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Every two years, Moz (formerly SEOmoz) conducts a survey wherein they ask high profile SEO experts to weigh in on what they believe to be the most important ranking factors in the search engines. Recently, Moz conducted its 2013 ranking factors survey and some interesting results have come to light.

For starters, the biggest ranking factor, according to the SEOs surveyed, appears to be page authority. That’s no real big surprise, but Google+ and Facebook social signals having a high correlation might be.

Another interesting survey result is that anchor text is still considered a very important ranking factor despite Google’s efforts through the Penguin update to kill low quality anchor text links.

Moz was careful to point out that correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, so that should stop us in our tracks in believing that social signals can be determined to be a bona fide ranking factor based on this survey.

Finally, the Moz survey led to the following conclusions by survey analysts:

  1. Links are still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm (approximately 40%).
  2. Keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and other than links is thought to be the most important type of factor.
  3. SEOs do not think social factors are important in the 2013 algorithm (only 7%), in contrast to the high correlations.

In other words, not much has really changed. It all still boils down to inbound anchor text links and on-page keyword-based content.

Going forward, however, the consensus seems to be that these ranking factors will not be as important. What will become more important to future SEO efforts, according to SEOs involved in the survey, are authorship, structured data, and social signals. So what is the practical application?

I’d say it this way: Continue building solid on-page content and building links while incorporating Google+ and other social media into your content promotion strategy along with structured data and schema.org standards.

Google announced this week that they rolled out Penguin 2.0. The Internet is a-buzz with analyses ranging from OMG! to zzzzzz.

Our take? Wake up and go back to sleep.

Algorithm changes are serious business if you have an SEO problem. Or, to put it more succinctly, if you’re running afoul of the search engine guidelines, then you have cause for worry. That doesn’t apply to most of us.

There are certain industries, however, that should be on red alert. Porn, real estate, Viagra, and anything that is typically associated with spam. That doesn’t mean that if you work in these industries you’ll experience a drop in search engine rankings. It does mean that if you work in these industries and you do experience a drop in rankings, you’ll likely find Penguin 2.0 to be the culprit.

Here’s a simple solution for algorithm changes: Don’t sweat them unless you have a reason to.

Sometimes, websites lose rankings when there is no just cause. But keep in mind also that algorithm changes move things around temporarily. You may lose rankings for a short while before popping back up. If you do lose ground and you don’t see your sites rising again after a couple of weeks, then you should be alarmed. Right now, don’t panic.

Every once in a while someone jumps up and asks the question, “Are Bing and Yahoo! still relevant?” The short answer is, yes, of course they are still relevant. The long answer is a little more involved, but it goes something like this.

Google enjoys a huge share of the search market. More than 60%. The rest is divided among Bing, Yahoo!, and the various search engines below that (Ask, Mahalo, and even YouTube). While it’s important to make sure your website meets Google’s guidelines so you can rank your website well in its index, it’s equally important to ensure that you diversify your traffic sources.

Those of you who have been around for five years or more may remember MySpace. At one time, it was the No. 1 social network. Now, hardly anyone thinks about it.

Why is MySpace important? Because it should serve as a lesson. Obscurity is just one competitor away no matter who you are – even Google.

Google may be top dog in search today, but that doesn’t mean that Web users won’t find something to replace them next year. It could be Facebook or it could be something else. If you rely entirely on Google and Google starts sending you less traffic (even if they don’t fade into obscurity), then your business is shot. Traffic diversity is one of the most important things for anyone running a business online.

For that reason, Bing and Yahoo! are still relevant. Diversify your website traffic.

For most of Internet marketing history, search engines were the place people found information online. Content was king, and by “content” it was meant text. Then came along social media. There was Friendster and MySpace. Then, YouTube and Facebook took over. Flickr allowed people to store and share photos – and still does. Then something else happened.

Mobile phones became popular. Then smartphones. People were taking photos with their phones. And sharing them online. Pinterest hit the scene followed by other image-rich social media platforms. Now, it seems, images are taking over.

