Taming the Weeds: Keeping Your Website User Data Clean

When viewing your Website’s user data through Google Analytics or other programs, keeping your data clean and free of spam is increasingly challenging. Website referral spam is becoming a growing problem.

Sites like semalt.com, free-social-buttons, and darodar.com (the list of spammy referral sites is increasingly getting longer) send out bots that impersonates a visit to your Website. Your Analytics program records the visit, just like it would a referral from Google search or a click from a Facebook post and this all shows up in your traffic data.

The reason referral spam is done is that it promotes the Website in Analytics and the link can improve the spammer’s Website ranking in search engines that use link counting algorithms. All this can be done on a massive scale at a relatively low cost, which explains its emergence.

A Pesky Problem and Risk Factors

Referral spam does much more than just pollute data. In addition to being a pest, the load of bots on a server can adversely affect a Website’s load and performance, which can lead to higher bounce rates, which is a search engine ranking factor. These junky bot visits are using valuable server resources and could also be looking for plugin, server, or other vulnerabilities to harm or hack your site.

A referral spam address can pose a threat as the URL may contain malware designed to steal valuable information.


Keeping the Lid on Spam

Getting rid of referral spam, like other forms of spam on the Internet, can be a bit like playing whack-a-mole. Knock one out and others can still keep popping up. This pseudo traffic may make it appear your Website traffic is surging, and can make up the lion share of traffic if left unchecked.

But there are ways to keep referrer spam from polluting your Website user data. And the good news is that unlike link spam, other than being a nuisance, referral spam is harmless to your site and can be filtered.

Setting Up Regular Expressions in Google Analytics

Under Filters in Google Analytics, you can set up regular expressions to exclude data from known referral spam sites. While creating regular expressions can require programming expertise, Ben Travis’ post ‘Removing Referral Spam from Google Analytics‘ is an excellent resource for setting up these filters.

It’s important to know that regular expressions are limited to 255 characters so you’ll need to create an additional filters if the character limit is reached. There are also other means of setting up referral exclusions through Analytics or through your own Website.

More Analytics Filtering and Other Options

Another perhaps simpler way to set up filtering in Analytics is under Property→Tracking Info→Referral Exclusion List→+Add Referral Exclusion, in which you can add individual sites to exclude from your Analytics data.


Blocking certain referrals should also be set up in a site’s .htaccess file. You can add the code such as the below to .htaccess to block the worst offenders.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} free-social-buttons.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} darodar.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* – [F]

This blocks the site before it has a chance to register as a referral. But be wary that some spammers, never actually visit your Website, they only impersonate a visit so modifying .htaccess won’t help.

Be Cautious With Traffic Reports

If your SEO provider is reporting a surge in your Website’s traffic, this may seem like a huge positive, but it’s important to understand where traffic is coming from and measure the metrics that matter. Referral spam is junk traffic.

Website visits are all about quality over quantity so be sure the reporting and data you’re receiving shows the complete referral sources. By taking steps to block and exclude referral spam, you can filter out junk data and understand the true quality and quantity of visitors your site is receiving.

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Sound of Life Foundation Website

We are pleased to announce the launch of the Website for a new 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization – Sound of Life Foundation. The Sound of Life Foundation’s mission is to connect people through communication and community – to bring people and communities together with improved communication, primarily hearing ability.

By reconnecting people to the multi-sensory world of sound, sight, touch, smell and taste, the foundation helps develop trust, better community engagement, and tolerance and respect for all lives and causes in Southern Utah.

A Secure, Mobile-Friendly Website

Jared Brader, President of the Sound of Life Foundation, wanted a Website that would make it easy for visitors to learn about the foundation, make a donation, and for those who need help, be able to apply online. The Website has a security certificate for secure donations and applications and is mobile-friendly.

sound of life foundation

We were privileged to be involved with this project and help the foundation pursue their mission of improved hearing and improved lives in our community and build the ‘Pay it Forward’ spirit with sharing, caring and compassion for others. Take a look at the site and consider making a donation to support this worthy cause.

