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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: 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.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Code – In the code category of content is anything that is read by the search engines or rendered by Web browsers. This includes your HTML code, JavaScript, PHP, CSS, and other “behind the scenes” elements that are viewed only by the search engines and Web browsers unless your human visitors View Source.

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.

  1. Search engine optimization – Well optimized blog posts can increase your standing in the search engines.
  2. Social media optimization – Promote your blog through the popular social networks to increase your traffic and brand exposure.
  3. 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.
  4. Network with others in your industry – A blog is a conversation. Your market is a conversation. Why not join the two?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Are you familiar with the term “long tail” in relation to SEO and website optimization? If not, here’s the lowdown.

Think of a many-headed hydra. In Greek legend, the hydra was a monster with nine heads. Those heads were quite dangerous. If one got you, it hurt. And of course, if you cut one off, then another one grew to replace it. The Greek hero Hercules had to fight a hydra one time – you know, mythologically speaking.

Many search engine optimizers approach SEO like they are fighting a hydra. They focus on the head. But if you focus on the head, even if you defeat one (that is, manage to take over its search engine ranking), there are two more ready to sprout up in place and challenge you to work harder. This type of SEO is very difficult to beat. You can go after the most popular search phrases and risk fighting more and more powerful and dangerous heads (competitors) or wise up and go for the long tail instead.

The long tail in SEO are the less popular phrases that can be just as powerful yet easier to defeat. That hydra had a tail. It was long. And it could sweep around and knock you off your feet. But if you managed to cut it off, nothing grew in its place.

Long tail keywords are like that hydra tail. They’re easier to defeat even as powerful as they are. Knock your competition off the pedestal and there aren’t as many competitors there to try and replace them. It’s easier to win.

You cannot manage a website without traffic. It is the lifeblood of any online business. So how do you drive traffic to your website? How do you ensure that your website is profitable when you are building your business?

Here are 5 incredible sources for website traffic no matter what kind of business you are running online:

  1. Search Engines – Search engines are still the No. 1 driver of traffic to most websites online today. That’s why we always recommend that you dedicate a portion of your online marketing budget to search engine optimization.
  2. Pay Per Click Advertising – PPC ads are immediate. You can start a campaign today and see business results today. Yes, you pay for the clicks. But if you do it right, it will be profitable. And the results are instant.
  3. Newsletter – An e-mail newsletter is one of the most profitable investments you can make. After more than 20 years, it’s still one of the most effective online marketing tools. You can take e-mail subscriptions right from your website and deliver your newsletter electronically more cost efficiently than any other kind of online marketing.
  4. Videos – Online video marketing is just as effective as TV advertising and much more cost effective.
  5. Social Media Marketing – The best thing about social media is it allows you to build relationships off site, then you can drive that traffic to your website for the close.

Use these five online marketing strategies together for incredible traffic generation results.

If you’ve had one eye on Gogole+ and the other trying to figure out why you’d try it, let me give you 11 reasons why you should try it. You don’t have to leave Facebook and Twitter behind, and you don’t have to spend all your time on Google+ checking out your friends. But if you run a business, Google+ can be your friend.

11 reasons to try Google+ now:

  1. Every time you use Google+ your Google profile rises in search. Give yourself more search prominence.
  2. Because Google+ is owned by the largest search engine online you can bet there will be search benefits in some fashion.
  3. There is a built in local component with the tie-in between Google Maps and Google Places and Google+
  4. You can use your Circles for better targeting of your prospects.
  5. Google+ business accounts are soon on the way.
  6. Sharing YouTube videos is much easier through Google+
  7. Google Picasa allows you to share photos easier through Google+ and you have unlimited photo storage.
  8. Google Hangouts.
  9. Google+ allows you to add hundreds of new people to network with one click through Circle sharing.
  10. You can set the privacy for each component of your Google+ profile.
  11. It’s easy to use.

So how many more reasons do you need? Google+ offers you the best in search and social. Try it.

In the world of search engine optimization, the robot can be good to you or it can diss you something fierce. The human reviewer, however, is more likely to kick you square in the big one. And it could hurt.

As Jennifer Ledbetter explains, you’ll only be reviewed by human eyeballs when you hit a respectable ranking on Google.

What that really means is you did a spectacular job with your SEO. Now you have to convince the human reviewer you deserve the spot you’ve worked so hard for. How do you do that?

The first thing you should keep in mind is that searchers are doing the same thing. The difference is that the searcher can’t ruin your day by knocking you down to page 10. But you know they’d like to. If only they could.

If you don’t want that big drop to happen, then you need to learn what those human reviewers are looking for. One thing that could make you fall in the rankings is obvious spam. Just don’t do it. You’ll pay for it.

What they are really looking for, however, is something positive. Is your page relevant for a search query? If so, you likely have nothing to fear.

What does it take to be good at SEO? Can you do it overnight? Is it a long-term strategy or a short-term strategy?

There is actually a lot of debate about this in SEO circles. Some SEOs are content to go on responding to Google’s frequent algorithm updates in hopes that they might figure out the secret to high rankings. Some SEOs will spend hours, days, and weeks “studying” the search engine algorithms hoping to learn how best to rank well for specific key phrases.

Is it possible? Can you study the search engines and learn the secret to rankings? Many SEOs stake their reputations on it.

The fact of the matter is that learning “the secret” to high rankings is a never-ending struggle. The best that any SEO can do is maintain a posture of good, solid content creation over time. While you might lucky and achieve excellent search engine results over the short term, the real SEO success formula is a long-term strategy. You are building websites and creating content for next decade as much as next year.

Instead of chasing algorithms, you’d do well to simply create great content and let the search engines do their thing.

Many business owners believe that if they hire more than one SEO to work on their website, then they’ll get better search rankings. Not necessarily.

You really should only hire 1 SEO per website. You can hire a separate SEO for each website if you think you need to, but you should only use one SEO per website. Why is that?

We call it optimization purity.

Every SEO has his or her own style and they may use different strategies. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other. That may be the case, but the real point is that if you use two SEOs to optimize the same website, they could cancel each other’s efforts. One could hurt the other and that would hurt your website.

Your SEOs aren’t going to use the same tactics. SEOs in general are a secretive lot. They don’t want the competition to know their trade secrets. So they could use the same strategies and tactics and not know it. That could lead to duplicate content issues or lead to you have a reputation as a spammer, which could hurt your optimization over the long haul.

You’re better off playing it safe and using only one SEO per web property. You’ll be happier and more successful in the end.

Are you afraid of SEO? You don’t have to be. Some SEO tasks are so easy you can accomplish them in less than 5 minutes. Here are 5 SEO tasks you can perform in 5 minutes or less and improve your website’s SEO by major proportions.

  1. Write an optimized page title – Your page title is one of the most important SEO elements on the page. Each page should have a unique page title and they should not exceed 80 characters. Keep them short and use your primary keyword for each page.
  2. Improve your headline – Write a short attention-grabbing headline with your primary keyword in it.
  3. Your meta description – Each page’s meta description should be less than 150 characters. The search engines use this as the snippet in their search results. Use your primary keyword and summarize the contents of your web page.
  4. Bookmark your web pagesSocial bookmarking can often be a good source of inbound links to your website. It only takes a few seconds to bookmark each web page.
  5. Create an internal link – Find a page on your website and link to another page using keyword anchor text that is appropriate for the linked-to page.

Each of these SEO tasks takes less than 5 minutes to complete, but each one has the potential to increase your search engine rankings considerably.