Sunday, December 6, 2020

First Impressions of Google's December Core Update (2020)

It was a little later than expected, but Google has officially rolled out their December Core update for 2020. 

While Google is always making small and marginal changes to their search algorithm on an ongoing basis, they also tend to have a few large rollouts once or twice a year. These are either new modules for sorting (like Panda, Penguin, and some of the other "independent" algorithms) or major updates to the functionality of the core web algorithm.

This latest update has been confirmed as a core update and Google has some notes on what, exactly, that means:

Several times a year, we make significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems. We refer to these as "core updates." They’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers. These core updates may also affect Google Discover.

We confirm broad core updates because they typically produce some widely notable effects. Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.

Google also suggests a number of on-page and technical improvements that may assist webmasters who see negative results during a major algo update. They also note that a drop in traffic after a major update doesn't even necessarily mean that your website has done anything wrong. It may just mean that some links you have used to carry more weight than they do now. 

December Core Changes 

While it can take two or three weeks for a Google algo update to fully go live, many webmasters are already seeing major changes. So far, none of my own websites seem to be performing much differently than before.

The sites around them in the SERPs do appear to be moving rapidly, however. 

Here are some trends I've observed (non-scientifically):

  • Sites with a large number of referring domains and questionable backlinks dropped momentarily before recovering
  • Sites with a lower number of referring domains but just as many questionable backlinks dropped all the way off the board
  • Sites that have focused on on-page and technical SEO have fared well
  • Places that rank well on Google maps may be tied to websites that rank poorly 
In short, bad backlinks CAN hurt your ranking - and the December Core update seems to have reinforced this point. On the other hand, some domains still seem able to "power through this with an overwhelming amount of new links. It's almost as if they're able to "outrun" any penalties by picking up more new links before the old ones can be discounted. 

Another interesting detail is that while a few of these sites I'm watching have completely vanished from the top 200 results, their local "places" page is still ranking at the top. This seems to indicate that while the place and the website can influence each other, their fates aren't necessarily tied. 

The other clear winner is among sites that employ a strategy that focused on content depth and completeness. Long form pages continue to do well, especially on domains with clean backlink profiles and minimal SEO issues. 

As always, keep an eye on Google Search Console for warnings about your on page and technical SEO, and keep on publishing that content! 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Advantages of hiring a local SEO

Some people may prefer to hire a local SEO because they want to support their community and area businesses. This is a great goal but it shouldn't be assumed that hiring a local SEO is just an act of charity. 

Local search and marketing firms have unique insights to the local markets: they're probably already familiar with your company and your competitors, and they know exactly what it's going to take to get your website to the top. 

Here are some advantages a local SEO can have over a national marketing firm:

  • Knowledge of local markets and competition
  • Knowledge of local consumers and trends
  • Access to local media contacts 
  • Familiarity with local websites and networks
  • Availability for on-site issues

Local markets and competition

Each local market has a unique business situation. Whether we're talking about the major car dealerships, lawyers, restaurants, or bars, there are certain brands that everyone in town knows of. You'll need to understand why these companies are successful if you'll want to match them.

Local consumer trends

Each community has its own culture, too. What plays well in New York City might not be so popular here in Jacksonville. We've got certain tastes and expectations, and trying to apply a national campaign to local values may ultimately clash in a way that's unproductive and wastes your marketing budget. 

Local media contacts

Connections to the local community also means connections with the local media. National media placements can be extremely costly, and pointless if you're not intending to be a national brand. Your local lawn service or towing company doesn't need national recognition - it needs local attention and local customers! 

Knowledge of local websites

Website marketing usually involves promoting your website on other peoples' websites. A local SEO should know exactly which local websites and communities are available for promotion - and what standards are applied to determine whether or not self-promotion is welcomed.

On-site availability

SEO and web development can largely be done offline, but many clients also prefer the ability to meet in person. Many SEOs provide additional technology services like computer and network repair, training, and software development. In the course of doing business with a technology consultant and service provider, it's often useful to be close by and show up at the office from time to time. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Jacksonville gets back to business

While the pandemic itself is far from over, we've learned a lot about how to avoid infection and even how to treat people who do catch the illness. We're also starting to see that people are sick of being stuck inside all day, and the urge to get out is growing!

And while economic indicators suggest that households have done well with rationing and budgeting during the economic downturn, people are also motivated to find jobs, start new businesses, and apply what they've learned this year to achieve greater economic gains. 

