5 Characteristics That Define a Low Quality Website

We spend a lot of time talking about what you should do with your website from a search engine optimization perspective. Today, we’re going to talk about what you shouldn’t do. Here are five characteristics that can, to some extent, be found on every bad website.

Not all websites are created equal.

For every great site, there are scores upon scores of downright awful ones. Websites whose creators either don’t understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing or simply don’t care. Today, we’re going to try something a little different.

We’re going to go over some characteristics that most of these low-grade sites share in common, and how you can avoid being lumped in with them yourself. 

Your Content Is Bad

Content is king, and if the king is incompetent, everything else comes crashing down. 

Maybe you’ve spun all the content in your blog from other sources. Maybe there’s a ton of duplicate content within your own site; multiple pages with the same copy that serve no real purpose. Either way, if your content isn’t unique and compelling, Google will consider your website to be of middling quality, at best.

Plagiarism and content duplication aren’t the only ways you can fail in terms of content creation, mind you. Your website might have a surplus of thin content, low-value stuff that serves little purpose and offers little value to the audience. Or worse still, the content on your page might be misleading, tricking users into clicking and not actually providing what they’re looking for. 

There Are Performance Issues

Slow load times. Advertisements that interrupt the content. Rich media that causes a user’s device to slow to a crawl.

Poor website performance is one of the surest ways to not only drive users away from your site but also to get yourself penalized by Google. It’s common knowledge at this point that page speed is a factor in determining a page’s rank. As such, you need to make sure you’re using a good host, with a decent content delivery network, and that you’ve done everything you can to optimize every last corner of your website. 

You Don’t Provide Enough Information

The general rule for any business website is that there should be NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information on every single page. A customer visiting your site should, at a glance, be able to figure out both how to contact you and who you are. A site that doesn’t offer this information is often treated as low quality by Google.

People need to know who you are. How to contact you. How to reach out to customer support about your products and services. Who created the content on your site.

Spam Everywhere

We’ve all heard the stories of the early days of SEO. It was the wild west, with keyword stuffers, link farms, and black hat SEO experts dominating the rankings. Those days are long behind us, but for some reason, there are still many webmasters who believe we’re still living in that dark era. 

Overbearing advertisements, frequently laden with malware and spyware. Countless spammy links as far as the eye can see. Bots pasting links to the website wherever they can, shoving into as many faces as possible.

These are the hallmarks of a spammer, and the surest sign that a website isn’t worth visiting. 

Your Reputation Is In The Toilet

Word travels fast on the web. If your brand has recently been involved in any major scandals or you’ve developed a reputation for poor quality or service, that will eventually come back to bite you. At that point, your website’s quality is going to suffer no matter how much work you put into it.

It’s important that you maintain positive relations with your customers. That you do everything in your power to address negative reviews and customer complaints. And that you pay attention to what people are saying in order to respond effectively. 

Quality is Key

Reputation management, quality content, thorough information, respect for your audience, and seamless performance. These are the characteristics you need to pursue in order to ensure your website doesn’t fall down the pit of poor quality. Fortunately, none of them are particularly difficult to accomplish — you really just have to be willing to put in the work.

The Unexpected Relationship Between Color and SEO

There’s a lot that goes into search engine optimization, from compelling content to technical elements. Believe it or not, color actually plays a role in SEO as well. A greater one than you might expect.

Anyone who’s spent even a middling amount of time studying marketing knows that there’s a certain psychology behind color and how it applies to branding. Each color has its own subtle effect on a consumer. Each color has its own effect on moods, emotions, and ultimately behavior.

The problem is that, contrary to what some people would have you believe, this isn’t necessarily something you can leverage. As noted by consumer relationship management expert Helpscout, how we experience a particular color is largely personal. It’s influenced by our personal experiences, cultural background, personal preferences, and upbringing.

More importantly, it’s influenced by context. We do not experience color in a vacuum. The color red, for instance, can have a completely different meaning if it’s used to sell romantic gifts versus a men’s clothing line.

