SEO

How Important is an SEO-Friendly Domain Name?

How Important is an SEO-Friendly Domain Name?

Often times I'm asked by clients to help them choose a domain name. Google does give some weight to the keywords in domain names, although not as much as they used to. Nevertheless, having keywords in your domain name is still important because it can give you a small bump, possibly improving your search engine ranking. Let's say you have a roofing company that primarily serves the Chicagoland area and your business name is XYZ Roofing. Some good SEO-Friendly domain name options would be xyzroofingchicago.com or chicagolandxyzroofing.com. Whenever possible you want to combine your service (roofing), service area (Chicago or Chicagoland) and company name.

I have an existing domain name - Should I change it?

No. Another more important ranking factor is the age of your domain. A domain that has been in existence for 20 years with a company website on it gets a lot of credit from Google. If you already have a domain name with a website on it just keep it. I have moved existing websites to a new domain with 301 permanent redirects from all the old URL's to the new URL's. 100% of the time the ranking takes a hit. It will eventually rebound, but most companies can't afford to lose traffic.

Where can I see what domain names are available for purchase?

There are many domain registrars but my favorite is Namecheap. They charge $8.88/year to register a domain, which is one of the lowest prices you will find. Their website is easy to use and they've been around for a long time. Right on their homepage, there's a box to search available domain names.

Is a long URL going to be tough for customers to type in?

While SEO-Friendly domain names are great for SEO, a super long domain name can be annoying for customers. Try to limit your domain name to 20 characters or less. Another thing to consider is that most people will just do a Google search (ie XYZ Roofing) when they're looking for your company, so don't worry too much about the URL. One of my customers on Long Island, NY came to me with a URL he already had, which is longislandwindowwashingpowerwashing.com. While it's a really long and inconvenient URL to type in, his search rankings are really good because of it. Balance is key.

There's a lot more to SEO

While your domain name is a ranking factor, it's not a huge factor. Having a good title, description, headings and content is also crucial. Backlinks to your website and company information listings are also very important. If you're looking for a domain name, have an existing domain or just need some SEO improvement, please contact me today. I'd love the opportunity to help your business improve its web presence.

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How to Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics and Schedule Emailed Reports

How to Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics and Schedule Emailed Reports

Google Analytics is the best way to see who is visiting your website, where they came from, what they did on your website and more details on their overall interactions with your website. I install Google Analytics on every website I build, but very few of my clients actually monitor the statistics it provides. While Google Analytics can seem overwhelming due to the wealth of information it provides, I'm going to show you how to create a custom report that will simplify these statistics. Even better, Google Analytics allows the ability to schedule this report to be emailed on a scheduled basis (once, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly).

To create a custom dashboard on Google Analytics first pull up your websites Google Analytics page and click on 'Customizations' beneath 'Home', then select 'Dashboard'. When you click the Create button you will be given the option to create a blank dashboard or use their starter dashboard, which has some of the most common widgets all ready to go. You can add up to 12 widgets. How you choose to set up your dashboard is entirely up to you. Widgets pull information stored in Google Analytics and display that information as a number, graph, map, table, pie chart or bar graph. Some common examples are Users (Total Visits), % New Sessions (New Visitors), Users By Source (If a user clicked a link to visit your website rather than typing in the URL, where did they click that link), Sessions by City (Where do your visitors live), Sessions by Keyword (What term did they search for to find your website) and the list goes on and on.

Lucky for you, I have created a pretty great custom dashboard that you can easily import into your Google Analytics account by simply clicking this link. The widgets I created give a pretty good overview of how many people visited your website over a 1 week period, new vs returning visitors, most popular days of the week, what they searched for, where they came from, how much time they spent on your website, what browser they were using and the type of traffic (paid/organic/direct/referral).

Who wants to login to Google Analytics every day and stare at numbers? I certainly don't, so I setup reports to be emailed out on a weekly basis in PDF format. All you have to do after you create your custom report is click on the email button above the report. You can choose who you want to send the report to (you can add multiple emails by separating them with a comma), write a subject, message and decide how often you want the report to go out (once, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). After that sit back and let your reports come to you!

I highly recommend if you have a website with Google Analytics you click through all the different options you have. You can do a lot more than creating reports. If you want to learn more about the power of Google Analytics and how to use the information gathered to improve your business, please contact me today. I'd love to help you out.

