This might come as a shocker, but there is nothing new under the sun. And that includes SEO.
In fact, if you are looking for “new and improved” as it relates to search engine optimization, then you are looking for the wrong thing. You’re better off with the old and the stale. I mean, stick what we know works.
So what is that exactly?
Instead of spending countless hours chasing links with your long tail keyword phrases, how about building yourself into a recognized authority within your niche? If you build a brand that people recognize and trust, then your online reputation will take care of itself. As will your SEO.
Now I’m not saying SEO is not important. And I’m not saying don’t think about SEO. What I’m saying is you should be subtle about it.
In terms of search engine optimization, the best SEO you can perform on your website is to publish quality content that people like to read. Sure, do your keyword research and throw in a few nuggets for the search engines, but don’t overdo it. Think in terms of “less is more.”
SEO is not a war game. Don’t treat it like one. Rather, if you work on your own reputation and deliver positive results to your customers, you will survive online.
If you’ve changed the way you practice search engine optimization as a result of recent changes in Google’s algorithm – specifically the Panda and Penguin updates – then you were likely doing SEO wrong to begin with.
Here’s a secret of the SEO profession: Real SEO is the same today, tomorrow, and always. Sure, there might be minor adjustments along the way, but for the most part the rules of SEO are pretty constant.
How you say? Consider these:
- Good SEO relies on great content that is original, unique, and valuable.
- It all begins with awesome on-page content.
- Links are good, but go for quality, not quantity.
- Don’t do anything stupid.
- If you think about your site visitors first and the search engines second, you shouldn’t go wrong.
- That’s not to say you shouldn’t think about the search engines at all.
- Don’t count keyword densities.
- Vary your anchor text.
- When building links to your website, try to consider traffic potential from any site you aim to get a link from.
These principles have always been important to search engine optimization. Nothing has changed. Panda and Penguin didn’t change the rules. They only enforced the re-enforced the rules that were already there.
Instead of chasing search engine algorithms, chase targeted traffic. You’ll go further.
One question that local businesses often have is, “What are the limits of geotargeting.” The question really has no easy answer as there are a variety of ways to make use of geotargeting.
When it comes to local search engine optimization, geotargeting to a specific country is not necessarily local. In smaller countries, geotargeting country-wide may be sufficiently close to locally optimizing your website that you can get away with it, but we’re talking about really small countries. Most industrialized nations don’t fit that bill.
Country-wide optimization in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the UK, Australia, Russia, Germany, France, and other large nations is not generally considered local. To drill down to the local level you have to target individual cities or ZIP codes. In cities like Amsterdam, London, and New York, even targeting the city may not be local. You may have to target individual boroughs such as Manhattan or Queens. Even then, that may be too broad an area for local SEO.
Local SEO is best defined as that area which your business serves as long as it falls within a reasonable distance from customers who may patronize it. Chain stores that serve multiple locations across a specific geographic area may have multiple local areas for SEO purposes.
It is best, when thinking about optimizing your website locally, to check with the search engines for their policies. This is especially true is you plan to make use of Google Places and Bing Local-like services.
Keyword research is one of the most important parts of the search engine optimization process. But why?
Here are 4 reasons why you should not skip the keyword research part of the process.
- Your keyword research will either affirm that your keyword list is on target or identify keywords on your own list that are not profitable and therefore should not be pursued.
- When you begin your optimization process, or the content creation aspect of the optimization process, you will have identified your most profitable keyword opportunities.
- Good keyword research will uncover missed opportunities. These are keywords you didn’t think about that provide you with the necessary data indicating profitable opportunities in your SEO campaigns.
- By conducting your keyword research you will be more focused throughout the SEO process and be able to optimize your web properties more deliberately instead of flailing about guessing about what keywords will work best.
Before you build your website, write your blog, or undergo any SEO activity in your optimization campaigns, spend some time conducting keyword research. It will save you a lot of time and headache in the long run and likely will even pay off handsomely as you identify the most profitable keywords for your business.
