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Category Archive: SEO

  1. How the Scientific Method Gets SEO Results

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    The scientific method is, appropriately enough, the fundamental philosophy and approach that defines how working scientists approach problems and new discoveries about the world around us. It’s the series of steps that led to the emergence of theories as complex and as marvelous as relativity, evolution, and the big bang model of the universe.

    But the scientific method, while most often applied to realms like physics and chemistry, can actually be applied to any problem in the modern world. Because it’s the most objective, logical framework we have, it tends to get the best results. Apply that method to your SEO strategy, and you’re almost guaranteed to start seeing better, more measurable results.

    Step One: Ask a Question

    articleimage1278 step one

    The first step is the easiest, as the question in SEO is usually “how can I rank higher?” However, in the SEO community as in the scientific community, the more specific your question is, the more meaningful conclusions you’ll be able to draw. For example, asking “why do things fall?” is much less specific than “why do two objects fall at the same velocity when outside resistance is removed?” Both have scientific answers, but only through multiple rounds of more specific questions are you able to form the broader, more significant conclusions.

    Start out with a question like “will doubling my number of written articles per week increase my rank?” or “will posting more links on local news sources increase my local relevance?”

    Step Two: Do the Research

    articleimage1278 step two

    Don’t just jump in blindly. Do your due diligence first and start researching the topic. You can find a lot of answers here at AudienceBloom, but there are admittedly a great deal of SEO authorities out there. Eventually, you should find some specific advice related to your question, or if you’re really lucky, a case study. Review multiple sources of information before completing your round of research, and if you’ve experimented with a similar strategy in the past, be sure to look to your own experience for guidance.

    Eventually, you should have a short list of information that gives you an educated guess on how your question can be answered, which brings us to the next step of the process.

    Step Three: Formulate a Hypothesis

    articleimage1278 step three

    Now, you’ll need to form a hypothesis. Keep in mind that a hypothesis is not a conclusion; the conclusion can only come after the next steps of the process. Right now, all you have is a guess, even if it is an educated one, because it isn’t supported by any data you’ve been able to uncover.

    That being said, your hypothesis should directly answer your question. Again, you’ll want to be as specific as possible, because the specificity of your question will help you construct an experiment (in the next step) that leads you to more thorough results. As an example, in the first step we asked “will doubling my number of written articles per week increase my rank?” Assuming you’ve done research that suggests the answer to this question is yes, you can come up with a hypothesis like “Writing two articles per week instead of one will result in a sharp increase in average keyword ranks and organic traffic within two months’ time. The increase over these two months’ time will be greater than the increase from two months ago until now.”

    Step Four: Use Experiments to Test the Hypothesis

    articleimage1278 step four

    You have your hypothesis, and now you have to test it. Even if the research suggests that your findings will match your hypothesis, you still have to test it in a live environment for you to be certain of the results.

    In a scientific setting, you would usually need a “control group” to serve as the basis for comparison. In some SEO cases, such as testing landing page copy, you can do this with the help of an AB test. However, in our hypothesis, and in many SEO hypotheses, you’ll find establishing a control group impossible (unless you host two different versions of your site, which would be far more complicated than it’s worth).

    Instead, make do with what you have. Your previous two months of data can serve as the control group. Run the experiment, being careful to avoid any other changes (extra variables) that might interfere with your conclusion.

    Step Five: Form a Conclusion

    articleimage1278 step five

    Once all your data is in, you’ll be able to look back at your original hypothesis and determine whether it is true or false. If it appears to be true, then congratulations—you now have a bona fide strategy you can permanently integrate into your long-term approach to SEO. If it appears to be false, you’ll either have to modify the experiment and try again, or rest confident that the strategy is not an effective one.

    (Alternate Step Six): From a New Hypothesis

    If you suspect that something went wrong during the process, that your question wasn’t specific enough, or that there’s a related hypothesis that may still be true, you can circle back to step three. Here, you’ll form a new hypothesis, run the appropriate experiments, and hopefully find equally enlightening results.

    With these steps defining your approach as a search marketer, you should have no problem finding and keeping the tactics that best suit your quest for higher ranks. Objectively and iteratively, you will eliminate strategies that aren’t worth your effort and acquire strategies that only give you a benefit.

  2. Is It Possible to Succeed in SEO Without Link Building?

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    articleimage1245 s It Possible to Succeed in SEO Without Link Build

    For as long as SEO has been around, it has been divided into two main categories: onsite optimization and offsite optimization. “Onsite optimization” once referred to a process of keyword stuffing and now refers to producing and maintaining high-quality onsite content and great user experiences, while “offsite optimization” has mostly been synonymous with link building. Though Google’s algorithms have gotten better at detecting deliberate attempts to manipulate rank with irrelevant links, link building itself is still a viable—and some would argue, essential—strategy.

    On the other side of the fence, you have people who claim that link building is a dead strategy. Google itself has repeated, time and time again, that posting links to your site is not the best way to increase your rank, and that instead, you should only focus on creating a great user experience. Unfortunately, many great sites find themselves climbing ranks at a painfully slow rate without some offsite SEO support.

    With the current landscape of search engine algorithms and dense competition, is it even possible to pursue a successful SEO strategy if you ignore link building altogether?

    Different Definitions of Link Building

    articleimage1245 Different Definitions of Link Building

    First, it’s important to address the fact that what constitutes “link building” to one person may not match what constitutes it to another. This is responsible for the vast divide you see among SEO experts who periodically attack or defend the strategy.

