Search Beyond Google: 7 Alternative Search Engines to Google

Search Beyond Google: Seven Alternative Search Engines

In the early years of the World Wide Web, Google was just one of several search engines organizing information from web pages. While it eventually came to dominate much of the Western world, Google is still not the only game in town. Alternative search engines are now getting more traffic from savvy web searchers for numerous reasons – such as the need for specialized information, privacy or frustration over Google’s frequent, seemingly arbitrary, algorithm changes.

Here is a look at seven Google alternatives, and why they may be a better choice in certain situations.

1 -  Ask Starting life as Ask Jeeves in 1996, Ask is one of the original search engines out of the starting gate with Google, MSN Search and the long-defunct AltaVista. It quickly grew in popularity with its focus on natural language queries in addition to keyword search.

After a series of setbacks, Ask reinvented itself in 2010 with a new version designed to deliver real answers, as opposed to just links, and introduced a community element to deliver human answers to subjective and complex questions. Ask features a focus on highlighting trending questions from the community, semantic search with answers displayed on the page, a large Q&A database and a user community element that targets members for answering questions based on their areas of expertise.

2 - Bing From the ashes of Microsoft’s MSN Search, Bing rose to become the second most popular search engine in the word, and also powers Yahoo’s search engine. Even with that, as of 2016, Search Engine Watch reports this second-place status represents only 15.8% of the search market.

Lifehacker weighed in with its own points in favor of Bing, including:

• Better video search, with Bing providing a grid of large thumbnails that you can click on to play or preview by hovering over them.

• Its linkfromdomain: feature, which will highlight the best-ranked outgoing links from the selected site.

• Prediction of when airfares are about to decrease or increase.

3 - Dogpile This is a metasearch engine, meaning that Dogpile gets results from multiple search engines and directories, then presents them combined to the user. Dogpile currently gets its results from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others. According to Lifewire, Dogpile’s metasearch technology can search 50% more of the web than any single search engine, as evaluated by an independent search engine expert who verified its methodology and validated that its metasearch technology can retrieve 50% or more additional results.

4 - DuckDuckGo Created with user privacy first in mind, DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect or share user information. The stealth search engine also doesn’t track searches when you’re in private browsing mode – which others do – and returns a wider range of results because they aren’t based on previous searches, as are Google’s.

Adam Heitzman – co-founder and managing partner of search marketing agency HigherVisibility – examined the growing demand for privacy among users increasingly concerned about what happens to the information Google gathers about them. According to his article for Forbes:

“In light of users becoming more aware of just how much of their information is tracked, used and sold to both advertisers and the government, DuckDuckGo has had success. It’s a search engine that doesn’t track or sell user browsing history or information yet still delivers high-quality search results and a strong user experience.”

DuckDuckGo has business-world proponents, as well. Mike Lindamood, founder and CEO of Lamood Corporation – which includes Lamood Big Hats and WalletGear – reports an increase in sales because of the search engine.

Not only am I using DuckDuckGo more often, but so are our customers. DuckDuckGo referrals to our sites has grown at an enormous rate since 2012, when we first saw traffic from the search engine. It's probably the best search engine if you want to be free from being tracked.”

But DuckDuckGo’s appeal isn’t just about respect for your privacy. NerdBusiness reveals that the search engine’s !bang command allows you to search another site directly. For example, if you want a distraction from your workday (during designated break time, of course), type !youtube funny cats and you'll see the results directly on YouTube. Or use !yt for short.

5 - Ecosia If you’re committed to sustaining Earth’s resources, Ecosia may become your search engine of choice. Describing its purpose as “Restoring lands and empowering communities,” Ecosia plants a tree for every search. Visitor clicks on ads and online purchases generate revenue for Ecosia, which uses at least 80% of its profits to support tree planting and community programs all over the world. The search engine does not track or sell data to third parties. Search technology is from Bing, enhanced with Ecosia's own algorithms. 

