Local SEO strategy tips from Kristopher Jones

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Local SEO strategyTwo weeks ago, we asked our Facebook audience to post a question for Kristopher Jones about local SEO as a strategy. Kristopher is (among many other things) the founder of lseo.com, a local search engine optimization solution for businesses that we really like. We chose the best five and got some interesting answers from Kris we’d like to share with you!

1. If you can only focus on 3 local SEO strategies, what should they be?

  1. Secure your Google My Business (formerly Google+ Local and Google Places – confusing I know) Page at https://www.google.com/business/ and follow the specific steps to get the page verified by Google. I can’t emphasize how important it is that you successfully verify your page.
  2. Once verified you need to optimize the page, which includes inputting proper geographic information about your business (business name, local phone #, address) and selecting the most relevant categories that define your business. It’s absolutely imperative that your geographic information is consistent across the Web – you simply can’t have multiple addresses, phone numbers, or different names for your business.When selecting categories for your business you’ll be tempted to put yourself in broad categories that may define part of your business, but do not accurately define what you truly do. Therefore, I recommend you spend the time to categorize your business only in those categories where you offer specific services – this will help your business rank much better for those specific areas, trust me.
  3. In addition to optimizing NAP (name, address, place) information you need to write killer copy about your business and leverage all of Google’s tools, including uploading interesting / entertaining / engaging photos and videos and also getting positive reviews about your business (I talk more about reviews in a later question). Google looks at engagement on your page as one of the factors used to rank your business in local search results. I recommend that you treat your Google page as if you don’t have an actual website, which means you should write copy that assumes the potential client is going to live and breath within the Google ecosystem and never end up on your website. This will likely be the reality for many local businesses (and it’s what Google prefers for obvious reasons).In this way you want to make sure you cover in detail all of the various services you offer or the benefits of your product. Think of your Google page as a primary resource prospective customers are going to use to make a decision about whether or not to do business with you. No shortcuts here gang! You’ll also have the ability to strategically drive traffic to your website by linking (think SEO – use good anchor text) to specific areas of your website to get more information about a particular product or service. Finally, you need to grow and engage your audience on Google.

2. Why do I still see spammy footer ridden sites with links to every single local town ranking locally?

The truth hurts. The fact is that spammy websites still rank well (if only for a short period of time before getting sandboxed) because Google still prioritizes Page Rank (how many links coming into a particular site and the “quality” of those links) as a primary ranking factor over other ranking factors. I’d guesstimate that “links” still account for as much as 60% or more of the Google algorithm. Get a lot of high quality links and you will rank for highly competitive terms in most instances even if your website isn’t as “good” as other websites that rank for the same keyword. This is particularly true on non local intent keywords.

I recently wrote a post on the fact that local businesses (where local intend keywords trigger local search results) really need to focus less on volume and more on quality and location of links. For instance, for a local business it makes most sense to generate as many links as possible within the geographic location of your business. It will also make a huge difference if you are able to get links from high authority local websites like local media (newspapers, TV, radio) and truly local online business directories. As for the spammy non-local websites those will continue to exist in Google search results as long as Google prioritizes Page Rank so heavily.

Local SEO strategies globe

3. What are the 5 best ways to ensure a good and stable position in local SERPS?

  1. Secure, verify, and optimize a Google My Business Page.
  2. Unlock your business on at least 20 of the top Business Directories, such as Yelp, SuperPages, YP.com, Bing, ReferLocal.com (note from Joost: Kris is also the owner of this site), Yahoo, Bestoftheweb, etc.
  3. Generate positive reviews through your Google My Business Page and through Yelp. Focus on both quantity (you should minimally have at least 10 reviews and the most recent 10 should have positive sentiment) and also velocity (how frequently the reviews come in.)
  4. Write lots of quality content on a regular basis. Content marketing is critical to local search engine optimization. You must make a commitment to produce and publish content to your website (via a blog is fine) on a regular basis and share that content through social media. The content should be educational, entertaining, or simply value-added instead of sales-based. One tip I give local business owners on LSEO is to think about how they can build a content marketing strategy that will make their website the #1 resource for whatever industry they are in.
  5. Build local links to your website. Don’t wait for local organizations (non-profits, Chambers of Commerce, trade groups, etc), local partners (suppliers, distributors, vendors), and local media entities to link to you – request links or find a way where you can contribute content (written, visual, video) to the link partner site in return for a link (either embedded in the content, through an author byline, or as part of a partner page).

4. How can we optimise meta and title description for local SEO?

The Local SEO by Yoast plugin is obviously a great place to start if you use WordPress as your CMS! However, it’s SEO Best Practice to make sure you have a unique title tag and description for each page of content on your website. Write this down – Google ranks web pages, not web sites! In general, I recommend that each page of content focus on ranking for 1 or 2 keywords maximum. Stay focused. Those keywords should be the basis of your title tag and meta description and should also be the clear theme of the content and creative (images, video) of the page.

When optimizing your pages don’t always go for the harder to rank broad keyword that defines your industry. Instead, build content around easier to rank longer tail keywords (2-3+ words in one search). If you are going to go after a hard to rank keyword save that for your homepage and if you can’t rank in the top 5 pages of the search engine results change the title and meta descriptions until you can rank on the first (or second in some instances) page for a desirable keyword phrase.

5. Is it still possible to rank well for local search terms, while your business is not physically located in that area?

Yes, many National business directories, shopping comparison engines, marketplace websites, lead aggregators, etc rank quite well for city-based non-local intent keyword terms. However, local intent searches (i.e. Wilkes Barre Attorney) will trigger Google’s local algorithm which means local businesses will rank within a pack, carousel, or on a map (depending on the keyword being searched and the physical location of where you are searching).

Local search packs do not include the lead aggregators, business directories, etc. In addition, it’s important to emphasize here that Google’s local search results favor Google’s ecosystem, which is why I (and other Local SEO’s) put such important on local businesses optimizing a Google My Business page. If you are a National business and want to rank for geographic terms understand that you’ll be competing against Google’s local search results and your website is most likely to fall under those results if you are successful.

Based on my last 15 years helping businesses rank higher on search engines I believe there are two distinct types of small and medium-sized businesses in need of some type of help with search engine optimization. The first type of business is determined to learn SEO and do it on their own. For these folks we built an easy to use “Do it Yourself” Local SEO Software located here – http://lseo.com – you can unlock a full license for free for 14 days with no credit card required.

The second type of business doesn’t have the time but nonetheless knows they need to take action to improve their ranking on Google. However, this type of business has a limited budget and most SEO agencies charge too much (I should know – I used to own one of these high prices agencies). For this second type of business we build an SEO consulting and management business that only charges what you can afford. Check them out here!

Local SEO strategy

Thanks Kris for taking the time to answer our questions!

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

January 23rd 2015 SEO

How to create the right meta description

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How to create the right meta descriptionYet another post about meta descriptions, I hear you think. Still, this is one of the issues that we often get support questions about after doing a site review. The thing is that everyone gets the idea, but little of us actually take the time to write a proper meta description for your article of page. Where to start? What’s right and wrong? In this post, I will try to explain our approach towards meta descriptions.

First, lets be clear about the function of a meta description for your page. Its main purpose is to get the visitor in Google to click your link. In other words, meta descriptions are for generating clickthroughs from search engines. For SEO, it holds little value. I’m not saying NO value, as a meta description can influence bounce rate, for instance if it doesn’t match the text on your page. More on that later.

Characteristics of a good meta description

I think every article on meta descriptions will tell you some of these, but I combined all that made sense to me and came up with this list.

  1. It should be around 130 to 155 characters. There is no ‘this number is right’ in this. It depends on what Google adds to your search result and how much they want to show. Google might for instance add the date to an article and that will reduce the number of characters. Joost wrote about going back to 10 blue links. Bearing that in mind, rule of thumbs is that 130 characters is usually fine. Lately, we have even seen meta descriptions that contain over 250 characters.
  2. It should be actionable, in an active voice. Of course it should. If you consider the meta description the invitation to the page, you can’t just make it “A mixed metaphor describing a non-existent, yet implicitly high level of qualification.” That’s a dull description. I’ll explain using some examples later.
  3. It should include a call-to-action. “Hello, we have this and this new product and you want it. Find out more!” This overlaps the active voice, but I wanted to emphasize it. It’s your sales text, where your product is the page that is linked, not the product on that page. Invitations like Learn more, Get it now, Try for free come to mind.
  4. It could contain structured content. If you have a product for f.i. the tech-savvy, focussing on technical specs of the product could be a good idea. Manufacturer, SKU, price, things like that. If the visitor is specifically looking for that product, chances are  you con’t have to convince him. Things like price will trigger the click. Note that you could of course use rich snippets for this as well.
  5. It should match the content. This is important. Google will find the meta descriptions that trick the visitor into clicking and might penalize the site that created the meta description. Next to that, it will probably increase bounce rate and is a bad idea just for that. You want the meta description to match the content on the page.
  6. It should contain the focus keyword. If the search keyword matches text in the meta description, Google will be more inclined to use that meta description and bold it in the search results. That will make the link more related already.
  7. The meta description should be unique. If your meta description is duplicate, user experience in Google will be less. Although page titles might vary, all pages seem the same as all descriptions are the same. If you intentionally want / need / are enticed to create a duplicate meta description, you’d better leave the meta description empty and have Google pick a snippet from the page containing the keyword used in search.
    Visit Google Webmaster Tools > HTML Improvements or use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to check for duplicate meta descriptions.

