SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is a digital marketing campaign that will increase website traffic and capture new prospects or leads. At First Page, we believe that SEO is the foundation for all digital marketing.

How does SEO work?

Search engines like Google want to provide website ranking results with trustworthy websites and content that match their user inquiries or search terms and keywords. When a website is ranked high on Google for a business’s primary keyword, then that website will show in Google My Business listings, Google Maps listings and on other search engine services. It is relatively easy to get traffic by ranking high on Google but not as easy to measure the effectiveness of that traffic and the value of your digital marketing investment.

SEO works by defining digital marketing goals, reviewing the results and finally making changes that increase the conversion rate success ratio. To get a high level understanding of your digital marketing effectiveness, review your SEO KPI’s.

Key performance indicators that can measure SEO effectiveness are:

  1. Number of visitors to a website per month
  2. Bounce Rate of website Visitors
  3. Conversion Rate of new prospects

Marketing managers must be prepared with data to explain why the above indicators perform at the levels they are currently at. Let’s briefly review each of the top three SEO success indicators and see what CEO’s and business managers must ask their marketing staff.

 

  1. Number of visitors to a website per month

This Key Performance indicator may sound like an obvious measurement. If it is up, all is well, if it is down, that’s bad. However, this is not the case. Marketing managers must understand what is behind the number and business owners or CEO’s must not allow an increase in traffic to be co-relate to a successful digital marketing campaign on its own merit. Even though it is a KPI, it cannot determine SEO success on its own merit.

Here are two real life examples of why website traffic may be misleading.

    • Analytics Spam

A system whereby black hat traffic generation systems are pinging your website so that their website address will show on your analytics reports in hopes that someone viewing the analytics report will visit the company website that is using black hat SEO practices. Our Canadian First Page Solutions company is all white hat SEO!

    • High traffic but low / no value traffic

Some Social Network marketing managers will use their favourite social network because they can demonstrate an increase of traffic on your website. If your marketing manger is producing thousands of ‘hits’ from social networks because web surfers are clicking images on a site like Pinterest that takes them to your website, that visit may actually be harming your SEO rather than delivering any value. This would be called a ‘Bounce’.

  1. Bounce Rate of Website Visitors

The bounce rate is a key performance indicator because it tells the business owner or digital marketing manager if website visitors are enjoying their visit and getting value from its content. A high Bounce Rate of over 50% is bad because it denotes that most of your website visitors are leaving your website, ‘bouncing’ quickly without looking at any other content. A low Bounce Rate of less than 50% proves that the content that your digital marketing team creates, is actually creating value for your target market. There’s a bonus! You now have a productivity indicator!

The image below shows an example of a good bounce rate of approx. 4 % & poor bounce rate of nearly 100 percent.

Good Bounce Rate vs Bad Bounce Rate
  1. Conversion Rate of New Digital Marketing Prospects

Your conversion rate can be expressed in a percentage. For example, you can expect your digital marketing expert to say something like: “10 percent of the people who clicked on this Facebook ad, signed up to our newsletter!”.
Another example, ‘4.3 percent of the 100 people who visited our site by Googleing our primary keyword downloaded our new eBook!’.

If there was just one KPI that you, as a productive and busy CEO, would want to demand, it is this, “What is the conversion rate of – place – your – digital – marketing – campaign – name – here?”.

Do you know what your conversion rate is? Don’t feel bad, many successful business owners do not have conversion tracking setup or are simply not aware of it. Basic Conversion tracking is usually set up in a Google AdWords campaign and can be quickly set up in Google Analytics even if you do not run any external ad campaigns. Setting up conversion tracking in Google Analytics is completed by creating a goal. Your next important digital marketing homework is to create a goal for your website visitors.

Examples of simple website goals that could make a difference in your bottom line are:

  • Average pageview of 2 or more
  • Download a whitepaper or eBook
  • Submit of a contact form
  • Download of a PDF
  • View a video
  • Click an ad
  • Stay on a specific page for a certain amount of time (Is anyone reading this?)

SEO certainly merges with other digital marketing activities such as social networking, content writing and PPC so please be sure to review our services page and find out how we provide a focus on other related marketing areas.

How To Start SEO

There are two ways to begin your website search engine optimization process.

  1. Free SEO Audit 
    When beginning to optimize a website, employing a project management process will be crucial. Unless there are less than five businesses that specialize in your core services or that provide your primary products within your market, the search engine optimization process will require more than changing a few key SEO elements on your website. A free SEO Audit will provide the high level tasks that need completion and may require help from third parties who specialize in the required digital marketing areas. Almost every business that has asked for a free SEO audit from First Page Solutions, has resulted in these high level required updates to their digital marketing campaigns:
    A) Create Goals for Each Page of the website. These goals will reflect the keyword phrase for each specific page. This process does not need to include blog posts, but bonus marks for you if it does!
    B) Site Structure update. Each section of a website as defined in step A above, must have it’s own page and the URL or URI of that page should reflect its location in the website. For example; if several services or products are listed on a website, links to each specific service or product should go to a new page on the website and the URL for that page should indicate that the product or service is a child page to the parent product or service. This concept can be further visualized if you consider a physical filing cabinet system where a parent folder is ‘Accounts’ and a child folder would be the name of a customer. When the file drawer is open, you would pull the accounts folder and then pull the customer folder. The location of the folder is clearly indicated and an office administrator would never add a customer file without creating  a new folder and ensure it could be easily found again. On websites, the child file represented by a page is often spewed onto the site in no particular order. Having the product or service represented on the menu is not sufficient to fix the problem. The practice of not optimizing files and site structure creates a less than perfect user experience when navigating the website and greatly affects how search engines understand your website and rank it.
    C) Create Trust. When Google released its 150+ page document which indicated how they train people (Quality Raters) to review the search engines ranking of websites, it was very clear that a high ranking website must have the elements of a trusted website. Some of the elements of a trusted website are: an easy to find, typical Contact page, Terms of Service page, Privacy Policy, Physical Address and Phone number, Typical About and Services / Product pages, Secure browsing indicated with https or the green lock showing in the browser at the beginning of the website address.
    D) Become Mobile Friendly and test your page-load speed. Make your page load in less than three seconds.