6 - StartPage Like DuckDuckGo, StartPage allows private search. Although it uses Google, the search engine acts as an intermediary between the user and Google. The advantage is that Google only “sees” StartPage, not the user, and therefore cannot collect data on search history. StartPage collects the results, strips out the tracking cookies, and delivers completely private, anonymous search results to you.

Also like DuckDuckGo, StartPage returns a wider range of results than a direct Google search, does not store IP addresses or other personal information, nor does it turn them over to Google. Every search result also offers a Proxy feature, which lets you visit websites anonymously. No ads, of course!

7 - Yippy This is a search engine for the deep web, which refers to the portions of the internet not accessible through standard web searches – which only scan indexed pages linked to domain homepages. The deep web contains material such as unlinked content, limited access content, private content and information archived in searchable databases. Using a deep web search engine provides access to this otherwise hidden content.

Because the deep web is unregulated, Yippy uses industry-leading security measures for safe searching. Even so, warns It Still Works, Yippy is intended for serious, painstaking research, not for simple questions and basic web surfing. Despite any security measures in place, exploring results may lead you into the internet's darkest corners, leaving you vulnerable to individuals and/or groups with criminal intent and sites designed to spread malware or hack your computer. In other words, know what you’re doing and proceed with caution.

So what does this mean for your website if people start making more frequent use of search engines other than Google? Virtual Stacks Systems’ SEO Services department has experience in optimizing websites to rank high on any search engine’s SERPs. Contact us to be sure your website can be found by as many search engines as possible – and your business found by as many potential customers as possible.

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Mobile-First Indexing Is Coming: Is Your Website Ready


Is Your Business Website Ready for Mobile-first Indexing?

The day of reckoning is upon us. On March 26, Google began its great rollout of mobile-first indexing. And websites that are not optimized for mobile shall know the great pain of plummeting search engine rankings. As mobile views continue to overtake desktop views, websites must be mobile responsive. According to TechCrunch, the majority of people who use Google search now do so from mobile devices, and have done so since 2015. Lagging behind is no longer an option for businesses that want to be visible and competitive.

Google's Mobile-first Indexing: A Brief History of Mobile Overtaking Desktop

Google began to prioritize mobile sites in 2015 by boosting the rank of mobile-friendly webpages on mobile search results. The following year, Google detailed its plan to change the way its search index operates, explaining how its algorithms would eventually be shifted to use the mobile version of a website’s content to index its pages – as well as to understand its structured data and to show snippets from the site in the Google search results. 

In December 2017, Google began transitioning a small handful of sites to mobile-first indexing, but did not identify which ones had made the move.

Now, the rollout is officially underway. To avoid misunderstanding, Google explains that it will still have only one index for search results – the mobile-first index is not separate. This means that Google will look to a website’s mobile web pages first to index your website, not the desktop version – so change your mindset about the latter being the “real” version of your site that gets all the SEO, content, and structured data markup attention, and the former being an afterthought.

Google likens this switch to the move from analog to digital

 

In a related development, Google recently announced that starting this July, page speed will also be a ranking factor for mobile searches, with slow-loading content being downranked. Don’t say we didn’t warn you in our blog post of February 28, “The Importance of Getting Your Website Up to Speed!

Mobile Responsive Website Design: Ensuring Your Business is Ready

Continuing with our self-reference, our blog post of March 7, “How to Tell if Your Website Needs a Redesign,” discussed how a responsive website that changes based on the needs of the users and the device they’re viewing it on is mandatory.

Responsive web design allows a website to respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from laptop to mobile devices, the website automatically accommodates for resolution, image size and scripting abilities.

Responsive web design gives visitors a seamless user experience (UX) on all mobile devices. Orlando SEO, Orlando Digital Marketing, Orlando Web Design, Best Lake Mary SEO Company

According to Google, 61% of users are highly unlikely to return to a website that doesn’t work well on mobile, with 40% moving on to visit a competitor’s site. Couple this intrinsic drawback with diminished rankings from not having a website optimized for mobile-first indexing, and you can see how detrimental a non-mobile responsive website can be to your bottom line.

