Are you still following outdated information about hosted websites? Previous SEO limitations aren't much of an issue anymore.
Over the past few years, Google has encouraged owners of newer, smaller sites to opt for today's typical hosted websites rather than attempting to create an entirely new website from scratch. Google recommends template-based platforms for sites up to about 100 pages, or even much larger if the site isn't particularly complex. As recently as last week (early May 2017) Google has stated that the few possible shortcomings of well-known hosted websites are strongly outweighed by the benefits. "The commonly used platforms create good web pages, they work in search, they're easy to set up, and you don't have to worry about the technical details."
In the past, SEO experts have warned against some issues with hosted platforms, but the gap has narrowed substantially, and the small technical advantages absent in template-based hosts are widely considered insignificant at this time.
Google points out that newcomers faced with building a website from the ground up frequently delay launching or sometimes never manage to develop an online presence. But website hosting, "helps you focus on what you're really trying to do, like running a business." Google prefers to see these business owners "use something where the technical details are already taken care of." For example, with website hosting, "you don't need to worry about maintaining the server, implementing updates, and so on. It's all handled for you."
And from Google's point of view, from the SEO perspective, "They just work!"
Of course, if you're using a hosted website, it's crucial to know how to take full advantage of the SEO opportunities they provide. There's on-page SEO (what the customer can see), which follows all the basic guidelines that we've talked about here in the blog and that are available from a variety of reputable sources. There are also places behind the scenes that are essential for visibility on the web. You should know where the correct hidden boxes are, what kinds of information should be entered into each type of box, and what form the information should take (words, data, phrases, complete sentences, etc.).
In most cases, with hosted websites, this process is actually pretty easy. Once you know where the boxes are, it's often a matter of common sense when deciding what the title of your page should be, and what to put in the page description. For example, the page description is the little snippet that pops up in search results, so it should be a normal sounding statement for the customer's benefit, not for SEO. Most platforms also allow you to customize the page URL, which has some minor SEO value, and also shows up in a customer's browser tab.
Watch this blog for more details on using SEO on common hosted platforms. In the meantime, feel free to comment or ask a question. And browse the blog for more on SEO, copywriting, social media and marketing.
Need immediate help for your website or Etsy shop? Consider a professional one-on-one consult or written critique to get you going. Or sign up for hourly coaching, professional help on call whenever you need it! Visit The Copywriting Coach on Etsy for details. For larger sites and projects, visit Services here for a free consultation.
Don't forget your Etsy shop categories when using keywords! Watch the screencast to learn about a major SEO opportunity!
Etsy shop categories are easy to overlook when planning out your SEO strategies. They're off to the side on the computer, and behind a tab on mobile. But it turns out that Google pays attention to those labels and uses them to identify your shop and its products. Watch the screencast to get a few quick tips about what to avoid and what to aim for when naming your Etsy shop sections.
After viewing, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Also, browse the blog for more on SEO, copywriting, social media and marketing.
There's no point in overdoing specific keywords. Google will either ignore you or apply penalties. Avoid trying to "work" the system.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of purposely inserting specific words and phrases in non-natural ways in an attempt to call more attention to a page's content in online searches. Over the years, Google has become very smart about detecting abnormal text and will either apply penalties to your site or simply ignore the page where the keyword stuffing appears.
Keyword stuffing usually refers to long strings of keywords that don't look like sentences at all. Or sentences that are awkwardly written to repeat certain key phrases. "Maya's Gold Jewelry offers gold jewelry at the best gold jewelry prices in today's competitive gold jewelry markets."
You might also have heard the phrase keyword density. This relates to an outdated practice used to determine the optimum amount of times that a keyword phrase should be used on a particular page. As Google has recently said, keyword density is "no longer a thing." In fact, Google states that after a particular phrase appears on a page a couple times, the effect on relevance might actually drop. Yes, that's right. The first couple times, you're doing the right thing by showing the search engine that your page really is about that topic. After that, Google starts losing interest. By overdoing it, you could be hurting yourself rather than helping.
