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4 Reasons You Need SEO Strategy and Maintenance

Sonoma County SEO Experts Share The Importance of SEO Strategy

With so many websites cluttering the internet today, it is essential that your website has a purpose. Long gone are the days where your website’s purpose could simply be to “gain customer leads”. While that’s certainly important, it’s not the only goal. According to Google Master’s search quality guidelines, you need to have a clearly defined purpose that ultimately helps your users in a way that makes sense for your business. Once you design your purpose, you have an ethical foundation to start optimizing your site. (By ethical we mean that if you optimize your site for, say, gluten-free cookies when you clearly sell cookies containing gluten, then you’re lying and Google will ding you for that). Even if you are selling what you say you are, Google rates you for how well you convey your purpose. Whether you’re selling gluten-free cookies or running a satirical online media company, Google is less concerned about the factual nature of your content and more concerned with how well you achieve your purpose.

So, how do you “achieve your purpose” online? With your website’s purpose clearly envisioned, you need a custom SEO strategy to target users who are looking for the exact value you are providing.

SEO Helps You Stand Out as Competition Continues to Grow

The internet houses almost 2 billion websites as of today. Depending on your industry, you could be competing directly with thousands if not hundreds of thousands of websites. These numbers are only growing, and in order to cut through the clutter you need to sharpen up that website with a killer SEO strategy. Start by identifying what your customers need (the problem) and what you offer (the solution). Then strategize how to attract users who need your services by researching the way they search for what they need.

SEO Maintenance Keeps Your Site Up-to-date with Algorithms

Search engine algorithms are updating all the time, and you don’t want to cancel out all your hard work because Google updates randomly. Hiring an SEO maintenance team can help you stay on top of any web changes so you don’t fall out of Google’s good graces. Our Sonoma County SEO maintenance team regularly scans client websites and anticipates algorithm updates so you don’t have to lose any sleep over it.

You Can Be More Precise With Your Targeting

A custom SEO strategy is your gateway into the motivations and needs of your potential audience. A professional SEO team will look at user language and locations to target users and attract them to your site. Through competition analysis and market research, you can better understand the pain points that motivate your customers to buy … and the keywords that your competition is using. As you dive into competition analysis, you are sure to refine your competition further. This helps you find a niche, which is the golden corner on the internet. Anyone can be the leader of their niche, you just need an awesome SEO strategy to help you find it and dominate it.

You Can Create Useful, Valuable Content

The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be to generate valuable, evergreen content. Let’s say you’re selling those gluten-free cookies and you want to write a blog post to amplify your brand voice online. Since it’s safe to say the gluten-free baked good market is fairly saturated, you need to stand out by understanding the specific issues your customers are seeking help with. Maybe it’s December and you write a post about gluten-free baking hacks for holiday cookies. Your SEO strategy will help you convey your expertise in a way that sets you apart from the competition.

Looking for Sonoma County SEO strategy and maintenance? Contact us today for a free quote.

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Bay Area Website Design

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No matter where you are or where your business is, you can hire a website design team from down the street... or the other side of the world. Proprietors in this industry are remarkable in two regards: their ubiquity and the ease with which they can do their jobs remotely from anywhere. This is actually really great because such a field of competition drives innovation and keeps standards fairly high. The situation does present a good question, however, to those in the market for a new website: why should I choose a website design team from one area over another? While there are great web designers all over the world, I am going to make the case for choosing a team or professional person from the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Bay Area remains the worlds' number one center for tech innovation. The most ambitious seekers of careers in this industry flock here to be a part of a culture that is home to both some of the world's top tech companies and an innumerable bevvy of start-ups. The competition in website design is extremely high and so are standards. 

Still, it might be possible to find a great web designer in India who can produce the same level of work for cheaper. After all, the Bay Area has high municipal minimum wages and web designers need to charge enough to pay rent in this expensive cost-of-living area. 

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Website designers in the Bay Area thrive on reputation, not on looking like a potential bargain. Not only this, but residents have a greater ability to change to important new developments in the world of website design, not only because of their ability to network, but because this is hotspot for major design conferences (such as Joomla Days in San Jose in 2010 and San Francisco in 2013). Having an attractive website is great, but reacting to changes in the web landscape is what will get people to see your site in the first place and have a better user experience. With Bay Area website design professionals, you can count on skill, talent and the ability to keep your website on top.

