De-mystifying Google Search Console Part 1

In this blog series, we’ll be going over Google’s Search Console. The Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a completely free and indispensable tool offered by Google to all business owners and webmasters. While you don’t have to be signed up for Search Console to be crawled and indexed by Google, it provides fantastic insights into optimizing your site and its content for the search engine.

A one stop data repository

Search Console is where you can monitor your site’s performance, identify issues, submit content for crawling, view what searches brought visitors to your website, monitor your backlinks as well as much more. However, the most important feature of Search Console is the ability to monitor your site’s health and is where Google will communicate with you should anything go wrong with your website (i.e. crawling errors, manual penalties, malware detected on your website, etc.)

If you don’t have a Search Console account for your site, then you should get one as soon as possible. You may find that you won’t want one of the fancier, more expensive tools out there that essentially does the same thing as Google’s free tool.

All you need to sign up for Search Console is a Google account, which is something you probably already have if you use Gmail or any other of Google’s many products.

The following guide will go over the basics of what you need to know in order to work effectively within Google’s Search Console.

Adding your website to Search Console

After you arrive at Search Console, if you haven’t already, Google will ask you to add a property. Just click the big red button that says Add A Property and then input your website address into the pop-up box.

Next is verification, before Search Console can access your site, you need to prove to Google that you’re the owner/authorized webmaster for the website. There are five methods of verification for Search Console. Google doesn’t have a real preference on which one that you use, although Google does have a “recommended method” that they feel is the easiest way to go about verifying your website.

  • The HTML file upload: This method is Google’s “recommended method.” Google provides you with a HTML verification file that you need to upload to the root directory to your site. Once you’ve done that, just click on the provided URL, hit the verify button and you’ll have full access to your website’s Search Console Data.
  • HTML Tag: With this method, Google provides you with an HTML tag that needs to be inserted into the <head> section of your homepage, before the first <body> section. We don’t recommend this method, because if you make any further updates to the HTML of your homepage and the tag gets removed, your verification will be revoked and you’ll have to do the verification process over again.
  • Google Analytics: Assuming you’ve established a Google Analytics account and your Google account is the same as the one you’re using for Search Console, then you can verify your site this way, as long as the GA code is in the <head> section of your home page and you have “edit” permission.

Once you’re verified, you’ll be able to see your site on the “Home” screen. Here you can access the site, add another property (if you’re a webmaster for more than one website), and see if you have any unread messages from Google.

Getting To Know The Dashboard

The Dashboard is where you can access all of your site’s data, adjust your settings and see how many unread messages you have.search console dashboard

The menu on the left side of the Dashboard is where you can navigate to all the reports and tools at your disposal. The three graphics in the center of the Dashboard (Crawl Errors, Search Analytics, and Sitemaps) are quick glimpses at your general site health and crawlability. These act as short-cuts to reports found in the menu found on the navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen.

The gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the dashboard leads you to your settings menu. This menu gives you access to a variety of tools, preferences, and admin features. From here you can set to receive email notifications from Google about your site health, set your preferred domain and crawl rate, change the address of your website if you’re moving to a new domain, link your Google Analytics account to your Search Console account, and set admin permissions for authorized users of your Search Console account.

settings menu

Well, that’s it for this week’s tutorial. Next post, we’ll be going over search appearance, structured data, and the new data highlighter tool.

 

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FAQs about Local SEO

Businesses normally have a lot of questions about SEO, but, one branch that sometimes makes them scratch their heads is the difference between local SEO and traditional SEO. “What is local SEO and how is it different from normal SEO?” is a much more common question posed to digital marketers than people think. This among other frequently asked questions are what I’m going to answer in this article, but first, there’s something we should explain.

The Local Search Results aka “The 3 Pack”

Over the last several years, Google has refined and re-refined their search results pages to give local businesses prime SERP real estate on their first page. The reasoning behind this is simple, Google users want to see what local businesses there are for certain keyword phrases.

For example, let’s say, I’m looking for a good place to have a meal and a drink at the end of the day, A search for “pubs near me” will pull up pubs nearby who are (in this case) within driving distance along with some useful information such as rating, phone number, address, and hours.

