What’s in a ‘Tweet’: Understanding the Engagement-Focused Nature of Twitter’s Algorithm

It would seem that of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the one that businesses struggle with most in understanding just how to harness it for effective promotional means. The common assumption is any shortcomings are related to your use of the ever-ubiquitous #hashtag, but in fact they’re not nearly as pivotal as you might think.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve done well in establishing ourselves as a premier Canadian web hosting provider and a part of that is sharing insights on how to get more out of your online marketing efforts. Social media is of course a big part of that, and as such we think more than a few of you will welcome tips on how to ‘up’ your Twitter game.

It’s easy to forget that these social media platforms have algorithms working behind them, and working quite extensively. What’s going on behind the screen controls and narrows down what you actually see on your timeline.

For example, let’s say you have specific political affiliations. The algorithms ensure that the majority of the tweets you’ll see will be linked to that party’s views. Or perhaps you’re especially into sports. If so, plenty of sports news sources will be all over your timeline. Oppositely, if you dislike something then that theme will slowly end up disappearing over the course of the week or beyond.

All of this is a reflection of ALL social media platforms, Twitter included, are using more and more complex algorithms to satisfy their user base and deliver content they are likely to find favourable.

So this is what do you’ll need to know about Twitter’s algorithms, and the best ways to use them to your advantage.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For These

There’s no disputing the fact that Twitter has faded quite considerably in popularity and the strength of its reach. Despite this, Twitter is really narrowing its scope of engagement and a key way to increase engagement is through increasing relevance of the posts seen.

Directly from Twitter’s engineering blog, here are a few of the factors that decide whether a Tweet is sufficiently engaging and thus worthy of ‘appearances’

  • The level of recency to your posts, the likes, retweets, and other things such as attached media
  • Whether you have previously liked, or retweeted the author of the tweet
  • Your previous positive interaction with certain types of tweets

Twitter will then recommend people to like over the next couple of days. Depending on your responses to those recommendations, it will then adjust the content that’s seen by you to better reflect how it is gauging your preferences.

What’s easy to conclude is that users themselves play a predominant factor in what’s going to be seen on their timelines. Liking or using the “I don’t like this” button once or twice goes a long way in this regard.

By this point it begs asking the question; is Twitter’s algorithm perhaps a little too simple? It is definitely not as complex as other media platforms such as Facebook, but the benefit in that is that it is easier to manipulate. Among the many benefits of this is the way that smaller companies may tag a random brand or company in a tweet that is completely non-associable with their tags. Twitter’s algorithms allow this to be a very effective means of getting increased exposure.

Gain Your Advantage

Generating engagement with your tweets is a reliable way to boost exposure and put yourself on top of the algorithm game. Engaging your audience and boosting exposure keeps you ‘in’ the talk and seeing to it you’re using the correct hashtags will ensure you’re being talked about.

Smaller companies can benefit from tagging large companies in their tweets to gain exposure, and that’s especially advisable if the company relates to what you’re talking about. Sure, it only works to a certain degree, but gaining followers by any means possible is always a plus.

Putting all this talk about engagement into perspective, it’s important to understand how to spark the right sorts of conversation. Asking random questions will make it look forced, while if you don’t interact at all you may see a dip in exposure. Find a way to be genuine in your responses, and adhere faithfully to what you’ve defined as your brand’s voice.

7 WordPress Plug-Ins Guaranteed to Boost SEO Big Time

WordPress continues to be the most predominant web publishing platform around, and the many years it’s had that title is a testament to just how intuitive, versatile, and capable it is for taking your content and making it presentable on the web. The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ certainly applies, and while WordPress is elementally the same as it was when first rolled out in 2003.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve always had a front row view of just how well embraced WordPress is in the digital world, and in addition to be a quality Canadian web hosting provider we also try to have our thumb on the pulse of as many aspects of the industry as we can. Page rankings are going to be important for anyone who’s on the web for commercial or promotional purposes. In fact, 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their number one priority.

So this week we’re going to share a handful of WordPress plug-ins that are a breeze to install and will serve to improve your site SEO.

  1. Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress

Feel free to regard Yoast as the Maserati of SEO plugins. It’s usually the first one that will be recommended by an experienced marketer. It is incredibly easy to use and can help you optimize multiple aspects of your WordPress site, addressing and optimizing your URL, meta description, chosen tags, keyword density, internal and external links, and content readability.

It works by first selecting a focus keyword. Next, it will analyze your SEO and provide recommendations on where improvements could be made. Green indicates you’re good as is, orange means your page needs some work, and red means you need to start from scratch as there’s multiple deficiencies. Yoast will then serve up specific actions you can choose to move ‘up’ in the colour spectrum.

