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Category Archive: SEO

  1. 5 SEO Strategies That Your Competitors Aren’t Using

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    With millions of websites and companies clamoring to get to the top rank in Google, search engine optimization is becoming an insanely competitive marketing channel. If you’re looking to rank on a national scale, it could take years of hard work to build a solid foundation. Even so, SEO is one of the most cost-effective and worthwhile digital marketing channels available, and if you strategize efficiently, you can get the edge over your competition.

    The fundamentals of SEO (i.e., a keyword-rich content strategy, backlink building, social media syndication, etc.) are pursued by almost every business with a web presence, but there are some excellent strategies your competition is likely neglecting:

    1. Competitive Research.

    articleimage382Competitive Research

    Okay, so your competitors are probably doing a bit of competitive research on their own. But what you research and how you research it matter in the world of SEO. Your competitors might be looking at certain keyword phrases to monitor the level of competition for each, then selecting the least sought-after terms to go after. You can take this level of research a step further by delving deep into your main competitors’ content and SEO strategies.

    Start by taking a look at the title tags and meta data on your competitor’s site. The title tag present on the home page likely contains the main keyword idea they’re trying to go after. Also take a look at the type of content they publish. How often are they publishing? What subjects are they writing about? What types of users are responding with comments? You  not have  considered before. The better you understand your competitors’ strategies, the more you can   do to outperform  them.

    2. Zagging Content.

    We use the term “zagging content” here to define content that proverbially “zags” where other content “zigs.” You can do this as a complement to your competitors’ strategies, or as a dissenting opinion to a popular view.

    As a crude example, if your competitors are writing all about hamburgers, you can write about hot dogs. Both are popular,similar American-style food items, so the audience base will be similar, but they’re different enough to capture different  segments within the population. Since your hot dog content “zags” against the “zig” of hamburger content, you won’t be directly competing, but you’ll still be capturing a similar section of your shared target audience. It will also help you optimize for long-tail keywords that would otherwise go neglected.

    You can also offer content that presents opinions or ideas that aren’t necessarily popular. As another food-based example,consider content that focuses on hot dog toppings. Thousands of people will have written about ketchup and mustard, but  how many people have written about ranch dressing on hot dogs? It’s a viable option that most people haven’t considered. This type of dissenting content is powerful for two reasons: one, it demonstrates a strong opinion, which is always valuable  for gaining attention, and two, it’s different, which will help your content stand out in your industry.

     3. Forum Participation.

    articleimage382ForumParticipation

    Forum participation is a strategy that incorporates elements of standard backlinking and social media marketing. It takes some time and extra effort to find and actively participate in forums related to your industry, but odds are your competitor aren’t investing the time.

    Participating in a forum as a regular contributor can help your campaign in two ways. First, it gives you frequent opportunities to post links pointing back to your site in a natural way. Look for topics that are relevant to your business,and include links to articles on your site that are relevant to the conversation. You don’t want to be flagged as a spammer, but as long as you are posting relevant, engaging comments, you should be fine. You can also include links back to your home page in your signature block. These aren’t seen as high quality links, but every bit of help counts.

    Second, you’ll be building a community. Forum participants may not be involved in social media, and therefore represent a unique section of your audience. Forum members are often looking for expert advice, and if you can be that expert when  your competitor isn’t even trying, you’ll win a ton of new business.

    4. Directory Management.

    Local directories are becoming increasingly important for local businesses. Directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor recently received a massive ranking boost from Google’s Pigeon Update, in some cases ranking directory review pages above the individual sites for the companies they review. For businesses that depend on local web traffic, this represents a new avenue for building web traffic from search engine results. If a Yelp page is the first thing your customers will find when looking for your type of business, you need to make sure you have a stronger Yelp page than your competitors.

    To effectively manage your listings in local directories, first you’ll need to claim your page on as many outlets as possible. This includes sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon, and any other industry-specific directories you can find. Fill out as much information as you can, and make sure your name, address, and phone number information is exact and consistent  across each platform. Then, encourage your customers to find you and post positive reviews—the more, the better. Don’t pay for reviews or post fake ones; you’ll get caught and penalized. But do encourage review posting as much as you can to get the edge over your competition.

    5. Video Community Building.

    articleimage382videocommunitybuilding

    Videos are an important type of content in any content marketing and SEO strategy, but you can do more than just posting a handful of videos on your own YouTube Channel. With video community building, you can create a tight network of backlinks and mutual support with your vendors and partners.

    If you use a certain product in your business that you love, make a short and personal testimonial video and offer it to company that makes that product. Companies love to receive testimonials, especially in video form, so if you’re lucky, they’ll post it on their site as a blog post or on their Testimonials page. Include a link back to your site if you can. It’s an easy  and natural way to diversify your link building strategy, add more videos to your repertoire, and increase your brand visibility all in one brilliant tactic. You can even reciprocate by encouraging your customers to post video reviews of their  own pointing back to your site.

    Implementing these strategies may not be the magic bullet that puts an end to your competition and puts you on the fast track to a number-one ranking, but it will give you a competitive edge. When working in tandem with other consistent SEO best practices, eventually you’ll see some pretty impressive results.

    Of course, if you’re new to the world of SEO, this is a lot to take in. Not only do you have to worry about making sure your onsite and offsite strategies are in order, you also have to stay on top of the ever-changing adjustments to Google’s ranking algorithms and respond to the moves your competitors are making. Fortunately, our SEO programs and Resource Library can get you on the right path.

  2. 10 Types of Link Building Companies to Avoid

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    Link building is an essential part of the search engine optimization (SEO) process. In order to find success in increasing your ranks in Google, you need to have a solid onsite optimization strategy (including proper site structuring and ongoing content marketing) and offsite optimization (including backlinks pointing to your site). When you boil it down, the more links you have pointing to your site, the more authority your site has, and the more authority your site has, the more likely it is to rank for a given keyword or keyword phrase.

    Unfortunately, link building itself is not that simple. Google treats different types of links differently; for example, a link to your site from an established university is far more valuable than a link to your site from some shady corner of the web. Rack up too many low-quality links and Google will penalize you for spamming.

    Most business owners struggle to link build consistently. It takes a lot of time and research to post the best quality links, so many turn to link building companies to support their offsite optimization efforts. However, not all link building companies are the same, and there are several types of link building companies you should steer clear of entirely:

    1. The Paid Link Builders

    articleimage383thepaidlinks

    Paid links are exactly what they sound like. You pay a set amount of money per link pointing back to your site, or you pay a regular fee for your link builders to have them pay for offsite links in the same way. Google is explicit in its policy about exchanging money directly for links. You cannot do it. This includes buying or selling links, so if a company tries to convince you they’re selling links at a fixed rate—they’re already in violation of Google’s policy and will probably get you penalized.

