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Do you really need a web design agency?

Thinking about hiring a web design agency?  Think again. Is that really all you need, an agency that designs websites? Even if ‘design’ also encompasses building your site, I am not sure that is enough for most organizations.

Do you really need a web design agency?
It’s not enough to launch a website anymore, you also have to think about its long term running. There are so many questions to answer. Questions like:
• Is your website recovering its costs?
• How are you measuring its success?
• Who is responsible for ensuring content is accurate and up to date?
• What happens if a user complains about accessibility?
• Who decides if there are disagreements about what should be on the site?
The list could go on.

More than just building sites, organizations need help, setting policies and procedures, outlining a roadmap for future development, carrying out ongoing testing, establishing responsibilities and roles. Organizations need a partner that can help with building a web team, setting policies and procedures, outlining a roadmap for future development, carrying out ongoing testing, establishing responsibilities and roles. They don’t just need somebody who is going to point out the problems, but an agency that will get involved in finding solutions.
Sure, there are smaller organizations that don’t need all of this. However, these are the kind of organizations that are probably better off working with a freelancer. Yes, there are some organizations that have already done all of this thinking and have their internal processes in place, but I suspect these are thin on the ground.

A web agency rather than a web design agency

My point is that most organizations need more than a web design agency that builds their site. They need a partner who can get really stuck into the organization and help to answer these questions. Here at aab design inc. we are not just a web design agency, our mission is to help established companies to become more successful 
in the digital world. We do that by taking the time to understand your goals and your business objectives, and by working with you to design & deliver bespoke WordPress solutions that gain you significant business advantage.

You may have noticed that on our website aabdesigninc.com we don’t call ourselves a web design agency anymore; we refer to ourselves as a digital marketing agency. That is because we believe our clients need a lot more than pretty pictures and development. Increasingly the work we do is as much about strategy, governance and measurement, as it is about building sites.
Our focus is on creating websites our clients are proud of, and websites we are proud to put our name to. We don’t just build websites, we build brands, and we know how important it is for a business to have a brand which represents its personality, goals and objectives.
So next time you go to hire a web design agency, ask yourself whether you actually need something more, at aab design inc. we offer the services that you need. We are designing Responsive and Mobile websites for the 21st Century.

SEO today – new methods in optimizing content

As Google has cracked down on these practices and as consumers have moved to other avenues of finding content (social media sites, blogs, aggregators, etc.), SEO has been swallowed whole by a much broader set of necessary considerations.

local_serp_anatomy

Jackson readily admits that many legitimate SEO best practices are still not only relevant but are highly effective with the rising importance of all forms of content.

Instead of simply declaring SEO dead, Jackson argues that it should be incorporated into a new, more comprehensive framework for outlining the necessary approach content marketers should take to promoting and building content effectively — a framework he dubs OC/DC, or optimizing content for discovery and conversion.

OC/DC is a more holistic and goal-driven approach to content marketing. SEO’s narrow focus not only does not address all the avenues through which consumers now discover content, but its tight constraints also can negatively influence the content creation itself.

The rest of this article will highlight various strategies and guidelines, showing you how to optimize website content for SEO, discovery and conversion in the coming year.

Readers First, Algorithms Second

Google has made it crystal clear that it will always favor content that is valuable to people over content that is written primarily to rank for Google. Not only have they emphasized this over and over on their blog, they’ve made dozens of changes to their search algorithm that reflect this decision.

There are certain SEOs (the ones who don’t seem to heed Google’s warnings) that live in constant fear of the next Google algorithm change. The reason for their concern is that the content they produce and the SEO tactics they use, in large part, pander to Google’s algorithm changes instead of actually suiting and serving real readers.

Creating quality content is hard, and these workarounds and hacks can seem like tempting avenues to high search engine rankings. However, constantly having to pick up the pieces when Google penalizes your efforts is probably more costly in the long run.

