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Category Archive: SEO

  1. Why Local Reviews Are Your Greatest SEO Weapon

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    articleimage1123 Why Local Reviews Are Your Greatest SEO Weapon

    There are tons of ways you can build your rank in Google. So many, in fact, that many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the strategic burden of narrowing down the field. Should you dedicate the majority of your budget to content marketing or be sure to save some for link building? Should you reserve your publication efforts for a handful of major names or spread them out over a larger quantity of lesser-known players?

    The standard fundamentals for SEO are onsite optimization, content, offsite authority building, and social media marketing, and there are hundreds of different strategies you can apply to each of those areas in different combinations. But there’s one relatively new strategy that could be your secret SEO weapon—the cultivation of local reviews.

    The Benefits of Local Reviews

    articleimage1123 The Benefits of Local Reviews

    Local reviews as an SEO strategy are a relatively new phenomenon. When Google Pigeon rolled out in 2014, it completely changed the scope of local SEO—local directories and reviews apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor suddenly began to matter more. Businesses with large volumes of positive reviews started ranking higher than those with few or negative reviews, and individual company profiles on those sites started ranking higher as well.

    Now, cultivating more positive reviews on these local directories has a number of measurable positive benefits for any online visibility campaign:

    Increased search ranks.

    The first benefit is especially useful for search marketers—the more positive reviews you have, the higher you’re going to rank. In a post-Pigeon world, there really is no substitute for this relationship. Having a presence on third party review apps and a portion of positive reviews is almost a prerequisite for search engine visibility, especially on a local level.

    Increased referral traffic.

    Search engines aren’t the only source of traffic you’ll find increasing. Millions of people consult Yelp and similar apps every day to make their purchasing and visiting decisions. If your business has the most positive reviews of any company, or simply more than the local competition, you’ll gain more visibility within the app and will receive more traffic and more customers as a result.

    Greater brand authority.

    Online review cultivation is as much a reputation building strategy as it is an SEO strategy. When people read great reviews about your brand, they’ll be more likely to start with a great impression of your business, and more likely to spread the word to their friends and family.

    Critical feedback opportunities.

    Your business isn’t perfect. In both positive and negative reviews of your operation, you’ll find critical pieces of feedback that you can learn from and use to make your business even better.

    Why Local Reviews Are the Greatest SEO Strategy

    articleimage1123 Why Local Reviews Are the Greatest SEO Strategy

    The benefits of local reviews are all well and good, but individually, they can be feasibly achieved through other SEO tactics—so what makes local reviews so special as a strategy unto itself?

    Minimal Expense and Effort

    First, you don’t have to do any work yourself. Your customers will be the ones writing the reviews—all you have to do is give them the opportunity. Rather than paying for ongoing services or spending dozens of hours on other optimization strategies (which you should pursue independently), all you’ll have to do is let customers know you’re on these platforms, encourage them to post reviews when they have a chance, and continue offering great service.

    Compounding Returns

    The strategy pays off greater over time. When you’re first starting out, the benefits will be evident, but relatively minimal. But after three or four years of a steady positive review stream, you could potentially hold a position that no new local player could threaten.

    Zero Risk

    Unless you’re using black hat practices like soliciting reviews directly, there is absolutely no risk in this strategy. Unlike link building, which can earn you a penalty if you make a wrong move, there are no major potential downsides.

    Multi-Channel Visibility

    Google gets a lot of traffic, but it’s only one channel. Opening up your local review strategy will introduce you to dozens of new third party apps, which serve as additional traffic channels that don’t require constant ongoing management.

    Best Practices

    articleimage1123 Best Practices

    While pursuing a local review cultivation strategy, there are a handful of best practices you’ll need to keep in mind:

    Never buy or solicit reviews.

    If you try to bribe your way to becoming a positively-reviewed establishment, you’re going to get caught, and you’re going to get penalized. Instead, subtly suggest that your customers review you on these apps by posting signs and reminders throughout your establishment. Let the rest happen on its own.

    Respond to reviews as often as possible.

    It looks good for businesses to get involved on their own pages. Thank the customers who left good reviews, and apologize or explain the circumstances to customers who left poor ones—you never know when you can turn the situation around.

    Never attack a negative reviewer.

    Even if the negative review is unfounded or poorly worded, never attack a negative reviewer. Doing so will harm your reputation. Instead, you can actively improve your reputation by responding to negative reviews with tact, patience, and a willingness to improve the situation—even if it was never your fault to begin with.

    Make it a learning experience.

    Cultivating and paying attention to your reviews is the perfect opportunity to make your business even better. Listen to your customers and learn from their good and bad experiences.

    Once you start building authority using local reviews, you’ll kick yourself for not starting the process sooner. Not only will you rank higher in both local and national results, you’ll also generate more word-of-mouth recognition and more traffic from local directory sites. It’s a perfect opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

  2. How to Optimize Your URLs for SEO

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    articleimage1122 How to Optimize Your URLs for SEO

    URLs are one of the most important elements of online navigation. They tell web browsers where to go and clue users in to the type of site they’re about to visit. They’re a crucial element of user experience and SEO positioning—in fact, some companies spend months and thousands of dollars just picking out the right domain to use. But in terms of onsite optimization and day-to-day management of site URLs, many companies ultimately fall short.

    There are actually many ways you can optimize your site’s URLs for SEO, and all of them actively improve user experience in the process. Make sure you use as many of these strategies as possible to keep your URLs in full compliance with Google’s standards.

    Simpler and Shorter Is Always Better

    articleimage1122 Simpler and Shorter Is Always Bette

    There are two types of URLs; the type that fits neatly into the left end of your URL bar so that you can easily communicate the chain of letters to another person, and the type that fills up the entire bar and then some, filled with confusing random digits, numbers, and symbols. For SEO, shorter and simpler URLs are always better, and there are a number of reasons why.

