Entrepreneur Spotlight: Filtergrade, Mike Moloney

filtergrade lightroom presets

Aspiring entrepreneurs are everywhere and practically shout it from the rooftops to let you know it.

They tout a #hustle lifestyle anywhere someone will listen on social media, slap the letters CEO on their Instagram profile, share every cliche quote that comes across their Facebook feed, and it often amounts to nothing.

desk of a wantrepreneur

Credit: Entrepreneurfail.com

The term wantrepreneur, as Mark Cuban would say, is usually much more fitting.

But then there are those who are actually doing.

You often don’t hear from them because they’re busy working. They are focused. They are driven. They are sacrificing, executing, and building.

They lay one brick at a time, day in and day out, with an understanding that there are no shortcuts when building a business.

One such budding entrepreneur is Mike Moloney, founder of FilterGrade, an online marketplace of high quality Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets.

filtergrade website

Together with his brother Matt, Mike has built FilterGrade into a fast growing and successful business.

But you won’t hear Mike brag about the success he’s had so far. He speaks humbly and with gratitude for where he is on his journey of entrepreneurship.

Like many entrepreneurs Mike felt the calling of entrepreneurship as a kid, starting when he and his brother would offer snow shoveling services after big storms in his hometown of West Bloomfield, Michigan.

At 16 Mike founded FilterGrade to scratch his own itch.

Mike loves photography and hopes to one day travel the world making a living from it.

But when he first discovered this passion he couldn’t find the answers to questions he had about editing and improving his skills.

So in true entrepreneur fashion, he started a company to provide a solution.

FilterGrade’s early investment in high-quality blog content played a big role in the site’s popularity, driving tens of thousands of users to the website for articles covering topics such as how to pose male vs female models, fonts for photographers, and Photoshop tutorials.

But it took three years for FilterGrade to take its current form as a marketplace.

“It started as just a little shop where it was FilterGrade’s branded software and we just sold our Photoshop actions. After doing that for a year I noticed there was also a Lightroom preset market, so I started getting into that with our own products. And then this past Summer [2016] is when we really transformed it from being more than just filter products and into a full marketplace. That started from one product [a Lightroom preset] from a photographer on Instagram, and so we launched it. It did OK, but it was just another product on the site. It wasn’t until we started recruiting more partners that we saw real traction.”

A perfect example of how timing is everything in entrepreneurship.

Let me explain:

FilterGrade sat (and still sits) perfectly at the intersection of three booming markets.

A new wave of aspiring photographers stemming from improvements in smartphone camera technology.

The boom of Instagram from 100 million users in 2013 to 600 million users in 2016.

The subsequent Instagram influencer market where photographers on the platform have become micro-celebrities.

instagram user growth 2010 2017

Credit: Techcrunch.com

FilterGrade’s blog was already driving traffic to the site, but it was the partnerships that Mike and his brother Matt established with popular photographers on Instagram that led to the rapid growth.

instagram influencers

Instagram accounts of some of the most popular influencers on FilterGrade

Of course, it was Mike’s years of hard work and dedication to FilterGrade that put him in this position of opportunity in the first place.

And the continued success of FilterGrade will be predicated on a lot more than smart marketing and good timing.

Mike, now 20, has an understanding of customer service and business savvy well beyond his years.

“I always try to build creative things into the brand that give a little fun or happiness to the user, or joy, because I think that lasts longer than some of that superficial stuff that people try to put in products. Solid customer support is really the biggest thing though. I think a lot of companies don’t understand how valuable support is to the growth of a company. Word of mouth marketing will start from good or bad support. And if you get good support you’re going to have a lot of good word of mouth marketing. But if you have bad support, it’s going to be the opposite.”

Mike attributes his knowledge of business to his own intuition, knowledge from mentors, and reading books. But mostly he credits the process of trial and error.

“You have to know you’re going to fail a thousand times but that one time you get it right is going to be good because you’re going to learn something from all 1,001 experiences.”

