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Category Archive: SEO

  1. How to Audit Your Local SEO Strategy

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    Local SEO is growing in importance, and too many companies are neglecting it in favor of a national strategy. Local SEO doesn’t take much more effort than a national campaign, and it rewards participants with a greater visibility in an environment with less competition. Ranking on page five for a national term isn’t worth nearly as much as holding a number one position for that same term on a local level, even if the potential audience is somewhat smaller.

    After Google’s recent Pigeon update, the scope and environment for local SEO has changed dramatically. There are now dozens of new ranking factors, stemming from third party sites and user reviews, which can affect your overall ranking for a local search term. The good news is that you don’t have to spend as much effort stuffing keywords into your content, but in exchange, you have to rely more on the actions of your customers and audience to fuel your authority.

    If you want to get a read for the health of your local SEO campaign and find direction for any changes you’ll need to make, it’s a good idea to perform a high-level audit.

    Here’s how:

    Get a Campaign Snapshot

    articleimage619Get a Campaign Snapshot

    Before you start looking at the individual factors that are affecting your authority and rank, you’ll want to get a relative measurement of how your campaign is performing. For this, you’ll want to look at some of the same metrics you’d use in a national campaign, with extra attention to your user demographics.

    Organic Visits

    Log into Google Analytics and check out the Acquisition tab, whose Overview will show you a breakdown of how many site visitors you had, and where those visitors came from. Pay special attention to the Organic Traffic number—this is the number of people who came to your site from searching for a term. Social Traffic is also important, especially if you have an active social media presence as a part of your overall campaign.

    Your Organic Traffic figure should grow from month to month fairly consistently. If you notice the numbers growing stagnant, it could be an indication of something wrong with the campaign.

    Demographics

    While still in Analytics, head over to the Audience section, and take a look at the Overview. Depending on the operating range of your company and which local markets you’re targeting, you can look at the county and territory of your users or the city under the “Demographics” tab on the left. Analytics will break down your user visits as a total number of visitors, and as a percentage of your total traffic. A high percentage of local visitors is generally an indication of a high-quality local optimization campaign.

    Once you know where you stand with organic visits and demographics, you can look at the individual components of your campaign and analyze how they are influencing the broader numbers.

    Check Your Offsite Presence

    articleimage619 Check Your Offsite Presence

    One of the most important elements of a post-Pigeon local optimization campaign is your business’s presence on as many third party and local directory sites as possible. The go-to example is Yelp, an aggregator of local business information and customer reviews, but there are several other sites with a niche focus, such as UrbanSpoon or TripAdvisor.

    Claim your company’s account on as many of these platforms as possible. You’ll want to do this for two reasons: first, you’ll be able to verify your information’s consistency across the web, especially your name, address, phone number, and business hours. Second, you’ll have more opportunities to cultivate reviews, but we’ll get more into that in the next section.

    Claiming your profile and verifying your information on these sites is usually a one-time process, but you’ll want to check back every so often to make sure your information is still up-to-date. You’ll also want to do a quick check to see if there are any new, relevant directories that have emerged and claim your account early.

    Analyze and Nurture Your Reviews

    articleimage619 Analyze and Nurture Your Reviews

    Checking your business information is only the first half of the local directory audit. The second part is more intensive, and arguably more important for your customer relationships. These sites all share one core feature: the ability for customers to post public reviews. The more high-quality reviews you have the better—it looks good to the other customers and even sends an authoritative ranking signal to Google.

    Take a look at the number of new reviews you’ve gotten, and how positive those reviews are. If you’re getting a high number of negative reviews, read them carefully and try to figure out what you can change to encourage more positive reviews. If you aren’t getting many reviews at all, you need to do more to encourage your in-person customers to leave feedback. (Remember, it’s a violation of policy to directly ask for reviews. Instead, simply direct your customers to the review site itself and leave the decision to review up to them).

    You’ll also have the opportunity to reply to reviews. This is a good chance to reinforce positive experiences, and make up for any negative ones.

    Scrutinize Your Link Profile

    Like with any SEO campaign, you’ll want to take a look at your link profile, especially if you notice your organic traffic numbers dropping. You’ll need a lot of links to gain authority, but you also want to make sure those links come from quality sources. Use a tool like Moz’sOpen Site Explorer to search for instances of your links on external sites. If any of them look suspicious or unfamiliar, take a closer look. If you don’t remember building the link, or if you suspect the link may be harming your domain authority in any way, reach out to the webmaster and ask for the link to be taken down.

    Dissect Your Content Strategy

    Finally, you’ll want to take an objective look at your content strategy. Like with a national strategy, you’ll want to ensure your content answers customer questions, covers topics related to your industry, is detailed, and is well written. But local optimization campaigns need to go a step further, with content that frequently mentions your city or region, and occasional pieces that are relevant to the local community.

    For example, you could write about a local event or local news story and feature it on your blog, or you could submit a press release about your company’s attendance at a local celebration. The goal here is to produce enough content to objectively tie your company to the city or region in question. Don’t go overboard—keyword stuffing is a danger here—but if you aren’t producing enough locally optimized content, it could interfere with your demographic makeup and local visibility.

    After performing a local SEO audit, you should have a good idea of where you stand, and what areas you’ll need to improve upon as you move forward. Take some time to outline a plan moving forward, including objective goals related to traffic changes and new initiatives. Set milestones for accomplishing each of these goals, and follow up when appropriate to re-audit your campaign and see whether you hit the mark. Just don’t expect immediate results—auditing your campaign once a month is enough for most businesses.

  2. 10 SEO Improvements You Can Tackle in 10 Minutes

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    Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy that takes time. There’s no instant shortcut that can take you from nothing and put you at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Instead, it takes at least months and usually years of dedicated work to make a significant impact. To the new entrepreneur or webmaster, those words are intimidating. SEO is a ton of work, and putting it in that perspective makes it seem like one comprehensive, insurmountable obstacle.

    But there’s another perspective that can make it seem much easier, and much more manageable. Instead of looking at it in terms of years of effort, why not break it down into a series of much smaller tasks? Small tasks, aligned under the bigger umbrella of “SEO”, are what drive companies steadily forward in search engine rankings, so try to keep your priority on finding and completing those tasks.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or you just want to start making some progress, try these 10 simple SEO tasks, all of which can be completed in 10 minutes or less.

    1. Make a New Page Rich with Interlinks.

    Every page on your site should be tightly interlinked with your other pages. It lends itself to site navigability, making it easier for your users to find what they’re looking for and adding to the navigational simplicity for search engines. If all your pages are interlinked with relevant lead-ins, you’ll gain more domain authority, and as an added bonus, your users will have an easier time getting around (not to mention, your bounce rates should plummet). Don’t try to do it all at once. Instead, take 10 minutes to focus on one page at a time.

