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Category Archive: SEO

  1. Why It’s a Bad Idea to Treat National and Local SEO Separately

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    articleimage1462 Why It's a Bad Idea to Treat National and Local SEO Separately

    Google doesn’t use the same algorithm for its national search results and its new local 3-pack, which displays three relevant local businesses for your local query. There are some overlapping ranking factors, of course, but the algorithms themselves and the target results are somewhat distinct. However, some experts in the industry have taken this to mean that national and local SEO should be treated entirely separately. For example, a local business might focus exclusively on trying to rank in the local 3-pack while disregarding national search, or a national company might ignore local ranks altogether.

    Approaching SEO from one side or the other, despite the schism in Google’s algorithms, is a flawed strategy. It’s far better to use one group of strategies for the purpose of generating inbound traffic.

    Separating the strategies adds needless complication

    articleimage1462 Separating the strategies adds needless complication

    Occam’s razor suggests that when solving a problem, the simplest solution is likely the best one. Similarly, in SEO, the simplest approach is likely the most meaningful. That’s not to say that SEO can be handled with only the basics (even though I’m a proponent of the minimalistic approach to SEO), but the fewer unnecessary complications you add to your strategy, the better. Adding another “wing” of SEO could potentially confuse your efforts, especially if you assign different team members to those responsibilities. For example, if you have one set of people working only on national SEO and another set working exclusively on local SEO, you could end up working toward different goals, ultimately weakening the possible success of each one.

    Every business can find value in both worlds

    articleimage1462 Every business can find value in both worlds

    Rather than focusing on both national and local SEO as separate entities, some businesses completely eradicate one side of the spectrum to focus on the other. For example, a restaurant that only operates in one location might completely avoid national SEO and exclusively focus on achieving a local 3-pack ranking. On the opposite side of things, a large financial firm with locations in multiple states might completely ignore local SEO.

    The problem is, both types of companies have something to gain from the other side of the strategy. For example, the restaurant could achieve a higher national rank and see a trickle of inbound traffic even if the majority of its hits come through on a local position. The financial firm could easily optimize for its specific locations and earn tons of local-specific traffic, resulting in more visibility.

    There are too many common ranking factors

    articleimage1462 There are too many common ranking factors

    While each algorithm functions almost independently, they are based in a wide pool of identical ranking factors. Even if you decide to focus exclusively on one, you could easily start influencing the other by proxy. For example, both local and national ranks depend in part on your domain authority as an independent site. Getting more inbound links from high-authority external sources will increase your ranks for both types of SEO. Mobile optimization, too, is important for both national and local rankings. The list goes on and on, to the point where it’s far easier to manage both simultaneously than just one or the other.

    Algorithm-specific strategies are becoming less important

    articleimage1462 Algorithm-specific strategies are becoming less important

    A handful of technological developments are making individual algorithms less and less important. A few years ago, it was possible (and advisable) to optimize separately for Bing and Google. Today, the search engines have developed so closely to one another that one set of rankings is almost indistinguishable from the other. The emergence of digital assistants like Siri and Cortana also muddy the waters by masking which algorithm they use to fetch results and combining them with other, offline search features. The modern search engine is almost algorithm-agnostic, meaning you have to pay less attention to individual algorithms’ quirks and subtleties.

    Organic visits are organic visits

    While you can easily tinker with your Google Analytics account to tease out which visits came from your local rankings and which came from national rankings, at the end of the day, what you need to focus on are your overall organic visits. Organic visits are the best measure you have to determine the effectiveness of your campaign, and both national and local rankings contribute to that overall figure.

    Most best practices are focused on users

    Though there are plenty of technical requirements to earn a high rank, for the most part, all your search ranks are dependent on user experience factors. Lower bounce rates, greater content, more active social media profiles, and offsite relationship building all contribute to more brand awareness and better customer relationships, which also help your local and national ranks. The bottom line for any SEO campaign is making your users happy—because if your users are happy, Google will be happy, and you’ll rank higher accordingly. Keep your focus on the experience of your customers, and it’s hard to go too wrong.

    Splitting your SEO strategy and efforts down the middle might seem like a good way to compartmentalize your tactics and see which portions affect which segment of results, but ultimately, it adds needless complication to an otherwise straightforward path. You might find yourself naturally leaning toward one side or the other—for example, as a local business you might devote more time to cultivating reviews on Yelp and other third party directories—but treating SEO as one massive strategy will help you maximize your results and mitigate any possible confusion.

  2. How Valuable Is One Click to Your Site?

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    Clicks are thought to be one of the most important forms of online currency when it comes to digital marketing. If an advertising campaign generates 1,000 clicks to your site, it’s clearly more valuable to your bottom line than a similar campaign that only generates 100. There are thousands of articles dedicated to explaining ways you can get more clicks, including many on this site, but none of them explain just how valuable one click to your site is.

    Each site has a unique purpose, a unique product, and a unique customer base, so one click to you may not be as valuable as a click to one of your competitors. Nevertheless, it is possible to calculate approximately how valuable each click to your site is with a few simple steps:

    Step One: Find Your Total Number of Clicks

    articleimage1460 step one

    This is the easiest step, but here you’ll have to decide a specific point of reference. For example, you might choose to look at clicks over the course of the past month, or over the course of the past year. Generally, the wider range you look at, the more accurate your “average” is going to be, but going wider isn’t always a good bet if you’re in the habit of changing your strategies often.