    research and come out with a post about 22 Tips To Speed Up WordPress Site Performance. Alternaye researxh suggests a 22-step process may improve the page load speed of a blog and increase organic traffic – check it out here – https://www.cloudliving.com/speed-up-wordpress/
  2. SEO Audit
    After you have had your first free SEO Audit completed and you have followed up with an SEO company and taken advantage of their first free SEO consultation, the items above should have been noted and are now completed. It is time to complete an SEO Audit. A true SEO audit will result in a long document of approximately 50 pages known as a digital marketing PlayBook. This PlayBook will take your marketing team up to two years to complete. It can cost anywhere from $600 to $5000.  At First Page Solutions we provide SEO Audits and the changes we suggest, is that before initiating an audit, complete all the tasks listed above or if they differ, the tasks listed in your Free SEO Audit. Those primary tasks will provide striking results in your website traffic and user experience. Do them first. Then complete a full SEO Audit. If you skip the steps above, we can write the full audit but the audit time will be more helpful to your company if the priority tasks are completed first.

Below is an example of a full SEO Audit that we completed. Before we completed the audit below, please keep in mind that we did not offer a free SEO audit as part of our optimization services like we do now. Having completed multiple audits, it came to our attention that an audit is more valuable if the priority SEO tasks are completed first.

 

 

 

SEO & DIGITAL MARKETING PLAYBOOK

 

Prepared by:

First Page Solutions
Suite 202-1767 Harvey Avenue
Kelowna, BC V1Y 6G4 Canada
(236) 420-3222
https://www.firstpagesolutions.ca


Revision History

Date Version Summary
  1.0 Delivered

The concepts and ideas submitted to you by us are of a confidential nature and are submitted to you on the understanding that they are to be considered by you in strict confidence and that no use shall be made of the said concepts and ideas, including communication to a third party, without our prior consent. Audit and PlayBook data was collected by First Page Solutions, a Kelowna SEO Company.

Disclaimer / EULA

Please note that the Playbook authors can make no guarantees of any positive business outcomes as a result of attempting to implement any of the included recommendations. Likewise, the authors assume no responsibility for any negative business outcomes, whether perceived or actual, that may result from the use (or misuse) of this information. While the utmost care, diligence and circumspection is always employed by the authors before making any statements, no claims of either perfect accuracy or absolute currentness can be made made, given the in-depth and ever-changing state of online marketing strategies, tactics, software, and available information to be found online. To help set proper expectations, it is helpful to realize that digital marketing is a discipline comprised of research, data collection, careful planning, testing, and iterations over time. Also, what works for one business may not always directly apply to another. Ultimately our success as an agency is linked to the successes our clients enjoy, and First Page Solutions will always do everything possible to support the highest outcomes. Please also note that Playbook consulting and execution support is available for hire from First Page Solutions, a Kelowna SEO Company.

INTRODUCTION

This Playbook document contains a series of actions (and associated background information) designed to engender further digital marketing successes for SQM Group, to aid in the acquiring of more qualified leads and clients. It is primarily based on data collected during an accompanying digital marketing Audit (links to Audit assets are placed throughout). Though it is evident that many worthwhile goals and opportunities exist, the main focus is placed on gaining improved search engine visibility (eg. rankings) and traffic, as well as increased visitor interaction.

 

CONTENTS

SECTION 1: WEB ANALYTICS

SECTION 2: OFF-SITE OPTIMIZATION

SECTION 3: ON-SITE OPTIMIZATION

SECTION 4: KEYWORDS

SECTION 5: NEXT STEPS

SECTION 1: WEB ANALYTICS

The foundation of successful digital marketing.

INTRODUCTION

Web Analytics (or digital analytics in general) is an oft-misunderstood field. It’s an unfortunate reality that most organizations haven’t yet taken the step of building or contracting dedicated digital analytics expertise—often even long after there is a legitimate business case to do so. But, making a cultural shift towards making better use of web analytics technology and expertise (and tailoring its use to one’s unique business) is a proven way to enhance ROI from marketing and IT investments. Indeed, developing well-stewarded web analytics properties tends to enable a number of important new business realities, including:

  • Greatly enhanced visitor, lead and customer attribution data
  • Powerful data integration opportunities
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • User experience optimization
  • New product development

At a base level, data accuracy is also a broad concern. As an example, Google Analytics properties are often wrought with false “spam” data (sometimes 5, 10, and even 20% or more of the data can be found to be false!). This is just one of many examples of data collecting and analysis mismanagement, which ultimately leads to so-called “analysis paralysis”.

MORE ON WEB ANALYTICS

Web analytics can be a confusing landscape for some, but in fact the data collected and presented is usually comprised of just two primary types: metrics (a number, like how many visitors) and dimensions (an attribute, like the country of the visits).

Another key nuance is that every metric and dimension pertains to a particular scope of reference. For example, here are the most common scopes found in Google Analytics:

  • User – Data on a user, across multiple website sessions
  • Session – Data on an individual user session (AKA visit)
  • Hit – Data pertaining to an individual view of a web page, or any other kind of single “event” that may need to be tracked.
  • Ecommerce – Data on product interactions

Once these key principles are understood, analytics becomes less of an arcane art form, and more of a strategic exercise.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS & NOTES:

GRADUATING TO PROPER GOOGLE ANALYTICS USAGE

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool that can deliver great business value when used properly. Though access to the tool (the GUI and APIs) is free, setting up and using it properly is not. It takes a conscious, budgeted investment to draw out its latent value. This can be accomplished in several stages: first (a) complete the proper basic Google Analytics account setup steps (with light outside support), then employ more focused consulting to (b) build a strategically tailored measurement strategy, (c) execute the more advanced implementation steps, and (d) retain an ongoing web analytics partner to aid in analysis to help make discoveries and recommendations based on the new, richer dataset, as well as (e) explore data integration applications (e.g., a focused data warehousing program) to help approach a “360 degree” view of business and level-up your product development, content strategy, and overall marketing execution abilities.