Jacksonville has fared relatively well - both in terms of minimizing the pandemic and also in terms of economic resilience. We never really cashed in on tourism like the rest of the state has, but that serves us well in downturns when the tourist economy slows down. Jacksonville has a lot of heavy industry, commerce, logistics, and financial services - and those are things that tend to keep on ticking even in the worst economic conditions. 

The future is here

It's likely that we'll look back on 2020 as a major turning point in this country. 

Remote work became common and digital accelerated its conquest of brick and mortar retail. While stocks in general performed extremely well in the recovery, gains were almost exclusively led by technology firms listed in the NASDAQ. Politically, things are likely to calm down again as people adjust to the new normal of social equality and non-discrimination. Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance has finally passed, and while a few throwbacks may call for a return to the past, that isn't something that is likely to happen. 

The only ingredient missing for a massive economic boom is disposable income, and we've even seen some hints that that might on the way up, too. Stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits went a long way toward increasing household incomes, and people have gotten a little taste of what economic security is like. They won't want to give it up! So we're likely to see increased taxes on the wealthiest, but instead of investing that in corporate subsidies like we've done for so long, that money is likely to be spent reducing costs like healthcare - which leaves more money in workers' pockets. 

Things might still seem dark, but remember that it is always darkest immediately before the dawn. 

The future is online

As much as Jacksonville and its residents are ready to get outside and get back to business (and football!) as usual, there are going to be some big changes. The biggest of all is probably going to continue to be the increased role of technology and the internet in business. is ready to help you out in that transition to a new, online future. Whether you need a website, need it redesigned, or just need it to make you more money, we have the consulting services that can help make technology work for you. We specialize in developing content that attracts visitors and converts traffic in to sales. We know what makes Jacksonville tick, and we've got the experience and skills to help ensure your business remains an important part of Jacksonville's bright future. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Winner's & Losers in Jacksonville's RNC Cancelation

Last week, many in the city breathed a huge sigh of relief to hear that the Republican National Convention was canceled. Many had worried that such an influx of travelers congregating in the enclosed spaces of the Veteran's Memorial Arena would only hasten the spread of the virus. Others were concerned that the arrival of such an unpopular president could instigate larger and more violent protests.

On the other hand, many local businesses had invested heavily in what they had hoped to be a great week for sales.Restaurants, in particular, had scheduled larger than usual orders. Hotels that had virtually closed down scrambled to find new temporary staff. It's suspected - but not confirmed - that a lot of speculators also have dozens to hundreds of hotel reservations they thought they could easily resell at a profit.

One's personal politics can also play a part in whether or not this looks like a victory or a defeat. For those who support Trump and the Republican party, it's got to be at least a little frustrating to watch these plans evaporate. Those who favor a Democratic victory in November are probably glad that the GOP won't have this platform.

With that out of the way, let's check the roundup:


  • The city - While it doesn't look good that we were one of the only cities who agreed to take on such a dangerous and controversial convention, we will at least be spared the embarrassment of actually having to go through with it. People in other states and cities will be a little bit more aware of the local resistance to the event, and we won't be subject to hours of coverage in the national media. Between the lack of hotels and amenities downtown, the general economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, and the partisan nature of the event, it was likely to generate a lot of negative publicity that can now be avoided.
  • Jacksonville residents - The news is also a big win for Jacksonville residents who were worried about public health and safety. There won't be thousands of people visiting from out of town that week, and we won't be encouraging an escalation to the protests. We've seen just a little bit of chaos from Jacksonville's largest wave of protests in recent history, but for the most part they've been peaceful and orderly. Trump's controversial visit could have been fuel to light a much larger fire, and the proposal to limit protests to a small fenced section of downtown away from the event was already enraging local activists. Again, all of that will now be avoided.
  • Taxpayers -  Yes, the Mayor promised that this would be a huge economic benefit for the city of Jacksonville, but at this point it's pretty clear that his numbers and estimates weren't really based on anything. He was the guy who thought this was a good idea, after all. The reality is that the Charlotte committee wasn't releasing any funds to Jacksonville. There would also be significant costs for police overtime budgets and other security costs. There was always a good chance that this event was going to be a massive waste of money, and the taxpayers would've ultimately been on the hook for that.  