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Google’s New Mobile Search Algorithm

2015 has been described as the year of mobile Web. In many sectors, mobile searches constitute more than 50% of all searches and mobile search volumes continue to increase. With the emergence of the mobile Web, many Websites have failed to keep pace, providing a less than ideal experience for mobile users.

Websites that are not optimized for mobile typically have text too small to read, small buttons, links that are too close together, and features that aren’t available for mobile users. Google has taken notice of this as they want to provider search engine with high quality, relevant search results.

google mobile search

What Google Is Doing to Improve the Mobile Experience

Google has immense impact in its ability for Websites to gain, maintain, or lose search traffic. When Google issues statements and update their guidelines, businesses and Webmasters should take notice.

On November 18, 2004, Google began indicating ‘mobile-friendly’ next to Websites that meet their criteria in the mobile search results.

To help Webmasters, Google launched a Mobile-Friendly Test tool, updated their documentation on the Webmasters Mobile Guide, and began sending mobile usability warnings to sites in Google Webmaster tools.

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

On February 26, 2015, Google announced on their Webmaster Central Blog in an post entitled ‘Finding More Mobile-Friendly Search Results’, that on April 21, 2015, they would be launching a new mobile search algorithm.

This algorithm update will be launched worldwide and will have a significant impact on mobile search rankings. In short, the update would penalize Website’s that aren’t mobile friendly.

friendly unfriendly

What Constitutes a Mobile Website?

A true ‘mobile friendly’ Website adjusts to the screen size of the user, whether it is vertical or horizontal. It’s adaptive to every browser, whether desktop or mobile, and uses the same HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code.

Mobile Websites can be responsive, adaptive, or a mobile-only Website, which is found with the m.domain. However, m.domain sites are starting to be phased out in many sectors. Large Websites such as espn.com and cnn.com recently switched from m. sites to responsive sites. While m. sites can provide a very good user experience the trend has been to go responsive, which allows you to manage all your Website’s content all from one place.

Another factor to be mindful of to pass the test is that each page of your Website needs to be mobile friendly. Just checking your home page is not enough. This is especially true if you integrated a non-responsive WordPress blog theme onto your Website or have a shopping cart that may not be mobile friendly.

Another means to check this is to do a mobile search for ‘site:yourdomain.com’ in Google and you should have a ‘mobile-friendly’ label next to each of your Web pages.

How Do You Fix the Problem?

For Websites that haven’t moved to a responsive design, it may be time for a redesign. To expedite the process and keep costs down, it can often make sense to build off of a responsive theme, which has a mobile friendly design already built into the code.

But achieving ‘Mobile-Friendly’ status does not have to mean you need an entirely new Website. For many sites, the existing code can be updated and design tweaks can be made to make the Website responsive.

This can help bring down costs and streamline the development and project time involved in comparison to a wholesale redesign. We went with this option in the recent responsive conversion of our own Website.

Once you have mobile-friendly code in place, you’ll want to the site on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

mobile friendly test

There are pitfalls to look out for. Pages can be blocked by the robots.txt file, which can plague the ability to yield mobile friendliness. In a couple of instances on WordPress Websites, I was able to fix the issue by updating the code in the robots.txt file to:

# Old Code
Disallow: */wp-content/

# New Code
Allow: /wp-includes/js/

What Are The Costs Involved With Going Mobile-Friendly?

If you currently are on a tight budget or don’t have the time to address moving your Website to a responsive design, mobile compatibility can also be achieved if you’re using a Content Management System such as WordPress via plugins. WordPress plugins that can help accomplish this include: WP Touch, WP Mobile Detector, and JetPack. However, a plugin remedy is not optimal.

The other options include a site redesign or a responsive conversion of your existing Website. In many cases, we can convert an existing Website to a responsive design for a cost of less than $1,000. This saves time and money. We recently did this with our own site.

