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Joomla Website Design

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I am excited to announce that I can now also offer Joomla Website Design to my customers. This is in conjunction with Adorn Media, a leading Joomla Website Designer.

Jana Pilkington-Williams from Adorn is a whizz when it comes to Joomla and designing websites for it.

I have always been a staunch supporter of designing websites in WordPress, but I am very happy that I can now also help those businesses with an established Joomla website.

If you need help designing a website in Joomla, drop me an email here.

The Importance of Local Business Directories in SEO

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I recently read an article on Search Engine Journal about local directories. This reminded me of how important these local directories can be for a successful SEO campaign.

If you run a local business that provides products\services mostly to a small geographic area you need to be listed in every single local directory you can find. These listings provide advertising for your business, and also provides some of the geographic signals that search engines like to see for local businesses.

So, not only does your listing have the potential to bring in some customers, it will also help to increase your website’s exposure in the search engines.

This article sparked a few ideas in my mind, and lead to the creation of PretoriaEastPages.co.za, a Pretoria East Business Directory. The idea is to help businesses in my area to get more business from the search engines.

What makes Pretoria East Pages different?

Well, it is run by a SEO. So if you list your business, you can rest assured that I am doing my best to ensure that you get some business from the directory.

As an introductory offer any business can list for free.

I suggest you check it out! It can give your SEO Pretoria campaign a nice little boost.

Johannesburg SEO: 7 Questions to Ask Any Company

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JohannesburgSearching for a reliable Johannesburg SEO Company?

This can be a challenging task if you aren’t equipped with the right information. I decided to create the following questions to assist you in choosing the right search engine optimization company.

If you start asking these questions, and you can see the SEO grappling for answers, it is time to move swiftly along to the next company.

 

1. What will you be changing on my website?

Almost every Joburg SEO agency will state that they will be optimizing your website. What does that really mean though?

Optimizing a website is broken down into two major segments, on-site SEO and on-page SEO.

Any Johannesburg SEO worth their salt, will be able to explain the difference between these two areas. Here is a breakdown of the two areas.

On-site SEO

A good company will know that on-site optimization relates to the following:

  • Creating a solid site architecture that will allow authority to flow through the site
  • Identifying and eliminating duplicate content
  • Improving pages with thin content
  • Identifying any status errors, broken links and 404 pages (Bonus points if the company mentions Google Search Console)
  • Auditing site speed, and improving the load times
  • Implementing schema markup for search engines to understand your site better

On-page SEO

After the company has explained the above to you, they should be discussing the following with you:

  • META information: every webpage should be built around a specific keyword and theme. This META information is vital for search engines to understand what a page is about, and will be shown in the search results pages.
  • Keyword density: there was a time when a web page stuffed with keywords would rank nicely in the search results. This time is long gone. This is something that must be closely monitored to avoid over-optimization penalties. Be wary of an SEO that mentions very specific percentages here. Each and every industry is unique, and your a large part of your campaign (with the exception of the obviously shady tactics) should be modeled after what is working for your competitors
  • Keyword placement: Google and other prominent search engines closely look at where keywords are placed inside your content. The positions that are most critical is the title tag, header tags, the first image on the page and in the first or last sentence.
  • Internal linking: your website’s should link to other relevant pages on your website. This increases the authority of your website, and helps the user to find the important information.

2. Do You Believe Content is Important?

Your site’s content is the building block of any good SEO campaign. If the Johannesburg SEO company you are speaking with is not talking about content, or dismissing it as not important, you should move on to the next candidate. A reliable company will understand the importance of creating content on your blog, and other channels as this is one of the most affordable methods of marketing available.

More importantly, good content will remain relevant for many years to come. This means that a single article on your blog, will be driving leads, sales and profits for your business for many years to come.

3. What types of backlinks will you build?

Although search engines won’t say it out loud, links are the biggest factor behind any successful optimization campaign. It can also be a destructive weapon in the wrong hands. It is crucial that you ask any prospective SEO company what types of backlinks they will be creating.

