Which is Best For SEO: Subdomains or Subfolders?

What’s better for SEO using a subdomain or subfolder? Is there a reason why?

This is an age-old debate when it comes to SEO. If you ask Google they’ll say they don’t really care if you use a subfolder or subdomain. You have to use what’s best for you.

Sound wishy washy? Maybe a little bit.

In the video below John Mueller explains Google’s view.

Ok now we have Google’s statement. They rank, crawl and index directories the same as they subdomains, which means you have the same chance to get either setup to rank.

But Wait, Why Don’t SEO Experts Agree?

If you talk to the SEO pros, you’ll find they don’t agree with this broad explanation. Here’s why.

EFFORT

It often takes a lot more effort to get a subdomain to rank.

First let’s look at how domains work:

  • First you have to register a top-level domain (yourdomain.com) with a registrar. Notice there is no “www”.
  • Then you need to set up hosting so you have access to a server that is online where you keep your website.

This is a relatively simple example.

Once you point the domain to the server you have to make a decision for how you want your website address to look:

  • Should it use a subdomain: i.e. www.yourdomain.com?
  • Or use the top-level domain: i.e. yourdomain.com

It’s very common to use www but this is technically a subdomain. As we saw in the video Google will rank either way the same. This is good. However, this also means each way will be rank individually. More on this later.

A Case For Why To Use Subdomains Instead of Subfolders:

Using subdomains is a great way to separate sections of you site that may be related but you want them to rank separately.

We can actually use Google itself as an example.

Google has many services and products.

  • There’s normal search which can be found under google.com
  • The Google Store: store.google.com
  • The app store, Google Play: play.google.com
  • Google My Business: business.google.com
  • Google Ads: ads.google.com

I could go on, but the point is these are all separate parts of the business that need to stand on their own and be found as individual entities, while still being connected to Google.

Need help optimizing your site? Talk to our SEO experts.

So here it makes sense to keep them on separate subdomains.

Why Use Subfolders Instead of Subdomains?

Let’s look at a different scenario which probably comes closer to what your company is facing.

Search engines love fresh useful informative content. And hey, so do people too. A great way to develop this content is to create a blog of a news section of you site and start posting content that is useful and relevant to your company, products and services and industry.

Subdomains divide your SEO strength

If you use the subdomain model it might look like this:

Google will look at these as three separate sites. If you were hoping to use you blog to support your main site and drive ranking for you products and services you’ll have to be very diligent in linking from your blog to the products and hope that some of the ranking authority passes from the blog to the main site.

If that seems a bit to abstract he’s a visualization that might help.

I’ll simplify the explanation using backlinks to your sites. Links are one of many factors that search engines use to rank sites, but limiting the discussion to backlinks will help clarify things.

If each one of your subdomains has the following number of backlinks.

  • Main site: www.yourdomain.com = 30
  • Blog: blog.yourdomain.com = 35
  • News: news.yourdomain.com = 10
  • Total = 75

This is what it looks like visually:

subdomains and links

You might think, “Great, we have 75 links!” But, since Google looks at each site separately they do not add up. They are links to each individual “site” or subdomain. If you are very diligent in cross-linking then some of the authority will pass to the other subdomains, but only a fraction of the full strength.

But if you use subfolders, and acquire links to the pages within the subfolders they are all part of the same site. Therefor your site www.yourdomain.com truly has 75 links pointing to the same subdomain or domain.

subdomains and links combined

Pro tip: Use the top-level domain whenever possible.

Meaning if not properly configured, your site could be ranking as two separate sits. For example:

Summary

It’s up to you to decide which option to use.  Both subfolders and subdomains have their merits and while Google will gives you the opportunity to rank subdomains and top-level domains equally this can also be a bad thing.

Our recommendation is to us subfolders or directories unless there is a good reason to separate sections of your site. This will help you save time and effort because using subdomains means you essentially have to do the same work for every subdomain individually, but with subfolders you only have one site that you need to work with.

How to Improve Google Ads Quality Score

I’m often asked things like the following about Quality Score in Google Ads.

  • Can you SEO our landing page so it improves the quality score in Google Ads?
  • We optimized our site, so why isn’t our quality score better?