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4 Recent Web Design Projects

We have recently completed four different Web design projects for local Southern Utah businesses: an author, an artist, a healthcare provider, and a vehicle accessory provider. All of the Websites featured mobile friendly, responsive designs and our built with SEO in mind.

The Websites were built in WordPress, which makes it easy for clients to add or update content. Take a look at the Websites below and let us know if we can help you with your Web design project.

One Ornery Girl Book Website

The Website – https://www.oneornerygirl.com – is essentially a landing page for the children’s book, One Ornery Girl, and also offers a preview of coming books from author Janet Clark-Jones. The Website is expandable with opportunities for more content, including a blog.

one ornery girl

The Website features a shopping cart to make it easy to make a book purchase and it has a security certificate installed for encryption and greater user security.

Mercedes Skegro – Fused Glass Art and Paintings

A new Website for talented artist Mercedes Skegro – http://www.skegroart.com – providers an opportunity to really showcase her glass art and painting abilities to expand her reach. The Skegro Art Website has a focus on the glass and painting galleries allowing users to easily view her amazing work.

skegro art

2Gather Health – Healing Touch Practitioner

2Gather Health is a new business in St. George, Utah devoted to supporting a person’s healthy journey through balance and harmony of body, mind, and spirit. Through her new Website – https://www.2gatherhealth.com – Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, Victoria Simpson-Cassady, RN, HTP is able to make it easy for new customers to find her location, learn more about her services, products, and treatments, and check out current specials.

She is also making use of her blog called ‘Tidings’ to share what’s new, events, and health tips. The Website also provides downloadable forms to help facilitate and expedite patient appointments.

2gather health

Trailer Source

Trailer Source is Southern Utah’s leader in wholesale vehicle trailer sales and rentals. In addition to their location in Hurricane, Utah opened in 2003, it recently expanded to a new Las Vegas location. Trailer Source also provides trailer parts and offer factory direct pickup with factory direct pricing.

We are pleased to announce the completed redesign of the Trailer Source Website –http://www.trailersourceutah.com. It has a focus on the visuals showcasing the wide range of trailers Trailer Source carries. In addition to a photo gallery, the website also provides the list of manufacturers, maps to their locations, testimonials, clearance trailers, information on financing, and more.

trailer source

Go visit Tyler and the team at Trailer Source. They’ll take good care of you. And if you’d like a new Website to grow your business in 2015 and beyond, give us a call!

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Google Introduces Call-Only Ads

If your business values calls from prospective customers more than Website clicks, Google has a new advertising feature for you. AdWords’ new ‘call-only’ campaign option has been launched and is appearing in Google mobile search. It shows only on smartphones – the call-only ads do not appear on desktops, laptops, or tablets.

The ads have a call phone number link and call button to make it easy for users to click to call. Once clicked, a dialog box pops up and they can either complete the call or there is a cancel button. Either way, it’s counted as a click.

call-only Google ad

Mobile Focused

Google said that 70% of mobile searchers used the click-to-call button in ads in 2013 and mobile has now become the predominant device from which users search. Previously before the launch of call-only ads, the only way to get clicks as calls, was to use the AdWords ‘call extension’ setting which showed a clickable phone number.

By creating a call-only ad, Google is able to bypass issues over call quality and duration. For advertisers, they can specifically target searchers on mobile devices with a focus on driving calls. This should be a win-win for Google, its advertisers, and consumers.

Setting Up a Call-Only Campaign

To create a call-only ad, you cannot simply cut and paste your traditional AdWords search ads over for your call-only campaign as the fields are different. You need to supply a business name, phone number, two lines of descriptive text, and display URL for your ad. There is an optional verification URL field, which Google can use to verify the phone number the advertiser entered for the ad matches what is used for their business.

Otherwise, setting up a call-only campaign is much the same as setting up a traditional AdWords search campaign. You still have ad groups, keywords, location targeting, scheduling, and extension to utilize. But since your only can only show on smartphones, you’re not bidding/paying for ads on any other device type.

