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It cracks me up that a jailbreak was needed to let Apple TV user enjoy their own media libraries directly on the device—and yet here we are today as FireCore, the same developer behind the aTV Flash(Black), unveils an Apple-sanctioned media player app for the new Apple TV.
As I wrote in my preview a few days ago, Infuse 4 for Apple TV (releasing later today in the App Store) is an awesome app that turns Apple’s fourth-generation set-top box into a powerful, easy-to-use media center.
No longer do you have to worry about video formats, file conversion and subtitles—Infuse 4 for Apple TV takes care of all that jazz, and then some more. The app can stream your media from a Mac or Windows PC, NAS or Wi-Fi drives and even through a server app like Plex, Kodi or Servo.
It automatically fetches movie details and artwork, integrates with chúng tôi for keeping watched progress in sync on multiple devices, retrieves subtitles from chúng tôi and more.
Most importantly, its powerful decoder renders any “foreign” video format directly on the Apple TV hardware, no conversion needed, in silky smooth sixty frames per second.
What more can you ask for?Easy setup
On first launch, you must point Infuse to some media sources. I went in Settings and chose Shares, which presented me with a list of available computers and wireless drives connected to my local network.
After typing in the administrator user name and password for my MacBook Air and 3TB Time Capsule, I could browse my folders on the Apple TV. I then added a few folders to Infuse’s Favorites section by pressing and holding the Touch surface on the Siri Remote, and selecting Add to Favorites from a pop-up menu.
Folders marked as favorites are directly accessible from Infuse’s main menu. The app saves your connected network shares and automatically scans the files in them to retrieve and cache poster artwork, description, cast and more.
You end up with a beautiful view of your library with crisp movie posters and informative meta data and descriptions—almost as if browsing iTunes movies on the Apple TV. If you later on save a movie to your network share, Infuse will detect the new file after a minute or two and add the item to your main view.
You can flush cached data in Infuse’s Settings (Clear All Metadata), turn on and off Metadata Fetching, tell Infuse to Show Filenames or sort your files by date and more.
I also logged in to chúng tôi in Settings, which required entering an authorization code displayed on the Apple TV into a webpage via a computer. This lets me scrobble watched movies and TV shows and keeps watched progress in sync on multiple devices.
As mentioned, the app, like its iOS counterpart, streams media from wherever you may happen to have it stored, be it a Mac, PC, NAS, Wi-Fi drive or UPnP/DLNA server apps such as Plex, WMC, Kodi (XBMC) or Servo, no syncing required.Streaming without transcoding
Unlike most other iOS media player applications, Infuse doesn’t require a helper Mac app as media transcoding into an iOS-friendly format happens on-the-fly, directly on your Apple TV, which tremendously simplifies the whole experience.
The app supports a total of 14 different ill formats, from standard MP4, M4V and MOV to MKV, AVI, WMV, MTS, FLV, OGM, OGV, ASF, 3GP, DVR-MS, WebM and WTV. Thanks to the Apple TV’s fast A8 processor and Infuse’s powerful rendering engine, you’ll enjoy silky smooth 1080p video playback without missing a frame.
It’s especially convenient that Infuse includes fully certified Dolby Digital Plus (AC3/E-AC3), DTS and DTS-HD audio. As the Apple TV supports Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 via HDMI (Apple has nixed the outdated optical audio port), those with a compatible receiver can enjoy full surround sound through their home theater system.
Just select Dolby/DTS over HDMI in Infuse’s settings and you’re good to go.Subtitles
Featuring one of the most robust implementation of subtitles on iOS, Infuse lets you override system default settings and adjust subtitle typeface, size, color, outline and other parameters. Just swipe down on the Touch surface while the movie is playing, select Subtitles and make your changes there.
To load more subtitles, select Get More in the Subtitles menu. Needless to say, you can bring your own subtitles and Infuse will automatically load them provided they’re in the same folder as your movies.Wrapup
I can’t think of any major pain points with Infuse.
Yes, you cannot store videos in Infuse due to Apple-imposed restrictions prohibiting persistent storage for tvOS apps, but that’s beyond the point as Infuse is about streaming content scattered across your computers and network shares, and it does that perfectly.
