Do you know these seven things about your website?

Why you need to know:

After a particularly difficult SEO setup it occurred to me that I spend a lot of time cleaning up after web developers… especially those who mistakenly claim that they are “SEO experts”. This assignment brought to mind the definition of “expert” as being made up of “X, the unknown” and “spurt, a short burst”. In this project the developer had seemingly done everything he could to tie the client to his company’s accounts. The WordPress website was dependent on paid plugins that belonged to the developer, NOT to the client. When the developer was removed as administrator his company’s plugins disappeared and crippled the site. Even the Google Analytics was his account, not the client’s. The website was almost perfectly booby-trapped.

This kind of behavior by a developer represents a conundrum for me because web developers that don’t claim to be SEO experts are the absolutely best fit with sem[c] as alliance partners. Virtually every business website will benefit from professional SEO. Many SEO clients will, sooner or later, want or need a new website design. While a deep understanding of web development is critical to the successful practice of SEO the two areas are really quite different.

One of the biggest differences is in the area of graphic design. Recently new designer interfaces like Divi, PageLines and others have become popular for the freedom and ease that they offer graphic designers to create visually elaborate websites. This graphical freedom comes at a cost. By injecting additional code into every page these design layers dilute the optimization of every page and can slow site performance. From an SEO point of view the graphic design of a typical site is only part of the user experience and can impress nobody unless there is traffic to the site. Graphic design does not drive traffic to most websites. On the other hand, graphic design that loads a webpage too slowly or is confusing will quickly drive visitors away before they take any action that benefits the business that owns the website.

sem[c] has tested and implemented highly technical accommodations to mitigate a lot of the SEO problems introduced by easy-design software tools–but not every design can be fully corrected.

There are a few things that you should talk about with your web developer:

WordPress Dashboard
WordPress Dashboard
  • Is your site developed in WordPress? If not, how is it built?
  • Does your site rely on any paid subscriptions that are not in your name?
  • What is your site’s result at  and what can be done if the result is poor?


In addition, you should have the administrative usernames and passwords for:

  1. Your domain name(s) registrar. This is where your domain is controlled and the fees are paid. Any and all domains should all be in your name not the developer’s.
  2. Your web hosting accounting. This should also be in your company’s name
  3. Your Google account that is the owner of your Google Analytics.
  4. Your paid advertising accounts. sem[c] always create these in your name. Many other companies do placement under their accounts. Their self-serving practice prevents you from directly accessing important information about your advertising.

If you or anyone you know needs assistance sem[c] has a long and successful history of solving problems related to websites. Visit for more information or just contact us now.

A new (and free) emailer for Gmail

Optimizing Gmail with sem[c]Use Gmail to drive traffic to your business’ website

At sem[c] we firmly believe that your business’ website is the nexus of your online presence. You have more control about the content, presentation and resulting data with your website than any flavor of social media or search engine. Email can be a great way to get people to visit your website. Gmail has been sem[c]’s goto email client for many years. We especially like the ease of Contact management.

A new Chrome plug-in lets you use your Contacts for emailing marketing

sem[c] has tested the  Sendtu plug-in which installs easily, gives you a wide variety of templates to modify, has many reporting options and, importantly, let’s you send emails to groups of your contacts in a way that you have already chosen. Other types of email marketing programs can be great but there is always a great deal of maintenance necessary to keep bounced emails and unsubscribes synchronized between any email marketing program and Gmail.

Sentu appears in your familiar Gmail interface:

Sendtu by sem[c]


The dropdown menu gives you the choices of Templates, Editor, Emails and Reports:

Sendtu menu by sem[c]

The Themes all support rich media and give the viewer an option to open the email in a browser for email clients that don’t support HTML. After you finish preparing your email, Sendtu allows you to send a test to make sure everything’s working. You add the recipients to your mailing list either from your Gmail Contacts or individually if you prefer. As soon as you press “Send” your email gets added to the Reports:

Sendtu Reports by sem[c]

Clicking on the email title displays a detailed report on clicks generated by the links within your email:

Sendtu detailed report by sem[c]


All in all this represents a very elegant, usable and useful tool to add to your marketing arsenal. It’s powerful and the price is right (free). If you’ve tried other approaches to email marketing and found them to be too much work from the standpoint of contact management or too expensive Sendtu is something that you should take a look at.  If you have any questions or would like some help with implementation please Contact sem[c].

Privacy Policy

Last updated: April 4, 2017

Search Engine Marketing Chicago, Inc. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates  (the “Site”). This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of Personal Information we receive from users of the Site. We use your Personal Information only for providing and improving the Site. By using the Site, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy.