    The first definition is the traditional and most logical one. Under this definition, link building is exactly what it sounds like—it’s the process of tracking down external sites and manually building links that point back to your own in a deliberate effort to increase your rank. For years, this was the accepted way of building authority, but Google’s Penguin update put a serious halt to that. Today, this method of link building is extremely risky, but if done well, can pass significant authority to your site. What’s important is the type of sites you post to, the diversity of sites you use, and the context in which you post links. If you’re staying relevant, helpful, and high in quality, there’s no reason this type of link building can harm you. On the other hand, pursuing this type of link building by buying “packs” of links directly from third party providers can seriously damage your reputation. This is the type of link building that Google would have you avoid.

    The second definition is a more modern one, and is more frequently used by experts in the SEO community. Under this definition, link building refers to any strategy you use to attract links to your website. For example, if you produce a piece of high-quality content, which is hosted on your website, and you virally circulate that content on social media, hundreds or even thousands of users might link to you in order to cite your valuable information. In this way, you earn all the natural benefits of external links even though you haven’t formally “built” any. They’ve all come to you as a result of your effort, so you deserve the credit and can call it a strategic acquisition, but ultimately, it’s a hands-off model that doesn’t come with the risk of the first definition.

    The final definition of link building is perhaps better represented by the term “relationship building,” as it sometimes features no links whatsoever. These days, Google is able to recognize and measure authority in different spaces without the need to consult links—for example, it can subjectively rank an individual’s association with a given industry or use mentions of a brand name to boost a company’s domain authority. Because of this, search optimizers can use guest posts, brand mentions, social connections, and other forms of soft relationship building to bolster their own authority. No links are involved by default, but because this strategy uses similar channels and operates for the same purpose, it can be called link building.

    The Necessity of Offsite Authority

    articleimage1245 The necessity of offsite authority

    Each of these definitions of link building is useful in some way, though natural link acquisition and relationship building are better, safer, more long-term strategies for building authority than straightforward link building. Without any of them, you will have no verifiable web presence outside your own website, and Google will have no definitive measure of how authoritative you are. Essentially, without any form of link building, Google will have no gauge for your authority, and anything you do onsite will be stuck in an isolated island. There is still a very strong divide between onsite and offsite content, and you’ll need both if you want any chance of succeeding.

    The Bottom Line

    articleimage1245 The bottom line

    If you’re defining link building as the cut-and-dry process of constructing individual links on external sites, the answer is yes, it is possible to be successful in SEO without it. However, if you’re using link building as a collective term to refer to any process of building offsite authority, then no, it’s impossible to make any significant progress without it.

    If you’re concerned about the risks of penalty associated with old-school link building, pursue softer approaches like naturally attracting links with valuable content or building relationships with well-written guest content. You need to establish your authority in some way offsite, or else Google will have no idea how to rank you and you’ll never be able to make significant progress. How you establish that authority is up to you.

  3. How to Use Brand Associations for SEO

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    The age of link building is dead. Or at least, that’s what the majority of SEO experts today would have you believe. Link building was once one of the dominant strategies for getting your site to rank in Google, as having lots of links pointing to your site from multiple different external authorities caused your domain authority to rise in turn. Today, it’s frowned upon by Google engineers and is thought to be more risky than valuable, since unnatural link building can earn you a sizable penalty.

    But it isn’t exactly true that link building is dead—instead, it’s evolving into newer, more sophisticated forms. Google still bases the majority of your domain authority on which other authoritative sites are linking to you and how they’re doing it, but the measurable correlation between one new link and an increase in authority is no longer relevant.

    Instead, “links” are taking a variety of new forms—I put links in quotation marks because many of these reference points don’t have links at all. In fact, the mere mention of your brand name is enough to register as an authoritative boost with Google, and with none of the drawbacks of a potential penalty. There are a few different ways to use this “new” way of calculating online authority, and one of the best are a new strategy known as brand associations.

    What Are Brand Associations, Exactly?

    articleimage1244 What Are Brand Associations Exactly

    Google’s search algorithm has grown to become a sophisticated piece of artificial intelligence, rather than just a mathematical process. Rather than scouring the Internet for numerical bits of information it can pour into a calculation, it seeks to learn things about the world and use those insights to give better search results. With semantic searching in mind, Google is able to understand what a user is requesting in a given query and then provide them with what it believes to be the most relevant answer.

    As a result, brands today have a better chance of getting ranked if they simply describe themselves accurately—rather than trying to trick the search engine into ranking them higher. In a way, since Google wants to learn what your brand is, you have to teach it what your brand is.

    Brand associations are a way to do this. In pieces of offsite content, you’ll be mentioning your own brand in context with topics that you want your brand to be associated with. For example, if your brand is “Taco Palace” and you want to be associated with “high-end taco restaurants,” you could work a sentence into your content like “Among high-end taco restaurants, Taco Palace stands apart.” With a diversity of these brand mentions across the web, Google will have an easier time associating your name with these subjects, and you’ll become a greater authority in that space.

    The Benefits of Brand Associations and Brand Mentions

    articleimage1244 The Benefits of Brand Associations and Brand Mentio

    Brand associations are like a flavored form of brand mentions. You’ll get all the benefits of traditional brand mentions, but the additional industry-specific authority is the real draw for brand associations.

