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Tag Archive: seo

  1. Let’s Get Technical: A Follow-Up to “Why Modern SEO Requires Almost No Technical Expertise”

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    articleimage345-Content-Continues-to-Become-More-Important

    Note: I submitted this article to Entrepreneur.com as a follow-up to the first article, which this article is in response to, and they felt it wasn’t appropriate for their audience. So, I’ve published it here instead.

    First, let me say that I love being a part of the SEO community. The Internet is abuzz with SEO professionals and amateurs alike, voracious to read up on the latest news and passionate enough to start discussions when the subject matter warrants it. Discussions are what drive progress, uncover new insights, and expand on topics that haven’t been thoroughly covered.

    One of my most recent articles, “Why Modern SEO Requires Almost No Technical Expertise,” was the subject of one of these discussions, and a particularly heated and far-reaching one at that. After thousands of shares and views, hundreds of comments ranging from placid to aggressive, and even a Whiteboard Friday from Rand Fishkin, one of the SEO industry’s foremost authorities, I thought it was time to jump back into the conversation and set a few things straight.

    I’m not here to argue—I appreciate, acknowledge, and agree with most of the criticisms and counterpoints brought up by users and fellow experts alike—nor am I here to rampantly defend myself. I’m not retracting any statements I made and to be honest, I’m thrilled and proud that my original article generated as much interest as it has. I just want to clarify a few points I think were misinterpreted, oversimplified, or flat-out ignored.

    A Question of Audience

    First, and most importantly, I published the article on Entrepreneur.com. My target audience was not leading SEO experts, advanced developers, or even inbound marketing professionals. My target audience was entrepreneurs with new or small businesses trying to make the most of limited resources with limited experience and limited budgets. I’m generalizing here, but most of these entrepreneurs can’t afford to hire an SEO agency, aren’t in a position to hire a dedicated expert, and don’t have the hundreds of hours necessary to get started with a technical understanding of SEO.

    As many commenters pointed out, it’s impossible to reduce the complex technical elements of SEO into a single, 800-word article—and that’s not what I was trying to do, nor was I trying to suggest that learning these technical elements isn’t important. My point was, to this target audience, that it isn’t necessary to become a technical expert in order to reap the benefits of SEO. My goal was to liberate entrepreneurs from the intimidations and misconceptions that sometimes fool them into thinking “there’s no way I can do this for my business.” They can.

    When they encounter a problem, grow to a point where the basics are no longer working, or simply want to scale up at a faster rate—that’s when a technical expert becomes necessary. Over the last few years, I’ve done my best to help people understand and address these technical challenges by publishing articles, guides, and walkthroughs on a variety of technical subjects (just to name a few examples: 301 Redirects, Crawl Errors, Onsite Ranking Details, Manual Actions & Penalties, and Poor Results Troubleshooting), but most of these articles are published on other platforms with separate intentions—to help SEO amateurs find answers to their specific problems, rather than to introduce an unfamiliar audience to a fundamental concept.

    Stones Left Unturned

    Several commenters pointed out that my points were left unelaborated or unexplored, and therefore suggested that my approach was an oversimplification. For example, in point one of my original article, I mention the importance of a “good onsite experience,” which several users criticized for its simplicity, stating that making users happy doesn’t necessarily make a site rank higher. That’s absolutely true—I made reference to “a number of different factors” that constitute a good onsite experience, but I didn’t elaborate on them. An intuitive design that keeps users onsite for longer, a mobile-friendly design that works across multiple devices, a fast site speed, an available site map… the list goes on forever, and I could write an entire book digging into the details. But again, my target audience at Entrepreneur.com isn’t ready for those details. My job in this article was to make things simpler.

    Similarly, I caught some heat for my admittedly ambiguous description of “good” content in point two. In his Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fishkin pointed out that the phrase “quality content” offers no real objective description, and that content comes in far more forms than just written (including video, audio, image-based, and so on). This is absolutely right, and in retrospect I should have at least touched on this. But again, this is material for separate, more detailed articles (which I’ve also written or published, including defining what exactly constitutes “high quality” content, and a breakdown of the many different forms of content).

    Point three in the article is also boldly simplified. Rather than going on an extended tangent about the benefits and process of building a brand through inbound links, brand mentions, building relationships, columnist opportunities, publication outlets, and an interactive presence on blogs and forums, I tried to make the concept as basic and as easy to understand for a newcomer as possible: becoming an authority.

    Unfortunately, a concise article covering the basic concept of SEO doesn’t have room to elaborate on these points. If I had expanded this to a longer, more detailed whitepaper or eBook (which I still may), I would have taken the time to explore some of the finer points that comprise these broader elements.

    Social Signals as Ranking Factors

    articleimage1327 Social Signals as Ranking Factors

    In point four, I admit my simplification could easily be misinterpreted. I state that “if you have 1,000 highly active followers on Twitter, you’ll rank higher than if you have no Twitter account at all.” A handful of users pointed out that this could be taken to mean that more earning followers on social media will make your site rank higher, which isn’t exactly true. As I’ve pointed out in cited correlational studies and even on a guest post on Moz itself, social signals are becoming increasingly important for SEO—top-ranking results consistently show more social signals than low-ranking ones. Just a couple weeks ago, Searchmetrics released a new report on the Top Search Ranking Factors of 2015, which further backs this claim.

    I acknowledge that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but I do think it’s important to recognize the many peripheral and interrelated benefits of managing an active social following. More active users means more socially shared articles, more visibility for your brand, and more interest in your blog, which can in turn lead to more mentions, more links pointing to your domain, more recurring traffic, and better-performing articles, all of which can help your organic search rankings. I don’t dig into this in my original article for the reasons I outlined above. However, last year I published “The Top 10 Benefits of Social Media Marketing” which takes a thorough look at these factors and more.

    In Response to Moz’s Whiteboard Friday

    Rand Fishkin and the team at Moz are some of the most amazing SEO and online marketing professionals I know. I look forward to every Whiteboard Friday, and when I saw my article referenced in the most recent edition, I was both surprised and grateful. Surprised because I didn’t imagine my article about fundamental SEO concepts for new entrepreneurs to make such a wide ripple in the SEO community, and grateful because Rand addresses some of the points I already made above while agreeing with some of my original points, such as that HTML and CSS aren’t necessary skills to begin making SEO progress.