The best links are often the hardest links to get. A prospective company might say that they will be building directory links, web 2.0s, article directories, or even press releases. These are some of the easiest links to build, meaning their effect will be diluted since everybody else has them anyway. Easy links can be dangerous, and can lead to penalties if abused.

If a company mentions editorial links, or guest posts, you know you are on the right track. These are the single most effective link source moving forward into 2016. There are still other links that your site will require to lay the groundwork, but the real power comes from these types of links.

4. Who will be working on my site?

Many Johannesburg SEO agencies will sign you on, only to outsource the work to companies in India, the Phillipines or Romania. This is bound to not end well, as these companies are being paid very low wages and they tend to work on volume, instead of quality. As with most things in life, paying less means you will get less.

Make sure that the work is performed in-house by a company in South Africa.

5. What is your definition of a successful campaign?

Success is often defined differently by SEO companies. A good company will label a campaign as successful, only if the client has seen an increase in sales and revenue. Traffic is great, but if it doesn’t convert into leads and sales, it is worthless.

Trustworthy companies understand that growing organic traffic is only the first milestone on the road to greater sales and revenue for their clients.

It is critical to ask any prospective agency what the plan is once organic traffic has increased.

6. Do you consider your SEO practices to be white or black hat?

White hat and black hat are terms coined by the SEO industry. These terms are thrown around alot, and typically white hat means an agency is sticking to the rules laid down by search engines like Google. Black hat refers to methods that are not approved by Google, and can lead to penalties.

I believe that these terms are a little silly, but you should be asking your SEO this question to guage whether he is comfortable discussing their methods. Any campaign that focuses on on-site optimization, content development, social media and quality editorial links will be the hallmarks of a well planned SEO campaign.

7. Do you have referrals?

Referrals are huge in any industry, not just SEO. Any business that has achieved some level of success, will have clients that are willing to talk about it. Ask for referrals!

If you are interested in working with a nationally recognized SEO company, then get in touch now.

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One of the best SEO case studies I have ever come across

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I do a lot of research when it comes to SEO. I love reading about techniques being tested by other SEO’s and their findings. I typically remain a little skeptical whenever I read these case studies though.

The search landscape has just too many variables to even name (see Brian Dean’s exhaustive list here), let alone to take into consideration when running a test. At best, a decent SEO will be able to rattle off dozens of different ranking factors widely considered to be in use by Google’s algorithms.

Up until now I had thought it would be near impossible to run a proper seo test excluding all variables, except for the one being tested.

The guys over Reboot Online proved me wrong. They recently did a study on the use of authority outbound links.

I have for quite some been a big believer in adding outgoing links to relevant resources on pages and posts that I was optimizing.  Other seo’s have been doing the same. We were all operating on the assumption that it had to be important somehow.

With this case study, Reboot Online has proven that these types of outgoing links definitely play a role in Google’s algorithm.

Special shout out to Matt Diggity from Diggity Marketing for putting me on to this case study. Matt runs a kick-ass SEO blog himself, and I make sure not to miss any of his posts.

The guys at Reboot Online did an excellent job with this case study, and I can’t wait for more studies like this one.

Keep up the great work, guys!

P.S. For local companies, these types of outgoing links might be the local business chamber, other companies not in your industry, local area blogs, etc. Hit me up here if this is something you might want to implement on your site for your Pretoria SEO campaign.

How much does Search Engine Optimization cost?

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This is a question I get a lot. Unfortunately there is no set price for search engine optimization. As with most things in life, you will come across companies charging what you consider to be arm and a leg, and you will find companies that charge so little it is hard to imagine them making a profit.

When you decide to work with a big agency, you will be charged quite a good deal more than when working with a smaller company.

Big agencies vs small companies

Big agencies have more overheads (fancy offices, company vehicles, call centre agents, etc) that must be recovered somehow. The question you have to ask yourself, how much of your hard earned money is going for actual marketing of your website, and how much of that is going towards fancy offices with big boardrooms?

On the other side of the spectrum, you will find companies willing to work for only a couple hundred rand a month. Again, you have to ask yourself a question.

How many clients would a company need to make a living if they only charge R300 or R500 or R750 per month?

