Does Blogging Help Your Company’s SEO?

Whether you’ve already got a business blog in place or you’re debating getting one started, you’ve probably asked yourself if you’re making the right decisions. The truth is that while a well-run blog is an invaluable asset to your company, a stagnant or improperly managed blog might be holding you back. As in every aspect of your business, you want to make sure you’re getting the most return out of the effort you’re putting into your blog. One of the most vital ways to do that is by examining its impact on your website’s SEO.

How Often Should You Blog?

Experts agree that when it comes to making the most of your business blog, posting more frequently is a good decision. The goal is to create a resource that offers your customers regular updates, so they have a reason to keep coming back. However, as with any resource, it’s important to be mindful of the quality and diversity of your content. The best way to build readership is by providing a variety of substantive, interesting content. Don’t fall into the trap of blogging about insignificant or irrelevant topics just to fill a spot on the calendar.

Blogging less frequently will provide you with a slower growth rate in readership, but that might be the right fit for your company. Consider how much time and energy you want to devote to your blog. A few blogs a month might be a better choice for you than blogging every day, even though the latter is likely to grow your readership at a much faster rate. Specifically research shows that the impact of blog posts tends to grow most successfully when you post four or more blogs per month, with website traffic increasing exponentially the more often you post after that. Whatever you decide, remember to prioritize consistent posting and quality content, and your blog should thrive.

How Does Blogging Help Your SEO Ranking?

SEO is all about showing search engines that your site is the best answer to the questions your customers ask. But how does a blog help with that?

  • Frequent updates. If you’re managing your blog correctly, it should be the part of your website that gets new content most often. That does more than keep your customers coming back – although their repeat visits are a crucial component to strengthening your SEO. It also alerts search engines to the fact that your website is a going concern. Google analytics show that frequent updates directly correspond to higher SEO rankings.
  • As previously mentioned, broad readership and repeat visits to your blog increase your overall SEO. That’s because search engines analyze things like how many times a post of yours is shared as part of the algorithm to determine your SEO. Getting your words in front of an audience is tremendously valuable to you.
  • Keyword use. While blogs are often built around a keyword or phrase, good blogs incorporate these terms in a way that sounds like natural speech. This is a good strategy, because that tends to be the way people phrase their internet searches as well. If your blog contains a phrase that matches a search term someone uses, that’s a huge boost to your SEO.

Think about the ways in which potential customers might be searching for you online. What questions do they have? Your blog should be arranged as an answer to a question. Try to keep a natural voice when you write, and let your content flow.

What Makes Great Blog Content?

Your blog is not the place to advertise. Potential customers won’t return to your site to read a series of ads about the services you provide. Instead, you want to put together meaningful content that they can benefit from. A great blog serves as an informative and relevant resource.

Do your research. The last thing you want to do is give your customers information that’s out of date or just plain wrong. Make sure you have the facts straight, and cite sources (providing links is a great boost for your SEO!) Make sure, as well, that the topics you choose to write about are newsworthy. You don’t want to produce a blog that just tells people something they already know.

Your next order of business is to create a voice and tone for your company. Think about who your customers are and how you want to speak to them. You would address a crowd of millennials differently than you would baby boomers, and the way you write should reflect that. No matter who you’re writing for, keep it functional but friendly. Create a relatable tone that people will want to read, but make sure you’re still imparting great information.

Be mindful of the fact that many internet users don’t sit and read entire articles online—they skim. In fact, over half of your blog’s visitors will probably scroll through without stopping to read what you’ve written word for word. That’s okay! Make the most of scanners’ short attention spans by using descriptive headings and bulleted lists to catch the eye.

Get Started Blogging Today

Having a blog that’s regularly updated will be a boon to your business! If you need help getting started or are looking for top-notch writers who can provide you with content while you focus on other aspects of your business, contact Firestarter SEO today.


Topic Modeling 101 for SEO

Over the years, Google’s approach to ranking websites has changed dramatically. In the beginning, it was as simple as stuffing as many keywords as you possibly could in the meta tag. These keywords didn’t have to have a single bit of relevance to your website, and you could rank number one for nearly any search query with relative ease.

As Google’s algorithms got smarter, the meta tag lost its weight in ranking, and less emphasis is placed on keyword density. Now, it’s all about crafting content that is valuable to readers, written naturally for them. While the keyword still plays a role in ranking, it is much less important than it has been in the past.

While we don’t really know, and never will, exactly how Google ranks content – because their algorithms are hidden under lock and key with plenty of legal protection to keep them safe – we, as an industry, have learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t, through trial and error, and listening to what Google tells us directly impact rankings. (When Google says something about changes you need to make to your website to keep or improve your rankings – you listen.)

In today’s rapidly evolving SEO industry, how can you be sure you’re creating content your viewers will love to read, but that will also keep the search engines happy? The answer lies in Topic Modeling.

What is Topic Modeling?

Latent Semantic Indexing, or LSI, has been part of the Google ranking factors since the Hummingbird update in 2013. If you’re not already familiar with the term, it involves not just the words that make up your content, but the context of those words. And, it looks at the user’s search intent, and that relationship to specific keywords. Put simply, LSI helps search engines find related keywords and process synonyms to deliver more accurate results. It uses TF*IDF, or term frequency times inverse document frequency, to determine how important a specific word or phrase is to a document.

