Target= "_Blank" : The Good, Bad, and Ugly

The attribute: target=”_blank” triggers web browsers to open a brand new tab to house a link. What effect does this have on user experience? On SEO?

 

There are some practical uses for this command, like pop-ups, links to PDFs, and links to side information.

For example, a “What’s this?” button when a site asks for your credit card security code usually points you to a new tab. In this instance, causing links to open in a new window allows you to find the information you need without losing all of the information you have already entered. However, there are lots of techies out there that swear against using _blank altogether.

Most users are technically savvy enough to know how to right click and choose the option of opening a link in a new tab or window if that’s what they want. More often than not, however, prompting a link to open this way isn’t very user friendly.

Example of an Ineffective Use of _Blank

Let’s talk about an example.

A recent client’s website used this command for every sub-page in its services navigation bar. Let’s think about that for a minute. 

So that means every time potential customers want to learn about a specific service, they are opening a new tab. And when they want to navigate to another service, guess what? Another tab!

When there are several services to click on, the tabs start to multiply like rabbits, resulting in a chaotic browser and a massive headache. At the very least, these visitors have started to exit tabs before opening another one within the site. Or even more likely, they have given up on your site completely and moved on to one of your competitors. Now the company, not just its online users, has problems too.

Believe it or not, _blank is used pretty often on the web. Granted, it is somewhat rare to see a website that uses this attribute for its internal links. But there are plenty of sites out there that love using this handy tool for external links because they think that it will keep people on their site.

So that got us at Evolve thinking. What exactly are the repercussions for target=”_blank” from an SEO standpoint? Is link juice still passed on to new windows? Do Googlebots crawl across tabs? And what about effects on metrics? Here’s what we found:

The Good: Search engines see these links just like they do any other. They are crawlable and they still pass along all of their link juice. Thankfully search engines, unlike people, ignore this attribute.

The Bad: Errors in W3C Links that use target=”_blank” will show up as errors when validating html using the W3C Validator. Luckily, this can be fixed by adding in a few lines of code that serve as a valid replacement. But if there are a bunch of these, this can get pretty tedious.

The Ugly: Say Goodbye to Google Analytics. In the client example, Google Analytics becomes an almost worthless tool. People do funky things when they are bombarded with new windows, so it is tricky to understand exactly what activity occur

How Do These Links Skew Analytics?

One possibility is that users exit each tab when they are finished with it, thus navigating back to the homepage before navigating to the next page of interest, even though the services navigation is still on the second page.

Another possibility is that they reach a breaking point and leave the site altogether. This is likely causing completely inaccurate data in your site’s Google Analytics account, specifically in areas such as bounce rate and conversion paths.

How are you supposed to understand your customer’s on-site behavior when your data is inconsistent?

Subsequently, how are you going to improve user experience when you don’t understand what that experience truly is? You may be tempted to say that a company using target=”blank” for its internal links doesn’t care about user experience, but I say it is simply misled. And it desperately needs to consider finding a new developer.

Long Story Short: Acceptable for External Links

Team Evolve generally uses this attribute when linking to outside sources on the blog because visitors often want to “bookmark” the referenced page without leaving the post. This allows users to keep their place. Plus, who doesn’t have a minimum of ten tabs open anyway?

Did you enjoy this post? Click to explore more secrets in our updated SEO Guide!

How Visuals Can Sell Your Blog Post

Boring Blog Post vs. Engaging Blog Post Written by Ian Miller, one of Evolve’s summer interns Imagine that you have the option of reading a textbook that provides complicated statistics in paragraph form or viewing an image that shows a graphic analysis of the same stats. Which would you choose? While each might have its own advantages, the majority of us would go with the infograph over the text.

Let’s Face It. We Love Pictures.