    First, Google has an easier time interpreting shorter, cleaner URLs. It derives the purpose of the page in part from the phrasing in the URL, so the extended complicated chain of random numbers does nothing for you. In addition, shorter URLs tend to get more clicks than their complicated counterparts, and higher click through rates always lead to higher ranks. And as an added bonus, shorter URLs are more likely to get shared—meaning you’ll see more traffic from other sources.

    Use Hyphens and Lower Case Letters

    articleimage1122 Use Hyphens and Lower Case Letters

    There are a handful of formatting choices you’ll need to make to appease Google. First, make sure all your letters are lower case. URLs are not case-specific, so you might as well avoid confusion and keep things simple by consistently keeping all your letters lower case. Second, you’ll want to include spaces between words rather than running them all together in a string, but you need to be careful how you do this. Google will read hyphens, but it ignores underscores, so be sure to use hyphens to separate any words in your URL.

    Descriptive Language Is Best

    articleimage1122 Descriptive Language Is Best

    Back when keywords were the all-important elements of an SEO campaign, it paid to stuff your URLs full of your most important target keywords. Today, that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, it’s important to ensure your URL accurately describes the content on the page. In one to five words or so, the tail end of your URL should summarize the type of content a user is likely to find there (longer if the URL is for a blog post or article). This will help Google contextualize your site and increase your domain authority as a result.

    Clear Navigation Sitewide Is Essential

    articleimage1122 Clear Navigation Sitewide Is Essential

    While most people think of site navigation in terms of the menus and nav bars on your homepage, it’s equally important to clarify your navigation using your URL structures. This is done automatically in most back end systems, but it pays to double check. Each page should be categorized based on its parent pages in an extending format, using “/” to separate each layer. For example, a URL should start with the root domain followed by a “/” and the first parent page, followed by a “/” and the first sub-page, and so on.

    Parameters and Variables

    Many sites use parameters as an addition to the end of a URL in order to generate variable content. For example, a site may add “/?locationid=20398” to the end of the URL to generate a unique ID. In general use, parameters should be avoided wherever possible. They won’t kill your SEO campaign, but they won’t help you either. They add needless complexity and should be replaced.

    Consolidating URLs to Avoid Duplicates

    Each page on your site should have only one associated URL. If it has two associated URLs, Google considers it a duplicate page—and duplicate pages are a major no-no after the Panda update. Fortunately, you can fix this easily by setting up a 301 redirect that leads the alternate URLs to the original. Alternatively, you can set up canonical tags to instruct Google which version of the page it should consider and which ones should be ignored.

    Fixing the WWW Dilemma

    It’s also important to note that the standard and www version of a URL are registered as separate URLs unless you take corrective action. For example, http://thispage.com is read as a separate page from http://www.thispage.com, and that’s a problem because if you’ve established both URLs, Google will read your page as two duplicates. The easiest way to correct this is by using 301 redirects, but whichever format you pick—standard or www—make sure it stays consistent throughout all your pages.

    Pagination Problems

    Certain sections of your website—such as your blog or on your product pages—may require multiple pages of content. In this case, most developers use paginated URLs that end in something like “?page=1”. This type of pagination isn’t necessarily bad, but each paginated page should be treated with a canonical tag to clarify their relationship to the master page.

    URLs aren’t quite as technical as they appear, so don’t be intimidated. The bulk of this advice can be applied easily with an intuitive back end system (like WordPress) or by anyone with a fleeting familiarity of site structure. Occasionally, you’ll have to double check to ensure no duplicate pages have emerged, but for the most part, once you apply a one-time standard protocol for your URL creation, you’ll be in good shape for the foreseeable future of your SEO campaign.

  3. Why Too Many Topic Keywords Can Kill Your SEO Strategy

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    articleimage1116 Why Too Many Topic Keywords Can Kill Your SEO Strat

    In many ways, “more is better” is an ideology that dominates the SEO world. If you have more high-quality links pointing to your domain, you’ll have a higher authority. If you have more content on your site, you get more attention. In most cases, if you invest more time and money into a strategy, you’re going to see better results.

    Applying this thinking to the realm of keywords, many businesses select a broad range of subjects and key phrases on which to focus their campaign. However, the “more is better” philosophy can actually be counterproductive when applied in this context; in the majority of cases, focusing on fewer topic keywords is going to yield the best results.

    There are many factors responsible for this dynamic.

    How Keywords Have Evolved Over Time

    articleimage1116 How Keywords Have Evolved Over Time

    In the first several years of SEO’s development, keywords were the most important part of any strategy. Because Google produced results based on a one-to-one comparison of specific search phrases to the appearance of those phrases throughout the web, it became very easy to optimize and rank for those specific phrases. For example, if you wanted to rank for “cheap sleeping bags,” all you had to do was stuff your content and external links full of the phrase “cheap sleeping bags” more than your competition, and eventually, you’d rank higher.

    Today, Google operates under an entirely different algorithm. It uses a process known as “semantic search,” which analyzes the intent behind a search query, then tries to find the most relevant answers for that query. Because of this, being relevant is no longer a matter of direct keyword frequency—for example, to rank for “cheap sleeping bags,” you no longer need to focus on “cheap sleeping bags” specifically. Instead, you must focus on topics for your content—for example, “sleeping bags” could be a broad topic keyword, and you could use that keyword to generate articles like “The best sleeping bags for camping” or “10 qualities every sleeping bag needs.” Your keyword choice doesn’t have to match on a one-to-one basis; instead you can focus on generalities.

