The Importance of Implementation for SEO Success

Implementation is one of the toughest challenges any SEO consultant faces. That’s because making many of the key changes we recommend takes an investment of time, resources and planning from the client.

The most successful client engagements develop from a true partnership among teams, including the SEO consultants and account managers working closely with client-side project managers, developers and key stakeholders.

We make customized recommendations based on your product, target audience and marketing goals, and then continue to support you throughout implementation as needed. In some cases, the CRI team can even implement the recommendations for you.

Roadblocks to SEO Implementation

However, as client managers, it’s important for us to understand that it’s not always an easy process.

There are a number of reasons that could prevent clients from implementing SEO recommendations:

  • The CMS may not be as easily customizable as the client team initially believed.
  • There may be a lengthy approval process that recommendations need to go through first.
  • The website may be in line for a redesign and the webmaster is pushing back with making any updates before the refresh launches.

Often, it’s simply a resource issue that puts SEO recommendations on the back-burner.

The Importance of Prioritizing SEO Implementation

While all of these are valid, keep in mind the following:

  • Without making any major updates to the site, you can’t expect the results that you’re trying to accomplish. It’s very important to understand that implementing recommendations is crucial to any SEO program success.
  • It does take time with search engines to register your site’s updates. So, the sooner you implement the SEO recommendations, the sooner you will see a boost in performance.
  • Testing things out can lead to more effective strategy and tactics. What makes paid search so flexible and powerful is the ability to constantly test the ad copy to determine what brings the highest click-through rate at the lowest cost. Of course, organic optimization is completely different and you won’t be able to see the same results in the same timeframe as with a PPC campaign. However, implementing SEO recommendations quickly, monitoring performance and adjusting tactics as needed can significantly boost organic results.

Troubleshooting SEO Challenges

Here at CRI, we perform implementations for a number of clients and have seen great success.

When this method is not possible, educating clients on the importance of SEO implementation, explaining potential results and providing competitive examples help the most.

What helps you to make sure the SEO recommendations get implemented? How do you overcome obstacles on this front if there are limitations as to what can be done?

Interested in learning more about trends and developments with Google? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
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Location does matter – when it comes to organic search results

It’s 6 a.m. on Monday morning and I have one thing on my mind: coffee. So I grab my cell phone and search the query “coffee.” Google doesn’t necessarily know my intent is behind the query, but it will make an assumption about what I’m trying to find.

Google Hummingbird and Semantic Search

Google’s algorithm is programmed to not only know what you are searching for, but why you are searching for it. In August 2013, Google launched an algorithm update called Hummingbird, which changed the future of SEO. Hummingbird focused on semantic search. It sought to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent.

We’ve come a long way since Hummingbird. Google has the ability to uncover a searcher’s intent through a number of factors such as:

  • Trending topics
  • Geographical location
  • The query itself
  • The user’s search history
  • And many other factors

You also may recall the Google Pigeon update, which first launched in July 2014 and strived to provide more accurate local search results. Google stated that the goal of Pigeon was to create closer ties between the local algorithm and the core algorithm. Ever since the rollout of Pigeon, location-based searches have become an essential component of SEO efforts.

Local Search and User Intent

When I ran my coffee search on my mobile phone, the top results were all local search results, as you can see in the screenshot. (I also ran this test logged out and came up with the same results). Google assumed I was looking for the closest place to my home to get coffee, and it was right.

Top 3 Organic Results

 

If we look a bit deeper at the search results, we see that Google has me covered in other ways. As I scroll down the page, other results include: Wikipedia Results for Local Coffee Shop

  • Wikipedia: It’s the top traditional (non-local) organic result for coffee. So if I actually wanted to know where coffee comes from or its history, I have the top web resource for information.
  • Knowledge graph: Google is also showing me the knowledge cards for coffee, just in case I wanted to know how many calories are in a cup.

Positions 2 through 5 are traditional (non-local) results, but when you look more closely, you notice they actually are local results:

  • Yelp: Yelp is ranking in positions 2 and 3 for “best coffee and tea in Watertown” and “best coffee shop in Watertown.”
  • Local vendor site: Kefi’s Kitchen and Coffee, a local shop in Watertown, holds the no. 4 and 5 spots, for its Yelp page and website. This speaks to the power of local search, and specifically user intent via location. Based on my location and device, Google has determined these results as the most suited to what my intent is with the search for “coffee.”

The bottom line: Information about coffee couldn’t be more accessible to me. So I can get my answer even faster, without having to click into a website. This goes back to Google’s mission to provide users with the most accurate information possible in the quickest manner.

Google Results

How Location-Based Search Changes With You

What would my search results look like if I were in a completely different location? There are several ways to manipulate your search results for a specific location, but I’ll give you the two easiest ways:

  • I Search From: A site that gives you the Google results of the city and state you provide and allows you to select the device you’re using.
  • AdWords Ad Preview and Diagnosis: Another tool that can help you preview search results in a different location or on a different device is the Google tool.

