Panda 4.0 – Are You Being Punished by Google?

pandaIf you are well versed in the SEO world then you likely already know about the Panda 4.0 release this last week. Most people, however, have probably never even heard of Panda, let alone know that this is the fourth iteration.

When it comes to search engine rankings, Google remains king. Even against other big name companies like Microsoft and Yahoo, Google still remains the largest focus of SEO. Because it is the most used, it is essential that you optimize your site for Google. This means it is important to understand how Google ranks sites, and what criteria they use for promoting them.

In early 2011, in an effort to promote good quality posts at the top of their search results, Google released a series of filters designed to punish websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google Panda was one of these filters released. The point of Panda is to sift out sites that attempt to manipulate search engines to get a higher post, and promote the sites that regularly post high-quality content.

 

What does this mean for you?

For most website owners, it means very little. If you have been following good White-Hat SEO procedures, then it is likely that you won’t even notice its implementation. However, it is possible that you have been following good procedures and still get punished. SEO practices change frequently. What was once a good practice just a few years ago might by punishable now. Just this last week, eBay lost 33% of its organic traffic due to reasons very similar to this.

What can you do to make sure you don’t get punished?

Focus on the users. Make sure the content you are producing is actually good content. Avoid posting blogs or other posts containing rehashed information. Post content that users would actually want to read and engage in. Don’t post simply to increase your SEO results.

How Safe Are You From Data Theft?

cybercrime_nrM3zMainstream news sites often report about how data breaches are on the rise. Take a look at almost any technology related news site and there will be some article or blog talking about some type of data theft. A few months ago, Target announced they were attacked and accidentally disclosed names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and emails for as many as 70 million people. Even more recently, AOL announced that their email system was compromised and up to 2.4 million emails accounts were accessed. Are data breaches like these really becoming more common?

Many experts on database security believe that incidents of data theft is not increasing as much as our awareness and reporting of them. Companies are afraid of the larger backlash that can occur if they don’t report data breaches. The news outlets also like stories of data breaches as nothing sells news quite like fear. So what should the average person think? Should they constantly be afraid of getting their data or personal information stolen? Or is it not something to be afraid of? Let’s look at some actual statistics.

The odds of being a victim of a data theft, resulting in a financial loss are 7%. (Or 1 in 14) This is a fairly high chance. Statistically, if you use your credit card 14 times, there is a good chance your data can become stolen.

That may seem like bad news, but here is the truth: nothing on the internet is safe. There is nothing you can do to stop theft from happening. Anything that you post online, whether that is blog posts, images, or personal information, everything is susceptible to being stolen and used by someone else. Many companies will give out your email address even if they pledge not to.

So what can you do?

Even if it is impossible to stop all theft, you can at least make it more difficult for potential thieves.

  • Shred documents that contain personal information. This includes unsolicited credit card applications you get in the mail.
  • Don’t freely give out your information. You do not need to give your phone number or email every time you make a purchase at Best Buy.
  • Don’t use public computers for financial transactions.
  • Don’t give away sensitive information like Social Security numbers, date of birth, or credit card info.

The key is making it more difficult for thieves. Often this can be enough to get them to try looking elsewhere. There is nothing you can ever do to become 100% secure on the internet (short of living in a cave for the rest of your life.) The best way to stay safe is to make sure your don’t share your personal information unless absolutely necessary.

Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

3More people than ever are choosing to browse the web from mobile devices. If you ever browse the internet from a phone or tablet, you have likely felt the annoyance of visiting a website that has not been optimized for mobile viewing. The text is often too small, the page doesn’t fit on the screen, and links are usually small enough that you have to zoom in to click. These sites are more cumbersome to use than sites that have been optimized for mobile viewing.

You don’t want people thinking your site is hard to use. After all the time and effort you spent to make it look good on the desktop, you should make sure that it looks good no matter what device you view it on.

When you are getting ready to make your site mobile friendly, remember that your website should fit the needs of the users. For instance, if your research shows that mobile users visit a certain section or page on your website, you could consider making that easily accessible from the front page on your mobile site. You will need to find a balance between making the site feel like the original desktop site, and functionality on smaller screens.

Here are the three main approaches when designing a mobile site:

Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Responsive web design is a design technique that essentially resizes the content automatically depending on the device the user is viewing from. RWD is great for keeping the content consistent and makes SEO easier. The downside of this technique is that it can be expensive to implement and requires extensive planning before building.

Dynamic Serving

This method detects the type of device the visitor is using and presents a custom page designed for that site. This design is nice because it is makes loading faster and can provide a custom experience for the users. However, because there are multiple custom pages, this means that there can be multiple sets of content making it difficult to keep everything up-to-date.

