If you’re a little business owner, you have possibly heard at least one person recommend that you simply learn SEO (search engine optimization) and implement an online strategy for your business. After all, most of the people initial look at the net – either on their smartphones or computers – to search out any business or service.
You understand that you need a website and that it requires a bit work for it to show up on the search engines. so you spend your time – maybe outsource the process – and build a basic website for your business. maybe you use a pre-made guide to get the website up and running.
Then, not much happened.
It turns out that, despite your best efforts, the website isn’t “optimized” enough.
You perceive that, but you didn’t need to deal with all that “SEO stuff.” From everything you heard, search engine optimization takes an excessive amount of time, is too technical, and doesn’t guarantee significant results. so why bother?
A lot of little business owners feel this way. They hear about how necessary it's, but still, hesitate to get started on their own or rent an agency.
Let’s take a glance at a few aspects of SEO that build newcomers hesitant about embracing and using it:
1. It’s Not a Magic Formula
If you think that SEO is the magic potion for immediate online success and profit, you’ll be sorely disappointed and frustrated. SEO is valuable to your business’s profitability, but it will take time before you’ll see a return on investment (see below for more details on that).
In business, every strategy and the campaign must yield measurable, significant ROI. If it is something that won’t help grow your business, you won’t do it. Because the ROI from SEO is slow in arriving, many small business owners feel that SEO doesn’t have any significance and therefore they relegate it to a lower priority.
Those new to SEO will pour a lot of time and money into it and are often frustrated by the lack of results. This makes many business owners reluctant to begin an SEO campaign and to stick it out for the long haul.
The results will eventually come if the strategy is done right. They just won’t be immediate.
SEO is an invaluable strategy for one’s business and should not be ignored. Be patient and look for logical processes, not magic.
2. It Takes Too Much Time
Those new to SEO think that this kind of online marketing strategy is a long, complicated process that includes many parts. While there are a lot of factors to consider when optimizing your website, they don’t need to be all done at the same time.
Similar to point #1 above, those new to SEO are also often reluctant to start a pricey and time-consuming SEO strategy when it appears that all the work and effort is done in vain. Again, be patient.
There are a couple options for busy business owners tackling SEO. The first option is to hand over all the SEO tasks and responsibilities to a digital marketing agency. When you simply don’t have the time to do it yourself, of course, you can delegate the entire process to an SEO company. This way, you can spend your time running your business while the agency runs the online campaign.
|Consult with a pro about developing your company’s SEO strategy.|
The other option is to tackle the SEO yourself. Don’t start off trying to do it all, but piecemeal it a little bit at a time. You’ll save money and learn about SEO, but you’ll spend a lot of time in the process.
3. SEO is Too Technical
Many small business owners new to SEO have this idea that SEO is a complicated, technical process that is done by a web developer or a “smart computer nerd.” They feel unqualified to implement SEO, or even attempt to learn it.
Many elements of SEO, however, can be done by virtually anyone. You don’t need a background in technical computer networking or development. Basic SEO is easy to learn and only takes a few hours of learning. When your company is young and you’re new to SEO, it is best to only focus on implementing a few, simple, fundamental SEO elements and tactics.
There are many technical elements to it, too (we’ll get to those in a moment), and many small businesses are worried that agencies will try to overwhelm them with a ton of industry-specific terms and strange claims.
Don’t let that worry you, though. Just explain your concerns and ask plenty of questions, and a good agency will walk you through every part of the strategy.
4. The Punishment and Penalties
If you’re pursuing SEO yourself, you’ll inevitably hear of Google’s SEO penalties. It is true that there are a lot of potential penalties out there for the unwary. And if you’re doing SEO on your own you may read about a foolproof method to achieve rankings, just to find out a month later that this is one of the things Google absolutely despises.
We understand that you may be concerned about this kind of thing, which is why it’s so important to build strategies around the known best practices. This is another reason why many small businesses prefer using agencies for this work – as long as they have a long history of providing effective strategies that don’t risk the wrath of Google.
5. Their Brand May Appear Gimmicky
Some business owners are reluctant to begin and implement an SEO strategy because they believe doing so would make them look gimmicky. This is usually because they’ve read about or seen instances in which SEO is used as a questionable strategy to earn and buy traffic.
While SEO in the past had earned a bad reputation for being just that: a cheap, gimmicky way to cheat the search system and buy traffic, it has since changed. SEO now aims to provide web users valuable information, not merely tricking search engines.
It’s easy to fixate on many of these old tactics, and if you know what you’re looking for, you can spot the SEO tactics on a website. But, in general, the best SEO practices have moved away from the formulaic processes. The technical aspects of SEO should remain in the background. The writing and the design the design, though, should be more directly related to the user experience.
6. Getting Traffic but Not Customers
One of the widely talked about aspects of SEO are keywords. Keyword research and targeting is a common tactic that is immediately initiated when you start up a new campaign. If you’re doing this on your own, you may immediately run into the vast number of relevant keywords and feel a bit overwhelmed with the possibilities.
How do you decide which ones to focus on for your SEO strategy?
Learning about keyword analytics and coming up with buyer personas can help you get an idea which words your website is already ranking for and which ones searchers are using to find your website. You can also identify keywords based on volume, relevance, and level of competition.
The more that you analyze your site and find patterns in keywords, the quicker and easier it will be to identify keywords that target the audience that is ready to convert from normal traffic to paying customers.
7. SEO’s Complexity
You were probably a little surprised when you first found out about all the factors that are taken into account to rank websites. In fact, it is estimated that there are more than 200 factors Google considers when ranking websites (and some say that “200” is just a convenient round number and that the actual number of ranking factors is much higher).
How can you possibly tackle all of them? The apparent complexity of SEO is often enough to scare away business owners who don’t want to take the time and effort to deal with it all. Or, they may go the other way and begin to fixate on a single ranking factor, sure that it is key to their ultimate success and let the others
Some business owners are content with learning about and implementing a few basic SEO strategies for their websites. This is a good start, but the full power and potential of SEO will never be fully realized.
While large companies with huge budgets may be able to deal with these complexities all at once, smaller companies can focus on slowly implementing more elements over time. The slow-and-steady approach may not seem as spectacular, but you can build your rankings and customer base over time.
It is understandable that you may be hesitant and leery of taking the time and effort and making the investment in SEO. If you’re new to SEO, these fears are common. Knowing what to expect from an SEO strategy beforehand can help calm some of those fears.
SEO does take time, money and effort. The fears that SEO is too complicated, technical, gimmicky and involve possible penalties are common misconceptions people new to SEO have. Once you learn more about SEO yourself, you’ll become more comfortable and confident to implement your own strategy or work closely with an agency.
Facebook advertising is a big and growing business: companies spent more than $9 billion on Facebook ads in the second quarter of 2017 alone. That’s an increase of 47 percent (Nearly $3 billion) from the same period in 2016.
Why advertise on Facebook?
At last count, more than two billion people were using Facebook. And those users are highly engaged with the content posted on the network: More than 800 million people like something on Facebook every single day.
Of course, when it comes to getting the biggest bang for your advertising buck, too large an audience can actually be a bad thing. After all, you only want to pay to expose your brand to people who might be interested in doing business with you. Fortunately, Facebook offers multiple layers of targeting, so you can focus your Facebook ads on exactly the right audience for your business to maximize ROI.
We’ll get into the specifics of targeting Facebook ads later on in this post, but for now keep in mind that Facebook’s huge, global audience combined with the ability to target your ad by demographics, location, interests, and behaviors allows you to access the exact people who are most likely to want to buy your products or services.
Need more convincing? Consider this: 95.8 percent of social media marketers worldwide said Facebook provides the best ROI of all social platforms.
With your competitors already seeing meaningful results from Facebook ads and increasing their spend, it’s high time to develop a Facebook advertising strategy of your own.
Types of Facebook Ads
Facebook offers 10 campaign objectives based on what you want your ad to accomplish. For each of those objectives, you can choose various ad formats based on your chosen goal and target audience.
Before we dig into some specific Facebook ad examples and the technical requirements for each format, let’s take a quick look at how the different types of Facebook campaigns align with business goals:
Facebook ads: Guidelines and examples
Now that you understand the various Facebook campaign objectives, let’s explore the various Facebook advertising formats.
Photo Facebook ads
Note: Since Facebook doesn’t want people’s newsfeeds to be filled with text-heavy images screaming for attention, you need to keep your text overlays to less than 20 percent of your image.
Video Facebook ads
Video ads can create massive engagement—if they’re done right
Slideshow Facebook ads
Facebook Carousel ads
Facebook Collection ads
Facebook Canvas ads
Facebook Lead ads
Maserati USA used lead ads to collect 21,000 leads, resulting in sales of 127 vehicles.
How to advertise on Facebook: Placing your ad
If you already have a Facebook business page you can go the Facebook Ads Manager to create your Facebook ad campaign. If you don’t yet have a business page, you’ll need to create one first.
