12 03, 2020

If Beacon Was A Basketball Team…

By | 2020-03-13T13:03:54+00:00 March 12th, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, Google Analytics, PPC, SEO|Tags: , , , |

*** Please note that the below post was written prior to the announced cancellation of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. While we are sad that we will not have the chance to enjoy the competition this year, we recognize the need for public safety measures that protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus. With that said, the Beacon team is still out on the practice courts, running game on behalf of our clients. As a technology firm, we are well-positioned to continue providing services to our customers, even if large portions of our staff are relegated to working remotely. 

In times like this, it’s helpful to recall the British government’s advice to its people during public emergencies: Keep Calm and Carry On.  

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march madnessHave you heard? Tourney time is here!

If you’re a die hard fan of college basketball… heck, even if you’re a casual fan of basketball in general, you’re probably well aware that the biggest event in the college basketball season is right around the corner.

March Madness. The Tourney. The Big Dance… It’s just about GO time!

This time of year, college campuses and office cubicles everywhere are notoriously immersed in NCAA tournament brackets and the obligatory cram sessions involving non-traditional basketball powerhouses (and quirky mascots). Some of our favorite underdog runs of the past decade include little-known outfits, like the UMBC Retrievers, Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, Norfolk State Spartans or the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks (we like giving the little guys their due). The 2020 tournament edition is expected to be no different as the field is primed to include darlings of the not-so-distant future, in the form of the Dayton Flyers, San Diego State Aztecs, Creighton University Bluejays and the Belmont Bruins.

silhouette of two basketball players And, let’s be honest. With tourney hype growing hour-by-hour seemingly, our thoughts, like yours, occasionally turn to hoops throughout the month. But, momentary lapses in concentration notwithstanding, we like to keep it professional here at the Beacon blog. Sooooo, when a surprisingly accurate idea was presented, suggesting that Beacon’s Digital Marketing Team (DMS) is really a lot like a successful NCAA tournament team, we absolutely had to run it down to its natural conclusions.

As such, what follows for your reading pleasure, is an interpretation of our DMS team roles as on-court basketball positions from your favorite college game.

Without further ado, here is your 2020 Beacon DMS team line-up (lights down, spotlight on):

Point Guards

The point guard is the coach’s representative out on the court. This position is the most responsible for communicating and carrying out in-game coaching instructions. Point guards are also often the embodiment of the coach’s philosophy. They exude the qualities their coaches value most – be it hard work, intelligence or teamwork.

At Beacon, our point guards are easy to spot – they are our project managers. Project managers know the game plan (client account) inside and out, and relay assignments to other team members. They are responsible for keeping everyone on the same page and ensuring that projects are completed the right way.

basketball on its way to the basket

Shooting Guards

Shooting guards have a reputation for being flashy. But, that’s only because their role is so noticeable. A shooting guard’s job is the primary goal of the game: to score. They don’t just put the ball in the basket – they score using a high-value skill: outside shooting (it’s a lot harder to score from 20 feet out than it is from under the basket).

For Beacon’s Digital Marketing Team, the primary goal is to drive customer transactions and online goal conversions on behalf of our clients. No one does that more or better than our Paid Search team. They create online search ads that not only target the audiences most appropriate for our clients, but also deliver exactly what those audiences are searching for.

The Paid Search team is all about driving sales, just like the shooting guard is all about helping the team score the most points.

Small Forwards

The small forward is a little bit like the shooting guard. But, then again, the position can also resemble the power forward role. In fact, small forwards are a little bit like Swiss Army knives – they do a little bit of everything and are involved in most of the action.

This is strongly representative of Beacon’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team. The job of our SEO team members is to drive as much organic traffic to our clients’ websites as possible based on a vast array of highly qualified keywords. This is an incredibly broad assignment that requires competency in many different areas, from technical know-how (sitemaps and schema) to creative output (content development and optimization). Our SEO team delivers across the spectrum of digital marketing needs.

basketball player standing on basketball courtPower Forwards

Traditionally, power forwards were the unsung heroes of basketball teams. They do the “dirty” work: rebounding, defense, setting screens. They made the play that led to a basket, or recovered the ball to put the team back on offense. But, while their efforts are appreciated by teammates and coaches, a power forward’s contributions may not be as easily apparent to a casual fan.

At Beacon, our power forwards are our data science experts. Everything we do here starts with data. It’s how we’re able to track the behavior of online audiences, how we come up with long- and short-term trends and how we’re able to deliver recommendations that maximize the value of a website.

