Orangeville Web Design & SEO: Myths & Facts

the word facts spotlighted surrounded by myths in darkness

(Updated March 24, 2019)

Table Of Contents

1. Why Orangeville Website Owners Are Getting Bad Advice

2. What SEO Tactics Used To Be "In" For Orangeville Web Designers & SEO "Pros?"

3. The Difference Between Organic & Local Search For Orangeville Website Design/Development

4. Orangeville Websites & Local Search Result Ranking

5. Orangeville Websites and Organic Ranking Factors

6. Orangeville Web Design & Common SEO Myths That Abound


Having been in business since 1997, we come across a lot of myths and some facts when it comes to search engine optimization of websites. Recently, we've heard of some local Orangeville businesses having been given some incorrect or bad advice in regard to SEO and their websites. While this article is relevant for any business and their website, no matter where in the world you are located, we're focusing on some of the myths and incorrect information that has recently been published and provided locally, to Orangeville businesses.

Search Engine Optimization is something we've been involved in for years, and it can be tricky to get right. In addition, there have been many many changes over the past 20+ years and one really needs to keep up with it on a regular basis in order to understand and give correct information. It seems however, that some people will read a few articles online in some forum that purports to give correct information about search engine optimiztion and then call themselves an "SEO Expert." Even though we regularly keep up to date, experiment, and observe, we'd be hesitant to call ourselves "experts" on the subject; we learn new things every day and it's our experience that many "experts" really aren't.

Why Orangeville Website Owners Are Getting Bad Advice

The In's And Outs Of SEO

Everyone wants to look like an expert - and this especially goes for new website design agencies that really don't know the nuts and bolts of website development, nor actually spend time learning about the "ins and outs" of search engine optimization. And believe me, when it comes to SEO, there have been a lot of "ins and outs" over the years. I still get calls from some clients, "Hey Ian, I read that this method [insert something that worked 10 years ago] is good for search engine optimization. Why are you not doing that on my site?"

"Well ... that used to work but if we do that now, you'll likely get penalized as Google has clamped down on that tactic considerably," is often my reply. And it is my reply because it is the truth. Much of what was "in" ten years ago is definitely "out" today, yet the old forum posts stick around, that discussed some method that used to work. Or, possibly work but there were better ways to do things.

And what happens is that even web designers who don't keep up or regularly track changes in SEO methodology or the various Google updates often don't know what is "out" now. They also read the same old forum posts and likely didn't research any further.

Some of what used to be "in" are now considered either "spammy tactics" or "blackhat SEO" - and sometimes, "blackhat SEO" will still work - for a short period of time, but it's only a matter of time before Google will likely catch on. When it does, you'll be trying to recover from a penalty.

What SEO Tactics Used To Be "In" For Orangeville Web Designers & SEO "Pros?"

Article Marketing:

Article marketing was huge. If you could pump out several 500 word poor quality articles with a couple of well-crafted "anchor text" links, submit them to an article directory like E-Zine, you could often see your site jumping several positions in the search engines just a few days later. Pump out ten a day for ten days, and for a small-niche website that did not have a great deal of competition, you could almost guarantee you would have Page 1 rankings, if not #1 on page 1 for the search term or phrase you were going after. Of course, if there was a lot of competition for that phrase or search term, you might have to do some "article spinning" (software that would take your articles and re-write them using different words so the articles appeared to be unique) and submit them to different article directories.

You could also hire content writers at cheap prices that would spin out dozens of articles for you - they were usually very poor quality, but good enough to be accepted into the article directories, with your backlinks. Backlinks were (and still are but in a different way) very important to how search engines ranked your webpages.

If you wrote some good quality articles, you might even see your specific article(s) that you wrote (or submitted) ranking high in the search results, which of course was not a bad thing - people going to read the article would also have the link to click, back to your website.

But the days of article marketing in that form are over. Don't waste your time.

What Happened To Article Marketing:

Google and other search engines often mention "quality." That term of course is subjective - but we do know what "poor quality" is, and search engines are in the business of delivering search results that users will appreciate. They don't want to provide results that their users will find frustrating. Keep this in mind. It's very important for your website as well. Quality is about content - rich content that is informative and that a visitor is looking for. What happened during the era of "article marketing" when it was in, was that there was so much poor quality content (we call it "thin content") and Google and other search engines wanted to eliminate or reduce as much possible, this type of crap in their search results.

A Google update was released that practically overnight, destroyed many of the article marketing directories: Some were totally de-indexed while others such as Ezine Articles had the vast majority of the content on their webite in some way penalized for "thin content." Today, you seldom see an Ezine Articles published post in the first several pages of the search results; ten years ago, you were likely to see several that were related to the search term you were looking for. This update, called "Panda" had a goal of eliminating "content farms" and poor quality articles, while at the same time, devaluing backlinks from these article directories. The first Panda update was released in February of 2011, and as someone heavily involved in the SEO profession, I can tell you that there was much "gnashing of teeth" among many web developers, marketers, and website owners. Yes, there were several well-known Orangeville website owners who used to speak at world-wide web marketing events and preach "article marketing" who were hit enormously with loss of traffic and revenues. One in particular had launched an SEO Consulting business around the time of Panda - but nothing much was ever seen or heard from it after that web-shattering Google update.

