How To Hide the Address For A Google My Business Listing

 

  1. Log into your Google My Business (GMB) dashboard
  2. Click on the Info tab
  3. Click on the address area (below the blue section)
  4. Choose ‘Yes’ to the – I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location
  5. Make sure that – I also serve customers at my address – is uncheked
  6. Click the Apply button

Your business address will now be hidden from public view on your Google listing. It will only show a general location (for example the town or city).

 

Hide Google Business Listing Address step 1

 

e Google Business Listing Address step 2

 

If you are not able to access these screens, then it is possible your account is not yet verified.

Having A Bad SEO Month? Take A Look At Search Trends

It’s easy to grasp the fact that most e-commerce sites will have various cyclical trends throughout the year. Maybe an uptrend before Christmas, maybe a downtrend for the summer, but other kinds of businesses have trends as well that may not be so apparent. Sometimes they are not yearly events, and the business owner may not even be aware that a trend exists.

An attentive business owner may notice that they are getting fewer phone calls or lead form submissions. They might check their web traffic and see that there have been less visitors for the last few weeks or months.

What do you do when they start asking questions about why they are getting less business?

It’s not good when your client starts to question the value of your work. You need to find a reason that explains what is going on. Chances are you will find the answer in their traffic data, so let’s get into it.

Had A Bad Month For Your SEO Results?

While looking at your GMB data for the month do you see numbers like this and start to freak out?

Lower traffic in Google MY Business Insights

Both of these panels show the GMB summary data for their listings during November 2017. It’s not fun when it’s time to give your monthly report to a client and you are looking at these kinds of numbers. However, it just so happens that these two businesses are both dentists for completely different cities.

thinking face emojiHmm, maybe it’s not me (and what I thought was my expert SEO work) after all…

Search Trends Not On Your Radar

Let’s take a look at the general search trends in one of the cities included in the previous GMB Insight panel. Using Google Trends, I’ve typed in the broad search term of ‘dentist’ and filtered it to the specific city I want to look at, in this case Los Angeles.

If your city is not large enough and does not have enough population, the graph may look jumpy, it’ll probably be better to use a larger geographic area, like the entire State, to get smoother lines.

You can see that for the period we are interested in, there is a definite downtrend in general searches for the term ‘dentist’. For two weeks in November, the amount of search drops 25%! Well, that certainly could explain the drop in exposure of the GMB listing and in the organic search results.

 Fewer traffic searches for dentists in November

 

Seeing this prompts me to investigate a little further. Was this a one time deal, or is this a cyclical trend? Let’s take a look at a longer time frame across the whole country this time to get a good picture.

Search trends for dentists

Aha, looks like the Thanksgiving holiday is the cause of the lower search volumes for dentists in November. There is a definite spike downwards the third week of November every year. This is enough to skew results for the entire month.

Holidays Do Not Always Drive Search Trends For Businesses

Although, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas might be obvious times to look for disruption in search volumes, whether it be up or down, there are certainly other factors that affect the number of people looking for local business services.

Let’s take another example, this time a lawyer in Houston Texas. This is his GMB Insight panel for the month of November. Ouch!

Lower November traffic for lawyers

 

This lawyer in particular focuses on immigration law, and when we take a look at the general trends for that, we see a general downtrend starting from January and coming to it’s lowest point so far in November. A 50% reduction in searches for ‘immigration lawyer’ during the year!

immigration search trends for Houston Texas

In fact, this is a general trend for across the entire United States. 20% fewer searches for ‘immigration lawyer’ starting from Sept 2017 and continuing till the end of November.

Search trends of rimmigration lawyers for 2017

It’s difficult to know if this trend explains the entire drop in traffic we see for the GMB Insights panel shown above without looking into more detail into the analytics of the specific sight. But obviously, in this case the political arena has changed concerning immigration and is causing this trend down for the entire country.

Explaining Away Poor SEO Results

I wouldn’t try to use trends to explain away all poor SEO results. Obviously looking at the search phrase rankings will let you know if you have lost positions for major traffic search terms to your competitors. A deep dive into the analytics data might also be warranted to see if there are any specific pages that are more affected than others.

Also consider the opposite direction as well, and don’t necessarily take all the credit for your ‘awesome SEO work’ when you see increased traffic if has been during a good uptrend.

Finding Search Trends That Affect Businesses

All businesses, even local business, can be impacted by trends. General search trends caused by seasons or holidays may be obvious to a business owner. But as we see in the case above, even Federal politics can affect local businesses.

This is something that the business owner might be aware of already, they might have a general sense of what’s going on in the news that could be impacting their business, but as digital marketers, we have access to data and we need to use that data to drive our decisions.

By using Google Trends, we can quantify that search trend a bit more for the business owner so that they better understand impacts to their business. It possibly also gives you a bit more breathing room as well for your SEO efforts when they call you up asking why they have had less sales or clients during the past month.

This article originally posted to Joy Hawkins SEO Blog.

Answering Common Google Sitemap Questions

sitemap problems

In this article I will explore questions regarding HTML and XML sitemaps. Although a sitemap is basically a list of all the web pages of your site, there are a number of issues that can crop up and need to be dealt with.

Submitting an XML sitemap helps make sure the search engines know about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be found by a normal crawling process.

