A few years ago Google publicly announced that site speed was now a factor in their ranking algorithm. Many had suspected this to be true for years, but back in 2010 Matt cuts made the official announcement.

A fast loading site does not help you so much as a very slow site can actually hurt you. Exactly how fast your site needs to load before you start risking organic rankings and conversion losses is debatable, but generally, if you can get your average load times to less than 2 seconds you should not have much to worry about. If your site takes longer than 10 seconds to load not only is this going to negatively impact your conversions, your rankings may suffer slightly as well.

An infographic produced a few years ago by KISSmetrics, http://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/ based on studies from Gomez.com and Akamai.com showed that 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less and a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. If that isn’t enough reason to speed up your site, I’m not sure what is! So where do we start to solve this problem? Read more…

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Today StepForth released a comprehensive manual on How to Setup Google Authorship which is available now for free as a web version or PDF download (right-click this link and save).

About this Free Manual

Written by Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth, this unofficial manual is for anyone who writes regularly online and website owners/administrators of a website with or without a blog. It is designed to help everyone understand what Authorship is, why it is important and how to ensure it is setup for the greatest personal and/or professional benefit. 

This manual covers implementation of the rel=author and rel=publisher tags within the following scenarios and platforms: Read more…

Google’s Matt Cutts often has a few bits and pieces of useful information for all website owners out there. The following are two topics he has recently covered that site owners will likely find of interest.

Cross Linking Domains

For anyone out there with multiple websites, the question often arises regarding how to cross link these sites together – not only for usability purposes but to also keep Google happy. At the end of the day, Matt goes on to recommend being very weary of linking 20 domains together unless you have a very good reason to do so (such as different versions of the site for each country served.). Read more…

A few months ago website owner who has worked with us periodically in the past contacted us as a result of a ranking decline around the same time as a Penguin update, and we performed a small audit on his site.

A con man selling watches in a cheap plaid suit and sunglasses

Our investigation had revealed that his inbound link profile consisted primarily of paid links – most of which were from low quality websites with minimal or no relevance. Our recommendation at that time was to remove those paid links and work on expanding his profile with quality & relevance.

Just last week we received a notification from Google that this particular site had received a manual penalty due to unnatural linking. While the notification does not specifically state the source links of the “manual spam action” we remembered the paid link building tactics he was using which we discovered in the past audit.

Passing Along News of the Google Penalty
I forwarded the message from Google to the site owner letting him know what had happened. Initially I suspected that the paid linking had caught up with him. While it is possible that some of the paid links contributed to the problem, it turns out they are far from the primary issue.  A conversation with the site owner quickly revealed he had been using a cheap link building company for the past several months.  I suggested he contact them to get their input on the Google warning. He shared part of his conversation with me and I was completely shocked. Read more…

While it was available for some time on mobile devices, Google has officially launched “Carousel” for users in the US on standard desktop machines.

Carousel is yet another new way Google is experimenting with how it displays search results, now moved out of Beta and into the main stream of Google search. With Carousel, Google provides a horizontal scrolling selection of shiny photo rich results to draw the searchers attention across the top of the results. Read more…

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Monday, February 4th, 2013

Applebees Social Media Nightmare

The power of the internet and social media can change lives forever. All it takes is a single social post without fully thinking the consequences. What may seem like a trivial and innocent post can escalate into an enormous globally famous incident.

Applebees ReceiptYou have most likely heard the recent story of an Applebee’s employee, Chelsea Welch, who posted a copy of a receipt to Reddit that has gained significant attention over the past week. After a customer crossed out a mandatory 18% tip on her bill and wrote “I Give God 10% Why do you Get 18″

After this photo (with Signature intact) made its rounds on Reddit it had quickly generated thousands of comments as users tried to track down the customer. Pastor Alois Bell ultimately came forward after seeing the receipt complete with her signature online and complained to Applebee’s. Welch was ultimately fired for the incident. Read more…

At StepForth we do not work with websites of an adult nature, and while we turned down the request for a proposal, a recent conversation with the owner of an adult site brought to light a very interesting blacker-than-black hat ranking technique that appears to be working. I just had to take a moment to share it with you.

Remember the old “Miserable Failure” days of Google bombing? The theory that if you built enough links with the same anchor text that your site would rank well for that anchor text? It worked great for a while. Then Google essentially shut it down. Or did they?

The webmaster that contacted us wanted to rank for a specific term, but was disheartened when much of his top 10 competition consisted of several low quality nearly identical sites that literally popped up overnight. Out of curiosity I decided to investigate and what I found was rather disturbing. Read more…

In a world where free organic rankings results can easily make or break most online businesses webmasters everywhere strive to get in the good graces of the big Google. It always surprises me when you hear of companies doing things that are almost guaranteed to sabotage their organic existence.

Some things I understand. While they come with huge risks, black hat techniques, spamming, link buying and other shady methods can sometimes, albeit temporary, come with big rewards. These risks are usually calculated and educated. But when a big company makes a very clear cut error in judgement without doing any research it is a bit of a shock. Read more…

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Friday, December 14th, 2012

Site Load Speed and Your Competitors

Site load speed has been a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm for a while now. I had suspected it was a factor for some time, and then back in April 2010, Google confirmed it.

I was surprised the other day when I learned that Google had removed the site performance data from the Labs section of Google Webmaster Tools. I had fully suspected this would be made into a full-fledged feature, but instead it was removed entirely.

While the site load times shown under site performance were somewhat flawed, it was still useful for getting an overall impression of how fast Google perceived your site to be. If they showed your site as exceptionally slow, then at the very least, it was an indication that something needed to be done. Read more…

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Monday, October 15th, 2012

Google EMD Update

For those of you who haven’t heard, on Sept 28, Google unrolled what is being called the Google EMD Update. EMD stands for Exact Match Domain. This update focuses on “low-quality” exact match domains. Matt Cutts tweeted about this as it was happening.Google EMD Update (Sept 28, 2012)

For most, this update will go unnoticed, but for 0.6% of searches, we have seen a change. This sounds like a small number but when you consider that as of August 2012 Google was serving results on average for around 100 billion queries a month – as a result this measly 0.6% impacts about 600 million monthly queries. Read more…

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