With call-only search ads, you capture 100% of the leads as calls, and they’re calling you at the moment of their search. And because you are aiming for calls only, you can better calculate cost per action and return on investment for sales that come through the phone.

call-only ad settings

Tips For Creating Better Ads

When constructing your call-only ads, it’s important to use calls to action that are more likely to invoke a call such as ‘Call Now!’, ‘Free Consultation’, or ‘Make an Appointment Now!’. This also helps to streamline messaging when preparing AdWords text ads.

Even though the ads are aimed at getting calls only, ads still need to be carefully crafted. Quality score is still very important. While there is no landing page to evaluate, there is still keyword/ad relevance and expected click through rates to contend with, along with optimizing your ad text and display URL with best practices. It’s a good idea to consult with an AdWords certified professional.

Pricing & ROI

Once the ad is clicked on and the dialog box opens, the advertiser is charged for a click. The pricing is likely be similar to what a Google search ad costs on mobile. However, overall costs are likely to be lower since you aren’t paying for traffic from those searching on desktops, laptops, or tablets.

Because you are aiming for calls only, you can better calculate cost per action and return on investment for sales that come through the phone. Also, call-only minimizes concerns about landing page quality and the costs involved with building landing pages or how ‘mobile-friendly’ the Website is.

You can still run simultaneous traditional AdWords search ads AND call-only campaigns and there are some good reasons for doing so. However, there is the possibility of bidding against yourself if your traditional search ads include mobile devices.


It’s important to know there are some features that are lacking in a call-only campaign. Call-only is for search only so there is no display advertising or ad retargeting available. If you want to continue to serve ads to prospective customers that click on your ads, it’s prudent to keep your traditional AdWords search ads running.

Also, if you’re advertising in a language other than English, the ad still says ‘Call: xxx-xxx-xxxx’ (phone number) as the headline of the ad, it doesn’t provide the translation for ‘call’. This could be confusing if you’re targeting non-English readers. However, the ‘call’ button does have a phone icon.


The call-only feature is a significant step forward in mobile search advertising. For Google, it takes head-on the issue of lower ad revenue for mobile compared to desktop thatplagued it in recent years. For a company known for its technology where simplicity hasn’t always been at the forefront, it will be interesting to see how Google’s call-only advertising impacts the market and affects demand and pricing for mobile ads.

It’s a good bet Google will see an up-tick in ad sales for this new feature, attracting new advertisers who see the most value in a call. Since this is a brand new feature, the ads will need to be tested and need close monitoring and ongoing optimization.

For local businesses or national merchants that value calls more than clicks (and unless you’re an online retailer without a phone number you promote, many businesses do) from targeted search engine traffic, Google’s new call-only campaigns should receive strong consideration in your advertising budget.

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Pros and Cons of Moving Your Website to HTTPS

Switching your website to HTTPS has been one of the most talked about developments in SEO for 2014. While a requirement for e-commerce, financial, and other login websites containing personal/financial information, HTTPS is increasingly being used by all kinds of sites across the Web.

While websites face a gauntlet of attacks from hackers, much of the buzz around HTTPS stems from when Google announced in August 2014 that adding an SSL 2048-bit key certificate on your website will give you a minor search rankings boost. When Google talks about a rankings advantage, businesses take notice.

While Google has said that HTTPS is a “very lightweight signal”, they also said they may decide to strengthen the signal. Google wants a safe Web calling it a “top priority” and has encouraged all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

To have your website receive the HTTPS designation, you need to purchase an SSL certificate. This verifies the authenticity of Internet connection security.

HTTPS Everywhere

The Pros of Going HTTPS

1. Added Security.

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol is the standard Internet communications protocol. HTTPS add in a Security Sockets Layer/Transport Layered Security. Thus, the ‘S’ in HTTPS is for secure.

HTTPS websites are easily identified by the padlock icon that appears next to the URL. When a website has a Security Certificate, it’s applied to all pages on the website.