Even Google had to admit it lost revenues as a result of the Panda update. Many website publishers were making a lot of money with Google's "Ad-Sense" program (where they would place Google Ads on their sites and be compensated for legitimate clickthroughs on those ads). Why? Because so many web publishers that had thin content, but were ranking well for search terms lost much of their ranking which in turn decreased the number of ads that were being displayed. You can read more about the Panda Update here.

So, take my word for it: Article Marketing Is Dead. It is possible that if you write and submit an in-depth, informative, high-quality article and submit to one of the still existing article directories, it might end up being ranked well for some keywords or phrases. But what will you end up with?

  • You'll end up with a "nofollow" backlink which is pretty much worthless to you - and
  • You're missing out on putting that same high-quality article on your own website and having it rank with a direct link from Google to your site!

So, why bother when you're better off creating (or hiring someone to do it for you) high-quality original content and putting it on your own website?

If I haven't convinced you enough that Article Marketing in this fashion is dead, please have a look at the following screen shot from an old Google Groups subject (July 26, 2012) where Google's own John Mueller (JohnMu). It is important to note that the website that is the subject of the discussion was hit by a "manual penalty" due to article marketing, including on Ezine Articles (thanks to Brand Dignity for the screenshot):

screenshot of Google's John Mueller discussing ezine article links as bad signal for a website.

Click Image To See Full Comments In Larger View

Purchasing Backlinks

A major algorithmic ranking factor has been the number of backlinks to your website, as briefly discussed above. In fact, it was probably the most important ranking factor when Google first launched as a search engine. Google Co-Founder, Larry Page, introduced the concept of "PageRank" in 1996 at Stanford University, where it was then patented and later licenced to Google. We're not going to get into the algorithmic details, but you can read more about PageRank here, if you want all the gory details. Suffice to say that getting backlinks to your website was (and still is but with different considerations today) an extremely important ranking factor.

Up until around 2013, with some plugins, you could actually view the Google "PageRank" of a website. A website with a PageRank (PR) of Zero would likely be a very new site that had no backlinks to it of any consequence. A site that had a PR of 1 would be somewhat valuable to obtain a backlink from, with those few that had a PR of 10 being the most valuable. In fact, if you had a personal or business website that had a PR of 4 or 5, that was seen as "pretty darn good PageRank" due to how the algorithm worked.

If you could find a blogger that focussed on some subject or who had a high-performing post in the same subject area as your business website, you could often offer them some cash in return for a backlink to your site. Get a few of those, and you could watch your website increase in the search rankings!

Today, you can still purchase backlinks in two ways:

  • Purchasing links for online advertising with a "nofollow" attribute
  • Purchasing links for "Blackhat" SEO without the "nofollow" attribute

Let's discuss those:

Online Advertising & "nofollow" Attritubute

If you live in Orangeville and your business has a website, and you sell custom-made Muskoka style lawn chairs, you might want to purchase an advertisment with a clickable link to your website on a popular "Home & Garden" website. However, this link, because you purchased it, should have the "nofollow" attribute within it. I'll explain this more shortly, but bear with me.

On the other hand, if the same popular "Home & Garden" website does a review of your Muskoka style lawn chairs, they might also give you a link in their review article that is "dofollow" (Basically, any link that does not have the "nofollow" attribute is considered a "do follow" link to Google and other search engines.

One is a link that you purchased (the "nofollow" link) while the other is a link that passes editorial value. We'll discuss how this works below, but want to make it clear, that if you purchase a link or participate in any type of what Google calls, a "link scheme," those links should be "nofollow."

Purchasing links for Blackhat SEO Without the "nofollow" Attribute

There are many forums where webmasters can go to where there are sellers of links that promise those links they are selling come from "high authority" websites and that are "dofollow." These are of course, a "link scheme" that Google disapproves of, and while they may work for awhile, it is likely that Google will eventually catch on. You will often find these website link dealers come and go; as their website properties get "found out," they disappear as they have nothing of value to sell anymore. Often, these link dealers are themselves the owners of a "blog network" that they claim can never be found out by Google.

I am not going to say that these link dealers have no value; in fact if you have a website that is taking advantage of some current trend and in 4 months, it probably won't matter to you if your site gets penalized, but your looking for ways to take some financial advantage of the new trend, immediately, well, guess what... you've become a "Blackhat marketer!" And some web marketers can make very good money at this "Build, Make Bank, And Burn" type of strategy.

But honestly: This is not a good strategy for your Orangeville business website design! I know - you've just had a brand new site designed and launched, and you can't hardly wait for it to start ranking in the search engines; it sounds very tempting to go buy some "do follow" links to give it a push. But probably not your best strategy or your wisest use of resources of time or money.