Step 1: Choose your campaign objective
Choose your campaign objective based on the most important metrics for your business and your goals for this particular ad.
Keep in mind that for conversion-oriented objectives you can pay per action, but for exposure objectives, you will pay for impressions.
Step 2: Target your audience
Remember: Effective targeting is key to maximizing ROI—and there’s no shortage of ways to target your audience on Facebook. In addition to targeting by location, gender, and online behaviors, you can hone your audience based on the following:
Connections: You can target people who are either connected or not connected to your Facebook Page. If you want to reach a new audience, under Detailed Targeting, chooses select “Exclude people who like your Page.” If you want to promote an offer or new product, select “People who like your Facebook Page” to reach people who already know your brand.
Custom Audiences: You can build your own audience of people who have already interacted with your business on or off Facebook. Facebook has a good step-by-step guide on how to do this.
Lookalike Audiences: This lets you target people who are similar to your existing most valuable audiences.
As you make your selections, keep an eye on the meter on the right side of the page, which indicates the breadth of your audience selection, and the estimated daily reach chart.
Step 3: Set your budget and schedule
Next, you decide how much money you want to spend on your Facebook ad. You can choose a daily or lifetime budget, then set the start and end dates if you want to schedule your ad in the future, or choose to place it live right away.
You can get into pretty fine detail about how you want to spend your money using the advanced budget options.
Keep in mind that running your ad on a schedule may be the most efficient way to spend your ad budget since you can choose only to serve your ad when your target audience is most likely to be on Facebook.
Step 4: Create your Facebook ads
One option is to promote an existing post. If you would prefer instead to create a new ad, first choose your ad format, then enter the text and media components for your ad. Making sure you conform to the Facebook ad image sizes mentioned above for each format.
Use the preview tool at the bottom of the page to make sure your ad looks good for all potential placements (mobile, desktop news feed, right column, and so on). When you’re happy with your choices, click the green Confirm button to submit your order, then wait to get an email from Facebook notifying you that your ad has been approved.
Facebook ads best practices
Keep these important strategies in mind to make the most of your Facebook advertising efforts.
Experiment with audience targeting
Start with a narrow audience and then broaden it slowly by adding one interest category at a time. For example, you could start with an audience specifically interested in “Napa Valley wine tours” and then broaden after a few weeks, adding “wine tasting,” “food and wine,” and so on. That way, you’ll have a good idea of what’s moving the needle.
If you have a local business, you can target your audience by postal code. This is also helpful if you know a particular city or neighborhood converts well.
Rotate your ads regularly
“Ad fatigue”—or reduced engagement—can occur when people see the same ad too many times. Rather than bombarding your audience with the same ad over and over, switch it up so they are exposed to different elements of your brand offering. Facebook recommends switching your ad once every one to two weeks.
Facebook ads are a perfect venue for learning what resonates best with your audience, from ad format to image style to hashtags to the length of copy and tone of voice. Since testing is such an important topic, we’ve got a whole guide on how to do it.
Use Facebook Pixel
A Facebook pixel is a small piece of code that can have a big impact on your Facebook advertising campaigns. Once you place the code on your website, it will allow you to track conversions, remarket to people who have viewed a product on your website, and create lookalike audiences.
Include a call to action
You know what the goal of your Facebook ad is—but do your viewers? Including a call to action (CTA) ensures that the people who see your ad understand what the next step is in developing a relationship with your company.
Use top-notch photos and video
You know what’s a turnoff? Blur photos Or jumpy videos that make you feel motion sick. Your words are important, sure, but your visuals are what will first grab viewers’ attention and create the first impression.
Make sure you comply with the Facebook ad image sizes for each format, specified above, for the best results. These free stock photo websites can help you source high-quality images to use in your ads.
If you sell a product, Facebook recommends that you try using photos showing people using and benefitting from your product, rather than an image of the product all by its lonesome.
Facebook advertising campaign ideas
Rare to go, but not sure what you should promote your Facebook ads? We’ve put together three campaign strategies to get you started.
Facebook advertising strategy 1: Collect an email
Unless you’re a marketing magician, it’s pretty hard to get people to buy from you the first time you wave to them in a Facebook ad.
For products that take longer to sell, email is your best friend. Facebook makes it pretty simple to collect new email leads. With software such as MailChimp, you can send out automatic emails (say, one email every few days). This helps you build trust and introduce people to your brand before you pitch your product.
STEP 1: In Facebook Ads Manager, choose “Lead Generation” as your campaign objective.
STEP 2: When you create your lead form, choose fields that align with the fields on your email list. Keep it simple: first name, last name, and email address.
STEP 3: Use the tool Zapier to automatically send email sign-ups from your Facebook campaigns to your email provider, such as MailChimp.
STEP 4: Do a quick test to make sure data is passing between Facebook and MailChimp.
STEP 5: Launch your ad campaign and watch the emails come rolling in. If you want to get more sophisticated, you can set up a custom automated email sequence in your email provider for Facebook leads. Below is a quick email strategy to use. You can sequence these emails a few days apart:
Facebook advertising strategy 2: Convert a proven piece of content into a video ad
Every brand has a few killer pieces of content that drive the lion’s share of traffic each month. Adapting that content into a short video aimed at Facebook audiences can be a great way to repackage top content for Facebook ads.
STEP 1: Distill the key ideas from your content piece into a few key points you can express in a few words each, or think about ways to convey the same key messages through your visuals. Make sure your call to action matches your video content.
STEP 2: Use one of these social video tools to create your video, or create a slideshow video ad in Facebook Ads Manager.
STEP 3: In Facebook Ads Manager, select “Video Views” as your campaign objective. Upload your video directly to Facebook and push the campaign live.
Facebook advertising strategy 3: Drive a direct sale
If you have a good product, there’s no reason why Facebook can’t generate direct sales. But when asking for a direct sale, you need trust—so if you’re an unknown brand with an untested product, it’s probably best to test the first two Facebook advertising strategies first.
If you’re confident that people will buy your product directly from a Facebook ad and you have a proven product with sales, test this strategy and be sure to measure your results.
STEP 1: In Facebook Ads Manager, select “Conversions” as your campaign objective.
STEP 2: Next, Facebook will ask you which type of conversion event you want to track, such as adding products to a shopping cart or adding payment information. Since you’re trying to drive a direct sale, select “Purchase.” You’ll need to install a Facebook Pixel to track a visitor from your Facebook ad all the way through your shopping cart process to purchase.
STEP 3: Create your ad with a simple and clear copy. What do you offer and how is it different? Give people a reason to buy from this specific ad. For example, maybe you bundle another product as a freebie or include a training webinar. You want people to stop what they are doing and click on your ad to your shopping cart.
STEP 4: Wait and track. Give your campaign at least two weeks before making any changes to copy or creative. Depending on your traffic volume, this should give you enough data to make an educated decision about what’s working, or what changes you might want to test.
Each and Every day, more and more people think to launch their online or e-commerce stores, but almost instantly they met with more inquiries than answers.
What are the pros and cons of Shopify vs. WordPress?
What platform should I use?
Will I have to pay any fees?
Like with other things in life, the precise answer to whether you should proceed with Shopify or WordPress is this: It depends…
I know you dislike that answer as much as I do, but hold on, with the precise answer out of the way, we can now focus on the useful one.
So let’s jump into the issue and see when it’s beneficial to use Shopify over WordPress, for whom it’s performing to be a better solution, and why would you even consider Shopify (or WordPress) in the first place.
We analyzed and compared WordPress and Shopify in all the possible perspectives to help you decide between them.
#1. Ease of Use – Which One Is Faster?
Shopify is one of the fastest e-commerce platforms supported by a strong back-end team. Your online shopping store developed on Shopify’s e-commerce platform will load faster as compared to any other web store.
Customers are paying particular attention to the speed of running a website as quick loading website save their time and energy.
WordPress e-commerce platform or Woocommerce require a well-coded website to stand in competition with Shopify on the ground of speed.
Therefore, while using a self-hosted e-commerce platform base for your online shopping store requires a qualified and experienced web designer.
Enthusiastic and committed web developer can keep a check that your online shopping store is working at its peak potential level at all times.
#2. Cost Of Operating In WordPress Vs Shopify
While commencing a small online shopping store, budget performs an essential role in the decision of spending on resources. Although Shopify wins over WordPress in speed, its charges lose out to WordPress balancing the game.
After developing your online shopping store with WordPress, you can sell as many products as you want with no transaction costs. WordPress generates an attractive banner with “Free” flashing over it.
Shopify charges monthly fees for operating your online shopping store and a commission on every transaction. Additionally, if your transactions are done from credit cards, there is an extra fee charged for it.
WordPress website might not give your customers the fastest loading online shopping store, but it will raise your profits bypassing Shopify’s fees.
#3. Creating A Customized Online Shopping Store, WORDPRESS Vs SHOPIFY
WordPress online shopping store is simple to customize. You can add new buttons, customize looks and create a better experience for your e-commerce visitors.