HTTPS provides a level of encryption that provides greater protection against hackers. It assures that the website is connected to the properly designated server. HTTPS protects against tampering by third parties and is known to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and wiretapping.

2. Trust Factor.

Added level of security can make website visitors feel more secure on the Web. With the amount of malware, viruses, and other intrusions on the Web, it’s important for visitors to have a greater confidence when visiting a site and to be willing to share their personal information such as through a contact form.

3. Google Rankings Boost.

Google has said websites with HTTPS receive a very minor rankings boost. Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines may follow their lead.

4. Relatively Low Cost.

Security certificates are widely available on the Web. It’s usually easiest to purchase a certificate through your web host, and many will install them on your website at no extra charge when a certificate is purchased.

While there are different types of certificates available, most small business websites shouldn’t need a certificate that costs more than $100 per year. For a basic certificate, it’s even possible to obtain a certificate for free.

5. Google Analytics (GA) Tracking Can Be Unaffected.

When moving your website to HTTPS, you don’t have to lose the analytics data associated with your website. You simply adjust the settings in GA to indicate your website in HTTPS. It’s also easy to add the HTTPS version of your website to Google Webmaster Tools.

HTTPS Analytics Settings

6. Peace of Mind.

While HTTPS doesn’t totally protect your website from intrusion, it can provide greater peace of mind for businesses and webmasters and confidence that their website is secure.

The Cons of Moving to HTTPS

1. Ongoing Annual Costs.

In addition to having to purchase a Security Certificate each year, you also need a dedicated IP address if you do not already have one. This allows for communication with just one server, which is required for HTTPS.

Dedicated IP addresses are also an annual cost, although typically they do not cost more than $50 per year. If you are using a dedicated Web server or more robust hosting, it’s likely you don’t need one.

2. Set Up Costs/Work Involved.

Unless you aren’t concerned about a loss in website traffic, moving your website isn’t as simple as just buying a Security Certificate. You essentially have a new website with all new link paths.

Forcing link redirects, editing WordPress or other CMS Settings, updating the link paths on Web pages, and adding the HTTPS version of your website to Google Webmaster Tools are some of the important tasks involved. This Moz article covers more of the challenges to overcome with switching to HTTPS.

In addition to the set up/transition work involved there is also follow up and monitoring of rankings and ongoing cleanup and implementation of the proper link paths. Some web pages can feel a whack-a-mole making them HTTPS compliant so that the padlock icon is green. Links on the page or being called to the page that are not secure calls, WordPress plugins, and images among other factors can all prevent the clean padlock icon from appearing.

However, using a Force HTTPS plugin in a CMS can alleviate the headache of diagnosing and fixing ‘partially encrypted’ errors. If you don’t have in-house help resolve the issues, utilizing an SEO company or Web developer makes a lot of sense.

3. Risk of Website Traffic Loss.

There are risks of losing traffic to your website when moving to HTTPS. It’s likely in the first few days and weeks of the transition, there’ll be a dip in traffic. This is not always the case but switching to HTTPS does have its pitfalls. However, if you use an SEO professional, you can help minimize the risks of lost traffic.

4. Website Speed.

website speed Why Local Directories Are Surging in the Search Results (And What You Can Do About It)

HTTPS requires extra communication between a server and thus has the potential to slow down your website. Since website speed is also a Google ranking factor, HTTPS may work against you. However, there are a variety of different ways to speed up your website than can mitigate lost speed due to HTTPS.

5. CDNs Are More Expensive.

In addition to the certificate cost and dedicated IP cost, having HTTPS can also make utilizing a Content Distribution Network, which is an easy, affordable way to speed up your website, significantly more expensive.

6. A Wide Range of Options.

Having choice is usually a good thing but the number of options available with obtaining an SSL can be dizzying. There are single, shared, custom, SNI, or wildcard security certificates. There are also Extended Validation (EV) Certificates, which require extensive verification of the requesting entity’s identity.