    2. Add Visual Content to a Page or Post.

    articleimage616Add Visual Content to a Page or Post

    Any page on your website could be enhanced with the simple flavor of a visual element. Whether that’s a stock photo, an image of some element of your business, or an illustration, adding an image with a relevant caption can heighten the interactive element of your user experience, and score you bonus points on the web, too. If a user searches for the subject of your image, your page will come up, giving you more volume in Google’s database, and more chances at getting found. It should only take you 10 minutes to find such an image and add it to one of your pages.

    3. Check Your Link Profile.

    Auditing your backlink profile might seem like a lengthy, involved process, but it doesn’t have to be. When you first start out, your link profile will actually be quite small. Use a tool like Moz’sOpen Site Explorer—known as the “search engine for links”—and keep your eyes peeled for any links that come from disreputable sources, or ones with questionable anchor text. Weed them out to keep your link profile clean.

    If your link profile is too big to cover in 10 minutes, you can at least scope out the first few pages of the repot.

    4. Come Up with a Plan for an Infographic or Video.

    Infographics and engaging videos are two of the most popular types of interactive, shareable content on the web. Posting them not only improves your brand visibility, it also opens the gateway for dozens (if not hundreds) of natural links via social sharing. The downside is that infographics and videos take time to produce, and coming up with a unique idea for one is challenging.

    Take 10 minutes to get the ball rolling—all you need to do is sketch an outline of your vision, and put together a quick game plan for the next steps.

    5. Check Your Meta Tags.

    articleimage616checkmetatags

    Meta tags and descriptions are important to your campaign—they’re essentially the road signs that tell Google what your company and your pages are all about. With that information, Google will be able to pinpoint you when a relevant search query comes up. If you’re starting all your meta data from scratch, it may take a little longer, but if you’re just doing a run-through to make sure everything’s in place, it should take you only 10 minutes. Take note of any meta titles that are duplicated, or any that are missing, and immediately correct them.

    6. Reach Out to an Influencer.

    articleimage616Reach Out to an Influencer

    Influencers rule in the social media world, and having a strong social media presence is a gateway to SEO success. You don’t have to go about it in any particular way, so why not take the simple route? Find someone in your industry with a massive following, and ask them to promote your content as a favor. You’d be surprised how many influencers are willing to oblige—especially if you’re humble about the ask. Provided you already have a piece of content, it shouldn’t take you long.

    7. Enable Enhanced Image Search in Webmaster Tools.

    This is a simple step that should only take five minutes, but it assumes you already have Webmaster Tools set up. If you don’t—that should automatically become your top priority. Once WM Tools is in place, log in and find the option under Settings > Image Search > Include my site in Google image labeler. This will allow all the images of your site to be found using Google image search, enhancing your overall web visibility.

    8. Canonize Your Homepage Links.

    When you’re posting backlinks or interlinking your onsite content, it can be easy to succumb to variables in your homepage—for example, if you’re copying and pasting, you could easily post www.yoursite.com/index instead of www.yoursite.com. Take a few minutes to scout for any instances of homepage links that differ from your standard URL.

    9. Look for Crawling Errors in Webmaster Tools.

    Webmaster Tools is useful for far more than just the Enhanced Image Search feature—if you aren’t already taking advantage of some of its tools, I strongly suggest you read up on them. In the meantime, start with a simple one. Open the Crawl tab on the left-hand side, and click “Crawl Errors” to scan your site for any errors that came up during a manual site crawl. These can let you know if there are any glaring errors in your website that prevents Google from fully indexing it. If there are some, take action and correct them.

    10. Make a Content Pitch to a Potential Guest Blog Location.

    This is another content-based idea that should only take you 10 minutes. It takes longer to write and syndicate a post, but it shouldn’t take you that long to put together a pitch. Scout for a potential offsite location for you to post a guest blog—industry news sites and forums are good bets. Review the types of posts on the site, and put together a pitch for a piece that aligns with them. Then reach out to the webmaster of the site in question and cross your fingers!

    One 10-minute task alone isn’t going to be enough to move your company up in rankings, but if done consistently and in unison with a coherent overall strategy, they can add up to make a serious impact. To make your strategy more manageable, try breaking it down into easily manageable tasks, capable of delegation or easy execution.

  3. What the “Pirate Update” Means for the Search World

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    Google has taken a firm stance on Internet-related piracy in a recent algorithm filter it rolled out this past week. Known colloquially as the “pirate update,” the change aims to lower the visibility of popular piracy sites in an effort to “clean up the web” and reduce the prominence and accessibility of potentially illegal enterprises.

    Victims of copyright infringement, such as musicians and movie studios, are no doubt pleased about the rollout, but the update might have broader implications for net neutrality and site visibility for questionable webmasters.The update makes Google a stronger, almost judicial authority that can distribute penalties on offending sites without burdening the complex, sometimes ineffective judicial system. What that means for abiding webmasters remains to be seen.

    What Is the Pirate Update?

    articleimage578What Is the Pirate Update

    The pirate update actually has roots in an August 2012 update that Google released as a measure against sites with multiple and frequent reports of copyright infringement, such as sites that condone or enable piracy of music, videos, and other media. Google actually uses a database from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that tracks such reports, and uses that store of information to determine whether a site is a current offender.

    The most recent update, which started rolling out around October 24, 2014, is a new, complex layer of algorithmic changes that is designed to build on the existing processes. Officials from Google are hopeful that this new addition to the algorithm will catch offending sites that slipped through the previous filters, and replace any sites that were caught (but were undeserving of penalty in the first place). Like with most Google updates, the pirate update was rolled out over the course of several days, but it looks like most of the dust has already settled.

    Who Is It Hitting?

    articleimage578 Who Is It Hitting

    The update hit a number of torrenting and pirating sites almost immediately, and hit them hard. For example, the site torrentz.eu, a popular torrenting brand in Europe, experienced a keyword drop of nearly 68 percent since the initial algorithm rollout in 2012. Isohunt.to, another popular torrenting location, told torrent news site TorrentFreak that their traffic numbers had already dropped by about half.

    The main victims of the update seem to again be sites with an unusually high percentage of DMCA requests for takedown. Compared to the changes from 2012, the recent iteration of the pirate update appears to be far more significant. Back in 2012, the update had very little impact, but today, several sites are reeling from a sharp and dramatic loss.

    Getting hit by the penalty doesn’t seem to be a unanimously bad thing, however. Most pirating sites have already earned a significant reputation on their own, without the aid of search engine rankings, and will continue to draw traffic regardless. After all, Google has no authority to take sites down or even directly restrict traffic—they can only limit visibility. Pirate Bay representatives informed TorrentFreak that they haven’t seen much of an impact simply because most of their traffic does not rely on Google to be found. In fact, they claim their traffic will actually increase, since many people who don’t find what they’re searching for will seek out the Pirate Bay as a result.