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COMPLETE PROPER BASIC GOOGLE ANALYTICS ACCOUNT SETUP

After reviewing your Google Analytics account and measurement property usage, here is a list of remaining basic setup steps and other items:

View Basic Web Analytics Review & Setup Items Spreadsheet

 

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BUILD A TAILORED MEASUREMENT STRATEGY WITH TOGETHER WITH AN EXPERIENCED ANALYTICS PARTNER

Once the very basics are complete, the next level of analytics setup should be specified and introduced immediately. In the case of ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’, this is likely to include:

  • Advanced Segments
  • Custom Reports
  • Custom Dimensions and Metrics
  • Content Grouping
  • Micro-Conversions / Other Event tracking
  • Google Tag Manager implementation
  • Adding additional analytics tracking snippets via Google Tag Manager (e.g., Linkedin, Twitter, etc.)
  • Building relevant dashboards
  • Other advanced implementations as warranted
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EXECUTE TAILORED WEB ANALYTICS IMPLEMENTATIONS

Unless you have in-house resources with enough time on their hands, allowing experts to field this work in collaboration with tactical personnel and stakeholders will ensure more relevant data, faster turnaround times (and is also much less error-prone).

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LEVERAGE OTHER WEB-BASED TOOLS / DATA SOURCES

Include data from available free and paid third party online tools; acquire these directly and/or leverage an agency who uses a reliable toolset. Then, integrate this additional data into the data warehousing program. It is important to note that these metrics are not available from Google Analytics. One particular advantage is benchmarking third party data against competitors over time.

Some of the data sources include those from vendors which have been used in the creation of this Audit and Playbook—e.g., Moz.com, Ahrefs.com, SEOProfiler, Google, etc. Another tool of interest is SimilarWeb.com, which helps determine competitors’ sources of web traffic. These tools can provide amazing insights. If personnel are not present internally, their use by proxy via a consulting service is recommended. A hybrid approach is to receive training and supplement advanced usage via consultants.

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BUILD (OR FURTHER DEVELOP) DATA INTEGRATION ASSETS VIA A FOCUSED DATA WAREHOUSING PROGRAM THAT INCLUDES WEB ANALYTICS DATA

Integrating first party operational data, second party CPC data, web analytics data, and third party data is extremely powerful—when embraced has a tendency to produce significant “lunges” forward in marketing and product development.

The truth is, data warehousing doesn’t have to be “big”, or expensive. A data warehousing “program” is comprised of individual, but ultimately interconnected “projects”—each project is designed to provide its own value, but becomes more valuable as additional projects are completed. The order and pace at which projects are completed are completely open; the important thing is delivering value quickly to prove ROI, then incrementally adding additional value as is warranted—rather than commissioning a “million dollar”, monolithic BIDW program.

 

SECTION 2: OFF-SITE OPTIMIZATION

Related terms: Digital PR, Digital Footprint, Off-Site Profile, Backlink Building

INTRODUCTION

While “on-site” optimization is indeed very important—and when done effectively can contribute to positive results—effective “off-site” optimization is in some ways even more important. Yet, it is so often overlooked and under-strategized, often leading to feelings of frustration and confusion by on-site-focused teams hoping to gain more rankings traction.

In some cases correcting these Off-Site oversights can be used to create at least a temporary competitive advantage (ie., until the competition starts executing a responsible off-site strategy themselves). In other cases, employing solid off-site practices is a way of mitigating against a pre-existing competitive disadvantage that may exist.

WHAT IS OFF-SITE OPTIMIZATION COMPRISED OF?

Every digital entity creates a “footprint” of some kind. The most basic examples might be an online directory listing—or in particular, any kind of third party mention of a brand’s name (as well as address, phone number, etc.)—and/or a hyperlink pointing to the website address.

In the age of Google, it is very useful to think of the overall strength and relevance of a website property’s digital footprint as being akin to its inherent ranking power. Indeed, a strong off-site profile can contribute to the ranking potential of existing website content, and also allows the website to quickly rank for new content and associated keywords, even when competing against powerful competitors.

This powerful effect is due to the fact that Google’s search algorithm favours websites which have strong, trustworthy, and relevant off-site profiles, which signals that the website is legitimate, authoritative, and relevant to the search terms. As a matter of fact, this concept has its roots in the very beginnings of Google (even before it was called Google, the original project was known as “Backrub”). As it turned out, this method of assessing websites based on their off-site signals proved to produce superior, more relevant search results (a major factor in Google’s rise to search engine dominance).

Thus, to compete and win today, it is almost always an essential step to craft a sustainable off-site strategy—and execute it faithfully. While implicit, off-site optimization is not a “one-time” act, like some technical on-site optimization tasks may be—but rather a strategic, ongoing effort, with no perceived end-date (ie., unless search engine technology no longer needs to consider organic off-site signals to inform the relevance of results).

And so, off-site optimization is all about managing and building brand mentions, brand business information, and inbound links pointing to the brand’s website.

📚

FURTHER READING:

https://www.theedesign.com/blog/2016/what-are-backlinks-seo

RECOMMENDATIONS & NOTES:

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BEGIN A DATA-DRIVEN OFF-SITE CAMPAIGN (YESTERDAY) WITH A SKILLED SEO PARTNER.

Immediately commence a targeted off-site campaign to build up and ongoing stream new backlinks, brand mentions, and inbound referral traffic—as well as extremely valuable brand awareness and reputation/market positioning, contributing directly to sustained increased volumes of new inbound leads and customers in an organic (ie. not “sponsored”) context. This is part of a greater content strategy that should be synchronized with the off-site efforts.

The most successful off-site campaigns blend strategy, a clear focus, strong stakeholder motivation, creativity—and perhaps most importantly, data. This kind of campaign also leverages a strong on-site content strategy to the uttermost. Work with our team to build and execute an appropriate off-site campaign.

 

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SET EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS WITH HIGH LEVEL COMPETITIVE COMPARISON DATA

Evaluating some general principles surrounding one’s general ranking potential against a list of competitors is helpful.

See the spreadsheet at the link below, which shares data from the popular Moz Open Site Explorer. It’s important to note that while these are not Google metrics per se, the Moz set of metrics are highly researched using correlation studies, and have become very useful as common industry benchmarks.