[Note: If you have a particularly large website, you will need to use a sitemap index. Search engines will only index the first 50,000 URLs in a sitemap, so if your site has more than 50,000 URLs, you will need to use an index to connect multiple sitemaps together. You can learn how to create indices at sitemaps.org]

Why Submit A Sitemap To Google?

Ever wonder why you should submit your sitemap to Google and the other search engines, or if there is really any value in doing it?

The benefits of submitted a sitemap to Google Search Console are numerous. At the very least, a proper sitemap will have a list of every page that on your site that you would like a search engine to know about. With a sitemap, a website can be efficiently be crawled since the search engine will know exactly how many pages your website has.

Sitemaps also let you give a crawl prioritization rate to web pages. Now although a crawler may not pay attention to the priority you assign a page, this helps that the pages carrying your most important content will be crawled and indexed faster than those with a less priority value.

Why Use Automatically Generated Sitemaps?

There are CMS plugins that are able to generate a sitemap automatically. This means that every time a new piece of information, page, or article is published on your site, the sitemap for that site is updated and submitted to a search engine.

Some popular WordPress Sitemap Plugins:

Google XML Sitemaps

Yoast (includes a sitemap section)

Some pieces of information should be delivered when still fresh, like news articles. You won’t have to wait and guess when the spiders are likely to pay your website a visit. If a sitemap is submitted automatically, you know right away that your new page is in the queue to be visited.

This can be a very important task to make sure that a search engine knows which site is holding the original content. Since content is often syndicated across many web platforms, a Google crawler may find your syndicated content before it finds the content on your site.

Making Sure Google Knows Who Was First

It’s also not uncommon for publishers to have their site’s content “curated” by other websites without a formal syndication agreement. This means that Google may find your article’s content on a popular site (that gets crawled much more often than your own) before it finds the content on your own site.

Telling Google for example, that your page (and content) holds the original and was published before it was delivered to your Facebook or LinkedIn page is important for the rankings your site.

XML sitemaps help content creators establish their claim as the content originator, as the duplicate version will most likely not be found in a search.

Common Questions About Sitemap Submissions

Will the submission of my sitemap mean that my site will be indexed right away?

No. Submitting a sitemap tells a search engine that pages on your site exist, but it doesn’t mean that a crawler will be visiting right away.

Will submitting a sitemap help my site rank higher?

No. Each page in your site will be ranked accordingly and will not be affected by it’s inclusion in a sitemap. A sitemap helps search engines know about the pages on your site, but does not affect it’s rankings once it is known about.

Why is there a difference between my submitted pages and indexed pages?

Google says: “submitting a sitemap does not guarantee indexation of pages”. This is because Google will keep in it’s index the most important pages. Pages in your sitemap map may include ‘login’ pages, and ‘privacy policy’, and other less important pages. These pages may not have enough content for Google to keep in it’s index even though you have put them on your sitemap list.

Will Google show me what pages in my sitemap are indexed?

Google does not show you which pages are indexed. It just shows you how many are submitted compared to how many are indexed through the Search Console.

Submitted vs indexed pages in a sitemap

To get around this, you can do a Google search to try to find which pages are indexed. Use the search string ‘site:yoursite.com” to see what pages are listed, although this might be tedious for sites with many pages, (and even this won’t give you perfect results as Google has various levels of indexing.)

If you are really interested in finding out which pages are indexed, this article from UrlProfiler will be what you are looking for. Their website crawler is also great for other SEO tasks as well.

Dealing With Sitemap Problems

I submitted my index to Google but it says ‘Pending’.

For a sitemap with up to a few hundred pages, it can take about a day before you will see the pending notice disappear. The crawler will visit your site eventually.

The most important thing to look out for is to make sure there are no errors, which you can test before you actually submit your sitemap using the tool they supply.

sitemap submission and test buttons

In larger sites, with thousands of pages, the ‘pending’ notice may be there for days as Google compares what it’s crawler has found in your sitemap to what is already indexed.

My site has thousands of pages, how long will indexing take?

It can take a few days, a week even. But does your site really have thousands of index-able content? What I am getting at is that it is possible that your sitemap is listing pages that have no content, or are of little value. This can happen when using a CMS like WordPress or Joomla.

You want your sitemap to only list pages that you want someone to be able to find. Otherwise a Google crawler might be wasting time looking around your site and finding mostly empty pages.

Ultimately, Google will ignore useless pages and it won’t hurt your site overall. But, this will make it take much longer for the crawler to get through your sitemap.

I switched my site from HTTP to HTTPS, do I need a new sitemap?

Yes. Even though every link may be exactly the same except the ‘S‘, in the HTTPS you will need to submit a new sitemap. The change over to HTTPS effectively makes every url different and this should be indicated to Google.

Whenever any site begins to use HTTPS instead of HTTP, the search engine will have to in effect have to start over. Don’t be alarmed if there is a drop in traffic as the index resets.

Please this checklist about an HTTP to HTTPS migration to make sure you have dealt with all the SEO issues that crop up during the process of using an SSL certificate.

Should I keep my old sitemap if I have made URL structure changes?

You should not submit a sitemap with any redirected pages. A sitemap should have only current urls. If you have redirected your old pages using a 301 redirect, do not include the old pages in a sitemap, only the new pages.

Google said there were errors in my sitemap. How do I fix these?

