Friday, 8 August 2014

Secure Sites Get Boost In Ranking by Google

If you ever thought about making your website secure by going HTTPS, now is the time to actually do it. In a bid to make the internet 'more secure', Google has officially announced that sites secured with HTTPS and SSL will now get a boost in search rankings. Previously, we only had speculations about HTTPS being one of the 200 ranking signals. Now, we have official word on it from Google. Now would be a good time to make the switch and get ahead of your competition before the playing field becomes even again.

According to Google, security gives websites a small ranking signal within the overall system. Google also says that this signal only effects about 1% of global search queries, which obviously makes it less important than other 'heavyweights' such as quality content, backlinks etc. (which is logical as well).

But that doesn't mean that this signal should be ruled out. And Google admitted that they "may decide to strengthen" the signal so that more website owners are encouraged to switch from HTTP to HTTPS and keep everyone safe on the web.

A blog post from Google said;
Over the past few months we've been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.

Useful tips

Should you be concerned when switching from your HTTP to HTTPS site for SEO purposes? Not so much. Google has been telling webmasters it is safe to do so for years. But you need to take the proper steps to ensure your traffic doesn’t suffer. That means make sure to communicate to Google that you moved your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Google promises to release more documentation in the future, but for now has provided the following tips:

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out our site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
  • Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.

If your website is already running on HTTPS, you can test its security level with the Qualys lab tool. Are you using HTTPS on your site?

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

4 Steps to Increase Your Blog Traffic

One of the most common complaints that I hear from bloggers is the fact that no matter how hard they try, they can’t grow their blogs past 100 or so daily page vies. Those early days are indeed the hardest, because you need to put hard work in without the certainty of achieving results.

If you are in that same situation, here is a simple strategy that will certainly increase your blog traffic and make you break the 1,000 daily page views mark. In fact, the strategy could be used even if your are already over that number but have reached a traffic plateau lately.

Just make sure to execute the 4 steps as planned and to spend the two hours and a half every day (obviously if you have more time available you can expand the time spent on each of the four steps proportionally).

First Step: Killer Articles (1 hour per day)

Spend one hour brainstorming, researching and writing killer articles (also called linkbaits, pillar articles and so on).
Notice that your goal is to release one killer article every week. If that is not possible aim for one every 15 days. So the one hour that you will spend every day will be dedicated to the same piece. In other words, expect killers articles to take from 5 up to 10 hours of work.

If you are not familiar with the term, a killer article is nothing more than a long and structured article that has the goal of delivering a huge amount of value to potential visitors. If you have a web design blog, for example, you could write an article with “100 Free Resources for Designers”. Here are some ideas for killer articles:

  • create a giant list of resources,
  • write a detailed tutorial teaching people how to do something,
  • find a solution for a common problem in your niche and write about it, or
  • write a deep analysis on a topic where people have only talked superficially

When visitors come across your killer article, you want them to have the following reaction: “Holy crap! This is awesome. I better bookmark it. Heck, I better even mention this on my site and on my Twitter account, to let my readers and friends know about it.”

Second Step: Networking (30 minutes per day)

Networking is essential, especially when you are just getting started. The 30 minutes that you will dedicate to it every day could be split among:
commenting on other blogs in your niche,
linking to the posts of bloggers in your niche, and
interacting with the bloggers in your niche via email, IM or Twitter.
Remember that your goal is to build genuine relationships, so don’t approach people just because you think they can help to promote your blog. Approach them because you respect their work and because you think the two of you could grow together.

Third Step: Promotion (30 minutes per day)

The first activity here is the promotion of your killer articles. Whenever you publish one of them, you should push it in any way you can. Examples include:

  • letting the people in your network know about it (don’t beg for a link though),
  • letting bloggers and webmasters in relevant niches know about it,
  • getting some friends to submit the article to social bookmarking sites,
  • getting some friends to Twitter the article, and
  • posting about the article in online forums and/or newsgroups.

If there is time left, spend it with search engine optimization, social media marketing and activities to promote your blog as whole. Those can range from keyword research to promoting your blog on Facebook and guest blogging.

Fourth Step: Normal Posts (30 minutes per day)

Just like a man does not live by bread alone, a blog does not live by killer articles alone. Normal posts are the ones that you will publish routinely in your blog, between the killer articles. For example, you could publish a killer article every Monday and normal posts from Tuesday through Friday. Here are some ideas for normal posts:
a post linking to an article on another blog and containing your opinion about it
a post informing your readers about a news in your niche
a post asking a question to your readers and aiming to initiate a discussion
a post highlighting a new resource or trick that you discovered and that would be useful to your readers
While killers articles are essential to promote your blog and bring new readers aboard, normal posts are the ones that will create diversity in your content and keep your readers engaged

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Google Pigeon Algorithm And What It Means For Businesses?

Google released a new algorithm about a week ago to help improve the accuracy of local search results. Unofficially dubbed as Google Pigeon, the algorithm was quite significant and local businesses overall are seeing either increases or decreases in website referrals and traffic. The idea is to offer local search results that are more closely related to some of the ranking signals used in search as well as other features like the Knowledge Graph, synonyms, etc. In addition, it is said to improve distance and location parameters to make local search more accurate. So how exactly does these effect local businesses?

An algorithm for local businesses

Google just released an update to this algorithm which was only introduced a week ago. But even so, it is significant for local businesses, and not necessarily in a bad way. Local directories seem to be getting the most out of this update.

In the past, when you would search for something local, you would get your carousel results and then a list of organic results, typically individual restaurants. Now, you will sometimes see directories showing up in the search results below the carousel including OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and even TripAdvisor for certain queries.

