Direct Traffic

When you look at the analytics reports for your website, you will see a number of different traffic sources. Along with organic, referrals, social, and email, one that is sometimes overlooked is Direct Traffic. That direct traffic to your site is extremely important, as it helps to establish your domain authority. 

DIrect traffic is the users who, in a nutshell, go directly to your website without Googling for your business or following a link from one of your social media channels. Oftentimes, the users are manually typing in your domain name or clicking on a link they have bookmarked. One of the things Google is looking at when putting together their search rankings, is domain authority. By having more direct traffic to your site, Google will view that as having more domain authority since users are going to your site on their own with no referral source. The goal for Google all along, has been to provide search results to users with the best sites and accuracy. One of the ways to weed out the less helpful sites, is by looking at the amount of direct traffic that a site gets. If a site has no problem getting a large number of users to the site on its own, that’s a pretty good clue that it’s a quality site and worthy of a high ranking for the given keywords. 

So knowing what Direct Traffic is and why it’s important, the questions must be asked: How can we increase the direct traffic on our site? Unfortunately there is no simple snap of the fingers trick to make that happen. However, doing things like including your domain name on your business card or brochures can help point more people directly to your site, without needing to go through Google. I’ve seen success with my elevator pitch when talking to people by simply encouraging them to learn more about us at fullscopecreative.com. I recently ran an advertising campaign with a local radio station, and made sure that when we were writing the script that we included the domain name. In fact, when recording the domain name, we probably did more takes of that, just me saying fullscopecreative.com, than anything else. This is where the branding of your business really comes into play. How many times can you say www.mydomain.com to as many people as possible and get them to your site. Again it may not sound like much with getting people to check out your site, but it’s building up the direct traffic. The higher that number is, the more domain authority you have and the higher ranking you can get. 

Direct traffic is one of the most common sources of user acquisition a site can have. Having more direct traffic, will help to increase your domain authority in the eyes of Google. When you look at your analytics report for your site, you’ll see a range of traffic sources. Taking the time to boost your sites direct traffic, can have a significant impact on the other traffic sources as well. 

XML Sitemaps

Back in the good ol’ days, when there was a new site, or even new pages, developers would manually enter the new site info to a search engine via a submission form. Not only was that time consuming, and an easy way to miss content, it was easy for spammers and hackers to sneak their way into search results pages. Fast forward to today, and we can use tools like Google Search Console and XML sitemaps to achieve those same results. And best of all – more effectively. 

The easiest way to make a sitemap, at least for a WordPress site, is to use the Yoast SEO plugin. After installing the plugin, you can generate the sitemap in a few clicks. One of the great things with a Yoast sitemap, is that it includes the date that the individual page or post was last updated. This helps to give Google as much data as possible to crawl your site as often as needed or possible. If you add a new section of content or pages, the sitemap will be updated automatically. 

You can also submit multiple sitemaps to Google Search Console. For example, if you have an active blog, you can submit one sitemap for the pages on your site, and a second that lists your blog posts. A sitemap is limited to 50,000 URLs (such as domainname.com/page-name or domainname.com/blog/great-article), so if you have a larger site it would be beneficial to split pages and posts into separate sitemaps. While we don’t have 50,000 URLs on the Full Scope Creative website, we still split our sitemaps that are submitted to Google by pages and blog posts. 

When I talk to clients about sitemaps, one of the questions I often hear is “Does my site really need a sitemap?” Google does give some guidelines for which sites should use one based on site size, size of site archive, and how recently the site was published. To keep it simple, I would say that if your goal is to be found in a Google search, your site is definitely in need of an XML sitemap that can be linked to Google Search Console. 

What used to take time and lead to possible mistakes, we can today use an XML sitemap for. Gone are the days of needing to manually enter new sites and pages to search engines. While there are times I’d love to go back to “the good ol’ days,” this is not one of them. 

Google Search Console

There are any number of amazing tools available on the web to help improve your website, and make it as efficient and profitable as you can. One of my favorite tools is the Google Search Console. Originally built as Google Webmaster Tools, the Google Search Console is a one-stop place to make a wide variety of key updates for your website and Google ranking.

