Archive for the ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO)’ Category

Search and Social Lessons from the Zenith Social Media Marketing Conference

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Last month’s Zenith Social Media Marketing Conference opened with a blast of presentational energy from Neal Rodriguez. While there’s no video of his keynote available, his YouTube channel will give you some sense of how Neal can wake up an early-morning crowd in a packed ballroom.

The conference, hosted by Marty Weintraub‘s agency, aimClear, was an impressive affair. Though Duluth is smallish metro area of roughly 100,000 population, the event attracted twice as many attendees as some similar events in larger cities, with speakers from around the country.

Among the first group of morning breakout sessions was “Using Social Media Analytics To Define ROI KPIs.” Grant Tilus and Katy Katz of Collegis discussed the virtual demise of organic reach on Facebook, and what to do about it.

Rethink Your Social Promotion Strategy

They also advised that marketers set SMART goals, and presented a selection of best practices for advertising on popular social networks:

Set SMART marketing goals

Facebook analytics best practices

Twitter Analytics best practices

Choosing which social networks to focus on

 

Among other key takeaways from Grant and Katy:

  • • Use the scientific method. Start with research: is your goal achievable? What’s the best way to accomplish it? Then form the hypothesis – the idea you can test, the goal, the KPI, what you are trying to achieve. For example, “This Facebook contest will drive 100 new leads in 90 days.”
  • • To crack the organic code, tap into human psychology; people like content tnat: makes us feel good, gives us answers, tells a story, or surprises us. Pick the right time of the day and week to post (e.g. Facebook work best over lunch).
  • • Track your campaign like a case study. Report positive and negative outcomes of the campaign. Learn what works and document it so it can be replicated. Separate the results from different platforms, but use consistent lamguage.
  • • Only 22% of businesses track their social results well.

Next up, Regis Hadiaris of Quicken Loans, Will Scott of Search Influence, and Joe Warner of aimClear presented “SEO, Social Media & What Every Marketer (SRSLY) Must Do.” The three played off each other adeptly, alternately focusing on the social, technical, and content-driven aspects of search.

How to really think about SEO in 2014

Key lessons about SEO in 2014:

  • • The days of tips & tricks in SEO are over. Google tests and updates daily. Follow Google Webmaster guidelines well – this is now the only option.
  • • Make a list of the questions that your customers and prospects ask most frequently (talk to sales and customer service reps if necessary to generate this), then provide content in various formats (blog posts, white papers, video, presentations, infographics) that answers those questions.
  • • Reputation management (the knowledge graph) is vital for SEO – Google wants to know who you are and how legitimate you are. This means making the effort to get dodgy links taken down or disavowed. Essentially, Google will judge your website by the company it keeps, so try to attach your content to high-authority sites like Forbes and industry-specific trade journals (a key channel in the web presence optimization (WPO) model).
  • • The “coolest newest thing” you can do is to implement schema tags, e.g. tagging your contact page for local SEO. Use a WordPress plugin to simplify the process of highlighting news, product, and other specific types of content.
  • • Three key technical elements in using Google+ for seo: 1) Link your website to your business G+ profile (and back); 2) Use Google authorship (link your blog to the author’s G+ page; and 3) add a G+ sharing button to all pages on your site.
  • • Implementing Google authorship can increase click-through rates (CTRs) dramatically, even without any ranking change, by adding photo to a business result. G+ interaction gets more rich data into search results, which increases clicks. 20% of searchers, on average, looked at the second page of results on searches back in 2006. Now it’s 2% (because search engines have gotten better).
  • • “If you don’t have open graph tags on your site, need to do that now.” For WordPress blogs or sites, use a plugin like WP Open Graph or Facebook Open Graph Meta Tags for WordPress to simplify the process.
  • • Google’s objectives is to classify EVERYTHING. Sponsorships create brand mentions that make you a real brand. Industry/community activities (associations, analysts, events, community involvement), which are good things to do anyway, also build your brand in search (and are another key channel in the WPO framework).
  • • To boost the value of your Google authorship, publish more in more places, and tag it back to your Google+ profile.

Finally, the brilliant Lisa Buyer and Lisa Grimm concisely and helpfully summarized everything new with Twitter in the past year or so, combined with timeless best practices, in “Breaking Bad with Twitter! Game Changing Tactics & Prodigal ROI.”

Zenith 2014 breaking bad with twitter session by lisa grimm and lisa buyer from Lisa Buyer

It would be impossible to top the summary of this presentation that Lisa Buyer published on her Social PR Chat blog, so check that out. A few quick takeaways:

  • • “Pin” a high-value tweet to the top or your profile, by going to your profile and click “pin to your profile page” from the bottom of your selected tweet. Best practice: use an image with this.
  • • The ideal tweet structure: headline, link, no more than three hashtags. End with a hashtag, but don’t start with one. Put the link near the middle of the tweet. Keep the total length under 120 characters.
  • • Perform random acts of kindness for followers.

