How can I compete against big companies and big websites?

Google AnalyticsWell the short answer to this is, you really can’t.

The reality is that most Home Based and Small Businesses just don’t have the time and resources to do everything that is required. Things like continually adding relevant content, continually adding content to Social Media, continually building back-links and so on. This all takes time and money, and we just don’t have the dedicated staff and finances to do compete with this.

So what can you do? Well all you can really do is adopt best practices and do what you can, and if your competition isn’t doing that, then you will more than likely out rank them.

So try and set yourself small achievable targets. Like a new Blog Post every two weeks, or even once a month. Once a month is better than never or very rarely. But whatever you do, make sure it is a quality Post, and not just some drivel to fill a page. Make sure that what you are talking about in your Post adds some value to your website, and that is relevant to what you sell or do, and it is something that people are likely to want to read. If it is interesting, if it answers burning questions, if it is worth knowing about, then it is more likely that people will read it, and share it, and link to it. But even then, make sure that when you do create a Post, that you do some SEO on it. Spend some time creating a properly constructed Page Title and Meta Description, and keep in mind what keyword or phrase you want to target for the Post.

When you publish the Post, make sure you paste a link to it in your Facebook page (if you have one, which you should). When you post in your Facebook page, make sure that in addition to your Link, you have sufficient text so Facebook creates the “See More” link. When someone clicks on this, it counts as an “Engagement”, and they are also more likely to click on your Link.

If at all possible, include at least one image and make sure you do the SEO on it as well including a proper Image Title and Alt Description.

But there are other things you can do too. For example, if you are competing against other businesses in the same retail space, do some research on them. See what they are doing and what is working for them, and adapt it to your business and improve upon it. You will find, for example, that if a website is ranking well for certain search terms, the business may well be complacent and are not bothering to continually add content. This gives you the opportunity to exploit that and do it better than them. If you consistently do it better than your competitors, then over time, your website will rank better than them.

But you too cannot fall into the same trap once you get that number one or high ranking position. Let’s face it, that is why I am writing this Post right now. Apart from the fact that I wish to impart this knowledge to my customers (or potential customers), it also gives me a means of adding relevant content to my website.

It’s also a good idea to be able to quantify where your traffic is coming from and what keywords people are using to find you. This will help you “tweak” your content to better reach your Target Market.

Happy Blogging and FaceBooking 😉

A whole lot of New Domain Names available

New Top Level Domain NamesOver the last couple of months, there have been a raft of new Top Level Domains (TLD’s) released. A Domain Name is the www address of your website. For example, the Domain Name for this website is www.websitedesignmorayfield.com.au. The choice of a Domain Name is a pretty important one, so having all these new TLD’s will give a lot of people the opportunity to get a Domain Name that better reflects their businesses or what the website is about. Most of the popular choices were snapped up years ago, but now the opportunity exists to have a variation of a traditional .com or .com.au. For example, you might have wanted to register www.joescatering.com.au, but it was unavailable. However, www.joes.catering may well be available. When most people are trying to come up with a Domain Name for their new website, they will immediately be thinking about a .com or a .com.au or possibly a .net.au etc. But the TLD landscape has changed a lot, and you now have some pretty interesting choices. Below is a list of just some of the newest TLD’s:
  • .associates
  • .bargains
  • .bike
  • .boutique
  • .build
  • .builders
  • .camera
  • .care
  • .catering
  • .cheap
  • .cleaning
  • .clothing
  • .club
  • .coffee
  • .company
  • .computer
  • .contractors
  • .construction
  • .cool
  • .cruises
  • .dance
  • .dental
  • .engineering
  • .equipment
  • .events
  • .fish
  • .florist
  • .gallery
  • .gift
  • .industries
  • .institute
  • .kitchen
  • .lease
  • .lighting
  • .management
  • .marketing
  • .menu
  • .parts
  • .photo
  • .photography
  • .pictures
  • .plumbing
  • .properties
  • .recipes
  • .rentals
  • .repair
  • .services
  • .sexy
  • .shoes
  • .solar
  • .supplies
  • .tattoo
  • .technology
  • .tools
  • .toys
  • .trade
  • .training

You can purchase your chosen Domain Names from Spotty Dog Computer Services

Google to give preference to Encrypted websites in search results

Secure SSL and Google Search resultsWell it’s been 5 minutes since Google moved the goal posts, so I guess it’s time for them to make another change. Can you tell I am being sarcastic?

Now it seems that in an effort to make the web a more secure place, Google will favour encrypted websites (those websites with an SSL Certificate and having the https prefix) over standard non-encrypted websites.

This will place an additional cost burden on website owners, but it may or may not be a bad thing depending on your point of view.

Encouraging website owners to do this will indeed make web surfing a safer past time, but unless your website is collecting data, I don’t see that it is a real necessity.

But on the other hand, it certainly won’t hurt.

SSL Certificates

I guess it is already having the desired effect.

The impending move to penalise a websites ranking because it is unencrypted has made me purchase an SSL Certificate and install it on this very website.

Those of you who are astute may have noticed that all the pages on this website are now prefixed with https instead of http. The ‘s’ after http denotes that it is a secure connection.

It was a relatively painful exercise in the end, but it did require the Host to install it and set it up on my behalf.

So get ready boys and girls. If you don’t want your search rankings to fall, you may need to consider purchasing an SSL Certificate!!!

FYI, there are several types of SSL Certificate available. They are the Standard SSL Certificate (from $33/yr), the Premium SSL Certificate (from $75/yr), and the Wildcard SSL Certificate (from $500/yr).

Click on the links above to see pricing and to purchase one.

All SSL Certificates are 128/256 Bit Encryption, and trusted by all Browsers.

There is also a fee of $88 to set it up if you cannot do it yourself.

*EDIT

For the time being, Google won’t be penalising sites heavily if they don’t enable HTTPS. The company describes it as “a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content”. But once webmasters have been given time to switch their sites over, the search firm warns that “we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

Do you understand what it is you’re seeing when you do a Google search?

Quite often I find that when I am discussing Google search results with clients and the general public, they don’t realise that in most instances, the first 3 results in a Google search are “paid for advertising”.

And just as surprising is that they don’t realise that the results shown down the right hand side are also “paid for advertising”, even though they are clearly labeled as “Ads”.

The first three in particular because they have a shaded background colour making them stand out more.

Nonetheless, quite a number of you out there just don’t notice.

Take a look at the image below for the search term “website design morayfield”:

Google Search Results for website design morayfield

 

Arrow “1” is the actual number one ranked search result. Or in other words, it is the number 1 organic search result.

Yet it is the area indicated by Arrow “2” that most people believe are the first three organic results.

Now this can be a problem, not because advertisers get the number 1 spot, but because the bad guys can advertise here just as easily as legitimate businesses, and you can potentially be directed to something that may not be what you are searching for, or something that you may be manipulated into downloading and installing on your computer.

For example, you may be searching for “Adobe Reader”. If you don’t take note of the web address, you’ll just look at the first Advert result and assume it’s the Adobe website, and you’ll visit that website and download something that may or may not be malicious, or at least not what you were looking for.

The last Arrow, number 3, shows the other advertising that Google serves up to searchers. Again, these Ads may or may not be relevant to your search, and may or may not be relevant to you.

So just be aware of what is advertising and take note of the web address or URL and be diligent.

Backlinks – How important are they?

The importance of backlinks in Page RankingsWhat is a Backlink?

Let’s start off by explaining what a backlink is. A backlink is a hyperlink on someone else’s website that links to your website.

An example of a backlink is Spotty Dog Computer Services. This links to my other website which mainly focuses on Computer Repairs.

