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Understanding TechSoup for Nonprofits

Understanding TechSoup for Nonprofits

 TechSoup is an organization that partners with technology and service providers to grant opportunities to nonprofits online. They help nonprofits access special tools and services, such as technical assistance and discounts on computer programs and hardware. TechSoup has partnerships with companies like Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco and Symantec. Your TechSoup membership can be a valuable asset. Especially if you are trying to grow your nonprofit and save money on much-needed tools.

How To Apply

In order to apply for the special programs offered by Google, Microsoft and more; TechSoup provides NGO (non governmental organizations), validation services foundations, libraries, and other civil society organizations worldwide. These validation services allow TechSoup’s partners to know your organization is a legitimate nonprofit. In effect, TechSoup verifies your nonprofit status and makes it easier for you to access special nonprofit tools and offerings from their partners.

TechSoup and the Google for Nonprofits Program

One of the requirements for the Google for Nonprofits program is for your organization to have an active TechSoup membership. Google requires nonprofits to apply for TechSoup as a way of verifying your nonprofit status and identity. Once you are validated by TechSoup, you will be able to get a validation token that you will use on your Google for Nonprofits Membership application.

When you work with RankMonsters to apply for the Google for Nonprofits program, we will walk your organization through the enrollment process for TechSoup. This ensures your organization gets the required validation token that you need to apply for the Google for Nonprofits program and other online offerings.

TechSoup Benefits

Your TechSoup membership carries several benefits, including:

  • Discounts on useful software including Microsoft Windows, Adobe Creative Cloud, Intuit Quickbooks and more.
  • Refurbished desktop and laptop computers to help keep your organization connected and up-to-date.
  • Cloud services consultations to get your organization set up for future success online.
  • Dedicated IT assistance to help keep your nonprofit running smoothly.

TechSoup Eligibility

Most 501(c)(3) nonprofits are eligible for TechSoup. To check your organization’s eligibility you can visit the TechSoup website and take a short quiz about your nonprofit’s activities and budget. The eligibility for the programs and tools available to TechSoup members varies. You can check your eligibility for the various programs after your TechSoup enrollment is completed.

Want RankMonsters to Help?

RankMonsters can help your organization enroll in TechSoup, as well as other programs for nonprofits. Call (405) 605-8218 today to speak to one of our representatives today!

How to Increase Site Visibility in the New Year

How to Increase Site Visibility in the New Year

A new year is right around the corner, and you probably want to increase your business’s revenue over the next 12 months. One of the best ways to grow your sales is to improve your presence online. GE Capital found in a study that 81% of consumers research products and services online before buying. If your website doesn’t show up in their searches, they won’t consider your business.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your website’s visibility and get more notice, and more sales, from your website. They make take some time and some effort to do, but you’ll definitely see the benefit if you do them right. So let’s learn how to increase site visibility in the New Year.

 

 

Build Out Your Site – More Pages, More Content

One of the best ways to get more visibility online is to make sure your site is worth visiting in the first place. Building out your site with more content is a great way to ensure your site is meeting the needs and desires of customers.

Instead of a website with a single page, break down your site into multiple pages with their own topic or theme. For instance, your website’s home page should be a general introduction to your business, while your “About” page can be a more detailed history of you or your work. Other good ideas are product pages for the different products or services you offer; a contact information page that includes a map of your location; or a page that gives the answers to frequently-asked customer questions.

In general, the more pages and the more content your site has, the better it will rank on Google and other search engines. Note that you shouldn’t create irrelevant or meaningless content – only create new pages or new text when you have something real to say. If you want some ideas on how to create deep, meaningful content for your site, check out our blog post on content creation.

Start Blogging More

Along with adding information on new pages, another way to create content and engage your customers is through blogging. You might think of a blog as an online journal, but it’s much more. Used properly, blogs are a great way to increase your online visibility and establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

Unfortunately for new bloggers, there is a lot of conflicting information on the web about what makes a blog good versus bad. Information about word count, image placement, posting frequency, and post structure can frustrate even seasoned writers. However, all blogging advice centers on one major point: your blogs have to be useful to readers.

