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What Developers Should Tell Clients About SEO Optimization

“Why isn’t our website ranking higher on Google?”

This often means you – the designer or developer – might receive questions like the above. Clients want to know why their site isn’t performing as well as it should.

After all, that’s what they’re paying you for, right?

But what happens when the website is finished to the client’s specs, but it’s still not performing well?

Sometimes the fault for an underperforming website falls back on you, even if it’s not directly included in your scope. That’s why it’s important to be able to identify potential reasons why a website might underperform, and know how to respond in those situations.

Here are a few things that might be hurting your client’s website performance.

“Your Domain Authority Is Too Low”

Appearing on the first page of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is a common concern for many clients, and it might be one of the reasons they came to you to build their site in the first place.

But according to RankBrain, the most search traffic goes to the first result, with click-through rates (CTR) decreasing significantly after the second position.

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Google also reports that 34% of search results – yes, even those on the first page – get no clicks at all, and that 12% of all clicks go to the top 100 search-traffic-receiving domains.

So not only is it important for sites to rank high, but they really need to be number one to see significant traffic from their SEO efforts.

But one of the reasons they most likely won’t see the first page SERPs is due to low page authority. As mentioned, unless you’re in the top 100 domains, you may not rank on Google.

It doesn’t matter if your site is the best designed, most beautifully crafted website in the world. If you don’t have high site (domain) authority – a predictive score dictated by Moz and used by Google to rank results – you won’t rank.

This is doubly true for new websites. New sites usually start with a score of 0-1. For reference, well-established sites, like Facebook and Wikipedia, are close to 100.

If you’re developing or designing a brand new site for a client, and they complain about not showing up in Google, tell them that they need to focus their energy on driving traffic in other ways.

Paid ads, more posted content (on a blog, typically), or social media traffic can all help to improve domain authority.

Another reason why a site may not be showing up as high on Google’s SERPs is due to low or poor quality backlinks – links that point back to your website.

According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search.

In fact, the top ranked pages on Google have an average volume of 100,000+ high-quality backlinks.

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High-quality backlinks can be notoriously difficult to get, especially for new sites, because they require other more popular sites (think top 100 domains for best results) to link to your landing pages or content.

The good news is that quality does make up for the lack of volume. A link from a relevant website in your niche, for example, might be worth 100 links from a lower quality source.

So how do you earn high-quality backlinks?

Over time you may naturally gain some links from other websites, especially as your organic traffic grows from regular content production or social traffic. But in order to gain the quality and volume needed to rank, you need to make some effort.

The first step is to focus on providing valuable and high-quality content on your website. This should ideally come from a blog that can be frequently updated, and not just landing pages.

Google looks for fresh content when considering rankings. Former Google Fellow Amit Singhal once explained that, “Different searches have different freshness needs.”

In other words, fresh content is needed for all your desired keywords.

You then need to find ways of sharing your content on other sites in order to create those backlinks.

Try posting content as guest blogs on larger editorial sites, or by linking to it on sites like Quora. You can also syndicate traffic from sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, both of which have domain authority ranks close to 100.

If you’re curious about your current site backlinks, you can use a free tool like Backlink Watch. Other paid sites like Open Site ExplorerMajestic SEO and Ahrefs will give you a lot more information as well.

If clients don’t know why their site isn’t performing, you might recommend they try some link-building strategies, like guest blogging on popular editorial sites or asking customers to link to you on their landing pages.

“You Need to Optimize Your Content”

Because content plays a big role in how Google ranks sites – from the freshness of the content to the links it contains and more – it’s important that sites are creating content that can be shared.

In other words, a pretty website is not enough. It has to have more content.

And that content needs to be optimized so Google knows what to do with it. CTR for content on Google’s first page SERPs increases by 667% for posts that appear as Featured Snippets.

Featured Snippets are selected search results that appear on top of Google’s first page in a special box.

If you’re not sure how to get a Snippet, or you don’t yet have the domain authority to get a Snippet, there are other ways you can optimize your content to rank higher.

Posting content that is engaging – keeps people on the page and has a higher number of conversions into another action, like an email subscription (etc.) – can also improve your relationship with Google.

Their algorithm can track how long someone stays on a page, and what other actions they take and whether or not they click on other content from your site.

Creating content that keeps people enthralled will help improve search results.

You can also help your odds by focusing on long tail keywords in your content in order to gain more organic search traffic and improve your odds of appearing in either a Featured Snippet or on the first page SERPs.

