SEO/SEM

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Gregory Mount
Gregory Mount

What Is SEM and How to Do It Right

How to make your website rank at the very top of the search engine results page? Today, when 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine, the problem of online visibility has never been more relevant. The competition keeps growing, and the Internet is becoming an ever more crowded place as businesses of all scales struggle for the public’s attention by creating websites and flooding them with content.

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Gregory Mount
Gregory Mount

A Novice’s Guide to Meta Tags

Meta tags are data that helps search engines crawl web pages and rank content while facilitating the search. Hence, meta tags are known to be conducive to SEO.

Nowadays, when 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine, the importance of SEO is hard to overestimate. Neither social media outreach nor paid online ads can grant you as much exposure and high-quality organic traffic as ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs).

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Brenda Peterson
Brenda Peterson

YouTube SEO Guide: 10 Ways to Optimize Your Videos

Nowadays, nobody questions the power of YouTube. Video content grows in popularity year by year, and so does the platform. Realizing the potential of YouTube in generating engagement, driving traffic, and raising overall brand awareness, businesses have flooded the platform with content in attempts to reach their audience. And you know what? You should follow their example! After all, 54% of consumers admit they want to see more videos from brands they are interested in.

YouTube is not just the world’s most popular video-sharing platform. It is, in fact, the second largest search engine after Google (to which it actually belongs). That means that video content uploaded to YouTube and optimized for search can not only increase your audience engagement but also make you more visible on the internet.

But how to optimize your videos for YouTube Search? Keep reading this brief SEO guide and find out how to achieve better ranking positions for your video content.

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Marc Andreessen
Marc Andreessen

How to Optimize Content for Google’s Featured Snippets

Driving organic traffic to your website or blog is a serious challenge in itself. One thing is to create engaging content, and another is to make it visible on the internet. While it isn’t easy to convince search engines like Google that your content is “the one”, the need to appear on SERPs (search engine results pages) persists as long as you want your audience to find you easily online.

And yet, there is an even greater challenge provided you have already mastered the basic methods of traffic acquisition and want to get the ultimate exposure for your content. Believe it or not, there’s something better than occupying the first position in the search results! It’s ranking in Google’s featured snippets.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this opportunity and figure out how to optimize content for Google’s featured snippets.

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Blake Colwell
Blake Colwell

What Is a Canonical Tag and How Does It Impact SEO?

It’s no secret that search engine optimization is an overall complex subject. You will learn that as soon as you dig deeper, beyond things like keyword usage, editing meta-tags, and link building. This is not to say that these techniques are simple, but at least they are more or less known to most people who have ever created a website and attempted to promote it on the web.

But there are SEO issues that most casual users are completely unaware of. Meanwhile, they can affect your online visibility and decrease your website rankings on search engines. As they say, ignorance is no defense.

One of such issues is duplicate content and the usage of canonical tags. Let’s find out what these terms mean and how you can use the knowledge to enhance your SEO.

What is a canonical tag?

A canonical tag (also known as “rel canonical”) is an HTML command which tells search engines that a given website page is a copy (full or partial) of a specified master page. Simply put, a canonical tag can be viewed as a reference to an original source of content.

The tag looks like this rel=”canonical” <link> and is usually placed in the HTML head of a web page. The <link> part contains a URL of a page which should be considered as an authoritative page (the page with original content).

A canonical tag is used to help search engines differentiate original content from duplicate content as the latter can be a reason for Google and other search engines to penalize your website and demote it in rankings. Thus, pages containing duplicate content and a canonical link are disregarded by search engine crawlers when ranking your site. Meanwhile, the master page gets better positions on SERPs (search engine result pages).

What is duplicate content?

Today everybody knows that content moves the internet. If you own a website or blog, you know that content is your most valuable asset. Not only because it attracts visitors to your site and keeps the audience engaged, but also because it is mainly content that search engines analyze while ranking websites. As long as your content is unique and of high quality, your website will occupy higher positions on SERPs and will be easier to find.

However, if some of your website pages have the same or very similar content, search engines can deem that suspicious and decrease your site ranking. Content repeating across multiple pages is called duplicate.

You’re probably thinking: why should I care? None of my pages are duplicated. But you’ll be surprised to know that there can actually be quite a few. You’re just unaware of their existence.

What are the reasons for duplicate content?

The problem with duplicate content lies in the difference between how we, humans, approach web pages and how search engines see them. We used to treat a website page just like a page in a book. Each page is supposed to be filled with distinct text. There are hardly any books out there in which you can find identical pages.

But search engines approach a web page from the perspective of its URL (or URLs). In other words, most website pages can be accessed from different URLs, and every URL will be treated as a separate page. And since all the URLs will lead to the same page, the content behind them will be considered as duplicate.

Multiple reasons can result in content duplication:

  • Transfer protocol/subdomain variations: Your website may be accessible through different URLs, for instance, http://www.yoursite.com, https://www.yoursite.com, http://yoursite.com, etc. Although all of these addresses take you to one and the same homepage, a search engine will consider these as different pages.
  • Regional domain prefix: If you have multiple versions of a single website available for different regions (e.g., uk.yoursite.com), you will have to use a canonical tag pointing to master pages in order to avoid issues with duplicate content (unless your content is translated).
  • Mobile version of a website: Mobile-optimized versions of websites are often available through distinct URLs (e.g., mobile.yoursite.com). If this is the case, a canonical tag is required to draw a line between the original and duplicate content.
  • Product pages: The problem of duplicate content is especially acute for online stores where different variations of the same product may be represented by different URL paths (e.g., yoursite.com/product?size=small&color=yellow).
  • Copied content: Sometimes you need more than just one website to represent your content. For example, if you have multiple company branches or syndicate content for several online resources. In these cases, it makes sense to canonicalize the original (or preferred) source of content.
  • Flaws of content management systems: Using a CMS can also be a reason for the emergence of pages with duplicate content on your website. This is because some systems may automatically set search parameters for your URLs, apply wrong tags, and allow access to your pages through multiple URLs.

How to canonicalize pages

There are a few different ways to use canonical tags. Each has both advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Using Google Search Console

This method is the easiest and requires the usage of a dedicated webmaster tool by Google. It offers a setting allowing website owners to specify the preferred domain where the canonical version of the content is found.

However, this feature is useful mostly for pages that have similar content and identical URL paths but different domain names (e.g., yoursite.com/product/t-shirt and anothersite.com/product/t-shirt). Also, this method is relevant only for Google but not for other search engines.

  1. Introducing a canonical tag as metadata

Applying canonical tags to specific pages is the most common, though a bit more tricky way to canonicalize content. The tag is formatted as <link rel=”canonical” href=”[canonical URL]”> and is added as metadata to the page’s HTML head.

The main benefit of this method is that it enables you to canonicalize content for any number of pages. However, adding more data to a page expands its size, thus, slowing down the loading speed.

Furthermore, it can be quite difficult to update canonical tags accurately if your pages’ URLs are changed frequently (although some CMS solutions can automatically update them for you).

  1. Setting up 301 redirects

If you want search engine crawlers to take only one page variant as canonical while ignoring the other, you may consider configuring a 301 redirect. It will automatically forward search engines and visitors from the URL requested or specified in a search result to a preferred URL.

This is an optimal solution if there is a need to show a search engine that a specific version of your page is the most important. 301 redirects are often used to prioritize a root domain over a subdomain or vice versa (e.g., www.yoursite.com vs. yoursite.com).

However, by using this method, you consciously depreciate one of the page versions and deny access to the non-canonical page for all potential visitors.

Final tips

Using canonical tags wisely can save you from troubles related to duplicate content, for example, Google penalty. So if you used to take good care of your website SEO, canonicalization should be taken as seriously as keyword selection and link building. Here are a few final tips to help you manage your canonical tags effectively:

  • Use self-referential canonical tags: It is a common practice to add a canonical tag to a page you want to prioritize. For instance, if you have several pages with similar content, e.g., yoursite.com, www.yoursite.com, https://www.yoursite.com, and you want to choose yoursite.com as canonical, it’s okay to use the canonical link yoursite.com on this specific page. This method is often applied to canonicalize homepages as it is mostly them that people link back to.
  • Avoid chain- or cross-canonicalization: Make sure to canonicalize only one source of original content for multiple pages. Don’t canonicalize page A > page B and then page B > page A; or page A > page B > page C. Otherwise, search engines may opt for a wrong page. The correct canonicalization scheme is: page B > page A, page C > page A, page D > page A, etc. (given that A is canonical).
  • Use canonical tags sparingly: Remember that it only makes sense to canonicalize pages if they have identical or very similar counterparts. If there’s a significant difference between two pages and you canonicalize one of them, you put another page under the risk of being excluded from rankings. So make sure to use canonical tags only where they are really needed.
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Ashley Kingsey
Ashley Kingsey

What Is Domain Authority?

Optimizing your website for search engines is hardly possible without following a broad array of metrics allowing you to identify how well your site ranks against the competitors and whether your online presence is visible enough to your potential clients.

One of such metrics is Domain Authority. But what does the term mean? What factors does it account for and how does it actually influence your SEO? If you own a business website or blog and want to know how well it performs on Google compared to other sites on the web, this article is for you.

What Is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority is a metric developed by Moz, one of the world-leading SEO consulting and software companies. It is a dynamically changing score which is meant to predict a website’s ranking ability on search engines.

The DA score ranges from one to 100 and scales logarithmically. This has two implications:

  • The better your website is supposed to rank, the higher score you get.
  • The higher your score is, the harder it is to top it. In other words, it is more challenging to go from 60 to 70 than from 20 to 40.

Aimed at identifying your search engine ranking potential, Domain Authority is based on the quantity and quality of inbound and outbound links. In this respect, it can be viewed as a third-party replacement for Google’s cryptic PageRank, a website ranking algorithm that evaluates a site’s authority by analyzing its backlinking catalog.

Although being a proprietary concept developed by a single company, Domain Authority is now widely used by webmasters and SEOs around the world to determine a website’s ability to rank on SERPs (search engine result pages).

A website’s DA score can be checked by using all sorts of SEO analytics software, including Moz’s free Chrome extension MozBar, as well as Link Explorer, SEMrush Backlink Checker, etc.

How does Domain Authority work?

The logic behind Domain Authority is pretty much the same as that of Google’s PageRank. The more sites with a good reputation link back to your website, the more authoritative it is supposed to be, and consequently, the higher ranking positions it should occupy.

The fundamental difference, however, is that Domain Authority applies to the entire website instead of just a specific page. This is why it is often taken as a benchmark by which a website’s overall “ranking strength” and credibility are measured.

As reported by Moz, Domain Authority is calculated by taking into account around 40 factors that point at a website ranking ability, including the number of inbound and outbound links, external and internal links, and the quality (authority and credibility) of web resources that link back to your site and are referred to. Thus, websites with an extensive backlinking catalog receive higher DA scores while brand new sites start with the score of one.

Another important thing to remember about Domain Authority (which Moz has emphasized multiple times) is that it is by no means an absolute measure. The DA score is relative as it is obtained as a result of juxtaposing the metrics of your website to those of the absolute leaders like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, etc. These sites have a score of 100.

As a consequence, even if you take good care of your website SEO and keep acquiring quality links, you’re not immune to occasional drops of Domain Authority. If that happens, there are two ways to interpret it: either your SEO requires more attention or the top websites out there have experienced a significant surge in the number of links acquired.

In other words, the leading sites cannot exceed the score limit of 100, therefore, they retain their current score while all the rest are leveled down proportionally. This is why Domain Authority is a relative and dynamic metric.

Why follow Domain Authority?

Although Domain Authority doesn’t reflect your absolute position on the web in terms of search engine ranking, it can show you how your website ranks (or can potentially rank) as opposed to your competitors. So if your DA score is not as high as you think it should be, don’t stress out. The best thing you can do is check the Domain Authority of other players in your niche. If yours is higher, you have nothing to worry about.

At the same time, if you’re actively doing link building, tracking other sites’ Domain Authority can help you figure out which websites should be targeted to get juicer links. Sites with a higher score are more likely to give you a better exposure online and drive more traffic to your website.

However, it is important to differentiate Domain Authority from Page Authority. The former gives you a big picture of how a given website should rank on search engines considering its linking profile. The latter accounts for the ranking strength as well but comes down to a single web page, regardless of the authority of the entire site. Thus, the difference between DA and PA scores can be quite substantial as Page Authority accounts only for the links related to a specific page.

How to increase your Domain Authority?

The truth is, there’s no easy or fast way of influencing your Domain Authority score. Your DA is a result of your efforts to build a user-friendly website, create quality content, maintain your audience, and enhance SEO.

Following your Domain Authority is a great way to evaluate and approximate your chances of getting higher ranking positions on SERPs. But increasing the score shouldn’t be a goal in itself. Instead, it is advised to focus on improving your website as a whole, delivering the best content and user-experience possible. As long as your content is unique, useful, and engaging, your website will attract more visitors, get more exposure, grow an authority, and earn more high-quality links as a result. Meanwhile, keep an eye on your SEO to make sure your site complies to the best webmaster practices. Using effective SEO tools and conducting occasional SEO audits will help you keep afloat on SERPs.

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