View High Level Moz OSE Off-Site Competitive Metrics Spreadsheet


📚 For a cursory explanation of the different Open Site Explorer metrics, please see this video overview:

https://moz.com/help/guides/research-tools/open-site-explorer/compare-link-metrics

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LEVERAGE SPECIFIC COMPETITIVE OFF-SITE DATA TO BUILD A LIST OF LASER-FOCUSED LINK AND BRAND MENTION ACQUISITION TARGETS

Powerful competitive data is readily available from a number of SEO tools. Note that each data provider builds its own unique index by crawling the web—and so will produce different results. It’s recommended to at least use two different data sources to acquire and analyze this competitive data.

We have included competitive backlink data from Ahrefs.com, a powerful SEO and backlink index tool, as well as SEOProfiler, an agency helper with a diverse toolset.

This data shows websites linking to some, or all of your top competitors, that may or may not also be linking to ‘updated data for sample audit: Customer Website’:

Link Updated / Removed for Sample Data

 

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FIX BROKEN BACKLINKS WHERE POSSIBLE

When making URL changes, it is critical to employ 301 redirects to send users and search engines to correct page. Among the most important links are those that have backlinks currently pointing to them.

To help find those links, we ran ‘updated data for sample audit: Customer Website’ against Ahrefs.com’s “Broken Backlinks” report; the results are below:

Link Updated / Removed for Sample Data


Updating Backlinks is Preferred vs Redirection:

Note that while redirection is the “easy” fix, it is always preferred to actually update the backlinks to point to the current URL whenever possible. This may be a simple matter of editing an owned account (such as a link in your own social media account), or contacting a webmaster or blog owner to ask to have a link updated. It’s best to think of 301 redirects as your “safety net” which should be done first, and then seek to have the links updated on other sites.

Drilling Down To Learn More About The Individual Link Sources

More granular research on a per-domain basis must be done to see exactly what type of links are found on each linking domain. This is easily done using a tool like Ahrefs.com and Moz’s Open Site Explorer. This kind of ongoing research, discoveries and recommendations are always provided by First Page Solutions as part of an ongoing digital marketing partnership.

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ANYTHING ELSE?

  • Build best-in-class content (and always continue to “out-do” yourself). This might mean going more in-depth, working with new content types, finding new data (research). And don’t forget to include excellent visual design in all your content: people are visual, and are more likely to consume and share/link to content that is strong in terms of design and graphics (it’s just the way it is, we’re working within a visual 2D medium). Don’t make people grimace as they consume your content.
  • Consider your existing business network connections and come up with creative ways to turn them into backlink acquisitions. An experienced link builder has done a lot of this initial brainstorming for you and knows common sources of links, but will still need to partner with you to develop a real list of opportunities.
  • Look to the industry-shaking work and commentary of Brian Dean’s Backlinko blog to inspire some parts of the campaign (e.g., his so-called “Skyscraper” technique, as well as his powerful outreach approaches, are some of his greatest contributions).

AN IMPORTANT NOTE ON PARTNERING WITH A CONSULTANT OR AGENCY ON AN OFF-SITE CAMPAIGN

While it is almost always highly recommended to work with a skilled SEO agency with a proven track record of off-site optimization who can both effectively manage and help execute a campaign toward maximum success (if done right you will save money and time, while multiplying your results), it’s very important to be aware that individuals and agencies may sometimes oversimplify and/or oversell their capabilities, and/or may have particular biases toward certain approaches (possibly due to their own available in-house resources, as well as gravitating toward those methods which are the easiest for them to scale). At the end of the day, the most powerful off-site campaign approach is the one that is tailored to your business’ goals, niche and budget (as well as the level of stakeholder support).

View Technical On-Site Audit Spreadsheet -Link  Updated for Sample Audit

 

SECTION 3: ON-SITE OPTIMIZATION

Technical, Structure, Content, User Experience, Conversion Rate Optimization and Accessibility

INTRODUCTION

Users and the machines that serve those users (e.g., search engines) are growing in maturity. Their ability to parse information, understand sometimes abstract digital concepts, and engage with digital content is truly a staggering movement. On the content creator side, ready access to knowledge, tools, and consulting and contracting services has increased dramatically.

The net effect of these two factors has served to raise the bar for web property owners considerably in the last 6–8 years. And so, the process of analyzing web properties has become more nuanced and holistic. And this is a good thing. It means that humans are improving at communicating with one another through the digital medium—and that machines are becoming more useful.

We’ve discussed the importance of off-site optimization, and the foundational work of championing a robust, strategic and accurate measurement culture using Digital Analytics. Now we turn to the website property itself, taking a multi-faceted approach toward the factors that can contribute to success once that all-important event occurs: someone tries to visit your company website.

Because of the complexity of website technology, this is a lengthy portion of the Playbook. Where explicit data is missing due to the lack of current measurement practices by ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’, assertions based on best practices and third party will be made.

RECOMMENDATIONS & NOTES:

3A – TECHNICAL

The individual items are all found inside the Technical On-Site Audit Spreadsheet:

View Technical On-Site Audit Spreadsheet


The content below is not exhaustive against the spreadsheet content, so be sure to review the spreadsheet (only the higher priority or more nuanced items are detailed below).

More data is also provided with the 3 month trial access to SEOProfiler reporting, which can be accessed here:

View SEOProfiler Reports

 

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REVIEW AND RESOLVE THE FEW REMAINING GOOGLE PAGESPEED INSIGHTS TASKS

Google PageSpeed Insights (GPSI) is a brilliant, free tool that has several key benefits. Not the least of which is that it provides direct feedback from Google about the performance criteria they evaluate websites on.

The good news is that passing Google’s page speed evaluation is “simply” a technical task of satisfying the GPSI checklist, and can be done cheaply in most cases. Few tasks are so purely technical and rewarding as attaining a GPSI score of 95+ on both mobile and desktop.

‘Data Updated for Sample Post’- has done well at optimizing the website against GPSI’s criteria, but a few items remain. Review them below:

View the Google PageSpeed Insights Tab Data

 

For convenience, here is a live link to current Google PageSpeed Insights test results: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights

If the development team at ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’ needs outside assistance when fielding any of these items, First Page can help accomplish this task.

