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.

How to Turn Negative Reviews Into an Asset

The importance of customer generated publicity is growing all the time. According to a 2015 survey by BrightLocal, 92 percent of people use online reviews to learn more about a product or service, up from 88 percent only a year before. More and more people now base their buying decisions on comments from other customers, so it’s vital that businesses have numerous reviews left by genuine clients.

At Reputation Defender we work with companies to manage their reputation and create positive online content. There is nothing more valuable than testimony from a satisfied customer, but unfortunately not all reviews will be positive. Every business will face negative comments from a dissatisfied customer at some point, so it’s not a matter of if but when. Business leaders need to be ready with a plan in place to deal with negative publicity when it appears.

Stars are Important

Star rating is the number one factor that consumers use to judge a business, so a one or two star rating can really hurt a company that doesn’t have many reviews. On the other hand, it will be much less noticeable if there are already a high number of four or five star reviews. Surprisingly, a few unenthusiastic comments can actually help. Customers will tend to question the reliability of the reviews if each one has a solid five star rating.

Making Reviews Work for Your Company

Here are six steps to make reviews work for you company:

  1. Be proactive about customer service – Handling dissatisfied customers before they have a chance to leave a review is the most effective way of preventing negative comments. Online rants often come as a result of customers feeling ignored or overlooked, so if something occurs to disrupt normal service, or you know a customer is unhappy, make sure compensation is offered. A coupon, a discount on a future visit, or even a full refund can be worth it if it keeps the company’s reputation intact.
  2. Make it easy to leave a review – Generating a high volume of reviews is the best way to ensure a four or five star average. If you focus on excellent customer service, most people will have a positive experience and be happy to leave a testimonial, but they may not think about it unless you remind them. Send out review invitations by email, or on a receipt. Offer prizes or contests for people who leave comments. If you have regular customers, don’t be afraid to ask them directly.
  3. Set up an alert – Even with your best efforts, there will always be some negative reviews. Register for a Google Alert, so you will know right away when someone leaves a comment about your business, negative or positive. This will give you more time to read and respond to the comment before it has a chance to go viral.
  4. Respond appropriately –Mature responses show you can take constructive criticism and help to convince other readers that you’re not the one being unreasonable. Address the issue directly, apologize and explain what has been done to fix the problem. This makes readers feel you listen and are trying to improve. It’s also important to respond to positive reviews, so everyone leaving a comment knows they are appreciated.
  5. Take executive action when necessary – Responses that come from high-level management will always be more effective. Not every executive has time to respond to reviews regularly, but just a few comments a month will show feedback is taken seriously.
  6. Track your statistics – If you practice good customer service and encourage reviews, you should get four or five stars from approximately 85 percent of your customers. Many customers distrust reviews that are entirely positive, so don’t make this a goal. Welcome some negative comments, but respond appropriately and try to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again.

A Quick Guide to Safe Online Christmas Shopping

Christmas can be a stressful time for parents trying to manage their work schedule whilst attempting to find the latest must-have gift for their child at the same time. Many busy parents take to the internet to purchase what they need quickly and easily with only a few clicks. Internet shopping has many advantages in terms of convenience, yet products found online are notoriously less safe and may not always be what they claim. Security oversights during internet shopping can allow hackers access to financial details and sensitive personal data that could ruin your reputation. If you’ve experienced reputational damage, Reputation Defender’s ORM services will help, but it is a good idea to have security measures already in place.