Below is a screenshot example of a query with local directory results. For this particular query (and with many other examples), an individual restaurant didn’t show up in organic results until page two. If you were to continue scrolling down this page, you would see results from Zagat, Yelp, and even Groupon.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Yelp ordeal has been solved with this change. Last week we reported about some of the confusion with Yelp and Google, essentially reporting that Yelp wasn’t showing up on search results even when the word “yelp” was used in the search query. In other words, Google was accused of putting their own local results first even when they weren’t the most relevant.
Since the new update, this is no longer the case and Search Engine Land gives several examples here.
What It Means?

As discussed above, if you’re a directory this is a good thing. However, other local businesses may suffer. Keep in mind the goal of this Google Pigeon algorithm update – to tie local results more closely to standard Web ranking signals. With this in mind, it’s those sites that have solid and strong SEO signals that are going to prevail. Directories generally do outrank individual companies in this area, so local businesses are going to have to work harder to come out on top.

Currently this update was only rolled out to US English results, and so far that’s about all we know. We don’t know when Google plans to roll Google Pigeon out to other countries (if at all), and we don’t know the percent of queries impacted. We’re hoping the details will come soon and we will keep you updated.

Want to talk about this new algorithm? Let's do so in the comments section below! Cheers :)

Five Great Ideas for Your Blog

Do you struggle to come up with ideas for your blog?
Most bloggers do – at least from time to time.
You might have had loads of ideas when you started out, but if you’ve been blogging for several months (or even several years), it can be tough to come up with fresh inspiration.
And if you are in the first few weeks of your blogging journey, you may feel that your ideas aren’t very original, or you might have used up all your best ones already.
Here’s how you can come up with plenty of great ideas for your blog, whenever you want. Give one of these five techniques a try this week.

#1: Read Plenty of Other Blogs in Your Niche
Hopefully you’re already reading other blogs on your topic. It’s a great way to start forming connections with other bloggers, it helps you learn more about your subject, and (most importantly!) you’re probably really interested in your niche so you’ll get a lot out of reading blogs within in.
When you’re reading your favourite blogs, though, don’t just read the posts: read the comments too. Look for the questions readers ask, or the things they respond to most strongly in a post. Comments can be a goldmine of ideas.
If you’ve been around the blogosphere for a while, you may have a handful of tried-and-tested blogs that you read – and it could be a while since you’ve tried anything new. Shake things up a bit by finding a new blog to try every week (if you love it, add it to your regular reads).

#2: Set Aside Time to Brainstorm
Do you always rush to come up with an idea whenever you need to write a post? Or do you keep a “bank” of ideas that you can draw on whenever you need one?
It’s good practice to come up with a bunch of ideas at once, during dedicated brainstorming time. Once you’ve listed five or ten ideas, you’ll often find that it’s easier to come up with more – it’s as though you switch your brain into idea-generating mode.
When you’re brainstorming, don’t pre-judge your ideas. Don’t tell yourself that something is “stupid” or “too hard” or “unoriginal” – just write it down. You might find that it later sparks a much better idea … or you might realise it wasn’t so bad after all.

#3: Use Prompts or Objects to Spark Ideas
This isn’t a technique I see being discussed much in the blogging world (though it’s quite common in creative writing, which I also have a strong interest in).
You can do this when you need an idea in a hurry, or as a warm-up to a brainstorming session. Simply look around the room you’re in and choose an object. For instance, on my desk, I can see the following:
·         My landline phone
·         A security device I use for online banking
·         Lots of bits of paper (I need to tidy up…)
·         A camera
·         A Kindle fire
·         A pair of scissors
·         A glass of water
·         A laptop
Any of these could spark an idea or several. For instance:
·         The pair of scissors makes me think about the importance of cutting out words when you edit your blog posts.
·         The Kindle Fire reminds me that I want to write some e-reader reviews at some point.
·         The glass of water has associations like “refreshing” – for instance, I could write a post along the lines of “Three Ways to Make Your Blog a Refreshing Oasis in a Desert of Boring Posts”
See how it works? This is a fun and easy technique that can help you make new connections and spark ideas that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. You could do it wherever you blog – on your sofa, in a coffee shop, in a library, etc.

#4: Choose a Headline to “Twist”
Great blog post titles are rarely totally unique. They often follow a tried-and-tested pattern, and the title of a post you read may well have been inspired by someone else’s post.
It’s fine to use other people’s titles as a basic structure for your own; just “twist” them to change the topic (and other aspects, e.g. number of list items if it’s a list post) to suit you.
For instance, if you took the headline for this post, here are three ways you might “twist” it:
Five Sure-Fire Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas for Your Blog
Variation #1: Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Come Up With Great Characters for Your Novel (creative writing blog)
Variation #2: Ten Easy Ways to Find Great Guests for Your Podcast (online marketing blog)
Variation #3: Five Simple and Creative Ways to Entertain Your Kids This Summer (parenting blog)
The first doesn’t change the title much, and the third goes quite a distance from it – you can stick quite closely to the original, or simply use it as the initial inspiration.

#5: Ask Your Readers What THEY Want
This one obviously won’t work well if your current readership numbers in the single digits, but once you get up to 50 or so regular readers, you can definitely give it a try.
Either ask readers to comment or email with requests for posts on particular topics, or (even better) run a survey to find out what your readers would like to see on your blog. Some readers will feel too shy to comment, but will be happy to check boxes on an anonymous survey – and they may even write in their own ideas.
Some of your most popular posts may well come straight from ideas suggested by readers (either in a comment or survey, or from a conversation you’ve had by email). Plus, if you name and link to the reader who inspired the post, that could turn them into a loyal fan!

Which of these five techniques will you try this week? Or do you have another brilliant way to come up with ideas? Let us know in the comments.