The post-conference free martinis were a nice touch too.

 

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31 Expert Guides to Maximizing Online Brand Visibility – WPO

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Given all of the changes Google has made affecting organic ranking factors (asking webmasters to disavow low-quality links, reducing the value of guest blogging, ignoring links in press releases, etc.),  the practice of SEO—optimizing owned content for search—is no longer sufficient for maximizing a brand’s online visibility.

This is not to say “SEO is dead” or that it no longer has value, only that it can no longer stand on its own. It needs to be part of a larger, coordinated strategy encompassing owned, earned and paid media: web presence optimization (WPO).

The original WPO model focused on content-sharing to maximize organic brand visibility; as the WPO framework evolved, it incorporated paid and industry (e.g., event sponsorships, community outreach, analyst coverage, trade association membership) components.

Today’s WPO model emphasizes the importance of fusing a solid content strategy with a comprehensive online distribution strategy in order to maximize brand visibility and credibility.

The Web Presence Optimization Model - WPOYet despite the analytical and strategic power of the model, WPO still largely remains the concept that everyone talks about, but no one names. It’s as if sportswriters constantly wrote about “contests in which opposing teams of five players attempt to shoot a round orange ball through a hoop with a net attached” instead of simply saying “basketball.” As indicated by the posts from Search Engine Watch and All Twitter highlighted below, that is starting to change, but only just.

How can social, PR, SEO, and online advertising efforts be coordinated to maximize brand visibility? How can paid, owned, and earned media be harmonized to achieve business goals? How can paid and organic content promotion channels be used together most effectively? What role does email play in extending online visibility?

Find the answers to those questions and many more here in 31 of the best blog posts and articles about WPO (even if they don’t call it that) of the past year.

Beyond Search & Social: Online Marketing in 2014 by Search Engine Journal

Marcela De Vivo covers a great deal of ground in this thought-provoking and wide-ranging post, from the impact of social signals on organic ranking to earning (vs. building) links, measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) based on your goals (e.g., “If your goal is organic visibility, your KPI’s will be based on increasing your rankings and organic traffic”), and the debate around paid, earned and owned media: all critical consideraations in a WPO strategy.

Convergence: Merging Disciplines Between PR and Marketing by InNetwork

Hessie Jones contends that while marketing and PR have traditionally been separate disciplines, due to social media, “these roles are converging in a big way,” so today brands need “a combination of PR and Marketing to stay on top of the conversation, and be ready to develop compelling content to engage and build advocacy,” and furthermore to pair “mainstream and digital media experts with creative specialists like copywriters, digital designers and video producers to uncover storytelling opportunities in real time, deliver critical business insights, engage influencers and customers and create the content that shapes news and conversations.” Which is to day: they need to coordinate the efforts of everyone involved in maximizing a brand’s online visibility and relevance.

How to build a robust content program by iMedia Connection

Writing that “Today, superb, consistent content best serves your customers and leads to increased loyalty and bottom-line results,” Deborah Hanamura explores a baker’s dozen considerations for content marketing strategy, including social, SEO, PPC (“Great Pay-Per-Click advertising requires great content. Create an impression versus multiple impressions”), and events—in other words, most of the key elements of WPO.

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Download the WPO Framework White Paper

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Integrated Marketing: The Magic Formula for Success by Blue Kite Marketing

Laura Click (correctly) asserts there is no “one singular tactic that will help you achieve results” in digital marketing, but rather that achieving the objective of being everywhere your prospect look online requires an integrated marketing approach coordinating efforts across:

  • • content marketing;
  • • media relations;
  • • advertising;
  • • search engine marketing (actually, a form of online advertising);
  • • social media; and
  • • email marketing.

Add SEO to the list above and you’ve got WPO.

Integrating POEM: The Rhyme and Reason of Harmonizing the New Media Mix by iMedia Connection

Aaron Dubois explores the strengths and weaknesses of paid, owned and earned media (POEM), and advises marketers, “Throughout the planning process, take a step back and look at your brand’s overall marketing strategy. If the P, the O, and the E aren’t working in conjunction with each other – with a consistent brand voice across all communications – then it’s not likely you’re going to get as much out of your campaign as you hope to.” That’s another way of saying: adopt WPO, which coordinates efforts across these these three types of exposure.

Harmonizing owned, earned and paid mediaCreating a Multi-Channel Content Marketing Strategy by BlueGlass

Kevin Gibbons illustrates the POEM concept and recommends that marketers “have a fully integrated strategy, where everyone is involved towards having success across all of your owned, earned and paid media channels” in order to properly plan and execute to achieve online business goals (or in other words, adopt a WPO approach). He then provides further guidance regarding content creation, measurement, and audience targeting.

