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A More Secure Web

A More Secure Web

A More Secure Web

If you publish a website - especially one that allows visitors to login and ESPECIALLY if you operate an e-store and ESPECIALLY if you use the iASP Technology Platform - please take a few minutes to review this article and take the recommended action without delay.

Last year Google made an announcement that read in part:

"Beginning in January 2017, Chrome (version 56 and later) will mark pages that collect passwords or credit card details as "Not Secure" unless the pages are served over HTTPS..."

Read the related article: Moving towards a more secure we

What Does This Mean?

Google has made a game-changing decision to pro-actively inform website visitors that the information they are entering is not secure if the web page uses HTTP and not HTTPS.

You can see an example of a non-secure page from the screenshot that we took just this morning of the Vodaphone website (see the blog image in this article).

While Google is currently limiting this new security measure to web pages that collect passwords or credit card details, they plan to label ALL HTTP pages as 'non-secure' in the future.

Not surprisingly, the Firefox web browser (which along with Chrome accounts for around 70% of Internet Users) has already followed suite by labelling non HTTPS Encrypted pages as non-secure. It would seem inevitable that Safari and Microsoft Edge will also comply.

This means that websites that do not offer customers the peace of mind of HTTPS face the significant risk of turning customers away to their competitors.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS in an Internet Protocol that encrypts the data being send back and forth between a customer's web browser and a website.

Setting up HTTPS encryption requires the purchase, periodical renewal and installation of an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate.

An individual SSL Certificate is generally required for every individual domain name resolving to a website, however, there are multiple domain SSL Certificate options available.

SSL Certificates have various properties such as the level of encryption they offer, the amount of warranty paid to customers if a Certificate is issues incorrectly and more.

The purchase and periodical renewal costs vary significantly from only a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. Some providers offer sweetheart pricing for the initial purchase that significantly increase on renewal.

The renewal period for SSL Certificates is either 1, 2 or a maximum of 3 years as determined by ICANN, the global authority for this area of the Internet.

In some cases longer registration periods offer discounted registration costs, and importantly, SSL Certificates must be re-installed each time they renew, which involves a multi-step process that must be coordinated between the Certificate owner and the system administrator managing the related website server or network.

SSL Certificate installation for both new Certificate registration and subsequent renewals typically attracts a cost and therefore the longer the registration period the less the associated installation costs.

What are the Benefits for HTTPS Encrypted Websites?

  • Visible Security - Sites with HTTPS encryption display a secure padlock icon in the address bar that when selected confirms the identity of the website publisher to the visitor.
  • Privacy - End to end encryption of all data entered by visitors into HTTPS pages greatly increases security and reduces the risk of data theft
  • Search Performance Advantages - Secure websites may result in higher ranking in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) than non-secure sites

What are the Disadvantages for HTTP Websites?

  • HTTP pages will be marked as non-secure with an 'Information' Icon or 'Non-Secure' exclamation mark Icon
  • Search Performance - HTTP sites may be penalised in SERPs
  • Website Traffic - Website traffic may be effected if users choose to avoid non-secure sites

How Will This Affect iASP Clients?

Enotia Australiasia Pty Ltd. developer of the iASP Technology Platform, fully supports Google's new initiative to provide a safer web.

As a professional service provider adhering to best practice security policies and procedures, in addition to the actual security risks of non-compliance with Google's security initiative, our company's reputation, along with that of our clients, is at risk.

As all iASP Systems require an administration login via user-name and password, and are therefore already being flagged as non-secure unless they are HTTPS encrypted, as advised in the client bulletin distributed on February 21st:

From July 1st 2017 all iASP powered websites will be required to use HTTPS encryption.

This means all iASP Central websites will require an SSL Certificate to be purchased and installed prior to June 30th. 

As indicated in the client bulletin, all Enotia clients are free to purchase the certificate of their choice from any third party vendor, however, the Enotia Network Administrators must install all certificates on our network for which costs will apply.

Additionally Enotia is offering turn-key SSL Certificate registration and subsidised installation services as part of our on-going service offering.

Enotia clients are welcome to contact us anytime, but will be contacted personally regarding this important matter over coming weeks regardless.

If you are concerned with the security of your website or would like more information on purchasing an SSL Certificate, please contact the Enotia Support team on 03 9855 8517 or Get in Touch.




Resources:





What Ever Happened to Google PageRank?

What Ever Happened to Google PageRank?

What Ever Happened to Google PageRank?

When was the last time you heard anyone mention the term PageRank?

It's the benchmark of a successful website.
Or at least, it used to be.

Now it seems to be that 'thing' we all used to talk about, but shouldn't mention any more.


A Brief History of PageRank

PageRank was one of the first algorithms used by Google to measure the importance of a web page.

The logic was that web authors will link to useful or popular web pages more often than to less useful pages. Particularly those best suited to support the content they were writing about.

So PageRank counted the number and quality of links pointing to web page, and gave the page a ranking out of 10.

Each link was like a vote. The more links/votes a page has, the higher its PageRank (more or less).

This was then joined with the frequency of keywords on a page. So a web page could have different a PageRank for different keywords.

The general understanding of PageRank became:
When a web page has a high PageRank for a keyword, it will display higher in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Thus, the better the PageRank a web page has, the better a web page must be.

From this, web masters and other types soon found a way to take advantage of the simplicity of PageRank.

Achieving a high PageRank for a particular keyword became a lucrative and competitive business.

