Friday, December 27, 2013

Duplicate Content & SEO: What are You Adding to the Conversation?

What is the Internet? Of the infinitely possible definitions, we prefer a meaning that speaks to connectivity and sharing. For The Organic SEO Blog, the Internet is a conversation. Within this conversation, relationships often blossom between people as well as people and businesses. The best online businesses understand this simple fact: communicate with your customer like a respected friend and you will have a customer for life.

The online men's clothing company, Bonobos, understands this simple fact. If you own an online business, you'd do well to take a few tips from Bonobos for transforming customers to "brand promoters." Of course, many online companies excel at customer service. Amazon.com comes to mind. And Nordstroms. We mention Bonobos here because they also provide a good example of carefully-executed differentiation. Beyond its great-fitting pants, Bonobos has created a steady market for its clothing by selling its own unique, and often quirky, brand.

Most online businesses fail at differentiation. Some businesses sell truly unique products, but  fail at marketing the product's uniqueness. Many businesses, of course, sell similar products, but fail at differentiating other important factors, like cost or service. A failure of differentiation is a communication failure. If the Internet is a conversation, the businesses that fail are like boring people who avoid conversation, or worse, people who drone incessantly about "the seven things you're not supposed to talk about," like how you've slept, or your day-to-day health. Ho hum!

If you own an online business, and you're trying hard to create a market for your product, you might begin by asking yourself a simple question: what am I adding to the conversation? The answer to this question just might be the make or break factor for your business.

As our sponsor, Alex Stepman of Stepman's PC says, "If you're not adding something new to the conversation, after all, why are you talking?"

As we've written before on this blog, fresh, relevant content is the key to success. In the world of SEO, one of the most egregious conversation failures is duplicate content--content copied and pasted from other sites without attribution. Now, many sites necessarily use duplicate content as a matter of business. As Google's head of webspam, Matt Cutts explains, a lot of duplicate content is often benign:

"We do understand that lots of different places across the web do need to have various disclaimers, legal information, terms and conditions, that sort of stuff, and so it’s the sort of thing where if we were to not rank that stuff well, then that would probably hurt our overall search quality..."

So not all duplicate content is bad. It's the online business that simply copy and paste product information or, worse, entire chunks of text, from other sites--it's these businesses that crowd the space, and make the Internet conversation boring. This sort of duplicate content is everywhere. We often discover it when searching for health supplements. So many sites sell the exact same supplements with the exact same product descriptions without offering any additional helpful information that might actually inspire a sale.

Take the example of a popular probiotic from Garden of Life, Primal Defense. Take a look at how Vitacost and Vitamin Shoppe essentially offer the exact same information. Yet Vitamin Shoppe differentiates itself by adding product reviews. Differentiators are key--especially if you're an affiliate. As Google's Cutts explains:

"Hopefully you’ve got a different page from all the other affiliates in the world, and hopefully you have some original content – something that distinguishes you from the fly-by-night sites that just say, ‘Okay, here’s a product. I got the feed and I’m gonna put these two paragraphs of text that everybody else has.’ If that’s the only value add you have then you should ask yourself, ‘Why should my site rank higher than all these hundreds of other sites when they have the exact same content as well?'"

We mentioned Bonobos before because they do a good job of differentiating their own brand and their own products as well as other brand's products. Bonobos sells the popular boat shoe, Sebago. Notice how Bonobos uses Sebago's description for the Docksides--"The handsewn boat shoe that started it all"--but then adds its own unique paragraph about the company: "The Sebago-Moc Company was founded in 1946 by three New England natives..."

Incidentally, if you google that last sentence from Bonobo's site, you'll see many imitators who've duplicated the text without attribution.  From Google's perspective this is the bad kind of duplicate content--the kind you should avoid, at least if you want to place high on Google's search results.

The lesson? As always, keep your content fresh, relevant, and original.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Google is Encrypting Nearly All Searches: What You Need to Know

Earlier this fall, in September, just before announcing its new algorithm, Google slipped a little bit of SEO-relevant news under the radar: the search engine would begin encrypting all search activity not explicitly associated with ads. We've been following this development with keen interest, and we can now report with certainty that the change has, indeed, effected the SEO landscape. Today we'll discuss what the news means for you and your SEO marketing campaign.

First, to be clear, this near-total encryption means that websites will no longer have access to information about the specific keywords browsers used to find their website. A a website owner, you may or may not have dealt specifically with this information, but if you employ an Internet marketing firm or SEO specialist, this information has almost certainly been used for your website's benefit.

If this information benefits websites, why would Google limit your access to it?

Google had already taken steps to limit this information. In 2011, the search engine encrypted all searches for those signed in with Google accounts. Now, however, Google has extended this "service" to all browsers. We put that word--"service"--in quotes because it is not exactly clear why Google is making this change now.

Is this change a "service" to browsers? For those who value privacy above all else, yes, the change might be beneficial. After all, some have speculated that the search engine is trying to burnish its image after its association with the NSA spying scandal this summer.

Or perhaps Google is trying to drive traffic to its ads. As Search Engine Land notes:

"The easiest ways for publishers to see the actual terms that have been withheld over time is through the Google AdWords system. See, apparently search terms aren’t so private that Google withholds them entirely. Rather, it withholds them from being transmitted in the clear across the Internet. Publishers can still see these terms by going into the Google Webmaster Tools area.."

In any case, it is clear that this change is meant to benefit browsers, and not websites. So what does this change mean for you?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that we've often discussed how keywords can form a central part of an SEO marketing campaign. We've even urged our clients to think about their product or service in terms of highly-specific keywords.

Please read: "How SEO Can You Clarify Your Business Offering."

However, although we believe keywords can help refine a website's business model, we've also urged website owners to use keywords judiciously. Instead, we've urged websites to focus on quality, relevant content.

After all, we truly believe the over-use and misuse of keywords has been a scourge of the Internet.  Unfortunately, too often wayward SEO specialists have depended entirely on keywords, and have even resorted to the egregious practice of keyword stuffing. As we noted before:

"Keyword stuffing might be one reason Google has decided to update the algorithm. As we learn more about the new algorithm, we see that specific keywords might be losing precedence to more generally informative content. After all, by evolving to answer more complex questions, Google seems to be acknowledging that people no longer search by keywords alone."

Now, with this recent change, we've seen that the available information on keywords has dramatically reduced. For a dramatic presentation of how this change had already begun to effect websites in September, read this fascinating HubSpot article. Since then, our own examination has proved the HubSpot article correct: nearly all Google searches are now encrypted.

So, again, how will this change effect your website?

If you're working with a top-of-the-line SEO specialist, this change will actually help you! Why? Well, this is just one more Google update that separates the wheat from the chaff. If you share Google's goal, to deliver the most relevant, well-written, and truly informative content to your browsers, than your website will now perform even better.

If, however, you or your SEO specialist have been too dependent on this information, your website will likely suffer. Why? Well, your website has probably been "optimized" in a narrow way by a sub-par SEO specialist. Ask your SEO specialist how he/she is responding to this change. If he/she doesn't have a good answer (and answer that emphasizes quality content), then run for the hills.

Finally, if you're looking for an SEO marketing company that maintains a laser-focus on Google's changes, and understands how to respond the evolving dynamics of the search engines, we suggest our sponsor, Stepmans PC. As Alex Stepman, the owner of Stepmans PC says, "We optimize for the entire industry and not particular keywords." And you should too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to Trump the Competition in Your Industry (And a Simple SEO Tip for Thrifty Website Owners)

The creation of a well-designed website with relevant and quality content can transform a traditional brick-and-mortar business's earning power. Unfortunately, many business owners create websites that ignite earnings and then quickly lose steam. Website owners might blame this misfortune on the changing economy or marketplace, or increased online competition. Of course, all of these factors can influence the earnings of an online business.