Local SEO Screenshot on Pubs near me

Not only is this good for finding a good pub for a pint and burger, it’s also many people’s preferred method for finding anything from daycares to dentists. According to Ed Parsons over at Google about 1 in 3 searches are about locations. Which means that you’ve probably done this yourself so you’re probably familiar with the user side of local SEO. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in and answer a few of these FAQs shall we?

What is local SEO and how is it different from regular SEO?

As you probably know, SEO is the use of different tactics to make your website rank high on Google, with the first page of search results being the ultimate goal. With local SEO, instead of focusing exclusively on your website, you’re also going to focus on different outlets that list your business information such as Google’s My Business profile page.

For example, try searching for “barbers near me” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You should see a map in the upper right corner, different barbers names, addresses, and phone numbers along with reviews right at the top of the first page of Google. All of this information is coming from a business’ Google My Business page.

So, the key difference between local SEO and regular SEO is that you need to optimize both your website and your Google My Business profile page to compete for local SEO.

How Do You Get Google To Display Business Results?

One of the biggest points of contention with local SEO is that Google doesn’t always show the “3 pack” in search results. So how do you force Google to show the local business pack instead of normal search results? The long and short of it is, you can’t.

If Google isn’t showing a listing with a map and business profiles, then there is no way to force Google to show your business page. Instead, you’ll just have to optimize your content using traditional SEO tactics.

What Types of Businesses Should Pursue Local SEO?

Google has a full set of guidelines for listing your business in Google. Obviously, if you’re a 100% online presence with no physical location to speak of, then local SEO isn’t for you. The basic rule of thumb is that local SEO is a good marketing avenue for any business that interacts in-person with it’s prospective customers. If you never meet in-person, then it probably isn’t a good fit for your business.

How Can I Get My Business To Rank In Other Cities?

Location is a big factor when it comes to the ranking algorithm for local SEO. Where this is concerned you have to think from the perspective of the searcher. If I’m searching for a restaurant in Albany, it doesn’t help me to see results for places that are in Rotterdam. Google takes this into account which is why the location of the person searching versus the actual location of the business is a big factor in local SEO.

It helps to think of it like a double-edged sword; you’ll have an advantage getting into that local 3-pack the closer your prospective customer is to your business, however, the further away they’re searching, the less likely they’ll see your business. It’s not impossible to rank in other cities than the one you’re located in, just know that it’s going to be an uphill battle to beat out businesses that are closer to the searcher.

Curious about how Mountain Media can help you with your local and traditional SEO? Feel free to shoot us an email and one of our SEO specialists will be glad to consult with you to see how Mountain Media can help bring your business to new heights.

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Accelerated Mobile Pages and E-Commerce

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Google’s accelerated mobile pages project (or AMP for short), so to let you know what is going on, we put together this crash course on what AMPs are and what this could mean for e-commerce.

What Is AMP?

The AMP framework is an open technical standard that is similar to Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles. The framework is meant to speed up mobile page load, and include structured data to mark up content, and streamline ads and other more complex code to improve the mobile experience. AMP pages are able to load almost four times faster than standard mobile pages because of the streamlined code.

AMP HTML is a new way to make web pages that are optimized to load instantly on the user’s mobile device. Additionally, AMP HTML is not a template based system, instead it is built on already existing web tech. This being said, publishers will continue being able to host their own content, innovate their UX, and integrate AMP into their business models.

How Could E-Commerce Benefit from AMPs?

While the AMP project says that “news” will be the first type of content supported, it’s very light on the details as to what constitutes “news” in the first place. What we do know is that articles, recipes, reviews, and video are the content types offered as examples.

For most ecommerce sites, the primary content type outside of sales funnel related pages is articles. However, we have to clarify what counts as an article to AMP since it relies on structured data mark-up outlined on schema.org. According to schema.org an article “[is] a news article or piece of investigative report. Newspapers and magazines have articles of many different types and this is intended to cover them all.”

By this definition, most pages on e-commerce sites would not qualify as an “article” for the AMP framework. However, consider the articles found in different hobby and trade magazines; how-to’s, tips, industry trends. All of these are prime examples of articles for magazines and newspapers.