SEO Does Not Fix Quality Scores

While optimizing a page for organic search can have the side effect of improving the quality score for specific keywords it does not necessarily mean it will be good for all keywords. Or that it will help at all.

Many people seem to get this confused, but SEO or search engine optimization and Google Ads Quality Score are different things. I guess people are actually confused with the idea of optimization.

optimization (noun)

op·​ti·​mi·​za·​tion | \ ˌäp-tə-mə-ˈzā-shən: an act, process, or methodology of making something (such as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible

To be truly masterful at Paid Search management and improving Quality Score, you need to optimize the whole system. Landing page optimization is only one part of the system. There are several factors that need to be taken into account when looking at the Paid Search campaigns.

Optimize the Whole System

  • Keywords – Choosing the best keywords and match types for the thing or topic you are promoting.
  • Keyword organization – I.e. Adgroups with similar keywords. This means you need to careful group keywords so that they are very similar in theme.
  • Ad Text – Is the ad relevant. If someone is searching for cat food, does your ad copy provide a solution or answer the question that the searcher has.
  • Page Relevance – The page is relevant to what the person searched for and it provides a good experience. The copy is clear it helps them accomplish what they are looking to do.
  • Metrics are talked about less and are often less clear
    • Click through rate – What is the ration of views of your ads and the number of people that clicked?
    • Overall account quality – Do you have a bunch of bad campaigns and ads in your account? Or do you have hi quality campaigns that perform well?
    • Historical performance – Has your account performed well in the past of do you have a history of bad campaigns/

Quality Score is About the System as a Whole

In the end, optimizing Quality Score is really about optimizing your Paid Search campaigns as a system. Not just a quick fix to your landing pages.

Does the path from keyword -> to Ad copy -> to the Landing Page all line up an create a good experience for searchers? The better you can align this, the better your Quality Score will be.

How Much Should We Pay for SEO Services? SEO Pricing

seo pricing

As an SEO services agency, we are often faced with the question “How much should I really be paying for SEO services?”

That is often a loaded question. It usually depends on the industry and the state of the companies findability when we talk to them.

Look at it this way for industries that are more digitally savvy getting found online is more competitive. An obvious example is the SEO industry itself. Since we are all experts in the field it becomes very competitive. Whereas industries such as fitness, sports, travel or even metal fabrication may not have as many players that are fully leveraging digital marketing.

With that said though there have been a few studies that have gone down the rabbit hole and developed some real pricing to answer this question.

One of the most notable studies was performed by ahrefs. Ahrefs is a tool for evaluating SEO that is very popular among SEO consultants. The data from their SEO Pricing Report is what I will reference in much my discussion.

First, let me breakdown how the study was conducted. They surveyed Agencies, Consultants, and Freelancers to see how much they charged for SEO services in 2018. As you would expect the most expensive of the three was Freelancers and Agencies commanded the highest rates. Consultants sit somewhere in between.

Just as we do at Blackbird e-Solutions, most SEOs offer a variety of pricing models.

  • Monthly retainers
  • Project based
  • Hourly rates

How Much Should We Pay for SEO Per Month?

It depends on who you work with. Agencies, Consultants or Freelancers

seo pricing per month by business type

On average if we take the upper level of the pricing tier we see the following averages, with Agencies at the highest level:

  • Agencies: $2,819.87/month
  • Consultancies: $1,906.48/month
  • Freelancers: $1,364/month

Does experience play a role in SEO Pricing?

Yes

SEO Monthly Rates by time in business

You’ll notice that there is a pretty steep upward slope from 1 month to 2-4 years. Pricing does level off after that. Probably partly because once an SEO gets to a certain level they become more efficient which means they spend less time to do research and implementation.

How Much Do SEO Projects Cost?

This one is a bit more nuanced because the report doesn’t include exactly what type of projects were included in the data. For example, a one-off project could be optimizing a page for one keyword or a full website redesign with 10,000s of pages. Obviously the second would be much more expensive. But I don’t know for sure if that type of project is included in the pricing per project data. Also, typically larger projects are handled by large agencies, which might skew the pricing averages.

