Google Now Rewarding Mobile-Friendly Websites

Today Google rolled out an algorithm change that is designed to reward websites that are “mobile-friendly” and demote those that aren’t. What does this mean and how might this impact your business?


First, we think it’s important to remember the goal of Google’s search engine, which is to deliver its users (people who search for things on Google) the best experience possible. Google’s job is to match the intent of the searcher with the best possible results. There are many factors that go into its ranking of one site over another and those so called ‘ranking factors’ are always in motion. However, in light of growing mobile usage, one of the factors that has risen in importance is having a website that is “friendly” for mobile users. 

What does it mean to be mobile-friendly?

Google wants people who access your website via a mobile device to have a good experience. According to Google, this means it should meet the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

How can I test if my website is mobile-friendly?

One way to know if your site is mobile-friendly is to check it against Google’s own indexing. You can look at your listing in mobile search results and see if it has the mobile friendly label.

Here’s an example:


You can also check your pages with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

What happens if my website isn’t mobile-friendly?

It depends. Mobile traffic now makes up an estimated 60 percent of all web traffic but your own web traffic might be different. If your traffic from mobile users is small and your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you probably won’t notice the difference even if your search rankings take a hit. The impact might just be incremental. However, if your traffic from mobile is high (our hotel clients tend to be in this category), the lack of a mobile-friendly site could result in a significant decline in traffic from Google Search and that could be very impactful.

If I don’t get a lot of traffic from mobile do I need to worry about this?

Yes! While you might not be impacted today, it is a very good idea to recognize the growing trend of mobile and understand that while your visitors might not come from mobile right now, statistics show that more people are planning to go “mobile only.” Consider this your wake up call and start working toward meeting the mobile-friendly goal soon.

Will all of my rankings be impacted?

The Google mobile-friendly algorithm update impacts searches from mobile only. It has no affect on searches from desktops or tablets. It has also been reported that the algorithm change will not impact Google’s local search results from mobile, which should be a relief to many of our clients who are non-mobile friendly and rely on local search.

How can I fix my site?

Google supports three mobile configurations: responsive web design, dynamic serving, and separate URLs. Responsive design is Google’s recommended approach because it focuses on offering a consistent experience with one URL for all content. Responsive designs can also be expanded easily to accommodate new devices as they emerge. 

Every site is different so we invite you to talk to us about how we would approach transforming your site from its current configuration to a responsive design.

The Future of Search Engine Optimization

SEO diagramDid you know that Google+ is now the #2 property after Facebook where content-sharing happens?  Or that Google incorporates Google+ circles and shares in its search results? These are only two of many examples. The times are changing, and for search engine optimization (SEO), companies need to get on board.

The New Meaning of ‘Optimization’

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has long been one of the core strategies we use to promote websites and other content marketing assets.  Basically, we are trying to entice the search engines to give our sites more visibility, and the word “entice” is important: neither we nor anyone else can make Google give us high rankings. 

Read more

Do You *Heart* the Google Penguin Update?

Google webspam penguin updateIf you’re at all interested in your website’s rankings on Google you’ve probably heard rumblings, if not screaming, about Google’s recent Webspam Update, known as “Penguin.”  Many have even experienced a surprising decline in their search rankings since the update took place (hopefully you’re not among them).  So what the heck is this animal and why is it raining on parades?

What is the Google Penguin Update?

The so called Penguin update was an April 24, 2012 update to Google’s algorithm, the formula used by Google to determine rankings of web pages in the search engine results pages.  Some websites were hit pretty hard by this update, which really did nothing more than automate the job Google’s team has been doing manually for years to fight webspam. In other words, the rules haven’t changed — Google is just becoming a better and more efficient referee.

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Getting Found Means Creating LOTS of Quality Content

Content Matters

Getting your website found is a constant struggle for many companies. 

And employing search engine optimization (SEO) practices was traditionally the answer.  

But these days traditional SEO is not enough.

Today, having a substantial amount of quality content under your domain is just as important.  

Quite simply, when it comes to driving traffic to your website, content volume matters

Read more

What is Inbound Marketing?