But why do certain websites in specific industries succeed while others fail? Many industry-specific websites, after all, look and feel similar. And many industry-specific websites have been optimized by SEO specialists to perform for a certain customer-base. If two optimized websites look and feel similar, and sell similar products to similar customers, shouldn't both enjoy an equal share of the online marketplace?

In theory, yes, both websites should perform equally well. But let's take a closer look at our two theoretical websites. Like snowflakes, no two websites are alike, and even the subtle differences can have a profound influence on website performance. Now, to the trained eye, the reasons for success or failure are quite evident. But for casual browsers, the difference might seem elusive. So what's going on?

In the experience of Alex Stepman, owner of Stepmans PC, and experienced organic SEO specialist, the number one reason optimized websites fail is that the website owner abandoned SEO after the website's launch. And websites that have abandoned SEO share a similar deficiency: over time, they have remained static while other websites in the same industry have evolved.

Now, this evolution can be subtle, but it is the benchmark of success. SO what does this evolution look like? Well, the very definition of "evolution" is "the gradual development of something", and we're not talking about titanic shifts. Rather, it's the small changes that make a big difference.

The best SEO specialists know this simple fact: a well-optimized website is a frequently-updated website. Search engine's algorithms place a precedence on new, relevant content. The consistent updating of a website's content is really the only way to maintain a competitive edge if you're competing in an industry-specific marketplace.

If your website is maintained by an SEO specialist, he or she will continually update your website's content. Keep in mind, content is not limited to the written word; it can include graphics, like a new "About Me" tab, or relevant product videos. Of course, though, relevant and well-written content is the cornerstone of a website's success. A good SEO specialist will ensure that your content is always fresh and relevant--and preferably written by a professional writer.

So what do you do if you do not have an SEO specialist. Well, I think you can guess our first suggestion. Call our sponsor, Alex Stepman, of Stepmans PC! Most business owners are simply too busy to perform the tedious work of organic SEO. Why not outsource this crucial aspect of your business?

However, if you do not have the budget for an SEO specialist right now, do not despair. You might not know how to change the look and feel of your website (the graphics and navigability) but you might have the capability to make exactly the type of small changes that can keep a website relevant: you can write a daily blog!

Most websites today are equipped with easy-to-use blog platform like WordPress (Blogger is often associated with stand-alone blogs). If you're a website owner, your daily blog might just be the easiest and most cost-effective way to optimize your website with relevant content. All you need is a good idea and a good writer (if you don't have one on staff, you can certainly hire a professional copywriter for a reasonable fee). Your blog does not have to be lengthy--the point is to update daily with fresh content.

And that's the point. To maintain a competitive edge, keep it fresh!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Thank You to Our Sponsor, Stepmans PC

The Organic SEO blog is proud to send a warm holiday thank you to our sponsor, Alex Stepman of the dynamic Internet marketing company, Stepmans PC. Utilizing a variety of proven and effective marketing techniques, Stepmans PC promotes websites across the Internet. Their specialty is natural website optimization, a powerful tool that can place your website on the first page of major search engine results. Alex offers one-on-one attention to each customer—and guarantees 100% satisfaction.

As you might know from previous posts, the best SEO specialists hire professional copywriters to create unique and engaging content for their clients. But Alex's passion for quality content transcends his client's needs. He sponsors The Organic SEO blog because he truly believes that knowledge is power, and that all website owners should have access to simple, yet elegant writing about SEO.

On this blog, we've shared tricks of the trade that you might otherwise pay handsomely for. Our four part series for new website owners, for example, shares essential information that is often very hard to find. If you're new to SEO, we suggest reading this series first:

1. Website Design
2. Website Development
3. Content Creation
4. Conversion

Simply put, without Alex's passion, knowledge, and financing, The Organic SEO Blog would not exist. After working for Alex for some time, we can vouch for his integrity and honestly. If you're looking for an SEO specialist, we highly recommend Stepmans PC. To get started now, please call Stepmans PC: (215) 900-9398.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Organic SEO: Five Tips for a Successful Cyber Monday and Beyond

Thanksgiving 2013 has come and gone, so has Black Friday, and the official/unofficial holiday shopping season is off to an uproarious start. If you were wise enough to stay home on Friday, you happily missed the crowds, the fights, and the shootings! At the Organic SEO Blog, we can't help but wonder, "What's the point?" After all, many news outlets are reporting that Black Friday deals may not be all they're cracked up to be. The Wall Street Journal's blog, Speakeasy, notes:

"If you could pick only one month a year to shop, it would be December. Regardless of whether the economy is humming or slumping, retailers drop prices in December to either pad their bottom lines or try to save their years. This will be especially true this year because Thanksgiving is late in the month, leaving fewer shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas. So you’ll find lots of good deals if you wait until December to do your shopping."

In the same post, Speakeasy also notes the surging popularity of Cyber Monday:

"Cyber Monday sales once paled in comparison to Black Friday sales, but they’ve gotten much better in recent years. For that reason, this year it is easier than ever to make the case that you can save a lot by shopping on Cyber Monday."

For this reason, and more, the Organic SEO blog advocates Cyber Monday shopping for the best experience and deals. 

Now, so far we've been exploring the shopper's perspective. But what about the sellers?  Cyber Monday is a crucially important day for website owners, especially small website owners. For many website owners, a tremendous shopping day like Cyber Monday can often mean the difference between turning a profit or not. Unfortunately, the competition is truly remarkable. Millions of websites vie for the attention of Cyber Monday shoppers.

So how can you ensure that your website will stand out in your niche industry? Organic SEO, of course! The natural website optimization strategies we've advocated on this blog can catapult your website to the top of your industry. With the focus on sales, now is a good time to pay special attention to the following SEO strategies:

1. Perform a Website Audit

Now is a great time to perform a website audit to make sure your website is easily crawled by the major search engines and that your website design is user-friendly. You want to make sure you have no broken links or other problems that might disrupt a browser's experience. Our sponsor, Stepmans PC, offers a website audit service designed with organic SEO in mind.

2. Create a Unique Cyber Monday Landing Page

Obviously, this advice is not specific to Cyber Monday. If you would like to promote a specific product or service, make sure you offer a unique landing page optimized with appropriate keywords. If you are promoting a Cyber Monday deal, for example, you'll want to make sure you use that phrase on the page's title tag as well as on the page itself.

3. Increase Your Speed

A website audit can tell you if you're website is performing at optimal speed. You want to make sure that users can navigate from page-to-page quickly without any lag time. Remember, if a browse is forced to wait on your site, he/she might just as well open another tab, and forget all about your site!

4. Perform a Language Audit

We're writers here at the Organic SEO blog, so we're focused on language, but as a website owner hoping to attract business, you should be too. Language mistakes can trick the search engines, and lead browsers astray. The most profitable websites only display the best, error-free language. A website cannot be fully optimized if the language is not crystal-clear and error-free. A good SEO specialist should employ one or several copywriters who can perform this sort of work for your site.

5. Monitor Your Performance and Analyze Your Competitors

The only way to truly improve your website's performance is to monitor its day-to-day success and compare that success to your competitors. A one-day sale like Cyber Monday offers the unique opportunity to analyze your website's performance on a day when shoppers are intently browsing for products and services. If your competitors succeed and you don't succeed--well, that might mean that you need to tweak your approach to better suit your potential customers.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bad Links? Bad News!

Link-building has been a hallmark of SEO since the beginning. For a search engine like Google, the links between sites have offered clues to the relative relevancy and popularity of every website. Attracting quality links from well-respected sites has traditionally been one of the best ways to improve a site's placement. Today, most well-optimized sites enjoy a variety of quality links from across the Internet.

Unfortunately, link-building has been abused over the years by certain Black Hat SEO specialists. In fact, if not for link-building abuse, Google might not have ever created its Penguin algorithm. At the time, Google clarified its definition of a "bad" or "artificial" link:

“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.”