Examples of a good meta description

In the preparation for this post, I have checked some of the various articles that mention meta descriptions. I found a lot of wisdom, but almost no examples. I think actual examples will make it easier for you to construct a proper meta description for yourself. Taking the 6 bullet points above in account, let’s go over some examples.

The right length

This meta description has the right length

Personally, I like my meta descriptions like this. Dated and two lines of text.

Over 250 characters

Over 250 characters

Note that the actual meta description inserted in that page was only 76 characters and Google probably decided not to use it for that reason.

In an active voice

Meta description in an active voice

Get WordPress SEO Premium. Nuf said.

Including a call-to-action

Including a call-to-action

There’s two, actually. ‘Learn more now’ and the site link ‘Buy Now $ 399.00′. Both entice that click.

Including structured content

Including structured content

8 MP Camera, that’s what I wanted to know. I don’t need that sales text here, I just want that phone.

Containing the focus keyword

Including the focus keyword and variations

And variations. Note that Google highlights Academy Awards as well when searching for Oscars. This will make your search result stand out even more.

Where to start, I have so many pages?

Feel like changing all the meta descriptions after reading this? That might be a burden, with all the pages you have. And where would you find the time for that? Google actually answers this:

If you don’t have time to create a description for every single page, try to prioritize your content: At the very least, create a description for the critical URLs like your home page and popular pages.

Simply take it from there. And be sure to optimize all new meta descriptions from now on.

Troubleshooting meta descriptions

I’m sure you can come up with more, but I came up with two main issues:

  1. My meta description isn’t showing. Google probably made something up for you, as they feel the meta description you created isn’t representing the content of the page, or is duplicate, for instance. Another issue might be that Google prefers the DMOZ description of your site / page. Simply add <meta name="robots" content="NOODP"> to your <head> section. Or check the option in WordPress SEO > Titles & Metas, of course. I’m not sure if Yahoo! Directory (noydir in the robots meta tag) still has a role in this.
  2. I want to use another description for social sharing. Do you have WordPress SEO? In that case check the social tab in the box on Edit Pages. If not, add OpenGraph tags or Twitter Cards to your website and use any description you want.

Show me yours

I am really looking forward to the best meta description you have created, or cases where you are totally in the dark about what to add to that page – please drop me a note in the comments and I’d be happy to give it a shot.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

January 22nd 2015 SEO

Bruce Clay’s 2015 Predictions for the SEO Industry

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Bruce Clay’s 2015 Predictions for the SEO Industry was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

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Since 2006, Bruce has posted annual predictions of what he expects will jostle the Internet marketing industry in the year to come. What follows are nine predictions by Bruce Clay on mobile, local, video, voice search, and shifts in the Internet’s dominant players.

In keeping with our annual tradition here at Bruce Clay, Inc., I’d like to share with you my forecast of the search climate in 2015. I predict:

  1. Mobile results satisfaction will be more important than any other technical issue.

As of yesterday Google issued warnings through Webmaster Tools to webmasters whose websites contain critical mobile usability errors. The signs point to a mobile ranking algorithm that is near launch. Voice search will rapidly expand, a consequence of increasing mobile use. Long-tail searches will increase as a result of these unstructured voice queries.

  1. The first page Google results will be entirely made up of pages that are mobile friendly, fast, and contain mission specific content (answers questions).

In order to serve long-tail conversational queries, Google will focus on serving results that have very specific answers to questions. We’ll see fewer results at the top of page 1 which cover a theme in a general way, and more sites that cover very specific topics in-depth. Among the ranking algorithm’s variables that correlate with characteristics of E-A-T, expertness will come to outweigh authority and trust. With trust and authority equal, expertness will be weighted the most important. This is how Google will be able to algorithmically give preference to results that answer questions.

  1. The search engines will continue to emphasize local results on all searches. Local results will include opportunities for paid enhancements.

I predict that more queries will include local results. Google reports slightly shrinking market share and they have growing pressure for increased revenue. With avenues for generating revenue in search limited to page 1, I expect local results will be the next SERP real estate to get paid results, sold as enhanced entries. These paid enhancements, a form of paid inclusion, could include coupons, phone numbers and images.

  1. Google will continue to fight spam via algorithmic changes, resulting in every site having some degree of penalty.

There is no variable in the algorithm that is not worth protecting. Any activity outside the bounds of natural for every variable is subject to penalty. Google is going to be looking across the board to improve the results in every algorithmic category. I don’t expect to see new named algorithmic penalties. We may see small algorithmic penalties, in effect, smaller tolerances across every algorithmic variable. If there are 200+ variables in the algorithm, someone will be responsible for improving all 200 of them.

  1. As Google’s paying PPC clients complain of an inability to compete with Amazon, Google will be forced to launch a program to support ecommerce and compete with Amazon result listings.

A large share of product purchases are going through Amazon. Amazon’s plan is to double that year over year. Amazon no longer needs Google searches because of the strength of its own brand and market penetration. Nobody needs to search in Google to find Amazon.

Consumers going straight to Amazon to search for products threatens Google. Amazon’s growing strength in providing products will cause a decay in the number of people searching for those products in Google and an increase in the number of people searching for them in Amazon. PPC revenue will drop because fewer people will search Google for those products.

I’ve also seen merchants of high revenue brands being squeezed by Amazon, as Amazon has set out to be the only distributor in high revenue product segments. Having fewer merchants leads to less PPC demand for those products. I see that Google will have to do something to strengthen the consumer use of Google for product searches.

  1. On-page video will be more heavily weighted as a ranking signal as bandwidth capacity today allows for video to be served for everyone.

I’ve predicted this for some time, but bandwidth, especially on mobile, has gotten to the point where it’s justified. Video can communicate many words’ worth of content in a small area of your website. Users don’t have to scroll in order to receive your message, explaining your benefits to people, concisely. As mobile bandwidth grows it will be easier for users to download videos.

Google has been working to add on-page video as a ranking signal for a long time. They own YouTube, so they have incentive to promote the importance of video, and they have a property with engagement and quality signals they trust. What we’ll find is that video is a signal of expertness, as well as an authority signal if the video is pulled in from YouTube. I expect Google to examine all of its properties, looking for what signals it can extract regarding expertness and authority.

  1. SEO will become more technical, but those doing SEO will become more than programmers. Marketing skills re-emerge as vital to doing the job.

If you’re a successful SEO, you have to do several things. You have to be a problem solver. You have to be really good at games because this is a business simulation where SEOs are competing against the business’s competition. The only thing that could make the job of an SEO more fun is if Google introduced a game controller. If there was a game controller to play the game of ranking in Google, SEO would be a lot more fun because we could shoot the enemy. Instead, working to win within the Google algorithm is something that’s increasingly technical.

And yet, in order to optimize for E-A-T, site maintenance, and usability (especially in the mobile world), the brands that will win in Google need to know marketing. To improve a site’s E-A-T and usability, you have to understanding marketing, reach, client psychology and how clients think, calls to action — and that’s influencing SEO more. The marketing and messaging component is not a little discipline out there called conversion rate optimization. Technically minded SEOs will have a harder time incorporating marketing strategy into their methodology than marketing professionals will who integrate technical SEO requirements into their discipline. So, I expect marketing to absorb SEO.

  1. User experience will be a significant discussion point, causing conversion methods to evolve into a gentler experience.

Consumers in many segments are maturing in regards to their ability to research topics and become familiar with any subject through self-directed learning. As a result, consumers are less receptive to a hard sell, seeing it as disrespectful to their tech savvy. Businesses will find themselves experimenting with a range of tones in messaging, with many finding more success with a familiar tone. Calls to action and conversion methods will soften.

  1. Bing will lead the search engines in market share expansion as the search engine’s marketing skills overtake Google’s programming skills. Google will maintain dominance of market share, but Bing will expand.

Bing has one massive and timely opportunity to gain ground in the search market and that’s the mobile experience. If they hit mobile search experience out of the park, then Google won’t be able to touch them. I’ve watched a succession of Internet companies become dominant: Netscape, followed by IE, then Mozilla then Chrome, and what that tells me is that no one company is safe from being edged out, and it’s all up to the public opinion of what’s best and what’s acceptable. If popular opinion swings against Google due to Google’s increasing emphasis on the bottom line and an influx of sponsored results in search, competitors have an opportunity to shake up the status quo with a next-generation technology, and the biggest opportunity for that is in mobile.

January 21st 2015 bing, Google, SEO

21 Liveblog Reads that Will Make You a Better SEO: Virtual Internet Marketing Conference

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21 Liveblog Reads that Will Make You a Better SEO: Virtual Internet Marketing Conference was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

I’ve got a mixed record with resolutions at the start of a new year, but when that calendar flips I feel a sense of renewed vigor and an urgency to add a few new good habits. Do you ever make New Year’s resolutions?