    Log into Google Analytics and take a look at your total web traffic across all channels. We’ll be divvying this up a little later, but for now, find the total number of clicks you achieved for your chosen period of measurement. For example, let’s say you had 3,000 visits in the past month.

    Step Two: Find Your Total Number of Conversions

    articleimage1460 step two

    Now, you need to find your total number of onsite conversions. If you’re looking at a landing page, this is probably going to be higher than if you’re just looking at your site in general, but keep your focal point consistent—if you calculated 3,000 clicks to your main site, determine how many conversions happened on your main site. Factor in any conversions you received, no matter where on the site they came about. For example, let’s say you had 20 conversions in the past month.

    Step Three: Find the Value of Each Conversion

    articleimage1460 step three

    This can be tricky, depending on your business model. If you’re a simple e-commerce site and your only counted conversions are completed orders, you can start by calculating the average value of an order. This will give you a rough estimate for how “valuable” each new conversion is—it doesn’t take into account the fact that a click might result in a lifetime customer who orders multiple times, but theoretically those new orders would happen only after the user clicks back in.

    For B2B companies or subscription-based companies, conversions generally rely on filling out an information form. From there, information is collected in a lead pool, where each individual stands a small chance of converting to an actual lifetime customer. Take this value and divide it by the number of conversions it takes to get one real customer—this is the average value of each of your conversions. For example, let’s say the value is $100.

    Step Four: Divide Your Total Earned Value by Your Number of Clicks

    articleimage1460 step four

    Now, take the total earned value of your given period—in our case, this is 20 conversions times $100 for $2,000. This value represents the total amount of earned revenue you received from your inbound traffic. Now for the magic—take this value and divide it by the number of clicks you got in a given period. In our case, this is $2,000 divided by 3,000 clicks, which results in approximately $0.67 per click in value.

    Step Five: Factor in Intangibles

    articleimage1460 step five

    Conversions aren’t the only end goal of an inbound click. For example, a customer might visit your site, not buy anything, but tell a friend about your brand. The friend may turn to your site for a purchase at a later date. Brand awareness and brand trust are also intangible factors that can contribute positively to the value of a visit—consider alternate ways a click may add value to your site, and make gentle adjustments to your estimation from there. For example, if you get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, you might bump your $0.67 per click value to $0.75.

    Step Six: Experiment With Other Segments

    Remember that not all clicks are equal. A user coming to your site from social media will likely have different values and a different impression than someone coming in from search results. Repeat this experiment by segmenting your traffic (and, accordingly, your conversions). Determine whether one type of traffic (such as clicks generated by an advertising campaign to a specific landing page) are more or less valuable than your overall average.

    Once you’ve evaluated the approximate value of each click, you can better plan, manage, and execute new marketing strategies. For example, if you know that each click to your site is worth about $0.50, you wouldn’t want to spend $1.00 per click in a PPC program. On the other hand, if you know that clicks from social media tend to be more valuable than clicks from organic search results, you can shift your strategy to pay more attention to your followers.

    Use this information in a live environment, and work to make your campaigns as efficient as possible.

  3. How to Earn Citations for Local SEO the Easy Way

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    Local SEO is very promising for local businesses. It offers all the benefits of a national SEO program—increased visibility, more traffic, and so on—but at a fraction of the competition and with more relevant traffic. Ranking factors for local SEO are in many ways similar to those for national ranking, such as the quality and diversity of your onsite content and the quality of your external links, but there are a handful of distinguishing factors that are locally exclusive.

    The ones most important to your local rank are called “local citations,” and simply put, they’re instances of your business profile on various directories and listings around the web. Google aggregates this information and uses its prominence and accuracy to determine your business’s local authority. The problem is, finding and building all these citations can be a tedious, complicated endeavor.

    Fortunately, there’s a more straightforward way to go about it:

    Background: Discover Where (and How) You’re Already Listed

    Before you do anything, you should know exactly where you stand with local citations. Even if you’ve never taken any efforts to improve your local standings, there’s a good chance your business is listed with at least a handful of major directories. Run a quick search for your business name alongside a geographic indicator (usually your city name). Other than pages of your site, you might see your business profile on Yelp, Yahoo Local, or other third party aggregators. Take note of this information. Is your information accurate? How many places do you see your business? This will let you know how much work you have in store for yourself. If you find your information isn’t accurate or that you aren’t listed anywhere, you’ll have a hole to dig yourself out of.

    Step One: Ensure the Accuracy of Your NAP

    articleimage1450 step one

    Your first step is to make sure your NAP information (name, address, and phone number) is accurate and present on your main site. This is the first place Google’s going to look for your local information, so if it isn’t accurate or consistent here, it will reflect poorly on you and you’ll have a hard time ranking on a local level. Everything needs to be consistent here, including the formatting of your name and whether you spell out or abbreviate your address nomenclature. Make sure it’s easily visible on your homepage, on your contact page, and the footer of your site no matter which page you’re on. Jot it down to ensure you keep it consistent throughout the remainder of the process.

    Step Two: Get Social and Start Guest Posting

    articleimage1450 step two

    Now, check out your social media profiles, and try to claim as many as you can on as many platforms as you can. The more visibility you can get out of these free profiles, the better—even if you don’t plan on updating them all regularly. Include your accurate NAP information in the profile section, and use them as groundwork to get rolling on your guest posting strategy (which will also come in handy for links). If you can, include at least your business name and location in your author profile on offsite opportunities.