Many SEO specialists lamented the change. Some even wondered: "Is link-building dead?" At the time, however, The Organic SEO Blog (and its sponsor, Stepmans PC) rejoiced! After all, the purpose of the new algorithm, to punish those websites and SEO specialists that built bad or artificial links, could only advance the work of the SEO specialists who had played by the rules and built links based on relationships, integrity, and quality content.

In our opinion, a true SEO specialist would never, ever build a "fake" link.

A fake link? You might ask: how can a link be fake if it works?

It's partly about a link's traffic flow. To Google and all other search engines, a "real" link is a one-way link: a link that points directly from one site to another. In the past, Black Hat SEO specialists had created links to a site in exchange for a return link. Google delegitimized this sort of link-building before Penguin. However, many savvy website developers knew about this limitation and tried to bypass Google with SEO tricks.

One especially destructive trick populated the Internet with a load of bad sites. Black Hat SEO specialists created multiple websites, up to ten or more, all owned by one website, and built for the explicit purpose of creating links to the primary website. With all the incoming links, the primary website leaped in the rankings.

Of course, this trick did not work for long. Google launched an algorithm update to punish this sort of link scheme. With Penguin, it appeared that this type of Black Hat practice had become "old hat."

As we noted above, the Penguin algorithm only helped the high-quality SEO specialists who had worked hard to create quality websites that attracted quality links. The only links that have ever truly mattered are those that arrive from relevant and high-quality sites. Relevancy is so important. Links from sites that aren't relevant to your site confuse browsers, and can now potentially hurt your site's ranking.

Has your SEO specialist removed your bad links? If not, you're in trouble. Now's the time to contact a reputable link removal service or quality SEO specialist, like Stepmans PC. After you remove your bad links, it's time to start thinking about how to build good links. We'll discuss this essential practice in next week's blog. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, remember: then, as now with the latest algorithm update, Hummingbird, the key for all SEO specialists is to pay studious attention to Google's every move.

With each new algorithm or algorithm update, Google studiously explains why the new algorithm is necessary, what will happen if you don’t follow the rules, and how to update your website to meet the new SEO standards. Yes, Google reveals this information. You might not know where to find it, but it certainly exists. A well-trained SEO professional will always stay up-to-date with all the major SEO techniques and updates.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Natural Website Optimization: A Helpful Video

If you're a regular reader of The Organic SEO blog, you probably know that we believe everyone website needs organic website optimization. Without organic SEO, most websites are merely high-priced business cards. Why? Not all website developers build search engine-friendly sites—and if your site cannot be easily discovered by search engines, it is essentially invisible.

Our sponsor, Stepmans PC, knows exactly what search engines like to see. They build beautiful, custom-made websites from scratch, and develop all sites for optimal search engine performance.

But what does this process look like? If you're a website owner, you might've avoided SEO simply because the process itself seems esoteric. After all, why pay for a service that you do not understand?

Well, just as you search for a trusted mechanic for your beautiful car, it is important to search for a trusted SEO specialist for your website. Just remember: you do not need to completely understand SEO to find a good SEO specialist. However, the more you know, the better equipped you will be to hire the best specialist as well as communicate your unique needs.

Of course, if you're thinking about hiring an SEO specialist, and you want to learn more about Organic SEO, we suggest reading our blog. ;) You might start here: "How to Select an SEO Company." And if you're interested specifically in the process of SEO, Stepmans PC has created an engaging video to teach you the basics. Enjoy!

As always, if you have any questions, please leave it in the comments below.


Natural Website Optimization: A Video

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Google's New Algorithm: A New Crucial Question

Since we've been writing about Google's new algorithm launch in late September, SEO specialists across the globe have been striving to update their client's websites to meet the new requirements. Much of this updating concerns the websites' infrastructure--precise, tedious work best suited to an SEO professional. Now, more then ever, your SEO professional is your best friend. However, website owners would also do well to pay attention to the new requirements, and to act now to meet the algorithm's new challenges.

What new challenges?

Well, the new algorithm will effect up to 90% of search results, but perhaps the most salient feature is Google's evolving ability to answer longer and more complex questions. As the USA Today noted in its article about the algorithm, "The change comes as people become more comfortable asking long, complex questions...rather than single words or simple phrases."

Over the years, most SEO specialists have urged their clients to think about their product or service in terms of highly-specific keywords. Although we believe this practice is an essential SEO strategy, we've also urged website owners to use keywords judiciously, and to compose text that focuses on relevance and quality. The over-use and misuse of keywords has been a scourge of the Internet. We've wrote about "keyword stuffing" before. Please read: "For SEO, Content is King."

Egregious keyword stuffing might be one reason Google has decided to update the algorithm. As we learn more about the new algorithm, we see that specific keywords might be losing precedence to more generally informative content. After all, by evolving to answer more complex questions, Google seems to be acknowledging that people no longer search by keywords alone. Instead of searching merely for "dress shoes", for example, a dapper young gentleman might be more inclined to search for "the best dress shoes for a dapper young gentleman". 

If you own a website that sells shoes, then, you might focus less on the keyword "dress shoes", and instead write new content that attempts to answer the question: What is the best dress shoe for a dapper young gentleman?

We've written before about how SEO can help you clarify your business offering: By participating in a thoughtful natural website optimization campaign, a website owner must clarify his/her business offering to his/herself. In that article, we urged website owners to imagine an Internet user searching for their product or service:

"What keywords would you use to search for your product or service? Think precisely about the exact keywords that best describe your product or service. If you are an expert tailor in Philadelphia, perhaps you might simply choose the following keywords: 'expert tailor Philadelphia.' But that cannot be your only option. You must think of many possibilities!"

Now we must update our advice to reflect Google's new algorithm. Website owners can no longer think simply in terms of keywords. The new crucial question for any website owner is simple: What question(s) does your product or service answer?

This new paradigm is, by nature, customer-focused. Instead of asking a website to define its product specifically with a few keywords, we must now ask a website to anticipate its customers questions--and to answer them with relevant content. The best way to create new content now is by setting out with a question in mind--and then answering that question as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible.

So, ask yourself: What question does my product answer? And then write about it!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Drag and Drop Websites: Are They Worth Your Time?

Are you thinking about building your own website? If you're a business-owner, and you hope to make money from your website, a custom-made site is definitely your best option. Custom-made websites are designed and built from the ground up, typically for a single company, product, or service. Many design companies offer template websites for the use of a variety of clients. Template-designed websites share a similar look, feel, and functionality. In contrast, a design company like The Organic SEO Blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC, offers custom designs, crafted for each unique brand. We feel these custom-made sites are more attractive and certainly more marketable.

If you're considering hiring a design company to build a custom-made website, please read our essential guide for website owners: "Building a Website: Read This First."

Now, a custom-made site is certainly not your only option. A simple Google search, for example, for "build a website" highlights a host of D.I.Y. "drag and drop" website builders. Sites like Wix and Squarespace promise a quick and simple D.I.Y. experience. Here is how Weebly, one of the most popular sites, explains its "Drag and Drop" service:

"Build a professional-looking, interactive website that's reflective of your business simply by dragging and dropping site elements onto your web pages. Easily integrate videos, pictures, maps, contact forms, a blog and more."

Drag and drop sites can be a good option for individuals or small businesses with a limited budget and a need for a basic website structure. As stated above, a drag and drop site easily integrates a variety of elements into a simple template design. With a drag and drop website like Weebly, you could wake up in the morning with an idea for a website and build your website before lunch!

However, keep in mind, the limited cost (often these services are FREE) can also be a drawback. Obviously, the work of creating a custom-made website design is far more complex than using a drag and drop pre-built template. This complexity demands a higher cost.

What are you paying for?

1. Well, of course, a unique site that you can call your own (Weebly users do not own their sites).

2. And perhaps more importantly, a site that can be easily optimized

Unlike a custom-made website, a website built by drag and drop will necessarily have limited SEO functionality. Of course, you might be able to perform a few SEO upgrades, such as acquiring your own domain name, and creating engaging content with the judicious use of keywords. But really, a drag and drop website cannot be optimized in a way that will truly produce results, and if you're business-owner, and hope to make money from your website, this is a serious problem.