    These “topic keywords” are generally more extended phrases than traditional keywords. “Long-tail keywords,” which are search phrases consisting of several words, can be ranked for naturally because of the types of content titles you choose pertaining to those topic keywords.

    If you’re still using traditional “keywords” as the basis for your SEO strategy, you need to stop immediately. If you are focusing on broader topic keywords, you’re on the right path—but if you’re using too many of them, you could be doing more harm than good.

    Overcrowding and the Power of Niches

    articleimage1116 Overcrowding and the Power of N

    SEO is a powerful, cost-efficient strategy. The problem is, almost every company in the world is starting to realize it. As a result, the SEO landscape is becoming more competitive, and fewer companies are able to rank in the top positions for general keywords.

    When Google determines your level of authority, it considers your authority for specific topics and industries. For example, The Home Depot is a major authority in “home improvement,” and because they have become so prominent, it’s unlikely that any new company will be able to displace it without years and years of effort. However, more specifically targeted niches—like “DIY plumbing in Chicago,” are much narrower in scope and are therefore open to less competition. It’s far easier to become known as an authority in one of these segments than for a much broader topic.

    Under this logic, the best approach might seem to be becoming known for as many of these niches as possible—however, this isn’t necessarily the case. Trying to become known as an expert in “DIY plumbing in Chicago,” “Garden care in Illinois,” and “Ice cream recipes for children” will be counterproductive because each separate niche draws away from your power in the first niche. This is an extreme example, since these niches are so drastically different, but the principle is the same. Think of it as trying to work at multiple jobs—you can probably manage two, maybe three if you push yourself, but any more than that and you’ll be pulling your hair out and getting confused.

    The Visibility Tipping Point

    articleimage1116 The Visibility Tipping Point

    It’s also worth considering that 58.4 percent of all clicks go to the first three results on Google. The average click-through rate for page one results are 8.9 percent, with the top spot getting 36.4 percent, while page two results average only 1.5 percent. Essentially, that means even if you work your way all the way up to rank 15, you still won’t start seeing an influx of traffic until you reach page one. Considering these metrics, 1 page-one rank is worth nearly 6 page-two positions, and 1 number-one rank is worth more than 24 page-two positions.

    Apply this landscape to your topic keywords—you only have a finite amount of effort to spend across all your keywords. If you work on 10 keywords and get them all to page two, it still won’t amount to half the traffic you’d get by taking 1 keyword to a number-one rank.

    The Ideal Number of Keywords

    articleimage1116 The Ideal Number of Keywords

    Obviously, there is no “ideal” number of topic keywords to have, since there are several factors that must be considered:

    • Your budget. The more money and resources you can spend, the more keywords you can comfortably target.
    • Your competition. Lower competition topics can afford a greater quantity.
    • Your related niches. Choose one core niche and branch out only into related niches—the number and relationship of those peripheral niches should determine how many you target.

    For most startups and new companies, two to five topic keywords is plenty. For small- to medium-sized businesses, up to 10 can be comfortably managed, depending on the above factors. Only when you get to a large scale with an equally large budget do you have more flexibility to tackle a greater number. And as a general rule of thumb, if you’re in doubt, fewer is always better.

  4. Is Guest Blogging for SEO Still a Good Strategy?

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    articleimage1114 Is Guest Blogging for SEO Still a Good Strategy

    Guest blogging was once one of the most useful—and one of the most popular—strategies for SEO. The basic idea behind guest blogging is simple; you pitch an idea to an outside blog or publisher, get work published on their outlet, and reap the benefits of increased visibility and traffic as a result.

    Because it was easy, fast, and free (as long as you went about it the right way), it was a no-brainer for search marketers everywhere. But a lot has changed in the world of SEO, especially over the past few years, leaving many to wonder—is guest blogging still an effective strategy?

    The Function of Guest Blogging

    articleimage1114 The Function of Guest Blogging

    Guest blogging is relatively simple to get into, though the process may seem intimidating to those unfamiliar with the strategy. All you need to do is identify a publisher or blog that might be a good fit for your industry, reach out with a guest post or post idea, and hope to get published. The wider your network of guest posts and the more authoritative your sources are, the greater effects you’ll see. The benefits are diverse and many.

    Referral Traffic

    articleimage1114 referral traffic

    One of the most immediate benefits of guest blogging is the referral traffic you’ll receive. Assuming you include at least one link pointing back to your root domain on each individual post, you’ll see an increase in referral traffic from those external sources. For example, if your guest post gets 1,000 views and 10 percent of those readers end up clicking on your link, you’ll end up with 100 free visitors to your site. Since those links (and posts) are permanent, your referral traffic will continue to increase and compound over time.

    Brand Recognition and Reputation Building

    articleimage1114 Brand Recognition and Reputation Building

    One of the less measurable effects of guest blogging is the increased brand recognition and reputation you’ll receive. As people start seeing your name and your brand popping up on more publication outlets, and as you are seen more consistently, you’ll start to be seen as a greater authority. This, in turn, will attract more people to your site and increase the likelihood that your new site visitors will eventually convert. You can even call attention to the fact that you’ve been published on these external sites on your homepage to strengthen your perceived reputation and credibility.

    Link Building

    articleimage1114 link building

    One of the most popular reasons for guest posting has been the opportunity to build external links. Since its inception, Google’s search algorithm has used the number and quality of backlinks pointing back to domains as a go-to resource for determining that domain’s total authority. In essence, the stronger the backlink profile, the more authoritative the site will be, and the more authoritative a site is, the higher it will rank. Guest posting gives you the perfect opportunity to build high-quality links on external sites, giving you higher search rankings—so the theory goes.