What The Heck is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of attracting people to your website who actually care about what you have to say. It’s about creating content that people are interested in consuming. It’s about admitting that the old way of marketing – interruptive advertising – just doesn’t work anymore.

What is Inbound Marketing

It’s marketing and selling your products with authenticity and transparency.

It’s what people want. 

You may have heard Inbound Marketing referred to by different names. Some people call it Content Marketing or SEO or Social Media. The truth is Inbound Marketing is all of these things and more. 

Inbound Marketing is a Puzzle

Inbound marketing is like a puzzle – but not because it’s confusing. It’s a puzzle in the sense that it’s made up of many pieces. Pieces that should not stand on their own, but when put together, make total sense. To truly succeed online, business need to have a comprehensive strategy inclusive of all the pieces in the puzzle. Assembling the pieces together into one, cohesive strategy is the key to marketing success.

Four Core Pillars of Inbound Marketing

In order for your Inbound Marketing program to be successful, it needs to deliver in four key areas:

Traffic Generation

Generating more traffic for a website is like a recipe: you will need the proper mix of ingredients but there’s no one single formula for success. Rather, it’s a set of strategies and supporting tools working together. Those strategies are Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Customer-Oriented Blogging and Social Media sharing. All three working together will ensure an adequate supply of targeted traffic to your site. 

Lead Generation

So you’ve optimized your content, your’re blogging regularly and you’re getting some content shared on social media. Great start. But just because you have traffic coming in, doesn’t mean you’re getting any leads.

This is where premium content, landing pages and great calls-to-action come into play.  

Lead generation is a tacit quid pro quo between the marketer and customer. You have to convince your potential customer that what they’re getting (information) is worth more than what they’re giving up (their name and email address). Giving away useful customer-focused, problem solving content in exchange for information is one of the best ways to do this.  The amount of information you ask of them is directly related to how valuable the content you’re giving away. The more valuable the info, the more information you can ask of them.  

Once you have their name and email address, you can begin the process of nurturing leads toward sales. 

Sales Conversion

Would you consider someone who Likes you on Facebook a lead? Would you consider someone who downloads your whitepaper a lead?

The truth is that not all “leads” are created equal. 

That’s why managing your leads realistically while taking the long term view is a key part of converting leads to sales. Lead nurturing and segmented email campaigns are your primary tools for converting your leads into sales over time. 

Analysis & Measurement

One of the great advantages of internet marketing is access to data. With the proper tools such as Hubspot or Google Analytics 5.0, you can track almost everything about your site visitors.

The reports you generate should tie directly back to the goals you’ve set for the business. Is your goal to increase site traffic? Is your goal to improve traffic from social networks? Is your goal to increase conversion of your existing site visitors? All of these can be reported on analyzed. 

Remember, data doesn’t lie. It doesn’t matter what your boss wants to do or what some article says you should do. If the data shows that you’re not meeting your goals, change tactics and try again. Your inbound marketing program should be a continuous process of testing, measuring and tweaking. 

Making the Leap to Inbound Marketing

If your business is looking to consistently and affordably generate leads over time without annoying your customers, Inbound Marketing is something you should look into.

Spark Inbound Marketing is a full service inbound marketing agency that can help you make the leap to Inbound Marketing. We don’t promise overnight success but we do promise a system that delivers results over time.

Drop us a line, we love to talk about this stuff!

Google Now Rewards Quality Web Content. How Do You Measure Up?

Google Panda Changes the Focus to Quality Web Content

Everyone wants their website to rank high on Google’s search engine. And many web marketers have been successful at gaming the system to get their sites to rank higher.

But Google continues to fight back.

This past spring, they introduced a big change to their ranking technology known as the Panda Update.

The primary purpose of the Panda Update was to fight what had become known as content farms. Content Farms are low quality sites that offer very superficial, unhelpful articles on a wide variety of topics. People have grown weary of content farms because their content is not useful but ranks highly in the search engines.

In other words, they were diminishing the search experience of their users. This was not acceptable to Google who prides itself on continuously improving the user’s search experience.

Panda sent many low content quality websites spiraling downward in rankings.

This sent web marketers everywhere scrambling to make sense of it and figure out what to do next.