With that said, here’s the breakdown:

  • Agencies: $5,222.06 per project, on average.
  • Consultancies: $4,481.94 per project, on average.
  • Freelancers: $1,530.85 per project, on average.

Does Experience Play a Role in SEO Project Based Pricing?

This is an interesting case because, yes it does and by a lot!

SEO project rates by time in business

As you can see in the graph above. Things are pretty level until you reach 1 year. Then there is a big jump from $1,234.60 to $4,629.59 for professionals that have been in the business for more than 2 years. Then once you get to 10+ years the average is almost $6,000.

Quick Thoughts and Summary

As you probably expected there are a lot of different variables that come into play when considering pricing, but basically, it breaks down to these key things.

  • You’ll pay more for experienced professionals.
  • Freelancers are your most inexpensive option, but they may not be your best because they often have full-time jobs or other commitments that will mean that they may have time restraints.
  • Agencies while the most expensive are more readily available and typically have more people that can service your account.
  • One thing I didn’t mention is outsourcing. You can get a better rate if you work with an SEOs or agencies in places such as India. However, I always caution outsourcing anything that has to do with marketing or language because even if they speak the same language as your market, unless live and breath in the market that you are targetting they can never be an expert. But that’s a whole different discussion.

Hopefully, this helps answer the question of how much you should expect to pay for SEO. If you have any questions or insights, please leave a note in the comments.


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SEO is no Longer About Keywords

(SEO) Search Engine Optimization is no longer just about Keywords, it is about “searcher intent”.search intent or user intent

Searcher intent (also known as “user intent”) is the reason a person has for entering a query through a search engine.

It used to be you just had to find the keywords people searched for and add them to your copy and you were golden. However, Google has become much better at understanding why people search not just what they search. Understanding and optimizing for YOUR customers’ intent is critical for SEO and getting found online. There 4 types of intent:

  • Informational Intent
    • Info about the weather, info about educating kids, yoga classes near me, your business’ hours. They have a specific question or topic for which they are looking for answers.
  • Navigational Intent
    • People with the intent to get to a particular website. People who search “Planet Fitness” or “Target” are typically looking for the company’s site.
  • Transactional Intent
    • This is a search with the intent to buy: Samsung phone prices, deal, buy, discount.
  • Research Intent or Commercial Investigation
    • This is when people are researching for a purchase or for the best gym. Sort of the midway between Informational and Transactional

So yes, you do need to think about keywords, but you need to think about what “intention” you are trying to fulfill before you can determine what your content should be about or how to best optimize for your target.

Need help with your SEO strategy? We can help? Contact us and let us know you need help.


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SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 3 in a 3 Part Series

seo is a strategy not a tactic

This is the third installment of a three-part series about how SEO needs to be thought of as a strategy, not just a tactic.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to 1.7% for outbound leads (Imforza)

For any content that you put online, it is critical that it is optimized. Otherwise, you end up with the old adage, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, did it make a sound?”

I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again, Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning! Otherwise, it’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks.

Search engine optimization, the thing that many people like to call a mythical, magical thing, really is not so magical if you know where to look for clues.

And that brings us to our third reason why SEO needs to be included at the beginning of a project.

3. The results don’t lie! Analyze the SERPs to see Google’s real ranking priorities

Think about it. Digging into the search results to see what types of content is ranking will lead to a better understanding of what is important to Google’s algorithm. This understanding is the only way your content will earn a high ranking. Marketers need to understand what is important for their vertical, niche, demographic so that their content has a chance of ranking well. Otherwise, we’re back to the spaghetti analogy.

By comparing what types of content that rank including, factors such as, backlinks, load time, post date, types of visualizations or content form marketers can understand what is most important for a solid search ranking. For example:

  • If the results page for your keyword is filled with images, infographics, videos, and diagrams, then searchers for that term prefer visual content.
  • If the results are dominated by comprehensive case studies, text with 2,000+ words, then users are looking for in-depth long-form content.
  • If the majority of results are videos, then, you guessed it, searchers prefer video.
  • If maps are the first result then users are really looking for a location.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that. The point is your SEO team can provide this information to you at the beginning of the project so that you don’t waste valuable time and effort trying to rank for content in forms that people aren’t interested in seeing.