Google consistently recommends that you write for people, not for search engines. Google's algorithm is designed specifically to find content that naturally delivers information of importance to the searcher, and is relevant to users based on the actual value it delivers, not solely on the keywords that appear on the page.
If you insert a good keyword phrase once, that's enough for Google to see it and use it. On a longer page, one or two other mentions can be helpful, assuming that they're integrated in a natural way. But be cautious about overusing keyword phrases to the point where you trigger a negative reaction.
Earlier this month, Google also made it clear that the algorithm can tell (don't ask me how) whether apparent keyword stuffing is the result of an active attempt to manipulate search results, or if it just reflects a spurt of enthusiasm on the part of the site owner. "We know that many websites aren't really trying to fool Google's system. It might just be a normal attempt to get across what the website is all about. Maybe they're just following bad advice they got somewhere. We want to rank a website based on the good things on it, rather than remove it for any small thing they do."
In general, Google's approach nowadays is to negate the effect of manipulative actions by simply ignoring them. Which means that, instead of having greater effect on results, these attempts to rig the system end up having no effect at all.
Cynthia Pepper-Jones, Gypsum Moon
Google's secret algorithm strikes a balance between keyword relevance and content quality. What's the best approach for success?
As we've seen in previous posts, being seen in Google search results involves a lot more than just keywords. Google's ranking formula incorporates over 200 diverse factors, including popularity measures and content quality assessments. Not only that, but, order to provide the best experience for Google searchers, the algorithm changes almost daily! How can a small business like yours get a better handle on how search works, in order to decide where to focus your limited time and resources?
The first step is becoming more comfortable with the difference between keyword relevance (how closely your content matches up with customer searches) and content quality (how highly Google values your content based on its ranking factors). If you focus solely on one aspect of Google's complex algorithm, you could miss significant opportunities for optimization.
Although Google provides hundreds of pages of information and recommendations regarding how to use keywords and how to optimize content quality, it maintains secrecy over the exact relationship between the two areas of SEO in its algorithm. In my opinion, this is perfectly natural, since Google is a business and there's no reason for it to release all of its in-house, proprietary knowledge. Other search engines have their own secret recipes, and it makes sense for Google to keep its constantly evolving approach under wraps.
Nevertheless, recent statements from Google indicate that the algorithm uses both keyword relevance and quality as prime considerations, and both are strongly involved in determining where a page ends up in search results.
A lot of SEO discussions focus on keywords only, and those discussions have become widespread enough that even small businesses have begun to incorporate keyword research into their daily routine. But what about the quality side? It's important to focus just as strongly on areas that include (but aren't limited to):
Clearly, this is an ongoing conversation, with lots more to talk about. Stay tuned for upcoming posts that will focus on specific ways to strengthen the quality of your site, outside activities that will help your ranking, and insider details about how search works. In the meantime, feel free to browse the blog for more tips on SEO, copywriting, social media and marketing.
Need immediate help? Visit Services to learn about consults and coaching options.
Your best keywords aren't always at the top of each website page? No problem. View the screencast to learn more!
It turns out that Google doesn't care where your content is on a website page—including the landing page—as long as it's consistent and reflects the overall purpose of the website itself. This is especially true as Google moves toward "Mobile First" ranking, which focuses on mobile optimization versus the desktop. View the screencast to learn more, and to find out about a couple important exceptions.
If you're wondering about pop-up ads and sign-ups, read No Pop-Ups! here on the blog.
After you've seen the screencast, feel free to comment or ask a question. And check the blog for other posts on SEO, copywriting, social media and marketing.
Keywords in your web address don't help with SEO, so focus instead on a brand that customers will remember.