    Still, this Whiteboard Friday makes a few additional criticisms that I wanted the opportunity to address:

    • There’s no acknowledgment that the ability to read and write code, or even HTML and CSS, which I think are the basic place to start, is helpful or can take your SEO efforts to the next level. I think both of those things are true.” This is absolutely true, but my goal here wasn’t to train entrepreneurs to become SEO experts or introduce them to a new career path. The majority of my target audience has no interest in “diving deep” in the SEO world—they’re interested in a DIY approach that can help them cover their bases as they develop into something bigger. As an elaboration on this point, Rand imagines an instance where Google can’t “see” a particular piece of content—but as I referenced above, when a specific technical problem arises, of course entrepreneurs will need some technical help. I don’t believe that should stop them from trying to cover the basics.
    • I don’t like that the article overly reduces all of this information that we have about what we’ve learned about Google.” Rand proceeds to point out a number of ambiguous points, simplifications, and ambiguities in a few of my points (which I elaborated on above). I don’t have a counterargument to this; I only want to reiterate that in this specific article in this specific context, I didn’t see the need to go into deep detail. To avoid the risk of alienating my target audience, I kept things limited to the “big picture.”
    • The article also makes, in my opinion, the totally inaccurate claim that modern SEO really is reduced to ‘the happier your users are when they visit your site, the higher you’re going to rank. … User happiness and rank is broadly correlated, but it’s not a one to one.” I agree, but for this article, the broad correlation is the “big picture” point. In my introduction, I encourage readers to “Ignore all the technical terms, all the details of execution and all your preconceived notions for a moment.” I’m not trying to pretend those details don’t exist or don’t matter; I just want my readers to understand that Google’s motivation really is simple. It wants to give the best, most accurate, most relevant, most useful results to its users. To say that having happy users is the only thing required to rank high is inaccurate (and a misunderstanding of my original words).
    • I feel like this list is super incomplete. Okay, I brainstormed just off the top of my head in the 10 minutes before we filmed this video a list. The list was so long that, as you can see, I filled up the whole whiteboard and then didn’t have any more room.” This is in reference to a brief list I used to name some key elements for increasing organic search rankings. You’ll notice Rand ran into the same problem I did: he ran out of room. It was never my intention to produce a comprehensive list, nor was it my claim that this was one. Rand mentions a handful of other, rather technical elements that can and should be considered by search marketers (though I’d argue that many of these don’t become relevant until later stages of SEO growth or until a problem occurs): content rendering and indexability, crawl structure, crawl disabling, 301 redirects, domain migrations, 404 errors, and downtime procedures. Rand even mentions how Disney recently neglected to implement proper downtime procedures and ended up having all their pages indexed as 404 errors—but remember, we’re not talking about Disney here. My article, published on Entrepreneur.com and limited to 800 words, was not preaching to multinational corporations with gigantic budgets; I was writing to startups, new entrepreneurs without SEO experience or knowledge, and small-time operations.

    Rand continues to list a variety of other technical requirements for successful long-term SEO campaigns. If you’re a seasoned SEO expert, you should listen to them (or read them) and nod your head in silent agreement. If you’re an amateur SEO professional, you should learn them. But if you’re just getting started, most of these will only confuse you.

    The DIY Approach

    I want to close this article with one final acknowledgment. I feel like many members of the SEO community reacted defensively, as if I were trying to argue that their jobs weren’t important or didn’t matter. This wasn’t my intention in the slightest. If anything, introducing more entrepreneurs to the basics of SEO should provide you a richer and more knowledgeable customer base. But I feel it’s important to help entrepreneurs be less intimidated by SEO, and let them know that the DIY approach, at least to start things off, is a viable one.

    One commenter on Moz pointed out that “a better title for his article would be: How to Start SEO if You Don’t Have Technical Knowledge.” In retrospect, I agree. My original title was a bit sensationalist and maybe a bit misleading (especially for people who got angry at the title despite not reading the actual material). But as another user pointed out, there’s “Nothing like a great article to set the SEO chicken coop on fire.” I love the discussion my article generated, and I hope this follow-up keeps it going.

  2. Your Guide to Google’s New Stance on Unnatural Links

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    Recently, Google quietly released an update to its link schemes/unnatural links document in Webmaster Tools. For something that happened so quietly, it generated significant noise across industry media outlets. So, what changes were made and what do SEO professionals, business owners and webmasters need to do differently as a result?

    Building Links to Manipulate PageRank

    articleimage575 Building Links to Manipulate PageRank

    Here’s what Google’s document now says about manipulating PageRank:

    “Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

    What does Google mean when they say, “any links intended to manipulate PageRank”? According to Google, any links you (or someone on your behalf) create with the sole intention of improving your PageRank or Google rankings is considered unnatural.

    The quantity and quality of inbound links have always been a crucial part of how Google’s algorithm determines PageRank. However, this fact manifested manipulative link building schemes that created nothing other than spam across the Web, which is something Google has been working feverishly to eliminate since it launched it original Penguin algorithm in April 2012.

    Now, Google is much better at differentiating true editorial links (ie, natural) links from manipulative (unnatural) ones. In fact, Google now penalizes Websites in the search rankings that display an exceptionally manipulative link profile or history of links.

    What about Buying or Selling Links?

    articleimage575 What about Buying or Selling Links

    Google says, “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.”

    If people found out that their favorite politician had in some way purchased a majority of his or her votes, how would they feel about it? When we purchase (or sell) links for a website, we are essentially doing the same thing.

    Google has made it clear that purchasing links violates their quality guidelines. However, many companies continue to do so, and some companies have severely lost search rankings and visibility as a result.

    Google is getting better at understanding which links are purchased in a wide variety of ways. They also have a team devoted to investigating web spam, including purchased links.

    Excessive Link Exchanges

    articleimage575 Excessive Link Exchanges

    Google says, “Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.”

    A few years ago, it was a common for webmasters to exchange links. This method worked; as a result it started to become abused at large scale. As a result, Google started discounting such links. Now, Google has officially added this to its examples of unnatural link building tactics.

    Large-scale Article Marketing or Guest Posting Campaigns

    Google says, “Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.”