I also wish the app included additional subtitle sources beyond chúng tôi or, ideally, an option to add my own subtitle source. Other than that, I’ve found Infuse to be the best media player on both iOS and the Apple TV.
And with its super-clean way to enjoy a wide array of videos types from wherever you may happen to have them stored, without wasting time converting them, Infuse is—in my personal opinion—the best media center solution for your box.
To learn more about Infuse, check out the official website. To check out my interview with Infuse developer James Abeler, read this article.Availability
Infuse 4 for Apple TV, launching in the App Store later today, is a free upgrade for all current users of Infuse 3 for iOS, itself a freemium download from the App Store.
The app is localized in English, Arabic, Bokmål, Norwegian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese and Turkish.
Advanced Infuse features that require a $9.99 In-App Purchase include support for additional video formats and Dolby Digital Plus (AC3/E-AC3), DTS and DTS-HD mobile surround sound, streaming a wider variety of video types over AirPlay and Google Cast, two-way chúng tôi sync of your watched history and playback, and background playback while your iOS device is locked.
You're reading Review: Infuse 4 Is The Ultimate Media Center Software For Your Apple Tv
Having used “Apple TV” for long, I can say that it’s up to the task on all fronts. However, it’s not perfect and can get plagued with issues just like any other man-made device. The other day, my Apple TV won’t show video or play sound. I tried a few solutions and one of them luckily worked for me.
I thought it would be worth sharing my experience and the tricks that got rid of the problem. One thing worth noting is that the following solutions can also be helpful in fixing other problems like Apple TV stuck on Apple logo or unresponsiveness of the TV.Apple TV Stuck on Apple Logo, Doesn’t Show Video or Play Sound? Give These Solutions A Try Solution #1: Check the Power Cord
First and foremost, ensure that your Apple TV is plugged into power and status light is on. Just in the status light doesn’t appear, use the remote to wake up the TV.
If that doesn’t work, unplug the power cord from your Apple TV, and then wait for 30 seconds. And then, plug the power cord back in. If the problem still continues, try using different power outlet.Solution #2: Check out If HDMI Cable is Working Properly
In case the status light is on but you don’t hear sound or see video, check out the HDMI cable. Unplug it and then securely plug it into your Apple TV.
If the HDMI doesn’t seem to be working at all, take a peek at the best HDMI cables for Apple TV 4K to buy a more durable and efficient cable.Solution #3: Check your Television Or Receiver Settings
If your television features multiple HDMI ports, try switching to the HDMI input on your television or receiver that your Apple TV is connected to.
If you have another HDMI cable, try using it with different HDMI port.Solution #4: Switch to Another Display Mode
If the black screen appears on your Apple TV or Apple logo briefly shows up before returning to a black screen, use the remote to change video resolutions:Solution #5: Connect your Apple TV Directly to your Television
Haven’t got the fix as yet? Try connecting your Apple TV directly into your television using an HDMI cable.
Make sure not to connect to a switch or receiver and use HDMI 1 or Input 1 on your television
If Apple TV is connected directly to your television and the Home screen appears, connect other devices like a receiver or HDMI switch one by oneSolution #6: Restore Your Apple TV Via iTunes
If your Apple TV is still completely unresponsive, connect it to your computer and force a restore using iTunes.
Step #1. Connect your Apple TV to your computer using a USB-C to USB cable.
Step #2. Open iTunes and select Apple TV from the Devices menu.
If none of the solutions have resolved the problem and your Apple TV still doesn’t turn on, you see an Apple logo on the screen or can’t hear the sound, contact Apple Support.
You may have to give your Apple TV’s serial number; there are three ways you can get it.
If the set-top box can boot, head over to Settings → General → About.
Alternatively, you can go to Settings → Remotes and Devices → Bluetooth → Remote for Siri Remote’s serial number.
In case your Apple TV is completely unresponsive, you can check out the serial number by connecting it to your Mac via USB-C cable and launching iTunes
The serial number is printed on the bottom of the device, below the FCC symbols and information
Which tricks worked for you?
Which one of the above tricks fixed the issue? Let us know its name and also tell us if there is any other solution to resolve such a problem.