If you've been around for a while, you might know that Google search used give a slight edge to domains (primary web addresses) containing relevant keywords. If a user searched on a specific keyword, and your domain name contained that keyword, you got a little bump in the results.
Not anymore. Today, Google recommends choosing a domain name based on long-term marketing goals, not on potential SEO value. Select a name that reflects your brand, communicates your style, and can be easily remembered by the customers you're attempting to attract.
URL keywords aren't ignored, but their impact on relevance is minimal, and they don't affect ranking at all. "Keywords in the URL might mean something, but they carry incredibly little weight." [Google Webmasters Forum, November, 2016]
Google points out that some of the largest, most well-known companies in the world have chosen business names and domains that don't incorporate relevant keywords. One obvious example is, well, Google. A few others you might recognize are Amazon, Ikea, Apple, Canon, Lego, and so on. Google suggests that you "worry more about the effect on the humans than about the possible effect on the [SEO] machine." [Google Webmasters Forum, May, 2014]
As with everything nowadays, Google continues to recommend sites that connect with customers in a natural way, with straightforward, quality content, and branding that makes logical and emotional sense to visitors.
"The failure road is paved with people with good intentions who put emphasis on what they thought was a slight SEO lift over solid brand building." [Google Webmasters Forum, September, 2016]
For marketing purposes, you might want to use a descriptive word in your business name or domain to give customers a clear idea of what your business is all about. But for keywords, focus on the title field of your main site page as the correct place for your top searchable site terms. Website hosting platforms provide a place where you can customize this information. On Etsy, it's the first part of your Etsy title, which is the line that appears under your shop name.
Also keep in mind that Google search tends to be less important for small or new businesses, because it's hard to rank without a strong, visible following. Consider spending more time on marketing, less time on worrying about exact SEO details. It isn't just about keywords.
How do you feel about your own business name and domain? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And look through the blog for more tips on SEO, marketing, social media and copywriting.
Free group coaching available now! SEO, marketing, copywriting, social media. Tips daily, plus one-on-one advice for your e-commerce website or Etsy shop. For members of The Copywriting Coach group on Facebook.
From Google: Social media links and activities don't help SEO. Focus social media on marketing, not SEO.
Did you ever wonder if links from Facebook to your e-commerce website improve your Google SEO? The answer is no. The links themselves, and the traffic resulting from them, aren't used at all by Google's algorithm. The same goes for likes, follows, views, and so on. And this also applies to Pinterest, Instagram and all other social media platforms. Even Google+ doesn't rate in Google's algorithm. [Source: Google Webmasters, February 2017]
If you currently engage in like-for-like games where sellers swap visits to each other's sites from Facebook, you might consider re-focusing your time. The only value to that kind of activity is the visibility you'll get among other sellers. Which could conceivably lead to a couple sales. But it won't boost your visibility on Google.
This doesn't mean that you should stop using social media. On the contrary, social media provides many services that search can't. For example, it can help you:
Note that your social media pages have their own SEO ranking, which means that the content that appears on them can sometimes show up in search results. Users might even click through to your social media accounts from Google searches. But this activity doesn't impact the ranking of your website itself.
Organic links from valued websites (not social media) continue to play a top role in Google ranking. So keep working on developing a solid reputation that will motivate other website owners to recommend you to their visitors.
Authorized sources indicate that social media activity isn't tracked by Etsy's search algorithm either. So Etsy shops can approach social media in the same way as independent websites. Use social media in the ways it works best, and for SEO, focus on optimizing your content quality and keyword strategies. Read SEO: It's More Than Just Keywords for additional tips.
Does this change things for you? Will you be acting differently on social media? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And please browse the blog for more on SEO, copywriting and social media.
Etsy sellers! Do you know what your shop title is? Watch the screencast to find out if you've been using it correctly for Google!
Google tells us that one of the most important pieces of keyword information on any site is the title of the main site page. But where is this in an Etsy shop? It's important to make sure that this line of text includes your best SEO keywords. And it turns out that, on Etsy, it's also easy to make a very costly mistake. Watch the screencast to learn more.