    Step Three: Sign Up for the Notables

    articleimage1450 step three

    Once you’ve established some level of an offsite presence, you can start signing up for the major aggregators—the third party local directories that Google relies on most for accurate information. Most of these sites offer free signups for business owners (as long as you can prove you own the business), and information submissions and edits are a snap to do. Yelp is the most prominent example here, but Superpages, City Search, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local, and Trip Advisor are good examples of other organizations. Depending on the nature of your business, you might also look for industry-specific listings, the way Urban Spoon functions for restaurants.

    Step Four: Sign Up for Local Directories

    articleimage1450 step four

    Once you’ve hit all the major citation providers you can find, do some digging and get yourself listed in some local directories and newspapers. Find your city’s online headquarters (which may be a community page, news page, or similar) and find ways to get yourself listed. Because they’re focused on only one geographic area, you’ll earn more local authority this way. Searching for “business listings” followed by your city name should give you a good list to start.

    Step Five: Find Out What Your Competitors Are Doing

    articleimage1450 step firve

    Finally, search for your competitors alongside a geographic indicator. Find out where they’re being listed, and if there are any directories or offsite citations they have that you don’t, make a submission. You may not want to copy your competitor’s strategy directly, but performing this step can help you find opportunities for citations that you otherwise would have missed.

    Optional: Use a Cleanup or Citation Service

    The process of submitting citations to local directories, even in this step-by-step format, is tedious and time consuming. You could easily spend dozens of hours executing the work. There are several service providers who can do all this work for you, sometimes to hundreds of directories at once, but this costs several hundred dollars at a minimum. You’ll have to decide which is more important to you: time or money.

    With all your local citations in place (or as many as you’re willing to build), you’ll have a great foundation on which to build your local SEO empire. Stay committed to SEO best practices like writing quality content and getting featured on offsite blogs, and be sure to cultivate as many good reviews as you can from your customers. Continue doing great business and keep your citations in order, and you should have no problem earning a spot in the top three.

  4. 3 Ways Search Engines Are Becoming Less Important

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    Search engines used to be the golden gateways of the online world. Nobody could find anything on the web without previous knowledge of a domain or access to a search engine. Traditional advertising could help you get the name of your business and the URL of your site in the eyes of the public, but the only way to get traffic from web visitors who hadn’t heard of you was to get yourself ranked in a major search engine (i.e. Google).

    Now, the availability and diversity of online technology is starting to chip away at the dominance of search engines on online behavior. We still use search engines, obviously, or Google and Bing would have gone under by now, but their influence is starting to wane in response to three important trends and developments.

    Digital Assistants

    articleimage1445 digital assistants

    In a way, digital assistants are just search engines that rely on voice-based queries rather than typed keywords. But they’re growing more complicated, more diverse in functionality, and they’re being used in far different ways.

    Take, for example, Siri and Cortana. Released by Apple and Microsoft, respectively, these assistants take semantic search to new heights by deciphering the intent behind a user query, studying past behaviors, and ultimately personalizing their eventual displayed results. These results may come in the form of offline files, online websites, raw information, or some blend of the three. They’re killing the traditional search engine because they can be accessed from almost any device, without a specific web browser, and they can present all kinds of relevant information with a simple query. Once sold on this voice-activated assistant, the average user is hard-pressed to go back to the type-and-find method.

    Other forms of digital assistants are threatening search engines due to their sheer efficiency; instant answer applications like Google’s Knowledge Graph take a user query and algorithmically find the most relevant information immediately. For example, if you run a Google search for a movie, the Knowledge Graph will instantly generate basic information on that movie such as its debut year, principle actors, and any awards it may have won. With this information, users have less reason to click through to actual websites, limiting the potential traffic a site can generate by ranking high for a given query. In this way, Google is gradually shaping user behavior toward a new kind of search—and a new expectation of results.

    Social Media Ubiquity

    articleimage1445 Social Media Ubiquity

    Facebook has done for social media platforms what Google did for search engines—it’s the undisputed king, and nearly everyone with a reliable Internet connection has a profile they log into at least occasionally. Facebook advertising has grown similar to Google advertising, but Facebook is starting to decrease the need for search engines in general in a handful of key ways.

    First, consider Facebook’s Instant Articles, which allow certain publishers to post full-length versions of their articles for Facebook users to read, without ever posting it to an external site first. This idea came from the fact that more people see certain articles on Facebook than they see them on the original publisher’s site. This isn’t the only functionality that Facebook has added recently, with new aggregated messenger functionality, “buy” buttons for advertisers, and auto-play videos just scratching the surface of what it’s introduced.

    Facebook’s goal here is to present an all-in-one online experience for its users, preventing the need for a search engine to find articles or display content. It’s even planning the release of a digital assistant and search engine of its own, accessible entirely within the app itself. Other social media platforms will likely take notice of Facebook’s shift, adopting new features and add-ons of their own until virtually every social media site becomes an all-in-one online experience unto itself.

    App Functionality

    articleimage1445 App Functionality

    Finally, consider how the average user’s online experience has changed over the course of the past decade. Wireless Internet is available almost everywhere, and mobile devices represent the majority of all online activities. Users are no longer reliant on dedicated devices, wired connections, and web browsers to find the information or functionality they need in any given situation. If they need a ride somewhere, they can use the Uber app. If they want to identify a song, they can use the Shazam app.