You may have some SEO goals in your 2015 queue, whether it’s getting your site’s mobile experience tight and right or finding the time to bring a local presence to life on Google My Business. If you’re a driven, self-led learner and are hungry for some SEO insights to power up your 2015 digital marketing agenda, we’ve got a buffet for you.

Virtual Internet Marketing ConferenceBest of Search Conferences 2014

Last year, BCI bloggers covered 69 keynotes, sessions and mini-sessions from digital marketing conferences SMX West and SMX East, Pubcon New Orleans and Pubcon Las Vegas. Attending a conference can be pricey but the takeaways gleaned can be priceless as far as improving your ability to do your job better. Consider this post the shortcut track of the best sessions and speakers from these events. It’s your CliffsNotes of the best of Search Conferences 2014.

Keynotes

Google Search Chief Amit Singhal’s Keynote Conversation

Amit Singhal is a Senior Vice President and Google Fellow at Google, Inc. Singhal is described by Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land editor-in-chief, as “the one who knows how Google ranks things.” Here’s what this Google executive and influencer had to say about advancements in serving natural language queries, ranking signals from social and links, and the role of the Knowledge Graph as a tool for users.
Amit Singhal and Danny Sullivan

  • Hummingbird (Google search infrastructure update of August 2013) was a complete rewrite of the system. It enabled Google to better understand “natural language, longer queries, how close various words are in order to signal a concept.”
  • Links are an important ranking signal that shows the importance of popular content.
  • Social signals are not used for ranking because they are currently unreliable; however, Singhal says that social signals could be tested and added if they do become reliable.
  • Signals from Google+ are considered reliable data. Logged in searchers see an impact on their SERPs based on Google+ signals. Google believes that they’re able to better serve users based on their needs and psychology by incorporating Google+ signals into ranking.
  • Google sees Knowledge Graph as their “understanding of the world.” Singhal describes the web as a Swiss army knife. You’re comfortable with the knives and scissors, but sometimes you need a corkscrew. Knowledge Graph is a tool that you can use on the go, especially in the mobile world. And the more you use one of the tools, the more you use all the tools at your disposal.

Robert Cialdini On the 6 Universal Principles of Persuasion

Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, is the most cited social psychologist in the sphere of business. The principles of Influence have come to be the measuring stick on which business decisions are made. At Pubcon New Orleans, Cialdini talked about persuasion, which can move people in a desired direction, and uncertainty, which is a hinderance to persuasion.

Robert Cialdini at Pubcon New Orleans

There are six universal principles of persuasion:

  1. Reciprocation: In every human culture there is a rule that we are trained in from childhood that says: “If you do me a favor I owe you a favor.” Meaningful, unexpected and personalized — those are the three keys to the principle of reciprocity.
  1. Liking: If you’re dealing with someone, find out about that individual’s background and interests and hobbies. Bring up commonalities when you realize them. You’re much less likely to find yourself in a deadlock if you believe you are similar.
  1. Commitment/consistency: People want to be consistent with what they’ve done previously, especially publicly. The best way to get people to commit is by getting them write it down. Get them to click multiple times, type in something, and they will stay more stable as a consequence.
  1. Scarcity: If people are unsure and don’t know what to do in a situation, they act to prevent losing. Framing a message in terms of what you’re losing if you don’t try it draws more interest than framing some product or offering as new.
  1. Authority: Credibility is made of two things: knowledge and trustworthiness. Before you try to influence people, inform them of your background, experience and credentials. This is harder than it sounds because talking up your own credentials makes you come off as a braggart. It’s better if someone else introduces you as the expert. Another takeaway on this point is that revealing drawbacks or weaknesses can make you more trustworthy. If you, share your strongest argument after a moment where you have admitted a weakness, that weakness will be received in an open way, affording you credibility and trust.
  1. Consensus: People reduce uncertainty by looking at the advice of peers. 98% of online shoppers say they check product reviews online before buying. We follow the lead of many others and of similar others. The consensus principle is at the core of the social media revolution.

SEO

Deconstructing Pigeon, Google’s New Local Search Algorithm

  • Discover what’s new when it comes to searches with generic and geo-locally modified terms.
  • See firsthand some broken results that will make you scratch your head.
  • Take a look at how Pigeon effects real estate clients specifically.

What SEOs Should Be Doing with Mobile

  • Catch up on the state of mobile with insights from straight from Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes.
  • BrightEdge’s CEO Jim Yu shares exclusive data on error rates associated with different mobile site structure.
  • Learn why there’s no “one-size-fits-all” design choice when it comes to mobile sites.

HTTPS & the Future of Secure Search: Google’s Gary Illyes and SEO VIPs

  • This session is offers more straight-from-Google insights, including musings on the possible return of keyword data.
  • Stone Temple Consulting’s President Eric Enge reveals he’s seen “no material change” since moving to secure search.
  • Discover the panel’s thoughts on RSS and WordPress in relation to secure search.

Google Gary Illyes HTTPS

New Mobile Behavior and Click-to-Call Strategies

  • Learn why click-to-call extensions are vital to the health of your PPC campaign.
  • Why what worked “then” still works “now” when it comes to ads.
  • Fast facts about leads generated via phone calls.

25 Smart Examples of Structured Data You Can Use Now

  • Discover insights on how to track the ROI of rich snippets.
  • Get seven examples of structured data you can implement today.
  • Learn the importance of connecting Google Analytics to your structured markup.

Structured Data

Q&A with the SEO “Old School”

  • Called “the most interesting conversation” of Pubcon Nola, this no-rules open forum showcases knowledge from the industry’s seasoned experts.
  • Find out where the industry’s leaders (including Bruce Clay, Greg Boser, Joe Laratro, Tony Wright, Rob Garner and more) think the future of SEO is headed.
  • Check out a candid conversations regarding the penalization of Ann Smarty’s guest blog network.

Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester Talk Online Marketing — Meet the Search Engines

  • Matt Cutts (Google’s Distinguished Engineer) shares the top seven SEO themes of 2014.
  • Find out how Cutts and Bing’s Senior Product Manager Duane Forrester recommend handling parameter bloat due to tracking referral strings.
  • See a power SEO selfie if ever there was one — plus “listen” in to all the other insights these search dynamos share in this Q&A session with Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan.

Long-Term SEO: How to Win for Years, Not Days

  • Discover the hallmarks of a great website.
  • Learn why strategy is more important than tactics.
  • How to guard against the SEO disaster that is waiting around the corner.

SEM

Creating, Testing & Optimizing Paid Search Ads

  • Get PPC pros top tips for testing ads.
  • How the shifting mobile landscape effects paid search.
  • Find out what matters most when creating, testing and measuring ROI on ads.

Power Boosting Sales with PLAs

  • Product Ads give consumers rich info in an engaging format. It will show custom images from an advertiser’s own product catalog plus promo text and pricing. The foundation of this approach is the retailers most powerful asset: the product.
  • Best practices for setting up your PLA campaigns: the more specific your product targets are, the more control you have over which product serves. Create at least one Product Target that targets all products. Group similar product IDs. Then create additional Product Targets that include specific brands or product types. Product Target attributes are critical for success. As a rule of thumb, think of reporting. You’re looking at what can be manipulated to increase ROI. (Brand, Condition, Product Type, ad group, etc.)
  • 89% of all sales from PLAs were not from keywords that contained the product title. Let search queries drive your product titles. Put that high volume search term at the beginning of your product titles. Create search campaigns off your search query reports. Let your PLA campaigns dictate other search network campaigns.

Content Marketing

Keyword Research for Better Content & Audience Engagement

  • Keyword research is in disarray – the things you find in keyword research are crazy. People are searching for keywords, but that that’s data without wisdom. Good keyword research accounts for intent.
  • As you research, map keywords to personas. This ultimately helps you understand what people are trying to do with their search. Understand your users’ vocabulary and work to get a sense of what people are talking about when they’re searching.
  • Map keywords to need states.
  • If you’ve mapped keywords to persona needs, the fact that keyword data has gone (Not Provided) in Google doesn’t matter. All that matters is who is searching and what matters to them. Google provides more than enough data to determine what types of users are coming to your site. Use that in the context of landing pages, internal search and channels.

Keyword Research for Better Content

Shifting From Content Marketing to Media Company

  • In this session, Copyblogger Media Founder and CEO Brian Clark told the audience all the ingredients of engaging content, what it means to adopt a media-first business strategy, and the changes organizations must make to survive in the era of content-first marketing. Brands doing the best today have transformed themselves into functioning media outlets.
  • Business owners should think of their marketing more as informational content than traditional marketing. Think of the marketing and creative you produce like cable TV shows — educational but also engaging.
  • If you want to win hearts and minds, create entertainment, media, and stories that resonate with people. Examples of brands that are doing this today are Coca-Cola, Netflix and Google.