Mike now lives in Boston but hopes to plant his roots in San Francisco in the next few years.

And we’re sure the West Coast would welcome a person of Mike’s caliber with open arms, whenever he is ready.

Follow Mike on Twitter or Instagram

Web Design Scholarship

iphone 7 dark

2017 is the first year Websauce Studio is offering the Web Design Scholarship. The purpose is to see how the next generation views the shift to a mobile first world and how web designers will need to adapt their design and user experience to smaller screens and different expectations from users.

A 250-word minimum essay is required outlining how web design must adapt to a mobile world, an example of a website that works well on mobile, and an explanation of why it’s a good mobile experience.

college student writing essay

Scholarship Award: One student will be awarded $300

Award Date: December 31, 2017

Enrollment: Open to students enrolled in an undergraduate program by December 11, 2017, at any accredited U.S. college or university.


  1. Applicant’s name, address, phone number
  2. College or university of attendance in December 2017
  3. Degree being pursued
  4. A 250-word minimum essay of how web design must adapt to a mobile world. Provide an example of a website that works well on mobile and why it’s a good mobile experience.
  5. There are no other requirements including GPA requirements

Where to Apply: Email your application attached as a word document to scholarship@websaucestudio.com. Submit your application via direct message on our Facebook page. Or mail your submission to us.

How will the winner be chosen?
Each essay will be read by our Creative Director, Adam Weil, and yours truly, Andrew Peluso, Marketing Director. The winner will be chosen based on how well thought through the reasoning provided for your arguments are. Your logic may be based on data, culture, anecdotal evidence, or any other means of reasoning you see fit.

Application Submission Deadline: December 11, 2017

Our Address:

Websauce Studio
2100 K St #1
Sacramento, CA 95817

Local Search Engine Optimization

Local SEO Graphic


Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) results display on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) in the local 3-pack and the organic rankings.

These display when the search is for a local business near the person doing the search or when the search is city specific. The local 3-pack is the map that displays with three business listings.

For example, if you had a boat in San Francisco and someone shot a cannonball through it, you might search for “boat repair near me” which would result in this:

San Francisco Boat Repair SERP

Local results can also display when the search is city specific.

If someone shot a cannonball through your computer it probably wouldn’t survive, but in case it did you might search “computer repair San Francisco” which would result in this:

San Francisco Computer Repair Google SERP

If you were unfortunate enough to be in the way of one of these cannonballs there’s a chance you’ll need a dentist. Here’s what the entire SERP looks like when you search “dentists in San Francisco”:

Dentist in San Francisco Google SERP

Much of local SEO is aimed at those coveted three spots in the local 3-pack. Ranking organically and in the 3-pack have overlapping ranking factors so they often go hand in hand.

The question then becomes, how do you get your business to show up on the map and in the organic search results?


Google My Business

According to Google, the foundational piece of showing up in local results is signing up for and filling out your Google My Business (GMB) profile.

This service is free and once you’ve created your GMB listing Google will even send you a postcard to “verify” that you are located at the address you provided them.


Taking the last step to “verify” makes your business eligible to show up in searches and on maps.

Fill out and update your GMB listing.

Google also allows you to add photos, and relative business information such as your hours, phone number, and website URL.

Adding photos in the beginning and again over time is a good way to show Google that you’re active and keeping your information up to date, an easy way to improve your SEO.

Google My Business Dashboard

Google also favors those who respond to customer reviews because it means you value your customers and the feedback they are giving you about your business.

Google Review Responses

NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

The three most important pieces of information about your business that must be accurate and consistent across the web are known as your NAP, or name, address, phone number.

A reference to your business’s NAP on a website is known as a citation.

Citation Yelp San Francisco

Your Yelp profile is an example of a citation.

In addition to the information provided by you directly to Google through your GMB profile, Google also pulls information from these citations on other websites.

These include directories (i.e. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List), social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Google+, Twitter), and major data aggregators (Localeze, Infogroup, Acxiom, and Factual).

