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:
There will be a major Penguin update
Google will address advertorial spam
Spammy queries will be looked at
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
More sophisticated link analysis (Matt seems really excited about this one even though his language is tentative)
Improvements on how Google handles hacked websites
Algorithm tweaks to boost “authority” as a ranking factor
Google will attempt to soften the blow of Panda for sites in the “gray area”
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Exact Match Domain Names Rank Better – Just a cursory look at the web will tell you otherwise. Many branded non-keyword-matching domain names rank No. 1 for specific keyword searches. None of the search engines have “search engine” in their domain name. Yahoo! is a branded name. Bing is a branded name. Google is a branded name. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are all branded names. Enough said.
Are you listening to outdated ideas? Stop listening to the people selling you bad SEO advice. Listen to the folks who are moving with the times.
The reason clients outsource their search engine optimization is because they don’t have the time to commit to it or they don’t have the expertise necessary to create a successful SEO campaign. Both of those are understandable. However, you still need to be involved.
Some clients have the attitude that the SEO professional will take care of all of the details. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But the reality is, it’s your business. No SEO in the world is going to be an expert in every niche every one of their clients is a part of. You still need to be involved in the SEO process.
Here are 4 ways that clients often sabotage their own SEO campaigns.
The client isn’t committed to the campaign – This typically happens in large organizations where a marketing professional hires an outside SEO firm but upper management, who have no knowledge or experience with SEO and don’t want it, have not been sold on the idea. This usually leads to infighting. This can often be a distraction to your SEO firm. Make sure everyone on your team is sold out to your SEO campaign before you start it.
The client is not involved in the process - Don’t just hand over your SEO to your consultant and forget about it. Your input is necessary for keyword selection and strategy implementation.
The client doesn’t keep up their end of the bargain – Whether it comes to paying for services or conducting experiments, testing, or research, if you tell your SEO consulting firm that you will do something, then you should do it. After all, you’d expect the same from them.
The client doesn’t implement changes fast enough – If you agree to perform some of the tasks related to your SEO, then be sure to do it. Your SEO firm may be relying on you to complete certain tasks before they can do their jobs. If you don’t implement the necessary changes when you say you will or install particular software on time, then you could be hurting your own marketing efforts.
SEO is getting more and more technical and difficult to implement, not to mention costly. Don’t sabotage your company’s SEO efforts with any of these mistakes.
Chances are, if you’ve been online for any period of time and have been reading SEO blogs, then you’ve probably heard that press releases are a great way to build links back to your website and garner a little SEO from them. Exercise caution. This could be bad advice.
Think about it. Google slapped article directories hard with its Panda update. They essentially killed some of the top article directories on the web. Some of them managed to bounce back.
Press release distribution websites are just like article directories. They are directories for press releases.
While I believe press releases are important tools for getting publicity for your business, I think you’re better off developing a list of media that you send your press releases to directly. You can upload your press releases to press release distribution websites in addition to your own media and PR list. However, don’t expect much.
Those press release distribution websites have become saturated with overly optimized press releases that do little to inform journalists about anything.
You may find a few journalists in any industry that scour these sites for news stories, but my bet is that most of them rely on press releases sent directly to them. Inbound links from press releases might help a little, but I wouldn’t use them as a primary SEO tactic.
If you submit press releases for online distribution, you want them to be effective. An effective press release contains at least six elements. These include:
Headline – Just like a news story has a headline, your press release must have a headline. Your headline should grab your reader’s attention, state succinctly what the story is all about, and be well optimized for search.
Lead paragraph – The lead paragraph should contain the bare essentials of your news story: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
Body content – If you want your press release to be effective, it should be structured the same way a journalist would structure a news story. That’s typically an inverted pyramid structure where the most important information is near the top and you work through to the least important information at the bottom.
Quote – Don’t ever send out a press release without at least one quote. The quote should come from a credible source, be realistic-sounding, and offer something new or interesting the rest of the press release content doesn’t cover.
Contact information – Your contact information and your public relations team’s contact information should be on your press release.
Search engine optimization – The only difference between a traditional press release and an online press release is that your online press release must be optimized for search. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Google recently announced the publication of a new webmaster cheat sheet. So if you just built your first website and want to know how you can get it to rank in Google’s search engine, you should download this PDF right away.
Keep in mind, however, that it’s just a basic overview, not a full tell-all. In other words, it isn’t comprehensive.
