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The different names Google has for algorithms gives a persona to an enigma. In “Feeding the Hummingbird: Structured Markup Isn’t The Only Way To Talk To Google“, Moz Blog contributor Cyrus Shepard says,

“Ever wonder why Google named certain algorithms after black and white animals (i.e. black hat vs. white hat?) Hummingbird is a broader algorithm altogether, and Hummingbirds can be any color of the rainbow.”

Panda and Penguin were going after webspam. Hummingbird is designed to optimize entity-based search. That means the Hummingbird algorithm is looking at what is said, how the keywords are placed, etc. Since Google uses over 500 algorithms and each one is going after different information, the exact “secret formula” for SEO is always going to be a secret. In fact, since those algorithms are constantly adjusted in an attempt to improve search, the secret formula keeps changing.

The nice thing that is pointed out, though, is that Hummingbird looks at more than the SEO savvy markup and can figure out relationship without it. This is natural search results instead of formulas.

Feeding the Hummingbird

Here’s a quick list of what is important to this algorithm:

  1. keywords (subject-predicate-object triples)
  2. tables & HTML elements
  3. entities & synonyms
  4. anchor text & links
  5. Google Local
  6. Google Structured Data Highlighter
  7. Plugins

All of the elements are balanced and weighted to figure out how to do Hummingbird’s part of the whole secret zoo at Google. Each one of the algorithms plays a role in where your data comes up on the page. Interesting, isn’t it? The thing to remember is that there’s a big difference between trying to play the system and trying to get quality content available for your audience. Google is always going after the players because they want to stay relevant to the rest of us.

For more information on optimizing your site for natural search results, visit  http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php.

There’s a lot about search engine optimization that relies on algorithms, and marketers spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the secret formula is for page rankings. But really, much of what those algorithms are designed to do is interpret human behavior.

The whole reason Google keeps updating is to keep the human interaction at the forefront of their rankings so they are respected as a legitimate source of good content. If people used Google and got spam, it would not take long for Google to fall, and they know it.

SEO Is More Than A Magic Formula

Good SEO has to be more than figuring out the latest version of Google’s secret algorithm — it has to keep the humans you are trying to engage in mind. If you are consistently engaging your customers and using the language your target audience would use to find something on the internet, there’s a natural keyword development. All the details that make up your site must be geared toward making sense to your target audience, and being valuable to your target audience.

The traffic that results from human engagement is measured in numbers of visits and links, but the numbers are meaningless apart from what they represent. Optimizing those numbers focuses on the quality of what is happening, and that is the true value of SEO.

An alogrithm is a tool, but good SEO practices are an art.

You can’t really reduce SEO to an algorithm, but you can learn much more about the art of good SEO at http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

 

The vast majority of people need a picture…visual aids to understanding content. This is why you are seeing more infographics being used to explain things. Aleyda Solis does a great job of giving us a picture in The Illustrated SEO Competitive Analysis Workflow. The infographic lays out the process of identifying SEO targets and figuring out how you are going to develop your strategies in four steps.

The picture helps us understand a complicated thing: SEO competitive analysis is a subject that very few of us get a good grasp on at first. But this excellent infographic is in the middle of words explaining and enhancing our understanding of the picture.

We Need More Than Pictures

The visual catches our attention and helps us understand the content of a page, but without words we are interpreting the picture by our own perspective. In order to really understand SEO competitive analysis, you’d have to do a little more:

  • read expanded information
  • act on the suggestions using the chart as a guide
  • come back with questions and get answers
  • repeat

SEO Is Part Of A Bigger Picture

All the pieces of the puzzle are needed to give you the chance to see the picture it will create, and they have to be put together correctly first. Most of us need to see the picture on the jigsaw puzzle box while we are working on the puzzle because it helps us figure out where the pieces go. (Those who refuse to look at the picture have other priorities.)

Infographics like the one Ms. Solis did for Moz on SEO Competitive Analysis are great for helping us put the pieces of the puzzle together correctly. It’s a good reminder that people need visuals to help them understand content. It’s also a good reminder that SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum but in a context, like a puzzle piece in a box with a picture on the lid.