If Google finds that your information is different on the other sources it’s pulling data from it can hurt your rankings.


Google breaks down its ranking factors into three different categories; relevance, distance, and prominence.

Local SEO Diagram


Relevance refers to how well a local listing relates to the search query.

Using our earlier example, if someone were to search for “dentists in San Francisco” a search engine will work to find websites which relate to dentists.

You make your site more relevant by making sure you’ve provided Google enough accurate information about your business and the products or services you offer.

How much is enough?

Search engines will determine how relevant you are by looking at things like your GMB listing, your citations, social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), on-site signals, and off-site signals.

Local SEO Relevance Diagram

There are hundreds of ranking factors. The ones in the diagram above list a handful of them.


Distance is exactly what it sounds like – the distance of a business from the searcher or center of the location being searched.

However, a business that Google determines is more relevant to a user’s search query but is not as close as other businesses may show up before the business that is closer.


Prominence is how well known a business is and is determined by factors such as links, articles, and directories.

Google also takes into account your review count and review score from Google reviews and other sites such as Yelp.

Knowing what Google suggests is a good start, but they don’t tell us all of their ranking factors, and they don’t tell us how heavily they weigh each factor.

Thanks to a recent study of 30,000 businesses we can make some educated guesses.


According to the study, the most important factors are:

  1. Links
  2. Website Factors
  3. Google My Business

Links (aka SEO Juice)

Links are links to your website from other websites.

In Google’s eyes, a link to your website from another website is a sign of trust.

The website linking to yours is saying, “I trust you enough to send my audience to you. I vouch for you.”

To Google, this is a pretty big deal and they reward you with a boost in the rankings.

Not all links are created equal though.

A link from an industry related website that is well regarded in the industry is the perfect link.

The opposite, a link from an irrelevant industry that no one knows about, could actually hurt your rankings.

High-quality links are the most powerful way to boost your rankings.

They also take more time and effort to get than any other ranking factor.

Depending on how competitive your market is you may or may not need many or any links in order to rank.

Website Factors

Website factors include the type of content and quality of content on your website.

Keeping your website simple is important for a good user experience.

For local SEO it’s also important to provide a good amount of high-quality content for your audience (customers and potential customers).

Google rewards websites that do a good job of providing valuable information.

What information should you provide?

Answers to potential customers’ questions.

After all, if someone is on a search engine it means they have one or more questions they want answered.

If your website answers those questions better than anyone else with descriptive and in-depth text, helpful visuals, or videos then Google will answer their questions with your answers.

This article is a perfect example.

We know business owners want to know more about local search engine optimization because they want to rank their website higher.

Our aim is to provide the most thorough and helpful answers to some of the questions related to ranking your website higher.

Hopefully, we’re doing a good job so far. 😉

GMB (Google My Business)

Reviews and photos showed strong positive correlations with sites that ranked well, illustrating the importance of keeping both up to date.

Adding photos is as simple as busting out the smartphone and snapping nice shots of your products, services, team, and office.


Reviews are worth their weight in gold.

88% of consumers trust reviews as much as they do a friend’s suggestion.

When the keywords “best” or “highest rated” are added to a search, Google weighs reviews more heavily.

Relevance, distance, and prominence still matter, but volume and quality of reviews are given priority.

San Francisco Best Lawyers

Check out the comparison above.

The local 3-pack was completely reordered when the keyword “best” was added to the search.

You’re probably wondering why the firm with fewer ratings is ranking higher than the firm with more reviews and a higher star rating.

Upon looking into it further I found that many of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, and Schoenberger’s reviews were 5 years old.

Summit Defense Attorney’s reviews were all within the last two years.

Moral of the story – don’t rest on your laurels.

Offense vs Defense

The least you should be doing is consistently making your customers aware of which review websites you’re on.

There is also excellent reputation management software available with conversion rates of 20-25%.

That means for every 100 customers you could collect as many as 25 reviews. 1,000 customers – 250 reviews.

