The end of NON-Encrypted Website Hosting from Rook Interactive.

The end of NON-Encrypted Website Hosting from Rook Interactive.

Ok, it’s finally happened. With recent algorithm, and browser changes, We at Rook Interactive have made the obvious decision to no longer offer non-encrypted website hosting. There are just too many penalties to sites, email blockages and/or issues possible, a speed difference, and the added bonus to consumer trust for us to have a website hosting product that does not include a 2048 bit SSL Server Certificate, along with a $250,000 insurance policy for each business domain.

This has been coming for some time – Google will start flagging sites that are not encrypted as unsafe in June of this year, and the overall security and protections of the Internet in general have been pushing for the change in support of customer safety.

For those of you currently running a non-encrypted site hosted with Rook, we can add an SSL to your site for a minor upgrade of $159 added to your yearly hosting account.

For all new customers, we will now be offering our celebrated high speed consumer hosting with a dedicated SSL with a $250k insurance with unlimited email users, unlimited aliases, non-throttled traffic caps, and very fast access solid state storage for the simple monthly cost of $59 a month. No contract, simply 30 days notice if you wish to cancel. We hope this encourages our clients and friends online to finally embrace the new reality of encrypted services easily and affordably!

If you are interested in talking about a migration to Rook’s new hosting, or upgrading your current Rook Hosting account, please reach out to me directly at ssl2018@rookinteractive.com.

Scott Willis
Rook Interactive
303-807-6447

 

Mobile Page Speed will be a Google Ranking Factor starting in July 2018.

Mobile Page Speed will be a Google Ranking Factor starting in July 2018.

Mobile Page Speed has finally been confirmed as a strong incoming ranking factor in Google’s mobile search results – and will start taking hold in July of 2018. Google is calling it the “Speed Update”, and “will affect the pages that deliver slow experience to users.”

Since it will officially go live in July 2018, this gives webmasters and business owners time to prepare their web pages, by compressing images, cleaning up scripts, redesigning older sites to more mobile-friendly formats, add encryption, and also consider commercial grade hosting, rather than shared virtual hosted services.

Back in 2010, Google said that Page Speed was a ranking factor but it “was focused on desktop searches only” only.  In July, it will look at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a strong ranking factor in mobile search. Google has been promising this change for years now, and it is officially scheduled.

It’s not clear yet whether the same changes will be applied to desktop searches, but this is also expected, as Google pushes sites to be more consumer friendly, and more efficient across all devices.

Significant changes to Google’s Search Algorithm confirmed over the holidays

Significant changes to Google’s Search Algorithm confirmed over the holidays

Google has confirmed what we at Rook have seen over the holidays – there were significant changes to their algorithm that are making some serious shifts in Search Engine Rankings. A Google spokesperson confirmed this – “We released several minor improvements during this time frame, part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.”

These updates seem to be related to massive amounts of keyword permutations, and sites loaded with doorway or landing pages targeted to the same keyword permutations. It seemed to target sites that had dedicated landing or doorways page created to simply be a target for several variations of a similar service; for example; travel agent denver, travel agent boulder, travel agent centennial, travel agent colorado.

In past years Google has tried to NOT make changes in December, to minimize the potential impact before the holiday shopping season. But on December 14th, an update was made that has been sweeping through the rankings for the past few weeks. The biggest immediate changes affected the mobile searches of Autos & Vehicles, Law & Government, and Reference sites. On December 19th, another extreme shift was detected affecting Hobbies and Leisure, Science, Jobs & Education, Home & Garden, Internet, and Telecom sites the most – and again, stronger changes showed on Google Mobile.

These changes are very active now in the US, and as a result, will also begin spreading worldwide to the UK, Germany, France, Australia, and Spain.