Hopefully, after reading all three tips you better understand why SEO needs to be included at the beginning of a project rather than later. So for your next content project invite your SEO team to the initial strategy meetings this will make sure you are heading in the right direction right from the start.


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SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 2 in a 3 Part Series

seo is a strategy not a tactic

This is the second installment of a three-part series about how SEO needs to be thought of as a strategy, not just a tactic.

73% of in-house marketers and 76% of US agencies said SEO provided excellent or good return on investment (ROI). (eMarketer)

How do you create an SEO strategy that achieves “excellent or good ROI”? By building SEO into the beginning of every content project, not at in the middle or even worse at the end of the project.

As I said last time, Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning! This is the only way you will be able to create remarkable content marketing campaigns.

Here is the second reason why SEO and keyword research are so important.

2. Keyword research defines what content to use

Search engines have become much better at understanding user intent. What this means is they can better assess what it is that the searcher is really looking for. Marketers can use keyword research to understand where searchers are in their purchasing journey, what information they need, and what type of information they want to see.

  • Where are searchers in their buyer’s journey?
    Broad keywords that give searchers an intro to a high-level category of results are often used for searchers that fall into the “awareness” stage. Think “shoes.” This a stage where they may not really need shoes, but they are thinking about what is out there. Where more specific keywords typically fall into a stage that is later in the journey. Searchers know they have a problem and they are looking for a solution. Or in this case they know they need new shoes and they know what type of shoe they want. For example, “brown leather hiking boots.”  
  • What information do searchers need?
    Keywords that produce results the include how-tos or basic understanding of a topic are typically being used for a learn intent. Or to gain knowledge. However, if the search results offer product comparisons, branded pages or pricing, then the usually the goal of the search falls into purchase intent.  
  • Who is searching for the information?
    Understanding who needs the information will help marketers build a search strategy for content marketing around personas that match the way people search. For keywords that produce in-depth, highly technical search results, then the audience is most likely people who are working with the products or data. If the search results are a higher level strategy or business ideas, the audience is likely executives or business owners. For example, “specs for Windows laptops” compared to “profitability Windows laptops.”

Doing this kind of keyword research up front will help develop a content marketing calendar that is detailed, is aligned with your business goals and provides direction for content before it is written. Content will then include the relevant information, target the right audience at the right point of their journey and remove the wasted time and effort it takes to fix content after it has been produced.

Next time we’ll talk about how combing through search results pages reveals ranking priority and the most popular ways people are digesting content.


return on investment roi

SEO is a Strategy NOT a Tactic: Part 1 in a 3 Part Series

seo is a strategy not a tactic

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often thought of as a strangely mystical practice that many people, including marketers, don’t understand. It then becomes an afterthought. The thing is though it is just a strategy that starts with the question, “what are people searching for online?

Keyword research is instrumental in answering this question. It can help determine who your real audience is, where they are in their buyer’s journey, help you discover what information people are really searching for and what formats they like the best. This will help you develop a better more effective content strategy.

SEO is the number one lead-generating source reported by inbound marketing professionals. You should be thinking about search every time you create content! 

Once you understand that the next question you might ask yourself is when do I need to start the process. There’s an easy answer to this too. As soon as possible!

Too often companies wait until too late to get their SEO team involved in content projects. Then it either creates more work because copy needs to be rewritten or it is not effective because not enough consideration was taken when creating content and campaigns. Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning.

I’ll say it again. Your SEO team should be involved from the very beginning! And here is the first of 3 reasons why. We’ll talk about the other two later in the series.

1. SEO should drive content not be a fluffy decoration that is nice to have.

When you wait until a campaign is developed or a new page is created to consider SEO, it becomes a decoration, not a driver.

When you’re looking for ideas for your content calendar you want to answer questions that your visitors ask. Yes, questions or issues that come from support or your sales team may be good topics to address, but are they really what people are looking for digitally? Online content that has SEO value needs to be developed based on the questions that people are asking, you guessed it, online.

Developing an effective content strategy starts with keyword research. This will give you insight into what your audience wants, needs and questions for which they are searching for answers. The keyword research process helps marketers brainstorm to come up with content ideas, create effective copy the first time and find plenty of ideas to fill their content calendar.