So What Exactly Are These "dofollow" and "nofollow" links?

Above, we pointed out that if you purchase links for advertising purposes from a general "Home & Garden" website, the link should have the attribute of "nofollow." Back in the early 2000's September 2005 to be exact, Google introduced a way for website publishers to link to other sites without passing "link juice" as it's called - the "power" involved in the PageRank algorithm that could increase the rankings of websites because of backlinks.

Here's how a normal link works:

<a href="">Some Anchor Text</a>

The above link is considered "do follow" and passes on "link power" or "link juice" when one site uses that to link to another site. A "nofollow" link looks like this:

<a href="" rel="nofollow'>Some Anchor Text</a>

In the second example, the "rel=nofollow" tells Google not to pass on any of the "link power" or "link juice" to the site being linked to. The idea was that a link that should be "followed" would be one that was given for some editorial reasons and not for payment or some other link scheme that benefited the link-receiving site.

In other words, while a "nofollow" link might have some other benefits, it would not pass on any search engine optimization benefits. This means that if you are really focussing on improved search engine rankings, you want links that do not have the "nofollow" attribute. However, it is worth pointing out that this does not mean that a "nofollow" link has zero value; it only has no value as far as search engine ranking. Your website sill might receive value in other ways; if you paid for an advertising banner on another website, with a link - even if it is "nofollow" - you still might receive great value in the clicks that you receive from it.

So we can see that a "nofollow" link is not worthless as it can actually increase referral traffic to your website when it appears on a valuable high-traffic website.

The other effect of the "nofollow" attribute was to try to reduce comment spam on blogs. While blogging is not as popular as it was before the advent of Facebook, in the early 2000's, the "blogosphere" was extremely active. There are of course, still, quite a few that continue to blog either personally and/or for business (and you should if you own or manage a business), but numbers of bloggers have decreased considerably. However, when it was a more common activity, along came the annoying and idiotic "comment spammers" who would leave ridiculous and off-topic comments, but with a link to their site in the hope that the comment would "stick" and not be deleted. At the time, this type of activity could have the benefit of increasing search engine rankings, if the comment was not deleted.

The addition of a "nofollow" attribute, therefore, was also a method of attempting to reduce this comment spam problem.

Those of us who have blogs and that have comments enabled know that it has not completely eliminated the problem; there are still some who are ignorant of SEO practices and think that a blog comment, even if "nofollowed," will provide some SEO benefit. It won't - but this should not stop you from commenting on other relevant blogs and including your link, if the comment is on topic and worthwhile - you could still get some referral traffic as a result. But it's not worth the time to try and go and look for blog posts to comment on for that purpose.

Orangeville Website Owners Should Not Buy 'Forum Links'

Again, before Facebook came on the scene, forums were a big thing. They still exist, but are nothing like they were in their "hay day." No matter what you were interested in, you could find a forum website for discussions about just about anything, from politics, to font design, to fly fishing, and cartooning. Enthusiasts would join these forums and then participate in the discussions. When you joined a forum, you were usually provided the opportunity to create a "profile" with a nickname or username, perhaps your real full name if you wanted, and the option of whatever other personal details you wanted to provide. What else did these forums offer?

A big fat "do follow" link to your website!

And if the forum website had a high PageRank, it's likely that the big fat personal profile website backlink passed on some rich link juice. At one point, an internet marketer named Angela Edwards likely made hundreds of thousands (maybe much more) of dollars selling "forum backlink packages." Why? Because they actually worked. Her proof was pretty simple:

If you did a google search using the name 'angela'....

The #1 result was her website.

This was proof that not only did these forum profiles on high PageRank websites worked very well, but also that the "anchor text" that was inside the link was important as a keyword that you wanted to rank for. She had created thousands of thousands of forum profiles with her website as the link, and her name as the anchor text. She was rewarded with her website being ranked #1 on Google for the search term of 'angela'.

There were also other proofs that anchor text within a link had enormous SEO value. If you searched in Google, the following search term:

click here

Guess which webpage was #1? The official Adobe Acrobat download page. Why? Because it is true that for many years, Google and other search engines did put a great deal of ranking power in the anchor text of links linking to a website. Today, Google has devalued anchor text but it can still be important.

Forum Links With Anchor Text Are No Longer Worth It

Just don't bother. Angela Edwards is still peddling her "Back Links" packages that she claims will help you rank. But it is doubtful you'll ever receive any longterm benefit from them. For one, most forums have now been updated so that any profile links you are allowed, are no "nofollow." Secondly, when these packages are published, they are traded around and forum owners end up having to deal with thousands of new spammy forum signups - often to the point they completely shut down new people from even registering. After that, the links are next to go.

Lastly, with regard to forum links, do you really want your Orangeville business and Orangeville website to be seen as engaging in "spammy" practices?

Absolutely, go ahead and join a forum where you can create a profile or even some posts with a backlink to your website - but because you have something valuable to offer to the discussions in the forum. That will likely get you more referral traffic and resulting benefits than spending time creating spammy forum profiles.

