What Causes Your Search Rankings to Fluctuate?
25/07/16 SEO

What Causes Your Search Rankings to Fluctuate?

Why do your search rankings change from month-to-month? Could be any of a million things. Learn some common reasons why this happens in this post. With some keywords, you move just a couple spots or so. With others, you slide up or down 80-100. I’m sure you’re used to it by now. You take a look at your monthly search rankings report. In SEO, that’s completely normal. Everyone experiences this. Why does it happen?

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The Truth about Google RankBrain (And How to Optimize For It)
25/06/16 SEO

The Truth about Google RankBrain (And How to Optimize For It)

What do you know about Google’s RankBrain? There’s scattered and varying information on it. Learn what it’s really about in this post.

Ever heard of Google’s “RankBrain?”

The gist of Rankbrain is that it’s artificial intelligence that finds and ranks websites. And rather than manual updates to Google’s core search algorithm, Rankbrain’s going to handle many of those changes on its own.

Up to this point, however, you probably haven’t noticed much of a difference in Google’s search results.

So what makes RankBrain such a big deal?

It’s going to do a lot to determine the future of search. According to Jayson DeMers at Forbes (from whom much of this info already came), RankBrain will be the third most important ranking signal going forward. DeMers also later notes that RankBrain currently isn’t making a huge impact on search results because right now it focuses on returning relevant results for ambiguous and complex long-tail searches.

An article at Bloomberg notes that RankBrain’s being used to contend with the 15% of brand-new, never-before-seen searches Google has to deal with on a daily basis.

So, How Do You Optimize for RankBrain?

Well, for once in SEO, that’s actually a fairly easy answer. Jennifer Slegg from The SEM Post asked Gary Illyes (a well-known webmaster trends analyst) from Google exactly how to optimize for RankBrain.

And this was his answer:

“Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy, and it is something we’ve probably been saying for fifteen years now, is – and the recommendation is – to write in natural language… If you try to write like a machine, then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just push you back.

But if you have a content site, try to read out some of your articles or whatever you wrote, and ask people whether it sounds natural. If it sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that we would use in your day to day life, then sure, you are optimized for RankBrain. If it doesn’t, then you are ‘un-optimized.’”

So, like many SEOs have been saying for years, you should create your content for humans, not for RankBrain. If you write for people, the rankings will follow.

Then Why Still Use Keywords?

Smart as Google is, you can’t get your website to rank well by simply sitting down and writing quality content in natural language. Yes, keyword research still needs to be done. Keywords are still critical to your success, but they need to be used in the flow of natural language.

So for now, that’s the scoop on RankBrain! We’ll see how (or if) it really changes the future of search.

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Think SEO is Dead with Spending at $65 Billion This Year?
31/05/16 SEO

Think SEO is Dead with Spending at $65 Billion This Year?

SEO will not die anytime soon. You’ll get a great ROI from your investment. Learn why in this post.

Remember how the Yellow Pages used to be the place to advertise? You could pay a few hundred dollars for a one-inch ad. And the cost of a full-page ad would run well over $10,000.

But back in the day before the internet, it was well worth it because that’s where everyone looked for SMB contact info. You’d get plenty of leads over the course of the year in return.

And now it’s all gone!

Do you ever have fears that all this money you invest in SEO will go to waste? For example, all of a sudden the “next big thing” comes along, and Google’s no longer where everyone goes to find what they want?

Well, don’t worry about that happening anytime soon. It’s not that it could never happen, but it’s not very likely.

Check out why:

  1. Borrell Associates Predicts Steady, Continued Growth in SEO Spending

Currently, the SEO industry’s worth about $65.26 billion, according to research from Borrell Associates. Small and local businesses account for more than two-thirds of that number. Borrell estimates SEO spending will grow to $79.27 billion by 2020.

That makes SEO a fairly large industry in the grand scheme of things. Wikipedia, for example, ranks the top 19 industries in the US by dollar value. Agriculture comes in 19th place, with a value of $173 billion in 2011. In terms of size, SEO’s not far off.

