3 SEO Ranking Factors to Consider ASAP

What are the most important SEO ranking factors you can focus on for your site? Many people assume that by conducting keyword research and optimizing each and every landing page with said keywords will increase better their overall SEO ranking; however, that couldn’t be further from that truth. SEO is more than merely stuffing keywords into a blog post and hoping for the best. Instead, it can get downright technical and into the nitty-gritty of a site’s structure.

To begin with, the three most important SEO ranking factors to consider for your site include the following:

3 Important SEO Ranking Factors to Consider:

  1. Mobile Responsiveness

    The percentage of smartphone searches has increased worldwide making it impossible to ignore this rapidly rising technology:

    According to a report published on Statista, “In 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. Mobile currently accounts for half of all global web pages served.”

    Mobile searches statistics in 2018.
    Figure from Statista.

    There are many ways to approach a responsive site to smaller resolutions, and some quick and easy ways involve utilizing WordPress themes or mobile-friendly plugins that can make the journey much easier.

  2. Convert to HTTPS

    If your site is e-commerce or contains any forms that users would fill out with personal information, transition your site over to HTTPS with an SSL. Not only is this becoming an increasing weight ranking factor within Google, but your non-secure, HTTP site will have an uncomfortable message in the search bar next to your domain:

    What a non-secure website will look like as Google continues to roll out its update. This is another big SEO ranking factor to consider.
    Image from blog.ezoic.

    Having 301, one-to-one redirects from the non-secure version of your pages to secure version seems difficult at first, but it’s well worth the efforts (and will make your visitors feel more comfortable, as well). Here’s a great tutorial by Dave Taylor published on Ezoic Blog.

  3. Site Speed

    Google is releasing The Google Speed Update that includes mobile page speed as part of their mobile search ranking considerations this July. Site speed is already a ranking factor for desktop searches.

    Site speed affects user experience especially on mobile phones and is a huge SEO ranking factor.
    Image from Crazy Egg.

    It shouldn’t be any surprise that having a site that loads within a few seconds is vital to, not only SEO and Google but to the overall user experience, as well. There are many actions that you can take to increase site speed. Here are a three out of 20 ways to increase site speed recommended by Crazy Egg:

    • Clean up any unnecessary or old HTML, such as tables or unneeded HTML tags.
    • Optimize your images prior to uploading them to Magento or WordPress. Crop the image to the correct size, save it as a JPEG, and with a resolution of 72 dpi.
    • Optimize a page’s above-the-fold content so it’ll load quicker and is the first thing that users will see after landing on the page.

These three items are urgent for your site. By making your site responsive, fast and secure, you’re taking the best design and development steps forward in improving your site’s standing in Google Search.

Other ranking factors include:

  • Dwell time: How long do users stay on a page after clicking on it from Google Search results or further explore the site after landing on that page?
  • Domain-Level Link Features: High-quality links that point to your site is seen as a ‘vote of confidence’ from Google; your site is seen as a top player in its associated market. Link building and gaining external links has always been a huge factor in ranking.
  • Optimized Pages with Keywords: The more intelligent Google search bots become, the more effort site owners must make in producing naturally-sounding and expert content with related keywords strategically placed. This is the on-page optimization factor where landing pages are updated with keywords in various places within the page, such as meta-title, meta-description, URL, body text, subheaders, image titles and alternative tags, etc.

There are many other SEO ranking factors that go into SEO; however, focusing on these will most likely benefit your site and how Google renders your site the most.

Free SEO tools to use for your site!

18 Free SEO Tools You Should Use

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital in getting ‘free visibility’ from Google and other search engines. Getting started with SEO is easier than you think especially with the vast amount of free SEO tools and resources available. However, you and/or your organization do not need to pay top dollar to analyze your site’s SEO and other technical needs and status. Below is a list of free SEO tools and resources that will give you the insights you need to know what’s happening on your site, what to prioritize, and how to move forward:

Free SEO Tools and Resources

  1. Moz: How Your Business is Listed Online
    More so for local SEO tools and needs, this is a free listing report to better understand how Google is seeing your business. Per Moz, “4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.”
  2. Keyword Tool
    Free keyword research tool that gives you over 750 Google Keyword Suggestions! You can also search in other search platforms outside of Google including YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay and App Store.
  3. Google
    • Google Keyword Planner
      Through Google’s AdWords, you can use the free SEO tool Google Keyword Planner that gives you an average monthly search volume range. You merely type in your keywords and hit ‘Get ideas’! You can even conduct local SEO keyword research with the location targeting option (see image below).