So far, we've focused on just some of the search engine optimization techniques that used to be "in" but are now "out." For some of us, some of those practices were always "out" just for ethical reasons. The idea of creating profile spam that some poor busy forum owner must clean up later was never appealing to us, no matter how valuable the results might be in the search engine rankings.

Let's focus now on some other aspects of search engine optimization - that Orangeville businesses should be aware of - the major types of search engine results:

The Difference Between Organic & Local Search For Orangeville Website Design/Development

Before "smartphones" became ubiquitous, almost all internet browsing was done on a desktop or laptop computer. There was no need for "responsive design" until small mobile devices that were capable of rendering webpages with a built-in browser became popular. But along with that popularity came the idea of "local search" - where the search engine could even detect the location you were searching from.

With that in mind, Google created "Local Search" results in addition to it's original "Organic" results. And what many website designers don't realize, the algorithms for ranking in Organic Vs Local are actually quite different and each has their own important elements. More on that later - but let's understand the difference and how it appears:

Organic Search For Orangeville Websites

If you type a non-local generic search term like "remedy for arthritis pain," you are unlikely to see what are called, "Local Results" in the search engine results pages (SERP's). Instead, you are more likely to see this:

screenshot of search results for search term [arthritic pain remedy]

You will likely see some relevant ads at the top (and maybe even on the right-hand side), and then below that, what we call "organic results" and now, often supplemented with Google's attempt to answer some commonly asked questions about the search query to help you further.

Organic search ranking is important of course if your website is going to receive visitors from search engines. These results, however, are characterized by using search terms that are more "general" in nature as opposed to looking for something specific that is near your "location" or the inclusion of a local term like "orangeville" in the search query. It is unlikely (unless it's an ad targeting your geographical area) that you will see organic search results that include local establishments, businesses, or organizations. Let's take a look at then at an example of local search results:

Local Search Results For Orangeville Websites

So now we're going to use the example that you are suffering from arthritic pain and you want to use Google to find a medical doctor for treatment. You are likely to type in on your desktop, something like "orangeville doctors" (or "doctors orangeville") and on your mobile, you might even type in the search, "doctors near me" - and this is what you might see:

screenshot of google local search results for search term local doctors orangeville

Several things are going on here:

Google wants to provide you with high-quality local results that are modified by your use of the localized term, 'orangeville'. If you are on a mobile device, Google will generally try to provide you with local results that are in close proximation to where it is detecting your exact location to be. However, the key is "quality" here, and that does not mean that the first result will be the doctor closest to you. Instead, it is going to provide to you the most trustworthy result - and this is important - the trust factor that goes into Local search results, which we will discuss shortly.

What's really important to remember is that Google is providing you with both local and then organic results below, for local searches. The organic results may or might not have the same or similar ranking results as the local results do. The reasons for this include:

  • As we touched upon, proximity to the searcher's location
  • A different algorithm at work in ranking local results vs organic results

The second point is really important to bear in mind especially when it comes to what some website designers claim. It IS possible to rank quite high in the local results for a local search term, but be nowhere to be found in the first several results pages in the organic results. The opposite is also true that a business might rank really well in the organic results but not so well in the local results, for various reasons including proximity.

There are major differences in the ranking algorithms for both local and organic search results. It's also important to understand the differences and how good rankings in either might affect your specific Orangeville based business. For example, if you supply a product to the rest of the world and would only gain a small number of local sales for having a well ranked Google local listing, then that tells you where you should spend the majority of your resources. On the other hand, it might be worthwhile to aim for ranking well in both the organic and local results. That's something we can help you figure out if you don't know - so contact us and let's talk about it.

Orangeville Websites & Local Search Result Ranking

First, we need to make something clear about eligibility for local results. Only businesses that have a physical office are eligible. While some business have gotten away with a "virtual office" consisting of a mailbox at locations like "Mail Boxes Etc" or Dufferin Copy Express, this is actually against Google's Terms of Service for Local Businesses. You DO NOT have to actually have an office where you meet people - but you do need a physical "bricks and mortar" location for your business.

Yes, your home works. For example, plumbers that go out on service calls but are not available at their home office are eligible for a Google Local Business listing. You can even provide a large "service area" if you service areas other than your town as well. Making sure Google knows this is important in that they may, depending on how they have ranked you, include your business in a local search from another town for your service.

If you are a blogger and make some cash from running ads or affiliate links, you don't qualify for a Local Business listing with Google. If you create one, there's a good chance you'll be reported for spam and will be removed, possibly with other penalties involved as well.

Orangeville Business Websites & Local Search Ranking Factors

If you're here to get all the details, we can't provide all the ranking factors that go into local search results. There are definitely some things we know, some things we believe but cannot be 100% certain (anyone who tells you they are certain of everything is selling you something other than the truth), and there are things we are not just going to give away. But we will tell you what is important: Trust.

