Nicholas Baudoin is the founder of Alkali Designs – a digital marketing agency based in Houston, Texas. He helps small and large businesses to get more visibility online by pushing their website to the top of search engines and by reputable branding.
Nicolas answered some of our questions:
Nicholas, why and how did you start Alkali Designs?
I started Alkali Designs after several years of helping family friends with creating websites to get more exposure for their business. The more often this occurred the more I was being referred new clients. This continued every now and then until I finally decided I should make a business out of it. I would say the biggest push for starting Alkali Designs was knowing that I could genuinely help people grow their businesses through my design and marketing skills.
After I accumulated more and more clients one of my clients was approached by someone claiming to be an “SEO expert.” Unfortunately, my client paid them several hundred dollars and there were zero results to show for it.
After this incident I began to offer search engine optimization services for my clients. I wanted to make sure that if my clients wanted to invest in search engine optimization efforts, they would get what they paid for.
Can you tell us about your background?
I was born in Houston, Texas which is where I have resided most of my life. At an early age I was very interested in computers, which resulted in a curiosity of how it all worked. This curiosity led me to learn several coding languages, serving me well later on. I created my first website at the age of twelve, not knowing that it would turn into a viable career until later on.
Do web designs and mobile-friendly themes have an impact on SEO results?
Yes, now so more than ever because of the over abundant use of drag and drop site builders. What people often overlook is that you need to choose a theme or site builder that will be mobile responsive.
Considering most site traffic, about 52 percent, is conducted on mobile it is important to cater your site for mobile users.
If users cannot navigate through your site, the data will show that. Data such as “time on page” is a metric search engine algorithms use to determine page ranking. If mobile users immediately close your website because it is not responsive, you will not rank favourably.
Another important aspect of search engine optimization is the design of the website. With much of the web being run on WordPress many people get into the habit of relying heavily on plugins. This is possibly the worst thing you can do when it comes to SEO. When a website relies heavily on plugins or their theme it can severely impact their page loading speed. I’m not saying that no site should use plugins, but there are many cases where plugins can be replaced by one line of code that takes 20 seconds.
Now you may be asking yourself, why does the page speed matter if the content is there? The answer is rather simple, the longer a website takes to load the more likely someone will click off it, meaning a low amount of “time on the page.” Additionally, search engine’s crawl your website frequently and those bots pay attention to site speed for determining rank. Search engine algorithms try to rank the most valuable websites high. If a site is taking 10 seconds to load it will not be viewed favourably.
What is the trend in Google search results?
The google search results trend I see is that people are becoming more aware of what takes place when they conduct a search. Instead of typing a paragraph of text people are beginning to understand that the algorithms work off keywords and are entering queries that yield the most accurate results. In most cases you don’t see long winded keyword phrases, they are very short and concise.
This makes it easier for people to find their desired information because that is how search was intended to be done. Additionally, when you enter a search query with a short keyword phrase the person is more likely to get the desired result, even if there is an entry mistake.
For instance, Google treats the keyword Houston restaurant the same as restaurant Houston. Because it is a small keyword phrase, they are interchangeable on Google’s end.
How do you push websites to higher search rankings and how long does it take?
I like to first understand what my client’s goals are. If they are in a very competitive industry, I want to give them a realistic expectation of the cost to get the ranking they want. Next, which I find is often overlooked, I want to make sure that the client’s website is built properly. For instance, if a website is not mobile responsive, I would advise my client to first address that. After assessing the website structure, I move onto website speed.
The target for my clients is 1.5-2.5 seconds to load which is what Google considers to be very good. Once those possible inhibitors are addressed, I move on to the “actual” search engine optimization effort. This begins with keyword research, competition analysis, and other research efforts. The goal here is to make sure that we are focusing our efforts in the right place.
After the research is done it is time to optimize the website which includes optimizing alt texts, meta descriptions, keyword implementation, SCHEMA, and other elements. In most cases the search engine optimization process takes between two and three weeks to research and implement. After the implementation, using keyword ranking software, the site can be seen rising in rankings within two weeks.
If a website is at the top search results in Google but the traffic is not increasing what could be the reason and how to fix it?
This type of a situation could be the result of a few different issues. If the site ranks highly for a specific keyword this could be a very low traffic keyword, meaning there is little relevancy and competition for it.
Another issue could be that the site has some structure issues. The site could not be mobile responsive, long loading time, etc. Instances like these are a rather easy fix. If the site has a structuring problem this can be fixed by making it responsive and it would retain all its search authority and the traffic would increase.
The more difficult of these situations would be the first example. If a website is ranking high for a keyword but is not experiencing a traffic influx this keyword is not being used that often. In cases like these improper keyword research was most likely conducted. This fix takes longer but you would want to optimize the site for an additional keyword, ideally one with more relevancy and monthly usage.
In which cases, search engines like Google can penalize a website from its ranking (and how to resolve any penalties)?
Google has a long list of offenses that would result in a penalty. A few are buying links, 404 errors, keyword stuffing, improper sitemap, slow speeds, duplicate content, and many more. Some of these penalties are warranted because of improper SEO practices, while others could penalize the inexperienced.
Google does not want people going and buying links to boost their search results, which is why it is penalized. On the other hand, someone might not review their Google search console regularly for 404 errors or know that having above a 5 second load time is bad. You can resolve certain penalties, but some stay with the domain for a very long time. For instance, if you buy links and Google knows, there isn’t a way to resolve that.
On the other hand, if you have several 404 errors you can resolve those, and Google will recognize you did so when it crawls your site next. The most common issue I see is that someone hired an “SEO expert” that just bought thousands of links and then the site is severely penalized by Google.
What are your plans for future business development?
We have slowly been expanding over the past three years. We began as a web design company, now dealing largely in search engine optimization as well. In the middle of 2017 we expanded into the hosting business. Since site speed is an important part of SEO, we thought it would be a good idea to offer our clients hosting that would be fast and reliable. We currently have a team of five people, but with the increase in business we keep experiencing we are looking to expand our team.
At some point, in the near future, we plan to expand into the promotional industry where we could provide signage, business cards, and other products to our clients. We have very talented designers and I believe those skills would carry over well.
Ultimately my goal is to be a one stop shop for any businesses’ marketing needs, both online and physical.
Thank you Nicholas for sharing your thoughts with us!
You can follow up with Nicholas Baudoin at: https://alkalidesigns.com
Executive Editor at Best in Australia. Mike has spent over a decade covering news related to business leaders and entrepreneurs around Australia and across the world.