SEMRush offers the following advice for getting your website ready for mobile-first indexing:

• Aim for a loading speed of less than two seconds.
• Make sure your content is the same from desktop to mobile.
• Be aware that there is no longer a need to block CSS, JavaScript or images.
• Consider including expendable content on your mobile site – such as accordions, expandable boxes and content hidden in tabs. While this wasn’t weighted very high on desktop sites, it will be on mobile.

Of course, the best way to ensure your website is ready for this transformation is to work with a web design company that keeps up-to-date with industry changes. Virtual Stacks Systems is a full-service digital marketing company with 25 years of experience that includes developing websites for a wide range of businesses and organizations. Contact us today, so you can be ready for high rankings tomorrow!

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Don’t Get Locked Out! Why Your Website Needs SSL


Don't Get Locked Out! Why Your Website Needs SSL - Even if You Don’t Think it Does

It seems that every week brings news about yet another high-profile hack or data breach exposing the personal information of millions of people to cybercriminals. While the increasing occurrence of such acts has inspired a thriving industry based on data protection, there is one common – yet powerful – security technology proven to prevent identity theft and other types of online crime: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Here, we provide a look at the basics of SSL technology, why you should use it even if your website isn’t for ecommerce, and its advantages beyond security.

SSL is the industry standard used by millions of websites in protecting online transactions with their customers. In order to meet Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, an online business needs an SSL certificate with the proper encryption of at least 128-bit. PCI standards verify that the SSL certificate is from a trusted source, uses the right strength of encryption and provides a private connection on any page that requires customers to enter personal information. Without a certificate that meets these standards, a site won’t be able to take credit card payments.

SSL is also essential in gaining customer trust in the integrity of your business by guarding against phishing emails, which contain links that lead unsuspecting customers to a convincing replica of an otherwise reputable site. Often disguised as advertisements or shipping confirmations, these emails attempt to get credit card information. When customers don’t see the signs of security on a site, they’re more likely to navigate away without entering information. According to HubSpot research, up to 85% of website visitors will not continue browsing if a site is not secure.

How Does SSL Work?

Elegant in its simplicity, SSL establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a browser (such as an ecommerce website and browser), or between two servers (such as an application with personal identifiable information). This link ensures that all data transferred between the web server and browser or between two systems remains private and integral – preventing criminals from reading and modifying any transferred information, such as credit card numbers, other financial information, names, addresses and comparable personal details.

To be able to do this requires an SSL Certificate. SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. An SSL Certificate typically contains the domain name, as well as domain and company name; company address, city, state and country. It also will contain the expiration date of the Certificate and details of the Certification Authority responsible for the issuance of the Certificate.

During the process of creating an SSL Certificate, the web designer is prompted to answer a series of questions about the identity of the website and company. The web server then creates two cryptographic keys: a Private Key and a Public Key. The latter is placed into a Certificate Signing Request, which is submitted during the SSL Certificate application process. The Certification Authority then validates the details and issues a SSL Certificate. The web server then matches the issued SSL Certificate to the Private Key. The web server will then be able to establish an encrypted link between the website and customers’ web browsers.

When a certificate is successfully installed on a server, the application protocol (also known as HTTP) will change to HTTPs, where the ‘S’ stands for ‘secure.’ Depending on the type of certificate purchased and which browser is used, the browser will show a padlock or green bar on a website that has an SSL Certificate installed.

When a browser connects to a secure site, it retrieves the site’s SSL Certificate and check that it:

 Has not expired

 Has been issued by a Certification Authority the browser trusts

 That it is being used by the website for which it has been issued

If the SSL Certificate fails on any one of these checks, the browser will display a warning to the website visitor that the site is not secured by SSL.

How to get free SSL, Google Chrome SSL Warning, Google Blocking HTTP in July, Orlando SEO

SSL certificates are available online at a variety of annual fees, depending upon the CA and level of validation/protection desired.

One such CA, Let’s Encrypt, has issued more than 50 million active certificates at no cost – that is, for FREE– to further Let’s Encrypt commitment to encrypting the entire web. While web developers implement SSL themselves, professional web development companies (such as Virtual Stacks Systems) include it as part of their service offerings.