A good blog post either answers a question or presents new or useful information about your business to the reader. For instance, a service company like a roofer or plumber might blog about new products or even make posts about specific projects. A retailer might do reviews of their goods or talk about new product releases. A craft store could feature projects they made with their own products. Every niche has an interesting way to feature the business – you just have to find yours and explore it, then write it up for others to see and share.

Your ultimate goal with your blog should be to add value. This refers to both adding value to your site and adding value to your readers. Create something valuable and it will have a much higher chance of achieving visibility and success.

Engage with Followers & Customers

Social media has changed the way websites do business. It’s not enough to offer a good product. You also have to be responsive to people talking to you, or about you, online. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus are great ways to interact with your customers. However, you do have to tread lightly.

Your first goal should be to create profiles or pages on social media networks and build your profiles. Add pictures, company information, and other details until your profile is not just complete but comprehensive and attractive.

Once you’ve built your profiles, it’s time to start engaging with customers. The best way to do this is to cultivate a presence on social media profiles by using them regularly. Post your blog posts and any other relevant content to your Facebook, Twitter, and other profiles. Don’t use them as personal spaces – keep your posts tied to your business as much as possible.

Another way to build interactions with customers on social media is to run promotions or contests through these profiles. You’ve probably seen business offering gift cards or special deals for people who like their posts or follow them on Twitter or Facebook. There’s a reason these promotions are common – they work. Every time you get your audience to engage with you online, you build it out a little bigger. Over time (and with plenty of regular curation) you’ll find yourself with a large and attentive audience.

Get Reviews

Besides social media profiles, online listing sites like Yelp, Google Maps, Foursquare and Angie’s List are one of the largest ways customers get information about companies online. These sites let you build your own profiles, but they also collect info from customers in the form of reviews. More importantly, though, these review scores then show up on search result pages on Google and Bing. A business with lots of four- and five-star reviews looks much more trustworthy than one with one-star reviews or no reviews at all.

The first step to getting reviews online is to build out your local citation profiles. There are plenty of sites that offer reviews for businesses. Some of the biggest are the ones we already mentioned. Yelp, Google Google My Business, and Angie’s List are big players, as are directory sites like Yellowpages.com. You’ll need to claim your business profile and build it out much the same way as you did your social media profiles before. You can learn more about local SEO and profiles in our blog post about local SEO and reviews.

Getting reviews from customers can be tougher, especially if you’re in a competitive niche. It helps to link your local profiles to your main site so that customers know where to go to leave you a review. You can also send out requests to review your services to previous customers if you collect their emails or phone numbers during business.

One tactic to shy away from, however, is incentivizing reviews. Unlike promotions on social media, offering incentives (like coupons or discounts) in exchange for a review is against the terms of service for some sites. If you do want to offer review incentives, make sure you read over the TOS carefully and ensure you’re not doing something that could land you in hot water.

Make Sure Your Site is Search-Engine Friendly

Even with all the social presence and content in the world, some sites still won’t rank well online. That’s because they are set up in a way that search engines have trouble reading them or fitting them into their algorithms. If you want your site to rank well, you have to set it up properly from a technical standpoint.

We often call this process “On-site Search Engine Optimization.” By optimizing your site for search engines, you make it more likely that the engine’s algorithms can index it properly. The search engine can then direct more queries to your site, resulting in more traffic for you.

On-site SEO is a big field, and most of it is pretty technical. However, there are some things that even a layperson can handle so long as they have access to their website’s back end. These things include:

  • Title tags under 65 characters for every page, preferably with a keyword or key phrase included.
  • Meta descriptions under 155 characters for every page, preferably with a keyword or key phrase included.
  • The use of heading (H1, H2, etc) tags on your pages in descending order.
  • Worthwhile content on every page, preferably at least 400 words.
  • Title tags and alt tags on every image on your site.
  • A variety of your important keywords in your content – but don’t overdo it!