And then one day, it all just seemed to stop working.

New websites would get stuck on a PageRank of 0. For older websites, their PageRank seemed to be unresponsive. SEO efforts appeared to be ineffective in improving the PageRank.

As a web developer, this vexed me. I was terribly vexed (Gladiator reference). Why are the websites I build deemed worthless in the eyes of Google?

So like we all do when we want to know something, I Google'd it.

It turns out that we had all thinking about PageRank the wrong way, and Google responded to change this.


The PageRank Phase-Out

As far back as 2009, Google stated that site owners were focusing on PageRank too much. We were giving it more value than it actually had; and so Google were going to phase it out.

In October of 2009, Google removed PageRank measurements from their Webmaster Tools.

Other websites that allowed people to find their PageRank still existed though. So many failed to notice what Google were doing.

Then, in November 2014, Google stopped updating their visible PageRank feed. This was the source that the other online tools were using.

Google followed up a year later by announcing that there would not be any more updates to the PageRank feed.

You'll remember that this is about the time that the SEO community began to shift their focus to content.

And Google started to release new algorithms, and update their older algorithms.

The SEO community scrambled, trying to determine the new way to improve SEO. Searching for any sneaky advantage that they could.

Then Google started recommending everyone shift their focus towards creating 'quality content'.

And now we're back into the present.


So is PageRank dead or does it still matter in SEO?

PageRank is still 'a thing'. It's just had it's badge of honour removed.

PageRank will always be an important factor to determine the best results for a search query.

But webmasters shouldn't focus on PageRank as a definitive measure of success.


What's next then?

Search engine optimisation now encompasses a lot more than just keywords and links.

While keywords and links are still an important part of SEO, they are now a minor part of a larger set of metrics.

In fact, Search Engine Optimisation is such a large topic now, that it's better for me to point you to the masters.

Our first port of call is always the Google Webmasters website. This site explains the fundamentals of how search works. It also guide you to help Google find, index and rank your site.

If you're a beginner in SEO, I recommend heading to the Moz website next. Their SEO guides are easy to follow, and their free Moz tools are great to find where you should start first.

Then check out Majestic SEO for more tools to give you an in-depth view of your website.

Of course, you can keep following our Blog for the big updates in the SEO. And check our social media feeds for useful SEO tips and advice.



So if you're still using the PageRank of your website as a measurement of success, it's time to catch up.

You should now be talking in Conversation rates, Bounce rates and clickthrough rates.



Resources:



Agree? Disagree? Start a conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


The Secret to Deciphering 'Quality Content'

The Secret to Deciphering 'Quality Content'

The Secret to Deciphering 'Quality Content'

The war between Search Engines (read Google) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practitioners, which has raged since Google's birth in 2000, shifted focus this year - and not only Google Users, but all website visitors are the winners.

In the early days SEO was much simpler and SEO practitioners had the upper hand: The primary requirements to improve Google performance were simply to focus on the density of relevant keywords and then gather as many inbound links as possible.

Alas, that resulted in websites filled with low quality content - repetitive keywords and phrases - and countless links between unrelated websites that may have improved Google performance, but delivered little value to Google Users or website visitors in general.

Google's evolution, driven by the goal of delivering the most relevant search results possible, led to the release earlier this year of the Quality Update.

This newest weapon in the Google arsenal has forced SEO practitioners down a new path, and the by-products are an overall improvement to the quality of Google search results and the quality of website content generally.


What Is The Quality Update?

Around May of this year, Google started to give more weight to pages that it deemed to have a higher quality of content.

The technical details of how Google determines the quality of content is still being debated, but as one expert has put it: "we do know that it wants to provide users with the best information possible."Source

In a nutshell, it means shifting your focus away from creating content for Google, and towards creating content for your visitors.

Google explicitly states this as the first point in their article Steps to a Google-friendly site - "...give visitors the information they're looking for: Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do...".


What Is Quality Content?

When first hearing the term "quality content", you could be forgiven for thinking that you need to hire the services of Shakespeare to write the content of your website.

There are many, many (many) articles about how to go about writing quality content, but let us save you some pain and share some insight.

The Internet is the world's largest resource of information. You can search for anything, at any time, and get an answer to whatever question you may have.

Having such a vast volume of information available to us at the click of a button, however, has overwhelmed us, and it has changed the way we sort through and process information.

Now, instead of reading through content line for line until we find the answer we're after, we skim across it impatiently; and if we can't find our answer quickly, we move onto the next website to scour through their content instead.

This puts some weight on the amount of time we spend on a single page of a website, because if you've spent more than 30 seconds on a page, clearly there is something of value to you on that page.

And there's the secret to deciphering the term "quality content" - It's actually "valuable content".

Create content that is meaningful to readers, that's valuable to readers.

Readers will come back to content that is valuable to them in some way. Readers will share content they think will be valuable to others.


How to Create Valuable Content

As Google outline in their Webmaster Academy course, the content of your website should be useful and informative, credible, and engaging.

Microsoft's search engine, Bing, have boiled their guidelines down a little further, breaking the aspects of content quality into three pillars - Authority (how trustworthy is the content), Utility (how useful is the content), and Presentation (how well-presented is the content and how easy is it to find it).

The simple fact is, creating content that keeps people reading (or watching) is all you need to do to create valuable content.

And here is where you can think outside of the box. Your content could be informative, or it could be entertaining, or it could be convenient, or a mix of all three.

So while your competitor may have articles fit for a peer-reviewed journal on their website, your content could still be valuable if visitors find it more convenient, or more entertaining.

As an example, think of the numerous Do-It-Yourself related videos on Youtube.

There may thousands of videos that demonstrate exactly the same topic - how to change a tyre for example - but you can find videos that only cover the basics of how to change a tyre with just as many views as a video that shows every single step with detailed explanations.

A video may be just as popular if it is a little more entertaining, or if it covers the steps of the task a little faster (more convenient).

Different audiences will put differing levels of value on different formats and structures of content, which is why you can still create valuable content.

To help you to create valuable / quality content for your website, I've gathered a list of articles that cover the topic in more detail.

They all provide a different angle to decipher and understand the term 'quality content', and how to tackle the task.


Great Articles About Creating Valuable Content:



What's Your Opinion? How do you define 'quality content'? Join the conversation on the iASP Central Facebook Page or Get in Touch.


Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

Google to Penalise non-mobile websites from next week!

For as long as Google has been the dominant authority in on-line search, there's been an entire industry dedicated to improving Google rankings: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialists.

The gold rush saw countless businesses and individuals stepping up to the task of getting websites to the top of Google search results, and for many website owners, the call of an SEO specialist was an attractive one, after all, who wants to be anything but #1 in Google search results?

Alas, the SEO industry never enjoyed the best of reputations, as some "specialists" relied on fear tactics, and resorted to black-hat techniques and strategies to deliver their results.

One popular strategy was link farming, where websites filled with nothing but links pointing to one another popped up all over the Internet. Keyword stuffing was another popular technique, resulting in web pages repeating the same word or phrase over and over again, but not really providing any useful information to the searcher.

The consequence of such tactics was of course to lower the quality of search results.

A search for "Accountant Melbourne" for example, could return a website for an Accountant in Sydney that had taken on the services of an SEO specialist that was targeting (hi-jacking) the search phrases "Accountant Sydney", "Accountant Melbourne", "Accountant Brisbane", etc. Not very useful for someone in Melbourne searching for a local accountant.

So the eternal struggle between Google and SEO specialists began and has raged ever since. Google continuously modify and update their search algorithms to ensure that their search results return the most meaningful or useful websites being searched for.

Google's efforts have made it increasingly difficult for SEO specialists to make a living so perhaps it isn't surprising to see that the use of misleading information is sometimes used by SEO practitioners in an attempt to scare website owners into paying for SEO services that they don't fully understand.

One of our many valued clients, a Sydney based professional service provider, asked our opinion of some e-Mail marketing material they had received from a Melbourne based Internet Marketing company.

The e-Mail informed our client that "Google is on the cusp of changing its algorithm to favour responsive sites!" and went on to state that "On April the 21st, Google will change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.".

The e-Mail then went as far to say "If your website is NOT responsive, you WILL get left behind." (bold and emphasis not added, it is exactly as it was in the original e-Mail).

The e-Mail then briefly explained what a responsive website is, and ended with "Get in touch with us before the algorithm changes on April 21st to find out how we can help you create a responsive site. The investment is worth considering if you want to be found online and generate optimum conversion rates!".

The e-Mail contained a link to back up it's claim that "Google will change its algorithm to focus on mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal", which pointed to Google's Webmaster Central Blog, an article titled "Finding more mobile-friendly search results".

The article does discuss how Google will be expanding their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal which will affect mobile searches, making it easier for users to find mobile-friendly web pages. The article then offers steps what website owners can follow to make their website mobile-friendly.

Strangely though, the article does not once mention the word "responsive", or mention anything about the explicit need for a responsive website to meet their mobile-friendly requirements.

We tested several of our non-responsive websites in Google's Mobile-Friendly Test, and all passed with flying colours.

We contacted the Internet Marketing to query their statement that a website MUST be responsive to ensure that it is mobile-friendly, and their response was that it was only an opinion that a website does not need to be responsive to pass the mobile-friendly test, and they did not wish to discuss this opinion with us.

It was also recommended that we do some more research into the topic. So we did.

A Google search for "does google favour responsive websites?" returns many recent blog articles with titles stating that Google does indeed favour responsive websites. Upon reading such articles however, you find that the term "responsive" is quickly replaced with the term "mobile-friendly".

Not one article showed any evidence that a website that isn't using a responsive design would be affected, let alone penalised by Google's algorithm change.

To say that "Google favours responsive websites" gives the impression that having a responsive website will provide an SEO boost, and deliver you a higher ranking in their search results, which just isn't true.

The statement is misleading, unlike the statement "Google favours mobile-friendly websites", which is completely true.

While a responsive website design is Google's recommended design pattern (because it reduces the workload for their googlebots), it is important to note that, in regards to Google search results, there is zero gain in having a responsive design website over alternative types of mobile-friendly websites.

There are many different ways to have a mobile-friendly website, and a responsive design website is just one of those ways. You could also have an adaptive website, or a completely separate mobile website.

The simple fact is, you DO NOT NEED a responsive design website to have a mobile-friendly website, but YOU DO need a mobile-friendly website to ensure that your website will be included in Google search results on mobile devices. Desktop search results will remain unaffected.

Google does not care what type of mobile-friendly website you have. As long as your website is mobile-friendly, you do not need to rush out and upgrade to a responsive design website before the April 21st deadline.

The iASP™ system has been providing single-solution, mobile-friendly websites to our clients since 2006 that don't require content to be duplicated or for two separate websites to be managed.

So before rushing off to pay top dollar rebuilding your website unnecessarily, why not get an honest opinion from an honest company about the best web solution for your business needs.

Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Try Google's own Mobile-Friendly Test or Get in Touch.


Further Reading:

Note: * denotes source of misleading information.



Got your own opinion about responsive vs. mobile-friendly? Do both terms mean the same thing? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs

5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs

5 Steps to Creating Google Friendly URLs
What is a URL?

A URL (Uniform Resource Locator), is the web address of resources such as web pages, images and files on the Internet.

For example, the URL of the home page of the iASP Central website is http://www.iaspcentral.com while the URL of the Blog section of the iASP Central website is: http://www.iaspcentral.com/Home/blog.aspx.

Search Engines like Google "crawl" the Internet and index all of the URLs they can find in a directory, that we then use to search for things on the Internet.

Like any listing in a phone book or an address book, the easier the number or address is to use, the more favourable the number/address is. Search engine indexes are no different.

So what steps can you take to create better URLs for your website?

  1. Make URLs Meaningful

    The more meaningful a URL is, the more useful it is around the Internet, and you create meaning by using keywords.

    For example - the URL http://www.example.com.au/shop.html?pid=123&catid=456&anid=789 versus the URL http://www.example.com.au/shop.html?pid=cotton-tee-red&catid=t-shirts&anid=discounted-items.

    Even though the two URLs are almost identical, the second URL uses keywords related to the page content instead of ID numbers.

    The use of keywords is an advantage for two reasons:

    1. It gives people a better idea of what to expect at the end of a link after reading the URL, which also makes the URL better for sharing.
    2. It adds weight to search engine rankings.

    Avoid "stuffing" your URLs with keywords however, as not only does it unnecessarily increase the length of your URLs, the practice of keyword stuffing is frowned upon.


  2. Keep them Short

    Like addresses and phone numbers, the shorter you can make a URL, the better.

    While the URL www.example.com.au/shop/products/electronics/remote-controlled/helicopters/commando-copter-2.html is a meaningful URL, and includes useful keywords, the length of the URL will become a burden.

    Just like the benefits of using keywords, shorter URLs make for easier reading and easier sharing, particularly on social media platforms with character limits such as Twitter.

    Furthermore, tests by some SEO specialists have shown that shorter URLs also improve the direct traffic to a website1.


  3. Use Hyphens Between Words

    There are many ways to handle multiple words in a URL. YouCouldJoinThemAltogether, but that just makes it look like one long word, which is not useful for search engines.

    Or_you_could_use_underscores, but best practice is to-use-hyphens-to-separate-words.

    The reason for this is Google. Actually, the real reason is the use of the underscore in programming, but Google (and now most search engines) have made this part of the way they index numbers and punctuation.

    Whatever the reason is, it has become universally accepted that hyphens should be used to separate words in URLs.


  4. Make URLs Lower Case

    Consider the URL www.example.com.au/about-us.html versus the URL www.example.com.au/ABOUT-US.html.

    Both URLs should point to the same page, but there is a very good reason for using lower case URLs - some web servers are case sensitive, meaning that about-us.html and ABOUT-US.html are interpreted as two different addresses.

    When a search engine crawls a URL, it will try both versions of the address and dependent on the type of web server hosting the website, it will index the results differently.

    You could either end up with a search engine resolving the two versions of the same URL as being two different pages, or, the search engine will resolve one version and see the other version as a dead page.

    In either case, the result is poorer Search Engine rankings that what could otherwise be achieved by using lower case URLs.


  5. Use HTTPS URLs

    In mid-2014, Google announced that a small Search Ranking boost would be given to HTTPS URLs. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Using HTTPS rather than HTTP allows web browsers and web servers to communicate to each other with an added layer of security and encryption.

    While recent tests by various Search Ranking professionals are showing that, at present, the benefit received by migrating to HTTPS URLS is so low as to barely be worth the effort, small differences can have a big impact so it is still worth considering the switch if you are able to - at the very least you will be providing extra security for your website visitors, and your website will already be in line to receive the ranking boost if and when Google does decide to give HTTPS URLs more weight in their rankings.


Conclusion

After almost 20 years providing content management systems we understand that website administrators generally don't know the first thing about page URL's, and that's why the iASP™ content management system takes care of most of the considerations above automatically.

If your current solution does not support this level of control please contact us to arrange a no obligation demonstration of the  iASP™ platform.

While your page URLs may not be the number one priority when working on your website, a few simple considerations can make a huge difference to Search Rankings.



Resources:

  1. Does URL Structure Even Matter? A Data Driven Answer
  2. 15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs
  3. HOW://DOES.YOUR.URL/AFFECT-SEO?
  4. Keep a simple URL structure
  5. Dashes vs. underscores
  6. Never Use Capital Letters in URLs
  7. Report: HTTPS URLs Have No Discernible Ranking Benefit In Google Currently


How do you structure your website URLs? Discuss your URL strategy with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


5 Steps to Better Link Building

5 Steps to Better Link Building

5 Steps to Better Link Building

We have been covering the shift in web content and SEO practices recently, and now we get to the practice of link building.

Links are not the beginning or the end of Search Engine Optimisation, but they do hold a large portion of weight in the algorithms employed by Google/Bing to rank websites on their Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).

It is worth spending some time to understand link building, to incorporate link building into your content creation processes, so that you can reap the rewards from the effort in the future.

A Short History of Link Building

In their simplest form, links are like map locations for search engines to navigate between on their endless quest for information. Another way to look at them, is to consider a link as a vote from one website for another. Links help search engines calculate the popularity of websites and specific pages based on the number of other websites that carry links pointing to them.

Rand Fishkin of Moz, in 2009, summarised the history of link building and described it as follows: Between 2000 and 2002, direct link buys, email requests for links and link exchanges were popular. In 2003 and 2004, link networks, blog commenting and paid text links became popular. 2005 saw the advent of social media links, linkbait and quizbait and in 2008-09 came content licensing and editorial content for links.

After 2009, Google started introducing software like Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda which fished out websites that were aimed at fooling search engines. These complicated software algorithms were created to penalise such websites and to stop them from appearing at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).

The Better Way to Link Build

Nowadays, the best practice for link building is to consider the bigger picture, and focus on building your link profile. QuickSprout has a great article - What is a "Good Link Profile" and How Do You Get One - that is worth reading if you have not heard of the term before.

Step One: Focus on Content

The first step is to produce quality content which is relevant, meaningful, and will gain popularity on the Internet in its own merit. Unless you create content which readers would want to share, you aren't going to create reason for other websites to link to your website.

As mentioned earlier, links are like votes. So if a website posts a link to your content, it is like the owner of the website voted for you. If a website which is considered an 'authority' links to your content, the value of the 'vote' increases. All of this affects where your website shows up on a Search Engine Results Page.

There are several ways in which you can structure content on your website to make it more appealing. Articles which list the '10 best' or '10 worst' of a topic are very popular with readers. Infographics or white papers providing insight into specific areas of your industry are also very popular and make the content easier to share as well.

Step Two: Only Aim for Natural Links

According to Google, their algorithms are configured to use only natural links for indexing and ranking websites. Search engine algorithms are able to distinguish between genuine links to your site posted by people who think the information would be helpful to others, and links which are posted specifically to "boost votes". The latter are referred to as spammy backlinks, which hurt your link profile.

Step Three: Promote, Promote, Promote

The content that you have created needs to be promoted aggressively by you. Do not wait for people to notice your content first and then start sharing. Instead, reach out to authority websites and "influencers" in your industry and share your content with them. If they find it useful and share it with their followers, your reach will increase exponentially.

Use paid options offered by social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to promote posts. You can also buy ad space in online journals using content syndication networks like Taboola and Zemanta to promote your content.

Step Four: Diversify your Back Links

Mix things up by requesting backlinks in different formats and on different platforms. Aim for some backlinks to be through social media, and some to be contained within content.

Another popular way to diversify link building is through guest blogging. However, today, guest blogging has become vastly more complicated than before. To establish your own set of followers, it is imperative that you contribute high quality content regularly. You must also promote the content you contribute and respond to queries / feedback.

Step Five: Backlink Management

Keep a constant watch out for any websites which feature your name or that of your brand. Check these websites regularly and request backlinks to your website if you have been mentioned, but not linked to. Another popular way of tracking mentions is through Google Alerts. You can enroll for competitions and also submit reviews of products to websites in return for a backlink.

In Summary

We have provided a very basic introduction into the practice of link building for today's content writers and provide a list of articles that should provide you with some more in-depth information. If you would like to discuss how you can improve your link building strategy or your overall content strategy, feel free to Get in Touch.

Further Reading:

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

It seems like only yesterday the "experts" were advising that to achieve the best search engine performance you needed a properly optimised website layout along with the use of hand-picked keywords in the important areas of the pages.

The way Google ranks search results has changed the SEO game dramatically, however, and the tactics and strategies for Search Engine Optimisation have shifted to be almost totally content focused.

It would seem content marketing has replaced "traditional" methods of search engine optimisation (SEO), so we ask, how relevant are these   traditional SEO practices and is there any use in still following them?

Let's begin with a quick look at the history of traditional SEO.

Traditional SEO

Keywords and inbound links are the two broad philosophies directing the SEO industry. The goal: to have your website at the top of the results pages whenever a specific keyword is typed into a search engine.

This gave rise to strategies that aimed to deceive search engines using techniques such as "keyword stuffing" (using keywords or phrases numerous times on a page without any context or providing meaningful content for the reader), creating link farms and other practices that took advantage of the simplicity of search indexing algorithms to gain a higher ranking.

Legitimate websites found it difficult to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages against these tactics, and it ultimately led to search engines changing the way they index and rank websites to ensure that the end user was being given high quality search results that gave them the information they were searching for.

New Age SEO

In response to deceitful SEO tactics, Google introduced a new algorithm that uses latent semantic indexing, which follows the idea that words used in the same context tend to have similar meanings. For example, the phrase "complete guide" is given the same ranking as "definitive guide" when either phrase is used in a search query.

Suddenly, the websites that had a stronghold on certain keywords and key phrases, and that were reliant on being at the top by pushing the competition out of the circle, found themselves now having to compete with websites using similar phrases. The distinguishing factor was now the content that was being provided to the user, not just the keywords in the search query.

Enter Content marketing. Content marketing, which involves the creation of high quality content to get ahead in website rankings is being touted as the new SEO.

Content marketing strategy also provides a greater return on investment by boosting a website's ranking through content being shared on a variety of social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and others.

A case study by Kissmetrics, presented by Neil Patel, studied the number of visits and back-links to 47 info-graphics which cost $28,200 to produce. These info-graphics received 2,512,596 page views and 41,142 back-links from 3741 unique domains. The social media contributions were 41359 tweets and 20,859 likes.

Patel estimates that the costs of trying to manipulate Google by buying Tweets, Likes, visitors and links would be $1,072,905.80 as compared to the $28,200 spent on producing the infographics. 

That is quite a difference.

Apart from the cost factor, another major advantage for content marketing as an SEO strategy is the fact that good quality content will remain unaffected by future changes that search engines might make to their algorithms.

The Conclusion

The positive practices of traditional SEO that helped search engines to deliver high quality search results to their users have remained a part of the New Age SEO practices, while the practices that worked against helping search engines have been dropped.

The answer to our question - how relevant are the traditional SEO practices today and is there any use in still following them? - is that since the positive traditional practices are part of the new age practices, it is worth focusing on a content marketing strategy to provide and boost SEO rather than trying to implement and manage two strategies in parallel.

As Aaron Agius from Louder Online told Huffington Post recently, "Content is the foundation of any successful online marketing campaign. A great strategy is needed in order to fuel social media activity, to create high converting landing pages for pay per click marketing and to power increases in search engine rankings for target keywords."

Further Reading:

What is your current SEO strategy? Have you shifted your focus, or are you still following the same practices? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

The Internet has created a platform to provide solutions to many every day problems. From basic websites that share information or entertainment, to highly complex applications that allow people to complete banking transactions on-line or see other parts of the world in real-time, we have been able to open our world like never before.

Just like in the real-world however, website owners must consider how their website or on-line application is used by visitors, including people with a disability.

For a web developer or a content author, this means that there are some techniques and tactics that need to be considered when creating a website or a piece of content that is published in the Internet.

So, we'll take you through what Web Accessibility is all about, and what you need to do to play your part in building an accessible World Wide Web.

What is Web Accessibility?

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Very simply, Web Accessibility ensures that the same detail of information is accessible to a viewer with a disability as is accessible to a viewer without a disability, so that the end experience for all users is as equal as possible.

The disability could be from a visual impairment, or a hearing impairment or a physical or mental disability that affects how the user is able to interact with the website and the content.

The Web Accessibility Initiative

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been ensuring that all areas of the World Wide Web are accessible to everyone since 2005 as part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA).

As stated on the Web Accessibility Initiative website, web accessibility depends on several components working together in order for the Web to be accessible to all, and content is one of the essential components that, when formatted to meet the WAI guidelines, could substantially improve Web accessibility.

The Web Accessibility Initiative website provides strategies, guidelines and resources for website developers, software developers and user agent developers to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.

For website content, this standard is outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline, and it is up to version 2.0.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was first introduced in 2008 and it defines how to make Web content more accessible "with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally". The recommendations and techniques provided to achieve WCAG 2.0 compliance are updated once a year to stay current with changing technology.

The guidelines, along with the resources that come from the guidelines, are all built upon a foundation of four principles of accessibility, such that anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

  1. Perceivable
    Which means users must be able to perceive the information being presented, it must be visible to at least one of their senses). For content, this means providing text based alternatives for non-textual content like images or audio. Multimedia content should have captions which are accessible to screen readers, or should also provide an alternative version such as a written transcript. The guidelines also cover techniques of displaying content that should be avoided, such as time-based media that may not be displayed for long enough to be read properly; or styling content in a way that makes it difficult to read or hides content from view.

  2. Operable
    Which means users must be able to operate the interface (or put more simply, navigate around a website) using in the very least, a keyboard. In most cases, users have a keyboard and a mouse to interact with a website, but alternative means to navigate around a website must be provided. This alternative is typically provided through the functionality of the web browser (using the TAB or arrow keys to scroll through navigation elements on the page), or it is handled by assistive technologies that are based upon keyboard commands to a web browser.

  3. Understandable
    Which means users must be able to understand the information as well as easily determine how to use the website. Authors of websites must make their text readable without much effort by the visitor. This includes choices of font, size of text as well as the layout of the page. Content must also be structured in a predictable format so as to not leave the user guessing. For example, providing the user with clear and meaningful feedback after interacting with the website, such as after submitting a form.

  4. Robust
    Which means users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible). From a content point-of-view, this principles means that content is structured in a way that is future-proof. Using valid HTML with correct semantic mark-up is the best way to ensure that your content will be future-proof.

So what does it mean for you?

As a website owner or content author, you should check your website to see whether it meets the current WCAG 2.0 standards, and then take steps to address any areas that are not up to standard.

For most websites, this will typically be ensuring that meaningful images also have meaningful text alternatives (so background images don't count), and that hyper-links and anchors have meaningful titles and can be activated (clicked) by using the keyboard. If your website has video, then ensure that your videos provide subtitles and/or a transcript that users can read instead if they are unable to watch the video.

Services like AChecker will let you check if your website meets the WCAG 2.0 standard of accessibility for free. Several other such services are available online and can be found in a list of tools provided on the WAI website.

It is also highly recommended that you read the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document to give you an idea of what to consider when creating content to ensure that it will be WCAG 2.0 compliant.

Further Resources:



Do you think Web Accessibility is important? Join our discussion on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

5 Content Marketing Fundamentals

A well planned and executed content marketing strategy is no longer optional in order to stand out in the crowded digital landscape.