It’s ultimately about the personality you want your brand to convey, and whether or not your chosen colors are congruent with that. If there’s a major disconnect between color and identity, people are going to notice. They’re going to find it jarring, and as a result, they’re going to develop a negative association with your brand.

The first step, then, is to think about how you want your brand to make people feel. Think about its core personality traits, and what sort of emotions you want it to inspire in the audience. Per web design specialist 99Designs, the most common associations between colors and traits are as follows: 

  • Red. Passionate, angry, important, excited, commanding. 
  • Orange. Vital, playful, friendly, energetic. 
  • Yellow. Happy, youthful, optimistic, attention-grabbing.
  • Green. Stable, prosperous, natural, growing. 
  • Light blue. Tranquil, innocent, trustworthy, open.
  • Dark blue. Professional, secure, formal, mature, trustworthy. 
  • Purple. Dignified, creative, luxurious. 
  • Pink. Feminine, innocent, youthful, luxurious, modern. 
  • Brown. Rugged, earthly, old-fashioned.
  • White. Clean, virtuous, healthy, simple. 
  • Gray. Neutral, subdued, serious, mysterious, mature. 
  • Black. Powerful, sophisticated, edgy, luxurious. 

This is all well and good, but what does any of this have to do with search engine optimization? 

First, your website’s color palette plays a central role in the site’s usability. Effective use of contrasting colors and complementary colors can be the difference between a website that’s pleasing to the eye, and one that’s almost gaudy enough to cause physical pain. Our advice is to use your brand’s most noticeable colors around your call to action and keep everything else relatively neutral and simple. 

Second, how a website looks plays an important part in how well it draws in qualified leads. First impressions are everything here. A well-planned, well-designed site with good colors is going to be far more effective and successful than one that you’ve just thrown together.

The color choice doesn’t have a direct impact on your website’s SEO. But it influences how customers experience both your website and your brand. And as we well know, for Google, customer experience is everything.

The more audience-friendly your website is, the better it will ultimately perform. 

How COVID-19 Has Changed Influencer Marketing

According to a survey released in April by market research SaaS firm Global Web Index, 87 percent of U.S. consumers increased their overall media consumption as a direct result of COVID-19 This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Over the course of the pandemic, people all over the world have had to cope with lockdowns, social isolation, and in some cases, loss of income. 

What else is there to do but spend time on the Internet? 

As you might expect, this increase in media consumption means more people than ever are paying attention to influencers. People are looking for a sense of normalcy. Looking to distract themselves from what’s going on in the world.

Streaming media and video games aside, influencers provide the opportunity to do just that. 

This is a double-edged sword, however. The fact that more people are paying attention to influencers also means more people are scrutinizing them. And make no mistake — the Internet personalities who commit significant missteps during this pandemic will become functionally radioactive from a marketing perspective.

Take YouTuber Jake Paul. As reported by publication Insider, Paul was already a highly controversial figure before the pandemic. But over the last several months, Paul has made blunder after repeated blunder.

Per Vanity Fair Magazine, Paul recently threw a massive party at his California mansion. His reckless disregard for the coronavirus quickly made the news. And it wasn’t just the media who were lambasting Paul, either.

“Everyone who saw the video [was outraged],” Said Calabasas Mayor Alicia Weintraub “They’re having this large party, no social distancing, no masks, it’s just a big, huge disregard for everything that everybody is trying to do to get things back to functioning. It’s really just a party acting like COVID does not exist, it’s acting like businesses aren’t closed.” 

Will Jake Paul make it through this incident with his fame relatively unscathed? More than likely. At the same time, he’s a perfect example of an influencer your brand cannot, under any circumstances, engage with — at least, not if you want to present your business as socially conscientious. 

It is, in other words, now more important than ever that you do your research before engaging with an influencer. Moreover, once your brand starts working with an influencer, you cannot simply leave them to their own devices. Pay attention to what they’re doing, and be prepared to cut ties with them if necessary. 

People are exhausted right now. This is no secret. As you might expect, this means their patience has worn thin.

They’re more discerning with their purchases. They’re likelier to vote with their wallets. They’re likelier to write off a business or influencer who doesn’t appear to mesh with their values. 