  1. Congress May Not Call Google a Monopoly, But It Really Is (On Search Anyway)

Check out these stats (updated monthly) from StatCounter:

  • Worldwide, Google accounts for just about 90% of all searches, with Bing coming in a distant second place at 5-7%.
  • In the US, the story changes a little. Google currently has nearly 80% of all searches in its control. Bing’s market share increases slightly to 10%, and maybe slightly more.

You know Google makes the rules about search. And, that’s likely to continue.

  1. Despite Increasing Difficulty, SEO’s Still Got a Great ROI

You know how I’ve talked with you about the many changes in SEO – especially in recent years. Yes, it’s like 10 times harder than it used to be. And it’s nearly impossible for a single person to do it.

But you still get a great ROI from it. Check out this image from Adobe to see what I mean:

So…even though SEO’s not quite as strong as email at generating ROI, it’s still awfully powerful.

A 2224% return for every dollar you spend? I don’t know any business owner who’d turn that down!

Whenever Someone Says “SEO is Dead,” You Can Tell Them They’re Full of Hot Air!

SEO is alive and well. And because you, I, and every other human being alive goes to the internet to do research before buying, it’s going to continue to be effective.

Every dollar you put into SEO is well-spent.

The only thing that will change is how you do it. And that’s something I’ll take care of!

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5 Offline Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Online Success
31/05/16 SEO

5 Offline Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Online Success

Your offline marketing can greatly enhance your online tactics. And you don’t have to put in a great deal of effort. Learn how in this post.

Digital marketing or SEO, whatever you want to call it, confounds many small business owners. But, the reality is it works similar to any other kind of marketing. In the end, it’s all about relationships and making sure the other person’s needs are met.

Sure, some of the tactics and strategies change and look a lot different than years ago. But if you generally follow the rule of giving the most to others that you can (usually with content), you’ll succeed online too.

But you yourself may not be a digital marketer. You may be more of an offline “people person.” How can you use what you do offline and in person to support your online marketing efforts?

I’ll show you how:

  1. Networking in Relevant Groups Where Your Target Market Can Be Found

You can think of your website, in this case, as a brochure. You use your business card to drive people to your website.

Online, quantity of traffic is not important. Qualified traffic is. When you meet your ideal customers at an event, give them something to keep with them so they know where to go to learn more about you.

And since that traffic quality is high, the visitors will spend more time reading your content and they’ll browse several pages on your website (most likely). The higher both of those factors are, the better your search rankings.

  1. Taking Videos and Photos

Both of these are indirect ways of increasing your search rankings. They could play a larger role in your conversion rate once people visit your website.

You can also help your customers get to know you by taking photos and videos of company events. Videos help boost engagement on your website. And better engagement boosts search rankings. With photos, you can keyword optimize your “ALT” tags, which can help you be found in image searches.

Professional videos and photos are nice, but not necessary. These can both be done with your smartphone

  1. Speaking at Events

You simply cannot underestimate the power of public speaking. It’s a huge weapon in your marketing arsenal, if you think you have the ability to do it.

Honestly, links and social shares can go off like crazy when you find yourself speaking at an event, even if it is a small one. Links are still the most powerful search signal. And of course, at the end of your presentation, you can send people to your website too.

  1. Donate Your Services to a Charitable Cause

Regardless of what you do, there’s a non-profit out there who could benefit from your products or services. Think of the audience that uses that organization’s services.

Maybe it does work for people with mental disabilities. Those people have parents. So maybe you replace a couple windows just for the cost of goods. Not only can you ask for a link (which could also get shared in local news sites), but the parents, nonprofit staff, and other close family members may see your name.

So, you could win business right away. And you can also drive up your search rankings at the same time.

  1. Signs & Billboards

You don’t have a ton of space with these. And you don’t have a lot of time to engage drivers. You have a little more to engage foot traffic.

If it makes sense for your business, a billboard or sign with your name, disruptive marketing message, and URL could make great sense. Maybe throw in an offer or special link for those who see the ad to give them a personalized discount or gift.

Merging Online and Offline Marketing Is Only Limited to Your Creativity

Those are just some examples. You might use those exact ones yourself. You can also use them to inspire your own creative thinking.