6 Reasons Social Media Is Critical To Your SEO by Convince with Convert

Jason Clegg offers “six reasons social media needs to be an important part of your website marketing and SEO strategy for years to come,” such as that social media enables you to “crowd source” your link building; social links actually drive traffic to your website; and “Google hates link building.” Though the post goes a bit over the top in spots (“link building as a direct SEO tactic is completely dead”—not quite true), Jason’s overall points regarding the SEO value of social media are spot on.

The PR Strategies SEOs Haven’t Learned by Siege Media

A helpful companion to the post above, Ross Hudgens here focuses on the value of PR for SEO: “Many PR companies still blast releases out to publishers that have no reason to receive them. Many SEO companies do the same with their outreach to bloggers. The best of both worlds will find the intersection, combine agility with empathy, and make for an extremely potent content marketing package.”

MarketingSherpa 2013 Marketing Benchmark Survey ResultsMarketing Research Chart: Integrating email and search marketing tactics by MarketingSherpa

Daniel Burstein notes that the chart at right “highlights one of marketers’ key challenges. They’re doing a lot. Even the least used tactic — digital asset optimization — is being conducted by 45% of marketers.” He then explains three ways that marketers can be more efficient by “SEO and email tasks to get more done in less time.” This type of coordination between different types of content promotion efforts is also at the heart of WPO.

The Evolution of Content In A Big-Content World by MediaPost

Writing that “‘big content’ is the definition of what content marketing has become: unruly, amorphous, exponential and everywhere,” Steve Kerho suggests that marketers should “think of big content as branded content that exists in multiple channels, across devices and…is no longer controlled solely by the brand.” Indeed they should, and efforts should be coordinated across these different channels to optimize visibility and engagement while maintaining consistent brand messaging.

SMO Guide for BusinessThe Complete SMO / SEO Guide for Business & Brands in Social Media by REALSMO
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Joshua Berg provides an indispensible and comprehensive guide to how social media and search work together; the principles of social media optimization, aka SMO (“Focus on the user and all elSEO will follow”–spot on); and the (possible) future of search.

The Aftermath Of SEO’s Death This Summer by Forbes

Writing that Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates “mean no more hat tricks, keyword stuffing, comment spamming, backlink image stuffing…Finally, Google uncovered the secret to blocking SEO tricks used to get customers on the infamous PAGE 1,” Eris Poringer provides excellent guidance on implementing a “comprehensive plan” for maximizing online brand visibility, incorporating social media, email, content marketing, native advertising, and other tactics. This approach isn’t SEM (paid search) though SEM is a key component of a wider WPO strategy.

Social Media Should Not Be A Stand Alone Brand Tactic by Brand Cottage

The smart and engaging Patricia Wilson lists seven reasons why social media should not be a stand-alone brand tactic (such as, “Social Media is very hard to scale on its own”) and suggests that “social strategy works best as part of a larger integrated marketing and business plan.” Couldn’t agree more; it’s a vital component of a WPO strategy.

The B2B Marketing Guide to Paid Content Distribution by B2B Digital Marketing
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In this highly bookmark-worthy post, Eric Wittlake details almost two dozen options for paid content distribution, from advertising on the large social networks to content distribution services like Outbrain and Taboola to native advertising and sponsored posts on B2B publication sites. As long as you stick with reputable sites that keep up with Google’s latest guidelines, these are great avenues for extending the reach of your content and increasing overall online brand visibility.

Social Media AdvertisingHow to Amplify Your Content Strategy with Social Media Advertising by Content Marketing Institute

Observing that tweets have an average half-life of 18 minutes, Facebook posts have a half-life of 30 minutes, and keeping up with algorithmic changes in organic search is getting increasingly difficult, Dan Stasiewski recommends “creating an advertising flow to your content ecosystem.” Excellent advice, though not either/or; successful content promotion requires coordinating all of the elements of WPO.

SEO And Other Web Marketing Techniques: Tools Or Tricks? by Forbes

Roger Kay comes down rather hard on content marketing and SEO (“a rather polite term for another way to game the system”), but writes that he likes “the concept of inbound marketing because it relies on product quality…at bottom, inbound will only work if the product is good.  Effectively, the Internet is a fantastic channel to give an idea a chance to make it in the wild, but the virus only spreads if the content justifies the buzz.” True, which is why content strategy forms the base of WPO. But as noted here previously, even the “most epic content will FAIL without content distribution,” which is why coordinated sharing and promotion across channels is just as important as creating high-quality content to begin with.

When Keyword (not provided) is 100 Percent of Organic Referrals, What Should Marketers Do? – Whiteboard Tuesday by Moz

Rand Fishkin steps through a number of steps SEO practitioners can take to deal with the loss of organic keyword data from Google, such as using “keyword suggestion sources like Google Suggest, Ubersuggest, certainly AdWords’s own volume data, SEMRush, etc. to see the keyword expansions related to your brand or the content that’s very closely tied to your brand.” Running AdWords ads and examining keyword performance is another option.