The pandemic will eventually end, and the world will regain a sense of normalcy. However, the increased focus and scrutiny to which influencers and businesses alike are subjected is likely to remain.  Keep that in mind moving forward, and you should do just fine. 

The Critical Role of Experiential Marketing on Social Media

Social media isn’t exactly untrodden ground. 

It’s been 16 years since Facebook was founded. Twitter has existed for 14 years. There is an entire generation of people who have never experienced life without social networks.

With this in mind, it’s somewhat baffling that there are still so many businesses that don’t understand social marketing. Some of them still treat social networks like traditional advertising platforms, talking at their audience rather than engaging them. Others, meanwhile, shamelessly promote their products and brand without much thought for what their audience actually wants. 

Neither of these approaches is likely to meet with success, especially as younger audiences grow warier, wearier, and more focused on privacy. Rather than interacting openly with everyone who crosses their path, many users are now focused on smaller, more intimate groups of friends and acquaintances. Brand and digital content strategist Sara Wilson refers to these micro-communities as ‘digital campfires.’ 

“If social media can feel like a crowded airport terminal where everyone is allowed, but no one feels particularly excited to be there, digital campfires offer a more intimate oasis where smaller groups of people are excited to gather around shared interests,” Wilson explains. “[Marketers] must identify the communities and parts of the culture that their brand fits into. Then, determine the online experiences these audiences seek.” 

In other words, unless you want middling results on your social marketing efforts, you cannot simply focus on selling your products. Instead, you need to immerse your audience in your brand. You need to focus on interacting with your customers, brainstorming a unique, creative shared experience that people are excited to be a part of.

In order to do this effectively, there are several questions you need to answer. 

  • Who is your audience? This includes their average income, country of residence, average age, and general information about their career/industry.
  • How does your audience communicate? What sort of language do they use, and what sort of content do they usually engage with? 
  • What does your audience value? What are their beliefs, and what social causes do they tend to support? 
  • What are your audience’s hobbies? This may include video games, musical genres, what type of media they consume, and so on. 
  • Why is your audience interested in your brand? 

Spend some time studying your customers. Track down your competitors, and see who’s engaging with their brands. Study, listen, learn, and brainstorm. 

Once you’ve taken the time to figure out who your audience is, it’s time to get creative. You might consider partnering with other businesses or brands to create a more immersive experience, as multiple organizations have done with video game publisher Epic Games and their title Fortnite. You might consider creating an explorable virtual space or designing a competition or event that spans every one of your marketing channels. 

The goal here is to do something that uniquely meshes with the personality of your brand and uniquely resonates with your audience. To engage with and immerse your customers without attempting to sell to them. To cultivate a relationship based on their wants and their needs.

Do it right, and you won’t need to sell to them — they’ll find their way to you themselves.

How User Feedback Can Inform Your SEO Strategy

The most successful businesses are those that listen to their customers. This has been true since well before the Internet even existed. And it remains true to this day. 

That’s one of the core reasons why online reviews are so incredibly valuable where search engine optimization(SEO) is concerned. Not only do they have a direct impact on traffic and visibility, but how you respond to them can also influence how your audience feels about your business. Moreover, negative reviews can give you a solid idea of what your business is doing wrong and how you can improve.

Yet as critical as they are, reviews are only a single facet of user feedback. And just as you should pay attention to reviews, you should also listen to other communication mediums. This includes social channels, email, customer support, and comments on your blog. 

From the perspective of SEO, examining the support tickets your customers submit can potentially make you aware of technical issues on your website. If, for instance, a single user is unable to access their account, the issue is probably on the client’s side. If, however, multiple people report login issues, then you likely have work to do.

Whenever you publish and share a blog post, pay close attention to what your audience has to say about it. Look at comments on your website and social media channels. This can enrich your content in several ways.