To say the least, it is becoming increasingly important to maintain consistent Algorithm compliance, and keep a regular eye on your ranking tracking – Google Search Ranking have been very turbulent over the past 45 days, and more changes are expected in the next month or so. The next expected change will be an increased focus on Site loading time, or Latency. Google will be changing the algorithm to  benefit sites that load faster, both and mobile and desktop search – so keeping sites on slower, shared personal hosting servers that are inexpensive will actually HURT your business SEO results. That, coupled with Google’s increasing penalties for sites that are not SSL encrypted, means the days of extremely cheap hosting for business sites may be coming to an end.

The Power Team of Microsoft and Amazon’s AI Assistants

The Power Team of Microsoft and Amazon’s AI Assistants

In the ultra-competitive tech world, you seldom see two large tech companies collaborating on anything, much less emerging technologies such as home based AI assistants. But it appears that Microsoft and Amazon, two of the major players in the AI digital assistant arena, doing the opposite. Apparently, both companies want their respective assistants, Cortana and Alexa, to work together – and work well.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated to the New York Times, that consumers who are currently using Alexa will soon be able to link with Microsoft’s Cortana and gain access to useful tools like calendars and emails. Microsoft Cortana users will also soon be able to link with Amazon Alexa to gain access to its unique set of functionalities such as shopping on Amazon and controlling home technologies.
This partnership between Microsoft and Amazon started back in May 2016 when Bezos breached the idea to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the CEO Summit. Ever since, the two companies have been working behind the scene to integrate the two companies AI assistants and their services.

More interesting, is the exciting possibility that more AI digital assistants from other companies could also be included soon. While Amazon has not yet approached competitors Google and Apple to join their collaboration, Jeff Bezos stated that he welcomes their involvement, and consumers to have access to as many of those AIs as possible.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, is also open to the idea of including other AI Services. “Hopefully, they’ll be inspired by it,” Nadella confirmed.

Many analysts are betting that Google and Apple will likely decline any collaboration though. Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson explains, “There’s no reason Google or Apple would offer it because they’re trying to drive customers into their own ecosystems.”

The Microsoft-Amazon collaboration should be good news to consumers. The rising availability of digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Samsung Bixby, Google Assistant, Alexa, and Cortana, can make your home a virtual zoo, if these devices do not communicate with each other. Imagine coming home and, after saying “Hello,” you could be greeted with a chorus of several different digital voices. Hopefully, this is the first step to making things a little easier – and the services stronger overall.

Why SEO is continuing to become more CRITICAL for businesses than ever before

Why SEO is continuing to become more CRITICAL for businesses than ever before

In today’s marketing, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization was already a strong component in any modern business marketing plan. But with the advances of artificial intelligence becoming prevalent in the automation and operation of search engine results, the continued and stronger focus towards SEO for your brand can make or break your business in the coming years.

Marketers and business owners need to understand that we are entering a new generation of optimizing websites for search engines. Also, the digital storefront or website, is becoming the primary customer interface in most businesses in modern times. Customer expect, or even demand, to be able to research their purchases in more depth than ever before in history – and if you do not have an online presence that can be found, and that represents your products and/or message, you are highly handicapped when trying to compete with other providers.

The world of SEO and how users Search is continually evolving – you need to adapt with it.

While many of principles of SEO will stay the same, there have been many recent technological advances that are changing how sites are both being searched, and how the engines determine your site’s position in the rankings. As a marketer, now more than ever, it is imperative to consistently represent your site on an ongoing basis to the changing algorithms and guidelines as the engines continue to become more sophisticated, and customers find new ways to search – such as by doing GPS location searches, or search by voice – using Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Samsung’s new entry, Bixby.

What is Google RankBrain?

The most visible and well documented change to how the search engines will answer these new, more complex search requests is a complex machine learning algorithm system created by Google, called RankBrain.

RankBrain is a machine learning artificial narrow intelligence that was first introduced to the world by Google in 2015. It has been designed to better understand the contextual meaning behind the words a person uses when making a search engine request, and applying this knowledge to provide more accurate results to the increased complexity of searches coming from mobile devices, tablets, desktops and laptops, and voice activated services as well. The artificial intelligence aspect of RankBrain is geared to understand word relationships and usage, rather than simply key phrases, and this allows Google to provide faster, more accurate results to its client base than ever before.

