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[NO] Speed Kills… Your Google Ranking

Search Engine Optimization gurus — the people that get your site to come up on the top of Google results — are saying that how quickly your web pages display is an increasingly important factor in determing where you show up in the list of relevant sites that Google returns to your potential customers.

If your site is slow, Google will drop it down low on the results because Google thinks that its users are impatient. So, if you have useful information that takes 10 seconds to display to a visitor, your site may be down the list of competing sites with inferior data if they show up in less than a second.

Google’s focus on speed impacts your choice of the technical platform of your site, its hosting service, and additional support.

To ensure a quick site, you may:

  • Use simple HTML for your pages instead of pages built with scripts such as those used by WordPress.
  • Purchase third-party services designed to improve the availablity of your site throughout the Internet.
  • Sign-up for a beefy hosting plan that is designed to serve up WordPress pages.

Third-party services that cache the site and deliver the pages from different servers around the contry/world by can greatly improve the responsiveness of static, HTML site.  We use one called Cloudflare.

Check out two of our simple HTML websites that use Cloudflare:

Fast, huh?!

But, Cloudflare cannot improve the speed of dynamic sites so dramatically.  If you have a site built on WordPress where some of the page content is created each time a visitor clicks to see it, Cloudflare won’t help.  And, even WordPress pages without content that is obviously changing come back more slowly than sites using only HTML.

The two sites above are basic HTML sites.  Their corresponding WordPress blogs are also on Cloudflare.  But, they are not nearly as quick.  See:

Pages on these WordPress sites — even sites using Cloudflare — take longer to show up on your screen than the HTML sites.

To improve the speed of WordPress sites, you can purchase high-powered hosting plans. But, those beefy services cost many times the typical $125/year charge most of our clients pay for hosting. (See  Synthesis‘s pricing. They are a service that is focused on supporting the needs of WordPress sites, and their “starter” plan is $324/year.)

WordPress offers a lot of advantages for business owners and their designers.  But, WordPress comes with a handicap.  It’ll be slower unless you spend extra money on hosting and also use care in turning on add-on functionality that require CPU cycles to produce a page.

Let’s talk about your need to be high in Google rankings, your need to do updates to pages yourself, and your budget for hosting services!

By |2014-03-04T07:24:26-08:00February 18th, 2014|Search Engine Optimization, Wordpress|0 Comments

Catering to a Caterer: Search Engine Optimization at Work

In my opinion, web design should include optimizing the pages for search engines.   There should be no need to employ a second professional to make a site  show up in search results.

But, apparently most web designers consider search engine optimization something separate from site creation. Just last week I worked with a local caterer whose professionally developed site was invisible on Google and other search engines. I am beginning to understand how business that specialize in Search Engine Optimization can make money.

Marin Caterer for the San Francisco Bay Area:  Michael Goldstein

Michael Goldstein Events Updated Home Page

The original designer had put up a fine looking site, but there were no words on the site to tell Google what the pages were about.  I take that back: every page had the same title with “catering” the third word of the page title. But, that was it.

The site mentioned the type of events the business catered, like weddings.  But the word “catering” was not emphasized in the visible text on the pages.  None of the images had ALT tags — HTML code that describes pictures for the visually impaired and for search engines — with the word “catering”.

So, as far as Google was concerned, the site could have been about “wedding chapels” or “wedding planners” or “wedding dresses”.  Maybe the site could have been in results  “wedding food” or “wedding chef”, if anyone searched for those terms.  But, for “wedding catering”, the site was not going to show up.

We decided to try to attract searchers for:

We also decided to try to show up when people searched for “Marin” and the catering terms listed above.

Our changes went online Monday, and the search engines have started to respond.  Google already lists 3 terms in its top 10 results,  5 in the top 20, 7 in the top 30, and 10 in the top 100.

This morning I tweaked some pages to help more terms, and we’ll be monitoring this first round of optimization for the next couple months.

Real people are starting to notice the site, too.

Before the site was updated, we tracked visitors for a few days and saw that no one came from searches for “catering” on the Internet.  When anyone used Google to find the site, they searched for the business by name.  So, they weren’t looking for catering services, they were looking for Michael Goldstein Events catering.

When I looked at the statistics this morning, some people had come to the site after checking Google for “catering” or “Novato catering”.  It’s just a trickle of visitors at this point, but it’s a start.

I remain surprised that so many web designers can publish sites for business clients that don’t appeal to search engines.  When I create a new site for a client, I don’t charge extra for optimizing the site for visibility on Google.  I incorporate good search engine techniques as part of making the overall design.  I think all web designers should do the same.

But, until they do, I’m happy to help businesses with under-performing web sites get into search engine results!

Where to Find a Top San Francisco Hairstylist?

Len has trained in top hair salons and has over 20 years experience with precision hair cutting, hair coloring, highlights and lowlights, and other facets of hairstyling.