Another important part of making your site search-engine friendly is optimizing it for mobile visitors alongside desktop traffic. To learn more about how to make your site mobile-capable, read our recent blog post about mobile websites.

Research Your Competitors

Becoming more visible online doesn’t just mean doing well – it often means doing better than your competition. To secure the top spots on search engines and get more visitors to your site, you should take a look at what your competitors are doing and then do your best to beat them at their own game.

There are plenty of tools and sites that let you snoop on your competition to see their online strategies. For instance, the Open Site Explorer is a great free tool that allows you to get the lowdown on some of your competitors’ activities including where they get links from and how they structure their pages.

You’ll also want to look at other factors like the amount of information they put on their site so you know what customers are responding to. Pricing details, product information, and other services are all areas to pay attention to. Don’t restructure your whole site to mirror your rivals, but keep an eye on what works for them to get an idea of what might work for you.

Put Users Ahead of Search Engines

Above all else, it’s important to make your site usable for the people that matter – your customers. Many business owners get caught up in designing a site to compete in search engine results without thinking about how people will actually use it. This is a sure road to problems. Your top goal should be making a site that is easy to navigate and full of useful, easy-to-understand information.

Now You Can Increase Site Visibility!

Sound like a lot of work? You’re not wrong. That said, you don’t have to do it all yourself. A skilled SEO partner like RankMonsters can perform the vast majority of this work on your behalf, letting you concentrate on what you do best – running your business. We’ve helped dozens of Oklahoma businesses achieve more visibility and more revenue from their websites. Why not make your site the next one?

 

Did Penguin 3.0 Crash Your Rankings?

Did Penguin 3.0 Crash Your Rankings?

Where did my website go?

Many business owners and webmasters asked themselves this question late last week. On Friday, October 17th, Google issued an update to it’s infamous Penguin ranking algorithm. This update, Penguin 3.0, has caused both ranking gains and losses for websites in Google search results. If your website used to rank on Page 1 and now ranks on Page 8 (or vice versa). You might have been hit by Penguin.

But this begs the question – what is Penguin, and how does it decide which websites to praise and which ones to punish?

What Is Google Penguin?

Google runs on algorithms. These computer programs work together. Using defined sets of rules and criteria, to filter through the millions of websites on the Internet. Google’s many algorithms include Panda, an algorithm designed to exclude poor content from search results; Hummingbird, which lets Google interpret search queries better; and Penguin.

In theory, Penguin is designed to help filter low-quality websites from search results. It operates by looking at a site’s link profile. The links coming from across the web back to that site. If the link profile looks “spammy” to Penguin, it penalizes the site in search results while simultaneously promoting sites with “clean” link profiles. Unfortunately, innocent or older sites can also get caught in the algorithm.

How Many People Were Affected By This?

This update marks the first major change to the Penguin algorithm since October 4, 2013. When Google released a refresh of the algorithm which they called Penguin 2.1. That last refresh affected rankings for somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of all searches on Google. So far, Penguin 3.0 is looking to be broader in scope than previous versions.

Did Penguin Affect Me?

The biggest problem with Penguin, at least to webmasters, is that it doesn’t give websites any warning before it strikes. One day your website is comfortably ranking on the first page for some of your key terms, and the next it’s simply gone. Many website owners don’t realize they’ve been hit by Penguin  until weeks later. Sometimes they never realize at all.

There are a few ways to tell if Penguin has affected your site. The first is simply to check your search rankings. Google’s own Webmaster Tools is a good way to keep track of your average search engine rank, though you should keep in mind that it’s just an average. If your site fluctuates between ranking in position 1 and position 10, your average rank will be 5.

However, if your average rankings and impressions in Webmaster Tools have taken a hit since October 17th, Penguin is probably to blame. As an alternative method, you can also check how much traffic you’re receiving from search engines and compare it to pre-Penguin levels. If your traffic has dropped off significantly, you may have been hit.