Though we’re five years out from the update that shook rankings and many websites have recovered, topic modeling can be considered an extension, or a type of LSI. It’s incredibly important to how your website ranks in Google (and other search engines) today, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

Basically – you can’t frame your content around a single keyword phrase anymore. You need to start with the core phrase, and use other sources to create topic clusters, also known as keyword clusters, to flesh out a piece of content. And, those topic clusters will change depending on user intent.

User Intent

Research shows searcher intent can be broken into two segments. Users are looking for specific information related to the keywords they’ve used, or they’re looking for general information about the topic.

You can split intentions based on how specific the searcher is, and how exhaustive the searcher is. Queries can generally be broken down based on:

  • Navigational – trying to get to a certain website
  • Informational – trying to get some kind of information
  • Transactional – trying to buy something, or perform another specific online activity

Keeping user intent in mind with what your website goals are will help you choose the right keywords to target in the first place.

How to Create Topic Clusters for SEO

Start with your core keyword phrase. Search in Google. For instance, this article, could have the core keyword phrase: topic modeling for SEO.

Look at Google’s related searches at the bottom of the results page. This gives you an idea of other keyword phrases to include in your content.

On certain searches, you’ll also find a People Also Ask section.

You can use this to determine whether you should include more information on the page, or if you should answer other questions on additional pages of content. Hint – for an idea about which way to go, check and see what the highly ranked competition is doing. If they’ve answered all the questions on the same page, do it that way – but answer them better. Add more information and value. If they’ve not answered the questions on the page, answer them, and be thorough. Google, and your readers, will thank you.

These of course are not the only tools you can use to help build your topic clusters and models. You can start with a keyword research tool like ubersuggest to give you an idea of the search volume of your core keyword phrase and other similar phrases with lower competition. However, you must go beyond basic keyword research tools and related keywords. Tools like market news and article insights are good because they take the main keyword you’re targeting and provide you with groups of words you should aim to include.

Let’s say your main keyword is “what to sell online”. Ubersuggest gives you phrases like:

Best goods to sell online

Best ecommerce products to sell

Apps to sell stuff

And so on.

These are related phrases you can work into your content, but you still need to dig a little deeper.

Running the main phrase “what to sell online” through Article Insights will give you topic buckets of words and phrases that should naturally occur in your content if you want to rank well for that keyword.

It will also show you what the competition looks like, so you can be sure you’re doing better than the content they provide. You can paste your content into Article Insights to see how well your content matches up to the recommendations, and how it stacks up against the competition.

To make sure you’re really going in depth, you can also run related keywords from your research in Article Insights.

Credit: MarketMuse Overview

MarketMuse is a similar tool that helps you see how you can rank for all searches related to your business – not just the keywords. By focusing on this approach, you can cover topics, and not just the keywords.

Examples of Topic Modeling and How They Affect SEO

Take for example, actress turned singer, Selena Gomez. When you search for her using just her name, Google doesn’t know which context you’re trying to find information on, and presents news stories, her official website, Instagram, and YouTube.

But when you alter the search to provide more context, by adding acting to the end of the phrase, you get entirely different search results, including her IMDb listing, an article discussing her return to acting, and a series of YouTube videos to show her first auditions for the Disney Channel. Though the box on the right show some information about her both, you’ll see the information there changes, too – including the photos, movies and TV shows she’s credited in, and more.

 

Because Google wants to improve the quality of results for their users, the context of a search has the power to change everything about it. Topic modeling allows you to hit on more than the core keyword, but a number of contextual clues, too.

How to Leverage Topic Modeling for Your SEO

Creating New content around topic models is the easy part because all you have to do is your keyword research and build your model then right. It’s optimizing old content with topic modeling that can be somewhat daunting. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed at the idea, don’t worry. Simply start with an audit of your content and work methodically.

Build an inventory of all the pages on your website in a spreadsheet, if you don’t already have one. Include each page URL on its own row.  Along with the URL, include the user intent, focus topic, and any notes about the quality of the piece. This will help you determine which pages you need to focus on first,  and which ones can wait until later. Even if you’ve built your website around quality content, you can improve upon that quality by taking a deeper dive into the topic to create a more comprehensive piece. Take notes about where it ranks, and what the competition’s content looks like, so you have an idea of adjustments you can make in an effort to improve your rank.

Next, look at your on-page SEO factors, such as your headline, subheaders, and so on. Does the headline grab reader attention? Are keywords present where they need to be? What’s your linking structure like? Do you have outbound links to reliable sources? Are your related pages interlinked?

Check to make sure your content answers your readers’ questions – and does so well. If your content responds directly to a query, search engines will favor it – and it will increase your odds of landing in the Google Answers Box.

If you’re ready to learn more about how our Denver SEO agency can help your business grow with our topic modeling approach to SEO content, get in touch with us today to schedule your free consultation.


The Relationship Between SEO and Subdomains

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, the basics of the internet were being taught at schools across the United States. It required a phone line and complex understanding of various search engines. All websites needed the world wide web before the name. Since this time, technology has advanced and websites are no longer tied down by the old school rules. In modern times, it’s important to understand the concept of subdomains and when it’s appropriate for your business to use them.

What is a Subdomain?

Every website URL is broken into different parts. In order to understand subdomains, all parts of the website name need to be clear. Looking at our site name: www.firestarterseo.com, you can see three parts, each separated by a period (or dot).  The top level of the domain name or TLD is the .com. On other sites, the TLD might be .net, .gov, .org, or a number of other names. The next part is the SLD (second level domain) on our site and most websites are the name of the company or website. The TLD follows the dot right after the SLD. It is often called the extension.