    If you’re new to the concept of brand mentions, they work much like link building did in previous eras. However, they’re far less risky and tend to focus on long-term returns rather than short-term boosts. When used in the body of great standalone content, you can expect the following benefits:

    • Domain authority increase. As long as you’re posting on several different, high-authority sources, you’ll start to see your domain authority climb over time, which will rank you higher in any relevant search.
    • Additional brand visibility and reputation. As people begin to see your brand name mentioned more often in pieces throughout the web, your brand will gain more exposure and people will begin to think of you as a greater authority overall.
    • Referral traffic. While direct links can generate more referral traffic than brand mentions, having your brand mentioned in a strong piece can send lots of new visitors your way.
    • Associative authority. As I’ve already mentioned, the more often your brand is contextually linked to industry-specific terms, the higher relevance you’ll have in the field.

    How to Use Them Effectively

    articleimage1244 How to Use Them Effectively

    Of course, you’ll only be able to see these benefits if you use brand associations correctly. To see the best results, be sure to follow these best practices:

    • Diversify your sources. Obviously, the more authoritative the sources you use, the higher authority you’ll get when publishing. But the more diverse your range of sources is, the better. Use a variety of different sources at different levels, and make sure many of them belong to your industry directly.
    • Ground it with great content. If you want your reputation to increase, both with search engines and with the people reading your material, make sure your offsite work is composed of actually great content. Choose unique topics, do your research, and always proofread before sending.
    • Never stuff brand mentions. Brand mentions have a higher risk associated with them than link building, but you still can’t spam them. Make sure you’re only mentioning your brand when it’s relevant to the greater piece.

    Brand associations are one of the most powerful new strategies for SEO. Replacing the nearly-obsolete practice of straightforward link building, brand associations bring you all the authoritative power with virtually none of the risk. If you’re interested in more industry-specific authority, or just higher ranks in general, be sure to add this tactic to your overall campaign.

  4. Why SEO Is Useless Without a Good Conversion Optimization Strategy

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    articleimage1238 Why SEO Is Useless Without a Good Conversion Optimi

    Online marketing has become so compartmentalized that individual strategies are mere cogs in a giant machine. Unless each cog is performing its specialized role in conjunction with the other, interdependent parts, the greater machine cannot function.

    In this analogy, that machine is your generation of new customers and new revenue. You can only be successful in generating new customers and revenue if each piece of that machine is operating efficiently. Take away any one piece, and the entire operation becomes useless.

    Search engine optimization (SEO) gets a lot of hype, and for good reason—it’s a highly valuable and cost-efficient marketing strategy—but it often gets more credit than it deserves. Many business owners and some SEO agencies foster a misconception that engaging in SEO can actively increase your sales and revenue; this is true in many cases, but it is not a reliable truth.

    Let’s examine the real purpose of SEO. It is not designed to directly generate revenue; instead, its specialist function is merely to generate web traffic to a specific area (usually a landing page or contact page on your website). Increased traffic can then lead to increased sales and revenue, but only if that traffic is predisposed to pay for your products and services; this is the conversion stage.

    Part of the burden of conversion comes in targeting the proper audience. If you optimize for search terms unrelated to your industry, or if your meta descriptions attract demographics you aren’t specifically catering to, you may lose out on the majority of your potential conversions and wind up with a broken marketing machine.

    However, the larger burden of conversion comes in how you’ve set up the conversion area of your site. In this way, your call-to-action becomes a final gate that is needed to convert raw web traffic into meaningful conversions and sales. Without a successful conversion gate in place, all that traffic you’ve generated with SEO will ultimately be useless.

    How to Optimize Your Site for Conversions

    articleimage1238 How to Optimize Your Site for Conversions

    Knowing this, you’ll want to optimize your website to generate as many conversions as possible. With a solid SEO strategy in place generating hundreds of people to your brand, your only remaining step is to set up the best possible opportunity for conversion.

    Establish a Destination

    Your first job will be to establish a final destination for your inbound traffic. For example, it could be your “contact us” page, or a separate landing page designed specifically to convert visitors. Whatever you choose, make sure all your pages eventually point to that final destination. You could also include some kind of callout on every page of your site, such as a banner ad that encourages people to click, so that every page of your site serves as its own final destination.

    Create an Obvious Call to Action

    The conversion area needs to be obvious. When a user clicks on the page where the conversion site is located, his/her eyes should be immediately drawn to the area. You can do this with careful design, intriguing fonts, distinct coloration, or even obvious visual cues like pointed arrows. It’s also helpful to include powerful action-based words in your copy, as they draw the eye and prime people to take action.

    Make It Easy to Convert

    Most conversion optimization strategies fall apart when it comes time to get your visitors to actually take action. In theory, the design and placement of the conversion opportunity will lead to more conversions, but if the process is difficult, it will alienate otherwise promising opportunities. If you’re collecting information via a form, limit the number of fields you make your users fill out. Make any submission button clear and easy to use. Make your conversion page fast and mobile-friendly. The easier it is to convert, the more people will do so.

    Tie the Conversion to a Value

    Most people won’t give up anything unless there’s a clear value for them to do so. They won’t pay money for a product unless that product is worth the money. They won’t give up their personal information unless there’s an obvious motivation to do it. Tie some sort of value to the conversion, such as offering free content in exchange for the act of converting.