What Can I Do to Recover?

Penguin works on a simple principle: if a website has a link profile that looks to be spammy or unnatural – that is, made up mostly of links that were bought instead of earned. That website will be penalized. That means the only real way to gain your rankings back after being hit by Penguin is to clean up your link profile and remove links that Penguin finds suspicious.

What Web Tool Should I Be Using?

There are a few different tools you can use to view the list of sites linking to you. The one tool most website owners should probably use is Webmaster Tools. For a detailed overview of how to clean up your link profile and get your site back on Penguin’s good side, take a look at our blog post on how to clean up your links.

Unfortunately for many webmasters punished by Penguin, cleaning up your links isn’t an instant solution. The Penguin algorithm is updated manually by Google. So the changes in your link profile may not impact your rankings in Google search results until the algorithm updates again. Since Penguin only updates every few months at best, and over a year in this case, it’s very important that you get your links as clean as possible so you aren’t waiting for a long time to recover from negative links.

How Can I Protect Myself from Penguin in the Future?

One thing is for sure: Penguin 3.0 will not be the last Penguin update to shake up the search results. Whether you were hit by this latest update or you simply want to protect your website’s current rankings from future updates. You should do what you can to clean up your link profile and make sure Penguin won’t target you.

Whats Going To Be My Strategy?

Once you’ve cleaned up your link profile, you should think about your strategy for earning links online and getting better rankings. If you’ve ever paid to have your site listed in a directory or placed in a blog post, now is the time to stop those activities. Even if your site didn’t get punished this time. There’s no guarantee it won’t get caught in Penguin’s next iteration.

Paid Links Equal Bad Links

Keep in mind that not every paid link is a bad link. Paid links on high-quality sites or respectable directories for your business can be valuable. A good rule of thumb is, if you’re paying for more links than you’re earning naturally, you should retool your activities. You should never pay for a link with the sole goal of earning rankings. Only use paid links when they offer actual value to your site or the one linking to you.

Get Honest Results

If you are paying money to someone who promises thousands of links in just days or weeks. You should stop immediately. Your link-building strategy should focus on earning high-quality links from other authoritative sites. The best way to do that? Do something on your site that other people want to link to and share it with those people.

Focus On Quality Work

Many small businesses find success in running promotions on their site. While bigger businesses may also get lots of links by releasing white papers or original research about their industry. Whatever your strategy, it should be focused on creating good, high-quality content, not just getting links.

Want to learn more about getting better results and higher rankings for your website? Contact us today at RankMonsters! We’re a local Internet marketing agency, and we specialize in helping business owners get more performance and more revenue out of their websites. Call us today at (405) 605-8218 or check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for more insight and tips!

Why Mobile Search Matters for your Website

Why Mobile Search Matters for your Website

Two-thirds of Americans now own and regularly use smartphones, and nearly three-quarters of those adults search for local information on their phones before visiting local businesses. This data points to a major shift in the way consumers get online and make choices about where to take their business. If you want to be seen online, you must start taking advantage of the opportunities mobile offers.

Are You Mobile Use Friendly?

Unfortunately, many websites aren’t doing just that. If you own or operate a website that doesn’t display properly on mobile. You might actually be penalized in search engine results. Google announced in June of 2014 that it would start adjusting search result rankings based on how well a website handles mobile visitors. For instance, 404 pages, videos that won’t play, improperly-sized images, and hard-to-read text could all negatively affect a site’s rankings.

Have You Thought About Your Icon?

Another telling move is the addition of “not-mobile-friendly” icons to some mobile search results. The icon, showing a smartphone with a slash through it, could potentially discourage mobile searchers from visiting a site. These decisions clearly show Google’s philosophy on the matter of mobile search: If your website can’t handle mobile visitors, Google isn’t going to send them to you.

That means it’s vital for your site to start handling mobile well. If you aren’t set up for mobile yet, how do you get started?