Which of your competitors can say they have 250 reviews?

Likely, none.

The sooner you get a head start the longer you’ll be able to stay ahead and dominate the local 3-pack.


With so many ranking factors to consider how do you know which to prioritize?

All of the basics regarding your Google My Business profile, creating citations, and reviews can be undertaken by anyone with or without SEO knowledge.

Reviews should be especially emphasized.

The rest depends on three things:

  1. Competition
  2. Time
  3. Budget

If you’re in a market that’s not very competitive then you may be able to do some of the basics listed in this article and rank in the local 3-pack or in the top three organically.

Local SEO competition continues to heat up, but we still find markets in smaller cities where not much SEO work is being done.

Without experience and the right tools, assessing the competition can be difficult though.

You have to decide if you want to take a chance by giving SEO your best shot and hoping you rank or you may want to have someone else (a freelance search engine optimizer or an agency) assess the market for you and tell you what to do.

The lower the competition, the less time it will require of you to optimize and the quicker you can rank.

Of course, if you have more money than time then hiring and an agency is your best bet.

It’s not uncommon for business owners to hire and fire SEO companies, especially if you go with the cheapest solution.

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to hiring an SEO agency.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

  • Look for reviews from their customers.
  • Ask for references.
  • Request proof of their success ranking their clients’ websites.
  • Make sure they’re going to provide you with updates on your rankings so you know what they’re doing is working.

How much does local SEO cost?

This depends on what your goals are and who you’re hiring.

More keywords, more cities, and greater competition all require more time.

Typically SEO is done month after month and costs hundreds or thousands per month.

For those gawking at these numbers, think about it for a moment.

Ranking #1 or even in the top three spots is often worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per month in revenue.

To rank high you either have to know what you’re doing or pay someone who does.


Everything in this article just scratches the surface of what goes into ranking your website.

Local SEO is complex.

However, the basics are simple and anyone can do them.

Reviews should be priority #1.

If you have the funds and want to move quicker, find an agency, protect yourself, and let the right one go to work for your business.

What Does NAP Stand For And How Does It Affect My SEO?

Nap Local SEO

NAP stands for your business’s name, address, and phone number. Some SEO experts also add a W at the end of NAP to make NAPW. The W stands for Website.

How does NAP affect your local SEO?

According to Google:

“Local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”

For this reason, it is important to have your NAP information accurate and consistent across the web.

Having inaccurate NAP information is bad for SEO. This is because it’s a negative ranking factor, meaning your rankings in the local 3-pack and in the organic search results can suffer.

How accurate does your NAP need to be?

There is no straightforward answer here, but I’ll give a couple examples on a scale from “obviously needs fixing” to “not going to kill you.”

Obviously Needs Fixing

To conduct this research and find a good example for you I decided to search “Sacramento dentist” and skip back to page 9 in Google’s local finder where I was lucky enough to find “Prosthodontic Dental Group: QuincyLGibbs,DDS.”

Local Finder Sacramento DDS

Before I dive into the many fun and interesting mistakes made by QuincyLGibbs,DDS, I’d like to first mention that he’s probably a great dentist and a nice guy.

Facebook Reviews Quincy Gibbs DDS

In fact, his Facebook page has a few rave reviews where he even took the time to reply to his patients (something I recommend all of my clients do).

So this investigation is nothing personal – he just happens to be a great example of what not to do when it comes to NAP and your local SEO.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

Google Local Finder Sacramento Dentist

Error #1: Misspelling your business name (no spaces in between his name).
Error #2: Although not technically part of the NAP, make sure to list your business hours.

Next, a few different citations of our friend, Dr. Gibbs.

In case you don’t know, citations are a reference to your business on another website and often lists your NAPW.

Citation #1 – Yelp

Yelp NAP Citation Gibbs Quincy

Error #1: Inconsistent business name.
Error #2: Inconsistent address.
Error #3: Inconsistent phone number.