Google’s Simple Advice to Get Ranked in Search

In their official blog, Google offered very simple advice to web marketers everywhere: “Search is a complicated and evolving art and science, so rather than focusing on specific algorithmic tweaks, we encourage you to focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.”

Pretty simple, huh?

How Does Google Define Website Quality?

How does Google assess the “quality” of a page, blog post, article, or any other piece of content?

In their official blog, Google provided the following list to help people assess their own website quality:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article? 
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? 
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? 
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? 
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? 
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? 
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? 
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? 
  • How much quality control is done on content? Does the article describe both sides of a story? 
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? 
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? 
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? 
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? 
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? 
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? 
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? 
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? 
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book? 
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail? 


For a more graphical view, we recently blogged about an infographic on the importance of content for search engine optimization

Does Your Content Pass These Criteria?

Measuring up to the list above can be daunting…but not impossible.

But it does mean you have to change your online marketing focus. Before just producing a well optimized site was enough to get ranked, now that’s just the beginning.

Becoming an information hub that regularly publishes useful, interesting content is now the next level you must aspire to.

Google has raised the bar. Are you up to the challenge?


Search Engine Optimization at Spark

SEO nerds would be a good way to describe us here at Spark. If you need a little help, ask us a question, we’ve got answers.

The Importance of Content for SEO

Quality content has become the most important factor when improving your search engine rankings.

With the recent changes to Google’s ranking algorithms (Panda), it is more important than ever to create good quality content that informs, educates and sells your product or service.

Our friends at Brafton make the case for content marketing in this stylish and easy-to-read infographic.

If you want to print it out, just click on the image to download a PDF

Brafton's Infographic: Why Content for SEO?


Content Marketing at Spark

Helping our clients get ranked with quality web content is what we do here at Spark. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you, send us a message. We’d love to talk.

Remember Keyword Theme Pyramids When Creating Web Content

When planning your new website or redesigning an old one, keep Keyword Theme Pyramids in mind.

What are Keyword Theme Pyramids you ask?

Think about it this way. Your site should basically be one big pyramid that has one overarching theme.  All of your other keywords as well as your site structure and navigation should emanate from this primary keyword theme. 

Spark’s theme is “Inbound Marketing”. 

Inbound Marketing is a good example because it has many discrete and different disciplines that in turn have their own topics and sub topics.  

Keyword Theme Pyramid for Inbound Marketing

Content Marketing as a Primary Sub-Topic

For example, content marketing is a fundamental part of Inbound Marketing and therefore deserves to be directly  under our primary theme of Inbound Marketing. 

Within content marketing there are many sub-topics such as Content Optimization and Content Promotion (among many others). 

And within these two sub-topics there are many, many sub-sub-topics:

  • On Page SEO
  • Keyword Themes (this post)
  • Link Building
  • Guest Blogging
  • Writing for the Web
  • Importance of Video
  • Brand Journalism

And each of of THOSE subtopics even have their own topics. You get the picture. 

Your Keyword Themes’ Flow of Relevance

Sites that follow a logical theme pyramid do better in Google rankings.

To understand why is to understand how Google thinks about your content. Every so often, Google spiders your web site and gathers keyword data. From this data, it make inferences about what your site is trying to say about your company.

Because it’s a computer program, it thinks logically. Keyword Theme Pyramids are logical.

Think about the structure above of the chart above. Every level’s parent is about the same theme, just more general. Every level’s child is about the same theme only more specific. This promotes what Canonical SEO calls “the flow of relevance“. And this helps Google and the other engines understand what your site is all about. 

Keyword Themes and On-Page SEO

Your keyword themes should extend to the interior of each page as well.

Remember that Google judges each page of your website as a single discreet unit. Its spiders keep a tally of every keyword they find and the number of times they find them on each page, making a ranked list of keywords for that page.

The keywords that are ranked higher for that page are your keyword theme, like it or not!

So by being conscious of this fact when creating your pages i.e. including  keywords in your title tag, H1 and H2 tags and other natural places on your page, you’re ensuring that the engines understand exactly what your want to be ranked for. 

On top of that, make your homepage’s primary keyword phrase the secondary keyword phrase on that page as well.  This ensures that your site’s primary top-of-the-pyramid keyword is well represented throughout your entire site and your SEO efforts will have a better chance for success. 