Google Sets an SSL Ultimatum Chrome Will Enforce It

With all the emphasis on personal information security, some business owners and decision-makers may think that SSL is only necessary for ecommerce websites. However, websites that have pages with a search box and/or forms for visitors to fill out and submit – such as to receive an ebook or whitepaper for lead generation purposes – are being strongly motivated by Google to enable SSL across the entire site.

Do I Need SSL Certificate, Get SSL, HTTPS Certificate, Chrome SSL Warning in Chrome

As of October 2017, version 62 Chrome began labeling HTTP pages as insecure if users can input any data which applies to any page with a search box. The browser shows the ‘Not secure’ warning when users type data into the HTTP sites. The expanded warnings for HTTP pages are intended to add pressure on site owners to acquire the necessary certificates and set up HTTPS on their web servers. The clock is ticking, as this July, Google will label all non-SSL websites insecure with the dreaded 'Not secure' warning in red, and although everything in SEO is debatable, no one can debate that the worst thing for your SEO is a website no one can visit! 

SSL Improves SEO – Plus the Take-home Message

Enabling SSL across the entire website provides an additional advantage: it’s good for SEO. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes, SSL is part of Google’s search ranking algorithm. In addition, Google has publicly stated that two websites that are otherwise equal in search results, if one has SSL enabled it may receive a rank boost to outweigh the other – providing a clear benefit to enabling SSL on your website and across all content. In fact, SEMrush.com lists SSL as one of the top 10 ranking factors in its 2017 ranking factor study.

CAs recognize and promote the SEO benefit as well. For example, the Enterprise EV SSL/TLS Certificate offered by SSL.com lists “Improves Search Engine Rankings” as a feature – and, of course, an incentive to purchase this premium security level.

To recap, SSL provides secure data transfer for online transactions to protect consumers and businesses, helps prevent existing or potential customers from falling victim to phishing schemes, prevents red flags from being raised about your website and boosts SEO. To ensure the best win-win scenario for your business, our web development team at Virtual Stacks Systems can answer your questions about SSL. Contact us to learn what we have to offer.

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What is Internal Linking, and How Does it Help SEO?


What is Internal Linking? How Does it Help SEO?

Search engine optimization has become a necessity for businesses trying to rank high in Google, and other search engines like Bing, and Yahoo, but many business owners still don’t realize all of the aspects that go into improving these rankings. One of the largest factors that is often overlooked in SEO is the practice of internal linking.

What is Internal Linking?

Internal linking is, essentially, when you connect one page of your site to another page on the same site as a reference, like we did in the first paragraph of this post. This confers the authority of what you are writing about upon your own site, rather than sending potential customers to a competitor.

For example, if you own a farmers’ supply store, your website could include a page about what’s better for growing: store-bought soil (which you sell) or home-made compost. You can use “home-made compost,” as a branch off to a list on your site – “The Top 10 Things You Can Put in Your Compost.” From there, you can link back to your store where you sell composters.

This creates a spider-web effect. Each link can draw visitors in further and further. As long as you have a strong web, you can realistically keep capturing their attention with other pages that would interest them, and eventually convert their traffic into a sale or a lead to be cultivated into a customer. To do this, you will want to incorporate strong anchor text.

What is Anchor Text?

Anchor text are the words that are linked to another page. As we all know, web links look like “www.website.com/info.” However, using that verbatim can lose your visitors and pull them away from the post. By using anchor text, anyone can read without being interrupted, and get hooked into another page. Anchor text also sends a clear signal to Google that this page is relevant to search users typing in that phrase.

What Are the SEO Benefits of Internal Linking?

Internal Links SEO, SEO On Page Optimization, Linking Internally for SEO

There are two main benefits to incorporating internal links.

1- The first, and more obvious, is that readers will stay on your site longer. You can add multiple links to increases the likeliness that they will stay on your site, and eventually direct them to take the desired action – such as make a purchase or take the first step in becoming a business lead.