    Imagine for a moment that you had an app in your phone for every piece of information or every functionality you could ever need from the Internet. At that point, would you ever return to traditional websites or search engines? Chances are slim. Apps are slowly killing off the “traditional” online experience, including search engines, though there are still opportunities for search to survive in the context of those apps (or in the process of finding them to download).

    Search itself isn’t dying: instead, the way we use search is starting to change. The conventional form of a type-based single entry that generates pages of potential links is starting to disappear in favor of more complex algorithms, more general forms of search that blend online and offline, new types of online experiences, and new platforms that can do everything we need in one location. If you’ve invested the last few years of your life to a killer SEO campaign, you don’t necessarily have a reason to worry—just be on your toes for the changes that come, and be willing to adapt to this new environment.

  5. Why Good SEO Is Always a Team Sport

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    Some entrepreneurs take on everything by themselves, especially in the early stages of a startup. They handle the entire marketing strategy, including SEO, in the hopes of getting more traffic to their site. Bigger companies might hire a dedicated SEO expert to handle all things related to inbound marketing, but it’s still one person tackling the entire scope of the campaign.

    Such approaches can theoretically be useful; in fact, I’ve seen more than a few companies earn valuable page one ranks with only one person doing the behind-the-scenes work. But as a general rule, the most effective SEO campaigns are always better when handled as a team.

    Content Production

    articleimage1425 Content Production

    Content is one of the most important pieces of your SEO campaign, and it can be handled by one person—in theory. But consider this: the most important quality of an ongoing content campaign today is diversity. That means diversity in mediums and formats, diversity in topics, and diversity in approaches. One person might be able to handle that to a reasonable degree, but if you inject a few more voices into the rotation, your diversity can scale greatly.

    For example, consider a company with departments of sales, engineering, and operations. Your SEO expert might understand the business pretty well and might be able to write some great content around it. But your engineers will know mechanical specifications of your equipment and products that go beyond your expert’s knowledge. Your operations department will give more insight into the day-to-day business. And your sales team will probably be better acquainted with common concerns and questions that you clients and potential clients come up with. Working together as a team, you can collectively produce better, more informed, more diverse types of content, or at least provide the framework for it.

    Social Media and Syndication

    articleimage1425 Social Media and Syndication

    For most companies, managing social media accounts is not a full-time job. It shouldn’t be. Yet it’s also impossible to be effective on social media if you’re only on it for 10 minutes a day—you’ll miss valuable conversations to get in on, valuable posts to share, and valuable responses will go unattended for hours or days at a time.

    The best way to improve your company’s social media coverage is to allow multiple members of your team to log in and check it in between tasks or during other periods of downtime. If 10 people each spend 10 minutes checking for news and responding to follower inquires, you’ll have almost two full hours of coverage, and you’ll have different eyes and voices to diversify your approach.

    It’s also valuable to get your employees involved at an individual level. For example, when you share a piece of content on Facebook, have your employees share it on their personal pages. Such a move could instantly open up your content to hundreds to thousands of new eyes instantly—and it only takes a few people a simple click of a button.

    Site Troubleshooting

    articleimage1425 Site Troubleshooting

    Websites are a pain to manage, but it’s worse when you’re doing it alone. If you want to make sure Google can crawl your site (and users can access it), you need to be aware of what’s happening with it at all times. When a page is added or removed, a 301 redirect needs to be established. If your site goes down completely, you need to know immediately and start taking corrective action. If you have a developer on hand, your developer and SEO authority can tag-team the responsibilities, but keep your entire team on watch in case anything unusual happens to your site.

    User Experience Testing

    articleimage1425 User Experience Testing

    When it comes to the user experience of your site, you can never test enough, and you can never make enough improvements. The goals of your designers and your SEO team are one in the same here: make your inbound users as satisfied as possible. This will keep them coming back, and lower your bounce rates, both of which can indicate higher authority to Google. No one person can accurately imagine all the scenarios a user might take throughout the site, and no one person can imagine all the solutions to make your site better. Working as a team, and reviewing the necessary testing data can help you come up with better ideas and catch mistakes faster.

    Offsite Link Building

    articleimage1425 Offsite Link Building

    Finally, consider your link building program. Identifying targets, submitting guest content, requesting permissions, and manually posting are all tedious and time-consuming tasks. If you get your entire team involved, however, the process instantly becomes faster and less of a chore for any one person. In addition, different team members will frequent different sites, meaning you’ll have a key opportunity to uncover new link partners, and as with content, the more diverse your strategy is, the better.

    The more people you have involved in your SEO strategy, even if it’s at a distance, the better. You’ll come up with more ideas, you’ll have access to an exponentially wider network, and best of all, nobody will get overworked. Modern SEO can’t be compartmentalized the way it used to be because it can’t be reduced to one or two different strategies. It needs to be approached and considered as a team event, whether you have an in-house team of search marketing experts or a handful of people willing to spend a few extra minutes of their day optimizing your online presence.