One of my favorite tools available in Google Search Console, is the ability to submit a sitemap for your website. A sitemap is a list of a website’s pages, or most important pages, that will help Google crawl and index those pages. In WordPress, you can quickly and easily make this XML sitemap by using the Yoast plugin. Yoast will create the XML sitemap and provide a link that you can easily copy and paste into the sitemap settings on Google Search Console. It may take a little time for Google to first crawl based on the newly submitted sitemap, but once it’s submitted you’ll be able to verify if Google was able to successfully crawl the sitemap, as well as the date it was added and the last date they crawled the site.

Another very handy tool available in Google Search Console is the ability to remove a page from the Google listings. There are times that a page might not be important or desired to have indexed any longer. While there are options to do this through either the sites .htaccess file or Yoast, it may be advantageous to remove it from Google directly. Whether it was an old sales page, old marketing, outdated verbiage, you can remove those from showing up in Google with the Removals page. Simply add in the link and allow Google to do the heavy lifting. 

Google Search Console is an amazing tool that any site owner should be using to help get the most out of their site. Afterall, over 90% of all searches are done on Google. Even though Google is an incredibly advanced algorithm, providing the search giant with as much input as we can will only help our results. 

300 Words Per Page

When we’re working with clients on either a new site or on SEO review/audit, one of the most common issues we come across is the words on the page. The problem we run into isn’t necessarily which words are on the page, but rather, the number of words. One thing I often stress to clients is to give Google what Google wants. One thing that is pretty clear is that Google wants to see at least 300 words per page. 

If a page has less than 300 words, it will likely be considered to have little value to a human user. The Google search algorithms are so advanced that they will read a page and “think” much like a human user. Therefore, if there isn’t enough content on that page, Google will assume it is of little value to the site and users which equates to a poor ranking for that page.

When Google is reading through your page, there’s no exact way to say, “Hey Google, THIS is the keyword for this page!” Back in the day, we had the KEYWORD metadata that worked, but between the abuse that happened with that metadata and, more so, the advancements to the algorithms, we now need to focus on how we use the keywords we set for a page in the page content. Google will be looking at a page and if they see a word or phrase used 2.5% – 3% of the time, they’ll know that those words are the keyword(s). If there are 300 words per page minimum and the keywords are used within the frequency range mentioned above, the content will read like a regular conversation between two people. 

One thing to avoid doing however is adding in fluff content. If you have a page you’re looking to add to your site and can’t come up with 300 words, it begs the question: is that content even worthy of its own page? Adding fluff or filler content to your site just to make Google happy will backfire most of the time. Write the content to address the needs, concerns, and questions that your end users might have. 300 words can be tough to come up with, but keep in mind that is the count for the entire page: headings, paragraphs, lists, everything.

300 words on a page can sound like a daunting task. Changing your mindset from, “How can I get this to 300 words?” to, “What do my clients and potential clients want or need to hear?” can oftentimes change things up enough for many writers to have an easier task at hand . At the end of the day, Google wants to show nothing but quality content and websites to its users. Our job is to provide that quality content on our websites, so that Google can help get our site to our users.

What is SEO?

In a recent newsletter, we offered a SEO Review to our readers. Some of you may be thinking, “My SEO is just fine,” while others may be thinking, “My what now?”

For those who fall into the latter category or who would simply like to brush up on this term, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as defined by dictionary.com, is, “…the methods used to boost the ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site: The first step in SEO is to generate keywords that are relevant to your site’s content.

Put another way, SEO is the science behind the magic of how Google and other search engines determine which websites to pull up first when you search for a certain word, also called a keyword. Whatever you make, sell, or offer as a service is going to be a keyword for your business.

SEO includes strategies and techniques that help you rank higher in Google’s search results. Two of the best tips for SEO are to choose keywords that make sense for your business and have well-written content on your site. Within this content, you need to mention your keywords but not too much. Your text still needs to make sense; you can’t use your key word in every single sentence. Overuse of a keyword is known as keyword stuffing, and it has the opposite effect of its intent – it will lead to Google ranking your page lower, not higher.

In addition to choosing the proper keywords and having well-written content, there are other behind-the-scenes things we can do here at Full Scope to help your website rank higher. If you have questions about your SEO and how we can help, contact us today for a SEO Review!

