Is your SERP working for you? 2014 Edition.

Succinct Ideas SERPSometimes the simple things matter.
SEO has evolved into a sophisticated battle with Google and Online Competitors but its refreshing to see that some things remain the same.

A client was concerned about what appeared in their SERP (Search Engine Result Page result) and rightly so! In their case, it displayed misleading information that was more likely to confuse rather than lure prospective clients to click and visit their website.

Google had retrieved details from the page it selected for the search result, and did its best to assemble what it thought was a relevant description of that page as it related to the search. The end result was a misleading jumble of disconnected phrases and certainty not a relevant sales pitch, for example like ours illustrated above.

A SERP is your prospect’s first contact with your business when searching; it is effectively your online classified ad in Google. Quoting from my 2007 newsletter  Is your SERP working for You? The SERP is one of the most critical pieces of copy in online sales.

What can you do ?
You can influence Google to display a nicely composed SERP by astute use of the Title and Description metatags, however if Google decides it may use other information on the page to compose its SERP.

Succinct Ideas Long SERPThe Long SERP
Here’s something more about SERPs – If you use 5 or more elements in your search Google will display an extended SERP – it has a higher character count for both lines.

Site Links
Succinct Ideas Sitelinks SERPThe big Daddy of SERPs is displayed when Google decides that the search is closely related to your site. Google provides previews of your site’s important pages and throws in other info like your Google+ page. Google shows a popout infographic on the right hand side.

Notably Google doesn’t let you nominate what pages it selects to display, but it is possible to remove pages from your Site link display using WebMasters Tools.

Update April 3: This excellent article by Damain Thompson from HitTail provides suggestions on how to compose the Title and Description meta tags to attract attention, then persuade prospects to click through to your site

So Duplicated Content isn’t a Rank Penalty anymore… Or is it?

In this new video Matt Cutts redefines the impact of duplicate content on a site’s SEO performance. For years the SEO community has been heeding guidelines, hints and more from Google that duplicate content will damage your site’s SEO. In what appears to be a complete turn-around, Matt now tells us that duplicate content wont damage your’s site ranking, but it will find the “best” result from the “cluster” of duplicated pages…

So did the SEO ‘community’ over-speculate on the duplicated content penalty or did Google decide to change their mind about this… All we need to do now is second-guess what Google means by “best result”; well only until they change their mind again…

Speedier site generates more leads especially from mobiles

WordPress and other CMS make it easy to churn out a good looking site easily – but at what price ?

The website load chart below is a case in point. Last Saturday I invested time to tune this puppy to pull it back from up to 20 secs (14 secs average) page load back to under six secs (2.9 average).
Sure there was some images that needed to be optimised but also I also added gzip compression addressed a couple of 404 errors etc.
Quite a bit of work but the end result is plain to see in this page load chart:

Speeding up your Website

BTW this chart and the corresponding page load waterfall (not shown here) is from Zoho’s fabulous website performance and availability reporting service Site 24×7

The site’s home page loads 14 secs faster.
That’s got to be good for visiting sales prospects and I’d expect a drop in bounce rate as a result.

Mobile visitors like slimmer sites?
What these stats comparing before and after the tune up show is that mobile users got more engaged in the site:
Double the Pages per visit and a massive 500% increase in visit duration up from a miserable 27 secs to 2:43 secs average

mobile vs desktop

Page load performance is really about Time to First Byte (TTFB)

Google have inferred that page load performance has an impact on ranking i.e. a faster website gets better ranking, but what’s fast, and how is page load performance measured?

This excellent MOZ article by Mark from Zoompf details a study that provides anwers to these questions

There are some surprising results (like why high performance hosting is really important) and even more surprising non-results – its all about Time to First Byte (TTFB)

Time to First Byte has a measurable impact on ranking in this study

Time to First Byte has a measurable impact on ranking in this study

If you are interested in getting more sales leads from your website, its certainly worth a read…

You risk loosing rank if your website is down

There is a double whammy if your site goes down.
Not only are you loosing potential sales leads as people cant visit your site, but also you run the risk of Google de-ranking your website if it has an extended outage (ie greater than 48 hours.