    Ongoing Refinement

    articleimage1238 Ongoing Refinement

    While some marketing strategies are built on logic and mathematics—give a certain input and see a corresponding, predictable output—this isn’t the case for conversion optimization. It’s more of an art than it is a science, and in order to be successful with it, you’ll need to commit to some level of ongoing maintenance. Try out a new landing page or call-to-action, and take a careful measurement to determine how effective your change was. Then, make another change and repeat the process. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see a sudden flood of new conversions, but if you make careful, iterative changes, you should have no problem establishing a healthy ongoing conversion optimization campaign.

    SEO is a highly effective marketing strategy, but only when you use it for its true, specific purpose; generating traffic to a website. If you want that traffic to do something specific, like give you money or valuable information, you’ll need an interdependent conversion optimization strategy to do so. While all marketing strategies do work together on some level, keeping SEO and conversion optimization as distinct strategies in your head will help you improve your approach to and understanding of both.

  5. How Your Social Media Strategy Affects Local SEO

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    As SEO grows more popular and more complex in response to the evolving sophistication of Google’s search algorithm, it becomes more difficult to adequately execute a formal strategy and reap the benefits. In an anticipatory move, most modern optimizers are adjusting their strategies to become more specialized and more targeted, effectively drawing up into a niche. Local SEO, which has grown in importance over the past few years, is one of the most common niches to choose—by competing with other companies in your city, rather than other companies throughout the country, you’ll greatly enhance your visibility and reduce the amount of resources needed to sustain the effort.

    However, modern local SEO is about far more than just stuffing your city’s name into your articles and meta tags. If you want to be successful, you’ll need to become more locally active on every possible marketing channel you can—meaning using other marketing strategies to support your local SEO development. One of the best examples of this is using your social media presence to improve your local relevance in the eyes of Google.

    Company Profile Cues

    articleimage1236 Company Profile Cues

    First, remember that your company information, as it appears throughout the web, is a major factor in how well you rank in local searches. Google relies on information provided by hundreds of sources, mostly including third party local directories, to calculate the prominence of a brand and determine information about its name, address, phone number, and hours. If you want this information to be as accurate and readily available as possible, it’s in your best interest to claim as many profiles as you can for your company on as many different social networks as possible, of course ensuring that all your information is accurate, consistent, and up-to-date. Fill out all your profiles completely, and update them all at once when something inevitably changes.

    Audience Makeup and Networking

    articleimage1236 Audience Makeup and Networking

    The makeup of your audience and connections may also play a role in how well established you are as a regional authority; this plays into both the size and composition of your demographics. For example, a Houston-based business with 10,000 active Houston-based followers will generate a higher local authority than a Houston based business with 100 active followers from around the country. The key here is to find followers that are within your region who are also extremely active. The more engaged your brand is with the community, the better.

    Local Story Sharing

    articleimage1236 Local Story Sharing

    You can also improve your authority in the types of stories you share on your company profile pages. Because you’ll need to write articles with some relevance to your region anyway, you can simply share the articles you’ve written as a way to get more regional titles into your newsfeed. You can also scout for other local news via local news channels or followers within your region. Share the ones you think are interesting with your own commentary, and stay active by responding to people who comment. Show off the fact that you’re an integral part of your community.

    Local Syndication Channels

    Sharing on social media works both ways. It’s therefore quite valuable for you to get your own content shared by other influencers in your geographic area. For example, if you update your site with a new press release, try to get it published and syndicated on the social media outlets of your local news providers. If you write a new blog about the state of your industry in your geographic region, seek out an individual authority and ask him/her to share the piece with his/her followers.

    Event-Related Hashtags

    articleimage1236 Event-Related Hashtags

    Hashtags are a fast and powerful way to immediately associate yourself with a given event. In your city, there are probably dozens of local events going on at any given time, each with its own signature hashtag. Get your company involved with these local events, and be sure to use the appropriate hashtag when you post about it. Not only will this help increase your visibility on social media searches for that hashtag, it will also make your posts more relevant in Google’s eyes—especially thanks to the new Google-Twitter tweet indexing partnership.

    Increased Local Traffic

    Traffic is a major indicator for domain authority—the more people you have perusing your website, and the longer they spend on it, the better you’ll fare in search ranks. Having a larger number of more active local followers on your social media profiles means more active, engaged people on your site—and those people will mostly be from your area. This will tell Google that you’re a major local authority, and that local residents appreciate your site.

    Increased Local Reviews

    articleimage1236 Increased Local Reviews

    Finally, remember that the reviews you receive on local directories like Yelp play heavily into your overall rank. The more reviews you have and the more positive those reviews are, the higher you’ll appear in local searches. Use social media to encourage people to write reviews about their experiences—just don’t solicit them directly—and gradually, you’ll see your repertoire of local reviews growing both in size and in quality. In turn, your local ranks will grow.

    Once your social media strategy is geared toward increasing your local relevance and visibility, you should have no problem climbing to the top of the SERPs for your city. With more people relying on local and mobile searches than ever before, the increase in your total traffic should be substantial.

     

  6. 7 Essential Qualities for an SEO Provider

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    For most business owners, SEO is overwhelming. Rather than existing as an independent strategy, proper SEO campaigns integrate dozens of separate, interrelated strategies that work together to yield a meaningful result. That means onsite development, branding, design, onsite content, social media marketing, offsite content, link building, and countless other factors must all be considered as part of a unified whole, and finding one person (or even a team) with the expertise to handle all of them is virtually impossible.

