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SEO is in a constant state of change. Very little we do today bears any resemblance to how SEO was performed 10 or 15 years ago. And it’s likely that SEO will be quite different 20 years from now. Here are three outdated SEO ideas that still get shared in social circles even though they are completely WRONG.

  1. META Tags Are Extremely Important – No they’re not. Neither Bing nor Google even look at your keywords meta tag. They completely ignore it. Your SEO Title tag is usually redundant. It is only slightly useful. The most important meta tag is the meta description tag and, technically, you can do without it. It’s useful to the degree that you write a good one and that Google or Bing uses it in the search snippet in user search results – which doesn’t happen every time.
  2. Search Engine Submissions Are Necessary – Absolutely not. I still see web companies offering search engine submission services. The truth is, the search engines have spiders that crawl the web. If you have one inbound link to your website, it will be found and indexed by the search engines. Submission is not necessary.
  3. Exact Match Domain Names Rank Better – Just a cursory look at the web will tell you otherwise. Many branded non-keyword-matching domain names rank No. 1 for specific keyword searches. None of the search engines have “search engine” in their domain name. Yahoo! is a branded name. Bing is a branded name. Google is a branded name. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are all branded names. Enough said.

Are you listening to outdated ideas? Stop listening to the people selling you bad SEO advice. Listen to the folks who are moving with the times.

The reason clients outsource their search engine optimization is because they don’t have the time to commit to it or they don’t have the expertise necessary to create a successful SEO campaign. Both of those are understandable. However, you still need to be involved.

Some clients have the attitude that the SEO professional will take care of all of the details. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But the reality is, it’s your business. No SEO in the world is going to be an expert in every niche every one of their clients is a part of. You still need to be involved in the SEO process.

Here are 4 ways that clients often sabotage their own SEO campaigns.

  1. The client isn’t committed to the campaign – This typically happens in large organizations where a marketing professional hires an outside SEO firm but upper management, who have no knowledge or experience with SEO and don’t want it, have not been sold on the idea. This usually leads to infighting. This can often be a distraction to your SEO firm. Make sure everyone on your team is sold out to your SEO campaign before you start it.
  2. The client is not involved in the process – Don’t just hand over your SEO to your consultant and forget about it. Your input is necessary for keyword selection and strategy implementation.
  3. The client doesn’t keep up their end of the bargain – Whether it comes to paying for services or conducting experiments, testing, or research, if you tell your SEO consulting firm that you will do something, then you should do it. After all, you’d expect the same from them.
  4. The client doesn’t implement changes fast enough – If you agree to perform some of the tasks related to your SEO, then be sure to do it. Your SEO firm may be relying on you to complete certain tasks before they can do their jobs. If you don’t implement the necessary changes when you say you will or install particular software on time, then you could be hurting your own marketing efforts.

SEO is getting more and more technical and difficult to implement, not to mention costly. Don’t sabotage your company’s SEO efforts with any of these mistakes.

Dave Pasternak wrote a post on WebProNews proclaiming SEO to be rocket science. Accusations of flip-flopping behind, this got me to thinking about where he might be coming from.

For many larger companies who have a lot of data to sift through, SEO may very well be likened to rocket science. Online marketers will have a lot of analytics data to sort through, links, keywords to manage, etc. But for small businesses, it’s still largely about long tail keywords and quality content.

In fact, you could argue that it’s all about quality content even for the big players in (choose your) industry. But, the fact is, those large companies still have to sort through the data. Mom & Pop don’t.

SEOs and online marketers have to decide if they want to build a huge ship to sail the oceans or steer a tugboat through the harbor. If you are a small business owner, then your job is achieve respectable results through SEO and social media that keep your company profitable and your customers happy. A larger business has to measure every element of its marketing campaigns to determine ROI, and that can get tedious.

Panda and Penguin changed a lot, but they didn’t kill SEO. They just made it a bit more complex. Even for the small business owner.

Still, it’s not rocket science. The basics are still the basics.

What determines your reputation? There are a number of factors that contribute to your overall reputation. It’s not just one thing. I’ve compiled a list of 5 things that factor into how people see your company. These 5 factors are not the only factors that affect your reputation, but they are important factors, at least where online reputation is concerned.