    Social Audience Building

    Social media marketing is becoming increasingly important as more and more consumers rely on social media platforms for their communication needs. A larger social audience means greater influence, greater search ranks, and greater brand visibility, and including your social links on all your guest posts is a surefire way to increase your following. In a self-perpetuating relationship, a greater number of followers means more traffic for your posts, and greater traffic to your posts means a greater number of followers.

    What’s Changed?

    The benefits of guest blogging listed above have served as the justifiers for a guest blogging strategy since its rise in popularity several years ago. However, a number of changes in the market—including Google’s algorithm updates and a shift in consumer preferences—are influencing guest blogs’ effects.

    Overcrowding

    Guest blogging’s popularity has been a burden for those practicing it as an ongoing strategy. Because the demand for content is finite and consistent and the amount of content available is constantly growing, there’s been a slow but measurable oversaturation of guest content getting published. As a result, each guest post published today is slightly less valuable than an equivalent post published three years ago. As time goes on, this effect may become more severe, but for now, as long as you’re posting the best possible material you can, oversaturation can be overcome through sheer quality.

    The Slow Death of Link Building

    Thanks to Google’s Penguin algorithm and repeated assertions by Google that link building is not an effective strategy, many search marketers are shying away from link building altogether. Fortunately, link building is only a small part of what makes guest posting effective. Instead of using links, rely on brand mentions to pass authority—they’ll build your domain authority just as much, and they don’t carry a risk of penalty. Plus, you can still use links to increase your referral traffic—just use a nofollow tag if you want to mitigate your penalty risk.

    The Bottom Line

    Much has changed in the world of SEO over the past few years, but nothing so significant that guest blogging is no longer effective. If implemented correctly, guest blogging is more than just a viable strategy—it’s one of the most reliable strategies you can use to increase your rank. Use it as a fundamental pillar of your SEO campaign, and keep watch for new trends so you can keep your content fresh and original. With consistency and discipline, your guest blogging strategy will take you to new heights in rank, visibility, and traffic.

  5. 7 SEO Strategies for Entrepreneurs on a Tight Budget

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    Search engine optimization (SEO) is a relatively cost-efficient strategy. You aren’t paying directly for advertising exposure, like you would with traditional print or PPC ads, but instead you’re investing in a series of features and structures for your web presence to maximize your overall visibility. Because there are so many different tactics you can leverage and because the size and scope of your campaign is entirely up to you, you have a ton of control over your spending. That means if you have a large budget and you want the greatest possible impact, you can pour money into your campaign and start seeing results almost immediately.

    On the flip side, if you’re an entrepreneur of a new or emerging business and you don’t have much marketing spend, you can still see significant results by investing your limited budget strategically. Use these seven frugal strategies to initiate your momentum on even the smallest budget:

    1. Perform a simplified onsite analysis.

    articleimage1101 Perform a simplified onsite analysi

    Most SEO agencies will be able to provide you with a thorough onsite analysis, delving deep into the code of your site and making recommendations for every tiny feature that can be improved. While this extensive process is necessary for larger-scale campaigns, if you’re just starting out, you only need to focus on the basics—and the basics are free. Set up and log into Google Webmaster Tools. There are a few things you’ll want to check on here. First, check out Crawl > Crawl Errors. Here, you’ll be able to see some broad information about your site, such as server connectivity. You’ll also be able to scout for 404 errors and other crawl errors, which will need to be fixed. Next, head to Search Appearance > HTML Improvements. Here, you’ll find a list of duplicate or missing title tags and descriptions; make sure to correct these as soon as possible. Finally, make sure to submit your sitemap and check Google Index > Index Status to ensure all your pages can be seen by Google. This simplified analysis won’t catch every error or improvement on your site, but it can give you a basic run-down while saving you time and money.

    2. Use free tools to build a quality backlink profile.

    articleimage1101 Use free tools to build a quality backlink profile

    There’s no reason to pay for expensive software that tracks, monitors, or analyzes your backlink profile. There are plenty of free tools available for your disposal, such as Moz’sOpen Site Explorer, sometimes known as the search engine for links. Here, you’ll be able to plug in your URL and see instantly which domains are currently linking to your site. You can weed out questionable sources, learn which sources are the most valuable, and even do some research on your competitors to help you build an ideal backlink profile.

    3. Earn your links through content.

    articleimage1101 Earn your links through content

    Paying for external link building is useful, especially if you’re working with a company that uses a blend of links on high-authority sources and equally authoritative brand mentions. However, this service is only necessary if you’re trying to build rank fast or in a highly competitive environment. If you’re interested in building links organically without spending additional money, you can earn your links through content. You’ll have to pour some effort into producing high-quality, shareable material, but once produced, you should have no problem naturally attracting dozens or hundreds of links pointing back to your site.

    4. Rely on your team to develop content.

    articleimage1101 Rely on your team to develop conten

    When it comes to writing fresh content on a regular basis, many entrepreneurs fail. It usually comes down to not having enough time to write it personally and not having enough money to outsource the work to a professional writer or agency. If you’re looking to save some money, try divvying up the work among your own team. Make each of your employees responsible for writing a piece related to their department within your industry, or offer small incentives in exchange for taking on additional content-based responsibilities. When working as a team, you’ll be able to produce tons of content without paying out the nose for it.

    5. Use scheduling tools for social media.

    articleimage1101 Use scheduling tools for social media

    Nobody has time to post on social media constantly—even full-time social media managers. Rather than keeping your eyes glued to your social profiles or spending additional money for a dedicated social expert, use a free post scheduling tool like Hootsuite to schedule the majority of your social posts in advance. In the span of a half hour, you can set your profiles up for the entire week.