Mobile Search and Voice Search is a very BIG Factor.

The use of voice search, and voice assisted devices, has been on the rise for some time now. In fact, it has been well documented that voice directed search has increased over 35x since 2008, and 7x since 2010. Much of this has been driven by the increase in mobile and smartphone use, but also has been greatly increased by home personal assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home. Computer AI assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby are also pushing the envelope of complex, long natural spoken search requests – that had never been in use in the past.

How does RankBrain and Search Engine AI affect your business.

Simply put, as a business owner, you CANNOT ignore these market changes, and from a marketing point of view, you should brace yourself for the reality of needing to keep your business continually updated to stay current with the changes as they happen. While SEO has been growing in importance in your marketing campaign, now it is becoming CRITICAL to consistently adapt your business’s presence to the engines, directories.

 It makes sense to have a SEO Professional work WITH you to represent your business properly.

The small, forgotten details of SEO will matter more than ever, because the engines are becoming more capable of analyzing your site on a much more precise level. Google RankBrain and its counterparts will make search engine results much more relevant to the user, but you have to present your site’s structured data and content to the engines on a regular basis to keep your site index as current as possible, and to make sure your site is presented in rank listings properly.

The process is becoming much more complex, and relying on past results, or trying to maintain your listings by yourself can have a horrible impact on your site’s rank performance.  A qualified SEO professional works with the algorithm changes every day, with commercial software and specialized reporting, and licensed tools to present the information. Bottom line, you get what you pay for – you are taking a huge chance with your business, if don’t address the search engine market, and have someone with experience working with you.

Content should be written for the reader more than ever – the engines are learning understand this.

Machine Learning and Search Engine Artificial Intelligence learns associates over time. It also makes the process of writing content for your sites and materials more natural – you should focus on writing your message as clearly as possibly to appeal to the READER, not the search engine. Google RankBrain, and its peers will recognize and interpret your content in a more human-like fashion – and this will make content development for your online presence more natural, and customer driven.

Let Rook Interactive help you through this process.

If you have question about SEO, Google RankBrain, or the changing impact of AI on your digital marketing, please contact the SEO professionals at Rook Interactive today. We have been working with SEO and Internet Marketing techniques for over 20 years, and always provide a FREE analysis of your online presence upfront, so that we can make INFORMED recommendations that actually provide an impact – and we document and hold accountable our results during your process. Call us today at 303-807-6447, or email us directly at info@rookinteractive.com.

Why You Should Pay for Good SEO Service

Why You Should Pay for Good SEO Service

A constant question from most business owners revolves around the need for SEO for their website – and how much should they pay for it – what is reasonable?

This can be daunting – as there is a very wide range of costs for this service, particularly in Denver, and business owners also need to have a better understanding of what they get when they contract an ethical and effective internet marketing specialist to perform SEO services.

There should be accountability for the service and reasonable expectations on both sides of the table. Since this is a frequent question in my field, I thought it would be good to address this in more detail to help readers gain clarity when considering SEO for their business.

What is SEO Anyway? What am I paying for?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a commercial process or method to help your website become found by users of search engines that have interest in the content or offerings available on your website. This process consists of several steps – the submitting of your site to be indexed and scored by the Search Engines, the preparation of your site and its material to be properly registered when the engines index it, and lastly, the tracking and monitoring of your site’s progress and the changing search trends, so that you can adjust your site to be found seasonally.

Commercial Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t free, and it isn’t easy either. It doesn’t happen with the click of a button, and it’s important to understand the work and steps that make up the process before you agree to hire an SEO specialist.

