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A few years ago there was a trend to classify all search engine optimizers into three categories. They were either white hat, black hat, or grey hat. These distinctions, borrowed from old spaghetti westerns, are readily recognized as the good guy, the bad guy, and the guy in the middle, respectively.

Today, there is less of a tendency to discuss SEOs in these terms, primarily because SEO has become “content marketing.” I don’t care what you call it, it’s still SEO.

More or less, you can still classify SEOs into three distinct classes, but let’s dispense with the references to hats. We’ll call them withers, forers, and againsters. Again, terminology isn’t the issue. Call them what you want. The idea is that there are SEOs who work with the search engines, those who appear to be search engine cheerleaders, and then those who seem to actively work against the search engines – just doing what they want.

That last category is a little bit difficult to define because if you get the wrong idea, you might think they are the same as the black hat SEOs of five years ago. Not necessarily.

The “working against” category could include contrarians and SEOs who just do their own thing. They aren’t really concerned with best practices or following the latest trends. That’s not to say they don’t employ SEO techniques. They are more apt to write in a natural language style or use plain English rather than stuff your content full of keywords.

What’s the takeaway?

When you hire an SEO team to write your content for you or to plan your content marketing strategy, ask them what their search engine philosophy is. Do they work with the search engines or do they sound like cheerleaders? Or, maybe, just maybe, they are those maverick types who do it their way, right or wrong. You deserve to know.

One of the most important SEO tasks to get right is matching your landing pages with the right keywords. If your landing pages are optimized for the wrong keywords – even if they are optimized perfectly – you’ll have a hard time attracting the right customers from the search engines.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that your landing pages are optimized for the right keywords.

It starts with keyword research. It will save you time and money to put the investment into good keyword research in the beginning. Before you start building pages and writing content, you should know what your most profitable potential keywords are. Base that judgment on these criteria:

  • What keywords searchers will use to find businesses like yours
  • Types of products and services you offer your clients
  • What your closest competitors are using

Not that you have to use the exact same keywords that your competitors use, but you should be familiar with what keywords they are targeting and determine if those keywords are right for your business.

Once you’ve narrowed down your keyword list and have a general idea what searchers are searching for, then you can marry the keywords with your landing pages.

When deciding which keywords match your landing pages, think only of the intent for that landing page. What are you trying to sell on that landing page? If not selling anything, what is the main goal of the page? If it’s an opt-in to your newsletter, then pick a keyword that will attract more opt-in subscribers.

That’s it in a nutshell. Put your research in up front and come up with the best keywords for your landing pages.

If you have trouble coming up with a steady stream of blog post ideas, why not consult with your Facebook Insights?

Facebook Insights is your page metrics tool, which you can see only when you have obtained at least 30 likes. One aggressive social media marketing campaign can get you those 30 likes pretty quickly. After that, it’s just a matter of monitoring your metrics.

Every Facebook post you make can be measured. That’s true whether you post a simple message or you post a link. If you post links to your blog posts on your Facebook page, then Facebook Insights will tell you how popular those posts are.

Among the metrics you can follow on Facebook Insights are:

  • Total Reach
  • Paid Reach
  • Likes
  • Talking About This
  • User Engagement
  • Virality

Total reach and paid reach should be self-explanatory. Under the Reach tab you can get eyes on your reach by demographics, including gender and age. You can also measure your reach by country and the number of page views versus unique visitors.

You can also see the same information about people talking about your page.

The Overview tab is probably the most valuable. Below the graph you can see how many total people have viewed each Facebook post – those with links and those without. This is total reach. If you click on Reach, then you can reorder your posts by highest reach. Engagement shows the number of people who have clicked on a post and read it. The Talking About This column shows the number of unique people who posted about that particular subject. And Virality shows the percentage of people who have created a post from your Facebook post and the number of people who have seen it.

Play with these columns a little, reordering them by each column and studying which posts are the most popular. Take your most popular posts by Reach, Engagement, and Virality and write about those topics on your blog. Be sure to SEO those posts by relevant keyword.

Search engine optimization is all about positioning your content so that you maximize the traffic you receive from it. In other words, your job as content marketer is to keyword-optimize your content so that you achieve high rankings, right?