How Small Companies Can Achieve Big Results

  • This session coverage is being included in this Content Marketing category, but it’s more like an uncategorized selection of productivity tips. Apply the recommendations in this session and you can work smarter so that your small business can compete against big brands with content and a rich online presence.
  • A small business can compete with a big brand if they are lean and agile and quick. Get your internal communication tight. Identify your best assets from throughout the organization. Identify the best content you have and understand how all your content is performing. Repurpose content, squeezing every last drop of goodness from the content you have that is already winning.
  • If you want to be the best, you should know the market the best, and that includes learning everything about your competition. Sign up for their newlsetters. Read their content. Learn from what they are doing well.

Social Media

Twitter Cards & Facebook’s Open Graph

  • Social markup makes it easier for users to share your content, and therefore more likely. When you share a link and it looks really poor, the user is going to rethink even posting it. Investing in social markup improves the health of your content in the long term.
  • Approach social markup like ad creative. No one else is (probably) going to edit the post — you need to treat the post like an ad and make it awesome and accurate. This is essential for increased content sharing. And note that OG tags are also read by LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.
  • There are nine types of Twitter Cards, including cards that provide a summary of content, include photos, provide product details, let you play videos, songs and view slides, and even lead generation cards.

Twitter For Business

  • Twitter is about human communication. Any brand that has an audience that they want to connect with can excel on Twitter. It’s all about finding the community; using the tools they’re using; engaging your community with content that adds value.
  • Should I have two Twitter profiles? One for me, and one for me as X-brand advocate? Social media is all about being human. People want to know that Jon the Dell worker is also into Fishing. They want to see Jon as a human. Only positivity can come from showing your personality next to your professional tweets.
  • Twitter for business best practices: Write more @ tweets! Don’t automate tweets. Add value in what you tweet! Leave room for retweets. Use Twitter lists to connect with influencers. Consider the story that your list of lists is telling. Subscribe to lists that include you.

Paid Social Media Opportunities Including Facebook for Business

  • Paid social works because of microtargeting, personalization, variety of specialized networks, good distribution and exposure, its real-time nature, the speed with which someone can start, its mobile reach and the potential viral aspect.
  • Start with goals of brand building (vs. direct response). Balance your expectations and figure out what you’re trying to achieve.
  • It’s become harder and harder to reach your fans organically in the Facebook News Feed. Organic reach is down and it’s becoming a necessity to use ad options. Facebook offers marketers the biggest network with the most opportunity.
  • Try to avoid the tempting shortcuts that Facebook presents to you (like “Boost Post”). They’re very pricey and you can do better with the power editor.
  • Custom Audiences let you build relationships. Advertisers find their existing audiences among people who are on Facebook. 6x return on ad spend when you create a custom audience from email addresses or phone numbers.

 

Closing Remarks and Big Picture Thoughts

Revolutionizing Decision Making: How The Analyst Will Take Over Business

Data lets us to better connect with our consumers during specific/targeted phases in their lives.

3 Ways to Nurture Successful Ongoing Analytics

  1. Make sure your data collection meets a strategic business need.
  2. Explain the analytics in a way that the stakeholders can understand.
  3. Demonstrate ROI to stakeholders.

4 Tips for Communicating Analysis to Stakeholders

  1. What does it the person you’re communicating to need?
  2. Run your presentation past a nontechnical supporter.
  3. Create proof points for your techniques.
  4. Watch your assumptions!

Pro Tips

  • Only take two-minutes to explain your methodology.
  • Use analogies!

Evening Forum with Danny Sullivan

Search Engine Land Founding Editor Danny Sullivan takes questions from the SMX audience. Find out how Sullivan respond to thought-provoking questions about SEO education as a part of college curriculum and the future of Right to Be Forgotten. Sullivan also tackles technical queries such as “Structured data seems like a good opportunity but it seems 1% of sites use it – and now dynamic links render automatically, is it worth it to implement schema?”

Jason Calacanis on Startups that Save the World

Angel investor Jason Calacanis’s keynote is unique – it’s not tactical or strategy-driven. It’s steeped in reality and meant to simply inspire and inform the audience of the amazing progress that startups and forward-thinking companies are bring to the world in the areas of six global problems. Startups, he asserts, will solve our world’s problems rather than governments. His keynote, that is meant to inspire us, will cover major advances by tech and startup companies.

January 17th 2015 SEO

Optimizing images for SEO

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Optimizing images for SEOIf you are for instance a blogger or write articles for an online magazine or newspaper, you encounter this question on a probably daily basis: should I add an image to my article? The answer is “Yes”. Images make an article more vivid and can actually contribute to improving the SEO for your article. In this post, I’d like to explain the steps that should be taken to fully optimize an image for SEO.

Use images

Images, when added with a certain consideration, will help understand your article a lot. “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Yeah, well, probably not for Google, but it can for sure spice up a 1000 dull words, illustrate what you mean in a chart or data flow diagram, or simply make your social media efforts more attractive.

It’s a simple recommendation: use images to every article you write online. It’ll make it more appealing.

Finding the right image

Image SEO: This image isn't saying 'welcome to our company', it's saying 'welcome to a company'.If you have the opportunity to add your own image, please do so. Your team page needs pictures of your team, not this dude on the right or one of his stock photo friends. Off topic: let alone that the dude might need a haircut.

Your article needs an image that has the same subject as your article. If you would use an image, just to use an image and get a green bullet in our SEO plugin, you are doing it wrong. The image should reflect the topic of the post, or have illustrative purposes within the article, of course.

There is a simple image SEO reason for that: an image that is surrounded by related text, ranks better for the keyword it is optimized for. More details on image SEO later.

You might have seen the images we are using for our posts (the ones with the titles). We have added these for a number of reasons:

  • They emphasize the title or subject of the post
  • It’ll trigger a visitor to read the post, as the first view isn’t just text
  • These images are used in OpenGraph tags and Twitter Cards, which will add the image to our social shares.

Just another way to go about adding images. By the way, most of these ‘featured images’ are stock photos. We have made them our own by adding the title in the same way over and over, making the actual image subservient to the text in the image. That goes against a much heard recommendation to not add text in images, but as mentioned, we use that specific image for other purposes, not per se for SEO.

If there is no way to use images of your own, there are other ways to find more unique images and refrain from using stock photos. Flickr.com is a nice image source for instance, as explained in this article: How to Use Creative Commons Images from Flickr. I also like the images provided by sites like freeimages.com (formerly known as sxc.hu). You should stay away from the obvious stock photos, and rather pick the ones that look (ok, just a bit) more genuine. It almost seems like images with people always look like stock photos, unless taken by yourself. In the end, that is still the best idea.

Obvious alternatives for photos could be illustrations, like we sometimes use, or graphs, of course. An honorable mention should go to animated GIFs, as these seem to become more and more popular these days.

Image SEO: Animated GIFs are popular these days

Animated GIFs are very popular these days

Don’t go overboard. It’ll make your post less attractive to read, as your reading will be interrupted by the movement in the image, of course. Like in the post where I found the above image.

Preparing images for use in your article

When you have found the right image to use, either an illustration, chart or photo, the next step is to optimize that image for use on your website. There are a number of things to take in consideration:

Choose the right file name

Image SEO starts with the right file name. Of course this is the first location to use that keyword. Without even looking at the actual image, you want Google to know what the image is about. It’s simple: if your image is a sunrise in Paris showing the Notre Dame, the file name shouldn’t be DSC4536.jpg, but notre-dame-paris-sunrise.jpg. The main keyword would be Notre Dame, as that is the main subject of the photo, that is why I added that at the beginning of the file name.

Scale for image SEO

Loading times are an important UX and therefore SEO aspect. The faster the site, the easier to visit and index a page is. Images can have a huge impact on loading times, especially when you load a huge image and show it really small, like using a 2500×1500 pixels image and showing it at 250×150 pixels size. The entire image will still have to be loaded. Scale the image to the size you want to show it. WordPress helps by providing the image in multiple sizes after upload already. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean the file size is optimized as well, that’s just the image size.

Reduce file size

The next step in image SEO should be to make sure that scaled image is served in the smallest file size possible. There are tools for that. Of course you could just export the image an test what percentage of quality is acceptable, but I prefer (especially with retina and similar screens) to use 100% quality images.

Image SEO: Optimize image file size using JPEGMini

Optimize image file size for instance using JPEGMini

You can still reduce the file size of these images by for instance removing the EXIF data. We recommend using tools like ImageOptim or websites like JPEGMini or PunyPNG. I’ve also heard great stories about Kraken.io, but I haven’t used that myself, to be honest.

After you have uploaded the image, tools like YSlow can tell you if your image optimization succeeded.

Adding the image to your article

Don’t just stuff it in somewhere. I already mentioned adding it near / at / in related textual content. That simply helps a lot. It makes sure the content is relevant for the image as well, as it is the other way around.

