Penguin, Panda, Mobilegeddon – So Many Changes!

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By Sue Brady

Penguin

Google makes algorithm changes on a fairly regular basis (I’ve read that they make 500-600 changes per year!) and they can have noticeable impacts to your search rankings. It can be hard to keep up and understand what these changes may mean for your website and SEO strategies. This MOZ article is a great historical perspective on all of these changes, and I’ve pulled out just a few to summarize their impacts. Note that some changes happen once as a general cleanup, while others represent an actual ongoing change to the algorithm.

May, 2015 – Quality Update

This update was not widely discussed by Google and the general opinion is that rather than adding anything to its existing algorithm, Google instead rebalanced some of the existing components. In other words, some factors became more important, moving previously higher ranked factors lower. This update appears to have been a one-time thing, so if you were going to see an impact from the update, you would have by now. If you did see changes to your rankings, particularly negative ones, it’s likely to do with how Google perceives the trustworthiness and authoritativeness of your content. Here are Google’s very own tips for how to make your site higher quality.

April 22, 2015 – Mobilegeddon

This widely hyped update turned out to have a relatively low actual impact. Mobilegeddon was made to encourage websites to be mobile friendly. It impacted organic results shown on mobile devices, giving preference to mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites in those SERPs (search engine results pages).

September 23, 2014 – Panda 4.1 Update

Those in the know (not me), have seen many Panda updates since 4.0 was launched in May, but this is the first update officially acknowledged, so it gets a .1 designation. This update was aimed de-prioritzing ‘bad’ affiliates, keyword stuffing, doorway pages (pages that don’t really have content, but stuff keywords so that they rank highly), and other deceptive practices.

October, 2014 – Penguin 6 (aka Penguin 3.0, so dubbed by Search Engine Land)

The Penguin updates have all been about linking. This one, though it appeared ‘big’ was said to have impacted less than 1% of total English queries. If your link profiles are good ones, you should have seen an improvement in your rankings as a result of this update. But, just because you weren’t penalized by Google directly, you still may have seen a negative impact from this update. That’s because your site may be getting credit for other sites that link to yours that are now being discounted by Google. Frustratingly, you can’t actually tell if you’ve cured a Penguin problem until the next Penguin update.

I am not an SEO expert by any stretch of the imagination. But there are many out there if you need help. Here are a few I’ve come across over the years:

  • Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) is the news editor of Search Engine News and is hugely knowledgeable on this subject.
  • Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) is an expert in digital marketing, especially as related to SEO.
  • Travis Wright (@teedubya) speaks regularly on the subject of search marketing, and he used to be a stand-up comedian, so he’s funny!
  • Larry Kim (@larrykim) founded wordstream and is a search expert.
  • Tom Pick @tompick) specializes in B2B web marketing.

“Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed.”

Terry Goodkind

 

 

 

Why it Matters What People Think (About You)

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By Sue Brady

ListeningSo many reasons why it matters what people think about you (and your company):

Your employees represent your company
You recruit new employees
Your customers leave reviews
You might need to find a new job

EMPLOYEES

First let’s think about your employees. Employees are on social media, they talk to their friends and colleagues, they network and have networks. They can be influencers and even more importantly, they can be brand advocates. An employee who likes your company will say nice things about it, they’ll recommend their friends to work there or to buy your company’s product. They’ll work hard to make you succeed because making you succeed makes them succeed. Do your best to make them feel appreciated and valued. This goes beyond paying a fare wage. Work environment, recognition, nice working space all matter. It matters what your employees think.

RECRUITING

If people are saying nice things about your company, others will want to work there. Your reputation is valuable and important. When you show up on a college campus to recruit, you want the students to have heard of you as a good place to work. Where do they hear that? From friends, online reviews (if you aren’t checking glassdoor.com you should be!), their parents, articles. You want potential employees to seek you out. The reputation of your company matters.

REVIEWS

If you sell a product or service, do a Google search for that product with the word ‘reviews’ after it, and see what you get. Are you reviewed positively on cnet.com, yelp, glassdoor, Amazon, Angie’s List or other sites that matter for your business? BrightLocal does an annual study of consumer usage and attitudes, specifically focusing on online reviews. Last year they found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations! And 85% of customers indicated that they read up to 10 reviews before they purchase. Reviews matter.

FINDING A JOB

When was the last time you found a job by sending in a resume cold? The truth is, your network, and what they say about you, matters. A couple of years ago, ABC News did a story that reported that 80% of jobs are filled through networking. I thought about the last few positions I’ve held. In the last 5 places I’ve worked, either someone who knew me professionally called to see if I’d be interested in a position, or someone I knew got my resume to the right person. Networks matter. And most people want to help. Very few will not help you when asked.

The key message here is think about your reputation in the marketplace, both professionally, personally, and as a company. And make sure it’s where you need it to be. You can find me on LinkedIn…

Related links:

The Customer is Always Right

A Peak Inside the Coffee Cup

How I’m Obsessed with Making my Company Customer Obsessed

Don’t Make These Common Website Mistakes

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By Sue Brady

ABCsIf you haven’t evaluated your website recently, it might be time. Put on your customer hat as you take the journey through your site. Do you intuitively know where to click? Can you easily find what you’re after? Does the content make sense to you? If you’re using your mobile device, does it render properly, quickly and show you appropriate content?

The most important thing to remember is, make it easy. The harder you make it , the more likely your customers will leave. KISSmetrics gives the following reasons (among others) for why people leave websites: Poor navigation, too many ads, bad content structure, automatic video and audio content, registration required, poor legibility.

Here are 8 tried and true things to consider:

1. Do your navigation buttons match with the things users do most often when they come to your site? Look at your analytics to determine if you are calling out the right things. If you have a tab for Case Studies for instance, check to see if anyone is reading them. If not, perhaps something else should have the prominence, and your case studies should be moved.

2. Is it clear to the customer what they should do when they get to your site? There’s a difference between a landing page and a website. If a user has clicked your ad, they should end up on a landing page that makes sense based on the ad copy they just read. There should be a clear call to action so that the customer knows what you expect them to do.

It’s the same idea on your website. You’ve generated the visitor, now make sure they know what to do by visually giving them clues that lead them to: ‘Click here for product information,’ ‘look at this burst for our latest offer,’ ‘focus on our carousel for the latest and greatest products/information/offers.’ Quick note on carousels: I have read consumer studies showing that users don’t like them. Carousels move too quickly to read the offer and are too hard to get to the right screen if something was of interest. If you have one on your site, be thoughtful about how you use it.

3. Is it easy for users coming to your site to quickly figure out where to click if they want:

  • More information
  • To purchase your product
  • To contact you

4. Do your web pages load quickly? The Nielson Norman Group did a study that revealed that users stay less than a minute. Granted, their sample was mostly related to blogs and news stories, but it still should give you pause. More interesting, according to KISSmetrics, almost half of all website visitors expect pages to load in a couple of seconds or less, and 40% will leave if loading takes longer than 3 seconds. 3 SECONDS! Tweet that! That means you need your pages to load quickly, and immediately engage the reader.

5. Are you taking mobile into account? Everyone’s been talking about Google’s mobile search algorithm change scheduled for this Tuesday, April 21st, 2015. It seems as if that change will only impact the top 10 mobile organic search results. If you don’t have a mobile site, your results are not likely to organically show up when someone does a mobile search. But more importantly, if you do have a mobile site and it loads too slowly, the user will bail before you have a chance to engage. And if you don’t have a mobile site, your mobile user will bounce as soon as that becomes clear.

6. Is your site easy to read? This one is so obvious, but I continually see web pages that use reversed-out white type in their body copy. REVERSED OUT WHITE TYPE IS HARD TO READ! This is one of those changes that you should make to your site now…without testing! It’s been tested for you…lots of times. It’s fine to use it in titles, headlines and subheads, but a paragraph or more is too difficult to read.

7. Have you considered basic SEO practices in your site design? I’m referring to easy things like using your keywords in your content, especially on your home page, adding meta titles and page descriptions to your pages, including a site map at the footer of every page. You can read more about basic Google tips here.

8. Have you made it easy for your customers to buy from you? Make sure it’s easy to add products to the shopping cart. And then make it easy for them to check-out. Don’t force a registration or ask for information that you won’t use or don’t need to make the sale.

If you are looking to tweak your website, check out this article. It details a methodology that uses continual tesing and improvements to maximize the effectiveness of your website.

Remember to think like your customer. It will make your website a better place.

What’s all the Buzz about the Buzz Word: Innovation

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By Sue Brady

Brain Lately, every other article I read is about this ‘new’ concept of innovation. And of course it’s an important topic. Companies that don’t innovate grow stale and ultimately go out of business. Innovation is not a new concept. Light BulbGreat innovators are a part of the history of the world: Eli Whitney, Henry Ford, Hedy Lamarr, Charles Goodyear, Madam Curie, Steve Jobs. There’s no reason that the next big idea can’t come from you or from someone at your company.

How can companies get better at it? It takes the right environment. I’ve written about improv in the work place before (here). In improv, the actors are making up funny skits on the fly. The key to good, funny, successful improv is teamwork. It’s where the expression ‘yes and’ comes from. It means you always support your fellow actors. You build on their thoughts and ideas with a ‘yes and’ attitude. For instance, if a fellow actor points to the ground and says my feet are getting wet, his teammates don’t say ‘that’s impossible’ or ‘no they’re not.’ They say something like ‘yeah, it’s sinking faster than I thought it would.’

How does this relate to corporate life? Fairly easily. If you want to promote creativity, you need an environment where that kind of thinking is encouraged. And you do that by educating employees on what it means to act as a team, support the ideas of others, and expand on the ideas of others (yes, and…). No judgements allowed.

It sounds easy but in order to make it work, employees need to feel safe and free from ridicule. You need everyone to speak up. The next big idea might start as a seed from something someone says or suggests.

Here’s an example from AOL. Remember those annoying pop-ups? Why did AOL keep those? Bottom line is, they were profitable. Sometimes, as a user, you saw something you were really interested in buying. Not all of the time, but sometimes. And AOL figured out not just that an online store was a good idea, but that it could be better if it was ‘pushed’ out to users, rather than waiting for them to come to find it themselves. What an innovation! Did some people hate it? Yes, and that created an environment where innovators came up with ad free services, pop-up blockers, better targeting to ensure you did see ads you were interested in, and remarketing based on where you’d been searching online. See how that works?

Try it at work. Set up a brainstorming meeting to innovate the next thing to offer your customers. Keep the room free of judgment. Try some exercises where you teach the room how to be a ‘yes and’ participant. This link will open as a word doc and this article has some improv exercises as well. Embrace free thinking and don’t judge. You can evaluate the ideas later.

Learning how to use improv in a work setting will have long-term benefits that will show up as creative business innovations. Give it a try!