There’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. It simply shows you how online and offline marketing can work together. So, consider all the benefits any offline marketing tactic can provide for your online efforts!

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How to do a Basic 3-Step SEO Audit of Your Website
26/04/16 SEO

How to do a Basic 3-Step SEO Audit of Your Website

Curious how your SEO is going? Check these three things, which can indicate the quality of results your strategy is likely to produce.

Is your SEO doing their job? Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how many people come to me angry and frustrated because they got burnt by a less-than-honest SEO.

It happens. But you don’t have to be a helpless victim.

You can take actions to protect yourself. So if you’re not confident in your SEO, do these simple checks to analyze their work:

  1. Is every page clearly optimized for at least 1 keyword?

Digital marketers still like to argue about keywords. Regardless, Google’s still a machine. While it depends less on keywords today than ever before, it needs you to clearly tell it what you want to rank for.

Your target keyword should be in the visible <H1> tag at the top of your page. And it should be within your page’s <title> tag too.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Simply go to a website page
  2. Right-click anywhere on it
  3. Choose “View page source”
  4. Hit “Control+F”
  5. In the search box that appears, type “<title>” and go to it and do the same for <h1>
  6. You should notice an obvious phrase, or similar variation of it in both
  1. Check Your Links

In offsite search, your links will be your most powerful search signal. And there’s no reason to believe that will change anytime in the near future.

You can check yours a couple ways:

  1. Go to http://www.opensitexplorer.org and enter in your URL. It’s easier. But you get less complete info.
  2. Login to Google Webmaster Tools. Go to “Search Traffic” and “Links to Your Site” and you’ll get this screen:

Link profiles are a little tricky to analyze. Generally, you should see links from websites you recognize or trust, and with information relevant to yours. Every link profile suffers from irrelevant links. None’s perfect.

For example, fastnow.tk and fastnomoney.tk would be spam/garbage websites. Google looks for clear and persistent patterns of manipulation. So if most of your profile involves reputable sites, with just a few clunkers, you’re not doing too bad. But if you see half or most of the links from junky websites, you’ve got an issue.

It could be your SEO building spammy backlinks. But, it could also be someone starting negative SEO attacks on you, trying to trash your rankings.

  1. How Fast Do Your Web Pages Load?

Next, download Screaming Frog SEO Spider. You can actually get a ton of technical information with this. A lot of pro SEOs use it.

Anyway, I want to call your attention to “Response Time,” which is how long it takes your website to load its pages, a key component of user experience.

Check out the info below:

This website has a few responses above 1 second, and most are under that. That’s pretty good. You want to be under 4 seconds in general. Anything longer than that does serious damage to your site’s ability to convert.

Those are three simple steps you can take to check on your SEO’s work. If you find anything grossly out of whack, then it’s time to have a conversation with your SEO and see what’s going on.

They may be aware of the issue and working on it, after all. So keep an open mind. But now, at least you have a little more awareness and the ability to protect yourself.

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Google Says Local Reviews Not Ranking Factor, But Is It True? 
26/04/16 SEO

Google Says Local Reviews Not Ranking Factor, But Is It True? 

Do local reviews help search rankings? Whether they do or don’t, you should have at least a handful of positive reviews. Find out the truth.

You’ve got a nice, shiny 4-star or more rating with Google reviews. That’s definitely going to help you get business in the door.

Web searchers place a high amount of trust in third-party reviews. And, at least so far, they don’t get manipulated a lot.

So any positive reviews you get are a good thing. And the negative ones can often be a blessing too. That’s because you can learn what people don’t like about your business. Then, you can improve what’s wrong and get more, and happier, customers.

Before Google, you might never have discovered the problem. And that meant it could cost you a lot of business for years without you even knowing it.

Do Reviews Do Anything for Your Search Rankings?

While reviews definitely help your company, do they boost your search rank?

In the case of local reviews by customers, Google’s John Mueller says “no.” See it here at the 17:27 mark in this video:

However, he does continue to say that reviews made directly on your website, since they have content Google can index, can contribute to your search rankings. For local professional service websites, however, this doesn’t come into play. It’s just not the way consumers use those websites.