If clients want methods for improving their Google search rankings, tell them to produce more high-quality, optimized content.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to explain to your clients that creating a beautiful website won’t guarantee them a high ranking on Google SERPs.

Even if it’s fully responsive and includes SEO optimization, if it’s a new website, it needs more to be truly successful.

The top strategies they can focus on include an improved domain, adding backlinks and creating optimized content.

You should also remind them that it takes time to build a reputable and high ranking site, and they shouldn’t give up if they don’t see results right away. With a little effort, it will happen for them.

If you have a responsive site that’s relatively new, we can facilitate your site to help you, or us, create rich snippets, send your blog posts to multiple social media outlets and more.  Drop us a note and we’ll help you make it happen.

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

ada-compliance-decided-in-the-courts

Are you aware of the regulations regarding section 508 of the American Disabilities Act and the impact it has on your business website?

Poorly designed websites can create unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities, just as poorly designed buildings prevent some people with disabilities from entering. Access problems often occur because website designers mistakenly assume that everyone sees and accesses a webpage in the same way. This mistaken assumption can frustrate assistive technologies and their users. Accessible website design recognizes these differences and does not require people to see, hear, or use a standard mouse in order to access the information and services provided.

The start of a website lawsuit trend?

Winn-Dixie recently faced, and lost an ADA compliance lawsuit for its website, and it made for some pretty sensational headlines. Website accessibility is a hot topic right now, so every case that goes wrong for someone is bound to result in some pretty fanatical headlines. But should you actually be worried? In short — maybe.

So let’s try and make ADA compliance, who needs to be worried, and what you can do about it as simple to understand as possible. Full disclosure — I am not your lawyer, and nothing in here is legal advice.

What Does ADA Compliance Mean?

ADA is short for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The ADA, at least for Title III (private sector businesses), only applies to companies that employ 15 or more persons.

In January 2018, some new federal regulations will take effect. All federal institutions’ websites must meet AA compliance on all items in WCAG 2.0 by this time. We’ll get into what that means a little later.

Why Is ADA Compliance Suddenly a Bigger Deal?

Legal precedent is changing, and ADA compliance related lawsuits are becoming more successful, and the courts are seeing more of them as a result. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act pertains to private sector businesses. Lately, those protections are more frequently expanding into digital territory as web and mobile applications become more necessary in our day-to-day lives.

Who Needs To Be Compliant?

The general consensus right now is that any business considered a “public accommodation” should have an ADA compliant web presence.

“Public accommodation” could apply to most things depending on who is making the interpretation. Generally, however, this would refer to B2C, retail, or any business the general public should be able to use, understand and access easily.

The judgment against Winn-Dixie was determined after the courts felt that the website was too heavily integrated with the physical store presence. This could have been prompted by things like placing their weekly ad on the website.

What Do I Need To Do To Be Compliant?

Why that’s simple, just follow all 61 guidelines laid out in WCAG 2.0 to either AA or AAA level!

Sound scary? It’s not as bad as it seems. Your site probably already meets many of these rules and will not take a web developer very long to bring it up to par. However, there are some items that are much more difficult to fix, depending on the situation.

  • Text must meet a minimum contrast ratio against the background, which can significantly impact your design.
  • Your site must be fully navigable via keyboard only. This usually includes things like skip navigation buttons and can involve manually setting a tabindex everywhere.
  • Your site should be navigable with screen reader software. This can be difficult to test and can involve some arduous fixes similar to what is necessary for keyboard navigation.
  • Your site must handle text scaling up to 200% without causing horizontal scrolling or content-breaking layout issues. Once again, this may be more difficult to fix in some complex designs.

How Do I Check All Of This?

A variety of software can be used to test for ADA compliance.

  • WAVE is a good start, but can produce a lot of false positives, particularly for contrast ratio issues.
  • Lighthouse from Google Developers can help generate a report on potential issues.
  • Manual testing for contrast ratio using this calculator.
  • Manual testing with screen reader software
  • Manual testing with keyboard only navigation
  • Job Access With Speech (JAWS) is the most popular screen reader used by the blind. You can download a free trial for testing.

The automated tools will catch a lot of the simple issues, but manual testing is often still going to be required for nearly all websites if you want to ensure you are meeting requirements.

Hopefully, this sheds a little light on the situation and what it means for your business. Or, if you’re a web developer, how to be proactive to help your clients.

(Excerpted from Hackernoon)