    Do I Have to Worry About Ranking Loss?

    articleimage578RankingLoss

    Unless you’re running a popular torrenting site or a site that advocates or enables piracy, the short answer is no, you don’t have to worry about any ranking loss. Sites that have nothing to do with piracy directly will probably see no movement whatsoever. On the other hand, webmasters of piracy-related sites will have undoubtedly encountered a ranking drop already. In the unlikely event that your site fits some kind of gray area, if you haven’t already seen a significant loss of rank or traffic, you have nothing to worry about.

    However, it’s worth noting that this could only be the first of several new changes the search engine giant is making in an effort to keep the web “clean,” and free from sites with questionable material. Right now, that questionable material is limited to clearly illegal or habitually disreputable businesses, but that could potentially expand in the future—we’ll cover that in more detail in our “what it could mean for the search world” section.

    Google’s Motivation

    Google’s drive to release the pirate update and make continued efforts to try and reduce the visibility of pirating sites is not purely its own. Over the course of the past decade or so, film and music producers have been somewhat aggressive toward the search engine giant, accusing Google of not taking enough measures against piracy and demanding more strict, enforceable regulations. Hollywood and the music industry have been demanding more protection from all sides, including from the United States judicial system, but Google represented a much better opportunity. Google tends to do whatever it wants to do, but it also tends to listen when major players start making complaints.

    Some industry leaders have requested the full removal of offending sites from search results, but Google appears to only be lowering their rankings, attempting a kind of compromise that wouldn’t completely eliminate the visibility of torrenting sites, but would decrease it.

    Google may also be inspired to release such a change in order to simply “clean up the web,” and make it a better, more legal, more ethical place. But what would that mean for the future?

    What It Could Mean for the Search World

    Already, Google has begun to take liberties with what it defines as “relevant” search results. For most users, a search query should lead to a simple result—the most relevant result—as a kind of question-and-answer relationship. Google has adhered to that principle very strictly, weeding out rank manipulators in an effort to preserve that relevance, and even implementing the Google Knowledge Graph to give people more relevant answers to detectable questions.

    Now, Google is starting to pass new ranking boosts and penalties based on what it perceives and evaluates as “good” businesses. Local businesses with limited or negative reviews are ranked much lower than those with positive reviews, and now sites engaging in questionable legal practices are being hit with a similar ranking penalty.

    On the surface, Google appears law-abiding and collectivist, using the opinions of the masses and the influence of authorities fighting against illegal activities to modify its search results. But Google holds a lot of power—they’re by far the most popular search engine in the world, and they’ve never revealed their ranking algorithm. If they wanted to start penalizing sites for lesser infractions—such as not accepting returns—they could easily hurt a lot of business owners and/or quickly set new practically-mandatory standards for every business owner in the world.

    It’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing at this point, since Google has been both reasonable and beneficial to the online community as a whole so far, but the future is up in the air. With one update, Google was able to instantly squelch the visibility of an entire industry’s worth of websites, and it could easily decide to do something similar in the future. As a webmaster, keep watch for these constantly-updated standards, jump through the hoops when you can, and be on your toes for a potentially major shift in the years to come.

  4. The Right Way to Respond to Online Comments

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    Online comments are a reality of doing business. Whether you invite those comments or not, you’re going to need to respond to them if you want to preserve or build your online reputation. Too many businesses have lost loyal customers or missed key opportunities simply because they didn’t have the tact to respond to public inquiries, or because they went about it in the wrong way.

    Positive or negative, short or sprawling, user comments come in many forms. If you want to keep growing your audience, you’ll need to pay close attention to these comments, learn from them when you can, but most importantly, respond to them in a way that promotes your brand’s reputation.

    Types of Comments

    Comments can come in many forms, and as the mediums of the Internet continue to develop, there will likely be more forms to come. All of them share a fundamental similarity, however: in each case, a customer or audience member is reaching out to your business in an effort to be heard. Sometimes it’s complimentary, sometimes it’s critical, and sometimes it’s barely relevant, but your customers will only speak up if they want you to hear them, and it’s your job to show them that they’re heard.

    Monitor and respond to at least these common types of comments:

    Blog Comments

    articleimage577blogcomments

    Blog comments don’t always require the immediate response other types of comments do. Since they’re usually focused on the topic of your post, and not your brand or your company as a whole, you can afford to let them develop on their own. This is especially true if you have an active community of readers discussing your topics. However, if you’re invested in personal branding, it’s usually a good idea to make an appearance in the comments section to show your readers that you value their opinions.

    Social Comments

    articleimage577socialcomments

    Social comments are a much better opportunity to gauge the true sentiments of your followers. You can see comments posed directly to you, or search for mentions of your brand to find public claims, lauds, or accusations. Responding to these comments is critical, since they’re usually dealing directly with your reputation, and are publicly visible, so they’ll likely affect how others see you.

    It’s a good idea to claim a profile on every available social media platform you can find if only so you can keep your ear to the ground when it comes to social comments. Responding promptly and personally can defuse a tough situation or reinforce a positive encounter in some powerful ways.

    Online Reviews

    articleimage577onlinereviews

    Online reviews are some of the best glimpses you have into the quality of your business, since most people who post genuine online reviews are thoroughly—if sometimes brutally—honest. You can host the comments on your own site in the form of product reviews, especially if you have an e-commerce site, but it’s more likely that you’ll find reviews on a local directory service like Yelp. Peruse these locations frequently to learn what your customers like and don’t like about your business. And of course, you’ll have the opportunity to respond.

    The Importance of Responding

    When it comes to most comments, responding is almost always better than not responding. Even if a post is extremely negative, untrue, or inflammatory, responding to it shows that you listen to your customers no matter what, and will try to make things right with even the most irate customers. Responding can either reinforce or restore the loyalty of a given customer if done correctly, and since most of your responses are going to be public, you’ll also get the opportunity to showcase the care and attention your brand carries.

    If you don’t respond, you run the risk of earning a reputation of apathy. Or worse, people could read negative comments and think that everything the commenter said was true and unaddressed.

    Elements of a Perfect Response

    It’s not enough to simply respond to a comment. There are certain qualities of a great response that can solidify your reputation-boosting efforts or leave you worse off if you neglect them. Responding online gives you the perfect chance to craft your response perfectly, so make sure you include the following qualities:

    Timeliness

    Attention spans are decreasing and the amount of information available to the masses is staggering. People want answers immediately. This is especially true on social media, where users comment and respond to one another within minutes. If a customer posts a complaint on Twitter and it sits idle for more than a day, you can abandon any hope of recovering that customer. Respond within the hour, and you’ll rekindle new hopes about your capabilities and your commitment to resolving customer issues.

    Acknowledgement

    I’ve said it before in this article, but people want to be heard. Sometimes, just acknowledging a person is enough to make them feel better about a situation, and even when it isn’t, it still goes a long way. Acknowledge your customer’s comment by showing them you understand their feelings and that you know where they’re coming from. This can be done simply, such as by rephrasing their comment and posing it back to them to verify what they’re saying or requesting. Doing so instantly boosts your credibility, and lets your customer know that you truly heard what he/she said.