The website Weebly Forums (an independent company in now way associated with Weebly), has written a handy breakdown of the pros and cons of attempting to optimize a Weebly-built website: Weebly SEO Review--The Pros and Cons. If you follow that link, you'll notice that the pros are generally tools accessible to any website owner; the cons, on the other hand, are more technical--the type of work you might hire an SEO firm to perform.

This is an important distinction, and it points to a simple truth: Weebly's websites can only be optimized in the most elementary ways--not in the sophisticated ways that can truly make a difference for a business, and certainly not in the ways that can inspire first page placement on Google or any other search engine.

You want to make money, right? Then you need website optimization. And if you want true website optimization, you should avoid Weebly. Otherwise, as we're fond of saying at The Organic SEO Blog, your site is essentially a business card. You can tell people you meet about your site; and you can send people your site's link. But your demographic will remain appreciably small, and you won't attract business from across the Internet world.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is SEO Gaming the System?

A recent Forbes.com article posed the question: "SEO and Other Web Marketing Techniques: Tools or Tricks?" The article, written by Roger Kay, who "covers endpoints and how they relate to the cloud," begins by differentiating Google (over Facebook and Twitter) as the premier Internet platform: "Because," to quote Kay's surprisingly sophomoric writing, "no other company ties together everything on the Internet the way Google does."

Despite our misgivings with the quality of the writing itself, Kay's article inspires an intriguing discussion on the value of Google and how "charlatans" have gamed the platform to increase PageRank. For a definition of PageRank, Kay (showing a first-class knowledge on the subject) links to Wikipedia.

Of course, Wikipedia offers a concise and studious definition of PageRank. However, if you're going to write about PageRank and its relation to web marketing techniques, like SEO, you might seek a more nuanced definition. We attempted to offer our own definition of PageRank in a prior post: "The Difference Between Website Ranking and Website Optimization."

In that post, we also quoted Wikipedia to illustrate a seemingly elusive component of PageRank: "Google has not disclosed the specific method for determining a Toolbar PageRank value, which is to be considered only a rough indication of the value of a website."

Kay seems to have missed this last, crucial caveat: PageRank is "only a rough indication of the value of a website." And by misunderstanding the term itself, Kay's article commences with a faulty premise.

Specifically, when speaking about the so-called "charlatans," Kay seems to imply the whole goal of "gaming the system" is to increase PageRank. Specifically, in terms of SEO, he describes a keyword stuffing scenario we have condemned again and again here on the Organic SEO Blog:

"The idea is that certain words and phrases on a Web page will raise its ranking.  Stuff your page with them, and your visibility on the Internet will rise."

High-qualty SEO is not about stuffing your page with keywords. High quality SEO is about the appropriate use of keywords. This is not some form of trickery; it's a fundamental marketing principle: speak in your customer's language.

When defining keywords for a site, a website owner necessarily refines his/her vision. The simplest way to achieve this vision is to ask, "How would someone find me on Google?"

SEO specialists use keywords for this purpose: so that customers can more easily discover the exact product or service they are looking for. We wrote about this, too, in a prior post: "How SEO Can You Clarify Your Business Offering."

Now, thankfully Kay does not limit his opinion of SEO to keyword stuffing:

"Of course, there’s more to it than that. Aside from the cat-and-mouse game played between Google and the SEO mavens, there’s the dynamic aspect of it. Fresh content does better than stale content, and so the SEO devotee needs to keep changing what’s on the page."

Kay is right: the SEO specialist does need to continue changing "what's on a page." But he does not adequately explain why, exactly, this is gaming the system.

In fact, fresh content is a core principle of high-quality SEO. Relevance is key!We believe the Internet is a better place, and yes more "dynamic," when websites strive to offer new, relevant information as often as possible. After all, one of the most popular sites on the web is The New York Times. Of course, not all website are storied news publications--but why shouldn't a website refresh often to better meet the dynamic needs of its potential users/customers?

After seemingly dismissing SEO without understanding it, Kay finishes his article by praising "Inbound marketing":

"So, what does inbound marketing even mean?  It’s closely related to viral marketing, the idea that a really good idea takes off by itself as people pass it along to one another, eventually spreading it everywhere...inbound will only work if the product is good.  Effectively, the Internet is a fantastic channel to give an idea a chance to make it in the wild, but the virus only spreads if the content justifies the buzz."

In a sense, this is the central theme of The Organic SEO Blog: no SEO campaign will work without a sufficiently "good" platform. We advocate well-written content and dynamic changes--the type of inventive information that will create a buzz and attract users. As we wrote in a recent post, "A Crucial SEO Question: Quality or Quantity":

"The Internet is best served when website owners pay attention to the quality of writing. Happily, this is not merely our opinion: it's Google's opinion, too. Google favors well-written, informative content. And despite the example of Bleacher Report, good writing is still the best way for most websites to attract attention."

This is what Kay seems to miss about SEO--and perhaps what he misses about his own writing: quality trumps all.

This is not trickery. It's hard work. But as our sponsor, Stepmans PC writes in "SEO is not the Enemy":

"Remember, do not fight the algorithm, and do not attempt to trick the system in any way. If you perform optimization correctly–organically—your website will be richly rewarded."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: How Google Views Your Website

We've been writing about Google's new algorithm for a few weeks now, and for good reason: the algorithm is dramatically changing the search landscape. The new algorithm is also making the work of SEO specialists even more complex and challenging. For the best SEO specialists, this is good news. Google's evolving algorithm has always compelled websites to offer relevant, high-quality information and seamless designs, and the best websites, no doubt advised by the best SEO specialists, have responded with a world of fascinating content.

For sub-standard websites with sub-standard SEO specialists, however, the new algorithm is bad news. With each algorithm update, in fact, Google has endeavored to separate what is useful from what is worthless or harmful. As we noted in a prior blog, "Why Only Organic Website Optimization Works," with its latest algorithm update, Google Penguin, Google attempted to limit the rankings of "Black Hat" websites that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines as well as other manipulative or spam-ridden sites. 

When Google Penguin was introduced, Google proved, more then ever, that its main objective was to offer its users only high-quality content. Now, with its newest algorithm update, Google seems to have struck a fatal blow to, well, bad websites.

What do we mean by bad websites? If you're a business owner you probably assume that your site is good, and for most websites owner this is true. Still, it's important to clarify exactly what we--or Google--might mean by a "bad" or "good" website.

First, the "ugliest" websites use Black Hat SEO to break the rules. For more information about the "rules," here is a handy article from About.com: "10 Google Dont's: SEO Tricks You Should Avoid. But beyond the obviously dirty tricks, other not so apparent problems can lead your website to the land of the "bad."

A recent article on the Forbes website, for example, noted how Google's new algorithm pays special attention to bad incoming links:

"At the simplest level, Google looks at how many links are pointing to a website and the quality of the websites those links are coming from. All other things being equal, a website with a lot of incoming links would rank higher than a competing website without many incoming links. In the past quantity appeared to trump quality, and many SEO firms engaged in the technique of building as many incoming links as possible, regardless of whether those links made any sense."

As the article notes, however, with the latest algorithm updates, Google has begun to severely punish websites with bad incoming or outgoing links. It seems that a high-quality website is not good enough; you have to also make sure your website is only associated with other high-quality websites.

Following our sponsor, Stepmans PC, at the Organic SEO Blog, we've always believed that quality trumps quantity.

Why? Well, this just happens to be the singular characteristic of a "good" website. Quite simply, a "good" website is typified by good content--specifically good writing. A simple way to evaluate your website's viability, at least in the eyes of Google, is to evaluate your website's content for the following features:

Frequent Updates: Does your website highlight frequent content updates--at least once every few weeks, or perhaps more? If not, you might work with your website designer or SEO specialist to add a "news" tab to your site, or perhaps a blog.