    SEO agencies provide the full suite of services necessary to reliably build search ranks, and because they exist as specialists, they tend to run cheaper than a full-time hire offering those same services would. Still, there are a lot of SEO agencies out there, and not all of them are worth doing business with. Some don’t have your best interests at heart, some are ridiculously expensive, and some simply don’t know what they’re doing.

    When searching for an SEO provider, be sure to prioritize these seven qualities:

    1. Credentials.

    articleimage1222credentials

    First, look to see what kind of credentials the agency has, particularly at the top. If the agency boasts the reputation of its CEO, who has been featured in multiple SEO-related industry publications, you can rest assured that the company probably knows what it’s doing. On the other hand, if you visit the site and it’s not clear who is behind the company, it may not be worth the risk in finding out whether they’re actual authorities or not. One wrong move in the SEO world could land you in serious hot water with Google, so don’t take the risk. When in doubt, ask.

    2. Results.

    articleimage1222 results

    Any SEO agency worth its salt should have client results to show you that prove its ability to improve rank. Case studies showcasing the company’s past triumphs should be a given, along with statistics on increases in organic traffic and ranking for various keyword phrases. If those case studies are not available, the company should at least be doing SEO for itself—take a look at where the company is ranking and find out. If you’re in any doubt, ask for a handful of client references. Make a few phone calls and see what previous clients have thought of the service.

    3. Range.

    articleimage1222 range

    Be careful of niche specialists in the SEO world, such as link builders who promise to increase your ranks practically overnight. Generally, these segmented approaches are highly risky and unpredictable. Instead, look for an agency that’s capable of executing multiple individual strategies in the context of the broader campaign. For example, if torn between a company that only writes content and a company that writes, publishes, and syndicates content along with doing onsite SEO updates and social media management, go with the latter. These are not bells and whistles—SEO is a collection of different important elements.

    4. Creativity.

    articleimage1222creativity

    While there is certainly a science to SEO, there is also an art, and you’ll need an SEO agency with a degree of creativity if you want to be successful. Samples of the content written by the agency should have a personal, warm feeling to them—if they come across as flat or clearly written for search engines, you should move along to a different candidate. Creativity is also important in SEO troubleshooting and problem solving—there’s almost always more than one way to address a problem, and outside-the-box thinking is a requirement for getting the job done.

    5. Adaptability.

    he SEO world is always changing. Google releases a new algorithm or data refresh on an almost-monthly basis, sometimes completely negating the effectiveness of certain strategy elements and introducing new ranking factors to consider. New technologies constantly emerge on the scene to disrupt the old way of doing things. In order to be successful, you need an SEO provider who stays abreast of these rapid changes and adapts quickly in response to them. It’s simply not possible to be successful following the strategies of yesteryear.

    6. Reporting.

    Before you sign on with an SEO agency, take a look at a sample of their metrics reporting. How many different factors do they consider? How often do they report? What factors do they use to determine when a change needs to be made, and how ready are they to make those changes? These are important questions to ask because measuring performance and making corresponding improvements is the most important part of any SEO campaign.

    7. Communication.

    You’ll be going back and forth with your SEO agency often, exchanging new ideas, making updates, and swapping information. You want a provider you can work with easily, and who will keep you in constant communication no matter what. Your point of contact should be easily available during standard work hours and then some, and you should feel comfortable throughout each of your conversations. Without a fluid and reliable system of communication, your SEO strategy could crumble. Get to know your eventual account manager before committing to any term of service.

    If you’re considering an SEO provider that’s missing one or more of these qualities, you might want to move on to your next candidate. If you want your SEO strategy to be a valuable investment, and not just another monthly fee, it’s worth the extra effort it takes to find a great partner. If you’re interested in seeing how AudienceBloom can help your business succeed, contact us!

  7. 3 Dead Online Marketing Strategies You Shouldn’t Be Using

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    Technology evolves quickly and with it, consumer tastes. What’s acceptable and useful to a user today doesn’t match what was acceptable and useful to the same user three years ago, and three years from now, it will probably change again. Successful brands aren’t the ones who can leverage present audiences most effectively, but instead are the ones who can adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

    Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs get trapped in old lines of thinking—and I can see why it’s easy to do. If an online marketing strategy works well for you for years, it can be hard to tell when it gradually fades from utility or efficiency in the landscape of potential marketing campaigns.

    Still, if you’re using one of these utterly dead online marketing strategies, it’s time to close up shop and move on to something more modern:

    1. Keyword Focused Search Optimization.

    articleimage1209 Keyword Focused Search Optimization

    Search engine optimization has gone through a number of different phases, and one of the longest ones was keyword-centric ranking (and the accompanying strategy of keyword-centric optimization). Unfortunately, this phase has ended, and if you’re still using it, you’re living in a dead era.

    Here’s how keyword-centric optimization worked. Google would take a user’s search query, break it up into important “keywords,” and then look all over the web for sites that mentioned those keywords the greatest number of times. As the search algorithm grew more sophisticated, the framing of those keywords became more important. For example, articles with a keyword in the title were worth more authority than articles with keywords in the body, and any instances of “keyword spamming” were immediately thrown out. Still, optimizers could select a handful of target keywords, optimize for those terms, and then hope to achieve rank for queries containing those keywords.