You are bound to be one of dozens and dozens of customers, meaning you are likely not going to be a top priority.

What to expect from a good SEO company

Any reliable SEO worth his or her salt, will sit with you to learn more about your company, the services you provide and the margins you make on your products and services. By understanding your business, a good SEO company will be able to create a personalized search engine optimization campaign that makes financial sense for your company.

No two companies are the same, and each industry poses its own challenges. A company selling medical aid will be competing against big companies with big budgets (think Discovery, etc), while a carpet cleaning company in Pretoria East will be competing with smaller companies with much smaller marketing budgets. Your SEO consultant should discuss your competitors with you, to get a feel of what they might be doing in terms of search engine optimization.

After all, with SEO it is a case of beating the competition. If your SEO doesn’t mention your competitors, you should be alarmed! If your search engine marketer doesn’t know who your competitors are, how can he\she beat them?

==>> Check out my article on how to hire the right SEO company

Different industries and different areas

In the same way that no two companies are the same, no two industries are the same. Plumbing companies and dentists are completely different, and their search engine optimization will also be different. In the same way, there might be a company in your industry and area that are spending a lot on SEO. That will only be obvious if your SEO is doing his homework, and investigating your competitors.

Let’s be honest, with SEO (and anything else), do you want to pay someone who are just grabbing figures out of thin air with no knowledge about your company and your situation, or would you  rather trust your hard earned cash to someone who knows and understands your business?

With all that being said, I want to turn this question around and ask…

How much does BAD search engine optimization cost?

Many, many companies have been burnt by bad SEO over the years. Each year Google becomes more strict with their rules. Techniques that worked well two years ago, have become incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands.

Your website is a valuable asset, and you should protect it. For many companies, a website being penalized or de-indexed can be catastrophic. Think about your website as a tap, and your customers as the water that flows from that very tap.

Google can at any time close the tap, and your steady flow of customers will be gone.

So, be very wary of hiring the cheapest internet marketing service you can find. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. And in this case, you could cause alot of damage to your business.

The Cost vs Investment of search engine optimization

This is a very important concept to grasp.

Search engine optimization is marketing.

If your company is still looking at marketing as a cost, you are going to battle to beat out your competition. Marketing (when done right) is an investment into your company.

That’s why any half decent SEO will talk about return on investment (ROI). This is a figure that indicates how much money you made back from the investment made.

Return on Investment Example

You invest R2000\month on your SEO.

You make R10 000 more in sales than before.

Investment: R2 000

Return: R10 000

Return on Investment: R10 000/R20 000 * 100 = 500%

In this example, you are making R5 back for every R1 you invest into SEO.

Think about it this way, if I told you I would give you R100 right now if you first gave me R20 (with no strings attached), would you take me up on my offer?

What makes Google Search Console so important?

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Google Search ConsoleWhen I first started with SEO, I was taught that you start with the on-site and on-page optimization long before you even consider doing anything off-page. A website that lacks solid on-site optimization, won’t respond well to any off-site work anyway. It makes sense to ensure that your website’s engine (on-page) is in a good condition, before pouring in the rocket fuel (off-page factors).

Every single time I start SEO on a new site for a new Cape Town SEO client, the first step I take is to configure Webmaster Tools (renamed Google Search Console recently). Search Console contains a wealth of information on the health of your website as it is seen by Google. Seeing that Google is the number 1 search engine, and that it is exactly where we want to appear well in the SERPs, this is an invaluable resource.

To power up Search Console even further, setup sharing with Google Analytics inside of the Analytics dashboard. This will ensure that the valuable search queries are displayed inside of Analytics, helping us to make informed decisions.

What does Google Webmaster Tools do?

WMT/Search Console assists webmasters in fixing issues that might be holding their sites back in the search engines. When logging in, you will see information like:

Site Health Information

  • Messages or warnings about the health of your site
  • Crawl Errors – this tells you if have pages on your site that can’t be crawled and which pages are the problem so you can fix them
  • Crawl Stats – how many pages have been crawled on your site and when the search engines crawled them
  • Fetch as Google or Bing is a neat little tool that allows you to submit a URL and see your site the way the search engines see it
  • Index Status – the total number of URLs that have been added to the search engine index
  • Malware – the webmaster tools will let you know if any malware has been detected on your site

 Site Traffic Data

  •  Search Queries – the top keywords and pages for your site
  • Links to your site – how many links you have, who’s linking to you, and what pages they are linking to
  • Internal Links – how are your pages linked to each other

Site Optimization Information:

  •  HTML Improvements – this alerts you to issues with the code on your site that may be adversely affecting your SEO.  It also helps you identify duplicate content issues with meta descriptions and page titles.
  • Content Keywords – a list of the most significant keywords and variations Google found on your site. (note if you see words like “viagra” or “payday” it’s possible that your site has been hacked.)

Special thanks to Beth Browning for her original article here

Once you have setup WMT, you can also submit your sitemap. This helps the Google bots and spiders to crawl your website, improves your indexing and this leads to better search visibility.

If you do not currently have WMT setup for your website, you are missing out on a whole lot of useful information that Google provides free of charge.

Not sure how to setup WMT? Drop me an email here, and I would love to assist you.

35 Ways To Make Your Site Search Friendly Before You Hire An SEO

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Credit: SearchEngineLand.com

For all of those web designers and web developers out there, this is a great checklist to ensure any of your new websites are friendly before you launch the site.

Some of these tasks are technical, and you might struggle with it just a little bit.

Pay attention these factors, and you will make my job so much easier 😉

Just kidding, of course.

I could never do what you designers do, and I wouldn’t even try.

Let me know if you have trouble implementing any of these, and your friendly Pretoria SEO expert would love to lend a hand.

Below I have handpicked a few of the factors I see neglected far too often.

 

3. Allow spidering of site via robots.txt. Every now and then when a new site rolls out, the developer forgets to change the robots.txt file to allow the search engines to crawl the pages. If your Web marketer doesn’t think about checking this file, you could spend months wondering why you’re not getting the traffic you should be. Double-check your robots.txt file to make sure it does not “disallow” search engines from crawling your site.

18. Write unique title tags. Every page of the site should start with its own unique title tag. You don’t have to go all SEO on it if time doesn’t permit, but having a title that represents the content of the page is a must for rolling the site out. Keep each one between 35 and 55 characters.

19. Write unique meta descriptions. See above. A good description should be between 100 and 155 characters.

29. Find ways to increase page load speed. There are always things you can do to improve site speed. Look for even the smallest of opportunities to make your pages load even faster.

34. Use search-engine-friendly links. Make sure all your links (except those you deliberately want to keep away from search engines) are using search-engine-friendly link code. Using the wrong link code can inadvertently keep search engines away from very valuable content.

 

What you should know about the new local map pack\snack pack

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Google's new snack pack in action

Google’s new snack pack in action

Over the last month Google has been rolling out a more compact version of the map pack. Users have often been presented with map packs consisting of 3, 5 or even 7 listings in the past. The new snack pack as some call it, have been in testing in a few different markets in the United States.

Apart from the fewer listings, the new pack are consistently ranking much higher compared to the 7 pack. Where the old 7 pack used to rank in the first spot in only 25% of searches according to this report, the new snack pack is reported to take top spot in 93% of searches.

That is an astounding number!

This could have a significant impact for businesses that were previously shown in the 7 pack. This also means seo companies will have their work cut out for them.

The good news is that the new pack isn’t showing up in first spot as much in South Africa. I did a few searches, and in only a small number of them did the new pack show up first.

In some of the searches the map pack were beaten out by 3 organic listings (perhaps the new map pack hasn’t rolled out to those industries in SA yet).

Is your business verified on Google My Business? Is your business listed in the 3 pack?

If not, give me a call on 0766406339 or drop me an email. I would love to help you!

Should you be afraid of negative SEO?

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Credit: Adam Whitaker //adamwhitaker.com

Credit: Adam Whitaker //adamwhitaker.com

I came across this article on Search Engine Watch a few days ago, and wanted to give my take on negative . While negative SEO is definitely a very real thing, and happens on a daily basis, it is not something which most business owners will encounter in their lives.

I have been doing SEO in a bunch of different industries over the last two years, and have never had any of my, or my client’s sites hit by negative SEO. In saying that, I steer clear of certain industries that are known for negative SEO.

Read the below article, but keep in mind that negative SEO is not as prevalent as the article make it seem. Keep in mind that local business owners are very unlikely to ever deal with this tactic, unless perhaps in industries like insurance.

The article also mentions ways to protect your website from negative SEO, while there isn’t any real pro-active measures you can take to prevent negative seo from happening to your site. Dealing with this, entails your search engine optimization company making use of the Disavow Tool. With this tool, webmasters and SEO’s can ask Google to disregard certain links.

We’ve been talking about Negative SEO since the advent of Penguin and many still wonder whether it’s a real threat. The lore is that Google will protect websites from losing traffic due to negative SEO, but is this the truth, or a just myth propagated by Google?

You can find dozens of these gigs on Fiverr – as well as many individuals on sites, like freelancer.com and upwork.com – who offer these services. And for those who used to be in the black hat game, firing up software to drop blog comments, forum and profile links doesn’t take much and costs next to nothing

There are entire companies that have survived by relying on these tactics. Instead of trying to compete in the “content marketing” game, where the ante has been seriously upped, why not stay in their game by obliterating the competition?

Think about it: what happened to the thousands of individuals who used to make a living offering cheap link-building services with 10,000 directory submissions and 500 article submissions? Since this black hat approach simply doesn’t work to rank sites anymore – in fact, the effect is the opposite – why not use the same skills for a different product or service?

Yes, you read it right: large volumes of spam and fake links to destroy your competitor’s rankings. Why spend a fortune on things like content marketing and link attraction, when you can surgically remove your clients with Negative SEO?

We’ve been talking about Negative SEO since the advent of Penguin and many still wonder whether it’s a real threat. The lore is that Google will protect websites from losing traffic due to negative SEO, but is this the truth, or a just myth propagated by Google?

What to do when you get the “Googlebot Cannot Access Your JavaScript and CSS Files” warning

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warning

Google sent out mass warnings to users of Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools). Many webmasters were alerted that: “Googlebot Cannot Access Your JavaScript and CSS Files”.

This warning was issued inside of Search Console, as well as sent via email to webmasters. The email and Search Console notifications also informed webmasters that Googlebot’s inability to crawl these files might result in “suboptimal rankings”.

They make it sound very dramatic, but I am hear to bring some good news. A quick edit to your robots.txt file is like to resolve this issue for you, and get your site back to optimal rankings.

The full warning reads like this:

Google systems have recently detected an issue with your homepage that affects how well our algorithms render and index your content. Specifically, Googlebot cannot access your JavaScript and/or CSS files because of restrictions in your robots.txt file. These files help Google understand that your website works properly so blocking access to these assets can result in suboptimal rankings.

googlebot cannot access css and js files on website

This is what the email notification looks like

In October of last year Google made it widely known that blocking CSS and JavaScript from being crawled would be a transgression of their Webmaster guidelines. The warnings were only issued very recently.

If you received this warning because of your site blocking robots, be happy that you were notified. You know about the issue, and you can take the necessary action to resolve it.

The easy way to fix this, is to open up your robots.txt file. (PLEASE NOTE: if you are even just a little uncomfortable working on your robots.txt file, I would suggest you call your web designer or to make these changes for you.)

Search for the below text:

Disallow: /.js$*

Disallow: /.inc$*

Disallow: /.css$*

Disallow: /.php$*

If any of these lines are present in your robots.txt, you can go ahead and completely remove them. These lines are blocking Googlebot from crawling your CSS and JavaScript.

Once you have removed these lines, head on over to Google’s Fetch and Render tool. This tool will confirm whether Googlebot can now crawl your site without hindrance. If there is something else blocking Googlebot, the utility will advise you of the required steps to be taken.

If all of this sounds G(r)eek to you, give me a call on 076 640 6339 or drop me an email here and I would gladly assist you in fixing this crawl error.