On the other hand, Shopify’s e-commerce platform comes customized which’s hard to modify.
Shopify looks good as it comes but for re-arranging, editions, or any change on the website you need complex coding.
While WordPress is the best e-commerce platform compared to any other leading e-commerce platforms for simple Customization.
Blogging website with WooCommerce extension
Designed as an eCommerce platform
Users must hunt support from online forums and other users
Users have access to Shopify’s support team
Must be hosted on another website with own security
Hosted, secure platform
Low costs (monthly plan fee, the transaction fee)
Useful for blogging and SEO
Can build a blog as needed, but the focus is on eCommerce
Limited selection of themes, many of which cost money
Broad selection of themes, many free
Best for small or medium-sized businesses
Suitable for small or medium-sized businesses
Shopify Vs WordPress Vs WooCommerce: The conclusion?
If you are a small business owner with additional disposable income and less time to dedicate to building a website, it might be a better choice to go with Shopify.
Additionally, Shopify might be the best choice for local businesses that are not looking to develop their services beyond their surrounding market.
But if you have a custom integration that you require to get your business to work and are on a modest budget, you will require taking a look at WooCommerce and WordPress as your alternative of choice.
For winning fame among users that are looking for your solution, the SEO options cannot be beaten by the WordPress and WooCommerce tools.
Off page SEO refers to techniques that can be used to improve the position of a web site in the search engine results page (SERPs). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building but it is not only that. In general, off Page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design –for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results.
Let’s take it from the beginning…
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the term used to describe a set of processes that aim in optimizing a website for search engines. SEO is important not only for getting high quality visitors from search, but it’s also a way to improve the user-friendliness of your website and increase its credibility.
Search engines are using complex algorithms to determine which pages to include in their index and the order they show these pages in the search results.
SEO is the way to ‘speak’ to search engines in a language they can understand and give them with more information about your website.
SEO has two major components, On Page and Off Page SEO.
On Page SEO
On Page SEO refers to settings you can apply on your website so that it is optimized for search engines. The most important On-Page SEO tips are:
You can find out more details about all the above tips in the SEO Tips for beginners article.
Off Page SEO
Unlike On- page SEO, Off-page SEO refers to activities you can perform outside the boundaries of your website. The most important are:
We will examine these in more details below, but first let me explain about the importance and benefits of off-page SEO.
Why is Off-Page SEO important?
Search engines have been trying for decades to find a way to return the best results to the searcher.
To achieve this, they take into account the on-site SEO factors (described above), some other quality factors and off-page SEO.
Off page SEO gives them a very good indication on how the World (other websites and users) perceive the particular website.
A web site that is high quality and useful is more likely to have references (links) from other websites; it is more likely to have mentions on social media (Facebook likes, tweets, Pins, +1’s etc.) and it is more likely to be bookmarked and shared among communities of like-minded users.
What are the benefits of ‘off-site SEO’ to website owners?
A successful off-site SEO strategy will generate the following benefits to website owners:
Increase in rankings – The website will rank higher in the SERPs and this also means more traffic.
Increase in PageRank – Page rank is a number between 0 and 10 which indicates the importance of a website in the eyes of Google. It is the system invented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google founders) and one of the reasons that Google was so successful in showing the most relevant results to the searcher. Page rank today is only one out of the 250 factors that Google is using to rank websites.
More exposure – Higher rankings also means greater exposure because when a website ranks in the top positions: it gets more links, more visits and more social media mentions. It’s like a never ending sequence of events where one thing leads to another and then to another etc.
Link building is the most popular and effective off-Page SEO method. Basically by building external links to your website, you are trying to gather as many ‘votes’ as you can, so that you can bypass your competitors and rank higher.
For example, if someone likes this article and references it from his/her website or blog, then this is like telling search engines that this page has good information.
Over the years webmasters have been trying to build links to their websites to get higher rankings and they ‘invented’ a number of ways to increase link count. The most popular ways were:
Blog Directories – something like yellow pages but each entry had a link pointing to a website.
Forum Signatures – Many people were commenting on forums for the sole purpose of getting a link back to their website (they included the links in their signature).
Comment link – The same concept as forum signatures where you would comment on some other website or blog in order to get a link back. Even worse, instead of using your real name you could use keywords so instead of writing ‘comment by Alex Chris’, you wrote ‘comment by How to lose weight’.
Article Directories – By publishing your articles in article directories you could get a link (or 2) back to your website. Some article directories accepted only unique content while other directories accepted anything from spin articles to already published articles.
Shared Content Directories – Websites like hubpages and infobarrel allowed you to publish content and in return you could add a couple of links pointing to your websites.
Link exchange schemes – Instead of trying to publish content you could get in touch with other webmasters and exchange links. In other words, I could link your website from mine and you could do the same.
In some cases you could even do more complicated exchanges by doing a 3-way link: I link to your website from my website but you link to my website from a different website.
Notice that I used the past tense to describe all the above methods because not only they do not work today, you should not even try them.
If you try to ‘trick’ search engines by building artificial links, you are more likely to get a penalty rather than an increase in rankings (especially when it comes to Google).
The birth of black hat SEO
Link building was an easy way to manipulate the search engine algorithms and many spammers tried to take advantage of this by building link networks which gradually lead to the creation of what is generally known as black hat SEO.
Google has become very intelligent in recognizing black hat techniques and with the introduction of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird (that’s how the Google Algorithm releases are called), they have managed to solve the problem and protect their search engine results from spammers.
Of course there are still exceptions but they are doing advances in every new algorithmic release and soon enough none of these tricks will work.
To “follow” or “nofollow”
In addition to the above and in order to give webmasters a way to link to a website without passing any ‘link juice’ (for example in the case of ads), search engines introduced what is known as the “nofollow” link.
This is a special tag you can add to a link (for example: “<a href=http://www.example.com rel=”nofollow”>Some Site</a>) that tells search engines not to count the particular link as a ‘vote of trust’ to the referenced website.
This was done so that you can link to other websites from yours without taking the risk of being caught for selling or exchanging links.
As a rule of thumb, you should add the nofollow tag on all your external links (within your pages) that go to websites you cannot trust 100%, to ALL your comment links, to ALL your blogroll links and to ALL banner ad links.
What is a good link?
So, if the above links are not useful, what is a good link?
First, you should understand that link building it’s not only a matter of quantity but it is a matter of quality as well.
In other words, it no longer matters how many links are pointing to your website but it is more important from where these links are coming.
For example, a link from a normal blog does not have the same ‘weight’ as a link from New York Times or a link from Matt Cutts blog (former head of Google Quality team) is not the same as a link from my blog.
The obvious question is, how to you get these links?
If you ask Google they will tell you that any links pointing to your website has to be natural links. Natural links are exactly what their name implies. A website owner or blogger likes another website or blog and naturally adds a link to his/her blog.
Does this happen in reality or is it another myth?
It certainly does but you have to try really hard to get to this point. Take for example this blog, there are many incoming links because other webmasters find the content interesting and I also link to other sites in my articles because I find their content interesting and want to inform my readers about it.
This is natural link building, a link has more value from the reader’s’ point of view rather than the search engine’s point of view.
The best way to attract links is to publish link worthy content that other people would like to link to.
Chapter 12 of the Complete SEO Guide describes in a step-by-step approach how to approach link building and how to to get high quality links from premium websites that can make a real difference in your rankings.
If natural links are what I have just described above, in which category do all other links belong?
They belong in the category of artificial links and by adopting such techniques you increase the risk for getting a manual or algorithmic penalty by Google.
Is guest blogging a valid way to build links?
Guest posting can be a valid way to get links back to your website provided that you don’t do it just for links and that you don’t overdo it. You can read these 2 articles to get a complete picture as to when to accept guest posts on your blog and when to guest post on other blogs.
Social media is part of ‘off-site SEO’ and if you think about it, it’s also a form of link building. It should be noted that almost all of the links you get from social media sites are “nofollow” but this does not mean that they do not have any value.
Social Media mentions are gaining ground as ranking factors and proper configuration of social media profiles can also boost SEO.
Social bookmarking is not as popular as it used to be in the past but it is still a good way to get traffic to your website. Depending on your niche you can find web sites like reddit.com, stumbleupon.com, scoop.it and delicious.com (to name a few) to promote your content.
Off-page SEO is as important as on-site SEO. If you want your SEO campaigns to be successful you have to do both. When thinking about link building don’t take the easy way, but try to get links from hard-to-get places. The more difficult is to get a link, the more value it has.
It’s a noisy marketplace. How are you optimizing your online presence to make your voice heard? It starts with ensuring you are up to date on on-page SEO basics to provide peak performance for your website and visibility for your target audience.
Over the past few years, the on-page “rules” have changed drastically as Google tries to ensure they’re delivering the best results. Now, a standard search result page shows pages that don’t necessary have the exact match query—or keyword—in their title tag or meta description.