Trust factors that Google has defined are the most important thing (other than proximity to the location of the search, but even then, trust in Google's eyes is the greatest factor). While some claim that reviews are a substantial factor in how Google ranks for local listings, we've found this to be not the case. While many businesses who have a large number of reviews rank very well, it is also possible to have very few or no reviews and rank higher than a business that has dozens of reviews. Reviews of course, especially if they are positive, might be a major factor in whether a potential new customer or client clicks through to your website, calls, or drives to your location - but it is not the biggest factor in how your Orangeville business is ranked.

Let's have a quick look at some factors that go into "trustworthiness" of a business as far as Local Search Results:

  • A claimed Google business listing. While some businesses who have not "claimed" their listing can rank well, generally speaking, it should be claimed by the owner or a representative authorized by the owner.
  • Business Citations
  • Uniformity of Business data

We can't stress enough how important it is to the various "trust factors" that, as much as possible, your business information including business name, address, and phone number are as "uniform" as possible; across your social media platforms, business directory listings, and your website. We believe in standards, Google wants to see standards met, and those standards even include how your phone number is formatted. As the internet became more popular and more and more businesses realized they needed a website, it became "fashionable" for some web designers, for example, to list a phone number with dots in this format: 555.555.121. This is wrong.

If your Orangeville website designer has listed your phone number like this, it means they probably do not keep up with or ever cared about standards in the first place.

It's your business. It's your marketing. It's your search engine optimization. Don't you want things done properly?

You should care that your Orangeville website designer knows about standards. And yes, the correct way to format a phone number in North America is the way we've been doing it before some web designers thought it would be fashionable to use dots. Like this: (555) 555-1212. And if you don't believe this is important, we'll refer you to Google's own document about standards and phone numbers. Yes, designing a website correctly means looking after these details (and there are a lot more standards and details that many web designers don't bother with - and that could be hurting your website in both the Local and Organic search results).

So what other trust factors go into business data uniformity? How about the spelling of your name? Is it EXACTLY the same, on your website, as it is in any citation sources, business directories and social media properties? If not, you're losing trust factors. For example, if on your Orangeville business website, your Business Name is recorded as "Bar-Haven Restaurant" but in places, it shows up with a space before and after the hyphen like, "Bar - Haven Restaurant," that's a problem. To human eyes, it may be totally recognizable, but algorithms are not the same as human eyes. It would be too complicated to get into the "technology" behind this, but there are computed hashes that result from strings of letters and characters and even a minor change that is hardly noticeable to the eye, will cause the value of the hash to be different.

Think about your official business name: Is it "My Business Ltd." (with a dot after the Ltd) or, is it "My Business Ltd" with no dot?

Tiny details matter. The more there are tiny details that are not uniform, the less of an algorithmic trust factor when it comes to Local Search results.

Orangeville Websites and Organic Ranking Factors

screenshot of the organic search results for the search term orangeville doctors

What is called "organic" search results for the search term [orangeville doctors]

Being precise in business details is not as important in organic search. Organic search was never really about helping you find a local business (although it can do that), but was about providing the best quality results based on the search queries entered. In fact, Google and other search engines are so intelligent, they are now able to discern, in many cases, intended word meanings. An exact phrase is not necessarily important anymore to rank for keyword phrases. In the "early days," we would sometimes intentionally make spelling errors in content in order to rank for commonly misspelled words, but today there is no reason to do that.

In fact, Google loves high-quality content, which does not necessarily mean that it will penalize you for spelling mistakes, but it can recognize content that makes no sense.

We're not going to get into all the factors in detail that make for good quality organic search engine optimization that has the potential to highly rank your website or individual web pages. But it is important to note that good quality content on your Orangeville website is an important factor. Content has always been "King," and always will be. But not just any old content that is thin, spun, or plagiarized from other websites (or article directories). It needs to be original, useful, and compelling. With that in mind, let's go through a short checklist of search engine optimization:

  • Good quality on-site content. Did we mention that already? We'll say it again: Your Orangeville website needs high-quality content in order to have any chance of ranking for competitive keyword/keyword phrase searches.
  • High-quality backlinks are still very important. But honestly, for most intents and purposes, you're better off to spend your time on getting the great content on your website, that other webmasters will want to link to.
  • Meeting website standards in the design, development and after the launch of your website.
  • Is your website responsive? This is a huge ranking factor especially for internet users searching from mobile devices.
  • Website speed - has your Orangeville web designer optimized your website for website speed and eliminated the biggest bottleneck - huge image file sizes?

Most of what is being suggested is what we call "On-Site" SEO. This is what you (or your Orangeville website designer) can control fully. So it's the most important.

Orangeville Website Design & Standards

Did you know that there are most certainly are standards that a website should meet if it is going to rank well in a competitive market for competitive keywords and phrases? Unfortunately, one of the consequences of the large number of "site builder tools" that are now available, many people, including new website designers know little, if anything about various standards.