Centers

Last, but definitely not least, are the centers. Centers have the greatest ability to impact the game. They’re usually the tallest player on the court, and are almost always posted closest to the basket.

The best basketball teams tend to play “inside-out,” meaning the ball goes to the center (next to the basket) first, and the next pass is determined by how the defense reacts to the center putting pressure on the basket.

At Beacon, our centers are our clients. First and foremost, we absolutely consider our clients to be an integral part of our team. There wouldn’t be a game without them.

Secondly, our actions are always determined by how our clients are positioned in their respective industries. Their positioning drives their needs, which drives our recommendations and actions.

Lastly, we achieve the best results with close collaboration with our clients – the pass inside (client call) leads to a perimeter player being open (clear course of action), and then to a bucket (successful implementation of a program or campaign).

The center is the straw that stirs the whole drink.

Beacon Knows Teamwork

Want to be part of the Beacon team? We can’t wait to welcome you aboard. A great center is always in demand. Give us a call today to see how we can win a championship together.

15 01, 2018

Mobile-First Indexing & the Rear View Mirror

By | 2018-01-18T12:26:17+00:00 January 15th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Google is all about improving the user experience.  Lately, that means adapting to the changing methods through which users consume online information. In other words, Google will be moving towards mobile-first indexing.

What does it mean for your online business? What do you need to do – if anything – to ensure that you’re out in front of this change? So that you don’t get caught in the competition’s rear view mirror, let’s discuss what’s meant by the term “mobile-first indexing” and the ways in which we can address it head on.

What is mobile-first indexing, exactly?

Up until now, Google had indexed pages with a nod toward desktop first. Going forward, your rankings will be based upon the mobile version of your site first and foremost. Don’t confuse this with a mobile-only index. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll still rank. However, your rankings may be adversely affected by the change. Conversely, those who present a rich, improved mobile experience, will likely see better rankings for mobile as well as desktop versions of their website.

 How quickly will mobile-first indexing be implemented?

We’re told that Google will roll this change out very slowly. This stands to reason as no one wants to see a seismic shift of any kind in the online business landscape. And, if your customers’ mobile experience is similar to that of desktop (for example, you’re already responsive), you probably won’t have to do much  to ensure that you’re ready for the change.

However, things can move faster than originally anticipated. And, with every change comes opportunity. Even if you’ve got a responsive site and you’re ranking well for primary keywords, this is a great time to check the elements that will affect your rankings once Google shifts its focus more towards mobile.

If you’ve been maintaining two sites, one for mobile and one for desktop, you may wish to consider a website redesign – a move to a single, responsive website. If this is beyond your budgetary capabilities, all is not lost. Step one is to make sure that content is consistent on both desktop and mobile versions of the site. Verify that the mobile version is crawl-able and includes the required alt tags for images. Some of the more significant things you’ll want to check include:

  • XML sitemap.: Make sure sitemaps and robots.txt files have accessible links.
  • Structured data markup on mobile and desktop.: Make sure they’re the same.
  • Metadata: Check to see that both versions are roughly the same. They don’t have to be identical, however they shouldn’t deviate in meaning.

These are just a few of the items you’ll want to address. Your best bet is to contact your digital marketing people and let them know of your concerns. They’ll know what to do. If they’re unsure, call us. We can help.

It is believed that Google will roll out this new mobile-first indexing over a period of years, not weeks or months. No need to be alarmed. However, now is the time to plan for mobile-first indexing. After all, objects may be closer than they appear.

 

21 08, 2017

Higher Ed: Understanding Digital Marketing’s Role in the Admissions Funnel

By | 2017-08-21T11:10:17+00:00 August 21st, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , |

An institution’s mission is to educate students. By extension, its relevance is dependent upon the quality and quantity of enrolled students. Without students, you cease to exist.

If you’re charged with marketing your college or university, you carry a position of great responsibility. You’ve been asked to be a caretaker of sorts. Your mission is to steward your school into a position of added prestige and reputation. You can affect both enrollment and endowment.

Education is a business. Without treating it as such, one risks becoming a footnote in the annals of Higher Ed history. Understanding the admissions funnel is step one in ensuring you’re remembered as having been a worthy steward for your school.

Understanding the Higher Ed Admissions Funnel

While the admissions funnel shares certain similarities to a typical sales funnel, there are distinct differences. Understanding those differences can be key to your success.

The admissions funnel is deeper and more involved than the normal sales funnel. More levels require a longer time duration and greater deliberation. It could be a year or two from the moment your candidate enters the admissions funnel until they eventually enroll. A protracted process means more opportunity to abandon the process.

