Why Do I Need to Know About SEO?

With Google’s algorithmic changes aimed at putting the user experience first, page optimization has become increasingly focused on content. Manipulative black-hat techniques, such as link generation and keyword stuffing, have fallen into the background, whilst well-written content and traditional marketing techniques have become key.

Yet the latest slogan, “Content is King”, undermines the important role technical SEO still plays in ranking a page. It’s true that well-written, original content is a must for today’s algorithms, yet with everyone on the internet focused on creating quality material, expert page mark-up, crawlability and optimal load-speed, these features are also needed to rank a page high on the SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help brands to build their reputation using all aspects of SEO; from quality content creation to running technical audits that analyze how the page is performing.

A Basic SEO Checklist

SEO isn’t something companies can just ignore. A thorough SEO check-up is a necessary part of building a website, since all the time and money will be wasted if Google can’t index the page and rank it where a potential customer will see it. Even for a small website, an SEO check-list constitutes a comprehensive task. Here is a basic overview of some of the most important areas:

  • On page SEO – This includes basic attributes such as the page title, meta description, headings, keyword usage and keyword density. A sitemap will help Google and other search engines navigate and index the website, while a Robot.txt file tells bots which pages to crawl. Text to code ratio, page requests, CSS and Google analytics tags must also be analyzed.
  • Speed Test – Page load speed is an important ranking factor for Google, so SEO needs to consider HTML page size, (around 33 kb if possible) and use Gzip code compression if necessary. Pages should contain a caching mechanism to load faster; the use of flash items should be avoided if possible since this will slow the page down. A Site Loading Test also needs to perform to verify load time.
  • Server and Security – Check URL and IP canonicalization to ensure that each page has its own unique URL and IP. Analyze security issues such as directory browsing, harmful botnet access and server signatures. The website should be “on the green side” for safe browsing, otherwise it could infect customers with a virus, making them unlikely to return.
  • Mobility – To succeed on today’s internet, websites need to be optimized for mobile devices and include Social API’s for major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc).
Auditing a Site

There are many reasons why a page that seems to be well-optimized may not be ranking. It could be due to content, website traffic, incoming links or other off-page factors, but this will be impossible to prove without first checking technical aspects related to indexing and ranking. Bad URL’s, incorrect internal linking, duplicate content or Schema marking are just a few of the reasons pages could fail to rank on the SERP.

Most SEO’s use software to perform a technical audit. These programs can crawl the webpages in a similar way to Google bots and highlight the issues that could be causing a problem. These are three choices site auditors might want to consider:

  • Screaming Frog – One of the most popular programs that is easy to use and free up to 500 pages.
  • ISS SEO Toolkit – A Microsoft based program that is slightly more in-depth for those possibly with more advanced SEO training.
  • SEMrush Site Audit – A valuable tool for analyzing site changes.

Software choices often depend on personal preference as well as the size and complexity of the site.

Technical Requirements of SEO

Today’s SEO’s need a lot of different skills, so good work usually results from collaboration between different members of a team. Writers and content editors need to develop articles that will draw in clients and encourage them to browse further through the website. Marketers promote products, construct a company image and establish connections. But without technical SEO analysis all these efforts will be ineffective at promoting content and building a positive online profile.

These are just a few of the topics modern SEO needs to be familiar with to analyze a page and improve SERP ranking:

  • DOM (Document Object Model) – A structured representation of a web-page that enables it to be read by scripts and programming languages.
  • Structured Representation of Data – An organized way of representing data that relies on protocols laid out on schema.org.
  • Critical Rendering Path – The method by which a page loads and is constructed or rendered into the browser.
  • Log File Analysis – Using the record of server requests to analyze how the site is being crawled by search engine bots.
  • JavaScript Framework – A popular website program that presents challenges for crawling and SEO.
  • HTTP/2 – A new web protocol that Google has been developing. It is likely to replace HTTP/1.1 which has been in effect since 1999.
Managing SEO Needs

Company founders have a choice to go it alone and become an SEO expert as they develop their website, or to invest in professional help. Time and financial constraints often create a part, as well an entrepreneur’s natural aptitude for this kind of work. However, as the company grows, the workload will almost inevitably become too great for one person and most organizations will need to invest in a professional team with the skill set to handle all aspects of SEO. Whatever the size of the company, no one should ignore SEO. It’s a vital part of building an online reputation and establishing a credible, professional image on the web.

New Year’s Resolutions To Shake Up Your SEO

This year, instead of making that yearly resolution to eat better or go to the gym three times a week, consider resolving to update your SEO practices. Google tweaks its algorithms all the time and if you’re not already using the most up-to-date practices, it will get harder and harder to rank your site on a relevant SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help our clients build and maintain a positive online profile, whether they’re administrating a business website or trying to get ahead in a competitive field.

