work being copied and include URLs where the copyrighted work can be viewed. Also, include the link to the infringing material.

Scraping Site

The DMCA request tends to work pretty quickly so you want to keep an eye on how many pages are currently indexed and compare it over the next few days or weeks. You can double check this by running another search query containing a snippet of your stolen copy. If you were successful in your attempt at protecting your content, you will see that Google has removed pages from its search engine that were infringing upon your copyrights once they complete their investigation.

Monitoring tip: If you would like to check the progress of your request, perform a site search if the offending site and make a note of the number of pages Google has indexed (see below). Compare this number to future searches and you may find the Google now indexes fewer of the website’s pages than before your request. This is a sign that Google may be taking action.

stolen content before after

You’ll know you’ve reached a final resolution when you run a search query and see the following highlighted message displayed:

stolen content example

Good luck and happy hunting!

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

RankBrain in 2016

RankBrain

Google has used word frequency, word distance, and world knowledge based on co-occurrences to connect the many relations between words to serve up answers to search queries. But now, due to the recent breakthroughs in language translation and image recognition, Google has turned to powerful neural networks that have the ability to connect the best answers to the millions of search queries Google receives daily.

RankBrain is the name of the Google neural network that scans content and is able to understand the relationships between words and phrases on the web.

Why is it better than the previous methods? In a nutshell, RankBrain is a better method because it is deep learning self-improving system. Training itself on pages within the Google index, RankBrain looks upon the relationships between the search queries and the content contained within the Google index.

How does it do this? Neural networks are very good at conducting reading comprehension based on examples and detecting patterns in those examples. Trained on existing data, Google’s vast database of website documents is able to provide the necessary large-scale level of training sets. When conducting training, Google changes key phrases or words into mathematical entities called vectors which act as signals. RankBrain then runs an evaluation similar to the cloze test.  A cloze test is a reading comprehension activity where words are emitted from a passage and then filled back in. With a cloze test, there may be many possible answers, but on-going training from a vast data set allows for a better understanding of the linguistic relationships of these entities.  Let’s look at an example:

The movie broke all (entity1) over the weekend.

Hollywood’s biggest stars were out on the red carpet at the (entity2) premiere.

After deciphering all of the intricate patterns of the vectors, RankBrain can deliver an answer to a query such as “Which movie had the biggest opening at the box office?” by using vector signals from entities that point to the search result entity receiving the most attention. It does this without any specific coding, without rules, or semantic markup. Even for queries that may be vague in nature, the neural network is able to outperform even humans.

With RankBrain, meaning is inferred from use. As RankBrain’s training and comprehension improves, it can focus on the best content that it believes will help answer a search query. As a result, RankBrain can understand search queries never seen before. In 2016, be prepared to provide the contextual clues that RankBrain is looking for.

By | 2017-06-16T12:52:33+00:00 January 18th, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on RankBrain in 2016

How-To: Robots.txt Disaster Prevention

It’s any SEO‘s worst nightmare. The Production robots file got overwritten with the Test version. Now all your pages have been ‘disallowed’ and are dropping out of the index. And to make it worse, you didn’t notice it immediately, because how would you?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could prevent robots.txt file disasters? Or at least know as soon as something goes awry? Keep reading, you’re about to do just that.

The ‘How’

Our team recently began using Slack. Even if you don’t need a new team communication tool, it is worth having for this purpose. One of Slack’s greatest features is ‘Integrations’. Luckily for us SEOs, there is an RSS integration.

5 Simple Steps for Quick Robots.txt Disaster Remediation:

  1. Take the URL for your robots file and drop it into Page2Rss.
  2. Configure the Slack RSS integration.
  3. Add the Feed URL (from Page2RSS) for your robots file.
  4. Select the channel to which notifications will post. ( I suggest having a channel for each website/client, read more on why later)
  5. Relax and stop worrying about an accidental ‘disallow all’.

The Benefits of this Method

4 Benefits of Using Page2Rss & Slack to Watch Your Robots File:

  1. You can add your teammates to channels, so key people can know when changes occur! One person sets up the feed once, many people get notified.
  2. Page2Rss will check the page at least once a day. This means you’ll never go more than 24 hours with a defunct robots file.
  3. No one on your team has to check clients’ robots files for errors.
  4. You’ll know what day your dev team updated the file. This enables you to add accurate annotations in Google Analytics.

robots damage prevention

The ‘Why’

OK, cool, but why is this necessary? Because you care about your sites’ reputation with search engines, that’s why!

Mistakes happen with websites all the time, and search engines know that. They’re not in the business of destroying websites. But they are in the business of providing the best results to their customers. So if you neglect to fix things like this with a quickness, you’re risking demotion.