For more about SEO and the context in which it exists, see reciprocalconsulting.com/internet-marketing-services.php#3

 

 

SEO is always going to be an area that changes, and there will always be something to learn as a result of the fluidity. Moz recently came up with a fun way to see what you know (and what you don’t know) about search engine optimization in their New SEO Expert Quiz.

The quiz is randomized so nobody gets the same questions in the same order, and Moz claims it is “astronaut training hard,” but the fifty questions only take about fifteen minutes to answer. The benefit of taking the time to do the quiz is in the results: you are shown the questions with your answer, the correct answer, and a link to learn more about the subject.

This is like a custom lesson in SEO stuff that targets your weak spots. 

Even if you delegate your search engine optimization to someone else, it’s a good idea to keep learning about how it works overall so that you know what you are delegating. Their job may be to handle the details but you should know enough to appreciate what they do for you.

Understanding SEO basics prepares you for using the Internet with confidence, because the codes are no longer gobbledygook to your eyes. This quiz is a fun, nonthreatening way to gauge your SEO expertise and see where you fall in the learning spectrum. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you know more than you realized and that your guesses in the quiz were intelligent deductions.

If you would like to learn more about SEO visit reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php.

Is your business coming up when someone searches for it? When it comes up, do your hours and location leap to the eye? Can someone see if you have the product they are seeking?

These questions are the ones to ask, according to the latest Google Think Insights Study. Marketing Pilgrim took a quick look at the highlights and here they are:

  • 4 out of 5 consumers use their smartphone (88%) or tablet/computer (84%) to do a local search
  • 50% of smartphone searchers visit the store within a day vs 34% of tablet/computer users
  • smartphone users look for business hours (54%), directions (53%), and address (50%)
  • tablet/computer searchers are interested in availability of product (45%), hours (42%), and address (38%)
  • 60 to 70% of consumers want to search by customizing for city or immediate surroundings

The full Google report on understanding consumer’s local search behavior is here. The takeaway for a business is in making sure that the information — ALL the information — that comes up when someone searches for anything related to their business is accurate, easy to find on the page with a small screen, and links to their home web page for further information like menus or products.

Many people are willing to come to a store to get what they want if it is nearby and they know it is available. This is the advantage local has over online sales, because there’s immediate gratification when you get what you want at the time of purchase instead of waiting for it to be shipped. Your site has to come up in a search, be updated, and easy to navigate or your visitors will go somewhere else.

For more insights on local search and SEO visit reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

The last time you tried to find something with a search engine, did you think, “which strategic keywords will likely be on the site I want?” or did you think “I want to fix my bicycle so I’ll type in ‘how to fix a bicycle’”?

As someone interested in SEO, you may have been thinking about strategic keywords. Would someone interested in bicycles be thinking about keywords?

Probably not. They’d be thinking about bicycles, and that would be their intent.

Moz just asked some similar questions in Laura Lippay’s article on content strategy, and there’s some great content there along with examples and an interesting string of comments at the end. In Lippay’s view, audience intent wins over keywords as a motivation for content.

For instance, a person interested in bicycles would probably be interested in a site that is a source of bicycle-related ideas, pertinent content, authoritative reference material and discussions as well as a few products and some great humorous memes to share. They come to the site because it has stuff they are interested in (how to fix a bicycle) and come back because it continues to interest them. These interested visitors are more apt to buy what the site sells because there is a history of visits and they trust the site. That’s a win.

To quote Laura Lippay, “It all goes hand-in-hand. When you create something that your audiences like, that they link to more, share more, and engage with more, it’s likely to affect search engine rankings and traffic, too.”

What do you think? Would you agree?

For more on SEO and content, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

Over on Search Engine Journal, Bill Belew has come up with The New Definition of Search Engine Optimization. He might be being a bit sarcastic, because he shares that most people don’t know the OLD definition of Search Engine Optimization. In fact, most of the people in his audiences just stare when he asks for one. Here’s his definition:

Search Engine Optimization is creating good content on a web site in the form of pages and posts that real people want to read, which satisfies the query AND can be found by a search engine. In that order. Readers first!