The part of the website that comes before the SLD is called the subdomain. In the case of our site, and many others, the www is the subdomain. So you can see that the general structure of the URL is as follows: subdomain.SLD.TLD.

You may have been taught all websites need to start with www (world wide web) to be accessible, but that isn’t true. SLD’s can proceed with almost any word. Using a subdomain can save you from having to purchase a new domain name.

When Should You Use a Subdomain?

Now that you know that you don’t need that standard www in front of every website address, it’s tempting to toss out all the www in your site and replace them with snazzy new names like dinosaurs.firestarterseo.com or bananas.firestarterseo.com. Subdomains can take the place of the subdirectory (that would be the part that comes after the TLD to direct you to the specific part of the site, like the word “blog” in  www.firestarterseo.com/blog. Subdomains give a cleaner look to the web address (blog.firestarterseo.com vs.www.firestarterseo.com/blog).

However, just because you have the power to change your subdomain doesn’t mean you always should. Subdomains are best used when setting up a parallel site to your main site. If you’re running a store, it makes sense to add “store” as your subdomain rather than running it as your subdirectory. This will leave you with shorter subdirectories in the future too.  In the made-up site store.bananasanddinosaurs.com/monkeyfood the subdirectory will focus on the items rather than the longer www.bananasanddinosaurs.com/store/monkeyfood.

Another reason to use a unique subdomain name is to cater to different regions. If your company has different locations across the country or even globally, you can utilize subdomains for those various locations like such as colorado.bananasanddinosaurs.com or sacramento.bananasanddinosaurs.com to differentiate between location sites.

Is a Domain Name Important for SEO?

It seems that there is an eternal argument about how subdomains affect SEO. Many people argue that the subdomain name helps SEO because you can use keywords as your subdomain, leading to search engines pulling your site up more. Many others have argued that it does the opposite and it will hurt your SEO. Both sides have evidence to support their views, but how do you know which one to listen to?

The Pros of a Subdomain

Subdomains can work with SEO to increase your traffic if used properly. With proper use, subdomains can help your SEO by inserting keywords into URLs, improving user experience, and growing a niche authority.

  • Improving User Experience: Sometimes large sites are hard to use and confusing to those trying to access them. Subdomains organize the chaos and make it easier for users to find what they are looking for. If they can find what they need, it’s easier and more enticing for them to come back.
  • Growing Niche Authority: A niche market is less work than building a large-scale authority. Using subdomains builds smaller and smaller markets, resulting in you building your “grand authority” without as much work.
  • Pump Up Search Results: If you’ve watched the Olympics, you’ll see that the countries that have more athletes in each competition have a greater chance of going home with medals. Subdomains can help you in that same way. The more subdomains you have, the more likely you are to appear in the search results.

The Cons of a Subdomain

The pros may have sold you, but hold off on changing all your domain names. There is a downside to subdomains that must be considered.

  • Viewed as separate sites: When using a subdomain, you basically create a separate website, yes, you went from one website to two. This can limit your SEO for both sites. Rather than working together, the sites are now fighting for rankings and hurting each other and in the end hurting you. This is a significant problem because your SEO isn’t cumulative. PageRank is an algorithm that assesses a website’s merit based on its topical relevance and its authority as measured through links and citations, and by splitting your domains, you’re also dividing your PageRank, devaluing your own site. For example, if your homepage has a PageRank of 8 and your blog has a PageRank of four, putting the blog on a separate domain would give it a PageRank of 0 + whatever value is passed from the linking page AND if you have a 301 redirect from the old blog page. The PageRank would not be shared the same way as before.
  • Doesn’t add to your total pages: The more pages your site has, the more opportunities your site has to rank. Using a subdomain shares your page count across the two sites, this could potentially lower your rankings.
  • Subdomains don’t help internal linking: All those beautiful internal links you’ve added to boost your SEO could be viewed as external links, hurting your SEO. Google relies heavily on link metrics, so it’s vital to use them in a way that benefits you.

What is the Solution?

While subdomains are appealing, incorporating them into your site is not a risk-free proposition. If you’re a newbie, then using subdomains can hurt. Just taking a portion of your website and turning into a subdomain won’t suddenly make you a Google sensation.

Google is improving its systems all the time. As it improves, many of the cons surrounding subdomains are disappearing. As Google improves and the cons surrounding subdomains decrease, the pros increase. However, it’s still important to be aware of how subdomains work and what you’re doing so you don’t get caught by surprise with an unpleasant SEO drop.

If you’re interested in exploring subdomains, you don’t need to go alone. An SEO specialist can advise you on the pros and cons of subdomains and help you proceed without ruining your SEO.

You don’t need to stumble around in the dark. We can light a fire and show you the way.


A Customer-First Approach to SEO Keywords

keywordWe’ve been talking a lot about search engine optimization packages. Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand the major benefits of a sound strategy and implementation.

Today, I want to talk about SEO keywords.

Keyword research comes very early on in any SEO services package. At this point, we’re looking for a list of keywords that your customers type into the search engine. We’ll use research criteria based on your niche, target market, competition and keyword search volume.