Citation #2 – Facebook

Facebook Local SEO Citation Quincy Gibbs

Error #1: Inconsistent business name.
Error #2: Inconsistent address.
Error #3: Inconsistent phone number.

So far we have three different business names, three different addresses, and three different phone numbers. Yikes!

I also found Dr. Gibbs listed on two different dental practice websites which are likely where these inconsistencies stem from.

The first website is where his Sacramento NAP comes from.

NAPW Prosthodontic Website

The second website is where his Walnut Creek NAP comes from.

NAPW Implant Center Website

What’s the result of this jumbled mess?


A very confused Google. And likely, very confused patients.

When we search for Quincy L. Gibbs, DDS we notice a few things.

His first organic result is his Facebook page with his Walnut Creek, CA office.

His third organic result is a directory with a Sacramento, CA address.

And his fifth result is a dentist directory with a Fallon, NV address.

His knowledge graph (the box of information about him in the lower right corner) says he’s moved. It lists the Sacramento address we first saw in the local finder, but the pictures are of the Fallon, NV address.

With this amount of inconsistency, Dr. Gibbs has no chance of ranking on the first page.

Not Going To Kill You

Garden of Eat’n is a restaurant with two locations. Each location has its own NAP information. A key part of their local SEO success is making sure each location’s NAP is consistent and accurate and not confusing Google with overlap from one to the other.

Website NAP Restaurant

This can become tricky since they want to list the contact information of both restaurants on their website.

This provides their customers with a better experience so all information is in one place, but they also don’t want to confuse Google.

The way they handle this is by having separate Google, Yelp, and Facebook pages with accurate information on each.

Google SERP Restaurant Roseville

When we search their location in Roseville, CA we see that their NAP is accurately listed on their knowledge graph.

Google SERP Restaurant Auburn

When we search their location in Auburn, CA though we notice a couple inconsistencies.

First, they’re missing their suite number on their knowledge graph. They should be able to fix this quickly through their Google My Business dashboard.

Second, the fifth listing down is their Foursquare listing which says they’re closed.

Fousquare NAP

When we take a look at their Foursquare page we see their logo is a Quiznos logo and their NAP information is different from what’s listed on their website and their knowledge graph.

As it turns out Garden of Eat’n used to be a Quiznos until the owner sold his Quiznos to open his new restaurant.

Because they are consistent in all other places this Foursquare listing isn’t causing enough confusion for Google to change information listed on their knowledge graph (which Google will automatically do sometimes as we saw in our previous example).

However, Foursquare has over 55 million users.

Regardless of the confusion they may or may not be causing Google, they are certainly causing Foursquare users confusion and may be losing customers because of it.

What To Prioritize

As you can see there are a handful of places where your NAP can be found. In order of importance they are:

  • Your Website
  • Google My Business (GMB) Landing Page
  • Primary Data Aggregators
  • Citations


NAP On Your Website

The first place Google will look for your NAP is on your website.

If it’s not there or it’s different from what you’ve entered into your GMB listing or different from the other citation sources it may work against your local SEO efforts.

And not only is Google looking for your address and phone number but so are potential customers.

According to a recent study, your business address is often the primary piece of information local searchers are looking for when they perform a search, followed by your phone number.

We suggest putting your phone number and address in multiple locations on your website. At the very least you want it in in your footer and on your contact page.

VP Marketing is a local printing business in Modesto, CA. Their phone number is placed above-the-fold on the home page.

SEO NAP Above The Fold

The phone number and address are in the footer.

SEO NAP Footer

On a mobile device, it’s also on the menu.

SEO NAP Mobile Device

In 2017 I almost feel like I don’t have to mention this since it should be obvious, but you also want to make your NAP easily viewable on a mobile device.

According to a study by Neustar Localeze 63% of searchers use multiple devices to find local businesses.

And according to Nectafy 88% of consumers who search for a local business on a mobile device call or go into that business within 24 hours of their search.

