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10 Best Practices for Structuring URLs to Improve SEO Rankings

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If you want to rank higher in the search results, you need to understand the underlining factors. In most cases, this is the content of your site, incoming links to your site and the overall structure of links throughout your site.

The structure of domain names and URLs is one of the fundamental building blocks of SEO. Given that you have 100% control over your URLs you should make sure yours are working to maximum benefit for your rankings.

Let’s take a look at how you should do it.

In addition to each of the key point and SEO tips below, I also commend you take a look at my WordPress SEO tips guide on Udemy. It’s a great way to get visuals and walkthroughs on what’s working best to rank websites and blogs on the internet today.

#1 Make Your URL Easy to Read

The easier your URL is to read, the easier it will be to index and search. This advice makes common sense, and accessibility has always been a large part of SEO.

The requirement of the search engines is not that the URL is perfectly clean, but rather that it is easily comprehended and understood by those people searching for it.

In addition a simple, easily understood URL is more likely to be clicked on in Google’s organic results improving your CTR. When using WordPress, this can easily be done through the use of permalinks.

#2 Use a Single Domain & Folders Whenever Possible

The evidence suggests that moving content from a sub-domain to subfolder on your main domain will improve search results. Search engines don’t seem to consistently pass ranking to sub-domains.

This does not mean that if a sub-domain is the only way you can set up a blog the idea should be abandoned. Setting up a high quality blog will create tremendous value and should be done regardless of the outcome.

However, the blog is likely to perform better in the rankings and assist the rest of the site’s content performance if it’s all together on one domain.

If you’re unsure on the difference between a domain, sub-domain and folder see this excellent article.

#3 Place Your Keywords in the URLs

Using keywords that you are targeting in your URLs is still an excellent idea. Keywords help search engines understand what your page is about and also help people who are searching using social media platforms or emails. Research has shown that an easy to understand ULR is very helpful to searchers.

Don’t repeat your keywords or make your URLs unnatural however. If there is an opportunity to use you keyword do but not at the expense of misleading searchers.

Using Keywords in URLs

URLs are often copied and pasted. When there is no anchor text in the link, the URL then serves as the anchor text. This means that using your keywords in your URL will also mean that they become part of the anchor text of some of the links which while point at your site.

Anchor text is another very important way that search engines determine what you site is about.
Using URLs in SERPs

Use keyword explorer to do your research on the most effective keywords for your URLs. There is a myriad of free research tools you can use to find out the most searched keywords to include in your URLs.

#4 Shorter is Better than Longer

Keeping your URL as short as possible is recommended. However, you do not have to take this to an extreme. If you can cut it down, then do so, but don’t sacrifice understanding for length.

A good length for an URL is between 40 to 60 characters. Interestingly enough, the issue with a long URL is not due to the search engines being confused; they process long URLs quickly.

Instead, the problem comes with the user experience where research suggests that searchers prefer URLs that are short, easy-to-read, as well as, easy to copy and paste.

Checking URL length can be laborious often it’s quicker to export your URLs into Excel and use Excel to check them.

#5 Stop Words for URLs Are Not Important

Using stop words such as; but, of, the, or, and, a, etc., in the URL is not necessary. Leaving them out may make the URL shorter and easier to read by searchers and so many people do.

Use your best judgment and try to find a balance between URLs that are easy to read and as short as possible.

#6 Match URLs to Titles when You Can

Your titles and URLs do not have to match perfectly but they should send the same signal to search engines about what your article is about.

For example, search engines are now smart enough to figure out that if you have ‘automobile’ in a URL and ‘SUV’ in a URL that your articles is about cars. They know that automobile and SUV are very similar words.

#7 Avoid Unusual Characters or Punctuation from Your URLs

Using characters, symbols, or unknown text will cause havoc on your site. It can break browsers and confuse search bots. Remove or control the utilization of these specific characters.

#8 Use as Few folders as You Can

Generally our home page will have the largest number of links on your website and so it is viewed as the most authoritative on your site as a consequence.

This means that articles that are close to your home page will be viewed as authoritative and those that are far away will be viewed as less authoritative in general.

Slashes, or folders, show search engines how far from the root domain your article is. This means you should try to avoid putting too many slashes or folders into your URLs.

This is also good advice to help keep your URLs relatively short and easy to read. When in doubt simplify.