Many professionals get hung up at this part in the process. After all, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself in all the heaps of data. But at the end of the day, we always keep one thing in mind:

The customer comes first.

You can’t overlook the customer when it comes to SEO. They’re the whole reason you’re investing in this service. It’s very important to look for a service provider that takes this customer-first approach to keywords. It’s the only way for true success.

Here are a few questions we’re always asking while doing keyword research.

Who are your customers?

You’ve got to know the target customer before you can truly serve them. Things like keyword research only succeed when it’s founded on a deep understanding for the customer’s challenges, pains and desires.

If you don’t have things like buyer personas, invest in them. They’ll help guide you on the search for the perfect keywords.

What are they looking for?

Now that you know the prospect, put yourself in their shoes. You know their pains and challenges. Take it a step further by brainstorming what kind of questions they’ll ask when looking for the product or service you offer.

Finding keywords that offer solutions will bring more qualified leads. Traffic is great, but qualified traffic is profitable.

Where are they coming from?

Keywords aren’t confined to the initial on-site SEO optimization. You’ll use them throughout your monthly SEO strategy in a variety of ways, including:

Knowing where they come from will help you prepare to monitor these keywords in a variety of ways.

Why are they searching?

Searcher intent is a very powerful thing in SEO. It’s one thing to rank for a vague keyword like red shoes. But if you could rank for red shoe store in Colorado, you’ve got searcher intent. There’s a reason behind their searching. And that’s a powerful thing to know.

It shows you how to tailor the message and content on your site. If you can speak to their initial intent, you have a greater probability of conversion.

Do you understand your customer on this kind of level? Could you benefit from a deeper SEO strategy? If so, contact us today! We’d love to discuss how we can turn your website into a revenue machine.


Five Ways To Find Topics For Your Blog

The concept of a blog is a relatively new phenomenon. Teenagers first kicked the trend off in the early 2000s, posting their feelings on an online platform for their friends to comment on and relate to. In essence, it was an online journal where you could either choose to be anonymous or not.

Wind the clock forward a few years, however, and you’ll find that blogging is a crucial component of getting your website, and therefore your business, ranking well on search engines. By using strategically placed keywords and hyperlinks, you are more likely to reach page one of the search results than if you didn’t have a blog. Getting to that first page is what every business should aim for because 92 percent of people using a search engine don’t go past page one.

We now know why blogs are relevant, but there’s another reason: freshness. If your content is outdated and hasn’t been updated for some time, Google is less likely to bring your webpage into the spotlight. It wants to offer searchers the latest and greatest, and if your website hasn’t been updated in a year, yours won’t be the site your potential customers see.

However, that can be a hard concept for businesses to get their head around. What more can they add? What if their products, services, and staff haven’t changed? How do you keep it updated? That’s where blogs come in. By including relevant content based on what people are looking for, you’re keeping your webpage fresh and inviting for potential customers. The hardest part, however, is finding out what to post.

Aside from hiring an SEO expert to take care of the entire process – of which would save you so much time and money – you can also easily find blog posts yourself if you know where to look. Here are five ways to find topics for your blog below.

  1. Listen to your customers

    In any line of business, you’re sure to find that your customers and potential customers are getting in touch to ask questions before they decide to buy your products or services. Take note of those questions. Are they frequently asked? Why do you think they are asking them? Would it save both you and those customers time to include content covering those frequently asked questions?

    If you include blog posts that are relevant to your line of work and can help your customers, all the better. You can then optimize this content with the help of SEO experts to include hyperlinks and commonly searched keywords.

  2. Take note of what your competition is doing

    It never hurts to keep a watchful eye on your direct competition – someone who is selling the same products as you or is providing the same services. What does their website look like? Does it have a blog? What are they putting on it? Don’t copy what they are doing, but use their techniques as inspiration for your own blog posts. If it looks like it’s working for them, then use that same concept to create unique blog topics that can work for you as well.

  3. Join a social media group

    There are over 150 million blogs in existence, which goes to show that there must be something worth writing about. If you’re struggling for ideas, join a bloggers group on Facebook or another social media platform. Many people love to share their thoughts, and you may find you have a long list of potential ideas just from taking notice of what people are saying.

  4. Read current news

    Whether you still get the newspaper, or you prefer to read news online, pay more attention to what is being said than you currently do. Current news can more than be helpful for coming up with blog topic ideas. For example, if you run a motorcycle sales website – selling ATVs and road bikes – and there is a story about an ATV accident in your local paper, pay attention. Your next blog post could be “Here’s how you can stay safe on your ATV.” Every national news headline can be a potential lead for your next post.

  5. Subscribe to other blogs

    Coming up with blog topics on your own can be tough, so why not subscribe to other blogs for inspiration? They don’t even have to be in your own industry or line of work, but what they write may just resonate with you, enabling you to turn that topic idea around into something that’s relevant to you and your business.


Blogging used to be an outlet for teenagers to vent, but in the last few years, it has become a vital part of search engine optimization. If you’re ready to see your business rank higher than ever before, consult an SEO expert. They will walk you through the entire process.


4 Benefits of SEO Content

In this day and age, SEO content is crucial, and it’s no longer enough to just exist and hope customers will see you. In fact, a storefront can only get you so far, especially if you’re not a well-established franchise or big brand. And, if you don’t have a storefront and you purely exist online, it’s also not enough to just have a website and hope customers will visit. There are 644 million active websites, so unless you do something about your online presence, you may not be found as quickly as you thought.