So what does this look like? It looks like the writer focuses on good content that has these 8 characteristics:

  1. is served up with a title that promises to satisfy a query.
  2. is original and delivers early on the promise of the title.
  3. has images that are relevant to the query and are also searchable.
  4. is consistently on topic within the site where it is found as evidenced by internal links.
  5. appeals to other like-minded sources with relevant external links.
  6. is recognized as such by other credible sites as evidenced by backlinks.
  7. is sometimes timely.
  8. is sometimes timeless.

The result will be good content that is found when people look for it because the keywords are logical and it’s on the first few pages of the results. It’s clicked on because the title looks like it will answer the question, read because it is well-written, shared because it is relevant, and optimizes your site’s reputation.

What do you think? Is this how you’d define SEO? You’ll find more information on the subject at reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

Over on SiteProNews, Mark Garland has listed 50 Top SEO and Link Building Tips You Need To Be Using. Before his list, and it’s a good list, he makes some very good points about SEO.

  • links for links sake won’t get you very far
  • the only way to rank high is by genuine links to genuine sources
  • nobody outside Google’s inner sanctum knows exactly what the algorithm is
  • we do know that Google prioritizes relevant, high quality sites

So we need to be thinking of our content as the primary focus, and links as highlights of that quality content.

“Think of it in terms of the top 40. A song reaches the number one spot if it sells the most (for SEO purposes sales = links) but you can’t just take a collection of words, with no melody and try and get sales. In order to get to number one you have to start with a good song (for SEO purposes song = content). The song may not be to everyone’s liking but as long as a large enough number of people like it, then they will buy (or link to!) it.”

Marketing techniques, Search Engine Optimization, Web Design, and all the rest of the package really are useless if the song/content doesn’t appeal to anybody. Being an authority with easy-to-find information goes a long, long way to get your site ranked high. It’s the song most people want to hear, and you will find that your links are shared by quite a few people.

If you need help getting yourself into the “top 40″ and staying there, there’s help at reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php.

 

An infographic at Marketing Pilgrim illustrates five obvious trends in search engine optimization. One of those trends is that social signals are increasingly leading to higher search engine results for marketers who are active on the social networks.

These social signals include:

  • shares
  • likes
  • retweets
  • +1s
  • comments
  • followers and fans
  • and other social signals such as total reach and influence

What this means for search marketers is that you should spend a little bit of time each day on social media, sharing your content and interacting with your audience. This will likely become more and more important as the search engines place greater emphasis on these social signals.

In the old days, marketers built content and tried to get as many links as they could to that content with the right amount of anchor text and other link building signals. Today, it’s all about the social signals, and we’re talking about more than those that lead to links.

There are a handful of social media websites that are most important in helping marketers increase their social influence. These include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

While these are not the only sites worth mentioning, I’d say they are a bare minimum. You may not need to be on all of them, but you should establish a presence on most of them. And be active.

Social media marketing is as good as SEO. Learn more about social media optimization at reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php.

At Moz, Cyrus Shepard shares 12 powerful ways to optimize for Google traffic without building links. It’s a great list, but I’d like to focus on just 5 of those optimization tactics and show you how you can put them to good use in simple ways.

  1. In-depth articles – You don’t have to be a news publisher to take advantage of this markup, but you should take a cue from popular news websites like Huffington Post and the New York Times. Use pagination, Google Authorship, canonicalization, and paywalls more effectively.
  2. Rich snippets - Google is adding more and more rich snippets all the time. You can use them for reviews, videos, events, books, articles, and much more. This is advanced SEO.
  3. Google Authorship – Google Authorship means having your photo appear in search results, which gives you a higher authority rating and potentially more click-throughs for your content.
  4. Local SEO – Cyrus Shepard mentions internationalized SEO, which is great, but what about local SEO? If you’re a local business, then you want to drill down.
  5. Social annotations – Simply sharing your content on Google+ is enough to increase your SEO potential. Your content will show up in more search results, even among people who are not in your network, but it will definitely appear at the top of the search results for people who are in your Google+ network.

Implementing these tactics won’t necessarily increase your search engine results or get you more traffic, but not implementing them will definitely hold you back.