#9 How to Use Hashes in URLs

Hashes should be used in URLs to direct users to a particular page or comment. Use hashes for tracking purposes and to provide parameters. Using hashes for tasks unrelated to these two functions is a poor idea. See this article for more details on using hashes in URLs.

Wrapping Up

Choosing the right URL can improve levels of traffic to your site and help it rank better in search engines. Follow these simple steps and create URLs that will optimize your site and make it easy for search engines to understand. Implement as many of the ideas as you can and use them as guidelines for all URLs that you create in the future. Go back to all your old URLs and review them against these standards.

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9 Questions You Must Ask When Hiring an SEO Expert in 2019

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Now is a great time to bring in an SEO consultant. In the past, you could maybe get away with DIY SEO, but that time is over. The field has now gotten so complex that SEO is a whole career path in itself.

Are you considering hiring a local SEO consultant? Here are some of the key questions you should ask.

1. Do They Have Years of Experience?

Ideally, when you employ a search engine marketing consultant, they should have years of experience in the industry. Some so-called SEO experts rely on outdated or inappropriate techniques that could actually harm your website’s ranking rather than help it.

A good SEO specialist can implement different kinds of strategies depending on the situation. SEO is not a “one-size-fits-all” line of work. You need to use pick appropriate strategies for certain kinds of businesses.

A good SEO specialist will have experience doing SEO for multiple industries. And they’ll be able to implement a strategy that’s tailor fit to your business. Read more about such expertise from a Harrisburg SEO marketing agency that has been working with local clients for years now.

2. Do They Have a Passion for Learning More?

The world of SEO is constantly in flux. This means a good SEO consultant should have a genuine interest and passion about learning more about the industry.

When you have a good knowledge of SEO trends, you can predict what’s going to happen. Then, you can use that knowledge to give your clients an edge over the competition.

A good SEO specialist should have so much knowledge about their field that they can come up with multiple methods to accomplish any one goal. Of course, this takes experience, but to truly have an edge, you need to have passion as well.

3. Do They Have Good Communication Skills?

It’s no use being the most passionate and experienced SEO consultant in the world if you don’t have the right communication skills. When you hire an SEO worker, don’t underestimate the importance of communication skills.

Many companies make the mistake of hiring the best “on paper” candidates, only to find they’re very poor at communicating. This can result in an SEO strategy that doesn’t really suit your needs.

4. Are They a Good Fit for Your Company?

Sometimes, being a good communicator isn’t enough. Your SEO specialist also needs to be a good fit for your company culture.

It’s sometimes better to work with the slightly less qualified candidate if it seems like their personality will mesh well with your company. If you hire someone who doesn’t fit in well with your company culture, it could result in a lot of problems in the future.

For example, they could end up leaving the company within a short frame of time. This is undesirable because you’ve wasted time, energy, and money training this person. Hiring someone who doesn’t fit into your company culture could also result in workplace arguments, leading to huge losses of productivity and motivation.

When you interview a candidate, you should always make sure they have the skills they’ll need to do the job. But you should also make sure they get on well with the people they’ll be working with during their time at the company.

5. What Tools Will They Use?

Do you have any specific pieces of tools in mind for your SEO specialist to use? In this case, then you should ensure they have experience using those specific tools. Or you should be prepared to give them the necessary time to learn how to use them.

If you aren’t sure what the top SEO experts and bloggers are using, all you need to do is take a few minutes and read through any of the top SEO blogs in the market today. Names like Neil Patel, Brian Dean, and others are always discussing the latest methods and tools they are using to achieve their results.

Examples of good SEO tools include programs like Ahrefs, Long Tail Pro, or Moz.

6. Do They Have an Understanding of Marketing?

Some SEO specialists are great when it comes to doing SEO, but have a poor grasp of marketing. Ideally, you want your SEO specialist to have a good knowledge of marketing theory and techniques. Understanding the psychological aspect of marketing is just as important as making sure your website contains all of the keywords you need.

SEO content not only needs to make your page show up on Google, but it also needs to keep readers’ attentions once they enter the page. A good SEO specialist can create a page that’s not only a hit on Google, but is also great from a marketing perspective.

7. Do They Have a Proven Track Record?

When hiring a search engine optimization specialist, you need to look for someone who has a proven track record for getting the job done.