Content marketing is now a mandatory component of any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy and a powerful way to give your audience a great experience of your brand.

Content marketing helps attract new visitors and build a loyal audience, which generally leads to increased conversions. Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Association is the discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.

For most of small businesses, all media channels and platforms typically means a corporate website, some Social Media engagement and hopefully some level of pro-active marketing in the form of promotional e-mail campaigns or other digital or traditional media advertising.

To point you in the right direction, we've listed 5 Content Marketing Fundamentals to help you plan and develop a content strategy that delivers on your investment.

1. Plan: Know your Audience and Objectives

Before you start chalk out a plan.

You may not have all the questions to begin with, let alone the answers, but beginning with why, who, when and how is a good place to start.

Who are you talking to and what areas of your business is of interest to them? How will you communicate and engage your audience?

Remember - it's all about building a community interacting with your brand!

2. Be Prepared to Spend

Ongoing creation of high quality content is neither easy nor cheap.

As a professional in your industry you are well placed to set the content agenda, but if you're talents (and time availability) don't allow you to be hands on in the entire process you might consider outsourcing as an option.

Here at Hub Com Digital, our management team develops an editorial calendar containing the topics we want to focus on for the coming weeks.

We then internally work up an overview for each individual content piece.

In the case of an article that will be published on our company Blog as well as our Social Media platforms, we would first develop the overall premise of the article and give it a working title. We then attach a couple of suggestions for a headline and send all that information to our graphic designer to create a suitable image for the article.

The articles themselves are either entirely written by our internal staff, or outsourced to external professional content developers, who write the actual article based on the premise / title and headline suggestions we provide.

3. Content for Brand Building

Gaining respect for your brand is not easy. It's the outcome of a process containing many steps over time.

Relating information about the evolution of your brand and your journey to the present gives credibility and builds empathy.

When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to include reference to your origins, what motivates you to succeed and what motivates your customers to keep coming back.

The aim here is to create personal connections with your audience and reinforce what your brand represents.

According to Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute, telling the story of your brand can be likened to conventional story telling at a level. In a post on CMI, Rose lists out ten steps divided into three broad categories which will help you understand how to create content that captivates and enthrals.

4. Content for Reputation

On-line reputation management, which involves the maintaining of your digital reputation as well as dealing with negative public feedback, has become a thriving business today. Many of us have Googled the names of companies along with keywords like 'negative', 'bad' to check the reputation of companies (and people) we are planning to deal with.

While most reputable organisations are unlikely to be subject to an attack like the infamous case where a large number of websites attached the keywords 'miserable failure' with a link to George W Bush's official biography page hosted by the White House, the reality is that social media networks have given customers a powerful platform and dealing with negative feedback - whether it is true or not - is an increasingly important part of modern business operations.

A pro-active content marketing strategy distributing positive content on-line is a powerful way to mitigate the damage of an attack. It also pays to have a solid policy for dealing with negative feedback in place. Refer to our Blog article: Five tactics to address negative customer feedback.

5. Content for Search Performance

Search Engines like Google are making it increasing difficult to manipulate their search rankings artificially. Google's documentation clearly states they reward "high-quality" sites, and by this they mean websites that give "great user experience" and "fulfill information needs".

Just as Google rewards "high-quality" sites, it penalises sites for "low-quality content". Before embarking on your content marketing journey have a look at this important article on building high quality websites in the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Summary

A content marketing strategy requires a significant commitment of resources. The impact is not usually instant and mistakes can be very costly.

On the other hand, the long term benefits from building and nurturing a community centred on your business are coveted by many for good reason.

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

In our recent article - Google Panda Goes Kung Fu On Your Website - we pointed out that Google is giving website owners a nudge to update and refresh their published content. With that in mind here's our top 3 hassle free tactics for keeping your content fresher for longer.

1: Regularly update the key message on your homepage.
It does not have to be a major re-write every time, but regularly (at least once a month) edit the primary message on your home page.
Remember, it's all about engagement, so consider including a topical or seasonal message of relevance to your audience. You might mention the season and how it relates to your business e.g. "Winter is a great time for one of our famous Irish Coffees sitting by the fire" or "With Easter fast approaching it's the perfect time to book our free vehicle safety check" or "Don't forget, your next BAS Statement is due on June 21st".

HCD Tactic: If your website allows inclusion of some sort of main image such as a banner on your homepage it is highly recommended you invest in updating this image regularly - at least several times each year. If you have a scrolling banner function you will get away with the same images in rotation for longer, and you might further extend the shelf life by swapping around the default starting image and the rotation order of the images.

2: Should you include the Date Published / Updated in your website content?
When it comes to newspapers, topical content that was news yesterday is old news today. When it comes to some areas of corporate website content there's a longer shelf life - for example your "About Us" page might only change when you have staff or other significant organisational changes and your "Product Descriptions" may also remain relevant indefinitely. In these cases you should never include the date published. Alternatively, if you publish news or a blog and write regular articles (at least one per month), then you should always include the publish date. 


HCD Tactic:
If you are not writing at least one news / blog article per month you should consider removing the news / blog altogether or at least removing the date published from articles (which is not ideal) - better still, increase the frequency you publish articles to at least one per month.

3: Recycle your content.
You can save time by publishing / archiving / re-publishing content. Be sure to give the content the once over before re-publishing to be certain it is still relevant and accurate. Re-writing the headline and the opening lines will be enough to attract a new audience.