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IF NOT ALREADY, USE A CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK (CDN)

We were not able to confirm ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’ use of a CDN (personnel member was not available to field our inquiry), but the website does not appear to be using one.

This is recommended to to reduce server load and speed up website delivery.

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RESPONSIBLY IMPLEMENT SSL (HTTPS) ON ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’ DOMAIN

Google has explicitly stated that SSL is now a ranking factor (they are pushing for SSL everywhere to support a more secure and safer web).

There are some key considerations when making the switch, including:

 

  • Proper 301 redirection from old insecure URLs to new secure URLs

 

  • Making sure all content, including external scripts, are all loaded via HTTPS to avoid “mixed content” warnings
  • Select an appropriate SSL certificate type. These range from free to several hundred dollars per year. Using an “Extended Validation” certificate causes a larger padlock icon to appear in the user’s address bar, which displays the certificate owner’s name and country:

Current understanding is that Google does not differentiate between different types of SSL certificates.

NEW 2017 GOOGLE SECURITY WARNINGS REGARDING HTTPS

Google will now be evaluating websites that have login forms form that use a password, and issuing warnings via their Search Console service where this is missing. Currently, ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’ uses a subdomain, which is served over HTTPS. This is an interesting update, but it is still highly recommended to move the entire site to HTTPS as soon as possible.

The news update is covered here: http://searchengineland.com/google-search-console-warns-nonsecure-collection-passwords-upcoming-chrome-browser-release-266486

 

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REMOVE EXCESSIVE EMBEDDED CSS IN WEBSITE SOURCE CODE

There are currently over 7,000 lines of embedded CSS code inside most, if not every page of the ‘Data Updated for Sample Post’website. This is highly irregular and suboptimal treatment, and should be fixed asap.

While it can be strategic to embed some CSS code into the HTML to improve loading times, this should only be enough to load the above the fold content—the rest of the style rules should be placed in a separate file and referenced in the head portion of the HTML document. If this was done to raise Google PageSpeed Insights scores—this degree of embedding should not be necessary to accomplish that (in this case the “cure is worse than the disease”…).

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REDUCE FRONT END FRAMEWORK “BLOAT”

Multiple front end website frameworks are being used together on‘Data Updated for Sample Post’, which is bloating the website loading requirements for users, as well as increasing the number of server requests (which affects web server capacity and may impact loading times further). Some of this may be a result of using the Avada WordPress (it is recommended to review theme usage on new website builds below).

DO THIS: A thorough review of why each technology is being used is actually needed (or how useful that feature is). Once that is done, aim to reduce the number of technologies that are required to make the website work. If something is not adding measurable business value, remove it.

*Used Chrome extension Wappalyzer for analysis of tech stack.

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REVIEW 404 ERRORS AND FIX AS WARRANTED

There has been a steady rise in 404 “Not Found” errors, beginning in September of 2016; something happened to cause a further explosion in 404s errors around December 10th, 2016. The issue appears to be pandemic to Google Search Console.

The causes are likely related to:

  • Changing/Updating Website URLs, and/or
  • Incorrect/Outdated Sitemap Information

Upon further investigation, it appears that in most if not all cases, proper 301 “permanent” redirects should be used when changing any URLs that are indexed in Google.

PRIORITIZE FIXES TO PAGES WITH EXTERNAL LINKS POINTING TO THEM

As mentioned above in the Off-Site Optimization FIX BROKEN BACKLINKS WHERE POSSIBLE section.

 

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POSSIBLE WORDPRESS WEBSITE OPTIMIZATIONS

Since we were not allowed to access the administrative panel of the SQM Group WordPress website, we are unfortunately somewhat in the dark in regards to some items.

Avada Theme

With only limited experience with the theme, it did not feel particularly well suited to serious business demands. Concerns about the options, user interface, performance, and even the code quality of the Avada theme are all noted. Without wanting to “throw Avada under the bus”, it is recommended to enter into a focused theme vetting process when it comes time to prepare for the next website update.

Image File Size Optimization

Many examples of unoptimized images have been found on the website. Take the guesswork out of the publishing workflow by using a WordPress plugin to automatically optimize the image on upload. Note that the dimensions of the image are also important. TinyPNG is a recommended free service that does this well and seems to satisfy Google PageSpeed Insights.

Security

It is unknown what security measures have been taken to mitigate against website hacks, but presumably this is covered since it was noted that your wesite takes security seriously. However, some things to watch for are included in this separate document below:

View WordPress Security Notes

Updates

It’s important to keep WordPress updated regularly. If using an automated update plugin, be sure to also automatically backup WordPress before updating.

Backups

Also mentioned in the security doc, it’s always wise to keep regular backups for several reasons, including when updates go bad.

Caching Plugin

Caching can happen at multiple levels, and helps speed up WordPress.

 

3B – STRUCTURE / INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

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MAKING IMPROVEMENTS TO THE WEBSITE STRUCTURE (INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE)

A very important and relevant early SEO task is to model some recommended information architecture variations. First Page Solutions can help with this important work.

When users navigate to your website via search results,  there is no indication of where the active content is located within the site. Breadcrumbs are a navigational aid and an excellent tool to provide the user this important information while acquiring a SEO benefit. In its current state, breadcrumbs cannot be used on the website because the structure definition cannot be automated.

Among the many benefits of hierarchical navigation, one important one is that the html sitemap can be automated and new content will be indexed sooner. In regards to indexing, a poor site structure will waste valuable Googlebot time when it is on the site.

This article by Bruce Clay Inc, a world renowned SEO authority, should be read and understood before attempting to plan a content structure strategy.

 

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SITEMAPS

Your html sitemap is well designed and is user friendly. Key products and services are not  represented well and could use revision. Key content should be represented in the website structure.

Once a content structure strategy is created, WordPress can be used to implement it, however, some advanced WordPress skills will be required to have maximum SEO effect. The key to success will be noticed when the website url structure matches primary menus and sitemaps. Menu and sitemap structure is discussed in UX section.

The XML sitemap exists but is not formated. There are tools within wordpress that can help. One WordPress plugin called “Google XML Sitemaps” is a tested and accepted tool that will help.