These standards even include such things as correct file naming convention (did you know there was such a thing? Does your web designer? If they claim they know, have you checked out how they named your image files you sent them straight off your camera when they used them on your website?). File naming conventions are based on real use computing and have been in place for decades. It's our philosophy that if we are to be considered "professionals" in the technology industry, we ought to know and make use of traditional standards and conventions. We believe that anyone who calls themselves a "professional" ought to do the same.

Look, your website is probably your major business marketing vehicle: Ought it not to be done professionally and to correct standards, especially when search engines notice?

Here's a few conventional rules about file naming:

File Naming Conventions & Standards

NEVER Use Spaces In Filenames:

While modern operating systems have adapted to be able to figure out file names with spaces, it is not standard and many file utilities (especially those on Unix/Linux variants of which it is most likely your website resides on, have big issues with spaces within file names. URL's when they have spaces can get easily messed up. Google does not like filenames with spaces. In fact, their own "Developer Documentation Guide" forbids filenames with spaces.

NEVER Use Special Characters In Filenames

These are characters such as asterisks (*), commas (,), slashes (\ or /), and other non-ascii alphanumeric symbols. These symbol characters are used for many other purposes in file management utilities, coding and programming languages. They should never be used in filenames.

At least, your "professional" web designer and developer should not be using them in a professional setting of website design for Orangeville businesses (or any business, based in Orangeville or not).

Obviously, you are maybe not an IT or computing professional - so we understand here that if you send us filenames with special characters, we're not going to lecture you. You're merely taking advantage of a convenience that some modern operating systems have provided you with, but it is not expected that the same convenience would be used by those who call themselves professionals. Here, at The Ian Scott Group, we'll rename the files correctly for you, removing spaces and special characters before using them on your website design.

Correctly Name Your Files In A Logical Manner

Obviously, when you take a photo with your camera, it does not know what your reason for taking the image is. If you take a photo of your friend John fly fishing on the Grand River or out at the local Trout Club in Orangeville, your camera will name the resulting image file in whatever naming convention it has, perhaps something like DSCN20190320.jpg. But that tells us nothing about the image. This is fine for browsing through photos on your camera, but is extremely difficult for trying to understand what the file is (other than knowing it's a jpg image), precisely.

The historical standard naming convention of files goes like this (and professionals should stick to it):


john-fly-fishing-grand-river.jpg is also acceptable but it is not the standard convention. If we want to get really technical about filenaming convention, traditionally, dashes are used to denote different versions of a file. For example, if you have two versions of some txt file and you want to keep them both you would use this format:


my_first_day_fly_fishing_V1-2.txt denotes that this file is the second version (with minor changes) to the first. But I realize this is getting too technical for some people reading, but I'll leave it with you that your website design professional ought to be aware of file naming conventions, and use them. There are good reasons for them.

As far as the web design field, there are other unique good reasons for these standards:

  • The name of the file when correctly named as per convention gives a hint to search engines, along with the correct use of the 'alt' tag, what the image is. It carries SEO value when done correctly.
  • When browsing directories, it is much easier to ascertain what the files are, exactly, when named properly.

There have been many times when dealing with a website that The Ian Scott Group did not originally create, but have been asked to "tune up" or work on, and we've had to deal with images and their file names. When images are incorrectly named, this takes up more time, and in fact, mistakes can be more easily made.

In our Linux administration, working with command line tools involving files, filenames that don't meet standard convention can create problems and confusion with results.

Look - you should demand that your Orangeville Web Designer meet standards in filenaming. You don't have to - but they should be, as a professional. There are lots of things you might do in your family if your children are sick, as it is convenient, and you are not a health professional, but would you not expect your doctor to meet or exceed standards in their profession?

These things may seem trivial at first, but this is technology, and technology requires attention to small details and it's important as far as the "on-site" search engine optimization of your website. Website design professionals ought not to be lazy and if they want to call themselves professionals, they ought to learn, study, and know about these conventional standards.

Resources On File Naming Conventions & Standards (Off-site and opens in new tab or window):

  • Best Practices For File Naming - Stanford University
  • Folder and File Naming Convention: 10 Rules for Best Practice
  • Data Management for Undergraduate Researchers: File Naming Conventions - Purdue University
  • Filenames - Google Developer Documentation

    Correct Use Of 'Alt' Attribute Within Images

    This article is not about teaching you all the details of HTML and other coding that goes into the design of a website. However, I do want to give you examples of some things where it might be helpful to understand. When you view an image on a webpage, the image has HTML code in order to present it on the webpage. Behind what you see, is something like this:

    <img src="john_fly_fishing_humber_springs.jpg" alt="john smith fly fishing humber springs trout club near orangeville" width="600" height="400" />

    Basically, this is html that tells the browser to display the image file name, and the width and height to display it at. Then, we have the "alt" attribute which should be self-explanatory. Why do we have the "alt" attribute (sometimes called "alt tag") in the first place? Any web designer that claims to know "UX" or "User Experience" principles ought to know about the purpose of this alt attribute within the image html source. Yet we come across so many so-called "UX" Professionals who totally ignore the alt attribute, or use it incorrectly.