Time for a New Definition of SEO by Search Engine Watch

Writing that “digital marketing tactics such as email marketing, paid search and search retargeting have very clear, undisputed definitions. The definition of SEO, on the other hand, seems to be just as unclear as the practice itself,” Krista LaRiviere suggests WPO (she actually uses the term) represents the evolution of SEO, and defines WPO as “an all-encompassing approach to optimizing an entire web presence for organic search including the website, social channels, blogs, articles and press releases.” Her ideas clearly resonated, as the post garnered 50 comments.

The Web Presence Optimization Cycle [INFOGRAPHIC] by All Twitter

Allison Stadd showcases a helpful infographic designed to help marketers visualize “the steps to web presence optimization with the goal of helping you reach organic search success.”

The Web Presence Optimization Cycle Infographic

Getting less traffic from Google? Here’s why it may not matter soon by Jim’s Marketing Blog

Jim Connolly details three reasons marketers should diversify their efforts beyond just organic SEO, most importantly because “Google sends less traffic to sites than before…between August 2012 and March 2013, search traffic from Google nosedived an incredible 30%” to a collection of large publisher sites including The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. It’s not that search isn’t still an important tactic, but that it’s only one of several important elements in a brand’s total online visibility (the focus of WPO).

Relying on organic SEO? You’re losing customers! by Digital Growth

Building on the arguments in Jim Connolly’s post above, Luke Chapman illustrates how ads and universal search elements continue to push organic listings further down on the typical search results page, making even a #1 organic ranking less valuable than it used to be. To combat this, he recommends using social media, email, PR, blogging and blog commenting, and industry/community marketing—pretty much the range of WPO elements. And investing in SEM also helps maintain search visibility.

Google SERPs - More Ads, Less Organic

Is SEO Dead — Or Decentralized? by MediaPost

Musing about the decline of traditional SEO and the rise of social media optimization and paid search, Ryan DeShazer concludes that “In today’s marketing communications organization, everyone is an SEO…creative teams (now) include content discoverability and SEO into their work streams; technologists are building sites and apps compliant with known onsite SEO best practices; and UX specialists are including keyword research before developing user personas and journeys.” Hmm, coordinating the efforts of multiple disciplines in order to optimize web visibility…sounds familiar.

The 4 SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know by iMedia Connection

Tony Quin reveals what he believes are four key trends in SEO that marketers need to understand, the most relevant of which for WPO is number four, “Traditional marketing tactics will boost digital marketing initiatives…Press releases, for example, provide branded mentions and links that will increase the authority of your website while also increasing exposure. Despite what some might say, email is still extremely effective in creating opportunities for awareness and sharing.” Creating compelling content is vital, but that content then needs to be shared using social media alongside “traditional marketing tactics.”

Inbound vs. Interruption MarketingInbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organically by MarketingSherpa

Daniel Burstein (again) serves up a list of “quantitative metrics, case studies, how-to articles and other resources to help you improve your own inbound marketing efforts by learning more about how your peers are effectively using these tactics,” including SEO, PPC, email, events, PR, blogging, content marketing, and other aspects of WPO.

How to optimize your emails for search by iMedia Connection

Noting “It might sound like a strange idea to optimize your emails for search engines, but SEO is a skill that email marketers better start working on,” Michael Linthorst explores the ins and outs of Gmail Field Trial, an “experiment in which Google includes a user’s Gmail inbox in his or her search results.” Engagement, content, and relevancy are keys to “email SEO”—and a solid approach to email marketing regardless.

Social Search Engine Marketing Throws Search Experts A Lifeline by MediaPost

Laurie Sullivan reports on recent research showing that “Social signals continue to make their way into search results—making social search engine optimization the next major trend in organic listing. Enterprise SEO requires a search across traditional techniques and social media channels.” This integration is, of course, at the heart of WPO.

Why Your Online Marketing Department Is All Screwed Up by ClickZ

Andrew Delamarter describes how marketing departments can, and must, sop operating in “silos” and coordinate efforts across paid, earned, and owned media: “Now is the time to stop thinking SEO, media, content marketing, web analytics, and Facebook posts and start thinking holistically about inbound marketing that brings it all together.”

Marketing in Silos is Screwed Up

Must evolve to:

Integrating Owned, Earned and Paid Media Efforts

If you build it, they will come — maybe by iMedia Connection

The brilliant and prolific Rebecca Lieb believes “The winners in content marketing will create not just quality content, but distribution strategies that will get that content ‘out there’” (i.e., WPO). SEO, PR, advertising, and social all have their role to play, but so do media companies.