    Personality

    Your response also needs to have a personal component to it. That means you can’t just rely on a handful of “response templates,” which you update with a new name, and you can’t always send people to a customer service hotline. Respond in your unique brand voice to give people a familiar, comfortable experience, and mix in your personal voice to make sure your customers know that they’re speaking with a real human being. A little bit of personal interaction can immediately make people feel better, and can quickly humanize what might otherwise be a faceless corporation.

    Publicity

    Publicity is another important element of a perfect online response, and if you’re responding on a social media platform, the work is already done for you. Don’t try and funnel a customer into a private message or into a customer service line. Instead, respond directly and concisely and make sure the entire thread is publicly visible. Doing anything else, such as deleting the comment or trying to cover up what happened, is bound to attract more negative attention and possibly incur more negative comments as a result. Instead, take control of the situation and give your response for everyone to see.

    Compensation

    Finally, offer some kind of reward or compensation to the commenter—even if it’s just a thank you. Let your customers and followers know that they are appreciated, and if they’re posting a complaint, take the extra effort to make things right. That might mean giving a refund, offering a discount, or simply apologizing and making a commitment to improve. Whatever you do, let your customers know that they are valuable to you.

    Comments about your company will come naturally, no matter how good or bad your company is performing. The way you respond to those comments can make or break your retention strategy, and set the entire tone for your brand’s online reputation. Like with many digital marketing strategies, it should be taken seriously and refined over time.

  5. Emoji Based Searches: What Is Bing Thinking?

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    Bing recently unveiled a new feature of its surprisingly-competitive search engine for English-language customers: the ability to search using emoji. While traditional searches have relied on typed (or at least spoken) full words, the new emoji-based search function surpasses that limitation, allowing users to make queries using what are—essentially—modern, glorified hieroglyphics.

    While it seems like a gimmick on the surface, the new feature could turn out to be somewhat useful, and if it doesn’t, it could mark the beginning of a new trend in search. If nothing else, it’s at least an indicator of the state of linguistic evolution and the preferences of modern communicators.

    A Short History of Emoji

    articleimage576A Short History of Emoji

    Emoji are an evolution of the traditional emoticon, which required the use of traditional keyboard strokes to form abstract images. Instead, emoji are standalone and more detailed characters that originated in Japan and have been rapidly spreading to countries around the world. Used primarily in the form of text messages or other digital media, emoji are currently available on iPhones, Windows Phones, and several online services like Gmail chat.

    Why Are Emoji So Popular?

    articleimage576 Why Are Emoji So Popular

    There are many reasons for emoji’s radical and widespread success, but one of the most notable might seem strange to someone unfamiliar with regular emoji use. It’s a concise and accurate form of communication. In text-only communications, like emails, chats, and SMS messages, there’s a lack of body language or facial expression that can sometimes lead to miscommunications (sometimes to an embarrassing degree). Emoji don’t convey an idea with great specificity or elaboration, but they can convey a feeling quite concisely.

    As a result, people—especially youngsters—have found that it’s easier to send an emoji that perfectly encapsulates a feeling than it is to try and describe that feeling in words. To an outsider, deciphering the meaning of these emoji might be difficult, but to someone familiar with them, it’s a language all on its own.

    How Is This Supposed to Work?

    The concept is actually quite simple. English users of Bing, whether on desktop or mobile, can type emoji into the search bar and perform a search just like they would be able to with traditional text. In fact, you can even hybridize your searches, featuring both emoji and text in order to find whatever it is you’re looking for. There are two primary applications for this feature.

    Traditional Searches                

    In traditional searches, emoji will theoretically replace whatever text they represent. For example, if you were going to search for “cheap donut shop,” you could instead type “cheap (donut emoji) shop” and get the same results. Allegedly, the Bing search algorithm has a pretty good idea of what each emoji represents, so if you type a phrase like “cheap (donut emoji) shop,” it will be able to semantically decipher your intention, and compile a list of cheap donut shops in the area. As for less specific emoji, such as complex facial expressions, that meaning may be less straightforward.

    Deciphering Messages

    It’s also possible to search for emoji by themselves in an effort to decipher their meaning. While the traditional use of emoji is to convey a simple idea, such as an emotion, several emoji can be strung together in a way that complicates their individual meanings. For someone unfamiliar with the emoji “language,” these strings of hieroglyphs will be confusing, if not indecipherable. Bing would allow users to type emoji into the search bar and find results that explain the meaning behind the symbolic phrase.

    Isn’t That Inefficient?

    To a user accustomed to searching with full words and phrases, emoji search seems ridiculous. But believe it or not, there is an audience out there that is becoming used to communicating with emoji as much as written words. Emoji have, in a sense, replaced the semantic vocabulary of some younger audiences, at least partially. To a user who intuitively finds an emoji instead of processing a word letter-by-letter, the search function is actually quite efficient. It’s just a way of the search engine adapting to the needs of newer users with different linguistic needs.

    On the flip side, the tool is actually useful for non-emoji users. With a large portion of the population unfamiliar with how to use emoji in a natural conversation and a smaller portion of the population using it readily and often, there are bound to be gaps in communication. Bing’s search function could be especially useful for, say, a parent trying to figure out the meaning behind their young teen’s recent text. Copying the emoji into a search bar directly is certainly easier than trying to describe the emoji in text and hoping for the best.

    Emoji Optimization?

    articleimage576Emoji Optimization

    What does this mean for search marketers? It’s a little unclear at this time, especially since emoji aren’t in popular use on websites and Google has yet to make a move that crawls text for present emoji. Of the two main uses for emoji search, only one is relevant to search marketers.

    When emoji are used as enhancers or substitutes for a traditional search, search marketers don’t need to do anything differently. Bing will essentially decipher the meaning behind the emoji, and use that to formulate traditional text-based search results. For example, if you’re a cheap donut shop, someone searching for “cheap (donut emoji) shop” will find you regardless of whether you use emoji on your website or as part of your SEO campaign.

    As for deciphering the meaning behind emoji, the presence of emoji on your site would likely play a factor in your rank. However, depending on what type of business you’re running, it’s highly unlikely that this type of traffic would benefit your brand in any way.

    To put it simply, unless your brand is dedicated specifically to translating or deciphering emoji messages, you don’t need to adjust your strategy to make room for Bing’s new emoji search feature.

    The Future of Search

    Even though Bing’s emoji search function isn’t likely to turn the search world on its head, it does make an interesting suggestion about the future of search queries and results. Emoji seem like simplistic, playful, unnecessary trinkets in a smartphone user’s arsenal, but they do represent a more concise (if seemingly juvenile) way of communicating. Reducing linguistic expression to a more descriptive and more concise pictorial form is, in some ways, a more specific way of communicating. If you can take a picture of exactly what you’re looking for, you might find more relevant results than a word-based expression of the same target.