Wrong.

It never was about that really – even before Google started reporting keyword data (not provided).

The essence of search engine optimization has always been about producing great content. Period. Sure, your content might contain keywords based your ability to research what is hot right now, but simply adding keywords to your content was no guarantee that you’d rank well for that content or, if you did, receive any traffic from your rankings.

Historically, Google has been littered with top ranking content that didn’t receive much traffic because it was easy to tell that content was low quality content despite its high rankings.

Google started reporting (not provided) to keep webmasters from relying on keyword-specific search queries to target search engine rankings with more keyword-based drivel. We simply don’t need more low quality content. What we need is more high quality content that answers searchers’ queries.

SEO has always been about answering searcher queries. Find a question that a lot of people want an answer to and provide them with the answer. If you do that, Google will like you.

A report put out by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs tells a wild story about the growing interest of content marketing among B2B marketers. The conclusion drawn is that having a strategy improves effectiveness.

Here’s the interesting thing …

93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, but only 43% of them say it is effective (the report doesn’t define what constitutes content marketing).

Intrestingly, the B2B marketers who rated their content marketing strategy as most effective had two things in common:

  • They had a documented content strategy
  • and They had someone overseeing their content marketing strategy

Other interesting tidbits gleaned from the report include:

  • Small companies (99 employees or less) are more likely to have someone overseeing their content marketing strategy than larger companies (1,000+ employees)
  • 73% of B2B marketers are doing more content marketing than one year ago
  • Out of 13 content marketing tactics, social media is the most used with on-website articles, eNewsletters, and blogs (tied with in-person events) coming in second, third, and fourth, respectively
  • While social media usage is high, B2B marketers are unsure of its effectiveness
  • Web traffic is the No. 1 metric for content marketing success; SEO rankings and direct sales are fifth and seventh, respectively

These are all very interesting observations, but I’d like to address that last point.

SEO used to be a very strong metric for gauging online marketing success. It appears to be dropping for a lot of companies, presumably because of algorithm changes over the last couple of years and Google’s continued insistence on the value of high quality content as opposed to high quantity content.

Content marketing is difficult to define. It isn’t synonymous with search engine optimization, otherwise there’d be no reason to list SEO as a metric for gauging content marketing success.

You can bet that content marketing will change a lot in the next couple of years. It’s still a relatively young industry. Nevertheless, as more B2B businesses jump on the content marketing bandwagon you will see more reports like this and it should give cause for marketers to stop and reflect on the nature of our industry.

It’s easy to talk about good search engine optimization. It’s even easier if you don’t have a clue about what you are talking about. SEO isn’t just something you do once and forget about it. It’s something you start and never finish.

That said, what is the most important part about providing good SEO? Is it …

  • Link building?
  • Keywords?
  • Your Title tag?
  • Meta tags?
  • Site speed?
  • Page titles?
  • h1 and h2 tags (heads and subheads)?

Actually, it’s none of those.

The most important part to remember about your website’s search engine optimization strategy is your audience.

Yes, your audience.

Most webmasters don’t think of their audience as an aspect of SEO. In fact, most SEOs don’t think of it that way either. But it’s very important to think about who your audience is and what your audience wants before you start trying to search engine optimize your content.

The reason is real simple. You are writing your content to appeal to your audience. Your SEO must be written with your human audience in mind or it won’t matter what the search bots think of it. That not only goes for the optimization part of your content but the language part, as well. Your content needs to be written in the language your audience understands, and by “language” I don’t mean French vs. English. I’m talking about word choices, sentences structures, etc.

Those considerations are every bit as important as your keyword usage.

Write for your audience. That’s the best SEO you can practice.

There seems to be a trend to think in terms of a dichotomy where SEO and content marketing are concerned. I often see articles that encourage companies to pursue an online content marketing strategy AND an SEO strategy. To be sure, they’re practically the same thing.

Content marketing is any strategy you have to produce content in any form and publish it around the Web. You may or may not optimize that content. It’s up to you.

