Tag Archive | "Sites"

Diagnosing Why a Site’s Set of Pages May Be Ranking Poorly – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Your rankings have dropped and you don’t know why. Maybe your traffic dropped as well, or maybe just a section of your site has lost rankings. It’s an important and often complex mystery to solve, and there are a number of boxes to check off while you investigate. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares a detailed process to follow to diagnose what went wrong to cause your rankings drop, why it happened, and how to start the recovery process.

Diagnosing why a site's pages may be ranking poorly

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about diagnosing a site and specifically a section of a site’s pages and why they might be performing poorly, why their traffic may have dropped, why rankings may have dropped, why both of them might have dropped. So we’ve got a fairly extensive process here, so let’s get started.

Step 1: Uncover the problem

First off, our first step is uncovering the problem or finding whether there is actually a problem. A good way to think about this is especially if you have a larger website, if we’re talking about a site that’s 20 or 30 or even a couple hundred pages, this is not a big issue. But many websites that SEOs are working on these days are thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of pages. So what I like to urge folks to do is to

A. Treat different site sections as unique segments for investigation. You should look at them individually.

A lot of times subfolders or URL structures are really helpful here. So I might say, okay, MySite.com, I’m going to look exclusively at the /news section. Did that fall in rankings? Did it fall in traffic? Or was it /posts, where my blog posts and my content is? Or was it /cities? Let’s say I have a website that’s dealing with data about the population of cities. So I rank for lots of those types of queries, and it seems like I’m ranking for fewer of them, and it’s my cities pages that are poorly performing in comparison to where they were a few months ago or last year at this time.

B. Check traffic from search over time.

So I go to my Google Analytics or whatever analytics you’re using, and you might see something like, okay, I’m going to look exclusively at the /cities section. If you can structure your URLs in this fashion, use subfolders, this is a great way to do it. Then take a look and see, oh, hang on, that’s a big traffic drop. We fell off a cliff there for these particular pages.

This data can be hiding inside your analytics because it could be that the rest of your site is performing well. It’s going sort of up and to the right, and so you see this slow plateauing or a little bit of a decline, but it’s not nearly as sharp as it is if you look at the traffic specifically for a single subsection that might be performing poorly, like this /cities section.

From there, I’m going to next urge you to use Google Trends. Why? Why would I go to Google Trends? Because what I want you to do is I want you to look at some of your big keywords and topics in Google Trends to see if there has been a serious decline in search volume at the same time. If search demand is rising or staying stable over the course of time where you have lost traffic, it’s almost certainly something you’ve done, not something searchers are doing. But if you see that traffic has declined, for example, maybe you were ranking really well for population data from 2015. It turns out people are now looking for population data for 2016 or ’17 or ’18. Maybe that is part of the problem, that search demand has fallen and your curve matches that.

C. Perform some diagnostic queries or use your rank tracking data if you have it on these types of things.

This is one of the reasons I like to rank track for even these types of queries that don’t get a lot of traffic.

1. Target keywords. In this case, it might be “Denver population growth,” maybe that’s one of your keywords. You would see, “Do I still rank for this? How well do I rank for this? Am I ranking more poorly than I used to?”

2. Check brand name plus target keyword. So, in this case, it would be my site plus the above here plus “Denver population growth,” so My Site or MySite.com Denver population growth. If you’re not ranking for that, that’s usually an indication of a more serious problem, potentially a penalty or some type of dampening that’s happening around your brand name or around your website.

3. Look for a 10 to 20-word text string from page content without quotes. It could be shorter. It could be only six or seven words, or it could be longer, 25 words if you really need it. But essentially, I want to take a string of text that exists on the page and put it in order in Google search engine, not in quotes. I do not want to use quotes here, and I want to see how it performs. This might be several lines of text here.

4. Look for a 10 to 20-word text string with quotes. So those lines of text, but in quotes searched in Google. If I’m not ranking for this, but I am for this one … sorry, if I’m not ranking for the one not in quotes, but I am in quotes, I might surmise this is probably not duplicate content. It’s probably something to do with my content quality or maybe my link profile or Google has penalized or dampened me in some way.

5. site: urlstring/ So I would search for “site:MySite.com/cities/Denver.” I would see: Wait, has Google actually indexed my page? When did they index it? Oh, it’s been a month. I wonder why they haven’t come back. Maybe there’s some sort of crawl issue, robots.txt issue, meta robots issue, something. I’m preventing Google from potentially getting there. Or maybe they can’t get there at all, and this results in zero results. That means Google hasn’t even indexed the page. Now we have another type of problem.

D. Check your tools.

1. Google Search Console. I would start there, especially in the site issues section.

2. Check your rank tracker or whatever tool you’re using, whether that’s Moz or something else.

3. On-page and crawl monitoring. Hopefully you have something like that. It could be through Screaming Frog. Maybe you’ve run some crawls over time, or maybe you have a tracking system in place. Moz has a crawl system. OnPage.org has a really good one.