    This, in particular, has a lot of people wondering, “can you still engage in guest posting as a way to get inbound links?” The answer depends on how you’re doing it.

    A few years ago, it was a common for SEOs to engage in large-scale article marketing in an attempt to quickly get tons of inbound links. Many were using low-quality, often “spun” content (mixed and mashed, sometimes computer-generated nonsense) to reduce time and content production costs. The result was a surge in nonsensical articles being published around the Web for the sole purpose of creating inbound links. It was a true “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach to online marketing; some publications rejected these submissions, and others approved them without any editorial review. It was all a numbers game with the hopes that some of the content would get indexed, and thus, count for the link.

    Google responded by launching its Penguin and Panda algorithms to penalize businesses that were creating this mess; Penguin targeted websites with many inbound links that were obviously unnatural, while Panda targeted the publishers that published the content without any editorial review. As a result, most of the large-scale article marketing links became worthless.

    After people started to realize that large-scale article marketing campaigns were no longer working, they turned to guest posting as an alternative. Unfortunately, what many considered “guest posting” was simply an ugly reincarnation of article marketing; the only difference was the publishers and the extra steps of finding websites open to publishing guest contributions. Many continue to use low-quality content in mass quantities, and wonder why they still get penalized by Penguin.

    Does guest posting still work for building inbound links?  Yes, but only if you publish high quality content on relevant, authoritative sites. High-quality guest posts are a popular and tremendously effective way to acquire editorial links for your site, and they have many other benefits as well. For more information on how to use guest posting as a safe, effective link building tactic, see my article “The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    Automated Link Building Programs

    Google says, “Using automated programs or services to create links to your site.”

    A few years ago, during the same time period that article marketing and spinning was all the rage, a market developed for programs and services that would automate the steps involved in these processes. These tools and services became popular because they were an easy way to get huge numbers of links to your site quickly. Most importantly, they worked. Unfortunately, they only accelerated the permeation of low-quality nonsense that pervaded the industry at that time.

    Google now hunts down sites that have these sorts of inbound links, denying them any benefit.

    Conclusion

    So, why is Google waging a war on unnatural links? For years, many SEOs effectively manipulated their rankings using the methods described above, along with others. However, the types of links and content that people created as a result provided no value to people; only clutter. They cause search results to display nonsensical, confusing content, which makes Google look bad to its users. Furthermore, they cost Google money as its bots spend time scraping and indexing nonsense rather than good, quality content.

    As of April 2012, with the release of the Penguin algorithm, Google has been trying to keep low quality content out of its index as well as the search results. Now, they’re becoming more transparent with their goals as they refine and clarify their webmaster guidelines.

    Although these changes created quite a stir across the industry, it’s really just the same message that Google has been trying to convey for years. Create quality content that people want to read and share; the inbound links will come as a result, and you won’t need to worry about unnatural ones bringing down your website in the rankings.

  3. How to Add Gamification to Your Website to Boost Engagement

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    GamificationGamification is becoming a significant trend that is destined to alter the way businesses interact with their customers. Are you ready to use games on your website to create breakthrough engagement with your readers? Read on, and we’ll explore what gamification is, and how to use it to amplify your online marketing efforts.

    What is Gamification?

    The marketing term “gamification” was coined in 2002 by Nick Pelling, but didn’t become popular until 2010. It describes marketing tactics which use game elements to drive user engagement with your website, application, or brand.

    According to Gartner, more than 70% of the top 2,000 companies are expected to have at least one gamified application by the end of 2014. Research by M2 Research shows that the gamification application, tools, and services market is projected to hit $5.5 billion by 2018.

    Gamification taps into the the human desire for rewards and competition. Users are motivated to compete against others to improve their status (ie, via a leaderboard) within a game. Gamification allows marketers to apply game mechanics to entice users to take action. These mechanics usually foster competition and reward users for reaching goals.

    Benefits of Gamification:

    Some of the benefits of gamification include:
    Education: Gamification can be an effective way to introduce your readers to a new product you are about to launch. You can use the game to teach your readers how to use a product before it is launched. Educational games can be an efficient way of collecting information for your business while educating people about your product.

    Engage with your customers: Gamification can help you engage with your customers and provide a frequent reason for them to return to your site. It will help your site to stay top of mind.

    Compelling data collection: Gamification platforms typically require a visitor to login with either social media credentials or an email address. After this information is freely given out, it will allow your company to gather data on the visitor as well as track where they go on your website. Gamification achievements can generate plenty of data associated with that account. This data can supply powerful customer information.
    Feedback can also be collected from games, which can help the company solve real business-related problems. If the feedback is utilized properly, it can also be used as a form of idea generation plucked from a massive number of users.

    How Gamification Works

    Most gamification uses certain tactics to get website visitors to participate:

    • Competition can be used to incite website visitors to achieve status and rewards. The status achieved in the games can be used to inspire people to purchase more products and services over time. In some cases, people are willing to spend money to achieve a higher status or additional tokens for gameplay.
    • Gaming elements can be used to make the marketing experience enjoyable to participants. This can provide better results than simply showing advertisements.
    • Gamification allows visitors to participate in the marketing process and keeps them engaged for longer periods of time.

    Gamification in the Real World

    Participation is what gamification is all about. Whenever you need to collect information from your clients with a survey, you can use gamification to improve results. By offering rewards such as a discount, coupon, or an offer to win a prize, you can increase the likelihood of participation. Another option is to require a survey question to be answered before proceeding to the next level of the game.

    Companies have used gamification to:

    • Entice travelers to use frequent flyer miles on a specific airline
    • Reward employees with the highest product knowledge
    • Encourage children to learn more about a given topic

    Adding Gamification to your Website

    Whether the goal is to track clicks, test sales, or collect data on surveys, make sure your game is an actionable step in your marketing objectives. Make the primary purpose of the game to collect this information for your marketing needs. In order for gamification to provide long-term user engagement, it needs to help your business.

    “Gamification is about better engagement with your audience and facilitating a more interactive experience with your company’s products and services,” said Ivo Lukas, CEO and founder of 24Notion.

    The underlying marketing objective of the game should be something such as encouraging visitors to use a new sales channel, obtaining feedback through surveys, driving new product or service adoption, or increasing frequency of purchases.