Good writing: We mentioned above: good writing is the key to a good website. If you do decide to add a news tab or blog, make sure your content is written by a professional. At the very least, a professional should provide elegant, error-free writing (most top pages contain absolutely no spelling or grammar mistakes).

Relevance: Your content should contain terms related to the keyword as well as variations of the keyword. 

Short paragraphs and sentences: This is an interesting factor that even good writers tend to ignore: brevity is crucial for Google. Make sure your content is concise and snappy, and try to limit your paragraphs to 1-4 sentences. Long blocks of texts simply are not attractive to browsers--and Google reflects this fact in its search rankings. As with paragraphs, shorter sentences (eight or ten words or less) define good content for Google. Think Hemingway and learn to write like Hemingway.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The SEO Specialist: Your New Best Friend

When first learning about SEO, many enthusiastic website owners assume that they can do the work of optimization without the help of a trained specialist. This is an admirable pursuit, and to the extent that this is possible, we support website owners in their quest to optimize their websites. In fact, we write The Organic SEO blog not merely for our peers in the SEO community, but for website owners who wish to learn more about natural website optimization.

If you are a website owner, and especially a new website owner, we strongly urge you to browse our blog. Learn as much about organic SEO as possible! If you feel overwhelmed, start here: "Building a Website: Read This First!"

At The Organic SEO Blog, we also value specialization. For example, this blog is supported by Alex Stepman of Stepmans PC. Alex is a gifted SEO specialist with vast experience. However, although Alex certainly provides inspiration and ideas for The Organic SEO Blog, he understands that writing is not exactly his strength. For this reason, Alex hires a small team of professional copywriters for this blog as well as all of his content-driven SEO work. Of course, to Alex, it just makes sense to focus his strengths and to outsource his weaknesses to others.

Now, if you own your own website, and you feel you have the time and patience to optimize your website's structure and content--well, more power to you! We share a democratic view of optimization: SEO is a talent that anyone can understand and apply.

What many website owners do not understand, though, is that the work of an SEO specialist is a full-time occupation. A majority of this work is about keeping up-to-date with the changes in search engine algorithms--especially Google's algorithm. To maintain a website's first-page ranking (and any website that employs an SEO specialist should maintain a first-page ranking), an SEO specialist will use his specialized knowledge of search engines, algorithms, website structure, and content to make necessary changes to a website. Changes might be a daily requirement. If you're a website owner, you likely have other problems to worry about, like the quality of your product or offering, or the productivity of your employees.

Last week, we wrote about some big SEO news: Google's New Algorithm. As we noted:

"Google's algorithm evolves over time. Over the years, we've seen a few entirely new algorithms and many 'updates.' However, even as Google's experience improves, the algorithm changes might not be apparent to most browsers. For the trained SEO specialist, though, even the slightest change should be apparent."

For a view of just how often Google updates its algorithm, check out the fascinating Google Algorithm Change History. As the site notes, "Each year Google changes its algorithm around 500-600 times." Should an SEO specialist know and understand each one of these changes? You better believe it! If you're a website owner, and you're considering performing your website's SEO work (or of you're considering giving your "tech guy" the SEO work), we urge you to take a moment to browse the Google Algorithm Change History. Do you understand what you're reading? If not, you're not alone! Believe me, as a copywriter I have no idea what I'm reading on this site. Here, for example, is the entry for July 19, 2013, in full:

Knowledge Graph Expansion — July 19, 2013

Seemingly overnight, queries with Knowledge Graph (KG) entries expanded by more than half (+50.4%) across the MozCast data set, with more than a quarter of all searches showing some kind of KG entry.

Say what?

We write The Organic SEO blog with the goal of simplifying SEO. However, we also believe that any website owner who wishes to achieve even moderate success should consult with a qualified SEO specialist.  If you wish to learn more about organic SEO from a trained SEO specialist, we urge you to contact our sponsor, Stepmans PC.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Big SEO News: Google's New Algorithm

If you're a regular reader of The Organic SEO Blog, you probably know that we're obsessed with Google's "algorithm." If you're not a regular reader, and you're just learning about organic SEO, perhaps you're asking, "Google's what?" Well, if you're not familiar with Google's "algorithm," Google's own explanation is precise and helpful:

"For a typical query, there are thousands, if not millions, of webpages with helpful information. Algorithms are the computer processes and formulas that take your questions and turn them into answers. Today Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to guess what you might really be looking for. These signals include things like the terms on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank."

Google's algorithm evolves over time. Over the years, we've seen a few entirely new algorithms and many "updates." (For the difference between a new algorithm and an update, check out the first paragrph of this helpful article from WebProNews). However, even as Google's experience improves, the algorithm changes might not be apparent to most browsers. For the trained SEO specialist, though, even the slightest change should be apparent.

Now, any SEO specialist worth his or her salt will watch Google's algorithm like a hawk. In one sense, this is the greatest value an SEO specialist can provide for your website. The best specialist will stay up-to-date with Google's algorithm, and will continually apply changes to your website's infrastructure and content to meet the evolving demands of the algorithm. This is the true work of organic SEO. If the algorithm never changed, SEO specialists would find dramatically less work! Websites could be optimized once and forever.

Happily (for everyone, we believe) the algorithm does change. To meet the evolving demands of today's browsers, continually Google strives to deliver the most relevant results. So recently, Google announced its first entirely new algorithm in twelve years: Google Hummingbird. This new algorithm, which will effect up to 90% of Google's results (source: USA Today), was made to accommodate the recent increase of voice-based searches as well as more complex searches. As the USA Today notes in its article about the new algorithm:

"The change comes as people become more comfortable asking long, complex questions when they use Google to search the Web, rather than single words or simple phrases...Google is also making the change to ensure its search results work well with voice-based queries. When people speak, rather than type on a computer, they use more complex phrases and Google had to update its algorithm to handle that."

How will this change effect your business? Well, that's a good question for your SEO specialist. If you do have an SEO specialist, make sure you make a plan with him or her. Ask yourself--and your specialist--how, exactly, how you will update your site to meet Google's new demands?

If you tend to think about your product or service in terms of a simple keyword--"denim jeans," for example--now might be the time to update your website to adequately answer today's browser's longer and more complex questions. Browsers in the past might've simply searched for "denim jeans." But today's browser, working from a smart phone, might search for: "slim fit denim jeans to wear with dress shoes." Whoa! Of course, this might not be your product at all. The point, though, is to clarify your offering as precisely as possible. To do so, add new content to your website--and make sure it's relevant.

If you do not have an SEO specialist, now is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of natural website optimization. Of course, we recommend our very own sponsor, Stepmans PC. Alex Stepman is a small business owner who understands your need to spend money efficiently. He is also an incredibly astute algorithm-watcher, as up-to-date as any SEO specialist on the planet.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Crucial SEO Question: Quality or Quantity?

An article in this week's New Yorker, "From Mars," offers a clear example of the value of SEO as well as high-quality, informative content. The article profiles Bryan Goldberg, who started the popular wildly-popular website, Bleacher Report, six years ago, and who now hopes to recreate that success with Bustle, a new site targeted at women.

Bleacher Report started with the goal of providing a viable alternative to the major sports news outlets, ESPN (the website) and Sports Illustrated (the magazine). In the article, Goldberg explains the motivation like this: "We basically looked at the situation and asked, 'How do you cover three hundred teams on a daily basis?' The answer is not to have a newsroom in Times Square in some fancy office building with thousands of writers in it. The answer is to go find some sports fans who live and breathe their teams and have them write the articles.”

To find local sportswriters, Goldberg and his partners posted notices on Craigslist and message boards--and thousands of amateur writers responded. In the first few years, Bleacher Report could not pay any of its writers, so it rewarded them for hits and comments. Encouraged to maximize page views, the untrained writers produced thousands of articles intended for quick, perhaps mindless reading, including "slide shows, 'best of' lists, and pictures of sexy women".