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The Top Social Media Platforms For Your Business

The Top Social Media Platforms For Your Business

Google has been giving more and more SEO weight to companies that actively use social media. I recommend that all of my clients post on social media as often as possible, ideally once per week. While I know that's a challenge, it's becoming increasingly important to help your search engine rankings. Buffer is a great tool that allows you to post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest at the same time, from one place. I would currently consider those the top social media platforms for businesses ranked:

  1. Facebook - 2.23 billion monthly active users
  2. Instagram - 1 billion monthly active users
  3. Twitter - 335 million monthly active users
  4. LinkedIn - 294 million monthly active users
  5. Pinterest - 250 million monthly active users

In addition to these 5 social media platforms, I can't understate the importance of YouTube (1.9 billion monthly active users) and Google My Business posts. YouTube can be tough if you don't like being on camera, but even short videos carry weight. YouTube is a Google product... Google likes when you use their products. Speaking of which, within the last year Google has started allowing companies to post on their Google My Business listing. These posts show up on your Google business profile and show for one week... another indicator Google wants you to post every week. Unfortunately, there's no way to currently post to Google My Business through Buffer or similar tools, but I'm sure that will change.

Optimizing your use of hashtags and posting weekly on as many social media platforms as possible is the key to success. Posts can be as simple as a picture with a sentence, or an entire blog post. I integrate Wordpress with Buffer so you can create a blog post and automatically have it sent out to your social media platforms. That way you're getting SEO benefits from creating content on your website while also getting credit for the social media aspect.

If you would like to learn more about posting on social media, or are interested in getting pricing to have me post for you, contact me today.

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Google Local Service Ads

Google Local Services Ads – A New Google Ad Program

Google Local Services is a new ad platform by Google, not to be confused with Google AdWords. Perhaps you have already seen these ads - they appear in the same place Google AdWords would typically appear (before search results) but the one thing that makes them different is the green check mark by the ad with "GOOGLE GUARANTEED" appearing next to it. There has been a lot of confusion about the difference between Google Local Services and Google Adwords - let me explain.

In order to have a Google Local Services account, there is some vetting that has to be performed by Google. When creating an account you have to send your business license and insurance details, complete a free background check and have a verified customer write a review. This process typically takes over a month to complete. Hopefully Google will speed up this process, but this is what I've experienced recently when setting up accounts for clients.

Google Local Services charges on a per lead basis. In other words, you don't get charged when a customer clicks on your ad - you get charged when the customer calls you. This is a key differentiator between AdWords and Local Services. AdWords charges every time someone clicks on your ad and visits your website. The cost per lead with Local Services is significantly more than the cost per click with AdWords. The cost varies by industry. I've read reports that some industries charge as little as $5 per lead up to $150 per lead. Like Google AdWords, Local Services pricing is based on competition.

With Google AdWords, you target keyword searches within a service area. Google Local Services shows your ads based on the type of service you offer. You still get to select a service area to display the ads, but the options are not as detailed as Google AdWords.

At the time of this article, Google Local Services is not available for all industries and is specific to certain service areas. If your industry qualifies, I think Google Local Services is worth the investment. If you're interested in setting up a Google Local Services or Google AdWords account, I can help. Contact me today to learn more about getting an ad campaign setup for your business.

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How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

How To Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is a tool to manage your company's online presence across Google, including search and maps. Over time Google My Business has changed quite a bit and they're always adding additional features to help business owners connect with potential clients. In my opinion, this is the most important listing for any business and it's crucial that the information listed is accurate and comprehensive.

Once you login to your Google My Business account, navigate to the "Info" tab. Ensure the categories selected for your business are accurate. You can select multiple categories, which I encourage you do. Sometimes Google will word categories differently so be sure to research other companies in your industry to see which categories they're using. A search on Google Maps will show the main category below the business name. For example, if you look at my listing you'll see my main category is "Website Designer".

Next, make sure your business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) is accurate. See this article I wrote regarding the importance of your NAP. Ensure your business hours, website URL and services are accurate. For the description take your time and make sure it sounds professional.

One of the most commonly overlooked sections of Google My Business is the Photos tab. Add as many photos as possible, especially if you're in the service industry. Potential customers want to see your work and your employees doing the work. Personally, I won't even consider calling a company if there aren't pictures of them doing work.

More recently Google My Business added a section for "Posts". My theory is this was introduced to replace Google+. The problem with these posts is they only show on your profile for one week. If you create blog posts on a weekly basis (which you should be doing for SEO) then just copy those over. Otherwise I recommend posting SOMETHING weekly. Google is putting a lot of weight on this right now.

If you need help claiming your business on Google or need other website work contact me today and I'll be happy to help.

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Why Your Business NAP is so Important

Why Your Business NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) is so Important

NAP is short for your business name, address and phone number. When Google scans various databases on the internet for your company it's absolutely crucial that these three items are EXACT and consistent. If I was on Yelp as "Brian Houdek The Web Designer" or "Brian Houdek Web Design LLC" or "Brian Houdek Web Design Inc" Google would look at that as a completely different company than "Brian Houdek Web Design". If your address is "123 Test St" it's crucial you write it exactly the same throughout the internet. "123 Test St." (dot after St.) or "123 Test Street" will be looked at as different and therefore not the same company. Finally, your phone number must remain consistent. Did your number change over the years? Do you have a local number and an 800 number? Make sure you always pick one primary phone number and always enter that phone number as the primary one.