Even if you’re decidedly technically inept, you’ll likely have your SEO amped right up with this plugin.

  1. All in One SEO Pack

Yoast definitely takes top spot, but this is quite likely the second best overall SEO plugin (plus the 3+ million installs to date suggest it’s effective). All in One SEO pack was first developed in 2007 and has evolved over the past 10 years to meet the majority of demands today’s SEO marketers tend to have.

All in One SEO Pack includes robust features such as:

  • Automatic meta tag generation
  • Title optimization
  • XML sitemap support for a site that’s more readable to search engines
  • Prevention of duplicate content being created

Essentially, it addresses all of the major elements of effective SEO and – like Yoast – it works with WordPress like a charm.

  1. SEOPressor

SEOPressor also gets high marks from us. This plugin works under the same premise as Yoast and the All in One SEO Pack, delivering comprehensive on-page SEO analysis, as well as providing tips for improvements.

SEOPressor is great as an ‘insta-advisor’, helping you make ideal small tweaks and adjustments that will boost your overall SEO quality. Also, like the preceding two, you don’t need to be anything of a ‘computer whiz’ to get installed and going to work for you.

  1. SEO SQUIRRLY

When top SEO experts like Neil Patel of Kissmetrics and Brian Dean of Backlinko endorse a plug-in, you can A) know it’s good stuff, and B) trust it’s been designed for non-SEO experts.

How SEO SQUIRRLY differs from other plug-ins is that it puts an emphasis on helping you create content that’s designed equally for both search engines and human readers. The importance of this is in the fact that Google places a strong emphasis on positive user experience when orienting their ever-changing algorithms.

SEO SQUIRRL helps you find great keywords, analyzes your articles, offers advice on how to resolve issues, and helps you optimize your content for human consumption, plus it generates an XML sitemap for Google and Bing

  1. SEO Optimized Images

Image optimization is typically a lesser consideration for your WordPress-based site, yet it’s a critical aspect of SEO, and that’s often overlooked. It’s important to ensure that search engines are able to understand the content within your images.

SEO Optimized Images is a WordPress plug-in that makes it easy for inserting SEO-friendly alt attributes dynamically, along with adding valuable title attributes to your images. Long story short, it streamlines the often-laborious process of optimizing the website’s content.

  1. SEO Post Content Links

Any reputable and experienced SEO marketer will tell you that internal linking is of paramount importance for creating a strong link profile. This serves to create better indexing in search engines, it points visitors to other helpful content they may be interested in, which can increase the average amount of time spent on your site.

This is a plugin that takes the guesswork out of internal link building and streamlines the process very impressively. Further, SEO Post Content Links also helps you create proper anchor text that matches current best practices.

  1. SEO Internal Links

Here’s another plugin that’s proven effective for optimizing your site’s internal link structure. Directly from its WordPress description, SEO Internal Links ‘can automatically link keywords and phrases in your posts and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories, and tags on your blog.’ Enough said? Very likely. SEO internal links is ideal for anyone who’s not so savvy with linking or having a sound understanding of the value of linking and indexing for the website.

In a nutshell, SEO internal links is a convenient way to create internal links, while at the same time avoiding black hat SEO practices that could backfire on you big time should you choose to employ them. Quite plainly, don’t. The damage you can to your site’s credibility in the eyes of the search engine bots isn’t worth the benefits you may get, not at all.

Here’s to you trying one or more and seeing your SEO get a much-needed push up the hill!

Domain Extensions and SEO Impact

Before any website makes its way up onto the information superhighway, the domain name attached to it must be registered with a hosting provider. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a top Canadian web hosting provider among many and we can certainly take care of that basic and straightforward formality for you. What we’re going to discuss today, however, is the way that your domain name’s extension (.com being the most common) can have direct and measureable results on your SEO, and search engine ranking more specifically.

Let’s review the basics briefly; a domain name is a unique internet address that is made up of a name and extension (such as .com, .ca etc.). This extension is also referred to as a Top Level Domain (TLD) and it is the most relevant part of your domain name. We’ll move now to putting you in the know with factors that influence choosing the right domain extension and how it dictates your SEO rankings in a significant way.

Various Types of TLDs

In the infancy days of the Web, domain extensions were initially introduced to facilitate browsing across different domains. There were 6 general top-level domains (gTLDs) marketed to folks looking to get themselves up and running, and we saw different domain extension for different types of organizations. Some may be surprised to learn that the .com extension was actually introduced for websites for commercial purposes, and has nothing to do with the term computer.