4. Site uptime. So I might check Pingdom or other things that alert me to, “Oh, wait a minute, my site was down for a few days last week. That obviously is why traffic has fallen,” those types of things.

Step 2: Offer hypothesis for falling rankings/traffic

Okay, you’ve done your diagnostics. Now it’s time to offer some hypotheses. So now that we understand which problem I might have, I want to understand what could be resulting in that problem. So there are basically two situations you can have. Rankings have stayed stable or gone up, but traffic has fallen.

A. If rankings are up, but traffic is down…

In those cases, these are the five things that are most typically to blame.

1. New SERP features. There’s a bunch of featured snippets that have entered the population growth for cities search results, and so now number one is not what number one used to be. If you don’t get that featured snippet, you’re losing out to one of your competitors.

2. Lower search demand. Like we talked about in Google Trends. I’m looking at search demand, and there are just not as many people searching as there used to be.

3. Brand or reputation issues. I’m ranking just fine, but people now for some reason hate me. People who are searching this sector think my brand is evil or bad or just not as helpful as it used to be. So I have issues, and people are not clicking on my results. They’re choosing someone else actively because of reputation issues.

4. Snippet problems. I’m ranking in the same place I used to be, but I’m no longer the sexiest, most click-drawing snippet in the search results, and other people are earning those clicks instead.

5. Shift in personalization or location biasing by Google. It used to be the case that everyone who searched for city name plus population growth got the same results, but now suddenly people are seeing different results based on maybe their device or things they’ve clicked in the past or where they’re located. Location is often a big cause for this.

So for many SEOs for many years, “SEO consultant” resulted in the same search results. Then Google introduced the Maps results and pushed down a lot of those folks, and now “SEO consultant” results in different ranked results in each city and each geography that you search in. So that can often be a cause for falling traffic even though rankings remain high.

B. If rankings and traffic are down…

If you’re seeing that rankings have fallen and traffic has fallen in conjunction, there’s a bunch of other things that are probably going on that are not necessarily these things. A few of these could be responsible still, like snippet problems could cause your rankings and your traffic to fall, or brand and reputation issues could cause your click-through rate to fall, which would cause you to get dampened. But oftentimes it’s things like this:

1. & 2. Duplicate content and low-quality or thin content. Google thinks that what you’re providing just isn’t good enough.

3. Change in searcher intent. People who were searching for population growth used to want what you had to offer, but now they want something different and other people in the SERP are providing that, but you are not, so Google is ranking you lower. Even though your content is still good, it’s just not serving the new searcher intent.

4. Loss to competitors. So maybe you have worse links than they do now or less relevance or you’re not solving the searcher’s query as well. Your user interface, your UX is not as good. Your keyword targeting isn’t as good as theirs. Your content quality and the unique value you provide isn’t as good as theirs. If you see that one or two competitors are consistently outranking you, you might diagnose that this is the problem.

5. Technical issues. So if I saw from over here that the crawl was the problem, I wasn’t getting indexed, or Google hasn’t updated my pages in a long time, I might look into accessibility things, maybe speed, maybe I’m having problems like letting Googlebot in, HTTPS problems, or indexable content, maybe Google can’t see the content on my page anymore because I made some change in the technology of how it’s displayed, or crawlability, internal link structure problems, robots.txt problems, meta robots tag issues, that kind of stuff.

Maybe at the server level, someone on the tech ops team of my website decided, “Oh, there’s this really problematic bot coming from Mountain View that’s costing us a bunch of bandwidth. Let’s block bots from Mountain View.” No, don’t do that. Bad. Those kinds of technical issues can happen.

6. Spam and penalties. We’ll talk a little bit more about how to diagnose those in a second.

7. CTR, engagement, or pogo-sticking issues. There could be click-through rate issues or engagement issues, meaning pogo sticking, like people are coming to your site, but they are clicking back because they weren’t satisfied by your results, maybe because their expectations have changed or market issues have changed.

Step 3: Make fixes and observe results

All right. Next and last in this process, what we’re going to do is make some fixes and observe the results. Hopefully, we’ve been able to correctly diagnose and form some wise hypotheses about what’s going wrong, and now we’re going to try and resolve them.

A. On-page and technical issues should solve after a new crawl + index.

So on-page and technical issues, if we’re fixing those, they should usually resolve, especially on small sections of sites, pretty fast. As soon as Google has crawled and indexed the page, you should generally see performance improve. But this can take a few weeks if we’re talking about a large section on a site, many thousands of pages, because Google has to crawl and index all of them to get the new sense that things are fixed and traffic is coming in. Since it’s long tail to many different pages, you’re not going to see that instant traffic gain and rise as fast.

B. Link issues and spam penalty problems can take months to show results.

Look, if you have crappier links or not a good enough link profile as your competitors, growing that can take months or years even to fix. Penalty problems and spam problems, same thing. Google can take sometimes a long time. You’ve seen a lot of spam experts on Twitter saying, “Oh, well, all my clients who had issues over the last nine months suddenly are ranking better today,” because Google made some fix in their latest index rollout or their algorithm changed, and it’s sort of, okay, well we’ll reward the people for all the fixes that they’ve made. Sometimes that’s in batches that take months.