    Use gamification as a tactic to meet your measurable business goals. A good example of this would be increasing engagement with website visitors.

    “Gamification is far more than simply putting a branded game on your Web site. Track your progress toward achieving business goals in real-time. Don’t create a game for a game’s sake. If gamification is not providing measurable ROI, then you shouldn’t be doing it,” said Ryan Elkins, CEO and co-founder of IActionable.

    Crossing multiple marketing channels

    The best gamification platforms cross multiple marketing channels to include social media, online, off-line, and mobile devices. Make sure that the outcomes of the gameplay are available whenever and wherever your visitors want to share them. Allowing your visitors to play the game anytime they want across multiple channels will greatly increase participation.

    Test, test, and test some more

    Like any other web content, you should split test your game to see which version of content, videos, graphics, etc. provide greater participation. Split testing can also be a great way to see which awards provide the best engagement.

    Promote it

    Take every opportunity to talk about your new game on social media, your website, off-line, and more. Make sure that every visitor has the ability to play your incredible new game and is informed of the rewards that can be achieved.

    Conclusion

    Gamification can improve engagement on your website while allowing you to collect more valuable data from your visitors. Whether it’s helpful information from surveys, increased engagement, or more, gamification can be an effective way to improve your website.

    Photo courtesy of rledda82

  4. The 9 Best SEO Plugins That Will Help Your Blog Rank Well in Google

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    wordpress pluginsSEO (search engine optimization) is confusing to the average blogger. Some have heard the term, but many still don’t know what it even means. Nonetheless, most bloggers know or have been told that it needs to be carefully integrated into every aspect of their writing and website. Unfortunately, most bloggers feel lost when it comes to actual tactical implementation. To make matters worse, SEO forums are littered with terrible information from self-proclaimed “experts” that are further adding to this confusion. So, what’s a blogger to do?

    Let’s start by defining what SEO means. SEO, or search engine optimization, simply put, is the art of improving your website’s organic search traffic. Due to the rise of blogging as a way to make money online and build visibility, credibility, and authority, competition for search engine visibility is heating up faster than ever. As a result, being SEO-conscious has never been more important and plays a major role in driving quality traffic to your website.

    While there are myriad techniques and strategies that require extensive work, there are several ways to get an SEO boost with minimal effort if your website is on WordPress (which I highly recommend).

    In fact, the WordPress platform has plenty of SEO plugins that do most of the work while increasing visibility in search engines. Most of these plugins are created by experienced developers that understand the fundamentals of ranking well and have integrated the necessary features for success. Here are some of the more helpful SEO plugins that are available.

    All in One SEO Pack

    This is one of the best ways to get started, and is perfect for those with minimal experience. Once activated, this plugin will quickly help to improve visibility by automatically optimizing the title of each post. In addition to the normal WordPress tags, it offers additional tagging to help search engines find content with greater ease. It also has the option to alter the title and description that appears in search engines for a higher level of control. Some other features include:

    • Google Analytics support
    • Ability to override META keywords and descriptions
    • Nonce security

    If you’re new to SEO plugins, the All in One SEO Pack is relatively easy to learn. After getting the hang of it, it’s possible to fine-tune each post for maximum effectiveness. There’s even a support forum in case there are any issues.

    Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

    When someone finds a page through search engine results, there’s a good chance that they will be interested in similar content on the website. This plugin capitalizes on this fact by automatically displaying related posts at the bottom of each article. It accomplishes this by using a customizable algorithm to scan tags, content and titles.

    This is beneficial because it often leads to visitors exploring more content, resulting in more overall page views and a lower bounce rate. Consequently, this often results in higher conversion rates, increased social media followers, and increased sales. The best part is that it doesn’t require any effort on your part. After it’s been activated, it takes care of everything on its own.

    Twitter Facebook Social Share

    Due to the new social media obsession and the way the people share content via networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, along with the progressing integration of social media with SEO, it’s important to encourage social sharing and make it convenient. Like traditional backlinks, social shares help search engines figure out what content people are enjoying, which results in higher search engine rankings for that content. While the exact impact of social signals is still somewhat unclear, it’s clear that it has a beneficial impact on rankings.

    The Twitter Facebook Social Share plugin is helpful because it’s one of the most straightforward and easy-to-use plugins. All that’s required is installation and activation, and it automatically places social share buttons at the top or bottom of each post. Currently, it allows visitors to post content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Stumbleupon.

    WordPress SEO by Yoast

    This plugin is similar to the All in One SEO Pack, but is a bit more sophisticated. One of its key features is the snippet preview that displays what a post will look like in search engine results. This is advantageous because the title can be changed if it’s too short or too long. If the META description (a basic element of SEO that’s often used by search engines to figure out what a page is about) is out of place in relation to the context, this plugin will let you know. By optimizing these aspects of each post, it’s usually possible to maximize click through rates and bring in more traffic.

    If you’re sick of being outranked by sites that duplicate your content, this plugin can help by including a link to your RSS feed that points to the original article. WordPress SEO also utilizes comprehensive XML sitemaps (another behind-the-scenes SEO element that is largely invisible to humans but is very important for helping search engines index your website).

    My favorite feature of WordPress SEO by Yoast is its ability to seamlessly set up Google Authorship markup on your website, enabling your author avatar to display next to your pages in search results. This improves click-through rate (the percentage of searchers that actually click your website in the search results), increasing organic search traffic.

    UppSite

    It’s no secret that mobile devices are extremely popular. More and more people are using them every day to access the Internet and stay in touch. For this reason, it’s never been more important to have a website that’s mobile friendly. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose out on valuable traffic that may end up going elsewhere because of a negative mobile experience.

    Rather than going to all the trouble of creating an alternate mobile website or spending big money on responsive web design, UppSite takes a WordPress site and turns it into an HTML 5 app. From there, visitors can view it on the mobile device of their choice including an iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and tablet. This provides a seamless viewing experience with fast loading pages and simple navigation.

    Furthermore, responsive design is detected by Google and rewarded with better search rankings for users performing the search on a mobile device. As mobile becomes the new mainstream, this will become more and more essential for business websites to capitalize on mobile search traffic.