Some SEOs will tell you that SEO is too hard to learn and should be left to the professionals. I will say that SEO is complex. It’s not too hard to learn. If you have the time to apply yourself, the initiative to go along with it, and the drive to pursue it, then you can learn it. But do you?
The reason many small business owners hire an SEO firm is because they don’t have the time to learn all the ins and outs and the nuances of search engine optimization. You don’t really have to.
But you should learn the basics.
Don’t assume all SEO companies are on the up and up. Many are not. But don’t color the entire industry with the same paint, either. There are a lot of fine SEOs who are honest about what they do and how they do it. An SEO company that won’t share its tactics with you may not be an honest one. Beware.
A good SEO firm has nothing to hide. If you suspect that your SEO firm is engaging in black-hat tactics and they haven’t disclosed the risks, then you should fire them. That’s not to say that a white-hat SEO company will be any better. SEO – all SEO – has some risks.
Search engine optimization is not a panacea for a bad website. Nor is it the answer to a bad web marketing strategy. Nevertheless, it can help you get your brand in front of the market you want to attract.
Talk to an honest SEO firm and be sure to ask a lot of questions.
What is the difference between SEO and SEM? Does it matter?
It might not matter to some people, but there is a subtle difference. SEO stands for search engine optimization and usually refers to the process of writing web page content so that it stands a better chance of ranking in the search engines. If your web pages rank in the search engines, then that’s free traffic for your website. You don’t pay for that traffic.
Search engine marketing, or SEM, refers to any form of search engine marketing and that includes the aforementioned SEO. But it doesn’t stop with SEO.
Search engine marketing most often refers to organic search (SEO) and paid search (PPC). But it could also include other forms of search engine marketing including display advertising, paid placement services, link building, search query sponsorships, or other services depending on the search engine. But most Internet marketers use the term SEM to refer to SEO and PPC.
Typically, a search engine marketing campaign consists of a combination of SEO and paid search strategies. A search engine marketer may find himself managing a pay-per-click campaign simultaneously with a link building campaign. And that may include guest blogging, article marketing, and even some on-site content management.
Most of these terms overlap in some way, but it helps to understand what your search optimization team is saying when they communicate with you. I hope this helps clarify things a bit.
Have you ever checked your referral logs or analytics and saw a search query that someone found your site for and wondered why you ended up ranking for that search term? Have you ever seen that search query show up more than once in your referral logs and analytics reports? If you’re like me, I’m sure you have.
SEO Theory’s Michael Martinez says this.
Search engines don’t stop ranking your pages at the end of your list of carefully chosen keywords. If they find expressions your page is relevant to that you didn’t think of, they’ll give you some exposure you didn’t count on. The difference between a real long tail strategy and a faux long tail strategy is the absence of popular head terms in your search goals.
What most business owners, and even a lot of SEOs, don’t understand is that the magic that happens in search happens when the searcher enters a search query in the search query box and clicks the Search button. It does NOT happen when you optimize your web page.
So what does that mean exactly?
Well, you can optimize your pages endlessly, do all the keyword research you can think of, and build link after link after link with the very best anchor text possible and still get traffic for search queries you didn’t think of. That happens because search engine robots are looking for content that matches search queries. They are not looking for search queries that match your content.
That’s an important distinction. But what does it mean in terms of search? Here’s what I think it means:
Quit chasing keywords. Instead, chase the customers that are important to your business – the ones most likely to buy your products and services. You cannot guess every search query those customers will use to find you on the Web. What you can do is write great content that attracts the people you want to do business with. Then promote that content where those people hang out.
If you had any lingering doubts that search engine optimization was still a valid form of marketing, you can put them to rest right now. According to WebProNews, search is up by 68% since 2008.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone really. While the hype these days is around social media, search is still getting a lot of air play.
The interesting thing is that Microsoft, or Bing, has gained the most ground in that time. Google has already increased the number of searches it gets. In fact, it’s share of the search market is almost 70%. Bing’s is just under 20%. And Yahoo!’s is falling.