A backlink from another website to mine that looked like the one shown above is great, but it could be even better if the Anchor Text was related to a Key Word I was targeting.

Google places a high value on backlinks. Backlinks tell Google that other people value the content on your website enough that they want to tell others about it.  Google considers each backlink as a vote that someone thinks your content is worth reading, and consequently places a high value on it.

But what gives a backlink an even higher value is having the Anchor Text reflect a keyword or phrase that you are targeting. The Anchor Text in the example shown above is “Spotty Dog Computer Services”.  Anchor Text that would be of a greater value would be something like “Computer Repairs Morayfield”, which highlights the keywords that I would target. So an example of a higher value backlink would be Computer Repairs Morayfield.

So how important are Backlinks?

To give you a real life example of how a properly constructed backlink can assist in elevating your website ranking, I have a story about this very website.

After creating this website with the intention of trying to rank Number One for the keywords “Website Design Morayfield”, and after spending a lot of time creating relevant content and pages, the best this website could rank was around Number four, and it stayed that way for weeks. It wasn’t until I gained a few backlinks, Website Design Morayfield, that I suddenly shot to the Number One position. So immediately you can see the value of having backlinks with the appropriate Anchor Text.

The trouble is of course, getting the backlinks and getting appropriate Anchor Text. If you have friends or associates with a website, you have a much better chance of being able to achieve this.

Has your website been hacked?

Hacked WebsitesEvery day, somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 websites are hacked or compromised in some way.

What do we mean by hacked and compromised? Well what we mean is that someone has breached the security on your website and inserted some malicious content. That malicious content can be in the form of viruses, trojans, worms, keyloggers, spyware and so on.

Typically, if your website has been hacked or compromised in some way, and a visitor views your website, they will be redirected to another website that contains malware, or malware on your own website will attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in the visitors Browser and or Operating System.

Once your computer has been infected, it can be used to send out Spam, or information can be stolen from you and used for fraudulent activities and Identity Theft.

This is why it is so important to keep your computer up to date for things like Java, Flash, the Browser itself and Windows. To further complicate matters, if you are using Windows XP, it is inherently less secure that Windows 7 and 8, but worse still, Microsoft will cease to support Windows XP after April 2014.  So at this time, expect to see a spike in infected PC’s.

So back to whether your website has been hacked or compromised.

If your website has been hacked, it is likely that the first time you will know about it is if a visitor notifies you that they have received a message in their Browser informing them that your website is a known attack site. Google for example scan millions of websites looking for malicious content, and will mark your site as an Attack Site and warn visitors.

Reported Attack Site

The other way you may become aware of it is through the Google Webmaster Tools website, if you have your website setup there of course.

Google have a series of videos explaining what it means to be hacked and how to remedy the hack and get your website off the Blacklist.

Here is the first video in the series:

This video and links to the other videos in the series can be viewed at https://www.google.com/webmasters/hacked/

 

Google’s Latest Update and your Business

Google's new algorithm HummingbirdGoogle has just launched it’s new algorithm named “Hummingbird”.

If you didn’t already know, Google uses a secret algorithm to determine what should be displayed in a search query. The latest incarnation of this algorithm is called Hummingbird.

So what, I hear you say. Well if you are a business owner with a website, you should care because there is the potential that it will affect your search rankings and because of the way Google now deals with what it shows the searcher, it could also reduce traffic to your website.

This algorithm overhaul aims to limit the “fluff” that is sometimes present on a website purely for SEO, and filter that stuff out, so that the the searcher gets more relevant and useful search results.

The Hummingbird algorithm has moved away from traditional keyword analysis of the content, and now uses “conversational” techniques that are more in tune with what the searcher is looking for.

Google have found that user searches are becoming longer and very specific, so the new Hummingbird algorithm focuses on the searchers’ “intent” by trying to answer the searchers’ question.

How does the Hummingbird Update affect your Business Website?

This latest update will undoubtedly affect your current rankings.

