I’d just written an SEO report for a client who had been using an H1 tag in multiple places per page on their site—something I see fairly often—and as usual, I made sure to call this out in my report.

You should only ever have one H1 tag per page, I wrote. My normal elaboration goes like this: Think of your header tags like a topic hierarchy. The primary header, or H1, should encompass the main concept or topic of the page. H2s are subheads that support that topic. H3s are subheads that support topics under H2s, etc. Because there’s only supposed to be one topic per page, each page should only have one H1.

“But what about long-form webpages?” Aart, the creative director, asked. It wasn’t really a question. More of a challenge, really. But it got me thinking. (Mission accomplished, Aart.)

Web developments and designs are always changing. Attention spans are shortening. Pages are getting longer and fancier, with a bigger emphasis on user experience and eye-catching design. We’re trying to make it easier for the user to find what they need in fewer clicks. All those different pages that were crucial for SEO value don’t always work with contemporary designs.

Anyone who works in search engine optimization knows that it’s already pretty hard to find the right balance between SEO and UX, but how can you do it when your design dictates more than one topic on a page? How do you make solid SEO-related decisions that work with new user experiences?

Well…the truth is, you actually can use more than one H1 per page—but only if you’re “up to code,” so to speak.

First: Make sure you’re using HTML 5.

Unlike previous versions, HTML5 is equipped with the capability to code multiple sections into a webpage. Search crawlers can process these tags and understand that the content inside is unique to that section, and not necessarily pertaining to the overall topic of the page (more on that below). Older versions of HTML don’t give the same clues in a way that makes sense to a crawler in terms of optimization.

Second: You’ve gotta get your tags right.

In terms of SEO, there are two different types of HTML5 tags that can help crawlers dissect your page: <section> tags and <article> tags. When used correctly, these tags help crawlers understand that different topics exist on a single page. A <section> tag indicates that the content inside that tag relates to a single theme, and an <article> tag indicates a piece of content that could stand on its own, like a blog post or a news story.

For sections, think of it like this: you have a page about SEO Fundamentals that’s divided into three separate, robust sections about Content, Site Architecture and Link Building. You don’t want to have three separate pages about these items, so you put them all on the same page. Each is related to the main topic – SEO Fundamentals – and each topic could be considered just as important as the others. They all carry the same weight.

For articles, on the other hand, think about a blog that scrolls infinitely. In other words, when you get to the bottom of the page, more articles are loaded so you can keep on scrolling and reading. It can feature a variety of topics, from digital marketing to restaurant reviews (clearly our theoretical blog writer has a lot of diverse interests). Each one of these articles can stand on its own, away from the context of the page.

Third: Make sure you’re only using one H1 tag per section.

If you think about it, the same header tag hierarchy that you’d use for a single page also applies to a single section or article. So you’d use one H1 to capture the topic of the section; H2s to designate a subtopic of the H1; H3s to designate subtopics of H2s, etc. Just because you’re using more than one H1 per page doesn’t mean you get to escape the hierarchical logic after all!

The Final Verdict

So can you use more than one H1 tag on a page?

Yes if you can properly code out sections or articles on your page, and you’re following W3C best practices.

No if you’re using a version of HTML that predates HTML5, or if you’re using header tags to style different parts of your site rather than make a logical page structure. (Yup, it happens.)

Not sure if your site structure is up to snuff? Contact the experts at Flying Cork!

Happy 404 Day!

For those of you not in the know, a 404 is an HTTP status error that shows up when a piece of content no longer exists. This can happen when you remove a page from your site—for instance if you delete a blog post or event listing—but you don’t redirect that page to a different one. Just because the page is gone, doesn’t mean that links to it are, too! If a user tries to access that page through an external link or, say, a bookmark in their favorites, it can lead to a frustrating user experience.

Are 404s bad for SEO? Yes and no. Eventually, the search engines will figure out that the page is gone, and remove it from the index. But, like I said, there could still be existing links pointing to that page, and unless you redirect them, you’re not providing the optimal user experience, which can eventually have a negative effect on your page authority. Not to mention you’re creating a posse of annoyed users who may or may not be willing to give your site a second chance.

So, what do you do about that pesky 404? You can start by seeing if you have any in the first place by running your site through a tool like Screaming Frog. Take note of which pages are throwing a 404, or save it in a spreadsheet.

Next, check to see if there are inbound links pointing to these pages with a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer. You can add a filter that will only show external links to the page in question to narrow it down a bit for you.

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Next, you can proceed one of two ways: the hard way, or the easy way.

If you want to go the hard way, you can try and contact the webmasters of the sites where you have inbound links pointing at your missing page and get them to point that link at a similar, existing page. This can be frustrating, time-consuming and possibly even ineffective, so I recommend doing it the easy way.

Ask a developer to 301 redirects the 404 pages to a new page. (Note: A 301 redirect is a permanent redirection from the non-existing page to the replacement. Your dev team will understand.)_This can be a similar piece of content, or even your website’s homepage, blog listing, or product listing—whatever happens to make sense. Use your best judgment: If you think that the content you’re redirecting to would satisfy the user’s initial query, it’s probably a good page to choose!

It’s a good idea to make it a habit to check into the HTTP status of your website’s pages. If you don’t have time or you’re still not quite sure what to do about 404’s (or any of the myriad other HTTP status codes), why not give Flying Cork a call to do a general SEO wellness checkup? We’re happy to help, not just on 404 Day, but every day.

Late last week, Google announced that they will be removing the right rail ads from desktop searches, and now will only serve ads at the top and bottom of the SERP (very similar to the current mobile ads layout).

First, let’s get one thing straight: Whenever Google says they are testing new changes, the only number they are looking at is total ad revenue. Meaning the removal of the right rail ads has shown an increase in ad dollars in Google’s pocket. Google is certainly banking on the increased in cost per clicks for positions 1 – 3 offsetting the ad revenue from the right rail ads. Simple economics say decreasing supply will increase demand and drive up costs.

That increase will come from the fight for relevancy for the top three or four positions, depending on the search query. If your ad is not listed above the organic results, you can expect a large decrease in your ad impressions coming from desktop searches. I pulled data from several accounts to see what we can come to expect when Google pulls the trigger on the change for all search queries. To do this I pulled an average position keyword report for non-branded search terms and filtered them by desktop vs. mobile.

More than 95% of mobile impressions are from ads in positions 1-3, and more than 97% of clicks come from top three positions. When looking at desktop volume, 72% of impressions and 77% of clicks come from ads in position 1-3. I would expect the desktop numbers to shift more in-line with what we are currently seeing in mobile. Meaning 20% of desktop impressions will be virtually removed from the mix unless you can pay a premium to get your ads in the top three positions.

For years I have worked with advertisers that rely on being creative with their ad dollars, meaning they often could not afford top placements but were able to generate cost effective traffic in positions 4-8 on the right rail of the SERPS. This change will either result in these vendors needing to ante up to compete, or needing to find more cost effective advertising channels because the cost of desktop search does not justify the return.

I do anticipate those with strong organic search presence will experience a click increase from the change because there will be less ad options available to end users. This is certainly one of Google’s bigger moves in search over recent years and should be monitored closely to understand how this could shift your ad dollars and account performance.

Winners

Google, Google Shareholders, SEO

Losers

AdWords Advertisers (specifically small- to mid-size budget companies)

Are you prepared to be a power player? Or do you need to refocus your attention on SEO? Flying Cork can help solidify your strategy. Reach out to learn more.

Revisiting, creating or updating your website copy is an intimidating task, especially if you’re in an industry where writing creatively isn’t something you do every day. (Or think about … ever.) I know what happens: Once you get the sentences on paper, you start to overthink things. You’re worrying about every word: Wait…should I really use a contraction? What the heck is a semicolon for, anyway? Maybe you start to get lazy and just copy a paragraph from other sections here and there, thinking it won’t be a big deal if the same copy shows up twice. No one will notice, right? Wrong! Search engines will.

And chances are your audience will, too. Writing for the web differs from any other writing project you do on a daily basis, so you have to think about it differently. That might even mean – gasp! – defying typical conventions you thought were canon. Here are some of my favorite tips for writing web copy.

  1. The best thing you’ve got going for you is your own unique voice. Use it! Don’t think that just because you’re a subject matter expert, you have to talk like one. Instead, write to your audience as if you’re having a casual conversation with them. They’ll enjoy it much more than if the content was full of tongue-twisting technical jargon. Plus, search engines look favorably on conversational language rather than force-feeding your technical keywords to them. (More on that in point #6.)
  2. Avoid duplicate content across pages. You might be tempted to use some of the same copy on different pages because it seems relevant. However, this can really confuse both your audience and search engines. Remember, a search engine has one goal: to provide the best answer it can to a given query. If it’s looking at two identical answers, how does it know which one to display? It doesn’t—and it might think you’re actively trying to dupe the search engines, which can lead to ranking penalties. Just remember that each page should have its own dedicated topic. If you feel the need to duplicate your copy, re-evaluate your need for that page in the first place.
  3. Be a rebel. Feel free to do those things that your high school English teacher told you not to! For instance—you can use contractions. You can use second person. You can use exclamation points! You can even start a sentence with a conjunction if you’re feeling frisky. Just make sure it works and fits with your voice. Not sure if it does? Read it out loud. Does it feel okay? Did you trip over it? Take note and adjust.
  4. Make your content easy to skim. Don’t be afraid of bullet points or subheads. The truth is, people on the web scan. They want to quickly absorb information, so make it easy for them. However, keep in mind that there is a right and wrong way to use heading tags in code, and search engines take a critical look at what you think is important enough to be a header. So your headers will need to be tagged correctly (your web team will likely handle this part), and they need to contain the right content.
  5. Use active voice as much as possible. Quick English lesson: active voice means the subject of the sentence is performing the action. Passive voice means that the subject of the sentence is having the action performed on it. For example, active voice: Jen is writing this blog post. Passive voice: This blog post was written by Jen. Active voice is succinct, direct and to the point.
  6. Incorporate keywords into your content, but remember to write for people, not search engines. Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past, and it can get you into a heck of a lot of trouble if you’re trying to rank in Google. Revise content so that keywords will fit in naturally. When in doubt, go with a sentence a reader would enjoy, not a search engine.
  7. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Bad grammar or a poorly constructed sentence can look like keyword stuffing or gibberish to search engines (and people!).

Still having trouble? It could be time to let the experts take over. If you need help organizing your content or nailing down your content strategy, give Flying Cork a call!

Something’s been popping up in Google Webmaster Tools site messages lately that’s been making dev teams and SEOs everywhere let out a groan:

Google systems have tested [x number of] pages from your site and found that [x%] of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.

A few of our clients have been getting this warning since the beginning of the year. Basically what it boils down to is that Google is nicely warning you of algorithm changes on the horizon, and you’d better get in line with their developer guidelines before April 21st. During that week, a new algorithm is scheduled to roll out, and if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it will be penalized. What does that mean? Essentially, sites with more mobile usability will likely be given more prominence (read: higher SERPs rankings) in searches performed on mobile devices. If you don’t comply, you won’t rank as well.

And if you’ve got a business, you really should want to continue ranking well. Why, you ask? Because over the past year or so, mobile usage has been skyrocketing. Eighty percent of adults have smartphones, and marketers are discovering that mobile searchers are the most ready to open their wallets and make a purchase. The problem, though, is that websites are pretty darn tiny when you look at them on your phone screen. That means you’re forced to pinch, scroll, prod and poke your way through a site (or, if you’re me, you just squint and wave goodbye to all of those dollars you spent on LASIK). This can lead to frustration, impatience, vision loss and insanity on the consumer’s part – or they simply leave your site and find one that they can view on the technology they choose. And that, most importantly, results in loss of sales for you.

Google knows this, and since Google’s goal is (and always has been) to quickly and easily provide the most relevant results to search queries, it knows that mobile frustrations are inconveniencing the user. To help searchers out, a “Mobile-Friendly” label will be displayed next to compliant pages in mobile search results, which gives end users a hint as to which sites will provide a better experience.

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But you should still take a deeper dive, because different site pages may fare differently. If you’re a webmaster with a site registered in Google Webmaster Tools, you should have gotten an email alerting you to the issue. Log into GWT and navigate to the Search Traffic dropdown. Look for the “Mobile Usability” option, which will display all of the issues you or your developers will have to fix in order to comply with the new algorithm, along with a list of corresponding pages. If you don’t have GWT, you can run your site through Google’s Mobile-Friendly testing tool.