    Google XML Sitemap for Images

    This plugin operates on the same premise as WordPress SEO by Yoast’s XML sitemap, but is used to optimize pictures. It works by creating a sitemap of any image URLs that are incorporated into each post. Doing so is important because search engines don’t always pick up on images and they may not be discovered. By installing this simple plugin, your images will be indexed and more likely to appear in Google’s image search results, giving your website the opportunity to rank and receive more organic search traffic.

    Google XML Sitemap for Videos

    Just like the sitemap for images, this plugin takes SEO one step further and helps search engines find videos embedded in posts. Whenever there is a link to a video on YouTube, Vimeo or any other site, it will add it to the sitemap.

    This indexation of multimedia content will allow your website more opportunities to rank in search engines.

    WP Super Cache

    Another factor that’s important in the eyes of search engines is page loading speed. The faster the better, and sites that take too long to load can suffer ranking drops as a result. We live in a fast-paced world where people want their information quickly and without complication. In most cases, the average Internet user will wait a maximum of 5 seconds for a page to load before they leave. Consequently, it’s important that a WordPress site is able to load completely in the shortest time possible.

    The WP Super Cache plugin is designed to generate static HTML files from a WordPress site instead of processing bulkier PHP scripts. This results in a significantly shorter download time and overall better performance. Visitors won’t have to wait as long for the site to load and can explore with greater ease.

    Faster page load time will result in better search engine rankings as well.

    Google Analytics for WordPress

    Keeping track of which keywords are receiving traffic and identifying visitor patterns is vital for long-term success. Otherwise, it’s like blindly throwing arrows and hoping that one hits the target. That’s why this plugin is a goldmine of valuable information, and is ideal for determining which content is getting found and what adjustments need to be made. After syncing up Google Analytics for WordPress with your website, this plugin will display up-to-date data concerning a variety of factors. This includes visitor demographic, location, language, entry pages, bounce rate, etc.

    More importantly, it shows how much traffic coming via search engines and the specific numbers. It also creates a list of which keywords are receiving the most searches. This is helpful for choosing keywords in the future and can optimize your entire SEO campaign.

    Conclusion

    You now know everything you need to know about SEO plugins to get started with your SEO-integration initiative. Simply install these plugins, configure them, and then publish lots of excellent content on your blog. You’ll be racing ahead of the competition in no time, while enjoying more visitors, readers, and subscribers.

     

  5. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google ;)

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    – Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    – Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    – Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    – It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    – Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    – Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

  6. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google ;)

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    – Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    – Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    – Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    – It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    – Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    – Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

  7. The 3 Core Elements of SEO in 2013: Content, Links, and Social Media

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    SEO can be confusing. With dozens of acronyms, technical jargon, tools, programs, statistics, techniques, and all the talk about pandas and penguins, it’s pretty intimidating. Let alone the fact that SEO is a field that is in constant flux! In spite of the confusion, there’s a simple way to think about SEO campaigns today and beyond: as a set of three core elements which support each other to support an SEO campaign. Let’s take a look at each of these elements, as well as how to implement each of them to increase traffic, conversions, and ROI.

    What are the three core elements?

    Discussed in detail below, but provided here in survey form, the three core elements are as follows:

    1. Content – Create and Publish Great Content
    2. Inbound Links – Gain High-Quality Links
    3. Social Media – Be Active and Engage on Social Networks

     

    I call these the three core elements because they are necessary for any modern SEO campaign to succeed. Without each of these three core elements, your SEO campaign won’t be properly supported and will likely fail. Before launching into an explanation of the three core elements, there are a few things to understand about how they work together.

    • You must have all three core elements in order to have a successful SEO initiative. When performing SEO triage, you can’t simply decide to leave off one or more of these elements. Good SEO means being diligent in each of the three areas.
    • Each core element strengthens the others. When you build each of the SEO core elements in the right way, you are actively strengthening and supporting all of them. These SEO practices possess synergy. For example, when you create outstanding onsite content, you render it more likely that you’ll gain inbound links. More links usually mean additional social shares, which translates into more and stronger social signals. All three components are in play, and each is working to enhance the other two.
    • There are no shortcuts. You may finish reading this article with a sense of fatigue. Admittedly, doing SEO the right way is a ton of work. The hard-to-swallow truth of the matter is that you can’t take any shortcuts. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it all yourself. You can hire an in-house SEO specialist if your company is capable of it. Alternatively, you can contract an SEO firm to cover your needs.

    Core Element #1:  Content – Create and Publish Great Content

    The first core element comes first logically, because it involves your own website — the hub where everything happens. This element can also be called “onsite SEO” to distinguish from SEO practices that happen off your site, such as external content that garners inbound links (such as guest blog posts) and social media involvement. Here are the essentials:

        • Site Design. Good SEO can’t exist on a shoddy website. The design must be clean, simple, and intuitive.
        • User Experience. Hand-in-hand with a great site design is user experience or UI. Keep your user in mind with every action that you take on your website. If your site fails your user, you’ve failed with SEO. The whole point of SEO is to give the user what he or she is searching for. What’s more, if someone clicks through to your site and sees a load of ugliness, they’ll quickly close your website. This action is called a bounce. The search engines record every bounce, and a higher bounce rate can lead to decreased rankings.
        • Keyword Research. Many people are familiar with keyword research, or at least the idea of keywords. Keywords have been one of the few unchanging aspects of SEO. A site must regularly use, but not overuse, certain keywords that users are searching for. Be sure to use plenty of longtail keywords, those search strings that consist of three words or more. Additionally, you must never commit the cardinal SEO sin — keyword stuffing. Worrying about saturation rates and keyword frequency is a thing of the past. Use the keywords, yes, but don’t overuse them.
        • Content Optimization. Every website has content that only crawlers and browsers see. This is called the meta content, and it’s crucial for SEO. Even URLs are part of your content. Make sure you’re using best SEO practices in the following places:
          • URLs
          • Meta titles
          • Meta Description
          • Meta Keywords
          • Robots.txt
        • High-quality and frequently updated blog. Although you may have a spiffed-up website with all the right SEO meta data in place, you’re not done with SEO. A blog is a powerful weapon in the SEO arsenal. Without it, your SEO initiative will be severely hindered. Great content engages users; don’t neglect blogging. There are two important laws of blogs:
          • Update it frequently. The more frequently a blog is updated, the better it registers with the search engines. Keep your blog fresh.
          • Publish great content. A blog is only as good as the content on it. To put it bluntly, people don’t want to read crap. If you can’t write, hire someone who can. Content has to be so good that people are compelled to both read it and share it.

