Tag Archives: technique

A Proper Rethink: Why Businesses Should Revisit Their SEO Strategy From Time to Time

SEO tips

In the business world, some departments have it far easier than others. The HR and the finance department for example is usually static and unchanging, there might be certain periods where they’re much busier than the usual but you’re usually juggling around the same things. Contrast this to those working on the field of marketing, where trends change as often as the pop culture fads. In one moment, you might be making references to the latest Avengers film while in the next; you might be talking about something else entirely.

Marketing has always been about the zeitgeist, searching for something that’s currently dominating our current discourse and if appropriate, using them for our own benefit. This has been the case for decades and will probably remain true for the foreseeable future. As a relatively new branch of marketing, SEO is also bound by the same rules and as we go further into this discussion, I’m going to outline several reasons why it’s a good idea for businesses and SEO services alike to revise their SEO strategy from time to time to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.

Adapting with the latest marketing trends

Before the start of the final season of Game of Thrones, Mountain Dew aired a commercial featuring some of the brand’s usual collaborators humming the series’ theme song. During the Marvel-related euphoria that coincides with the latest Avengers two-parter, Infinity War and Endgame, my social media feed was also filled with so much Avengers-related content that you can’t swing a metaphorical dead cat without hitting Thanos’ absurdly large chin. The same thing also happened during the run-up to Harry and Meghan’s first child.

Taking advantage of the latest pop culture trends has been part of the marketing playbook for as long as that playbook has existed but it’s pretty common for brands to give the same treatment to their whole SEO strategy in general. Making fresh & original contents does help with SEO but that’s far from enough as SEO as a field encompasses a whole lot more than just content. SEO has one foot in technology and the other in marketing and the fact that these two fields never stay rooted in place should be enough to convince you.

Google’s algorithm are constantly updated

Search engine algorithms are constantly tweaked based on the data they’re getting from queries submitted by their public. Most of the time, these tweaks are minor but every now and again, Google rolls out one major update or two that should definitely prompt a proper rethink on your part. These major updates are usually announced beforehand and while the technical details of what the update would change is kept strictly confidential, some general information revolving around the update would typically be published to keep businesses from being caught off-guard.

To keep you abreast of what’s cooking at Google, it’s a good idea for business owners to subscribe to the Google Webmaster blog as that’s where news around Google’s search technology is published. Even if you aren’t fully in control of your SEO strategy, you have a contract with an SEO services company that does the heavy lifting for you, say, it’s still a good idea to at least keep yourself informed so you could tell when they’re doing the job you paid them to.

The world of web development are constantly updated with new technologies

SEO is broadly divided into two categories, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. The latter refers to things you do outside your webpage for the purpose of generating traffic such as posting on social media platforms while including a link to your website. Meanwhile, the former relates to the things you do inside your website such as uploading blog posts to your website and optimizing how your website is displayed and loaded, which directly revolves around the world of web design & development.

A decade ago, when a webmaster wants to optimize their website for mobile devices, they have to go through the painstaking process of stripping the more sophisticated elements of their website and adapting the size of the remaining elements to small screens and a portrait landscape. Eventually, with the advances made in mobile devices and web development, the concept of responsive web design becomes the new normal with websites now simply adapting to the size and orientation of the screen they’re displayed on.

Responsive web design is just one example in how web development practically changes the world of SEO as Google at the moment considers responsive web design to be the model for mobile optimization. However, this could change in the future as companies experiment with new display models such as folding phones and VR, which is why it’s important for business to adapt their on-page SEO strategy with the latest news in web development. What is considered a best practice now might turn obsolete in just a couple of years.

Being on the first page is good, being first period is better

Another reason why businesses might want to take a second look at their SEO strategy is simply because there might be a better way of doing things or because your current strategy just isn’t working. Comfort is the enemy of progress and thanks to the somewhat esoteric nature of SEO, there’s always something you could do in order to achieve a better result. It’s possible for example that the keywords you’re optimizing for is slightly too generic and your effort is practically being bulldozed by bigger brands with considerably more brand recognition. It’s also possible that your contents just aren’t relevant enough to be given top billing on search engine results.

The business of optimization is akin to a true friend’s work; it’s never done. There’s always something you could to increase efficiency, either by getting more results using the same amount of resource or getting the same amount of results by using less resource. Even if you feel your current SEO strategy is working well enough, it’s never a bad idea to take a second look as there are probably a couple of things to try out that you might’ve previously missed.

Autodidactisism: The Concept of Learnability in Web Development

web development tips

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Now that artificial intelligence (AI) development has ramped up considerably, various prominent thinkers have floated the idea of a universal basic income as one proposal to combat the potentially reduced amount of jobs that would be taken over by AI and that particular cliche has been on my mind quite a lot. The idea behind the quote is rather simple, instead of simply giving someone what they need, give them the ability to obtain what they need by themselves.