In Google Search Console help, they say:

Guidelines for text file sitemaps:

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/183668?hl=en

Encode your file using UTF-8 encoding.

An XML Google sitemap plugin may be a good option because it allows exclusions and provides a formatted XML file

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BLOG ITEMS

WordPress Categories

Categories are not indicated or used throughout the site. Use of WordPress categories are a powerful way to build content content silos. Every post should be assigned to one category only.

Remove Post Archives

WordPress Tags

Currently, tag pages are disallowed in the website robots.txt file. This is acceptable practice—however:

The blog is filled with links to tag pages throughout the blog, sending poor and confusing signals to Google (the link volumes indicate importance and relevance, but then all these signals are being “wasted”).

If the decision is to omit tag pages from the Google Search index, then do the following:

Remove tags, but Tag pages can rank well and be useful for targeting niche markets. When tagging a post, consider the tag page you are creating and how it will be used by prospects. Posts that have multiple categories assigned should be adjusted so they only have one category and tags that represent the sub-topics within the post.

When using tag clouds on blog sidebars, consider where Google bots are crawling, it is beneficial to keep the bots crawling within one category or silo before leaving to a different topic.

WordPress Pages

WordPress pages are used for content that is not time sensitive. The use of parent pages with child pages is an effective organization of content. A wordpress page can also be used as Category parent page if the blog category is of the same topic. In this case, the parent page continues to receive new internal links linking to it, every time new related blog posts is created.

3C – HIGH LEVEL CONTENT & PRESENTATION REVIEW

Technical content notes are included in section 3A; a high level review of the intent and execution of the website content and design is included here. Design and/or presentation content is included here primarily because it is undeniably an important factor in how the content itself is ultimately consumed (or not consumed)—noting that design also ultimately has user experience, conversion rate optimization, and information architecture/structural implications.

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WEBSITE CONTENT SOMETIMES STRUGGLES WITH LENGTH CHOICES

People tend to consume content in varying length formats. Typically we might group text content into short-, medium- and long-form presentations. Readers address different content lengths differently:

  • Often pausing and “savouring” short-form to properly appreciate it (looking for quick enjoyment or value).
  • “Committing” to medium-form pieces, hoping for a good pay-off by the time investment (wanting to make a quick decision or be moved further along a path)
  • “Scanning” long-form content, hoping to cherry-pick out key sections and elements (including headings, graphics, charts, block quotes, etc.)

A number of the pages on this website struggle to find an effective form type against expected enterprise website page conventions. A perfect example is the website’s main About Us page.

This is very much compounded by the lack of formatting and presentation needed to break up and make longer text forms “pop” (see next section for more information).

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TEXT CONTENT COULD BE PRESENTED MORE EFFECTIVELY

The use of fonts, headings, and layout could be improved to better satisfy the on-the-go content consumer.

Specifically:

  • Body/paragraph font size too small
  • Font colour & font family blasé
  • Font line height is too tight
  • Headings not always used effectively (or at all)
  • Padding and/or margins are not always used effectively
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COLOUR PALLETTE COULD BE MATURED/ITERATED ON

While something of a subjective piece, the website colour pallette (including main website theme colour and associated graphical embellishments) feels “underdone”. A sprucing up by a talented, contracted designer would be a worthwhile exercise for a very minimal investment. It may be worth asking for 3–4 concept options.

3D – USER EXPERIENCE (UX)

Sandwiched between Content and Presentation and Conversion Rate Optimization is User Experience. Indeed, these three components are tightly interwoven.

A unique factor to the “User Experience” piece that is not covered in this document is what happens during and following direct contact with human customer service representatives.

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BOOK PURCHASING

While the landing pages and subsequent information for the books available for purchase were stellar, once this user went to the checkout, the purchasing experience was lacking in typical order page conventions which allow the visitor to review the information prior to final submission.

Create a sales funnel to analyze conversions and or lack of conversions for the order pages. Here is a webpage that may provide inspiration.

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MENU USE

Users want menus and navigation options that are easier to use, simple to understand and don’t come with more options than they can think about in a few seconds.

If site structure is considered, as mentioned in other sections of this audit, the current menu will reflect new url structure. Primarily, when a menu item is shown, it should link to a page. For example, parent menu items could link to a parent page instead of no link at all.

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LANDING PAGES

Landing pages can be found with Google Analytics. Some landing pages on the company web are pdf’s. PDF’s do not allow the user to explore the rest of the website and they are a dead end to Google bots.

Consider converting any pdf that is a landing page to a blog post or primary page. After the new content is created, a 301 redirect can be created to ensure all visitors will have maximum opportunity to interface with SQM. Review Google Analytics to ensure the new content is maximized for conversions.

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CONSIDER HOMEPAGE SLIDER USAGE

Sliders/Carousels are not user friendly and causes issues for visitors. If a website owner is interested in continuing to use them, please follow simple and easy rules for clean, fast and friendly ease of use. See http://shouldiuseacarousel.com for information on carousels.

Also, the homepage slider is not readable on mobile.

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AVOID OVERUSE OF TEXT INSIDE IMAGES

Images are sometimes difficult to read. This causes users to zoom or modify the image to be able to see, especially when trying to read text inside images. Also search engines do not crawl or index this data.

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IMPROVE 404 “PAGE NOT FOUND” EXPERIENCE

The current “Page Not Found” experience is weak. It should be improved to better recapture visitors who may land on a Not Found page. “404” pages as they are called, can be customized to include

Hitting a 404 page is often a symptom of a root issue. It is very important to consider the reasons why users might be seeing 404 pages in the first place. Examine the Google Search Console Crawl Errors Report to find clues (a snapshot of this report data is also found in the Technical On-Site Audit Spreadsheet). You can also take a look in Google Analytics by customizing the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report, as follows

View Google Analytics 404 Report

 

3E – CONVERSION RATE OPTIMIZATION (CRO)

The art and science of conversion rate optimization has advanced considerably in the last 2–4 years—both the availability of CRO tools and the general knowledge of application and best practices has increased in a very short time. It is now becoming possible to execute well-optimized online experiences at a very small cost—however, proper planning and responsible execution are essential.