    2. The Article Directory Link Builders

    articleimage383The Article Directory Link Builders

    Article directories used to be awesome for SEO—that is, until Google caught on to the scheme. With article directories, you used to be able to pop out an article filled with fluff, submit it, and see it published all over the web with links pointing back to your site. However, Google now checks against duplicate content, making the tactic completely useless, or even counterproductive. If your link building company uses article directories, ditch them now. It’s a one-way ticket to a penalty from Google.

    3. The Link Swappers.

    Companies that practice link swapping are all too common, and you need to make sure to avoid them. Swapping links seems innocent enough: You post a link to their site and they post a link to yours. Unfortunately for these low-quality link builders, Google’s algorithms are sophisticated enough to notice when such a scheme is being implemented by detecting patterns in mutual link pointing. The risk of a penalty is lower than what you might face from paying for links directly, but it’s still not a good idea to rely on a company who uses link swapping as their main strategy.

    4. The Low-Quality Directory Link Builders

    Back in the old days of SEO, when Google could be easily taken advantage of, free directory sites were gold mines. You could easily post as many links as you wanted on these sites and reap the benefits almost immediately. However, Google has completely de-indexed most of these sites entirely. There are a small number of industry-specific directories that can be used to build your authority with occasional links, but you’ll want to watch out for any link building company who tries to post links using low-quality free directories.

    5. The Bad Press Releasers.

    If your link building company promises an inordinate amount of press releases, consider it a bad sign. Press releases are fantastic for SEO, but only when their composed with well-written, relevant news. Most legitimate online press release syndication channels feature multiple quality checks to ensure the release is newsworthy and not a keyword-stuff excuse to build an external link. If you suspect a link building company would submit too many press releases or press releases of a low quality, avoid that company.

    6. The “Too-Good-To-Be-True” Builders.

    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and that rule applies to link building companies as much as anything else. Some link building companies will go out of their way to promise the world to you, guaranteeing an insane amount of links in a ridiculous timeframe, or making a promise of a specific rank by a certain date. Nothing is guaranteed in the SEO world, so if a link building company is making hefty promises, it’s best to avoid them entirely.

    7. The Dirt-Cheap Builders.

    Going along with the “too good to be true” theme, if your link building company is offering you insanely low rates for their service, consider it a red flag. As a consumer, you should do your research and shop around for the best deal, but cheap link building usually means bad link building. Your link building strategy is an investment. If you buy a used car for $100, you can expect that car to break down on you in a relatively short timeframe. Frugality doesn’t always pay off.

    8. The Pyramid Schemers.

    Link pyramid schemes and their relatives, link wheels, are cheap tactics used to artificially transfer page rank across several layers of links. Some link building companies are still using this strategy to build ranks quickly, but ever since the Penguin 2.0 update, Google has been specifically hunting these types of schemes down. A link pyramid might get you a quick boost in ranks, but that boost will be short lived once Google discovers your company’s ruse.

    9. The “Click Here” Types.

    articleimage383clickherewebsite

    If you see a link building company advertising with a flashing, poorly designed “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” style banner ad on a website, that probably isn’t the link building company for you. If a company is willing to resort to such low-quality cheap tactics for their advertising, they’re probably willing to pull a similar stunt in their link building process. Instead, look for a link building company with a solid reputation and an apparent attention to detail.

    10. The Link Building Exclusives.

    If a company “specializes” in link building, it might be a bad sign. Odds are, their “specialists” are busy posting hundreds of links to all kinds of sites, with little regard for the quality or relevance of the links. Link building is just one piece of the SEO puzzle, and if your link building company is exclusively working in link building, there’s a high chance they don’t fully understand the scope of modern SEO and they won’t give you the results your business deserves.

    If your main goal is building quality links to support a long-term optimization strategy, your best bet is to work with an agency with experience in all areas of search engine optimization. Working with a qualified agency will allow you to consolidate your onsite and offsite strategies and eliminate your chances of being penalized by Google over a sketchy “black hat” practice. It might cost a little more than one of the scheming link building companies listed above, but in the world of SEO, you get what you pay for

     

  3. How to Build a Safe and Natural Backlink Profile

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    Backlinks have always been valuable for businesses trying to improve their ranks in major search engines, but the ways backlinks can be used are constantly evolving. Immature search engine algorithms straightforwardly favored sites with more links pointing to them over sites with fewer links, but to improve the web experience for the average user and curtail the practice of backlink spamming, Google has developed a much more sophisticated algorithm.

    Backlinks are still a vital component of search engine optimization, but in order to build your authority without suffering a penalty, it’s important to ensure a safe and natural-seeming backlink profile.

    Backlink Practices to Avoid

    articleimage384Backlink Practices to Avoid

    First, let’s take a look at what you should not be doing. If you can avoid the most common “dangerous” backlinking practices, you’ll be halfway to building a backlink profile that is safe, natural, and valuable for your brand.

    • Don’t believe companies who promise cheap or a huge number of backlinks. In the SEO world, you get what you pay for, and if a backlink building offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.Cheap backlink companies have a habit of building links from low-quality sources, which can get you penalized and take your campaign back to square one.
    • Don’t pay for your links directly. Google’s official policy is that buying or selling backlinks for the purposes of improving page rank is a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines.
    • Don’t exchange links with another company—at least not too often. It’s fine to exchange a link or two with another company when it’s relevant, but if you have too many links reflecting each other, Google will take notice and penalize you.
    • Don’t rely on directories. Some directories, like very specific industry-related ones, are okay to use as part of your strategy, but avoid article directories or anything that looks like it’s low-quality.
    • Don’t repeat your “signature” all over the web. Google detects instances of repeated language, so if you use the same company description or author bio to accompany all your backlinks, you won’t build as much authority.

    Types of Sites to Find

    Now that you have an idea of what to avoid, you can start looking for some high-quality sites to use for your link building. One of the most important factors for your backlink profile is going to be diversity. If you only have one or two different sites pointing to yours, or if you only backlink using industry directories, eventually you’re going to find problems. Instead, focus on using a wide range of different sites for your backlinks.

    The most authoritative sites to use tend to be official sites and trustworthy education sites, such as those that end in .edu or .gov. However, as you might imagine, it’s somewhat difficult to find backlinking opportunities on these sites. It’s worth a bit of extra effort to link on sites like these, but don’t shy away from other opportunities. As mentioned above, it’s wise to avoid low-quality link directories, but look for niche-specific directories. They’ll give you ample opportunities to post meaningful, quality links.

    The best sites to use, in general, are ones directly connected to your line of work. Any forums, resources, directories, or community pages that are relevant to your industry are perfect places to start building a backlink profile. Just be sure to vary it up by using multiple sources.

    Types of Links to Build

    articleimage384Types of Links to Build

    The key to building a good link is to make your build relevant, with unique high-quality content. If you repeat the same phrase or use the same link over and over again, Google will take notice and penalize you. Instead, make sure all your links are:

    • Relevant to the conversation or topic. Don’t shove your link into a comment just because the thread is somewhat relevant to your industry. Make sure it fits naturally into the conversation.
    • Uniquely written. You should never use the same phrase twice, even if it’s a brief description of your business.
    • Varied in direction. Instead of linking to your homepage, do some deep linking. Link to pages and specific posts within your site.

