About Matt Foster

Matt Foster is the founder and CEO of ArteWorks SEO.

Google Fiber Coming to 100 Austin Institutions for Free

Fiber Optics

Fiber Optics

Attached please find the PDF doc for the Google Fiber free rollout.  100 nonprofits and organizations are included.  If they are in your neighborhood, then you are likely in. Please scroll through all pages to see all 100 recipients.

Google Fiber Austin PDF Organizations and Institutions

By: Matt Foster, ArteWorks SEO

Fake Online Reviews Cost 19 SEO Companies and Their Clients Dearly – 5 Tips to Doing Reputation Management Correctly

Yesterday the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced that 19 SEO firms and their online reputation management clients had agreed to pay in excess of $350,000.00 in fines for false advertising and deceptive trade practices by posting fake online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google Local and CitySearch. The posting of a fake online review was determined to be a form of false and deceptive advertising known as “astroturfing”.

The undercover sting operation, known as “Operation Clean Turf”, revealed that the fake reviews were obtained by paying individuals in Bangladesh, Eastern Europe and the Philippines from between $1 and $10 per fake review.  It was determined that the reviews would be relied on by consumers in making purchasing decisions and thus constituted false advertising and deceptive trade practices.

1. Don’t Post Fake Reviews

While this may seem blatantly obvious in light of Operation Clean Turf, it still must be stated. Any form of online marketing which is deceptive, fraudulent or misleading should be avoided.

2. Engage Disgruntled Customers

In the event that you do have an unhappy customer, attempt to engage that customer directly and offer to make things right.  Offering a refund, or a discount on a future purchase, or an exchange can go a long way towards smoothing things over and getting a customer to change his or her opinion of your business.

3. Approach Site Owners Directly

In the event that negative press appears on a website such as a discussion forum, it never hurts to simply ask the site owner or administrator to have the negative thread removed.  Oftentimes, simply pointing out to the site owner the harm being caused by the post, as well as your efforts to rectify the situation with the unsatisfied customer can result in the removal of the negative information.

4. Encourage Satisfied Customers to Post Reviews

Encourage all of your customers to post reviews of your business.  While nobody can satisfy every customer, presumably you are still in business because you have mostly satisfied customers.  Encourage these customers to review your business online.  Caveat: do not offer customers incentives for posting favorable reviews or provide suggested language.  If you are doing your job as a business owner, the favorable reviews will come.

5. Hire Only Reputable SEO and Reputation Management Firms

Do your research and due diligence before hiring any SEO firm or reputation management agency.  Find out how long they have been in business, ask if they outsource their work offshores, and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions about the specifics of the strategy that they plan to employ on your behalf.  Remember that you get what you pay for, and if it seems fishy or dishonest, move on to the next agency.

What do you think about the posting of fake online reviews?  Do you have any additional suggestions for business owners seeking to enhance their online reputation?

The official press release from the New York State Attorney General’s Office, including a list of the 19 SEO firms and clients involved, can be found at http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-agreement-19-companies-stop-writing-fake-online-reviews-and

By: Matt Foster

SEO and Issues Relating to Page Load Speed

Speedometer

Is Your Site Speed Adequate?

It seems that web design has come full circle. Not too long ago web pages were designed to be compatible with slow dial up modems and needed to load quickly. A good design therefore kept images and code to a minimum so a user could access the page easily over a modem connection. With the advent of broadband connections page speed became less of a concern and developers were more at liberty to create pages with fancy animations, graphics, transitions and effects, all of which required substantial bandwidth due to the image heavy and code heavy requirements of this type of design. But then came mobile, with bandwidth limitations often similar to that of the dial up connections of yesteryear. Google now includes page load speed as a factor in its search rankings and that has received a lot of attention, with many SEOs saying that most sites do not have to worry about it. However, this ignores usability factors such as bounce rate and rate of page abandonment, and little attention has been given to the negative consequences in search rankings to pages with high rates of abandonment.

Google now factors in page load speed as one of its many considerations in determining the quality of a site to be listed in its search results. Google is not too picky about this, however, as only 5% of pages are claimed to be affected by this consideration. So as long as your site is in the top 95% of pages on the web with regards to page load time, the page speed factor will likely not be of consequence to you. A Google Page Speed tool is available online so that you may see how your page stacks up against all the others. The results are given in a score of from 0 to 100, with any score over 5 (representing 5%) considered acceptable.

The fact that only 5% of web pages are affected by the page speed ranking factor has caused many SEO professionals, while acknowledging the existence of page speed as a factor in rankings, to then advise clients that it is not something with which the client should be concerned. This approach, however, ignores other factors relevant to both users and Google itself, and is demonstrative of a tendency within much of the SEO community to focus on only one or a few factors when advising clients as opposed to considering the big picture.

The problem is twofold. First, a page that loads slowly will discourage users from using the page. A large amount of users leaving the page and returning to the search result is knows as the bounce rate or rate of abandonment (the opposite of this is known as stickiness, when a user “sticks” on a site and clicks through multiple pages). Second, Google considers bounce rates and rates of abandonment in its search rankings.

So let’s take the example of a page that scores a 15 on the page speed tool. An untrained SEO provider might state that this is acceptable. However, what this means is that the page in question, while acceptably exceeding Google’s minimum expectations, is still slower than 85% of the web pages out there. The the page is frustratingly slow, Google’s opinion notwithstanding. Now consider the fact that by some estimates over 50% of all search traffic now comes from mobile devices. What do you do when you are on a mobile device and it takes five, ten or twenty seconds to load a page? Most people return to the search results and try again.

The effect of this is that the site owner is losing a large portion of her potential customers. That is a problem. Focusing on rankings only without respect to usability and conversions is a topic for another article. Suffice it to say, however, that if somewhere around 50% of your users are on mobile and are never making it to your site because of your slow page load speed you have a problem.

So the site owner takes an immediate hit in the bottom line as a result of a high abandonment or bounce rate.

Now this is where the snowball effect comes into play. Google also tracks user behavior after the user leaves the search results and lands on a page. If the user bounces off that page, or quickly abandons it by clicking the “Back” button on the browser, then Google knows that. How would you interpret this if you were Google? If a user finds a search result, goes to a page, and then quickly returns, the most logical interpretation is that the page did not offer information relevant to the user’s search query. So Google considers that as Google is in the business of providing relevant results. The slow-to-load page is given a sort of relevance demerit, and its search rankings suffer.

Also consider the fact that Google looks out for nobody but Google. It has obligations to its shareholders. If Google got a reputation for providing results full of slow to load pages, Google users would defect and find an alternative that provided them with speed. Google can’t allow that to happen. To argue the point that page speed is irrelevant to search, or a minor factor in search, is to argue that user behavior is irrelevant to Google’s business model.

So the snowball effect of a page with a low but otherwise acceptable page load speed is this: a slow page load speed will result in higher bounce and abandonment rates. Higher bounce and abandonment rates are interpreted by Google as both (1) a sign that the page is not relevant to the given search query; and (2) a threat to its business model. Therefore, the slow page suffers in the rankings.

By: Matt Foster. Mr. Foster is an SEO consultant and the CEO of ArteWorks SEO in Austin, Texas. Mr. Foster can be found on Twitter @ArteWorks_SEO or on Linked In at /arteworks.

SEO for Parallax

Unimpressed with Parallax SEO?

Unimpressed with Parallax SEO?

Providing SEO for a site utilizing the parallax scrolling effect may at first seem a bit challenging, given the fact that on its face a parallax site does not offer the opportunity for deep links or individually optimized page content. However, there is no need to be unimpressed – there is a solution! Here’s a hint: treat it like a Flash site.

What is a Parallax Site?

The parallax effect is typically achieved using Javascript or JQuery to create a scrolling or 3D effect when jumping between named anchors on a single web page. You can see some examples of sites created using the parallax effect here: http://webdesignledger.com/inspiration/21-examples-of-parallax-scrolling-in-web-design

The navigational scheme is such that when navigating about the site, instead of going from one individual URL to another for each page, one long web page is created, which page contains the entire contents of the site. Named anchors are used to jump or scroll between pages. When the user navigates about the site, instead of a new page loading on the screen, the new page scrolls, slides, or “whooshes” in from above, below, or the side, depending upon where the user is at within the one page site’s content, and to which named anchor the user is navigating.

So a site created using the parallax site is an entire site written as one big, fat, giant web page file, graphics and all. The negative SEO implications of this are obvious, and mainly center around (a) the inability to deep link to individual pages of a site using a unique root-level URL; and (b) the difficulty in optimizing basic on page elements such as title tags for individual page content.

Background

We were contacted by a potential client who owned a children’s entertainment center. Think of something along the lines of laser tag, or a bowling alley, or a pizza arcade, or a go cart track. The client had determined to build the site using the parallax effect, and wanted to rank well in the search engines for a variety of keyphrases pertaining to specific events that might be searched for on Google. For example, the client wanted to rank well for such things as birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, quinceaneras and the like.

Normally this would be accomplished by creating separately optimized pages for each of the specific events (title tags and such), describing the packages available for each event, and deep linking using appropriate anchor text to each of the pages. With the parallax site, this was simply not possible.

The Solution

I began to think of solutions to the problem and I found myself treating the parallax page as akin to a Flash site. There’s not much one can typically do with a Flash site – except one thing. Typically I would advise the owner of a Flash site to create a machine readable HTML version, both for the search engines, but also for purposes of accessibility and for those users who may not have the Flash plugin. This would not be considered duplicate content and would not infringe upon any of Google’s guidelines.

In the case of a parallax site though, there would be a duplicate content problem if we created separate “landing” pages for each of the children’s events, as the landing pages would be duplicative of the event content on the parallax page.

So the solution that I came up with was to organize the site content into two separate types of content: (1) Content important to the user but not likely to be searched for; and (2) Content important to the user and highly likely to be searched for.

Examples of content in the first category, that a user would be unlikely to search for yet which would be important information for the user would be such things as a contact form, maps, photo galleries, catering menu, testimonials, and the like. It is highly unlikely that someone is going to search for “laser tag testimonials”.

Examples of content in the second category, that would be both highly likely to be searched for as well as information useful to the user would be the specific events, like birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and such. People search for things like “laser tag birthdays” or even the more general “Austin birthday parties”.

By defining the schism between the two types of content, we can then begin to organize our SEO strategy and incorporate it into the site build. We decided to use the parallax effect on the home page and on all general information-type pages, such as contact, gallery, menu, testimonials, map, etcetera. We included in the parallax page a section called “Events”.

When the user eventually scrolled his or her way through to the Events page, we presented the user with a list of events typically hosted by the facility. Examples would be those given above, such as birthday parties, team parties, church parties, bar mitzvahs, quinceaneras, and such. Each item on the list was a hard link to an individual URL which contained content specific to that event (keyphrase), including optimized on page elements such as title tags, and customized content appropriate to that event.

The net result is that the user starts off on the parallax site, clicks through to a particular event, and lands on a static, or “hard” page, for that event. When clicking back from the event, onto any of the navigation buttons (Home, Contact, etc.), the user is returned to the parallax page and the scrolling effect can begin anew.

The creation of the “hard” event pages allows for individualized SEO for all necessary on page elements, customized content, and deep linking to the site.

Problem solved!

By: Matt Foster

Matt Foster is the CEO of ArteWorks SEO Austin, an Internet marketing and search engine optimization firm located in beautiful Central Texas. For more information, please visit www.arteworks.biz.