Google Reinforces the Importance of Speed & Security

Starting this month, Google is rolling out a couple of critical algorithm updates regarding speed and security. These changes have been a long time coming, and Mockingbird Marketing has made sure that our clients’ sites are prepared.

Speed

We’ve known for quite some time that desktop website speed is an important ranking factor. But now, Google will also be looking at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. In the past, Google has (not-so-subtly) hinted at the importance of mobile page speed by releasing tools like the Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator.

Google has stated that this change will only negatively impact the pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users.” At Mockingbird, we have several practices set in place in order to ensure quality site speed, including hosting our websites on WP Engine.

Security

Google’s Chrome browser will now mark non-HTTPS sites as ‘not secure’. This is one of the numerous changes that Google has made over the years in order to incentivize secure websites…and discourage non-secure sites.

 

This is what the recent update will look in a user’s browser.

Google has hinted at a small rankings boost for secure sites, which has successfully encouraged many webmasters to add a security certificate to their sites. This recent change, which punishes non-secure sites, solidifies the fact that user security is no longer just an option, it is a must.

Implementing HTTPS was one of Mockingbird’s essential practices long before these algorithm changes were made, and our clients websites should not be negatively affected.

Historical SEO Spam from FindLaw

For those of you interested in a history lesson of how flagrant spam was back in the early(ish) days of SEO…. I was cleaning out my desk the other day and found a relic of FindLaw’s link selling product, SEM-C.  It’s dated July, 2008 and a printed copy has been gathering dust in my SEO SPAM folder. For those of you who have less than 10 years in the search industry, you’ll be amazed at how flagrant link selling was, even by big box providers, back in the wild wild west days of search. Read it here: FindLaw for Legal Professionals: SEM-C Product Details.  I’ve excerpted some of the tastier morsels below:

SEM-C includes articles submitted by the advertiser and hard coded links to be placed on the FindLaw Legal Professional portal. As FindLaw has a favorable rank with the search engines and is THE legal authority, customers will benefit from having a link on the FindLaw portal.

The product was essentially a series of paid links (that lasted for a year and then needed to be renewed) leveraging FindLaw’s authority. Customers wrote articles, defined anchor text, specified target pages and submitted to FindLaw.

Link modules – to be placed on relevant content pages. The product includes 3 links.

Articles… This product includes up to 5 articles. Articles will contain a hard coded link to advertiser’s web site.

Customers will have increased rank and penetration within natural search results on major search engines.

It even includes a section on helping law firms come up with high value anchor text.

The backlash on this was pretty immediate and strong, with negative articles coming from both the Search and Legal Marketing communities. Word on the street among the SEO nerd community is that FindLaw was hit by a substantial and long standing manual penalty from Google. But don’t think that FindLaw learned their lesson – the’ve never really given up their linkspamming ways. Back in 2014 we posted a review of FindLaw’s use of spambots to generate profiles and links (read more: Even More FindLaw Link Spam).

Getting the Most out of Exclusive Google Trainings


Here at Mockingbird Marketing, we pride ourselves on our commitment to employee growth and the continued training and development of our people! That’s why, when opportunities arise we participate to our fullest capability.

We are very proud to be a Premier Google Partner. That partnership comes with a few great benefits, one of them being exclusive in-person trainings with Google Representatives on the best practices and use of their products and tools. This last week members of our staff had the opportunity to learn and grow at the Google Campus here in Seattle! They participated in the Google AdWords BootCamp, and three full day classes centered around Profit-Driven Marketing, Automation, and Performance Video. Our team learned a lot and will be putting these lessons into practice, making us a better Agency, which in turn makes our clients even more successful.

Some of the key points covered during these sessions included:

  1. Maximizing Ad Extensions. (Enable 3 or more for a CTR increase of 10%-20%)
  2. The Rise of Voice Search. Optimize content to be user-friendly and conversational.
  3. Remarketing is Key. (96% of users do not convert on 1st visit)
  4. Utilizing Ad Attribution. (5% more conversions when non-last click attribution is used)
  5. A Slow Mobile Site Costs You Money. For every 1 second delay:
    • ~8% Increase in bounce rate
    • ~7% Decrease in conversions
    • ~2.1% Decrease in cart size
    • ~16% Decrease in customer satisfaction
  6. Tracking Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).  Allows for intelligent decisions and optimization of marketing budgets.
  7. Focusing on Profits, Not Cost. Don’t set a budget if you can make more by spending more on ads.
  8. Using Google’s Automation Tools. (Machine learning can save 50% of time spent on optimizations)
  9. Developing Video Assets! Video delivers an increase in conversions. Google will even make you a video for free!