    In a way, it's ironic because the alt attribute was one of the first (and still used) elements to enhance User Experience! Think about that for a moment: Many of you may have a web designer that has sold you in some way on being a "UX" or "User Experience" Expert, yet totally ignore or misuse the image alt attribute.

    So why was this attribute created? And how does it enhance "User Experience?"

    Not everyone uses graphical browsers. Your browser, whether you are using Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc are known as graphical browsers. But there are many who use "text based browsers" which never display images. There could be various reasons for the use of a text based browser including additional speed, or when on the command line on a Unix/Linux server. But there's a group of people who also depend on text based browsers for their internet browsing: People with the physical handicap of eyesight impairment. Often, those with serious sight impairments including being totally blind depend on text based browsers along with software that will convert the text to speech that they can hear.

    The "alt" attribute (or tag) is meant to describe the image to both those using text based browsers for convenience and to those who suffer from physical handicaps and require them to "hear" instead of "see" a website. If your so-called "User Experience Expert" is too lazy, or does not know the importance of this attribute to the handicapped, then how can they really call themselves UX Experts?

    Some website designers on the other hand, will "spam" the alt attribute, hoping that somehow Google and other search engines will see all these "keywords" that they have placed therein. Big mistake. Or, they will not sufficiently describe the image. Your alt attributes of your images should not contain several sentences, but where appropriate, it is fine to precisely describe the image with several words. Precision is especially important when you realize that it could be a blind person that is "listening" to your website and the alt attributes.

    SEO Value Of Alt Attribute

    The alt attribute also has some on-site SEO value to your website as well. It is possible it may help the web page rank better when it is properly used (and not spam keyworded), but even more importantly, along with the file name, tells search engines what the image is. When done properly, there is a good chance the image might show up in a Google "Images" search - which could garner your website more referral traffic from Google images search.

    Yes, it can be a "pain" to try to correctly describe an individual image (especially when there are many images) with its alt attribute, but professional website designers will do this and understand its importance to both "User Experience" and on-site SEO optimization (but not go as far as "over-optimization").

    Now, we've looked at just a few of the website standards and conventions that many of today's web design professionals never give a thought to. What they have managed is to learn how to use some website building tool, create some nice graphics, and claim they have "built" you a web design. Our wish is that they truly would learn standards and conventions - if they are truly "professionals," they should.

    Let's move on now to some common Search Engine Optimization Myths:

    Orangeville Web Design & Common SEO Myths That Abound

    In this article, we've touched on a lot of factors that affect both Local and Organic search, and can you believe we've hardly scratched the surface? At the beginning, we discussed how we've heard some myths from local Orangeville businesses that they had heard from other web designers, and asked us to address. Some business owners have received some really bad advice from some web designers who, have managed through the press and other means, to position themselves as "experts" on web design. They may actually be tremendous at some of the things they do, but creating websites means more than knowing about a particular theme and a favourite website building tool.

    When it comes to WordPress, one of the most popular website building tools out there, you really should know a little more than how to "search for a plugin" to make some functionality work. Do you actually need the functionality? Is a plugin the best way to get that functionality? Will there be other unintended consequences? What about the security of your website? What exactly, are your goals for your website?

    Your business is about being in business. It's to sell your products, sell your services, and get leads. Keep that in mind. Of course, a website should be delightful to visit and aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately, it's about your sales and promotion of your products and services. Being well ranked in search engines is important. So let's look at some myths and we'll talk about some truths as well:

    A #1 Ranking For a Keyword Is Most Important

    You might be bombarded with spam email from marketers claiming that they can "get you on top" or "get you #1" on google. Well, I can almost guarantee you I can have your site ranked for:

    [orangeville green and blue ostrich eggs]

    but so what? How many people actually search that term? There are plenty of nonsensical terms that no one ever searches for that you could be ranked on top of the search engines. Perhaps in a week or so, that term "orangeville green and blue ostrich eggs" will have this article highly ranked. Simply ranking #1 for a keyword or search phrase is not what is important.

    Furthermore, sometimes its not worth the effort to try to rank #1 for a particular keyword or searh phrase, no matter how valuable it might appear to be - because you are overlooking all the other valuable keywords and phrases. For example, for the search term, "orangeville web design," at the time of this writing, we have two pages ranking on page 1 of the Google SERP's - #4 and #5. Sometimes they bounce around a bit and drop a placing, but for the most part, that's where they are.

    Orangeville is a small town of 30,000 people. It's a very business friendly town, and of course, many businesses need a new responsive designed site, some need website speed audits and help with that, some could use some Local Search optimization while others need help with Organic search. At the same time, while we have clients in the Orangeville area, we also serve clients in other parts of North America and Europe. With that in mind, it's important for us to focus holistically on search engine rankings.