    Core Element #2: Inbound Links – Gain High-Quality Links

    Link building tactics include guest blogging, press release distribution, and other tactics as discussed in this post.

    How do search engines decide to bring your website up to the top of the search results? Top-notch onsite SEO is only the beginning. Search engines recognize that your site is important based on who is linking to it.

    Take this example. Let’s say you’re a yoga instructor. You have a website, and you start publishing some sweet articles about yoga. Somehow, Whole Living picks up on your content and asks you to do a guest post on yoga. You write a piece for Whole Living, and link back to your website.

    Whole Living has a domain authority of 80, which is way higher than your site. Bingo. As soon as they link to you, your website gains credibility and authority. Then, you interview a health instructor in a local private college and post the interview on your website. The yoga instructor, in turn, writes about the interview on her college blog and links to your site. Boom. You just got a link from an .edu website.

    Because you’re now a recognized authority on yoga, you publish an article in Lifehacker about the positive impact of yoga on work productivity. This article, of course, links back to your website. Another power move.

    All of these links to your site are driving up your authority. Your site has proven to the search engines its authority and recognition. Your rankings go up.

    No site will succeed in SEO unless other sites are linking to it. It’s just that simple.

    Here are the best ways to gain quality backlinks:

            • Guest blogging. Far and away, your best option for backlinks is guest blogging. Look for high-quality sites that allow you to submit your content including a link back to your site.
            • Press Releases. Creating a press release is a relatively simple way to create a link that possesses authority. The process is as simple as developing a well-written piece on something eventful in your company and submitting it to a press release distribution company such as PRWeb. The service comes at a cost, but it is well worth it.
            • Publish amazing content. All of the best websites have one thing in common:  They have rockstar content. Your site will succeed if you consistently publish outstanding material.
            • Get listed in local or industry directories and professional organizations. If your site isn’t yet listed in business directories, you may want to give it a try. Links from any reputable source will help to improve your site’s rankings. Yext.com offers a fantastic service for building links from major local directories.

    Links are crucial. Ensure you have a solid strategy in place for building links.

    Core Element #3: Social Media – Be Active and Engage on Social Networks

    More than ever before, social media is an integral part of SEO. Search engines can quantify the amount of social clout that your site possesses. Merely getting a few dozen tweets can ramp up a page’s authority, and therefore its rankings, resulting in more traffic to it. The increasing market share of Google+ is a major factor in social ranking, including the power of Google authorship. Social signals matter for SEO.

    Keep these two points in mind.

            • It’s not enough to be present on social media. You must be active. If you want to succeed in the social arena, you need to monitor your social networks with vigilance. Twitter is a de facto complaint hotline in the minds of some users. Facebook serves as a place where customers ask questions. Neglecting these channels is like failing to respond to an important email from a customer.
            • Find the social niches that are right for your business. It’s obvious that you should be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. But these four sites are but a fraction of the social sites available to you. There are other social sites which serve niches of targeted customers. Find what niche sites best match your company profile, and jump in.

    The power of social for SEO can be subtle, but is nonetheless important. Provide sharing opportunities on every piece of content that you publish. The greater the social signals, the better your SEO.

    Conclusion

    This is the state of SEO in 2013. SEO success is possible, but not without each of these core elements present and properly being engaged. It’s no longer easy to game the system and jump up the search engine rankings in Google with a few slick tricks. You’ve got your work cut out for you.

    But you do have a game plan — understand and design your strategy around the three core elements of SEO. As long as you 1) ensure that your onsite SEO is rolling smoothly, 2) you possess a robust and effective link building strategy, and 3) you’re staying active and engaging within social media channels, you’re going to succeed.

  8. The Job Title That You’ll Need to Hire by the End of 2013

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    If there’s one job title that will see immense growth in hiring this year, it’s the “Director of Content”: someone who generates or oversees the creation and publication of high-quality, regular content on behalf of their company.

    As a result of Penguin 2.0, content is more important now than it ever was before. Aside from the fact that consistent, high-quality content on your website provides evidence to your visitors that your company takes care of its customers and strives to provide value, (thereby increasing conversion rate), visitors are also now savvy enough that they evaluate the caliber of the content as one factor that helps to determine the integrity of your company (and whether or not they decide to do business with you).

    As Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist at Edelman states in a LinkedIn post, “…On the Internet, you need it to stand out from everyone else. Quality content always rises to the top. And it can differentiate you from your competitors.”

    Companies that publish great content on a frequent basis,  including e-books, white papers, newsletters, blog posts, and more in their industry (HubSpot is a good example) naturally become considered an authority in their field. That’s the power content has online today.

    Importance of Content

    wile e coyoteMost companies have heard it all before– from their web developer to their marketing team– that a steady flow of high-quality, valuable content is essential for achieving positive-ROI with your SEO campaign. However, much like social media was a few years ago, it’s only now starting be really be taken seriously by upper leadership, though most still are lagging behind. If you can’t be bothered to write weekly blog posts, come up with the ideas for them, put together an outline, and then have your staff develop your ideas into a robust, helpful article. Some companies are already making blog posts a regular part of every employees’ job description.

    For new products or services, content marketing should be part of the initial rollout strategy; It should be just as important as the new product specifications or branding strategy. When it comes right down to it, content is what represents the entirety of a company online.

    It doesn’t matter if Acme Inc. has the best dynamite on the market today. Without Road Runner writing and distributing content about the dynamite on Acme’s website and social media profiles, Wile E. Coyote isn’t going to know about it. Lesser known dynamite companies will gain the advantage simply by distributing better, more frequent content about their offerings.

    Regular Blog Content

    A WordPress blog is the easiest way to keep content fresh on a website. They can be written by multiple employees (which may give readers a good overall view of the company as a whole), a single writer, or the Director of Content. A content calendar is the best way to plan blog posts and other content publication around industry & company events as well as current marketing campaigns.