  • New topic ideas. A user may suggest a follow-up to an existing piece, or even an entirely new topic based on something you’ve already published.
  • Fact-checking.  Everyone makes mistakes on occasion. If someone points out one of yours, thank them and correct it. This not only shows that you listen to your audience but also helps you ensure your content is as factually accurate as possible.
  • Expanded content.  Maybe one of your customers has an alternative technique for a how-to article or an idea for updating an old piece. Either way, this can help you enhance existing content and breathe new life into old content. 
  • Better targeting. While on-site metrics are certainly a valid way of determining whether or not your content resonates with your audience, user feedback is better. If your audience expresses consistently negative views about a particular subject, then it likely means there’s a disconnect in your content marketing. 

The best businesses have always been those that listen carefully to their customers. This is as true today as it’s ever been. By incorporating user feedback into your marketing and SEO strategy, you can not only get a clearer picture of what you’re doing wrong but also forge a stronger, better connection with your audience. 

What to Know About Local SEO During a Pandemic

It’s no secret that small businesses have been struggling for the past several months. COVID-19 has been anything but easy, especially for organizations that rely on physical retail. For many, life essentially ground to a standstill.

This remains true even as some regions look to reopen. We’re adrift in a time of profound uncertainty, as many of us wonder whether or not a second wave will strike. Amidst all this, it can be tempting to allow your marketing to taper off  — likely as not, you’ve already cut your marketing budget.

You shouldn’t, though. Especially if you’re a local business, this is actually an ideal time to ramp up your search engine optimization efforts. Many people are still socially isolated, out of work, or both.

They’re looking for local businesses they can support, and curious about whether or not those businesses are taking the necessary measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This means that if you play your cards right, there’s the potential to bring in some decent traffic. There are, however, a few things you need to keep in mind here.

  • Follow the typical best practices. Include Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) information on every page of your website. Sprinkle references to local events and neighborhoods into your blog posts and website copy. Maintain a Google My Business Page with high-quality photos and as much information about your business as possible. 
  • Write a COVID-19 statement. What are you doing to deal with the pandemic? How are you protecting your employees? What are you doing to protect your customers?  How has this impacted your business? 
  • Update your Google My Business page. If COVID-19 has impacted your business hours, your Google My Business listing needs to reflect that. 
  • Find a way to support online sales. Most restaurants are now working with meal delivery services, as are many grocery outlets. If possible, it may be worth expanding the scope of your business to a third-party retailer like Amazon. 
  • Keep the content flowing. If you don’t already have a blog, it’s worthwhile to establish one and start posting regularly. Just be careful you don’t hammer on the coronavirus pandemic too frequently.
  • Get social. Interact with your audience on social media. Don’t try to make sales here. Instead, focus on building relationships with them, and sharing content you think they’ll find interesting or valuable. 

No one is entirely certain when the coronavirus pandemic will end. Even now, as many small businesses start to reopen and pick up the pieces, there’s the looming threat of a second wave.  The best thing you can do at this point is to focus on local SEO and explore ways to do business online. 

By making the shift to digital and working to increase your local reach, you’re much likelier to make it through this crisis at least relatively unscathed. If you’re lucky, you might even come out looking better than you did before.

3 Critical Things to Understand Before Doing Keyword Research

Your business cannot grow if you do not understand your market, your audience, and your brand. Unfortunately, plenty of digital organizations appear to have missed the memo in this regard. They dive headlong into keyword research, chomping at the bit to churn out content and bid on pay per click ads. 

As a result, many of them miss the mark entirely. Their time, effort, and money ends up wasted on a marketing strategy that simply does not work. In order to avoid making this mistake yourself, there are a few things you need to understand before dedicating any time to keyword research. 

What Your Customers Are Interested In

What is your audience searching for, and why? This knowledge needs to inform every facet of your content marketing efforts and search engine optimization strategy, from initial research through to topic brainstorming through to content creation. You need to understand not just the terms your audience is searching with, but the intent behind those terms. 

Are they looking for information, such as how-to articles or details on a particular service? Do they want to know where your business is located? Or are they clearly interested in making a purchase? 

It also helps to know what type of person is interested in your brand and its products. Look at your competitors on social media, and pay attention to their most engaged followers. That’s likely your demographic, as well.