For the first time in search history, Bing is actually No. 2 in terms of total market share. Yahoo! has fallen to No. 3.
And here’s another surprise: A few people are still using AOL.
What all this boils down to is that more people are searching for information online through search engines than ever before. That means that search engine optimization is no less important than it ever was. In fact, I’d say it’s more important now than it ever has been. And that will likely increase even more going into the future.
So let’s answer the all-important question: Why? Why is search growing?
I think it really boils down to one thing. More and more people are using the Internet. As the younger generation gets older that means more people enter into the information market. And older people are going online more and more each day as well. All that spells a huge increase in search driving up demand for professional search engine optimization.
Where people are searching there is a need for more information. That means you should be putting your marketing money into search. Even now.
Now that blog marketing is more than a decade old it is apropos to ask if it is still effective. To answer that question, let’s look at what the benefits to blogging have been for the past ten years.
- Fresh content published on your website
- Solid inbound or internal links with great anchor text
- More web pages with the potential to rank for your key search terms
- The more you publish the more your site gets crawled
- Reputation management
- Traffic increases to your website
- Relationship building with your audience
- Social media interaction
- Expertise positioning
- The ability to share your knowledge and experience while presenting yourself as an authority within your niche
These are just some of the benefits that blog marketing has offered businesses over the past decade. But does blogging still provide these benefits or has it run its course? The answer is a resounding “Yes! Blogging still provides the same benefits.”
Of course, there is a lot more competition today than there has been. There are more blogs and more bloggers vying for attention – in your niche and in every niche under the sun. This makes it more difficult to achieve the same results that you could achieve ten, or even five, years ago. But it can be done. The key is to have a strategy and to be diligent in pursuing it.
Blog marketing is still as effective as it ever was. Focus on delivering great content that is optimized well for the search engines and that is pushed out through social media. Position yourself as an expert and you’ll be perceived as one.
We’ve said all along that small businesses – in particular, local small businesses – should make their best use of search and social. If you can incorporate a strong search engine optimization campaign and a social media campaign, then you should do it.
As you manage your two campaigns, there are three pieces of information that you should ensure you incorporate into both campaigns:
- Your business phone number
- Your business address
- Hours of operation
Why Your Phone Number Is Important To Search
According to the latest social search study, the information most often sought by local searchers is a business phone number. The second most sought after information is a business address. And the third most searched for information are hours of operation.
In fact, these three little bits of information far outweigh everything else people search for online. So you should be sure to include them on your website in a prominent location. If possible, get them into the search engines.
But don’t just stop there. More and more, people are using social networks to search for local businesses. And 91% of the people who do are using Facebook to do it. What’s that tell you?
It tells me that you should have a Facebook page and your phone number, business address, and hours of operation should be displayed prominently on it.
Why People Do Business With You
Here’s the kicker. 72% of survey respondents said they are more likely to do business with someone if a friend or colleague recommends them. If you are a business-to-consumer operation, then Facebook is your friend. Build a brand page, share it with your friends and fans (and customers) and watch them share it with theirs. A recommendation online goes a long way.
Make it easy for people to find you and they will find you. Whether in the search engines or the social networks, being found is the first step to getting business.
Perhaps the most important search engine optimization practice that any webmaster can employ is the use of keywords. These are the basic building blocks of SEO. That doesn’t mean that crap copy with keywords stuffed in them will help your pages rank better or get you more customers. Good content must shine like a diamond. But these keyword practices are all guaranteed to make your diamond-studded content increase in value day by day.
- Page Headlines – This is different than your page title. It’s the content header at the top of your page that is visible to humans and to search engines. Place your keyword phrase in that page headline. For instance, this blog post is headed “7 Keyword Optimization Strategies That Work All The Time.”
- Long Tail Keywords – Long tail keywords are keywords that are narrower than your main keyword. For instance, if you sell hunting knives, it isn’t enough to use “knives” as your keyword. Narrow it down with long tail phrases like “Trail Master hunting knives” and “Laredo Bowie hunting knives.”