Captions

The caption of the image is the text that accompanies the image. At most images in this article, it’s the text in the gray box below it. Why is that text important for image SEO as well? People use that text in scanning an article. Next to headings, people tend to scan the image and include the caption as well in that scan. Nielsen actually wrote back in 1997: “Elements that enhance scanning include headings, large type, bold text, highlighted text, bulleted lists, graphics, captions, topic sentences, and tables of contents.” In 2012, KissMetric even stated that “Captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself, so not using them, or not using them correctly, means missing out on an opportunity to engage a huge number of potential readers.”

Do we add captions to all images? No. As mentioned, sometimes images just serve another purpose. Decide whether the image at hand is an image you want to use for SEO as well or not. Keeping over-optimization in mind, I’d say you should add a caption if it would make sense to the visitor if that caption is added. Think about the visitor first, don’t add a caption just for image SEO.

Alt text and title text

Alt text is the text you see when you hover an image in most browsers (IE shows the alt text, Chrome seems to show the title text instead). I can’t put it any better than Wikipedia: “In situations where the image is not available to the reader, perhaps because they have turned off images in their web browser or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment, the alternative text ensures that no information or functionality is lost.” Be sure to add alt texts. Make sure the alt text includes your SEO keyword and relates to the image. DigitalSherpa did a nice article on How to Write SEO-Friendly Alt-Text For Your Images.

Title text for images is similar and a lot of people that use these simply copy the alt text. More and more people simply leave these out. What is it for? “The title attribute can be very useful, but it is not a safe way of providing crucial information. Instead it offers a good way to provide non-essential information, for example the mood of the image, or what it means in context.” it’s nice to have information indeed, and isn’t taken in account for image SEO.

OpenGraph

Image SEO: Add OpenGraph for the image as wellI mentioned using the image for social sharing. If you add the right image tag to your <head> section like this:

<meta property="og:image" content="http://example.com/link-to-image.jpg" />

That will make sure the image is included in your share on Facebook (and OpenGraph is also used for Pinterest, for instance). Our WordPress SEO plugin has a Social section where you can set this image. Make sure to use a high quality image, like the original image you use in the post, as higher quality / larger images tend to be used by the social platforms more often. If you have set this up correctly, and it doesn’t work, try to flush Facebook’s cache in the URL Debugger.

Twitter Cards do the same for Twitter, and are also generated by our plugin.

Alignment

Let me be honest, this is a pet peeve of mine. Images shouldn’t break the left reading line. I’m sure there are studies about this but I’m taking full responsibility for this myself: I just really don’t like it when text starts on the right of an image, only to jump below the image later:

Maintain the left reading line; don't align images to the left

Maintain the left reading line; don’t align images to the left

If an image is used that is the same width as your textual column, that would be no problem. It will even help emphasizing the image more.

Note that this has absolutely nothing to do with image SEO, but I saw an opportunity to express my opinion and used it :) I think it’s bad for user experience. Just to please me: don’t. Thanks a lot for that.

XML image sitemaps

If you are a web developer, you might wonder about XML image sitemaps. I’d rather say: images in XML sitemaps. Google is pretty clear about this:

To give Google information about images on your site, you’ll need to add image-specific tags to a sitemap. You can use a separate sitemap to list images, or you can add image information to an existing sitemap. Use the method works for you!

Every now and then, people ask us about XML image sitemaps. We don’t generate these in our plugin, but as Google states, instead these images are included in the page or post sitemaps. Just scroll down in our post sitemap and find that we have added images to all our latest posts (there is a column telling you that). Adding images to your XML sitemaps help Google index your images, so be sure to do so for better image SEO.

TL;DR

Image SEO is the sum of a number of elements. With Google being able to recognize elements in the image better every day, it makes sense to make sure the image and all elements contribute to user experience as well as SEO. It would be foolish to try to fool Google.

Take these things in mind when adding an image to an article:

  • Use a relevant image that matches your text
  • Pick the right file name for your image
  • Make sure image dimension match the image size as displayed
  • Reduce file size for faster loading
  • Add a caption for easier scanning of the page
  • Use an image alt text, title text is optional
  • Add OpenGraph and Twitter Card tags for the image
  • Don’t break the left reading line using an image
  • Use images in your XML sitemaps

Next to image SEO and using images for user experience, images can also play an important role in conversion. If you like to know more about that, be sure to read Thijs’ post: Visually direct and captivate your visitors.

This post first appeared on Yoast. Whoopity Doo!

January 15th 2015 SEO

The Science of Digital Marketing

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by Todd Bailey

“There is no law except the law that there is no law” (John Archibald Wheeler), could not be more true in the digital marketing industry.  Sure, there are guidelines, best practices and policies but that isn’t to say that the industry as a whole is, and will always be, a science.

What is more important than achieving more online visits, sales, leads and brand amplification?  How do you achieve these goals when a true theory has yet to be proved and to be followed?  With so many blogs, resources and even credited educational courses how will we look back at our profession?
Early on we were hackers and lowly linkers.  Paid Search gave us a vertical to establish credibility.  Social Media and Digital PR made us cool and put us on stage instead of behind the scenes.  And analytics put us in the board room.  
Well rounded digital marketers that achieve results usually aren’t evangelists, industry news reporters or anyone we have actually even heard of.  They are experts in thinking, trying and learning.  Across all mediums of digital marketing we experiment based off countless variables; history, trends, expectations and knowledge.  
Digital Marketing as a Science is experimenting and observing.  In organic, the major search engines are our physical and material world.  But what general laws have we concluded to date?  The mass reports of the SEO practice continue to be speculation, conspiracy related to patents and their implications, small test models and algorithm update publications.
Marketing Scientists don’t have sanctioned (and controlled) associations for publishing advancements in the field.  We are at the mercy of a top ten list of for profit publishing platforms.  
Even more alarming is the Paid Search space.  Once the golden child in digital marketing filled with transparency and data but now subject to enhanced campaign modifications, lost keyword data and a sheer layer of complication forged in an algorithm set in place by publishing giants.  Easily, Paid Search does allow for better experiments and production of tangible documentation.  But, still no sanctioned (and controlled) association for publishing advancements in the field.
While still young, Social Media and Digital PR are not in a point in their evolution (or may never be) to be able to set forth general laws.  And Analytics is merely a mechanism for observing all experiments.  But then again, “If your experiment requires statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”  (Ernest Rutherford).
We may come to a point in the very near future where there are truths.  Where facts are published as laws.  But the art of marketing is still an evolution and to be evangelical about any of our practice is a business to itself.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

Where Does Search Fit in Digital Marketing in 2015?

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search

What does search fit in your digital marketing program? If you answered ‘with the SEO department’, you’re certainly not alone, as many marketers and businesses owners still use the traditionally siloed approach to search marketing, leaving the SEO folks to do their work, separate from the social, paid and content marketing teams.

However, in the ultra-competitive world of search marketing, integration of tactics under a unified digital marketing strategy is becoming more important than ever.

Similar to mobile accessibility, 2015 is the year when integration of search with the overall digital marketing strategy will increasingly move from a ‘nice to have’ to an essential. Brands that embrace an integrated approach will be rewarded.

Owning Mindshare

A key objective of any digital marketing initiative should be to create or strengthen associations between your brand and relevant topics, opinions and feelings. Whether it’s a blog post, Yelp review, Facebook status, Google Places Profile or YouTube video, any and all touch points that people have with your brand content are an opportunity to leave a lasting impression and motivate future actions (like becoming a customer).

Capturing mindshare for your brand’s key topics means your content needs to reach the right people, at the right time and leave a lasting positive impression. In other words, you need to be the best answer.

But first, you need to understand the question, who is asking and how. Then it’s simply a matter of translating (optimizing) your content into the language your potential customers are already using (or may use in the future).

Search marketing is a perfect solution to this challenge because it seeks to both understand the question and provide the best answer, where it will be found.

Capturing Mindshare with Search Marketing

Why Let Search Reap all the Benefits?

Just because search marketing holds the keys to understanding and reaching your target audience doesn’t mean its principles and best practices can’t benefit other areas of your digital marketing department.

There are variations between channels in how people discover great brand content and the formats they prefer, but there is most certainly consistency in their core questions and pain points whether they are on Twitter or using a search engine. Tweaking the format and optimization elements to fit the channel makes perfect sense; altering the key message does not.

Below are just a few examples of how a solid search marketing strategy can benefit other tactics.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a huge opportunity for the application of search marketing best practices, most notably keyword strategy. Given the incredible volume of content on any of the popular social networks today, people are using search functionality to navigate and find what they’re looking for more than ever.

As with organic search, including relevant keywords in your social content and profiles greatly increases the chances of being seen by the right audience at the right time on social channels. In addition, optimized social content is increasingly being indexed and found in organic search, in particular if it’s posted to Google+ or Twitter.

Offline Events

Thanks to live blogging, event hashtags, live feeds and the near ubiquitous smartphone, there may not be any truly ‘offline’ events or content anymore, which is why it’s important to consider search in your event strategy.

Your event related content should align closely with your search strategy, including pre-promotional materials, booth promotions, presentation and interview transcripts, videos, social messages and downloadable materials. 

PR and Earned Media

Regardless of whether press releases and other ‘earned media’ content lives on your website or externally, it’s a no-brainer to make sure it’s optimized in a manner consistent with your search strategy.