The PDF essentially offers the following advice:
Write a concise, informative page title
Chose a domain name that is descriptive and easy to remember
Write unique meta descriptions for each page of 160 characters or less
Give images short and descriptive file names
Write a keyword-based alt tag for each image
Include an informative and descriptive caption for each image
Keep your website’s content up to date and unique with fresh regular blog posts
This advice really isn’t earth-shatteringly new. Reciprocal Consulting has been giving this same advice for years. And remember, it’s still basic information. There is a lot more you can do to help your website rank in the search engines. For instance, you should build some inbound links to your site by sharing it on social media, encouraging your site visitors to share it with their friends, and writing guest articles and blog posts on niche-related websites.
What do you make of Internet marketers, or search engine optimizers (professional SEOs), recommending putting your content behind a paywall? Won’t that drive your traffic elsewhere?
There are content publishers making good money with paywalls. And there are others going belly up. So what’s the recipe for success?
There’s no one recipe that will work for every website just like there’s no one way to bake a cake. There are certain things you don’t want to put in a cake, and even if you have all the right ingredients, you have to have them in the right measure. Plus, you have to mix those ingredients in just the right way, and keep it in the oven just the right amount of time, etc.
I’m no baker, but I know about SEO. I know about marketing online. Sometimes it makes sense to put your content behind a paywall. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Here are a few things to consider if you are looking at putting your content behind a paywall:
How much does it cost you to produce a page of content?
What is your expected return on each page of content?
How much competition do you have in your niche?
What is the availability of the content you are producing for free on the Internet? If you have a lot of competition producing the same content for free, then it might not make sense to add a paywall. You have to create value or people won’t pay for it.
Paywalls can be good if you produce enough high value content that can’t be acquired anywhere else. If there’s an audience for it, there could be a profit in your content behind a paywall. But don’t jump into it blindly.
More and more, the search engines are using a process called Latent Semantic Indexing for categorizing search results. So what does that mean?
In a nutshell, Latent Semantic Indexing (or LSI) involves analyzing a web page to look for related words and phrases that can be substitutes for each other or help the search engine identify what that page is about. For instance, “car” and “automobile” are two words often used for the same object. If you write a web page about your blue 4-wheel drive automobile, based on the principles of LSI, that page could also rank for search terms that include the word “car” even if “car” doesn’t appear anywhere on the page.
This is an important concept to understand for content writers because it means you can play up these related keywords in your content without harping on them.
In the old days, you counted your keywords and tried to write your web pages with a certain keyword density in mind. In other words, the number of keywords per words on the page. You wanted “automobile” to appear 1% to 5% relative to the actual number of words on the page (i.e. 1-5 times for every 100 words on the page). That’s no longer the case.
Instead of counting keyword densities, with LSI you can spread your keyword usage around to all related keywords. You might use “automobile,” “car,” and “vehicle” interchangeably throughout your content, which is more like natural writing anyway.
Latent Semantic Indexing is the future of SEO. It means that writers can get back to being writers again instead of keyword managers.
If you want to succeed at social media and SEO at the same time, then you need to learn the 5 basics of social media SEO. Here they are in a nutshell:
Optimize your social profiles – This is real simple. Write your social media profiles in such a way that you will be found for the search terms you wish to be found for.
Optimize each social media post – When you post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., optimize your posts. You don’t have to overdo it. You can get by with a few here and there not optimized for your key search terms, but if you post a lot about things in your industry, then include your key terms in the posts.
Include social sharing buttons on your website – Add the popular social share buttons to your website and blog. Encourage your visitors to share your content.
Optimize your images – Social media now includes images. Include images with your content and optimize those images. When you share your content on social media, include the images.
Sign up for Google+ – Seriously. Your Google SEO will go a long way if you have a Google+ account. Use it. Spend a little time each day on Google+ and share your best content.
In this decade, search and social media go hand in hand. Make sure you optimize your social media as an ongoing content marketing strategy.
Dave Pasternak wrote a post on WebProNews proclaiming SEO to be rocket science. Accusations of flip-flopping behind, this got me to thinking about where he might be coming from.
For many larger companies who have a lot of data to sift through, SEO may very well be likened to rocket science. Online marketers will have a lot of analytics data to sort through, links, keywords to manage, etc. But for small businesses, it’s still largely about long tail keywords and quality content.
In fact, you could argue that it’s all about quality content even for the big players in (choose your) industry. But, the fact is, those large companies still have to sort through the data. Mom & Pop don’t.
SEOs and online marketers have to decide if they want to build a huge ship to sail the oceans or steer a tugboat through the harbor. If you are a small business owner, then your job is achieve respectable results through SEO and social media that keep your company profitable and your customers happy. A larger business has to measure every element of its marketing campaigns to determine ROI, and that can get tedious.
Panda and Penguin changed a lot, but they didn’t kill SEO. They just made it a bit more complex. Even for the small business owner.
Still, it’s not rocket science. The basics are still the basics.
If you are designing your small business website, one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to use a theme or build your website from scratch. That is, will it be in HTML or based on a template?
