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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.

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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