You might want to refer these posts as well:
Jignesh Padhiyar is the co-founder of chúng tôi who has a keen eye for news, rumors, and all the unusual stuff around Apple products. During his tight schedule, Jignesh finds some moments of respite to share side-splitting content on social media.
For some people – mainly those with iOS devices and no 2nd- or 3rd-generation Apple TV – the new box is a great media streamer and games machine. However, there’s no escaping the high price and limited selection of apps. And if you’re not interested in gaming, you’re just as well off buying a 3rd-generation Apple TV or Roku for less than half the price. Competition from other gaming media streamers is stiff, too, with Amazon’s £79 Fire TV offering more UK catch-up TV as well as similar gaming performance, expandable storage and support for 4K content. Ultimately, the 4th-gen Apple TV has potential (Apple may even upgrade the software so it supports 4K at some point) but right now that potential is far from realised.
For years, rumour had it that Apple would launch a TV. Realistically that was never going to happen. Apple doesn’t make TVs and, logically, it doesn’t need to. It just needs a media streamer that’s better than the competition. Here’s our 4th-gen Apple TV review.
See also: the 13 best media steamers to buy right now
Update 22 March: Thanks to a free update, the Apple TV is getting some much needed new features. tvOS 4.2 adds support for folders on the home screen so you can tidy away your apps, and there’s also expanded Siri support so you can use it to search for apps in the store. Previously (and mentioned in the review below as a bugbear) Siri wasn’t able to return results from the store. Now that there are thousands of apps, it’s far easier to speak your search. Siri will also be able to enter usernames and passwords, although some people are concerned about saying their passwords out loud and exactly how secure they are – despite assurances from Apple that privacy was the first consideration when adding the new dictation feature.
Apple TV (4th gen) 2023 review
Apple has had three years to come up with a new model and it says that the 4th-generation Apple TV is the future of television. It’s all about apps. Unlike previous Apple TVs you can now browse an app store and install whichever apps and games you like.
Of course, this isn’t revolutionary as other streamers and, indeed, TVs have had apps for years. Gaming on a media streamer isn’t new either. Amazon’s Fire TV streamers allow you to play casual games, as does
Apple TV (4th gen) 2023 review: Price
Previous models have managed to stay under the magic £100 barrier, but the latest Apple TV costs £129 for the 32GB model and a whopping £169 for the 64GB model.
That’s a lot compared to the competition, which are generally under £80. Amazon’s 4K-capable Fire TV is £79.99, for example, while the Roku 4 – not yet officially available in the UK, but also toting 4K support – costs $129, and assuming it does launch this side of the pond, should be under or near to £100. If you don’t need 4K, the Fire TV stick is a snip at £35, while the Roku 3 box is under £60.
See our best media streamers roundup for more.
Apple TV (4th gen) 2023 review: Design and setup
The new box looks a lot like the previous two models, albeit a third taller. You still don’t get an HDMI cable in the box, nor an Ethernet cable. You probably won’t need the latter as your Wi-Fi may well be quicker – the wired port is limited to 100Mbit/s.
Dropping the optical S/PDIF port will be a source of annoyance for some (not many, but definitely some) and in its place is a USB C port, which is for restoring the box’s software should the need arise. If you were relying on an optical audio output for connecting headphones, then note that this new Apple TV allows you to connect Bluetooth headphones.
The remaining port is an HDMI 1.4 for hooking up to your TV or A/V receiver.
The biggest design change is the new Siri Remote. Surprisingly, it’s not all that obvious how to use it, until you figure out – or explain to family and friends – that the top section is a touchpad and giant button, the Menu button acts as a ‘back’ button and the one with a TV icon is the home button.
It communicates via Bluetooth but can also use infrared. It should automatically learn to control your TV’s volume – it did with our Panasonic TV – but you can ‘teach’ it if that fails. As long as your TV uses the HDMI-CEC standard, it should all work fine, and you can power on your TV when you wake up the Apple TV using the remote.
The Siri part is possibly the best feature. It takes what Amazon does with voice search and takes it further. You can search for TV shows and programmes, but you can also bark more generic commands such as “show me action movies” and then refine the results by saying “just the ones with George Clooney” or “only the good ones”.
And while you’re watching a video, you can say “rewind 30 seconds” or “what did she just say”. The latter is clever as it skips back 10 seconds and turns on subtitles so you’re left in no doubt what you missed the first time.