C. Fixing a small number of pages in a section that’s performing poorly might not show results very quickly.

For example, let’s say you go and you fix /cities/Milwaukee. You determine from your diagnostics that the problem is a content quality issue. So you go and you update these pages. They have new content. It serves the searchers much better, doing a much better job. You’ve tested it. People really love it. You fixed two cities, Milwaukee and Denver, to test it out. But you’ve left 5,000 other cities pages untouched.

Sometimes Google will sort of be like, “No, you know what? We still think your cities pages, as a whole, don’t do a good job solving this query. So even though these two that you’ve updated do a better job, we’re not necessarily going to rank them, because we sort of think of your site as this whole section and we grade it as a section or apply some grades as a section.” That is a real thing that we’ve observed happening in Google’s results.

Because of this, one of the things that I would urge you to do is if you’re seeing good results from the people you’re testing it with and you’re pretty confident, I would roll out the changes to a significant subset, 30%, 50%, 70% of the pages rather than doing only a tiny, tiny sample.

D. Sometimes when you encounter these issues, a remove and replace strategy works better than simply upgrading old URLs.

So if Google has decided /cities, your /cities section is just awful, has all sorts of problems, not performing well on a bunch of different vectors, you might take your /cities section and actually 301 redirect them to a new URL, /location, and put the new UI and the new content that better serves the searcher and fixes a lot of these issues into that location section, such that Google now goes, “Ah, we have something new to judge. Let’s see how these location pages on MySite.com perform versus the old cities pages.”

So I know we’ve covered a ton today and there are a lot of diagnostic issues that we haven’t necessarily dug deep into, but I hope this can help you if you’re encountering rankings challenges with sections of your site or with your site as a whole. Certainly, I look forward to your comments and your feedback. If you have other tips for folks facing this, that would be great. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Optimizing Sites for Featured Snippets with Q&A Content [Case Study]

Posted by NickRebuildGroup

Ranking near the top of the SERPs for short-tail keywords in competitive business verticals can be extremely difficult. Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and similar sites have the market cornered on ranking at the top of search results. Even if you manage to rank in the first position, there are featured snippets, ads, map packs, and other SERP layouts that are dominating the space as well.

Because short-tail keywords have such broad search intents, it’s in the search engine’s best interest to try and answer questions directly in SERPs. That is the intent of featured snippets. If a search engine is able to answer a user’s query without them leaving the results page, they believe that delivers the best result. And the proliferation of featured snippets is only beginning. According to Search Engine Land, 19.45% of queries will display rich answers (a form of featured snippets) in Google.

A search for “what is orthodontics” in an incognito Google Chrome window displayed the following featured snippet:

orthodontics Google Search.png

This search result satisfies at least one large search intent: “What is orthodontics?” I use this as an example because my agency and I had been trying to get a client to rank for this keyword for some time. They were a dental practice with locations across the US that offered both orthodontic and general dental procedures. We had optimized their locations for their orthodontic procedures, but we wanted to get their non-localized service pages to rank as well in order to draw new patients that may be in the beginning stages of looking for a new orthodontist. But without a local qualifier, it was difficult to get the pages to rank for the short-tail searches.

After a year and change of writing, optimizing, re-writing, and re-optimizing the content — all while building links — we weren’t getting any movement with our organic rankings. It seemed that business websites were not meant to rank for these short-tail keywords. Content creators have long lamented that featured snippets don’t attribute where the content in the SERP comes from, thus leaching traffic away from the site.

We believed that rich snippets in SERPs would become more prominent — especially with mobile and voice search on the rise — and that, even without proper attribution, it would benefit our client to appear in these types of search results, especially if we were able to rank in long-tail, question-oriented searches. If we could rank in a featured snippet, where a potential consumer was asking a question about a service that we provide, it would benefit us to answer that question for them. Not only would we achieve the coveted “zero position,” we would position our client as authorities in their vertical, potentially increasing conversions.

With this in mind, we began developing the strategy that would ultimately lead us to ranking in featured snippet searches.

Q&A content

Question and answer content on websites is fairly standard. Many companies will place Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) content on their sites to help users with any questions they may have instead of answering them directly. Noting the prevalence of featured snippets in SERPs, we used the Q&A format to create new content to find out: a) could we rank for these queries? and b) would it benefit our client to rank in these queries?

Research & content creation

Using SEMRush, we conducted keyword research to find long-tail keywords with high monthly search volumes. Some of the phrases we decided to create the content around were “how long does it take to put on braces,” “how much does Invisalign cost without insurance,” and other similar queries. We also asked our client’s call team and Livechat correspondents to send us the most-asked questions they receive about orthodontics. The questions that the internal teams provided were primarily about pricing and insurance. This information was vital for our new Q&A content, as it allowed us to create answers we knew our users were looking for.