A recent article at Wired highlights the move toward image-based marketing. And the truth is, this trend is growing.

It makes sense. People want to see items before they purchase them. That was the premise behind the old Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs. If you’re old enough to remember those, then you know what I’m talking about. Modern websites like Pinterest are the catalogs of our day. They allow people to see a product before they buy it.

That doesn’t mean that search engines will go away. Actually, it’s probable that search engines will find a way to adapt to this new trend and create new algorithms to help people find the images that lead to greater online commerce. Such a move would only benefit them while also benefiting searchers. One thing remains sure, however. Images are becoming a lot more important for online marketing. No one can ignore that.

SEO services can be either useless or powerful. Some services that used to be very good services are now no longer worth spending a dime on. One of those is search engine submission services.

I still see companies offering this service on their website and, quite frankly, I’m perplexed. It makes me scratch my head to think there are people who buy these services, but I’m sure some people do or the SEO companies offering them wouldn’t have them in their inventory. So why am I against search engine submission services?

For one thing, there are really only two search engines left you should even bother worrying about. And both of them are capable of finding your website on their own.

All you have to do to ensure Google and Bing crawl your website and index it is to create a few inbound links and to submit a sitemap. You can build the necessary inbound links (it only takes one) by sharing a few pages on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Another thing you can do is write a few guest blog posts for websites in your niche.

As long as you build a few inbound links to your website, you don’t need submit to search engine services. But you should add a sitemap to your websites.

A sitemap will give the search engines a directory of pages on your site and make it easier to crawl. Don’t both with search engine submission services.

What should you do when your keyword list runs out and you don’t know what else to write about? There are a number of things you could do. Today, I’m going to suggest a keyword suggestion tool by the name of Soovle.

The first thing you should notice when you arrive at Soovle is the search box in the middle of the screen surrounded by the names of 7 search engines. The 7 base search engines include:

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Yahoo!
  • Bing
  • YouTube
  • Answers.com
  • Wikipedia

If you type one of your search terms into the search box, you’ll get similar terms appearing over the names of each of these search engines. Click on one of those search terms suggestions at any one of the 7 search engines and you’ll be taken directly to that entry at that search engine.

This is the most basic way to use Soovle. You can click on the little red arrow under the search box to rearrange the search engines on the page. You can also click on one of the small icons below the search box to rearrange the search results so that a particular search engine is at the top of the circle around the page. For instance, click on Amazon’s icon and the Amazon results will appear at the top of the page.

Up in the top right corner of the screen you’ll see a series of links. Click on “engines” and a little pop up appears that allows you to increase the number of search engines from 7 to 11 or 15. Want to switch a search engine for another? Just drag and drop the icon into one of the dotted-lined boxes. Now make another search.

Soovle is real easy to use. It can be a good tool for coming up with additional search terms based on your primary search list.

If you’re on the back side of life, or approaching it, then you likely remember the old TV commercials featuring the Pepsi-Coke blind taste test. Well, Bing – the search engine – has something similar going on. In their own version of the blind taste test, Bing takes Google on and, according to its own study results, is winning.

I find this quite intriguing. I think the results depends on your search queries. I tried it on what I consider very low results search queries. That is, these are non-popular search queries that likely aren’t searched often, but when they are searched for they are searched for by a specific niche market individual who knows what they want. Bing won a round out of five and there were two draws.

Two draws! I think that’s something to brag about, if you ask me.

I suppose it’s possible that on more popular search queries, Bing could very well win. Perhaps they’re targeting the more popular search queries.

But anyway, if you care to take the Bing blind test, you can head on over to the Bing It On website and take the test for yourself.

This is an aggressive marketing tactic. But will it result in Googlers converting to Bing? Only time will tell. If it does, Bing could become a major player in the search engine war. But if not, I guess we’ll just all be stuck with Google for a little while longer.