    6. Build local relationships with consistent information.

    Building relationships with other local businesses is pretty easy, and you might be able to do it while attending networking events or conferences you’d be going to anyway. Get to know other entrepreneurs in your area, and exchange guest posts to mutually increase your local relevance and authority. You’ll also want to claim your profiles on any local directories or review apps you can find, and make sure that your business information (with special attention to your name, address, and phone number) are consistent and accurate throughout the web. Be sure the formatting is consistent as well—even small discrepancies can damage your local authority.

    7. Rely on experts for problem solving and direction.

    Eventually, you’re going to run into problems with your SEO campaign. When you do, don’t be afraid to reach out to an expert for some key advice on how to address the issue. Even if you don’t enlist a professional agency for any ongoing paid services, you can typically pay for a one-time consultation or get some direction and pointers for free. Even if you have to pay to get through a particular obstacle, it’s going to cost you less money in the long run to work through the problem with an expert than to flal wildly in an attempt to conquer the problem yourself.

    The great thing about SEO is that it’s flexible and scalable. If you start your campaign with a conservative round of investment and you start seeing momentum, whenever you have access to more capital, you can start expanding your reach. The more time and money you put into your campaign, the greater results you’ll see, so starting small and scaling gradually can yield the ideal balance between capital requirements and potential rewards.

  6. Why Focusing on SEO Is Ruining Your Content Strategy

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    articleimage1075Why Focusing on SEO Is Ruining Your Content Strateg

    SEO and content marketing are two tightly interconnected strategies—the more high-quality content you push out, the higher you’ll rank in search engines, and the higher you rank in search engines, the more visibility you’ll get for your customer-converting content. When working together in harmony, these two strategies bring out the best in each other and lead to greater overall success.

    Unfortunately, most marketers fail to leverage these strategies in harmony. Instead, they focus only on one strategy and think of the other only in terms of the first. When focusing too heavily on content marketing, you could miss out on some traffic by not optimizing your site structure or seeking the right external links, but ultimately it won’t hurt you too badly. However, focusing too heavily on SEO can downright ruin your attempts at building a solid content marketing strategy.

    Focusing on Keywords

    articleimage1075 Focusing on Keywords

    Focusing too heavily on SEO can make you fixated on rankings for various keywords. At any point, you probably know which keywords and keyword phrases you’re either ranking for or close to ranking for, and you’ll be naturally more inclined to include those keyword phrases in your content.

    The major rule break that happens here is over-using keywords in the body of your content. If you try to stuff a phrase unnaturally into your article, it’s going to be noticeable—obnoxiously so—and your readers might just stop reading as soon as they encounter the infraction. What’s even worse is that Google doesn’t factor in keyword phrases the way it used to. Today, it uses a process of semantic search to analyze user intentions behind individual queries and find appropriate companies that provide answers. Focusing on keywords will only serve to sabotage the quality and effectiveness of your content.

    Choosing Esoteric Topics

    articleimage1075 Choosing Esoteric Topics

    The alternative to selecting keywords is selecting topics, either in the form of long-tail keywords or in the form of responses to abstract user queries. These targets are often based on data found through research tools like Google Trends or Google AdWords, and are incorporated into titles based on which phrases and queries have the least amount of competition.

    Overall, this is a decent strategy. It gives you a chance to take advantage of incoming user queries for which there is minimal competition. However, employing this strategy too often or too heavily can compromise the direction of your campaign. It leaves you focusing only on esoteric topics, which individually can be useful but collectively might make you appear spammy. Instead, rely on qualitative data and the perspectives of your users and target audience to choose appropriate, interesting topics.

    Quantity vs. Quality

    articleimage1075  Quantity vs Quality

    In the world of SEO, more is usually better. The more content you have, the more pages your site will have (which leads to increased authority), the more niche topics you’ll cover (which leads to greater traffic), and the more authoritative you’ll become in topics related to your brand (which leads to higher rankings). Unfortunately, success in content marketing comes down to quality much more than it does quantity.

    Focusing too much on quantity compromises the integrity of your content strategy. Your posts will become predictable, formulaic, and in most cases, uninteresting. Instead of trying to churn out a specific number of articles over a specific number of days with a specific number of words, focus more on delivering high-quality results.

    Syndicating for Bots, Rather Than Eyes

    articleimage1075 Syndicating for Bots, Rather Than Eyes

    Content syndication is another area where prioritizing SEO over the organic value of your content can be destructive. In some ways, this comes down to another question of quality versus quantity. For SEO purposes, it would make sense to syndicate a link to your post as often as possible on as many platforms as possible, trying to get the maximum visibility and the greatest number of shares you can.

    However, a wiser, more productive content strategy involves carefully considering which types of content you syndicate to which channels. You might end up with fewer posts and fewer total impressions, but the impressions you do receive will be stronger for it. Over time, you’ll find this approach is more beneficial in increasing your following, which will ultimately lead to greater organic search traffic—it just takes a little longer than focusing on SEO results outright.

    Favoring Rank or Visits Over User Journeys

    articleimage1075 Favoring Rank or Visits Over User Journeys

    This mistake comes into play when you attempt to measure or track the results of your campaign. When you focus on SEO, it becomes something of a numbers game—it’s simple to measure results in terms of how many people came to your site through search engine results and how high you rank for various keywords.

    Measuring the organic results of your content is less concrete, but can give you far greater insight. Your rank and traffic figures won’t mean anything if you’re not attracting the right kinds of traffic. Qualitatively look at the types of customers you’ve been acquiring, how long they stay on your pages, which pages they gravitate toward, and how the react to various sections of your website. This will help you better understand your audience, which will help you produce better content and improve the functionality of your website. Remember, your users have to come first no matter what.