2- The second, and harder to track, is that it will actually increase your ranking, and move you up the search engine ladder. Part of this is because you will be increasing the authority of your site, and so Google’s algorithm will be able to index it better. The other part, is that through implementing strong anchor text, you can hit keywords that people are looking for, and create an index for Google to pull from. With a strong network of internal links, and keyword anchor texts connecting them, people searching for those keywords can find your site more easily through search engines.

Because anchor text and internal links are integral to the building of any website, it’s essential that business owners and decision-makers choose a web design firm that has strong experience in incorporating SEO best practices.

Our dedicated team at Virtual Stacks Systems will identify how to meet your needs and build your site to increase your traffic. We also offer tailored packages for every budget. We welcome you to contact us for more information.

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Proven SEO Techniques to Increase Website Traffic In 2018


SEO Techniques to Increase Traffic In 2018

When it comes to your business’s online presence, understanding the nuances of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the starting point of creating brand awareness and increasing your traffic.

Why is SEO Important?

• There are 3.5 billion searches on Google every day, and you can watch them climb at InternetLiveStats.com.

• According to Hubspot, 80% of website traffic starts with a search query

• 78% of Americans use the internet to research products and services before they make a purchase - Pew Research

• Two thirds of users never bother to go beyond the first page of results when using a search engine

• Local SEO is HUGE! 50% of consumers who perform a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day?  - Hubspot

Getting SEO right requires research, experimentation, and a devotion to staying up-to-date on constantly changing Google algorithms that require the help of a full time SEO professional. But for those interested in some tips and tricks from the pros, here are 8 important SEO techniques that will increase your rankings in the major search engines.

1. Increase your site speed – According to surveys, around 50% of web users want a website to load in two seconds or less, and because of this Google has made it clear that site speed is a primary factor in determining website rank. Google has launched several tools like Page Speed Tool and AMP, the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, that help improve the speed of your site.
Better site speed also improves your conversion rates, because 79% of individuals who shop on the internet won’t return to a site if they face website performance issues.Test Website Speed, Website Sped Checker, Best Web Design Company, Lake Mary Web Design Company, Orlando Web Design Agency, Local Web Design, Orlando Web Design Company, Lake Mary Web Design Company

To increase the speed of your site, use "internet friendly" images that are not oversized and need to size down to fit your template. Don’t overload your website with unnecessary information. Use a CDN (content delivery network), understand the intricacies of http requests, integrate Google AMP, try optimizing JS and CSS files and use caching to your advantage. A tool like GT Metrix can help you find errors that are slowing your website down, and provide tips in how to fix them.

2. Audit your siteDo you need a new website design? When you perform an SEO audit of your website, you look at the overall performance of your website to find insight into why your  SEO strategy isn’t working as well as it could, and how to fix it.

When completing your audit, look for the following things: all website pages are optimized with local and industry related keywords, all pages have meta titles and descriptions specific to that page, your URL structure is search engine friendly (keep it simple), and that you format all pages and blogs properly, use keywords for all images, and use a blend of internal and external links to form the foundation of a linking strategy. User experience is a big part of SEO, visit your website as a regular visitor would and navigate the pages. is everything easy to understand, are there broken links, does your cart load properly, does your facebook icon lead to twitter, or just Facebook.com and not your company page? Any issue that slows you down will slow down the average visitor even more, because they're not as familiar with your website as you are.

3. Build a more engaging website – The more people start engaging with your website, the better are your chances of performing well on the search engine ladder.
In a study conducted by Backlinko, which analyzed 1 million search results, it was found that there is a robust link between bounce rates and search rankings. The reason is simple, a site that ranks high on the user engagement metrics is bound to have some useful information that a search engine would want to push out as the best results.
To create a more engaging site, format your posts carefully so that people find it easy to read (short sentences and paragraphs with sub headings and bullet points), use a lot of related images, use inverted pyramid style for content, lower bounce rates as much as possible.