That’s because creating quality content from the outset might require more initial effort, but will all but guarantee that you will be immune from Google’s constant updates and very well might be helped by them. That’s because your content will be the material that Google hopes to promote instead of the keyword-stuffed spam their engineers look to punish.

As we will discuss later, many SEO best practices are still very much necessary in ensuring your quality content gets discovered, but these optimization considerations are much better reserved for after you focus on creating high-quality, targeted content created to serve your audience.

What Is Quality Content?

Before you even begin strategizing on how to make quality content, you need to pin down exactly what constitutes high-quality content in the first place. This is a daunting task, but luckily Google provided a wonderful outline of what they see as indicators of quality content.

Google Quality Content Outline

The format of the linked blog post is a series of questions, as seen above. The one question of particular relevance to this discussion is:

“Are the topics [on your site] driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?”

This question is so important because any rubric for judging quality content will be intimately linked to the readers and audience you are attempting to reach and appeal to. The first stage of content planning and strategy should be to seriously consider your audience and their genuine interests.

Know Thy Niche

Every business or product has something unique about it. Even if you are competing in a crowded space, if your business has enjoyed any kind of success it’s because you’ve offered something that no one else has. Whether it’s a focus on cost-savings, or a quirky sense of humor, or an emphasis on professionalism. Any one of a variety of factors can be identified as part of your brand’s true story.

As a content marketer, your goal is to create content that appeals to your audience in a way that mirrors the appeal of the product this content marketing is calling attention to. In fact, a smart content strategy can naturally lead to conversions if it is appropriate to your product.

The more you can narrow down the unique appeal of your product or service, the more likely your content is to appeal to the “genuine interest of your readers.” Considering these are the very words that Google used, any content marketing that makes good on this goal will likely be favored by Google’s current and future algorithms.

The Quicksprout blog has put together a wonderful step-by-step guide to developing a content strategy based on a unique set of customer interests. This guide is quite in-depth but the main ideas are fundamentally simple.

  • Find a niche that is narrow enough to be unique, but broad enough to meet your business objectives.
  • Locate your ideal customer within this niche and discover what blogs they read, what social sites they use, what kind of events they attend, etc.
  • Create a persona reflecting this average customer and try to gain an understanding of their demographic makeup as well as their psychology, beliefs, etc.
  • Use this persona as a guideline for focusing your content marketing efforts.

What makes this approach so powerful is that it makes discovering and appealing to you customer’s genuine interests a central focus. This aligns your content with the goals of Google and other search providers.

So even though this is not “SEO” in the sense that the term has come to be understood, creating content from a plan that looks like this will certainly go a long way towards optimizing your content for discovery by search engines.

In his book “Google Semantic Search,” David Amerland argues that the “four Vs” that govern big data processes can also be used to inform SEO and content marketing decisions (if you think about it, understanding Google’s search engine is nothing but a big data problem).

The four Vs are:

  • Volume. This is the simplest of the four, but the amount of material you put out about your topic of choice will be a big indication to Google of your authority on the subject.
  • Velocity. The overall frequency of your content will also give Google a hint as to your expertise. Posting once a week for a year, likely looks better than posting once a month over the course of four years.
  • Variety. While you don’t want to venture too far with your content’s subject, covering a variety of areas within your niche of choice will signal to Google that you have authority on the topic.
  • Veracity. Having content that is received well by readers (that is shared, talked about, etc.) is perhaps the strongest indication to Google that they should serve content from your site to readers interested in the concept you chose to focus on.

Focusing on making sure your broader content strategy satisfies the conditions of these four ideas will ensure that your individual quality pieces of content end up constituting search benefits that are greater than the sum of their parts.

“Traditional” SEO as the Final Step

Once you have ensured that you have identified your audience, understand what interests them, are producing quality content for your niche, and are doing so in a way that is establishing your site’s authority, then you can start thinking about “traditional” SEO considerations.