    Keeping these points in mind, there are some key types of content you can use to structure and support these links:

    • Guest posts are solid opportunities because they give you a chance to demonstrate your expertise, give you a semi-permanent place on the web, and also give you multiple chances to link back to your site. Guest post for different sources, but feel free to post regular articles on any given external site. Search engines favor consistency, so long as you’re producing well-written content, so establish your authority by writing on a regular schedule.
    • Comments are another chance to post relevant links, especially in a forum-style discussion. Make sure your comments are on topic and are not blatantly promoting your site—you could easily be flagged as spam otherwise.
    • Press releases and social opportunities are peripheral means of link building. Your press releases should be comprised of well-written content about a newsworthy event (i.e., don’t make something up just to have an excuse to syndicate a press release). Any time you write or post relevant content, make sure to share it on social media as well.

    Diversity is valuable here too; don’t backlink using any one strategy exclusively.

    Timing and Frequency

    In the world of backlinking, patience is vitally important. Posting hundreds of links as quickly as you can was how you built ranks quickly back in 1999; today, that spike of activity almost guarantees a penalty. There’s no objective rule for how many links you can post within a given timeframe, especially when each company has a different budget and a different set of goals. However, it’s important that your efforts are seen as reasonable by major search engines. For most businesses, that means a handful of guest posts per week, and a few comments per day.

    It’s also important to space your efforts out. Instead of posting all your links within a short timeframe, make link building a long-term strategy. Your backlink profile will appear to be much more natural if it grows steadily over a period of time.

    Letting Others Build Your Links for You

    articleimage384Letting Others Build Your Links for You

    One of the best ways to help your backlink profile appear natural is to let others take care of the work for you. By leveraging the power of viral content and social media, you can make people actively want to link back to your site. Use your blog to write consistent, compelling content, and use social media channels to syndicate it to the masses. Once people are hooked, they’ll start linking to you as an authority—and you won’t have to lift a finger.

    Similarly, you can work on an infographic or an interesting video. It might cost some money up front, but if you create a visual piece that’s highly shareable, you’ll attract hundreds or even thousands of potential linkers.

    Overall, successful and natural link building comes down to three things: relevance, diversity, and patience. Your back links should be spaced out in terms of both timing and location, and your content should mean something to your audience. Keep your strategy consistent, don’t go overboard, and eventually you’ll establish a perfectly natural,Google-safebacklink profile that will boost your rankings and authority for years to come.

  4. How to Use Social Media to Build Your Email List

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    Email has a long-standing reputation as one of the most valuable assets an online business owner can have. And rightfully so. It’s one of the few things that you actually own. What I mean by this is you don’t own your tweets. A great social media campaign is important, too, but it’s always a good idea to put the majority of your effort into something that — at the end of the day — you can walk away with owning one hundred percent.

    Since you need to be on social media, it’s a good idea to leverage your time spent there for building your email list. How is this possible? Not to worry, we’ve put together a few easy-to-implement tips for you that’ll get your social list building started off right:

    Integrate Sign-up Forms Into Your Social Profiles

    If you’ve got a decent social following, it’s time to use that fact to your advantage. This means prompting your followers to sign up for your list. Of course, coming outright and stating it that way — especially over and over again — can be downright annoying. A good approach on Twitter and Google+ is to simply include a link to the sign-up form in your bio. It’s non-intrusive but still present, which gives people who genuinely like what you have to say the opportunity to keep tabs on what you do.

    Lead Cards

    articleimage379Lead Cards

    Another way you can encourage more email list sign-ups on Twitter is to use the Lead Generation Cards. These do cost some money to implement, so you’ll need to dip into your advertising budget a bit. But the potential here is massive. You see, the card allows your followers to sign up for your email list without having to open a new browser tab, leave Twitter, or leave your profile. The Card expands down to reveal a sign-up button — much like Multimedia Cards expand to reveal videos or images. Just focus on crafting a really compelling call-to-action in the accompanying tweet and you’re golden.

    Facebook Tab Apps

    Facebook displays a series of tabs across the top of your Page. These often say things like Photos or Notes. However, you can actually add more apps here to customize what appears on your Page. There are several apps for integrating your other social profiles into tabs on your Facebook Page. But you can also add an email sign-up form into one of these tabs. Pretty cool, right? With some rearranging, this tab can appear right at the top of your Page for as long as you want, always offering a prompt to sign-up to interested visitors.

    Several different newsletter services offer Facebook Signup Apps, by the way, so your options definitely aren’t limited. We’re talking MailChimp, iContact, and ConstantContact to name a few.

    Include a Sign-up Link on Every Page of Your Site

    No, it’s not technically on your social media profiles, but that doesn’t change the fact that you absolutely need to include a link to a sign-up form on every single page of your site. When you’re engaged with people on social, they’re more likely to click through to your website. And if they happen to miss that sign-up form link in your Twitter bio, they’re definitely not going to miss it on your website. If you make sure it’s there, that is.

    Much of the time, your social media traffic will point to internal pages on your site. Your followers will click links that you post. They usually aren’t going directly to your homepage. So, if you only have the sign-up form on your homepage, these social followers are going to miss it. Don’t let that happen! It’s easy to integrate a sign-up form into your sidebar or directly within your blog posts.

    Share Exclusive Content That Links to a Landing Page

    Another way to get some email sign-ups out of your social following is to link directly to a landing page that includes the sign-up form. You should do this in your bio section as described above, but you also need to link to it directly within your social content. No, I don’t mean post, “Sign up for my newsletter!” every day. That would just be annoying. What you can do, however, is offer something to your followers in exchange for their email addresses.

    Free giveaways and exclusive content are an excellent way to encourage people to sign up. We’re talking free ebooks, infographics or premium article series here. This kind of content captures people’s attention and makes them want it — so much so they’re willing to input their email address to get it.

    Once you’ve created this outstanding content. Share tidbits of it on your social channels. Think of it as a teaser. Then, make it very clear that your followers can gain access to the entirety of the content if they sign up. You should see a significant boost in sign-ups, especially if your content is really good. At the end of the day, people love to get stuff for free, so it’s in your best interest to take advantage of that fact.

    Offer Discounts and Coupons for Sign-ups

    articleimage379Offer Discounts and Coupons for Sign-ups

    Again, people like to get stuff. And the less it costs them, the better. So, you can always bait people into signing up for your email list by offering discounts on your products or services or coupons to use at their convenience in your social posts. It’s a quick way to get people engaged with your brand, too. Of course, this isn’t something you can offer all the time as it’ll lose some of its power. Still, it’s a good option to boost sign-ups quickly.

    Hold a Contest on Your Social Channels

    articleimage379Hold a Contest on Your Social Channels

    Contests are one of the best ways to build your email list on social media. It’s a really great way to boost your subscribers quickly, especially if you’re still in the early stages of a marketing campaign. You’ll simultaneously increase sign-ups, improve brand visibility, and expand your reach because people love to share contests with their followers.