SEO, or search engine optimization, requires content. You can’t have SEO without some kind of content. It would be like driving a vehicle without a car. The vehicle is your content marketing strategy. The car is your SEO. They’re somewhat distinctive but the same.

I’ll try another analogy. Let’s say you want to go from your house to the library in your town but you have no transportation so you must rely on public transportation. You take the bus. The bus follows a certain route that you have no control over. Nevertheless, you have a choice about taking the bus or not. You could walk, call a friend, or do nothing at all.

The bus is your content marketing strategy. The route is your SEO. There may be multiple routes from your house to the library, some better than others. The bus system is designed to follow a particular route. If you take a taxi, you could get to the library more quickly but it will cost you more.

Following this analogy, it may seem like SEO and content marketing are two separate things – and they are. But they are intrinsically linked.

Whether you take the bus, the taxi, or you walk to the library, you are still taking a route (an SEO path). Your SEO is something determined by your content marketing strategy (the bus system) and sometimes it isn’t, but the two are linked. The truth is this, you can’t have a content marketing strategy without SEO – even if that SEO is somewhat ineffective.

Remember when every SEO in the universe was harping on building inbound links? For awhile there, getting more links was the most important SEO activity in the world for most optimizers. Then, Google Panda happened. Then Google Penguin. What’s next? Google Platypus?

The truth is, good links have always been necessary. Not just for SEO but for traffic, as well.

You can’t build a successful website without some inbound links. The question is, what kind and how many? Ask any ten SEOs that question and you’ll get ten different answers. If you see any duplicates, it’s probably because those SEOs shared their notes.

The name of the game today, and it pretty much always has been, is simply writing great content and promoting it around the Web. If you get more links, fine. If not, go for the traffic.

Successful Internet marketers understand that links are a valuable commodity. But you don’t want to get in the habit of chasing links every chance you get. You could spend a lot of your time chasing bad links and getting your websites penalized. You’re better off just writing great content, getting it published, and promoting it.

The days of making inbound links the most important currency on the Web are over. Some people would say that’s progress. Others are crying that their game is over.

One of the most frequently asked questions of any search engine optimization company is, “How long will it take to get my site ranked?”

The answer is, it depends.

One thing you should know is it won’t happen overnight. SEO takes time. You have to be patient.

Remember, you are competing against a lot of other websites, many of which have been marketing online for years. They have a well-established search engine optimization campaign. It may or may not be working for them, but you wouldn’t know that. It’s been in place for a long time.

Your website has a chance. I’m not saying it doesn’t. However, rarely will you rise to a page one listing overnight.

What will likely happen is you’ll write a blog post or establish your website and you’ll find yourself getting listed rather quickly (as long as you build a few valuable inbound links – it only takes one). But that’s just the beginning. You have to be diligent and work your content marketing strategy. Write blog posts, write guest blog posts, do some social media, etc. Over time, you could start to see your website rise in the rankings.

SEO is not a happenstance activity. It isn’t a quick fix either. You have to give it time.

The conventional wisdom surrounding e-books as SEO tools pretty much says give it away and people will link to your giveaway page. You’ll acquire a lot of links and you’ll be giving away information that translates into dollars.

Unless, of course, the e-book is no good. Then, you’ll get no links and no dollars.

Is that all there is?

No, not really. There’s more to it than that. You can still receive SEO benefits on an e-book that you sell from your website. If it’s a good book, people will link to it, or at least mention it by name. A good book will always get a recommendation by someone.

There are other ways to drum up some public relations on your e-book, which will lead to additional inbound links and SEO. You could send out a press release. You could also read an excerpt from your book and post it to YouTube. Or you could host a Google+ Hangout. Social media promotion is always a good way to get more publicity for your e-books, and it often results in more inbound links.

Of course, none of this is a guarantee. The first step is quality. Write a quality e-book about a topic that people care about. If you do that, links and SEO will take care of themselves.

While reading SEO Theory, I came across this startling paragraph:

As the provider of content you create the keywords people search for. I have said this in oh-so-many ways over the years. This is a particularly important lesson in search marketing for journalists who fear the keyword-laden spreadsheet. No self-respecting SEO should be demanding that journalists write about keywords. Journalists should be taught to understand what the difference is between a keyword and everything else, but the journalists make the keywords — not the readers.