Information Collection And Use

While using our Site, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you. Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to your name (“Personal Information”).

Log Data

Like many site operators, we collect information that your browser sends whenever you visit our Site (“Log Data”). This Log Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, browser type, browser version, the pages of our Site that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages and other statistics. In addition, we may use third party services such as Google Analytics that collect, monitor and analyze this information.


We may use your Personal Information to contact you with newsletters, marketing or promotional materials and other information that will inform you about work performed by us.


Cookies are files with small amount of data, which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a web site and stored on your computer’s hard drive. Like many sites, we use “cookies” to collect information. You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Site.


The security of your Personal Information is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage, is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Information, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

This Privacy Policy is effective as of April 4, 2017 and will remain in effect except with respect to any changes in its provisions in the future, which will be in effect immediately after being posted on this page. We reserve the right to update or change our Privacy Policy at any time and you should check this Privacy Policy periodically. Your continued use of the Service after we post any modifications to the Privacy Policy on this page will constitute your acknowledgment of the modifications and your consent to abide and be bound by the modified Privacy Policy. If we make any material changes to this Privacy Policy, we will notify you either through the email address you have provided us, or by placing a prominent notice on our website.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us.

The SEO of Speed and Security

The SEO of Speed and Security

“What is SEO?” I ask, rhetorically.

The most common answer: “You know, keywords and stuff…”

SEO in 2017 will involve much more than keywords, although they are still definitely part of the mix. Google has been penalizing sites that don’t render properly on small screens like phones for some time. Part of that usability standard is the speed with which the site loads. You really don’t want to see this for your site:

SEO speed problem

As in most optimization items this is something that you probably already react to when you visit a site. How long do you stick around if the site doesn’t load right away? A couple of seconds? Five? Would you wait for 10 seconds? You know that if it takes too long you will decide at some point that it’s not working and leave. Google’s algorithms work the same way.

Fixing a slow site can be a complicated process. First, you need to acquire some hard facts about your website. A site like can help. Here are the results from sem[c]’s site:

SEO of speed


As you can see the site has been highly optimized and is more loading quickly that 98% of tested sites. Our site was created in WordPress which has become a very popular website authoring environment. It has not been noted in the past for its speed, however. There are many adjustments that are necessary to get the site to load this quickly:

  • The WordPress theme is designed for speed
  • The site is hosted on a managed WordPress server
  • The site is behind a combination firewall and Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Numerous tweaks to code and content have been implemented

One adjustment that will be implemented next on our site is the security certificate. According to this article from WordPress an SSL security certificate will become necessary to even use aspects of WordPress beginning in 2017:

In addition, the Chrome browser will begin warning users in January when they request a non-SSL site:

Please note that each of the above two links are secured by SSL. Both of these sources are practicing what they preach about SSL and that leaves no doubt of its effect on SEO.

Achieving high quality SEO is a constantly changing target. It is not simply a matter of you picking a few keywords that you think might work. We can help you get your website the SEO speed and security that will benefit your business.

Get ready for the new year by contacting sem[c] today for an audit of your website’s SEO or to start a program to make it faster and safer.

If you bring an Internet-related lawsuit, where will the court hear the case?

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

This is not a simple matter and it won’t be adjudicated on the Internet. Personal jurisdiction is the power of a court over the parties in the case.  Before a court can exercise power over a party, the constitution requires that the party have certain minimum contacts with the forum in which the court sits. But what constitutes a minimum contact in the online world?

I was retained by an IP attorney to serve as a consulting expert. The case concerned an interview that his client gave to a website, which served as an endorsement of the manner in which the website supported the specifics of the client’s field. After the website changed their policy the client asked to be removed from the site. The owner of the website attempted to impose conditions that were unacceptable.

Because the website’s owner was out-of-state and the client was in Illinois the attorney wanted my help in establishing jurisdictional facts.

What has any of this got to do with Internet marketing? A lot.

There are a number of ways that a website can make money. Two that were apparent on the website in question were affiliate marketing and display advertising. There were two affiliate marketing ads on the front page which would pay the site a percentage of any sales resulting from clicks. There was one prominent video-based display ad in addition to the two affiliate ads.

As a result of my examination of the underlying code of this website we were able to establish a defensible basis for jurisdiction in Illinois. At least one of the affiliate marketing ads was for a business based in Illinois. A number of different advertisers’ display ads, including at least one of the aggregators of these ads, were based in Illinois. Incidentally, Google AdSense was one of the suppliers of these ads and Google has a large presence in Chicago. Furthermore, we were also able to establish that geo-targeting was being used. This is a critical part of establishing jurisdiction.