Six Ways Internet Marketing Meets PR Online by SteamFeed

Because “the online world of content marketing requires knowledge of Internet marketing which includes search marketing, key word designation, html coding, link building, and the other tools and tricks of the trade,” Jayme Soulati outlines half a dozen ways for PR professionals to work with their Internet marketing counterparts to maximize online brand visibility and impact.

Search Marketing Integration, a.k.a. WPOThe New SEO: Search Marketing Integration by Search Engine Watch

Brad Miller writes that while SEO isn’t dead, “the days of SEO as a distinct, independent discipline are certainly numbered. SEO is fast evolving into a more creative, diverse, and challenging profession.” He uses the term “search marketing integration” to describe the coordination of activities across social search, branding, PR, SEM, and others areas in order to integrate all your marketing efforts into “into one single, agile, engaging strategy.” That would be WPO.

2013 – Break the (Digital) Marketing Silos by The RKG Blog

As noted above in the introduction to this post, WPO is about coordinating the efforts of everyone on your team involved in content creation or digital marketing. As Todd McDonald writes here, “Imagine the insights available to those who successfully bring together PR, social, email, PPC, SEO, and other channels!  Each one can feed the next, providing ever-deepening levels of data and connections that will drive data-driven strategic marketing decisions.  SEO will be a cog in this machine and it will need the machine to work well in order to functional optimally.” He challenges marketers to smash their internal silos—a vital step (as noted above) in WPO, even if he doesn’t call it that.

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27 More Remarkable SEO Guides, Tips and Tactics

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

As noted in part one of the best SEO posts roundup for last year, with all the significant changes announced by Google in the past 12 months (at least six, detailed in a pair of posts below), “These are indeed “interesting times” for SEO professionals, with rapid and wide-ranging changes to the search landscape being announced at an accelerating pace.”

Top SEO Guides 2013The general consensus is that the practice of SEO is becoming more strategic, less tactical; more content-driven, less technical. The winners should be organizations that focus on providing targeted, relevant, high-quality content, as well as their prospective customers; with the (little lamented) losers being the spammers, manipulators and black-hat SEO types.

What techniques still work in the new world of SEO? Which need to be discarded? What new tactics and ranking factors are most vital to understand? How should SEO professionals strategically align frameworks for maximizing online visibility and business results?

Find the answers to those questions and many others here in more than two dozen of the best SEO guides from the past year.

Expert SEO Guides and Tips

9 SEO Myths That Won‘t Go Away Demystified By Google’s Matt Cutts by JoopRijk.com

Joop RijkNoting that in any field, “once a myth has been established it hard to get rid off,” Joop Rijk debunks nine SEO-related myths including duplicate content penalties (“Duplicate content is not considered spam and sites do not get penalized for duplicate content. Google ignores duplicate content and has a way to determine which page they should rank”—though it doesn’t always get this right) and the 100 links-per-page limit (“Googlebot can crawl more than 100 links on a page and there is no specific [known] limit”).

SEO Strategies for People that Hate SEO by Search Engine Guide

Brian DeanBrian Dean offers a handful of simple yet effective rank-improving tips from people not naturally inclined to SEO work, from a clever tactic for getting mentioned in link roundups (one of the few remaining manual link-building strategies that still work) to how to get featured on resource pages.

SEO Makeover for 2014: A Practical Guide for Businesses by Portent
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David PortneyDavid Portney presents an outstanding checklist of three dozen questions to ask and answer about the state of your site’s SEO, from content-related factors (Does each page have a page-relevant unique title tag? A page-relevant unique meta description? A clear and concise headline?) through links, navigation, and technical SEO considerations.

Top 19 SEO Experts Share Their Best Advice on SEO by Effective Inbound Marketing

Ayodeji OnibalusiAyodeji Onibalusi curates a big list of helpful SEO tips and tricks from SEO experts including Kristi Hines (“don’t get tempted to buy into cheap SEO services. If someone’s offering 100 backlinks for $5, then they’re more than likely going to get you spammy links that you will pay dearly for in the long run”), Neil Patel (see the next entry), Ann Smarty (“If you love each article you are publishing online, you’ll see genuine interest to your content”), Tadeusz Szewczyk (a.k.a. Tad Chef), and Jayson DeMers (see the “Big Picture SEO Strategy” section below).

11 SEO Changes That Will Give You Big Results by QuickSprout

Neil PatelNeil Patel shares 11 effective but lesser know techniques for optimizing search results, such as capitalizing on the internal-link building power of 404 error pages; creating dynamic infographics; using what he calls the “skyscraper technique” (this blog is an example); and incorporating “most clicked-through words” (such as “how to,” “tips” and “best”) in headlines.

Rethink Link Building for Best B2B Marketing by MLT Creative Ideas@Work Blog

Jeremiah SmithGuest author Jeremiah Smith notes that the old ways of link building are dead (at best, pointless), social sharing is critical, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) supports SEO efforts. He concludes the post with a five-step process for optimizing not just rankings, but also bottom-line business results.