People want smooth and easy. If you’re making it difficult for the majority of people to find and read your NAP you raise the chances of losing business.

The website for EcoGuard Pest Management in Folsom, CA has a responsive website.

When the user is on a mobile device instead of displaying the phone number a phone icon is displayed which the user intuitively knows to press in order to call the business.

Mobile NAP EcoGuard Pest Management Home

The header is what’s known as “sticky” so even when the user scrolls down the phone icon scrolls with them making it as easy as possible for the user to call as soon as they’re ready.

EcoGuard Mobile NAP Contact Page

If the user goes to the contact page the address is easily visible and includes a map which the user can interact with.

Google My Business

Your GMB listing is a primary source of information for Google and is what they will use to display in your local knowledge graph.

I’ve listed it second because if you’re trying to rank on Google they’ll need the correct information. The easiest and quickest way to provide them with your NAP is on your GMB landing page.

Setting up your Google My Business listing only takes ten minutes.

To verify your address Google mails you a postcard with a verification code. You’ll need to enter this verification code on your GMB dashboard.

GMB Verification Postcard

Primary Data Aggregators

Data aggregators are local search data collectors and providers. They scour the internet for local data about your business and all other businesses.

They then provide this information to organizations such as CitySearch, Mapquest, Showmelocal, and others.

Data Aggregators Citations

If they find old or inaccurate NAP information about you then without you knowing it and without them realizing it’s incorrect they may spread that information causing confusion for Google.

This is how one piece of incorrect information can get amplified beyond the initial mistake.


Citations are mentions of your NAP on other websites. Typically, but not always, these citations link to your website.

Some of the most popular websites for citations are directory or review sites including Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, and others.

Not all citations are created equal though. A citation from a very popular site such as Yelp or YellowPages is going to bring you more exposure and carry more weight in Google’s eyes than a citation from an unknown directory that few people use.

There are hundreds of directory websites you can get citations from.

That doesn’t mean you need to or should spend your time getting your information on everyone.

Focusing on the top ten directories in your city is a good start.

If you’re in a competitive industry and area then you probably need to work on the top fifty or more.

Whitespark Top Local Citations US

Putting your NAP on your website, setting up your Google My Business profile, and creating citations are all foundational to local SEO, but are not going to give you a competitive advantage.

If you want help getting your citations setup you can turn to sites like Whitespark, Brightlocal, or Moz. Each has its own pros and cons.

You can also go through an agency who should take care of these and other important local SEO factors.

Whatever route you take make sure you get it done to set yourself up for the best chance at SEO success.

Search Engine Optimization Guide

SEO Computer Screen On Desk

Why Is Search Engine Optimization Important?

81% of shoppers now conduct online research before buying.

When users enter a query into Google and other search engines they trust that those search engines will deliver the most relevant and useful information first. For this reason, as much as 33% of people click on the web page ranked number one when performing a search with the percentage going down from there, the far majority being attributed to the top three spots.

If you’re not ranking on the first page of search engines (Google is by far the largest) your website is essentially irrelevant when it comes to people searching online. A search engine optimization service like ours helps you become and stay relevant.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) is the optimization of a website and the pages within that website to be easily found and crawled by search engines and the improvement of the user experience of said website and web pages.

The purpose of a search engine is to index and organize the web in order to deliver the best answers to users search queries.

Search engines rank web pages based on hundreds of ranking factors some of which carry much more weight than others in search engine algorithms.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines use bots to crawl the code of every accessible website on the internet and then use algorithms to decipher what information the website is providing and the quality of the information being provided.

Search engine companies like Google then store all of this information on servers around the world to make the information instantaneously available when someone performs a search.

How Does Websauce Help Your Website Rank Higher?

Because of the large percentage of people who rely on search engines to find solutions to their questions, ranking on the first page has become incredibly competitive.

Think about it.

As an organization, you’re competing with every other organization relative to your category of product, service, or information being provided. As a local business that means you’re competing with every other local business and often with many national brands.