Having your finger on the pulse of how the online world works is vital. You need to hire an experienced web designer and developer who’s proficient in SEO optimization, and you need to ensure you have SEO content that’s continually updated and recognized by search engines such as Google. By becoming knowledgeable about SEO content, and SEO optimization, you may just notice a significant increase in website traffic that translates to sales and repeat business. Here are some of the many benefits of SEO content below.

1. It helps your web page to rank higher

When you are continually adding fresh SEO content to your web page, Google falls in love. The more updated a website is, with daily or weekly content, the more likely it is you are going to get repeat traffic, and a higher Google ranking. Google analytics suggest that old websites that haven’t seen a touch of editing in many months will slowly work their way down the list.

The goal of SEO content is to continually move you forward until you feature on the first page. After all, who actually clicks to page two of Google? If you’re not on page one, you’re almost invisible to your customer base. In fact, page 1 results on Google receive 92 percent of all traffic from an average search, and traffic drops off by a dramatic 95 percent for page 2.

2. It provides a platform to educate your customers

The part of your website that houses SEO content is normally called a blog or a journal. It’s the place where you actively try to use keywords that will bring more traffic, but the material also has to be relevant to your website, business, products, and services. Therefore, such a place gives you a platform on which to educate your customers on what you do, who you are, the benefits of your products and services, and more. It goes above and beyond what is available in your website tabs that generally consists of the products, services, about, and contact.

3. It encourages your customers to stay longer

The more SEO content your website has, the longer potential customers can be encouraged to stay on your site. For example, let’s say you own a motorcycle store, and you’ve heavily promoted the keywords “Suzuki GSXR600 in Denver” throughout.

Once your customer arrives at your website, intending to check out the Suzuki GSXR600s you have in stock in Denver, they will also notice that you can provide them with the pros and cons of that product, the maintenance they require, and general information surrounding that bike.

They may read that content, learn more about you as a business, and ultimately decide that bike is for them. This can translate to a sale, all because you chose to write a bit more about your products and services.

4. It’s affordable

SEO content is an affordable form of advertising and marketing for your business. Not only is it affordable in that you can see a significant improvement in your site traffic for minimal money, but that you can track results. In traditional forms of advertising such as magazine and newspaper adverts, it’s impossible to find out who has seen your ad, and whether it translated into a sale. The publication’s sales representative can give you approximate readership statistics and subscription rates, but they can’t tell you who has seen your ad, and who acted on it. It can become costly.

With SEO content and SEO optimization in general, you can find out what’s working and what isn’t and can alter your advertising and marketing budget and plan to suit. Most SEO optimization providers will provide you with up-to-date reports that show your keyword traffic, rankings, link building analysis, on-page analysis, and crawl diagnostics all built into the price of the service.

SEO content and SEO optimization are changing the way we do business, and the results can be substantial. Consider utilizing the services of an SEO expert and significantly improve your online presence.


How Long Before I See Results From My SEO Campaign

One of the most common questions we get here at Firestarter SEO is, “How long does SEO take to start working?” Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer, as it depends heavily on the strategy, and the level of competition you’re up against. However, you should start seeing results within a couple of months, but don’t be surprised if it takes a bit longer. It is worth noting though, that the progress you see in the early stages should pale in comparison to the results you see at the end of the first year. What matters is consistent effort and remaining agile enough to adjust the strategy according to the results you’re seeing.

Let’s look at the variables that go into how quickly you’ll see results in your campaign.

Keywords

Keywords are the words and phrases you use to drive targeted traffic to your website. These are the words and phrases your audience is using to find your website. Some will have more websites competing for them than others, meaning it will be harder to get a ranking spot on the first page.

Google is Constantly making changes to their algorithm to ensure searchers are served with quality results. In the early days of SEO, all you had to do was have your keyword in a few areas and throughout the content, and you were golden. This is not the case anymore. Keywords must be naturally woven into the text on the page, and using them too much can be considered keyword stuffing – a practice that Google and other search engines frown upon.

Your Domain Name

Your SEO, at the basic level, revolves around your domain name. If your domain has keywords in it, it can help speed up the process, but it’s not a magic bullet. Even domain names that are keyword rich can rank badly.

  • How long ago did you buy your domain? If it’s brand new, it could take longer to see results, simply because the search engines rely on trust. They have to have time to see that you know what you’re talking about, and you are a viable source of information for searchers. They consider domain age when determining how legitimate your business, website, and information is.
  • Has your domain name been penalized? If you purchased your domain from a third party because you wanted to avoid the domain age issue of a new domain, or simply couldn’t find a brand new domain that fit your brand, it’s important to look at its past history. There’s always a chance it was abused and discarded. It could have been used with black hat SEO or in other malicious activity. If this is the case, it likely has been flagged by the search engines. This isn’t to say you can’t reverse the damage, however, it will take longer before you start to see results.
  • Did someone outside your geographical location previously own the domain? It’s not uncommon for a domain name to be sold when a business closes. Let’s say you bought the .org version of your domain because it was the only option available, but you now see the .com is available. Sure, you can make the switch, but that .com domain has a long history with the previous business, which operated in a different area than you do. It doesn’t mean you can’t rank it, it just means it could take a bit longer because the search engines have to recognize that you are the new owner and you have a different address.