On the other hand, reviews are hugely popular for product-based e-commerce sites. So if you have one of those, reviews could be a significant source of search traffic.

And a Final Situation Where Reviews Come into Play

As you’ve been searching lately, you may have noticed reviews like this that appear, and especially for websites at larger companies:

To my knowledge, they do not affect search rankings. And these reviews only seem to come at websites of larger companies and brands for the most part.

Should You Get as Many Reviews as You Can?

Reviews absolutely should be a part of your online marketing strategy. After all, they build a large amount of trust in searchers.

If you’re not happy with the number of reviews you have, or your rating, ask more of your happy customers to review you online. You could even ask them for their e-mail and send them a link so it’s super-easy.

Once you have a good number of reviews that make you feel comfortable, you’re set.

And for now, that’s all you need to worry about with reviews.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted if Google changes that!

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23/03/16 SEO

How to Get to the Top of the Local 3-Pack Listings

Google’s made the search rankings even more challenging for local SMBs. But you can still get to the top. Learn what to do in 2016 and beyond.

You may remember that Google’s moved to this new way of displaying the search results:


Theoretically, the move was to “improve the search experience.” Cynics, however, think Google’s doing it to increase organic SEO competition. And they believe the net effect of that will be more SMBs move to PPC. Oh, and PPC just happens to be Google’s largest revenue maker by far.

You can be the judge of the real motivation. But the fact is, everyone plays by the same rules – Google’s.

So, how do you get to the top of this newer local 3-pack search result?

Some tips:

  1. First, Remember How the Local 3-Pack Works

Unsurprisingly, the local 3-pack takes your location into consideration. So when you search from a certain location, you’re going to get results near to that.

You can’t optimize for all locations in your neck of the woods (although you can for many). And Google won’t rank you for certain locations no matter how hard you try.

  1. So, Focus on Giving Google as Much Information about Your Business as Possible

The fundamentals of SEO do not change for the local 3-pack. You still need to optimize your Google Places listing and build local backlinks. Your on-page content needs optimization. You need to be present on local directory websites like YellowPages.com and other popular ones appropriate for your niche. And you need to have consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) information.

What could be one of the most powerful differentiators? Did you notice the 5-star reviews for “Nelson Tax Accounting?”

Even though they’re #3, they have these bright gold stars showing. That’s easy for searchers to see. And it makes them feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in clicking on that company’s search result.

And they have a perfect rating – with 13 total reviews. SMBs struggle to get local search reviews, so these represent a huge win for Nelson Tax Accounting.

  1. What Holds Companies Back from Doing Well in Local Search?

One local search agency, Inside Local, did some research to find the common mistakes local companies make that hamper their search rankings. They found this, according to Neil Patel:

Want to know a major negative ranking factor? It’s mismatched NAP citations. Inside Local found that it accounted for 41% of the total ranking issues.


Now if you’re a local SEO consultant, these aren’t hard things to understand. They may be time-consuming. Possibly even complex to pull off.

But they shouldn’t happen with an SEO consultant worth their fee.

  1. Can You Get to the Top of the Local 3-Pack Listings?

Finally, you still can’t control what Google does. It makes the rules all websites live by. Generally, what they want you to do is simple to understand.

But in practice, it’s often not easy to pull off. However, if you continue working on optimizing the fundamentals mentioned in step #2, and avoid any of the killer mistakes in the above graphic, you give yourself an excellent shot at dominating the local search rankings for months and years to come.

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Top 10 SEO Stories: March 2016
23/03/16 SEO

Top 10 SEO Stories: March 2016

What’s going on in SEO? Don’t worry! I’ll keep you ahead of the ever-changing Google so you don’t experience any surprise drops in rankings.

What’s the latest happening in the search world? One of the great things about Google’s algorithmic push towards quality content is that now many sites spend all their time reporting the latest news.

And there’s no shortage of such news for the search world.

So here’s some of the top stories as I see them:

  1. 14 Reasons You Shouldn’t Ignore DuckDuckGo

In the search world, DuckDuckGo.com is the biggest threat to Google. Their competitive advantage? To keep all your search data 100% private. That’s right, they don’t track any of it. It’s seen exponential growth since its founding in 2008. Author Jack Simpson argues why you now have to seriously consider optimizing for it in addition to Google.