You can also say the name of an app or game to launch it, the the name of an artist or album to play music without swiping endlessly through menus. You can ask for a weather forecast, too, but there’s no web searches as you get on an iOS device.
The internal battery is said to last a couple of months – longer than we’ve been testing out the Apple TV – and it charges using a standard Lightning cable in a couple of hours. You do at least get one of those in the box.
Setup is amazingly easy if you have an iPhone or iPad. Once you tell the Apple TV you have one, you just hold it near the box to pair it and some settings – such as your Wi-Fi password will be synced automatically. It’s also far easier to type your Apple ID and password via the app than using the frankly poorly designed on-screen keyboard which is a pain to use with the Siri remote.
In under five minutes you’re ready to start installing apps and streaming videos. A short demo video – as you get on the Amazon Fire TV – wouldn’t go amiss, but you’re left to your own devices.
The fancy new interface, which runs on the new tvOS, is great to look at, but it’s not really a great departure from what’s gone before it. Navigation by swiping on the touchpad is a love or hate thing. If you don’t need to scroll much it is fun to start with but – contrary to what you’d imagine – isn’t as quick or accurate as using a remote with buttons and a direction pad.
You can rearrange icons as you like, and you can even put your favourites in the top row – previously reserved for Apple’s apps and content. Netflix is missing to start with, but you can install it from the App Store.
Entering email addresses and passwords, as you have to when you sign into an app such as Netflix is a tedious process. The letters are all on one line, and it takes a few swipes to go from one end to the other. At launch the old Apple Remote app for the iPhone didn’t work with the new Apple TV, but in December Apple released an update to fix this, and it makes it a whole lot easier to enter search terms and passwords.
The YouTube app has the right idea, though: it gives you a unique code to enter at
What we do like is that, unlike on other media streamers, the Siri search will include apps such as Netflix in the list of results. So if you hold the remote’s Siri button and say “Breaking Bad” you’ll see results from Netflix as well as iTunes. It doesn’t work in all apps, though, so you’ll have to use the BBC’s awkward on-screen keyboard to search within iPlayer, or resort to the Remote app on your iPhone. You can’t search for apps in the App Store using your voice, either, which seems like a missed opportunity.
What’s strange is that Apple still doesn’t have a video streaming service to go alongside its Music streaming. Even if you don’t subscribe to Apple Music, you can stream music you’ve bought in iTunes and access iTunes libraries on computers on your home network. One niggle is that although music will continue playing in the background, you can pause it but not restart it with the play/pause button. If you want to carry on listening you have to go to the home screen and then launch the music app again. If it’s one of the apps in the top row, you can scroll to the left-hand side of the content previews which pop up at the top to the ‘Now playing’ icon.
Playing games with the Siri remote can be good fun, but only really as a novelty. Some games use the accelerometer (Asphalt 8, for one) which means it works much like a Nintendo Wii remote, while others, such as Jetpack Joyride, Crossy Road and Badlands just use the touchpad’s button. You can buy an optional wrist loop to prevent accidents where the remote would otherwise fly out of your hand.
For more serious fare, you’ll want a Bluetooth gamepad – a few third-party controllers are supported. You can’t pair more than one Siri remote, but certain games including Crossy Road allow you to use an iPad or iPhone with the game installed as the controller for a second player.
Family-oriented games make the most sense on media streamers, and Fibbage XL certainly is one to try when friends are round. At £7.99, Fibbage and quite a few other games are more expensive than you might expect, but equally there are many cheaper – and free – options. It’s well worth checking if the app is cheaper on your iPhone or iPad as some apps are universal, so you can head to the Purchased section of the App Store when you first set up your Apple TV to see what you can install from the list of apps you’ve bought before.
The voice search doesn’t always recognise what you’re trying to say. Siri thought we were trying to say “find bitch XL” when searching for Fibbage and when asking for “ITV player” Siri launched BBC iPlayer.
The fact is, iPlayer is pretty much the only catch-up TV app available in the UK at the moment. There’s no ITV Player, no All 4 and no Demand 5. However, there’s a third-party app which gets around this and another workaround is to use AirPlay and stream video from any number of apps (not Sky Go, though) on your iPhone or iPad.
