RankBrain is a method Google introduced in late 2015 to use artificial intelligence to understand more about the queries it receives. There are many ways to interpret some pretty basic search queries. For instance, consider the search term “custom stationary.” If the user enters in “custom stationary” in the Google search bar, are they searching for a brand of custom stationary, a place nearby to purchase custom stationary, how to create their own custom stationary, a place to print custom stationary? Are they looking for a photo? Or news?

RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to analyze search queries, particularly ones it has never seen before or doesn’t understand. The program guesses what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filters the result accordingly. RankBrain is now using more than 200 different ranking factors which make up the ranking algorithm. Of course, Google does not disclose exactly what those are. RankBrain is now such a big part of Google’s search that figuring out how it works is important, even if you can never be sure. I’ve seen lots of sites online saying that “RankBrain is now confirmed to be the third most important factor in the ranking algorithm,” even though I can’t find the original Google announcement confirming this.

What is RankBrain and How Does it Affect Websites?

Back to the “custom stationary” search…what RankBrain is trying to do is provide content that it thinks users want. That’s what you should do too. The key seems to be that RankBrain is not taking search keywords literally. If it “thinks” a user is searching for a brand of custom stationary, it is going to provide those results over a place to buy custom stationary.

In the past, SEO advice has been to create content based on one keyword, or maybe two, per page. And create many pages to add on all of your possible keywords. That’s why blogging was, and generally is, so successful. But the fact that RankBrain is now no longer taking keywords literally means that your exact search phrase you have on your website may be less important than the overall content and the rest of the technical issues on the page: images and their attributes, page load time, backlinks, etc.

What’s the take-away about RankBrain?

Create pages and content that are focused on one main keyword phrase and the phrases related to that keyword. For instance, you may be a stationary store that designes custom stationary. So you may decide to create several blog posts that cover ALL of those possible interpretations of custom stationary. RankBrain will (hopefully) interpret this as meaning that your site is the authority on all things custom stationary. Yes, it might be a lot of work. but RankBrain is not going to go away and will, no doubt, become more intelligent all the time. RankBrain and Google is focused on the relevance to the end user, and you should be too.

I recently spoke with a colleague who helped a neighbor launch a website for their retail shop as a freelancer. This was 10 years ago. The shop succeeded, but the website hasn’t been updated. Internet technology and design has changed a lot over the past 10 years. While the website was still functional, it didn’t look modern. The graphics looked stale. It wasn’t responsive as you scrolled through the site.

Even if your website is still working for you, there are a number of reasons to modernize it. Your website may be older or underperforming. These key steps for a successful website redesign will help you get the most out of the process.

Here are key steps for a successful website redesign.

Have clear objectives.

If part of your problem with your current website is that inventory management is difficult, put that issue right up front with your developer. If you want easier and more robust social media integration, you might prioritize a page on your site for user generated content, such as sharing Instagram photos, or posting videos. You might want an easier way to upload, change and manage photos. Think carefully about your goals and prioritize them.

Designate a decision-making process.

We’ve worked on numerous website development projects over the years. One of the issues we’ve seen repeatedly is project delays and mismanagement due to a lack of decision making. If you want approval power yourself, then set aside time to make the key decisions in a timely manner. If you are in a situation where you have to make decisions by committee, clearly set out when and how those decisions will be made. Determine ahead of time who will make the final decisions about copy, images, colors, fonts, and timelines. Will someone have veto power?

We’ve worked with people who fiercely protect their days off. We agree and know that time away from work is important. But if you plan to be away from the office for any length of time, designate someone who can answer questions and make decisions in your absence. Delays along the way mess up the timeline for everyone working on the project.

Decide on a way to communicate.

Our office uses Google Docs. This system allows everyone who is shared on a document to view it and make changes. It’s a great way to communicate steps and timelines in one place. There are many ways to communicate and share materials: thumb drives, Google Docs, FTP, email, Dropbox. Pick one primary way to communicate with everyone on the project.

We’ve had delays on projects due to some material being placed as a comment in a document, some being shared via thumb drive, some via email, and some over the phone. It’s hard to keep track of it all and some of it can get lost, which brings confusion and delays.

Organize your assets.