If any of your competitors maintain a blog, you can also look there for general inspiration. 

Your Own Expertise

One of the most important pieces of advice where content marketing is concerned is to focus on what you know. You are presumably an authority on your industry and your market. Use that in your keyword research and topic generation. 

Write to your strengths, and consider what tangential topics your audience would be interested in, as well. Someone looking for home repair services, for instance, may also be interested in reading about home decor or lawn care.  Someone purchasing pet food will likely be interested in other aspects of pet care. 

What You Want to Achieve

Perhaps most importantly, you need to decide on your actual goal in carrying out keyword research. First, consider what part of the marketing funnel you’re targeting. There are three broad areas of focus in that regard.

  • Top funnel keywords are broad and geared towards informational intent. They generally bring in people who are either in their early stages of researching a brand or simply browsing the web.
  • Mid funnel keywords are slightly more specific, and target customers with slightly more purchase intent. They may be researching a particular product or service of yours. 
  • Bottom funnel keywords are explicitly aimed at customers with purchase intent. They are highly specific and generally include brand keywords and product names. 

It’s likely that, as part of your SEO efforts, you will leverage all three types of keywords for different areas of your website. A blog post, for instance, will likely target top or mid-funnel keywords, whilst a product page will have keywords associated with it that are geared towards the bottom of the sales funnel. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself about your goals for each page.

  • Do you simply want to generate brand awareness and bring in more traffic? 
  • Are you trying to sell a specific product or service? 
  • Do you want to increase conversions? 
  • Are you attempting to build yourself up as a thought leader? 

These aren’t mutually exclusive, mind you. At the same time, it’s important that when you set out to research keywords for your site, you do so with a clear goal in mind. 

Closing Thoughts

Keyword research is a constant process and one that requires consistent evaluation. It demands that you understand not only your market, but also your audience, your brand, and your own business goals. It is not, in other words, something you can do without focus. 

The Critical Role Mental Health Awareness Plays in Modern Marketing

Millions of adults worldwide live with some form of mental illness. Amidst the ongoing pandemic and social unrest, it’s highly likely that people are struggling. Isolation combined with the myriad stressors of current events has created a perfect storm of stress and anxiety.

Now more than ever, it’s important that your marketing takes mental health into account. Because even in spite of how many people suffer from it, even in spite of how difficult things are for people all over the world, there’s still a stigma around mental illness. A pervasive, unpleasant, ingrained urge to push it under the rug.

Removing that stigma requires that businesses and brands do what they can to spread awareness, yours included.

This starts from within. Because there are rarely any visual indicators that clients or staff are suffering from mental illness, you need to promote a culture of support and understanding. Make it clear that people can ask for help, and you’ll do what you can to provide it without judgment. 

Some people find it incredibly difficult – even mortifying – to ask for help, even when they desperately need it. The sooner we as a society can destigmatize mental illness, the better.  Free medical support for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety will go a particularly long way, especially in marketing.

Consider, for instance, that in a 2018 study by online job board CV library, over a third of marketing professionals indicated that they were driven to depression and anxiety by their career.  Then, consider that according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of North America, only 18 percent of the population suffers from anxiety. That’s a significant gulf. 

Beyond promoting more internal awareness and acceptance of mental health, you can also weave this complex topic into your marketing efforts more easily than you might expect. You might start simple, with marketing materials such as stress balls, fidget spinners, or fidget cubes. You might publish blog posts or social campaigns in support of a particular mental health issue, or even participate in a podcast on the topic.

You might also consider hosting events dedicated to mental health and awareness, something which can more easily connect you with the community. Partnering with other local businesses can go a long way towards expanding your reach, as well. Moreover, demonstrating to your core audience that you’ve put time and effort into considering their well-being can do a great deal of good for everyone.

As far as engaging with current events is concerned, it’s not strictly necessary. The best your business can do is emphasize to both customers and employees that their health and wellness is a priority. Emphasize that mental health need not be an invisible problem and that people need not suffer alone. 

The Most Important Step in Fixing a Broken Brand

There are many reasons why a brand might ‘break.’ 

