Table XI Blog


MIT’s Polaris can cut page load time by 34 percent — what you need to know

Person holding a mobile device in one hand and a coffee in the other.

All that gorgeous photography and stylized copy that makes your product sell so well — it’s also what’s taking precious seconds to load when you call up your site on a smartphone. You need rich media to properly showcase what you’re selling, but you also need your site to be speedy enough to load quickly on small screens and conform to web standards. Amazon estimates that every extra 100 milliseconds it takes a page to load cuts its profits by 1 percent. It’s not just that users won’t wait around for 10, 20 seconds for your site to load — Google uses site speed in its search rankings. Slow sites will take an SEO hit, hurting the odds of your customers finding you organically — i.e. without paid advertising.

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5 Tips to Optimize a Website for International Audiences

internationalseo-webdesignInternational marketing and SEO is important. More people are accessing information through search engines, making it crucial that businesses be found in Google by potential clients or customers. Before designing and developing a new website, it’s important to know the specific SEO steps that will set up the site for future success.

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How Content Marketing Works: Think Glink Partner Spotlight

Think Glink Media Logo“Content Marketing” is the buzzy phrase on everyone’s lips these days. But, what is it, really, and how can you do it well? Many of us know that there’s a link between good, current content and search engine results, but is there more to it than that? Table XI partner and Think Glink Media president Ilyce Glink walked us through the benefits of creating good content and how strong content marketing can yield real results.

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Tech Tip: Free Link Analysis Tools for Competitive SEO Benchmarking

Chain links with one highlighted in redThe web is made up of a matrix of inter-linking sites. Many factors influence your website’s search engine ranking, and links pointing to your site from credible sources is one of them.

At a very basic level, search engines view a link from one site to another as the first site “voting” for the second. Votes are good because, just like in an election, they can signal popularity, trust, and credibility. But it’s not just the mere presence of links that matter—the quantity and source of these links are important as well. Are they from spammy sites or reputable domains? Simply put, in Google’s view, trusted sites point to other trusted sites, and this trust factors into search engine rank.

If you’re considering a link-building campaign, start by analyzing your current “linkscape” in the following ways:

  • Quantity: How many links do you have?
  • Quality: Are these links from sites with relatively high domain authority?
  • Anchor text: Do the links pointing to pages on your site include words you’d like to be known/searched for?

Google Analytics and Webmaster tools are good, free ways to find answers to these questions. But since every online search is a competition for clicks, it’s equally important to understand what your competitors are doing. Gaining insights into their link profile not only helps benchmark, it may also help guide your link-building strategy.

Unfortunately though, competitive information can’t be gleaned from Google Analytics or Webmaster tools. While no one tool is perfect for this, here are three free tools to help you evaluate your competition:

1. Ahrefs: This site is quite comprehensive and the newest of the three we’ll discuss. It offers detailed link analysis, and is a particularly good site to help with “link cleanup” (the process of identifying and eliminating spammy links pointing to your site). It also is helpful to monitor the growth of link-building campaigns, both your own or those of your competitors. The free option allows you 500 results (per requests), and 15 requests per day, but a monthly subscription provides substantially more advanced tools and analytics. In addition, the user interface is clean and easy to navigate. Here’s a sample report from their site:

Screenshots of SEO graphs and reports in Ahrefs.

2. Open Site Explorer: Open Site Explorer is a good place to start for basic link analysis. Powered by SEOmoz, this tool gives you quick and easy access to link data such as domain authority, pagerank, and link quantity. It also offers a quick tool to compare link metrics against competitive sites. For example, in our office there’s an ongoing debate about “Apple” vs “PC” (what can I say? Finance people and creatives are different breeds). Here’s an example of that comparison report (ahem, you can see who wins):

Screenshot of page metrics in Open Site Explorer.

3. Majestic SEO: This site is often praised for the size of its index (upwards of 3 trillion), which is significantly larger than Open Site Explorer. The free version of Majestic SEO offers detailed link information, but unlike its competition, Majestic gives you archived historical data—a plus for many marketers. It's also good for monitoring mentions—recent links pointing to you or your competitors (included in the paid version). Here’s an example of a free link report pulled from Majestic:

Screenshots of web performance metrics in Majestic SEO.

So there you have it: three free resources to get you started with link analysis. Do you use any of these tools? Which do you prefer? I’d like to hear from you.

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Tech Tip: SEO Keyword Tools for Blogs

The word SEO under a magnifying glassMany businesses are finding value in writing blogs these days, and rightly so—it's certainly something we recommend to our clients. A blog is a way to keep your customers and stakeholders aware of new products, promotions, and industry-related news. It also serves as a PR tool to address your audience quickly in case of a crisis, and provides an additional platform to syndicate your company’s press.

So, for many, the question is not, Should I blog? but rather, What do I write about?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One of your blog’s most valuable (and commonly overlooked) functions is its ability to impact SEO, since it gives your site a venue for fresh, keyword-rich content. Whereas homepages or product pages can be difficult to update with detailed copy, a blog allows you to tell a longer narrative that can positively impact your ability to rank for key terms.

We recently conducted a workshop for guests from Chicago's Neighborhood Parents Network that was dedicated to the importance of blogging for SEO. Here are some of the free tools we recommended that can help you get the most SEO lift from your blog:

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Tech Tip: G+, Social Search, and Why it Matters

Google logo.

G+, the social network that Google launched last June, has grown to more than 62 million users in only six months. G+ allows users to connect over Google features like Stream (a newsfeed), Sparks (a recommendation engine), Hangouts (a video chat service), Circles (a friend management service), Games, and Photos. In November, Google rolled out “pages” for brands.