While researching current featured snippets, we gleaned that the content must emphasize the answer, not the answerer. Meaning, the content needed to be straightforward and answer the query without any marketing fluff. We ensured that our headers included the targeted keyword, along with the title tags. Once the content was created, we placed each question in the main navigation bar on the site, with each one leading to a separate landing page.

Link building

As most SEOs will tell you, backlinks are still a very important ranking factor. It was our belief that building links to our new Q&A content would be essential in ensuring that it ranked well. We built links exclusively via sites like Quora and Reddit, the idea being that these are places where people are already asking questions that we can answer as experts, while linking back to our site. In order to avoid spamming, we limited the number of links that we built per month.

Results

After a year of collecting data, we can confidently say that not only were we successful in getting the site to rank for a featured snippet, but traffic to the orthodontics content increased by 46.10%, conversions from the content increased by 235%, and the conversion rate increased by 129.30%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs.jpg

Organic sessions to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs2.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs3.jpg

Organic conversion rate from orthodontic Q&A content

The results were even more striking on mobile, where traffic increased by 91.46%, conversions increased by 322.22%, and conversion rate increased by 120.53%.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs4.jpg

Mobile organic sessions to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs5.jpg

Mobile organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs6.jpg

Mobile organic conversion rate from orthodontic Q&A content

Measurement method

For this study we only looked at organic and mobile organic traffic. We also only looked at traffic that landed on our site via the orthodontics content (meaning we only measured users that entered the site via one of the orthodontics pages from an organic source).

Attention metrics

It should be noted that this implementation was not successful in every facet. One of the most important goals for new content is making sure that users engage with it. And at Rebuild Group, we normally measure content engagement through attention metrics: pages/session, average time on site, bounce rate, etc.

Upon collecting the data, we noticed that all attention metrics decreased year over year. Our hypothesis is that because the content is both meant to answer a question and is easily digestible, users were more likely to leave the site after their question was answered. It explains why traffic, conversions, and conversion rate increased so much year over year and attention metrics decreased.

Rankings

Most important to this experiment, we were able to have our site rank in the first position — or zero position — in search results for the query “how long do you wear invisalign a day,” while also ranking on the first page (though not the first position) for other Q&A orthodontic terms.

how long do you wear invisalign a day 3:14:17.png

We started ranking in the first position for this term in mid-January, though we lost the ranking shortly thereafter. We began to consistently rank in the first position in March and are still ranked there as of this writing.

Our belief is that by simply answering the question and including the keyword in crawlable parts of the content, we were able to rank in the first position for one of our targeted Q&A phrases, resulting in a featured snippet.

Conversions

Conversions were measured as the number of contact form submissions sent during sessions where a user entered the site via the orthodontic content. As mentioned above, conversions and conversion rates for all organic and mobile organic traffic increased greatly year over year. However, the effects were not seen until 9 months into the experiment.

When the traffic was measured at 90 and 180 days, organic traffic to the new content was steadily increasing overall and via mobile devices, but conversions and conversion rate had not gone up compared to the previous year. It wasn’t until 270 days in, when we first ranked in the featured snippet SERP, that conversions began to increase.

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs7.jpg

Organic traffic to the orthodontic Q&A content

CaseStudyPublication-Graphs8.jpg

Organic conversions from orthodontic Q&A content

Once we were consistently ranking in the first position for a featured snippet SERP, while also ranking on the first page of SERPs for other queries, our conversions and conversion rates began to greatly increase.

Google Home

As stated earlier, voice search is on the rise. Once we were able to rank as a featured snippet in a targeted SERP, we wanted to see if that featured snippet would affect how Google Home provided an answer to the targeted query:

*Note: This video was recorded on my phone, so the quality is not the best. You may need to turn up your volume to hear the question and answer.

As you can see, Google Home clearly attributes the answer to our client, answers the question, and then sends the user to the Home App, where the answer is again shown:

IMG_1667.PNG

From there they can click through to the site on their mobile device:

IMG_1668.PNG

In the end we drew a strong correlation between the implementation of the Q&A orthodontics content, ranking highly in rich snippet SERPs, and increased conversions and conversion rates. But like all things SEO, there are no definites when implementing this kind of strategy. We implemented content that drove users to a site that offered services they were looking for. Someone searching “how to boil water” is not likely looking to buy new pots and pans. Ultimately, it’s important to know what your users are looking for and cater to their searches. Once you’re able to answer their questions with simple, to-the-point content, the rest is easy.

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How to Improve Your Site’s Performance When Using GIFs

Posted by Web_Perfectionist

The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) format was originally developed in 1987. Debuted by Steve Wilhite of Compuserve, GIFs improved on the black-and-white images in use during that time by allowing the use of 256 colors while maintaining a compressed format that could still be loaded by those utilizing slow modems. Furthermore, web developers and designers could create animations via timed delays. And to this day, little has changed regarding GIFs.