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Tech Companies Battling in International Relations: Google, China, Europe

Tech Companies Battling in International Relations: Google, China, Europe

The last couple of days have seen new reports of the largest tech companies battling it out with governmental agencies around the world. While all international businesses have to comply with regulations of the governments of the countries in which they do business, the big tech companies occupy a unique sphere of the market – the gateways to the internet, which is a public utility – and are large enough to flex their power both offensively and defensively. This context has created a situation in which giants such as Google, Facebook, and Apple are regularly stepping into the ring of international relations.

 

 

Just this week Google and Mozilla decided to stop supporting sites certified by CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), the main digital certificating authority in China. Users of two of the three biggest browsers will be stopped with warning messages when trying to access any of these sites – most website based in China – as soon as the move takes effect. Already, the browsers have determined not to recognize any new certificates and all online monetary transactions have been stopped. While both companies have stated that CNNIC is welcome to reapply upon fixing some false certificate issues, this represents a major move against China's web traffic and internet economy, a growing sector. This is not, however, Google's only overseas struggle at the moment. 

 

In Europe, there has been a struggle against Google for some time, with the company losing a lawsuit over the “right to be forgotten” last year. Now, the company will have to defend itself against an anti-trust move from the European Commission. Google is used for about 90% of all searches on the European continent, a fact that doesn't sit well in Brussels, resulting in a recommendation of the European Parliament to break up the company. With Google's ability to majorly impact foreign web traffic with both certificate recognition and search engine algorithm changes, this is hardly surprising, especially in light of European attitudes towards large American tech firms in general.

 

Facebook, Amazon and Apple are all also under scrutiny in Europe. Apple is preparing to defend itself from a tax audit designed to pull back taxes from the company. This is in response to a low operational tax paid for commerce on the continent due to a deal brokered with Ireland, where the regional headquarters is located. Amazon is facing down over its right to offer prices as it wishes against the background of European cross-border trade agreements while Facebook is under scrutiny for its privacy policy.

 

All of these companies have big fights ahead in a number of different arenas; some will win and  some will lose, but there is no question that the results of these contests will shape the way that businesses and governments will interact in our faster online globalized world. 

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Google's Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Will Ruin Your Business

Google's Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Will Ruin Your Business

If your website is not mobile-friendly by April 21st, Google will throw your website under the bus.  

I have seen it before.  Now that 60%+ of website views are on mobile devices, Google has decided to punish websites that don't work on them.

When the Panda and Penguin algorithm happened, five websites that I was manager of SEO for went from #1 on Page 1 on Google to page 8, 10, and worse.  The new mobile-friendly algorithm has been dubbed "Mobilegeddon" by the Entrepreneur

Google's new ranking system will be run in real time and will works on a page-by-page basis.  When the Google spider crawls through all of the websites over the week after April 21st, it will immediately rank the website as Mobile-Friendly, or not Mobile-Friendly.  

If it is not ranked as mobile-friendly, you need to get on schedule for a website upgrade ASAP. Failure to get your website mobile-friendly before April 21st will result in a rank decline that may take months to regain, even if the website is made mobile-friendly quickly afterwards.  Like I said, I have seen this happen before when the Penguin and Panda update came out, and this has been described as more catastrophic by bloggers.  Google said that the change will have a "significant impact" on search results across the globe.  

In addition to the mobile-friendly algorithm, Google is also including an app indexing factor that requires app developers to add deep link support, verify the apps website on Google Play, provide deep links for each page, and ensure that there are no errors in webmaster tools for the app.

 

Go here and verify that your website is mobile-friendly: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

If it's not, call me right now at (707) 293-7821.

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How to Develop a Working Relationship between Web Designers and Clients

Whether you are a web designer or a website owner/client, you are likely working in a new business milieu – one that is only a few years old – wherein independent entrepreneurs and/or small businesses interact directly over large distances or across time zones. Even “local” jobs are often further than would make sense to commute for a meeting; most clients and designers never meet face-to-face. At the same time, website owners are also dealing with new technology suites for which they have no background for understanding.

 

Website owners, you didn't grow up hearing from your parents how to negotiate these sorts of contracts; the vast majority of the technologies your site will employ didn't exist the last time you had a site built 8 years ago, much less when you were growing up. This creates a context that obviously could allow for abuse, much as an auto mechanic might rely on the ignorance of his customers to charge three thousand dollars to replace a working head gasket when a thermostat is out. For website owners, this means you are likely to be on guard. Fair enough, but too often web designers spend large amounts of their and their clients' time explaining to skeptical clients what they actually do need.