Business and Location for Local SEO

Every local business should claim their business listing with Google, and as many other directories as possible. Many of the directories offer listings for free and can help strengthen your online presence. For best results, make sure your listings are consistent in terms of the way your name, address, and phone number are listed.

What your business provides will play a role in your rankings simply because of the competition in your area. If you have a niche business that serves a limited clientele, you’ll see results faster as long as clients are searching specifically for your services. But if you’re in a more competitive field, there are more businesses gunning for those top ranking spots, making them harder to get. Often, businesses are spending money to ensure they stay on the top.

Website Content

Your website content should always be written for humans first, and search engines second. It needs to provide substance and value. Google wants to know they’re pointing their customers in the right direction to get the best possible information for all search queries, so content is a critical piece of the puzzle. Of course, getting content right can be a nightmare for many businesses, especially if they’re not fond of writing, or unfamiliar with the best ways to write for the web. It can be an especially daunting task if there’s no budget to hire a writing team. It’s a major reason why many businesses give up when they don’t see the results they’re hoping for in the early stages of their SEO campaigns.

Past Website Penalties

If your website has been hit by a Google penalty in the past, say Penguin, it doesn’t mean your rankings will suffer forever, but it means you’ll have your work cut out for you. The Penguin algorithm update came in 2012, and was Google’s answer to website spam. They became aware of webmasters manipulating their rankings through purchasing links or participating in link networks specifically designed to improve ranking. It was also aimed at improving content quality by penalizing keyword stuffing.

It’s possible to use the Google Disavow Tool to tell Google about links that you don’t want it to count against you. It’s a way for webmasters to get rid of low-quality links and recover from the penalty.

But that’s not the only thing that counts when attempting to recover. Beyond removing unnatural links, it’s important to focus on building natural links and reducing any keyword stuffing by re-writing content.

That of course, is an old penalty, so it’s just an example of what can be done to recover. If you notice your rankings plummet suddenly, that’s a good indication you’ve been penalized for some reason or another. Our SEO team can look at what’s going on when they conduct an audit and give more direction about a recovery strategy.

Backlinks

Backlinks, or links to your site from other sites, are an important part of SEO. Each backlink counts as a vote of trust and the more you have, the more Google learns that you are a trustworthy source of information. But, not just any backlink will do – hence why spam is such an issue.

To be a quality backlink it must:

  • Come from a relevant source: Search engines want everything to be relevant and useful to their users. They consider the relevancy of a link on multiple levels, from the relevance of the overall linking website, the relevance of the page the link is on, and the relevance of the content that directly surrounds the link.
  • Come from a trusted source: Search engines use websites they know are quality and difficult to get links from, such as the BBC and the Huffington Post, to determine trustworthiness. The fewer the number of links away a site is from one of those core seed sites, the higher the TrustRank and the higher the quality of a link from that site is.
  • Send traffic to your website: Links were originally intended to add value to a page because they direct visitors to more information relevant to the topic of the page, long before they were ever considered in any ranking algorithm. Website visitors still click these links, so having a link high up on a page will still bring value because regardless of rank it will send traffic to your site.
  • Use natural anchor text: The quality of a link improves if the anchor text of the link is similar to, or the same as a phrase you’re trying to rank for. But, if you have too many links coming to your site using the same anchor text, it starts to look unnatural and spammy, which can decrease your rankings. That’s why it’s better to use natural anchor text within the content, rather than focusing on a money phrase. Variations in anchor text are the key.
  • The more authority, the better: If there’s a backlink to your website on a page that links to other high-quality sites in the same niche as yours, it tells the search engines your site should be included in the high authority bracket. It doesn’t mean that if the other links are low quality your site will be classified as such, too, but the search engines may not include those in their ranking calculation.
  • Come from sources other than your existing backlinks: Having multiple backlinks to your site from the same site doesn’t do you much good. The more unique domains you have in your backlink profile, the better.
  • Not be reciprocal: Because link exchanges were highly abused in the past, reciprocal link value has been reduced. This means if you’re getting a high-quality backlink, it should come from a website you’re not already linking to from your own site.
  • Not be one of many other backlinks on the page: Trust and authority on a page get split between all the links on a page, so the fewer links there are on that page, the higher the quality of the link.
  • Not be paid for: Paying for links is against Google’s terms of service, and though they do often improve rankings, they can’t be considered high quality because of the risk associated with them. If Google notices what they think are paid links, your site will be penalized, and you’ll lose ranking.
  • Not be easy to earn: The easier it is to get a backlink, the less valuable it is. If you can get the link within a couple of minutes or clicks, you’ve had thousands of people do it before you, and still, thousands more will come after you to do it, too.

How an SEO Campaign Works

An SEO campaign generally begins with an audit to determine your baseline ranking, backlinks, and traffic. This helps in creating a strategy to improve rankings. The exact course of action will depend on your competition, your budget, and your current rank. A plan for the next several months will be developed and acted on accordingly. If things aren’t working out as expected, adjustments will be made.

The most important thing to remember is no one can ever guarantee a #1 rank in Google. If you’re dealing with an SEO agency that’s made that promise to you, it’s an indication they’re using blackhat SEO techniques to manipulate the rankings.

Are you ready to get started with your own SEO campaign? Get in touch today!


Paid vs. Organic Traffic: Which is Better for SEO?

When it comes to ranking a website, businesses must choose how to focus their efforts on building traffic, using either pay per click (PPC) campaigns for paid traffic or SEO to build organic traffic or a combination of the two.