Take stock of what assets you are already using on your website, before making any changes. Locate your high-resolution logo files, customer testimonials, videos, and anything else you have on the website that you want to use again. Gather materials you know you want to add to your new site, such as employee photos and bios. Put all of the new and old material in one place and give someone else access to that content.

Empower a responder.

We’ve experienced project delays due to the contact point at the company not fully understanding what to do. For instance, the company receptionist may be the one fielding incoming calls and emails with questions about where materials are or who to get them from. He or she may be asked to send a document via Dropbox, but he or she doesn’t know where the material is or who has it. They may not know who originally sent that email with the really important document you now can’t find.

If you’re communicating via email and requests are going out that are cc’d to a number of people, the people on that email may not know which of them should take action. Or, someone may respond while another person is off seeking the information. Confusion and delays like these are avoidable if you designate one person to manage the project. Requests for materials or information go to one person and they have access to all of it.

You will want to monitor what kind of improvements in traffic, bounce rate, cart fulfillment and other measures your new website gives you. Document your current statistics before any changes are made to better measure your return on the investment. Measure your current standing on search results so you know what gains you are making and how fast.

Work closely with your developer to monitor what pages on your current website are performing well, so those stay in place. When your new website is rebuilt, you will want to be sure that no one is getting “Page not found” errors by clicking on old links that go nowhere, or redirects that may cause loss of traffic.

The more you plan, the better.

The more you plan for a website redesign, the more successful you will be. Yes, a skilled developer will be able to guide the process and ask the right questions along the way, but the more prepared you are up front with these strategies already in place the easier it will be for everyone. These key steps for a successful website redesign will help your project get off the ground in an organized and efficient manner before you even have the first conversation.

One of the best ways to drive traffic to your site is to create content that is easily found, easily shared, and useful or instructional. You can pay for advertisements. But creating this content yourself is the best way to get quality content out there. That’s why you should start a business blog! You control the content. You can publish your content in a variety of ways. Blogging helps your business be found. Keep reading for a list of 10 reasons why you should start a business blog.

1. A blog helps with SEO.

Each new blog post you add essentially adds a new page to your website. Search engines love is fresh content. New content, such as new blog posts, that is also relevant, is almost always placed higher up the search engines than older content.

One way that search engines determine relevancy is by the keywords that the user searches for. Let’s say you’re in the business of selling soccer balls and gear. Someone might search for “regulation soccer balls.” Your blog post explaining regulation soccer balls could be one of the first results to come up. Fill your post with photos of regulation soccer balls that you sell, and link readers right to the shopping cart.

2. It helps position you as the expert in your field.

Writing informative posts about your field helps create the image of you as the expert. Your information and experience becomes more valuable than just anybody else on the web. Your blog is a great place to make a clear connection between your brand and your knowledge.

3. It’s easy.

The hardest part about blogging is coming up with ideas. (We plan more posts about coming up with ideas and get the most mileage out of them!) Once you know what you’re going to write about, the WordPress platform is easy to use. Scheduling platforms and plug-ins help make SEO of your post and social media promotions also easy. Good website development companies (such as Limelight Department!) can help with training you to make sure that you know how to use the technology you have signed up for.

4. A blog offers you a lot of media options, which also helps with SEO (See #1.)

Blogging doesn’t have to mean three paragraphs of text published each day. If you’re more of a video person, record yourself as you walk around your office and post it on YouTube. Take photos and publish them with Instagram. Do your blogging in short bits on Twitter. Use the tools and technology that work for you, because all of them are searchable by search engines and all will get you an audience.

5. It’s free. 

A basic WordPress site is free! Customization and some themes cost money, but their cost is fairly small. A hosting fee is a minimal annual expense. Your audience is out there and it doesn’t cost much other than time to meet them where they are.

6. It helps drive traffic to your website.

Each blog post can lead your readers to take some action. That could be downloading your resources, making an appointment, or visiting your website to take advantage of a sale. Lead your visitors to take the action you want with a call to action placed at the end of each post that links back to your website.

7. It helps convert that traffic into leads. 

How can a bunch of strangers reading your blog posts translate to sales? Let me answer this question with a question…How is it better to have a bunch of strangers reading your paid AdWords advertisement and then trying to send them to your website?