Microsoft has decided that it’s time to start charging for the use of Bing’s API. In practical terms, what that means is any free SEO tool that you are currently using just might stop tracking search engine rankings after August 1. That is, unless the toolmaker decides to pay the fees Microsoft is asking.

That likely won’t happen unless the SEO tool becomes a paid tool. Free tools usually cost the makers money, or at least time. And no SEO is going to provide free tools that cost them additional money.

Is this a game changer for most SEOs? Not really? There are good paid SEO tools on the market right now, so if you’re married to your free tools, you should prepare right now to convert to a paid one if you want to continue monitoring your Bing rankings. Or, you just might have to relegate yourself to not following your Bing rankings.

I think this could kill Bing as a search engine. It’s not going to be competitive if there’s no reason for searchers to use them over Google. With all those toolbars out there using Bing as the primary search engine (Conduit comes to mind), it remains to be seen whether they will continue to provide the service if they have to pay for the use of Bing’s API. This will likely delude Bing’s share of the search market.

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.

I’ve often wondered why Google doesn’t organize its search results by category. And I don’t mean in a vertical-specific way. Most of the web is organized by category and tags. So why shouldn’t search results be?

That’s what Bill Slawski is alluding to.

Could you imagine a meta tag that tells the search engines how to categorize your web page? Or perhaps a searcher might give Google a clue that your website doesn’t fit into the categories that she is likely to be searching in. Some of these categories would be rather obvious.

For instance, if you sell used cars and your car lot is located in Seattle, Washington, then you might fall into a local-specific category for “Seattle” and the broad category of “cars.” If you sell Lincoln Continentals, it’s pretty obvious that your website won’t fall under the category of “presidents,” but will robots be able to discern the difference?

Furthermore, would category-based search improve the web? If a user could search a category called “cars” or clue the search engine in that a search for “Lincoln” is a search for an automobile and not the Great Emancipator, would that improve search?

What do you think? Is category-based search a good idea, or does it present too many complications?

Search engine optimizers are a strange lot. Once we get an idea in our heads about how SEO ought to be done, it can take an act of Congress to have that idea removed. And I’m not being cryptic.

Most SEOs today will swear by the practice of link building, but there’s little evidence that an abundance of links will put your website at the top of the search engine results while a lack of links will keep your competition at the bottom. In fact, there are plenty of webmasters and Internet marketers who have risen to the top of the search engines doing very little in the way of link building.

That’s not to say that links aren’t important. But if you spend all of your time doing link acquisition the way it is taught in the popular SEO books of our day, then you will likely fail long term.

But link building is just one technique among many. Which SEO tactics you employ are not as important as the effectiveness of the SEO tactics that you do employ. If you want your SEO to push you up to the top of the SERPS, start by researching the keywords that your target audience is likely to use to make a search. Then write your content using those keywords without overdoing it.

Many SEOs fail because they think they have to target the most popular keywords in every niche. If all you want to do is rank, sure. But if you want to get your target audience to convert, then there’s a lot more to SEO than high search engine rankings.

It used to be that all you had to do was write a decent page of keyword-based content, add some meta tags, and then start building links. If you were even halfway good at it, you could expect to achieve respectable rankings. SEO is a lot harder now.

Specifically, on-page SEO is a lot harder now. And it’s getting harder.

What’s making on-page SEO so hard? Why is it getting harder?

There are several reasons why on-page SEO is getting more difficult with each passing day. For starters, Google changes its search algorithms more than 50 times a day, so it’s near impossible to keep up with the changes.

Secondly, there are so many search factors to keep up with that no one can feasibly master them all. And we can’t be sure any more just how much weight is given to specific on-page factors such as keyword density, keywords in subheads, meta tags, page titles, etc. Plus, the addition of schemas and structured data means that some SEO factors may be subject to certain conditions and your rankings may or may not have to do with anything related to those conditions.

For instance, all else being equal, if you use a particular bit of structured data and your competitor doesn’t use any, your competitor could still rank higher for you on some search queries even if you rank higher than him on others.