  6. Is It Possible to Optimize a Site for Digital Assistants?

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    Search engines are evolving in strange new ways. Mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches (at long last), and competitors like Bing and Yahoo are growing more and more like Google every day, unifying the capacity of every major search brand. As if that weren’t enough, a wave of digital assistants like Siri, Google Now, and Cortana have begun to emerge to redefine the search process—rather than opening a browser window, going to a search engine site, and plugging in an entry only to wade through a string of possible results, users can now use conversational commands and queries to engage with a human-like interface and be met with an almost immediate answer.

    Modern digital assistants function almost as intermediaries, with search engines themselves operating in the background. Oftentimes, traffic from searches is completely negated—users get the answers they need without browsing or navigating to individual websites—and in other cases, digital assistants take you to websites directly based on your queries. With this new paradigm of search in place, is it even possible to optimize your site for a digital assistant?

    How Digital Assistants Find Results

    articleimage1423 How Digital Assistants Find Results

    On the surface, most digital assistants find results in a process similar to the search engines we’ve all become familiar with. There are, however, a few critical distinctions:

    • Digital assistants search more than just the web. For example, Windows Cortana searches the files on your hard drive for certain types of queries while relying on a Bing-based online search for others.
    • Conversational search is the ultimate priority. The main convenience of digital assistants, and the reason they’ve become so popular is the fact that they can be accessed and used with simple voice commands. While semantic search (and voice-based searches) have been around for years, digital assistants are taking them to the next level by mandating and perfecting the spoken word process. Queries are more conversational, and results must speak to the intention behind those queries.
    • Habits and histories are dutifully considered. Google tailors its search results based on past things you’ve searched for and previous online habits. Digital assistants do the same thing, but to an even greater degree. For example, Cortana can “learn” that when you search for a spreadsheet, you aren’t looking for tips on how to use one, you’re looking for one you’ve already made.
    • Immediate answers are the goal. Digital assistant users aren’t looking for an extended browsing trip. They’re looking for fast, immediate answers to their queries. As a result, digital assistants prioritize immediate, Knowledge Graph-like responses.

    It’s also worth mentioning that not all digital assistants function identically, just as individual search engines never functioned identically. Their similarities can be grouped as generalizations worth noting, but idiosyncrasies and unique characteristics will still keep them differentiated.

    Still, digital assistants rely on existing web search algorithms for certain types of queries—i.e., ones that can only be sufficiently answered by directing a user to a specific website. For example, if you ask your digital assistant about a product that’s only offered by one e-commerce platform (however unlikely that scenario might be), you’ll likely be redirected to that website. It gets a little trickier if that product is offered on multiple platforms, especially if a mobile app is one of them, but if the key is to offer something unique that can only be found on your website—and can’t be summarized with a simple informational breakdown.

    Key Takeaways

    articleimage1423 Key Takeaways

    Knowing this information, there are a few key takeaways you can incorporate into your current SEO strategy to account for the rise of digital assistants:

    • Keep conversational language in your posts. Conversational queries naturally seek out conversational results. Including long-tail keywords, colloquial phrases, and long form questions in your content will help you appear for more voice-based queries.
    • Reduce your efforts on basic information. For a while, writing posts with simple answers to common questions was a good idea. Now, digital assistants can provide that information directly, without using you as the go-between. Instead of writing this type of content, venture into more complex, niche territory.
    • Include more photos and videos. For now, digital assistants can’t bypass you to provide visual content—they have to route to you directly. For this reason, it’s better to incorporate more images, videos, and other visuals into your content rotation.
    • Expand your reach on other platforms. Users don’t rely on digital assistants for everything. Stay active on as many social media platforms and third party directories as possible—this won’t help you rank in a digital assistant interface, but will give you greater visibility elsewhere.

    The Future of SEO

    articleimage1423 The Future of SEO

    Digital assistants aren’t the most used form of search today, but they’re growing more popular and could one day replace the typical browser-based search engine entirely. When that happens, users will become reliant on immediate answers and local solutions for everything, and overall visits to websites will diminish. Already, giants like Wikipedia are feeling the effects of the Knowledge Graph and similar quick-answer programs. When the trend develops further, SEO as we know it could vanish entirely, replaced by a new means of achieving digital visibility with users.

    Until that time comes, it’s worth your time and money to invest in your online presence. Hedge your bets by covering as much ground as possible with great, diverse content, and a presence on as many external platforms and apps as possible. The goal is visibility, however you can get it.

  7. Are Press Releases Still Important for SEO?

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    Press releases were once the golden strategy for SEO. They were relatively easy to create, plentiful, cheap, and yet they packed a powerful boost to your domain authority when you submitted and published one. To top it all off, they came with almost no risk whatsoever, compared to less predictable strategies like traditional link building.

    But as we’ve all experienced firsthand, the world of SEO changes quickly, often without warning, and sometimes so subtly that the differences are almost impossible to discern for any but the most attuned to algorithm changes. In today’s world, where mobile dominates, the content market is oversaturated, and link building is evolving in strange new ways, are press releases still important?

    The Goal of the Press Release

    articleimage1422 The Goal of the Press Release

    The main wonder of press releases is the fact that they have so many advantages. With a well-written press release, you can theoretically achieve the following:

    • Links from many high authority sources. Because even medium-sized news publishers carry high levels of domain authority, any link you get from one of these sources is instantly more credible and powerful than a link on a blog or forum. Plus, because you’re syndicating a press release to thousands of sources at once, your link potential is enormous. That, in turn, yields higher ranks for your site and more organic visitors.
    • Referral traffic from popular publishers. Once your article is published, consumers can follow your link back to your site, resulting in increased direct traffic.
    • Brand visibility. Simply having your brand name in headlines every once in a while can increase your brand visibility and market exposure, which in turn makes more potential customers aware of you, and existing customers more likely to buy.
    • A chance to publicize an important announcement. If you’re launching a new product or having a massive promotion, this is one of the best ways to spread the word.