Now, we’re dealing with ranking algorithms that include Hummingbird, Panda, RankBrain and semantic importance within the page. Google is getting smarter. Your on-page strategies must be too.
If you type “on-page SEO” into Google, Moz will tell you—through a featured snippet—it is “the practice of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.”
It takes into account all aspects of the webpage that, when added together, will improve your rankings in the search results. As Google becomes more sophisticated, one of the major factors influencing on-page optimization is relevance. How relevant is your page to the query? That’s how you have to think when you’re developing the page.
Think of these tasks as a benefit to your end user. You have about eight seconds to influence a visitor to interact with your website. The more interaction and engagement, plus the longer your users stay on the site, the better their experience.
If you put effort into these categories and strategies, you’ll see a boost in traffic and a rise in your search presence. Once you understand everything that goes into your on-page SEO efforts, conduct an analysis of your site to see how the anatomy of your page is performing.
Perhaps the most vital aspect of your on-page SEO efforts is the implementation of tags. Some are not as useful to SEO as they once were, but if written and utilized optimally, will improve your traffic.
Meta tags are used to provide search engines with information about your page. To achieve high rankings, it has to do with relevance and user satisfaction, but including custom meta tags will influence users and increase your click-through-rate.
There are multiple tags on your page. The most important is your title tag. The title is what users see in the search engines for both organic results and paid ads, and the words that appear at the top of each tab in your browser.
The title tag outlines what the page is about. When ranking web pages for particular queries, Google looks at the title tag and compares that to the rest of the content on the page.
If you’re working in HTML, the code for the title tag looks like this:
<title>Everything You Need to Know About On-Page SEO</title>
However, the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast allows you to create a custom title tag within the platform. Keep your title tags descriptive and short. Google recently increased the character limit for page titles to 70 characters before showing ellipses.
Best practice is to ensure you stay below the character limit so your titles display properly. You can use Snippet Optimizer to simulate how your title and meta description will appear in SERPs.
Use your title tag to stand out from your competitors, appealing to your visitors. Make sure all the pertinent information is included, including your keywords and location for local businesses.
While it’s recommended to use your core keyword within the title, Google is shifting toward relevance and semantics in the results. Users aren’t blindly clicking on the first result, reading the titles and descriptions to find the best answer to their query.
The meta description conveys what users will find on the page. While not a direct ranking factor, search engines read the meta descriptions to determine the page’s topic and the audience that will find value.
A well-written meta description can generate a competitive advantage in the search results, creating a higher click-through rate with a greater chance of conversions. While there is a possibility that Google will omit the custom description and pull an excerpt of the content on the page, it is recommended that you fill in the meta description for every page of your site.
The best way to check which pages are missing a meta description is to run your website through Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. It shows you every URL under your domain, the meta description, and its length.
Earlier in 2016, Google extended the length of descriptions for both desktop and mobile. For desktop, users will see up to 200 characters, while on mobile they’ll be shown up to 172 characters. To appeal to users on both devices, keep your description between 165 and 175 characters.
Clearly outline what users will find on the page. Add your brand name and sprinkle in a keyword or two if they don’t sound forced. Think about synonyms and other terms that will get the point across.
This is the first interaction many visitors have with your brand. Make it welcoming.
Think of the meta description as your organic ad text.
Tell users what’s in it for them to click through to your site. Include an offer or call to action to entice a click. You’ll also see some websites show multiple site links to direct users to the page they’re looking for. My company, 1SEO.com Digital Agency, has multiple pages you can click on to find out more about the agency.
To find success and steady traffic to your site, it starts with your title and meta tags. Once you get the clicks, it’s up to your user experience and quality content to maintain engagement.
Your landing page or blog should include multiple heading tags, from the h1 down to a potential h6. The most important is the h1. You should never have more than one h1 tag on any page. Include multiple h2’s or h3’s as users scroll down the page. These are used as subheadings.
Use the headings to represent the different sections of the page. You’ll notice the impact from both an SEO standpoint and a usability standpoint.
As an SEO factor, complementing the title of the page with the words used in your heading tags should provide users with a clear view of what the page is about. The search engine algorithm compares the section of content underneath each heading tag to establish relevancy.
Your headings should be used to structure the page. Make sure the content supports the heading.
The primary keyword of the page should be included somewhere in your h1 tag. Avoid skipping the h1 on a page, as it lets both your visitors and Google understand its subject. Many blogs, especially those in WordPress, automatically include the title of the blog post as an h1. Make sure to look at the HTML version of the page to ensure the h1 tag is present.
When it comes to headings, there are factors you want to avoid to maintain your presence in the search engines, notably stuffing unnecessary keywords in the tags.
Don’t use the same h1 tag on multiple pages of your site. This can have harmful effects on your SEO as Google won’t know which page to rank for a query containing that heading.
The Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress helps you understand how strong each page is. It analyzes on-page factors to help ensure your page is fully optimized. An added benefit, it alerts you of any issues with the page title, Meta description, headings, images, content, and more.
For landing pages and some blogs, keep in mind that your users are not reading the entire page. They’re scanning and browsing quickly, looking for a section that answers their questions or provides value.
Headings and subheadings split up the page, making the presentation look cleaner.
Subheadings help users navigate throughout the page. If you’re changing the subject or discussing a different aspect of the service, use h2s. If you break it down further and need a sub-sub-heading under an h2, use an h3 tag.
Headings should not be overlooked. They hold more weight on the page than a standard paragraph <p> tag or a bolded word. Always be sure to keep your readers in mind when writing headings. They shouldn’t sound—or read—like your forcing a keyword for the sake of further optimizing the page.
When it comes to writing URL strings, they should be short, concise, and easily readable. How can we create the perfect URL string?
When analyzing the length of URLs, Ahrefs found that shorter URLs tend to rank better. The study looked at the length of the URL and a number of folders. They counted each root domain as one folder, and each backslash after the root as another folder.
The report concluded that URLs with fewer folders tended to rank better, as well. Rand Fishkin of Moz said more folders can “create a perception of depth for both engines and users, as well as making edits to the URL string considerably more complex.”
From interior product or service pages to blog posts, the way we write URLs is an SEO practice that you must consider. Each word in your URL should be separated by a hyphen (-) and not an underscore (_).
When you have two pages displaying almost the same content or information, set up a 301 redirect or canonicalization tag (rel=canonical) to the stronger page. This avoids duplicate content and shows Google which page to rank.
Keep your URL short. The shorter the URL, the easier it is to share or embed while creating a better user experience. You want your readers to quickly identify what your page is about without seeing numbers, categories, symbols, or a mixture of everything included in the string.
Utilize your primary keyword in the URL. Like other factors of on-page, don’t let your URL string sound unnatural or forced with keywords. Try to make it around five words, clearly outlining the information your users will find.
Don’t leave your visitors left wondering what’s on the page before they click. The title, meta description, and URL should make it clear.
As Google crawls your page, they’re looking to match user intent. Your content should clearly explain what product or service you’re offering, or the exact topic of your blog.
The internet is cluttered with content, and it’s important that you ensure yours is unique. One of the most common sayings you’ll hear in the world of SEO and content marketing is “content is king.” In fact, SEO and content marketing do a lot of overlapping.
They complement each other. Content involves the use of words—keywords—and writing for human value while still appeasing the search engines. This is what makes the foundation of SEO and the vast majority of your on-page.
Think of content as having a conversation with your readers. Are they going to be interested or entertained? Or are they going to be bored and leave your site?
When you create content, it must prove you’re an authority in your field. The best content speaks directly to your customers, shows them the value you offer and entices them to read further or contact your company.
To improve your on-page and SEO to increase your traffic, content must solve a user’s problem while being well-written without spelling or grammatical errors. Be careful not to run into any problems by failing to adhere to the major Google algorithm updates.
To help weed out the websites that achieved high rankings with spammy, keyword stuffed, and thin content, Google unleashed the Panda algorithm in February of 2011, updating it regularly. If you still have low quality and thin content, your website won’t be found online.
Jennifer Slegg wrote an informative and definitive guide to understanding the Panda algorithm. She quotes a Google spokesperson as saying, “At the end of the day, content owners shouldn’t ask how many visitors they had on a specific day, but rather how many visitors they helped.”
Now, Panda is a core ranking signal, and you’ll receive a boost in rankings if you are consistently meeting the expectations of your users. While continuing to roll out and update, make sure you focus on creating quality content that is optimized for a high-volume keyword and is written with the user in mind.
As we move into the age of artificial intelligence, SEOs and marketers have been trying to figure out the effects of Google RankBrain. The machine learning system was implemented around the spring of 2015, and has become the third highest ranking factor.
Search Engine Land answers frequently asked questions regarding RankBrain, where they attest it is part of the Hummingbird algorithm. The main point you have to consider, which has been said time and time again, is to write in natural language. That’s the best way to “rank” under RankBrain.