All of this research and investigation was necessary in order to make the argument that the case could rightfully be heard in Illinois. In order to be represented the website’s owner would need to retain a local attorney in the forum state.

This must have had an effect on the website owner.  When the papers were served, the owner unilaterally removed the offending materials from the website without any conditions.

This case was over before it started.

Contact us if you need help with a matter of personal jurisdiction or other matters requiring expertise in search engine optimization.


1 “Personal jurisdiction ­ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 21 Jun. 2016
2 “Personal Jurisdiction | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia | LII …” 2015. 21 Jun. 2016
3 “Affiliate marketing ­ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 22 Jun. 2016
4 “Display advertising ­ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 22 Jun. 2016

It’s “your” website… really?

homepageWhat do you mean by “your” website? A typical website consists of files on a server that can be reached on the Internet by means of a domain name. Unless you own the webserver you can only edit “your” files by using the correct username and password to access your website’s hosting provider. You may not even know in which country the server is located.

asf_logoAnother thing that you might not know about your website is the type of server software that’s making it appear on the Internet. You might not know software named Apache and IIS.  There are even smaller divisions of specialties in this area. One of our clients got hacked because their (former) web hosting provider had not updated it’s PHP software. You have likely been licensed to use this software under your terms of agreement with your hosting provider.

Without a properly configured domain name your website’s address will be a string of numbers. This may require another username and password depending on your domain name registrar. We have had clients that only think they know who might know these usernames and passwords. We have had clients whose names are not part of their domain name registration.

Screenshot 2016-04-27 09.39.35Like many websites, yours might use a content management system (CMS) for convenience and ease of use. A typical CMS like WordPress supports plugins to offer specialized functionality. Both the CMS and the plugins are software written by someone (usually not you) and your use of them is under the terms of a license agreement about which you may know nothing. One of our clients licensed a proprietary CMS but didn’t receive the source code.  This resulted in there being no way to change anything about the front page of the website without paying the developer to make the change.

Other websites might think so highly of your website that they “borrow” from it without crediting you.  There are tools like Grammerly and CopyScape that can help you find your content if it gets expropriated.

You should also have information about usernames and passwords should anything happen to you so that whomever is entitled can access the website when you no longer can.

All of these items will be very helpful to know in case a problem arises. For example, if your website gets hacked someone will need to know everything above to find a solution. When this happens it’s very difficult to claim ownership of “your” website since someone else has proven himself to be in control. Having quick access will help minimize the duration of the problem. We have helped clients recover from hacks and Google provides us with a number of resources that are useful in crafting a solution.
Contact us for more information from sem[c] 

Site hacked? Completely replacing it might not be enough…

When your site gets hacked completely replacing it might not be enough.

Your website is under attack every day. Unfortunately, everyone with a website is at risk for getting hacked.

sem[c] was brought in to help when a site that had previously been hacked and fixed but it seemed to have been hacked again.  The client reported that a number of site visitors had complained that the site had infected them with malware.

There are a number of things that need to be evaluated in a situation like this. In order to evaluate it’s necessary to see the problem in action. First a reading of the on-site scan showed no evidence of a hack.  This made sense since the entire site had been restored from backup and the security had been tightened months earlier. At the same time this strongly suggested that the site had NOT been hacked again.

Checking the results of a Google search was the next step. When using the Chrome browser on a Mac clicking on what should have been the company’s front page brought up a full-screen red warning which informed that the link led to a site known to disseminate malware.

Screenshot 2015-11-24 11.54.36
Google’s warning of a hacked site

It is important to note that the URL mentioned in the warning ( was not the company’s address but was a kind of “man-in-the-middle’ that redirected to spam sites. Tests with other browsers did not bring up the red interstitial warning page and brought up random spam pages including those attempting to install malware.

Our conclusion?  Google’s index itself was corrupted. This helped to explain why Google was listing nearly twenty thousand crawl errors.  It also explained why both the Google and Bing bots were constantly requesting non-existent pages from the site. It’s important to note here that it’s been long discussed that Bing uses the Google index in its algorithm.

The very negative SEO implications should be obvious here. Visitors using Google to search were at best being warned from visiting the company’s site and at worse being exposed to malware. The company website’s performance risked degradation due to the thousands of requests for non-existent page. These problems led to a very serious trust issue with the site’s visitors.

The solution was not quite so obvious. One approach would be to use webmaster tools to individually remove each of the twenty thousand spurious sites on at a time. Instead, sem[c] was able to communicate to Google that it’s index had errors and needed to be updated.