Updates to Shoot for in 2017

Following is a list of SEO update recommendations that will become even more important in 2017:

  • Switch to Secure Protocol – HTTPS has been a ranking factor for a while, however users viewing a page that has not moved over to HTTPS will soon see a pop-up warning that the site is insecure. Not the kind of thing that makes one want to browse further. A secure protocol also offers more protection from hackers and man-in-the-middle attacks, so everyone’s data will be safer.
  • Go Mobile – 2017 is the year to go mobile. Sites using Accelerated Mobile Pages (ACP) load just as easily and are just as readable on a mobile as a laptop. Google has been promoting this type of content with a lightning symbol as far back as 2014, but at this point it’s an absolute must. More and more people are accessing the internet via their smart phones and 85 percent of mobile search results are optimized in this way. If your site is not modified for ACP, you’ll be missing out on a large chunk of internet traffic.
  • Stop Mobile Pop-ups – Pop-ups are often considered a necessary evil; we know readers hate them, yet for many sites they provide valuable advertising revenue. Google will soon begin penalizing sites that load pop-ups in mobile format. According to Google, pop-ups or “interstitials” provide “a poorer experience for users”, especially “on mobile devices where the screen is smaller”. Pop-ups or stand-alone interstitials that cover content must be dismissed before entering a site or both will be targeted. This also includes interstitials that cover the top part of the page “above the fold”.
  • Optimize Tags and URLs – Most site administrators should already be doing this, but for anyone who’s not, it’s going to start mattering more. A URL and title tag should promote the site and target a key term, but now they also need to be easily readable on a mobile screen.
  • Compress Images – Load speed has always been a ranking factor, so if you’re not using compressed pictures, it’s probably already hurting your site’s ranking. However, with mobile devices being an increased, key platform this year, the impact is likely to become even more noticeable.
  • Focus on Content – Google’s algorithmic changes continue to fine-tune a formula that will select content that is interesting and useful for readers, so writing great content is still a number one priority. Improving the overall quality and effectiveness of your site now will effectively help in the long term, rather than having to learn how to trick each new algorithm in the future.

ORM for Hotels – The Importance of an Online Profile

Nowhere is online reputation management more important than within the hospitality industry. Statistics show that 97 percent of people look at online comments from previous guests when considering a hotel, while 93 percent find this an important way of determining their choice. More than half (53 percent) won’t book a hotel without reading online opinions.

Many hotels don’t establish an ORM strategy until they start receiving negative attention. This is a mistake. Google and other search engines rank content from online travel sites such as Trip Advisor and Expedia highly, so what people are saying about you really does matter. Unless the hotel already has a strong online profile, content from these sites is going to appear prominently on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and this will be the first thing a potential customer sees. It’s impossible to control guests’ opinions, but by optimizing brand-generated content so that it ranks high on page one of the search results, will at least ensure that clients find a balanced representation of the hotel. Responding appropriately to customer comments further decreases the impact as researchers see you are using feedback to make the experience better for everyone.

ORM Strategy

An online reputation management (ORM) strategy needs to be planned and coordinated just like any other marketing campaign. Large hotels often devote an entire department to this effort. Small and medium sized organizations may have fewer resources to employ qualified full-time staff. Working with a third-party can be a cost-effective way of implementing a professional ORM campaign without expanding employee payroll. Reputation Defender has been a global leader in this industry since Michael Fertik founded the company in 2006. We help numerous individual and corporate clients establish their brand’s presence on the internet.

Online Reputation Equals Revenue

A 2015 TripAdvisor survey which investigated more than 10,000 hospitality businesses around the world, found that ORM was a top investment priority for 60 percent of hotels. This was in contrast to small scale renovations which were only a priority for 53 percent and other marketing campaigns which ranked at 51 percent. This study shows that hoteliers are recognizing the strong correlation between positive online reputation and sales volume. A TripAdvisor rating, which is based on the quality and quantity of the recent guest feedback, can have an almost immediate effect on booking, so it’s important to already have positive content posted, especially positive customer testimonials.

Establish an Online Presence

How does a hospitality manager counteract the weight of customer opinion which is now so available and measurable on the internet? Every business will face negative online comments at some point. The key is to build a positive presence through brand generated content, so researchers can see at first glance that the hotel has a lot to offer. It’s not enough to build a professional website and move on to other things. Hoteliers need to maintain a constant stream of up-to-date and relevant content, backed-up by thoughtful and genuine responses to guest feedback.