Two Ways to Handle Mobile

Website owners have two real ways to handle mobile visitors: responsive websites, and dedicated mobile sites. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages. So you’ll need to decide which one is right for you depending on your goals and preferences. We’ll take a look at each type of site to help you make the choice.

Option 1: Responsive Web Design

Many business owners today are solving the mobile question with responsive websites. These sites handle mobile in an interesting way. Rather than directing users to a separate site, they simply resize the entire website to fit the display of the device the visitor is using. That means that a visitor to your site using a laptop would see a “full-size” version of the site. While a mobile visitor would see a version that is optimized to fit their smaller screen.

With a responsive website, the overall design of your website stays the same, but individual elements (such as images, text, and menu bars) change to suit the device. This has a number of advantages over other solutions, but it can also pose some technical challenges.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design:

  • Only One Site – The biggest advantage of a responsive website is that it allows you to keep the same site across all devices. This makes it easier to make changes to your site, keep track of all your content and pages, and ensure a consistent experience for your visitors.
  • Only One URL – Your site’s web address is important for both search engine rankings and for online name recognition. Using a responsive design allows you to keep the same URL across all devices, making it easier for visitors to know where they are online.
  • Protection from Bounces – In web design speak, a page’s “bounce rate” is the percentage of visitors who come to one page on the site and then leave without going anywhere else. Mobile sites often have a high bounce rate, since they offer a “stripped-down” experience with less design and content. A responsive website avoids that problem by offering all users the same content, regardless of platform.
  • Lower Costs – Because you only have to operate a single website, you keep your costs down. One website is cheaper to run than two.

Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design:

  • Responsive Design Doesn’t Always Respond – While the idea of responsive design is to offer a unified, easy-to-use experience for all users, sometimes your site may actually pose challenges you didn’t intend. Sites that are improperly optimized for mobile can drive off mobile users who want a simple, clean experience.
  • Mobile Has Different Needs – Smaller screen sizes and touch-based interfaces mean you may have to put emphasis on different parts of the same page to achieve conversions from both desktop and mobile. This can be complicated unless you’re an experienced web designer.
  • Technical Difficulties – Older computers or browsers may not always render responsive sites correctly. Plus, new phones or browser apps may also have challenges with a mobile site that hasn’t been updated regularly.

Option 2: Dedicated Mobile Site

Responsive web design isn’t for everyone. Many site owners prefer the relative safety of a dedicated mobile site. While there are some difficulties to operating a mobile site alongside a desktop version, mobile sites also offer a number of advantages that site owners appreciate.

The chief draw of mobile sites is that they are designed from the beginning for display on a mobile screen. This ensures the content, interface, and design are consistent and optimized for mobile visitors. Mobile sites also handle slower internet connections better than responsive sites, offering quick load times to visitors on cellular connections. This is important for visitors. Google actually uses load times as a factor in its search engine rankings.

Advantages of Dedicated Mobile Sites:

  • Better User Interface – By offering a site designed specifically for mobile users, you ensure that the interface and design of the site handles mobile well. This is a big advantage over many responsive sites that try to shoehorn a desktop experience onto mobile.
  • Speed – Mobile websites often have less elements (pictures, videos, advertisements) that take time to load over cellular connections. This will make your site load faster on mobile devices, and it will also save your visitors from using all of their data allotment on loading your site.

Disadvantages of Dedicated Mobile Sites:

  • Cost – Since you have to design, implement, and manage two websites, it’s understandable that a dedicated site costs more than a responsive one. However, dedicated sites don’t cost as much as you’d think to develop. So this isn’t a huge negative.
  • Technical Challenges – If users on mobile devices try to visit your desktop page, you’ll need to automatically redirect them to the mobile site. This can present some challenges. Especially if you have a large or complicated site structure.
  • Two Sites to Run – With a responsive website, any change you make is automatically applied to the entire site. Dedicated mobile sites are separate from their desktop counterparts. Meaning any change you make to one, you’ll have to make to the other too.
  • Two URLs – Mobile sites have a different URL than desktop sites. This can make your site a little harder to market. Though with automatic redirects its not as challenging as it used to be.