 

To increase efficiency and create a better working relationship, web designers should follow these four steps:

 

- invest some phone time up front

- choose the technology that fits your clients' needs

- be clear about ongoing costs

- support what you say

 

One of the first steps to take when engaging a new customer is to build a trustworthy rapport. This means volunteering up some phone time. No you're not getting paid for this, but neither does this have any immediate value to the client either. However, for both parties, a willingness to invest in a more functional and trusting long-term relationship is both wise and a positive thing to look for in the person with whom you are speaking. Know where your customer (or designer if you are the client) lives, what the weather is like there, if they have kids, what they do for fun. You don't need to know their most intimate desires or if they prefer a normative to a positive ethics system; just make a genuine human relationship. This takes a bit of time, but it is worth it for both parties.

 

This human relationship should give the designer an idea of what kind of needs the client has and what kind of money they are capable of throwing towards addressing those needs – take these into consideration. Most web designers really want to work on big, expensive and cool looking sites with neat animated custom modules all over the place. That's really great, but sometimes all someone needs is a picture, some text and a contact form. Choose the right CMS for your client (sometimes this is Joomla, sometimes Wordpress, sometimes Drupal) and choose the right extensions to achieve their business goals, not your design preferences. Too often are over-ambitious website projects killed in gestation when overwhelmed customers realize they have walked into a money pit. Even if they can afford to build the website you want to build, they may not have the budget to maintain it.

 

Speaking of which, maybe one of the most important discussions to have with a new website client is about technology upgrades and site maintenance. What is obvious to a designer is often a huge surprise to their client: that a website needs regular maintenance and that the tools used to build a site last year now are no longer current. CMS upgrades are probably the most important thing to explain when getting started. Clients should know how long a CMS version's lifespan is likely to be and how much they should have put away to upgrade when the time comes. They should also know the consequences of not upgrading (see last blog). They should know why they should have an SEO budget, that they need to pay for hosting and extension upgrades, etc., etc. Your trusting relationship and professional assistance in choosing the right technologies should help in making sure this does not become a problem.

 

Still, even though you hopefully have a good rapport, you can only help build it by providing links to support everything that you say. Keep a doc stored with links to official documentation or 3rd party designer blogs that explain everything that you say. After some time of fact-checking a customer will likely take a designers word as truth, but at first everything a designer claims should have a bibliography to it. Keep a link to a blog comparing and contrasting CMS's; keep one explaining core updates for each of those CMS's; keep one explaining the necessity of extension security management; keep one explaining the need for SEO if they want to be found; most of all, keep a link to this blog to show that you are trying to do what is best for them.

Just kidding.

 

Good luck building smoother client relationships.

 

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Joomla 2.5 End of Life and What That Means to You

Joomla 2.5 End of Life and What That Means to You

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Last month, I wrote about the impact of running out-of-date content management systems, such as the old Joomla 1.5, to your site's searchability, security and success. (If you missed that, you can catch up here). While all of that information is still valid, a major recent event in the world of CMS series has made necessary and addendum to that information: As of the end of January 31st, 2014, the Joomla community has ended its support for the long-term release Joomla 2.5. https://docs.joomla.org/What_version_of_Joomla!_should_you_use%3F

 

So, what does this mean? How bad will this be for websites currently running 2.5 and how immediately will the consequences be felt? The answers to these questions are somewhat complicated, but to sum it up: no one should be panicking right now, but over the next several months we can anticipate the consequences for not updating to become quite bad, exhibiting all of the same problems that already exist for other out-of-date CMS systems.

 

At the moment, websites running Joomla 2.5 have been fairly recently updated for security threats, so neither the site owners nor search engines should be terribly concerned about breeches to security, especially with many 3rd party extension developers continuing to support their releases for 2.5. Although some developers have certainly already stopped supporting their old software, the next major step in unraveling this framework is scheduled for March 1st of this year when Akeeba backup cuts off support for Joomla 2.5 (https://www.akeebabackup.com/home/news/1609-announcement-about-joomla-25-support.html). Akeeba backup is one of the most integral pieces of software involved in running a Joomla site. While other security problems could potentially be patched up by running an Akeeba backup restore, a problem that exploits vulnerabilities in an old version of Akeeba is a much more serious concern. Therefore it would be recommended to begin updating from Joomla 2.5 during March at the latest.