  1. Customer Service – How you treat your customers is perhaps the most important reputation management factor. Is your service a positive or a negative?
  2. What You Say About Your Competition – Believe it or not, people pay attention to what you say about others, even your competition. Do you bad mouth them? It’s OK to point out the flaws in your competition’s product, or to point out how your products are different than theirs, but it’s another thing entirely to continue posting negative rants that are not related to the competitive nature of your business. Keep it professional.
  3. How You Conduct Yourself On Social Media – Social media has become a huge business factor. Even if you don’t talk bad about the competition, if you conduct yourself in an undesirable manner through social media, then it will reflect on your reputation.
  4. Search Engine Optimization – How do you look in the search engines? Can people find you? Admittedly, this isn’t as important as other factors on the list, but if you can’t be found in the search engines or what people do find is all negative, then that will affect your reputation online for sure.
  5. Your Website – If your website is unattractive or hard to navigate, that will hurt your reputation. Make sure your website is helpful and attractive.

How’s your reputation online? Take a look at each of these factors and see if you could use a little help managing your reputation.

The key to getting strong search engine rankings is to first get your website indexed. In the old days of SEO the way to get your site indexed was to submit it to a few website directories. But that method is pretty much dead today – for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that Google has made algorithm changes that have killed off a lot of website directories as spam sites. You don’t want to be associated with them.

The other reason website directories are dead is because of the rise of social media.

What hasn’t changed is the need for inbound links. Your site will never get indexed by any search engine unless there are inbound links that will allow the search engines to find it. The search bots crawl through the links to find new pages to index. No inbound links = no indexed web pages.

So how do you make that happen fast?

After you build your website, you should share your pages on the social networking sites you are a member of. I’d focus first and foremost on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest if your web pages have images (and they should).

Most of the time, if you save your web pages on Google+, then you’ll get ranked quickly. But I wouldn’t just do it in succession. I’d save one page per day on each social network. You should have your website indexed in less than a week if you don’t have any crawl issues.

Many small business owners new to search engine optimization and online marketing wonder why it takes so long to see results. There are a number of reasons why SEO takes time, but it’s not just SEO. PPC often requires several weeks, or months, as well. But why?

In a word, it’s all about the competition. No matter what niche you are in, if you are just getting started, then you have an uphill climb.

There are likely other businesses who have established an online presence in your niche. For every keyword you are targeting in the search results, you should expect a handful of competitors to already have a head start. Add that to the expectations of the search engines regarding quality content and you have a recipe for success or disaster depending on your implementation.

Google favors sites with age. That means that your new website is at a distinct disadvantage where search engine rankings come into play. That’s not to say you can’t achieve respectable rankings. You just have to work harder.

Recent updates in search engine ranking factors also come into play. Now more than ever, the search engines are looking for high quality content. Businesses new to online marketing generally have a learning curve. Your first attempts at creating high quality content will likely not work in your favor – until you learn what “high quality” actually means for online content.

In a word, you have to pay your dues. It can often be a lot easier to achieve high rankings out of the gate by hiring a professional content service that has a track record in working with businesses like yours.

Not all content is created equal. You can produce or create content that has temporal value. It can even have intrinsic value. And of course, even content that is temporal can have tremendous value even if for a short time. But there is no value quite like eternal value. That’s what evergreen content can do for your business.

So what is evergreen content? I’ve identified 4 very important qualities of evergreen content that every online marketer should know. If you know these qualities, then you can create evergreen content on a regular basis and keep visitors coming to your website over and over again.

  1. Search engine optimized – Evergreen content is content that can be found through a simple search query. It has to have some SEO value and be searchable.
  2. Valuable to a large variety of people – The content itself must have some intrinsic value. That value must crossover to people from a variety of backgrounds and achieve some sort of cross-appeal to multiple audiences.
  3. Must be shareable – Evergreen content is content that people want to share with their friends.
  4. Lasting value – As its name implies, evergreen content is content that has lasting value. It isn’t trendy or fashionable one day and unnoticeable the next. News is rarely evergreen because it by nature is transient. But informational content that has the same value next year or next decade as it has today will always be searchable and shareable. It’s truly evergreen content.

Are you looking for content that appeals to a broad audience and will be valuable for a very long time? You should be. It’s the most valuable content you can produce.

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.