It may be negative or positive, or in other words, your rankings may improve or get worse or a combination of both.

For those businesses that had poor rankings for generic non specific terms, you may well find that your rankings improve.

If you don’t want your rankings to suffer with this latest update, Businesses will need to rethink the content of their websites to come more into line on how people use the internet to search for goods and services.

Hummingbird places a higher emphasis on conversational techniques and natural language, and has been driving towards better support for longer search queries. Hummingbird takes this a step further by trying to provide answers to questions rather than finding matches for keywords.

This is because serving up results based on keywords does not always reflect what it is someone is searching for.

When formulating the content of your pages, you will need to consider what sort of questions will be asked by a searcher and incorporating the answers within your content.

What this means is that simply having content on a page for the sake of having content, does not have the same impact it once did.

Why Hummingbird may affect traffic to your website

One of the big changes that has come with the new update is the way Google displays information.

Search data may now be displayed to the right of the search results.

For example, if you type “Gravity” and then search, to the right of the search results you will see information from the IMDb website showing data from their website about the movie Gravity.

Now this may be great for the searcher, but what this means is that the searcher is now less likely to visit the IMDb website.

Other things that may be displayed in the Brave New World of Google Search are things like links to YouTube videos or a link to “Watch It Now” on Google Play, ie. Google’s own content.

Wherever possible, you will now find Google trying to direct people to their own content rather than your website.

So what can your Business do?

Well not a great deal.

About all you can do is try and concentrate on the content, framing it in a way that answers questions people may be searching for, ensuring at the same time that it uses natural language without looking spammy and without keyword stuffing.

Stick to the other principles of SEO by including relevant images, videos, headings, page titles and page url’s.

Top 8 SEO Tips

Search Engine Optimisation Tips, SEO TipsThe first step to getting found online is obviously to have an online presence via a website.

But simply having a website isn’t enough. Unless you are appearing in Search Results, and preferably somewhere near the top of the first page, then the only way people will find your website is through advertising.

Advertising can take many forms including print and signage, but there are online alternatives ranging from free and paid for Internet Business Directories like Start Local, True Local, Hotfrog and the like.

In addition to that, Google have their own “Paid For” advertising called AdWords.

But wouldn’t it be great if your website appeared right at the top of the first page of search results without paying for it?

These results are called “Organic Search Results”. Those are the results that naturally appear at the top of the Search Results page and that’s what SEO is all about.  Getting to the top of the results page.

Getting to the top is easier said than done.  Google’s algorithm for determining the ranking is secret, so any individual or company that tells you that they can guarantee a number 1 result, or even a page 1 result, is probably in need of a reality check.

Having said that, there are plenty of things you can do to help your cause.  So with that in mind, here are my Top 8 SEO Tips:

  • Read the Google SEO Guidelines – Google actually give you a clue about what you need to do. It takes some of the guesswork out and spells out exactly what you should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s amazing how many people attempt SEO without reading this first.  Do yourself a huge favour and read the Google SEO Guidelines.
  • Use a good SEO Plug-in – Something like All-in-one SEO Pack or better still WordPress SEO by Yoast. It has a “Content Analysis Function” which will help you write better content and help you optimise your website’s Page Titles and Descriptions, and displays a Google snippet preview. It will also automatically generate XML Sitemaps which Google uses to help Index your website.
  • Write Good Content – DO NOT fall into the trap of keyword stuffing. Write original content from the heart. Google is all about the End User Experience and trying to serve up the best result for it’s customer’s. If you write unoriginal garbage, or you plagiarise content from another website and change a few words here and there, have no doubt, you will be penalised. You will hear this term everywhere, but it’s true, when it comes to Google Search Results, Content Is King.
  • Do Regular Updates – Add content to your website regularly.  But not just any content, content that is relevant to whatever it is your website is about (See previous point). It can be in the form of Reviews, Tips and Tricks, News Articles or a Blog Article like this one you are reading right now.
  • Avoid Using Flash – Whilst Flash animation can add some pizazz to your website, unfortunately Google’s Search Crawlers have no idea what information they are displaying.  So from an SEO point of view Flash is bad.  But another downside is that Apple devices don’t support Flash and anyone viewing your website with an Apple Computer or Tablet etc will not see it.  So there is a double wammy.
  • Structure your website clearly – Every page on your website should be accessible from at least one link on the site, and preferably from the menu structure. Hiding the visibility of pages is a big No No. Your Navigation Structure should be logical and easy to navigate. If you have to jump all over the page to find things, then that presents a poor user experience and you will suffer the consequences.
  • Generate Backlinks – Backlinks are links on other websites that link back to you. Ideally they should come from websites that are related to your industry, and the Anchor Text used should be a keyword that is beneficial to you. An example would be Website Design Caboolture. The Anchor text in this example is “Website Design Caboolture” which links to this website at the url www.websitedesignmorayfield.com.au. Generating backlinks is not an easy task. It is even harder generating backlinks from websites related to your own industry. After all, who is going to link to a competitor?  Some backlinks will occur as a matter of course through people just doing it, but you can also register your business on internet directories as previously mentioned. Whatever you do, DO NOT fall for paying for backlinks as this will most certainly see you penalised by Google.
  • Do Key Word Research – Decide on the keywords you want to target and use them in the content on your page, and in the Page Title and Description.  But don’t forget to use other words related to those keywords.  For example, I might want to target the keyword or phrase “Computer Repair”. Examples of related keywords would be, “PC Repair”, “Fix Computer”, “Computer Technician”, “Computer Servicing” and so on. To do keyword research you can try using tools like the Google Keyword Planner, or SEMRUSH.

Summary

So this is the reality, SEO is a slow process. You can get some moderate results quickly, but SEO is a long and laborious process that is ongoing. Stick to the SEO Guidelines and adhere to the rules, and at least you won’t be penalised. Remember, if you try and pull the wool over Google’s eyes, you will lose. Stick to trying to create quality, relevant content and make the user experience a priority, and you should see positive results.

How to stop Comment Spam

Over the years I have used many different Plug-in’s and methods to reduce Comment Spam on my websites.

Those Plug-in’s included the default WordPress Plug-in AkismetinfoInfoAkismet is a hosted web service that saves time by automatically detecting comment and trackback spam. It's hosted on their Servers, but they give you access to it through a plugin and an API. (at last count on my main website it has blocked 3,306 Spam Comments), WP-SpamFreeinfoInfoAn extremely powerful anti-spam Plug-in for WordPress that reduces comment spam, including trackback and pingback spam. It works invisibly without CAPTCHA’s, or other inconveniences to site visitors. The plugin includes spam-free contact form feature as well. (it’s blocked 4,725 Spam Comments), and along the way various other Security Plug-in’s and methods.

But none of them have been 100% effective.

Sure, they “reduced” the amount of Spam, but some Spam has always managed to get through.

Now obviously you need to set your WordPress Discussion Settings so that they must be approved by an Administrator first (see image below), but having to plough through the Spam Comments and manually delete them too, well that is an additional Admin overhead we can all do without.

WordPress Discussion settings

Discussion Settings

Comment Spam has been a real bug bear for me, and to be honest, a pretty big problem. But at last I’ve finally found a Plug-in that reduces Comment Spam to zero, zilch, nada!!! That’s right, it’s 100% effective in preventing Comment Spam.

Well, let me qualify that by saying that it’s 100% effective against automated Comment Spam.

Obviously, if a real human is determined and prepared to take the time to post a bogus comment and physically undertake the CAPTCHA test, then you won’t stop that.