The better you understand the admissions funnel, the easier it is to use it to your advantage.

The Opening: Attracting Prospective Students

When marketing to the prospective student, content and the delivery of said content is of paramount importance. Methods include the more traditional (education fairs and school visits) as well as digital advertising (PPC, Social Media, etc.). And one cannot emphasize enough the importance of sound SEO practices for Higher Ed.

Prospective students break down into two sub-sets, those who already have a familiarity with your institution as well as those who may not have previously known who you are. The approach is similar for targeting both.

Use videos, photos and interesting copy. Prospective students respect and trust content provided by their peers. Emphasize content provided by your current students. Your goal is to get a prospective student to request more information. That’s the next step in the sales funnel.

The Inquiry

When we discuss those who inquire into additional information, the numbers drop precipitously. But that’s OK. The good news is, the remaining prospects represent significant opportunity. They’re still considering a few schools and their pain point tends to be simple. Generally, they want to know at which school they best fit in.

Appeal to this group through both traditional means (personal calls from students, events and printed materials) as well as through social media and PPC campaigns.

PPC remarketing campaigns can be a great way to keep your brand in the minds of prospective students. In short, remarketing ads are the google ads that follow you after you visit a website. It targets those who have expressed some level of interest already.

The objective here is to steer the student into the application process.

Getting the Application

Anyone who starts the application process is already highly engaged. At this juncture, the personal touch can be most effective. Events are great. There is nothing more effective than a face to face meeting.

It’s also a good time for email marketing campaigns. Emphasize personalized emails from admissions counselors or administrators.

Some will recommend personalized phone calls. Personal experience tells me otherwise.  When my children were looking for a school to attend, they never answered the phone. Texting is the preferred method of communication for this generation. They avoid the phone like the plague.

Attention & Intention Mean Retention

The final group you need to appeal to are those who have been accepted and/or have confirmed their intention to attend. This group may include individuals who have been accepted at several schools. They may be still deciding or waiting to find out which school will provide the most financial aid.

While not all will eventually enroll, this is the time to welcome them into the “family”. The more personal your communication, the better. If this student interacts with other accepted students through social media, odds of retention increase considerably.

Consider sending branded items such as tee shirts or coffee mugs.

Avoiding Summer Melt

While it may seem unethical, some students will place deposits down with more than one institution. Others will lose interest while awaiting financial aid. Some will simply be overwhelmed with the process of finishing paperwork and buying books.

In fact, a recent study suggests that between 10% and 40% of students will “melt away” between the time of their acceptance and the first day of classes.

Engagement from here must be genuine and personal. Consider holding webinars with instructors who can help individuals get to the finish line. Administrators can send personalized emails offering assistance and answering frequent questions. Bottom line: Keep it as personal as possible.

How Beacon Can Help

Recently recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country, Beacon has been helping colleges and universities with admissions marketing for more than 20 years. Together we can develop and implement a digital marketing plan to address your specific objectives. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

15 06, 2017

Going Into a Redesign: How Google Analytics Reports Can Help

By | 2020-01-29T16:18:35+00:00 June 15th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , |

Would you read The Two Towers before The Fellowship of the Ring? Watch Godfather III before The Godfather? Of course not. You need context to get the most out of any sequel.

The same is true with a website redesign.

With a new redesign, you may hope to accomplish a number of important objectives including:

  • Improving compatibility with mobile devices
  • Updating styling strategy
  • Implementing a new content strategy
  • Providing more nimble page template capabilities

One things is for certain. Your website needs to accomplish its underlying goals at a more successful rate after the re-launch. You need to leverage all the information currently at your disposal including your website’s past performance. Your website’s analytics is a great source for this information. For websites undergoing a redesign, Google Analytics should be required reading.

Google Analytics offers a wealth of data related to website visitor activity. Tracking features beyond GA’s out-of-the-box solution takes that dataset to even greater heights. So, when considering analytics for a redesign, which Google Analytics reports can have the greatest impact?

Here are just a few of the options available:

Audience Device Category

Mobile browsing is quickly increasing its slice of the pie as a large user set compared to desktop and tablet categories. This report gives an indication of the device category trends and the current breakdown of each device category’s session total. While a responsive redesign is most likely already a known part of the strategy, there is more to it. Which device category is (or will soon be) the largest user set? Which device category delivers the best-converting visitors? Answers to questions like those can help determine which device category is favored in the overall design.