The Future of Location-Based Search

The search landscape is continuing to evolve. Local search is becoming more and more relevant in the search landscape. Search engines know who you are, where you are and what device you are using. You will be served results accordingly.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Optimize for local search results: It’s clear local businesses that rank well organically on broader terms like “coffee” are doing so because of Google’s emphasis on serving up localized results. In most cases, the name of the city is featured in the title tag, which is a key indicator to Google of where the business is located.
  • Don’t Worry Too Much About Rankings: Remember that search results will be different depending on what location you are in, so don’t put too much emphasis on where you are ranking. Instead, just be sure you are getting in front of the right people.

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

SEO tactics that work for Pharmaceutical Companies

The Pharmaceutical Industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the US. As it involves the topic of human health, it’s not surprising that any marketing activity to promote pharmaceutical products is highly scrutinized. Ensuring that your messaging doesn’t involve any false claims or miscommunicate product information is absolutely critical. This represents a big challenge for marketers. When it comes to SEO, where content really is king, this extra layer of restrictions can become a major obstacle in making a program successful.

With restrictions in mind, SEO can bring a lot of value to the pharmaceutical sites and shouldn’t be ignored. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re working on a pharmaceutical product.

Multiple domains

In pharmaceutical marketing, healthcare providers and patient audience are typically targeted separately. Which means that you would have to deal with two separate websites, targeting patients and healthcare providers (HCPs). If you’re lucky, they may live on one domain (i.e. example.com/hcp and example.com/patient), which would be more beneficial for your domain authority. However, in most cases, these properties are hosted on completely separate domains with specific HCP or patient content.

In addition to the patient and HCP domains, many pharma brands also opt to have a separate more flexible, unbranded domain to drive awareness about a certain disease. Because this property is unbranded, there is a lot more flexibility to change or update its content. Therefore, a typical SEO program for one pharma product involves at least two to three sites.

Approval process

Keep in mind that any recommendations to update front-end website copy will have to go through legal approval process. This includes all on-page elements, such as title tags, meta descriptions, etc. Therefore, the updates will not happen overnight. In order to speed up the process, make sure that you learn as much as possible about the product and get the legal guidance from your client. In the meantime, you can work on making sure that the site is search-friendly on back-end, as technical recommendations are typically easy to push through as they don’t require legal approval.

Authoritative competition

If you perform a disease-related search query, you will rarely see a pharmaceutical brand ranking in the first three results. The top unbranded positions in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are typically dominated by highly authoritative informational websites, such as WebMD or MayoClinic. This doesn’t mean that you can’t rank on the first page, however, ranking in the first three positions would be extremely challenging.

Google SERP updates

Last year, Google started updating how medical search results are displayed. For example, its Knowledge Graph panel now includes rich content on health conditions, even with downloadable PDFs. There are also “answer boxes” that show up on the first page of search results, directly pulling information from the websites. For example, you will see this “answer box” if you search for “knee pain”.

As users want to get information they’re looking for with the least amount of clicks, these updates are very helpful to them. At the same time, healthcare websites are seeing dips in their organic traffic as a result.

Pharmaceutical Digital Ad Spend

With all these challenges in mind, SEO and digital marketing in general represent a big opportunity for pharmaceutical companies. Recent eMarketer data shows that the digital ad spending keeps growing exponentially and is projected to grow.

As marketers, we understand the challenges and can customize smart SEO strategies that drive highly relevant traffic to Pharmaceutical sites.

Interested in learning more about SEO? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

How Does the New Google Ad Layout Impact SEO?

Google SERP News: Right Rail Ads are Gone

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

How to Check for 404 Errors (the Right Way)

No website is perfect. But of all the potential issues that could affect user experience, none is so obvious as the one that announces itself: the 404 error. If a user encounters this issue on your or your client’s site, the server will clearly state there is a problem, usually with some variation of “404 error: Page not found.”

If you manage a very large site, 404 errors are inevitable at some point. The key is establishing a process to find and resolve them quickly and efficiently.

What is a 404 Error?

A 404 error is a page that was not properly removed from a website or redirected in your content management system (CMS). As a result, the page appears to live on the website, but it no longer exists on your server. If a user tries to visit the page, they receive an error message.

Regularly resolving your site’s 404 errors is a signal to Google that you are maintaining a healthy website. It also improves user experience by minimizing the number of broken pages visitors may encounter.

Tips for Managing 404 Errors

  • Prioritize: If you have a large site with hundreds of 404 errors, the best option is to prioritize your efforts. Use Google Analytics (or your preferred web analytics platform) to evaluate how much organic traffic each 404 page has received over a predetermined period of time. Tackle the pages with the most traffic first, and work your way down.
  • Automate: You can automate redirects using the .Htaccess file in your CMS. Choose which page you want to be the replacement for a 404 error page. It may be a custom redirect page, or you may want to send users back to your homepage or to a search function. Please note: An .htaccess file is an extremely sensitive file in your CMS. We highly recommend your IT department sign-off on any edits to an .htaccess file.