    This is probably the same for you as well! Many business owners are compelled to try to be #1 for some particular search term, and while indeed having that position could be very valuable, there are other ways to "skin a cat" as they say. Taking a holistic approach to SEO is much better than spending all you have on trying to achieve a #1 rank for a particular search term. Additionally, if your product or service is a high-ticket item, it is quite likely that potential customers are going to be researching anyhow - they are not going to just have a look at the very first result (although that will be the first one they look at, obviously).

    Keep that in mind when you are considering search engine rankings. You want to rank well for various searches and throwing all your resources and time into one spot for just one or two search terms might be a waste.

    Myth: Title and Description Meta Are No Longer Important

    This is a very strange myth that we've been hearing from some lately. It is true that spamming your Title and Description meta tag will do your site no good, and that today, search engines do not even bother with the "keyword" metatag on webpages, but most certainly your Title and Description carries SEO value as well as CTR (click through rate) value. The CTR is calculated as a percent of the number of times your webpage appears to searchers vs. how often it is actually clicked. A creative yet well SEO optimized description can improve click throughs even if your webpage does not occupy the #1 position in the search results.

    But putting CTR aside, there has been some talk that what you put in the Title and Description meta tag is not relevant to Google and how your webpage is ranked. This demonstrably false. We tried an experiment to prove this - where we completely removed the search terms in the Title and Description of our front page. Within about five days, our front page had been relegated to page 2 of the search results. When we added the search terms back again, within a week there was a complete recovery in Google's SERP's. The reason we conducted this test was the result of seeing an owner of a fairly new web developer making the claim that "out of the box, WordPress was already optimized for search engines." It's not true. While WordPress does have some great things going for it, there is much more that can be done to ensure technical search engine optimization.

    Myth: Keyword Metatags Are Important

    On the other hand, where we've seen some claim that you don't need to optimize WordPress anymore than it already is, we keep seeing this old, and completely discredited idea that websites should have a long list of "keywords" in the corresponding metatag. Back in 1997 through perhaps 2000, you could influence search engine rankings by the use of keywords. Eventually, as spammers realized this, they would add so many keywords - most of which were totally irrelevant to the subject of the webpage in question, that search engines begain to put less and less emphasis on this area of a webpage, and now, totally ignore it.

    Adding a few keywords will probably not harm your site, but it's a total waste of time. In fact, Bing has gone so far as to report that it looks for attempts at spaminess on a webpage, and knowing the history of how keyword meta tags have been used, it's very possible that Bing will penalize a site for using the keyword metatag instead of being neutral to it.

    Site Speed & Crawl Allocation Budget?

    We recently came across this weird myth very recently where a web design agency claimed that your site speed could affect the search engine's "crawl allocation budget" with the suggestion it could affect your website's pages from being ranked. This is yet another example of where someone probably "heard" or "read" something and assumed it was true without doing any research. Maybe on the surface it would appear that site speed would affect "crawl allocation budget" which then, in turn, affects your search engine rankings.

    But this is another example of how some can make claims that "sound sophisticated" without actually understanding the concept themselves.

    Let's get to the truth of the matter: Site Speed can have an impact on your rankings.

    Let's get rid of the "crawl allocation" myth: No business in Orangeville, and likely 90% of the websites in the whole world, will ever have to concern themselves about "crawl allocation budgets." And we've known this for a couple of years at least. You do need to be concerned about "crawl allocation budgets" if you are an enormous publisher with thousands of web pages residing within your website, but it has nothing to do with search engine rankings. How do we know this? Because over two years ago, Google explained this in a blog post by Google's Gary Illyes.

    What is "crawling" in the first place? When search engines "visit" your website, they are said to be "crawling" it and are taking in the content of the pages that they are downloading. In some cases, your content may be "indexed" almost immediately and available in the search results. Many websites however might see a delay of some days before the content is "indexed" and available in the SERP's. Just because Google takes some days, or does not visit your site as often as it might visit websites that publish content more frequently, has nothing to do with how that content will be ranked.

    A crawl budget is basically the difference between how fast Googe can crawl your pages without affecting the performance of the server your site resides on vs how fast Google would like to crawl if things were optimum. In other words, if you are not publishing several new posts a day, and making changes daily to old posts to update them, you don't need to worry about crawl allocation budgets. In the above linked post by Gary Illyes, he writes,

    "Google uses hundreds of signals to rank the results, and while crawling is necessary for being in the results, it's not a ranking signal."

    On the other hand, site speed and performance are ranking signals - primarily because Google wants its search users to have a good user experience, and waiting 4-6+ seconds for a web page to fully load is not a good user experience.


In summary, we've looked at some of the myths about search engine optimization that remain prevalent today. We've also looked at how a website should be correctly optimized for SEO organic search results as well as some of the big factors in local search ranking.

Hopefully, this will help you when you are dealing with various web designers, or even if you want to try to build your own website without the help or assistance of a professional. We have only scratched the surface here; there's a lot more to technically correct onsite SEO optimization - and yes, as we've discussed, "Details Matter."


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