The Plug-in in that I have discovered is Fun CAPTCHA.infoInfoFun Captcha presents a mini-game that blocks the bots while giving your users a few moments of fun. It’s a real security solution hardened by experts and automatically updated to provide the best protection. Users complete these little games faster than other CAPTCHAs, with no frustrating failures and no typing. Fun Captcha works on all browsers and mobile devices.

The trouble with most CAPTCHA systems is that they are quite difficult to read (see the image below), and visitors to your website hate using them, and the Spammers are getting smarter all the time and can circumvent them.

CAPTCHA Examples

CAPTCHA Examples

So what Fun CAPTCHA does is stop the BOT’s, and turns the CAPTCHA system into a mini-game.  The visitor wishing to post a comment is required to complete the game with a series of mouse clicks, rather than trying to decipher hard to read CAPTCHA Images, and it works on all Browsers and Mobile Devices.

The best thing is that Fun CAPTCHA is totally free, however you must create an account on their website to obtain some security codes first.

Below is a video that shows how the Fun CAPTCHA Plug-in works.

You can download the Plug-in from the WordPress Plug-in Directory.

Web Designers Caboolture

Web Designers Collaborating CabooltureOK, so I just couldn’t resist posting this image of two Web Designers at work collaborating on a new “Web” Project hahahahaha.

Note the thoughtful concentration and consideration going into it?

It tickled my funny bone so I thought I’d share it.

Seriously though, if you are looking for a Caboolture Morayfield based Web Designer, give us a call today.

We have been designing websites locally for over 10 years, and have the know-how required to build your Business Website, quickly, efficiently and professionally.

Why we use WordPress for Websites

WordPress Website Design Caboolture Morayfield

 

There are many reasons we use WordPress for the basis of our Web Designs.  First and foremost for me it’s because WordPress is by far and away the easiest to learn and understand.

But here is a detailed list of the reasons and advantages to using WordPress:

  • It’s FREE and Open Source – Being an Open Source Project, WordPress is completely free to use, forever!!!. Being Open Source means that there are people around the world continuously contributing to the project and improving it with extra features and improved security.
  • An Abundant Array of Plug-in’s – If you need to add a particular function to your WordPress website, you can almost guarantee that there is a Plug-in available to do it.  There are Plug-in’s for SEO, Contact Forms, Buttons, eCommerce, Photo Galleries, Guestbooks and Forums, Social Networking and the list is endless.  By and large, the majority of plug-in’s that you would want to use are also free, with Plug-in developers offering “paid for” versions which add some extra features, or support for a fee.
  • User Friendly CMS – In my opinion, WordPress has to be the easiest and most flexible Content Management System (CMS) around.  I have used others, but WordPress is very intuitive and there is a wealth of information and help forums online if you get stuck.
  • Themes let you “Style” the look – The way your WordPress website looks, feels and behaves is determined by the Theme used.  So if you get sick of the look, or just feel like a change, you can achieve this by simply uploading a new Theme, activating it, and hey presto, there you have it.  Of course it isn’t quite as easy as that because the reality is that some content may not suit the new styling, but there is nothing that is overly difficult to overcome.
  • Your website can grow with you – Your WordPress website can grow with you and you can easily upgrade it with new features and security. You can change your Theme at any time without the need to re-do your whole website. Plug-in’s can be added for enhanced functionality (add e-commerce if your business grows, a photo gallery, conatct forms, etc.).  WordPress is used by millions of websites, so it won’t be going away in a hurry.
  • Good for SEO – Over the years I’ve used various SEO plugins including All-In-One SEO, WordPress SEO by Yoast, and Google XML Sitemaps.  But even without these plugins, the simple structure of WordPress, the permalinks, and the easy linking in WordPress is Google friendly. I even heard a statement directly from the horse’s mouth Matt Cutts (the head of Google’s “Web Spam Team”) when he spoke at WordCamp San Fransisco 2009 where he said, “WordPress is a great choice” and went on to say how much “WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues“.  Don’t believe me, see for yourself below.