For example, if someone searches “pest control company in Sacramento”, you’d be competing with not only other local pest control companies, but also the larger regional and national brands such as Terminix, Clarks, and others. Those companies have millions of dollars to spend on marketing and you bet they’re competing for that number one spot.

As a national brand, your competition is even greater.

As we shared earlier there are hundreds of ranking factors search engines take into account when deciding how your website is going to rank. As an agency, it is our job to understand where your dollars and our time are best spent so we have the greatest impact on increasing your rankings.

Depending on your budget and the level of competition we choose what to focus on and then watch your rankings change based on the implementation of our strategies.

As your rankings change we analyze what’s working, how well it’s working, and keep an eye on the competition to see if they’re implementing any strategies we can mimic.

We also report back to you to keep you informed of the work being done and the results of that work.

Key Search Engine Ranking Factors

Some ranking factors are far more important than others, but no one ranking factor will have you ranking high.

Some ranking factors are easy to tackle but can be highly effective in laying the proper groundwork for your SEO success, and depending on the competition, a proper implementation of these SEO strategies alone could have you ranking on the first page. When this is the case it often means you’re a local business. If that’s you, you may check out our page on local SEO.

Below are some of the main SEO considerations we often focus on which we’ve organized into on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

On-Site Ranking Factors

The beauty of on-site SEO is that it is within your control. You can change anything on your own website as you please. This is important and great news for you because certain on-site SEO factors are some of the most important that Google and other search engines take into consideration.

Content Is King

You may have heard the term “content is king” before, but what does that mean exactly?

The answer is multifaceted but at its core, it means that search engines rank web pages in large part based on the quality of their content. Things like word count, using pictures and videos, bullet point lists, bold lettering, and an overall nicely organized structure to your content all play into a search engine’s consideration.

Additionally, search engines will try to understand how satisfied users are with your content based on their interaction with it when they land on the page. If a user goes to the web page and within a few seconds leaves, that tells Google that the user had a poor experience or probably didn’t find the answer they were looking. This serves as an indicator that this web page should not rank high for the phrase (also known as keywords) they looked up.

If the opposite happens and the user stays on the page for a longer amount of time or goes to others page on the website before leaving that tells Google that the user likely had a good experience and found what they were looking for thereby indicating that they should rank higher for the keywords.

Also as a byproduct of high-quality content, you raise the chances of your web page being linked to by other websites. Being linked to by other high-quality websites is currently the greatest factor Google takes into consideration when ranking web pages. This is an off-site factor we’ll dive deeper into further down this page.

Technical SEO

In order for a search engine to rank you, it first must be able to read the content provided on your website.

Search engines have specific types of code and a certain organization to the code which make it easier for their bots to understand the information provided on your website. There are specific best practices which enable a bot to quickly and accurately understand what your website is about.

When a bot looks at your website it doesn’t see what we see. For example, a bot can’t see an image and know what it is. It can, however, understand what the image is if we give the image a description.

A bot reads a web page from top to bottom and assumes that the most pertinent information is at the top. However, it also relies on us to label content in a way that communicates the organization and structure of the content. For example, one of the first things a bot looks for is known as the H1 header tag. This header tag tells the bot what the main focus of the web page is and is crucial to ranking for your targeted keywords.
Mobile Friendly

More and more people are using their smartphones and other mobile devices to conduct searches. Google has recognized this and ranks sites which are not mobile friendly lower. In the same way that the desktop version of the site must provide a good user experience, so too must the mobile version.

If your website isn’t optimized to work on mobile devices then users will grow annoyed and impatient and leave quickly, resulting in poor experience signals being sent to Google and other search engines. Google has even gone so far as to penalize non-mobile friendly sites by ranking them lower than sites that are mobile friendly.

We have clients who have 50% or more of their website users coming from mobile devices, and in these cases, we pay special attention to customizing the interface so that the experience is seamless and intuitive. All websites and apps that we build are made with a responsive design, meaning the website automatically responds to the size of the device being used to visit the website.