There are a number of problems that may have occurred. Before submitting a new sitemap, use the test function to make sure the sitemap structure is good. If that is fine, then an error may have occurred from one of these issues:

  • Site was down or offline while the crawler was passing
  • Site was slow and the crawler timed out.
  • Security settings prevented the bot from reaching specific pages. HTTP Authentication is a common issue.
  • Pages may no longer exist (which they should if they are in a sitemap.)
  • Mobile sites that restrict access to mobile only clients.

You may want to examine your site’s access and error logs for Googlebot queries. You can easily identify this by looking at the User-Agent string in your logs.


Overall, the submission of a sitemap to a search engine should not be that difficult a task, especially if you have a plugin or addon that is doing it for you.

However, if you are having any issues with your sitemap or indexing, I would be happy to help. Just leave a comment below or send me an email I will do my best to sort through the problem.

6 Free Ways To Monitor Your Brand Company Mentions

tools-for-social-media

It’s important to know what are people saying about your brand online. When working with a client, I always make sure to ask “are you monitoring your brand or company name mentions?” But small businesses and website owners may not want to spend money on expensive monitoring services.

In this article, I cover some of the tools to use so that you can monitor what people are saying about your brand online. Some are free, and some have a cost. Depending on the size of your business, you will be able to make a better decision about which monitoring tool would be the best one for you.

If you are not monitoring, how will you know if your company is receiving good publicity? What are your clients and customers telling their friends on social media about your services or products? You need to know the answer to those questions. Monitoring your social presence across the internet is a crucial part of understanding what is going.

If you don’t know how to monitor mentions of your brand online, then you are definitely missing out on valuable feedback and opportunities. If you notice that people are singing your praises, then there are ways to take advantage of that.

On the other hand, if people are complaining about your products or criticizing your business, you will have found some valuable feedback that you can use to improve your products and mitigate any damage that would be detrimental to your company.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts Monitor Mentions

Google Alerts is a great free way to know when Google has found a webpage that has a mention of your brand. You will receive an email according to your settings when a specific keyword phrase gets mentioned. It doesn’t do a good job keeping track of social media, but it’s great for website mentions.

Add alerts for your such things as your brand name, website, CEO, phone number and keywords.

What’s great about this method is that if you do find a webpage that has included your business name in their content, you can visit the page to see if it includes a link back to your site and if it’s a no-follow. You can use the opportunity to contact the writer/ owner of that site to link properly to your site if necessary.

IFTT (If-This-Then-That)

If This Then That Mentions

IFTTT allows you to create hundreds of different triggers for free that happen as a result of an action from one of several apps. It isn’t specifically a brand alerting tool… but you can turn it into one using a ‘recipe’. You can create recipes for multiple alerts. For example,if you want to monitor for common misspellings of your brand’s name.

For example, with RSS and email channels, you can turn any RSS feed into your very own alerting tool. Alternatively, you could also have RSS feed items appended to a spreadsheet or even notify you on your phone when new items appear.

Talkwalker Alerts

Talk Water Alerts

Another free tool is Talkwalker Alerts. Talkwalker Alerts are an easy and free alerting service that provides email updates of the latest relevant mentions on the Web directly to your email box or RSS feed reader. It’s basically like Google Alerts… but much better for social media.

Talkwalker has a feature that allows you to benchmark your brand against industry peers, provide demographic data and create automated reports. It allows you to refine your search results with more than four dozen filters.

Other paid monitoring services have more coverage than Talkwalker, and will catch more mentions done on social media, but it’s a great free tool not to be ignored.

Social Mention

social mention monitoring

Social Mention is another free monitoring tool and makes it easy to search for brand mentions, keywords and hashtags across a variety of platforms, including blogs, new sites, uploaded videos, images and more. It can also provide you with helpful statistics about your brand’s mentions, including sentiment, top users and top hashtags used.

They also have a measure of your brand’s strength which look’s at how often it’s being discussed, the passion of the posting which is how likely someone will repeat the mention, the sentiment positive/negative, and the reach  or measure of influence of those mentions.

The alert function was not active during the writing of this article however.

Twitter Advanced Search

twitter advanced search

Twitter advanced search provides a search option that can be used for brand, keyword and keyword phrase monitoring. What’s great about TweetDeck is that it also gives you a very simple way to not only monitor for your brand, but also to distribute information found and share it with others.

Using a social dashboard like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, will enable you to make this Twitter search much more powerful as you can pull these search results into your dashboard and add columns for real-time monitoring.

Hootsuite

hootsuite monitoring

While most people use Hootsuite to schedule social media posts, it can also be used to track brand mentions, Hootsuite is it’s own monitoring tool as well. Along with working with the Twitter Advanced Search, it also can monitor other social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Hootsuite is free for a basic account, and Pro accounts start at $9.99 per month. With the free account, you can add up to three social media profiles and two RSS feeds, and you can also schedule social media posts.


Monitoring Your Brand Mentions

Keeping on top of what people are saying about your company is truly important now in social media. The speed at which a brand’s reputation can be tanked by trending mentions can be alarming. Monitoring can also be used to find new opportunities as well to quickly take advantage of positive news before a trend peters out.

If you have any questions about setting up some of these monitoring services or have any other questions about monitoring your company’s brand online, feel free to contact me and I would be happy to help.

SEO Guide For Migrating From HTTP To HTTPS

https-guide-seo-logo

Why move to HTTPS?

A few years ago Google announced that the security of a website will be one of the factors that it will include in their ranking algorithm. If that isn’t enough of a reason, there are several other reasons as well to switch to HTTPS:

Better Referral Data – HTTPs to HTTP referral data is blocked in Google Analytics. For example, if your website is using HTTP and a page goes viral on a site that is on HTTPS, the referrer data is completely lost and the traffic from that site could end up under direct traffic which is not very helpful. If someone is visiting from HTTPS to HTTPS the referrer is still passed.

Website More Secure – For eCommerce sites, the reason you need an SSL certificate is because they are processing sensitive credit card data. For other sites the biggest reason for this is your WordPress login plain text over the internet.

Now some of this might not be important to small business owners, but if your site has e-commerce or an online payment option, then migrating from HTTP to HTTPS is something that you should get working on.

Many SEOs and website owners have not switched Despite the numerous benefits of HTTPS

Switching to HTTPS seems a bit daunting because of the technical aspects and there is the fear of losing SEO value in the switch over, but if it is done properly, most sites should not have any issues.

But don’t feel left out if you haven’t switched over yet, only a small percentage (still at 0.1%) of websites are running SSL and HTTPS. You can find the updated HTTPS numbers here.

percentage of websites using https

Google has a technical description of how to implement SSL on your website. You will also find many guides describing how to set up SSL for major CMS’s like WordPress and Joomla with a simple Google search. You can also visit your hosting provider’s support documentation for their specific version for your site.

The Process of Changing From HTTP to HTTPS

On the surface, changing from HTTP to HTTPS is pretty straightforward:

  1. Obtain an SSL certificate
  2. Install your SSL certificate on your website’s hosting account
  3. Make sure that all website links are changed from HTTP to HTTPS so they are not broken
  4. Set up 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS so that search engines are notified that your site’s addresses have changed

If you are running WordPress, they have setup a guide just for you to help: HTTPS for WordPress

By the way, it won’t hurt your site if you have some pages as HTTP and other as HTTPS if you do a migration in steps for some reason. Just make sure that you don’t forget any pieces along the way.

What I will be focusing on in this article are the third and fourth steps of this process, and making sure that all the new links are set properly and that any previous SEO value is not lost in the switch over.

Setting Up 301 Redirects

Often times I have been asked to audit a site and have found that the redirects have not been set up properly. When using an SEO tool such as Screaming Frog it is easy to discover if all the original HTTPS pages have been properly migrated or redirected over. You should see every HTTP page being redirected. If they are not, then you have missed something.

301 redirects tell search engines that your site’s addresses have changed and redirect anyone who has bookmarked a page on your site automatically to the new HTTPS address.

It’s likely that your hosting company will make this change for you (don’t forget to ask if it’s part of their package), but if you want to do it on your own, you need to edit the .htaccess file in your root folder by adding:

If you are on an Apache server, add the following to your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

Search Console HTTPS Updating

Most guides will stop at this point telling you that you are pretty much done with your HTTPS migration after you have properly 301 redirected your site. However, there are a few other rocks that you will want to turn over before finishing up. Most of this extra work will be the updating of Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

Updating your robots.txt File

Update any hard-coded links or blocking rules you might have in your robots.txt that might still be pointing to HTTP directories or files. Check that it’s reachable or serves a 404 result code, and check that your HTTP URLs aren’t blocked by the HTTP robots.txt file.

Google Search Console

You will need to create a new Google Search Console profile. Simply click on “Add a Property” and continue with the normal claiming process. You can also use the Change of Address Tool in the Search Console to notify Google of the HTTPS migration.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps are not required for Google to crawl your site, but they can be useful if you are trying to locate indexing issues. If you have previously submitted a sitemap, you will need to resubmit the HTTPS version in your new Google Search Console profile as well.

Fetch New Pages

To help speed up the indexing of your new pages, you can request a fetch and crawl on your new HTTPS site. Submit your homepage by clicking on “Fetch” and then click on “Submit to index.” Then choose “Crawl this URL and its direct links.” This should help the Google index repopulate with your new HTTPS links as quickly as possible.

Resubmit Your Disavow File

If you have ever suffered from negative SEO or have needed to remove a backlink, then you probably created and submitted a disavow file for Google. Because you created a new HTTPS search console profile, you will need to resubmit a new disavow file for the new profile. The process is simple, just take your old disavow file associated with the HTTP version, and resubmit it for the HTTPS version. You should receive a confirmation message when done properly.

Update Your Google Analytics Profile URL

You will also need to update your Google Analytics Website’s URL. Under your account click into Admin and then your view settings. Change the URL to the HTTPS version.

Other HTTPS Updating

Here are a some additional miscellaneous places you will also want to check up on after migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.

  • Update your canonical tags to point to the HTTPS version.
  • Update third-party PPC URLs (AdWords, Bing Ads, FB Ads)
  • Update Email Marketing Software URLs (MailChimp, Aweber, GetResponse)
  • Update social media links to your site (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn)
  • In WordPress change the website URL under WordPress dashboard > Settings > General to HTTPS instead of HTTP
  • Update all internal links to the HTTPS version instead of continuing to use the HTTP version and letting the 301 redirect them
  • Update your analytics tracking code. Most modern Google Analytics tracking snippets already handle HTTPS, but older code may need a second look
  • Adjust code to maintain social share numbers

Timing The HTTPS Switch Over

Understand that some website owners have reported a loss in traffic after switching over to HTTPS. It might take some time (months) to recover the organic rankings, although Google has claimed that it is much better at picking up a HTTP to HTTPS migration now.

That being said, it much better to be cautious about your switch and to time it during a slow period. There’s bound to be some fluctuation in search rankings and any redirection errors will hurt your rankings. You don’t want this to come during peak times for your site.

For example, if the Christmas season is a busy time of year for you, hold off on this change until afterwards. That way if anything is missed, or if Google takes time to update tits algorithm, it will minimize the affect on your revenue derived from search engines. It also gives you more time to discover if something went wrong that you need to fix thing, while you wait for your rankings to get back to where they were previously.

Lastly, if your site has any penalties associated with it, such as a Google manual penalty or it was hit by an algorithm change like Penguin or Panda, then clearing up those issues is the first thing that should be done. Migrating your site while a penalty is in effect might make it seem like you are trying to get around those penalties. Correct any penalty issues before you attempt an HTTPS switch.

 


Migrating an entire site to HTTPS is not necessarily an easy process depending on the complexity of your site. The returns may be small now and there might be some initial pain, but the longer you wait, the more onerous the job switch over to HTPPS will be in the future.

If you have made a switch from HTTP to HTTPS and you have experienced a drop in rankings, I’ll be happy to take a look at your site to see if I can find any issue that may be influencing this drop. Feel free to contact me and I will happy to help.

Why Google Is Not Using Your Meta Description Tag

onpage-seo

 

The meta description is a code tag in HTML, that summarizes a page’s content in about 250 characters (updated to reflect the December 2017 changes for longer descriptions). Search engines show the meta description in search results below the Title tag for organic search results. Optimizing the meta description is very important for on-page SEO.

dog-walking-organic-search

In the screenshot above, you will see a few examples of what comes up in a search when “Dog walking” was tpyped into Google. Notice the format is always the Title, below that is the URL of the website, and then the Meta-Description.

I will be using these as examples as I go through the article to point certain aspects of what might happen with your meta-descriptions.

What’s Going On With The Meta Description Tags?

It’s basic SEO practice to make sure that the meta-description tag is written properly, but things have gotten complicated around this essentially one sentence piece of code.

It used to be that Google (and other search engines) always used this -user written- data to deliver this below the Title tag description to a search query exactly the way it was written. It also used to be that Google used the keywords within the meta-description as a data point for it’s algorithm.

Both of these are now no longer true. Google does not use the meta-description for any determination in it’s rankings. It’s also not beholden to use your meta-description the way you have written it.

When Does Google Use Your Meta Description

Lets’ take a look at the most simple case of where Google does use the meta description that was input into the page code.

Below you will see one of the listings that appeared in the first screenshot. As you can see, the description here says “We offer Dog Walking in Toronto with option for group or solo walks.” Also notice that ‘Dog Walking’ is in bold. The bolding of the key words is done by Google to help you see that why this site might be what you are looking for.

meta-description-used

Below is the code within the above listed website where the meta-description was determined. In this case Google decided to use the suggested description from the website.

meta-description example

Google is more likely to use your meta description when it finds that the amount of characters being used are within the normally used range (see below for meta description checklist best practices), and that the keywords within the description match the ones that the searcher has used and also matches the content of the page.

Why Google Decides To Write A Meta-Description For You

meta-description-not-used

You can see from this screenshot that the meta-description delivered by Google is not a simple coherent sentence.

The website in question does have the proper tag in place as you can see from the screenshot below, but Google decided not to deliver the pre-written sentence.

meta-description example not used

One of the reasons is because the original search phrase was ‘Dog walking’ and the meta description did not match that exact phrase. It’s also a bit on the short side.

The algorithm decided that the page was relevant to the searcher, but overrode the description tag and instead delivered what it thought was a more relevant description to the searcher by pulling up sentences from within the content of the page.

If Google Will Write A Description For Me, Should I Still Write One?

As mentioned before, Google does not use the meta-description as a ranking factor anymore, however some search engines still do. Lacking a meta-description can potentially hurt your visibility on those other search engines.

The main point of the meta-description at this point in time is to help the searcher understand the what the site is about. Effectively, the meta-description is all about conversion or CTR.

If you write your own description, then you have the ability to increase the amount the people who click on your link. Having a well written description that is the proper length will help your click-through-rate (CTR) from a search. Ultimately, the higher your CTR, the more Google will tend to push your site higher in the organic rankings for that searched keyword phrase.

More Meta Description Tags

Take a look again at the screenshot that was used above. This time I have highlighted a different set of code.

meta-description facebook twitter example

Although the actual description is the same, the meta tags being used are different. In this example, the website is setting the description for other sites, namely Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s define all of the meta description tags here for easy reference:

Description for spiders (search engines) :
<meta name="description" content="Description of a website"/>

Description for Facebook :
<meta property="og:description" content="My facebook description" />

Description for Twitter :
<meta name="twitter:description" value="My description for twitter card"/>

Description for Google Plus :
<meta itemprop="description" content="My description for google +"/>

Setting the tag for each of these different websites tells those websites that this is the specific text to serve up. As of now, the regular organic Google search is the only algorithm that will go in and override your preferred text.

I want Google To Use The Description I Wrote

Sometimes you will have a description written but Google won’t use it. We saw this in the example above. To increase the chances of Google using your description and not setting one of it’s own, here are the best practices to follow. Although it won’t guarantee your description will be used for every set of keyword phrases searched, it certainly will increase the chances.

Meta Description Checklist

  • Keywords: do make sure your most important keywords for the web page show up in the meta description. Search engines sometimes the keywords in bold when it finds the search phrase.
  • Do Not Stuff Keywords: Keyword stuffing your meta description won’t help the searcher as they might assume that your result leads to a spammy website. Make sure your description makes someone want to visit your site.
  • Conversion Rate: The description needs to match the content on the page, but make the description as compelling and as relevant as possible in order to attract more visitors to your site.
  • 220 – 300 Characters Long: Although there are numerous examples of Google using longer descriptions, if you stay within this range you will have a description that will be long enough to let tell a reader what the page is about, but not too long that the ends gets cut off. (Google updated the length of the meta-descriptions (from 180 characters) that it will use in early in December 2017).
  • Page Descriptions Should Be Unique: Each page of your site is unique, and so the meta descriptions must be different for every page as well. It will only confuse the search engine algorithms if the description of every page is the same.

SEO Tools For Adding Or Updating Your Meta Descriptions

If you notice some issues with your meta descriptions and want to update them or add them to pages that are missing them, here are a few tools that might help.

The first thing to do is to check all the descriptions. The easiest way to do this is to use an SEO tool called Screaming Frog. It will scan your site and you will be able to see all of the page Titles and meta descriptions in one simple sheet.  From there you can determine if there are any issues to correct.

If you are running WordPress, there are a number of plugins that will help you be able to more add and easily edit the meta descriptions. One of those is called Yoast. It adds a section within the page or post editor to directly write a new meta description, as well as helping you stay within the proper length.

After updating your meta descriptions, it might take a bit of time for Google to retrieve this information and update the search results depending on how often your site is crawled and other factors. Hopefully it will take only a few days, but it may be a matter of a few weeks before Google starts to use the meta descriptions that you have set in the tag.

 


Writing a meta description might seem like a simple task, but when you add the factors of having to incorporate your keywords in a normal sentence while trying to entice a searcher to click your link (instead of visiting a competitor’s link), it can be more time consuming than you think.

That being said, if you are having any trouble with your meta descriptions, feel free to comment below or to contact me. I will be glad to help you sort them out.

The Importance of SEO Website Audit when Rebranding a Company

seo-rebranding

Re-branding a company is a huge deal and contains many aspects. This post will deal more specifically with the issue of when a business decides to change it’s name. I will give a few examples of why even after you have changes your business name, and maybe even your website, that Google and other search engines still continue to show old information regarding your business.

Re-branding & SEO Example

I want to start out with a case that I just came across recently. It is not my client, it was someone who was asking a question on a forum that I then tried to help.

The issue was that the business in question was re-branded and changed both their company name and website. They redirected the old domain to the new one. Three months later, when doing a site search, Google was still showing the old company name but with the new url. They wanted to know why Google had not updated their information yet.

business-old-name-google

Old Company Information

There might be many reasons why Google had not updated their information yet, but three months is a long time to be waiting.  I went about searching to see what I could find. The first thing I did was to type in their old name to see what came up.

As you can see below, what I found was that they had not even updated their Google Business Listing. It was verified so they had ownership of it, but they seem to have forgotten about it. The website listed pointed to their old domain name, which was then 301 redirected to the new one.

So, I suspect that the main reason why Google did not update the organic search information was because the company itself never bothered to tell Google that there was a new name. It had the old name in its listing, pointing to the new domain. And that’s what Google continued to show.

old-business-name-search

Updating Social Media Profiles

This company had other issues with its social media profiles as well. Their Twitter and Facebook profiles were not updated either. This effectively was telling Google’s algorithm that the name of the company was still Mono Machines since that’s what all the profiles still said.

Even though the urls associated with the social media profiles were  redirected to the new site which had new titles and new meta descriptions, the data that Google was collecting across the web was telling it that the old name was still in effect. The algorithm was ignoring any new Titles that the new website had, because other stronger data was overriding it.

monomachines-twitter

As you can see form the image of their old Twitter account, they have not updated their business name or URL to their website, but they have created a twitter account for their new business name. Creating a new Twitter account may not have been the best option to be able to keep their subscribers.

But what is confusing Google’s algorithm is that the old business name, associated with the old url, is being redirected to the new url.

NAP Discovery

What we call NAP in the SEO world stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. it is one of the first things that we do as SEO consultants when we are auditing a business. Correcting any old information on directory sites and  all social media profiles to make sure that they are all accurate is of paramount importance.

As we can see in the example above, three months is a long time for a business to wait for its re-branding efforts to be updated in Google. The old information could have been detected and corrected immediately with a simple search if you know what to look for.

The point is, you can’t do a business re-branding halfway. There are so many aspects to look at when making changes to a company name, website url, or location. It really is important that every nook and cranny is looked at to make sure that you are not losing any customers to old and inaccurate data.


If you have any questions about this article or have previously done a business re-branding or relocation and would like me to have a look at your online profiles and information, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help.

Why Your WordPress Site Is Getting Hacked

website-security

WordPress is the most successful CMS platform so it’s no surprise that it will be the target of many hacking attempts. Because many small business owners are using WordPress, this potentially leaves them vulnerable to all the hackers trying to exploit their sites.

The basic WordPress installation is very secure against hacking, the majority of the problem lies when vulnerable themes and plugins are added. Criminal hackers rely on WordPress’ popularity and its large plugins and additional themes to inflict their damage.

Why Did Your WordPress Site Get Hacked

There are a number of ways that a hacker can take advantage of a site to install malicious content. Here are the most common:

  • The theme you installed was already hacked
  • A plugin or theme that was installed had an exploit (and was not updated)
  • A hacker obtained access to your WordPress password
  • A hacker had access to your Control Panel (web hosting) password
  • A hacker infiltrated the web hosting files

The majority of small business owners will not be taking a chance at installing themes or plugins that come they find on the internet, but plenty of people do. Instead of paying for a theme from a developer, they will seek out sources on the web to find that same theme for free. Unfortunately, these themes and plugins are often times purposely altered so that they can hacked into at a later date.

A hacker can also use various phishing tactics to gather passwords to be able to log into your sensitive accounts, including your WordPress administration area to install whatever it is that they want. But by far, the most common way that a WordPress site is hacked is by not updating the theme and plugins files.

Four in Five Hacked Websites Are Running WordPress

Security firm Sucuri released its Website Hacked Report, in which it compiled statistics from over 11,485 compromised sites it was called upon to investigate over the past year.

Results showed that almost 80% all of hacked sites are built on the WordPress CMS.

The majority of hacks originated with third party installation of software to their site.

Point of entry for most hacks was a vulnerable plugin, not the CMS core

As for a breakdown of hacked WordPress sites, Sucuri says that a large part can be attributed to outdated plugins. There were minimal attempts to use vulnerabilities within core WordPress files itself.

“Three plugins are responsible for a quarter of WordPress hacking incidents”

Sucuri says that, from all the compromised WordPress sites they analyzed, they often found the intrusion point within a vulnerable plugin. A quarter of these attacks can be attributed to three plugins: RevSlider, GravityForms, and TimThumb.

Updating Your Plugins

The lesson here is that it is extremely important to keep your themes and plugins up to date. Failing to do so can leave you vulnerable if an exploit is found. Some hosting services will automatically apply updates to WordPress, but many do not, and most do not update the plugins at all.

WordPress makes it easy to update plugins. There will be a very visible circle telling you the numbers items that need to be dealt with.

update-plugins-wordpress

 Wordpress Theme Timebombs

Another issue is that some WordPress theme developers choose to embed a plugin directly within the code of the theme. This allows them to make a more fully functional and integrated theme with many options and ‘cool effects’ that can be managed from a central theme control panel.

This is what happened in many cases with RevSlider, where many theme makers embedded it into a large variety of themes that people then used for their WordPress sites. In most cases, these were legitimate copies of themes bought from developers.

However, since the plugin was hard coded into the theme and not added in the usual WordPress plugin section, RevSlider could not be updated as a normal plugin. Unfortunately in cases like this, two steps have to happen to keep the site safe. The developer needs to issue an update to the theme with the new hard coded plugin, and then the site owner needs to install the update.

So even when Revslider issued it’s inidvidual update, there was no update notification within the site. The site owners never even knew that there is a potential problem. If the developers were lax to issue an update, the exploit that was discovered in this embedded plugin was an open door just waiting to get used.

Make sure you choose a WordPress theme from a reputable source, one that will keep the theme updated properly. In addition, if you have bought a theme and it comes with a limited time update guarantee, understand that you will most likely need to pay up at a later date for an upgrade if one is issued.

What To Do If Your Site Was Hacked

This is a huge article in of itself, but if your WordPress was hacked, it would be wise to know how it was compromised. Obviously there are a few standard procedures to take like regardless of why it happened:

  • Deleting all the files in your hosting account for that site and restoring a clean backup
  • Changing all the passwords for the WordPress user accounts
  • Changing the password for your hosting account
  • Checking your hosting account for Cron Jobs that should not be there
  • Make sure your file permissions are set correctly

Now all of this won’t matter if your original WordPress was exploited because of an un-updated plugin or theme. So definitely make sure that this is taken care of. If you have a theme that has many features embedded within it, then I would take a look at that developers website for that theme to make sure that no updates have been issued that may not automatically be showing up on your WordPress Dashboard.


I hope that this has helped you understand a bit more about hacked WordPress sites and what you can do about it. If you do have an issue and have a question, I would be glad to help you out, just drop me a line in the comments section below.

7 Great WordPress Plugins For Best Flexibility [2017]

wordpress-seo

WordPress is a great content management system (CMS) but the basic WordPress installation is pretty barren. Adding plugins to expand the functionality of your chosen template will definitely add the much needed flexibility to your site.

However, when you start looking into adding plugins, you will soon discover that there are just so many to choose from. What do they all do?

With this in mind, I have chosen my favorite plugins that deliver the best flexibility to your site to make your plain WordPress into the awesome site it deserves to be. In addition, I have been careful to choose plugins that do not slow down your site.