Christmas Safety Tips

Here are 6 important guidelines that will help to make your online Christmas shopping safe and hassle-free:

  • Research the product – Go to a store and check out the product, or watch a video that shows it in action. For electronic products, verify that the voltage fits within standard safety recommendations and has a plug adapted for the country where you live. Check that the online product is made by the original manufacturer and is not a cheap knock-off that may break easily or be unsafe.
  • Verify the site – Buy from legitimate, well-known dealers as much as possible. If you’re working with an auction site, check the seller’s record and reviews. Don’t fall for a con-scheme. If a bargain seems too good to be true, it’s likely not the real thing. If a seller claims to have a popular product that is out of stock everywhere else, it may very well be a fake or not even exist. Don’t pay more than the going price to get something that is unavailable elsewhere.
  • Check payment security – Use a credit or debit card if possible so there’s a record of the transaction and the bank can help you to dispute any irregularities. Double-check the security protocol on the site. HTTPS signifies that a site is using encryption or in some browsers the address bar may appear green. A padlock sign should also be visible on the pop-up payment window; however if the padlock is built into the page itself, it’s likely a fraud, so stay away. When buying directly from an individual seller, use a secure online service such as PayPal rather that transferring money directly into a stranger’s bank account.
  • Save receipts – Save the emailed electronic receipt or order confirmation at least until the product arrives. This will help you to dispute any problems or failed delivery.
  • Double check purchases – When the product arrives, open the box and make sure all parts are included and it is indeed what you ordered. If there’s a mistake, it is important to catch it early, rather than Christmas morning when the children will be disappointed and toys may end up being damaged before you can return them.
Beat the Rush

Online shopping is even harder if you wait until the last minute, so make sure to plan ahead. Remember, everyone is busier at Christmas. Delivery times may be extended and stock may not last as long as was anticipated. Get written confirmation that your package was shipped and track its progress so you’ll know ahead of time when to expect it.

Don’t Let Banking Online Make You the Next Fraud Victim

Online banking is a convenient way to manage money without the hassle of bank closing times or waiting for a cheque to clear. Yet there are risks with accessing financial information over the internet that shouldn’t be ignored. Numerous cyber criminals browse the web looking for personal data that can yield a cash payoff. All it takes is a few security oversights to make your account easy to hack and to turn you into the next target.

How to Stay Clear of Hackers

At Reputation Defender we warn our clients about the dangers of personal information becoming publicly available through careless online privacy. Data leaks can cause reputational fallout and they will also help a hacker to access your bank accounts and fraudulently transfer money. Here are some of the most important precautions you should take to stay safe whilst banking online:

• Avoid Public Networks – Never access a bank account on a public computer or a free Wi-Fi network. These are inherently insecure and may be regularly monitored by cyber criminals.
• Bank on a Single Device – Keep your banking limited to a personal laptop or an iPad that isn’t used by children or other people who may be careless online.
• Use Secure Passwords – A strong password is one that combines numbers, letters and symbols, but does not include any guessable information such as birthdays, names or addresses. It’s a good idea to change your password several times a year. If you have trouble remembering complicated passwords, invest in a password manager.
• Avoid Phishing Attacks – One common online scam is a fake notice advising that an account is insecure or the password has been reset by someone else. If you receive an unsolicited notice like this, never click on the link contained in the email. It likely contains a virus that will allow the scammer to steal your banking details. Instead, sign in via another secure app or call the bank to check your account status. Do not give out financial details in an email or over the phone. If someone is asking for this information they are not from your bank; they are a fraud.
• Keep a Close Eye on Accounts – Check into your account regularly to make sure you recognize all the transactions. Report any suspicious activity immediately so your bank can take action before further hacks take place.
• Set Privacy Controls on Social Media – This might not seem important for banking, but poor privacy elsewhere on the web can give a hacker the answer to many security questions (such as your mother’s maiden name, the name of your pet, your first car etc.). Details like this quickly become a reason for a thief to target your account.
• Protect Your Pin – Never give your pin to anyone, even someone you trust. Take measures to protect your pin in physical locations by shielding the console and checking for observers.
• Shred Physical Documents – Documents containing account numbers, social security numbers or any type of personal information should never be thrown in the trash.

Statistically, only a small number of people get hacked, yet this doesn’t mean criminals aren’t already checking out your account looking for a way in. Any account can be breached given enough time and effort, so the key is to put enough security measures in place so that criminals will lose interest.