In the article, Danny Sullivan says, “RankBrain is mainly used as a way to interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words that were searched for.”
RankBrain was put into place to help determine how to rank queries there is no historical data for. It has since evolved and is used in almost every query to affect the rankings of most searches, so be sure to optimize your content for the ranking signal!
For best practice, answer user’s questions in the least amount of time as possible. Google is garnering the ability to learn user intent and return the best results, especially with the rise of voice and natural language searches.
Look at the long-tail queries and use a conversational approach to your content. While keywords play a significant role with your on-page SEO, Google is using semantics more and more to deliver the best user experience.
While you must maintain a user-friendly and authoritative tone, the focus keyword is still of vital importance. Like with your Meta tags, you will either outline meta keywords for a product or service page that is targeting multiple queries, or a single focus keyword for blogs.
All of this is available in WordPress pages and posts. But why is targeting a keyword important? Using them correctly will directly affect the return on your digital marketing investment. The more you understand about keywords, the better you will strategize with your marketing.
Always make sure you’re providing the most value for your brand by targeting keywords that have search volume.
To get the most of your on-page, perform keyword research and be confident your company can convert for the targeted terms. There’s nothing worse than appearing first in the results for a query that leads to zero conversions.
Use Google Ad Words Keyword Planner to see search volume, or analyse what your competitors are targeting with SEMRush. The Keyword Planner offers you similar variations of your keyword that you can include on the page for further optimization.
Through content marketing, employ keywords strategically.
Think about the types of keywords and what will work best for your company.
To determine the relevance for a particular query, Google looks at LSI keywords, or synonyms for the searched keyword. LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing, determining patterns within the terms, topics, and concepts of a page.
When writing long-form content, you can include LSI keywords more naturally. According to Bruce Clay,
“In latent semantic indexing, Google sorts sites on the frequency of a variety of terms and key phrases linked together instead of on the frequency of a single term.”
The content shouldn’t have just one focus keyword. Your goal with on-page SEO should be to rank for all synonyms and related queries.
Back to the term relevancy. Though your focus keyword may have 50,000 monthly searches, your page can rank higher for the similar query that only has 1,000 monthly searches.
Write content that will drive traffic from many related queries. The goal is to generate clicks and use the factors of your on-page to increase conversions.
Links carry the most weight in your SEO. Earning links from quality sources and authority sites strengthens the domain, while linking internally throughout the site benefits the user experience and enhances your SEO.
The actual practice of earning links is part of your off-page SEO strategy. Use additional content marketing, email outreach, and other creative ways to build links back to your site. Backlinko has published an all-inclusive guide to link building that offers value when you’re starting your link building campaign.
Focusing on the page, internal linking to other pages of your site will strengthen the keywords and enable Google to determine where to rank a particular keyword. Linking internally—between service pages and blogs—helps improve the crawl ability of your site, showing Google the site’s most important pages.
If you include a new link on your homepage, it becomes easier for Google to see that you’ve updated your site with fresh content than crawling the entire site for the new material.
The benefit of internal links is giving your audience further options to stay on your site. The more engagement to relevant pages, the more Google takes notice. Don’t put an internal link in every sentence, but include multiple links per page to bolster your SEO.
When you’re adding images to the page, it benefits the user experience. But, you can also help your SEO strategy by optimizing the image. Make your top targeted keyword the alt text and create a title that is unique, but stays applicable to the image. The featured image of this article has a unique title and the alt-text of what this post is about.
Optimizing the alt tags gives Google another indication of what your page is about. The alt tag should be used to describe what’s on the image, so we’re back to relevance again. It won’t make sense to have a picture of a Hummingbird with the alt tag “panda.”
Here’s the value of the alt tag. Think about when the image won’t load, what will the user see? The alt tag. Don’t stuff your keywords into alt tags. Make sure they fit with the image and make the picture relevant.
As Yoast says, “The image should reflect the topic of the post, or have illustrative purposes within the article, of course.”
Images play a crucial role in conversions. For SEO purposes, make sure they’re scaled correctly. The larger the image, the longer your page will take to load. Scale the image appropriately and make sure it shows in the smallest possible size.
We’re living in a visual world, and while content is the most important, make sure your images are capturing attention, as well.
For your page to be found relevant and your on-page SEO to improve, your website needs to be mobile-friendly and responsive in 2016 and beyond. Responsive websites provide the same experience with your brand no matter what device they’re using.
There are multiple benefits to making your website responsive and appeal to mobile users. You’ll see a positive ranking signal thanks to the 2015 Mobile Algorithm Update that continues its aim to provide the best results.
Over 50% of users are spending their time browsing and searching on mobile devices over desktops. Use the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to understand how a Googlebot is viewing your page.
To continue to provide users with the fastest and best experience, Google started showing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in the search results. Mainly beneficial for news outlets and articles, these pages load instantly and are easily identified with a lightning bolt symbol. The faster the load time, the more appealing it is for mobile users. You can learn all about AMP and its impact on your SEO in this article by Search Engine Journal staff member Anna Crowe.
Remember that when users access your website or blog, chances are they’ll be on their mobile device. You can check to ensure your website is mobile friendly through Google’s test tool. If your site is not mobile-friendly, Google will outline what you can do to fix the issue.
You’ll satisfy your customers with its functionality, making your website more relevant.
In today’s technology age, speed is essential. We don’t want to wait. If a page isn’t loading right away, we find another website that will. Are you helping or hurting your user’s experience?
Nearly half of all mobile users will leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Backlinko.com found that fast-loading websites are significantly more likely to rank in Google.
Keeping visitors happy increases your conversion rate. According to an info graphic from Kissmetrics, 58% of mobile users expect your mobile site to load as fast, if not faster, than the experience seen on a desktop.
Optimize the site and take care of underlying factors that will shed some seconds off the page load time. Look at your site and see if there is anything slowing down the speed.
According to a report from Radware, image compression and optimization are vital factors in the speed of your website. The study says that images hold 50 to 60% of the total weight of the page. If your image files are too large, they could be dragging down the site’s performance.
There are tools you can use to ensure the performance of your site is up to your—and your visitors—standards. If you have a Google Analytics account, you can look at your site speed under the “Behavior” tab in the left sidebar.
Other tools that provide performance tips and feedback on page speed, along with suggested fixes, include:
The faster your website loads, the more engagement you’ll receive. Once all other on-page SEO factors are in place, focus on minimizing the load time. Your customers will prefer your site to others.
From the top down, make the use of your website seamless. From the appearance of the page to the backend technical aspects to the optimized meta information, the perfectly optimized page incorporates all aspects.
Digital marketing is about communicating with your audience. Guiding them to make a decision while educating yourself on what aspects are benefiting your search presence. It boils down to this:
Ensure you’re providing Google with the right signals. Implement custom meta tags, title tags, headings, and always write quality content. Provide your visitors with the information they want, and learn how they interact with your site through analytical tracking.
That goes into the technical side of SEO, away from the techniques and optimization strategies included on the page.
When everything is in place, look into your Google Analytics and Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) to see how your site is performing.
As search engines cache and crawl your page, are they running into any crawl errors? This could hinder your performance. Crawl errors include broken links, dynamic pages, 404s, errors in the robots.txt files, sitemap errors, and more.
Using some of the SEO tools and resources I have outlined in SEJ’s Beginners Guide to SEO, you can test the performance of the site and see if you have any crawl errors. This means that some pages are not accessed easily by the search engine bots. Google lets you address and update the health of your entire site.
Your goal is to generate conversions. Implementing these on-page SEO tactics will set a strong foundation that informs Google and entices your users.
The perfectly optimized page creates a memorable user experience and strengthens your brand.
It will increase traffic, improve your search engine rankings for the most relevant keywords to your business, and drive leads.
The term "white hat SEO" refers to SEO tactics that are in line with the terms and conditions of the major search engines, including Google.
White hat SEO is the opposite of Black Hat SEO. Generally, white hat SEO refers to any practice that improves your search rankings on a search engine results page (SERP) while maintaining the integrity of your website and staying within the search engines' terms of service. These tactics stay within the bounds as defined by Google. Examples of white hat SEO include:
Examples of black hat SEO, by contrast, include purchasing links or using deceptive cloaking techniques. Any tactics that are considered deceitful or harmful for consumers would qualify as black hat. Black hat tactics are extremely risky and, as Google's algorithms evolve, less and less likely to work.
Why Are White Hat SEO Techniques Important?
Failure to engage only in White Hat SEO practices can get your site banned from Google and other search engines.
As the number one search engine, Google is visited by billions of people per day, and each visit presents the potential for your site to be discovered by a new user.
Google is an undeniably powerful source of traffic to your website, and being banned can result in a drastic drop in website traffic and even business. Consider all the work that goes into your website and then think about what it would be like to be banned from the internet's most commonly used search engine. What's worse, once you're banned from Google, there is no guarantee that they will ever re-list you. A lifetime ban from Google would have tremendous consequences.