When shopping for SEO services, this is a breakdown of the absolute essentials you should expect to receive:

  • Website/business interview: Speaking with a search engine optimizer is the first step. You’ll do this to set goals, outline your expectations, discuss deliverables, ask them the questions you need to know, and more.
  • Detailed Keyword research: Once they know more about your business and what your goals are, an optimizer needs to conduct thorough research on keywords to target. The demand for these phrases changes periodically, or seasonally, as people’s interests change – sometimes this is referred to as “what is trending.”
  • Competitive Phrase research: A significant part of keyword research and gauging ranking potential lies in researching the level of competition for each keyword to target. Some will be easier to rank under than others based on how many other sites are competing for the same phrase.
  • Website research: Your optimization specialist should look at your site’s history, backlink profile, domain age and more to determine whether you have preexisting penalties with the search engines (and if fixes need to be made). In addition, the specialist should also identify weaknesses in your site’s content, linkage, or usability – issues that can affect your site’s overall ranking score.
  • Content Advising: Existing on-site content plays greatly into optimization success. An optimizer should analyze your content and give informed suggestions to you on how to add or modify content to maximize performance on the chosen key phrases. If necessary, they may be able to help create or modify the content to target newer audiences.
  • Sitemap, Metadata addition or alteration: This is the technical side of the process of SEO – it involves the insertion or alteration of code into the site involving title, description, authorship and social tag alterations (among others) to include the keywords you’re targeting, on a per page level of your site. This also ensures that when your site is indexed, it’s represented with a proper introduction description when listed on the search engine ranking lists.
  • Accountability – Monitoring trends, tracking progress, and adjusting:  SEO is a process – it takes time, and does not happen overnight. As a business owner, you are stepping into a “king of the hill” battle by trying to score higher against the search engines scoring algorithm than your competitors and to achieve a higher listing that is closer to the first page and first listing. It is important to look at ALL of the major engines, not just the frontrunner, Google. The other engines provide listings and links as this has a cumulative effect on each other, i.e. having good placement on Bing, Yahoo, and even AOL also has an impact on your Google ranking.  A good, ethical SEO specialist will provide you with detailed monthly ranking reports and will share quarterly reports regarding the changing interest trends in your phrases. They will use this information to adjust your site’s code and sitemap, and advise you of changes needed in the content of your site to reach your goals.

 

Why is it a long process – why does it take so long?

Search Engines are literally bombarded with billions of requests each day to index and rank new and older sites, as these sites’ content changes. They also have to contend with the human interest factor – how people’s interests change day to day. On average, each time a change is made, it can take between 35-180 days for the engine to index and take note of your content changes or updates.

This timeframe can be very random to a business owner – but when a commercial SEO specialist is monitoring this process, they also should be resubmitting your site every month using a commercial license or submission software that also is updated to reflect the changing search engine requirements. By doing this with a commercial process, business owners cut the time to 30-40 days to see changes – and with each month, the results should get stronger as the ongoing process builds momentum.

What’s a realistic cost of SEO and Why?

Below are several business types and the typical price ranges for good SEO services both in the United States and abroad. These ranges are organized by business size or site size and are based on what I have experienced on a National average pricing level per month, over the last 20 years.

SEO for small to mid-size businesses (between $250 and $750 monthly): This pricing covers fundamental SEO implementation and maintenance for businesses with small to midsize websites (generally 1-20 pages). If content writing is needed as well, there can be a writer’s fee for well written material that is researched and prepared.

SEO for larger sized businesses (between $750 and $2,000 monthly): Larger businesses generally have larger sites and need significant more work. They will need a larger base of key phrases monitored, a wider geographic reach, and are in a much more competitive field. Because these sites are older, and more established generally, they may need their images and videos optimized, a focus on local search, older backlink cleanup, or possibly the resolution of some prior SEO work that was performed improperly, resulting in search engine penalties that may need to be addressed.