I have chosen a cross section of plugins to give a bit of variety. Some of the plugins will be basic ones that can be used on every site, and some plugins are more specific that perform a certain task that not everyone will need. That being said, here they are:

1. Widget Options

widget-option-wordpress-plugin

Get Better Control over your Widgets. Easily show or hide WordPress widgets on specified pages & devices and/or assign custom alignment.

Widget Options is a great plugin. I use it on most of my sites. The reason I love this plugin is that it gives you the ability to add or remove widgets to different pages of your site. You can create widgets and specify exactly which pages you want them to show up on.

You have the choice to present them on certain post types, categories, and individual pages. A new feature that was just added lets you determine to show the Widget title or not.

 

2. Remove Widget Titles


I used to use this plugin with the Widget Options plugin mentioned above. However, Widget Options has added this feature in version 3.3.1.  However, I am still choosing Remove Widget Titles as one of my favorite little plugins in case you are not installing Widget Options.

This plugin is super simple, but does a very necessary job. What I hated about widgets in WordPress is that whatever I named them in the backend, would show up on the site. But I didn’t always want this to happen.

Sometimes I just wanted to add code to a page by using a widget, but didn’t want the title to show, so I would have to leave the default ‘TEXT’ title. If I have multiple pieces of code, it would become confusing as to what widget was what.

All you do is place ‘!’ in front of the widget title, and voila, it won’t show on the front end. Now I can call the widget whatever I wanted for my own purposes without being handcuffed as to what would show on me site.

 

3. TinyMCE Advanced

tinyMCE-plugin

Let’s face it, the editor in wordpress is pretty simple. TinyMCE Advanced is what you need to make your life a bit easier when creating posts and pages.

This plugin will let you add, remove and arrange the buttons that are shown on the Visual Editor toolbar that you use the most often. You can customize up to four rows of buttons including Font Sizes, Font Family, text and background colors, tables, etc. It will also let you enable the editor menu, see the screenshots.

It includes 15 plugins for TinyMCE that are automatically enabled or disabled depending on the buttons you have chosen. In addition this plugin adds some commonly used options as keeping the paragraph tags in the Text editor and importing the CSS classes from the theme’s editor-style.css.

 

4. Advanced Custom Fields

custom-fields-wodpress-plugin

Advanced Custom Fields is a bit more of an advanced WordPress plugin. Not everyone will need this plugin, but if you do want to add some custom fields, you will need this plugin.

Advanced Custom fields allow you to add your own meta data to your WordPress posts and pages. By creating your own custom fields, you have complete control over what data gets added and how it’s displayed. The default interface for WordPress custom fields just isn’t that user-friendly and this plugin gives you many more options.

 

5. TablePress

TablePress allows you to easily create and manage beautiful tables. Again, it’s not a sexy plugin, but if you need to have tables to deal with data on your site, then is the plugin for you.

You can embed the tables into posts, pages, or text widgets with a simple Shortcode. Table data can be edited in a speadsheet-like interface, so no coding is necessary. No HTML knowledge is required, as a comfortable interface allows to easily edit table data. Additional JavaScript library can be used to add features like sorting, pagination, filtering, and more for site visitors.

 

6. Contact Form 7

contact-form-wordpress-plugin

Contact Form 7  is a simple plugin that allows you to customize a form using simple markup. Letting people get in touch with you by creating a form that allows you to collect the data you need from them is necessary for great customer relations. This from creation plugin makes it easy for you to do that.

 

7. Testamonials Widget

testamonial-wordpress-plugin

Easily add social proofing to your website with Testimonials Widget. List or slide reviews via functions, shortcodes, or widgets.

This is a great plugin for local businesses to showcase their customer reviews. Testimonials Widget lets you randomly slide or list selected portfolios, quotes, reviews, or text with images or videos on your WordPress site. You can insert Testimonials content via shortcode, theme functions, or widgets with category and tag selections and having multiple display options such as random or specific ordering.


There are literally thousands of WordPress plugins to choose from, (almost 50,000 at the time of this post), but I hope that the ones I have brought to your attention today will help you see what kind of flexibility and expansion that you can add to your site.

Let me know if you have any questions regarding your WordPress installation or SEO and I would be glad to help.

Basic Onsite Optimization Audit – Screaming Frog [SEO Tool]

website-audit-screaming-frog

When starting an website optimization audit, it’s good to get a good overview look at the whole website before drilling down into each individual page.

A good SEO tool to use for this is Screaming Frog. It can very quickly gather information about all the pages within a site showing you if there are any flaws, missing elements, or duplication within a site.

I have included a video below to show you how you can use this tool to analyze your own site, or a competitor’s site.

There is a free version and paid version of Screaming Frog. The free version does most of everything you will need it to do. It is limited to listing 500 pages, but most local business websites have less than that, so the page limitation should not take affect while looking at most sites.

Website Audit Example Using Screaming Frog

In the video example, I have analyzed three different sites that I found in Google using the keyword of ‘Houston  dentist’. I choose a site listed on the first page, second page, and tenth page for this organic keyword phrase.

You will see that the Screaming Frog tool makes it very easy to see an overview of the optimization status of many of sites main elements.  I show you how simple it is to review all the Titles, Meta Descriptions, and H1 tags using the SEO tool.

Of course the tool does much more than list those simple SEO elements, but this video and post is just demonstrating how quickly we can look at the main elements.

It should help you get an indication of some of the factors of why some websites are listed on the first page, and why other sites are buried down on page ten for a keyword phrase.