    Remembering that content is an important part of SEO can help you improve your rank, but don’t get lost in chasing after search ranks. Try to balance the two strategies the best you can, allowing them to enhance one another and interact with each other, rather than letting one domineer the other. Only with this careful balance will you achieve the greatest possible results and avoid the common pitfalls that have compromised countless other campaigns.

  7. How to Optimize a Brand Name for Search Engines

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    articleimage1061 How to Optimize a Brand Name for Search Engines

    Creating a brand name can be tough, and it’s even tougher to come up with one that’s friendly for search engines. Obviously, when someone searches for your brand, you want your site and your products to come up first, but perhaps more importantly, you want to ensure that search engines see your brand name often and imbue it with authority so you rank higher for relevant searches.

    Optimizing a brand name for search engines takes time and a lot of upfront work if you’re coming up with a new name or renaming an older product. The majority of the advice in this article will focus on a “brand name” as the name of your company or organization, but keep in mind that the same strategies can be applied to the branded name of a particular product or service to achieve the same ends.

    That being said, take a look at the ways you can create a search-friendly brand name and populate that brand name in authority-rich ways around the web.

    Creating a Unique Brand Name

    articleimage1061 Creating a Unique Brand Name

    First, your goal is to create a brand name that is both memorable and unique. The “unique” factor of the equation is important because it differentiates you from the competition. If you have a slightly modified version of a competitor’s brand name, your potential traffic could become confused if they see both in the SERPs, or even worse—mistake your competitor for you in a more general sense. The “memorable” factor is important to encourage more searches in general—for example, if someone hears your name from a friend and makes a note to search for you later, you’ll want to be sure your name is memorable enough to stick around.

    For the sake of illustration, imagine a company with the name “Qwoxillyyon.” It’s definitely a unique name, but it’s also not memorable because it’s not catchy. On the other end of the spectrum, a name like “VitaSupps” is more memorable, but it’s not unique—it’s pieced together from names of existing companies in the supplement industry. The key here is to find a balance between those two qualities.

    Don’t rush into your brand decision; this name is likely what you’re going to be stuck with for a long time, so spend some time really perfecting it.

    Associating the Name With Your Industry

    articleimage1061 Associating the Name With Your Industry

    In addition to crafting a brand name that’s both memorable and unique, you’ll want to include some keywords, phrases, or even chains of letters that are related to your industry. Barring that, you’ll want to come up with a tagline or slogan for your brand that clearly defines what you do. There are two major search-related motivations for doing this. First, including industry-based language will make your brand more likely to appear in industry-related searches. Second, incoming searchers who see your brand name and/or tagline in search results will be more likely to click on your link and understand exactly what it is you do.

    If you’re stuck on trying to figure out exactly what type of keywords to include, run an exercise that can help you determine the strongest possible identifying words in your industry. Forget about your brand for a second, and just work with your team to come up with a list of seven to ten words that most succinctly describe or are most associated with your business or line of work. See if you can work at least two of those words into your brand name, or the tagline associated with it. Doing so will increase your brand’s relevance to the industry and attract more total search traffic to your site.

    Onsite Optimization

    articleimage1061 Onsite Optimization

    Once you have your brand name and tagline finalized, you’ll have to find ways to work it into your website in a way that maximizes your chances of getting shown. In your title tags, the first few words should be the most important and most descriptive—so here, you’ll want to include the title of your business or a description of your space. Do include your brand name, but try to include it closer to the end, perhaps segmented off with a vertical bar (|). Throughout the body copy of your site, make references to your brand in text and in the context of descriptions of who you are and what you do. Google will semantically learn to associate your brand with whatever type of terms and subjects you include it with.

    Ongoing Management

    articleimage1061 Ongoing Management

    As an ongoing process, include references to your brand on offsite sources. Google sees brand mentions in a way highly similar to the way it views offsite links—but with a much lower chance of getting penalized if you appear spammy. Post mentions of your brand in the context of relevant, appropriate responses on industry-related blogs and forums, as well as major publishing outlets, news sources, and .edu/.gov sources whenever you get a chance. Just be sure to stay consistent in your efforts and diversify your sources.

    As with any search optimization strategy, the upfront work is important, but the true value only comes through an ongoing process of dedication, refinement, and improvement. The more time you invest into making your brand name strong and visible on the web, the more results you’re going to see. In short order, you’ll be dominating any searches related to your brand name directly, and in time, your brand name will help you rank higher for even searchesperipherally related to your industry.

  8. 5 Common Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Local SEO

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    Success in local SEO is reliant upon a vast network of interconnected strategies. Your onsite content, offsite links, local profiles, user reviews, and social presence all need to work tightly in sync if you are to earn higher ranks for local-specific queries. As with any SEO campaign, one mistake isn’t going to kill you—posting a poor piece of content can’t completely ruin your chances at ranking as long as the rest of your content strategy is in proper order—but there are some mistakes in local SEO that can seriously compromise your results.

    These mistakes are all too common because they aren’t always apparent or easy to spot. Many entrepreneurs make them without even realizing it and end up with falling ranks, so don’t let yourself become one of them:

    1. Discrepancies in Your NAP.

    articleimage1051 Discrepancies in Your NAP

    As you might imagine, one of the most important parts of a local SEO campaign is making sure Google understands where your business is located. The search algorithm scans multiple sources for information that includes your name, address, and phone number, then forms a conclusion based on that information. If it finds a piece of information that conflicts with the others, it is unable to form that conclusion, and as a result, you’ll end up with less authority. If the discrepancies are severe, you may not even end up ranking in the right city.

    Google is serious about NAP information—even small discrepancies can be problematic. For example, writing out “street” on your website while abbreviating it to “st” on your local profile could result in a major problem for your ultimate ranks. The details matter more than you think, so take the extra time to verify that your local listing is correct on every publicly available location. Fortunately, there are a host of automated or service-based options available to you to make quick work of this task.