A disconnect in a brand’s identity between past and present, alienating the brand’s audience. A shift in a brand’s values to the point that it’s no longer appealing to its audience – something common in small brands that experience massive short-term growth and become profit-obsessed. A misstep by someone affiliated with the brand, resulting in extreme reputational damage.

Whatever the cause, a broken brand is one in which its audience has lost faith. A business whose image is tarnished to the point that people no longer want to support it. An organization whose relationship with its customers has fractured, leading them directly into the arms of the competition.

The first step in fixing a broken brand is to understand what broke it in the first place. You need to know what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what you can do to not only mitigate the problem but also prevent it from happening again in the future. Armed with that understanding, the next step is simple – apologize.

Demonstrate to your audience that you are aware of your mistake, and more importantly, that you are willing to make amends. Work to rebuild their trust in you by demonstrating that you are committed to bettering your business. 

What this involves depends entirely on the nature of what caused your brand to fracture in the first place. If it was a small, singular incident, a simple apology and press release may be enough to smooth things over. If it’s something more complex, however, like a values disconnect, a lawsuit, or a data breach, you’re going to need to chart things out a bit more extensively.

Regardless of what route you ultimately decide to take, it’s important that you include everyone affiliated with your brand and the incident. You need to account for not just your customers, but also your employees, investors, and business partners. Engage with them to determine the best path forward – the best way to fix the problems your brand has created for itself.

Listen, learn, and do better. 

From there, it’s simply a matter of time. Of allowing the wounds from your missteps to heal, and the rift created by your errors to mend. Provided you’ve properly grasped the core of your error and made the necessary changes, your brand should be back to where it was before it broke – perhaps even better than ever. 

The Role of Image Optimization in Search Engine Optimization

Images play a pivotal role in the creation of compelling content, whether it’s a product page, a blog post, or just general site copy. They also play an important part in search engine optimization, contributing significantly to factors like navigability, readability, and load time. In some cases, they can even bring new traffic to your website.

“Although there aren’t exactly official numbers, Google stated that every day hundreds of millions of people use Google Images to discover and explore content on the web,” reads a piece on search engine marketing publication Search Engine Land. “About a year ago, Google updated the ‘View Image’ button from Image Search to ‘Visit [Page].’ As a result, analytics platforms began recording an increase in sessions specifically driven from image search and content visibility for the host pages increased (instead of random image files without context).”

Now that we’ve established the importance of images to overall SEO, let’s drill down into some specific advice about image optimization.

Formatting

Even if you’re reformatting images after uploading them to your site, overly-large image files can cause significant issues with load time. To that end, you’re going to want to ensure that any images you upload are smaller than 1 MB. There are a few ways you can achieve this.

  • Reduce the image’s resolution. You do not need photos that are 5000 pixels wide and tall. In our experience, 800 pixels-1200 pixels is where you should be aiming.
  • Use JPEG images instead of PNG images. The latter tend to be much larger than the former. 
  • Use an image editing file such as GIMP to slightly reduce an image’s quality. The dialog to do this pops up when you hit save, and you can generally cut the quality down to 80 percent before there’s any noticeable change.

Creativity

While stock photos certainly have an important role to play, many of the most common ones are by this point incredibly overused. As such, if you have the opportunity to use unique, branded imagery in place of stock imagery, do so. A good photographer or graphic designer may be well worth the cost given the unique flair their work can bring to your site. 

Naming and Alt Text

One of the most frequently-ignored steps in image optimization involves file names and alt text. Each image you upload to your site should be descriptively-named and include at least one relevant keyword. Additionally, each image should include alt text that will display in the event that the image doesn’t load properly, something which tends to happen frequently on mobile devices. 

As explained by SEO expert Moz, an image file’s alt text should be descriptive, but not overly long and stuffed with keywords. Moz also notes that accessibility isn’t the only reason alt text is important. It also helps search engines better understand and contextualize the images on your website. 

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Where SEO is concerned, that may well be true. Effective imagery is as much a part of optimizing your site as good copy and high-quality content.