Enterprise SEO for large businesses (between $2,000 and $10,000+ monthly): This level of pricing is what’s necessary for large-scale operations, such as national corporations or big time ecommerce sites. The bottom line is, this requires a team of people working on the SEO process every day. The offerings are comprehensive and include constant maintenance for large sites, research, and implementation on vastly competitive keywords, loads of consultation, and often other types of marketing (such as content and social) to help increase the site’s ranking performance.

What Should I Expect?  And What’s Too Good to Be True?

There are many things to watch for when considering an SEO specialist – you should look for the following red flags – and if you see these, pay close attention – you may be want to be wary.

  • Page one ranking guaranteesNo SEO company can provide a ranking guarantee, because no SEO company works directly with Google for organic rankings. It’s advisable to run away from a provider if they make this statement – it’s just not true.
  • Promises for instant or fast results: Every site is different, and there is a lengthy number of factors that play into how a site ranks on Google. Optimizers and the sites they work on are ultimately at Google’s mercy, and must answer to the speed of their crawling spiders and ranking algorithms. And while some sites will see results in a matter of weeks, SEO implementation can take months before strong results are seen. It’s a process and the longer you run the process, the better your cumulative results.
  • Ridiculously low prices: If you find services that are marginally lower than the industry standards discussed above, you should second-guess their credibility for your own good. Low pricing means a lower bottom line, often resulting from corner-cutting practices. Take these possibilities into account when you cross paths with “budget SEO” services – you get what you pay for. A qualified and reliable SEO agency will charge competitive pricing within the bounds of what was discussed above, where a less-experienced or fraudulent one will attempt to undercut competition by charging less. In this industry, you’ll pay fair prices for a dominant search engine presence, thorough execution, and a return on your investment. Conversely, shooting for unrealistic prices that are lower than the industry standards will leave your website’s success up to chance.
  • Claims that SEO will do it all for you: SEO is not going to solve all your marketing problems, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either ignorant or deceitful. Optimization is a necessary cog in the digital marketing machine, but it must be supplemented with other marketing efforts to reach its full potential. Not to mention the fact that once you get the readers to visit your site, you ALSO need to offer them the right product or service, at a good competitive price – if your product or service is not seen as a value, it does not matter how many people find you – they won’t buy it, or participate.

Hopefully, this provides some guidance and clarity into the world of SEO – and why it costs what it does, and what is involved in doing the work properly. Here at Rook Interactive, we offer the SEO services listed above at a cost of $349 a month with a 12 month commitment.

This service is one of our most popular offerings, and we have had great success in promoting our clients.  We stand behind our work, and strive to help our clients achieve results in a timely manner with a good return on their investment. We also provide upfront reporting on keyword research, and current placement for free for a client that is considering SEO for their site. If you are interested in getting a free analysis report, or would like to talk to us about your SEO needs, contact us directly – and we look forward to helping you.

Privacy-Focused Search Engine DuckDuckGo gets 14 million searches in one day

Privacy-Focused Search Engine DuckDuckGo gets 14 million searches in one day

At the end of 2016,  the privacy-focused search engine, DuckDuckGo reached a new goal – a cumulative total of more the 10 billion searches overall, with over 4 billion just in 2016. This month, the relative newcomer to the search world performed an all-time high of 14 million searches in a single day.

The company believes its rapid adoption and success are a result of the fact that 40% of all users believe their search engine should NOT retain information about their search activity. DuckDuckGO does NOT retain any information about its users or sell such information to advertisers at all, and most of its features are community-created and crowd sourced.

The company’s footprint is growing at a phenomenal pace, but it is primary promoted by word of mouth – which could indicate people are starting to take a much stronger interest in personal privacy, and anonymity online.

Google Chrome will start warning that non-HTTPS sites are insecure

Google Chrome will start warning that non-HTTPS sites are insecure

An upcoming of Google’s Chrome browser will flip the way that browsers convey information about privacy and security to users: instead of discreetly informing users that the HTTPS-enabled sites they’re browsing are more secure, they’ll flag any non-HTTPS site as insecure, with a series of escalating alerts that will end — at some unspecified date — by displaying an exclamation point inside a red triangle and the letters HTTP next to the web addresses of non-HTTPS sites.