HCD Tactic: Publishing a new image with recycled content is a great way to refresh it.

If you've got anything further to add we welcome your comments, or if you are struggling with your website content, HCD may be able to help. Please feel free to get in touch.


Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

The big news in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world is the recent release of Google Panda 4.0. If you're looking for this new app in your Google+ account, don't bother, Google Panda is one of Google's many algorithms that determine their search result rankings.

While done in the name of fairness, Panda 4.0, like many of Google's modifications, has resulted in wide-ranging change to positioning within Google search results. It even caught some of our clients in the net.

For the uninitiated, Google is now targeting websites publishing copied content or poor quality content more aggressively than ever. Panda 4.0 encourages publication of fresh, unique, user-friendly content.

The primary target: websites that 'scrape' content from other websites for publication on their own. 

This will challenge operators engaging in questionable content practices, however, it seems at the same time legitimate operators are also being penalised.

For example, consider accommodation portals such as Wotif and Expedia. Individual Accommodation providers using these platforms provide the content themselves, which in our experience is typically fed directly from their own website.

Should parties engaging in this type of practice be penalised by Google? Does Google expect the Accommodation provider to write a unique description for every Accommodation portal it advertises with?  

Only Google can answer these questions.

So what do the new changes mean for your website, and what can you do if you've been "hit"?

Google's own suggestion is "If you believe you've been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content."

HCD Tactic: Go through your content and give it a good spring clean. Rewrite your old content, remove duplicate content, and add new content that brings life back to your website.

Considering that SEO tactics at the moment consider the entire user experience, such as website navigation and having an intuitive website structure, mobile optimisation, and user-friendly content and metadata, it might also be time for a redesign or rebuild of your website.

No doubt, Google is being inundated with enquiries from businesses and website owners who have been penalised over the last fortnight, asking why they have dropped down the search results and what they can do to fix it.

If you think your website has been penalised unfairly, you can contact Google and ask them to restore your rankings.

We've compiled 5 useful sources for more information about the latest Google Panda release, and advice about what you can do to recover:

  1. Google Panda Update
  2. Google Panda Tips
  3. Google Panda Update Survival Guide
  4. High Quality Web Sites - The New Google Ranking Factor
  5. How to run blogs that inspire

The Relevance of a Keyphrase

The Relevance of a Keyphrase

The Relevance of a Keyphrase
Google is constantly updating the way it indexes websites, so maintaining good Google rankings is an ongoing task...and you've got to keep up with the times.

Google is now looking closer than ever at the visitor searches. It's fair to say that Google is becoming more "human" in its approach to understanding what people are searching for.

Google now considers factors like the credibility and popularity of the website, the level of user engagement and the context of the content - so the days of treating Google like a machine and stuffing in as many relevant key words and key phrases as possible are long gone.

SEO Tactic: Develop meaningful content around your primary search terms - those that visitors are most likely to use to find you.

Google now understands website content far more deeply than just analysing the keywords, so with appropriate terms and clear language you can make it much easier for Google to include your website in the relevant search results.

The 4 Most Important Google Rankings Factors

The 4 Most Important Google Rankings Factors

The 4 Most Important Google Rankings Factors
There are literally hundreds of factors Google uses to calculate search rankings.

SEO professionals spend their lives tweaking client websites to extract every possible advantage, however, in our experience, focusing on the following 4 areas will see most websites rise above their Google competition.

1: Overall Content

If your website does not contain the key words ice cream then chances are it won't appear in a Google search for that search term.

The placement and density of key words and phrases within a web page is the most important on-page search engine optimisation (SEO) metric.

2: Page Titles

Page Titles (for the technically minded Meta Titles), after the overall content, are the most important area to place your primary keywords and phrases.

Every page on a web site should include a unique Page Title. Page Titles not only serve as headlines for the page but also factor heavily in key word weighting.

3: Domain Name

If your domain name contains the key words within a search term you're well on the way to a high search ranking for that term.

For example, try a Google search for: peaches and cream (pages from Australia) and note the top results.

4: Google Page Rank

Google Page Rank was once the most important Google ranking factor and is still a useful method of measuring the overall link popularity of a web page.

Google Page Rank is based on the link structure of the web where a link from site A to site B can be considered a vote by site A for site B.

To get a FREE overview of your website's SEO performance, visit http://www.seobenchmarker.com.au/ and try the free Search Engine Ranking Score Tool, or to learn more about SEO download a free copy of the SEO Benchmarker white paper: An Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation


Submit a Google Local Business Listing

Submit a Google Local Business Listing

Submit a Google Local Business Listing
Our Best Mobile Strategy Tactic:

Here's a no-brainer starting point for your mobile strategy: Submit a Google Local Business Listing.

If you're not sure how, here's another pearler for you...Google it!

A huge percentage of mobile search is local...and a huge percentage of results lead to a direct visit...so claim your share now and stop giving up the high ground to the other guys.

Mobilise the Forces

Mobilise the Forces

Mobilise the Forces

Are you mobile ready?

Chief Executive of Google, Eric Schmidt once said "If you don't have a mobile strategy, you don't have a future strategy", and he practices what he preaches.

Since 2010 Google has embraced a mobile first culture, meaning the technology superpower is primarily focused on mobile.

With the continuing explosion of mobile Internet use - more people now check e-mail on mobile devices than on desktops - make sure you don't miss the boat!