When people read your blog they are getting a sense of your personality, your authority, and why your products or services are better than anyone else’s. The people reading your blog are already searching or information related to what you have to offer, because otherwise they wouldn’t have found the blog post or taken the time to read it. Traffic to your website from content that is useful and informative is more valuable than anything else you can do. And, other than the time you spend creating the content, it’s free.

8. Blogging is a long-term strategy.

Other than a paid advertisement, there is very little in the world of online marketing that is done for immediate gratification. It takes time for search engines to “recognize” a site’s authority, and part of the way that happens is by having the search engines visit your site on a regular basis. Sites that are not updated frequently do not get visited by search engines very often. The more you update your site, the more the search engines will visit you. The longer this goes on, the more authority a search engine places on your site, and they will start to return your site higher up in the search results.

Publishing on a blog over a long period of time, on a regular basis, about topics that are keyword appropriate and related to your business is an excellent way to build authority for your site.

9. You’ll get better with practice. 

Writing is just like anything else in that it does get easier with practice. If you’re doubting your ability to create ongoing content that people will actually want to read, you can always consider hiring out the service to copywriters. (Limelight Department provides this service on a regular basis for a variety of clients.) Otherwise, keep a notebook or electronic notetaker app with you at all times, and whenever the smallest idea occurs to you, jot it down so it’s not lost. Allow yourself the freedom to write short posts (or tweets) when you don’t feel like it, and trust that the more you practice blog writing the easier it will get.

10. You can gather other useful resources to your own site.

You don’t have to come up with every single new idea on your own. Curate groups of the best resources that are out there on other sites or cool stuff that you find. For instance, if you sell soccer balls, one of your blog posts each week can be a “highlights post” of the soccer games for the past week, or how the soccer stars stats changed at the end of each new game. You can collect news items or tips from others in your niche. (Just make sure you always attribute where you are getting the information from.) Next time someone is looking for
“the best explanation of soccer rules on the web,” for instance, they’ll go to your post first. You can even invite some of those other experts to contribute to your blog as a guest poster.

Get started with a business blog

And it doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started with your business or you’ve been in business for 10 years and never blogged before. I can’t think of any industry or business where a blog filled with content of some sort wouldn’t be helpful. So whether you’re a florist or a restaurant or a lawyer, there’s room in the blogosphere for you, so go ahead and start a business blog!

If you’re not sure how to start a business blog with a WordPress site, just get in touch. As we mentioned above, basic themes are free and so are most of the plug-ins. However, customization lets you make your blog just right for you, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help or if you have questions on why to start a business blog and how it might help your particular business.

It’s mid-summer as I write these words, but it’s not too early for search engine optimization for the holiday season. In fact, not only is it not too early, it’s the perfect time to plan ahead for holiday SEO! Search engines take time to index the changes on a site, particularly if it is not updated regularly. Start now to get your changes noticed in time for your site to rank well for a future event.

List your keywords

Develop a list of holiday- or event-related keywords and put them into action on your site. It’s best if each page on your site has just one focus keyword. If you feel it’s too early to be promoting Christmas, tell your customers what’s “coming soon” in the form of holiday gift guides, for instance.

Add fresh landing pages

Create and optimize a new page on your site for the future event you know you are going to be promoting. For instance, holiday shopping or a conference you’re speaking at. Fill that page with products appropriate for holiday gifts or information about the upcoming event. Include an appropriate key term, such as “local holiday gifts,” “Christmas sale” or “Business consulting conference” in the page title and text.

Optimize your landing pages for keywords that relate to shopping and gift giving such as Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Free Shipping, Free Delivery or Top Technology Gifts. Use your city name as well.

Plan to keep working at it.

Keep in mind that SEO is a task that is never 100% complete. Search engines rank sites higher when they are updated regularly, because they prioritize sites with new information. Consider making ongoing changes to plan ahead for holiday SEO or other future events that are on your marketing calendar on a regular basis and not just once a year at holiday time. SEO works best if it gets periodic attention over time. One good approach is to analyze where you on in your search results before you start making changes, then track the results over time.

A 45-day rule in web publishing indicates that if you plan ahead for holiday SEO 45 days in advance of an event you want to promote, the search engines will have noticed that change on your site.