    In exchange, all you have to do is write up a story that’s newsworthy and relevant for your brand. The submission process typically requires a third party service (or hours of work to track down individual publishers and submit manually), but the whole process shouldn’t take more than 25 hours of work or $500 (unless you’re going very high profile).

    All of these qualities are still relevant to press releases, but they have gone through some changes over the last few years.

    Links from high authority sources

    articleimage1422 Links from high authority sources

    Submitting a press release today will actually get you exposure to even more channels. But there’s a problem that’s arisen from the oversaturation of press releases (and content in general). Because there are so many sources publishing so many things, the overall value of each publisher has gone down. The publishers who pick up your press release for publication generally won’t pass that much authority to your site anymore. The really high profile publishers who hold all the authority have, as a result of this oversaturation, gotten far pickier when it comes to content to syndicate—meaning even if you have a well-written release, your chances of making it in aren’t good.

    Referral traffic

    articleimage1422 Referral traffic

    Similarly, you’re bound to get a bit of referral traffic from any press release that gets picked up on more than one outlet. People will see it, read it, and click through. But the publishers most likely to pick up your release are probably picking up dozens to hundreds of releases a day. It won’t be long before yours gets buried, giving you only a momentary blip of extra traffic.

    Brand visibility

    articleimage1422 Brand visibility

    Brand visibility is an intangible asset, but press releases are still good for it. They can’t take your name out of the headline, so even people who don’t read your entire article will experience some level of exposure. The problem with this is the same as with referral traffic—in a matter of days, and sometimes hours, your brand will be buried in a pit of white noise.


    articleimage1422 Publicity

    Press releases are just as powerful as ever for publicity, and for one reason: press releases are shareable. If you publicize an event that gets the public excited about something, you’ll easily earn hundreds if not thousands of shares. Posting on social media just isn’t enough to generate this level of attention.


    The pickier a publisher is, the more traffic and authority you’ll stand to generate from it. That means it’s more important today to write a press release that’s truly worth publishing. It needs to be relevant, concise, valuable, appealing, and interesting all at once, and well-written and well-formatted to boot. Achieving that level of quality makes writing an effective press release more difficult now than it was even five years ago. Keep this in mind when you consider including press releases as a part of your strategy; the time and money you invest in them must increase if you want to reap the same rewards.

    The Bottom Line

    If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is: press releases are still good for SEO, and worth the effort you put into them, but they’re not the authoritative juggernauts they used to be. They’re going to cost you more time and money, they’re not going to be as credible or as visible as they used to be, they aren’t going to pass as much authority to your site, and they aren’t going to generate as much overall traffic.

    As a balanced part of a well-rounded and diverse SEO strategy, press releases are perfect. But don’t make them a fundamental pillar of your approach, and don’t let yourself believe that a single press release can turn your campaign around. Use them judiciously and in moderation, and you should have no trouble making them a valuable part of your content arsenal.

  8. 7 Questions to Determine Whether You Should Increase Your SEO Budget

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    Budget is one of the biggest considerations in an SEO campaign. No matter how much traffic you gain, how many new leads you close, and how much total money your strategy makes you, none of that matters if your inbound revenue is still less than what you’re spending on a campaign.

    That being said, a greater SEO budget, if spent wisely, generally leads to greater results. So how can you tell whether it’s time to increase your own SEO budget? These seven questions can help you figure that out:

    1. Have You Seen Positive Results?

    articleimage1420 Have You Seen Positive Results

    Here, the key word “positive” can be taken to mean a few different things. Have you seen forward momentum in your keyword rankings since the start of your campaign? Have you seen an increase in organic traffic? An SEO campaign doesn’t need a big budget to start things off—you should be able to see some momentum even with a small budget and a reasonable understanding of the basics. If you’ve achieved that, you can consider moving on (even if your recent months have been volatile or stagnant). If you haven’t achieved that, focus on that foundation before you try to ramp up your spending.

    2. Have You Hit a Plateau?

    articleimage1420 Have You Hit a Plateau

    If you’ve seen several weeks and months of consistent growth in terms of rankings and traffic, only to find a level of stagnation across the most recent few months, it means you’ve hit a plateau. You aren’t sliding backward, but you aren’t moving forward, and your budget could be the factor to blame. The fact that you aren’t losing ground means you aren’t doing anything explicitly “wrong,” and the fact that you aren’t gaining momentum means you aren’t doing enough to take your campaign to the next level. At this juncture, increasing your budget is almost always a wise decision.

    3. Are You Taking Advantage of Every Free Medium?

    articleimage1420 Are You Taking Advantage of Every Free Medium

    Take a look at all the free resources you’re currently using and determine if there are any you aren’t. For example, are you syndicating your content across as many social media channels as possible? Are you submitting your content to enough external blogs? Are you leveraging the power of user-submitted content? All these things are free and can help boost your campaign. Before you look to increasing your budget, you should consider giving them a try. You might find yourself able to sustain a campaign with even a limited budget this way.