Get more information on the best SEO tactics at http://reciprocalconsulting.com.

If you’ve been online for any length of time, then you’ve probably noticed that images are becoming more and more prevalent. In the early days of the Internet, images were used primarily as a way to capture attention. Once they did that, they were pretty useless. Even then, it was not uncommon to find pages and pages of content with no images at all. Today, it’s getting harder to find such anomalies.

Images are important, but they’re not just to capture attention any more. They often serve a broader purpose.

For instance, infographics are images that tell a story. You can actually build a web page with no textual content and say much more with the string of images as story. Your challenge then is to drive targeted traffic to that image.

Images serve another purpose, however. They not only enhance the content on your page, but they can actually enhance your search engine optimization.

There’s more to it than simply splashing an image on a page and adding an alt tag to describe what that image is for. The search engines are now associating images with the surrounding content. This sort of contextual analysis is going to get even better. Welcome to the semantic web.

Getty Images recently announced that you can embed images onto a web page. You can now have free images with credits and SEO value added to your content with a simple click. That’s not bad.

Adding new content is one of the best ways to increase your search engine optimization, but it can be expensive in either time or money. If you write your own content, you could spend a lot of time writing and crafting that content to say what you want it to say. If you hire a freelance writer to handle your content for you, it could cost you a lot of money. But some SEO techniques don’t cost a lot of money.

One way to increase your search engine rankings and SEO potential is to increase your page load speed.

Google’s page load speed checker will tell you if your web pages load slowly and on what devices they load slowly. This is important information because if your site loads slowly on mobile, that will translate into a bad user experience. Your traffic will go down and Google will notice that your click-throughs are lowering. That will affect your rankings.

Another way to increase your search engine rankings is to employ rich snippets.

There are different types of rich snippets, but all of them are valuable in letting the search engines know what your content is about – and not just Google either. You can use metadata markup to let the search engines know what type of content exists on a page and help them rank it accordingly. Microformats can be used for

  • Book, movie, music, or business reviews
  • People
  • Products
  • Businesses
  • Recipes
  • Events
  • And more

Identify the type of content that exists on your pages and employ rich snippets when appropriate. This alone could boost the SEO for that content.

In October, Dr. Pete posted a nice image of a mega-SERP at Moz. The idea was to highlight and draw attention to 25 separate SERP features that searchers may see at any time for a search query. It’s truly enlightening.

These SERP features include:

  1. Local Carousel – You’ve seen this black strip with images when you conduct a local search.
  2. List Carousel – This carousel features a white background and includes menu items as links, such as songs on an album.
  3. Adwords Ads – These appear at the top of your SERP.
  4. Shopping Results – Image-based sponsored ads on the left side of the page.
  5. Answer Box – These include dictionary definitions, weather reports, and direct answers to search query questions.
  6. Image Mega-Block – Search for an image and you’ll see these.
  7. Local Knowledge Panel – Usually include a map and a local listing.
  8. Site Links – Often called 6-packs, these are subordinate links that are related to a website and point to internal pages on that website.
  9. Video Results – No explanation needed.
  10. Local Pack Results – Like the 6-pack, these 7-packs are internal pages related to a main page associated with a local search.
  11. Authorship Markup – Associated with a Google+ profile.
  12. Review Markup – Usuallay associated with recipes, products, and other review content.
  13. Local “Near” Results – Tells you what is near the location you actually searched for in Google Maps.
  14. Image Results – Standard image result.
  15. News Results – A pure vertical result under the News tab.
  16. Social Results – People you know because they are in your social circles.
  17. In-depth Articles – A new kind of result that features long in-depth articles that cover a topic heavily and could be considered evergreen.
  18. AdWords Ads – Appear on the bottom of search results.
  19. Related Searches – Self-explanatory.
  20. Shopping Results – Like the above, but these appear on the right of the page.
  21. Knowledge Graph – Wikipedia entries, nutritional information, and other big box information that appears on the right side of the SERP.
  22. Brand Graph – Like the knowledge graph box, these brand boxes are connected with a Google+ page.
  23. AdWords Ads – Appear on the right side of the SERP.
  24. Disambiguation Box – Google’s attempt to clarify your search intent.
  25. Google Map + Pins – A fairly new search feature, this features pinned results on a map.