What About Apps?

Many companies have turned to a third solution to the mobile problem: mobile apps that take the place of the mobile website entirely. Often you’ll be prompted to download and install the mobile app when you visit one of these sites. It’s easy to see why owners and designers like apps. They’re not hard to design. They ensure a consistent mobile experience. They can also collect and send back more customer data than a website can. However, apps aren’t a true mobile site solution.

Is Creating An App The Cure All?

When you create an app for mobile users, the app doesn’t take the place of your website. Mobile users that don’t want to download an app will still use your site, and if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re back to square one. Plus, Google and other search engines don’t look at apps when deciding search engine rankings. They aren’t going to rank content that can only be found in an app. You could design the best app in the world put the best content on it, and you’d still lose out on rankings because your actual website doesn’t handle mobile visitors well.

Do Apps Work On All Devices?

Unfortunately apps don’t all work on all devices. You’ll need to develop separate apps for Apple, Android, and Windows Phone devices – a costly proposition. When you consider the costs of maintaining and updating apps across all platforms and devices (each one with its own software update schedule and conflicting requirements), you can see that apps are not a great solution for the vast majority of business owners.

Will You Be Left Behind?

The Internet is only going to become more and more mobile-centric in the coming years. If you want to perform well online and get business out of your website, you need to take advantage of the mobile space. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind.

To learn more about generating conversions and leads from your website, contact us today at (405) 605-8218. We’re a local Oklahoma City Internet marketing firm. We can help you on the path to online success.

Google’s Knowledge Graph Carousel Changes the Look of Local Search

Google’s Knowledge Graph Carousel Changes the Look of Local Search

Last week, Google began to roll out a new feature for desktop searchers. When you search for a local business or feature, such as restaurants, bars, parks, or pools, you’ll see a “carousel” of results in a black bar at the top of the page. And while these features have been available to some mobile users since December, their presence on desktops is a much bigger deal. These results, complete with name, address, and often a picture, are poised to shake up the game of local searches for businesses everywhere. So lets learn more about how Google’s Knowledge Graph Carousel changes the look of local search.

 

 

How Does Google’s Knowledge Graph Carousel Affect My Business? 

So what does this have to do with you and your business? Well, it’s pretty clear that having your business show up in the carousel results is a good promotional tool – it makes you immediately visible to a wide range of local searches, and puts your name at the top of the search results. Add in the factor of novelty – the carousel is a new and eye-catching feature, and people will pay attention to it – and you can see why being a part of those results could be a big boon to your brand.

Getting My Business On Google’s Carousel

Of course that leads to the next question – how can you ensure that your business shows up in the carousel? First off, you need to be listed in Google Places. If you don’t have a places listing, your business won’t show, no matter what. Go to the Google Places signup page to complete this step, if you haven’t already.

Is Google My Business Profile Complete?

Beyond that, you want to make sure that your Google Places profile is as complete as possible. Add photos of your business, links to your social accounts, and as much profile information as you can. Also encourage your customers to review your business online (perhaps by offering incentives for reviews!). All of these steps will help your business show up more in the carousel results.

How Is Your Site Doing?

And beside your Google account itself, you also want to make sure your website ranks high in organic search results. Managing your page well and building strong links from other local sites can help dramatically in this respect – the more reputable your site seems to Google, the better your rank results will be. You can also help this along by updating your site regularly with strong, quality content. A strong local SEO strategy will work wonders here, especially backed by a good showing on Google Places.

How Can RankMonsters Help?

Hopefully you now understand how Google’s Knowledge Graph Carousel changes local search results. Google’s local carousel could be a huge asset to your business, but only if you take advantage of it. Of course, if you want a hand with managing your online presence, you can always contact us at RankMonsters – we’re experts in boosting your local search ranking, and we would be glad to help get your business to the top. Contact us today for more information.