  • Donald Trump - President Trump really wanted his big event. He wanted the roar of the crowd and he didn't want it interrupted with things like social distancing and masks. He wanted a place where he could play out his fantasy of being a popular president in a strong and healthy America, but reality caught up with him quicker than the plan could be enacted. The greatest irony here is that if Trump had taken the virus seriously back in February or March, he probably could have that fantasy match the reality. 
  • Mayor Curry - Out of the local political class, Mayor Lenny Curry seems to have invested the most heavily in the RNC. He promised big economic dividends and a national spotlight, but he got ridicule instead. With the clock running out on his final term, he's likely to be remembered for the things he destroyed (the RNC, the Landing, Metro Park, etc...) and his possibly criminal attempt to sell off JEA. Any hope of a positive legacy or future political career is probably about zero right now, although there may be a part time gig on Fox News available. 
  • Businesses who bet on the GOP - Leadership matters, and Jacksonville businesses who were following the lead of the GOP are likely to see their bets come up short. It's terrible that so many local businesses have been impacted by the pandemic and resulting recession, but this convention debacle just doubled down on a losing hand. Local Republicans might need some time to rebuild trust and leadership within the local business community. 

The easy way out

The other irony here is that the losers might have lost twice as bad if the convention hadn't been canceled. Trump was likely to be greeted by a sparse crowd, and in the aftermath he'd be blamed for any increased transmission or Covid or any attendees who were later found to be infected. Curry would also shoulder additional blame if attendance and economic impact failed to meet expectations. Businesses that were already burned by inflated sales estimates might be hit twice as hard without the opportunity to cancel orders and reschedule shifts in advance. 

When all is said and done, it's likely that this particular issue won't even last too long in the minds of voters and the local public. The economic losses might be pretty long term, or even permanent, for those businesses and individual speculators who bet big, but most people will probably go on with their lives without too much lingering thought to the convention that could have been. 

For the losers in this deal, that's probably mostly good news because they already had big problems before this convention was added to them. Trump's facing historic unpopularity and polls suggesting Biden could get a landslide victory. Curry is facing multiple investigations in to his role in the attempted JEA sale, and local businesses are already reeling from the effects of the pandemic. 

Now they can get back to their regularly scheduled crises! 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Florida's reopening is officially a disaster

Just a few short weeks after bars and restaurants in Florida were allowed to reopen for business, new cases of coronavirus have utterly shattered all previous records.

Undaunted, the governor has refused to back down, causing many observers to audibly wonder: "What the hell?"

Here in Jacksonville, coronavirus hotspots have been identified at just about every single bar or restaurant that opened back up at the beaches. Lynch’s Irish Pub, The Wreck Tiki Lounge, and The Tavern have all temporarily shuttered for deep cleaning since after reopening. Why? Because customers and employees are getting sick from the highly contagious and deadly virus that everyone has been trying to warn us about for almost half a year now.

The mayor of Jacksonville is also doubling down his bet on Trump's RNC convention speech. Up to 15,000 individuals will be packs in to the Veteran's Memorial Arena in late August, and they're likely to refuse to wear any kind of masks or take any kinds of precautions against the illness. Despite overwhelming public opinion against this event, it continues to move ahead at full speed. In fact, the best hope we have in Jacksonville right now is that the speech will be as much of a bust as the recent Tulsa rally.

Long term consequences coming in to focus

When this outbreak started, there was good reason to be concerned for a short term disruption in business and economic activity.

As the outbreak drags on and spreads without resistance throughout the United States, we should probably start to worry about larger and more long term economic damage.

The world can no longer look toward the United States for leadership in a crisis. We no longer demonstrate characteristics that people want to emulate, and we no longer look like a safe destination for skilled immigrants or investment funds.

Instead of leading the world toward a new era of cooperation, we find ourselves increasingly isolated - cut off from travel to more and more destinations across the globe. Europe doesn't want visitors from the U.S., and China doesn't want to import our chickens or other agricultural products.

Simply put, the world sees any physical interaction with an American as a growing and needless risk.

Can you blame them?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

COVID cases rise as Florida attempts reopening

June 6th, marked the 4th consecutive day of 1,000 or more positive coronavirus diagnoses in Florida. That's about two weeks from Memorial Day, and that's the turnaround time we should expect from the time of infection to the positive diagnosis.

One June 16th, we hit a new record: 2783 cases confirmed in a single day.

While we did manage to "bend the curve" we never did stamp the virus out. All of the efforts we put in from March to June merely stabilized the rate of spread. Without those actions, the number of new cases per day would continue to grow until approximately 60 to 70% of the population has been infected.