Visuals not only result in a more interesting article, they make for great SEO too. There are several factors contributing to the importance of images. The first is, simply, that people like pictures. Visuals alongside text help people understand the content. In fact, according to this study (which ironically doesn’t include images), pictures help people learn in both the imagery and verbal parts of the brain. So not only are people more engaged in your post, they’re learning more! Customer Satisfaction Graph

Depicting Trends

Words can only get you so far in some situations. Sometimes a graphic can allow readers to see the whole picture. For instance, wouldn’t you rather quickly view the graphs to the left than read: “In 2008, customer satisfaction was at 68%. In 2009, it was 60%. In 2010, it was 83%. In 2011…”? I thought so. Pictures deliver an overview of your page so your readers can efficiently grab important information from your grab content.

What about the SEO?

So now you know how pictures can attract readers to your articles, but how will they help your SEO ventures? Well it might require a bit more work on your part, but your efforts will pay off! It is important to effectively name your images; be sure to include relevant keywords in each file name. Remember, these images are indexed by search engines and can provide inbound links if properly titled. Finally, use descriptive alt text, which for an image is equivalent to the anchor text of a link. Alt text is important to the engines and humans alike, as it gives a description beyond keywords. (Confused as to what I’m talking about? We explain this in Chapter 9 of our SEO Guide for Beginners.)

Don’t Abuse Your Power.

As the author of a blog post, it’s your responsibility to provide visuals that actually support the article. Rather than choosing the first page results of iStock for what you’re trying to convey, you can search on Flickr for images with a creative commons license or even snap a photo yourself. If you can’t seem to find a visual to pair with your article, take a few minutes to rework the post, add an analogy or reference, so it can be supplemented with a relevant photo that will increase reader engagement. Additionally, you have the power to decide how many pictures to include on your page. While an appropriate number of pictures can assist the reader, too many can be distracting. An overuse of images can divert people from the point of your article. I’ll leave you with a Pro Tip: the best bloggers see their sites as digital equity, so clicking the “publish” button doesn’t necessarily signify the end of the road for a particular post. Once you’ve strengthened your articles with useful visuals, it’s imperative that you:

  1. share your insight via social networks, and
  2. find ways to repurpose the information you’ve harnessed.

  An example of the second tip would be to reformat the data, process, or opinion into an aesthetically pleasing infographic. Then pour yourself a cup of strong coffee, don your noise canceling headphones, and start link building. In essence, it’s all about using your publishing power wisely. If you write for humans, not search engines, you should put a proper amount of “oomph” and effort into each post you promote. Effectively utilizing visuals on your blog posts can yield a return for your hard work. And we love a good ROI.

There is no "one-size-fits-all."