The more LEGITIMATE databases your company information is in the better for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). These directories give your business validity in the eyes of Google. Most of them link back to your website, which is another ranking factor Google uses. As a rule of thumb, I recommend my clients use their Google My Business listing as the "master" listing, ensuring all other listings have the same information.

On the Internet there are four major data aggregators that store your business information. These are Neustar Localeze, InfoUSA, Acxiom and Factual. These data aggregators take your business information and push it out to many smaller databases on the Internet. In addition to these aggregators, there are also many big name directories your business should be in. Examples are Bing Places For Business, Apple Maps, Angie's List, Manta and many, many more.

I have multiple tools to scan these databases and see where your business information is missing or inaccurate. I can easily update this information and charge a flat fee. If you want me to run a free scan for your business contact me today.

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Buffer Makes Multi-Channel Social Media Posting Easy

Buffer Makes Multi-Platform Social Media Posting Easy

It has been proven that a business who is active in social media ranks higher. It's part of Google's ranking algorithm. Another important part of Google's ranking algorithm is having fresh content on your website (ie a blog). How nice would it be to make a blog post on your website and have it automatically go to multiple social media platforms... That's what Buffer can do (with some plugins).

Buffer by itself allows you to schedule posts, analyze performance, and manage all your social media accounts in one place. Supported platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. You can link to three social media platforms for free. If you want to post to them all (highly recommended) they currently charge $144/year. You can create posts within Buffer's website, schedule posts and very easily post to a single social media platform, or all at once.

The real power of Buffer is revealed when you integrate your WordPress blog with it. Wordpress to Buffer Pro is an awesome tool that allows your WordPress blog to connect to Buffer. You can choose to either send the posts to Buffer and review them there before posting, or just automatically post the article to ALL your social media platforms at once. That's what I do and I LOVE it. It saves me a ton of time.

I have implemented this solution for numerous clients and they have reaped the benefits by ranking higher. As I've mentioned before, SEO is not one or two things. It's many things that have to be followed in order to improve your ranking. This solution not only satisfies Google's need for fresh content on your website, but it also satisfies the social media aspect of SEO. If you're interested in implementing this solution on your website, contact me today.

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DepositPhotos - My Preferred Stock Photo Website

DepositPhotos – My Preferred Stock Photo Website

Professional stock photos are great for websites, blogs, social media or graphic design projects. Stock photo providers allow you to purchase a license to use their photos commercially. The cost of stock photos varies greatly but over the years my favorite has been DepositPhotos. On their website, they have over 100 million stock photos (and vector files).

I pay DepositPhotos $25/month for up to 25 downloads per month. This is under their Flexible Plan. Unused downloads rollover, which is great. The minimum package you can purchase is 10 images for $49. To put things in perspective Getty Images charges $500 for one image.

There are times DepositPhotos does not have an image I need. In that case, I usually visit Photodune (pay per image $5 - $10 ea), 123RF (Similar price structure), Adobe Stock (expensive) or Shutterstock (expensive).

At the end of the day, over 100 million great stock photos to choose from is sufficient for my needs. Their quality is great and I've never had any issues with them. If you're looking for great stock photos I recommend you check out DepositPhotos.

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Google Analytics

Google Analytics Basics

Google Analytics is a free tool offered by Google to help you analyze your website traffic. Google Analytics gives you a short piece of code to place on your website that records various activities of your users when they visit your website. Things such as age, gender, interests, which pages they visit, how long they stay on those pages and which website they were referred from are all provided by Google Analytics.

All of my clients have Google Analytics installed on their website. Below are a few resources you can use if you're interested in learning more about Google Analytics and how to use it.

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Wordpress 5.0 Gutenberg Editor

WordPress 5.0 Update – The Gutenberg Editor – What You Need to Know

I don't usually post about Wordpress updates since they're released a few times a year and are typically minor updates. However, Wordpress 5.0 is the biggest update/change Wordpress has released in a long time. Good news if you're my client - I upgraded every website I manage within the first hour Wordpress 5.0 was released! 

Most of my clients don't touch the Wordpress backend much. However, if you have a blog and make the posts yourself you will definitely notice some changes. The Gutenberg editor is quite a bit different than the previous text editor that came with Wordpress. Each paragraph is defined as a "block". In web design, we use blocks for everything. Responsive web design, specifically Bootstrap, relies on blocks to create responsive websites that respond (stack/resize) depending upon the device you're using.

When writing using the Gutenberg editor things are a little different, but I feel most people who have used prior versions of Wordpress should be able to figure it out fairly easily (or any text editor for that matter). One big change that I noticed was when you want to add an image, heading, gallery, list etc to the post you may be lost at first. In the top left-hand side of the page, you will find a + symbol. When you click on that symbol you will be given options for what type of block you want to add. There are many different elements you can add, very easily. 

There were many other technical changes with Wordpress 5.0. If you would like to learn more about this update contact me today and I would be happy to walk you through all the new changes.

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