In Search of SEO? Have Content, Be Social by BroadSuite

Daniel NewmanDan Newman details several ways in which the practice of SEO has changed over the past 18-24 months, particularly in terms of the role of content (and more importantly, the importance of business blogging: “Even the most optimized B2B site if just a static products and services website will have a hard time growing and sustaining traffic”) and the role of social sharing (“7 of the top 8 factors driving SEO are Social Sharing related and not traditional SEO drivers whatsoever”).

Search Engine Click Through Rate Optimization (+Infographic) by Marketing from the Front
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Brent CarnduffBrent Carnduff reports on some eye-opening research findings in this post which reminds one of a Geico commercial: Did you know that the top four organic search results get 83% of all clicks? Of course, everyone knows that. Okay, but did you know that “As searcher intent becomes more detailed or specific (long tail term), the click distribution across the first page organic listings begins to even out”? That makes, as Brent explains, CTR optimization as important as SEO.

New SEO Best Practices with Schema Markup #SESCHI by TopRank Online Marketing Blog

Brian LarsonConfused by what a “schema” is or why you’d bother with one? Brian Larson helpfully walks through the history of this (no longer new) tactic, how it works in action, what the classifications are, and how to get started with schema markup tools, all based on a presentation by Anne F. Kennedy at SES Chicago.

Technical SEO for Nontechnical People by Search Engine Watch

Erin EverhartFor those confuzzled by technical SEO terms and techniques, Erin Everhart patiently explains “the basics behind what you need to look out for with technical SEO,” including redirects and status codes, canonicals, duplicate uppercase and lowercase URLs (though search engines should really be able to figure this out), and URL parameters.

150 Blog Posts in 50 Days: Why Were Marketers Mad? by Search Engine Journal

McKay AllenMcKay Allen details the results of a test to determine how a substantial ramp-up in content creation would affect search traffic, and the surprising response of (some) marketers. The bottom line is that while not all elements of “old school” SEO are dead, content development definitely needs to play a key role in go-forward search strategy.

Infographic: Companies with a blog get 55% more traffic by leaderswest

Jim DoughertyJim Dougherty showcases a very helpful SEO infographic, which visually steps through techniques and best practices for on-page and keyword optimization, technical SEO factors, social signals, Google+ authorship, and generating links from inbound marketing.

Best Guides to Big-Picture SEO Strategy

6 Major Google Changes Reveal the Future of SEO by Search Engine Watch

Eric EngeInviting readers to “take a few steps back and understand the big picture,” Eric Enge looks at half a dozen major changes from Google in 2013–from keyword (not provided) to in-depth articles, and ties them all together concluding “the six major Google changes listed above are all moves that” take tactical data out of the SEO picture and “encourage more strategic behavior.”

How recent Google changes affect your SEO by iMedia Connection

Nathan JoyntSimilar to the post above, Nathan Joynt here reviews the major algorithmic and reporting changes made by Google over the past year, describes the impact of each on SEO efforts, and ties it all together in the end by stating, “one thing is clear: The value of an SEO strategy set on tactics involving direct manipulation of search results is becoming less effective…This is exactly what Google wants. They want inbound marketers and business owners to shift their primary focus away from Google and manipulative link and content schemes and concentrate this energy on each business’ target market and to create the best products, services, and content possible.”

5 Reasons You’ll Need to Increase Your SEO Budget in 2014 by Search Engine Journal

Jayson DeMersJayson DeMers makes the case that SEO will require more dollars in resources in 2014, for among other reasons, that “cheap” tactics like keyword stuffing and low-quality backlink building no longer work (and may even backfire); the increasing importance of social media; and the need to produce a steady stream of fresh content.

Best Guides to Search Engine Ranking Factors

The Future of Search: 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors Released by Moz

Cyrus ShepardCyrus Shepard unveils results from the the Moz semiannual (see also the wrapup of this from Rand Fishkin, below) survey of SEO professionals on ranking factors, and predicts which factors are likely to become more important (e.g., authorship metrics) and less important (e.g., exact keyword match domains0 over the next few years.

Weighting the Clusters of Ranking Factors in Google’s Algorithm by Moz
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Rand FishkinRand Fishkin explains some of the key takeaways from the Moz semiannual survey on ranking factors. The top three factors remain the quality and quantity of backlinks to a domain; quality/quantity of backlinks to specific pages; and page-level keyword and content features.

Infographic: Every ingredient that contributes to search engine ranking by leaderswest
***** 5 STARS

For those who prefer their ranking factors in a colorful, illustrated format, Jim Dougherty (again) shares a bookmark-worthy SEO infographic detailing 200 Google ranking factors, from domain factors like domain age and history through page-level factors, site-level factors, backlink factors, social signals and more.