A Separate Mobile Site

This is when the server detects mobile users and redirects them to a separate mobile site. Separate mobile sites are often good for small businesses that don’t have complex website needs. It is easier to setup and manage. It also shares many of the drawbacks that Dynamic Serving has.

Checking your site for mobile compatibility is easier than ever. Google provides a service which checks your site for mobile compatibility. http://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

Paste in your URL and see how your site is doing.

Should You Upgrade or Replace Your PC?

When you bought your last PC you may have thought it would last you forever. Perhaps it was the top of the line when you purchased it. Now you are starting to notice that it is running slower than when it was new, or it is taking longer to startup. The average desktop lifespan is between 2-5 years, depending on the type of system originally purchased. There are several different reasons that computers start to slow down. If you want to return your computer to its previous performance how do you know if it is better to simply upgrade some of the parts, or purchase a whole new system?

Before looking at replacements, the first thing you should try is cleaning up your computer software. This is free and typically takes less time than installing new parts. You can start by clearing up old software and files that are unused. If you are running Windows, the Disk Cleanup tool is pretty good for this process. There are also tons of great guides online to assist you. If you are signed up with iPoint’s networking services, we can handle all of these processes for you, so you don’t have to lift a finger. (Other than to contact us of course.)

If cleaning up your computer is not enough, the next step is to evaluate what the weak link in the system is and evaluate if an upgrade will help.

–          Is the Hard drive full? Some common symptoms are: slow starting up, slow performing day-to-day tasks, and slow shutting down. This is an easy fix. Start by uninstalling unused programs and files. It’s best if you can have at least 33% hard drive free. If this is not an option, you can always replace or add a new hard drive. They are typically cheap and one of the easiest parts to install.

–          Not enough memory. This is often the weak link in old computers. Symptoms: slow multitasking. The good thing is that memory is cheap ($50-70) and is definitely the easiest part to install.

–          Outdated CPU. This one is a lot more difficult to install on your own. You typically want to only think about replacing your CPU if you have experience doing this before. It takes time to replace and at worst it is possible to completely ruin your computer. While a replacement CPU may be within your price range, other companies can easily charge you $200 – $500 for installation.

Is it worth upgrading?

A good rule of thumb is that if the overall cost of upgraded parts is more than 50% of the cost of a newer and better system, it is generally better to just purchase a new computer system instead of upgrading. Is one part enough to make your system run better again? Adding additional RAM will do little good if your processor is out of date and your Hard Drive is full.

Won’t something better come around in six months?

This is a question that is often asked when considering purchasing a new computer. I would advise that if you need a new computer, it is better to just go ahead and purchase one now. There will always be something new and faster six months from now. That shouldn’t affect your decision now.

What you should know when outsourcing SEO

outsource_seoOutsourcing SEO can be beneficial for many small to medium sized companies. It allows the company to focus more on their core business aspects without hiring one or more employees. There have been a lot of shady businesses offering SEO services the last couple years. How do you know which company to trust? Here are a few tips for someone who is looking to outsource their SEO.

SEO is not just some magic computer thing.

You should have a clear understanding of what the company will be doing for you, especially before you pay them. If a company claims that they will explain what they do after you sign a contract or payment, walk away. Nothing in this industry is a secret.

SEO should be a collaborative effort.

The company that does your SEO should understand your business. At the same time, you, your developers, and anyone in marketing or content should understand some of the basics of SEO and work together to keep the site optimized. Here are some articles that can act as a starting place if you are confused about how SEO works:

How Search engines work.

Why it is necessary for your website.

No one can guarantee a #1 spot on Google.

Don’t trust a site that promises you a first result or even first page on any search engine. Especially before you have specified what you want to rank for. Many companies will message your promising you top results on Google, don’t trust these scams. Sites can offer results, but always make sure they are clear and there are well defined consequences in place if they fail to deliver.

Watch out for scam SEO sites.

More than a few scrupulous SEO sites have started in recent years, looking to take advantage of uninformed business owners. It is important to watch out for companies that may end up punishing you. One common scam is the creation of “shadow” domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client’s behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor’s domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Do your research on SEO companies.

Be sure to ask for their experience. Some companies may be unable to show direct results due to NDA’s, but they should be able to provide a list of sites they have optimized and the time frame they operated in. If the work was done recently, check the sites yourself.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to look for if you choose to outsource your SEO. As always, iPoint offers trusted SEO services. If you are thinking about outsourcing your SEO, check out our SEO page, or call us at 970-266-0703 to speak with one of our SEO representatives.