Again, this is easy to fix and we’re sure that updates will arrive that sort out these and other common complaints.
A small consolation is that Apple has spent a lot of time, effort and – presumably – money to produce some of the most stunning screensavers we’ve ever seen. The slow-moving aerial scenes which include a night-time flight over Central London, plus views of the Golden Gate bridge and Great Wall of China are great for impressing friends.Specs Apple TV HD (4th gen, 2023): Specs
802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO
Apple / iTunes account required
Video Formats: H.264 video up to 1080p, MPEG-4, Motion JPEG
Dolby Digital 5.1 and Plus 7.1
Siri remote included
35 x 98 x 98mm, 425g
Don’t you wish there was a hassle-free way to bring your Mac apps, documents, media, games and more to the big screen—and control them? Enter Remote Buddy, a sweet little app by Roth, Germany based developer Felix Schwarz.
Building on the latest GPU and CPU technologies, Remote Buddy uses a proprietary engine to deliver up to 60 frames per second with a latency of around 0.1 seconds so you really get a smooth, high-speed screen sharing experience.
Having taken Remote Buddy for a quick spin, I’m happy to report that it works incredibly well and really comes in handy when you want to do simple tasks on your desktop-bound Mac without actually sitting in front of your computer.Getting started with Remote Buddy
To begin, fire up Remote Buddy Display on your Apple TV, select Preferences in the Remote Buddy menu, choose a password to protect your connection on the Mobile Access tab and tick the box next to Enable Mobile Access.
By the way, you cannot use the app without a password. Your Mac should now appear in the Remote Buddy Display interface running on your Apple TV, as shown below.
Simply select your computer, enter your previously created password and just like that, its display gets shown on your TV as if you were using AirPlay Mirroring.
The Mac helper app serves as a conduit that sends everything displayed on your Mac’s screen as a compressed, live video feed to the Apple TV app. Here is my MacBook Air’s external 27-inch 2560-by-1440 resolution Thunderbolt Display, as shown wirelessly on my telly through my Apple TV.
Remote Buddy even supports multiple displays and various zooming modes.
You might ask yourself, “How’s this different from OS X’s built-in AirPlay Mirroring?”
Glad you asked.Trackpad, mouse and keyboard
These include: Remote, Trackpad, Keyboard, Help (instructions for using touchpad gestures on the Siri Remote), Behaviors, Actions, Power (sleep and shutdown options) and Logout (disconnects you from the Mac helper app).
When some text needs inputting, simply select the Keyboard option to bring up a full-size on-screen QWERTY keyboard with modifier and cursor keys. Using my Siri Remote, I can easily enter, say, a query into iTunes’ search field.
Using the Siri Remote as a trackpad lets you simulate the right mouse button with the Play/Pause button, drag-and-drop by pressing and holding the Siri Remote’s button for two seconds, enter Scroll mode by pressing and holding Play/Pause and more.
I am particularly fond of the Mouse Spot mode, which you enter by touching the Siri Remote’s Touch surface for two seconds, as shown above. This will produce a neat spotlight-effect, which can be useful for presenters as it helps them direct audience attention exactly where they want it.Actions
For frequently used features, Remote Buddy provides quick shortcuts for more than a hundred Mac apps that can save you a ton of time. Just select Behaviors on your Apple TV and up pops a menu with per-app shortcuts.
In iTunes, the available shortcuts include adjusting volume, choosing ratings, play/pause/stop controls and more. In Photos, you get a set of useful slideshow controls.
In Safari, actions let you increase/decrease font size, navigate to the previous/next link, select the previous/next tab, scrolling one page up/down at a time and more. Your frequently used actions can be marked as favorites for quick access.
Last but not least, the app supports a Night mode which can be activated automatically between sunset and sunrise, calculated based on your Mac’s current location and time zone. It’s an eye-friendly, dark color scheme optimized for use in dark environments.
The video embedded below shows off Remote Buddy in action, controlling a late-2012 Mac mini’s screen at 1080p resolution during full-screen video playback.
The full list of supported hardware for Remote Buddy is available here.