4.Utilize YouTubeAdd videos to your digital marketing plan! With 3 billion searches per month, YouTube is second only to Google in terms of search engine popularity.
Of all the keyword searches on Google, 55% of them have a minimum of one video, and more than 80% of all those videos come from YouTube.
For Google to pick up on your video content, you need to provide written description of the video, and summarize your videos through small blog posts so that Google finds it easy to comprehend and ranks your website higher. Also, longer videos with clear and strong video thumbnails fare best in search rankings.

5. Mobile friendly sites are best – Having a mobile friendly website means not only that your website can be viewed on mobile devices, but also that it looks good and is easy to use. mobile responsive website design, business spring cleaning, web design, Orlando website design, Lake Mary website design, Orlando WordPress design
In May of last year, Google updated their search algorithm to considerably increase organic search rankings for websites that are mobile friendly. Additionally, mobile devices now account for more than 60% of day-to-day searches and in the US almost half (45%) of all the ecommerce sales will occur using mobile devices by the year 2020.
The best way to test if your site is mobile friendly is by utilizing Google’s Mobile Testing Tool.

6. Create unique, quality content –Your content should be relevant, robust, unique, and high quality.

In a study conducted by Backlinko, the average site that made it to the first page of the Google search results contained 1, 890 words! So not only does the quality of your content matter, but the longer the content, the more keywords would be available within the content. And more keywords mean a higher search engine ranking.

7. Update old content – One way of increasing organic traffic to your site is to repurpose your old content. All those posts that have generated organic traffic for you in the past can be reused with some improvements.
Use Google Analytics to find out how your posts have been performing on the internet. Pick up the posts that have been performing well and repurpose them for future use by making the headline catchier, updating old information and statistics, and changing images.

8. Build high quality backlinks – Building quality backlinks is crucial for landing on the first page of the search engine ranking. According to Moz, a backlink is a vote of confidence from one website to another. If you don’t build high quality backlinks, it makes ranking a challenge.
However, low quality links can do more harm to your website than good. Paid links or blog comments are low quality backlinks that don’t work in your favor. But when you earn these links through influencer marketing, top class content, and outreach it will improve your search ranking organically.

Overwhelmed by the work it takes to develop a successful SEO strategy? Contact Virtual Stacks Systems to do the job for you and take your SEO to a whole new level!

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New Year’s Resolution: Add Videos to your Content Marketing Plan!


New Year’s Resolution: Add Video to your Content Marketing Plan!

As the saying goes “new year, new you”.  So why not apply that to your business marketing plan? The New Year is the perfect time to reinvigorate your content marketing plan with videos!

At Virtual Stacks, we have streamlined the process and know how to develop successful scripts, professional audio voiceovers, and effective visuals that will capture interest and improve the impact of every video we make and publish online.

Video Marketing Can Strengthen SEO

Including videos in your content marketing plan will help strengthen your SEO by keeping your visitors engaged, and providing them with content that gets shared and viewed. YouTube is the second largest search engine, second only to Google. According to ComScore, adding a video to your website can increase your chance of a front page Google result by 53 times, and give you the ability to monetize videos and earn some YouTube ad revenue!

Improve Optimization

In addition to facilitating SEO, videos allow for increased optimization opportunities. Video has a built-in feedback loop so you can measure click-through rates, drop off points, or the number of times watched on both a micro and macro level. This allows you to better target what is and isn’t working for your audience so you can do more of what works.

Engagement

Video content increases engagement and catches consumer attention. In today’s busy, fast-paced lifestyle, with so many digital distractions, it’s important to catch the consumer’s attention right away.

video marketing

We’ve all been scrolling through our Facebook feeds and stopped to watch a video because of

auto-play. According to a 2014 study done by Invodo, 65% of video viewers watch more than ¾ of a video.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but Dr. James McQuivey said, “A video is worth 1.8 million words.” A video is the most powerful way for your company to evoke emotions and make strong connections with consumers. This strong connection will lead to increased customer conversions.

Virtual Stacks Systems can check this resolution off your list, improve your digital marketing strategy, and help you develop your company’s following. Call us today to get started!

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