Earned media mentions from credible third party sources can be very effective at influencing brand perception, particularly when they show prominently in relevant searches (i.e. for keywords and topics that sync up with your content strategy).

Granted, generally you won’t have the same level of control compared to ‘owned media’ but if the balance of your brand content is well optimized per your keyword messaging strategy, that is likely to influence the way your company is talked about by third party influencers, which increases the chances of earned media being on topic.

Universal Search Optimization

Most marketers know that ranking above the fold on page one in either natural or universal search for a keyword can do wonders for traffic and brand awareness, but did you know that the combination of appearing prominently in both natural and universal results can significantly increase these effects?

In fact, according to research from Google and Search Engine Land, this potent combination results in a 30% increase in brand awareness, perception of brand quality and purchase consideration.

In order to achieve this highly coveted ‘one two punch’ of search visibility, it’s critical to make sure any brand assets (e.g. images, videos, news content) are optimized consistently with your overall website search keyword strategy to give them the best chance of gaining visibility for consistent search topics.

These are just a few examples, but the point is that there really isn’t an area of digital marketing that search marketing best practices can’t benefit (please feel free to dispute that in the comments).

Universal Plus Organic Search Rankings

Live Together, Die Alone

Like the cast of the recently popular show “Lost,” a digital marketing department plays host to a varied cast of characters with different skills and motivations, who may not always get along.

In order to survive and thrive, it’s necessary to put differences aside and align towards a common goal. Allowing your digital marketing tactics to set up their own independent camps deep in the jungle of your company is asking for a war.

Digital Marketing Jungle

Here’s to 2015 being the year we fully integrate search into digital marketing.

Where does search fit into your 2015 marketing plan?

Want to learn more? Hear Evan speak about using SEO to improve search visibility at the PRNews Google Conference in San Francisco on February 11th.


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January 12th 2015 SEO

Drive Social, Spike Traffic: Social Media’s Effect on SEO

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Drive Social, Spike Traffic: Social Media’s Effect on SEO was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Yesterday, Bruce Clay, Inc. hosted the first #SEOchat of 2015 and the topic inspired hot conversation. “Drive Social, Spike Traffic” honed in on the impact of social media on SEO initiatives. Guests, including some well-recognized and respected digital marketers like Andy Crestodina and Lisa Buyer, talked about their 2015 social strategy as it relates to SEO.

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#SEOchat is a Twitter chat held every Thursday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. Learn more about #SEOchat here.

Read on to see what SEOs had to say about:

Social Media in 2015

How do you plan to use social media as a traffic driver in 2015?

@LisaBuyer: Stay newsworthy and current on spreading company and industry news via social media.

@DragonSearch: As Facebook’s organic reach continues to drop, we’re using social ads more than in the past.

@kg7maj: Be active in a variety of networks, engage with the following & produce good content for a blog. Traffic will follow.

@CallMeLouzander: Get targeted. @paulaspeak shared great article describing how teens see various #socialmedia apps: https://medium.com/backchannel/a-teenagers-view-on-social-media-1df945c09ac6

@d50Media: Facebook paid ads and boosted posts have lead to leads and brand awareness for our clients. We can choose pages to drive traffic to.

@KristiKellogg: I plan to use #socialmedia aggressively, that’s how. Practically, that means strategically and consistently & NICHE-TARGETED. In other words, don’t just tweet into the wind. Share/Post/Promote things that people will want to engage with.

SMM Knowledge for the SEO

To what degree should an SEO know social media and contribute to SMM?

@ChelseaBeaAdams: Some social channels can help organic SEO (in a way). For instance, Pinterest boards are indexed for keyword phrases. Also, don’t forget the power of the Google+ social network. Google+ posts definitely rank high in SERPs for phrases: http://www.bruceclay.com/blog/google-plus-strategy-serps/

@d50media: Write quality content (w/SEO keywords in mind) and share/promote on social media. Track everything.

@KevinWaugh: An #SEO should know what social media can do for them. The lines between the two have been blurring.

@DragonSearch: We recently launched a client’s tumblr blog, and to be effective on tumblr, you really have to know social AND #SEO.

@KristiKellogg: In a perfect world, both the #SEO and the #SMM know both backwards and forwards. But that’s a lot — so they can each benefit from the other’s knowledge.

@EricLanderSEO: An SEO has to understand, at a bare minimum, the influence of SMM and link equity into the broader organic algorithm.

Should social media be part of the SEO strategy, and how?

@Crestodina: Social Media –> Research –> Relationships –> Mentions/Links –> Rank

@d50media: Absolutely! Keywords–> Quality content–> Share on #SM –> track–> get feedback from users–> Write new content

@CaitlinBoroden: SEO, social media, and link building should all be looped in together when it comes to strategy in my book.

@ChelseaBeaAdams: You need to know what tools to use when; if your goal is SERP discovery, I think a G+ strategy (& circle growth) should be a priority.

Traffic-Driving Tools and Social Tactics

How have you used social media & SMM tools to drive traffic to your website?

@Crestodina: I like to use social media to find bloggers to build relationships with. People who create content create links …

@DragonSearch: If content is the Emerald City, then social is the Yellow Brick Road to get people there.

@VirginiaNussey: We use tool CoSchedule to regularly push content to social.

@KristiKellogg: Constantly. CONSTANTLY. Never is there an article at Bruce Clay, Inc. that doesn’t get promoted on EVERY channel.

@ChelseaBeaAdams: Well, social media is undoubtedly a great way to increase EXPOSURE. Someone can only search for your site once they know you exist.

@d50media: TweetDeck to see what people are posting, FB boosted posts, picmonkey to create strong images.

Social Media and Links

Do links from social media (which networks) provide SEO value?

@Crestodina: This is a great question. I think the answer is basically ‘no’ … and that’s a good thing!

@PaulaSpeak: While PageRank doesn’t pass from SM, I’ve been reading a lot about the overall engagement becoming important for ranking.

@CallMeLouzander: If SEO=strictly onpage, then No. But broader definition of SEO includes backlinks, which of course includes social engagement.

@DragonSearch: In the not-so-distant future I suspect we’ll see links in social posts start to provide more equity.

@DavidProHQ: Most links from social networks are nofollow.

@MichaelBurjack: Interesting article about Twitter indexing at https://www.stonetemple.com/how-does-google-index-tweets/ TL; DR: only large accoutns affect the index.

@Siddlal: No social links don’t provide link value as they are behind passwords but they are like friends with benefits.

@EricLanderSEO: Yes, but in many different forms. Don’t overlook discussion networks (hint). Use Moz AHREFs, etc. to research verticals. :)

Social Media + Content Discovery

Do you use social media to get content discovered and indexed in search faster?

@Crestodina: Posting to G+ is the modern way to submit to Google …

@HackingSearch: Well, Googlebot shows up immediately after sharing a link on Google+, so yes.

@CaitlinBoroden: Facebook, Twitter, the usuals. I’ve been really curious about what @Pinterest will be introducing. I want to know more.

@DavidProHQ: I post every article in G+ whether it’s in a community or just to the public. I’ve heard it’s indexed faster that way. I definitely use SM to get content discovered. Half the time is writing content, the other half is promoting it :)

@DirectOM: It helps with getting content discovered, that’s for sure!

@EricLanderSEO: Drive social activity using resources and guides like this from Search Engine Journal: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/beginners-guide-google-suggest-marketers-seo/73269/

Paid Social Media

Are you using paid social media and on which social platforms? What results are you seeing from paid SMM?

@d50media: Paid #SMM, especially on Facebook, is a necessary evil

@KristiKellogg: We see great returns on promoted posts on Facebook. I’ve also started playing around w/ #ads on LinkedIn. Jury is still out. I started experimenting with LinkedIn ads because they give so many free advertising credits. Free is always good.

@DragonSearch: YES YES YES YES YES. On Facebook in particular. Organic reach there has plummeted. It REALLY hurts smaller clients.

@LisaBuyer: If no, then #Fail.

@DragonSearch: We’ve seen the best ROI from Facebook. Twitter seems to have a higher CPC and the verdict is still out on LinkedIn.

Social Media Resolutions

What are your social media resolutions for 2015?

@VirginiaNussey: I want to test the content mix on our blog to see if we can get more comments.

@DragonSearch: I’m constantly toying with ideas about Instagram. Bigger than Twitter. Gets great engagement. Hard to analyze though :)

@PaulaSpeak: Get better at analyzing #SMM results data. Also, promote OTHER people’s content more. :)

@LisaBuyer: Less is more. Better is best. Customer first, brand second. Share is better than Like.

Social Media + Blogging

Does blogging success depend on social media? Neil Patel predicts this for 2015: http://bit.ly/1AnwYhK.

@KristiKellogg: We touched on this earlier — yes, social media drives traffic — but if the content is less than engaging, HELLO bouncing :) Social promotion without good content is useless.

@HackingSearch: Not as much as it depends on regular posting.

@CallMeLouzander: Irregular posting can lead to invisibility, I’m finding.