Due to its simplicity, the widespread support for this format, and the ease with which it can be used to stream video clips, the GIF format is the oldest file format still commonly used today. This frame animation feature of GIFs ensures that the format remains popular, despite the rise of JPEG and PNG images.

How to Improve Your Site’s Performance When Using GIFs

In spite of their popularity and ubiquitousness on the Internet (especially with regards to animated GIFs), GIFs are not the most performant of image options. If you are using GIFs on your sites, it’s important that you take care to optimize your GIFs so that they do not create too much overhead.

This article will cover ways to optimize your GIFs, both static and animated, and will offer an excellent alternative you can use to eliminate the page bloat resulting from use of GIFs as animation.

Why should you optimize your GIFs?

Performance matters when it comes to designing your web pages, and GIFs are not the most performant of image options. While they are excellent for capturing your user’s attention and are universally liked for providing short bursts of information in an entertaining way, GIFs were not designed for animation (despite them being commonly used for such). As such, usage of GIFs leads to heavy page weights and poor user experiences resulting from slow page load speeds.

How to improve the performance of your site while using GIFs

In this section, we’ll cover several ways you can improve the performance of your site with regards to using GIFs. We’ll first dig into ways to handle static GIFs, and we’ll end by discussing ways to minimize the overhead resulting from animated GIFs.

There are two methods for compressing images:

One of the primary methods for optimizing GIFs is to compress them. There are two methods of compression that are commonly used:

  • Lossy compression: Lossy compression removes some of the data from the original file, resulting in an image with a reduced file size. However, every time you save the file after compression, the quality of the graphic degrades somewhat, which can result in a fuzzy, pixelated image over time.
  • Lossless compression: Lossless compression preserves all of the data from the original file, which means that the compressed file can be uncompressed to gain the original file. While your file size remains larger than if you had used lossy compression, your image’s quality does not degrade over time.

Later on in this post, we’ll cover the impact of both types of optimization on GIFs.

Improve the performance of sites that are using static GIFs by converting to PNG.

The easiest way to improve the performance of your site is to render your image using the PNG format instead of the GIF format. While the two formats are very similar in terms of being good choices for displaying simple graphics, PNG files have the advantage of being able to compress to a size 5–25% smaller than the equivalent GIF file. GIFs were originally created to use a lossless compression technique called the Lempel-Ziv-Welch (LZW) algorithm, which was defined in the 1970s. However, modern compression techniques are much more performant than LZW, and you can take advantage of this by using formats that utilize these techniques, such as PNGs.

Such file format conversions are pretty easy to do, and there are an abundance of software options you can choose from, including free web-based utilities such as the ones from Pic.io and Convertio.

Improve the performance of sites that are using animated GIFs one of two ways:

Animated GIFs, while extremely popular, can be huge files that require lengthy load times. For example, a GIF that is just a few seconds long can be a few megabytes in size. To improve the performance of your site, use one of the following techniques:

  • Lossy optimization
  • Converting your animated GIF to a HTML5 video

Lossy optimization on animated GIFs

Because the vast majority of data comprising animated GIFs is graphical data, and because lossless optimizations cannot modify graphical data, you have only one viable option when it comes to optimizing an animated GIF beyond the bare minimum: lossy optimization techniques.

Lossy optimizations work because the human eye does not do a very good job at distinguishing between subtle changes in color. For example, an image might contain thousands of shades of one color, with one pixel showing as only slightly different from the ones next to it. Because your eye won’t be able to differentiate between the two shades, the image file can easily be manipulated: One of the colors replaces the other, making the file smaller.

Because animated GIFs are essentially a series of individual GIFs, you can utilize these techniques to decrease the size of your animated file. By making each individual file smaller, your overall file is smaller as well. One way you can do this is by utilizing a simple software suite that can automatically perform such compressions (such as a modified version of gifsicle).

Converting animated GIFs to HTML5 videos

While you can minimize the size of an animated GIF, you may still end up with a file that is larger than it needs to be. GIFs were never intended to store video, and what is now considered animation is really the result of an attempt to reduce overhead on the storage and transmission of multiple images that share identical metadata. Today, however, we have another option that could potentially make your GIFs up to 95% smaller: converting your animated GIFs to HTML5 video.

HTML5 video is a catch-all term for a modern web browser’s ability to play video content using the <video> tag without needing to use external plugins. When this feature was first released in 2009, there was a lot of debate over how such videos would be stored and how they would be encoded. Today, though, the accepted standard is an H.264-encoded video stored in an MP4 container file (which, for simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to as an MP4 video from here on out). In addition to looking a lot better due to its being designed to stream video, MP4 files are much smaller as well:

Over 90% of modern web browsers support MP4 videos.

There are many ways to convert your animated GIF to MP4, such as the popular open-source command-line tool ffmpeg and the web-based utility Cloud Convert. Using the latter, you can see the file size savings possible by making the conversion.

Here’s the original animated GIF:

sven.gif

Here is the MP4 video that’s created from the GIF:

Sadly, your browser doesn’t support the video tag. This is a smooth MP4 video of the above GIF, which features Oaken from Disney’s Frozen.