Here’s what Matt Cuts from Google has to say about that:

Its not until you begin monitoring a website’s availability to you start to realise the amount of time a website is off-line, and this is one of the reasons we have introduced Premium Website Hosting Service with high availability and high performance website hosting bundled with uptime monitoring and reporting.
We even provide specialized services for WordPress sites too!




Domain ‘renewal rescue’ service | A service or a rip off?

An expired domain? Arggh!

From time to time I’m asked to assist with restoring a website where the domain has expired.
These are typically very stressful situations for the business. The domain expiry will not only stop the website from working, but more importantly stops the business emails from working – an absolutely critical business communications medium.

Given modern business communication is largely underpinned by emails this means the business can’t receive or respond to client enquiries – often they can’t even send an email to say sorry our emails are down…

Domain ‘Ownership’

Usually in these situations the domain ‘owner’ forgot to renew their domain, often not realising that the domain registration and webhosting are two different services often from different suppliers each with their own fees.

Its also worth noting that you don’t own the domain you licence it through AUDA appointed domain registrars so if you don’t renew your licence, any other eligible person can potentially seize your domain.

Domain Rescue Service

I’ve recently become aware of Domain Rescue a WA based business that ‘drop catches’ expired domains and then contacts the ‘previous licencee’ (Registrant in domain-speak) offering to restore the domain for them.

This is a great service and would help prevent accidentally expired domains from falling into the wrong hands and I commend Domain Rescue for setting this up.

My only issue is their renewal fee of $129, when the going price number for a domain registration/renewal is around $60 and even down to $38 for 2 years for some domain registrars.  Still, it’s better than being confronted by a domain stalker demanding $1,000’s to get your domain back and/or the ensuing legal battle costs.

How much does a domain cost?

If you think you are paying too much for your domain .AU Australian Domain Registration Ltd (AUDA) lists approved domain registrars as a great place to start pricing & service comparisons. Don’t forget to factor-in any transfer costs your current registrar may levee too! caveat emptor (buyer be ware)

Be aware also that dot com domains are not managed by AUDA and there’s much less rigour behind domain ownership and renewal so even more caution is required if you are using a dot com domain for your busines website.

Expired domains and Google SEO

Google quickly removes expired domains from its search results and consequently sales leads cease and in this case it took 21 days to restore the previously dominant ranking position. That’s 21 days with their ‘virtual showroom’ closed!
Just imagine what it costs the business in lost sales leads…

Risk management for domain renewals

Having ‘control’ over your business domains is a no-brainer. You wouldn’t risk loosing other elements in your branding so don’t take risks with your domain.
Ensure that the domain contact email for renewals goes to a valid email address checked by someone in the business who is acutely aware of the importance of this notice if they receive it. This notice is usually (but not always) viewable through a ‘whois’ – an internet enquiry to check the details of your domain.

Try this whois to see who the contacts are for your domain:

If present, the renewals will be sent to the billing contact.

Robots metatag can stop Google from showing you site

Jason asked:

Why is it when I search for my new site, even after months, Google has not picked it up
Any clues there?

A quick check on Jason’s site showed this coding in the home page:

<meta name=’robots’ content=’noindex,nofollow’ />

This is the robots metatag which instructs search engine’s robots or spiders how to interact with the site
In this case the tag is saying dont index the site (ie no index) and dont follow any links in this site (ie no follow)

In other words the robots tag is saying to Google and other search engines, please ignore this site; and that is exactly what Google has done.
Consequently the site does not appear in any Google search results.

As it happens this is a WordPress site, and the site’s visibility settings are configured to private which generates this robot metatag setting

To fix the issue:

  1. Login  into your WordPress site
  2. Go to Administration->Settings ->Reading
  3. Set the Site Visibility setting to Allow search engines to index this site

Recheck your home page source code and the robots metatag noindex and nofollow commands should be gone.