The TOOLS Show: Website Reviews! August 22, 2014

This week, Sage & Greg review 3 websites, and give them great advice for making their beautiful sites even better, from a marketing standpoint.

Art Jewelry

Adrienne_Gaskell_—_Art_Jewelry

The first is Adrienne Gaskell’s Art Jewelry site. And she specifically asked for suggestions regarding her Shop page. Looks like she has 2 full pages of products, about 50 or so pieces. The first question, after looking at the pages, is How are they organized? It’s not obvious from a glance, but Greg figures out that they are alphabetical by product name.

Sage clicks through the checkout process (Paypal by the looks of it), which is straightforward and simple. So that’s definitely a positive. Overall, though, clicking right on the Shop link in the top navigation take you to a page where everything is listed, which is confusing if the user isn’t already familiar with Adrienne’s site and products. Greg wasn’t sure from the home page what the overall idea is for the site. The assumption was that she is selling jewelry that she has made, but on further inspection, it looks like the store actually has kits and supplies for making jewelry.

Also taking a look at the top navigation, the guys discover that the Shop link has a menu with categories that was easily overlooked. And they do find a way to sort products on the page, but it would be easier for shoppers to already have those categories broken out when they come to the Shop page. It would be more descriptive and less frustrating, to let people know what they are looking at right from the beginning.

Suggestions:

  • Put the category names at the top of the actual page, if possible; or have them default sorted by best sellers or most popular
  • More descriptive product names, for those who aren’t already familiar with jewelry-making materials, as it’s not always obvious from the picture.
  • Better labeling on the ability to sort, or organized by categories
  • By tracking your sales as you make changes, Adrienne, you will be able to see what setup is working best for your customers.
  • Some more wording on the home page to be clear what the site is about.

Wholly Organized

Wholly_Organized_-_Professional_Organizing_Service

Next up is Lynne Poulton’s Wholly Organized site. Sage got to speak to an organization of organizers recently, where he met Lynne. Sage loves that she “gets it” when it comes to internet/social media marketing. Too many people do the “spray and pray” method, trying to just get numbers of followers, likes, etc.; Lynne understands that making connections with people and building relationships is the best way to get business.

She has a beautiful site, with lively bright colors and great photos of herself and nicely organized spaces. We love the personal touch of her photo right up front, and Greg makes the point that the photo of the room makes us want to find out how to get one!

The front page has clear Calls to Action: Call, look at the Brochure, or visit the Blog. Sage thinks that an email newsletter could be an even better CTA, with tips and information helping people understand how an organizer can help them.

The Blog continues the clear photos, on a WordPress platform, and a long history of posts going back to 2012. Sage likes the ability to scroll through all of the posts, seeing how someone could easily get sucked in reading posts for an hour.

Suggestions for Lynne:

  • There is concern that although the blog is a WordPress, it still pulls readers out of the website. One way to address this would be to add a sidebar, so it’s easy to get back to the site, with an email signup/CTA, and social media links.
  • The brochure, as well, while it’s very nicely done, pulls readers out of the site, possibly even opening more applications (since it is a PDF), with no easy way to get back. Sage suggests a newsletter signup as the main CTA, giving you the ability to get contact info for potential customers and engaging them regularly.
  • LOVE the abundant social media links that are clear on the site. Maybe moving a couple main ones to the top would help call them out even more.

Blondie’s Treehouse

Blondies_Treehouse_NYC

Last but not least, Sage was asked to review the Blondie’s Treehouse website by Josh. This is a gorgeous, minimalist site, with a simple beautiful Asian-inspired design and fantastic photos. Sage feels compelled to click on the because of their beauty.

BUT it’s not obvious what kind of company Blondie’s is, until clicking through to some of the categories; landscaping and plantscaping services, they finally realize. Cruising around the site  reveals even more of the superb design, maintaining the feel all the way through, but the concern is that the form is overtaking the function. And there needs to be a balance, to be beautiful, but without certain key elements, it won’t be very useful as a marketing tool.