Audience Technology

Every website’s software has compatibility parameters, especially with different browsers and browser versions. From this report, the software development team can learn of the most popular browsers and browser versions.

We have had instances where this report greatly influenced technology decisions when designing client websites. For example, in the higher education arena, some institutions use certain browsers and browser versions in their computer labs. Updating those browsers may not be an option, due to various factors with other software. This report is flexible enough to also give an indication of most popular screen resolutions. Knowing this information can help with break point decisions for a responsive design.

Site Content – All Pages

Are you gearing up for a new site hierarchy? This is the type of report that will help inform your decisions. If your website caters to audience subcategories, such as college and university websites, then you will need to incorporate advanced segments and/or secondary dimensions with this report. Ultimately, you want to know which pages are most popular, and with which audiences. From there, you can begin to build recommendations for the website’s header, footer, sidebar(s), call-outs, etc. Site Search

No matter how much the website is updated, some users will always navigate via site search, rather than a hierarchy of links. This report indicates the searched topics that are most common. Perhaps your team has overlooked a few obvious pages that should be accentuated more in the website’s navigation. A review of site search data can prevent these oversights.

Goals / Ecommerce

Using this report combined with the goal data from the above reports will help paint a clear picture of the effectiveness of the current website. Normally, the goal and/or eCommerce analysis will not necessarily result in a perfect conversion strategy for the newly redesigned site. However, you will come away with changes that should be made to the conversion funnel and new ideas on how to make certain goal conversion opportunities more visible for your users. From there, you can determine a set of A/B tests that you wish to conduct once the new site is launched.

Make Your Website Redesign One for the Books

As one of the country’s longest standing Google Analytics partners, Beacon has been providing Google Analytics support for organizations of all kinds large and small. Additionally, our software development team has redesigned hundreds of websites, ranging from online storefronts to Higher Ed. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

17 06, 2016

Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

By | 2020-01-29T16:18:02+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , , |

Universities and Colleges are beginning to realize the true value of SEO for Higher Education. Unfortunately, the SEO landscape is volatile and ever changing. However, there are some best practices which have been fairly consistent over the last couple of years. We believe that these best practices will continue to be relevant throughout 2016 and work to improve online visibility.

Keyword Research and Targeting Specific URLs 

Higher education institutions should embrace keyword research and use it to build relevant pages. These pages should be built around their core programs they offer. To get started first conduct keyword research which will drive content creation. You can start with a free keyword research tool from SEObook. This tool pulls data from Google and Bing’s databases. Simply input the term you want to get information on. This tool returns data on monthly search volumes along with related terms.

Keyword Research for Higher Ed

Next, you want to build an appropriate page around a theme of closely related keywords. These keywords should relate to educational programs your University offers.

For example, upon conducting some research I came across a few Universities who had important content within PDFs. Rather than a dedicated landing page, one University had downloadable PDFs of their courses.

landing page example

 

An alternative would be to build a landing page around this content and include some sort of conversion point. In case you do not know what a micro conversion is it is a small step on the path of a visitor towards your website’s primary goal.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Google admits that 25-30% of the internet is duplicated content. However, we can still take measures to avoid this. To get an idea if your site has duplicate content simply use Siteliner to run a quick diagnostic.

Identify duplicate contentI can see this college has around 10% duplicated content but, the free version this tool will only look at 250 pages. A way to fix this is to write unique copy on key pages and block unnecessary pages from being crawled by search engines with a robots.txt file. The robots.txt is a nifty text file you can create to instruct search engine robots on where and where not to crawl your site.

Get a Grip on Local Visibility 

local search visibility

 

Colleges are not immune from the types of competition businesses face online. As you can see competition is fierce. There are a lot of different options for any prospective student deciding on where to further their education. Local visibility or local SEO has risen in prominence over the last several years. But how can Higher Educational Institutions benefit?

Google has begun to provide more individualized search features. These personalized features are based on a person’s geographic location and search history. You can take advantage of this by:

Local Citation Corrections – Your first job is to make sure your college’s address is easily found on key pages. Then you need to ensure it is listed correctly throughout the web.

local citation reviews

 

Local Content – Once your Higher Ed’s citations are handled it’s time to produce local content. It’s important this content resonates with your audience. Maybe you build a page dedicated to ‘College Life’ and talk about activities around your college’s campus.

Don’t Block Important Resources

Blocking content that is important to searchers within search engines is detrimental. A common way to block important information is with a robots.txt file.