Traditional SEO is kind of like rainbow sprinkles. On a vanilla ice cream cone, sprinkles can improve the whole experience and can actually offer people additional value. But if you give someone just a pile of rainbow sprinkles, you won’t be giving them anything they really want and will likely just leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Content Marketing-1

In much the same way, legitimate SEO best practices such as linking to other relevant posts within your blog, providing accurate keywords within headlines and anchor text, and properly tagging and categorizing your content can really offer a lot of additional value to readers.

If these best practices are followed in addition to providing quality content that people want to read, then they will not only enhance the user experience, they will make this great content easier to find. However, if best practices are not incorporated into a broader content strategy they will likely do more harm than good.

In fact, this is exactly what Sean Jackson was saying when he claimed “SEO is dead.” It doesn’t mean that these practices are dead, but if you’re notcreating awesome content, they’re essentially useless.

How do you incorporate key SEO tactics when creating content for your business? Share your experience in the comments below.

5 reasons why your competitor ranks high on Google.

Reason #1: Click-through rate

Part of Google’s algorithm looks at a click-through rate. It calculates it as a percentage, reflecting the number of clicks you receive from the total number of people searching for that particular phrase you rank for.

The higher the percentage, the more appealing your listing is compared to the competition. And if your click-through rate is higher than everyone else’s, Google will slowly start moving you up the search engine results page as this algorithm factor tells it that searchers prefer your listing.

Looking at the click-through rate isn’t enough, however, as people could create deceptive title tags and meta descriptions to increase their results. So Google also looks at your bounce rate.

It assesses the number of people who leave your page by hitting the back button to return to the search listing page. If Google sends 1,000 people to one of your web pages and each of those 1,000 people hit the back button within a few seconds, it tells Google your web page isn’t relevant.

A lot of the websites that are ranking well on Google that don’t seem to be optimized have a high click-through rate and a low bounce rate. And that helps maintain their rankings.

Reason #2: Backlinks

Google doesn’t just look at the sheer number of backlinks a site has—it also looks at relevancy and authority.

Many of these non-optimized sites that are ranking well have a few high quality backlinks pointing to the right internal pages. For example, if you have only few links—but they come from .edu and .gov extensions—your site will rank extremely well.

In addition to having the right backlinks, those sites also have a spot-on anchor text for these links. Most SEOs think you need rich anchor text links to rank well, but the reality is you don’t.

Google is able to look at the web page that is linking to you and analyze the text around the link as well as the text on the page. It helps Google determine if the link is relevant to your site and what you should potentially rank for.

Reason #3: Cross-linking

Even if you don’t have the best on-page SEO and a ton of backlinks, you can rank well from an overall site perspective if you cross-link your pages.

And it’s important not just from a navigational or breadcrumb perspective, but from an in-content perspective. If you can add in-content links throughout your site and cross-link your pages, you’ll find that they all will increase in rankings.

On the flip side, if you aren’t cross-linking your pages within your content, you’ll find that some of your web pages will rank extremely well, while others won’t. It’s because you are not distributing link juice and authority throughout your whole site.

Reason #4: Mobile Friendly

Last week, Google updated its search algorithm to favor mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results — a move that could affect 40 percent of Fortune 500 websites. One of the best ways to prepare is to test that Google considers your web pages to be mobile-friendly by using its Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

Reason #5: Content quality

Since its Panda update, Google has been able to determine content quality of websites. For example, it can determine whether a site is too thin or has duplicate content, allowing for a much better analysis of content quality than before.

A lot of these well-ranking older sites have extremely high quality content. You may not think so, but Google does.

Why?

Because Google doesn’t just look at the content on a site… It looks at the content on one website and compares it to others within that space. So if you have higher quality content than all of your competitors, you are much more likely to outrank them in the long run.

Conclusion

There are a lot of reasons why sites that don’t seem well-optimized rank well. The five I listed above are the main reasons I’ve seen over the years.

So the next time you are trying to figure out why a certain site ranks well when it shouldn’t, chances are it’s because of one or more reasons on the list.

As a website owner, you shouldn’t focus too much on your competition; instead, you should focus on improving your website. In the long run, the company with the best product or service tends to win.