Looking at the sizes of the files, we see that the original was 100 KB. By converting the GIF to MP4, we end up with a file that is just 23 KB, which is 75% smaller:

Conclusion

GIFs are the oldest file format still commonly used today due to their simplicity, near-universal support, and ability to be used as animation. Despite these positive features, GIFs tend to be large files, resulting in page bloat that can negatively impact the performance of your webpages and lead to poor user experiences. As such, you should consider serious optimization of static GIFs, moving away from animated GIFs, and implementing video clips using more modern techniques such as HTML5/MP4 videos. And for additional in-depth information on implementing these changes, download Rigor’s free ebook, The Book of GIF: A Comprehensive Guide to Optimizing GIFs.

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Backlinks from Client Sites, Sites You Own, Widgets, & Embedded Content: How to Maximize Benefits & Avoid Problems – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When it comes to certain kinds of backlinks, avoiding penalties can be a real gray area. How can you earn the benefits without gaining the scrutiny of Google? In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand will teach you which rules to follow to keep you safe and on the up-and-up, all while improving your link profile.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about a question we see a lot here at Moz, around what you should do with websites that you maybe design or build or do work for, your clients’ websites if you’re an agency or consultant, or a web designer or builder, sites that you own but are not your primary website, and widgets and embeds, blogrolls, all these kinds of things where you control the link infrastructure, or could control it, and should you.

I think one of the challenges here is to understand that many folks have recognized that, over the years, widgets, embeds, links from client websites have gotten other sites penalized, potentially even your sites penalized over the years, because you had all these links that you control pointing back to places, and to Google that can look really sketchy. So I want to talk through some best practices about how you can get link benefit and value from these places without getting yourself into trouble.

The challenge

All right. The challenge here is let’s say that I own sneakerobsessed.com, but it is not my primary website, or maybe it’s a client’s website. But I do own sneakysneakers.com, and I’m thinking to myself, “Gosh, you know the fact that I control, I have the login for the admin here, the site owner, or me, would be fine with linking from these pages to these pages. What should I do there? I don’t want to get into trouble. But I would love to get some benefit, and I think that these links could help me. Should I:

A. Add a link from every page here to a bunch of pages here or to my homepage?

B. Should I link to a variety of my pages, like take a few of these and link them to my homepage, take a few others and link to some internal pages?

C. Should I use a single page on this website to link back to maybe my homepage?

The answer is kind of, it depends. It depends.

My recommendations

Client websites

If it is a client website or a site you’ve done work for, a site you designed or built, or your agency did, if you have clientdomain.com, what I’m going to suggest is that you take a page, the About page or a page you specifically built like About This Site, and you link to that page from the footer or the sidebar or the header. It’s kind of one of those things that gets us linked to from a lot of pages. It’s like the About page or the Contact page or the Privacy Policy, those kinds of things would get on clientdomain.com. You make that the only page where you intentionally specifically link back to your domain. You essentially have some blurb about, “Here are the details about the designer or developer, the technologies used on this website,” those kinds of things. “If you would like to get in touch with the creator of this website, it is these folks over here,” and that points over to you. That means you essentially have a site-wide link to one page, which is flowing a lot of link equity to that single page on your client’s website, and that link is pointing over to you. This is very unlikely to be penalized. It’s very likely to draw in clicks. It has all these beneficial properties.

Site(s) you own

For sites that you own, so myothersite.com and mymainsite.com, what I’m going to suggest here is that you don’t have an intentional specific link strategy like, “Okay, one out of three pages I’m going to have a link. I’m going to have them link to these pages in particular. I’m going to have the anchor text always be this.” Don’t set up that kind of policy or process. Instead, I want you to focus on providing visitor value. Reference things on your main site when they are relevant to content on your other site, and this should happen naturally and organically.

Anytime you’re referencing other content you’ve created or things that you’ve done, or recognition that you have, or someone else from your organization, you would naturally link over here. That’s the way you should play it, not with some specific process and checklist. Anything that matches a very standard pattern is going to be easily recognized by Google, and that can get you into trouble.

Blogrolls, syndicators, etc.

With blogrolls and syndicators and those type of sites, it’s a little less stringent, because blogrolls and syndicators have these unique attributes of basically saying it is the right thing to do for a blogroll when it exists usually on one of the sidebars of a blog, sometimes the blog’s homepage, sometimes every page of a blog, it’s usual for those to be kind of site-wide style links that always point back to the other blogs’ websites’ homepage or blog pages. That’s okay here too. That is not a big problem.

The only time you get into real trouble is if that blogroll is essentially just a paid manipulation. It’s technically a blog network. It’s not that you’re being editorially endorsed by someone else. They’re only linking to you because you’re linking to them. You get into that reciprocity challenge. That’s not to say you should never link to anyone who has you in their blogroll either. It’s just that this has to look natural and editorial to Google, or you can get in trouble.