  1. The All-in-One Content Marketing Playbook for Startups

Copy Hackers is one of the preeminent thought leaders on writing high-converting content for the web. Consistently producing engaging content is a major challenge for businesses of all sizes. And in this post, Melani Dizon explains how startups can create a winning content marketing strategy.

Definitely applicable to small and local businesses too!

  1. Google to Boost Mobile-Friendly Algorithm this May

This update won’t be as far-reaching as “Mobilegeddon.” But, come May, they are going to boost the effects of the mobile algorithm they originally released back on April 21, 2015. It gives a good guide for what your site should do to stay on Google’s good side during this update.

  1. How to Create a Conversion Centered Keyword Strategy

Do you want your web page optimized? Or do you want it focusing on keywords likely to get you sales? Find out how to do the latter in this post.

  1. 6 Strategies to Build Links for Your Small Business Website in 2016

Since you have so much extra time on your hands as a small business owner, this article shows you some easy techniques for getting more links. A few can be done in your normal daily business activities…and they’d make a really nice long-term win for your website’s SEO.

  1. Google: No, We Don’t Understand Text in Images

A long time ago (2008), Google received a patent to recognize the text in an image. Author Barry Schwartz claims it would be easier for Google to understand than certain other SEO attributes. But, Google publicly says it can’t do this. Read the analysis and follow the link to the discussion in this post.

  1. Google Analytics Launches 360 Suite, Promises a Better View of the “Complete Customer Journey”

A major challenge businesses have? Precisely tracking conversions from digital marketing. Google’s Analytics 360 Suite is their response to the “hope-based” marketing many companies do online. Learn more about it in this post.

  1. PPC Q&A: Paid Search Roundtable at #SMX

Bruce Clay, one of the leading SEO agencies in the nation, recaps a PPC Q&A held at SMX this year. You’ll learn many of the basics, and some of the advanced strategies PPC experts from around the nation use.

  1. How to Design the Web User Experience from Hell

Sometimes, it’s fun to talk about how to do things by showing how not to do them. Author Michael Martinez uses a number of examples to show you exactly what not to do in this post.

  1. Debunking the Myth of Long Form Content: A Data-Driven Case for Short Content

You’ve definitely heard me push long-form content in most cases. Among SEOs, long versus short is still an intense debate. Short content, however, has its place too. Author Brian Lang makes the case for it in this post.

So that’s my roundup from around the web for March. Let me know how you liked it, and what kinds of SEO topics you’d like to learn about in future posts!

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Google Says Title Tags No Longer a Critical Ranking Signal
19/02/16 SEO

Google Says Title Tags No Longer a Critical Ranking Signal

Google’s up to making changes again. This time, it’s not an algorithm change though. Learn how Google wants you to write title tags for high rankings.

Up until recently, the most effective way to optimize a title tag was to have the keyword near the beginning. And at exactly the beginning if possible.

For example, let’s say your keyword was “Dallas furniture company.”

Your title tag would work best for search rankings when written like this:

“Dallas Furniture Company with the Biggest Selection.”

Simple, right?

Google’s John Mueller Muddies the Issue, and Then Clarifies It

Sorry, we don’t have access to Matt Cutts anymore. If you don’t know Matt, he was Google’s most publicly accessible figure on everything SEO. On July 3, 2014, Matt said he was going on leave to spend more time with his wife. He said he’d be on leave for a “few months,” but still no word from Matt here yet in February 2016. In the meantime, Google’s replaced him with several people, none of whom are public figures.

So now, John Mueller’s one of Google’s go-tos for SEO advice. His first response to how Google views title tags went like this:

“We use that just as a part. I think it’s not like the primary ranking factor of a page, to put it that way.”

“I think?” I THINK that’s not too convincing of an answer!

Fortunately, John went on to clarify:

“We do use it for ranking, but it’s not the most critical part of a page. So it’s not worthwhile filling it with keywords to kind of hope that it works that way.”