So, to clarify, your BOGO landing page would not count as an article. While it is a piece of content and it is textual in nature, it doesn’t qualify for the definition of article as defined by Google and schema.org. But, your long-form and step-by-step content giving customers different tips and tricks (i.e. “how to waterproof your boots in 5 steps”) all qualify as articles. Your business’ blog may also contain articles if it isn’t too focused on what your company wants versus what the customer wants to hear. As long as your long-form or blog content is geared towards giving your customers information that they want in a format that includes a decent amount of text, you have an article you could use for the AMP framework.

As you build out more long-form content, consider using this framework. Since it is fairly new, there are very few businesses outside of news organizations using it. This framework would be a great way to get ahead of the competition and create new entry points for prospective customers into your business’ sales funnel.

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HTTP/2 Is Coming: What Is It and How Does It Affect You?

What Is HTTP2 And How Does It Affect Me_

There are some big changes coming to the web. Things are about to get faster with the introduction of the newest HTTP protocol: HTTP/2.

It’s been over 15 years since the last update and so much has changed in that time. Technology has gotten more sophisticated, consumers demand more from their web experience, and sites have only gotten heavier and speed has become one of the most important factors for UX.

Servers are already beginning to adapt to HTTP/2. As such, it’s time that we begin to learn more about it and begin to understand what we need to know about this very significant change to the internet.

What is HTTP/2?

HTTP/2 is an updated version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (what we know as ‘HTTP’ at the beginning of web URLs) and is partially based off of Google’s SPDY protocol, which was developed to help improve browser speed and performance when loading websites.

History of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (otherwise known as ‘http://’) is the protocol that establishes the connection between a user’s browser and a server’s host. HTTP was first documented in 1991 which led to the creation of HTTP/0.9. The current version, HTTP/1.1, was introduced in 1999, which means that an update was going to be coming down the pike sooner rather than later.

How Does This Change Affect You?

Whether you’re a simple user or a web developer, this infrastructure update is something to be excited about. This protocol update will create a faster and more functional browsing experience for users. Since 1.1′s inception, sites have changed dramatically over the 15-plus years of use, and now consist of more images and data than they did when 1.1 was first introduced, which affect the loading time of pages. HTTP/2 will be able to adapt to what we need from a user’s and developer’s prospective.

So What’s Actually Changing?

While there are some great resources that go into the technical nitty-gritty of what is changing, for brevity’s sake we’ll be giving you a simplified overview of the important changes coming with HTTP/2.

Multiplexing

Multiplexing is the ability for the connection to send multiple messages at the same time with one TCP connection. This will reduce the required time to process the requests that are sent and received, improving UX by speeding up site load time.

Before HTTP/2, only one request could be sent and handled at a time, which led to a series of requests on the host which slowed load times. Additionally, some page loads would require multiple connections, which could slow down load times even further. HTTP/2 solves both of these challenges by allowing multiple requests to be handled at once through one connection, resulting in faster connections, improved latency, and faster load times, which will have immediate results to user experience.

 Server Push

Server push is all about saving time, with the server analyzing the client’s next request, sending additional information, even before they’re needed. What this means is, there won’t be any more waiting for the HTML of a page to load until the browser requests the Javascript, or images, or video, etc., as HTTP/2 will allow the server to make faster transmissions by sending “push” responses. Web page load will now be proactive instead of reactive.

Prioritization

Prioritization is about understanding the importance of each element on a web page and transferring the most import requests first. It’s the browser that suggests how the data is to be prioritized, but the final decision on is made by the website’s host server.

So When Does HTTP/2 Roll Out?

Well, good news, it already has. While HTTP/2 might not be the standard HTTP protocol yet, it’s gaining interest month by month. Currently, 6% of all websites are using HTTP/2. In fact, 13.5% of websites that are in the top 1000 used sites in the world are using the new protocol.

What Should I Do?

Nothing, there is no need to do anything to prep you from a user’s point of view, as the change has already started on several sites. Additionally, HTTP/2 is backwards compatible with 1.1, so users won’t notice any difference except for the speed.

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