    It’s unlikely that any world-changing linguistic or algorithmic progression could occur in the near future, but it is reasonable to think that word-based searches may one day become obsolete. Spoken searches are already becoming more popular and more advanced than their typed-word counterparts, and if visual or symbolic searches can advance in both communication and interpretation, there’s no reason to expect word-based searches to last forever.

    For now, search marketers can look at this new feature for what it is on the surface: a simple gimmick that might be useful to a small percentage of the population. But it opens the door to a different world of search, driven by a more abstract form of expression.

  6. How to Clean Up a Slow Loading WordPress Site

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    WordPress is one of the most popular options available for modern webmasters, in part because of its easy usability and nearly limitless options. But if you want to get the most out of your WordPress site, you’ll have to take a few extra actions to improve its functionality and position yourself for hosting a great user experience. In that vein, you’ll need to regularly check on your site loading times, and do everything you can to improve them.

    Why a Fast Site Matters

    articleimage558Why a Fast Site Matters

    Having a site with fast load times is becoming increasingly important for two reasons: user experience and SEO.

    Your visitors have nearly limitless options, and with the instant gratification available to most Internet users, they won’t tolerate sites that make them wait. Waiting an extra few seconds for a page to load could lead to frustration, and ultimately cause your visitors to bounce. If slow load times are a consistent experience, customers might avoid your site altogether.

    Site speed is also a ranking signal for Google. While it’s not as important as having a solid content marketing strategy and offsite link building, site speed is still an important component that can affect whether or not you move up in rank over time.

    The faster your site is, the higher you’ll rank and the happier your customers will be—so you might as well make it as fast as possible.

    Optimize Your Images

    articleimage558Optimize Your Images

    The first and easiest step to take is optimizing your site’s images for speed. You should have ample images on your site if you have any kind of content marketing program, and downloading those images can put a serious strain on your download times—if those images aren’t optimized for speed. Fortunately, there are several ways you can make your images load faster and significantly reduce your WordPress site’s loading times.

    Resize Your Images

    Images are composed of data, and the more data that’s found in an image, the longer it will take for that image to “download” and transfer that data. The higher the resolution of the image, the more data will be present, but it’s possible to reduce the size of your images without sacrificing the quality of them. You can use Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Paint, or some similar kind of photo editing program to decrease your images’ dimensions—just keep the height to width ratio the same. You could also use an automated tool, such as the one found at Picresize.com, to resize your image automatically.

    Make sure none of your images are wider than the width of your given page, and aim for a quality between 60 and 70 percent. Keep a copy of the full-size version of your images, too, and never increase the size—it can lead to blurriness and significantly reduced quality.

    Use an Appropriate Format

    JPGs are one of the most popular types of image files, mostly because of their high quality. But that quality comes with a cost—higher file sizes and slower load times. If you’re interested in reducing that size, and therefore the load speed of your website, try using GIF images instead.

    Eliminate the Meta Data

    Most images also come with a small store of meta data—superfluous information that’s stored within the image, such as the date the photo was taken or the original author. Unless you’re a professional photographer, this meta data is probably unimportant. You can clear it completely by clicking into “Properties” and clicking “Remove Properties and Personal Information.” This won’t cut your file size by much, but it’s significant enough to be worth the effort.

    Get a Better Host

    articleimage558Getabetterhost

    Another option is to find a better host. Most webmasters, especially new ones, select a web host almost randomly, but the type of web hosting provider you choose can have a major impact on your load times. Some hosting providers offer a feature called “shared hosting,” which splits a dedicated host among multiple recipients in exchange for a lower price point, but pursuing this will result in dramatically slower load times, especially during peak traffic times. Instead, do some research and find a hosting provider that can give you the most for your money. It’s worth the extra monthly cost to get a dedicated host.

    Get a Better Theme

    WordPress themes come in all shapes and sizes, so much so that choosing a theme can be overwhelming for a new webmaster. You might pick a theme based on instinct, or choose the one that looks the best, but you also need to consider the efficiency of your theme if you’re worried about the load times of your site. The better choices for load times tend to be the themes with simple, undecorated designs. It may not be flashy, but it will reduce your load times significantly—if you’re worried about the design, try and find a framework that meets the two extremes in the middle.

    Review Your Plugins and Remove the Dead Weight

    Plugins are what make WordPress so universally admired; there are countless options that can improve your site’s performance and enhance your users’ experience. But having too many plugins can be a nightmare for your site loading times. Do a thorough review of all the plugins currently on your WordPress site, and simply delete any that aren’t essential to your site. You can use the P3 tool, also known as the Plugin Performance Profiler, to quickly determine how each individual plugin affects your overall load time. From there, you should be able to easily decide which plugins are worth keeping and which are not.

    Set Up a Decent Caching Plugin

    Caching plugins are great for site load times because they’re easy to use, but it’s important to understand how they work and to set them up properly. A caching plugin will instruct user browsers to store certain pieces of data of your site in a cache, which will remain for quick retrieval the next time a user visits. This process saves significantly on load times, and streamlines your users’ experience. Don’t spend too much time fiddling around with the advanced settings—the default settings are usually the best option for ordinary sites.

    Eliminate Your Pingbacks and Trackbacks

    Pingbacks and trackbacks are two sides of the same coin—both are types of notifications that come from external sources that let your site know it’s been mentioned. Both pingbacks and trackbacks immediately update the information in whichever post or page was mentioned, and thus increases the amount of data users need to pull in order to access that post or page (increasing load times along with it). Fortunately, getting rid of pingbacks and trackbacks is a simple process. Head to the Options > Discussion panel on the back end of your site and uncheck the box for “Allow link notifications from other Weblogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).” It’s really that simple! You can also manually delete trackbacks under the “Comments” section of your site’s back end.

    With these strategies in place, your site speed should dramatically improve. However, you’ll need to regularly maintain your site with best practices for speed if you want to continue enjoying the benefits of fast load times.

  7. Are There Any SEO Friendly Alternatives to WordPress?

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    WordPress has long been the content management system (CMS) of choice for small business owners, startup entrepreneurs, and anybody who wants a decent-looking website on a tight budget. WordPress is a free service that allows you to create your own blog or full website, using one of their free templates, purchasing a template from a massive store, or customizing your own site.

    WordPress has become popular for a number of reasons, but two of the most significant are its SEO value and customizability through the use of plugins. There are hundreds of free plugins available, each of which can improve the site or bring it closer to your original vision. WordPress sites, on their own, can be easily optimized for search engines, and specific SEO plugins can make it even easier.

    Despite its ease of use, cheap cost, and general functionality, WordPress isn’t perfect. In fact, there are several free (or nearly free) alternatives you can use to build and maintain your own website—and most of them carry the same SEO power as the CMS giant.

    Blogger

    articleimage557Blogger

    Blogger was once an independent effort, but the massive platform is now property of Google—and if Google takes ownership of it, you know it’s got to be good for your rankings. Blogger is actually considered by most to be Google’s direct answer to WordPress, making it a potentially excellent alternative, depending on your needs.