To obtain an EV, verification is performed by the certificate authority, who vets the applicant before a certificate can be issued. EVs have the added benefit of showing the website owner’s identity next to the padlock icon. EVs are considerably more expensive than the domain validation only SSLs.

SSL Certificate


It’s important to understand that switching to HTTPS is not a panacea for Web security. Websites are still susceptible to intrusion but having an SSL certificate does decrease risks.

Without a doubt, moving to HTTPS has its pros and cons and may not be worth the time and expensive for non-commercial websites. Ultimately, the Web is striving for greater security so websites that adapt to and embrace change and utilize ‘future friendly’ practices have a leg up.

At Ascent, we recently underwent the process of moving our website to HTTPS and have seen minimal rankings effect. Let us know in the comments if you have questions or contact us if you need help making the switch.

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Google Drops Local Carousel Search Results

After being in use for more than a year, Google has dropped the local Carousel display. The new local results for search phrases such as restaurants and hotels uses a three-pack of organic listings with a small picture or map image next to each result. There is no phone number to call listed within the result.

Here’s a new local search result for ‘Spokane Hotels':

new local Google results

As you can see above, the three-pack is a link to ‘More (…restaurants, hotels, etc.)’ that opens up an expanded list of choices in a similar display format as the new three-pack.

While the new results give searchers significantly less choices of visible venues than before, the new results do provide users a cleaner interface and easier access to information or online booking functionality. And the ads for these types of results have returned to the most prominent spots where there is AdWords bidding.

Here’s how Google Page 1 looked with the local Carousel:

local carousel 10 Ways to Get Onto Page 1 of Google

The Death (For Now) of the Local Carousel

The horizontal Carousel was certainly attention grabbing in Google as it closely clustered more than half a dozen results going across the top of the search results in a black background, appearing above the ads. It contained information that included the business name, an image of the business, and the Google user review rating.

However, this doesn’t mean the Carousel is totally gone from Google, at least not yet. For non-commercial search terms such as ‘U.S. Presidents’, the Carousel is currently being used. Searchers may get varying results depending on their location as the update rolls out.

U.S. Presidents Carousel

The Image Dilemma in Search

The loss of the local carousel and all the pictures of the business also follows on other recent developments in Google search such as the loss of Google Authorship and less video results in the search results. Despite the popularity of the visual emphasis in social media and on the Web as a whole, Google has shown a preference for a cleaner, more text-based interface.

As Google has streamlined the appearance of the search result over the past year, it will be interesting to see if Google eventually starts allowing more ads to appear with images. Google previously used a tan background behind search ads to help differentiate them from organic listings. Google now uses a white background behind ads with a small orange ‘Ad’ button on the left side of the listing.

Mobile Focused But What Changes May Mean

The new local three-pack for these types of search phrases increases white space and reduces the amount of visible information for users with a larger screen. Having less choices is not necessarily a better user experience but it does make it quick and easy for searchers on mobile devices, who get the same results as desktop/laptop users. As mobile search traffic continues to grow, Google is making the mobile experience a priority.

It’s possible that with the three ads that typically appear at the top of commercial searches followed by the new three-pack box of results, could be confounding to searchers to know which are the natural results.

One thing for sure is that the Google search results are ever-evolving. Just last week we published a post ‘10 Ways to Get Onto Page 1 of Google‘, which included the Carousel showing the same ‘Spokane Hotels’ result. We’ll update that post soon.

[poll id=”3″]

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Ascent is a Google AdWords Certified Partner

I have been using Google AdWords for several years but have now had the opportunity to pass the Google AdWords certification and earn the Google AdWords Certified Partner designation. Google AdWords certification is a professional accreditation from Google that demonstrates proficient in basic and advanced aspects of AdWords.

As an accredited Google Partner, Ascent is now listed as a Partner Agency on Google.com/partners and are provided with usage of a Google Partner badge.