On being an “expert witness”* in CMS and Google image search

The technology you used to read this is complex. When you need to use this technology to promote and support your business you need to make good decisions even though it’s difficult to know what the important parts to that decision might be. I firmly believe that it’s my job, when working on your behalf, to help you make the best possible decision given all the known circumstances. The following is a story on how this approach played out in an actual copyright case.

I was privileged to work with one of Chicago’s foremost copyright attorneys to act as an opinion witness on behalf of a photographer who was concerned about how his work had been used without his permission. His work had been downloaded as a result of a Google search and posted to a blog created in the WordPress CMS. This particular blog had a contract to provide its content to a national network owned by one of the world’s largest media organizations. If that weren’t interesting enough the photograph itself is instantly recognizable as iconic by a large group of people of a certain age who are Chicago sports fans.

Beyond the details of the case there are the principles it represents and the process by which these matters are sorted out.

Copyright was first implemented to protect artists’ ownership of their own work. “Copyright came about with the invention of the printing press and with wider literacy. As a legal concept, its origins in Britain were from a reaction to printers’ monopolies at the beginning of the 18th century.”

Google informs its users in the results of all images searches that the images “may be subject to copyright”.

Google Image search

But what does that mean? Because of the Internet it now seems that the principle of copyright is less understood by the general population than ever before. “Most jurisdictions recognize copyright limitations, allowing “fair” exceptions to the creator’s exclusivity of copyright and giving users certain rights. The development of digital media and computer network technologies have prompted reinterpretation of these exceptions, introduced new difficulties in enforcing copyright, and inspired additional challenges to copyright law’s philosophic basis.” Certainly the mass infringement suits against music uploaders made the news frequently. The “David vs. Goliath” nature of these added to the confusion. It may be that the definition of “fair use” is starting to become broader.

In my years as a professional photographer I resorted to bringing suit against infringers of my copyright several times. It was this familiarity, in part, that qualified me to have an informed opinion about the facts of this case. In my current role as a search engine optimization consultant I have the extensive knowledge of how Google and the other search engines function regarding the search returns of images.

It is the process of describing the highly technical aspects of every step of how and where this image (likely) showed up on the Internet to the judge in a legally articulate way that has broader implications for my SEO practice. This process was a collaboration between the attorney and myself. Collaboration is a part of every one of my projects. When I begin I know much less about the business at hand than my client. By working together we create a synthesis between our areas of expertise that moves the project forward. In this case I articulated an argument that the defendant likely had a copy of the infringing material on their servers. In fact, their statement that it had never resided there contradicted their own terms of service. This kind of indeterminacy illustrates the difficulty that business decision makers must also deal with whenever making decisions regarding the use of technology. It was my responsibility in this case to help the judge make a good decision just like I do with all my business clients.

Timing and budget are parts of both the judicial and business processes. However, the judiciary has a distinctively different rhythm. Only there can either side request extensions but the judge determines how much time will be allotted. Also unlike in business, the judge as the decision maker does not have to pay for the cost of the extensions.

The judge made a decision with which we disagreed. But, in his statement he addressed the points that we raised carefully one by one. Although he ultimately decided that the display of our client’s photo was “fair use”, he clearly took our arguments very seriously. Even though the decision didn’t go our way the needs of our client were served properly given all the circumstances.

You can make the decision to read more articles like this on our website:

You can also decide to contact me directly @GarySigman


expert witness”* = opinion witness within the legal profession


Optimizing your website for your market

What does Search Engine Optimization really mean?

SEO seems to mean different things to different people. You may think that it has something to do with being on the first page of Google search returns. While that’s true the strokes that paint that picture are too broad. In the phrase “search engine optimization” what’s truly important is the word “optimization”. Search engines give us an excellent tool to determine how people in your market are looking not only for you but for what you are selling. Instead of guessing you can actually know the words being used to search for what it is that you are selling. But that’s only the first step. Once you’ve determined the correct search phrases you need to align your ads, your links and everything else in your online presence to answer any likely prospect only question: “What’s in it for me?”.

Here is a case study in how we reorganized the Samurai Business Group’s sales training website. SBG had a website with the very typical first person presentation of “We do this and we do that”. Their extensive collection of testimonial videos were listed on only two pages of their site and were simply categorized as “Testimonials”. Since I sell SEO services I wanted to know if they had worked with anyone in my business but there was no way to know.

The sem[c] reorg of the site features a very simple and responsive design. The central theme now revolves around the video testimonials which recursively illustrates their central theme of sales training which is “this is not about us, it’s about you”. The testimonials are now categorized into vertical markets. Their website is now optimized for their market. Visit them at

Samurai Business Group sales training

Your website can be optimized too, contact us to find out how.