How AI and Machine Learning are Helping Your Website

Computer systems have been learning on their own since the 1960s, and they have been advancing rapidly in recent years. The most notable recent addition to the AI family is BERT, Google’s new user intent interpreter. BERT, like many search engine programs, is designed to improve user experience and can help to improve site metrics for webmasters. For it to do this, it first needs access to lots of data.

 

AI vs Machine Learning

AI and machine learning can look similar from a distance; both are programs that work to mimic and understand human behaviors. The difference between the two is largely semantic, and one cannot exist without the other.

Machine learning is a key aspect of how AI is designed. The process of machine learning is characterized by feeding the program huge amounts of data to the point where it can replicate and predict human behaviors. Machine learning is the process and AI is the product.

 

How they affect your website

Your website is constantly being reviewed by automated programs, whether they’re crawling, indexing, analyzing, or simply learning from it. The most benevolent of these programs can use machine learning to prevent employee fraud and track third party cookies

The more malevolent of the programs are searching for insecurities and opportunities to compromise the security of the website for its makers and users.

 

Optimizing for AI

Since AI is built from machine learning, and machine learning is built from large amounts of data created by humans, there is no solid way to optimize for AI-run search engines. That means that BERT cannot be negotiated with.

The best way to optimize for machine learning and AI is by producing good content and a website that follows SEO best practices.

Why You Should Be Checking Your Bounce Rate

Relatively underrated compared to such metrics as “pageviews,” a page’s bounce rate shouldn’t be ignored. It’s important to know how many of your website’s pages were the first and last of your website a consumer ever saw. Knowing this might help you to improve your pages.

 

Judging Bounce Rates

Just like limbo at a party, you want it as low as possible for everyone. That being said, different pages will inherently have different bounce rates. Informational pages are likely to have higher rates due to the audience’s ability to get the information they were looking for and leave. Contact pages are likely to have lower rates because very few people click into a contact page from a browser. 

When looking at bounce rates, it’s important to remember page content and user intent. 

 

Improving Bounce Rates

If you want to improve your bounce rate you have to focus on user experience. This means optimizing everything.

 

Page Speed

Nothing gets a user to leave like making them wait. Compress your images, check your loading speeds, and making any necessary changes.

 

Page Design

Look at your pages as if you had never seen them. Are they visually appealing? Are they thematically consistent? Do they make you trust the website? Would it be easy to find an enticing next page to visit? 

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” fix it. Your page is your front entryway. If a visitor enters and doesn’t feel comfortable they’re going to leave.

 

Optimize Content

Content should be optimized for fast reading. That means short sentences and short paragraphs. It also means that the content needs to be useful and relevant. Don’t sacrifice quality for brevity; you can write a longer piece if you really need to.

 

Internal Linking

If your page is well written, interesting, well designed, and loads quickly, one of the best ways to get people to go to a different page is with internal linking. This allows easy access to other pages on the website. We’ve all been down Wikipedia rabbit-holes and ended up learning about the history of some bridge in North Dakota.

If you think your website needs to improve the bounce rate on some (or all, we don’t judge) of its pages, contact us and we can help you figure out how to find and improve your bounce rate.

Why Did Google Remove My Reviews?

Getting a good review is one of the best things for you as a business. It’s a great feeling to receive affirmation from a client that you provided superior service, as well the fact that it helps to persuade potential clients to hire your firm. It can be frustrating as a business owner when you realize that one of your hard-earned Google My Business reviews has been removed. But where did it go and why?

Reasons That May Cause a Review to Disappear

There are a few reasons why Google may have removed a review from your profile. The most common is that Google’s spam detection algorithm has flagged some of your reviews, and they have been removed from your company’s listing. The review could also have been flagged for review by a competitor or any other user that felt the review did not comply with Google’s Guidelines.

Here are some of the common elements that may cause a review to be flagged and removed:

  • The Review Contains a URL
  • The person who wrote the review is an account manager or employee.
  • The review was left from the same computer/IP address that you sign into to manage your listing in Google My Business.
  • The review was left from the same IP address as other users who left you a review.
  • The client tried to post a review for you several times on different dates.
  • You hired an SEO company to post reviews for you.
  • The review was left from an onsite review station at your location.
  • You are offering incentives for clients who wrote the reviews.
  • The review contains a word that is against Google Guidelines.
  • The reviewer is not in close proximity to your business.

Outside of these common infractions, it could be due to a bug that is affecting the platform.

What you can do

Depending on the reason why the review was removed, it can be difficult to have the problem addressed or have the review reinstated. If a legitimate review was detected and accidentally removed by Google’s algorithm in an effort to remove fake reviews, it may or may not be restored. Even reaching out to support will not prove to be very helpful as they are unable to view or restore reviews that have been removed as part of spam-fighting efforts.

If you think it may be related to a recent bug, only time will tell whether the issue gets resolved. There is nothing account owners can do as the problem is all on Google’s end.

If you still maintain a great relationship with the client, they may be able to edit and repost their review to meet community guidelines. This may cause the review to be displayed on your company’s listing again.