Google Partner Agency

Certification Requirements

Becoming Google AdWords Certified is more than just passing certification tests. In addition to passing the AdWords Fundamentals exam and either the Advanced Search or Advanced Play exams, certification requirements includes management of AdWords account spend of at least $10,000 over the past 90 days.

What Does This Mean For Clients?

We have been hard at work setting up and managing successful client AdWords accounts for years. But as our client ad spend grew and online trust factors become increasing important, we made becoming AdWords certification a priority.

Being a certified Google Partner means we follow best Google practices and are an accredited online marketing professional. We also get access to special events and training from Google, industry research, Google product updates, and access to the Google Partners community.

When there are new features available in AdWords, we’ll identify them for clients and help them take advantage of opportunities in the Google search and display network. We also get access to AdWords promotional offers for existing and prospective clients to help them save money on ad spend.

Want Better Performance From Your Google Ads?

Schedule a PPC Audit
PPC Services

We have helped lawyers, doctors, realtors, and Shark Tank winners set up and optimize their Google ad campaigns and we can help you too. With our experience and certified accreditation, you can rest assured Ascent will expertly manage your pay-per-click search and display campaigns.

We are also experienced with Bing Ads campaign management and can offer a $100 introductory credit on ad spend in the Bing/Yahoo network. Contact us for a free quote or to schedule a PPC audit.

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10 Ways to Get Onto Page 1 of Google

When people think of being on page 1 of Google, they usually think about a prominent place in the organic or natural search results. There’s no denying that being in a top organic spot is powerful especially as Web traffic increasingly goes mobile.

However, organic search is not the only way to get onto page 1 of Google. It’s important to understand their are many other ways to claim real estate on the first page of a search phrase valuable for your business.

google search results

1. Organic Search.

It’s said that the best place to hide a dead body is on page two of Google and with good reason. The vast majority of searchers don’t get past page one. In fact, as data shows, many don’t even get past what’s above-the-fold on page one.

Organic search results are calculated into an algorithm containing over 200 factors but the domain authority relative to competitors and the quality of the website’s external links are usually critical in gaining a top spot.

Organic results referencing your business can include beyond just what is on your website. It can be from your social profiles, presentations, guest posts, directory listings, or other citations.

2. Local Pack.

The local pack appears in Google search when a user is searching for a keyword phrase with local results. Based on IP addresses, Google knows the area searchers are using their device and their intent is to show them the most relevant, local results.

The pack helps group results near them on a map and then lists the results and addresses of the businesses in alphabetical order. The nice thing about the local pack is there are usually at least 3 listings and the local pack usually follows the first or second result of organic search. Therefore, having your business included in the local pack is a great place to be.

The Google ‘Pigeon’ update that rolled out in summer 2014 caused some changes in pack results. There are less map results than before and not as many 5-7 pack listings as there used to be. Also, since the ‘Pigeon’ update more directory type websites have been included in the local pack.

Local pack results take into account factors beyond organic search but being prominent in organic search can increase your likelihood of being in the local pack so it’s a win-win if you get both. Other local factors such as customer reviews on your Google business page and other sources are helpful.

Google Local Carousel

3. Local Carousel.

The Local Carousel appears in some local search results such as restaurants or hotels. As Google is ever-evolving carousel results have changed over time. Here’s a screenshot of how a carousel may appears.

The Local Carousel is the first results shown, even above the paid ads making them very valuable real estate. It’s important to include quality photos on your Google Business Page and that they look good if cropped to a square so that Google is more likely to pull in a photo you want shown. The Carousel also shows Google reviews for the business, making having a variety of positive reviews all the more crucial.

4. AdWords.

Yep, ads are big part of page 1 of Google search for commercial terms. The AdWords ads typically show first in the results, above the organics, which make can them very valuable places to be. Ads may take up the first three results and then also the right hand column of page 1.

AdWords has its own algorithm to determine ad rank so the results shown aren’t connected to the organic or local results. AdWords uses a pay-per-click bidding system and also calculates Quality Score, which impacts ad position.