    In 2013, Google introduced a new means of search analysis called semantic search. Rather than focusing on keywords, Google’s algorithm now takes the effort to understand the intention behind user queries and formulate responses that seem appropriate for those queries. In effect, keywords don’t matter at all anymore. The quantity or phrasing of your keywords won’t factor into how Google ranks you. Instead, focus on the topics you write about, the niche your company serves, and peripheral authority factors like guest posting on industry blogs and syndicating on social media.

    Continuing to optimize for specific keywords is an inefficient strategy, but more than that, it could actually harm you in the long run. If you use the same keyword phrase over and over too many times, its algorithm will take notice, and you could actually suffer a ranking penalty as a result.

    2. Buying Social Media Popularity.

    articleimage1209 uying Social Media Popularity

    When social media platforms first started to emerge, there was ample fruit ripe for the picking, and nobody knew the best way to take advantage of it. Similarly, few social media platforms had the sophisticated level of user experience necessary to sustain a full-scale customer communications platform the way they can today. Old-school social media strategies were all about getting as many friends, fans, and followers as humanly possible as fast as possible. It was thought that higher audience volumes directly correlated to greater sales, and on some level, that’s true. More followers means your messages can spread further, and new people exposed to your brand will think you have a higher reputation if you have more followers.

    However, in order to artificially and quickly inflate these numbers, people resorted to buying followers. Back in the day, this strategy was marginally effective, but today, it’s a good way to sabotage your brand.

    First, bought followers are usually fake accounts with names in foreign languages. Anyone who looks at your “massive” follower count will instantly know you paid for all those followers, and you’ll be discredited instantly. Second, if you post quality content, your audience will grow naturally—there’s no need to buy anybody. All the fake followers in the world won’t mean anything if your content is bad. Finally, numbers don’t mean much anymore. People know that follower counts can be inflated, and they care far more about what you’re willing to do for your followers than how many followers you have. Focus on making your audience—no matter how small it is to start—happy.

    3. Making Impressions or Clicks the End Goal.

    articleimage1209 Making Impressions or Clicks the End Goal

    This is a broad online marketing approach rather than a strategy pertaining to any one channel. In older online marketing campaigns, favored results were always impressions or clicks—it was thought that the more people that can see your brand online, the better you’re faring. As a result, SEO, PPC, and other marketing strategies always had the ultimate goal of increasing either the number of impressions or the number of clicks a message received.

    Today, there are two more important metrics. The first is conversions—a click doesn’t mean much if a user ends up wandering away from your landing page. Think about it; would you rather get 1,000 clicks but only 1 conversion, or 100 clicks but 10 conversions? The latter is more valuable, rendering the “clicks” measurement practically worthless.

    The second important metric is ROI, or the return on investment of any given strategy. How much you spend to get a certain result means just as much as the type of results you receive. ROI tells you not just how effective your campaign is, but how profitable it is, and at the end of the day, that’s more important.

    These strategies may still hold marginal benefits for your brand, but in all likelihood, they’re doing more harm than good. The faster you can dump them and get on board with a more modern, suitable strategy, the better. Don’t let your ROI suffer any longer.

  8. The Best Way for B2B Companies to Build Online Authority

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    “Authority” is a term with multiple meanings, especially in the context of online marketing, but all of those meanings are important. Your level of domain authority, for instance, determines where you rank in search engines for various terms related to your brand. Your level of industry-based authority determines how easy it is for you to accumulate followers and get published on outside platforms. And your level of perceived authority among your customer base determines whether they buy with you or move onto one of your competitors.

    For B2B companies, authority is everything, but acquiring it is somewhat more difficult than it is for B2C companies, which rely on networks of end consumers to spread the word and support their products. As a B2B company, you have to prove your expertise to a smaller number of more discerning clients, and you have to do so in a way that generates attention from a targeted niche.

    There are many authority-building strategies out there. Writing great onsite content, developing your social media presence, and building offsite links are all valuable ways of building multiple kinds of authority with your audience, but for B2B companies, there’s one strategy that trumps them all: brand mentions.

    What Are Brand Mentions?

    articleimage1198What Are Brand Mentions

    Brand mentions are relatively simple in theory, but more complex in execution. Essentially, you’ll be publishing well-written authoritative pieces of content on external sources—in this way, brand mentions are like a guest blogging strategy. But instead of trying to funnel traffic or improve ranks with links, you’ll merely be mentioning your brand. It is possible to also include links in your article, but the brand mention is the main objective. If you use this strategy, working your way up to the highest-authority publishers and regularly submitting new content for syndication, eventually your authority levels will skyrocket.

    Why Are Brand Mentions Useful?

    articleimage1198 Why Are Brand Mentions Useful

    Let’s dig into exactly why brand mentions are so useful for building authority. There are actually several distinct ways this strategy operates, and all of them are valuable.

    Building domain authority—without risk

    In the old days of SEO, Google calculated authority based on the number and quality of links that were pointing back to your site. Since then, Google’s algorithms have become significantly more sophisticated. Today, Google is very sensitive to the types of links that are pointing back to your site, and if you build too many on the same sources or the wrong sources, it could earn you a penalty rather than a ranking boost.