Here are 5 musts for establishing a hotel’s online profile:

  • Optimize the Brand Name – Promote the hotel’s website with Google Business and claim official profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Connect company blogs and secondary websites on an alternate domain to ensure your content dominates as many results as possible.
  • Post Regularly – Fresh content will rank higher with search engines, so make sure you post regular blog and social media updates. This includes multimedia content such as images and videos. Tag the hotel’s brand name in filenames, titles and alt content so that it ranks for that search term.
  • Set Up Automatic Alerts – It’s important to be the first to know about negative feedback, yet it’s impossible to constantly monitor all social media platforms, especially when you are running a business at the same time. You’ll need an automatic system that directly notifies the hotel when new comments are posted. Someone should monitor this feed during business hours and notify appropriate staff.
  • Analyze Feedback – Figure out what went wrong. Was it a one-time lapse in service, an endemic problem that is likely to happen again, or an unreasonable guest who would not have been satisfied no matter what you did? Knowing whether the root of the problem lies in the service department or within ORM strategies will help you devise an appropriate response that limits similar problems in the future.
  • Work as a Team – Set reputation objectives and share these with staff so that everyone promotes the same cohesive brand message. Put a coordinated team in place to handle monitoring and responses. Make sure everyone posting on official social media profiles exemplifies the same professional style.

ORM for hotels is about balancing your own content against what customers say about you. Be ready with a strong, positive online profile, whether this is created by your own staff or a third party like Reputation Defender. Once a comment is posted, it’s time for damage control. Respond appropriately and take action to avoid attracting similar criticism. If you have the SERP already filled with positive, brand controlled content, one negative review will have less effect.

Promote Your Business Online – Get a Handle on Online Reviews

Word of mouth used to be one of the most reliable ways to build a business reputation. Satisfied customers recommended businesses to their neighbors and relatives, building long-term loyalty amongst the local population. With the growth of the internet however, all that has changed. Most promotion now takes place online and companies serve a wide geographical area.

Online reviews have largely taken the place of personal word of mouth recommendations. The internet is both a more powerful and a more dangerous medium. Once posted, a written review will be hard to erase and it will be visible to anyone researching your business – even if they are on the other side of the planet. It’s also easy for consumers to post an anonymous review without having to be held accountable for exaggerated or angry comments.

Online reviews can have a big effect on a business’s reputation, both positively and negatively. This is especially true for small companies, who may not have a large online profile to counter the effect of several negative reviews. ReputationDefender is a leader in global online reputation management services, helping business clients generate positive content and construct a resilient brand name. Our experts can help turn online reviews into an asset rather than a threat to your brand’s image.

The Importance of Online Reviews

If you doubt the power of online reviews, look at the following 8 statistics from a cross-section of different studies.

  • 80 percent of customers say they have decided not to purchase a product or service after reading a negative review.
  • 90 percent say reading positive reviews has impacted their decision to buy certain products.
  • 45 percent say they trust online reviews the most when decision making.
  • 92 percent say they’ve made some buying decisions based on online reviews.
  • 67 percent of customers read less than six reviews before making a decision.
  • A three-star versus a four-star rating on Yelp can drop a restaurant’s revenue by 9 percent.
  • 72 percent of internet users believe online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Online review content carries about 10 percent weight with Google search page rankings.

Figures can vary somewhat from survey to survey and amongst different industries but it’s easy to see that both positive and negative reviews can have a huge impact on your business.

How to Handle Negative Reviews

Every company will face a negative comment at some point. Businesses can often find this frustrating, especially since one upset customer who had a bad experience is more likely to leave a review than one hundred people who had good service and have nothing to complain about.  A desire to withdraw from the situation is natural but unfortunately it is not the best strategy.

Monitoring reviews and responding appropriately will help to diminish their impact more than pretending they do not exist. A simple Google alert can help by letting you know when a new comment about your business is posted. You can also buy or download more complicated software. It is a good idea to follow your competitor’s reviews as well as your own. If a similar business in your area is getting positive reviews, it is going to undercut your clients.

Responding to reviews is generally a good idea, whether they are positive or negative and any justified complaint definitely deserves an explanation. Avoid being defensive; instead accept the comment as constructive criticism. Take responsibility for the problem, explain what went wrong and how you plan to fix the issue in the future. This helps to show you take your clients’ opinions seriously and want to do the best you can. Even if your response doesn’t change the opinion of the original client, others who read the review later will respect your conscientious attitude. Keep your tone professional and avoid getting into an angry back and forth, however the client responds.