Slugs

Slugs in your garden are very small but very unwelcome guests. Most gardeners will go to great lengths to get rid of them. Slugs in your website, alternatively, while also fairly small, are very helpful and have significant positive SEO purposes.

A “slug” in website design is the part of a site’s URL that specifies which page needs to be laded. Consider the URL http://www.domainame.com/about. The slug is the word ‘about’ in that case. It makes sure that the site loads the about page and not the contact page. One of the biggest reasons for using a slug (especially in WordPress, which creates them automatically based on page title), is that you can avoid having a URL such as www.domainname.com/q=285923. Imagine running a radio ad and telling listeners to go to “www.domainname.com/q=285923”. I don’t think you’d have a very good return on that radio ad. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating the slug for each page. While WordPress will create them automatically for most pages, you’ll very likely want to go through and fine-tune those slugs.

A big purpose of a slug is to help search engines determine what a particular page is about. Obviously a slug of something like ‘q=285923’ doesn’t really point human users or search engines toward the topic of the page, so updating the slug to reference what that page is about can help with the page’s search ranking. When updating the slug, be sure to eliminate all unnecessary words such as ‘a,’ ‘the,’ ‘and,’ and similar filler words. Search engines aren’t going to use words like that in their search rankings, so they’ll do absolutely no good here. Removing just those filler words is a good start, but keep going. Remove as many unnecessary words as possible and keep the slug as short and simple as possible. Your page name might but Contact Us or About Us, but there’s no need to have ‘us’ in the slug, just use “contact” or “about”.

If your slug actually does need to be two words, be sure to separate them with a hyphen (-). When search engines see a hyphen, they know that it’s really two separate words. That doesn’t mean you should get carried away and have a slug such as “our-online-portfolio.” The standard rules of KISS apply: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Instead of using a lengthy (and tough to remember) slug, simply use ‘portfolio’. When in doubt, make your slugs simpler and shorter.

Slugs might be a pain in your garden, and the truthfully, can be a bit of a pain to get set on your website as well. But if you take the time to figure out exactly what each page needs for a short, concise, and keyword-driven slug, you’ll be doing yourself countless favors when it comes to SEO ranking.

Maintaining a separate page for keyword variations: DON’T!

Here’s a quick PSA (Public Service Announcement):
Having a separate page for each variation of a keyword is EXTREMELY outdated and ineffective. Not only is this practice frowned upon by Google and other search engines, it is also misleading to your clients – and anything that is even a little misleading to users is definitely looked down on by search engines.
Every now and then I’ll find a site that has a page about car repair, car maintenance, and car tune-ups.
If you drive a car, you know that all of those phrases describe basically the same thing. Anything you say about car repair can also said on a car maintenance page. This technique was used commonly by web developers years ago. Today, however, this technique is one of many that was quickly abandoned within the industry.

If you’re worried that the search engines could miss one of the possible variations, keep in mind that the search algorithms used today are more than advanced enough to figure these things out. For example, if a user searches for “car repair” but your page is titled, “car maintenance,” your site is very likely to come up as well. If you do decide to have multiple pages for each keyword variation, you run the risk of taking a lower ranking for any keyword or phrase with leading search engines.

If your current site has a page structure similar to this, fixing it isn’t a complicated process. With a redo of page structure and some 301 redirects, you can have your site fixed and avoid this problem. WordPress has a number of plug-ins that can help with this, or you can contact your web developer and he or she should be able to get the issue squared away.

Key Place to Use Keywords

Getting your website up and running is step one. Step two is getting people there. One of the first things to review and spend some time with on your website is the use of your keywords. There are a couple of key places those keywords should show up on each page.

Page Titles

Page titles are what users will very possibly see first in Google. The blue link that you click on in Google to get to a page is the page title. So many times when I do a Google search for something, I’ll see that the company’s name is in the first words in the title. For some companies, this is fine. For example, one of our clients is Green Bay Doulas. Two of their main keywords are “Green Bay” for where they’re located, and “doulas” for the services they provide. For many businesses, however, their company name doesn’t include one of their keywords. For those businesses, I know it can be tempting to put your company name at the very beginning of the title, but that is a much better place to put your keywords. Once a user gets to your site, there are plenty of other opportunities to let them know what your company name is. First step though is to use your keywords to draw them to your site.