So why are we declaring victory? The risk today is just as real as it was in March when we tried to bend that curve flatter.

Frankly, the economy (and maybe the fragile American psyche) just can't handle that much effort for someone else's benefit. This impatience and self-centered attitude has been multiplied by incompetent leadership that has not been able to leverage our efforts at a higher level with things like:

  • Case tracing
  • Quarantine
  • Masks
  • Avoiding indoor spaces
So don't get too excited about the economy and world going back to normal. We still have work to do before we can declare victory - and the people in charge show no interest in getting started, so we're going to be here for a while.

Trump's Jacksonville speech - economic opportunity or disaster?

Do you own a hotel? A bar? No? Then let's cut to the chase: it's going to be a disaster.

Mayor Curry and the Republican party are hailing Trump's late August visit as a great economic opportunity, but it's more like a worst case scenario for most Jacksonville residents.

Not only does Donald Trump have a long and verified record of not paying his bills for rallies like this one, Mayor Curry didn't even bother to get any sort of agreement in writing. To avoid mandatory reporting of public records under the state's Sunshine Laws, all discussions and deals were made in person or over the phone. This will only make it easier for Trump to avoid paying for any costs associated with his Jacksonville event.

Beyond that, coronavirus rates are already rising rapidly - not just in Jacksonville, but nationwide. One of Trump's biggest demands for this rally was that he be able to fill up an indoor arena without any of the "pesky" markers of pandemic, like masks.

So what happens when you take people from around the country and put them in one arena with no social distancing or personal protective equipment? The virus spreads. Not only will it spread throughout the event, it will also spread to the hotels and restaurants that visitors are coming to eat at. Two weeks after the rally, Jacksonville is likely to look like ground zero for new infections.

The final piece of this disaster that Curry seems to be ignoring is the inevitable protest. The city is already on edge from the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and yet Trump is going ahead with a major event on the anniversary of an infamous white riot. That's right: Trump's visit coincides with Ax Handle Saturday - a dark day in Jacksonville history marked by Klansmen violently rioting downtown.

What's the upside? Well, a handful of hotels might have one good night of business. There may even be a bar or restaurant that's still open to enjoy two nights of good sales.

Their staffs will be directly exposed to the risk of illness, and the resulting fear of the virus will probably do more damage to their earnings in the long run than the short term boost provides.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Why video matters

Police brutality is not a new problem, but many Americans - especially white ones - are experiencing it for the first time this week.

Many police departments and local news outlets are still trying to deny such a thing exists, but public opinion is rapidly shifting.

Why? Because video can capture a perspective that people might not otherwise see.

This lawyer from North Carolina has been compiling evidence of police misconduct on Twitter, and it gives us some insight as to how changing media environments can also change the societies they operate in.

For the first time in human history, almost every person has a camera and video recorder in their pocket. In a matter of moments, these videos and pictures can be transferred wirelessly to web servers and distributed to viewers across the globe.

By the time officers and PR managers have cooked up a story, the truth has already been documented for the public to see.

So keep those cameras rolling, you never know when video content might just change the world.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Making local SEO work in Jacksonville

While the competition to be the top SEO firm in Jacksonville remains fierce, most local businesses won't need that level of SEO investment to come out on top for their keywords. A focus on the basic and essential aspects of your website may be all that is necessary to boost your organic search rankings and organic traffic from highly motivated potential customers.

Keys to Local SEO Success in Jacksonville

So you want more web traffic for your local business? The good news is that the basics are often good enough. Here are some of the classic keys for success when it comes to ranking through local SEO.
  • Improve loading speed
  • Fix or remove missing files and assets
  • Register with Google Businesses
  • Produce fresh, unique content
  • Review existing content for updates
When it comes to the technical side of SEO, it is critical that web pages load quickly and without any missing files or 404 errors. Slow pages lead to high bounce rates and low user engagement, so even if it wasn't effecting your search engine result position (SERP) it is still effecting your conversion rates.

Visitors will appreciate the quick response of your server, and so will Google. If you can find a local web host or one nearby, you'll get even better speeds due to geographic proximity.

It's also important to verify your business with Google's business listings. This will help put you on the map, both literally and figuratively. Verified businesses are eligible to show up in Google's map results box - although you're not guaranteed a prominent listing just for existing.