But given the ever-changing social media landscape, we’ve heard our clients say, “I have enough trouble staying up-to-date on Facebook, let alone Twitter. Does G+ even matter?” In short, yes, and here’s why:

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It’s So Meta

In working with our clients to create highly visible websites, we've found that there's a lot of confusion out there about meta tags and their value in search optimization.

Meta means "about"; thus, meta tags are html tags that give information about your webpage to search engines. The three most common meta tags are titles, descriptions, and keywords.

Meta Titles

A page's title is one of the most important factors for search engine optimization, and is weighted heavily by Google to determine a site's relevance and content. Meta titles not only affect ranking, but are displayed as the headline (the part you click on) in search results. Use unique, keyword rich titles for each page; if you want to include your site name, place it to the right of the title that describes the page's specific content.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions don't have much effect on a site's rank, but Google often uses them to characterize a page in search results, and an appealing description can garner you more click-throughs. When writing a meta description, think about what will make someone want to click on your link, rather than the twenty others on the page. Make sure it's quick and to the point—it shouldn't be more than two sentences. For more details, check out Google's guide to picking good meta descriptions.

Meta Keywords

Many people think that meta keywords are the secrets to search engine success, and historically, they did determine rankings. Unfortunately, these keywords became too easily abused—people simply stuffed in popular but irrelevant keywords like "Britney Spears" to get traffic—and Google now openly states that meta tag keywords are no longer a factor in determining web rankings. So don't waste your time coming up with the perfect meta keywords—it's much more important to have well crafted meta titles and descriptions when it comes to seeing search results.

Tech Tip: If you use WordPress, you can install the All In One SEO Pack or SEO Ultimate plugin to easily change meta-tags.

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Tech Tip: Web Crawling Alternatives to Xenu

Spiderman reaching through a computer screen

Earlier today I was on the phone with Dan Reno over at Be Found Online and the topic of web crawling tools came up.

A web crawler creates an inventory of all pages on a site by systematically visiting every link. Web crawlers are often referred to as "spiders" because they, you know, crawl webs.

Spiders use a recursive algorithm that looks something like this:

step 1) crawl page
step 2) record page info
step 3) get all links to other pages
step 4) start at step 1 for each linked page that was found

The most famous spiders are the ones used by Google and other search engines to index the web. The spiders utilized in offices like ours are most commonly used to check for broken links and to generate XML site maps so that Google can better find your stuff.

The de facto standard spidering tool is Xenu Link Sleuth. It's free and has a ton of features, but it doesn't work on OSX or Windows 7 (edit: Windows 7 is now supported. See the comments below.)

Dan recently upgraded to Windows 7, so he now uses Visual Web Spider. Visual Web Spider has a few extra features over Xenu that make it a bit more useful for SEO purposes: namely the ability to pull out the content found in header, page title, and image tags. Visual Web Spider costs $75.

Dan also recomends GSiteCrawler which is geared specifically towards creating site maps. He says "Its also free and is a very useful tool, but some find it a little quirky to get used to." GSiteCrawler also only works on Windows machines.

For Mac users, the closest thing to Xenu is Integrity. It's not as full-featured as Xenu, but it will get you 80% of the way.

Make a habit of spidering your site every month to ensure that you don't have links to nowhere. You may be surprised what else you discover.

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A Quick Guide to Search Engine Optimization

In a recent 48-hour period, three people asked us how to get Google to rank their site higher in its search listings. It seemed like one of those occasions where it would be easier to spread our answer around, so here it goes…

There is no magic search engine optimization bullet.  If anybody claims otherwise, they’re likely selling proverbial snake oil.

However, there are certain key tenets that experts throughout the industry can agree on.

Tenet #1 - Content is King

Google and other search algorithms respond to content.  We’re not advocating slathering gobs of useless text all over your web site.  Rather, when creating content, be intentional about using phrases that people are likely to search for in order to find your site. Strive to use those phrases in page titles and headings.  Don’t let your keywords drown in a sea of excess copy.  Break large pages into multiple smaller pages with specific, focused content.

This technique has worked very well for The Spice House. By creating content-specific pages, we were able to rank high for the generic phrases such as “spices,” but also snagged top listings for specific search terms such as “Grains of Paradise.”

Tenet #2 - Inbound Links Matter

Google’s algorithm considers the quantity and quality of inbound links to your site.  The idea is simple enough: If a bunch of websites about Transformers link to your site, there’s a good chance your site has some relevance to Transformers.

Of course, not all links are weighted equally.  A link from a site that Google considers important carries more value than a less notable site. To improve the quantity and quality of inbound links to your site, contact other sites in your industry and get them to link to yours. The more prominent the linking site, the better.

Do not, however, go around spamming your URL on message boards and blog posts.  That’s an old, dirty, and outdated trick.  Most community sites prevent you from getting any “Google Juice”  from the link, so don’t even bother.

Distilling the Results

Believe it or not, these two factors are likely the most important elements of the Google search algorithm.  However, like the formula of Coca-Cola, only a small number of people know exactly what goes into the ranking formula.  It’s a well-guarded secret, and unlike Coca-Cola, changes constantly.

The Finished Product

The value of a page in Google’s index is called the Page Rank.  Ranging from 1 to 10, the Page Rank quantifies how important Google thinks your site is in the grand scheme of the web.  Ten is the equivalent of Internet omnipotence (i.e. has a Page Rank of 9 and has a Page Rank of 8. To see yours, install the Google Toolbar into your browser.

Sound Simple?

Search engine optimization is a slow and sometimes painful process.  It can take months for search engines to react to changes to your site.  Even more frustrating, with the constantly changing algorithms, sometimes your site will seem to slip in the rankings arbitrarily.  That all said, this approach does work, and with constant effort coupled with appropriate guidance, your site can climb the Google rankings.

If you are interested in learning more about search engine optimization, or in working with us to improve your site’s performance, please Contact us.

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