Build With Your Customers In Mind

On-site SEO is the first step to building a strong search engine presence. The main focus to keep in mind is providing high-quality information to your targeted website visitors. This means putting yourself in their shoes and asking, “What information is going to be most helpful to them when looking for what we offer?”

As an agency, this is always the first step we take before building a new website or improving the website content. We take our clients through a 2-3 hour discovery process which helps bring clarity to what will bring the customer the most value.

Off-Site Ranking Factors

Now that you’ve laid the foundation for SEO success, the next step is to look at factors a bit more out of your control, but no less important. The off-site SEO factors range from low hanging fruit such as setting up a Google My Business page to link building.

We know that search engines use your content to understand how relevant your content is to a given search query, but the other piece of the puzzle is how authoritative or trustworthy your website is.

Link Building

Google determines the authority of your site by taking votes in the form of links. When another website links to yours they’re saying, “I trust this website enough to vouch for them and send my users to them.” Google considers these votes a signal of trust and studies have shown that Google weighs these most heavily when considering how to rank websites.

Not all votes are treated equally though. The types of links that are most valuable come from websites that have higher authority (many links pointing to them), industry related websites, and if you’re a local business, links from other local organizations are weighed more heavily.

Link building is the hardest form of search engine optimization and takes the most amount of work, but like most things in life hard work pays off and you get to reap the greatest amount of reward from it.

Getting links from other websites can come from already established relationships with your customers or vendors or new relationships through outreach. At Websauce we use multiple strategies to generate links for ourselves and our clients.

Reputation Management

85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust a friend’s suggestion meaning reviews are worth their weight in gold. If a consumer is researching services or products you provide and they find no reviews, they quickly assume no one uses it. Even worse, if they see poor reviews they assume you provide a low-quality product or service.

Often we’ve found this not to be the case, but because clients are afraid of receiving bad reviews they go on the defense by not playing the review game at all when they should be going on the offense and asking their happy customers to leave reviews.

Search engines make similar assumptions when they find reviews of your business. If you have no reviews they don’t have much to work with and if your competitors have positive reviews then they take this into consideration when deciding which of you to rank higher. This also works in the opposite. If you have bad reviews search engines will rank you lower.

At Websauce we have software that enables us to reach out to your customers and route bad reviews into feedback that goes directly back to you and guides happy customers to leave good reviews on a review website of your choice. This eliminates business owners’ biggest fear of receiving bad reviews when they ask for them.

Social Media

Social media has exploded since 2007 and shows no signs of slowing down.

At Websauce we theorize that eventually, search engines will begin to take into consideration your friends’ online activity and preferences, identify who the influencers in your social circle are and take this into consideration when showing you search engine results.

(Update: We were right.)

Currently, Google does not take social media signals into account as a ranking factor.

Google does, however, take your website traffic into consideration, so if you’re able to send traffic from your social media channels to your website, Google will see your website is popular and rank it

Blackhat SEO

The worst strategy you can take with your SEO is known as blackhat SEO. This strategy bends and breaks the rules and guidelines search engines lay out and eventually results in being penalized. Sometimes these penalties come in the form of being taken off of search engines altogether. Google is known to kick websites off of their rankings for years for those who take this strategy too far.

The Bottom Line

Realize that SEO best practices can result in short term gain (think weeks or months), but are truly rewarded in the long term (think years). And this is as it should be. Ranking on the first page and in the top three spots generates billions of dollars in business every year, so of course it’s hard and of course it requires an investment of time and effort.

There is massive ROI for those who rank up there. The beauty is you’re not renting space like you would be with pay-per-click advertising. When you provide the best value to users the return is a free spot at the top. You never pay to rank!

We’ve only scratched the surface of search engine optimization in this writing. SEO is complex and competitive. At Websauce we understand the ranking factors and know how to prioritize your money and our time so you get the most value out of the work we do for you.