      This tool can be a bit confusing to use at first since it automatically redirects you to the AdWords platform after signing up. Here is a helpful article on how to get to and use the keyword research tool.
      How to use the Google Keyword Planner tool, one out of many free SEO tools available to you!

    • Google Trends
      This user-friendly tool analyzes the search term you enter for user interest over time and location. From there, you have limitless options to filter results including countries, time period, and device and search type. Also, you get a handy list of top and rising queries related to the search term you entered, which is helpful when you are looking for fresh, new content to write about based on trends!
    • Google Webmaster Tools
      Search for site errors, technical SEO items, search analytics, queries to your site, top pages and more. You’ll get complete control over how Google sees and analyzes your site and be able to find and quickly correct any technical SEO errors including broken links, robots.txt file, sitemaps, URL parameters and more! This is a must-have tool for anyone serious with their web presence and performance.
    • Google Analytics
      This is probably the most well-known tool that is used for everything analytical. From different source types users are coming from to behaviors and more, this platform has it all. It’s useful for SEO purposes, too, where you can get an inside look at how organic traffic is performing. Here’s a quick guide from Moz on tracking SEO with Google Analytics.
    • PageSpeed Insights
      Having a site that loads and responds quickly isn’t just important for SEO and ranking, but it is a must for great user experience on both mobile and desktop. This helpful tool analyzes the speed of your site and offers fix suggestions to anything that’s not optimized or didn’t quickly respond. There are many other page load time tools out there, as well.
    • Mobile-Friendly Test
      Having a site optimized for mobile is vital since more and more searches are from such devices. Test your website in this free mobile-friendly test from Google to see any optimizations or updates needed to be more responsive to any and all types of devices.
  4. Quick Sprout
    This free website analyzer tool lets you see optimized and non-optimized content on your site. This includes meta-titles and meta-descriptions, headings (H1, H2, etc.), images (image alt tags and titles), etc. You can even update non-optimized content and save it as a reference for when you go through and update it on the actual site!
  5. SimilarWeb
    This is all about competitors and emerging trends. You can research known competitors in your market and see how your site compares in terms of search engine rank, traffic volume, country rank, sources and referrals, and more! You can even download a PDF of the report and change the time range for more insights. This is a very insightful report and will give you a great idea of how your site is performing in terms of sources and referrals as well as how your top competitors and their sites are performing, as well.
  6. SERPs’ Rank Checker
    Enter a keyword and the site domain with the option of choosing Google vs. Yahoo, desktop vs. mobile, and local SEO with an exact location. You can download a CSV of the report, as well, which comes in handy!
    SERPs rank checker tool is a great free SEO tool that looks at how your domain ranks for a specified keyword.
  7. Internet Marketing Ninjas
    Part of technical SEO and site errors, use this free SEO tool to conduct an overall crawl of your site that includes the discovery of broken links, redirects and more! You can enter your email that will then send you the findings, which may be a good idea since it can take a while for the crawl to finish—depending on the size and depth of your site.
    A snipit of the Internet Marketing Ninja tool that can crawl your entire website!
  8. Yoast
    • Yoast Google Suggest Expander
      Yoast offers a TON of free SEO tools and resources, and this one can help you in finding long-tail keywords. Simply enter a keyword and press ‘Submit Query,’ and a list of long-tail keywords will show to give you an idea of what users are searching for based on the keyword you entered.
    • Yoast SEO Free WordPress Plugin
      This is a MUST HAVE in terms free SEO tools and for optimizing your WordPress posts and pages. The free version is still very powerful and will ‘grade’ your page based on the focus keyword you entered into it. This is an amazing checker for on-page optimizations on each and every one of your posts and pages.
  9. Quix SEO Check
    This simple, free SEO tool will conduct a quick crawl of the domain you entered and analyze meta tags, HTML code, headers and more!
  10. Wayback Machine
    This tool can be a life saver if you’re searching for an older version of your site. You may want to use this to search for very old media files, pages or posts that are now deleted or for a backlog of your website, etc.
  11. HTTP Status Code Checker
    This ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ free SEO tool can conduct a mass check of URLs that are pasted into it. It lets you know the function and status of each URL, which can be handy if you’re trying to see the paths of redirects or discover 404 errors.
  12. Barracuda Panguin Tool
    As you become more in tune with SEO best practices, you’ll soon realize that Google rules all (we all bow to Google in the SEO rule). Because of this, any and all algorithm changes made by Google could potentially impact your site. These algorithm changes are usually animal names and can focus on local to overall changes to how Google ranks your site.