At a high level, many opportunities exist for your company to test enhanced conversion rate optimization practices.

The key recommendations are to consider a focused retrofit of the website, as well as the creation of standalone marketing funnels meant to drive conversions and collect data.

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EMPLOY RELEVANT CALLS TO ACTION ON EVERY PAGE, INCLUDING BLOG ARTICLES

Users need to know what to do “next”. This sentiment is definitely not entirely lost on your  website experience, however it is not ubiquitous, and ultimately many landing page experiences are left wanting for a clearly visible conversion path. If a conversion “waypoint” cannot be found easily, a valuable visitor acquisition may be lost. In aggregate, adding relevant calls to action on every page can have a very powerful net impact on lead and sales volumes.

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START BUILDING WEBSITE MARKETING “FUNNELS”

The idea is simple: Send targeted paid traffic through highly structured “funnels”, designed to build a prospect database and convert sales directly. These highly measurable “petri dish” environments allow for effective conversion testing to be done, while also delivering useful data which can contribute to other marketing practices.

When combined with even simple marketing automation practices, a database of low- to medium-risk converters can be nurtured into higher-ticket customers and clients.

Testing different funnel variations is relatively easily done since changes are being made in such a controlled environment.

Different offers can be used. For example:

  • A direct sales page (such as to purchase a book)
  • The promise of a free piece of content such as a white paper, checklist or ebook
  • An invitation to a free event such as a webinar
  • An offer to give a free demo of a service or tool
  • Etc.
ADDITIONAL NOTES

  • Paid advertising is usually the best source of traffic to use with marketing funnels.
  • Funnel building tools greatly speed up implementation and testing. Examples include *Thrive Themes (WordPress), LeadPages, Clickfunnels, and Unbounce.

*Recommend starting with Thrive themes for price and because it is a WordPress tool.

 

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FURTHER READING:

Don’t neglect to watch this stellar CTA Conference presentation by Unbounce’s Michael Aagaard. The video especially pertains to the last three subsections Content & Presentation, User Experience, and Conversion Rate Optimization. It’s very relevant to your website current (perceived) approach to content, design and digital marketing in general. In particular, Aagaard notes some psychological factors that really aren’t worth trying to fight against or ignore in terms of making content and conversion steps easy and mentally enjoyable, citing physical and chemical factors—taking a hard-edged but funny approach to the topic.

Here again, is that link (don’t miss it!):

http://calltoactionconference.unbounce.com/speakers/2016-michael-aagaard/

 

3F – ACCESSIBILITY

While not a focus of this audit, website accessibility is an important consideration and well worthy of mention.

A basic assessment of some of your content against two accessibility tool results is located as a tab within the Technical On-Site Audit Spreadsheet, and is linked to directly here for reference:

View Basic Website Accessibility Notes

The topic of Accessibility goes far beyond what we have covered, and it’s something we believe in strongly. As such, First Page Solutions has a strong relationship with an expert Web Accessibility consultant who we bring in for special projects needing deeper attention.

Web accessibility has become a higher priority for municipal, province, state and national governments. It may be a good time to ensure accessibility is on your radar.

In some cases good SEO practices also translate into accessibility wins. This is because both concerns rely on machines to understand data effectively. And indeed, some of the items mentioned in the spreadsheet report echo other recommendations.

 

SECTION 4: KEYWORDS

Review of current keyword choices, Keyword suggestions, Long-tail keywords , Keyword difficulty, Keyword data

INTRODUCTION

Building a keyword strategy is foundational to SEO success as it will inform a great deal of other work. A combination of first, second and third party data sources help to inform which keywords to target.

Keyword Types

Head keywords, in relation to primary business goals are short, obvious, highly competitive and often have a low conversion rate. Body keywords (also knowns as the “Chunky Middle”) are two or three word phrases and have less competition and a better conversion. Long Tail keywords are 4+ word phrases, have low competition and excellent conversion rates. Effective Long Tail Keyword choices require comprehensive research and consultation with key business stakeholders to comprehend and define niche markets. After the research is complete, a content marketing plan could be created. Success can only be determined with proper integration with analytics data and a systematic review.

MORE ON LONGTAIL KEYWORDS

Long-tail keywords typically deliver higher motivated website visitors and can be much easier to rank for because there is less competition for them.

One notable example of longtail keywords is a keyword group containing the words ‘—————-’. This group triggered 366 impressions on Google’s search pages for ———– during the last 30 days, and over 900 during the last last 90 days, the average position was 19.

Another long tail keyword that receives a considerable attention is ‘—————————–’ and with over 200 impressions in the last thirty days may result in increased prospects if a landing page was optimized for it specifically.

More real-world examples can be found in the Keywords Audit Spreadsheet, linked to below.

 

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FURTHER READING:

Brian Dean’s Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide:
http://backlinko.com/keyword-research

PDF Version:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B02xa3tfRXP4aUU1TThqcEpHLTg/view?usp=sharing

Keyword Audit Reports

Keyword Report by First Page Solutions Removed for this sample SEO Audit

Keyword suggestions supplied by the the company to First Page have also been entered into SEOProfiler; the live reports can be found within our SEO Reporting system. Call for more details.

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IDENTIFY MOST ACTIONABLE AND REWARDING KEYWORD OPPORTUNITIES

Using the data from tools like Google Search Console, identify viable keyword opportunities by intersecting appreciable impression volumes with near-top rankings. As rankings go up, many more of those impressions will convert to clicks to the website from Google. Also review company goals and priorities in terms of Keywords and primary categories.

Other key factors:

  • Competitiveness
  • Searcher Intent

By combining a successful off-site campaign, structural/information architecture improvements, and focused content creation, positive rankings results are almost sure to follow.

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USE OF SEO / RANK TRACKING TOOL(S)

Google Search Console

Regularly review the Search Analytics report in Google Search Console to find and review more long tail keywords in the results. A recent Search Analytics report snapshot found in the Keyword Report Audit Spreadsheet above. This report is downloaded from Google Search Console and sorted by number of impressions. View keywords that you think are being searched on and then find alternate keywords that are receiving substantial impressions to determine what content changes can be capitalized on.