Creating more Positive Reviews

Counterintuitively, the best solution to an online review problem is to get more reviews. If everyone leaves a comment, most will be positive, however, when only those who have a negative experience write a review, well, we know what happens. Here are a few suggestions to encourage positive testimonials from your clients:

  • Automatic survey – A short multiple choice survey followed by a comment section is easy to answer and the results will be private to start with. You can post positive statistics from the survey on your website. If customers leave personal feedback make sure you ask for permission before sharing it as a review.
  • Send an Automatic Review Reminder – This is another good way to let clients know you care about their opinions. Automatic review requests will up your overall review numbers so one or two negative comments will be less likely to affect your average.
  • Create an incentive – Organize a contest for clients who respond to your request for a testimonial. You can ask for a short description or a picture of how they use your product and what your business means to them. Give away free or discounted services as a prize and encourage participants to follow you and learn the results on social media. This will help you gain followers, as well as give you more genuine positive comments to use on your website and review pages. Make sure to ask for permission before publishing anything, especially an image or video.

Remember there is no way to create a positive online reputation overnight. It is something that can only be built slowly over time. But actively promoting positive comments, whilst at the same time developing a good sense of how to respond to negative ones, will get your business off to a good start.

Click here for more information on how to turn negative reviews into an asset.

Automotive Industry: When Online Reputation haunts or boosts a brand’s success

We are victims of advertising. We know and the owners of brands know it. Why we bought the vehicle we have? Perhaps we saw a commercial in which a famous actor was driving the vehicle and we liked how it looked. Maybe we saw that car on the street and our subconscious mind recalled the commercial, the actor who was driving it… and we thought about how good we would look by driving it. Who knows? Maybe not, possibly we have just bought the vehicle we have because we had no choice in terms of money, or simply because it was the least bad option.

Related article: Top Online Reputation Management Tips for Brand Marketers, by Forbes

The truth is that in most cases, buyers drive the vehicle they drive because they have discarded many options before choosing the car they own. Perhaps the dismissal of thousands of options has more weight when choosing the vehicle than other motivations. Why does this happen? A key reason is the online reputation of car brands (this is an example of the lists of cars “you should not buy”, widely shared on the Internet.)

Automakers are aware of the direct impact of bad reputation on their sales. Users will pay close attention to the bad reviews that are made of vehicle brands: discomfort, insecurity, fuel spending, the cost of spare parts, etc. Any bad review of the brand or car model strongly influences the final decision of consumers. After all, a vehicle is not only a necessary everyday article: it is truly related to the very identity of drivers. Many people analyze the personality of others just by considering the car they drive (the model, the brand, the color, how clean it is, etc.)

We live in an age of marketing in which consumers assume a more active role. Today, more than any other time of history, the reviews of users, customer service and reputation management are matters of absolute importance, which can lead a company to bankruptcy or to sales success. Actually, according to Nusani, a digital advertising and automotive agency, 92% of Internet users pay special attention to online reviews, 89% of those users trust them and a 74% change their minds based on those reviews.

The importance of user reviews is so strong, that there are online tools that measure the reputation of automotive companies, like GEOM Index (from Spain.) These tools use semantic analysis systems to gather opinions and comments on search engines and social media in real time. The information is classified and processed, and it is very useful for automakers, Internet rankings and, of course, for car dealers. Such tools help to analyze new trends in the automotive industry and, of course, they allow marketing executives to redirect their sales strategies.

Read also: Airlines Online Reputation Management: When lifting it up is the only option, by Reputationdefender

To this extent, one of the most important issues that automotive brands should consider is the management of their online reputation. Whether the bad reviews relate to real problems (lack of airbags in a car model, for example) or to bad press produced by the competition, it is a fact that the financial situation of the company depends heavily on it.

What to do then?

Automotive Industry: When Online Reputation haunts or boosts a brand’s success
Courtesy of Teymur Madjderey at Flickr.com

The first thing a brand should do is stop underestimating the cost of a bad reputation. It sounds simple, but it is the first step to start a re-engineering of the brand image. Secondly, a reputation for strong and positive brand needs to be one-dimensional, to have a voice and a personal approach. A positive brand reputation is built on the basis of who you are, what you bring and how you want to be perceived by others. This provides a consistent basis capable of achieving customer loyalty, to achieve credibility and delivering your brand message clearly.

In third place, it is important to monitor your online activity, to know what your strengths are, your periodic progress and identifying what you can improve. You can take advantage of new tools that technology offers: applications, video conferencing, etc. Never stop to look back and learn from mistakes. Eliminate all those practices that, at some point, negatively impact your online reputation.

Finally, do not cheat. Many professionals and companies of all kind use dirty tricks to increase fictitiously their reputation. They use (and even pay for) Back SEO practices,like  buying followers on social networks and using fake accounts to write favorable opinions in forums. These practices may give some short term results, but, eventually, they not only become useless but probably end up being discovered and it means an adverse impact on your reputation. Just the opposite you wanted. Remember that it takes many years to build a good reputation and a few minutes to completely ruin it.