Cutting out the duplicates, this is really 21 types of SERP features, but it’s a lot. These represent the various ways webmasters have of ranking in the search results, and there are multiple strategies for each type of SERP feature.

All this means that you shouldn’t spend most of your time tracking keyword rankings because there is a lot more to search now than there used to be.

Guest blogging has become the de factor link building technique for some people. It’s become so popular that Matt Cutts recently declared it dead – too spammy. The good news is, it’s not the only link building method there is. It never was.

To be really effective at link building, you have to get creative. That requires a little out-of-the-box thinking, but it also requires some level of understanding how the Internet works.

Here are three easy-to-identify but often underused link building methods don’t involve guest blogging.

  1. Webinars – With webinars, you can list all the information for your webinar on your website. If you promote it properly, you’ll get others linking to your webinars page. Beyond that, offer resources on your website that you promote through your webinars. Your webinar attendees will leave pumped up and link back to your resources page.
  2. Video marketing – You can do essentially the same thing with videos. Create a few outstanding videos, upload them to YouTube and other video sharing sites, and lead people back to your resources page. You can do the same thing with podcasting.
  3. E-books – Write and publish awesome e-books. Create an e-books page where people can download your latest. If these are truly valuable resources, they’ll draw links.

You don’t have to scour directories and go on a guest blogging spree to create great links. Just get a little creative.

Affiliate marketing icon Sugarrae posted a rant knocking Google and Matt Cutts off their conjoined high horse. Near the end of her post is this brilliant little gem:

From here on out, you work on generating traffic. From here on out, you work on generating branding. From here on out, you work on obtaining customers.

There’s more. You’ll have to excuse the profanity, but you should read the post. I’ll add this caveat:

This is really nothing new.

Your job has always been to build traffic and brand. That hasn’t really changed. The problem is, many online marketers got away from the real goal and started focusing on search engine rankings. Rankings are nice, but they’re not an end in themselves. They’re not the end goal. They are a means to an end.

With personalized search, Google+, and other late great algorithm changes, you can’t predict search rankings.

You might have a page rank #1 for a search phrase only to later in the day rank #10 for the same search phrase. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is because different searchers have different search profiles and Google is tracking them. You can’t control that. That’s why you shouldn’t focus too heavily on ranking in Google.

Online marketers now have a lot of reasonable avenues for attracting new traffic to their websites. You have:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Bing
  • Niche websites

And more!

Focus on building your brand and traffic through a variety of online promotional means. If you do that, rankings will take care of themselves – as long as you don’t get too spammy.

SEOs love to talk about link building. Everybody does it. The problem is, everybody does it.

Let me explain.

Yesterday, MOZ posted a blog post titled 31 Link Building Tactics Discovered From Competitive Analysis. That’s a great title. And a lot of the link building strategies recommended are real solid. But many of those same strategies are used by spammers, which is why Matt Cutts declared guest blogging dead.

The list contains all the usual items you’d expect on the list, such as:

  • Contests
  • .edu domains
  • .gov domains
  • Guest blogging

You get the drift.

The list also includes items that might not be relevant to all online marketers. For instance,

  • Eco-friendly causes
  • Student and minority resources
  • Offering a job

I’m not saying these aren’t good link building sources. I’m just saying they may not apply to all types of businesses or websites.

When it comes to link building, it’s important that genuine value-oriented marketers distinguish themselves in some way from the spammers. Matt Cutts and the Google web spam team are after the bad guys, not the good guys or the people with good intentions. Educate yourself on best practices and try to do the right thing. That’s how you do link building in 2014.

High profile SEO Bruce Clay conducted a study concerning content creation and search engine rankings. What he found out was pretty astounding. Content curation can work better than original content if

it contains original content.

In other words, the key to successful content marketing is original content. That hasn’t changed in several years.

The Key To Successful Content Curation

The most popular kind of content curation is aggregation. This is where the curator simply takes a handful of links or content on a particular topic and aggregates them into a single post. It’s easy and doesn’t take up a lot of time. However, if this content isn’t accompanied by original content, it will be much less effective.