Syndicators, by the way, it’s okay to link from every syndicated piece of content back to the original piece of content. In fact, that’s the way it should be. If you do your own syndication, like I do sometimes on Medium, where I put up my blog posts that I’ve already put on moz.com/rand on medium.com/randfish, then you should have each of those link back to their original pieces, and that’s just fine.

Widgets & embeds

For widgets and embeds, things get a little dicier, and this is actually where we see a ton of penalties. Not to say that people don’t have problems with their client sites too a lot of the time, but widgets and embeds have been particularly taken to task by Google in the recent past.

So the idea here is that you have this piece of content here that’s being embedded from your site. So Sneaker Obsessed, maybe the guys there went to Sneaky Sneakers. They saw a data graph of Nike shoes versus Adidas shoes sales over the last 12 months, and they were like, “Oh, man. I really want to show that. That’s awesome.” In fact, there’s a little “embed this graph onto your own website.” So they took that, and they put it on there.

More dangerous

You get into more dangerous territory with this type of thing when in the link between here there’s:

  • Keyword-matching anchor text
  • No opt-out option, meaning there’s no way to say, “I don’t want to include the link to the original”
  • When visitors are very unlikely to click that link; when there’s no sort of, “Oh, why would I ever click on the attributed link from the embed?”
  • Remotely controlled via JavaScript, meaning you can remotely update this link and anchor text, that gets real sketchy.
  • Widget’s purpose feels like it exists only for links, like it’s not particularly useful, there’s not a clear reason why this is a widget instead of just a graphic that other people can use or content they can syndicate, why make it a widget as opposed to something like a graph whose data can change, or an interactive content element, or a video player, or something like that?
  • Any sort of payment or discounts that you offer or coercion to get people to embed it gets you into more dangerous territory.

Less dangerous

You’re much less likely to have problems if you:

  • Keep that anchor text branded or omitted entirely. It’s non-branded anchor text. It’s just your brand name, or it’s very limited. It just says “Data Via,” and via is the link itself.
  • Opt-out of the link is available, meaning that someone could say, “Yeah, I want to embed that. Include a link back to sneakysneakers.com? No. No, thank you.”
  • There should be a compelling reason to click.
  • That embed is static.
  • It’s not controlled by JavaScript.
  • The widget feels like it’s reference-focused, so there’s actually some value there.
  • Only embedded intentionally by those who are naturally and editorially choosing to include it.

That will keep you safe.

Hopefully, you will not encounter these problems. I think if you follow these rules, you’ll be in the safe zone, and you’ll also be benefiting from the link value that these can provide. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The ‘Heart & Soul’ of Membership Sites, with Mike Morrison

yp-mike-morrison

Chris talks with Mike of the Membership Guys, and they discuss what it takes to come up with and maintain a membership site.

Membership sites have become something of an entrepreneurial pinnacle when it comes to online business. The idea of a regular and recurring income has sparked interest in so many business owners, but what does it really take to come up with and maintain a membership site?

On this episode, I deep-dive into the subject with Mike Morrison as we cover the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the membership site model. We cover everything from how to validate your membership site idea to what it takes to keep it going. Great stuff!

Mike also shares his valuable insights into what makes up the heart and soul of membership sites, as well as how to handle launches and content the right way — without burning yourself out.

Get a pad and pen ready for this one and enjoy this episode of Youpreneur FM!

In this 59-minute episode, Mike and I discuss:

  • Why I think that membership sites are a natural conclusion to regular, recurring income
  • Mike talks about if membership sites are all about recurring income, or if there’s something more to it
  • How membership sites help the members themselves
  • Why you need to be seen to sell to help both your business and your membership community
  • Where entrepreneurs should start before they start their own membership sites

Listen to this Episode Now

The post The ‘Heart & Soul’ of Membership Sites, with Mike Morrison appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Why Every Website (Not Just Local Sites) Should Invest in Local Links and Citations – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

At first glance, local links and local citations might seem unnecessary for non-local websites. On a closer look, however, there are strong underlying benefits to gaining those local votes of confidence that could prove invaluable for everyone. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why all sites should consider chasing local links and citations, suggesting a few different ways to discover opportunities in your areas of focus.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about why websites — every website, not just local websites — should be thinking about tactics and a strategy to get local listings and local citations.

Now, this might sound counterintuitive. I’ve actually encountered a lot of folks — especially online-only businesses or even blended online and local businesses — who think, “Are local links really that important to me, or are they off-topic? Could they potentially cause problems and confusion? Should I be trying to get those?” I’m going to try and make the case to you today that you absolutely should.

Recently, I got to visit Scotland to talk to several folks. I visited Skyscanner. I spoke at the Digital Excellence event and spoke, of course, at the Turing Festival, which was a remarkable event in Edinburgh. We actually landed in Glasgow on a Saturday and drove up to a little town called Inveraray. So I’m going to use some examples from Inveraray, Scotland, and I apologize if my accent is miserable.