While this is by no means an extensive list, “fixing” things could mean removing Flash elements, making sure content is sized to the viewport, and making sure the touch elements/clickable items aren’t too close together (because everyone hates fat fingering content, you know). Every site is unique, so every webmaster will see a different list. Even if you have a responsive site, don’t think you’re safe! Unique coding on certain pages of the site have the potential to trigger a mobile usability problem.

Still confused? If your business has a website but you don’t know whether or not mobile usability warnings apply to you, try reaching out to Flying Cork and let us figure it out for you!

 

If you don’t have your business on Google+ yet, now might be the perfect time. Google recently introduced another update to their search algorithm that aims to make local searches more relevant and helpful than ever before. So if you want to increase your chances of appearing higher in the SERPs, it’s a good idea to get yourself on their maps and social media platform. Like it or not, Google represents the majority of local search traffic, and their algorithm will give you a nice pat on the back for doing things their way.

Enter Google+ Business. It’s marketed as a way to engage your customers, but it has a definite impact on whether or not your business ranks during a local search query (for now, anyway; the algorithms are constantly changing, but that’s a topic for another blog post). Business Pages are designed to be the Yellow Pages of Google, complete with basic business information, customer reviews, and other content that can appear in SERPs even when your main website wouldn’t.

Don’t know how to set up a page? It’s easy!

Creating a Page

It’s free to join and list your business on Google+, but first, you need a Gmail account. Even if you have a personal e-mail through Gmail, it’s best to create another account solely for your business.

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Next, go to google.com/business and click on “get your page.” There are a few different options here: storefront, service area, or brand; choose the one that’s relevant to you.

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When you’re taken to the map screen, enter your full business address into the text box in the top left-hand corner of the screen.

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A lot of times, Google is aware of your business and will be able to provide your existing street address. If you see your business’s current data, click on it. If, however, your business data does not appear after entering the full address, click, “No, these are not my businesses,” and a new set of text boxes will appear where you can fill in your business information.

Verifying Your Business

This is probably the most important step you can take with Google+ Business, because if you don’t verify, your page won’t go public. Verifying ensures no one but you can claim your business. To prove to Google that you are, in fact, the owner of your business, you have to obtain a unique code to complete the process. Google does this via postcard.

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To get the postcard, continue through the prompts after you’ve entered your address and click “Mail me my code.” This signals Google to send out the postcard, which should arrive in 1-2 weeks. Be warned, though: sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes you have to request a postcard more than once. (Word on the street is that we had to request a postcard four times for one client to get verified. It’s Google’s world, and we’re just living in it.)

You can skip this step and verify later if you want, but since there’s a chance for delay, it’s best to request that postcard sent as soon as possible.

While you wait with bated breath, you can get to work setting up that page. You’ll need:

Basic Information: Provide accurate business hours, your address, contact information, and business categories. Google uses categories to index these pages, so choose wisely. Since you can only pick from their pre-populated options, pay attention as you’re typing—relevant categories you may not have thought of could pop up. You can put in as many categories as you’d like, but you should absolutely list a minimum of one, or else Google has no way of knowing what kind of business you have!

An Introduction: Use some of that keyword research data (because you did some keyword research, right?) to craft a conversational description of your business and services. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality as a business, so take some time here and think about how you want your potential customers to perceive you.

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Some Photos: To further personalize your page, you can add a cover photo and a profile photo. A cover photo is the largest photo on the page, and it would be the perfect place for a group picture of your staff, the exterior of your store, or an example of your product. The profile photo, on the other hand, would be great for a logo! For more detailed information on photos sizes, visit Google’s support center.

Additional Administrators: You don’t have to be the only one that manages your Google+ Business account. You can add any other administrators you’d like as long as they have a Gmail account, too. One caveat: If they’re admins, keep in mind that they will also be able to make changes to your page.

Google will let you know how complete your profile is, so keep checking the status bar. Until you get your business verified, you’ll only be able to get 90% completion. Potential customers won’t be able to see anything you post yet, so this is a great opportunity to start crafting a content strategy while you wait for that postcard!