    This free tool needs access to Google Analytics, so if you don’t have a free account yet, then you won’t be able to use it. After allowing access to your Google Analytics site profile, it will show organic visits to your site over time and overlay all known Google updates to those visits. If there are any notable increases or decreases in organic traffic to your site that align with the updates, then you’ll know that your site is either performing really well in the eyes of Google, or your site was penalized.
    Another free SEO tool includes the Panguin algorithm tool that takes into account your site's organic traffic and known Google updates.

Do you have any other free SEO tools or resources you use and love? Share them in the comments!

Overlooking Estes Park and the surrounding peaks on Kruger Rock Trail.

Westward Bound: Two Amazing Years of Colorado Living

There are so many places to explore in this amazing state that I decided to write another post on our second year of Colorado living (Read about our first-year of exploration in Colorado).

If you are an outdoors fanatic, then this state is for you. Since living here, I’ve lost almost 30 pounds, which I attribute to the active community, numerous, fun trails and areas to explore, and healthier eating. Nevertheless, living in CO for two years this September has truly opened our eyes to the different colors, shapes, smells, sites, etc. that can form in nature.

I’ve also created an Instagram account for all of our hiking and traveling adventures!

It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since we made the 1,500 mile move westward. We’ve had no regrets in our move and hope to continue our exploration of, not only Colorado, but the West in its entirety!

Colorado Living: Here are 17 more places we explored:

  1. Red Feather Lakes: Elkhorn Creek Trail
  2. Colorado living: Hiking on Elkhorn Lake Trail proved to be more difficult due to lack of trail indicators and forks.
    Elkhorn Lake Trail photos. This trail in the Red Feathers Lake area lacks trail indicators and has multiple forks in the road, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

    This 7.5-mile trail sits right outside Red Feather Lakes and proved be to a hike of pure chaos yet beauty. The chaos was produced as there were NO trail markers on this trail, yet multiple trails that forked off into your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine. Despite getting turned around a few times, this adventure was still enjoyable with color-changing aspens lining the trail, small creeks and meadows, and tons of interesting rock formations. Despite the Blair Witch feeling we got when we traveled on what we thought was the right trail that ended up in the back of a rancher’s property filled with ‘No Trespassing’ signs on it, it was an fun experienced during a heat-spell in September.

  3. Benson Sculpture Garden
  4. Taking a step away from hiking, one of the most intriguing and unique places we explored is located right down the road from us! Loveland is known for its artists, especially sculptors, and the Sculpture Park goes above and beyond to highlight some of the best of the best! Of course most of the sculptures represent something in Colorado’s culture and history, such as wildlife to cowboys and Native Americans. Situated near a small pond with hundreds of sculptures to explore, it’s a fun place to bring your family and see Colorado art first hand! Here are a few photos I took while visiting:

  5. Greyrock Mountain
  6. greyrock mountain trail in Colorado.
    Greyrock Mountain summit and surrounding areas in Colorado.Greyrock Trail was one of the best trails we hiked in Colorado thus far. The trail was both the perfect challenge as well as the perfect length with beautiful sites. Alongside hiking near the summit of Greyrock Mountain, we also came upon expansive meadows, wildlife and woodlands. All-in-all we hiked around nine to 10 miles this beautiful area and got to see the changing leaves of aspens and other trees. After reaching the top of the summit over 7,600 feet, we could see as far as the eye could see, as seen in the collage to the right.

  7. Wild Basin
  8. First time snowshoeing on Wild Basin Trail!
    Our first time snowshoeing occurred in Wild Basin Trail!
    Moose in Wild Basin Natural Area Colorado.
    Big mama moose right off of the trail in Wild Basin!
    This trail held a ton of firsts for us: first time snowshoeing, first time getting up close and personal with a Stellar’s Jay bird, and first time seeing MOOSE! Snowshoeing is a huge part of Colorado living as everyone takes pride in doing it! Snowshoeing is such a fun, exhausting, challenging, and overall smart exercise to get around on top of densely packed snow! Snowshoeing for around nine miles in the Wild Basin area way up in the Rockies was an amazing experience where, not only did we learn the art of snowshoeing, but we saw amazing sites including a mother moose and her calf right off of the trail! Amazing sites await you on this trail as well as a lack of people on it especially during the winter (who said winter hiking was dull and not fun??)