5. News.

Sites included in Google News should offer timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. We generally do not include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.
– Google

Google produces ‘News’ results and has a separate category from its search engine for just news stories. However, ‘News’ results can also be interspersed with regular search results.

Google sources the ‘News’ results from a wide variety of websites but not just any website can be included in Google News. The News results reward freshness for websites that cover developing stories and new information.

The quote above from Google discusses how they may determine which sites to include. Google accepts blogs, press releases sites and even satire into Google News. Check out their ‘Getting Into Google News‘ page for more details.

Legal Zoom Google Page

6. Google+ Page.

Being on Google+ and implementing ‘Authorship’ used to be one of the best ways to get into page 1 of Google as you could have your profile picture next to the result. This was a significant advantage over a text-only listings and resulted in more clicks to results with pictures.

However, Google has since removed the Authorship feature from most search results. This was a loss for business owners, bloggers, and marketers who had embraced it and had seen added traffic and exposure as a result.

The Google+ profile picture will still appear in search results if you are logged into Google and there is relevant content for the search result from a person you are following in Google+.

7. Publisher.

Similar to Authorship, Publisher is for companies that have Google+ business pages. Publisher does not appear within the natural search results but instead shows on the lower right hand column of page one. Publisher shows the companies most recent Google+ post but you must follow the company’s Google+ page for the Publisher result to appear.

8. Google Business Page.

If you enter the name of a company into Google search, the right hand column will show a photo, their location on a map, reviews, and contact information for the business. If you are logged into Google and follow the company, Publisher will appear below the Google Business Page information.

Also, if your business does not yet have a website, Google will provide the Google+ Business Page as the clickable link for the business.

Cargo Glide Google Search

9. YouTube Videos.

Videos used to be more frequently seen on page one of Google search but that has changed in 2014. But it is still possible to rank on page one of Google for a YouTube video. Google Hangouts can also be used which stream live and are connected to a YouTube channel.

10. Images.

While you can also do an image only search in Google, images also appear in Google search. This can be seen in the above ‘Cargo Glide’ search, which shows what appears towards the bottom of page 1. Video and images, if present on the page 1 results, are more likely to appear near the bottom.

It’s important to add the “alt” attribute is an important page of image search optimization. They identify it and tell Google what the picture is about.

Other Ways to Appear More on Page 1 of Google and Conclusion

By using structured data and rich snippets such as the star ratings for reviews, you can also gain additional visibility in search. But these enhanced visibility features may not last long so don’t want wait to make use of them.

Google is always refinishing its search results. In 2014 it streamlined it’s interface with the reduction of video, Authorship, and local pack results. Of course, there was no reduction in the amount of ads shown.

Having your website appear multiple times in Google for a single search result can make a huge impact on your bottom line so take advantage of as many of these opportunities, many of which are free, while you still can.

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Website Relaunch: Law Office of Michael Ditchik

We are pleased to announce the launch of the redesigned website for the Law Office of Michael Ditchik, a family law attorney in Kent, Washington. The new site brings a more visually appealing design for the firm along with a new logo.

The new website features a responsive design to better capture mobile users. A Security Certificate has also been added to the website for encryption against hackers, more security and privacy for visitors to the site.

website redesign

Speed Optimization

Having HTTPS requires extra communication or “handshakes” between the servers, which has the potential to slow down a website. However, the website for the Law Office of Michael Ditchik is blazing fast. We optimized the code and caching for speed.
In speed tests, the website loads in under two seconds.

Website speed optimization provides a better user experience and is a search engine ranking factor. As the Web users are increasingly on mobile devices, the website should be well-positioned to load quickly, provide security, and render optimally for all visitors.

Redesign Takeaways

In addition to design enhancements and adding features to bring your website up to date, a redesign project also is a good time to take a fresh look at the content on your website and update it to keep it current.

A website redesign provides an opportunity to evaluate your on-site SEO and make improvements or add new content, improve your title tags and descriptions, and calls to action to optimize conversion rates and gain more customers from your website.

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