    2. Incomplete Local Profiles.

    articleimage1051 Incomplete Local Profiles

    Modern SEO is about far more than just what’s on your website. There are hundreds of external sources, such as local directories and review sites, that all contain pertinent information about local businesses. Google relies on these profiles to form conclusions about a company’s direction, status, and quality, so leaving them empty is a bad idea.

    Most local directories give you several options to fill out, including details like how many years you’ve been in business and what your mission statement is, along with sections for uploading pictures. If you aren’t filling out all of these forms, and filling them out accurately, you’ll be missing out on some serious web visibility, and that could hurt your ranking.

    To take things a step further, remember that many individual users consult these local directories when making a purchasing decision. If all they see from your business is a bunch of empty spaces, they’re highly likely to move on without a second thought. Instead, take the opportunity to sell yourself.

    3. Inaccurate Categorization.

    articleimage1051 Inaccurate Categorization

    Categorization, like your NAP information, is a bigger deal than it seems to be. If you choose an inappropriate category, or if you select conflicting categories on different local directories, you could lose out on authority and rankings as a result. When you first start a campaign, think carefully about the type of category you want to be known for, and once you choose it, be consistent with it on every platform. It also pays to be as specific as possible. For example, listing yourself as a “criminal defense attorney” is much better than just an “attorney.” This distinction will help you rank in more specific searches and will help Google understand your business better.

    Also consider your business category carefully when choosing the type of local directories you seek in your campaign. For example, UrbanSpoon caters specifically to restaurants—you wouldn’t want to list yourself there if you run an auto body repair shop.

    4. No Local Content.

    articleimage1051 No Local Content

    Some marketers make the mistake of drawing a line between traditional SEO and local search strategies. They take care of all their local listings, but then focus on the remainder of their SEO campaign like they would a national program. As a result, their content isn’t specific, and they end up losing out on a ton of local authority.

    Make sure you write at least one or two local-specific articles every week on your site. Find ways to make your content specific to your city or region, and take every opportunity you can to get involved in the community and write about it.

    5. Ignoring Local Connections.

    articleimage1051 Ignoring Local Connections.

    Finally, don’t lose out on the opportunity to cement yourself further in the community by forging local connections and using them to your advantage. Work with your local newspapers to get some additional press. Mention nearby or similar local business on social media, and share their material—they’ll likely share yours in kind. Donate to local schools and universities in exchange for getting mentioned on their valuable .edu real estate. The key is to embed yourself into the local community however you can, and use those connections to build your authority.

    Of all the mistakes you could make in a local SEO campaign, these are likely the worst. If you catch yourself making one, take corrective action as soon as possible to mitigate the potential negative consequences. Do take solace in knowing that the vast majority of SEO blunders can be made up for in time—just commit yourself to adhering to best practices, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  9. How to Find New Targets for Long Tail Keywords

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    articleimage1034 How to Find New Targets for Long Tail Keywords

    Traditional keywords are remnants of an obsolete strategy. In older days of SEO, it was possible to pick out a handful of short keywords and keyword phrases, stuff them into as much content and as many links as you could, and eventually rank for them. This is because Google’s algorithms once favored quantity as much as quality, and compared user queries to existing web content in one-to-one comparisons.

    Today, Google uses a system of semantic search, which means it analyzes the intent behind a user query, then searches the web for potential answers. Combined with the fact that SEO is a much more competitive space for short keywords, long-tail keyword phrases are the best way to go when writing content and building an SEO campaign. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come up with new long-tail keyword ideas that attract significant traffic.

    There are many strategies you can use to overcome this and generate dozens of new ideas in relatively short order.

    Run Experimental Searches

    articleimage1034 Run Experimental Searches

    Google likes to be helpful to searchers, and it does this by attempting to better understand them. Using information it’s aggregated from millions of searches, Google offers a convenient “related searches” section at the bottom of each SERP. For the searcher, this prompts a series of related and further elaborating searches, but for the search marketer, this is offers some key insights. For example, if you search for one of your own products, you can look at the “related searches” to see what else your customers typically search for—and these are typically presented in the form of long-tail keyword phrases.

    UberSuggest is a great tool for harnessing this power. It extracts information from Google’s auto-suggest feature, giving you hundreds or even thousands of different long-tail keyword ideas based on a single initial keyword entry. Take your pick.

    See What’s Popular on Your Site

    articleimage1034 See What’s Popular on Your Site

    Another great strategy to find new keyword ideas is to take a look at what’s worked so far on your current site. This assumes, of course, that you’ve already written and syndicated some great content. Head over to Google Analytics and take a look at some of the most popular pages and blog posts of your site. Do the same thing with your social profiles. Are there any themes that people really seem to respond to? Are there any new ways you could present these themes?

    You can also figure out how people are finding you using Webmaster Tools. Under the “Search Traffic” tab on the left-hand side, select “Search Queries.” Here, you’ll find a list of keywords for which you’re currently ranking on the first page. If you reset the parameters to include a much longer list of keywords, you’ll also find keywords and phrases for which you are on page two or three—these keywords are a prime opportunity for rank building.

    Check Out the Competition

    articleimage1034 Check Out the Competition

    Similarly, you can look at your closest competition for inspiration in coming up with new topics and long-tail keyword phrases. See what types of articles they’re posting on their blogs and which ones seem to be the most popular among their target audience. Do they answer a specific type of question? Think about how you can answer this question in a new way, or how you can answer a similar question. Remember, it’s a bad idea to copy anything your competitors have already done, but there’s nothing wrong with using their content as a jumping-off point for your own.