    You can host a contest in any number of ways. On Facebook, you can include a contest app in a tab. You can also promote it directly in your timeline. Several great apps exist that actually make signing up to your email list as a method of contest entry. Such apps include Rafflecopter, Fan Appz, and Offerpop to name a few. You can cross-promote these contests on your other social networks as well like Twitter and Google+.

    Another way to enter the contest — you can often opt to allow people to enter multiple times — is to allow people to share your contest with their followers. That way, your followers will sign up to your list, then share the contest with others, who will then sign up and share, and so forth. It’s a really great way to get some attention for your brand and build a subscriber base quickly.

    A word of warning here: There are some people that create social accounts for the explicit purpose of entering contests and giveaways, so be mindful that not every subscriber will be a prospect. But there’s safety in numbers here. The key is offering a really great prize that’s directly related to what you do.

    And don’t forget to cross-promote the contest. That is, you can tweet about the contest, even if it’s based in a Facebook tab. Spread your reach as wide as you can for the best effect.

    All of these above strategies work well for making use of social media to build a healthy email list. You’ll likely find using them all in conjunction works best. Just make sure your primary focus is creating and sharing high quality content. Your list building efforts will be best received when you offer something of use to your target audience.

  5. How to Rank For Local Small Business Terms

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    Running a business with local appeal means you have your work cut out for you. Not only do you need to rank for terms related to your industry; you also need to rank for terms related to your locale. It does require a bit of extra effort to accomplish. There’s directory listings and local SEO to account for. But that shouldn’t discourage you from pursuing the very best optimization tactics you can. Why, you might ask? According to WooRank, 61 percent of local searches resulted in purchases back in 2012. And since then, search has just gotten smarter. So when prospective customers input a product/service + location query, they’re greeted with more relevant results. And even if someone doesn’t input her location, often Google will display personalized results that include local options. Basically, local search optimization is very important. It has been for a couple years now and it continues to become even more so. Now’s the time to jump on board.

    What Kinds of Terms Work Best for Local SEO?

     

    articleimage360 What Kinds of Terms Work Best for Local SEO

    On the surface, much of the same things work in local SEO than in non-location specific SEO. That is, search has become a lot more semantic over the past few years. You can thank Google Hummingbirdfor that. Basically, this means that natural phrasing is now recognized by the search engine. For the layperson, this means he no longer has to phrase his search queries in that awkward, stilted way those of us who’ve been in the SEO game for some time have grown to accept. Instead, you can search for something in the exact same way as you’d speak it aloud and wind up with the same — or very similar — results. For example, if you wanted to find a sandwich shop in Chicago, you wouldn’t have to type “sandwich shop Chicago” anymore. Rather, you could type (or speak, if using dictation) “What’s a good sandwich shop in Chicago?” and see relevant results. In case you didn’t notice, this cranks the importance of longtail phrases up a notch. Another thing you need to know is that search is becoming increasingly contextual. Search engines are getting smarter, so they know what you mean even if you don’t come right out and say it. They understand that “attorney” and “lawyer” are interchangeable, for instance. Likewise, it can use your search history to put together an idea of what you’re looking for. This is where the location-based stuff really comes in. Your target customers don’t even necessarily have to search for their location anymore to receive localized results. The search algorithm has gotten so smart, it remembers where a person is located and will automatically deliver up results based primarily in that area. But keywords and contextual phrases are only a part of the local search puzzle.

    Pay Attention to Your NAP

     

    articleimage360payattentiontoyournap

    Name, address, phone number. That’s what NAP stands for in the local search world and it’s vitally important that you make sure this information is a) present b) accurate and c) standardized. Let’s break each of those things down, shall we? For starters, you need to make sure that your business is listed. If it’s been around for a bit, it will most likely have listings online already. Then you need to make sure your address is accurate everywhere it appears. And finally, the address needs to appear in the exact same format wherever it appears. According to Duct Tape Marketing, you can accomplish all three of these things by first going to the USPS site to verify the right format for your company’s address. Jot it down then confirm your address is listed exactly in this manner with Factual, LocalezeAcxiom, and Infogroup.

    Local Citations

    Another thing beyond specific search terms you need to optimize for is the local citation. Local citations are any place online where your company is listed. Business directories are going to be your biggest source of citations. The more references to your company from quality directory sites you have, the higher your site will rank for local search terms. End of story. Now, there are a ton of directory sites out there and trying to check to see if you’re already listed — and if not, add your listing — can be an incredibly time consuming process. That’s why using Moz Local is such a good idea. With it, you can easily see where your site is currently listed online, whether your NAP is in the proper format (and correct) and if there are places you’ve yet to claim a listing. You can also verify that your site is listed properly and in the right category with Google+ Local, which is very important since that directly impacts search engine rank.

    Reviews Are Your Friend

     

    articleimage360reviewsisyourfriend

    Positive reviews have always been helpful for businesses. But now they carry some SEO weight, too, beyond their testimonial value. While there are numerous review sites out there, reviews on certain sites pack more of a punch than others. For instance, Google+ and Yelp are very important and should be where you spend the majority of your time attempting to build reviews. For Google+, you need to build a company page and then make it absolutely clear on your website (and in your physical location if you have one) that you’re on G+. While it’s generally not the best practice to solicit reviews all the time, you can certainly print up a blurb at the bottom of your receipts or invoices that acts as a reminder that satisfied customers are encouraged to leave reviews. Getting a lot of G+ reviews is important because your overall rating and review snippets will appear on the righthand side of the search results when someone Google’s your company by name. Yelp is currently the largest review site out there and actually fuels Bing Local results. Double score! You’ll often find your company is already listed on the site without you having to do anything. Just make sure all of your information is correct and keep an eye on reviews. Should a negative review appear, respond as quickly and professionally as you can. And above all else try to right whatever was wrong in the customer’s eyes. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed by potential customers that read these reviews.

    Getting Local on Social

    I’ve already mentioned the importance of Google+ for boosting your rank for local search terms, but other social networks also provide considerable value. For instance, you can create a company page for your business on Facebook. This will offer an optimal citation opportunity, give your customers a chance to review your products or services, and provide a means of building a community around them. Another locally-based social feature comes from Pinterest. Late last year, the pin board social network launched a new feature called Place Pins. This allows you to build location-based pins that your customers and fans can then view directly on a map. This won’t work for every business and is designed specifically for the hospitality and food industries, but it’s still worth noting as an avenue of local optimization. Local SEO has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to small businesses across the globe. But it’s an opportunity you have to seize if you want to make the most of it. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what you need to do to gain real traction with your search rank.

  6. 15 Tools We Love to Monitor Our SEO Progress

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    Whether you’re just an SEO enthusiast or a full-fledged pro, one thing remains for certain: you need to have the right tools for the job on hand if you want to do it right. To help aid you in that quest, we’ve put together a list of the top 15 tools we use to monitor and manage our SEO progress. We hope they’re as helpful for you as they’ve been for us. Enjoy!