Obviously, this is just a portion of what was covered, but Mockingbird will continue to utilize all of the opportunities available to stay on the cutting edge of technology and continue delivering great results for our clients.

Google Now Notifies Those Who Leave Reviews When Business Owners Respond

Google has announced that it will now notify users who post reviews on Google Local results after the listing/business owner responds to the review.

When you, as a listing owner, respond to a user review, Google will wait five minutes, and then send the user an email notifying them that you have responded. Google graciously allows you five minutes after posting your response before it notifies the user so that you are able to make any necessary edits (edit grammar or cool down that hastily written response).

This change should incentivize business owners to respond to reviews, whether they are positive or negative. Regardless of notifications, responding to reviews shows that a business cares and can help build relationships with clients.

In the past, responses from businesses would often go unnoticed by users, but this update is bound to change that.

So be aware when you’re responding to negative reviews that the user will almost surely see your response.

 

Example user notification

GDPR and the New Google Analytics Data Retention Period

The European Union has refined its data storage regulations, pushing for stronger consumer-oriented regulations focused on protecting online users privacy rights. The latest set of regulations, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is set to come into effect on May 25, 2018. The regulation is based on the fundamental idea that every citizen of the EU has a set of rights when referring to data collection. By creating more robust data collection and storage laws, the EU is better safeguarding the privacy of online users.

The information that is not to be collected under the new GDPR includes all information that has the potential to be uniquely identifying. This includes a user’s IP address, email address, home address, date of birth, financial information, transaction histories, and medical records. This new legislation also protects any user-generated data such as social media posts and personal images uploaded online.

Google’s Implemented Data Retention Policy

Being a data controller, Google is responsible for handling personal information. If you are using a Google product to track the on-site action of users in order to serve personalized advertisements, you must now acquire user consent prior to taking action. Google has implemented a new tiered setting called Data Retention. This setting allows a specific retention period to be selected. User and Event Data will expire after 26 months but some may play it safe by easily adjusting the setting to retain the data for a longer period or set to never automatically expire. In addition, Google is launching a new tool that can help erase a specific users information upon request.

The GDPR protects all personal user data across every conceivable online platform. Effecting any company that is to market to people in the EU, or do business directly. Users must express permission before any company can process or store their data through a clear and easily understood opt-in process. Currently, the majority of advertisers are not using methods that would be affected by the new regulations but will need to continue to monitor the use and storage of this data.

What Does Google’s GDPR Policy Mean for U.S. Small Businesses?

So far, this policy update looks like it will have minimal impact on businesses operating outside of the European Union. For clients doing business solely in the U.S., we’re currently recommending they set their Google Analytics event data to be retained indefinitely. However, each business is unique and should take time to educate themselves on the implications of the new regulation.

Blogging Basics: Keeping SEO in Mind

Blogs present a wonderful opportunity to produce content that can help build your website’s presence on the internet.

In order for a blog post to appear in search results and have link building potential it must be:

  1. Valuable to the reader and;
  2. Optimized for search engines

As an attorney, you have extremely valuable knowledge that users will be searching for. So, with a bit of digital marketing savvy, your blog can become a traffic driving asset.

Think Before You Write

Having an article that is valuable to readers and optimizing for search engines go hand in hand. As I’ve stated in past articles, user experience is at the root of most Google algorithm ranking factors. Don’t write for the sake of writing; write with your readers in mind. What questions are you consistently getting from clients? Do you have a fresh legal take on a current event? Whatever you’re writing about, make sure it’s something that people would actually want to read.

Structure Your Blog Post

Structure will make your content digestible for both readers and search engines. To achieve a well-structured blog post, you must utilize headings and lists. These elements help search engines understand what the content you’re producing is and for what queries it should be served.