Distilling a lot of content into a smaller post where the original content is the star is a much better approach, though it does take up more time. Still, it is more effective.

Mashups can also be very effective. This is when you take a bunch of content and merge it into a single piece with an original point of view. That requires original content by definition.

As long as you include original content in your curated posts, they will achieve a certain level of search engine visibility. The more original content, the better. This is true SEO. Taking content that has already ranked and re-using it, even spinning it, is much less effective. SEO is, and always has been, about originality.

It’s the end of the year, which means this is the time when online marketing professionals look at the year and see what they did well and what they could have done better before turning their eyes around and predicting the trends for the coming year. Since it’s the law, we’ve decided to get on the bandwagon and make our predictions for trends in 2014.

Only, we’re going to approach it a little differently. We’re going to list 5 trends that started in 2013 and that we see continuing into 2014 – maybe beyond.

  1. Mobile marketing – Mobile marketing has been on the rise. Two things are necessary for this. The first are responsive websites. By the end of 2014, if you don’t have one, then you’ll effectively be out of the mobile marketing game. Secondly, the growth of smartphone and tablet usage make mobile marketing an all-in effort.
  2. High quality content – Internet marketers should have been focused on this all along, but people tend to focus on whatever Google forces them to focus on. In 2014, that will be “high quality content.”
  3. Social media metrics – Social media is a channel that has finally come into its own. For many websites, social media traffic will eclipse search engine traffic.
  4. Apps development – Who doesn’t love a good app? Again, smartphones and tablets are driving this train. It’s only going to go faster – until it becomes a super train.
  5. Visual content – Images, videos, infographics, you name it. Content is becoming more visual. Don’t expect this to change.

These trends started in 2013, but they’re only going to become more pronounced in the coming year. What do you think?

Before and after the Hummingbird update, one of the chief goals for many search engine marketers was, and is, to get web pages to rank highly for key search terms. However, how you go about that is different pre- and post-Hummingbird. One thing is necessary in both cases, however: Quality.

If you truly want to produce high quality content, here are five types of content that have a better than even chance of qualifying:

  1. Evergreen Content – Let’s start with the easy one. If your content has value today and will have the same value in five, ten, or twenty years, then it’s what we call “evergreen” content. That kind of content will always rank.
  2. Problem/Solution – This is content that answers a specific question or solves a particular problem. Think of a problem that you know people are having and tell them how to solve it.
  3. Case Study – A case study focuses on telling a success story. Take a particular client or situation and tell how that client was successful doing something. Make the “something” very specific. It can a product or service, a particular problem they wanted to solve, or a process.
  4. Hot Tips – If you have the “Top 10 Tips For Doing X” or a similar post, these are usually golden. Top tips content is very valuable if it focuses on real top tips.
  5. Analysis of a Topic – Write an in-depth analysis of a particular subject. That includes pros and cons as well as statistics regarding the subject matter. Take a position on something and defend it, backing it up with facts and figures.

Of course, there is never a guarantee that your content will rank well for your targeted keywords, but these five types of content give you a big leg up.

You’ve likely heard of link buying and how it’s a terrible practice to get into. You’ve likely even heard that it could get your website banned from the search engines. But what if you pay a blogger to insert your link into his or her content on a site he or she doesn’t own?

It’s been going on for some time now. According to Matt Cutts, the search engines are looking for ways to detect it.

It shouldn’t be hard.

As a practice, bribing bloggers is no better than buying links. In fact, ethically speaking, it could be worse. The net search engine effect could be the same. If you’re found out, you’re toast.

It is hard to say if Google has taken action or is looking to take action in the near future against sites using this technique but it is clear, Google knows about it.

My bet is, they’ll take action. But there’s a fine line because the site owners on the sites where the links are built may not be aware of the practice. If they were, they’d fire the bloggers I’m sure. How awful would it be if those sites were penalized and that was how they found out that their bloggers were stiffing them? My bet is, some bloggers would lose their jobs.

If you do things the right way, you never have to worry about running afoul of search engine policies.