What results have they gotten for their clients on previous jobs? Do they have a proven record for increasing sales? Or getting the page ranked higher on Google?

Whenever you do an interview, make sure you focus on previous results. SEO knowledge is easy to come by these days, but actually getting results is not easy to fake. Make sure you ask for references and also follow up on them.

8. Can They Work Well With Your Web Developers?

A good SEO specialist will have full knowledge of all things SEO. They should be able to work very closely with your web developers to implement things like HTML tags.

Since your web developers will need to work with your chosen SEO specialist on a daily basis, you should be prepared to ask your web developers what they think of your chosen candidate. You might even want to include them in the interview process.

9. Do They Appreciate What You’re Trying to Achieve?

The ideal candidates need to understand exactly what it is your company is trying to achieve. SEO should be a central part of your digital marketing strategy and there should be very clear set goals.

For example, maybe the intention is to turn people who click on your website into paying customers. In this situation, it’s no good getting thousands of clicks if nobody is actually buying anything.

Take Your Time Hiring a Local SEO Consultant

Getting the right local SEO consultant can take time. It’s important you don’t rush into things too quickly.

Take the time to find the right candidate. You’re looking for someone who is not only skilled and knowledgeable about SEO, but also someone who’s a great fit for you and your company.

Need more tips on marketing? Then check out our marketing blog!

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Is There An App for That? The Top 5 SEO Tips for Mobile App Ranking

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In the world of Google and website traffic, you want to make sure all your work is as optimized as possible. Did you know that also pertains to your mobile app ranking?

Companies that sell and distribute retail benefit immensely from taking advantage of an app by creating a quick and easy way to browse their products and make purchases. The roadblock, however, is getting visitors to their website to download their mobile app.

You can actually boost the popularity of your app through search engine optimization (SEO). By combining the worlds of desktop and mobile, you can optimize your mobile app and increase your app download volume and quality ranking.

To learn how SEO affects mobile app ranking, get started with these top tips.

1. Make Sure the App Name is Branded

The name of your app can prove to earn you search engine rankings if it is named in line with your brand or named according to a keyword you are wanting to rank for. Getting the most popular mobile app marketplaces like the Android Market and the Google Play store will help drive more traffic to your mobile app site. Take advantage of these linking opportunities by using the anchor text wisely.

For example, if your company name is “We Heart Cats” and that is the branded keyword you’d like to rank for, then you should try and have the name of your app be the same.

2. Link Your App to Your Website and Profile Pages

Taking advantage of linking in the websites and pages that get the most traffic to your app is a great way to direct visitors to your mobile app. Consider taking advantage of some of your most important pages, such as your homepage or a services page, to make a link to your app download page as easily visible as possible.

You may even want to consider creating a landing page and an email campaign that is dedicated to highlighting your app. These pages may include a description of the app and its features, screenshots of your app in action, and reviews of your app. An out-of-the-box idea could include a tutorial on how to create an app that directs to your app at the end of the tutorial.

3. Use Anchor Text Strategically

Make sure you include the name of your brand in the anchor text that links to your mobile app. Many make the mistake of simply saying “Download iPhone App” without including the name of the app. You may notice that larger companies don’t use their branded names in the anchor text to the app, but do not follow this path!

While it may be visually pleasing to see a clean button that directs to the “App Store” to a varying degree, you are losing valuable link equity in not having any anchor text.

Instead, include your app name. For example, if you want to link your “We Heart Cats App” then you want to have “We Heart Cats App” in your anchor text. Try “Download the We Heart Cats App Today”.

4. Offer a QR Link on Your Desktop Landing Page

You want to make it as easy as possible to download your app. That’s where QR codes come in. A QR code can allow desktop visitors to easily access the app by simply scanning the QR code from there phone. This will trigger the download of the app automatically.

Make sure you compress the link before you put it on your page. If your URL exceeds 50 characters then it will fail to scan and upload your app. Use a link compression or QR platform that can also show you bot QR crawl requests.

5. Cross-Promote Your App for Mobile

Make sure there is a link to your mobile app wherever your audience is! You already have an audience that regularly visits your desktop and mobile website. Now that you have an app, take advantage of the audience already there as well.

The tried and true cross-promotion trifecta means to make sure you are promoting your website to mobile users, searchers, and bots. These three cross-promote methods will allow browsers to come to your site and notice the link to your mobile app on your pages and will both drive users to your app or allow bots to crawl the link to boost your organic search results.