    1. Moz Pro

    articleimage358mozpro

     

    If you’re looking for a truly all-in-one solution, Moz Pro is a good option. It includes robust analytics that help you keep track of all things search, social media, and content. It also has research tools that allow you to analyze your competitors through link profiles, brand mentions, and more. Finally, Moz Pro provides insights for how to better optimize your site. It’s on the pricey side but all in all, a well put together collection of tools.

    2. Advanced Web Ranking

    To improve your search engine rank and gain valuable insights into where you currently stand, Advanced Web Ranking is a must-have. Track your site rank, view local rankings, monitor competitors and unlimited keywords, and create branded SEO reports using this collection of tools. It’s available as a web app and a desktop tool (with more features) for greater flexibility.

    3. Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool

    articleimage358 screamingfog

     

    It’s straightforward and easy to use. That’s what makes the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool such a good pick. This desktop app is lightweight so it won’t bog down your system all the while crawling website links, CSS, images, apps and more for invaluable SEO info. It helps you spot onsite issues and is perfect for larger sites where a manual audit would be next to impossible.

    4. SEMRush

    SEMRush was developed with SEO professionals in mind, which makes sense since it was developed by people in the industry. The tools offered here collect SERP data for over 106 million keywords from websites all over the Internet, which enables them to provide the most accurate data for organic search positions, CPC, landing URLs, and more.

    5. Whitespark

    articleimage358whitspark

     

    If you need to keep tabs on local SEO in particular, Whitespark is the tool for you. It has everything you need to keep tabs on how you’re doing locally like a rank tracker, citation finder, link prospector, and conversion tracker. It also offers a generator for creating handouts that make it simple for customers to leave reviews. As Google’s algorithm keeps changing, local SEO is becoming increasingly important, which means the value of this tool does as well.

    6. SERPS

    If you need to run SEO experiments, SERPS should be your go-to tool. It’s web-based so you don’t have to run anything extra on your desktop and it provides daily keyword rankings to keep tabs on your progress in real-time. Plus, it automatically updates your metrics so you’re constantly getting a fresh view of your progress in your dashboard – which offers info about your traffic, rankings, current tests, and more all in one spot.

    7. Searchmetrics

    More and more SEO tools are taking social media into account and it’s no wonder why: social is intrinsically tied up in your SERP now. That’s why Searchmetrics is such a useful tool. It provides analytics for SEO, backlinks, and social media all within one interface. Run domain analysis or evaluate your competitors. Conduct backlink profile analysis that includes categorization. It’s comprehensive and used by brands like Siemens and Crate & Barrel. You can’t go wrong here.

    8. Raven Tools

    Another great option is Raven Tools, which is a full-fledged Internet marketing software that allows you to create campaigns and sync related accounts for easier management and monitoring. From there, you can use the suite of collected marketing tools to research keywords and competitors, manage your social media and PPC accounts, and analyze your results. It does the work of many different pieces of software, which we particularly like.

    9. BuzzStream

    BuzzStream is a really nice link building tool that makes it pretty straightforward to automate the process of researching link prospects so you can spend more of your time reaching out to them and building relationships. It also comes equipped with PR and social media tools for better managing relationships with industry influencers on social. It keeps your contacts organized and readily accessible at all times, too.

    10. Wordtracker

    Do you need to figure out what keywords would be the best to optimize for on your latest website? Then Wordtracker is a tool you need to know about. It helps you pinpoint the best performing keywords in your niche within minutes after starting a basic search. Often, it helps you find keywords that are doing well without a ton of competition. And as any SEO knows, that’s the most coveted thing you can come across.

    11. Ahrefs

    What can I say about Ahrefs that hasn’t already been said by dozens of others? For starters, this Backlink Checker makes it easy to see where a site is getting its backlinks from. Then this information can be distilled into reports for convenient distribution. Other features include batch analysis for hundreds of URLs at a time and SEO reports for improving onsite optimization. This one really packs a punch.

    12. SEOBook

    SEOBook offers a wide range of free and paid tools for SEO professionals. For instance, there are Firefox extensions including the SEO Toolbar, Rank Checker, and SEO for Firefox, which embeds SEO info into search results. And then there are free web-based tools like the Spider Test Tool and Keyword Suggestion Tool. Finally, SEOBook offers premium tools that are well worth their price like the Duplicate Content Checker and Local Rank. You can spend a lot of time browsing through all of these tools, but it’s highly recommended that you do.

    13. Authority Labs

    This SEO software lets you view SEO ranking reports every single day so you’ll never again have to wonder how you’re doing. Authority Labs allows you to automate your campaign monitoring functions and includes other highly useful features like competitor tracking and local rank tracking, to boot. You also have the option of white labeling the interface for a more cohesive feel for your team.

    14. Open Site Explorer

    We already talked about Moz Pro, but Moz also offers a series of free tools. One of those tools is Open Site Explorer. Dubbed the “search engine for links,” this tool lets you research your back link profile as compared to your competitors. It includes social media activity and anchor text info, too, so you can gather even further insights into your campaign’s progress.

    15. Google Analytics

    Where would any of us be without Google Analytics? Seriously, this free tool is something we come back to time and time again to track website traffic, mobile app data, conversions and more, all within one convenient dashboard. And now with mobile versions available for iOS and Android, it’s a tool you can take with you anywhere to impress any client.

    This list barely scratches the surface of the SEO tools out there right now. But these are some of the best of the best that we’ve personally found useful over the years. Hopefully, they help you better manage your next SEO campaign.

  7. Why the First Year for a New Site Is the Most Important

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    articleimage357Why the First Year for a New Site Is the Most Important

    Some people seem to think that once a website goes live, their job is done. They might need to add some new content now and then but overall, the majority of the on-site work is done. And sure, the design and layout tasks might be finished for the moment — at least until you decide to redesign — but the work of managing a website is never done.

    And that’s never more apparent nor more important than in the year after it goes live. Let’s spend some time going over why that is exactly and how to make sure you’re all set up for post-launch success.

    Establish Your Baselines

    articleimage357Establish Your Baselines

    Before you even launch your site, it’s important for you to benchmark your stats. This will give you a sense of where the domain currently ranks and if there are any issues present. Registering a domain only to find it had a penalty levied against it in the past is highly problematic. You’ll be put in the sandbox before you can get started!

    That’s why it’s important to take an inventory of where your domain is at before the site itself goes live. A few things you’ll want to pay attention to include the Google cache date, how many pages are indexed by Google, domain authority, and any errors that show up in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. While you’re at it, make sure you’ve registered your site in Webmaster Tools. You’ll need it later.

    This is Your First Impression

    After a site launches, your primary goal should be to steadily increase site traffic. The more eyeballs on your site, the greater the likelihood of getting signups, making sales, or accomplishing whatever your site goals are.

    This is also the time you begin to establish yourself in your chosen industry. It’s a critical time that you can begin to build a reputation for yourself. You’ll make connections with industry leaders and build authority.