Why risk it? Check out a complete description of Google-approved SEO techniques at Webmaster Guidelines. Google's Webmaster resources are the go-to place to learn Google white hat SEO practices.
Should You Implement White Hat SEO Methods?
Definitely! Implementing White Hat SEO practices is the best way to create an ethical, sustainably successful website and business.
Here are some of the steps you should follow to make sure your SEO methods are strictly white hat.
Offer Quality Content and Services
Create high-quality content that meets your visitors' needs and helps solve their problems. Use SEO keyword research tools to discover the most relevant keywords that your site content should be optimized for.
Then focus on using those keywords in great content, such as how-to articles and videos, that match the intent of the keyword and your end user.
Use Descriptive, Keyword-Rich Meta Tags
Follow best practices when creating meta descriptions for each page on your website to help search engines and users discover your content.
Make Your Site Easy to Navigate
Be mindful when organizing your site's Information Architecture. Sites that are easy for users to get around tend to perform better in organic search results too.
Black hat SEO is a practice against search engine guidelines, used to get a site ranking higher in search results. These unethical tactics don’t solve for the searcher and often end in a penalty from search engines. Black hat techniques include keyword stuffing, cloaking, and using private link networks.
Appearing in search results is vital for business growth, but there’s a right and wrong way of doing search engine optimization. The dark art of black hat SEO is the wrong way. Black hat SEO seeks to game search engine algorithms, rather than solve for the user. Instead of earning the right to rank highly on search engine results pages black hat SEO uses shady tactics to get you there. Sustained use of black hat SEO techniques is likely to damage your presence in search engines rather than improve it.
If you are new to the search space, the purpose of search engines like Google is to provide the best results when someone completes a search. They want people to have a great search experience and ensure the results they provide do not include spam. They do this automatically through algorithms or manual actions that aim to recognize and penalize those engaging in black hat SEO.
Search engine algorithms have gotten more sophisticated over time, which is why you should avoid black hat SEO at all costs. White hat SEO is a much better method of doing search engine optimization. It’s a more ethical approach that abides by the terms and guidelines set out by search engines. White hat SEO consists of creating quality content and a better overall user experience for people visiting your site.
Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO
Black hat SEO goes against the guidelines set by search engines and manipulates them to gain higher rankings. It can lead to being wiped completely from search results or gaining a lower position. White hat SEO is a more ethical way of doing SEO by creating quality content and a good user experience.
This article will explain what black hat SEO techniques involve so you can make sure to avoid them when devising your organic search strategy.
Black Hat Techniques in SEO
Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of filling your content with irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate where the page ranks on search results pages. Adding multiple variations of keywords where they add no value creates a bad experience for users. It may also cause your page to rank for irrelevant queries.
Google explains keyword stuffing as:
Here’s an example of keyword stuffing for a website selling outbound marketing software:
“We are in the business of selling outbound marketing software. Outbound marketing software is what we sell. If you are thinking of getting outbound marketing software get in touch with one of our outbound marketing software consultants.”
I think you’ll agree, that sounds like a broken record. It’s pretty easy to spot and Google will be able to tell that the content sounds unnatural.
You may have heard the joke “an SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor…”. This joke is about keyword stuffing and it is another perfect example of the practice. The words are all similar to each other, but they are of no value as they don’t even string up a sentence.
You can do keyword research to find out what people are searching for but overusing these keywords in your content is not a good idea. Rather than filling your content with irrelevant keywords, concentrate on creating useful content that focuses on topics over keywords.
Cloaking involves showing one piece of content to users and a different piece of content to search engines. Websites practicing black hat SEO will do this in order to make content rank for a variety of terms irrelevant to their content. Spam websites will often do this to try and avoid a search engine bot finding out the spam content they serve to users.
Tailoring your content to different groups of users is acceptable. For example, you might shrink the size of your website when someone visits from a mobile device. You might also change the language of a page based on the country someone is visiting from. A publisher like Forbes or Inc might change the ads that appear on a page in order to fund their content. These examples are completely acceptable. As long as you are not just changing the content that appears for search engine crawlers.
While there is no hard and fast rule to determine what's acceptable and what’s not, my best advice is to ask yourself, does what you intend to do solve for the user? If it does, then it’s acceptable. You should treat search engine bots that crawl your site the same as any other user.
If you are curious to find out how Google sees your website you can use the fetch as Google tool and compare this to what users see.
A redirect involves sending someone to a different URL than the one they initially clicked. Black hat SEO uses redirects outside of the purpose they are intended for. Along the same lines as cloaking, this might include redirecting a search engine crawler to one page and all other users to another page.
Another example is redirecting a highly authoritative page with lots of backlinks into another irrelevant page, just to boost its position in search results. A 301 redirect passes the majority of authority from one page to another. This means someone practicing black hat SEO could use redirects solely for the purpose of manipulating search results.
Poor Quality Content
Poor quality content that’s of no value to the searcher is also a common practice in black hat SEO. This includes content scraped from another website either by a bot or a person. At one point search engines like Google weren’t good at recognizing content that had been copied from other websites. The Google Panda update in 2011 resolved this issue. Many sites with duplicate content took an instant hit in search rankings. Since then, Google has gotten much better at recognizing duplicate and low-quality content.
Adding invisible keywords to your content is also a prohibited practice. Some websites that engage in black hat SEO do this by making the text the same color as the page background. This means the page may appear in search results for those invisible keywords, even though there’s no visible content about them on the page. When a user clicks on the result thinking it’s going to be about the topic they searched for, they don’t find any of the content they were looking for as the keywords are invisible. If you’re solving for the user, there should be no need to hide content on your website.
The “bait and switch” is another black hat means of misleading search engines. This involves creating content surrounding a topic you want to rank for. Once the page is ranking in results for this topic, the content is swapped out for something else. This creates a negative experience for searchers as the content they click-through to see no longer exists. These practices trick users and search engines and they are not a good way to do SEO.
Writing original, quality content is an important part of white hat SEO. Not only is it required to avoid a penalty from search engines, it will also set your website apart. Creating high-quality content builds trust with your target audience and turns visitors into customers.
Search engines like Google strictly ban the buying and selling of links. They state on their website that “any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.” This includes sending a website free products in exchange for links. If you’re not sure of what’s an acceptable exchange, Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s webspam team recommends looking at FTC guidelines.
You should avoid paying any other site to link to your content. Google asks users to tell them about instances of people buying or selling links. They state they will penalize both buyer and seller of links once the practice is detected.
If you’re reading this having purchased links without realizing this is a black hat SEO tactic, you should have them removed as soon as possible. You can also use the disavow links tool if you can’t get webmasters to remove the links.This tells Google to disregard the paid links when calculating your Pagerank.
Abusing Structured Data/Rich Snippets
Structured data is also known as rich snippets and schema. It allows you to change how your content is displayed on search engine results pages. It makes your content stand out from competitors and also gives you more real estate on results pages. You can add structured data to a page displaying a podcast, recipe, book among other products and services. Reviews schema markup is probably one of the most popular types of structured data.
Black hat SEO involves providing inaccurate information in structured data to fool search engines and users. For example, someone practicing blackhat SEO might award themselves five stars from a fake review site and add structured data so they stand out on search results pages. This is a very risky practice as search engines like Google encourage users to report websites misusing structured data.
This should not put you off marking up truthful, accurate information on your web pages. In fact, I highly recommend adding structured data the white hat way. We added review markup to HubSpot product pages and saw a 10% increase in clicks to those pages.
You have nothing to worry about, if you provide truthful information that is helpful to users. Google has documented the rules around adding structured data to your website and also have a helpful tool for testing your structured data.
Blog Comment Spam
As the name suggests, this black hat technique involves including a link to your website in blog comments. This practice happens less often nowadays as search engines like Google updated their algorithm to discount any links in blog comments. Most authoritative blogs now make links in blog comments nofollow by default. This means search engines like Google do not follow the link nor does it the link pass any authority.
Despite the decline in the number of people engaging in the practice, you’ll still find a bunch of people on Fiverr advertising blog commenting services. Blog commenting, with links to your website is a spammy way of getting links to your website and we highly recommend avoiding the practice.
If you own a publication, forum or community that allows comments you need to take care to ensure that your comments section can’t be spammed by either bots or people. Search engines like Google will demote or completely remove pages containing spam from the search results. Using anti-spam tools like Google’s free reCAPTCHA tool is one way to mitigate the risk of spam user generated content.
A link farm is a website or a collection of websites developed solely for the purpose of link building. Each website links out to the site or sites they want to rank higher on search engines. Search engines rank websites by looking at the number of links that point to the website, among other factors. Black hat SEO exploits this by using link farms to inflate the number of backlinks a particular site has.
Link farms often have low-quality content and lots of links. The links normally contain the keyword they want the site to rank for in the anchor text. Search engines like Google can easily detect link farms and using them should be avoided. Instead, you should use white hat SEO tactics like creating amazing content, graphs, data, interviews or any other content that allows you to acquire backlinks naturally over time.