He also said stuffing keywords in title tags results in a bad search experience. And Google works actively on dealing with that.

He continued to explain the page content was much more important than the title tag. He even said at one point that Google would still find a way to rank a web page without any title tag at all. But he did note that was not the case for content.

FYI, you can read the whole story in detail at Search Engine Roundtable.

So What Should You Do with Your Title Tags Today?

Just so you know, my copywriter’s been doing title tags this more search-friendly way for some time. Think of Google’s search results as a replacement for your phone book’s Yellow Pages.

If you said,”Dallas Furniture Store | Furniture in Dallas | Dallas Furniture Company,” how would that look in the Yellow Pages?

Kinda weird, right?

Title tags today should include the keyword. But you should focus on writing a persuasive headline first.

For example:

“Furniture Company in Dallas with Beautiful Oak Furniture”

That sounds like something your customers might want: “beautiful oak furniture.” And it gets the keyword in too, without being too obvious: “Furniture Company in Dallas.”

Google’s happy. Searchers are happy.

It’s a win-win.

Today, and going forward, that’s how all your title tags should be.

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Protect Your Search Rankings from Hacked Content
19/02/16 SEO

Protect Your Search Rankings from Hacked Content

Hackers are stirring up trouble for website owners just like you. Learn what they’re doing, how they do it, and how you can stop them in this post.

“Hack” used to be a bad term. The first thing that came to your mind in most cases was breaking the law.

Today, “hack” sometimes refers to shortcuts to doing things, like accomplishing more at work.

So which do I have for you today?

Unfortunately, it’s “hack” in the worst sense of the term.

Here’s an example of how it works, according to Search Engine Roundtable:

With a certain UK search term, you change Google’s search filter to the past 24 hours. Click on the third or fourth search term, and you’re sent through several redirected web pages until you finally end up at a porn site.

Not exactly what you’d want, is it?

Hackers do this for more common search terms, and then they redirect you to their own sites. Those sites could be porn sites, or affiliate sites trying to peddle you junk products loaded with viruses and malware. One method, called “bait-and-switch,” involves hackers gaining access to your website, using your SEO authority, and then publishing their own pages on your site that directs visitors to their own content.

The porn site? Who knows, that could be teenage thrill seekers just trying to get a rise out of searchers.

It’s a convenient crime for hackers because they’re often in different countries. So what recourse do you have to deal with them? It’s not like you can call your police department for help.

Let me explain what to do.

Hacking Prevention Strategies You Can Use

Really, the top thing you can do is to monitor your website daily with a security scan. That’s something you should have your SEO consultant or agency do. Google Webmaster Tools does a pretty decent job of notifying you of what’s going on with your site too.


  • Update Your Software: out-of-date WordPress plugins make your website vulnerable to hacking. WordPress itself and any other add-ons on your website need to be updated the minute those updates are available. Hackers wait for updates to happen, and then pounce immediately because they know that’s their window of opportunity.
  • Use strong passwords. Today, keeping strong passwords is no longer a nightmare like it used to be. No need to keep a sheet of paper with all 139 of your usernames and passwords anymore. 

Just use Lastpass. It’s free for your laptop or desktop for one thing. You can store an unlimited number of passwords. It generates super-secure random passwords. You just click a small button to enter your username and password to login to each site. All you have to remember is your password to log on to Lastpass. It synchs across all devices, and right now it’s just $12 per year for a single account. Not a bad deal at all.

  • Have a reputable host. Web hosting providers range from “excellent” and “trustworthy” to “dishonest” and “avoid at all costs.” Quality hosting isn’t expensive, so don’t be afraid to pay for a big-name hosting company (usually just $5 – $12 per month). And good hosts help you work through hacking issues when you have them.
  • Backup your site. Your SEO should do this for you anyway. Some backup programs back your website up to your server. Others send you an e-mail copy. You might want the e-mail copy so you have one you can save that hackers cannot access.

It’s unfortunate some people spend all their time making life difficult for everyone else. But it’s the SEO world you live in today.

So, make sure you or your SEO consultant stays on top of your site’s security. And if you don’t know how they do this, now’s the time to have that conversation.

Stay safe out there!

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