The right answer for your business depends on a number of factors such as your available budget, target audience behavior, and your marketing goals. Generally speaking, the answer is not choosing between the two, but creating a strategy that makes use of both. In our experience, clients who run both SEO and PPC find greater, more accelerated results.

After all, 87% of internet users rely on search engines to help them find local products and services. And most of those people will never look beyond page one of the results, so if you want people to discover you, you need to be ranking high in the search engines one way or the other. The results on page one receive 92% of all search traffic on Google, with traffic dropping by 95% on the second page. And 33% of clicks from organic search results go to the listing in the number one spot on Google.

Why Choose SEO?

If you don’t have any kind of budget for search marketing, you’ll need to rely on SEO. But that doesn’t mean SEO is completely free. Even if you decide to keep it in-house rather than hiring an agency to assist you, there’s still time spent, and possibly writers to pay to craft your content.

The downside is it takes time to get indexed for various phrases, and even after you’re indexed, you’ll have to keep working on it to make sure you can work your way up the rankings so you can start seeing traffic. And, depending on what your competition is doing, you may find yourself in a long hard fought battle to work your way up. If you don’t want to wait months before you start seeing results, then PPC is your friend.

Another consideration is Google is constantly making changes to their ranking algorithm to ensure they deliver quality results to their searchers. If you’re focusing on creating quality content that’s useful to your site visitors, and building links naturally, rather than trying to game the system to rank higher faster, then those changes shouldn’t affect you much. But if you’ve been up to no good with your SEO efforts, then one small change in the algorithm could spell doom for your ranking.

Getting a steady stream of organic traffic to your website will take more time and effort today than it did just a few years ago. But it’s definitely worth it.

  • ¾ of users never go past the first page of search results.
  • 70-80% of users ignore paid ads in favor of the organic search results.
  • Companies with blogs have 434% more indexed pages, and companies with more indexed pages get more leads.
  • Inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads. SEO is a great source of inbound leads.
  • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate compared to a 1.7% close rate on outbound leads.

Why Choose PPC?

PPC ads are shown above the organic search results, and because you’re paying to be there, it can be a good way to jump start traffic to a brand new website, if you have a budget to allocate to it.

Using PPC means you’re bidding for the chance to show up for any relevant queries, and you may or may not always win. Certain phrases will have much higher competition than others, which means you must be willing to pay more per click than everyone else to have the best chance of being displayed. Even though you’re only charged when someone clicks on your ad, it could add up fast if you’re in a highly competitive market. If you find that the cost per click is really high because of your industry and competition, you’ll want to lean heavier on SEO.

When executed properly, you can get a lot of targeted traffic to your landing pages much faster than you would relying solely on organic search. However, there’s a lot of room for error and making mistakes can be costly.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is setting up your AdWords account without proper conversion tracking in place. One study showed only 29% of accounts have effective conversion tracking. Without it, you won’t be able to figure out which keywords are converting and which ones aren’t. Your PPC budget should primarily be focused solely on the keywords you know are earning conversions, since these are the ones your audience is finding you with. If you can’t figure it out, you’ve got wasted ad spend that could be reallocated to the money phrases you know are working.

Let’s take a second do some math. Logic indicates if you have a 10% wasted ad spend, you’d have a 10% increase in cost per conversion, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Instead, for every 10% in wasted ad spending, you’re looking at a 44% to 72% increase in cost per conversion, with the increasing going up for every 10% of wasted ad spend.

If your cost per conversion is $10, and your wasted ad spend is at 30%, but increases to 40%, your cost per conversion will now be anywhere from $14.40 to $17.20. And if you decide to start bidding on new keywords to bring in more traffic… but it doesn’t work out as well as you’d hoped and your wasted ad spend jumps to 76%, your cost per conversion jumps to anywhere from $53.79 to $120.20! Why such a big difference? Simple. The more you’re spending on keywords that don’t convert, the less you’re spending on the ones that do, which drives your cost per conversion up… and you’ll see this trend regardless of industry.

If the content on your website isn’t well written and designed to motivate your visitors to convert, you’ve paid for the traffic, but you may not be able to make the sales to justify the paying for the traffic.

What are Your Goals?

PPC and SEO will drive different kinds of traffic to your website, so the way you choose to lean needs to be based on what your traffic goals are. If you’re mostly interested in short term conversions and testing, or product sales then PPC is the way to go. Half of the people that arrive at a retailer’s website from a paid ad are more likely to buy than visitors who arrive from an organic link. But, if you’re more interested in building a lot of traffic over time, and establishing credibility and trust with your audience? Then that’s where a solid SEO strategy needs to be your primary focus.

You Need Both for a Well Rounded Marketing Strategy

In the short-term, PPC is a good option. The minute your ads start running, you’ll start seeing results. But, when the money stops, so do those results. PPC can be costly over the long term, and that’s where SEO comes in to provide the real value. You can get traffic using both, of course, but rarely ever will you be able to sustain PPC efforts in the long run without SEO. You’ll never be able to achieve high rankings overnight, and depending on the niche and competition, may struggle to reach those higher spots, but investing time and resources into an SEO strategy (with or without PPC) is the real winner.

Both PPC and SEO have value and their place in online marketing. The comparison is not cut and dry, so it’s important to focus on the one that matches your goals and the reasons behind your campaign.