Much more common nowadays are domain extensions with a country code, also known as country code Top Level Domains (ccTLD). These took off between 1985 and 1990, and examples of these types website name domains are .ca for Canada, .kr for South Korea (who have the fastest internet speeds in the world) .in for India, .co.uk for the United Kingdom, etc.

1998 saw the creation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international nonprofit organization designed to keep the Internet secure and stable. New gTLDs were released in 2001, including .info and .pro, designed for informational websites or those representing certified professionals.

The number of domain extensions has quickly expanded since. There are now even domain extensions that utilize Arabic characters instead of the usual Latin characters. A complete list of all extensions (with Latin characters) can be referenced at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) website.

Specific SEO Benefits for Each Domain Extension

  • Country code Top Level Domain

Advantages

A ccTLD provides Google with the strongest and clearest indication of where a website originates. Provided all other SEO factors are equal, the ‘example.com’ website will be better ranked by Google than an ‘example.ca’ or ‘example.co.kr’.

Disadvantages

The primary disadvantage of a ccTLD is that you will be required to purchase a new extension for each language, which will add to the cost quite considerably. Further, Google’s crawlers (aka ‘bots’) do not recognize multiple websites as one website because they have different extensions. Each website must develop its own authority.

By authority we mean the value that Google assigns to a website. More authority results in Google’s bots staying on the website for a longer period of time and indexing deeper pages of the site. This of course is very beneficial for SEO. Higher authority leads to a greater likelihood that your site will rank high on Google’s SERPS (search engine results pages). There are other factors that determine how well a website performs in this regard, and in fact Google uses more than 200 signals to determine which results are most relevant.

  • Generic Top Level Domain

Generic domain names are increasingly popular these days, with examples like .pizza, .amsterdam and .club, websites that distinguish the nature of the business or venture very explicitly. People continue to speculate about the advantages and disadvantages of these new extensions as they relate to search engine rankings. Google has shared that the new TLDs are not more likely to score high with Google than older TLDs or ccTLDs. However, there are several examples that suggest otherwise, at least to some extent.

Coffee.club is one of them. It climbed to the first page in Google US search results within the span of a week. That’s worth taking note of, as it takes a lot of time to get to the first page on Google US, and that can be true even if you’ve built up plenty of authority.

Coffee.club was purchased in November 2014 and received several links from authoritative websites that announced the transaction. The backlinks had 80% of ‘coffee.club’ as clickable text, and one week after the launch the website was already on the first SERP for the term ‘coffee club’. We can understand that when a gTLD (in part) matches a keyword you want to match in Google, it counts only links with the domain name in the clickable text.

Simply, ‘coffee.club’ is interpreted by Google to be “coffee club”. In such instances a TLD with a relevant keyword will indeed have an SEO advantage over a traditional TLD like those ending with a .com.

Google still insists that there is no advantage or disadvantage to having a new gTLD, stating that each gTLD has the same opportunity to rank well. With a gTLD, it is possible to specify which country the website is intended to serve within the Google Search Console. This of course is done via international targeting, but keep in mind that when you expand your website with a different language you must adjust or disable international targeting.

Choosing the most appropriate domain extension

Your best choice for a TLD will depend on a number of factors. Want to score well on Google.com? Then you’ll be best served by choosing the overall top level domain, a .com. Conversely, if you only sell products in Canada, you’ll be wise to choose the .ca extension. Google will then recognize that your website is intended for the Canadian market and that your aim is to score better on Google.ca.

It continues to be that SEO is often not taken into account when people are weighing which TLD extensions is best for them. For example, there are websites that buy a ccTLD so the website has a nice name and is easy to remember. For example, ‘autorepair.ca’ may seem like the ideal choice for the nature of your business, but it’s probably not going to score well on Google.com. This is because you indicate to Google with the .ca extension that your website is taking aim at the Canadian market explicitly.

When your website is in fact targeted to a specific country, though, it is advisable to choose the ccTLD of that country. In this case, you may need to purchase a new domain with another TLD at any international expansion. The country-specific nature of the ccTLD will definitely have a positive impact on your search engine results.

When you go with a gTLD, Google will not see it as a .com, .pizza, or .whateveritmaybe. GTLDs have as much chance to score well and as a result do not affect SEO status of your website. And yet, even while Google insists on the validity of that, there are cases like those coffee.club mentioned above that show that links with only the domain name in the clickable text are counted in Google search results. This is the case when a gTLD will create a partial match with a keyword you want to match.