SEO is getting to be more and more subjective all the time – subjective in the sense that each page is judged on its own merits without consideration for what’s going on in other parts of the web.

There are basics to on-page SEO that every webmaster should pay attention to, but beyond those, your best bet is to test, experiment, and measure. No two web pages are a like and no two search queries are either.

A new study shows that Facebook would earn 22% of the search market share immediately if it launched a search engine right now, today. This actually brings up two questions for me.

  1. No. 1, why doesn’t Facebook have an adequate search feature then?
  2. And, two, what if the search engine just wasn’t any good? Would that share drop off considerably once users decided they didn’t like it?

Of course if Facebook did have its own search engine, that would strain its relationship with Bing. I can’t see that Bing and Facebook would continue to have the relationship they have now if Facebook were to develop its own search engine. So I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Thirdly, if Facebook had 22% of the market starting out and it did build a search engine that people would use, it would likely siphon off some market from Bing. It could very well end up at the 40% market share neighborhood and leave Bing flailing like Yahoo!

Building a search engine is a difficult thing to master. Certainly, 22% of the share of the search market would put Facebook at No. 2 in the search engine competition. However, creating value in search is not easy to do as both Yahoo! and Bing have discovered.

I’m not saying Facebook shouldn’t build its own search engine. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be good if they did. I am saying that simply building one wouldn’t necessarily mean it would be good.

What do you think? Should Facebook build its own search engine? Would it be worth trying if they did? Would you use it? And one more question: How would that affect search engine optimization practices?

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.

Does your website need a sitemap? And if so, where do you get one?

First, let’s talk about what a sitemap is.

A sitemap is a list of web pages on your website that you submit to the search engines to make your site easier to crawl and index. I’ve seen some smaller websites get by without a website, but if you have more than 10 pages on your site, then I’d say a sitemap is definitely necessary. Even if you have fewer than 10 pages on your website, a sitemap could benefit you.

Don’t rely on the search engines to crawl every page on your site. Get a sitemap.

One of the most important benefits to a sitemap is that you can assign priority to your pages. Your home page should have the highest priority. But if you have second and third tier pages on your site, then you can assign a priority to them accordingly. The search engines will crawl those sites based on that priority.

A sitemap is an XML file that you upload to your website and submit to the search engines. You should also include a TXT sitemap, and HTML sitemap, and an ROR sitemap on your site. These are for your human visitors.

There are several sitemap generator websites online. One that I recommend is XML-Sitemaps.com. You generate your sitemap and upload the files to your server.

A sitemap will increase your chances of getting your pages crawled and indexed. You can have a separate sitemap for each section of your website and if you have a large website, then that might be in order. You can also have a video sitemap for your site’s video section. Anything you can do to help the search engines index your website should be done.

What will Internet marketing look like in 2032, twenty years from now? Care to take a guess?

If you look at the history of Internet marketing from the beginning of the World Wide Web until now, it’s very interesting how we have progressed to the point that we have.

  • 1990 – Birth of the World Wide Web including browsers and hypertext, online bulletin boards are very popular communication channels
  • 1993 – Excite, the world’s first search engine, was created
  • 1994 – AltaVista was created and later would become the world’s first major search engine; Yahoo! became the first powerhouse Web directory
  • 1995 – GeoCities launched, becomes the first successful online community; webrings begin to rise in popularity
  • 1997 – SixDegrees is the first official social network
  • 1998 – Google was born, the first search engine to analyze back links
  • 1999 – Overture became the first company to offer pay per click advertising; Blogger.com launches
  • 2000 – Google enters PPC market with Google AdWords
  • 2003 – Google AdSense program starts, increasing Google’s hold on the PPC market; LinkedIn and MySpace both launch
  • 2004 – Facebook is created
  • 2005 – YouTube launches; Google introduces personalized search
  • 2006 – MicroSoft LiveSearc started; Twitter launches
  • 2007 – Mobile marketing starts to pick up
  • 2008 – Facebook becomes most popular social network
  • 2009 – LiveSearch rebrands, becomes Bing; Google rolls out personalized search for logged out users
  • 2010 – Local search becomes more important
  • 2011 – Google+ launches, Google proclaims it is the future of the search engine’s search and social product

This is a very sketchy history of Internet marketing, but it can shed some light on the direction that online marketing is going. More personal, more local, more social, more mobile, and incorporating more video and visual results. So what will all of that look like in 2032?