A few years ago he had a spiffy-looking web site created for him by a team with a graphics design background. He loves the site’s look… and he should! But, he’s been concerned that over time he has gained no clients from the site. In fact, when he searched Google for his site using any terms potential clients might use, his site didn’t came up. Len wants clients in Sonoma and San Francisco — he works in two studios — but anyone searching for a “top stylist” or other related term wouldn’t be told of his site.

Search Engine Optimization has helped Len’s site show up in the top 10 Google results within one week. He’s #4 in Google for “top stylist in Sonoma” one of his chosen keyword phrases. Eleven other of Len’s selected phrases now show up in the top 100 Google results. We don’t know when Google crawled his site for the updated pages, and we’ll be watching for additional result improvements in the coming weeks as all of the site’s changes are noticed by Google. And, his site improved in a similar way in Bing and Yahoo! results (the site is #1 in Yahoo! for “Precision Haircutting in San Francisco”).

The original, graphics-designer-published site had no page titles that focused on Len’s keywords. The pages had no descriptions, no text headings, and no ALT tags for the images. These HTML codes are all keys to Search Engine Optimization. Overall, the site was very pretty, but it didn’t tell Google and other search engines much about its content.

I went through Len’s site and featured one of the keyword phrases Len had picked on each page. Then I put in meaningful <title>s, headings, text, and ALT tags on every image. I also fixed a gross HTML coding error that wrongly told Google and other search engines that one of the pages ended in the middle.  See his top San Francisco and Sonoma hair stylist site — and if you’re a techie person, view the source code to see what I did.

Frankly, I was surprised to see any improvement in Len’s rankings in just a week.  When I first started optimizing web pages, it would take weeks for Google to revisit an established site, index it, and change the search results.

I wouldn’t want to guarantee results in a week, either. But, if you or someone you know need help with your search engine rankings, let’s talk about what can be done! I’m at 415.347.6479.

By |2011-01-23T09:55:29-08:00January 23rd, 2011|Search Engine Optimization|0 Comments

SEO New Client Checklist

Whether you hire an Search Engine Optimization service/specialist or do it yourself, there’s a list of initial tasks to accomplish in order to start moving your site to the top of Google’s result pages. I am going to use the checklist below as an outline for a call later today to a prospective client who wants her site to start showing up on Google. It’s what SEO specialists do, but there’s nothing secret about it!

Go ahead! Try your own hand at being a SEO expert! Here’s what to do:

  1. Determine what keyword phrases you want each of your web pages to be tuned for.  Each page can be tuned for one set of keywords (read why), and the selection of appropriate keywords is critical.  If possible, you want to identify the keywords relating to your service and products which have a high number of Internet searches and a low number of competing sites. You also need to consider tuning your pages for longer phrases which narrow the search to your geographic area or product specialty.
  2. Tune your home page for the most important keyword phrase.  Then in your first pass  tune 2 – 4 more pages for other important keywords.
  3. To tune a page:
    • Lead with keyword phrase in the page <title> tag. “Lead” means that the phrase should come first in the text, not at the end of a title, header, paragraph, etc.
    • Lead with the keyword phrase in the <h1>header at the top of the page and in the leading <h2> header and  top <p>paragraph text.
    • Lead with the keyword phrase in the ALT and TITLE tags that are part of each <img> image on your page.
    • Write a <meta name=”description” content=”How…”> description meta tag that leads with the keyword phrase.
    • Make sure that each page has at least 300 words of relevant text. Google likes wordy pages.
    • Ensure that any content provided by Flash or video is also present in low-tech text. Search engines don’t do a good job understanding and indexing non-text content.
  4. If you are a business with a bricks and mortar presence, fill out your profile on Google Places, Bing, City Search, and Yelp.
  5. Develop a strategy to acquire quality in-coming links to each tuned page on your site.
  6. Develop a strategy to update each tuned page monthly.  Google ranks freshly updated pages higher than stale pages, so we need to find a way to include new content on the pages as often as reasonable.

Some SEO companies say simply, “Trust us and we’ll get you to the top of Google.” Then they take your money and do their “magic”. Of course, there is no magic, and perhaps your site will rise somewhat in Google’s results, but sometimes not much will happen.

I believe in outlining the approach to clients and letting them make key decisions. Deciding how much of their time and money to spend in optimizing the site is an area that I rely on the client’s judgment. By laying out the tasks, the client can decide how much outside support they want from me, and how much time of their own they want to invest.

Of course, SEO optimization isn’t done in a vacuum. While being mindful of Google’s indexing rules, you also have to write compelling copy. Tell people about the problems you’re solving for them! Give them compelling reasons to use your services.

You want to make your site irresistible for all those new visitors Google is going to send you! Go for it… and happy marketing!

By |2010-11-18T15:40:25-08:00November 18th, 2010|Search Engine Optimization|1 Comment
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