The Tools suggest:

  • A descriptive tagline that includes a mention of where they are located, to give visitors a better idea of what the company does.
  • Maybe a Contact link in the top navigation, to alert folks as to where they are located. There is mention on the home page, but not on the inner pages; with the scroll feature, it’s asking a lot to have people go all the way to the bottom for that information.
  • Greg is concerned that without any real text on the home page, there isn’t anything for a search engine to grab onto, which could negatively impact your search results.
  • The map on the National Program page is cool, but would be even better if the dots were clickable, to get more information, see photos, etc. And the list of services should be more prominent that at the bottom of the page, to let potential customers know what they might be able to get even if they’re not in NYC.

That’s it for our website reviews this time around. Remember, if your site gets reviewed, once you change things, we will review it again to see the difference. Tune in next week to learn more internet marketing tips, tools, and news!

 

The TOOLS Show: Stop Guest Blogging. Now! – August 14, 2014

 

Note: For clarification, if you’re not familiar with the difference between “legitimate” Guest Blogging and Guest-Blogging-for-SEO-purposes, check out this article first. I promise, it will make the rest of this post/episode make more sense.

And of course, the latter type of “guest blogging” is what we are talking about today: the spammy, no-real-content, plaster it all over the internet kind. The kind that someone may offer to you at some point. It strikes me as a kind of cyber drug deal: “Hey, we all know that content is what makes you more popular on Google, so do you want some cheap content?” [Insert villain-type character here] “It’s cheap; just link back to us and you, too, can have great page rank.” But don’t fall for it! Like in Real Life, the good stuff ain’t cheap, and it can land you in hot water.

Sage figures this is the next step in the evolution of Link-Building schemes: first there were link exchanges, then link farms, then link “brokerage” sites where people paid for links, and now another scammy, spammy way to try and outsmart Google by calling it “guest blogging.”

Yes, this seems like maybe it should be common sense, but as we all know, sometimes common sense isn’t all that common. Even Chrome fell victim to a quick fix, paying bloggers to write about their new browser (back when it was new, of course). Google caught them and kicked them out of the search results for a while, which looks like some Tough Love for sure from this parent!

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

According to a recent article on Search Engine Land, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are now reflecting this more specific change in what’s ok and what’s not. What we’re talking about is “low quality guest blogging that aims at manipulating search results” (Sage), not good quality, informative, original content. The bottom line, as written by Google: “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.” This should always be your goal for content, anyway. So unless you’re doing something sneaky, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

For example, if the Mayor wants to write a guest post on your blog because you’ve got a great local business following, the consensus is that this is a legit use of Guest Blogging. As long as you know what you’re doing, you should be fine. But if you’re not sure, better to err on the side of caution and be safe, because your ranking and website’s reputation could be on the line. Just like in high school, protect your rep because that’s all you’ve got.

Sage’s (sage) advice: “If there is a noted authority in your community or industry, and there is a legitimate reason why they would want to write on your blog, then by all means have them do it. If, however, more than, say, 20-30% of your posts are written by guests, you are putting yourself at risk.”

So if you get a request from a potential “guest blogger,” check them out: if they aren’t an expert in their field, or have stuff all over the place that doesn’t make sense, or the content all looks the same or extremely similar (“scraped” content), run away! The vast majority of content on your site should be written by YOU and your team.

Other Things NOT To Do

(Google will find you and punish you)

  • white text on white background (although this seems like an easy way to get keywords on your pages, it’s actually cheating)
  • same for super tiny text
  • blocking your entire site from being found: This happens often when a developer forgets to un-block the robots.txt file from a new site, so that Google’s “spider-bots” can crawl it to index the site
  • getting links to/from low-quality directories (a page full of links with no content), or an irrelevant one (a plumber on an accounting site)
  • creating multiple websites and cross-link them to try and make it look like there are lots of links
An Old Penguin

So Google’s last algorithm update (not counting that silly “Pigeon” we talked about last week), Penguin, hasn’t been updated in over 300 days. So what?