@NavahK: Yes!

Community Management Pet Peeves

Do you have any pet peeves in social media marketing? Kristi Kellogg shared her top 10 pet peeves: http://bit.ly/13YrKe8.

@ChelseaBeaAdams: I HATE post-follow auto DMs. Especially ones that are clearly promotional and not focused on relationship building.

@davidprohq: Brands replying when you compliment them, but say nothing when you have a question regarding service.

@LisaBuyer: Highjacking a hashtag is annoying and ruins for the legit and authentic.

@Official_IAA: Totally annoyed that Facebook won’t let us edit the picture of a scheduled post!

@kg7maj: Brands who – only promote – don’t reply – use the same content wording across all platforms.

Determining Social Media Value

How do you determine social media value and does it match client expectations?

@KristiKellogg: Dive into analytics and look for conversions. Everything is trackable.

@VirginiaNussey: Sometimes I get sad when clients have too high expectations on attributing sales to social media efforts.

@kg7maj: Analytics … analytics … analytics. Track and present anything relevant to goals.

 @davidprohq: Not by follower count, but by engagement. It somewhat matches client expectations.

@Tommy_Landry: Agree up front on what “demand gen” metrics matter, and monitor those closely. Success is way more than just lead volume.

@MWilton13: Set goals for your social media efforts & track in analytics. Also, don’t forget social as an attribution channel.

@TalentLeopard: How much leads my client get through social media … it is the best way to check value of social media.

 @Siddlal: Hard to determine value. Some only value likes, while the learned see beyond to benefits like relationship and links.

@kg7maj: Instagram is the tough one for tracking ROI, but again, all depends on goals & what the organization is looking for.

Join #SEOchat every Thursday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET. Bruce Clay, Inc. will be there. #SEOchat is a great opportunity to ask questions, get answers and share insights with industry leaders and the engaged digital marketing community. Read more about #SEOchat here.

January 10th 2015 SEO

The Penguin Whisperer

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Note from Rae: Welcome to the first ever guest appearance by someone in my Rants in Bitchland category. And let me assure you, that takes a special pair of skills combined with a big pair of balls. And Paul Macnamara has both.

If you’ve been around any length of time, you’ve likely seen people make comments about how some of the best SEOs are SEOs you’ve never heard of before. Paul (pmac) is one of those SEOs. He’s spent the last 15 years taking ranks in some of the toughest industries on the web.

Paul pushed every limit the search engines had ever laid down – not only crossing the line, but at times, even defining the line that Google would draw. I know this because he’s been in my circle of trust for well over a decade now. I’ve long been witnessing his work first hand.

Paul has since repented and decided to use his knowledge of and insight into what the algorithms can and won’t tolerate to help penalized folks on the web recover their rankings.

In short, when I tell you Paul knows his shit, Paul knows his shit.

He also stole my hat. But that’s a different story.

With that, it’s over to him.

Penguin Secrets

Finally, there is an answer on how to recover from the most punitive algorithmic feature that a search engine has ever unleashed on the SEO community. No more need to wait upwards of a year to escape from the Hell of the mighty Penguin. No Hocus Pocus, no sneaky redirects, deleting pages or even disavowing links.

This answer is the holy grail, and we know it must be true as it is being touted as a legitimate get out of jail free card by renowned SEO expert Josh Bachynski.

Josh must be an expert because he has been featured a couple of times now on Moz’s “Whiteboard Friday” which some would argue to be the flagship feature on the Moz blog. Moz carefully vets the posts, and one would assume the experts that it allows to pontificate on matters of SEO on their influential platform. Moz is about credibility, trust, legitimacy and professionalism after all.

An SEO Breakthrough

The fact that Josh can spring sites from Penguin in just 2-3 days is one of the most remarkable discoveries I have heard of in all my years of working in SEO. As you can see in the video below, Josh says to ignore what John Mueller says in regards to disavowing links.

Instead, Josh says to contact him to negotiate a price to learn of this top-secret recovery technique for this very difficult algorithmic penalty.

You can view a transcript here.

That’s right folks, step right up and sign up for your instant Penguin recovery that he will not disclose until you have negotiated the fee. This doesn’t sound like snake oil to me. This has to be legitimate because he is a high-level MOZ contributor, right?

Scientific Proof The Disavow Tool is Totally Useless

Josh stirred up a bit of controversy last week when he hosted a Whiteboard Friday post on Moz where he said that it was impossible for a site to recover from Penguin using the disavow tool alone and that there had to be a link removal component for a site to recover. He based this “factoid” as a result of a “scientific experiment” where he took twelve sites that had shown traffic increases during Penguin 3.0. All twelve of these sites had link loss as reported by third party link tools such as ahrefs.

As a result of that massive data set and lack of a control group, Josh has come to the conclusion that the disavow tool does not work and that there has to be link removals in order for a site to recover.

This despite the fact that some of the most respected names in penalty recovery have made clear that they have in fact recovered Penguin sites while doing no link removals whatsoever. These are people whose reputations are above reproach such as Marie Haynes, Glenn Gabe and our esteemed host Rae Hoffman. I can also say unequivocally that I have recovered Penguin sites using the disavow tool without doing any link removal whatsoever.

What A Laughable Argument

Sites that have been impacted by Penguin, are far more likely to be susceptible to link attrition as a result of link churn that naturally occurs with sites that have weak or even toxic profiles. To suggest that the loss of links must mean that removals must occur for a site to recover from Penguin is such a flawed argument that I am shocked that MOZ would allow this to be posted as a “scientific experiment.”

If the disavow file does not work how is it possible to explain all of the recoveries that occurred as a result of using it if no removals took place along side it?

Based on Josh’s conclusion, it must mean that there was enough link attrition that just happened to naturally remove only the problematic links that a recovery happened all on it’s own. Or perhaps Josh is saying that that all of us working in the penalty space that have recovered sites without doing removals are lying.

This of course, was not a scientific experiment in any way, shape or form. Using a tiny data set to draw a conclusion without taking into account or even speaking to all of the other variables that could be in play is at the very least, playing loose with the facts and at the worst it is reckless misinformation.

In the comments after the post, Chuck Price articulated it far better than I ever could when he said:

In order to be a scientific study, you need a control group. “A control group study uses a control group to compare to an experimental group in a test of a causal hypothesis. The control and experimental groups must be identical in all relevant ways except for the introduction of a suspected causal agent into the experimental group. If the suspected causal agent is actually a causal factor of some event, then logic dictates that that event should manifest itself more significantly in the experimental than in the control group.

Just because there is a correlation between the 12 recoveries & link loss doesn’t mean that disavow only recoveries are a myth. Websites that have triggered the Penguin algorithm have generally gone pretty hard at spammy link building, and have acquired MANY links from the kinds of sites that drop all the time, There is arguably a higher chance of link attrition associated with websites impacted by the Penguin algorithm.

Selling Snake Oil

If Josh’s flawed argument wasn’t enough, he then went on to smear penalty recovery professionals that would dare sell link cleanup via disavow as a service, implying that they are selling snake oil and taking advantage of clients for the purpose of padding their wallets by simply adding domains to a text file.

This coming from someone that tells people to ignore Google’s own advice when it comes to Penguin and that instead of using the disavow tool to instruct Google to ignore links that it contains, they should simply email him so that he can negotiate a price and then he will recover them from Penguin in 2-3 days. Who is the snake oil salesman? This coming from a guy that claims he does 300 site audits and recoveries a YEAR? How can anyone that says they do 300 audits a year have any credibility whatsoever?

Discussion Can You Disavow out of Penguin Whiteboard Friday Moz

Even my most basic audit takes upwards of a day for me to write and that doesn’t include that actual time spent conducting the audit. Josh must be drinking coffee like it’s his job because he clearly isn’t sleeping if he is pumping out that kind of productivity.

Not only is Josh the most productive penalty recovery expert in the business, he has recovered plenty of Penguin sites from doing JUST removals as he NEVER uses the disavow tool.

Josh must have some pretty damn good outreach skills when it comes to removals because as someone that has removed a very significant number of manual penalties, I can tell you that a 20% removal rate would be considered extremely high and removal rates of 5-15% would be far more typical. These numbers are not nearly enough to spring a typically afflicted site from Penguin.

Either Josh is the Penguin whisperer or his pants are on fire.

MOZ Goes Low Bar

When the methodology of Josh’s “scientific experiment” were questioned in the comments of his MOZ post, Josh’s responses were thick with arrogance and vitriol and completely unbecoming of what I would expect from someone conducting a Whiteboard Friday on Moz. In fact MOZ moderators edited at least a dozen of Josh’s comments for “personal attacks.”

Curiously enough, the moderator comments have vanished and the edit notes say that Josh in fact made the edit and there is no mention of the reason why the edit was made. MOZ seems to have really been stepping in it lately on issues related to their blog and having contributors such as Josh on the main blog, especially on Whiteboard Friday seriously damages their credibility and reputation among serious SEO’s. The chatter has been noticeable.