This is in stark contrast to how many SEOs think of keywords and keyword-based content.

That first sentence is a humdinger.

As the provider of content you create the keywords people search for.

You create the keywords? You mean, the keywords aren’t already there? It’s not the SEO who is just tapping into them?

Many SEOs approach content marketing that way, but it’s not necessarily the right way. If you let your readers dictate what your keywords are, then you’ll always be pandering to your readers. If you create your own keywords based on your business philosophy and what’s important to your business, then you can teach searchers to look for your content by teaching them which keywords are important.

This is how leaders in search marketing are made. Think more deeply about what a keyword is and how you employ them. SEO is broader than you think.

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.

A.J. Kohn talks about short clicks and long clicks. But what does he mean by “long click?”

In short, a long click is when someone searches for something through a search engine and clicks a link to visit the website. Instead of clicking back and making another search, they click through to another website. They may stay on the original site for a while, but ultimately they move on to another website because their search query has been answered.

As far as the search engine is concerned, the user stays on the first website forever. The search engine can’t detect a click through from a website – only from its own index.

Nevertheless, this is important user behavior because it indicates user satisfaction. You may not think that sending your visitors to another website is evidence of user satisfaction, but it is. You are giving them something they want – answers to their questions.

Your Number 1 goal is to provide searchers with answers to questions. That’s what SEO is all about. If you do that, then you’re doing your job.

That doesn’t mean you can’t sell them something or that you should drive your traffic to internal landing pages that result in conversions. The primary goal in SEO is to answer search query questions. If you do that, then you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Reading two articles about semantic search and conversational search, I had to ask the question, “Will keywords be necessary in five years?”

I’ve heard it argued that they’re not necessary now, which is only partially true, I think. As semantic search becomes more the norm, then I expect keywords to become less important. They are certainly a lot less important in conversational search, as demonstrated by Danny Sullivan.

The big question is, When will Google take the semantic aspects of conversational search and apply them to organic text-based search? I figure it could happen within the next five years – probably sooner.

Of course, that won’t immediately kill the need for keywords. I suspect that keywords will always be a part of search but in a more diminished way as search becomes increasingly more sophisticated. Personalization was one step in that direction. Google+ is another step. Conversational search is a big leap.

Keywords are still necessary because they are a good way for search optimizers, searchers, and the search engines to communicate on common ground. What Google is increasingly trying to do is make search more like natural conversations.

So the big question on the table is, How long will it be before Google succeeds at making search entirely conversational, completely semantic? You want to take a stab at that? Will it be within the next five years?

One of the latest developments for website design is responsive design. This is a term that is used to describe a website that is accessible from any device and allows the user to experience the website whether viewing it from a desktop machine, a laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet, or some other device. The website responds to the device it is being viewed from.

>Responsive web design is about more than simple accessibility. It also has some SEO benefits.

For instance, responsive websites eliminate the duplicate content issue. If you have a website in HTML that was designed for computers and a separate website that was designed for mobile devices, you’ll either have to rewrite the content for the second site or potentially deal with duplicate content issues in the search engines. There’s no way around it. Even if your mobile site is a subdomain of your main site, you’ll have to face the duplicate content monster.

You also only have to do SEO on one site. If you have two sites, that’s twice the SEO work.

Thirdly, if you have a traditional website and a mobile website, then you’ll have to build links to both sites. Link building is a time consuming activity. You will most certainly duplicate your efforts in social media promotion and other link building activities if you have a dedicated mobile website.

Going forward, responsive website design is going to be one of the most important trends for website development.

You’ve spent hours upon hours of time pushing your content through social media channels and analyzing the results. You get lots of traffic to your website only to see it bounce and go somewhere else. Is this how social media is suppose to work, or are you doing something wrong?

Traffic generation is good. I’m glad you are able to attract visitors to your website, but is your traffic targeted?

It’s better to get 100 highly targeted users to your website than to attract 1,000 non-targeted users. The targeted users are more likely to stick around and check out your content, maybe even buy something. Non-targeted users are more likely to go somewhere else.