    Of course, that’s assuming everything goes right. If you make the most of this time period, you should see an uptick in the chatter about your site. As you might imagine, what people say about you is really important. Make regular site updates, engage with visitors, and build a rep as a thoughtful industry voice and you’ll make a good impression. But if you slack on making regular updates and fail to respond to email or comments, you’ll only hurt your site in the long run. Which actually leads me to…

    Now’s the Time for Brand Building

    articleimage357 Now's the Time for Brand Building

    Along with first impressions comes the all-important task of building a brand. Your brand includes absolutely everything having to do with your site, including its design, its graphics, the kind of content you produce, your products or services, your social media presence, and your customer service. Branding is wrapped up in every little aspect of a business, so it makes sense that it would be wrapped up in your website, too.

    Branding is something you build prior to launch, of course, but its reception will help dictate what direction to go in next. And I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be consistent. Those first 12 months after launch are when you clue people into what your site is all about. Do you post on time? Do you offer original analysis? People will get a sense of who you are and what you stand for just in how you communicate and interact with/through your site.

    You have this valuable tool at your disposal here. So use it!

    Crucial Site Indexing

    I’ve already talked at length about the importance of making a good first impression. But that was directed at site visitors. You know, real people with real eyes. But it’s equally important that you make a good first impression on search engines. You absolutely need to pay attention to the SEO side of things, too, if you want your site to do well in the first year and beyond.

    Remember how I told you to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools earlier? Now’s the time to dig into those tools and really use them. Follow the webmaster guidelines to the letter. You should do this before your site even launches, in fact. But it’s important to make regular checks on your accounts to make sure there aren’t any crawl errors or messages. You also want to make sure that you have your 301 redirects in order.

    Be sure to hop over to whatever analytics you’re using to make sure your site is logging traffic, too. These are things you’ll need to check on a regular basis, not just for the first year, so it’s best to get into the habit now.

    Doing Well Out of the Gate is Easier Than Fixing Mistakes

    Taking a lackadaisical approach to your site’s launch could come around to bite you later on, especially if you don’t pay attention to the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Mistakes you make during this first year could result in penalties that knock your site down in the search results by a considerable margin.

    And let me tell you, trying to fix an SEO problem is a lot harder than just doing well outright. It can take months to reclaim your former positioning in the search results, and that’s only after you’ve a) fixed the issue and b) filed a reconsideration request. And that’s assuming all goes well with the reconsideration and you don’t have to provide further details on what you’ve changed.

    Take the lyrics site, Rap Genius, for instance. It got caught for an unnatural link scheme. They sent out emails to bloggers asking them to include links to their lyrics pages in exchange for tweets on the official Rap Genius account sharing their posts containing the links. The company got caught around Christmas last year when Google slapped it with a penalty. Many of the site’s lyrics searches were knocked far back in the search results overnight. Even worse, the site no longer ranked for its own name!

    Rap Genius was able to have the penalty lifted after just 10 days because they took swift action to remove the unnatural links. And it probably helped it made for a prominent SEO story, too. Most of the time, it takes a few months to have a penalty removed.

    All of this is to say, making SEO mistakes — intentional or not — is basically a big headache that you want to avoid if you can help it. That’s why from the moment you register your site’s domain name, you need to be ever vigilant in how you approach working on your site, including what content you publish, what SEO tactics you use, and how you approach site maintenance.

    During the first year, you’re setting the tone for the life of your website. So make sure days one through 365 end on a high note, okay?

  8. Why Isn’t My Traffic Back after Removing a Manual Action?

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    articleimage356Why Isn_t My Traffic Back after Removing a Manual Action

    So you’ve done all the work to remove a manual action penalty from your site. Good job! I know it’s a long, hard road to get out of that pit but it’s well worth the effort for the long-term success of your site. That being said, just because you pored over every possible error for hours and did your very best to fix the issues at hand doesn’t mean you’re suddenly out of the woods.

    In fact, your traffic might be just as dismal as when the manual action took effect in the first place. So what gives?

    That’s what I’m going to answer here today for you, weary webmaster.

    Partial and Sitewide Manual Actions

    articleimage356 Partial and Sitewide Manual Actions

    If your site received a partial manual action penalty, and only a few pages are affected, it’s still important to a) get it removed and b) do your best to regain ranking after it’s removed.

    For clarity’s sake, a partial manual action can most often be blamed on unnatural links. Unnatural or “manipulative” links are those that are pointed at your site solely to boost that page’s rank. Certainly, there are cases where this isn’t your fault at all. Someone else out there can link to a page on your site in an unnatural way and that’ll send up Google’s red flags. Usually in these cases, just that page is affected, however.

    If the problem is more widespread, several pages may be knocked from the search results. If you get a message that there is a sitewide manual action, this typically  means full removal of the URL from the search results has occurred — even if you search specifically for it. The cause here is often super obvious link schemes.

    There’s only one solution here. A thorough audit of every single backlink to your site. But you already know that. And you’ve likely done it! The issue at hand here is why your rankings don’t suddenly bounce right back once you remove a manual action.

    Well first, the penalty has to be officially removed. That means submitting a reconsideration request and getting a message back from Google that starts with,“We received a request from a site owner to reconsider http://www.yoursite.com/ for compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

     Of course, it’s cause for celebration when you get this message. It can take many hours to remove and disavow every single crummy link to your site. So, yes, the hard part is done here. But many site owners don’t see an immediate rebound in the search results. In fact, many don’t see a rebound at all, especially if you removed a partial manual action. At least not without a ton of additional effort.

    And the reason why is kind of funny. You know all those unnatural links you kicked to the curb? Well, chances are, at least a few of them were being read as pretty high quality there for a while. And that means your site was benefitting from those links before the unnatural links were called out and your site was penalized for them. Sucks, doesn’t it?

    Removing a sitewide manual action will often result in a bump in rankings because at least your site is listed by URL again. Plus, you’ll likely rank for key branded terms once more. Traffic should definitely increase. It might not be as high as it was before, but removal of a sitewide manual action should definitely cause a boost.

     Getting Out of the Manual Action Penalty Box — For Real

    articleimage356Gettingoutofpenaltybox

    I’m going to assume you’ve already done the work to remove a manual action from your site. The penalty is technically lifted, yes, but you probably can’t help but feel like you’re still being punished. But the truth of the matter is you’ve got some of your previous site rank and traffic for illegitimate reasons in the past. And now’s the time to make sure your every step forward is 100% legit.

    Follow Google Webmaster Guidelines

    You’d think this would go without saying but it’s actually worth noting here because the Google Webmaster Guidelines used to be just a list of suggestions. Now, Google isn’t messing around. You have to follow them lest you put yourself at risk for a penalty. Any kind of spammy tactics just aren’t going to cut it anymore. End of story. So study the guidelines and follow them precisely. That’s your best bet for putting your site on better footing.

    The guidelines don’t just tell you what you shouldn’t do, by the way. They also offer concrete examples of what you should do to optimize your site. Are you making the most of your meta descriptions, sitemap, and redirects, for instance? If you’re not sure, now is the time to pore over every aspect of your site, make corrections, and optimize your little heart out!