I have included a few more screenshots further below which will help you grasp the richness of options available to you in the settings interface of the Mac helper app.Remote Buddy Mobile for iOS and watchOS
In addition to Remote Buddy Display for Mac, developers have provided mobile companion apps for your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple Watch in the form of Remote Buddy Mobile for iOS and watchOS.
These apps let you control Mac apps with the Apple Watch and iOS devices. Many marquee features of Remote Buddy Display for Apple TV are supported in iOS and watchOS companion apps, including screen sharing, actions and app control, Night mode, virtual remote, trackpad or keyboard (through dictation on the Apple Watch), and much more.Availability
Remote Buddy requires an Intel-based Mac and is fully compatible with OS X 10.11 El Capitan. Remote Buddy can be purchased through the official website for €24.99, which works out to about thirty bucks. A free 30-day trial is available.
A lower-priced Remote Buddy Express can be purchased in the Mac App Store, but this app does not have some of Remote Buddy’s features, especially drivers, due to Apple’s sandboxing rules. You also cannot upgrade from Remote Buddy Express to Remote Buddy since Apple does not support paid upgrades in the Mac App Store.
Remote Buddy Mobile requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 8 or later. The watch app requires an Apple Watch with watchOS 1.0 or later. Remote Buddy Mobile is available on a freemium basis in the App Store.
In-App Purchases will enable premium features such as screen sharing ($2.99), Night Mode ($1.99), unlimited favorites ($1.99), numeric keypad ($1.99). A one-time $4.99 In-App Purchase unlocks all premium features.
The free of charge tvOS companion app for Remote Buddy is available in the App Store on your Apple TV (search for “Remote Buddy Display”).
Apple, sadly, did not do a great job of making the various Apple TVs visually distinct from one another – at least, not in an immediately obvious way. As a result, it can be hard to tell the difference between all of Apple’s similar-looking Apple TV offerings, especially in secondhand marketplaces like eBay. Use this guide to identify your Apple TV model and learn the key differences between different models of Apple TV, both in hardware and software.Rapid Identification
Look for these ports when scanning the back of the device for rapid identification and answer the following questions:
Is it silvery-white with component video inputs? If so, it’s an Apple TV 1st Generation.
Does it have a USB-C port? If so, it’s an Apple TV HD (previously Apple TV 4th generation).
Does it not have a USB port of any kind? If so, it’s an Apple TV 4K.Checking the Model Number
If you have an Apple TV 2nd or 3rd generation, they’re visually indistinguishable. But they do have different model numbers.
To check your model number, look at the bottom of the device. At the bottom of the label you’ll see regulatory text and logos. In the first line scan for the “Made in China” text. Immediately after that line you’ll see the model number prefixed with an A.
A1218 is 1st generation.
A1378 is 2nd generation.
A1427 is 3rd generation.
A1469 is 3rd generation.
A1625 is 4th generation HD.
A1842 is 4KTwo 3rd Generation Model Numbers?
The two 3rd-generation models come from the early 2012 and early 2013 models. The newer early 2013 model of the Apple TV 3rd generation has an A5 processor build on a smaller 28nm process size compared to the early 2012’s original 32nm process size. The early 2013 Apple TV 3rd generation also adds support for peer-to-peer AirPlay.Feature Differences
Ports that are familiar to most users or visually notable are in bold. These ports can be used to identify the Apple TVs quickly. All take the same power supply and use visually-indistinguishable Ethernet connectors.Apple TV 4K
HDMI 2.0a (2160p, Dolby Vision, and HDR10)
No USB PortApple TV HD (Previously, Apple TV Fourth-Generation)
HDMI 1.4 (720p or 1080p)
USB‑C above HDMI portApple TV (3rd generation)
HDMI (720p or 1080p)
Micro-USB below HDMI portApple TV (2nd generation)
Micro-USB below HDMI portApple TV (1st generation)
HDMI and component video (480p or 720p)
Optical and RCA stereo audio
USB 2.0 (for service and support)
Silver and clear plastic chassisConclusion
If you have access to the Apple TV or can see pictures of the Apple TV’s ports, you’ll be able to reliably distinguish its feature set. But the most informative side is actually the bottom of the device where the model number is printed. That can be directly translated into the exact model, with no need to try and visually separate ports. To see a complete accounting of all the differences between each Apple TV generation, check out EveryMac’s database of Apple hardware.