    The Director of Content (whose other names may include Content Marketing Coordinator or Content Strategist, among others) should be responsible for implementation and coordination of the editorial calendar, as well as writing content both on the company website and guest blogging on external publishers (along with relationship building to secure guest posting opportunities). While this person’s sole responsibility should be content, content should also be a company-wide focus, as different perspectives bring new light to the company that can’t be created by a single person.

    External Content Publishing

    Other external platforms that the Director of Content should focus on are places to gain exposure, such as other industry blogs, newsletters, and publishing standalone content, which may include white papers or e-books.

    Guest blogging on other industry blogs and newsletters is a great way to grow community and influence. Directors of Content should regularly contact blogs they read frequently and ask if they accept contributions. If a guest post opportunity comes up, it must be written with the same level of quality and effort as if it was on a company’s own blog; well-written posts always bring more traffic and exposure.

    In addition to generating new content for platforms outside of the company blog, Directors of Content should also come up with ways to repurpose existing content. For instance, text content can often be turned into insightful videos, infographics, or slideshows. Growing a big idea from an existing blog post into a series, recap, or update can also help keep content fresh and relevant while tying it back to what has already been done before.

    Deferring From the Written Word

    While the main focus on content today (at least when it comes to SEO) is usually about written content, companies can stay ahead of the game and grow online even more by publishing other forms of content. This is where the Content Director’s job diversifies into other forays such as podcasts, video blogs, and visual-based content (like short videos on Vine, custom slideshows on SlideShare, or Pinterest pin boards).

    Regardless of the type of content published by Directors of Content, the focus should remain on providing high-quality, valuable content that solves a need or provides answers for the company’s specific target market. This will lead to not only improved organic search traffic, but also accelerated brand development and awareness. This, along with a sustained social media marketing effort, will result in increased website traffic, driving leads and sales.

    photo credit:

    GreatAmericanInk.com

  9. How to Maximize The Value of Your Guest Blog Posts: Part 2

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    Maximizing your blog posts

    In part 1, I outlined four powerful ways to maximize your blog posts. You can create videos, design infographics, use different facts and anecdotes from the content to create a series of social shares, and compose new content around offshoot topics to provide contextual inbound links and maximize the value of each blog post.

    In part 2, we’ll take a look at five additional ways that a great blog post can be used to generate more clout, conversation, traffic, and ROI.

    1. Guest Posting as an Expert

    Easier said than done, guest posting has become one of the toughest things to do. It’s easy to get in when you approach an emerging blog or low-quality website, but webmasters of high-quality, unique, and highly informative websites are understandably wary of granting new guest blogging requests.

    It’s quite obvious why. They have an established reputation, they value every one of their readers, and they want to push only the best content available.

    When you consistently publish high-quality posts on your blog — ideally peppered with images, infographics, videos, or other media like Slideshare slide decks — you’re building a strong portfolio that can be referenced when you pitch for a guest blogging opportunity. Remember, we talked about guest blogging when we spoke about offshoot topics (item #4 in part 1). This is different.

    The best way to maximize your blog post is by using it to pitch for a guest blogging opportunity. And what’s interesting is that in many cases, you can actually write on the same topic as your original blog post (although you’ll want to approach it from a different angle).

    2. Create Slides / Presentations

    Information that can be provided in chunks goes down well. It’s received easily. Slides and presentations are fine examples of this kind of information delivery. But of course, you’ve got to do them correctly.

    As an example, this very article could be converted into a beautiful slide deck presentation, and I could use it to share on websites that accept slide deck presentations, like Slideshare.

    This wouldn’t require much extra time to do. All the research and content has already been done. I’d simply re-purpose the content into a different format — in this case, slides — and I could then use those as a new form of content to spread the word across additional, new media channels, thereby extending my reach and audience.

    Creating slides from great content that can be cut into chunks is a seriously underrated tactic.

    3. eBooks, Reports, Emails

    Another method of re-purposing content is a surprisingly old one: create eBooks out of existing content. Tie up several blog posts around a particular topic and create a PDF out of it. Or, follow the same principle as in item #2 above (slides / presentations), and create a PDF out of that.

    This strategy can be used not just to lure more people to your website, but also to collect emails and facilitate social sharing. Interestingly, this practice has also been modified of late to create a series of posts and then send them out via email on a steady and regular basis — as weekly or daily lessons.

    Again, as an example, I could create a free nine-part course out of these two articles on maximizing your blog post, and use them as bait to attract potential customers.

    4. Do Interviews

    No matter what topic you might want to address, there are experts out there who’ve been doing it for long time, better, or in an innovative way. If you can catch up with one them and get him or her to do an interview, you’ve got another piece of high-quality content (whether as video, audio, or text) that will be helpful for your readers / target market.

    In the age of interconnectedness, Twitter, and email, there’s really nothing to stop you from reaching out to these experts. You might be surprised by how many of them are more than eager to share valuable information — and not because they want to get their names published. They are genuinely willing to help!

    I did an interview with Neil Patel discussing link building in 2013. Here it is:

    If you can do video interviews, you’ve got a gold mine: you can share the video on blogs, you can transcribe the interview and come up with a blog post, and you can also go on to create slides, short reports, and possibly even clips of edited video that are short (so people are again motivated to look at it).

    5. Generate Conversation / Debate

    This one can be a little challenging.

    Some websites use each new blog post to generate conversations on their forums as soon as it is published. Examples include AppleInsider and MacRumors, which use a comment+forum post system. You can replicate that if you have an active forum or discussion board where people take notice of new posts.

    There are other ways to generate a conversation, though. You have websites like Inbound.org (for inbound marketing-related topics) and HackerNews (which tackles tech-related topics). Almost every niche has a popular discussion board of some sort where the brightest of minds in the field meet up. Share your blog posts here, not just for traffic or links, but for genuine conversations. These can help you refine your blog posts, as well, which may be the most useful and productive effect they can have for you.

    So there you go. One blog post can actually serve as the staple for nearly a month’s worth of activity that creates enormous value around it. Ultimately, you have to keep your readers in mind every time you create something: Is it truly useful for your readers / target market without being repetitive?

    If the answer is yes, you’ve hit the jackpot.