    Blogger has a number of advantages for SEO, but the most important one is a result of its affiliation with Google. Webmasters using Blogger for their website can actually log into Google Analytics and read data without having to visit a separate site; all the information is tied into one platform. AdSense is also seamlessly integrated into the system.

    Blogger also ties in directly with Google+, as you might expect, giving you a clear and direct path to the powerful social media channel. Webmasters can leverage Google+ to directly manage and respond to blog comments, cutting out the extra step of logging into the blog platform’s back end.

    There are a few drawbacks to using Blogger, however. While there are several easy-to-use templates, they aren’t as diverse or as easily customizable as WordPress’s options. Plus, the entire platform is geared toward blog hosting; if you want a fancy site with lots of plugins and functionality, Blogger may not be the right choice for you.

    Statamic

    articleimage557statamic

    Statamic is described as a “flat-file” CMS that uses both static and dynamic site elements to keep your website simple, but customizable and reflexive. The platform itself runs on PHP, but like with most modern CMSs, you don’t need to be familiar with PHP in order to use it effectively. Just like WordPress, Statamic keeps all your web pages rendered on the fly, but it uses flat files layered in a simplistic directory in order to keep your site loading quickly—a quality that search engines love to see.

    Statamic does not use a database, which eliminates one of the security vulnerabilities that WordPress sites face. It also allows its users to write in it using HTML, markdown, or simple text—making it quick and easy for users to update. The only real downside is that, unlike WordPress, Statamic is not free to use. It’s still cheap, however, with pricing around $29 for a personal domain, and $99 for a professional one.

    Drupal

    articleimage557Drupal

    If you are looking for a free software package that allows you just as many publication options as WordPress, Drupal might be the answer for you. While WordPress offers user customizability through the use of various plugins, Drupal itself is actually open source, and managed by a dedicated community of users and developers. Because it has a GNU General Public License, anyone in the world can download it, share it, and manage it, with no strings attached.

    The number of modules and customizable features of Drupal might seem intimidating, but if you spend a little time with the system, you should find it quite easy to create your own website—a simple one, at least. If you encounter any problems with the software or try to do something that currently exceeds the limitations of the system, you can reach out to the interactive community and seek help. And like all the WordPress alternatives on this list, Drupal is easy to optimize for SEO, so you never have to worry about ranking limitations because of your content platform of choice.

    Ghost

    Ghost is a fantastic WordPress alternative for a very specific type of audience; the webmaster who only needs the basics. Ghost strips away all of the superfluous additions and functionalities of WordPress (such as the additional plugins), and instead focuses on the priorities of writing and publishing. For the content marketer who’s only looking for a solid publication channel, Ghost is perfect.

    If you’re looking for sophisticated designs or a multitude of structural options, Ghost is not for you. But the SEO structure of your website and potential for rank is extraordinary. You won’t have to mess with configuring plugins or experimenting with various options for site speed. In essence, you’re giving up a bit of your precision control in exchange for greater simplicity. With Ghost, you can focus on the most basic and most important element of your SEO strategy: content publishing.

    As an added bonus, Ghost is a completely free platform—all you have to do is ante up a small monthly fee for hosting (and the fee is dependent on your traffic, so if you have fewer than 10,000 monthly views, it could be as low as $5 a month).

    Craft

    Craft is a newer CMS platform created by Pixel & Tonic as a simplistic solution to the common problems of complex CMSs. Minimalism is the core principle behind Craft—while there’s plenty to explore and plenty to customize, its developers wanted a product that didn’t have more than what was absolutely necessary to build and manage a great site.

    The most important component of any SEO campaign, posting content, is incredibly easy in Craft’s back end. Rather than sorting through dozens of fields, users are only presented with the basics as options. It will allow you to keep your focus on top priorities without worrying about all the superfluous, unnecessary features that get in the way.

    The basic Craft setup is free, just like WordPress, but for a little extra money you can buy packages that can enhance the functionality of your site (such as the ability to manage multiple languages or offer cloud integration).

    If you’re interested in getting the most SEO power for your website, but you aren’t interested in building a site in WordPress, try out one of these other options. As long as you publish content regularly with appropriate meta data, make adjustments so your site is crawlable, and build plenty of high-quality offsite links, you’ll have no trouble achieving a great rank with any of these high-grade alternatives.

    SEO isn’t as much about what type of site you build as it is about how you maintain your site. Maintain best practices for content syndication and user experience, and you’ll wind up in a great position no matter what.

  8. 10 Strategies to Attract Links to Your Content

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    Link building is still one of the most effective offsite search engine optimization practices around—the more high-quality links you have, the better. But with the onset of advanced Google updates like Penguin 3.0, it’s becoming more and more difficult to build “natural” backlinks on your own. In most cases, it’s better and easier to let your readers and customers do the work for you, by creating content that naturally encourages people to build links pointing back to your site.

    That may seem difficult, but when put into practice, you may find it’s one of the easiest—and most effective—link building strategies around. Try using these 10 tactics to attract more links to your onsite content:

    1. Show Something New.

    articleimage556Show Something New

    People like to see what’s new, and if it’s new enough and different enough, they’ll want to share it to their friends and followers. Nothing satisfies social urges quite like being the first person to share something new and exciting. If you have a new product or service to unveil, write a post about it, and talk about how it’s going to change the industry. You can also share a new take on an old problem, or share a new idea that has future potential. Anything you can do to share something new will pay off in spades.

    2. Tease Your Audience.

    articleimage556Tease Your Audience

    Build anticipation whenever possible. Anticipation leads to more attention, and the value of whatever you build to will correspondingly increase. You can build this anticipation by teasing your audience of a release to come—either in the form of social media posts, or by the creation of a webinar or content series. For example, you can make posts leading to a specific date like “We’ve got a big announcement for you next week!” and “only two days until the big reveal!” Your content, when revealed, will pack a much bigger punch, and your users will be far more likely to link to it as a result.

    3. Take a Firm Stance.

    Controversy can be a good thing. If you have the opportunity to take a firm stance on a major issue in your industry, or something else debatable, you should take it. Make sure your stance is in line with your brand standards, but don’t be afraid to firmly pick a side. You do run the risk of alienating some of your readers, but the remainder will be far more loyal and passionate about your brand. Those loyal followers will be highly likely to link to your strong, opinionated content—especially if they’re posting their own variations of it!

    4. Give Your Readers a Surprise.

    articleimage556Give Your Readers a Surprise

    Giving users exactly what they expect can lead to satisfaction, but if you give your users a surprise, they’ll remember it. Create content that offers something surprising—you can support an unconventional opinion, offer a unique solution, or simply have a sudden twist in your video content to evoke a surprised response. That surprise element is invaluable to facilitating interest from your readership. People like to share surprises to others, so your content will be far more likely to attract links from other bloggers and readers.