 

The Interactive Website Redesign and Migration Checklist

Time for a website redesign? Whether you’re migrating, changing your URL structure, or just switching to a different CMS, a website redesign is not a one-step process. For an SEO, especially, it requires the participation in every step of the process and of every member of the team.

But don’t pull out your hair just yet! We put together this list of site redesign/migration best practices to help alleviate one of the most stressful processes for an SEO. After all, it’s a lot easier to prevent site migration problems, than to fix site migration problems. Which, if you haven’t heard before, have the possibility of being pretty disastrous.

Remember though: every site migration/redesign is unique. Don’t just rely on this (fantastic) list; make sure to cover all your bases by informing yourself as much as possible. Check out these other resources: Intelligent Site Redesign & Migrations Webinarand Only You Can Prevent Site Migration Disaster.

Jump to a section:

I. PRE-MIGRATION

  • Find the best time for your site migration. Give yourself leeway for potential problems/delays. Discuss with your team.
  • Understand why fluctuations occur during post-migration and relay these to your project manager.
  • Understand the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle).
  • Analyze and review all requirements for SEO. Make sure SEO is involved from the beginning of the process.
  • Estimate the financial impact of your re-launch.
  • Review the current state of your site. Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
  • Run baseline report in your analytics platform.
  • Take inventory of what you’ve done. Identify your assets.
  • Export your top pages report (Monitor your top pages at least a month before your migration).
  • Which pages have naturally attracted links? Which pages have attracted social links or movement?
  • Export your revenue-producing landing pages.
  • Look at how those pages are internally linked.
  • Gather key metrics and trends:
  • Natural search traffic.
  • Search engine rankings on top terms (Tip: Use Searchlight).
  • Page load times.
  • Number of indexed pages in search engines.
  • Number of unique landing pages that are driving natural search.
  • Clean up the legacy content or assets you’ve built.
  • Corral your server errors (Tip: Use Webmaster tools).
  • Find broken links (403s, 404s). (Tip: Use Broken Link Checker)
  • Get all your links’ status codes. Find not just 404s/410s, but also, “Soft 404s.” (Tip:URI Valet (for multiple redirects))
  • Prevent 404s in your navigation.
  • 301 Redirect all URLs to similar content. Stay clear of blanket redirects as much as possible.
  • Have a XML sitemap strategy (Tip: Use GSiteCrawler, Intellimapper, Integrity, XML-Sitemaps.com).
  • Make sure your sitemaps are up to date
  • Submit sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Submit sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Double-check any geo-targeting preferences.
  • If there is a domain/URL change:
  • Keep major changes to a minimum (if possible).
  • Check Internet archive, waybackmachine, to see if there was harmful content previously on your domain.
  • Verify both sites in the same Webmaster tools account.
  • Make sure old and new URLs can be fetched by Google bot.
  • Use the change of address option in GWMT site configuration.
  • Do not run two identical sites simultaneously. Use the cross-domain canonical.
  • Inform linking partners of your new URL structure.
  • Make solid design around SEO.
  • Make sure there are no crawling issues with your design.
  • Reduce duplicate content issues.
  • Test aggressively and make sure to back up your claims with real data!

 

II. LAUNCH

  • Be proud of yourself. You did it!

 

III. POST-MIGRATION

  • From your baseline report pre-launch, monitor what has changed.
  • Validate robots.txt file in your production environment.
  • Validate your page load times and compare it to your pre-migration baseline.
  • Reduce ranking fluctuations by updating the date stamp in your XML sitemap (for your old 301-redirected URLs).
  • Reclaim links. Attempt to get your old links updated.
  • Try to establish a 1:1 relationship for all your URLs. Check that the pages actually getting traffic are being redirected.
  • In your previously exported landing pages report in Searchlight, make sure you’re getting a similar background of backlinks.
  • Take a deep breath… the checklist is finished. (But don’t stop monitoring your analytics!)