Going Against The Grain

This isn’t the first time that Josh has gone against the grain when it comes to Penguin. At the 13:40 mark in this video Josh says unequivocally that Penguin has NOTHING to do with links. At the 17:00 mark he says there is no need to remove links to recover.

I am pretty sure that links have something to do with Penguin. Pure speculation on my part of course.

There is so much pure garbage that is written in the SEO space that I don’t even give it a second thought when I read something that is misleading. I typically just ignore it and carry on with my day, however I felt that in this instance that this post needed to be called out, not only for the flawed methodology that led to such a horribly flawed conclusion, but also as a result of this post being featured on whiteboard Friday.

By featuring this post on Whiteboard Friday, some will believe that this is Moz vetted information and will come away taking this ridiculous conclusion as fact. While Moz does state that contributors opinions are their own, I am pretty sure that if I wrote a post about why it is a good idea to “submit” your site to search engines, it would not be promoted to the main blog, let alone to the flagship spot.

Lastly, I couldn’t sit idly by while being accused alongside other penalty removal professionals of selling snake oil by someone that has no credibility. The words pot, kettle, and black come to mind.

Recover

Have a site that has been impacted by Penguin? Recovery is very, very difficult and in fact many times it might just be better to trash the domain and start over. If that is not possible and there is a solid base of good links that are in the profile then my advice would echo Marie Haynes which would include the following steps:

  • You need to conduct a comprehensive audit of your link profile to identify as many problematic links as possible
  • If you have control over the link (directories or web 2.0 sites where you have logins for example) then you should remove the link.
  • Use the disavow tool to disavow problematic links at the domain level.
  • Create a resource that will attract the types of high-quality authoritative links that Google is likely to reward going forward.

Lastly, I would like to thank Rae for allowing me to go off on a rant on her blog. There was a time where Rae seemed to constantly throw grenades behind her as she surfed the web and would rarely pass down the opportunity to call out crap when she saw it. Although I have to say I miss seeing Rae get riled up on occasion I appreciate the fact that she has better things to do now.

Closing from Rae: Oh don’t get it twisted pmac, I’ll still hop in the ring. However, someone once told me I don’t need to have a dog in every fight. ;-)

(Penguin photo credit to JPC.Raleigh)

UPDATE:

John Mueller confirms that disavow only is enough to remove an algorithmic Penguin penalty. He advises you do both to cover your bases, but that from a technical / algorithmic position, a disavow alone will suffice.

The post The Penguin Whisperer appeared first on Sugarrae.

January 9th 2015 SEO

New Marketing Tactics to Try in 2015: What’s Yours?

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Welcome to 2015!

A new year is a good time to try something new (especially given that Q1 is usually a slower quieter time for many marketers!) Is there any tactic you are planning to try this year?

Here’s some inspiration for you!

Jolynno: Video Marketing + Podcasting

Yes, I currently use Instagram marketing and Facebook primarily. I plan to use video marketing in 2015 paired with podcasting. I think these 2 mediums are gaining in popularity and offer a more personal way to connect to my audience.

As for podcasting, I want to offer my blog posts as podcast sessions and see how I can then grow that to a regular podcast broadcast. Video marketing is an affordable and easy way to build rapport and share information and tips. I have only done a few videos in 2014 but want to expand upon this in 2015.  I also plan to have several webinars as well so I can have a more immediate connection with my audience. This will also help me to grow my email list which is  big goal for me next year.

Steve Counsell: Maximize Personal Branding

For a while I have been bouncing back and forth between a company based brand and a personal brand. In 2015 I will start to maximize on my personal brand but moving all of my efforts into my personal website and writing an ebook on DIY SEO.

To get started I have committed to blog every day through January and to finalise the first draft of my ebook in the next few days.

Creating a buzz around a brand has been a challenge but I feel that by pushing content out there and publishing it on social media and links building I’ll succeed in my goal of launching “Me” as a brand for online promotion.

I’ve watched other do the same, people like Brian Gardner and Ryan Deiss seem to be very good at pushing their own brand through CopyBlogger and DigitalMarketer.

I aspire to be like these guys – eventually…

Cormac84: “Skyscraper Technique”

I’ve already made the decision to create a lot more content for my site in 2015 and this led me to think what’s the best way to create long form content that will work well for me. So, after some thinking and some research I decided that Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique is one that works well and will help me achieve a lot of my goals.

It’s quite simple, just find a great piece of content on someone else’s blog and make a far better one again. Follow this up by reaching out to those already linking to the good piece, informing them about the existence of your even better piece.

For me it means long form content, more on-site blogging and hopefully more great links.

Jared Banz: More Focused Content Marketing + MyBlogU

I am not trying any new tactics per se for 2015, but I do plan to bring them together better. Content marketing was huge for 2014, and I think it will continue to be important in 2015. I plan to have a focused approach in my content marketing efforts as I know the competition will be fierce.

What do I mean for a “focused approach”? 

I plan thoroughly research local SEO and interview other professionals through MyBlogU. Once I have researched the topic at length, I will likely write an e-book, which will likely be a revised version of multiple blog posts that I write. I also plan to explore new venues (for me) like SlideShare and YouTube to leverage the content I have already produced. Finally, I plan to offer professional services for local SEO, which I believe to be a hot item in the coming year.

I believe that this is a great approach because it involves other professionals and it helps me to become a master of a relevant topic. This past year, I utilized MyBlogU for one interview, and I was shocked by the amount of quality traffic that I received via social media to my blog post. I’m hoping to build on a great experience with MyBlogU, while also adding more opportunities for my business to grow.

Paul Manwaring: Video Marketing

For me it’s trying to create more engaging content through video marketing. I’ve seen an increase in bloggers venturing out into video such as Patt Flynn and Shane Melaugh. I personally enjoy watching a video post as opposed to reading an article.

I set myself a goal of producing 1 video post per week for my blog. Sometimes it will be a guide, other times it might just be a video version of an article I write. The idea is to give my readers the option of either watching or reading my content.

I have invested approx £1000 in studio equipment, it may seem like a lot but I want to produce very high quality videos as presentation is everything and no one wants to read an article on an ugly, poorly designed website, so I take the same viewpoint to my videos. It’s also partly my hobby being a designer and I really enjoy setting up the studio in my flat and recording and editing the videos. The equipment will last me for years so I’m not worried about the initial outlay, as I know it will pay off eventually.

Ashley Faulkes: “Commitment” Marketing

There is a great marketing tactic that I have been meaning to try and 2015 is the year for it! It is based on a psychological principal called “commitment” (which I am currently reading about in a book called Influence – I recommend you read it). The idea is this, by getting a customer to buy something from you, anything really, even something really small, they have made a commitment to a relationship with you.

Sounds simple and maybe even worthless, but the results can be amazing. By getting someone to commit to something, their psychology changes and they behave in a way that makes them live up to this commitment. The result is that they are far more likely to buy from you in the future, even a lot more expensive things. All sorts of companies do this on a daily basis.

I first saw this in action on SuperFastBusiness.com, a marketing site that I follow and podcast I listen to. The owner James Shramko is super experienced in sales and marketing and has loads of ideas to learn from. This was one of them. He sells a cheap SEO website check, a small commitment, and all the rest of his services are usually 10x more at least. He is running a 7 figure business that is constantly growing, so I am sure this works. 

So this tactic is being rolled out on my websites in 2015. Let’s see how it goes!

Jeffrey Romano: Visual Content

One tactic that I’m planning to implement in 2015 is upgrading the quality of the visual content on my blog. Instead of using normal stock photography, I’m planning on creating blog post covers and I’d like to generally be more creative with the photos I have available. I believe this will add to the quality of the posts plus it will help when I share my posts on social mediHaving nice visuals to accompany posts when sharing on Pinterest, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter helps to increase the CTR when sharing. Furthermore, it would help the credibility of my brand and help differentiate my blog from others in the Internet Marketing/WordPress space.

Two bloggers that have inspired me to improve my visuals are Regina from byregina.com and Andrea Beltrami from www.thebrandedsolopreneur.com. Both of them have great blog post covers which helps their posts stand out when shared. Particularly on Pinterest. Both bloggers also try to include many images in their blog in order to introduce variety in their content and keep readers engaged.

I hope the above answer is satisfactory Ann. If you have any other questions about this, please feel free to get back to me.

KenS: Short Fcebook-Friendly Videos

I’ve noticed a lot of mini-videos are appearing on Facebook these days. We have a pretty good FB following, but like most they tend to hang out on FB and not jump over to the site. Sooo… we are going to try a few of those short videos to get people to visit our site and blog. For example, I am going to put up a blog post about candy and cereal and to promote it I am creating a short video about my kids eating a bowl of candy (just like cereal). The hope is that the short video will push people to click on the link and see what else there it.

What new marketing tactic are you going to try this year?

Are you planning to try any new tactic (may be new to you, not overall new) to promote your site or your brand in 2015? Please share! Please share some example of who you were inspired / who you saw do it right!

The post New Marketing Tactics to Try in 2015: What’s Yours? appeared first on SEO Chat.

January 6th 2015 Facebook, SEO