Private Blog Networks
A private blog network (PBN) is a bunch of authoritative websites used solely for link building. They are similar to link farms in that they both aim to exaggerate the number of links pointing to a website. Each PBN site links to the site they want to boost in the search results but do not link to each other.
Black Hat SEOs wanting to build a private network will normally buy expired domains that have already built up authority. They’ll write content similar to what already existed on the domain before it expired and add links to their own site. They hope that search engines won’t notice they’re controlling a network of websites and rank their main website mucher higher in the search results.
Search engines have gotten clever at spotting PBNs and your site could be hit with a severe penalty if you are using PBNs to improve your search presence. Rather than put effort into spinning up fake websites focus on creating quality content under your own domain. Keeping your content under one roof means your site will be highly authoritative as everyone will link to the one domain.
Examples of Black Hat SEO
Groupon’s Bait and Switch
Groupon was accused of doing a bait and switch by San Francisco Comprehensive Tours. The tour company ran a one of promotion with Groupon but the voucher website continued to advertise the promotion on Google long after it had ended. When searchers clicked on Groupon’s page there was no discount to be found as the content had been swapped out. This bait and switch happened in a PPC advertisement but they often happen on organic results too.
J.C. Penney’s Black Hat Links
J.C. Penney ranked at the top of search results for a vast number of keywords from “skinny jeans” to “home decor”. The retailer’s exceptional performance in search results was perfectly timed around the holiday season. This outstanding performance in search results was thanks to black hat SEO link building techniques that slipped under Google’s radar.
Just over 2,000 backlinks were discovered by Doug Pierce. These links contained anchor text with the very keywords J.C. Penney wanted to rank for on search engines. Many of the links were found on websites of no relevance to J.C. Penney. The topics of these websites ranged from casinos to cars. J.C. Penney claimed no responsibility for the links that were found in an interview with the New York Times.
Google confirmed the actions of J.C. Penney went against their webmaster guidelines and revealed that they also had violated webmaster guidelines on three previous occasions. J.C. Penney received a Google penalty that saw them drop down close to seventy positions on Google for terms such as “living room furniture.”
Sprint’s User Generated Spam
In 2013 a user called Redleg x3 posted on Google’s Webmaster Centralforum explaining Sprint got a notification from Google warning of user-generated spam on their website. Google’s Matt Cutts commented on the thread saying he could see the majority of spam had been removed from the website. He explained the company should “...try to catch the spam a little faster or see if there are some ways to make it a bit harder for the spammers to post a large amount of messages on the community pages.”
Forbes Selling Links
Someone appearing to be from Forbes posted on the Google Webmaster Central forum seeking help with a link violation notice. The notice asked Forbes to remove unnatural links from their site’s content.
Google’s Matt Cutts commented in the thread that he had confirmed multiple times that paid links that pass PageRank. Cutts recommended that Forbes remove the paid links that pass PageRank to have the penalty reversed. TechCrunch reported that Forbes began to remove the paid links back in 2011 after receiving the penalty.
Google Chrome’s Paid Link
Even Google messes up their own SEO from time to time. On one occasion they included a follow link in a sponsored post about Google Chrome. This falls under black hat SEO as the link was included as part of sponsored content that was paid for by the company.
Why You Should Avoid Black Hat SEO
While black hat SEO is not illegal, it does violate webmaster guidelines set out by search engines. In other words, it’s still against the rules. This means if you engage in black hat SEO, you must be willing to get hit with a nasty penalty as punishment. Getting a penalty from search engines will cause your website to drop down in the search results or worse, it could be removed completely. This means your website will gain less traffic and ultimately, fewer customers.
Search engines have gotten better and better at spotting black hat SEO techniques. Nowadays getting caught for practicing black hat SEO is pretty much unavoidable. Black hat SEO does not solve for the searcher nor does it solve for the search engine. While you may see short-term gains from black hat SEO over time search engines will pick up on your black hat ways damaging your presence in search.
The Blurred Lines of Grey Hat SEO
You won’t find grey hat SEO in the middle of a Robin Thicke song, but you will find it somewhere in the middle of black and white hat SEO. If there’s an SEO tactic you find hard to categorize as black or white hat SEO, then it’s probably a grey hat technique.
What is Grey Hat SEO?
Grey hat SEO consists of slightly shady SEO tactics. While they are not against search engines prohibited practices, they are slightly unethical and could be banned in the future.
Grey hat SEO threads close to the line of black hat SEO. Grey hat tactics are normally not listed in webmaster guidelines as prohibited practices but they are a little dubious. Many grey hat practices have become black hat practices over time, once search engines found out about them.
How To Avoid Black Hat SEO
There’s no doubt black hat SEO is a risky business that’s not worth engaging in. Here are best practices to avoid black hat SEO:
Don’t make your next search “how do I get rid of a Google penalty?” If you need to question whether something is black hat or not, it probably is. A white hat SEO strategy is a much better approach to search engine optimization. In the long run, it will pay dividends and you can sleep at night knowing you’ll never see a dip in your rankings due to a nasty penalty. So for the love of search engines, never do black hat SEO. After all, they are the ones that keeping us SEOs in the business.
When it comes to marketing a brand or business, one of the most debated subjects is what kind of strategy would work to meet organizational goals. In digital marketing, website traffic is among the top priorities of any company, and a ton of research goes to identifying the best strategy that can significantly boost traffic.
Two of these strategies are Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing. Because they’re both capable of directing audiences to a website to increase its visitor count, they are the most common methods to employ. But with the shifting tides on what strategy brings the most traffic referrals, which should you choose to invest in?
To fully understand where each strategy stands, and which can bring you the best results, it’s important to define where the lines are drawn between them.
Prime View defines (organic) SEO as the “grandfather of digital marketing.” Before social media, one of the best ways for a site to rank was through SEO, and optimizing a website requires attention to several vital aspects, such as backlinks, meta-tags, and authentic content.
On the other hand, social media marketing uses social media sites to gain direct traffic to a website by building and cultivating a social presence, whether through paid ads or more natural means of communication and community-building.
Despite both aiming to direct traffic to a website, SEO and social media marketing do have certain distinctions between them.
Speed of Execution
Type of Content
Key Performance Indicators
Considering these differences, what then are the strengths and weaknesses between the two that you should consider?
Which Should You Choose?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to build your own online shop with Shopify.
I’ll cover all the basics and bit more, so you could get your online store up and running ASAP.
Let’s get started…
How to Set up Your Own Online Shop with the Help of Shopify
Signing up with Shopify and starting your store couldn’t be any easier and they even offer a 14-day free trial to get you going.
To launch your Shopify store, you must sign up for an account.
1. Sign Up with Shopify
To start, visit Shopify.com. Use the signup form to start creating an account.
Enter the required details and then click the ‘Create your store now' button.
Your store name needs to be unique or Shopify will ask you to choose something else.
After this initial screen, you’ll be asked for a few more details, these include your name, address, country and a contact number.
You will also be asked if you have products and, if so, what you aim to sell. If you’re just trying out Shopify to see if it works for you, you can select ‘I’m just playing around’ in the Do you have products? dropdown, and ‘I’m not sure’ in the ‘What will you sell?’ section.
Once complete, click ‘I’m done’.
2. Start Setting Up Your Online Shop
After you’ve signed up you’ll be directed straight to your store admin screen. Now you are ready to start customizing your store’s look, uploading products and setting up payments and shipping.
3. Choose a “Theme” or “Layout”
Shopify has its own official theme store. These themes are all guaranteed to have full support from the designers so you know your store is in good hands.
All themes come with a comprehensive list of modifications you can make without having to touch a line of code. The premium themes come with more modifications, but that’s not to say you can’t achieve a great looking site with a free one. These changes are outlined in the next section.
If you want to make wholesale changes to a theme, there are very few limitations on what can be achieved by accessing the HTML and CSS. Don’t worry if you haven’t got any coding experience. Shopify has an international team of design agencies they call ‘Shopify Experts’ that you can hire to fully customize your site.
To find a theme that suits your needs we recommend the following:
1. Browse the Theme Store
Log into Shopify and visit the Shopify Theme Store at themes.shopify.com. Here you’ll find over 180 theme variations to choose from, including a good selection of free ones.
You can filter by paid or free, industry and by features. You can also sort themes by price, popularity, and most recent.
2. Check the functionality and reviews
Once you’ve found a theme you like, click on the theme’s sample image. You’ll be given more information about the theme, such as whether the theme is responsive/mobile ready among other features.
Scroll down to read some reviews to find out what e-tailers using the theme think of it.
3. Preview the theme
To see the theme in action, click View Demo. You’ll see this below the green ‘Preview Theme in your Store’ button.
If the theme comes in a range of styles, you can also view demos of the different styles by clicking on them.