Headings

Headings help search engines understand what the main topics of your blog posts are. Heading tags have a top-down hierarchy from <h1> to <h6>. You should only have one H1 tag (main heading), which will be the title of your post. Do not use multiple H1 tags, as having multiple H1s will confuse search engines.

(Remember, bolding and italics should not be used in place of actual headings)

Headings-structure

Lists

Bulleted and numbered lists make your content readable for users. A carefully placed list will draw the reader’s eye and allow for quick skimming. Additionally, using lists increases the likelihood that your post will be featured in a Google one box:

Write an SEO Title & Description

SEO Title

Your SEO title should be relevant to the content and include keywords that users are likely to be searching for; this includes:

  1. Subject/title of blog post
  2. Firm location
  3. Law firm name

Prioritize title and location if you run out of characters. Remember to break up the pieces of your title with dividers to maintain structure.

Example: DUI Punishments | Seattle, WA | Law Firm Name

SEO Description

Your meta description should describe what the content is and draw the reader in. Make sure to include relevant keywords (without keyword stuffing), as Google will highlight the matching words from the user search query in your description. This will draw the eye of the reader and signal that the page is relevant.

Conclusion

Blogging for the sake of blogging is pointless. If you want your blog to have SEO value, it must be written with readers in mind and optimized for search engines. When starting a blog or ramping up current blogging efforts, start with the basics:

  • Think before you write
  • Structure your writing
  • Write quality meta descriptions and titles

and last but not least, keep at it!

Wistia Releases New Video Player, Vulcan V2

Video is a valuable tool that helps you connect with your viewers. Vulcan V2, Wistia’s new video player, is smaller and faster than their previous video player. The only issue is that videos can add a lot of weight to your site and slow it down. If your visitors experience slow page speed, they are more likely to leave your website. With the release of Vulcan V2, it shows that Wistia cares about the importance of website performance more than others.

Vulcan V2 is half the size of their previous player and is a quarter of the size of YouTube’s. Not only did they create a smaller player but also added a bunch of optimizations in order to increase page load time. Wistia claims that they are seeing pages with Vulcan V2 load 10% faster on average than pages with their last video player, Vulcan.

To learn more about Vulcan V2 or what Wistia has been up to, check out their video on their blog regarding Vulcan V2.

Beware of Your Chat Vendor

I have a love/hate relationship with chat. Mostly I hate chat. Or at least the ham handed implementations that are either a)horrendously intrusive or b)intentionally horrendously intrusive.

Look at this particularly obnoxious chat window that completely covers up the primary navigation. I can no longer learn anything about what the firm does, or who works there. Not to mention the poor metaphorical visual of cutting off Ms. Justice’s head and obscuring half of the firm’s logo.

Use chat. It works. But use it like Sriracha…carefully and sparingly so it compliments your overall marketing instead of forcing itself into the experience and ruining the meal for everyone.

(On the few cases in which I love chat…it is with chat vendors that allow you to customize the implementation to suit your best interest, instead of rigidly configuring it to maximize the financial gain of the chat vendor.)

Another Indicator That Your “SEO Content” Is Awful

I’ve been railing against the conventional wisdom that more content is the magic SEO bullet for years now. In fact, for many of our clients, we’ve been proactively working on decreasing pagecount, instead of increasing it. There’s a great framework for assessing the value of investing more money on more content in a Searchengine Land article I wrote that essentially shows how to evaluate the efficacy of content in actually generating traffic. Simple stuff, but often overlooked – which is crazy given the vast investment many lawyers make in vomiting out more content at a regular clip.

There’s an even easier way to review this through a very simple report in Google Search Console. This simple report shows the number of pages in your sitemap compared to the number of pages in your sitemap that are actually indexed. In the extreme example below, less than 12% of their sitemap is actually indexed. This means while Google knows about the content, they don’t actually care and those pages will NEVER surface in search results.

Note that this could be for a variety of reasons:

  1. The sitemap is dated and/or broken and showing pages that don’t exist (this happens more frequently than you can imagine)
  2. The site has a tone of content, yet lacks the authority (backlinks) to support the volume of content.
  3. The content on the site is extremely poor and/or copied.

Assuming the sitemap is correctly configured…if the vast majority of your blog isn’t being indexed…why would one continue generating content?