Keyword Themes for Your Blog Posts

Blog posts are organized differently from regular web pages. Their chronological publishing style encourages free form creativity. This is good. But don’t let that deter you from maintaining a tight editorial focus. You should still blog about topics that fit into your keyword themes. 

Content Marketing at Spark

Let’s face it, we’re a bunch of content marketing nerds here at Spark. If you have a question about content marketing, drop us a line, we’d love to nerd out with you.

Google's Golden Triangle and The Importance of Good SEO

Here at Spark, we’ve been preaching the long term benefits of search engine optimization (SEO) for years.

And it’s nice to see good research back us up so nicely! 

Heat Maps Are Cool

A while back, research firm Mediative performed an eye-tracking study on Google search engine results pages (SERPs).  The study showed how people’s eyes scan a SERP, what they looked at first, what they fixated on and ultimately what they clicked on

Heat Map of a Google SERP

In this heat map image from the study, you can see people’s behavior quite clearly. 

  • The red areas represent where 80-100% of participants fixated their eyes or read the text
  • The orange area represents where 70-80% of participants fixated their eyes or read the text etc.
  • The purple X’s represent what people actually clicked on

The obvious conclusion is that the vast majority of the participants’ time and click activity was spent on the top 4-5 organic search results.

This is known as Google’s “Golden Triangle”.

Also note how little energy was spent on the Google PPC advertising displayed along the right side bar.

And you, as a searcher, know this intuitively. Most people pay attention to the organic results and ignore the ads.

Corporate Budgets’ Disconnect with SEO

So you’d think that companies would be budgeting much more on obtaining higher organic search result than PPC advertising. 

Alas, this is not the case. 

According to this SEMPO study,  87% of all industry search marketing budgets was spent on PPC advertising.

And only 11% of industry budgets were spent on SEO.

But it’s easy to understand why.

The PPC model fits into corporate marketing better than SEO. It’s easily “budgetized” and can show an immediate result that’s trackable. It’s similar to traditional direct marketing methods and therefore more accepted as a marketing channel.

But as budgets get tighter and the price of keywords continue to go up, this is changing. Companies may take another look at the ROI of their PPC campaigns and decide it’s not worth it

Think of SEO as an Investment, Not a Campaign

SEO results are measured in months or even years. It requires a clear long term strategy, competent practitioners and long term resolve from upper management. 

But make no mistake, it’s worth the effort. 

  • An organic search result gets clicked on 85% of the time
  • An organic search result is two to six times more visible than a paid advertisement
  • 100% of searchers look at the first organic result while only 50% look at the first paid result
  • Searchers trust organic listings more than paid ones
  • Searchers perceive organic results as more relevant than paid

 Source: Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy is Your Business Strategy

Michelle Goldberg, a partner at venture capital firm Ignition Parters says, 

“Organic search is a long term and generally much better margin solution (than PPC). The largest expense associated with organic search tends to be content creation, which can have long term benefits for both search acquisition and overall customer engagement….(It) helps you build a more sustainable business over time…” Source: Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy is Your Business Strategy

How’s Your Organic Listings?

  • What keywords do your rank well for now?
  • Do you have a list of strategic keywords you’d like to rank higher for?
  • Have you identified what keywords your competitors rank for?
  • Do you have a content marketing strategy?
  • Have you performed an SEO Audit on your current site?


SEO Strategy at Spark

Here at Spark we value long term SEO strategy over short term fixes. If you’re of the same way of thinking and need some advice, let us know. We can discuss how you can make an investment in SEO that will pay off well into the future. 

SEO Pro or Web Strategist? Google’s Panda Update Changes the Job of SEO.

SEOmoz’s latest Whiteboard Friday features the brilliant Rand Fish, CEO of the SEO Software company, talking about Google’s Panda update 2.2 and the three ingredients necessary to succeed in Google today:

  1. Design and user experience – Your site needs to be beautiful.
  2. Content quality – It’s not enough to be good. Your content needs to be WOW-worthy.
  3. Metrics – You’ve got to pay attention to metrics like time on site, bounce rate, browse rate, click through rate, and diversity of search and traffic.

Watch the video here: