SEO hacks, like all trends, come and go. To stay at the forefront of the best digital marketing strategies, we need to constantly be analyzing data, keeping up with the news and of course, following Matt Cutts’ blog.
These are three SEO hacks that you, your small business or your huge corporation can use to immediately improve your SEO rank (we have proof!) Let’s get into it, guys.
Google Authorship Markup is Now Dead [UPDATE]
Post Updated – 9/5/14
Google Authorship Markup is no longer an option in SEO marketing. Google has disallowed authorship for a number of reasons.
- Low adoption rate
- People were abusing photo appearing in SERPs
Rich Snippets Have Taken Control
But, that doesn’t mean Google ended markups for good. In order to use markups to better your SEO rank, you can instead use rich snippets. These are the few lines of descriptive sentences under each search result. This is the best tool for enticing users to enter your website and get to know your brand. This means that you need clear pages with a defined purpose so Google algorithms can easily digest what your site is about and display it for the appropriate queries.
As you can see, Google has extracted the most useful information and put it right on their search engine result page so their users can get the movie times almost instantaneously, without searching through a bunch of websites. The snippet for a real estate angent perhaps, might show open house times, while a restaurant can show ratings and affordability. Rich snippets also have higher chances of being clicked on than normal results because they take up more space and demand more attention.
When you google something, do you ever notice the little picture pop up under the title and next to the snippet? That’s what’s called Google Authorship. Google Authorship markup is becoming more and more important as 2014 rolls along. It’s a quick and easy task that you or your business should implement immediately. Google has made a confirmation that they use Author Rank when ranking in-depth articles.
How to Create Rich Snippets
First, you need to pick a markup format. Google suggests using microdata, but if you’re feeling saucy, you can also use microformats and RDFa. With the Structured Data Markup Helper, you can add microdata to your website without much more knowledge than basic HTML.
Second, you need to mark up your content. Here are the types of content types that can be marked up:
Finally, you need to test your rich snippet. To test your mark up, use Google’s handy Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure that your information can be analyzed and displayed by search engines.
And that’s all there is to it!
Google Authorship began in 2005 under the name of “Agent Rank.” Google filed a patent with the government that stated they wanted to be able to track the quality of content that authors produce and rank them accordingly. The better quality of content and the more people that read your work, the higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs) you would show up. That’s the same idea that’s in place today under the name of Google Authorship. Soon, SEO ninjas discovered how useful it is to their marketing efforts and from that, Google Plus was born.
The photo and the byline are what make up the essence of Google Authorship. But it goes much farther than just a picture and a few words. Behind the scenes, the so-called “rich snippets” of information can account the author, his Circles, reviews, date posted and a short explanation of the content. With this markup, you integrate your social Google Plus account with your blog, or whatever content you’re authoring. Now, you can take control of social media with this.
This may seem strange, considering Google Plus is often shrugged off as just another mimic of Facebook. But, it’s actually a great way for Google to know that you are a verified author on the Internet, and not just some content marketing robot. Strategically, the more “human” you can come off (and the more you can build up your Google Plus profile), the higher you’ll rank in SERPs.
SwellPath author, Mike Arnesen writes a great blog, Authorship Update: Intelligent Authorship Attribution, concerning this issue, and elaborates on the point of Google Authorship and the human element:
“I’ve answered this question more times than I can count: ‘Can I put Google Authorship on my homepage/entire website’. My standard response is that you should only use Google Authorship on pages that you’d honestly label as your “work”; a blog post, an essay, a video, etc. I’ve always maintained that homepages, eCommerce category and product pages, pages about events, and similar pages should not use authorship.
Authorship is about highlighting the human authors of high-quality content on the web. It’s that belief that led us to launch a new website where authorship markup was limited almost exclusively to blog posts.”
Mike lays it out perfectly. If you write a blog post, no matter where it’s posted, you should take ownership. If it’s on your company’s website, then you can add in that human element to your brand by linking your Google Plus authorship into the post. That will entice other people to click and read.
How to Set Up Google Authorship
So, this is great and all, but how exactly do you do all this?
Well, thankfully Google has Google Authorship markup directions here, or just keep reading.
You can link content you publish on a specific domain (e.g. wired.com) to your Google+ profile.
- Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.
- Make sure a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content (for example, “By Steven Levy”).
- Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.
- Verify you have an email address (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) on the same domain as your content.
If you don’t have an email address on the same domain, use this method to link your content to your Google Plus profile
How to Set Up Google Authorship for WordPress
WordPress integrated Google Authorship markup a couple years ago. If you’re trying to set up Google Authorship for WordPress, it’s pretty simple.
In WordPress, on your admin bar to the left-hand side, look toward the bottom and find the link that says “Users.” Click that and find your admin name on the corresponding page. Simply go into your section and scroll down. You’ll see a few text boxes that you can enter information in, including your Twitter and email, even a bio. There’s a “Google+” section where you can put in your Google Plus profile URL. Make sure you remove the “/post” from the end of your URL.
Then, you go to your Google Plus profile page and click “About.” Scroll down to the blue box labeled “Links”, and click the “Contributor To” section. Add in the main URL to your website (not just your blog page) and press enter.
Once you think you get it set up, you can check to see if your rich snippet shows up. Google has made a handy little tool for you to check and see if it works:
Visit the Google Rich Snippets page, and there you will be able to type in any domain name and see the how the snippet will appear in the SERPs. If it works, your image, Google Circles and name should show up in the preview. If it doesn’t work, then you can troubleshoot with the links above.
So, where’s the proof that Google Authorship works?
Good question. Where’s the proof that this authorship thing actually works?
Near the end of last year, we noticed a 15 percent drop in Google Authorship snippets. An attempt by Google, no doubt, to control content and make only the highest-quality readily available. This is a bad thing if you’re not an established author because it increases competition and lowers your chances of gaining high-level rankings. But not to worry – there is actually proof that Google Plus will have an immediate impact on SEO results.
In his Google Plus Search and Google Authorship Case Study, Minneapolis local SEO expert Jeff Sauer analyzes ranking success with Google Authorship markup. This is one of the most detailed analyzations of Authorship I have seen, and you should read more of his conclusions by clicking the link above.
Jeff runs an experiment, where he tests whether or not an established Google Plus profile will increase SEO rankings on a brand new website domain. The results, if not conclusive, are very interesting and shed a lot of light on the success of this SEO strategy.
These are some of his conclusions:
- “Google+ has an immediate impact on SEO results
When it comes to Google Search, You are becoming more important than your domain name. When I say You, I mean the way that Google views You. If you have established yourself as a valued contributor to Google+, the content that you share on Google+ has a better chance of ranking highly in Google Search results, immediately.”
If you want to be successful in your SEO efforts, you need to have an active social Google Plus account. Now, I know that seems daunting, considering you’re already on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, FourSquare, MySpace, Friendster…holy smokes I’m getting old. But, even if it’s once a week you’re writing a post and putting it up on your social Plus account, then that’s fine. Overtime, you will build clout, and hey – SEO is a long-term game, anyway.
- “Google Authorship creates a win-win situation for both parties involved
By writing often and verifying with Google that you wrote a particular piece of content, you are also sending a signal that the content you write can be trusted to provide value to their customers.”
The trick to all SEO is providing valuable content to your audience. This point sums that up perfectly. By providing higher-quality content, you’ll gain higher-quality traffic. When enough people find value in your content, Google takes notice and ups your rankings. Provide better-quality content for better-quality rankings.
- “Google Authorship Alone Does Not Appear to be a Ranking Factor
I was under the impression that Google Authorship alone would make my site rank, but I was unable to prove so in this experiment.”
This shows us an important lesson in SEO that is forgotten all too often: SEO is a larger part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM). You can’t just use one tactic and think it’ll work. There are Web design elements you have to think about, navigation issues that you may not be addressing. Content that you’re producing may not be up to the quality standards of Google. The list is endless. All you can do is write down a strategy centered around who your audience is and how they’re searching for you industry and adhere to it. Once you get enough of your strategy in motion, analyze Google Analytics and adjust your content marketing tactics from there.
And that brings us to our next SEO hack.
The Convergence of SEO and Content Marketing
“SEO is dead!” Cried the Internet. Type that into the Google search bar. What comes back? 63,800,000 results somehow exclaiming that SEO. Is. Dead.
If anything, SEO has just met its soulmate and they’re about to embark on their incredibly fascinating lifelong journey together – all while you’re still sitting behind your computer thinking up the next overly-exaggerated (redundancy needed) headline.
Well, SEO is not dead, it’s just converging with another facet of Internet marketing – content marketing. Content marketing is not the “new SEO” as other exaggerated headlines out there may tell you. It’s simply a way to reach your audience through engaging and informative online strategy. It’s another form of SEM that assists your on-page optimization, link building and social shares.
It’s just not enough to have an SEO strategy of adding in keyword after keyword, alt tag after alt tag. No, you need content marketing on top of that. Focus on creating high-quality content fodder, such as slideshows, videos and podcasts, in addition to your regular blogging, email outreaches or whatever else you may already do. If you’re already blogging, then you’ve most certainly done your keyword research. Base your content marketing strategy around your keyword list. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are people searching for?
- What’s the lowest competition?
- How high are the click rates?
When you narrow your list down to a few, you can start to build content centered around those keywords. Let’s say you’re an ice fishing outfitter in Alaska, and most of your business comes from a warm state like Florida. Let’s go through how we can make a few pieces of content centered around marketing towards your audience.
Content Marketing: A Guide
You’ve already done your market research. You’ve analyzed Google Analytics and have found out that the majority of your traffic and Web leads are coming from males living in Florida. So, how do you utilize content marketing to get these sun-soaked Floridians to visit your site and agree to do some frosty fishing in Alaska?
You need to build a content strategy around this demographic. Start with a brainstorm. What makes these people tick? What are their professions? Why do they want to go to Alaska so bad when they live in sunny Florida? Take a look at your long-tail keyword research and answer these four questions to focus in on your strategy:
- What content mandatories does your defined target need and why?
- How will ideas generated be transformed into compelling content?
- Where will content be shared, optimized and accessed?
- Who will make decisions about revisions, analytic data and standardization?
By the end of your brainstorm, you should have a better grasp on your audience, what will appeal to them, why it will appeal to them and how you will get the most out of what you came up with.
Next, build a blog post (if you’re a pro, try a white paper, or an ebook) centered around a long-tail keyword from your brainstorming session. SEO best practices says the blog should be no less than 300 words, which shouldn’t be too tough, even for a beginner. Next, get a designer, or someone with some Photoshop chops (if you don’t have Photoshop, check out www.Pixlr.com, they offer an alright free option for photo editing. You can also download a free trial of any adobe product at www.adobe.com) and produce an image that stands out to some degree. Content that is coupled with an image has a 90% better chance of being clicked on. Next, push that out to your social media channels, on your website, in niche online communities and let it do it’s work for a day or two.
When you’re ready, get back into the brainstorming room and figure out ways to repurpose that content. If you haven’t already, check out Snap’s rule of indented formalities. Following this method, you can repurpose content across multiple channels with ease. A blog post can turn into a video or podcast script. An image can be a part of an expert slideshow. The options are endless.
It’s Time To Optimize for Mobile
Now that there are proven data that more than 60 percent of Americans own smartphones, conducted by the Pew Research Center, mobile SEO is becoming much more important as technology progresses.
Trying your hand in mobile SEO strategy for 2014 will be extremely important to you as a business or blogger. Another set of data about , conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Google, showed that consumers spend 15 or more hours per week researching on mobile, splitting their time between mobile Web and mobile apps.
Another interesting tidbit I should point out, is that the graph shows mobile users using apps and their Web browsers at different points throughout the week. Take a look at the graph below:
As you can see, Thursday and Friday are the peak times for smartphone users spending time researching on apps.
If you are a company with an app, you may want to start doing high-volume marketing around those peak times. Web use, on the other hand is much more popular on the weekends. People are no doubt online looking up things to do on the weekend. Or, maybe people are just searching for a hangover cure that an app just can’t answer on a bright Saturday morning? Whatever the reason may be, it lets us know when the best time for each platform is, and when you should be communicating with your audience.
Mobile SEO Tips & Tricks
In terms of SEO, however, we need to focus on the user experience. Because we can’t market to these mobile users, no matter how much we know about their research habits, if we aren’t keeping mobile marketing best practices in the back of our mind.
First, you need to develop a successful design strategy. This starts at the core of your brand. How do you want to visually communicate your company and culture to those who visit you? What about a first impression? You wouldn’t go into a real life sales meeting in your sweats. Why would you want to develop a mobile site that doesn’t put your best face at the forefront?
UX impacts the ability of your site to engage and convert site visitors. And, since the engagement/conversion rate is a main aspect of your SEO score, you need to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to employ mobile design best practices. This will increase visitors, engagements, conversions and ultimately move you up on the SERPs.
Make sure you’re mobile site is blazing fast. Page load speeds have a significant impact on your SEO rank and UX, especially on mobile. People using mobile are most likely not in a place where they have time to wait for a page to load. They want a phone number, directions or some information on the go. So, in order to reduce that bounce rate and boost your SEO ranking, you need to make sure your mobile optimized site is speedy. (Keep in mind, that on average, smartphone users won’t wait more than five seconds for a page to load, so make it fast enough to beat that.)
To test your site speed (you should conduct this for both your mobile and desktop versions) type in “Site Speed Test” into Google. There are tons of free apps that will tell you how you’re performing, and will evaluate your optimization tactics. Pingdom is one that works great. Of course, Google Webmaster is always available. Once you get your results, you may need to do some work on the back-end to get your site up to snuff.
So.. just how do you do that?
How to Improve Page Load Speed for SEO
First of all, like we just said – design should be at the forefront of your mobile strategy. Nothing beats a well-designed website. Remember visitors will decide whether to stay or leave a website within 5 seconds. That’s all the time you have anymore to make an impression – 5. Seconds. (And there’s evidence suggesting that time is getting shorter. 40% of people leave within 3 seconds.)
With that, it’s time for some spring cleaning.
Clear all the clutter from your site layout. Check to see if you have redundant side bars, unnecessary footer information or images that are too large. Take a look at analytics. Are there pages that no one visits? Take those out and rework or replace them, then conduct A/B testing to find out which ones are performing best.
Images can be a huge headache for those with little experience with backend development. First of all, you should only be uploading JPEGs. These are the easiest to upload because they can be reduced down to the smallest size without sacrificing quality. Also, it’s the best across multiple forms of images, such as logos, pictures and icon graphics. GIF and PNG can be used, but they’re larger and will make your site load slower.
Also, if you are creating images, make sure that you are reducing your DPI resolution (digital pixels per inch) from 300 to 72. Computer screens can only read 72 DPI, so anything above that is literally worthless – and detracts from your page load speed.
Universal Blogging Tips owner and editor, Nikhil Ganotra sheds some great insight on making this whole process easier in his blog post, Speed Up Your WordPress Blog | Make Your Blog Rank Better. He says:
“Image optimization have an essential role in boosting your side speed. Optimizing every single image is time consuming and irritating. I would suggest you to use WP smush.it plugin. It automatically optimizes every time you publish an image.
How it works:
- Removes metadata from JPEG’s
- Removes unused colours
- Converts GIF’s to indexed PNG’s
- Optimized jpg compression”
Now, it’s time to go into the back end and optimize your html code. You may have pages that have a high bounce rate due to poor page load speed. Your analytics should tell you that. After you pinpoint some of the poor performers, you can identify why that code isn’t loading correctly. Using a tool such as W3C Validation Service, you can identify possible errors within your code and fix them for better performance.
On top of that, you want to check your server speed. If you are still having problems after you optimize code and implement Web design best practices, then you most likely have an issue with your Web hosting provider. While it’s tough justifying a huge Internet hosting expense upfront, you’ll be glad you did it in the long run. If you or your webmaster want to go cheap – you’ll get what you pay for. Cheap hosting servers are usually shared, and have huge implications on site speed, whereas a private server will be lightning quick and is easier to upkeep. You can contact your service provider to find out more information about this.
And, finally, make sure you use caching when available. If you’re a first time visitor to a website, the browser will request all of the elements of the website from that website’s server. Once they’re retrieved they go into your browser’s cache, so when you go to other pages on the site or revisit the site, it doesn’t need to waste time retrieving that information. The navigation bar will undoubtedly be on every page, so now that it’s stored in your cache, it doesn’t need to re-read that information, it just shows up.
SEO Hacks: In Conclusion
As we wrap up, let’s go over some of the main points of this article:
- Google Plus integration with Google Authorship markup works, and it may work immediately for you. If not immediately, it definitely has implications on long term SEO score and SERP rank.
- The convergence of SEO and content marketing are here. SEO is definitely not dead, it’s just a part of a larger scheme to provide the end user with a better online experience.
- Site speed affects performance, especially on mobile as we continue into 2014. Make sure you’re using Web design best practices and back end techniques to ensure site speed and reduce bounce rate.
Follow these hacks to stay ahead of the SEO game, and keep up with the Snap Agency blog for more great information on search engine marketing, Web design, content strategy and social media. Let us know what you think about our SEO hacks in the comment selection below!