Even though it’s frustrating when legitimate reviews are removed on accident, I choose to remain positive that Google is trying to solve the growing problem of fake reviews online and will continue to get better at identifying and removing reviews in the future.

The Effects of Google Search Console’s Speed Reports

Google just announced the rollout of a new report in their Search Console, a report six months in the making. Designed to let webmasters quickly identify problems and areas for improvement, the new reports will show which pages have fast speeds and which are slow, as well as which pages have identifiable issues. The speed reports will have a ripple effect on page quality and views. 

 

Graph showing sample speed report
Sample Speed Report, from webmasters.googleblog.com

 

Bounce Rate

One of the main causes of a high bounce rate is slow loading speeds. With the technology to identify which pages are slow, webmasters can improve bounce rates. This will help to increase conversions and site visits in general.

 

Identifying Updates

Knowing when to upgrade plugins can be difficult for novice webmasters, at no fault of their own. Running a website means keeping track of many moving parts, often while also running a business. Having speed reports can help webmasters identify which pages need their plugins updated.

 

Improving Site Design

Many slow sites can find the culprit for their speed in the design of their site. This could mean that they’re using too many fancy features, their images are too large, or they’re using embedded videos. If a page is being marked as slow without having an issue, it could be an indicator that it should be optimized.

Running a website is tough work and can require a level of expertise and commitment that not everyone is willing to devote. That’s a role that Mockingbird Marketing is ready to fill. We build and manage websites for law firms, including doing routine maintenance and technical audits. If you want to know more about how Google’s new speed reports can help your business, call us!

Keeping Yourself Optimized for SEO

Working in SEO can feel a bit like being in a psychology trial: you know the basic rules, you’re trying your best to follow them, but no one in your peer group is really 100% sure what’s going on at any given time. 

Google is constantly making updates, major and minor, that are often first caught by accident by people in the digital marketing game. This has lead to a bit of a group mentality on sharing information and trading tips. But with Google constantly shifting the field, how can anyone keep up?

 

Time to get in shape (SEO style)

Training your brain for SEO is a must, and it means more than just adjusting the way you write.

 

Adaptability

With an ever-changing field, you have to be ever-changing yourself. You know that saying “Jack of all trades, master of none?” It ends with “better than a master of one.” It’s better to be competent at 40 different kinds of writing than be an unmatched wizard at writing meta descriptions. 

With competency and practice comes expertise. Practice writing different styles, especially in your free time. Practicing being adaptable is another skill that everyone should be doing anyway. This can be practiced in a variety of different ways, with options for different lifestyles:

 

  • Active lifestyle: Try rock climbing. If you have a set plan on a route and are unwilling to divert from it, you’re going to get stuck. You have to make things up on the spot.
  • Social lifestyle: This might not sound like the ideal social activity, but try improv. Improv, in its very name, forces improvisation in expected situations. 
  • Introverted/Literary lifestyle: If you don’t particularly like exercising or interacting with other people in your free time (I fully understand), you might consider board games. There’s a game called Bananagrams (trust me, I know the name is stupid, please just trust me) which is played as single person scrabble. You make your own crossword from a set of letters and have to continue to change your selection of words as you get new letters and grow your board. Adaptability is a necessity and is learned as you play.

 

Social Alliances

Part of SEO culture is depending on blogs, forums, and Twitter to get advice and news on updates. This means that you have to rely on strangers and, often, industry competitors. If you’re not used to this it can be jarring. I’m not fully sure how to help you here, other than encouraging you to find a way to, how to put this delicately, get over it. 

We go further when we work as a group. If you’re not willing to participate, you’re likely to fall behind.

The best way to get better at working with people you aren’t used to working with is experience. Like everything else, practice will improve your skills, but it’s up to you to do the work.

 

Final Thoughts

Your brain, like your body, needs training in all aspects of life. You need to practice decision making, socializing, letting go of ideas, and building up thought processes you hadn’t previously considered. 

Working in SEO makes it particularly important for you to build up all areas of your thinking. Above all else, it requires adaptability.

BERT: The Newest AI

It’s Halloween today and I tried to think of something spooky, and an AI that can think like a human is normally pretty scary. Sadly, a program named BERT that’s just trying its best to help people find what they’re looking for isn’t exactly the Skynet scenario that’s built to frighten. Anyway, onwards with the informative part:

 

What does BERT do?

BERT is Google’s most advanced user-intent AI. Its algorithm will help the search console decipher vague queries. Google has employed user-intent AI’s in the past, but BERT is more advanced than the past programs could have ever dreamed to be.

 

What results does BERT affect?

BERT is still in the process of being rolled out but is expected to impact upwards of 10% of searches. It will affect rankings on those searches and can also impact featured snippets. What’s important to remember is that this update is designed to improve user experience, not webmaster experience.

 

Can I optimize for BERT?

Nope. BERT is not designed to be optimized for. If your content is relevant and well designed for the user’s intent you might have a better chance of ranking higher than in the past, but that is up to BERT. You cannot negotiate with BERT.

 

How does BERT work?