3 Tools for Fixing 404 Errors

Outlined below are some tools to effectively find and resolve 404 error pages.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools (a.k.a. Search Console) is a resource from Google that web developers use to monitor website issues and control how their sites appear in search results.

Assuming your GWT is verified, here are the steps you take:
1. Login
2. Select your domain
3. Select ‘Crawl’ on the left sidebar
4. Crawl Errors
5. Select ‘404 Errors’
6. Select ‘Download’ to export as Excel/CSV file

Google Webmaster Tools

 

Screaming Frog (free and paid versions)

Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is a tool that allows you to easily crawl hundreds of URLs for 404 errors. The free version will crawl up to 500 URLs; the paid version will crawl an unlimited number across your entire website. You just enter the URLs and the program creates a file ready for export.

Yoast SEO for WordPress (free and paid versions)

If you host your entire site or blog on WordPress, Yoast SEO (formerly known as WordPress SEO by Yoast) is a tool that can help you configure your pages for SEO. This plugin, which you download, allows you to edit your URLs, meta data, XML Sitemaps, as well as monitor for 404 errors via integration with Google Webmaster Tools. The premium version is available for $69/year for one site.

When to Use 301 Redirects

We highly recommend 301 redirects when you want to redirect individual pages or even entire websites. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. These types of redirects are especially useful when the missing page enjoyed a high organic search rank on search engines. The new, 301 redirect page maintains the SEO strength of the link even when redirected.

Sometimes there isn’t a good page to redirect to. In this case, a custom error page should be provided.

Creating Custom 404 Pages

If a permanent 301 redirect does not make sense, then you can consider creating a customized, visitor-friendly error page to appear in place of the missing URL. Typically, website use the same custom page across the site for 404 errors.

Custom error pages typically feature the following:

  1. A message to the user explaining that the page no longer exists
  2. A search box to help a visitor find exactly what they want
  3. A link to the home page

We hope this has been a helpful tutorial on how to find and fix 404 pages.

You can make it even easier on yourself and have Charles River Interactive give your site an in-depth SEO Analysis. Contact us today.

Interested in learning more tips for managing your website? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
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How Does the New Google Ad Layout Impact SEO?

A couple weeks back, Google confirmed that it was removing ads from the right hand side of desktop search results. This change happened pretty quickly and led to a lot of conversations around what this meant for paid search.

But a lot of questions have also surfaced around how this change would impact SEO. Some are calling SEO the loser in all of this, while others are viewing this as an opportunity for SEO to be a winner.

Google’s Changes and SEO: 3 Facts to Know

It does not appear that these ad layout changes will change search results for most users. In fact, some users will get an improved experience. Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Google is bigger on mobile than desktop: Last year, Google confirmed that more searches happen on a mobile device – which never had the right rail ads – than on a desktop. That means, Google’s top users will not be impacted by this change.
  2. New paid search ad space only affects “highly commercial queries”: That is, searches where Google believes the user’s goal is to make a purchase. The four paid search ads at the top of the page will relate to those types of searches.
  3. Google values user experience: Google made this update to improve the user experience, and it demonstrates they are committed to searcher intent. By focusing on highly commercial queries, Google looks to give searchers with the intent to make a purchase more relevant ads.

Google’s Ad Layout and Organic Search: What Happens Now?

We know that the changes will affect SEO, but it isn’t yet clear to what extent. What we know for certain is that Google will continue to make changes that focus on a better user experience. If you want to stay ahead of the game, you should always put time into implementing a solid SEO strategy.

Let’s review some key points for you to consider:

  • Space just got far more competitive for organic
    What was formerly the top organic search result for a highly commercial query (where purchase is the intent) is now the fourth paid search ad. Research shows that the further down a result appears in the Search Engine Results pages (SERPS), the fewer clicks it receives. Now, organic search results may display below the fold on desktop searches specific to these queries. Previously, organic search results received as many as 70 percent of clicks. It will be interesting to see if this stat changes.
  • Expect to see more from the Knowledge Graph
    The removal of the right rail ads frees up a lot of space in the SERPS for more information to populate in the Knowledge Graph panel. Again, since Google is all about focusing on user intent and getting users accurate information as soon as possible, the Knowledge Graph feature is expected to become more prominent. We’ve already seen different versions of this panel, including the Health Conditions Knowledge Graph, which rolled out last year. So this is a critical time to focus on getting your local search efforts intact and your schema markup in place to take advantage of this newly open real estate.

Interested in developing a better understanding of Google as a marketer? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
Google SERP News: Right rail ads are gone
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