    Content is Everything

    How many times have we heard that old adage by now, content is king? And while content has always played a prominent role in a good web marketing strategy, it’s never been more important than it is right now. You can thank the Panda update for this, by the way. Regardless, you need high quality content, no exceptions.

    And truly, there’s no better way to boost your site’s rank than to take your content marketing strategy seriously. This means getting rid of thin or low-quality content on your site. It means making sure you don’t have any duplicate content. And it also means making the creation of new, awesome content a part of your regular schedule. You can’t afford not to do this.

    Build High-Quality Links

    There’s no way you can recover from a manual action if you don’t invest some serious time in building new links. Only this time, you can’t just take a scattergun approach. Getting listed in article directories or manually creating links back to your site from a ton of tiny sites you throw up in a day aren’t going to cut it. You need the real-deal class of links that are by their very nature a bit difficult to attain.

    They’re difficult to get because they’re high quality. And that means not every site is qualified to get them. Of course, you can do your very best to ensure your site is worthy of excellent links by making great content and being a valuable resource.

    Here are a few tips for getting started on the legit link building path:

    • Evaluate what your competition is doing. A little bit of research never hurt anybody. And in this case, it’s totally necessary if you want to get a handle on what is working for your competitors. A good way to accomplish this is to identify some of the high quality links your competitors are receiving. Notice what pages are being linked to and create your own content that offers a similar resource — but even better. Then reach out to those sites and point them to your awesome content. It’s not easy and will take time but this is how you build a lasting SEO strategy that looks pristine in the almighty eyes of Google.
    • Create outbound links. A resources page is a great place to include these links, and the beauty of it is you don’t have to go overboard. Just a few carefully curated links will do. You can also include outbound links in your content. Cite industry leaders and authorities by name and you’re certain to get some backlink action for your effort.
    • Offer something of value. Whether that’s a lengthy resource guide that will demand a lot of links from people or a free ebook or tool that those in your industry will find useful, offer it on your site. People like to link to high quality resources. And people really, really love free stuff. You’ll definitely get some links this way.
    • Write guest posts. Yes, I know Matt Cutts came down hard on the entire concept of guest blogging for SEO awhile back but he was mostly referring to those sites that are built solely for accepting guest posts that include links for passing link juice. Writing a guest post for a blog that has high authority in your industry and has a high PageRank will help you considerably. But relevancy is key here. Again, a scattergun approach won’t work. Focus on writing just a few high quality guest posts here and there and placing them on high quality blogs. That link in your bio will serve you well.

    Getting rid of a manual action penalty is the first step on the road to SEO recovery. But the job doesn’t end there. You must spend time recovering your traffic. That will take time and effort. But the end result will be legitimate, Google-safe, and will likely yield better results than any spammy tactics you previously used.

     

  9. Can Websites Get SEO Penalties on Bing Too?

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    The short answer? Of course. Bing is a search engine that uses an algorithm to rank websites based on relevancy and quality. So it of course has measures in place to penalize those sites that try to game the system in their favor.

    One way to look at this question is if you should bother optimizing your site for Bing. So much of the focus in SEO land is on optimizing for Google that Bing tends to get lost in the shuffle. That being said, it’s becoming increasingly important to optimize for Bing. Many mobile devices come with Bing integrated — that means users are going to opt for this search engine over Google. And that means more searches for your industry related terms through Bing. You can guess where this train of thought goes next, right?

    So yes, you must use all of your SEO know-how for Bing, too.

    Penalties on Bing

    It can be difficult to discern if you have a Bing penalty unless it’s severe. I’m talking the having all of your pages removed from the Bing index sort of severe. A significant breach of the Bing Webmaster Guidelines will net you this result. What constitutes a penalty is actually pretty easy for anyone familiar with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to guess:

    • Malware and spam
    • Duplicate or thin content
    • Keyword stuffing
    • Link schemes
    • Social media schemes
    • Cloaking and hidden content

    All of these are serous issues that could lead to your site being delisted from the search engine results. While duplicate content is not explicitly stated as a reason for a site to be delisted, it has been reason enough in the past, so it’s best to avoid.

    Let’s spend some time now to look at each of these types of violations, why they result in a penalty, and what you can do to rectify the situation.

    Malware and spam

    articleimage347Malware and spam

    Malware is a tricky little devil. It can pop up for no apparent reason. And what makes it so frustrating is that malware can infect your site through no fault of your own. There was a security breach somewhere and a hacker or spammer found a way in. Often, the malware poses no risk to the site owner. But it can pose a danger to site visitors. That’s why Bing warns visitors in the search results if a site is suspected of containing malware or spam. As the site owner, you will also be notified of the malware if you’re logged into Bing Webmaster Tools.

    Once you clean up the malware and prevent the vulnerabilities that cause the issue, you can submit a malware re-evaluation request. Of course, if malware is left on a site too long without any intervention on the part of the site owner, it could result in delisting.

    Duplicate or thin content

    articleimage347duplicatecontent

    Duplicate content is bad, bad, bad. You probably know that already but it bears repeating. When you have more than one page on your site with identical content, it causes each instance of that content to lose value. Unique content—so long as it’s high quality—is inherently valuable in the online space. Duplicate content, as you might assume, falls on the opposite end of that spectrum.

    Instead of adding value, this content detracts from the overall value of your site. And if the problem is severe enough, it can result in your site being knocked back considerably in rank.

    The simplest solution is getting rid of the duplicate content. Often, this means writing new, original content to take its place, which can be a time-consuming process, especially if it was a widespread problem. Some people try to take a shortcut by adding rel=canonical to all pages with duplicate content. And yes, this is useful if it’s a minor problem. Still, your best bet is to just get your hands dirty and fix the actual problem. Bing also recommends using its Ignore URL Parameters tool if a lot of parameterization is causing the duplicate content problem.

    Keyword stuffing

    Keyword stuffing is a very 1998 SEO tactic but it’s still worth noting that it’s not an acceptable way to boost search engine rank. Primarily because people still do it! However, keyword stuffing can cause your site to suffer significant penalties, including demotion or delisting of your site in Bing’s search results.

    “Don’t keyword stuff,” is about the most obvious advice we can offer but it’s apt, just the same. In fact, your best bet is to create content for real people. That means using natural phrasing and avoiding awkward or forced syntax just to get the keywords to fit.

    Yes, you should still do keyword research and yes, you should still optimize for specific keywords. But that refers more to the overall relevancy of your content to your target audience these days than it does literally including a keyword a prescribed number of times per page.

    Link schemes

    A number of link schemes exist and they all produce a detrimental effect for your site in the long run. Link spamming and linkbuying will definitely get more links pointed to your site. So in that way, they work. But the failure of the scheme is twofold. First, the link quality is poor so no one that’s in your target demographic will actually click through. And second, if Bing catches on, your site could be delisted.