Other Tools

While it is highly recommended to monitor search term queries (keywords) using Google Search Console, there are some features only available by using third party tools.

Tools we regularly use and recommend are:

  • Moz.com
  • Ahrefs.com
  • SEOProfiler (3 month client access to this service is granted as a bonus by First Page)

Other tools:

  • SEM Rush
  • Majestic SEO

First Page is able to provide consulting and training with the use of tools.

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ORGANIZE KEYWORDS BASED ON BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE

While Google Search Console unfortunately does not—third party SEO tools often allow some kind of tagging/labeling, and/or grouping to be applied to keywords as part of their rank tracking tools.

It is useful to organize the keywords based on some of the following criteria:

  • Branded vs. Non-branded
  • Sales cycle stage (estimated), e.g., research, consideration, buyer intent
  • Competitor
  • Head/Middle/Longtail
  • Etc.

First Page Solutions can help with setting up tools according to these labels and also provide coaching in tool use.

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KEEP USING KEYWORD-RICH ANCHOR TEXT WHEN LINKING INTERNALLY

While having too many backlinks (links from other websites) that contain exact-match, keyword-rich anchor text can be a spam signal to Google… using keywords as anchor text internally tends to be looked upon favourably and produce positive relevance signals.

Example:

  • Keyword anchor text in a link: “… see our list of best fcr practices …”
  • Not using keywords: “… see our list of best fcr practices …”
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REVIEW BRANDING AS IT RELATES TO KEYWORDS

While your company dominates the ranking for the exact match of its brand, it has several competitors that rank strongly for the term ‘—’. It may be advisable to review ranking goals for — / — —–. In addition to adjusting SEO practices for ranking for — organically, it may be advisable to bid on —in Google AdWords and ensure — —–is at the top of the SERPS for keyword ‘—’.

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APPEARING IN GOOGLE “INSTANT ANSWERS” AKA “FEATURED SNIPPETS”

In the image below, ranking features for —- ——– ———— are displayed as seen on Google on Dec 16 2016. The definition for ‘ —- ——– ———— ’ is displayed by Google first and is what can be called ‘Rank Zero’ or more commonly referred to as a Featured Snippet or Instant Answers result. A featured snippet is supplied by a search engines in response to a search query, without the user having to navigate away from the search results. Instant answers have been used by many search engines, such as Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, and AOL.

A goal to achieve rank zero for several of — key terms including, but not limited to — and  —- ——– ———— , is plausible. Accomplishing this goal includes short, precise answers that are better than the competition. In addition to the basic SEO features of a page, websites that are winning the instant answer or rank zero often include numbered lists with their concise answer and a robust body of related content. One Study available on Moz will help provide more information on how to achieve rank zero.

Example screenshot of the SERP results mentioned above has been removed for privacy

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CONTINUE TO FOCUS ON —; DEVELOP —– STRATEGICALLY

We have provided insight into keyword opportunities for –keyword report removed–.

Related Search Questions

On the search result for ‘ —- ——– ———— , directly below the instant answer is a series of common related questions that are searched for and related to  —- ——– ———— . While — is in the first page results for the head term itself, it is not on the first page results for the related questions listed by Google. After optimized content is created with posts or pages that have the exact title match as the related questions …

  • What does  —- ——– ————  mean?
  • What is the  —- ——– ———— ?
  • What is the meaning of —?

… It is likely that — would be in a good position to rank for these questions related to  —- ——– ———— —and also that as a relevant-to-Google set of content was developed, that ranking for the head term itself would also rank up. This practice of monitoring these related results can be applied to all major keywords, and can provide content ideas for existing content and new content (including static pages and targeted blog post ideas).

A complete strategy which first involves optimizing site structure can be created and will increase the ranking for all — related terms.

Organic Results for —

Your company currently ranks at position #18 in the USA and #7 in Canada. The current result is a PDF document, which is not ideal and should be addressed (mentioned again below).

A NOTE ON —

While perhaps obvious to stakeholders, it is noted that the head term ‘ —- ——– ———— ’ has no appreciable user search volume (after testing against several tools’ datasets). We acknowledge that it is a new term that — is championing/owning. As such, since there is no “inbound” traffic currently, appropriate marketing methods should be used. For example, creating a new marketing funnel(s) around the term, which are then promoted via organic social media as well as focused digital advertising campaigns. We discuss marketing funnels more in the Conversion Rate Optimization section.

 

SECTION 5: NEXT STEPS

 

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SCHEDULE PLAYBOOK RUNTHROUGH

Shortly after delivery we always schedule a Playbook Runthrough. This is a chance to parse through the Playbook material live together, and it is included in the cost of the Playbook. If for some reason stakeholders cannot attend the Runthrough, a video recording of it can be made available on request.

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DEVELOP A COLLABORATIVE EXECUTION STRATEGY

First Page Solutions specializes in collaborating with clients on the execution of Playbooks. The benefits of involving us in your execution are numerous, and include:

Cost Savings

This comes from several sources.

  • Far fewer mistakes during execution
  • Faster execution

Also, by moving several digital marketing concerns and campaigns to be managed under one roof, an aggregate cost savings occurs as thought, communication and task overlap is reduced.

Real-time Consulting and Support

Consulting is a natural part of our work, and the level we provide goes beyond what most digital agencies can offer. We have provided ongoing expert consulting for national brands, higher education, dot coms, ecommerce, business services, nonprofits, and more.

Monthly Accountability Meetings

Every month is a chance to reevaluate campaign goals and progress. We take an agile approach to task completion—each month is a “sprint cycle” against a backlog of task items.

Multi-channel Reporting

Monitoring and reporting on key digital marketing metrics can be a complicated and time consuming task. We provide a set of relevant KPIs based on your campaigns, and have instant access to detailed data from a number of different sources.

Collaborating on Execution

After we next meet, we look forward to providing a quote on working together with you in the pursuit of accomplishing many of the tasks listed in this Playbook, as well as establishing a set of relevant campaigns.

 

Regards,

Clay Kessler

First Page Solutions
Suite 202-1767 Harvey Avenue
Kelowna, BC V1Y 6G4 Canada
(236) 420-3222
https://www.firstpagesolutions.ca