Image credit: Simon Yeo
Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.
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Businesses today live and die by their online presence. Consumers looking for a solution to a given problem turn to Google for answers, and if you’re not showing up in search results, you might as well be invisible.
That’s why SEO matters for every modern business. If you don’t have a strategy to show up in search results, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to win over new customers. Today, let’s take a walk through the complex world of SEO and, hopefully, make it a little easier for you to understand what SEO is, why it matters, and how you can create the best SEO strategy for your business.What Is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the practice of using tactics to get your website to perform well in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant searches. Unlike with paid search, where you run an ad campaign targeted at certain keywords you’ve defined, SEO is about optimizing your content to show up organically for relevant search queries. You don’t get to define the terms you show up for; instead, the search engine decides which terms are most relevant based on what you include on your website and how visitors interact with your content there.
Performing well in search is how you get discovered by new consumers. A strong approach to SEO is the key to broadening your audience and finding consumers who need the solution you offer.Why Does SEO Matter?
Rather than relying on a friend’s recommendation, they’re turning to reviews on local listings sites to see what strangers say about a business. (84% trust an online review just as much as they would a personal recommendation!)
If your business isn’t showing up on SERPs, in maps results, or on local listings sites like Yelp, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to greet these consumers who are hungry for local solutions. Getting a great SEO strategy off the ground takes some legwork, but the results are well worth the effort. Here’s where you should begin.Start With Strategy
A strong approach to SEO involves mapping things out before diving in. There are dozens of elements to consider when it comes to SEO, so you want to be sure you’ve considered them all and settle on the best approach for your business before you begin executing on any of it.
It’s frustrating to start down one path on SEO only to realize halfway through that you should have gone about things in an entirely different manner. That’s why it pays to go in with a plan.
And the best way to set a strategy is to understand the current landscape. This means you need to understand your customers, your competitors, and yourself.Who are Your Customers?
Start by reaching out to some of your best customers. Ask them if they’d be willing to participate in a survey about your business. Most happy customers are willing to give you a few minutes of their time!
Ask them some questions about their experience with your business. How did they first find you? What do they appreciate about what you do (and how is it different from your competitors)? How do they feel about your products, services, or offerings?
Do they have any feedback on your customer service? Ask them some questions about themselves, as well — age, location, or any other demographics questions that are relevant to your business.
Hopefully, you’ll begin to see some patterns emerge. Understanding your customers and what they get from doing business with you can help you refine your messaging to attract other similar prospects.Who are Your Competitors?
Next, it’s time to scope out the competition. Who are your competitors, and how are they marketing themselves? Your competitors might be direct competitors, who work in the same geographical location and same industry, or they might be similar businesses in adjacent industries or faraway geographies.
It’s helpful to investigate a variety of competitors’ websites. Knowing how they position themselves can help inspire you to rethink your own approach. Is an indirect competitor doing something smart that you could replicate? Or are your direct competitors leaving a big hole in their messaging that you could fill on your site?
Keyword research factors here. The search terms that lead consumers to your competitors’ sites are valuable information. You can undertake competitive research by using an online tool to help you peer behind the curtain and see the terms that your competitors are showing up for, or you can begin entering relevant search terms into Google yourself to see what comes up.
Related: Want to see how your website stacks up against your competitors’? Contact us for a free assessment using the LOCALiQ Grader.Who are You?
You know who your customers are. You know who your competitors are. Armed with this information on the people around you, you can now clearly carve out your own niche in your space.
Do keyword research on your own site with a tool like Google Search Console, which shows you the real-world queries that are leading searchers to your site. From there, you can craft your messaging to speak to the needs consumers reveal in their search terms. Plus, you can address concerns raised by your audience in your customer surveys, and address gaps left by your competitors.
Creating a strong mission informs the rest of your website content. Once you’ve defined who you are and what you do for your customers, all of your other content will support that central thesis.Then Turn to Tactics
Defining who you are and what you do is central to setting your SEO strategy off in the right direction. Once you’ve got a handle on that, you can begin to implement the various tactics that make up a strong SEO strategy.