There is, however, one caveat to this one. You do need some direction from your business objectives before starting. Your SEO team will need to understand what you would like to accomplish. Are you trying to sell more product, teach people a new process, etc. For example, if you sell carpet and your keyword research shows that a lot of people are searching for “chairs” is this really helpful to your content strategy? A better scenario would be if you have a new product coming out that is great for offices and if the SEO team is up to speed they will know to look for what office managers are searching for when they think about flooring.

Make sure to involve your SEO team in the very beginning when you are building your marketing strategy. This will keep them close to the business objectives and provide deep insight into what people are looking for online.

Next, we’ll talk about how keyword research should define your content.


Need help with your keyword research and content strategy? We can help!

Data Is Worthless to Marketing

I know a bit overdramatic, but for most marketing teams this is a sad truth. They have data all around them but it’s worthless.

marketer drowning in data

They are almost literally drowning in it.

What’s the strategy?

So often I see companies that don’t have an apparent strategy and they think that collecting data will save them. They randomly collect data from various metrics because they can or because it sounds like something important, but they really don’t have a cohesive plan for what they want to accomplish. Or better said, they don’t have a clear idea what they want their customers to accomplish when they visit the company website, interact with them on social media, or how marketing campaigns should actually equate to more sales.

Chart and Tables and Graphs, oh my!

data puke charts and graphs

Many marketers create a spreadsheet with a ton of metrics to show this went up or this went down. But what does it really mean? The numbers satisfy the desire to report progress and inevitably you can find something that says “Hey we accomplished something!” This quite frankly is the definition of a ‘data puke”.

But in order to keep the doors open, the numbers need to be related to the bottom line.

Instead of creating data and then deciding what to do with it, marketing departments need to decide what to do first and then determine which data they need to show if their efforts were successful or not. If you do this it will give you a much better chance of tracking and proving that their marketing is actually accomplishing something.

Create a strategy that matches with the overall company goals, and collaborate with your sales team, operations, and other departments to understand the full life cycle of a client. This is the first step to creating useful data. 

 

Need help with your digital/website analytics?

Like a Phoenix Rising…

Like a Phoenix Blackbird rising from the ashes.

It has been a bit of a winding road, but after 4 years I’m happy to announce that Blackbird e-Solutions LLC is OPEN FOR BUSINESS and accepting new clients.

Blackbird e-Solutions OPEN FOR BUSINESS rubber stamp

The new Blackbird e-Solutions LLC will be similar to what the company was before with a focus on our core services: Digital Marketing Strategy, SEO, Paid Search, and Digital Analytics.

We’ve added something new and if you read the riddle from last week, this is the answer!

There is, however, one big change. We’ve added something new and if you read the riddle from last week, this is the answer! Website investment.  This is an up and coming way to investment that can offer better returns than the stock market and fewer hassles than real estate. (Although I like to call it digital real estate.) We help you find profitable websites, you invest and we use our expertise to manage and grow your investment.

Let’s Celebrate!

Are you a company that needs help with your internet presence?

To celebrate, we’re offering a consultation to evaluate how your company is performing online.  This includes:

  • Where your website traffic is coming from (i.e. search engines, social media, paid, etc.)
  • What people are doing on your site (pageviews, visits, time on site, etc.)
  • How your site is performing in search engines (visibility, avg position in search, top keywords etc)
  • Are there any structural issues with your site (a full site scan)

For a limited time, you’ll get all this for just $499. Plus a money back guarantee. If the consultation doesn’t give you any actionable insights then we’ll refund you the full amount.

We’re also running a special for the first 4 new clients.

We’re also running a special for the first 4 new clients. Check it out.  We’ll help you get found online!

Are you an agency looking to boost your digital services?

We’re happy to partner with you to better serve your clients with our digital offerings. We’ll help you broaden the services you offer with digital, and you can concentrate on your clients and what you do best. Let’s talk!


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Riddle – An Investment Property, But You Can’t Live In It

 

riddle

An investment property, but you can’t live in it

A business, but you can’t walk into it

Everywhere, but nowhere in particular

A cost, but less than starting from scratch

 

What Am I?

 

*Find out 10/1/18