I like to think of myself as a progressive but perhaps because it’s because of the values my family have instilled in me, I believe in the idea of making a living out of an honest day’s work. Self-sufficiency has always been a concept that I found to be admirable, which is why the idea of a universal basic income isn’t something I’m ideologically on board with, even if I know it is somewhat inevitable. It’s also thanks this belief that I’m a huge proponent of the concept of learnability in web development and software development in general, as it promotes the idea of self-sufficiency on behalf of the users.

Learning the ropes in web development

You know how when you’re just starting out on a video game, you’re inevitably be presented with a tutorial of some sorts that shows you how to play the game? In the video game industry, this tutorial is usually divided into two broad categories, the hand-holding approach and the hands-off approach. The hand-holding approach takes its name from how parents usually hold their children hands whenever they’re together. In the hand-holding approach, players are practically infantilized in that the game basically tells them everything they need to do in order to play the game.

The hands-off approach uses a different tack in that it doesn’t force this information down player’s throat and instead acts more like general pointers that players are free to ignore. I’ve always despised the former approach because when a game needs to have its mechanics explained in full detail, that’s either a sign of bad design or a lack of faith in the developer’s part for the players. Good design shouldn’t be obtuse, it has to be something that is easily recognizable and learnable even without excessive hand-holding, which is where the concept of learnability comes in.

Websites are nowhere as complex or as interactive as a full-fledged video game but as technology progresses, websites now have considerably more features baked in compared to how it was a decade ago. Web developers then have to figure out a way to make sure that users are capable of using these features the way it was supposed to without excessively overwhelming them with tutorials and guides. This is especially important in web apps as they’re considerably more interactive than the typical websites.

Familiarity breeds security

If you’ve ever spent a prolonged amount of time away from what you refer to as home, then you’d no doubt be familiar with the idea of comfort food. For the South Asian diaspora for example, something as simple as a yogurt starter is enough for them to bring the comforts of their homeland into wherever they currently live. The usual insult thrown at familiarity is that it breeds contempt but it can also breeds security (and in the case of comfort food, affection) and this no truer than in the world of web and software development.

There are a number of free office programs you could use as an alternative to Microsoft Office but you would also notice that practically every single one of them uses a visually similar interface. I typically use Google Docs for my office needs but I also have Open Office installed for emergencies and moving between these two and Microsoft Office installed on my work computer is as seamless as it gets. The icons used are mostly similar and the options & features are located and labeled just as how I expect them to be.

The easiest way of making your website easy to learn is by following on what is considered best practices. A magnifying glass or a box labeled ‘search’ would be used for the search function. An image of a shopping cart opens up items that you’ve placed in your virtual shopping cart and an envelope, even though almost no one sends physical mail anymore, is used for the built-in messaging feature. Clicking on your username or profile picture would lead to your profile page. All of the above concepts are considered industry standards and to provide a seamless experience for users, don’t ignore them.

Use microinteraction features

You walked into an unfamiliar office building for a meeting on the 15th floor but when you pressed the elevator button, you noticed it doesn’t light up the way you expected it to. You automatically assume that the elevator is out of service so you tried the elevator on the opposite of the hallway and you noticed the same thing. You then asked the receptionist at the lobby if the entire elevator is out of service and then they answered that the elevator actually works, it’s just that the buttons don’t light up. Microinteractions are small but they are essential as is the case with elevators and for websites.

Microinteractions are the little things that act as a signifier to confirm that the user has performed a certain action. A filled heart sign when you liked a post on Instagram for example or things flying to your virtual shopping cart whenever you add an item in an e-commerce site. Microinteractions are useful to provide clarity as it could prevent users from performing the same action twice, something that I tend to do when the internet is spotty.

Always try to keep it simple

One thing I heavily dislike about reading fantasy books is that typically, even before I arrive at the first page and their plethora of made-up words, I’m going to be presented with a bunch of supplementary information that is central to the book’s lore. I find this to be seriously off-putting as the last thing any writer should do is to overwhelm the readers with information, and this philosophy is also true to the world of web development.

Always strive to keep your homepage simple, which can be especially important for e-commerce sites that feature thousands of different products. Web apps tend to be guilty of this as well, providing dozens of unnecessary options and features that might not be necessary to the majority of users. Having lots of features are great but unless they’re essential, hiding them behind a menu might be more preferable so as to not make your interface became too cluttered.