Well some website owners are upset because, due to changes to the algorithm that targets spammy behavior in order to manipulate Page Rank (see above), they have been (not penalized) “algorithmized.” And without a new update, even if the problem has been fixed, they may still be suffering from the lack of organic search results, which could shut down a business that primarily relies on online search traffic as their main source of income. Sage makes the good point that surely some of those sites have gone out of business by now.

Although there are some supposed workarounds out there, like this “Orca” technique, it seems like it all comes down to rebuilding a new website. Of course, the rational person’s suggestion would be to rebuild a website without all of the spammy bad links, but there is a feeling of “once a spammer, always a spammer” here at SageRock. If someone is always looking for the “easy way,” especially when it comes to online marketing, then they will most likely continue to be targeted “algorithmized” by Google, who only wants their innocent users to find good, relevant, useful search results, not cheesy websites full of crappy so-called content and a million links to nowhere.

 

The TOOLS Show – Google Pigeon Update :: August 4, 2014

This week’s show begins with a fascinating discussion of whether or not pigeons and seagulls are the same bird, or are even related (see here for everything you wanted to know about the differences between gulls and pigeons). They are not really even related, other than that they are both birds, and Sage concludes from the Google images of gulls that they are “evil bastards who will attack your head.” So hopefully, Google’s so-called “Pigeon” update will not be as nasty as all that.

Actually, Google didn’t pick this name for its latest incarnation; apparently Search Engine Land did when it was released in late July. And yes, like you, we are also pretty tired of the variety of “P” animal names for these updates. But the biggest changes are in the local search results and how those are displayed, according to an article in Small Biz Trends.

To test out this theory, Sage did a Google search for “Akron Roofers,” looking at the differences between the Paid, Map, Local, and regular Organic listings. Here’s my example, with each section marked (similar, but not exactly the same, of course):

akron_roofers_-_Google_Search

We don’t really see a big difference from what was happening before the change, but it does seem like the directories (BBB, YellowPages.com, AngiesList) are getting a boost from it, as they are appearing (as you can see) at the top of the Organic results, even before the Local “seven pack.” So yet again it seems that Google is giving a boost to the Big Guys over the small, local companies, delegating them further down the page.

Have you noticed either a difference in the search results you’re getting or any effect on your standings onGoogle?

According to Greg, this may have been partly a result of Yelp complaining rather loudly that Google’s local results were coming up ahead of Yelp results, even if the user put “Yelp” in the search term. Here’s an article about that, if you’re interested.

So what do we DO with this information??

  1. Use it as a reminder to always check yourself in regular searches for your name and keywords.
  2. If there are directories that are relevant to your business that come up, make sure you’re in them!
  3. In the same vein, once you have claimed those listings, fill them all out and update them with photos, coupons, videos, articles, etc.

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In Other News

Foursquare still kinda sucks. Google’s local results (at least in Northeast Ohio) look and come back with better, more relevant stuff. For example, even though Sage chose every “interest” in the app except drinking, it still just show him bars all the time!

 

More exciting is that Pinterest now has Messaging! You can send a Pin & add a message to it, either to a follower of yours or just someone in your Contact list (via SMS).

After playing around with it for a bit, Sage feels that it’s one of the better messaging tools out there, since you can “escape” the app, by sending to people outside of Pinterest. This well-thought-out feature will, of course, help drive non-users to convert, as demonstrated by Greg when he receives a Pin/Message from Sage. Greg isn’t a Pinterest user, so it prompted him to get the app when he received the Message, but also just let him view it in a browser.

 

And we will leave you with some more bird trivia…

Crows and ravens are NOT the same animal; though they are quite difficult to tell apart. (And Sage owes Greg a dollar for that information).

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