Best Guides to SEO in the Keyword (Not Provided) World

Overcoming Google’s Keyword ‘Not Provided’ Data by Web Marketing Today

Kevin WebsterKevin Webster outlines several strategies for dealing with keyword (not provided) in search analytics, such as benchmarking and optimizing search landing page traffic and performance: “The company should let go of the notion of ranking for a search term, and focus more on the idea of ranking for a search concept.”

Google ‘(Not Provided)’ Keywords: 10 Ways to Get Organic Search Data by Search Engine Watch

Jennifer SleggJennifer Slegg reviews the motivations behind Google’s move to secure search, how the change affected the practice of SEO, and 10 methods for “replacing the (missing keyword) data now that Google isn’t providing it,” such as looking at non-Google search data, Google Webmaster Tools reports, and analyzing on-site searches.

Best Guides to SEO for Panda and Penguin

Life of an SEO Before, After and Beyond Penguin 2.1 an Infographic by WordPress SEO Cloud Hosting

Berrie PelserBerrie Pelser presents a fantastically helpful graphical guide to SEO in the post-Penguin environment, which illustrates for example from spending time and money to obtain directory links (before Penguin) to spending time and money getting low-value links removed, and moving from article spinning to quality guest blogging.

How to Recover from Panda Dance by Kaiser the Sage

Jason AcidreIf your search rankings were mauled by Panda, Jason Acidre details seven techniques for recovering that lost traffic, including rich-snippet optimization (which “seems to be one of the best methods to use in responding to these recent algorithmic changes”), upgrading “evergreen” landing pages, and optimizing for local search.

Google Panda And SEO: Updated Tips For Online Marketers by MediaPost

Brian RauschenbachBrian Rauschenbach offers half a dozen practical tips for SEO in the post-Panda world, among them: “Ensure that links to your site are natural.  Panda likes links from quality sources but will come down hard on you (and may even exclude you from Google’s search results) if your site is inundated with overly targeted links, especially if they are sponsored…it’s clear that Google is looking to essentially reward companies and marketers who make a concerted effort to populate their sites with authoritative, useful, and shareable content.”

Best Guides to SEO for Hummingbird

5 Ways To Unlock The Benefits Of Semantic Search by Search Engine Land

Barbara StarrExplaining that semantic search is intended to make search results “more personal, more engaging, more interactive and more predictive,” Barbara Starr offers guidance on how to unlock its benefits, from optimizing content based on user intent rather than keywords (based on Google patents in this area) to fully leveraging Google+ and implementing appropriate semantic markup.

Hummingbird Unleashed by Moz

Gianluca FiorelliGianluca Fiorelli recommends taking using a philological (based on the original documents and observation of effects) method to adapt to Google’s algorithmic changes, and details the results of his “study of those documents and field observations” pertaining to Hummingbird, how Hummingbird works, how large the impact is, and most importantly–how to do “Hummingbird-friendly” SEO (e.g., follow technical SEO best practices, build the right kinds of links, and use analytics to optimize social media marketing efforts).

Hummingbird’s Impact On B2B Sites by Search Engine Land

Harrison JonesContending that “The new Hummingbird algorithm will revolutionize the way B2B companies market their sites in search,” Harrison Jones explains how Hummingbird works, how that is likely to affect search rankings and traffic for b2b websites, and how those sites can capitalize on the algorithm change to draw more–and more relevant–traffic from search engines.

Google Hummingbird Requires Brands To Step Up Content Development by MediaPost

Laurie SullivanSomewhat echoing the points made in the post above, Laurie Sullivan writes that “Search engine marketers need to put aside attempts to raise their brand’s Web site to the top of first-page query rankings through old-fashioned optimization techniques and focus on content,” and more specifically, that they should “Use objects, images, and videos, and with the correct semantic structure the content will get grabbed” by the search engines.

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Guest Blogging is NOT Dead (And Matt Cutts Didn’t Say It Is)

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The digital marketing blogs and media have lit up in the last couple of days with reports that “guest blogging is dead,” based on this post from Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team.

The post was widely misinterpreted to mean “stop doing guest blogging,” as even Matt acknowledged in a later addition to his original post:

Say no to spammy guest blogging outreach“I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. ..I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to ‘guest blogging’ as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

The point is pretty clear. Guest posting done with the interest of the community and readers in mind still have value. But attempts at getting guest posts published in a manipulative manner, purely or primarily for the SEO benefit of the backlinks, are no longer going to be effective (and by implication, may even lead to penalties or ranking degradation).

And the gray area isn’t even that large; it’s generally fairly easy to separate legitimate guest post requests from the spammy ones.

Sender: legitimate guest post requests will generally come from people you know, or have heard of, or who at least seem to have a reputable online presence and can tell you exactly why they want to write for your blog (beyond just “Hey, I love your blog!”).