  10. How Many Links Does it Take to Reach to Number One?

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    LinksA common question I hear from customers is, “How many links will it take for me to reach the number one position in the search engines?” While this question is common, it’s impossible to answer without knowing a bunch of variables that are extremely difficult to ascertain.
    However, I think what the customer really wants to know is, “How much will it cost my company before I rank and start making money?”

    Know Your Competition

    Before you can estimate how many links that’ll take, you really need to understand your competition. As most of us know, keyword competition can make the difference between ranking in a few weeks or years (or possibly, never). You can find out the strength of your competition by auditing their inbound link profile.

    To start this process, do a quick search and take note of the top 10 websites ranking for that keyword. Once you have the list, use a tool like ahrefs.com to determine the quantity and quality of their backlinks.

    Tip: Acquire their Best Links!

    While you are working on your backlink analysis, take note of any particularly high-quality backlinks that you can obtain as well. For instance, if your competitor attained a link from VentureBeat.com by doing a guest blog post, that tells you that VentureBeat may be willing to entertain offers from guest bloggers. Reach out and see if you can become a contributor there as well.

    Now that we’ve discussed great ways to get a few extra high-quality links, why not round it out by looking at cheaper, easier alternatives?

    What about $50 Link Packages?

    Many of us have seen the cheap backlink packages on certain forums. There are a number of different packages, but most of them have a set number of backlinks of various types for a price. How good of a deal are these backlinks?

    When researching this article, I took a close look at some of the popular link packages that you can buy off of well-known forums. Many of them offered similar deals. Some examples included tiered backlink packages while others claimed to be “high PR” backlinks. Here are the results of my analysis:

    Package #1 – Tiered Backlinks

    In package number 1, you have a multi-tiered backlink package. The first tier had 2,000 article directory backlinks, 50 social bookmarks, and 50 web 2.0 links. For the second tier, they create 10,000 blog comments that point to the first tier. To avoid duplicate content and save money, all content is spun. You can have all of this for less than $50.

    But what are you really getting when you buy these packages? Let’s assume for a moment that the vendors are legitimate and give you several hundred article backlinks all spun from the same text. I know from testing and experience that only a small percentage of those backlinks will actually get and stay indexed (links don’t benefit you if they aren’t indexed).

    Furthermore, these types of links are exactly what Google targets with its Penguin and Panda algorithms; buying these types of links is like setting ticking time bombs on the foundation of your SEO initiative.

    Package #2 – High PR network links

    In package number 2, I found a different approach. This package claims to allow you to purchase backlinks on the homepage of a website. These types of backlinks are typically more expensive and start at $130 per month.

    The demise of the BuildMyRank (BMR) link network and many others like it should teach us that these types of links are dangerous, untrustworthy, and should be avoided. In April 2012, Google deindexed almost every site on the BMR network and continues to deindex entire new networks as well.

    Now you may be thinking, “How could they possibly know about this network when there are so many?” The answer is fairly simple when you consider the new Google Disavow Tool. Every time a webmaster gets scared and disavows all purchased links, what happens to that list of sites? It’s possible that if enough people disavow purchased links then maybe they will be next on the deindex list.

    Even if that doesn’t happen, with Google’s stance on web spam, these backlinks are more likely to cause harm than good, at least in the long run.

    Link velocityLink Velocity

    While we’re talking about buying link packages and dumping tons of backlinks in a few days, let’s discuss link velocity.

    Link velocity is the speed at which your website is gaining (or losing) backlinks. Many SEOs believe it to be a major factor that Google uses to determine web spam.

    If the search engines see that your link velocity is going up and down because you’re buying link packages and getting 5,000 links one day and then none the rest of the month, it’s going to look very suspicious.

    Can We Risk Link Spam in 2013 and Beyond?

    As of May 2013, Matt Cutts, head of the Google web spam team, said Google is working diligently to deny the value of link spam. According to Cutts, they are working on ways to “go upstream” and deny the value of spam links. They are also using new and different ways of performing link analysis to uncover these link schemes.

    While some methods of link spam may still work today, it’s obvious from Cutts’ comments that Google is working diligently to remove any benefit. Some of these changes will come about in the new version of Penguin (2.0) which will be released “within the next few weeks” according to Cutts.

    Give Google What It Wants

    If you’re like most people who have done SEO for any period of time, you’re sick of hearing the old ‘quality over quantity’ argument when it comes to backlinks. Even so, many of us have seen that the right types of contextual links can prove to be the most valuable.

    In general, the best way to get contextual links is to use sites that are in the same niche that you are in. These sites should have authority and will transfer some of that to your site.

    Getting Help

    By now, you probably realize that buying cheap link packages is not a good idea. One size does not fit all, and you need a plan that not only includes the right types of links but also takes into account proper link velocity.

    The days of creating spun content and thousands of spammy links to achieve high rankings are over. However, you may not have the time or know-how to run your own successful campaign. Should you consider getting help?

    What should you expect when you hire an SEO service? Will they deliver the same 5,000 backlinks that you could get from a forum?

    When you start with a professional SEO agency, one of the first things they will need to know is how your current on-page and off-page SEO is set up. Once a site analysis is done, you can then start making tweaks to your site and creating a link building plan.

    Professional SEO audits typically start at around $2,000 depending on the size of your website. However, it can be beneficial to learn what you need to do in order to beat your competition in the rankings.

    A typical white hat link building budget is going to cost between $1,000 and $5,000 per month. This range depends upon the quality and quantity of the links given.

    So, How Many Links to Number One?

    The question “how many links will it take to reach number one” is impossible to answer with a specific number. All links carry different value; one link from Mashable.com is probably worth 1,000 l inks from lesser-known websites. Sure, you can look at how fast your competition has obtained links in the past, but what about the future? Don’t worry about it.

    All you need to do is get the highest-quality backlinks you can, at a quicker pace than your competitors. This, combined with a robust social media marketing initiative that includes a solid onsite content strategy, is the key to success.

    Let’s face it folks, the days of buying a few random link packages and getting first page rankings as a result are over. The search engines have gotten better at ignoring these link schemes, and in some cases, are lowering the rankings of sites that still use them.

    Getting high-quality links is now the name of the game. While some people will still buy link packages in the future, it’s the wrong path to establishing a solid future SEO foundation.

    Photos courtesy of rushtips.com and jpctalbot.

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