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.
Summary

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.

Google Will Pay for Questionable Privacy Practices

Google recently agreed to a $5.5 million settlement in a class action lawsuit in the US. The case dates back to 2012, when the search engine giant was discovered to be using a code to get around Apple’s privacy settings on the Safari browser. The “workaround,” as it has come to be called, allowed Google to collect data on Safari users which it then used for advertising purposes, thus substantially increasing revenues on the basis of “behaviorally targeted” ads. US Safari users who were negatively affected by the advertising accused Google of being both “unfair” and “deceptive,” as well as engaging in “unlawful business practices.”
The internet depends on paid advertising, but privacy advocates believe there should be both full disclosure about what information is being collected and an option to block tracking. Search information says a lot about a person’s habits, and can lead to serious reputation damage if it is leaked. Certain types of unwanted advertising can also be emotionally damaging. Our privacy services at Reputation Defender help to identify vulnerabilities and data collection, even when sources are not being fully transparent.

A sneak attack

At the center of the problem is Google’s lack of disclosure. Apple is known for stricter privacy settings on the iOS platform of which Safari is a part of. Most iPhones and iPads use Safari, making it one of the most common browsers, especially on mobile devices. Apple users of 2012 had come to rely on the privacy and security built into Apple’s products; that is until a Stanford researcher discovered Google was subverting the anti-tracking feature and the study was widely publicized in the Wall Street Journal.
At the time, Google defended its actions, saying it “used known Safari functionality” that was in fact “enabled” by Google account holders on Safari. Some security experts agreed, seeing the issue as primarily a war between the two companies. However, as the case outcome suggests, there is good reason to believe Google wasn’t being entirely honest. Shortly after the WSJ report surfaced, important instructions about how to avoid tracking on Safari were deleted from Google’s site and the company also discontinued data collection on Safari. Google’s information gathering took place over a nine-month period, from 2011-12.

Some people still don’t trust Google

Google is still the go-to search engine, however people are now aware that their connection whilst searching is far from private. Google has tried to address this issue with a recent privacy overhaul. Google still collects tracking cookies on Chrome and most other non-Safari browsers, but it has added an “opt-out” choice that users can enable if they are concerned about privacy. Choosing this option on “Ads Settings” means Google won’t track or collect information on searches or websites.
But the fallout from the 2012 misstep may not be over. A UK group has been attempting to launch a similar British lawsuit. Some UK Safari users have come forward, including a couple who continued to face insensitive ads for baby products after a miscarriage, but as of yet there is not enough information to make a full class action suit.
The award in the US case will not go into the plaintiffs’ pockets, but rather toward further privacy and technology research. Six groups will receive donations, including Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, and the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford. These groups will work to develop better safeguards for user privacy and security on the internet.

6 Ways to Reduce Negative Comments About Your Business

Public relations crises happen. It’s not possible to please everyone all the time and every business will eventually face someone who is unhappy. Unfortunately many disgruntled customers voice their feelings in a manner that can threaten to damage the company’s reputation permanently, including publishing negative comments online.

There are ways to reduce the number of dissatisfied clients and negative comments in any business. Basically, providing good service will make your customers happy and keep negative publicity from becoming an endemic problem. Additionally, how you respond to criticism can decide whether it turns into a major or a minor issue. This isn’t a substitute for the kind of online reputation management we do at ReputationDefender ®, but it will make it much easier to get your online publicity back on track with minimal effort.

Here are six specific ways to increase client satisfaction.

  • Respond in a timely manner

    The majority of customer complaints are due to slow response times. If a client sends an email and three days later they haven’t heard from you, they’re likely to take to the internet in frustration. You can avoid this by setting clear guidelines for response times. 24-48 hours is appropriate depending on your email volume, but make sure this is clearly indicated next to your contact information. A simple response indicating the email is being processed can help let customers know they are a priority. On social media, customers expect an even quicker answer. 1 hour to be exact.

  • Practice good communication

    Responding to your customer’s needs will facilitate every type of interaction. This includes effective communication, whether it’s online or in person. Good listening is a skill that is typically thought of in terms or personal relationships, but it’s just as necessary in a business setting. Active listening will help to build trust by making the client feel you care. You’ll also be able to tailor your services more specifically to their needs. Building a strong communication platform at the beginning of the relationship will make it easier to handle difficult issues as the work progresses.

  • Use every day language

    The client enlisted your services in a specialist area because they lack this expertise themselves. If you use jargon and acronyms specific to your field, they’ll likely feel confused about what you really mean. Speaking plain English whenever possible will help the client understand what you are doing. It’s important to sound knowledgeable, but avoid talking down to a client. Remember they are also an expert in their own field.

  • Meet deadlines

    There’s really no good reason for missing a deadline after the fact. If the timeline for resolving an issue becomes impossible, this should be communicated to a client well beforehand. Describe what happened that made the work take longer and set a more reasonable deadline.

  • Take responsibility

    Blaming a specific employee or team won’t clear your company’s reputation since you hired and trained these people. It’s better to present a united front and let the company as a whole take responsibility for the issue. A general statement indicating that internal changes are being made to address the issue is appropriate, but clients don’t need to know the specifics of who’s at fault.

  • Don’t get angry at negative comments

    Your business is personal but keeping a cool head is essential. If a customer is posting negative comments to simply antagonise you, it is better to not take the bait. Social media fails and wins have massive potential to go viral so proceed carefully. If you have done all you can and feel that you aren’t getting anywhere in your attempts to make amends, avoid escalation by disengaging from the argument.

    You can now read Reputation Defender’s new blog post on the importance of online reviews and learn how positive online feedback can help to promote your business.

In the middle of a reputation crisis? Call us:

UK E-mail: uksales@reputationdefender.com

Tel: (+44) 800 131 0700

US E-mail: support@reputationdefender.com

Tel: (888) 851-9609