Even if you choose a template, it’s still based on HTML. The difference is, you’ll be using someone else’s framework versus building your own.
There are pros and cons to both approaches.
If you build your own website from scratch, then you control every element. You also take ownership of the problems. So you have to make sure that every element is useful. Your navigation needs to be easy to follow. Your infrastructure needs to be helpful to your site visitors. The design needs to be attractive. And the content needs to be top-notch.
In many cases, these things are already done for you with a website template, but you still need to check them out. Some templates, for instance, offer little to no SEO benefit. But how do you know if you don’t have the knowledge and skills to test them?
This is where a professional web designer can help you. It might be less expensive to have your designer build from a template, but you’ll get a much better website if you allow them to build it from scratch. A good designer can get you a unique look that makes your company look professional and ready for business.
Your call, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons to every business decision.
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what actually constitutes search engine optimization. Many companies are stuck on a five-year-old model of SEO. They’re still trying to build links and do on-page optimization by adding keywords to the meta tags and optimize their Title tags perfectly.
I’m not going to say those are worthless activities, though there isn’t much need for the keywords meta tag any more, but if you’re still hanging your SEO on the Title tag, then you’re missing the boat.
That’s not to say the Title tag isn’t important. It’s just not your golden egg.
Today, if you’re not approaching SEO as if it is synonymous with marketing – because it is – then you’re not doing it right. It should actually be called search engine marketing. The goal is to increase your company’s bottom line with conversions, not to see how many links you can acquire.
The only real purpose for links today is to increase your traffic. And you want that to be targeted traffic. When you attract targeted traffic to your website, then you’ll see an increase in conversions – if your landing pages are well written with strong calls to actions. A strong call to action closes the sale, but to get the prospect to that call to action you have to lead them there with great content.
Approach your content (on page and off site) as if it is marketing. If you focus too much on SEO, you’ll just start looking for links.
You’ve decided it’s time to update your website design. Good for you. There’s just one problem. You’ve achieved some pretty high search engine rankings over the years and you don’t want to lose them. What should you do?
Think about these three considerations before you do anything:
Keyword Research – At the heart of your SEO are keywords. You’ll need to analyze each page on your website for keyword usage. Are you ranking for keywords that aren’t searched for any more? If so, your SEO could be outdated. Or perhaps you have pages that still get great traffic for keywords that are still being searched for. Make a list of all the keywords you are ranking for and how much traffic those pages are getting. Also make a note of any relevant keywords you are not ranking for.
Conversions – Traffic is great, but conversions are better. If you have web pages that get a load of traffic, especially from search, but no conversions, then maybe you just need to rewrite the content. Compare your conversions to your search engine rankings and traffic.
Content Anomalies – This is a broad category of content problems that could include duplicate content or low-value content. Perhaps you have a large number of pages with little content on them that could be beefed up a bit. They’re targeting good keywords but just don’t have enough content. Make a list of your web pages that might have some version of a content anomaly and determine what you can do to improve them.
It’s important that you improve web pages that have content problems in your redesign, but it’s also important not to significantly change the content of web pages that are ranking well and converting well. So make your lists and analyze your content before you commit to the redesign.
Here’s a tip: All 4 of these SEO lessons from 2012 are lessons you should have learned in 2005. And if you didn’t, then you don’t really know SEO. Let’s summarize the article:
Love the longtail – People were talking about the long tail in SEO back in 2005. That hasn’t changed. If you’re a new business, your best bet is to go after the long tail phrases in your niche. Same strategy that has worked for years.
White Hat Is Back – In fact, it never left. Black hats succeed for a little while, then they always get caught. If you practice white hat SEO techniques, you’ll never have to worry.
Relevancy is the New PR – Again, relevancy has always been one of the key principles of SEO. For awhile, people got away with gaming links. But that was short term. Google came back and got them. SEOs who practices relevancy all along are still going strong.
Focus On Quality Content – Here’s another buzzword amateur SEOs like to throw around. If you didn’t focus on quality content in 2012, then it’s because you didn’t know quality content was a key factor long before that.
Nothing has changed in SEO unless you’ve been trying to game the search engines. If you focus on quality content and relevant link building, then you should see positive results no matter what year it is.
Rebranding is often more work than most people realize going in. Depending on how many assets your business owns, it can be a terrible headache. The more you own, the more difficult the process will be.
Let’s start with your website.
If your rebranding means a change of name for your business, then you’ll likely have to procure a new web domain and redirect your website to your new domain. You can expect a search engine fallout for your old website as you lose rankings, but if you do it right you can turn your new site into a quick-ranking powerhouse that makes up for it. Talk to your SEO before making the move.