  9. Bear Lake from Sprague Lake Trail
  10. Standing on top of a very frozen Bear Lake after snowshoeing to it!
    Standing on top of Bear Lake after snowshoeing to it from Sprague Lake!

    Our second snowshoeing adventure occurred when we hiked eight miles from Sprague Lake to Bear Lake in very cold and windy conditions. Despite it being winter, we saw a different type of frozen beauty in the Rockies, and it was very silent, which was welcoming after being in the city all the time. This was both of our first times standing on top of a frozen lake with no fear! Snowshoeing was a bit more difficult this go-around versus our first snowshoeing adventure due to the trail being more narrow and the weather conditions a bit more challenging. Nonetheless, the views are amazing with all of the different lakes to visit!

  11. Loveland Fire and Ice Festival
  12. Fire owl sculpture at Loveland Fire and Ice Festival 2017.
    This festival held in Loveland around Valentine’s Day is a very fun and different type of festival where there are both ice-related events and fire-related events in terms of art and activities. We watched ice sculptors create magnificent pieces of ice art as well as sculptures literally emitting fire (What’s Colorado living without ice sculpting?!). Alongside the random booths, beer and wine, and other entertaining things, such as Star Wars characters, it was well worth the visit!

  13. Fern Falls and Lake
  14. Frozen Fern Lake, our destination!
    Frozen Fern Falls in Colorado.This trail was packed with snow and mud since we experienced quite a warm spell in February. What makes Fern Falls and Lake Trail so interesting is that there are so many different types of landscapes to experience, such as mystically placed boulders scattered around the trail, snow-capped peaks, rivers flowing with freshly melted snow under ice, valleys and dense woods. We hiked eight miles to Fern Lake and experienced another frozen lake trail experience, which was really fun! Winter hiking is both exhilarating and surprising because you don’t know exactly what to expect both trail-wise and site-wise as it looks completely different versus during other times of the year!

  15. Arthur’s Rock
  16. On our way to the summit of Arthur's Rock in the background in Fort Collins.
    This was such a fun trail to explore in Lory State Park, Fort Collins! Right next to Horsetooth Mountain, this specific trail is rated as moderate-difficult due to quick elevation rise and rockiness of the trail. We walked around four-and-a-half miles total, and made it up the steep inclines to the amazing views from the top of the rock:
    View from the summit of Arthur's Rock.

  17. Hall Ranch (Bitterbrush Trail and Nelson Loop)
  18. View of Long's Peak from Nelson Loop in Hall Ranch.
    Awesome flora and fauna including prairie dogs and mule deer.We hiked 11 miles in the Hall Ranch open space area on the Bitterbrush trail and Nelson Loop. This was one of the most beautiful and diverse hikes we’ve been on yet! We saw mule deer, prairie dogs, tons of birds, and we heard a wild turkey (we didn’t see it unfortunately).

    The sites will strike you with awe. There was an amazing view of Long’s Peak in the distance along Nelson Loop, the last part of the hike, as well as magnificent rock formations and structures. We made the mistake of not wearing sunscreen and our skins were screaming! The trails themselves weren’t busy at all with other hikes, but you definitely have to keep an eye and ear open to the numerous bikers along the trail.

    Awesome sites as we hiked the Hall Ranch trails Bitterbrush and Nelson Loop!

  19. West Valley Trail & Soldier Canyon Falls
  20. Beautiful waterfalls of Soldier Valley Falls in Lory State Park, Fort Collins!My friend and I hiked five to six miles in Lory State Park, Fort Collins, on the West Valley Trail to the beautiful and hidden gem Soldier Valley Falls. This hike stayed around the contingent mountains where Arthur’s Rock lies, but it takes you through picnic areas, other trail heads and the beautiful waterfalls!

    The Soldier Valley Falls area is similar to entering another ecosystem. Instead of the grassy and bushy plains and mountains, you enter into a shady, moist area with dense trees, flowers and water! It’s only 0.1 miles long, so it’s more so a viewing point versus a hike. You get to see lots of snow runoff coming down the rocks into a clear and cool creek. This is a great site to take visitors and justifies the need to see it!
    West Valley Trail in Lory State Park, Fort Collins, CO.