Naturally, too, the site used SEO:

"If Google showed that people were looking for news of LeBron James after an injury, they’d assign an article—or five—on James, making sure to put search terms such as 'injury' and 'Miami Heat' in the title (a process, universal in Web publishing, known as search-engine optimization)."

The Bleacher Report's use of SEO is a fairly simple process of creating tons of content (five articles on LeBron James injury!) and applying popular and timely keywords to its articles and article titles. And happily, for the Bleacher Report at least, this use of SEO attracted millions of hits each month. By the time the initial founders of the site sold Bleacher Report to Turner Broadcasting (for more than two hundred million dollars), the site itself was making "tens of millions of dollars each year" on ad sales.

Despite its success, however, Bleacher Report has been criticized for low-quality content ("The content sucked," Bustle's web content director, RJ Ciggaglione, says in the article). By prioritizing quantity over quality, Bleacher Report became wildly popular. What it did, essentially was "deluge the Internet with a tsunami of mediocre content that is so voluminous that it cannot be ignored, at least by search engines," as Elizabeth Spiers, the founder of Gawker notes in the article. But even Goldberg himself admits that Bleacher Report's low-quality writing was a "rookie mistake"--a mistake he wants to fix with his new site, Bustle.

Readers of The Organic SEO Blog will probably guess what we have to say about Bleacher Report's use of SEO. We have written about the value of content before.

Please read: "For SEO, Content is King". Or: "Content, Content, Content: The Key to SEO".

If you have thousands of writers, like Bleacher Report, you can attract attention merely by playing the number game--writing article after article with well-chosen keyword and titles. Quality hardly matters when you're dealing with that sort of quantity.

But what if you're a small business owner? Or what if you prefer to attract attention with quality?

In our opinion, the Internet is best served when website owners pay attention to the quality of writing. Happily, this is not merely our opinion: it's Google's opinion, too. Google favors well-written, informative content. And despite the example of Bleacher Report, good writing is still the best way for most websites to attract attention.

Remember this idea when you're searching for an SEO specialist. As we wrote in the above-mentioned blog, "Content, Content, Content,":

"Sometimes SEO companies say that they can optimize your website for specific keywords. Often these companies charge one price for two keywords and another price for, say, five keywords. Don’t let them fool you. Organically optimized websites appear on the first page results based on high quality writing--not keywords. If your website is optimized only for only two, or even five, keywords, you will never receive the traffic you deserve, and you will lose potential customers."

Obviously, Bleacher Report's style of attracting hits is not an ideal SEO model for most companies. For most companies, quality content is the most important determinant of online success. Perhaps with the new website, however, Goldberg will show the value of good writing. For the sake of the Internet, we hope so!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Organic SEO: How to Invest Your Money Wisely

At The Organic SEO Blog, we believe website optimization should be applied to every website. As Alex Stepman, the owner of our sponsor, Stepmans PC, likes to say, "You can have the most beautiful and dynamic website on the Internet, but if you're not on Google you're invisible."

And yet, we also understand the need for website owners to balance essential business costs with marketing costs. Organic SEO is, indeed, a marketing cost, and although SEO is essential, we also believe website owners should invest their money wisely. And frankly, many website owners waste money on frivolous website optimization campaigns. In fact, most website owners hire an SEO specialist or website marketing firm without even understanding the basic elements of website optimization.

Of course, a business owner should be efficient. By outsourcing website optimization, most owners simply want to ensure that their website is visible on Google, and that website optimization will attract more traffic to their site. But with organic SEO, a little knowledge can go a long way. For a website owner, especially, a little knowledge can mean the difference between a wise investment and a foolish investment.

Remember, an organic SEO campaign should be relatively inexpensive, and should always create an ROI (return on investment). But do not be fooled by price alone. You might ask yourself, "Why pay full price for website optimization if I can pay half the price that other website owners pay and get the same results?" Price is not the only determinant of success. What if, for example, you paid double the amount that other website owners pay, but you received double the amount of business? Do not try to merely match other website's success; try to double or triple that success for your own website.

The key, of course, is to make a wise investment. To ensure a wise investment, keep the following points in mind:

If you want to improve your website, website optimization is essential, but optimization is not necessarily the best first step. Instead, begin by identifying why your website is not performing well. Of course, your website should be visible on search engines--check to make sure it is!

For a simple guide to checking your website's visibility on Google, please read our handy guide: "How to Really Check Your Website's Performance on Google."

You should also measure the approximate amount of traffic your website receives on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Without this vital information, your website optimization campaign will be inefficient!

A detailed website performance report can be obtained easily. You have several options:

1. You can purchase professional software that will provide a detailed website analysis.

2. You can request this analysis form an SEO professional or website marketing firm.

3. You can ask our sponsor, Stepmans PC, to provide a detailed website report free of charge. To do so simply visit www.stepmanseo.com

A simple analysis will clarify your needs. You might discover, for example, that incoming traffic is not your essential problem. Despite your good traffic, however, you might also discover that your website is not really delivering any business. Organic SEO is not only about your website's visibility. Organic SEO includes thoughtful marketing and a thorough strategy to convert your visitors into actual customers. In this case, you might need to work on your customer conversion rate. For more information about "conversion" read our blog: "How to Convert Website Visitor's into Customers."

Hopefully today's blog saves you some money. After all, once you see your website's current performance, you will know how much maintenance your website actually requires. From this assessment, you can then estimate a realistic budget required to perform the work.

Just remember, in the end, the best website optimization investment is the one that makes sense for your unique website. Do not be fooled by low prices or blanket promises. If you wish to speak to a no-nonsense professional, please visit our sponsor, Stepman's PC. Alex Stepman is a small business owner who understands your need to spend money efficiently.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Change is Good: Why Updating Your Website is a Key SEO Strategy

This is our first post in a few weeks. Our sponsor, Stepmans PC, has recently devoted our resources at the Organic SEO Blog to launching a new website: www.stepmanseo.com. To many of Stepman PC's clients and devoted readers, this new website might look new. In reality, however, the website will be nearly identical in its layout and navigation. The goal is to attract new clients and readers, but  also to make our returning clients and readers feel comfortable.

So, why is Stepmans PC, a leader in organic SEO, updating its website?

The Internet can be defined in many ways, but the sheer quantity of available experience begs a simple definition. At the Organic SEO blog, we prefer to call the Internet "a dynamic space." Like humanity, the Internet evolves; unlike humanity, this evolution is speedy.To keep pace with the evolving, speedy nature of the Internet, the best websites continually offer new content. The best websites also periodically update their look and feel.

Think about your favorite website. How often does your favorite website update its content? How often does your favorite website update its design or layout? Likely, the answer to both of these questions is "quite often."

To keep pace, you should also periodically update your website. Here is a key lesson of organic SEO: optimize your website for both search engines and users. By maintaining fresh and relevant content, you will continue to attract new and returning visitors. You will also impress search engines. Remember, from Google’s prospective, the goal is to deliver the most relevant results, and to make sure the user is 100 % satisfied with these results.

Beyond content, however, minor changes to a website's infrastructure can make the website more appealing to users and search engines. For example, think about your website's ease-of-navigation. Improving your website's layout will satisfy your visitors, and when you satisfy your visitors you satisfy the search engines.

To a search engine like Google, change is good. Google, the great beast of the evolving Internet, is always hungry for new information. This information might be new content, but it also might be a new design or development element. Google does not make a distinction between types of change; to Google, it makes no difference if a change is applied to website content or website design. As long as the website is not outdated, any change is considered to be new content. For Stepman PC's recent update, we've simply changed the design and source code.

If you have not recently updated your website's design and/or layout, this should serve as your timely reminder. Just remember: if you operate an industry-specific website, please remember: your website has likely been optimized for your specific industry, so any change should be relevant to that industry.

