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SEOmoz has an interesting article about SEO insights garnered from a study on pay per click advertising.

I won’t necessarily endorse everything in the article, but I think you can gain some insight into SEO by studying PPC advertising habits, and click-throughs to some extent. For starters, let’s take a look at the top 10 industries by average PPC cost-per-click:

  1. Finance
  2. Jobs & Education
  3. Business/Industrial
  4. Computers & Electronics
  5. Internet/Telecom
  6. Beauty & Fitness
  7. Automobiles
  8. Home & Garden
  9. Travel
  10. Shopping

Interestingly, in each of these industries, retargeting is proving to be very effective. Retargeting is the act of using PPC to reach the same market prospects across the Google Display Network as you reach in the Google SERPs. In other words, if you advertise using PPC and run your ads on network websites signed on to Google AdSense, you’ll be more effective with your SEO and your PPC efforts.

Mobile PPC Not As Effective As Mobile SEO

Another thing you should know is that mobile users don’t click on PPC ads as often. That’s because they are on the go and don’t take the time to click on ads. If they’re searching for something, however, they will use the organic search option. Mobile search is primarily about organic SEO. This is a golden opportunity for search marketers, especially where local search and mobile search meet.

Use PPC For Keyword Research

Finally, and we’ve known this for years, you can use pay per click advertising to test your keywords for organic search. If you are getting good click-throughs that convert in your PPC campaigns, that can also translate into excellent search positioning in the organic search space.

Savvy online marketers look at SEO and PPC as complimentary marketing channels, not competing ones.

Search engine optimization practices have gone through a lot of changes over the years. Early on, webmasters stuffed their web pages with keywords and used meta tags extensively. It was not uncommon to view source on a page and see the meta keywords tag stuffed with hundreds of keywords even if most of them didn’t appear on the web page anywhere. And those pages ranked for those keywords too.

When Google came along, they created an entire economic system based on backlinks. Inbound linking became a new kind of currency – and spam.

Umpteen million algorithm changes later, Google looks at links in a totally different light, meta tags are pretty useless (especially the meta keyword tag), and hardly anyone knows what constitutes effective SEO any more. The game has completely changed.

But has it?

The key to ranking in the search engines has always been quality of content. Yes, you might have built inbound links, wrote impressive meta descriptions, and made sure your page title had your primary keyword in it, but the search engines still focused on the content. Was it any good and did it solve a reader problem? That’s still the case today. Quality content will win out every time.

That’s not to say that search engine spam doesn’t still exist. But if it’s spam, it will eventually disappear from the SERPs. Focus on quality. It’s the only real SEO that’s left any more.

If you were an expert in search engine optimization, then you wouldn’t need to hire an SEO firm. You could do your own SEO. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any knowledge of SEO at all. You should at least brush up on the basics.

The reason should be real clear to anyone who has ever done business with an SEO firm or Internet marketing agency.

Customers who walk through the door and ask questions about how an SEO firm goes about its business usually end up being better customers and they better understand what their Internet marketing consulting firm will do for them. They are able to ask the best questions and get the best results for their efforts.

If you understand the fundamentals of SEO, you are less likely to be snookered by firms that are out to ruin your reputation while boosting their own. You can ask the right questions and weed out nefarious or unapproved SEO tactics.

Another thing you can do is to ensure that you are getting the service that you paid for. How do you know if you are getting good results from your SEO efforts? Are you taking your consulting firm’s word for it, or can you measure their efforts and understand when your consultant is feeding you a line? That’s important information because if you don’t know when you are being taken for a ride, there’s a good chance you’ll be taken for a ride.

Take some time to learn the basics of SEO before you hire a consulting firm.

What would it take to complete your online presence? Do you know?

First, let’s define “online presence.” What is it? Do you need a website to be online? If you don’t have a website and you engage in social media marketing, do you have an online presence?

Regarding the website question, you don’t need a website to be online. It’s preferable, of course, if you are doing any marketing for your company, but any presence you have online constitutes an online presence. That means if the only thing you do is listen, then you have an online presence.

But that’s not a complete presence.

So what does a complete online presence look like? Ostensibly, I’d say a complete online presence has several characteristics that include:

  1. >A website as a basic hub of your online activity
  2. Regular, valuable content
  3. Targeted search engine optimization
  4. An e-mail marketing strategy
  5. A social media marketing strategy
  6. Video and/or mobile content
  7. Online advertising strategy
  8. Analytics
  9. Competitive intelligence and research

These do not have to be in any particular order, but a complete online presence would include each of these elements. Your tactical marketing might consist of one or two of these pieces working in tandem toward a miniature goal. Your overall strategy, however, should include a plan for each one of these elements as you work toward a broader, more significant goal for your business.

Do you have a total marketing plan for your business? Are you working toward a complete online presence? If not, why not?

It seems like more and more I am reading SEO doomsday reports. Some SEO or Internet marketer I’ve never heard of starts squeaking about how Google is killing SEO with its recent algorithm changes or merging of services. Here’s the problem: Google has been making algorithm changes for over a decade. This is nothing new.

And Google has added and taken away services almost as rapidly. This is nothing new.

I think SEO has a long life ahead of it. Yes, there will be changes. There will be adjustments. These are a part of life. If you want to survive online, then you’ll have to learn to adjust to the adjustments. But don’t blame Google or the search engine optimization community. Things change.

That said, I do think search engine optimization is getting harder. One of the reasons for all the changes is to kill SEO spam. As spammers get smarter about their tactics, the search engines have to get smarter about theirs. And when they do they make it harder for all the rest of us. Even legitimate SEO professionals.

I’ve learned to see this as a natural and necessary part of the SEO business. Every profession has its hazards and one of the hazards of the SEO profession is constant change. We just have to keep plugging away and getting better at what we do.

If you’re one of the few companies that have yet to start a blog because you’re not sure it’s wise to invest the time and expense, then I’d say you are way behind the tugboat. A lot more companies are still not using social media, which is halfway understandable. Keyword: Half way.

But I believe that blogging and social media go hand in hand. You should do both, and you should do them together. At the very least, they are most powerful when done together.

Blogging is the practice of staying in communication with your target audience – customers and prospects – by way of a specific type of platform where you create posts as often as you like and discuss issues that are specific to the niche you serve. It’s a useful tool for branding, reputation management, search engine optimization, and social media marketing.

Social media marketing is an online marketing tactic that allows you to push your content out in various directions in order to get it in front of the people you want to do business with. Then, that content – if it is good – will pull your prospects back into your website. Preferably, you pull them into your blog and converse with them.

This is all a part of the online marketing funnel. It’s a recognized way of building relationships with your prospects and customers. It’s effective and I’d encourage you to give it a try.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. When you begin your optimization process, or the content creation aspect of the optimization process, you will have identified your most profitable keyword opportunities.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

What happened?

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
  • Branding
  • 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.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”
  4. Synonyms – What words can you think of that are synonymous with your keywords? Use those in your content as well.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.