    5. Demonstrate Original Research.

    Original research is one of the juiciest and most attractive forms of content you can provide. Original research is—as the name suggests—original, and that means users can’t get your data anywhere else. Your data is also going to be valuable, at least to somebody, and many people will want to link to you simply to credit you as a source of their information. You’ll be the root source of dozens, if not hundreds, of secondary articles, most of which will link to you as the original source. The only problem with this strategy is the amount of time and effort it takes to perform original research properly.

    6. Let Others Guest Blog on Your Site.

    This strategy is much easier, and can be done by any company in any industry. Make a public request for guest bloggers—most writers are itching to write guest blogs as a source of new readership and more brand visibility. While allowing guest bloggers within your industry to post on your blog might actually send some of your users their way, the benefits to your brand can be just as powerful. Your readerships will “cross over,” and your guest bloggers’ current fans will be likely to link to their content—plus, your guest bloggers will be more than happy to share the links to their content on your site.

    7. Conduct Interviews and Surveys.

    Interviews and surveys are almost a type of original research that doesn’t take much time to implement or analyze. Essentially, you’ll be borrowing the authority of an individual or group of people in order to substantiate your own content—either with new insights or aggregated data. This strategy will attract links, either because it’s interesting, because it’s informative, or some mixture of the two. And if you’re conducting an interview with an individual, make sure to ask him/her to share it with his/her current fans.

    8. Create Something Funny or Entertaining.

    Funny content is self-explanatory—if your content makes somebody laugh, they’ll be far more likely to share and link to it. The trick is to find something funny to create. Amusing videos are one of the more popular options, but you can also write a parody post or something similar. If your brand voice is casual or flexible, you have a lot of room to work with—remember, that everybody loves to laugh deep down.

    9. Write Landmark Pieces.

    Landmark pieces, like whitepapers or thorough guides, are some of the best types of content you can write. They are longer, more detailed, and more useful than typical blog posts or infographics, and usually come through a PDF download link rather than existing onsite. These pieces are highly shareable, and are perfect for attracting links because they are seen as having a high level of authority, and they’re usually evergreen, meaning they’re useful for a longer period of time than a typical blog entry, and will attract links for a much longer time as a result.

    10. Reward Shares Directly.

    This is one of the easiest ways to build links, and one of the most effective—as long as you’re careful with it. Directly compensating users for linking to your content can be seen as manipulative and therefore against Google’s terms of service. However, you can encourage links to your content by offering entry into a competition, or by offering small rewards like discounts or credits. One specific example is asking your users for videos explaining why they love your ____ product, which in turn link back to the original competition page. You can also encourage social sharing along the same lines.

    Link building doesn’t have to be a massive internal effort. By leveraging the power of your own audience, you can build your reputation and naturally allow the development of all the links you could ever want. It’s still a good idea to occasionally review the sources of your links, and pursue extra high-quality link building opportunities in order to create the best possible backlink profile, but with these 10 strategies, you’ll be in an excellent position to let your link building campaign grow on its own.

  9. 5 Things Most People Don’t Know About Negative SEO

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    Negative SEO is an unethical strategy that takes advantage of black hat practices to earn penalties for a competing site. Since Google lowers the ranks of sites who have duplicate content, poorly written content, or irrelevant backlinks, some webmasters have intentionally masqueraded under the guise of competing domains in order to lower their competitors’ ranks and boost their own performance for certain keywords.

    Since negative SEO started getting noticed, many webmasters have grown paranoid about the possibility of losing ranks due to the uncontrollable efforts of a malicious competitor. However, there are a number of public misconceptions and misunderstandings about the nature of negative SEO and how it can actually affect your site.

    Take a look at these five facts about negative SEO you might not have known:

    1. It’s Not Just About Sabotaging Links.

    articleimage555It’s Not Just About Sabotaging Links

    When most people think of SEO, they think about irrelevant or intentionally over-optimized backlinks pointing back to the victim’s domain, which in turn, would lower the victim’s page rank via a Google penalty. It makes sense, and negative link building is by far the most common type of negative SEO. They’re easy to build because they usually require no verification of site ownership, and virtually anyone can make the attempt. They can also be difficult to remove, making them an even stronger negative strategy.

    However, these types of sabotaging links aren’t the only strategy associated with negative SEO. The motivated webmaster could attempt to hack into your site in an effort to sabotage your onsite efforts. They could go the obvious route by posting spammy content, wrecking your title tags and meta data, and so on, but these are unrefined and easily noticeable tactics. It’s more likely that they would use coding tricks, like including a robots.txt file that blocks search engines from crawling your content, or eliminating your microdata structures so they can’t be deciphered by Google.

    These types of sophisticated hacking assaults are much rarer than negative link building, but they are possible, and have been known to occur. You can protect yourself against this type of attack by keeping your servers up-to-date and secure.

    2. Not All Unfamiliar Links Are Bad Links.

    articleimage555ot All Unfamiliar Links Are Bad Links

    Paranoid webmasters often assume the worst about backlinks that show up mysteriously, but not all strange links are a sign of negative SEO. There are many reasons why a link from an unfamiliar domain could turn up, and even if that domain is of a low authority, the link itself might not be hurting your authority—at least not much.

    For example, there are countless sites that exist to analyze domain information, or sites that scrape the web, and it’s not uncommon to have several links from these sources. Similarly, it’s possible that a major site like yellowpages.com is linking to your site regularly—maybe even thousands of times. If you see this type of data in your Webmaster Tools account, don’t panic. Google does a great job of determining what constitutes a sitewide link, and you generally don’t have to worry about the negative repercussions of such an event. You certainly don’t have to worry about it being some kind of attack.

    There’s also a chance that these unfamiliar links are ones you’ve built yourself, without remembering—have you ever paid for link building services, maybe a long time ago? Are any of your friends or employees building these links with good intentions? There are a lot of possible origins for these strange links that have nothing to do with negative SEO, so avoid making snap assumptions.

    3. Effective Negative SEO Is Incredibly Rare.

    articleimage555Effective Negative SEO Is Incredibly Rare

    Back in 2007, Google announced that there was “nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.” Shortly thereafter, they changed this statement to the slightly more open “there is almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.” This change indicates that Google recognizes the possibility for negative SEO to exist, but also believes that such instances are incredibly rare.

    Today, Google’s statement reads “Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index. If you’re concerned about another site linking to yours, we suggest contacting the webmaster of the site in question. Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content of these pages.” This indicates that Google understands that negative SEO is a realistic possibility, but still not something that most webmasters need to worry about. In the event that a negative link is posted or a negative SEO attack is carried out, Google can probably recognize it, making negative SEO attacks rare and effective negative SEO attacks even rarer.

    4. It’s Relatively Easy to Recover if You Are Attacked.

    In the event that you are suffering from a real negative SEO attack, there are many strategies you can use to mitigate the effects. First, if your site has been hacked and your code has been sabotaged, you can easily reverse the changes they made—as long as you have backups of your site. In order to prevent future attacks from occurring, you can change all your passwords and increase the levels of protection you use to ward off would-be attackers.