It’s important to realize that just because you have a social media presence doesn’t obligate anyone to show up at your business website. People aren’t going to do that. But they will visit your website, and even buy something, if you have what they need.

Social media marketing is not about attracting the highest number of website visitors. It’s about attracting the right website visitors. If you aren’t doing that, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your social content and see if it’s doing the job you want it to do. You’ll get a higher click-through rate and more conversions if you focus on the traffic you want rather than the traffic you can scrounge.

So many SEOs and Internet marketers spend a lot of time chasing links and then end up with their web pages losing Web rankings. You might get more mileage if you focused on driving traffic to your website instead.

Internet marketing has always consisted of a balance between writing great content and performing solid SEO analysis. God links and great SEO techniques are useless unless they generate a long-term benefit. The best benefit, of course, is an increase in traffic that leads to conversions.

I’m going to share three ways you can increase your website traffic relatively easily.

  1. Becoming a columnist – Everyone wants to be a guest blogger, but you’ll get a lot further if you become a columnist instead. A columnist is a person who writes regularly for a Web property they don’t own. Find a website related to your niche where you can develop a relationship with an editor who will give you a chance to write daily, weekly, or monthly columns on a specific topic.
  2. Paid tweets – Find a Twitter user who posts items related to your niche and who has a lot of followers. Find out their optimal price for paid tweets and ask them to tweet something for you. Twitter is one of the best traffic generation tools online.
  3. Sponsored posts – The thing you have to remember about sponsored posts is you want to disclose the sponsorship openly. If people know you are sponsoring content on another website, they’ll be more responsive to what you have to say. It’s not a guarantee, but people respect openness and honesty.

Not everyone is going to be warm to these ideas, but if you employ them properly and respectfully, they can lead to good website traffic.

Google’s Matt Cutts, head of the web spam team, posted a YouTube video about upcoming algorithm changes. This is something Google rarely does, but Matt thought it was important he posted on Twitter that “Pretty much every SEO should watch this video:”

I’m going to post the video for you to watch, but before I do, here’s a summary of what you’ll hear:

  1. There will be a major Penguin update
  2. Google will address advertorial spam
  3. Spammy queries will be looked at
  4. He doesn’t say what, specifically, Google will do in this regard, but Matt does say they plan to “go upstream” to address link spam
  5. More sophisticated link analysis (Matt seems really excited about this one even though his language is tentative)
  6. Improvements on how Google handles hacked websites
  7. Algorithm tweaks to boost “authority” as a ranking factor
  8. Google will attempt to soften the blow of Panda for sites in the “gray area”
  9. This one actually makes a lot of sense and it’s surprising Google didn’t think of it sooner, but they will diminish the number of times a domain cluster appears in the SERPs for the same domain, addressing specifically subsequent SERP pages
  10. Improvements to webmaster communication

Much of this has to do with addressing blackhat SEO techniques, so most of us don’t have anything to worry about. The changes that will affect us whitehat guys are mostly positive. Should we be worried, or do you see any of this as good for webmasters?

Watch the video before you answer:

On-site SEO is every bit as important as off-site SEO. In fact, I’d say it’s more important. If you can’t get your on-site SEO right, then it won’t matter how good you are at off-site SEO. Here are three on-site SEO tricks that don’t get talked about much.

  • 404 pages – There are all sorts of error pages, but the 404 error page can be the most frustrating for users – especially if yours isn’t optimized well. Don’t settle for the generic 404 page. Customize your page with your company’s logo and some helpful information to assist your visitors in finding the right web page. To do that well, include some link suggestions and encourage your visitors to keep trying.
  • Site speed – Search engines love fast-loading websites. They don’t like slow-loading websites. Therefore, you should do everything you can to increase your website’s load speed. Often, sites load slowly due to an overwhelming number of huge graphic or video files, server issues, or clunky CMS systems.
  • Rich snippets – Rich snippets are a good way to provide extra information about your page to help your site visitors find the information they are looking for. They won’t necessarily help your site rank better, but if visitors can’t find what they are looking for, then it won’t matter.

To increase your on-site SEO, try these helpful on-site SEO techniques.

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.