BERT was designed through open sourcing, machine learning, and many Google employees working overtime. It is described on the Google AI blog as “deeply bidirectional, unsupervised language representation, pre-trained using only a plain text corpus (in this case, Wikipedia).”

 

So how should I proceed with my content?

Keep making good content, keep making it relevant. The same rules that applied before still apply now. 

If you’re unsure how to create a content plan or optimize your website for the modern age, contact Mockingbird Marketing and we can talk about it!

Hosting Hack: PHP 7 Vulnerability

The Vulnerability

Over the weekend, a vulnerability was found within recent versions of the PHP7 programming language. The vulnerability allows hackers to take over servers through a remote code execution (RCE). Luckily, not all PHP servers were affected.  More technical information can be found here. 

Our Clients

Thankfully for Mockingbird’s clients, who host through our provider (WP Engine), the vulnerability was not an issue.

 

“WP Engine Security has reviewed the recent PHP vulnerability and have determined that we are not vulnerable because at least one of the NGINX prerequisites is not present.” -WP Engine

Next Steps

If your site is not hosted by WP Engine, I strongly advise that you reach out to your host and have them check your server settings for the vulnerability, and then update to the most recent version of PHP.  If the host has not already handled this, It may be a good time to think about switching to a new hosting company.

How We Can Help

At Mockingbird, we realize that you have way more important things to worry about than technical maintenance and hosting issues. That is why we recently launched our maintenance package. Our goal is to bring you peace of mind, knowing that the technical aspects of your site are monitored and maintained. Not to mention, top of the line hosting on WP Engine is included!

Call us today to learn more about our maintenance package, and any of our other digital marketing services.

Please Spend Time on Your Practice Area Pages

Imagine a consumer going through a crisis. A legal crisis. They turn to your practice, visit your website, and check your practice area pages for the crisis they’re currently in. What do you want them to see?

 

The Bare Minimum

If you want that consumer to become a client you need to show them what they need to see. That is:

  • Whether you cover their type of case
  • Some advice on their crisis so that they know you know what you’re talking about
  • Assurances that you have experience
  • Personal touches to prove that you aren’t just a machine that spits out legalize 

 And, most importantly:

  • More than a single paragraph that briefly describes their crisis and then tells them to call

 

Flesh It Out (Just a Bit)

So now you have the basics of what your page should have. Let’s add some more.

Things that aren’t difficult to add to your page but really do help include:

  • Pictures
  • FAQs
  • Links to resources
  •  Internal linking
  • Past case results
  • Reviews/testimonials

Some of these (FAQs, results, testimonials) might already be available elsewhere on your website. Put a few of them on your practice area pages as well. Give the consumer more information than they need, make them feel like you’re willing to put in the effort. 

 

Content is Worth It

Organic traffic is the most common form of internet traffic, by far (pdf). Failing to adapt your pages for SEO is turning away potential clients before they even get to the door. We get it, lawyers are busy. You shouldn’t be spending your time writing and designing practice pages. Luckily, you can pay other people to do that for you.

If you would like to set up a plan for your website’s content, contact us and we can help you figure out what you need. You might be busy, but, with our help, your firm might be a lot busier.

How to Compete in a Saturated Market

Breaking into a competitive market can feel like trying to be seen in a crowd of thousands. It might feel like this because that’s essentially what it is. You are struggling to catch the eye of a consumer who’s eyes are already full of ads. Some estimates put the number of advertisements the average American is exposed to daily at over 5,000. So how does yours stand out?

 

What are your competitors doing? Don’t do that.

Research your top competitors. Then research their top keywords. Finally, research their client base. Find out where your target audiences overlap and where they break apart. Focus on where they break apart. 

 

Once you’ve found your isolated market you can start targeting them. Remember those competitor keywords you researched earlier? Don’t use those. Find your niche and work for them. If you succeed in turning your target market into clients, you’ve started breaking in. 

 

Get your name out there

Name recognition can’t be undervalued. PPC ads help with this. Even if no one clicks on them, they still see them. Show them enough and they might even remember your brand name. 

 

The other way to increase name recognition is by getting your work into the news or collaborating with established publications via link building or asking them to publish a well-written article you wrote. The goal is expanding your reach within your market.

 

Quality content

It’s been said before and it will be said again, but creating original, high-quality content can make a substantial difference for your business’s visibility. If you decide to follow through with collaborating with an established publication, they will be more likely to work with you if they can see a dense portfolio of well-produced works. 

 

Content doesn’t need to be directly related to your business, but there should be a through-line. If you’re a personal injury law firm you can have a regular publication on interesting drug trials. It’s a niche group and can be linked back to your “Medical Malpractice” or “Defective Drugs” page. 

 

Focus on your assets

This might seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: put your best foot forward. Make sure consumers know the best aspects of your firm first. You can use keyword data for this as well. See what modifiers people use when searching for businesses. If any of them describe your business, advertise that. 

Visibility and advertising are difficult to get right and especially difficult to figure out if you don’t have a degree in digital marketing or years of experience. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. Give us a call and we can discuss what’s best for your law firm!