- Keyword Variants – Not everyone uses the same phrase when they conduct a search. Some people will use “car lot” and others will use “automobile dealer.”
- Synonyms – What words can you think of that are synonymous with your keywords? Use those in your content as well.
- Keyword Stemming – Stemming is a practice that involves adding letters and syllables to key phrases. For instance, stems for the root word “run” would include “running,” “runner,” “runners,” etc.
- Permalinks – Every web page has its own address. This is typically called a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL. It consists of your main website address followed by a forward slash (/) and the unique folder name for the page. It might look like this: websitename.com/individualpagename. You should your primary keyword phrase in that individual page name.
- Semantic Language – Search engines today don’t need keywords to know what a page is about. If you mention “Ford,” “Chevrolet,” and “GMC” in your content, then they know your content is about cars.
These are not the only keyword optimization strategies that work, but they are important ones. Write great content and optimize it for search.
Google has announced that it has made 40 algorithm changes in February 2012, which sets a new record. Here are 5 notable changes to Google’s search algorithm changes and what they might mean for you.
- Local predictions in YouTube – If you search YouTube on a specific topic, Google will predict your intentions based on your location. This could have a significant impact on video marketing for businesses. I think many marketers who use video will be testing this one.
- Global shopping rich snippets – Rich snippets have not caught on popularly, but they are extremely valuable for search. If you run an e-commerce store, then you should learn about the shopping rich snippet. This one could prove to be a big advantage to webmasters who use it masterfully.
- Freshness improvements – More and more, users want fresh search results. I’ve noticed that lately Google has delivered these more quickly. This is good, especially for bloggers. If you write a business blog, traditional SEO still works.
- Improvements to local search results rankings – Speaking of traditional SEO, Google is saying that local search results now rely more on traditional SEO signals. If you run a local business online, then you should be testing this one.
- Link evaluation – This could be a big one. Google is saying they have turned off link evaluation signals that they’ve been using for years. And that means that many websites that have relied on links for their rankings could see a decline in rankings if they continue to use the same link practices. This is one that will definitely be tested by a broad swath of SEOs in practice.
Google rarely is this specific about its algorithm updates. It’s time to start testing some of these changes to see if you can reverse engineer them. I know many SEOs have already started this process.
If you want a sure-fire way to kill your website and ensure that it doesn’t get traction in the search engines or that visitors stop by for a quick look and leave, then follow these web design principles.
- No social media icons – Leave off the social media icons. No one’s going to share your content anyway. Truth is, people do share content. And they’re sharing it more all the time.
- Don’t include graphics – No one likes pretty pictures. Fill your web content space with nothing but text. Lots of it. Heck, go even further and don’t break for paragraphs. Do everything you can to make your web pages gray.
- Noindex, nofollow – Add the meta tag “noindex, nofollow” to every page on your website. It won’t get crawled or ranked by the search engines and no one will ever find you. You’re sure to live out the rest of your life in obscurity.
- Talk down to your readers – You’re smarter than they are. Show it. Readers love it when web content talks down to them, puts them in their place. You’ll get lots of repeat visitors to your site with that. Not.
- Don’t do any internal linking – Links are overrated. Why would you want your web pages to link together? Why encourage site visitors to visit more than one page? They came to your site to see the page they’re on, so keep them there. Actually, studies show that website navigation is one of the most important things for site visitors.
If you noticed the inherent sarcasm in this post, good for you. Now, don’t you think it’s time to learn how to really design web pages?
Checking out Google’s classic search page, there is now a little microphone in the search box. Do you know what that’s for? Try this as a test: Click the microphone and speak a search term. That’s right. Just tell Google what to search for.
That’s Google’s voice-to-text search feature. I’ll say it works pretty well. I’ve done a few tests myself.
So the big question is, if you are an SEO or concerned about search engine optimization at all, is this: How do you optimize a website for voice-to-text? And here’s the answer: The same way you’d optimize for text-only search.