    There are also many tools you can use to monitor the types of links that are pointing back to your site, such as Webmaster Tools or Open Site Explorer. You can use these immediately to determine whether any backlinks have been posted without your consent, and check them on a regular basis to scout for negative SEO and eliminate it before it takes effect. You can generally remove negative links just by asking a webmaster, but if that doesn’t work out, you can always use Google’s Disavowal Tool to request that those links be ignored.

    5. No Amount of Negative SEO Can Undo a Great Strategy.

    This is critical. People often overestimate the amount of damage a handful of bad links can do; if the vast majority of your onsite content and offsite links are of high quality, even a well-executed negative SEO attack can’t do much to hurt you. At most, you’ll lose a couple of ranks for short period of time, and in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t very significant. Lately, a lot of search marketers have warned about the dangers of negative SEO—but there aren’t many real examples of significant or irreversible damage. Keep in mind that negative SEO is real and something you should watch for, but it isn’t something that’s going to undermine or overturn an otherwise powerful strategy.

    Educating yourself is the best defense against a possible negative SEO attack. Hopefully, after understanding the limits and scope of negative SEO, you’re no longer worried about the possibility of seeing all your hard work go down the drain because of one rogue webmaster’s hateful efforts. Keep up a solid content marketing and link building strategy and regularly audit your backlink profile. As long as you’re paying close attention to suspicious activity and protecting your domain with consistent best practices, you have nothing to worry about.

  10. 3 of The Easiest Tricks to Increase Your Google Rankings

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    Boosting your page rank in Google is—let’s face it—a pain. If you’re just starting out, it takes days to get your onsite structure in proper order even if you know what you’re doing. After that, you have to constantly update your onsite content, social media syndication, and all your external links. Depending on the size of your company, it could be much more than one full time job’s worth of responsibilities, and it needs to be performed consistently.

    It’s certainly overwhelming, even to the seasoned pros. These are the fundamentals of search engine optimization, and even with them, it can take months or even years to see the results you want. Fortunately, there are a handful of shortcuts out there; they won’t get you to a number one position overnight, but they are incredibly easy and can help you get to the next level in search.

    1. Spread Local Hype.

    articleimage554Spread Local Hype

    You’ll notice that two of these three tricks rely on a principle that removes you from the equation: getting others to do your work for you. In this case, you’ll be creating an environment in which your users can spread the word about your company, and give you a higher rank as a result.

    Let’s take a look at the world of local SEO. Even if your business doesn’t rely on local foot traffic, you can still build a valuable buzz around your company in your local community, and take advantage of the benefits of being associated with geographic terms in major search engines. In order to do that, you need to start claiming all your local profiles—which is a bit of a headache, but you only have to do it once. Claim your Google Places page, your Yelp profile, and any other local directories you can think of.

    From there, make sure your local information is accurate and consistent across the board, then do everything you can to get local citizens to talk about your business. Encourage positive reviews (but don’t compensate people for them—that’s a major no-no that could get you penalized). The more positive reviews you have on local directories like Yelp and similar services, the higher you’ll rank, both with and without associated geographical terms. Plus, when people check you out on those local directories, you’ll have a much better chance of winning the favor of those potential new customers.

    Another way to spread local hype and get the corresponding SEO value is to get attention through local events. Attend local gatherings and spread the word about your business, or post on social media about the event. You could even publish a press release about your attendance for the extra link juice. It doesn’t take much time, and it has a killer impact on your domain authority and local relevance.

    2. Get Your Content Shared By Influencers.

    articleimage554 Get Your Content Shared By Influencers

    This trick is even easier, and it relies on others to do the real work. Even if you’re just starting out, you should have a solid content marketing strategy in place—one that includes the creation of highly informative or highly shareable material. You’ll need at least one of those pieces for this trick, and a presence on either Twitter or LinkedIn, but the rest is pretty straightforward.

    Facebook marketing gets a lot of hype, but when it comes to personal sharing, networking, and sharing content with a huge audience, Twitter and LinkedIn are superior. Their user bases are more public, making it easier to reach a wide audience, and their most prolific users are able to connect with thousands of people at a moment’s notice, either by tweeting directly or by posting in a LinkedIn Group.

    Don’t spam your material, but don’t be shy either. On Twitter especially, there’s usually no problem with introducing yourself to an influencer in your industry and simply asking them to share your content with their followers. If your content is interesting, they’ll probably post it—it’s a win-win situation for both of you. If you don’t hear back, follow up once. Any more than that, and you’ll be an annoyance.

    Influencers can be your shortcut to a huge new audience. Most influencers are already connected to thousands of people who see them as an authority, meaning your content is instantly imbued with a level of authority. That means your content is far more likely to be picked up, shared, and linked to—and your domain will see all the benefits in the form of increased rank. If it works out well, you can continue the relationship by providing regular pieces of shareable content for them to distribute. You might even get direct leads from the experience!

    3. Start Using Google+.

    articleimage554Start Using Google+

    Google has taken a number of recent steps to reduce the power and ubiquity of their Google+ platform, but don’t let the hype or fears dissuade you. Google+ is still a highly powerful social platform, and you can take advantage of it to see search benefits almost immediately.

    There are still signs that Google favors its own platform above others; content posted on Google+ seems to rank slightly higher than other similar forms of social content. That means anything you post or syndicate on Google+ automatically gets a bit of a boost.

    It’s better to use Google+ as an individual though, integrating your personal brand with your corporate brand. By doing so, you’ll build a level of “authorship” authority that will transfer to any articles you write throughout the web. While the power of authorship has been reduced, it’s still highly valuable, especially for articles you’ve written and distributed through the Google+ platform. Any articles you post on Google+ will show your headshot and bylines as an author, embedded in your search results, which makes your link immediately more clickable and gives you greater search visibility without necessarily increasing your rank.

    Plus, any recurring social presence you have is good for your SEO. Odds are, you’ve already created and started updating your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles, but the more platforms you’re on, the better. It isn’t entirely clear which elements of a social presence trigger a ranking signal to Google, but the more visibility you have for your brand, the better.

    It’s also worthwhile to build a company page for your business on Google+. That way, you’ll get twice as many opportunities to post content and gain visibility for your brand in Google.

    Put these easy tricks to good use, either as a short-term shortcut to your target results or as a long-term addition to your otherwise solid strategy. Each of these mini-strategies can be implemented as a one-time callout, or pursued as a regular campaign.

    Whatever you do, keep in mind that search engine optimization must be treated as a long-term strategy, and that your primary focus should be on improving your users’ experience rather than solely increasing your rank. These tricks can add some momentum to your campaign, but they won’t necessarily improve your core web presence. If you want to stick around as an authority for any lasting period of time, you’ll need to make a major commitment to regularly updating your website and giving your users everything they need.

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