Heading 1 Tags

While the page title may be one of the first things that a user sees that draws them to your site, the Heading 1 tag (H1) on the page is key to getting a good search engine ranking. The H1 tag should inform both users and search engines as to the page’s subject. Search engines generally view this tag as being of higher importance than other HTML elements on a page, and they will use it to help identify keywords of the page. Once the search engines have those keywords identified, you’ll have a much better chance of having your page show up in a search for those keywords.

Page Content

The third key place to use your keywords on each page is in the site content, such as within paragraphs and lists. Having the keywords show up again in the content will, in essence, confirm to search engines that this is the ideal keyword for the given page. However, be sure not to use your keyword too often. If a keyword is used too often, most search engines will assume you are tricking them into a higher ranking. In general, attempting to trick search engines will not work, and is likely to hurt your page ranking. This practice could even result in your site being kicked out of ranking.

Using your keywords in these three key places will help your page get both a better page ranking and a better user click rate. If you haven’t determined your keywords yet, contact Full Scope Creative. We can run a keyword report and go over some possible changes to make on your site in order to get a better page ranking.

Is the Meta Description Still Important?

One of the rules I often tell people about SEO (search engine optimization) is to do things for human users only – NOT for search engines. One of the most important things to do to help a user find your site actually does very little for a search engine perspective. Years ago, search engines such as Google and Yahoo, used to read through a web page’s Meta description. Today, however, search engines pay little to no attention to Meta descriptions. That said, they are still a very important part of any site’s SEO.

So if a search engine pays such little attention to the Meta description, why is it so important? Simple – we humans read it when we do search. When someone does a search on any of the leading search engines, the sentence or short paragraph description of the site is the Meta description. It’s those 150 or so characters that describe what the page is about and give us a quick snapshot of what we’re going to find on that particular page.

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In the above image, the text inside the red boxes is the Meta description. In the second listing, you’ll notice the ellipsis (“…”) at the end. That particular page’s Meta description went over the 150 – 160 character recommendation so anything after that is simply left off.

People like to know immediately what they’re going to be seeing on the page they’re about to click. Due to that, the Meta description is an excellent chance to convince the user that your page is in fact the page they are looking for. No cheesy sales pitch, no Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!” type of gimmicks. Simply explain in approximately 150 – 160 words what the page is about. You don’t really need to worry about using the keywords. Though it will help, the big goal of the Meta description is to convince the user to click the link and visit the page.

While the search engines themselves pay very little attention to the Meta description, they are still a very important part of any SEO program. Optimizing the Meta description for each page will provide a much greater chance of that link being clicked on by the end user. At the end of the day, that is the goal of SEO.

SEO Friendly Links

While it may not have a huge impact on your overall search engine ranking, SEO-friendly links are still important. Whether your links are nice and polished like,  “http://domainname.com/page-name” or dynamically generated like,  “http://domainmae.com/?p=8675309”, search engines and users will be able to read through the page. The benefit, however, of friendly SEO links is that they can be crafted to contain keywords of the given page.

If you have multiple words in mind to use in your SEO friendly links, separate them with a hyphen (-). If the words are hyphen separated, search engines will view each word individuall. If everything is all together, searching engines will only view them “asoneword.”

In WordPress, this is all very easy to do. Toward the top of the page, just under the field for the page name, there is a link named,  “Permalink.” The SEO-friendly part of the link is what comes after the domain name (www.domainname.com/). Just to the right of that is an edit button. Once you click on the Edit button, the last section of the Permalink will become editable and you can change it to any keyword needed for that page.

As with any SEO technique, the goal should always be to help make your site more enjoyable for users as opposed to getting a better SEO ranking. If a user looks at a URL such as http://domainname.com/page-name, they are going to have a much better idea of what that page is going to be about than if it was listed as http://domainmae.com/?p=8675309. This can help users choose to click on your link when they see it in search results.

While they may not have the biggest impact on search engine ranking, optimizing your site to have SEO-friendly links is an important objective that shouldn’t be overlooked. They are a simple and effective way to make your site more user-friendly.