Cat in the Hat with Laptop Some are big; some are small.
Some are short; some are tall.
SEO audits help us all,
to analyze a site’s performance based on search engine algorithms.
Wow, that sucked. How do you do it, Dr. Seuss? The point I’m trying to convey is that site audits can come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Granted, there are many common themes that SEO companies touch on when analyzing a site, but no two audits should ever be identical. The way an SEO firm approaches a particular site’s audit should be unique to its industry, type of site, and the core purpose of its pages. Not only that, but audits should also vary depending upon the age of the website and how recent its last check-up was. This is because audits (ideally) should be performed at different points in the life cycle of a website. If your company is building a site from scratch, it is critical that you analyze the development every step of the way. If, however, you are simply monitoring the progress of your existing website, you should expect a whole different kind of audit. A templated site audit doesn’t work for everything. Sure, templates can be useful tools to reference, and that’s why we rely on our checklist. But a good SEO firm does not refer to the same document, merely switching out the client name and data results for each new report. They custom make SEO audits for each client depending on their needs. Most businesses understand that it is wise to get an SEO audit when building a brand spankin’ new site or when you are simply looking for better rankings. However, there are plenty of other situations that should trigger another look at the SEO side of your website: 1.    Google changes its algorithm. One of those great and challenging things about SEO is that it really is constantly changing. We aren’t afraid to admit that we are consistently playing catch up with Google. (We’ll be sure to let you know when we get there.) As most of you know, the Penguin update just rolled out, which comes with new rules and subsequent penalties. And even if someone audited your site a month ago, it may need another once-over. Again, this doesn’t have to be a lengthy, in-depth report. It can be a reactionary, event-specific report that examines the areas where Penguin (or any other algo change) hits hardest. 2.    Your company goals have changed. Let’s say that a company decides to emphasize communication and interaction with its customers. This brand exceeds at making quality products, but struggles to open up a discussion. It could be that it already has a small blog, but it is hidden somewhere deep within the site and likely hasn’t been updated since 2009 or so. Even if the rest website is completely optimized for search engines, the domain isn’t conducive to the company’s new needs. One of the goals of the site audit in this case is to figure out how to better promote the blog and renew the brand’s image. Not only does this involve moving pages around on the site, but also implementing keyword, competitive, and link-building strategies to go along with it. 3.    You changed the visual design of your site Cat in the Hat SEOYes, even aesthetic updates can significantly influence search engine rankings. While many web designers can put together some fantastic-looking websites, they can sometimes over-look the little stuff, especially when it comes to SEO. Alt tags, frames, images a you name it a can be harmful to your rankings if not put together in a search-engine friendly way. Keep in mind that search engines don’t view sites the same way that humans do. For example, at first glance, a recent client’s global navigation bar looked fine. But when looking deeper, we discovered that it was completely hidden within images. Therefore, all of those links and directions for navigating the site were invisible to search engines, and that prevents the spiders from understanding a website’s page hierarchy. 4.    You are changing URL structures. If you are shifting your root domain from www.BestExampleEver.com to www.EvenBetterExample.com, there are obviously going to be redirects, Meta robots, sitemap changes and all that fun stuff involved. While there may be a flood of ways to go about doing this, it can be tricky to make sure that you do it in a way that transfers all of your link juice and doesn’t damage your rankings. To make sure that there are no errors and to monitor site performance, you might need to scrub your website down a bit with an audit. We know, that word sounds painful, but it doesn’t hurt as much as untapped potential. SEO, like the needs of our clients, is perpetually changing. We like that. It keeps us on our toes and forces us to earn our relevancy. We’re even in the process of performing an SEO Audit on our own .com, which has been a humbling and exciting revelation. Stay tuned for more information, and in the meantime: have a look at our SEO audit checklist, which serves as the baseline for each unique SEO audit. And finally, take comfort in the fact that we’re going to leave the rhyming to Dr. Seuss.

Introducing our summer interns!

This summer, Evolve is fortunate to have an extra boost of brainpower. We’ve hired two summer interns to manage and implement projects of their own. It’s our hope that when they leave us in August, both Ian and Emily (oh yes, a second Emily!) will have some solid success stories to add to their blooming portfolios. Let’s get to know these interns!

Emily Simpson

Emily Simpson, Evolve's summer InternHi, I’m Emily Simpson. I was born and raised in Saint Louis. I went to Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri, graduated in December 2009 with a Bacheloras Degree in Public Relations and a minor in Media Studies. I am passionate about volunteering in my spare time and spending as much time as I can with my adopted dog Clover. So far, my 2 weeks at Evolve have been a whirlwind of exciting information and tasks that will help expand Evolve in an even better direction. There are so many things to be learned from the Evolve team. Everyone is extremely dedicated, which is even more motivating to do well and get things done! One of my goals, while at Evolve, is to create a structured internship program for future interns. Hand-picked students from local colleges pursuing a digital marketing major will be eligible for this internship that will be offered in the fall, spring and summer. The goal is to have the intern walk away with something concrete that they can use for a future job or career. Also, Evolve wants to be able to show how the intern benefited the business in some way. I will implement overall goals, projects and objectives for the interns to complete during their time at Evolve. The internship program will be a good opportunity for Evolve to help college students gain knowledge about working for a digital marketing company. The interns will acquire hands-on experience that will benefit them in the working world when they pursue their career in marketing. Another project I will be working on will include the Evolve team reaching out to the community. Those details will be revealed soon, so stay tuned! Find Emily on LinkedIn!  