    Google also now takes brand mentions into consideration when calculating authority. If it sees your company’s name pop up on multiple high-authority publishers, it’s going to greatly increase your domain authority, and therefore, your ranks—and you’ll never have to worry about getting penalized for it, since they can’t be considered spam.

    Establishing brand value

    Merely mentioning your brand on these high-traffic sources is valuable in generating greater brand recognition. Because you’re not calling too much attention to yourself, and instead are providing great value to people, your readers will come to associate your brand with value and trust. Whenever they need to make a purchasing decision and your name comes up, they’ll recall associating you with those sources, and they’ll be more likely to buy. Plus, when you’re published on some major publishers, you’ll get authoritative badges you can put on your site.

    Greater syndication value

    Articles on these publication platforms give you entry to even bigger, better platforms. For example, getting published on a small business website on a local level can help you get published on a national platform. The higher up you go, the more value you get, and the value compounds with every new publication. Plus, syndicating these high-profile articles on your social media channels will attract more direct traffic and more followers.

    Getting Started

    articleimage1198 Getting started

    Getting started is the hardest part about brand mentions. It takes a long time to build up a high enough level of authority to get published on major platforms, so you’ll have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Start guest blogging on companies relevant to your industry, then work your way up to local publications. Once you’ve established yourself on that level, you can work up to low-level national publishers, and then gradually to higher-level publishers. It’s a time intensive process, but the benefits are worth it.

    Of course, you can always take a shortcut by leveraging the power of our own Brand Mentions service, which connects you to high-profile publishers immediately.

    Ongoing Management

    articleimage1198 Ongoing Management

    Getting your foot in the door of these publishers is only the first step. For the best long-term results, you’ll have to regularly submit content and constantly branch out to new sources. Once a week is plenty for most publications, but as you add more publishers to your wheelhouse, it may become more difficult to manage.

    Brand mentions are the best strategy to use when building your company’s authority, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only strategy. Only when used in conjunction with a great onsite SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy will it be able to yield the best possible results. Regularly diversify your strategy with new sources and new types of content, and always ground yourself with best practices in writing and publication. With a wide enough reach on external publishers, the clients will start flooding in, and you’ll never have to worry about sales figures again.

  9. How to Write for Local SEO Without Keyword Stuffing

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    articleimage1197 how to Write for Local SEO Without Keyword Stuffing

    Local SEO is one of the most important online marketing strategies available to businesses today; like national SEO, it’s a cost-effective way to generate more brand visibility and greater traffic to your website, but because it operates on a local foundation, you’ll be dealing with far less competition. Plus, some local SEO strategies (like online review cultivation) are completely hands-off, giving you more flexibility to focus on the strategies that really matter.

    Writing content for local SEO is relatively straightforward. Like with any content marketing strategy, you’ll need to create content that’s well-written, appealing to a given audience, and high in quality; the only additional consideration is that you’ll also need to include some geographically specific language as indicators of your business’s location.

    Because Google’s search ranking algorithm is sophisticated enough to detect the use of “keyword stuffing,” or deliberately placing a word or phrase in order to send a ranking signal, this poses a difficult problem. Geographic language isn’t easy to naturally inject, so how can you write content for local SEO without triggering Google’s keyword stuffing penalty?

    Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use.

    Choose Locally Relevant Topics

    articleimage1197 Choose Locally Relevant Topics

    If you choose topics that are specific to your location, you’ll never have to worry about injecting local keywords into your article unnecessarily. They’ll come up naturally, and you won’t have to think twice about it.

    Local event coverage

    One of the easiest sources of local content is in local events. Attend a community festival, a tradeshow, or some other organized event and publish an article detailing the results. Not only will this type of article give you greater local relevance in Google’s index, it will also be more appealing to local fans of your brand. If you want to make the most of this type of content, be sure to take lots of pictures, and consider making live updates—especially if it’s a multi-day event.

    Local competitor analysis

    Mentioning your competitors by name might seem like a bad idea—if your customers see your competition directly, they may leave and seek them out instead. But creating an article that lists and analyzes all the businesses like yours (including yours) in the area will be far more valuable than damaging—and it carries a huge local context. People often search for businesses with phrase like “plumbers in Minneapolis,” looking for a broad analysis of the industry with multiple companies to compare. If your article gets in front of this type of query, you’ll have full control over what your visitor reads. Keep it accurate and balanced if you want to keep your quality scores up.

    Company news

    Last but not least, company news can be a great excuse to mention your city or community by name. After all, you are an integral part of the community. Keep these types of articles to once a month or less frequently—your readers want valuable information, not a running stream of self-interest stories.

    Syndicate in Local Publications

    articleimage1197 Syndicate in Local Publications

    If you want to step up the local relevance of your material without stuffing it full of more local-specific keywords, one of the best strategies is to submit it to local publications. Rather than identifying your own work with the name of your city, you can submit it to your city’s local newspaper, or to a forum that operates exclusively within your city. Google will use these as contextual clues to categorize your content as specific to your region, and will, by extension, increase the local relevance of your business. Fortunately, because local publications tend to be smaller and hungrier for any type of content they can get their hands on, getting yourself published in them is a relatively easy process. Start building relationships with your target publishers to make the process easier on an ongoing basis.

    Avoid Long Geographic Phrases

    articleimage1197  Avoid Long Geographic Phrases

    Long geographic references will get you red flagged more often than basic references. For example, if you try to stuff the phrase “Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland Ohio” multiple times into the body of your article, you’ll probably suffer a lower quality rating. In this example, it would be fine to call out “Cleveland” alone, or even “Tremont.” Google knows where these places are, so a single reference is more than ample to convey your meaning sufficiently.