Now, SEO is not the only reason Stepmans PC is updating its website. As a leader in website optimization and online marketing, we strive to make it easy for others to keep their websites up-to-date. Many websites follow our FREE recommendations for organic website optimization, and many websites have used our helpful information to maintain daily online success.

If you're new to the world of SEO, browse our the Organic SEO Blog for helpful advice. You might also read this informative article from Stepmans PC: "Natural Website Optimization."

If you would you like to learn more about organic website optimization, or would like to stay current with SEO news and updates, please subscribe to our newsletter, or like us on Facebook. We post the latest SEO news as soon as it becomes available. And of course, the Organic SEO blog will continue to offer the best tips to help you optimize your website. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Be Fooled: How to Really Check Your Website's Performance on Google

Here at the Organic SEO Blog, we like to think that we're fighting the good fight. Too many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies take advantage of customers. We're here to share as much information as possible. We believe knowledge is power: the more our readers (and customers) understand organic SEO, the better we perform as a blog (and business).

If you're thinking about building a business website, please read our handy step-by-step guide to designing and developing a well-optimized website with stunning content that actually helps you convert customers!  And if you're interested in learning more about the most natural and seamless form of search engine optimization, please read this article: "Natural Website Optimization."

Today we're going to teach you how to check your website's performance on Google. You might be surprised--this task is very simple. You might also be surprised to see that your website's performance can teach you important information about your website as well as the claims of your SEO professional.

So before we begin, remember: knowledge is power! Do not let SEO companies manipulate you. Instead, learn your own lessons. Simply reading this blog will save you time and money.

As you might know, SEO is a time-consuming process. Sometimes SEO yields results in as little as two days; sometimes results are not apparent for months. As a website owner, you might never understand how or why this process is working or not working. Most website owners live at the mercy of SEO professionals. Since website owners typically have very little knowledge about SEO, they must trust that the SEO professional is truly performing the best work.

In an ideal world, this is how the process should work. There is no need for a website owner to spend his time learning and performing SEO if he can hire a professional to do the work. Unfortunately, too many website owners have been burned by bad SEO professionals.

A poorly-optimized website can be presented to a website owner in a way that makes the website appear as if it were performing very well, and even outperforming all other websites in its industry.

Now, SEO can be an affordable investment, but nobody wants to waste money on trickery and deceit.

To perform this trick, a wayward SEO company or individual will discover at least one keyword that makes your website visible on the first page of search results. He will then tell you to perform a search on your own computer with this keyword--to see the outstanding results for yourself! If you own a notary agency, for example, and the keyword that makes your website visible is "notary services," you will type "notary services" and see your website listed on Google's first page, outperforming so many other similar sites. You might even click the link to be certain that this is, indeed, your website. And inevitably it will be your site.

From Google’s prospective, the goal is to deliver the most relevant results, and to make sure the user is 100 % satisfied with these results. Whenever you click a link on Google, the link is "remembered" for your benefit. Why? From so many relevant results, you clicked this link and not any other. Google also understands that not every user can find the site he or she is looking for on the first search. Google expects most users to perform multiple searches with different sets of keywords--in this case, keywords relevant to the "notary" industry.

So let's say you try a different search for your notary website, but instead of "notary service" you type a similar keyword, like "notary agency." Google will deliver a different set of websites, but your website will still be on the first page results. This does not necessarily mean that your website is well-optimized. Why? From your first search, Google simply "remembered" that you clicked your website, so it is offering you the choice once again. From this point forward, whenever you perform a similar search, your website will appear. And the more times you click your website, or perform the same search, the more Google will show you this same result.

Don't be fooled. To see true and relevant Google results follow these steps:

1. Make sure you are not signed into your Google account; if you are, sign out.

2. Delete your browser's cookies.

3. Close your browser and reopen it.

4. Perform the search. (This time the keyword can be anything, even the first keyword--notary services--that revealed your website to be on the first page results).

If your website does not appear on the first page results after performing these simple steps--well, your SEO professional might be deceiving you about your website's performance.

It is important to check the work somebody performs for you. You want to hire a real professional who will not waste your time and money. If you want to speak to a reliable SEO professional, please consider the Organic SEO Blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC. Just like this blog, the professional SEO specialists at Stepmans PC strive to educate you about what we do and how we do it. After all, you should know exactly what to expect from your SEO professional's work.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How SEO Can Help Your Clarify Your Business Offering

At the Organic SEO Blog, we believe that natural website optimization is the essential marketing strategy for any new or established website. We've spent a great deal of time here explaining the benefits of a thoughtful organic website optimization campaign. Natural website optimization can increase your website's exposure. Natural website optimization can also attract new customers to your product or service. With a thoughtful SEO campaign, your new website can appear on the first page of search engine results worldwide. Quite simply: if you're a website owner, the benefits of SEO are immeasurable.

For more about the benefits of SEO, please read our article SEO: The Best

Today, however, we will talk about one benefit of SEO that is often overlooked. By participating in a thoughtful natural website optimization campaign, a website owner must clarify his/her business offering to his/herself.

The reason this benefit is important is simple: most website owners do not specialize in marketing, and do not understand how to appropriately sell their own product! Believe it or not, marketing is a talent that is not available to everyone, especially those who specialize in highly specific businesses.

For example: If you are a tailor, you likely have a lot of experience cutting, sewing, and re-sizing clothes for appreciative clients. The more experience you have as a tailor, however, means that you have less experience in other pursuits. Perhaps you apprenticed as a youth. Perhaps you spent a few years in Milan working for a famous fashion boutique. Whatever the case, if you are the best, then you've likely spent many hours tailoring!

Just like tailoring, marketing must be learned. And if you've spent your entire life learning to be an expert tailor, then you might not have had the time to learn about marketing. If you're building a website, however, then you must begin to learn about marketing. An experience SEO professional can help you understand the process of SEO, but you must first help your SEO professional understand exactly what you do.

You can clarify your offering, first, by thinking about keywords. Imagine you are an Internet user searching for your product or service. What keywords would you use to search for your product or service? Think precisely about the exact keywords that best describe your product or service. If you are an expert tailor in Philadelphia, perhaps you might simply choose the following keywords: "expert tailor Philadelphia." But that cannot be your only option. You must think of many possibilities!

The question is simple: how do you want people to find you? By answering this question, you can help your SEO professional perform a truly effective natural website optimization campaign. Additionally, this is a simple yet profound marketing exercise, one that some people might pay a hefty price to attain. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Google's Algorithm: Why Only Organic Website Optimization Works

In two prior posts, we discussed the difference between website ranking and website optimization and how, specifically, Google ranks well-optimized websites. A high website ranking is invaluable, and Google is constantly working to refine its algorithm so only the most relevant websites with high-quality, engaging, and well-written content appear on the first page results.

For more information about Google, read this quick "Google Lesson."

Unfortunately, the stakes are so high that many website owners have relied upon nefarious "Black Hat SEO" techniques to achieve a high ranking. With its latest algorithm update, Google Penguin, Google attempted to limit the rankings of Black Hat websites that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines. When Google Penguin was introduced on April, 24, 2012, Google proved, more then ever before, that its main objective was to offer its users only high-quality content.

Now, with each algorithm update, Google will continue to limit Black Hat SEO techniques and reward the opposite: White Hat SEO.

To understand the importance of Google Penguin, it's helpful to understand the difference between the "Black Hat SEO" and this legitimate, natural form of website optimization: "White Hat SEO."

Black Hat SEO is essentially a set of techniques that certain webmasters employ to trick search engines. Without actually creating relevant and engaging content, Black Hat SEO allows a website to appear on the first page rankings. Thankfully, this practice is increasingly irrelevant, but Black Hat SEO has proved effective in the past. Techniques such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, and the creation of duplicate content continue to haunt the Internet, compromising businesses and personal users alike. If you've searched for a legitimate product or service and landed on a spammer's site--well, then, you've probably been victimized by Black Hat SEO, too.