Ian Miller

Ian Miller the intern at EvolveHi, I am Ian Miller. As a St. Louis native, I attended Chaminade high school before moving to Nashville for college at Belmont University. This fall will be my second year at Belmont, where I am studying Commercial Music performance on piano with an emphasis on Music Business. I am a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan and music is one of my passions, as I play with several different musical groups My primary role at Evolve is link building, seeking out relevant sites and contacting their owners in order to augment a clientas list of inbound links. Although I had limited experience in SEO before my internship here at Evolve, I have learned an unbelievable amount during the past month and a half and continue to discover something new every day. My goals for Evolve include implementing an efficient and effective, yet personable, method of building links. Link building is a time consuming, and sometimes frustrating, system of building credibility and authority on the web, yet it is a fundamental aspect of SEO. I hope to take my experiences at Evolve and apply towards future business ventures, music opportunities, and life after college. So far I have truly enjoyed my time at Evolve, and I am sure I will continue to do so. Find Ian on LinkedIn!

Killing Empowering the Marketing Birds with One Stone

As a business owner or manager, you cannot deny the fact that you always want your employees working hard and you want your website (that beloved 24-hour employee) working even harder. As ambassadors of your brand, both your website and your employees are key components to generating profit. As their leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure they have the necessary means to do perform their duties.

WHAT:  ROI

Here’s my question to you : What would you be willing to give your employees in order to receive the greatest ROI? A few things that might come to mind:

  1. Money.

Yeah you’ll fork out that bonus if they can meet your goals, but HOW are you preparing your employees to meet those goals?

  1. Nothing.

How about they just do better because it’s their job, right? (This mindset doesn’t usually work.) The third option may not be on your radar – if it is, you may not be sure how to execute it.

HOW: THE STONE

  1. Resources.

And by resources, I mean content. Give your employees the type of content they can really leverage. The type of content they understand and they can stand behind. Here’s the best part : you only need to create this type of content once, and I’ll show you how to use it to knock out three important birds. Why should you put forth the time and investment to create these unique documents full of useful consumer information and unique selling points? Fair question. Let’s look at the birds together.

Visual of the different ways you can empower your brand through content

WHO: THE BIRDS

Sales. Start with your front line. The employee who needs supporting documents and he needs them fast. More specifically he needs the exact material the prospect is looking for in order to close the deal. Give it to him. Make it a few clicks away so he can deliver this to the prospect so quickly that he is still on the phone with the individual when it comes through their mailbox. This comes back to content creation. You have to create these materials and no one knows your brand better than you and your team. So put your heads together, conquer the most FAQs with easily digestible material, get it branded and make it your employees’ number one ally. We strive to do this at Evolve; the latest piece we published for the public is a tool for performing your own SEO audit. For those less aware of SEO, we invite them to download our Beginner’s Guide. Note: The easily digestible part is imperative. If you send over pages of PDFs filled to the margins with copy, you’re going to lose the prospect’s attention, AKA the sale. Instead use:

  • bullet points
  • infographics
  • images
  • headlines

They’ll love you for it, AKA buy your product or service. Website. Your website is highly important. At first glance, maybe it does answer all of your questions. But let’s face it you really shouldn’t have that many questions because you know all the ins and outs. However the exact type of person you WANT to purchase your product or service isn’t quite as lucky to already have that information in their arsenal. So how about we consider giving it to them? Let’s give them the exact documents we are talking about above : all I want you to do is make them available on your website. Go through the buying cycle on your site, from all perspectives (new buyer, returning visitor, etc.) and figure out at what point they are going to have questions and then place a link or a download to the information on your website.  Make sure those resources are top level because they will definitely be top of mind for your prospect. Search. You’re going to love this : by simply writing about what it is that your company offers and answering your customers’ questions (the documents we discussed above), you have already optimized your website for what your prospects will be searching. These documents might require additional optimization (and no, not keyword stuffing) just to make sure they are easily found, but you’ve got the hard part out of the way by already having the content created. Once you house these resources on your website, you have given the search engine robots the authority to go in and crawl all over those documents. They pull out the relevant information and then make your documents and in turn, your company, a search engine result for ANYONE looking for that information. Then what happens? Rankings start to increase and then… so do sales. As a business owner you cannot ignore the fact that your employees are your most valuable assets. It is important to keep them informed, educated and prepared for each and every day. If by doing so, you can also reap the benefits of a fully flushed out resource section on your website and a jump in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) then you’ve empowered quite a few birds with just one stone. Written by Ashley Hamilton. Find her on Twitter!