Truthfully, it’s anybody’s guess, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say that all of these components of search will be more integrated and more sophisticated. Are you preparing your company to make the most of your opportunities in each of these online marketing channels?

Proposed legislation in Germany would require Google and other search engines to pay for content it borrows from website owners and publishes in its search results pages. I agree with Cynthia Boris’s analysis on the topic, but what about her conclusion?

Would Google really pull out of Germany?

I doubt it. I think what is more likely is that Google would figure out a way to include search results without taking snippets from the web pages it indexes. That would be the first adjustment the search engine would make, although it would likely not index photos and videos in Germany.

Remember when Google took its snippets from information provided by the Open Directory Project? It still does this at times. I think, if forced to, it would move to a similar policy in Germany and if that information wasn’t available there might not be a snippet at all. Or, the search engine might require webmasters supply their own snippet if they want a listing in the SERP.

Granted, that all might be a nightmare for the search engine to manage, but if you consider the lost revenue by simply pulling out, then it would likely be worth it in the long run.

Fair usage in the digital age is a murky game at best. We all want to protect content owners and producers, but what is the best way to do that? I can assure you that it isn’t by placing unreasonable restrictions on the search engines. After all, a high search engine ranking is compensation, isn’t it? What about traffic? If Google sends you visitors, couldn’t that be considered fair compensation for your 150 characters of content or reproduction of your image? I think so.

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.

In the old days of SEO, all a marketer had to care about was whether or not he was building good content and building good links. If you wrote great content for your website using the right keyword mix with content that helped your audience, built links from good domains and with the right anchor text, and didn’t do anything the search engines didn’t like, then there was a good chance you’d rank well for the keywords you targeted. Those days are going away – fast.

SEOMoz has a great post on how Google looks at sentiment and how that affects SEO at the local level. You’ll be amazed at the technology the search engines now have.

Using something called stylometry, Google can determine whether your link from a third-party website is a positive endorsement, a negative endorsement, or neutral. And I find that amazing. It could affect your rankings.

Get enough bloggers to link to your website using negative references and you could see your search engine rankings plummet. On the other hand, get enough rave reviews and you could rise to the top. It’s pretty easy to imagine what you need to do to improve your rankings then, huh?

No, I don’t mean buy positive endorsements. I mean provide great customer service. Your reputation is more than just a few paid-for links. It’s how you do business.

MerchantCircle conducted a survey and found that most small businesses would put all of their marketing budget into SEO if they could only choose one channel. These are interesting results. Why is it that small businesses would choose SEO over social media or traditional media?

I believe the answer is quite simple. Quite frankly, it’s the most effective and most cost efficient marketing channel.

SEO allows you to attract the type of customer you are searching for by “pulling” them in based on their own active search for information that you have to offer. And even today, the best converting traffic for most websites is traffic that comes from search engines. It’s almost a no-brainer.

But how many small business owners actually know how to conduct a search engine marketing campaign using the latest best practices for SEO? The answer: Not many. So who is going to do the actual work of optimizing their website?

It may be time for you to consider an SEO consultant. There are really three kinds of SEO consultants.

  1. The do-it-all consultant who analyzes your website and looks for opportunities to better your on-page and off-page SEO for increased search results. Then they implement a strategy approved by you.
  2. The assist-you consultant who analyzes your website and makes recommendations that you follow up on and implement.
  3. The hybrid SEO consultant who uses a combination of these two strategies and the two of you work together.

There are pros and cons to each type of consultant. Whichever is right for you is your call, but now is the time to consider an SEO consultant for your business for the upcoming year.