 

Of course, your website may still be fine even in April, but as the lack of security makes the framework less popular, more and more extensions will become permanently unsupported, causing more security holes, reducing popularity and so on and so forth. Before long, as we have already seen, the lack of support generally will cause to search engines to steer users away from websites currently running that software. If you think that being able to be found on Google is important to your business' success, don't panic, but do begin immediately to make a timeline for upgrading your website to the current version 3.3.

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CMS core management and Google Ranking: Another Case for Updating your Joomla! Installation to the Current Version

While many people are aware of the security risks associated with allowing their website software to run out-of-date, there is still an idea that these security risks do not immediately impact a website's success until there is a security breach, something that may never actually happen. This line of thought can lead site owners to see a greater cost in software updating than in the incremental loss of standing in the numbers game that governs the likelihood of a security breach. While the wisdom of this is questionable at best, it is not a wholly unreasonable gamble. There is, however, a significant immediate downside to gambling like this: major search engines such as Google will penalize your site for the lack of security that your site can guarantee to its users.

 

 

Much of a search engine's long term user retention is based off of their users not having any remarkably bad experiences while browsing the internet. This is why browsers now warn users of suspicious sites and accommodate search filters built by anti-virus and anti-malware services. It is also why they will steer users away from sites that are less secure by moving those sites further down in the search rankings. If that doesn't seem like a problem, remember that 92% of all searches navigate to a site on the first page of results. (http://chitika.com/google-positioning-value) A site with a low security value assessment by Google with otherwise very good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in place might still appear several search pages back, thus keeping the majority of users from ever visiting that site.

 

A website owner who is running a website built on unsupported technology might receive such a notice as this:

 

 

 

Before this notice, this site had been on the first Google search results page for relevant keywords. This screenshot was taken shortly after it dropped to page 14, effectively killing all traffic to the site.

 

 

Unless you are anticipating your users using Netscape or some other outdated browser without a search engine, or if you are building a site for yourself that you don't want other people to see, it would be extremely recommendable to keep your core technology fully up-to-date. It is not only a security imperative, but, immediately, an SEO imperative that you do so. If you are unsure what version your website is or if you are running a CMS, please call K2websitedesign.com at 1 (888) 292-6018. We will be happy to answer any questions over the phone free of charge.

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How Can I Tell if I am Getting a Good Deal on Website Design?

If you're purchasing website design and/or website development services, it's probably because you are not an expert in this field. Of course, you might just be a web guru so busy with high-end enterprise development that you don't have time to build your own website; if you are, you can stop reading this – it is not meant for you. Okay. For all of the rest of you who are still with us, the problem remains: you don't know how websites really work and you are hiring a website designer or design team to build one for you, and you know that you can't really tell how progress is coming on a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, and that feels a little like going to the auto-mechanic who may or may not be trying to siphon as much dough as possible from you.

 

 

So what are you going to do about it? You're going to do the same thing that you would with your car: you're going to learn a little about it and a little about the business looking under the hood. No, not enough so that you are an expert – just enough so that you can tell if your mechanic might not be telling the truth when he says that your head gasket is blown. In this blog, we will look at a few simple ways to recognize whether or not you are getting what you pay for with web design.

 

 

1. Make sure there are set deliverables. You should know exactly what you are going to get, how much it will cost and how long it will take until the job is done. This might seem straight-forward and obvious, but really it is not. Upper-end development is done by the hour, and for good reason: it can be very hard to predict when a tool might not work or when something might break. A person might spend four hours doing something that seems, to a casual observer, like it should take fifteen minutes; or vise versa. A web designer will take this into consideration when making their bid, and will probably estimate about ten percent more time on the project than what it should take if everything goes perfectly smoothly. This might be slightly inaccurate in either direction, but a good designer knows that the guarantee of a set price for a set service is worth the risk; if you make customers happy regularly, you can eat the cost of a project that suffers from unforeseen technical errors.