A few of the businesses we visited there: Loch Fyne Whiskies, they have their own living cask, where they essentially add in whiskies and blends to this cask that keeps evolving; Whisky Shop, which is an online-only shop; and then Inveraray Castle, which is a local business, entirely a local business centered around this lovely castle and estate that I think, if I understood correctly, is run by the Duke of Argyll, Argyll being the region around there. Apparently, Scotland still has dukes in business, which is fantastic.

Local & online business

So for a local and online business, like Lock Fyne Whiskies, they sell whiskies in their specific store. You can go in — and I did — and buy some stuff. They also sell on their website, I believe just in the United Kingdom, unfortunately, for those of you watching around the rest of the world. But there are certainly reasons why they would want to go and get local links from places that link to businesses in Inveraray or in Argyll or in Scotland as a whole. Those include:

  • Boosting their Maps visibility, so that when you’re searching in Google Maps for “whisky” or “whisky shops,” potentially, if you’re near Inveraray, Google Maps will make their business show up higher.
  • Boosting their local ranking so that if you’re searching for “whisky shop Argyll” or “whisky shop Scotland” or “whisky shop near me” and you happen to be there, Google will show this business higher for that ranking as well.
  • Boosting their domain authority, meaning that those local links are contributing to overall ranking ability. That means they can rank for longer-tail terms. That means they can rank more competitively for classic web search terms that are not just in local or Maps.
  • Sending valuable traffic. So if you think about a listing site, like thelist.co.uk has them on there, TripAdvisor has them on there, a bunch of local sort of chamber of commerce — it’s not actually the chamber of commerce there — but chamber of commerce-type sites list them on there, that sends valuable direct traffic to their business. That could be through foot traffic. It could be through referrals. It could be through people who are buying whisky online from them. So a bunch of real good reasons why a local and online business should do this.

Online-only business

But if you’re an online-only business, I think a lot of folks make the case of, “Wait a minute, Rand, isn’t it true that if I am getting local links and local citations, those may not be boosting my relevance, my ranking ability as much as they are boosting my local ranking ability, which I don’t actually care about because I’m not focused on that?”

So, for example, whiskyshop.com, I think they are also based in Scotland, but they don’t have physical locations. It’s an online-only shop. So getting a local link for them in whatever part of the region of Scotland they are actually in would…

  • Boost their domain authority, giving them more ranking ability for long-tail terms.
  • Make it harder for their competitors to compete for those links. This makes link acquisition for an online-only business, even from local sources, a beautiful thing because your competitors are not in that region and, therefore, they can’t go get those same links that you can get simply by virtue of being where you are as a business physically located. Even if you’re just in an office space or working from home, wherever your domain is registered you can potentially get those.
  • Yield solid anchor text. There are a bunch of local sources that will not just point out who you are, but also what you do. When they point out what you do, they can link to your product pages or your different site sections, individual URLs on your site, and provide anchor text that can be powerful. Depending on how those submissions are accepted and how they’re processed, some local listings, obviously, you’re not going to get them, others you are.

There’s one more that I should include here too, which is that…

  • Local information, even citations by themselves, can be a trust signal for Google, where they essentially say, “Hey, you know what, we trust that this is a real business that is really in this place. We see citations for it. That tells us we can trust this site. It’s not spammy. It doesn’t have these spam signals around it.” That’s a really big positive as well. So I’d add that — spam trust issues.

Local-only business

Lastly, a local-only business — I think this is the most obvious one — we know that it…

  • Boosts Maps visibility
  • Boosts local rankings
  • Boosts your long-tail ranking ability
  • Sends valuable direct traffic, just like they do to a local and online business.

Easy ways to find citation/link sources in your locale:

If you’re going to go out and look for some local links, a few quick recommendations that are real easy to do.

  1. Do a search for a business name, not necessarily your business name — in fact, not your business name – anybody, any of your competitors or anyone in the region. It doesn’t have to necessarily be your business. It could be someone in the county or the territory, the state, the city, the town, minus their site, because you don’t want results from their site. You’re actually looking for: What are all the places where their business is talked about? You can add in, if you’d like, the region or city name.
  2. Search for one local business and another one. So, for example, if I was Whisky Shop and I were in Inveraray or I were in Argyll, I could search for “Loch Fyne Whiskies” and “Inveraray Castle,” and I would come back with a list of places that have both of those on their website. That often turns out to be a great source of a bunch of listings, listing opportunities and link opportunities.
  3. Google just by itself the city plus the state, or region or country, and get lots and lots of places, first off that describe that place, but then also that note notable businesses or that have business listings. You can add the word “listings” to this query and get some more great results too.
  4. Try out some tools here — Link Intersect in Moz, or Majestic, or Ahrefs — and get lots of results by plugging in two of these and excluding the third one and seeing who links to these that doesn’t link to this third one.
  5. Use business names in the same fashion that you do in Google in tools like a Mention, a Talkwalker, Google Alerts, or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer and see who is talking about these local businesses or regions from a news or blog or forum or recent perspective.

So with that, I hope you’ll do me a favor and go out, try and get some of those local links. I look forward to your comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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