Relevance: a legitimate request will generally focus on one specific post, suitable for your audience and relevant to your typical topics and style. For example, this post on fascinating social media facts and statistics was a great fit for Jeff Bullas’ blog, because it meshes well both topically and stylistically with the kinds of posts Jeff often writes. But this style would not have worked as well on a site like Social Media Examiner.

Spammy guest posters, on the other hand, are often miraculously able to write a post on any topic from household cleaning tips to space travel—or a custom topic if you prefer! Ugh.

Compensation: Matt calls this out specifically in his post, noting that “email offering money to get links that pass PageRank (are) a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines.” A legitimate guest blogger offers a post that has value to your blog in and of itself, and so would not propose monetary compensation.

Backlinks: virtually all guest posts include backlinks. Nothing wrong with that alone. The difference here between a legitimate and a spammy request is 1) the purpose of the links: do they appear to be there to guide the reader to additional, relevant information—or are they trying to sell something, or link to a page with little or no relevance to the post? (or worse, to something sketchy like an online pharmacy site); and 2) the author’s approach to the links. If he or she is comfortable with you changing, deleting, or no-following the links, then the guest post is clearly not just a spammy attempt at link building.

Comfort level: this is a bit amorphous, and will vary among individuals, but essentially: based on what you know about the person proposing the guest post, would you be open to connecting with him or her on various social media platforms? Possibly even to—under the right circumstances—write your own guest post for that person’s blog?

For example, there’s been some cross-posting over the years between Webbiquity and the Blue Focus Marketing blog. The cross-posting is decidedly non-spammy because both blogs focus on b2b marketing and branding; Cheryl and Mark Burgess are excellent writers and authors; and they are awesome people. It would make sense even in the absence of any SEO benefit (though there likely is, still, some).

Motivation: as Matt notes in the addition to his original post quoted above, “There are still many good reasons to do guest blogging.” It increases brand awareness, provides the opportunity to connect with a new audience, and helps increase overall web presence for a brand or product.

And Matt’s post doesn’t specifically say that no type of guest blogging still provides some SEO benefit—only that guest-blogging is no longer effective as a large scale link-building strategy, and that he would “recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

While Google can’t look into a blogger’s heart to determine true motivation, it can and presumably will continue to look at characteristics like a site’s overall link profile (do guest post links make up an inordinate share of all backlinks?) and the quality of linking sites in determining rankings.

This latest development will also likely increase the importance of Google Authorship as a way to separate legitimate guest authors from spammers.

In short, guest blogging is not dead. Far from it. The only thing that has died is the practice of generating large numbers of backlinks through spammy email outreach for guest posts. And good riddance.

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Four Expert Local SEO Guides

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Although the beauty of the Internet for enterprises and publishers is its global reach (for example, one out every eight visitors to this blog is from the U.K., and Webbiquity is one of the 10,000 most popular websites in Thailand[!]), for many businesses, it’s value lies more in connecting them with searchers very close by.

Local Search Engine OptimizationFor establishments that rely on local customers, or even global enterprises with prospective customers in their geographic area, local SEO is a vital component of online marketing efforts.

What are the most important ranking factors in local search optimization? Which local directories are best at driving referral traffic (and helping with SEO)? What emerging trends will impact local search?

Discover the answers to those questions and more in these expert guides to local SEO.

The Ultimate Local SEO Roadmap by Inbound Interactive
***** 5 STARS

Amy NokinskiAmy Nokinsky provides an outstanding guide to local SEO, with detailed explanations of more than two dozen specific tactics organized into five categories: (initial) research and analysis, keyword research, website optimization Google+ optimization, and progress tracking. This is a post well worth bookmarking and sharing.

Top 20 Local Search Ranking Factors: An Illustrated Guide by Moz

Miriam EllisMiriam Ellis posits the 20 most important factors for ranking local search, then details each of the factors which include physical business address, domain authority of the website, verified Google+ Local page, quality of inbound links, inclusion of city and state in meta title tags, and (where applicable) quality of third-party reviews.

The Ultimate List: 50 Local Business Directories by HubSpot

Eric VreelandWriting that “Every individual directory that you submit to is another chance to get found online, so it’s important to make sure you’re listed in every directory possible,” Eric Vreeland spills the goods on more than four dozen directories important for driving local traffic as well as improving local search rankings.

The Future of Local Search: 5 Layers of Local by Search Engine Watch

Amanda DeSilvestroContending that “To improve your local search strategy for both now and the future, you need to understand the growing importance of local data, personalization, emerging technologies, new transaction methods, and delivery,” Amanda DiSilvestro delves into the “five layers” of local search optimization, from data (“Work on citation building and monitor your ratings and reviews”) to delivery, then explains how to win in the future world of local search.

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