    Google Trends and Social Listening Software

    Google Trends is a handy tool to see what people are searching for and how those search patterns have changed. This is especially useful if your company offers a niche product line—here, you’ll be able to tell which keywords have risen and fallen in popularity, along with other related keywords which may have defied the norm. Use this in conjunction with social listening software, which will be able to tell you what types of topics are currently trending on blogs and social media. Use these bits of information to come up with topics that belong to your niche but also relate to current trends.

    Browse Boards and Forums

    Oftentimes, the best long-tail keyword phrases are common user questions that need answered. It’s easy to write posts around these topics, and they tend to get a lot of traffic. The problem usually lies in trying to figure out what types of questions your customers have. By browsing blogs and forums, you’ll have a direct route to these questions being asked in real time. Look for threads pertaining to questions you know how to answer and take action—you can even use these threads as link building opportunities in the short term.

    Talk to Your Followers

    articleimage1034 Talk to Your Followers

    Sometimes, you get so busy trying to figure out what people want to read that you forget the fact that you can just ask them directly. Your followers are hungry for new content, and many of them already have an idea of what they would most like to read. Conduct a user survey or ask casual questions to uncover new long-tail keywords worth pursuing.

    Once you come up with some ideal target keyword phrases, head over to Google’s Keyword Planner. Here, you’ll be able to run a report and see exactly how much traffic each of your ideas receives. Eliminate any that receive little to no attention, and focus your efforts on those that remain.

  10. 3 Rules for Setting Realistic SEO Goals

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    Search engine optimization is an increasingly popular strategy. Once confined to the realms of tech-based companies and major corporations with sizable budgets and dedicated departments, today, the availability of resources and broadened benefits of SEO have made it a top choice for businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries.

    A major part of the appeal is the sheer potential of the strategy; with time and effort, it’s easily possible to build up to earning thousands of visitors per month. However, this appeal sometimes morphs into a lust. The desire to pursue SEO as a strategy becomes something like a get rich quick scheme, where the idea of thousands of inbound visitors takes precedent over the realistic and patient applications of SEO tactics and best practices. Inevitably, entrepreneurs possessed by this rampant desire end up disappointed, feeling that the strategy wasn’t worthwhile because it failed to meet their expectations.

    Without goals, it’s nearly impossible to objectively measure your progress, but with too lofty or unfounded goals, you’ll only set yourself up for a skewed sense of disappointment. Setting realistic goals is the remedy for this problem, and there are three rules to do it effectively:

    1. Factor in Your Available Resources.

    articleimage1021 Factor in Your Available Resources

    Your goals need to be grounded in your means to achieve them. That seems obvious, but to many entrepreneurs and marketers new to SEO, building ranks is akin to switching on a light; you’re either making progress, or you aren’t. SEO simply doesn’t work that way. Instead, the amount of effort and type of effort you put into it has a direct impact on the eventual results you’ll achieve. Therefore, if you’re only investing a few minutes a day to your campaign, it would be unreasonable to set a goal that a large company with an entire dedicated SEO team might set.

    There are several of these factors you’ll have to keep in mind. First and most obviously, consider the man-hours you’re pouring into your efforts. Are you doing this yourself in short bursts? Do you have one dedicated person? Five dedicated people? Next, consider how many outlets you’re using in conjunction with your SEO campaign—including how much onsite content, offsite content, link building, and how many social platforms you’re using. Finally, be realistic about your expertise. If this is your first company, or your first time launching an SEO campaign in this industry, be more conservative with your goal setting. There is no objective way to go about this, but do make sure to temper your expectations with the type of effort you’re putting forth.

    2. Use Long Time Periods and Relative Measurements.

    articleimage1021 Use Long Time Periods and Relative Measurement

    This is almost two rules in one, but they’re both related to the way you measure your goals. First, use long periods of time to measure your progress. Don’t look for rapid climbs in growth in the span of a few days or weeks. Instead, you’ll have to look at periods of months or more—this is because it takes a long time for SEO to show results. It’s also important to use long time periods to compare against each other—for example, it’s better to compare a first three months with a second three months than one month to a second month. This is because traffic and rankings fluctuate, sometimes randomly, and could skew your data if you’re only using a small sample size.

    Relative measurements are also important. Rather than aiming for an objective goal, such as getting 1,000 visitors a month by September, aim for something less concrete, like at least 10 percent visitor growth, month over month, until September. Using firm numbers can sometimes blind you to your otherwise substantial progress.

    3. Make Adjustments.

    articleimage1021 Make Adjustments

    Under most circumstances, goals should not be changed. You set a goal at the beginning of a given period, and follow that goal to the end. In the world of SEO, it’s okay to make adjustments throughout the course of your ongoing strategy, and it’s because your strategy is ongoing. It is a fluid process that undergoes nearly constant changes, so it only makes sense that your goals and expectations should change along with those circumstances.

    Let’s say you’ve set a goal to increase your monthly organic traffic by 25 percent within the first four months of your campaign. In month two, you bring on a new freelance writer to increase your onsite content and social media efforts. At that point, it would be reasonable to increase the expectations of your goal. On the other hand, let’s say in month two, Google releases a new algorithm change that sets you back several positions on a number of target keyword topics. At that point, you would need to lower your expectations.

    SEO is an ongoing strategy, and in order to be successful, you’ll have to create ongoing, dynamic goals. They can, and should, change as you learn more about where your company fits and how your strategy is developing. When it comes time to evaluate your progress, compare your real results to your target results, but don’t sum everything up as a “hit” or “not hit.” Instead, take a look at the factors responsible for you meeting or not meeting that goal, and use those factors to shape your strategy for the next period. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a pace and an understanding that will allow you to adeptly measure your impact and find the greatest possible level of success for your campaign.

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