Google+ Local takes the cake

Google+ Local Uncle Buck Last week, Google blew our minds once again (they’re on a roll) by transferring all Google Places information over to Google+ Local. Say goodbye to Google’s golden stars that represented the rating of an establishment; now Google is leveraging Zagat, purchased last year, to unveil any given business’s quality based on a 30-point scale.

But I already have a Google+ Business Page

Right now, the Google+ Local page for a specific brand is a separate entity from the Google+ business page. Hopefully you have been active as a brand, updating your page with status updates, creating Circles, etc. When these two platforms merge, you will already have experience with the social features that are bound to make Google+ Local a refreshing, interactive experience for users.

I had previously claimed my Google Places location(s). Will I have to start over again?

Nope. Right now you can still access these pages through the Places interface. The “Manage this page” call to action in the middle right column of each new Local page directs users to the familiar Places login.

The majority of my consumers aren’t even on Google+

And it might stay that way. Try as they might, Google can’t force anyone to join its social network. Not yet, at least. Currently you do not have to be signed in to Google+ in order to see the information provided. However, we have good reason to speculate that this curveball Google has so artfully thrown might cause the number of Google+ members to spike.

I haven’t even claimed a location on Google Places

For now, Google is encouraging business owners to find their location on Google+ Local and log into Places to claim, manage, and update each account. We at Evolve set ours up (filled out the nitty-gritty details, uploaded some images, etc.). Turns out, it can take about a week for your Google+ business page to transition from dull to lively, but we’re hoping the Evolve page debuts its transformation sooner rather than later.

Google+ Local for Evolve

 

You don’t really have a choice

If you decide to ignore this recent revolution in Google’s interface, take heed: failure to participate in Google+ Local can eventually harm your success in the SERPs. Unlike Google Places, Google+ Local pages will be indexed, meaning they’ll actually show up in organic search results... if you do as you’re told.

Hmm. So…

So we have to wonder: will people continue to visit websites? After all, Google is turning Google+ Local into interactive hubs for businesses. Here visitors will grasp what other people are saying about a particular business. They’ll be able to peek at images of the interior, review parking information, and eventually interact with the owners. It’s too early to know for sure, but in a world that strives to maximize efficiency, speed, and user experience, it is a possibility worth speculating. Google+ Local is also encouraging business owners to publish posts within the interface. These allow the owners or managers to announce news, specials, or simply showcase images a ultimately replacing… *ahem* …Facebook. Just take a look at the handful of brands that Google has been working with exclusively to build out their Google+ Local pages. This evident stride in the Local Search arena is exciting for businesses that have excellent rapport and customer interaction. Google is making it as easy as possible for users to review, recommend, and find business establishments that fit their needs. Now if only Google could get more people to give a crap about its social network.

SEO Audit Checklist

SEO audit checklist

Performing a site audit is a tedious job, at least if you do it right. Sure, there is software that alerts you of errors and warnings when you punch in a URL, but those tools can only take you so far. It requires a human eye to critique the layout, richness of content, and elements of a website that just aren’t cutting it. Additionally, you must compare the site you’re auditing to its competitors in order to gauge, well, how it compares. All of that is time consuming – but absolutely essential.

Because the auditing process can be exhausting, we’ve found it helpful – nay, crucial – to follow an outline of the entire shebang. You know how good it feels to cross something off your to-do list? It’s those little victories that propel us forward. We recently dazzled our checklist into an aesthetically pleasing printable tool, one that we hope you will print out and reference often. After all, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of industry. Our site audit covers three main components: the On-site Analysis, Competitive Analysis, and Keyword Research. Within this checklist, we’ve broken down how we approach each section so you can get a feel for the thoroughness of Evolve’s Site Audit. Brace yourself; this is not for the faint of heart.

Download the SEO Audit Checklist