  21. Hermit Park’s Kruger Rock Trail
  22. This moderately rated hike in Estes Park’s Hermit Park is worth the effort. The views of the Rockies, especially Long’s Peak, is absolutely stunning. We’ve never before had such a view of the local peaks in northern Colorado!

    View of Long's Peak at the top of Kruger Rock in Estes Park.
    View of Long’s Peak at the top of Kruger Rock.

    The gradual incline going up the mountain was somewhat intense mainly due to the high altitude. The last step prior to reaching the peak involves climbing up a narrow, rocky path, but once you get past that, you can see absolutely everything! After trekking up to the top of Kruger Rock, we hiked back down the mountain and camped in the Hermit Hollow’s campsite where we saw lots of mule deer, chipmunks and birds. Camping at Hermit Hollow's campground!

  23. Carter Lake’s Sundance Trail
  24. Sundance trail views around Carter Lake!This is one of the few trails that we’ve done so far that encompasses a vast body of water. This trail is around six-and-a-half miles long and is rated as easy. We decided to hike it right after a huge, wet spring snow, so most of it was flooded—we tested our ability to leap great distances! The slabs of rock layering the shore of the lake are absolutely beautiful—I wish I had such rocks decorating our yard!—and the bird species vary.

  25. Lily Mountain Trail
  26. This may have been one of the most strenuous trails we’ve done—or because we hadn’t hiked for a few weeks prior!—as the inclines were quite gradual but intense up to the top of Lily Mountain. The views are absolutely beautiful on the way up as well as from the top at 9,789 feet and were well worth the effort!
    View from the top of Lily Mountain Colorado!

  27. Twin Sisters Peak Trail
  28. This was such a fun hike and not too strenuous either! The inclines were spaced out well and not too strenuous compared to our hike up Lily Mountain. Being able to see different types of ecosystems as we hiked up to the 11,500 feet summit was very interesting especially once we breached the treeline (note to self: bring bug spray next time because the mosquitos at the top were hungry!). This was definitely on our favorite hikes with amazing views of the surrounding area!
    Beautiful views from Twin Sisters!Trail leading out of the treeline to the top of Twins SistersMark and Katie on top of the Twin Sisters Peak!

  29. Fossil Creek Reservoir
  30. Fossil Creek Reservoir Open Space area.We started to hike around lots of Larimer County open spaces as part of the Larimer County Passport to the Open Spaces initiative where you collect penciled badges from selected trails. This was a beautiful open space filled with tons of bird species from birds that prefer water, such as pelicans and raptors. Great for bird watchers and not strenuous at all!

  31. Red Mountain Open Space
  32. Geological time seen through layered rocks at Red Mountain
    This open space accurately defines the phrase, “Colorful Colorado” due to its variety of colored and layered rocks from a rusty red to pale pink, chalk white to silver grey. Not only was this trail gorgeous in all respects, but the birds and wildlife were abundant especially being right next to the Soapstone Prairie land. It was very dry and hot when we hiked it in July, and this was also part of the passport initiative! Watch out for hordes of biting flies!
    Katie standing in front of red rock in Red Mountain Open Space

  33. Eagle’s Nest Open Space
  34. Another passport trail, this trail was abundant in a variety of grasses! The sites are beautiful especially of the rocky sides of the facing mountains. We also saw cows since it was an open range area. The creek that flowed near the end of the trail was gorgeous with crystal clear water.
    View across Eagle's Nest Open Space

  35. Blue Lake Trail
  36. This trail was worth the long, long hike! At the end is an absolutely beautiful, clear lake at around 11,000 feet up with nearby mountain peaks adorned with glaciers! Moose scat and tracks were all we saw, but it’s fairly obvious that moose reign free and numerous in such country. We hiked a total of 12 miles that day even though the trail to and from the lake is a total of 11.1 miles. Half the trail was easy and the other half was somewhat strenuous merely due to its length and the amount of rocks on the trail itself.
    View of Blue Lake at the end of the trail outside of Walden, COI'm standing on front of Blue Lake in Colorado that has a ton of moose!

From exploring the various trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park to our first snowshoeing experience, I look forward to the many other places we’ll see in the coming year along this growing list! Colorado living is the only way to truly live and explore if you enjoy nature!