 

 

2. Hire a small team. Ideally your team should be comprised of only a couple people. While it is often necessary to have more than one person for a well-rounded skill set, there should never be more than three people working on one website. There are two reasons for this. The most important one is communication efficiency: the additional amount of energy required to keep additional people fully up-to-date on a website's plan and progress grows exponentially; to keep the left hand talking to the right hand, each additional person on a project is tantamount to one more line of communication for each other person on the project, thus increasing administrative overhead 1 degree more than the previous person did. The other reason is personal accountability. You need to be able to talk to both your creative lead designing your site and the person who is actually developing it; hopefully those people are the same person. Of course there might be more than one developer or a content writer or graphic designer, but overall there should be a personal relationship between the client and a person who has their hands fully in the project.

 

 

3. Ask questions. Ask your designer/developer what types of technologies the plan to implement on your project and then do some research. You probably will not figure out how these things work, but you will get a good idea of how expert the person you are talking to is. They should have a background in different Content Management Systems (CMSs), templates, extentions, plugins, coding languages and various other types of web-building technologies. Normally a lay person can get a good idea of how knowledgeable a purported “expert” is by asking additional questions. Dig in to the person. If they are unwilling or unable to answer your questions on the phone, they are likely not representing a team that you want to hire.

 

 

Please take all of these factors and more into consideration when you are considering a new website design team. As always, feel free to contact us at K2websitedesign.com, your California website design pros.

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Google Hummingbird Upgrade and Implications on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The stealth introduction of Hummingbird, Google’s most substantive algorithm upgrade since 2001, was announced a few months after it occurred. A search algorithm is a system that sifts through the raw results when you enter a search term or phrase; algorithms allow search engines to return the results it assesses as the most relevant to your query. Google stated that it chose the moniker Hummingbird because its namesake is “precise and fast.”

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) managers somewhat anxiously wondered whether their previous efforts had to be changed. Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Search Engine Land, addressed the question of whether SEO was dead: “No, SEO is not yet again dead.” He added that the goal remained the same, which is to produce original, valuable, high-quality content, and that “Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.” Sullivan emphasized that providers of valuable content that link relevant websites to their own sites will still continue to rank well, which is good news for providers of fresh, high-quality content.


What is the Google Hummingbird Update?

Google’s evolution in producing search results that are responsive to what the user needs led to an upgrade from the Penguin and Panda algorithms. If the search results are not what the user wants, other search engines become the consumer’s go-to choice.

Rather than producing results based on keywords alone, Hummingbird is able to interpret natural language, or complex queries. Users are already accustomed to performing longer queries, refining their own searches to avoid sifting through pages of results to find what they are looking for. Further, the expansion of voice-activated searches with Smartphones and tablets necessitated an algorithm that can handle complex phrases. When people speak a query rather than type it, they tend to use longer phrases.


How SEO has Changed

In the early days of SEO, content mills churned out many thousands of spammy content that basically held the keywords together, with less attention to the value of the content, and more focus on keyword placement and number usage. These excesses led to the practice of keyword stuffing, but Google’s algorithm adapted to reward increasingly useful content that used keywords and keyword phrases more organically. Conversely, stiff-sounding content that was stuffed with keywords was punished in the rankings, in favor of natural and valuable text.

The need for useful content will also increase the need for writers and editors who can produce and refine thoughtful, valuable pieces. The change in SEO practices includes building sites with numerous pages that anticipate what the users might want. This approach can provide content for users that are in various phases of the buying cycle.


How the Google Hummingbird Upgrade Affects SEO

Google Panda algorithm rewarded unique content, but Hummingbird prefers useful content. Robert Charlton, the moderator of WebmasterWorld, noted, “It's no longer just a single page and its title satisfying a query... It becomes a whole site satisfying a range of users.” Roberts believes that with Hummingbird hovering the background, sites should optimize for overall customer satisfaction, rather than optimizing content for primary and secondary keywords. He added that the new algorithm would yield results that de-emphasize the creation of “a collection of content farms and more a collection of pages created with the user genuinely in mind.”

Works Cited:
Schwartz, Barry. “SEOs Adapt to Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm.” Search Engine Roundtable, 9 October 2013. Web. 24 October 2013. <http://www.seroundtable.com/google-hummingbird-seo-17493.html>
Sullivan, Danny. “FAQ: All About The New Google ‘Hummingbird’ Algorithm.” Search Engine Land, 26 September 2013. Web. 24 October 2013. <http://searchengineland.com/google-hummingbird-172816>

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