The important thing to keep in mind when using a gTLD is that you communicate this choice to the consumer. Consumers will often undertake searches including the domain extension in the search terms. If you choose a gTLD, make sure that you make that fact very clear to your target audience, and that’s most commonly done by presenting your company name WITH the extension attached in Headers or any other component of the communication piece that will be visually grabbing and readily identified

Also – last but not least – go into your Google Search Console and make sure to set the international targeting to the right country.

The Importance of Link Building for SEO

We’re all familiar with what it means to ‘vouch’ for someone or something. That is, to say that you can attest to the quality or reliability of that individual or product. Many of those competing in the online world may not know the value of link building, however, but your Canadian web hosting provider will be explicitly aware of that value. Google of course is the world’s premier search engine, and it uses links to measure the authority of web pages. If a web page attracts links from other pages Google’s algorithm, the software it uses to rank pages and decide which page is number one for a search result increases the importance of a page – and thus how high it places in search engine results.

Search Engine Optimization consultant touching SEO button on whiteboard

So in a sense it’s just like a vouch for that page – you feel there’s value there, and you’re recommending visitors might want to consider visiting it via your page to gain more in the way of quality information on the subject.

So let’s now take a look at some of the more common link building techniques, and ones that will be much easier to incorporate into your webpages, blog, or other digital communications.

Forums – Link building techniques using forums typically involve creating a profile page and a signature link. Signature links allow links to be created at the bottom of posts or comments left in a forum. Signature links tend to be regarded as low quality though, and while they may send a measurable amount of traffic they likely won’t have any long lasting impact on the pages you link them to. These links are not merit based, and search engines – Google in particular – are getting better at ignoring these links and assigning them no value.

Link Farms – The link farm technique is a standard approach form SEO companies. A link farm can often have a vast number of websites and web pages within it, all under the control of the individual link builder. Building a link farm link allows them to offer a set number of links for a specific fee, and the extent to which this can be done is pretty much unlimited. Where link farming becomes problematic is when it’s discovered by the search engines. If that occurs – and it does much more frequently these days – the links within them will cease to have any positive impact on the sites they link to.

Directories – These are useful and can create links that are nearly guaranteed to provide some value in the sense of attracting traffic to your website. However, they are a form of spam and, as with other spam techniques, links from directories tend to not be merit based and will almost always carry next to no weight in terms of helping to increase your ranking. Notable exceptions here include the DMOZ directory and Yahoo, among others.

Hubs – These are pages created on services like Squidoo. Hub pages, or lenses as they are also referred to, are a great idea and allow people to create pages about a subject matter they are passionate about. The issue here is in the fact that spammers have also realized it’s an easy way to create pages for more illegitimate link building. As a result, using hubs as part of your link building for better SEO isn’t as highly recommended.

Blogs – Genuine blogs are a great source of landing spots for outbound links with your link building. But be wary of those that are known as SPLOGS, meaning spam blogs. They tend to be a favourite spot for link spammers. The most common technique for this spam approach is to leave a comment and associated link to their client’s website. Long story short, an outbound link of this variety will have little value other than a very small amount of web traffic, unless your comment happens to be on a high traffic popular blog. Most however tend to be deleted by the blog’s webmaster.

Social bookmarks – Once upon a time in the early days of Internet marketing, social bookmarking sites were a source of valuable links. Yet again, link spammers have spoiled that for everyone. Most of the credible bookmarking sites now categorize these links as nofollow links, so it’s best to look past them when weighing which ones might work well for you.

Be in touch with us here at 4GoodHosting to learn more about the most effective ways to improve website SEO, including ways to incorporate link building. We want to get ahead, and we imagine you do too. Let’s talk!

SEO, the past, the present, and your website’s future…

The-Future-of-SEO

This is a primer for most of you who are interested in but maybe still unfamiliar of what is meant by the the three letter acronym, SEO, which is short for “Search Engine Optimization”; its history and current day evolution.

Over the past 25 years, the way we live and work has been utterly transformed by the creation and evolution of the world wide web or “internet”. As the volume of online content has soared, search engines have become central and essential and critical to an infinite number of our online “web surfing” searches & experiences.

SEO is an Internet marketing strategy, and takes into account how search engines are programmed (and updated) to function, what people are most likely to search for, the actual search phrases or keywords entered into search engines – and specific for each target audience.

So let’s quickly travel back a quarter-of-a-century to a time before tags, keywords, “backlinks”. clickthrus, and content optimization – to explore how SEO has changed and developed over time -> and what those changes now appear to tell us about the future!