    4. Do You Feel Overworked?

    articleimage1420 Do You Feel Overworked

    This question is more subjective than the ones I posed above. It has everything to do with how you feel about your role in your current SEO campaign. Do you find yourself spending all your time on SEO, even though you have other responsibilities in your company? Are you working nights and weekends to keep up with the workload your SEO strategy demands? If so, you probably aren’t operating efficiently, and the best course of action is to increase your budget and put that money toward an assistant, a freelancer, or an agency who can help you out—especially if you’re seeing good results so far.

    5. Are You Satisfied With Your Current Strategy?

    articleimage1420 Are You Satisfied With Your Current Strategy

    When you take a high-level look at your current strategy, are you satisfied with its implementation? For example, what kinds of topics are you posting about? What channels are you using the most? If you aren’t targeting the audience you want to target or you aren’t leveraging the channels you want to leverage, the solution isn’t to throw more money at the campaign. Your first job has to be to fix the campaign as it exist today. Think of it this way; if your house was built on a shaky foundation, would your first goal be to remodel the bathroom?

    6. Have You Identified Key Opportunities?

    Just increasing your budget isn’t enough. You have to know where your campaign would (and will) expand once that money comes in. For example, do you see an opportunity in posting twice as often as you currently do? Do you see an advantage in producing more videos or infographics? If you have a handful of new directions or strategies in mind, that’s a good indication that you’re ready to increase your budget. Otherwise, you might be increasing your spend for its own sake.

    7. Do You Know How You Would Spend the Money?

    If you were to increase your budget, think about how you would actually spend it. Would you hire someone new to shoulder a new branch of responsibilities? Would you bring in a freelancer to help you handle the overflow work? Would you contract with an agency for a single core competency that you happen to lack? Or would you use the money to find new, high-profile publishing opportunities? Before you start funneling more money into your campaign, develop a loose plan for how you’re going to spend it.

    If you can answer these questions confidently, it’s a good indication that you know where you stand in terms of your current SEO strategy and budget. With that knowledge, if you feel like greater spending is the solution to getting more traffic and leads, then you should definitely increase your budget. As a general rule, you should never increase your budget if you don’t know what you’re doing (unless you’re using that money to consult an expert). Otherwise, any budgetary moves are fair game.

  9. How to Improve Your Customer Service the SEO Friendly Way

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    No matter what type of industry you’re in, customer service is an essential element of your business. It’s what keeps satisfied customers satisfied and what helps disgruntled customers resolve their issues with your brand. A successful customer service program can significantly increase your customer retention and improve your brand reputation across the board, but there’s more to modern customer service than just hiring a few more smiling faces for your call center.

    If you want to make the most of your budget, it’s better to kill two birds with one stone—making changes to your customer service approach that also benefit your domain authority, so you can rise in search ranks over time.

    Create an In-Depth FAQ or Tutorial Section

    articleimage1412 Create an In-Depth FAQ or Tutorial Section

    Your first job is to create a sufficiently advanced FAQ or tutorial section for your products and services. For example, if you have a software product you’re trying to market to the masses, it makes sense to have a tutorial demonstrating how to use the system and a troubleshooting guide to help people navigate their problems.

    In addition to having very specific information for practically any problem that could come up, your FAQ section should have three features if you want to make the most of it for your SEO campaign:

    • Multiple separate pages with sufficient depth. First, try to create as many subpages as possible. More pages means more opportunities to rank. However, don’t be tempted to create pages for the sake of creating pages—all of your new pages should have sufficient depth to warrant a new page.
    • An intuitive navigation. All those pages need some underlying structure for search engines (and users) to make sense of it. Separate your FAQ section into a handful of main categories, then separate those categories into several sub-categories, branching further until you reach an individual article level. Include breadcrumbs trails and proper URL formatting to help users and bots understand your system even better.
    • A searchable database. Finally, include an onsite search system to help users instinctively find whatever it is they’re looking for. Doing so may not help your SEO ranks directly, but will lead to better user experiences, and therefore lower bounce rates, which can boost your domain authority.

    In addition to these three features, consider including a ranking system that allows users to let you know which articles are helpful and which are not. This won’t help your search rankings, but will help you optimize the quality of your work.

    Include More Images and Videos

    articleimage1412 Include More Images and Videos

    Google loves to see written content, but it also loves to see varying types of content. Visual content is almost always a win, especially if it’s tagged, featured, and described properly on your site.

    The perfect place for images is in step-by-step articles, where you can illustrate a certain action or instruction one step at a time with accompanying images. You can also include infographics or handy “all-in-one” guide images that your users can download. If these images can somehow be shared as well, even better.

    As for videos, these are best kept to a few minutes in length or shorter. Your goal here is to perform a live demonstration of some instruction or problem. It’s a perfect complement to your written material.

    Get Active on Social Media

    articleimage1412 Get Active on Social Media

    Another approach you can try is getting more active on social media when it comes to customer service. Oftentimes, customers will look for brands on Facebook or Twitter when they have a problem, as these platforms have become immediate gratification tools. Rather than trying to look up detailed information on a mobile phone, it’s far easier to log into a social media account and see if you can reach the brand directly.