    So many people think they can “fool” the search engine with all these fake backlinks but it’s just not going to work. Bing will notice. And you will suffer the consequences. So it’s best to avoid being penalized in this way in the firstplace.

    Social media schemes

    articleimage347socialmediascheme

    Social media has a direct influence on your site’s rank on Bing. So, as you might imagine, participating in some sort of scheme to artificially increase the number of likes, shares, followers, friends, or what have you on your social accounts, can result in penalties.

    Participating in “like farms” and automatically following anyone who follows you indicates you have a relatively small influence on a given social network. This means your associated website won’t be viewed as influential, either. There are exceptions to the auto-follow back rule, of course. Ted Coiné, anyone? But in general, it’s important to build a genuine following based on your ability to capture attention.

    At this point, it doesn’t appear participating in social schemes will get your site delisted but one has to assume that’s where we’re headed.

    Cloaking

    Want to get your site delisted really quick? Then use cloaking. This tactic presents a different version of your site to your visitors than what’s presented to the Bing crawler. This is spam-tastic and generally not recommended. I can’t think of a reason why you’d want to cloak content to the search engine bot anyway. So maybe just don’t do it, okay?

    Getting Your Site Reindexed

    If your site has been delisted due to one of the issues mentioned above, not to worry — there is hope for you! However, it will take some time. Whether your site was removed algorithmically or manually, you’ll need to submit a reconsideration request offering a detailed explanation of what you did to fix the problem. Seriously, don’t leave a single detail out. The process is similar to Google in this way.

    Having your site re-listed can take several months so repairing the damage is definitely a part of your long-term strategy. There is no short-term fix here. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be a much better idea to avoid these tactics in the first place and just go the legitimate route from the get-go?

  10. 5 Ways SEO Will Become More Difficult In The Next Year

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    I suppose I should preface this post by saying, “Only five ways?” Not to be a pessimist, but SEO has become a lot harder over the past few years and it just continues along that path. I don’t say this to discourage you from trying to optimize your site. Rather, I feel it’s important to be realistic in these matters and to have a clear idea of what you can expect.

    Here are 5 ways SEO is set to become harder as we head toward 2015.

    articleimage345 Content Continues to Become More Important

    1. Content Continues to Become More Important

    Fresh content has always been an SEO mainstay but it becomes increasingly important as the years tick by. High quality content is wrapped up in SEO like never before and that means generally more effort required for marketers.

    Why does this require more effort? For starters, it demands a dramatic change in perspective. While the focus used to be placed primarily on link building and on-page SEO, you now need to widen your focus to include content marketing in a big way. You will still need to do keyword research and delve into the specifics of what your competition is doing, of course, but the majority of your time will be spent creating original high-quality content that demands to be read, commented on, and shared.

    This is obviously much harder than the SEO tactics of old where all you needed to do was conduct some keyword research and create content around a few targeted terms. Back then, you’d see your site rank for these terms and that was that. Now, however, every single business out there has competition, which means no matter how much on-page optimization you do, you won’t necessarily see your site rank well.

    Enter the allure of high quality content. When you write content that is targeted to your industry, relevant to your audience, and is highly valuable, it serves multiple purposes. It’s useful for people to read, yes, but it’s also more likely to be linked to. It’s more likely to be shared on social networks. And it’s more likely that you’ll hit upon several long tail keywords. Google’s getting smarter, people, and looks for context and relevancy. All the more reason to make sure your content checks off those boxes then, right?

    articleimage345Google Authorship Isn't Bulletproof

    2. Google Authorship Isn’t Bulletproof

    There was a short-lived period of time just after Google authorship launched that saw anybody who went to the trouble to establish authorship receive an author photo and byline in relevant search results. It was pretty cool.

    But now, authorship is becoming a much more specialized thing. Just setting it up doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a full rich snippet along with your article in the search results anymore. In fact, if you’re not logged into Google, you won’t see any head shots in the results anymore. That’s only reserved for the personalized results you receive on a search while logged in. The only bit of authorship that remains in standard non-logged in search results is a byline. The byline is linked to the author’s Google+ page of course.

    So, whatever boost people were seeing as a result of author photos appearing next to their articles in search results has dropped significantly. Now, the focus is on building your reputation within personalized search results. And even then your photo will only accompany a result if you’re in the searcher’s Google+ circles and are relevant to them. Relevant here means you’re an active and engaged G+ user.

    Basically, the best authorship perks are reserved for the most dedicated Google+ users. Establishing a robust presence there has never been more important, which means a lot more time will need to be spent on posting and engaging there. Well, you know what they say — there’s no rest for the wicked!

    3. Your Guest Blogging Needs to be Smarter

    If you keep up with the SEO world at all, you likely heard about Matt Cutt’s statement that guest blogging was pretty much done. What he was referring to in this case was guest blogging for links. You know, the kind of posts you could write up in 20 minutes to submit to a blog that publishes everything from nail care tips to home refinancing advice and has virtually no control for quality?

    Those sites are designed solely for providing backlinks and that looks spammy to Google. If you want to make guest blogging work — and I think it’s a worthwhile tactic to pursue — you need to put in the effort. That means writing high quality posts that appeal directly to your target audience then submitting those posts to relevant, high quality sites in your niche.

    That’s the only way to make guest blogging work for you and it is, indeed, work.

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    4. Social Media Needs Your Attention

    On the surface, social media might not seem like it has much of anything to do with SEO but that’s likely because you’re thinking of it in an outdated way. SEO encompasses a whole lot more now than just keywords and site rank. In fact, a lot of companies out there have slimmed down their traditional SEO strategy in favor of a more robust social media strategy.

    The two are inextricably linked now, which is a big change for people comfortable in the old world of SEO. The idea here is to build traffic to your site without the aid of a search engine. An active social presence can net you a ton of referral links and a dedicated follower base, which some might argue has even more value than a high rank in the search engines. Regardless of how well you’re doing in the search results, however, you need to take the time to develop a social presence, too. Even more work for overworked SEOs, yes, but necessary just the same.

    5. SEO Just Isn’t What It Used to Be

    SEO is all about diversification these days. Think you can rank for one hot keyword in your niche and call it a day? Think again. That’s just not how the game is played anymore. You see, where your site winds up in the search results relies on way too many factors. Personalization is huge. That means people logged into Google will see results based on more factors than just Google algorithm. Their results are affected by browsing history, personal interests, social network presence, and more.

    Those are things all outside of your control. Bummer, I know. But it’s just the way of the world now so you have to get used to it. And even though SEO might not be as familiar to some who’ve been in the game since the beginning, the principles are still the same. You still need good on-page SEO. You still need good content. And you still need links. The emphasis is taken off the idea of ranking for particular keywords and instead placed on how relevant your site is to your niche and to your target audience. It’s about the big picture and quality now.

    You will definitely need some elbow grease to get any SEO traction. And it’s poised to get more complicated as time goes on. But don’t let that discourage you. A good website is a good website. You just have to put in the effort to make sure other people know that, too.

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-The AudienceBloom Team