The best that I can tell, the search results for voice-to-text and text-only are the same. So what Google has done is taken its search index and converted it to voice-to-text so that people who can’t type or who have physical or mental handicaps preventing them from making a text-only search can still enjoy the search experience. The overall index is the same.
This is a great feature for accessibility purposes. Some countries have laws that require websites online to meet accessibility requirements. That may be why Google introduced this feature in the first place.
SEO is SEO. You don’t have to try to figure out how to do it for handicapped persons. For the most part, their needs are the same as yours. You can, however, spend a little additional time and resource to make your website accessible and the best time to do that is in the design planning stage. Implement a good website design that is accessible to everyone and you’ll increase your searchability as well.
Talk to five SEOs and you’re likely to hear five different answers on any particular question involving search engine optimization. But for now, let’s talk about keywords. Are they necessary?
I don’t think there’s an SEO alive who would say “No” to that question, but why not? We live in a day of semantic language indexing. The search engines rank pages based on ideas, not keyword stuffing. In other words, if your on-page content is clearly about how to change a light bulb and you don’t use the phrase “light bulb” but two times in your article, you could still rank for that key phrase. It’s all about quality.
So keywords aren’t important then, right?
I’d say that’s a wrong assumption to make. While semantic language indexing rules the day, keywords are not discounted. I believe you should still focus your content on keywords, but don’t fixate on any one keyword. That is, use a little semantic language markup.
Are Keyword Tags Necessary?
One area where there is a lot of dispute over the use of keywords is in the keywords meta tag. There are two main ideas regarding the use of this tag.
- Not necessary. The not necessary camp argues that keyword tags aren’t necessary because none of the major search engines look at them. While this is true, some smaller search engines still do consider this meta tag; and the major search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms so you never know when they may start considering keywords meta tags again.
- It doesn’t hurt. The rest of the SEO community falls into the “it doesn’t hurt” camp. Because of the two reasons mentioned above, they argue that it doesn’t hurt to use the tag. Someday, it may help.
It never hurts to employ a strategy that you won’t get penalized for. I would not dispense with keywords altogether. What you don’t want to do is stuff your content with keywords as that might get your pages banned, penalized, or de-indexed. Just use a little common sense in your search engine optimization practices.
Michael Martinez said something interesting in a blog post yesterday.
The problem is, as soon as a popular SEO blogpundit shares an idea or strategy with her or her audience, the idea loses value. That doesn’t mean it becomes worthless. It just means the idea loses value. Think of your brand new car depreciating a few hundred dollars as soon as you drive it off the lot. SEO ideas lose value in much the same way.
That’s pretty sage. But what is he saying?
SEO is a game. Popular SEOs figure out what is good strategy and they implement it. It works for them. Then they share it with the rest of the world. Lower level SEOs begin to adopt the strategies that the popular and well known SEOs have shared. Pretty soon, everyone is doing the same thing. Even spammers. That’s when the search engines change their algorithms.
Who are the first people to know the search engines have changed? The well known and popular SEOs. How do you think they became well known?
By the time the big guys figure out a new strategy, everyone else has adopted the old one. But that old strategy isn’t working any more because the popular SEOs have moved on. They’re doing something different.
Here’s the deal. The popular SEOs don’t share their successes right away. They test them first. Sometimes that takes 6 months or a year. Other times, it might take 2 or 3 years before they get around to sharing what they do that works (and you can bet they aren’t telling you everything). By the time they share what they are doing that is successful, those strategies have almost run their course with the search engines. Mass adoption occurs, but the search engines and popular SEOs have moved on.
So what should you make of this? If you think I’m saying “don’t trust anyone,” then you should go back and re-read the post. That’s not what I’m saying.
What I am saying is that you should trust an SEO company that isn’t blabbing all over the Web what they are doing for you that works. You should trust an SEO company that does its own testing rather than just following the leaders. Trust an SEO company that does what’s best for you, not what’s best for them.