Other things you should consider before you start your rebranding efforts online are:
Twitter account migration. Will you need a new branded Twitter account?
Facebook business page branding. In most cases, you can simply change the name of your Facebook business page, but it does require approval from Facebook.
If you have a Google+ page, you’ll have to change the name of that as well. That’s a bit easier than on Facebook. You just go to your page and edit the page.
LinkedIn changes might also be necessary.
If you have YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media accounts, you’ll have to rebrand those as well. In some cases, it will mean starting over.
Your newsletter will need to be rebranded. That will mean a redesign of the newsletter to match your new website design. Depending on which newsletter service you use, you might have to rebrand your account or start over. This will be painful if you have to start over because it will mean exporting your list and most newsletter services require that you send out a mass e-mail asking for opt-in permission. You’ll need to communicate with your list prior to the move.
There may be other things you’ll have to consider as well. In some cases, rebranding your online business might be unavoidable. For instance, if you are in a legal dispute and the court forces you to, then you have to comply with the law. At any rate, don’t make the decision hastily. Consider all your options first.
There are a lot of ways to go about link building. It’s pretty well common knowledge now that reciprocal link building doesn’t work. But if you do it right, then you can get away with it.
What you don’t want to do is contact other website owners and bloggers and ask them for a reciprocal link. That’s so 2000, and it won’t get you very far in the search engines even if they agree.
A better way is to make a list of people in your niche who are doing things you like. Contact those people and tell them you’d like to help them out. Then ask them what they have that you can promote. And link to it. Link to it from your blog and promote it through social media. Don’t ask them to reciprocate. You’re just being a nice guy.
If you do that, most people will find a way to do something nice for you. They’ll share your links and link to you from their blogs.
People by nature want to reciprocate niceties. We’re hard wired that way. All you have to do is find a way to promote other people, then let them find the way to promote you. This kind of reciprocal link building works and won’t get you in trouble with the search engines.
When I ask clients what they think the most important element of web design is, I usually get one of several responses.
Usability, or functionality
Conversions, or calls to actions
Search engine optimization
These are generally the most often stated elements by people who don’t design websites. Even web designers will often repeat one or more of these often spoken responses. But the truth is, the most important element of web design is none of these.
So what is the most important element?
In a word, it’s content that speaks to your ideal customer.
Notice that I didn’t just say “content.” That’s because content in and of itself is just a tool. It can be effective or ineffective. It can be the right content for your target audience or the the wrong content.
If the content on your website isn’t written to attract your ideal customer and then close them, then it’s not good content. Period.
The bottom line is, you have to lead your ideal client to the sale. That means your content has to be targeted to appeal to the ideal client and convince them that you have the answer to their most pressing questions. In other words, it has to solve a problem. If your content doesn’t convince your ideal customer that you have the solution to their biggest problem, then you won’t get the sale.
Many small business owners new to search engine optimization and online marketing wonder why it takes so long to see results. There are a number of reasons why SEO takes time, but it’s not just SEO. PPC often requires several weeks, or months, as well. But why?
In a word, it’s all about the competition. No matter what niche you are in, if you are just getting started, then you have an uphill climb.
There are likely other businesses who have established an online presence in your niche. For every keyword you are targeting in the search results, you should expect a handful of competitors to already have a head start. Add that to the expectations of the search engines regarding quality content and you have a recipe for success or disaster depending on your implementation.
Google favors sites with age. That means that your new website is at a distinct disadvantage where search engine rankings come into play. That’s not to say you can’t achieve respectable rankings. You just have to work harder.
Recent updates in search engine ranking factors also come into play. Now more than ever, the search engines are looking for high quality content. Businesses new to online marketing generally have a learning curve. Your first attempts at creating high quality content will likely not work in your favor – until you learn what “high quality” actually means for online content.
In a word, you have to pay your dues. It can often be a lot easier to achieve high rankings out of the gate by hiring a professional content service that has a track record in working with businesses like yours.
If you’re a user of Google+, then you’ll be excited to know that Google has added a new feature to its social network: Communities.
Communities were just introduced yesterday and already some communities have nearly 10,000 members. This is a great way to drum up some interest in your topic. You can join a community or start one.
For instance, if you want to network with others who are avidly interested in marriage counseling – maybe they’re counselors or maybe they need counseling – then you can look for a community related to counseling by entering “counseling” in the search box above the list of communities present, or you can just start your own community. Either way, and you can achieve your goal in minutes.
After you start your own community, you can then promote the community to your stream. If you have circled people who are already interested in your topic, they’ll see the community and can join.
I’m anxious to see how communities do in the search engines. I think they’ll do well. Each post should be optimizable the same way that forum posts are. And if you create a community with your brand name or a keyword related to your brand name, then it should be searchable in Google’s index.