And this brings us to the big secret that isn't really much of a secret: content is the most important part of any SEO campaign. Once the website is working well on the server side, the most critical step is the development of fresh and unique content that is structured so that users and search bots alike can discern exactly what it's all about. Pictures are good and video is better, but each post should have an absolute minimum of 300 words attached to explain what the other media is about.

500 words is better and 1,000 better still, but that doesn't mean to ramble on about irrelevant things or repeat yourself. Get to the point as much as possible while striving to be comprehensive. Stay on topic, but don't be afraid to branch out a little bit toward related concepts. Take advantage of internal linking opportunities and make sure all of those related posts and pages are connected through hyperlinks.

Then once your content is in place, don't forget about it! Facts become obsolete and details change - your content should also be updated to stay relevant even if it was published long ago. It's also important to ensure that existing content doesn't violate the standards for good content set out above: watch out for keyword stuffing, unnatural link profiles, and scraped content. These "shortcuts" can end up costing a lot more than they save, in the long run.

What's Missing? 

The obsession with backlinks. Don't get me wrong: backlinks are great and they're powerful, but most people who set out to "build" them just end up with junk links and/or unnatural link exchanges.

Editorial links are the strongest signal by far, and you can really only earn those with high quality content published with a regular and consistent frequency.

Based on my experience, a combination of technical SEO auditing and a commitment to new content is all it takes to dominate the local search results. So what are you waiting for? The traffic is out there, you just have to claim your share!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Don't bet on business as usual

With the state of Florida eager to reopen, many small business owners and sole proprietors are looking to get back to business as normal. Unfortunately, wanting it won't be enough to make it happen.

As posted previously, this attempt to move on beyond the pandemic is based largely on hope and hasn't fully addressed the underlying problem that has caused so much disruption so far.

Yes, we'd like to go out. Yes, we'd like to see our friends and acquaintances again.

But there's still an incredibly infectious virus that has a much higher fatality rate than most of the bugs that spread this quickly.

As it stands, we've successfully managed to slow down the pandemic. Early projections would've had every hospital in the country overflowing by now if we hadn't done anything.

But that doesn't mean we've done enough. The virus continues to spread and people are continuing to avoid unnecessary travel and social events. They'll continue to, too, until the virus is entirely stamped out.

So if you're trying to get your Jacksonville area business back to operation - what do you do?

It can be tempting to bet big on this coming reopening, but it might be a safer idea to bet on trying to survive the lull a little longer. We've got some time to position our SEO strategies for long term growth, so don't bet the farm on a short term return to normal!

Give us a call at Jacksonville SEO today! We're here to help your business maximize its online presence through a combination of search engine optimization, online marketing, social media, and conversion optimization. We look forward to helping you build a new normal - one that's even better than what came before!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Jacksonville begins to re-open

Many local companies in Jacksonville have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, and they're eager to open up shop and get back to business.

Unfortunately, there are also many indications that the spread of the virus has not been fully stopped, so any attempts at a resumption of economic activity may incidentally backfire and produce unintended effects.

The Hope

A best case scenario would look something like this:
  • Business begins to reopen
  • Social activity returns with maintained distancing and sanitation
  • Customers and sales return to local Jacksonville businesses
  • At-risk populations remain at home, safely
The goal here would be to slowly build up herd immunity while protecting the most vulnerable individuals (elderly, pre-existing conditions, etc...)

Infection rates would continue to climb - but slowly. Hospital admissions related to COVID-19 would continue to be treated, but the hope would be to keep the rates low enough so that the new patients do not overwhelm the medical system.

The Risk

A worst-case scenario could also develop:
  • Business reopens, but a vast majority of customers stay home
  • A false sense of victory diminishes social distancing and other precautions
  • Infection is spread to at-risk populations through grocery stores and other essential retail
  • Economic stagnation lasts for years until herd immunity or a vaccine is achieved
Rushing out to declare victory may very well be the worst option available right now. While six weeks of central quarantine with test & trace is enough to completely eliminate endemic infections, six weeks of casual social distancing and half-enforced stay at home orders hasn't done much but bend the curve.

If we extend the slowdown anyway, we may be on our way to the economic worst-case scenario. Is your business and SEO strategy ready for that? We are. Call us today to find out how Jacksonville SEO can help your business adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. 

First Impressions of Google's December Core Update (2020)

It was a little later than expected, but Google has officially rolled out their December Core update for 2020.  While Google is always makin...