The Million-Dollar Question: How Answering Questions Can Help Your SEO Efforts

SEO tips

In the twenty plus years since the internet was made publicly available and a decade since the iPhone made it possible for us to access the internet almost all the time, we now rely on the internet for almost everything. We use the internet for dating, to watch a film, to listen to music, to order food, to get a ride somewhere or to simply talk among ourselves. Because of these various roles the internet has now filled within our lives, it’s easy to forget what it was designed for in the first place, to provide an easy mean of exchanging information.

Technically, exchanging information is still what the internet is primarily used for. The various social media platforms available are an extension of that but it’s the kind of thing that people tend to easily forget given just how versatile the internet now is these days. Whenever I stumble upon a word I don’t recognize in a book or when I want to check some trivial information about a famous person, the internet is what I use to answer those questions. To help answer a question remains one of the most popular uses of the internet and knowing how to take advantage of this fact could be very useful for SEO services and marketers.

The changing roles of a search engine

It used to be that when you’re trying to find an answer to a simple question, like “how old Nicole Kidman is”, you type the quoted phrase into a search engine and the search engine will show you a list of pages where the answer to that question might be found. Usually, you’re just going to be led into the Wikipedia page of Nicole Kidman, where her detailed birth date can be found. However, if you type that phrase into Google now, you’re going to be presented with a direct answer (she’s 51 years old FYI) plus a short biography taken from Wikipedia for good measure.

Search engines no longer act as a signpost that tells you where something can be found, they’ve begun to act more and more like a place where those answers can be found, even if technically, they pull that answer from other places. By taking advantage of this feature, it is possible for a page from your website to be featured prominently, above the rest of the results, on a given search engines results page (SERP), which can potentially draw a huge amount of web traffic your way. If you’re thinking of optimizing your content for questions, you might want to take note of the following.

Avoid optimizing for questions with short, easy and direct answers

The Nicole Kidman’s age question above is an example of this. Because of the nature of the answer, Google could simply pull the answer out of your page and display them on the SERP, which is going to effectively stop any traffic coming your way. Sure, the URL for your website might get some prime real estate at the top of the page but have you ever actually paid any attention to the URL when you’re using Google? I honestly don’t know anyone who does.

The idea is then to look for questions commonly asked of your industry that either can’t be answered in a single sentence or one that would need to be backed up by a solid argument. On the other hand, you’d want to provide a summary of sorts for Google that partly answers the question while giving a tantalizing glimpse of what users might found on the actual page. You want to give them enough to be interested but not too much that they’re satisfied with what you’ve already given them.

Use the inverted pyramid approach

The inverted pyramid approach is what I like to call good journalism. In this age of clickbait and misleading headlines, it’s very common to see overly melodramatic article titles that don’t really tell you anything and whose sole purpose is to entice unsuspecting users into seeing the story, which tends to have an anti-climatic result. The oft-cited headline ‘Man tries to hug a wild lion, you won’t believe what happens next’ is one example of a clickbait headline.

This ultimately meaningless headline is in contrast with the practice of quality journalism, which tends to be forthcoming with the gist of the story and uses the article to fill out the details. As I’m typing this for example, a headline in The New York Times simply states ‘Alternate Brexit plans rejected, Theresa May offers to step down’. With the inverted pyramid approach, you already have an idea on what the article is going to tell you.

In this approach, you start with an answer and then fill in the rest with the details and the context of how that answer came to be. This approach fits in with the point above, by giving out a summary or a shortened version of the answer, you provide enough information to the readers but in order to understand the big picture, they’re going to have to read the rest of your article. As with journalism, this approach helps build your credibility as publication that has to resort to clickbait headlines is never going to be taken seriously.

Take advantage of the ‘People also ask’ feature in Google

So you’ve landed on a popular question with no easy answers related to your field of business that has a potential to draw traffic to your website but optimizing the content for your website around a single question isn’t practical so you’re going to have to find more questions to optimize for. The good news is that you can use that one question in your repertoire to find related questions easily by using the ‘People also ask’ feature in Google. Try typing that question into Google and see what happens.

In Google, right under the featured answer at the top of SERP is the ‘People also ask’ (PAA) column, which is a list of expandable questions that are related to the question you typed into Google. If I ask Google on ‘who is the best F1 driver of all time’, the PAA column list questions such as ‘who is the most successful F1 driver’ and ‘who is the highest paid F1 driver of 2018’. Clicking on those questions will open up more questions relating to the ones I’ve just clicked.

By taking advantage of the PAA column, you could land on an ever-growing list of questions in your industry that you could optimize for. Combine this list of questions with keyword research tools to ensure that the question you’re optimizing for is actually getting some heavy traffic. What’s also great about the PAA column is that each of the questions listed there also have their own featured answer, giving SEO services and marketers more opportunity to be featured in a given SERP.