Because SEO factors for performing well in search results are always changing, it’s important to remember that these tactics are not something you can set and forget. While your mission will likely remain the same (unless you decide to change up your business model), the tactics underlying your strategy should be something you regularly revisit.On-Page SEO Tactics
On-page SEO tactics are things you can do on your website to influence your SERPs performance. The way your website is designed and organized is extremely important for SEO. This starts with creating a silo structure website.
By organizing your content into categories (also known as siloes), you make it easy for search engines to understand the broad themes of your website. Plus, since siloes organize your site’s content in a logical way, it’s easier for people to navigate your site and find what they want. It also clarifies the relevance and lays the groundwork for better keyword performance.
A mobile-friendly site is also a critical element in building a site that performs well. In fact, last year, more than half of all web traffic worldwide came from a mobile device.
In response to users’ shift to mobile, Google and other search engines are displaying websites based on their mobile, rather than desktop, design. If you don’t have a site with responsive design that looks great and functions well on mobile, you’re likely falling in SERPs.
Site security is also a major performance factor. If you’re running on an old HTTP site, now’s the time to upgrade to HTTPS. Consumers are hesitant to do business with a brand that doesn’t put their safety and privacy first. If you have a site that lacks basic security measures, you’re creating a hurdle for prospects who want to trust you.
Alt text includes “behind the scenes” tags you place on images and videos embedded into your website. The alt text gives a description of the content in the media. Creating rich, descriptive alt text gives search engines a deeper understanding of the area of focus on your webpage, which in turn can help you perform better in search engines for relevant keywords.
Finally, the URL structure should be a part of helping search engines and readers understand your site better. Gone are the days when you used codes and mystery alphanumeric sequences in URLs. The URLs that are best positioned to help you show up in SERPs are those that use plain English and are descriptive, giving users a sense of what they’ll find on the page.Off-Page SEO Tactics
While what you do on your website matters a lot when it comes to your business’s SEO standing, it’s also important to consider off-page SEO elements. The way that your business is represented online, beyond the bounds of your website, can also affect how your site shows up.
Your presence on local listings sites also matters. If you haven’t done so before, now is the time to establish your profiles on local listings directories like Yelp, Google My Business, and Facebook.
The other key here is to make sure that your business information is consistent across your online presence. If your Facebook page lists your old address, while your website has your current location, search engines take notice and reduce your standing in search for errors like this, which cause confusion and frustration among consumers.
Finally, your social media presence plays a role in your SEO. Social pages are another representation of your business online. It’s important to make sure that your presence here is consistent with everything else about you online. And linking your social media to pages of your website and vice versa helps to give all of your online presence an SEO boost, as long as you’re creating content regularly and sharing it with your audience in a way that gets engagement.Analytics are Your Friend
Once you’ve built out your SEO strategy, complete with on- and off-page tactics, it’s now time to measure how things are going. Fortunately, today’s marketers can access a wealth of information about how their audience interacts with their brand online.
Analytics allow you to track the performance of your website. You can see which keywords are driving conversions, which pages are getting the most attention, and identify areas where consumers are getting stuck on your website.
Understanding the good and the bad within your current strategy by looking at your SEO metrics allows you to continue to refine your approach over time. Data helps you see what’s working and what’s not, and from there, you can lean into the tactics that are serving you and pivot away from the less effective ones.
And remember: Because SEO is constantly changing, a turn in the wrong direction on any of your analytics isn’t necessarily a sign of your own (or your SEO partner’s) failing. It could simply mean that search engine algorithms have changed or consumer tastes have shifted. Don’t take it personally, but do take notice of changes and take action to redirect your strategy so that it gets you the results you want.
Without a great local SEO strategy, your business will struggle to stand out. Today’s consumers are turning to search engines for help finding local solutions to their problems. It’s up to you to be there, ready to greet them with a smile and a helping hand!
If you’re feeling intimidated by the ins and outs of SEO, you’re not alone. We’re a team of SEO experts who stay on top of the latest trends and best practices, so you don’t have to. Check out our SEO solutions today.
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Stephanie is the Associate Director of Content for LocaliQ and WordStream. She has over 10 years of experience in content and social media marketing and loves writing about all things digital marketing. When she’s not researching the latest and greatest marketing news and updates, she’s probably watching reality TV with her husband, reading, or playing with her two pups.
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