If you have questions after watching, please feel free to comment. Also, browse the blog for more tips on SEO, copywriting and social media.
Note: This SEO snapshot was created for The Copywriting Coach on Facebook, specifically for our Office Hours group. This exclusive venue provides personalized, one-on-one coaching in a group setting, a daily schedule of rotating topics, and lots of perks. And it's free! Join The Copywriting Coach to participate!
Of course, keywords are important. But the exact order of the words in a keyword phrase, maybe not so much. Find out what Google advises.
Google consistently states that one of the main goals of its algorithm is to properly balance relevance (how well your page or site matches up with users' search terms) and quality (how effectively your page or site delivers the information promised). Which means that if you focus solely on keyword strategy, you're missing out on half the equation. And if you run a small business, you might be missing out altogether.
In situations where there are a lot of choices, Google will always show larger, more high-quality sites first, even without an exact keyword match or matching keyword phrases. Google might even give preference to pages using synonyms!
The first step is relevance, the match-up. The next step is ranking, the quality. So even if you're first in the door with an exact match, you'll probably be left behind if there are a lot of well-established, high-quality sites competing with you.
Note that if a person who's searching puts quotes around a phrase, the quotes cause Google to look for that exact phrase. Example: "red prom dress." Per Google, "Without the quotes, Google is just looking for pages with those words, but in any order, and not necessarily adjacent." (Google Webmasters, February 2017) This is important, since the vast majority of ordinary customers search without quotes.
If you have a smaller, newer site, or a site with lots of competition, spend less time on keywords, and more time on other methods of driving traffic to your site. Some Google-authorized experts even state outright that very small sites that are subdomains in marketplaces like Etsy or eBay won't rank at all in Google search. So if that's true, extensive keyword research—from the Google search point of view—might not be the best use of your time, at least while you're still growing.
Google itself recommends alternatives such as advertising, social media marketing, and other strategies that can help build your reputation and motivate people to link to your site. Google also strongly urges newer and smaller sites to incorporate quality content that's as unique as possible.
Side note for Etsy sellers: Etsy search (inside Etsy itself) works a little differently. Etsy does give preference to exact keyword matches when buyers use the Etsy search bar. This type of search doesn't have any connection with Google searches.
Feel free to comment. And browse the blog for more on SEO, copywriting and social media.
Google's own downloadable guide targets proper spelling as a significant factor for page ranking. Let's see what this means for your site.
I've told clients previously that the accuracy of site copywriting counts for SEO, but here's recent confirmation straight from Google. It points to spelling as a major factor for page ranking, the quality piece of the SEO equation.
Page ranking is how Google determines where to show you in search results. First comes relevancy, which is how closely your page content matches up with a user's search terms. Once Google finds out that you do match up, the next step is ranking. Are you number one, number ten, or somewhere at the end?
Run a spell check on your text before copying it into a listing or other shop/website page. Note that spell checkers don't catch everything, and unfortunately sometimes make mistakes, but it's a very good start.
If you feel you're weak with spelling (and grammar, too, by the way), have a professional editor go through your site and highlight the major mistakes you're making. There's often a pattern to the errors, and you can fix that easily.
There are a lot of factors involved in SEO, and of course spelling is only one of them. I'll talk more about Google's definition of "high quality," how search works in general, the most effective way to use keywords, and more, in future posts.
By the way, there's a huge amount of current, clear information available, completely free, on Google help pages and Google Webmaster pages. You do need to skim past the techie stuff, so if technical details make you cringe, keep watching here for bite-sized pieces that you can apply quickly to your own site. Also, browse the blog for other tips on SEO, copywriting and social media.
Barbara Clavan provides copywriting, coaching and consulting services to high-growth businesses, high-profile individuals and creative entrepreneurs.
Visit Services to learn more.