    For this, you might consider creating a separate account dedicated to helping your customers. Twitter itself has such an account at Twitter Support. Here, you’ll be able to respond quickly to user requests, provide updates if you have outages or known problems that should be publicized, and syndicate some of the posts you make on your FAQ pages. This increased visibility, attention, traffic, engagement, and social sharing can all have a positive impact on your brand and domain authority, which in turn can benefit your ranks.

    Create an Interactive Forum

    articleimage1412 Create an Interactive Forum

    The last piece of advice I’ll dispense is the trickiest to execute. Creating a dedicated forum for your users introduces several benefits at once: you’ll allow your users to help themselves with practical exchanges of advice and experience, you’ll create more pages automatically (which can then be indexed by Google), and you’ll help your users feel more connected to your brand.

    The key to developing a successful forum is community involvement, which takes time to build. At the outset, you’ll have to take charge of creating new posts and responding to customer posts yourself. Eventually, a few experienced users will start responding on their own, and if you nurture the community regularly, you’ll be left with a self-sustaining creation that automatically produces new content and addresses problems for you. All it takes is patience and a good foundation.

    Implement these SEO-friendly strategies to maximize your customer service availability while simultaneously boosting your ranks. More visibility means more traffic, and more traffic met with awesome service means more lifetime customers, who in turn can influence even more traffic and revenue. It’s a self-sustaining feedback loop that will only add value to your business.

  10. 3 Things Your Users Wish They Could Tell You, But Can’t

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    Your users support your existence, and dictate the changing shape of your business with their latest needs and wants. If your users wanted your product to come in a red style, you’d make a red style. If they think your prices are too high, you’d lower them as much as you could. There are many things that users can tell you—for example, if you read your business’s online reviews or even ask consumers directly, you can probably learn things like your product having a short shelf life, or your brand not offering enough special deals.

    These are “easy problems” that can be pointed out by users and fixed by you, the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, even if you had a select segment of your user base to give feedback on your products and services, there would be some things that they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Maybe they don’t understand what’s wrong, or maybe they just can’t articulate it, but either way, it’s a problem that doesn’t explicitly reveal itself—often until it’s too late.

    Take notice of these three common problems users would love to be able to tell you, but simply aren’t able for one reason or another:

    1. “Your Content Just Isn’t Interesting.”

    articleimage1408 Your Content Just Isn’t Interesting

    Content can suffer from a lot of problems, but not being interesting is probably the most vague and most damaging problem—and of course, it’s also the hardest to identify. You can pinpoint when your content is misleading, as you’ll inspire hordes of angry commenters. You can tell when your content is drawing people in, but failing to keep them around, because you’ll have visitors but no comments at all. But what if you aren’t getting any traction at any part of the process?

    Nobody will go out of their way to tell you “your headline was well-written, but it didn’t seem relevant to me right now, so I didn’t click on it.” Most people won’t even go through this thought process—they’ll just move on, not thinking anything of it. Your headlines will sink into a bottomless pit of white noise, and you won’t be able to recover unless you can make a positive change.

    The real trouble starts when you realize that what’s “interesting” to one user may not be interesting to another. For example, different brands may characterize “interesting” as entertaining, or informative, or communicative. All you really need to do is get people clicking and reading, and the best way to do that if you don’t know the problem is by experimenting. Try all kinds of different subjects, titles, and formats to see what sticks and what doesn’t. If you run trials with sufficient depth, you should eventually find a niche that resonates with the majority of your users.

    2. “I Don’t Like the Design of Your Site.”

    articleimage1408 I Don’t Like the Design of Your Site

    Once your users are onsite, that’s not the end of the story. People can leave for a lot of reasons—they may become irritated with an ad, or your site might load too slowly, and if you conduct serious user testing, you can easily uncover these pain points. You might even experience them yourself if you run a test on your own system. But what happens if your users don’t like your site design in general, but don’t know what about it they don’t like?

    This is a major problem, and most people won’t be able to articulate their sentiments around it. You might be able to tell the problem by an exceptionally high bounce rate and low conversion rate, but there still may be residual user resentment even if these metrics are in order.

    Going about a fix can also be difficult, but as with the indifferent content problem, the solution relies on experimentation. Try implementing a handful of new design changes, one by one, and conduct A/B based user tests to see which changes perform better than the default standard. Gradually, keep the features that seem to work better aesthetically for your audience and weed out the ones that create problems.

    3. “I Wish You Had X Functionality.”

    articleimage1408 I Wish You Had X Functionality

    Generally, users are adept at identifying what they don’t like. If a store is clunky, they’ll say so. If images aren’t professional looking, they’ll say so. What users are bad at is identifying things they don’t know they’re missing. For example, if your checkout process has no shipping estimation feature, users may feel irritated without ever knowing that the lack of shipping information is what’s causing that irritation. Because they can’t identify the problem, you have no clear path to a viable solution.

    This is one of the worst problems to have, because experimentation alone can’t solve it. Instead, you have to spend extra time creatively brainstorming for potential new features that you can develop. In this scenario, a bit of competitive research can help get your juices flowing—what are similar companies doing, and how are they doing it? What are dissimilar companies with similar platforms doing that you can adopt for your industry? If you implement a function that your users have been missing, you’ll know almost immediately.

    Because your users will likely never tell you these things, it’s up to you to pay attention to them and take corrective action as soon as possible. Invisible problems can cause a visible and measurable impact, so put your detective cap on and get to work before it’s too late.

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-The AudienceBloom Team