Not sure what your goals are? We’re here and ready to help you craft a strategy to bring your vision to life.


Firestarter SEO featured on Clutch!

Even before Denver started to show signs of a maturing tech scene, Firestarter was founded with the intention of helping local businesses improve their bottom line. We recognized early on that Search Engine Marketing would play a central role in modern marketing. Firestarter is a team of experienced individuals with knowledge in all the core aspects of an SEO strategy, including link-building, content creation, and keyword research. We are driven by the opportunities, which we hope will continue to grow, to help local businesses thrive in a highly competitive marketplace. That said, not every business is familiar enough with the SEO landscape to identify a provider who can meet their objectives, and within their specific budget. In order to increase the chances that a prospective buyer will trust and have confidence in us, we are excited to announce our inclusion on Clutch, a ratings and reviews site for solutions and services providers.

In addition to creating a profile on the site, which showcases a company’s services, history, and other relevant information at a quick glance, Clutch conducts direct interviews with a firm’s clients. Their questionnaire is highly comprehensive and includes details that a short testimonial or a more technical case study would not capture. This might include how a company has confronted any problems that arose unexpectedly during a project or communicates on a regular basis with the client. These reviews, plus an assigned ranking, determine how these companies are listed and compare to one another in Clutch’s directory—summarized by a Leaders Matrix.


Why You Should Consider Voice Search in Your SEO

When you search for something online from your mobile device, are you taking the time to type it in, or are you using your voice? If you’re relying on voice recognition features to speed up the process, you’re not alone. By 2020, 30% of searches will take place without screen, as more people turn to smart speaker devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Since voice recognition has become increasingly more accurate, data shows more than half of teens between 13-18 and 41% of adults are using voice search at least once a day. That means, if you want to have a shot at getting the traffic from those queries, you need to factor voice search into your overall SEO strategy. How?

Focus on Natural Language

Many voice searches are geared toward local businesses, because customers are looking for something in their area while they’re out. Most of the time, people will phrase their searches in the form of questions, like, “where is the best donut in Denver?” or in short phrases, like, “donuts near me.” If you want to come up in searches like this, you’d use natural language throughout your content to boost your chances of appearing in the appropriate voice search results.

In addition to optimizing for traditional search, you’ll want to use words and phrases people are likely to speak when searching for you, so getting natural language throughout your site may not be the easiest undertaking depending on your niche.

Once of the ways you can get around this is to add FAQs or Q&A pages that focus on content written with a conversational tone. This way, you’ll be more likely to write content that matches with the way your users speak – and that’s what you need before you can get anywhere with voice search.

Optimize for Mobile Devices

If you’ve been online for any length of time, you’re likely aware of the fact that Google has considered mobile-friendliness a ranking factor since 2014. If you’re not already optimized for mobile, do it right now! Voice searches can come from computers, of course, but the majority of them are coming from mobile devices, so if you’re not rocking a mobile-friendly design, you’re not going to be able to capitalize on those voice queries as easily.

Need help? Opt for a responsive theme or design template, since this will automatically adjust your content for computers, tablets, and smartphones. If changing over would require a lot of resources you don’t have right now and you’re using a content management system like WordPress, you can install a plugin to create a mobile version of your site for you.

Keep Using Best Practices

Keyword phrases are what people are known to type, so of course you don’t want to ignore those in the process. Even if you’re not too focused on getting to the top of voice search queries, you can’t ignore all the other aspects of SEO that matter.

Use microdata and Schema markup so that Google, Bing, and other search engines can start to determine what your content actually means. Structured data markup can help with everything from your address and phone number, to hours of operation, pricing, and directions to your store or office. That’s what people will be searching for, so make it easier for them to find!

Keep Intent at the Forefront

Long tail keywords are more important when it comes to voice search optimization because those searches will use natural language. But, not just any long tail keyword phrases will work. To rank and keep users happy, intent is the most important factor. If you were someone searching for your business, products, or services, what are the questions you’d most likely ask? How would you naturally speak them?

Look at your website’s analytics data to see if you can figure out more about what your users are looking for. Google Search Console has reports that show you the queries people are using to find your site, so you can see the kind of natural language that’s used. If you see a certain phrase or group of phrases are bringing you a decent amount of traffic, check to make sure those words and phrases are appropriately sprinkled throughout your site’s content.

If you don’t get the insights you’re looking for there, or you want to go a bit further, turn to tools like Story Base, Question Samurai, and Answer the Public. They are all great at helping you generate lists of natural language phrases to include in your content.

Go Beyond Google

Sure, Google’s the biggest game in town, but it’s far from the only platform you need to consider when you optimize for voice search. Think about Windows and Cortana, Alexa and Amazon, Siri and Apple, and Samsung’s new Bixby. Your content needs to be able to appeal to all personal assistant platforms. As more people turn to personal assistant devices for use at home and in the office, we’ll move further from using our desktops and smartphones to search.

Voice Search Isn’t New – But It’s Growing

There’s no need to completely re-do your SEO strategy unless of course you’re finding your traffic plummeting and the competition taking more than their fair share. Voice search optimization alone doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch, but making some adjustments now will ensure you’re ready to go and ahead of the game as the trend continues to grow. At this time, analytics data won’t tell you if you’re getting traffic from a standard query or a voice query, and there’s no guarantee it ever will, but ignoring it means you’re missing out on a lot of potential traffic.