I’ve seen sites go weeks with a bad robots file, and it is not pretty. Once search engines have removed your site from the index, it is quite difficult to get back. It can sometimes take weeks to regain the indexation you had prior. Don’t undo hard work put into search engine optimization because your file was overwritten. Do yourself a favor and setup this automated monitoring feature.

I’ve armed you with this info, now there is no excuse for getting de-indexed due to robots.txt issues. If this has happened to someone you know, please share this post with them!

Logan Ray
With a B.S. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Logan Ray joins Beacon as a Digital Marketing Specialist. Outside the workplace, Logan’s interests include spending time with his wife and dog, board sports and outdoor adventuring.
By | 2017-08-11T16:09:50+00:00 December 1st, 2015|SEO|Comments Off on How-To: Robots.txt Disaster Prevention

Google and Its Book Scanning Initiative – Trick or Treat?

This Halloween, Google has toilet papered your entire yard and the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals just rang the doorbell, left a flaming bag of you-know what on your doorstep and ran like a bat outta’ Hell. Who are you?

You’re an author with a career worth of product, mostly published offline through traditional literary mediums. You have every right to feel that you’ve been wronged. I know I do.

While I don’t advocate for the trampling of anyone’s rights in favor of another (one of my pet peeves), the 2nd Circuit Court decision has some upside. Think Frankenstein and fire.  Let me explain…

poster-art-smallA Quick Overview

As you probably know, the objective of Google’s book scanning initiative is to scan every book available and make the contents available online for educational purposes. The book scanning initiative (the way I understand it) does not make copyrighted materials available online for free to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it available to them. This project is meant to aid libraries in copying their current catalog for use by library patrons who would otherwise have access to already paid for, hard copy versions.

The Authors Guild had taken great exception to the book scanning project, as one might expect. Citing existing laws on copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 107) The Author’s Guild has argued that Google’s book scanning initiative deprives writers of revenue from their work.

This court battle started way back in 2005.

The 10 year ordeal appears to be over. The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled with Google and its “fair use” defense. The “fair use” defense (admittedly greatly simplified here in the interest of expediency) argues that since the content is being used for educational purposes, it serves a greater good. Additionally, it does not “excessively damage the market” for the current copyright holder.

If you’re not a creator (or even if you are), you’re probably wondering what this means for your website or agency. Will the fire Google started be used for good or evil? Will users see a benefit or will my SEO efforts become a horror show?

The answer is yes, yes, yes and maybe. Let’s talk about the bad first.

More Panda Updates

There is no doubt that while Google may be providing a service through this massive book scanning effort, they’ll get their sweat equity when they use this data to fine tune their algorithm in their pursuit to rid the internet of duplicate content. While this means a better user experience for most (yeah!), it could mean sleepless nights for SEOs and website operators who have used nefarious means to add “new” content to their blogs or websites.

Imagine your agency gets a new client. That’s a good thing. What you don’t know is that this client has in the past employed an SEO firm that had resorted to using re-purposed content from rare books. The next Panda update comes and your client gets slammed. Guess who gets blamed? FIRE, BAD.

However, there’s a great deal of good news too. Consider this:

More Books for the Disabled

In a related ruling, the appeals court decided in favor of HathiTrust Digital Library and their application of “fair use”. A non-profit project, HathiTrust Digital Library consist of a consortium or university libraries with a mission to provide digital books for the disabled. FRIEND, GOOD.

Better Experience for The End User

Less fluff and more real content will result from future algorithm changes. That’s great news for users and all of us who do things the right way. FRIEND, GOOD.

More Work for Content Creators

This is a big maybe but, in theory, this could work to a writer’s advantage. As the algorithm detects new re-purposed copy, something of value has to replace the fluff copy that had previously been used.  FRIEND, GOOD.

In Conclusion

Like the blind man in the original Frankenstein movie, I probably won’t convince any traditional writer that that his or her rights are not being subjugated in favor of commerce and the rights of another. And in the end, you can’t ignore the fact that the “monster” enjoyed a big, fat cigar with a friend. It ain’t all bad.

And on a side note, I hear the new Panda algorithm can scrape poop from shoes.

Richard Rossi
Rich Rossi comes to Beacon as an SEO Specialist. A graduate of Syracuse University, Rich spent several years as a children’s book illustrator and website designer before discovering an affinity for link building and SEO.

Connect with Rich on Google+

By | 2017-06-16T12:34:23+00:00 October 29th, 2015|SEO|Comments Off on Google and Its Book Scanning Initiative – Trick or Treat?
Load More Posts