4. Get the theme
Once you’ve found a theme you like, click the green button.
Shopify will ask you to confirm that you want to install the theme.
Click Publish as my Shop’s Theme.
Don’t worry if you’re not 100% sure it’s the right theme for you. You can always change your mind later.
After the theme has installed, Shopify will let you know and will give you the option to Go to your Theme Manager. Click this.
Your theme manager shows published themes (the one you installed or activated most recently) and unpublished themes below (previously installed themes).
4. Edit Shopify Settings
The majority of Shopify themes allow you to make simple changes that can massively change the appearance of your store, so you can rest assured knowing you won’t end up with a website that looks like a clone of thousands of other stores.
On your admin screen, select ‘Themes’ from the left-hand navigation menu. On this page you will see your live theme in a box at the top, in the top right-hand corner of that box will be two buttons. The first one is of three dots, which gives you some basic settings changes. One of these allows you to make a duplicate of the theme. We highly recommend you do this in case you make some changes you don’t like, then you can delete the duplicate and start again. The second button says ‘Customize Theme’. If you click that you will be taken to a page that controls all the basic functionality of your store. This is a great time for you to have a thorough play with the settings and test out all the features so you can find out what your site is capable of.
Changing colors in your theme
The most common features will include:
Some themes will also allow you to reposition elements on pages such as showing product images on the left, right or center of the page. You can also choose whether you want to display social like/tweet/pin/+1 buttons.
5. Add Your Products to The Store
From the bar on the left select ‘Products’. You will then see a blue ‘Add a product’ button in the top right-hand corner of the page. Especially look at those that will help with SEO such as name, description, and URL. Also, include as much detail about variants as possible to help inform customers about your items.
This is also the screen where you upload product pictures. Once the images are uploaded you can rearrange them so don’t worry about uploading them in any particular order.
Product images can make a sale so make sure you show your products off to their best and highlight any special or unique features with close up photos. To keep your store looking tidy we suggest you keep all images the same dimensions. Unless of course, you plan to make your collection pages look like a Pinterest board.
Once everything is filled out always remember to click the ‘Save product’ button in the top and bottom right-hand corners.
Set up collections (a group of products)
A collection is any group of products that have some feature in common that customers might look for when visiting your store. For example, your customers might be shopping for:
Products can appear in any number of collections. Usually, you would display your collections on your homepage and in the navigation bar. This helps customers find what they’re looking for without having to click through your whole catalog.
Manual and automatic collections
When you add a new collection, you can select how products should be added to it. These are the two options:
A payment gateway allows you to take payment from your customers via your website. The price and commission rate is important, but it’s also important to see what features they offer. Not all payment gateways are created equal.
You need to look at the following when choosing the right payment gateway for you.
When you take a payment, some gateways will keep a small percentage or flat fee (or sometimes both) for letting you use their service. Compare these based on what your anticipated sales are.
You need to know what types of card are accepted by your chosen Payment Gateway. All accept VISA and Mastercard, while most accept American Express. Paypal is also popular for online payments.
Some gateways will take the payment on their own servers via their own form. This means the customer is taken away from your checkout and they pay on the form provided by your payment gateway. They are then redirected to your confirmation page once the customer successfully pays. This allows you to have a bit more control of the checkout process. Now you can circumvent Shopify’s limitations in that they don’t let you customize the checkout other than with CSS.
Payment gateway transaction fees are added on top of Shopify’s own transaction fees. However, as of November stores based in the US and UK can use Shopify Payments. Depending upon your Shopify plan, you can save on these extra costs. Relative to your plan you will receive these highly appealing rates.
Depending on how many transactions you make every month it could be worth upgrading to take advantage of these savings.
If you live in the US or UK your store will automatically use Shopify Payments. To complete this, click the ‘Complete Shopify Payments account setup’ button found in Settings > Payments. If you wish to use a third party gateway you can use the ‘enable payment gateways’ link on the same page.
6. Get Your Online Shop “LIVE”
Before your site can go live you need to add a few more details about your company and how you plan to make deliveries and pay tax.
Make sure all your business information is filled out on this page. Also, make sure to make use of the Google Analytics feature. This can prove to be an invaluable source for tracking your store visitors.
If your shipping rates are too narrow, or you don’t give enough options, you may lose out on some sales. Shopify will only calculate a shipping rate for your customers based on the rules that you define in the Shipping page of the admin. To make sure you won’t lose any sales:
Test your order system
To test your system you can simulate a transaction using Shopify’s Bogus Gateway.
To use the Bogus Gateway:
Testing a real payment gateway with a genuine transaction:
Is this free?
Yes – just be sure to cancel and refund the order soon after you place it.
If your billing cycle hits after you’ve placed the test order but before you cancel it, the transaction fees will appear on your bill. You can still cancel after paying your bill to Shopify, but you’ll receive the refund as a transaction credit on your account. You can use transaction credits to pay future transaction fees.
7. Consider Buying a Domain Name
To get your site live you’ll need a domain name. You have two choices for this. Firstly you can buy a domain from Shopify and it will be added to your store automatically. This saves you time, especially if you have no knowledge of hosting a website. These domains typically cost $9-$14 USD per year. Your second option is to purchase a domain from a third party such as GoDaddy. These domains start from $1.99 USD a year. The downside is that you’ll have to redirect the DNS records yourself which can seem daunting at first.
Here are the steps to put your new Shopify store live on a third party domain name.
In the Shopify admin, from the left-hand navigation go to Settings and then Domains and add your domain name using the ‘Add an existing domain’ button.
Login to your domain registrar and make the required changes.
Otherwise, no one will be able to access your site even once it’s live.
Whilst in Settings > Domains, you can choose your main domain by using the drop-down at the top of the screen:
Ensure that you also check the ‘Redirect all traffic to this domain’. This means that traffic to all other domains will be directed to your primary domain. This is crucial for good SEO.
You can repeat steps 1 and 2 with other domain names you own. All domain names will redirect to the ‘Primary’ domain, which you can change at any time with the ‘Set as primary’ option next to each domain name.
Note that the number of domain names you own has no influence on SEO.
And that is all there is to it. In theory, you can have a great looking, unique and fully-functioning store in less than half an hour without having to be a web expert. This way you can spend most of your time marketing your product rather than having to maintain the site.
In regards to customization, Shopify allows almost every aspect of their templates to be altered in some way. You can also change the functionality of most parts of your site. On top of this, they also have the largest app store for added functionality. Comparatively, Volusion only has one template that can only have minor changes made to it.
The only real downside is not being able to fully customize your checkout. Shopify restricts access to this page for security reasons. However the checkout comes fully responsive, so it will work perfectly for customers shopping on mobile devices.
Shopify is a fast growing eCommerce platform, offering businesses the opportunity to set up an eCommerce store at affordable rates -- about 160% below the average for eCommerce platforms! If you’re looking to start building your very first business, Shopify is an easy solution.
For Shopify, the more you pay for monthly fees, the less you have to pay for processing fees. When you’re trying to decide on your Shopify plan, the key is finding the optimal plan based on your sales and transaction numbers. And with four plans ranging from $29 to $1,500 a month, offering a wide variety of features ranging from gift cards to personalized support contacts, there’s definitely an option for every type of business.
The Basic Shopify plan is a good fit for smaller businesses that are just starting out, as it’s the cheapest Shopify option with a monthly subscription fee of $29.
However, it comes with the highest credit card rate processing fee of 2.9%. As the name suggests, the Basic Shopify plan doesn’t include some of the more sophisticated features like gift cards, reports, and abandoned cart recovery. Even then, the Basic Shopify plan is still a great place to start, because as your business grows, you can always move on to higher plans.
The Shopify plan definitely works well for growing eCommerce businesses that are looking to scale up their operations, as it includes gift cards, reports, and abandoned cart recovery. These features that enable business owners to sell more through gift cards, while also offering them the opportunity to recover lost revenue through abandoned cart recovery. In addition, having access to reports provide you with valuable insights into the purchasing habits of your customers to help you make better business decisions.
You’ll also enjoy savings on credit card rates with a lower processing fee of 2.6%.
If you’re considering the Advanced Shopify plan, there’s a high chance you have a large, established company and you’re looking to grow your business even further. With the advanced report builder, you’ll be able to build custom reports that you can filter by dimensions to show you the biggest opportunities for your business when you’re looking for new openings to scale up your business.
A bigger advantage is the real-time carrier shipping information that ensures you offer customers carrier based shipping prices at the checkout. Having this information can help prevent cart abandonment since one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment comes from the customer encountering unexpected costs.
In addition to this, you’ll have the lowest processing fees at 2.4%.
Shopify Plus is the equivalent of a bespoke enterprise level eCommerce solution. It also takes the strain of order management off your shoulders as you won’t have to worry about incurring any transaction fees.
In addition, you’ll also have a dedicated project manager, an account manager, personalized support contacts, negotiated Shopify Payments rates, and early access to beta features.