The red triangle/exclamation point icon was arrived at after the Chrome team commissioned research around the world to figure out which symbols alarmed users the most.

The increased interest in encrypting all web-sessions is part of a wider movement that includes two EFF-affiliated projects: HTTPS Everywhere (which turns on secure connections wherever possible) and Let’s Encrypt (a certificate authority that gives free cryptographic certificates — necessary for secure web connections — to anyone who asks).

 

 

What a week – Apple Disappoints, and Microsoft Appeals To Designers?

What a week – Apple Disappoints, and Microsoft Appeals To Designers?

Okay, maybe it’s just me – and I know I expected this to happen – but this week, Apple showed their new product, and so did Microsoft, with some surprising results.

First Apple – Talk about role reversal – Apple updated the Macbook Pro with minimal interim changes – updated processors, the change over to USB -C (with a loss of Thunderbolt reports) – and the addition of a Touch Bar Interface to replace the function keys. Were the function keys just screaming to be replaced – a VITAL change needed? 🙂 Not to mention, that the Razer Blade Pro has a similar customization interface since 2012. After waiting this long for an update to the MacBook Pro, other than being able to get it in Space Gray, this was a major snooze. This is why many of the designers I know have crossed over to the Windows systems for design – Apple seems to be comfortable just riding on the IPhones success – and more concerned about profit than innovation, or setting a new standard. I am sorry, Tim Cook, but I miss the days of Steve Jobs, and Just One More Thing.. as opposed to Apple’s stock earnings – which I am sure will also feel the impact of this weeks launch of a product that is not available yet.


And then, there is Microsoft – releasing the Surface Studio, with Dial and Pen Options – in a complete about face, Microsoft has taken direct aim at the high end design market with a startling new all in one desktop. I have to admit, I want to play with one of these – and this video below, has me considering one of these units.

Google Penguin 4.0 – What impact will it have?

Google Penguin 4.0 – What impact will it have?

Google has been laying low when it comes to major algorithm updates for awhile, and overall ranking changes have been pretty stable. But now, coming out for its Winter Impact, Google has released its latest Penguin 4.0 Release. This algorithm update make some major changes to how Penguin operates in the bounds of Google ranking results, and you should know what to expect.

In case you are do not know, Penguin was an Google search algorithm update that first came out in 2012. The Panda update, which came a year before in 2011, dramatically overhauled the way Google evaluated content quality, penalizing sites with “thin” or spammy content, and rewarding sites that offered rich, detailed, valuable content. Penguin did something similar for links, penalizing sites with questionable links pointing to them, or those coming from low-quality sites. It also rewarded sites with better-quality inbound link profiles.

There were version 2.0 and 3.0 of Penguin as well later on – offering smaller tweaks or refreshes. Unlike Google’s main algorithm, Penguin only updated itself on occasion – notoriously, it seemed to always arrive before the holidays, shaking things up in the ranking during Black Friday and Christmas. And as a result, if you were penalized, you had to remove these links to counteract the damage, and then had to wait until the next refresh to see the results of your work.

Now, Penguin is working in real-time – which means the algorithm will now likely get a lot closer to fulfilling its ultimate goal: catch spam link profiles as quickly as possible and keep low-quality sites from ranking well in the search results. And again, before the holiday season, we are seeing massive Google Fluctuations in ranking.

In the last few years, Rook Interactive has worked with clients to help resolve the affect of unnatural links and penalties by analyzing lots of Penguin penalized sites. Now, more than ever, it is important to be very AWARE of where your site ranks, and how your positions change day to day. If you are interested in seeing how your site is being affected, please click here to get a free Search Engine Ranking report, and learn how Rook Interactive can help you keep ahead of the curve, with Search Engine changes and Ranking adjustments.

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