There is a misconception among many search engine optimization specialists that SEO must be a focus of content or the content just isn’t good. The truth is, great content and great SEO compliment each other. They can co-exist without hurting each other.
The key to this SEO philosophy is in the use of keywords and links. Keywords are the fuel in every search engine optimization strategy. You don’t want to overdo it, but you must do it.
What does that mean, exactly?
Keywords are a matter of targeting the right phrases for the right audience. If you are trying to reach people who purchase automobiles, then you have to target the right key phrases that attract automobile buyers. If you sell Ford vehicles specifically, then target your phrases to people who buy Ford vehicles. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
It is, but you’d be surprised at how many SEOs target the wrong keywords for their audiences.
When it comes to links, you want your links to compliment your keyword phrases. They shouldn’t dominate. Anything in moderation is better than the same thing in overdose. Use links that compliment your keywords by incorporating the keywords into the link anchor text and pointing them to relevant pages on your website. Title attributes can also compliment your anchor text.
By complimentary title attributes, I don’t necessarily mean repeating your anchor text key phrase. I mean use a phrase that compliments it and is a more nuanced way of using your important keywords.
SEO is not a science. It certainly isn’t rocket science. Your first concern should be in creating great content. Make the SEO compliment the content.
If you’ve been around the Web for long and have studied much in the way of SEO, then you’ve likely encountered the countless Internet marketers who have hyped and harped on the idea that SEO is nothing more, or less, than building links. But as many of us have seen, links eventually lose value.
In fact, for every SEO benefit you receive from any action, there will always be a loss of benefit somewhere else. Links get too old and become obsolete, content value is diminished because someone else did it better, social triggers raise and lower your reputation by the minute, etc.
About the only thing you can count on with best SEO practices is change. What works today may not work tomorrow. The action you take today may not show any results for a year. Sometimes, the best thing to do is wait.
Search engine optimization is not some magic pill. There is no formula that can catapult you to instant success, or any success. The best SEOs are the ones that experiment, test, and try something new when all the tried-and-true wisdom has failed. And I can’t tell you how many times a business owner has fired his SEO guru because the business owner read a book and became an instant expert.
The one unbendable rule in SEO is Change is Inevitable. This is not a “don’t rock the boat” industry.
All content falls into three categories. Whether it is video content, text-based content, display advertising, or something else. There really are only three kinds of content.
- On-Page Content – On-page content is everything that appears on your web pages and is visible to human eyes. It can be Google AdSense, videos, articles, your blog, or a widget. It’s the content that either adds to or subtracts from your page’s ability to achieve high search engine rankings.
- Off-Page Content – Off-page content is designed to do one thing – send visitors to your website. Some off-page content may also provide you with link building benefits. This, too, can be any type of content visible to human eyes. Videos, articles, blog comments, forum comments, social media content or anything that appears on a website other than yours and either serves to build inbound links to your website, boost your reputation, or drive traffic to your site – maybe even a combination of the three.
All three types of content have the potential to affect your search engine rankings and your website’s reputation. Guard them well, present them professionally.
You’ve likely heard of blogs. There’s nothing really magical about them, but you can use a blog for your business to increase your market and talk to your customers. Here are 7 ways you can use a blog to boost your business and your brand online.
- Search engine optimization – Well optimized blog posts can increase your standing in the search engines.
- Social media optimization – Promote your blog through the popular social networks to increase your traffic and brand exposure.
- Field questions about your business – A blog allows your customers and potential customers to communicate with you. You can answer their questions and build your brand.
- Network with others in your industry – A blog is a conversation. Your market is a conversation. Why not join the two?
- Increased search engine rankings - Not only can each individual blog post be optimized, but the more blog posts you have the more chances you have of being ranked in the search engines.
- Close more sales – You can use your blog to close sales simply by putting links to your landing pages in high profile locations on the blog.
- Customer service – Handle customer service issues on your blog in less time and with fewer expenses.
You no longer have to sit on the sidelines and watch while your competitors steal the market. You can use a blog to drive more business to your website and increase your search engine and social media exposure.