To a search engine like Google, the only acceptable form of SEO is organic or natural website optimization--or White Hat SEO. An experienced organic SEO specialist studies Google's algorithms to learn exactly what the search engine prefers, and optimizes websites to meet Google's exact requirements.

The key to organic website optimization is quality: a well-designed website and engaging, relevant content. This is why White Hat SEO professionals rejoiced with the release of Google Penguin. The new algorithm ensured, more then ever before, that Black Hat SEO would not sway rankings. With each successive Google algorithm update, we will hopefully continue to see that the only effective way to achieve a high ranking is natural website optimization.

At Stepmans PC, we are very proud of our intimate knowledge of Google's evolving algorithms. In one way, the job is quite simple: prioritizing quality above all else. But the algorithm can present some complicated challenges. Fortunately, we've met these challenges. By continually studying the algorithm, we have managed to maintain a consistent high ranking for our client's websites. Regardless of the algorithm, our websites continue to perform.

If you're considering hiring an SEO professional to optimize your website, please read our handy SEO Company Checklist. And make sure your SEO professional has a first-hand knowledge of Google Penguin and Google's ever-evolving algorithm.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Natural Website Optimization: A Brief Video Tutorial


We're very busy at The Organic SEO Blog this week! In lieu of our weekly post, please take a look at this brief tutorial on natural website optimization from Stepmans PC.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Difference Between Website Ranking and Website Optimization

The term "website ranking" (or PageRank) has become a very popular way to define website performance. Unfortunately, most people do not know what the term means. Even most SEO professionals, for whom website ranking is crucially important, interpret this term in the wrong way. Additionally, website marketing firms often cite the advantage of website ranking without even explaining exactly what the term means. For website owners, this lack of clarity can lead to bad decisions. By promising a high website ranking, an SEO professional or website marketing firm might make a good impression on a potential customer--but the promise is often an empty promise.

To truly understand website ranking, one should first understand website optimization. For an in-depth analysis, please read "Natural Website Optimization." For now, we might simply say that website optimization is a marketing strategy applied to a website’s content, and partially to technical aspects of the site’s development, that allows the site to be easily “crawled” by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines

Website ranking and website optimization are two distinctly different classifications. A website can be optimized or not, but optimization will not influence website ranking in any way. When a user performs a Google search, for example, Google delivers different results, and among the first page results not all websites enjoy a high ranking. In fact, most of these websites are not ranked at all! And yet, even without a website ranking, many websites appear on the first page of Google results.

How is this possible? For an in-depth analysis of website ranking, or page ranking, read this Wikipedia article. Numerically speaking, Wikipedia defines page ranking like this:

"The most popular websites have a PageRank of 10. The least have a PageRank of 0. Google has not disclosed the specific method for determining a Toolbar PageRank value, which is to be considered only a rough indication of the value of a website."

That last sentence is the most important: page ranking is only a "rough indication" of a website's value.

For our purposes, let us talk about how the confusion over website ranking effects website owners. Often the problems start about two months after the start of a new SEO campaign. Since website optimization uses an "organic" approach, website visibility often does not occur right away. If you are an SEO customer, you should know this; your SEO professional should have told you this before he/she started your website optimization campaign.

In our experience, however, most customers can only tolerate their unsuccessful website performance for so long. After about two months, most customers ask, "Why is my website not appearing on the first page results?" At this point, a smart customer will try to try to learn more about website optimization. Unfortunately, many customers learn to little to late--and only then do they realize that their SEO professional or website marketing firm has offered empty promises!

Here is a typical scenario: 

After two months, a new SEO customer realizes that his/her website ranking is 0, just like a newly-developed website. So the customer tries a different SEO professional or website marketing firm. Unfortunately, the process repeats itself: two months later the SEO customer discovers again that his/her website is not so successful, and his/her website ranking is still 0!

Here is the problem: website optimization has nothing to do with website ranking! And because most SEO professionals and/or website marketing firms do not understand the difference between website optimization and website ranking, the customer suffers.

Of course, a poor website ranking is not the reason your website is not successful, but because you were promised a high ranking within a short period of time, you feel lost. Whom can you trust, after all, if your SEO professional does not even know what he/she is talking about?

At Stepmans PC, we believe knowledge is power. We believe the best step a website owner can take is to  learning some basic SEO terms before hiring a marketing company. Only knowledge will help you ensure that you hire a real professional to work on your website. The Organic SEO Blog is a good place to start, especially if you're building a new website. Start here now: "Building a Website? Read This First!"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Organic SEO: The Right Choice for Website Marketing

As more brick-and-mortar businesses migrate online, more business owners are facing the challenge of website marketing. A business might have a physical location, but without a website a company might not exist to most potential customers. But even with a website a company might not exist to most potential customers.

The key difference between a successful website and a failure is website marketing. Proper online marketing can significantly improve a website’s visibility, attracting a great deal of new traffic. But how do you discover a trustworthy Search engine optimization (SEO) specialist or website marketing firm?

First stop: A handy SEO Checklist!

If you're a website owner, you've probably noticed that the web is crowded with website marketing firms and/or SEO specialists. The reason this market feels so overpopulated is quite simple: it is overpopulated. There seems to be a new website marketing firm or SEO specialist for each new website. At certain times, you might even feel that the word "SEO" appears everywhere in your journey across the web. Well of course, SEO specialists know how to market their services!

Abundance can be very good. At Stepmans PC, we believe that website optimization should be available to every website owner. But the problem with abundance is simple: when faced with a choice of thousands, most people either a) make the wrong choice or b) make no choice!

The Wrong Choice

Business owners who are not familiar with website optimization, SEO, or online marketing can be easily misled or manipulated. I said above: SEO specialists know how to market their services. But more importantly: Does an SEO specialist know how to market your website's services? This is the first question you should ask any SEO specialist or website marketing firm: How will you market my unique product? An SEO specialist or website marketing firm might answer this question in many different ways: website optimization, Pay-Per-Click, keyword optimization, banner ads, or even new blogs. Whatever a specialist says to you, remember: Do not be fooled by jargon! You might believe that in order to be fully-optimized your site must be intricately designed, developed, and optimized, and that only specialists know the trick. Nonsense! As we wrote last week in our discussion on hashtags, many people use SEO without even knowing it!

SEO can be very easy to understand. Remember: a high-quality SEO specialist should be able to explain exactly what he/she will do to optimize your website in a way that you easily understand. When there are so many choices, why would you accept anything less? 

No Choice

Most website owners know that they need some form of website marketing or search engine optimization. Unfortunately, however, many of these same website owners never choose to use a specialist's services.The problem is trust--many website owners simple believe that they cannot trust SEO.

First, the term SEO itself is misunderstood. Luckily is it easy to educate yourself. You can read The Organic SEO Blog. Once you learn about SEO--and specifically, Organic SEO--you can learn how to ask the right questions.

If you still do not trust SEO, however, read this article: SEO is Not the Enemy.

No choice can be worse than the wrong choice--or at least equally bad. In both cases, your website is still losing income by the day!

The Right Choice

Although both SEO specialists and website marketing firms can increase your website’s online presence, the organic approach to website optimization is preferable. The major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing admire organically-promoted websites, and these search engines reward well-optimized sites with top placement in search results.

Also, with organic website optimization your company’s success is not dependent on an advertising budget--unlike a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign. PPC can be effective. However, PPC is very costly. And like other traditional advertisements—the periodicals and radio ads noted above—the success of PPC is entirely dependent on your advertisement budget.

Finding customers can be costly and ineffective. So why not let the business come to you? Organic SEO empowers customers to find your website. When optimized for search engines, your website will be visible to the exact customers who are looking for your product or service. Once again, I suggest you read our handy SEO Checklist for some practical tips.