    Limit References in the Body

    articleimage1197 Limit References in the Body

    When Google scans an article to determine what its main function is, it doesn’t weigh the entire article equally. In other words, Google favors the indicators in the title of an article far more than it favors the actual body. Therefore, including a local-specific keyword in the title of your article is more valuable than multiple in-body references. This is almost ironic, because most keyword stuffing offenses come from people trying to fit as many iterations of keywords as possible in the body of their articles. Instead of resorting to this tactic, simply include a local keyword once—in the title of the article—and avoid over-referencing the location unnecessarily in the body.

    As long as you aren’t stuffing more than one or two location-based words into a given article, chances are you’ll be okay regardless. But if you want to write the best possible content for your audience and make sure Google stays happy with you, use these strategies regularly. Over time, you’ll develop a nice rhythm for generating new local topics and crafting well-balanced content that also helps you rise in search ranks.

  10. How to Diagnose a Stagnant SEO Campaign

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    In theory, an SEO campaign should yield consistent, predictable returns on web traffic. The longer and more consistently invest in your strategy, the greater traffic growth you should see. The only problem is that little phrase at the beginning: “in theory.”

    Even the best search marketers have faced the horror of a stagnant campaign—one that seems to have hit a plateau in terms of growth. They’re applying the same valuable strategies and best practices they always have, but for some reason the number of visitors has stopped growing, and there’s no obvious motivation behind the decline.

    If and when this happens to you, it’s in your best interest to quickly assess the situation, diagnose the problem, and apply the fixes necessary to jump start your traffic back to acceptable growth patterns. If that sounds easier said than done, that’s because it is. It’s tough to pinpoint the exact problem when there are so many moving parts, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be in a far better position to form a conclusion:

    Step One: Determine if there really is a problem

    articleimage1196 Determine if there really is a problem

    Just because you didn’t reach your goal for the month doesn’t mean there’s an actual problem with your campaign. Traffic patterns naturally fluctuate, sometimes for trivial factors like seasonal changes or random chance, so don’t take one month of strange data as an indication that something is amiss. First, log into Google Analytics and check out your traffic numbers over the course of the past six months or so. If you’re used to a rate of steady growth but the past three months have shown stagnation or worse—a decline—you could have a real problem on your hands. If the growth is there, but slow, or if the numbers are inconsistent between months, it’s not worth worrying about yet.

    Step Two: Pinpoint any strategy changes that coincide with the stagnation

    articleimage1196 Pinpoint any strategy changes that coincide with stagnation

    If you see an active decline in your traffic, this is almost inevitably the cause. Take a look at your marketing approach and see if there have been any new strategy introductions that were released around the same time the drop began. For example, if you reduced your blog publication from two per week to one per week around the same time that your traffic began to drop, you can pinpoint that drop as the root of your problem. Unfortunately, it’s rarely this easy to diagnose the problem, but make a list and evaluate your position just in case this is the culprit.

    Step Three: Evaluate source-specific traffic changes

    articleimage1196 Evaluate source-specific traffic change

    Hopefully you’re still logged into Google Analytics. While you’re here, take a look at the Acquisition tab and evaluate your four primary sources of web traffic—organic, which comes from searches, direct, which comes from direct URL entries, social, which comes from social media platforms, and referral, which comes from external sources. If one of these areas shows a drop or stagnation in traffic while your other areas continue to grow, you know you have a problem. Direct could mean the problem lies with your ability to increase customer loyalty. Organic could mean you suffered a ranking drop—likely as the result of a search penalty, which you can then take steps to correct with backlink removal or onsite edits. Social could mean you’re not influencing your followers well enough. Referral could mean your external sources aren’t sending enough traffic your way.

    Step Four: Audit the quality of your content

    articleimage1196 Audit the quality of your content

    Regardless of the source of your traffic problems, the quality of your content could be at the root of it. Your content could be failing to meet search engine quality scores, failing to draw in external audiences, or failing to make a good enough impression to keep customers returning. Evaluate your content in terms of your posting frequency, the popularity and uniqueness of the topics you choose, the length and detail of your work, and where you syndicate the end results. Any one of these factors could be influencing the total amount of audience-generation power.

    Step Five: Experiment

    articleimage1196  Experiment

    If none of the previous steps has pointed you to a potential problem, it could mean that there is no direct problem. Your campaign has become stagnant simply because your strategies have become stagnant. You’ve done the same thing for so long that you’ve reached your maximum potential on this path. The only way to break out of the mold and jump start your traffic growth back on course is to play around with new strategies—ones you may not be familiar or entirely comfortable with. Try writing a new type of content. Try writing for a new target audience. Get more aggressive on social media. Step up your guest posting and find new sources for your articles. Tinker with these additional strategies, measure any influence they have on your traffic, and repeat until you find a new wave of strategies that can support the growth you want.

    Fixing a stagnant SEO campaign is more tedious than it is difficult. You will find a way to restore your numbers to an acceptable rate of ongoing growth, but it may take a while for you to explore all the options between here and there. Because technologies, algorithms, and users are always evolving, your SEO strategy has to evolve accordingly, so keep a flexible journey of change at the heart of all your inbound strategies.

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