A robots.txt file is a simple file which holds pretty significant power. This file controls how search engines initially crawl a website when they first visit. However as you can imagine it can be pretty easy to block important resources you would otherwise want indexed. To check this simply type your domain name “example.com/robots.txt”. Remember replace “example.com” with your Universities domain name.

robots.txt sample

 

A good rule of thumb is to not block key pages from search engines with a robots.txt file. For example, you would not want to block important categories such as, Admissions, Academics, or Athletics sections.

Keep in mind, if you use Google Site Search as your internal site search, blocking a section with the robots.txt file will also prevent it from showing up properly in your internal search as well.

Higher Educational institutions may not take digital marketing or search engine optimization into consideration. However, no website is immune from the grasps of Google.

Take advantage of digital marketing and SEO to get in front of more prospective students. By conducting keyword research, avoiding duplicate content issues, and gaining more local visibility you can reach a wider more targeted audience.

9 02, 2016

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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!

1 12, 2015

How-To: Robots.txt Disaster Prevention

By | 2017-08-11T16:09:50+00:00 December 1st, 2015|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

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!

18 10, 2015

How to Properly Handle Pagination for SEO [Free Tool Included]

By | 2017-08-11T16:08:58+00:00 October 18th, 2015|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , , |

Let’s start out by defining what I mean by ‘pagination’. This mostly applies to ecommerce sites where there are multiple pages of products in a given category, but it can occasionally be seen on lead-gen sites as well. Here’s an example of what this might look like:

  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=1
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=2
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=3
  • http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=4

(pages 3 & 4 don’t actually exist on this site, but it helps illustrate my example a little bit more)

In this case, you’ve got 4 pages all with the same meta data. It’s likely that search engines are going to index all of the pages listed above, and count the pages with parameters as duplicates of the original first page. You’ve also got a duplicate hazard with /collections/all and/collections/all?page=1. If you’re concerned with search engine optimization and your organic visibility, you’re going to want to keep reading.

Proper Pagination for SEO

So, how do you go about solving this problem? Fortunately, all the major search engines recognize and obey rel= tags; rel=canonical, rel=prev, and rel=next. The canonical tag says “hey, we know this page has the same stuff as this other page, so index our preferred version”. The ‘prev’ and ‘next’ tags say “we know these pages are paginated and have duplicate meta elements, so here’s the page that will come next, and here’s the one the precedes it”. There are HTML tags that go along with each of these that you’ll need to have your dev team add to the <head> section of the pages. Rather than show you what these tags are and how to generate them for each page, I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet that will generate all necessary tags (for paginated categories up to 20 pages in depth), all you need to do is add your base-URL at the top and hit enter. By ‘base-URL’ I mean this: “http://www.freakerusa.com/collections/all?page=”, basically it’s the paginated URL without the actual number of the page.

Tag Builder CTA

8 10, 2015

Should I Use Canonicals or 301 Redirects?

By | 2017-08-08T08:42:09+00:00 October 8th, 2015|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Should you 301 redirect that page to another, or should you use a rel=canonical tag? There are tons of reason why you might have some redundancy on your site. If it’s an eCommerce site, you’re probably displaying product listing pages a few different ways (sort by price, color, rating, etc.), or you might have navigation pages that are similar to your SEO landing pages. Whatever the case may be, chances are pretty good you have some form of duplication on your site that needs addressing.  This topic has been debated for years, but the real answer lies in one simple question:

Should people be able to access both pages in question?

Should I use canonicals or 301 redirects?

If the answer to this questions is Yes, you want to use rel=canonical. Doing so will point search engines towards your preferred page, but won’t prevent people being able to access, read, and interact with both pages. Here are some times you might see the rel=canonical tag in action:

  • www & non-www versions of URLs
  • parameters that change how a product listing page is sorted
  • navigation pages that point to an equivalent SEO landing page (it doesn’t always make sense to put content on a nav page)

If the answer to your question is No, you should remove that page and 301 redirect it. Page removal is much more common among eCommerce sites where products are discontinued but you can’t just remove the page (what if someone is linking to it?!?). Occasionally, you’ll see cases where this needs to be done for SEO landing pages. In the case of large SEO projects, where there are hundreds or thousands of keywords, content can get duplicated easily. Keeping a perfect account of every single SEO landing page that’s been written is basically impossible, so you might end up with two different pages with URLs like this: /blue-widgets and /widgets-that-are-blue. Obviously, even if the content isn’t identical, you can’t keep both of those pages around. Figure out which one has the most authority, links, and traffic – keep that one, and redirect the other one to it.

Next time you come to this fork in the road, remember to ask yourself whether or not there is value in people being able to see both versions.

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