Make sure you have a link to your app on top of all your pages, whether they visit your site on mobile or desktop. You can also take advantage of crawling apps and link your app using optimized anchor text.

Next Steps: How Will You Optimize Your App for SEO?

When search engines index, display and rank mobile apps, they are simultaneously creating hundreds of backlinks for all those app downloads to boost mobile app ranking. This will give you a huge leg up in organic search both for your mobile app, as well as your mobile and desktop websites.

With that, higher mobile app and website traffic creates more downloads, which creates more backlinks, and so on. This phenomenon can create massive profitability in those that take advantage of mobile app optimization.

When you’re ready to take these tips and implement them in your SEO strategy, be sure to take advantage of all the tips and tricks on ZacJohnson.com. We offer professional digital marketing guidance for any level.

Contact us today for more information or to use our services.

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Ditching DIY SEO: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Your Own SEO Expert

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Since the digital revolution kicked off, three little letters have influenced every web-based marketing campaign: SEO. Indeed, search engine optimization is still the crux of any good campaign.

In fact, SEO is so significant that spending is fast-approaching $80 billion with no signs of slowing down!

So SEO is important. That much we understand. But you should also understand that you’re better off outsourcing your SEO services.

Here are five reasons why acting as your own SEO expert isn’t as good of an idea as you think.

1. A Barebones SEO Strategy Isn’t Enough

Perhaps you already have a basic understanding of all things SEO. You know how to research keywords, your site uses original content, and you’re already on Google.

Except you’re only the second page of Google. And as a result, you’re not seeing any traffic.

Knowing what SEO is and how to put in place a barebones strategy won’t get you anywhere.

Unless you’re one of the first three results on a search engine, you’re about as good as invisible. Together, the first three results make up 61.5% of all search traffic.

You have to be better than basic to generate the traffic you’re after.

2. Penalties Come With a Hefty Cost

Poor SEO implementation doesn’t only mean you’re missing out on search traffic. It could mean that your site gets removed from Google altogether.

Avoid common mistakes like:

  • Content scraping
  • Keyword spamming
  • Poor site optimization
  • Domain cloaking

An SEO misstep — whether intentional or not — can mean spending weeks trying to get your site visible to a search engine once again. Instead, consider contacting an SEO expert and crafting a proposal for SEO services. Even if you don’t end up going with the SEO company that writes up a proposal and plan of attack, you can still use it as a reference guide on the work required to hit their SEO and growth goals for your site.

3. Hiring an SEO Expert Can Save Time and Money

Even if you know the ins-and-outs of the SEO world, crafting a viable SEO strategy takes dozens of hours. That means spending precious time away from growing your business.

And each moment you take your eye off the prize is another moment where your competition can pull ahead.

SEO consulting is a wonderful investment because it lets you focus on doing what you do best. Let an SEO pro handle the research and details.

4. SEO Principles Change… A Lot

The scary thing about SEO is that what works today isn’t guaranteed to work tomorrow. In fact, what works today may still result in the de-indexing of your website!

Since 2003, there have been over 70 algorithmic changes.

What’s more, these changes aren’t going to slow down anytime soon. As the web begins to migrate toward a decidedly mobile market, you can expect changes to occur as often as consumers’ tastes.

5. SEO Requires a Multi-Platform, Multi-Faceted Strategy

Think you’re ready for the big leagues? Here are just a few of the things you’ll need to succeed:

  • On-site optimization
  • Off-site optimization
  • Social media marketing
  • Rich snippets
  • Knowledge of keyword bidding
  • Fresh, constant content
  • Optimized images
  • A mobile-friendly approach
  • Local and global approaches

Yikes. That’s quite an intimidating list. It’s far too much for most people to keep up with.

SEO is so much more than a few keywords here and there or a great click-through rate. Great SEO requires constant care and attention on a variety of platforms, with more coming all the time.

Leave It to the Pros: If You’re Not an Expert, Hire an SEO Expert

If you’re a small or medium-sized business, it’s understandable that you may want to save money by serving as your own SEO expert. But outsourcing your SEO consulting will benefit you in so many ways.

Have any SEO or marketing related questions? Maybe you want to see the benefits for yourself.

I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch today.

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Hi, I’m Zac Johnson

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