Thursday, June 26, 2014

SEO is About Creating Connections

A few years ago, shortly after the birth of my daughter, Ella, I posted a few pictures of the new baby on Facebook. For many parents, this is standard operating procedure. In fact, to not post pictures of a new baby would be a social faux pas. After all, many friends and family depend on Facebook for this sort of jubilant sharing.

At the time, I thought my daughter looked like an alien, yet I felt happy to share the pics. I was a tired father, flushed with pride. I suppose I still feel the same way...

My baby daughter at two days old
I did not give much thought to how these pictures--this person--might change other people's views of me. At the time, though, my friend Charlie Stewart offered a comment that, in retrospect, feels prescient: "She's part of your brand now, isn't she?"

The idea appalled me. To think of my daughter as part of my "brand"! To think of myself as a "brand"!

Today, however, for better or worse, I've come to see how my online presence is, in fact, a "brand" and how deeply my daughter has influenced this brand.

The tweet below (offered minus context, in the spirit of one of our favorite Twitter accounts) from the famous wit and intellect, Benjamin Dryer, is quite telling:


This is partly tongue-in-cheek, yet it is also partly sincere--and it is entirely informed by my daughter. Just as my daughter has changed my personality in the "real world", her presence has changed my online "brand". (I continue to put the word "brand" in quotes because I think it's an egregious concept, even though I believe it behooves most people to think about their own "brand"). In the past, my online persona might've been described less by a generous spirit than a somewhat overly-dramatic spirit. After all, I've always been a fan of hyperbole.

So am I advocating that you have a child to change, and perhaps improve, your brand presence?

No, that would be patently absurd.

The point is this: If you're online in any capacity, you have a brand. And since you have a brand, you might want to think about the implications of how you present that brand.

We all know by know that your web presence can potentially help or hurt your chances for college admission or for a potential job opportunity. As The New York Times once asked, "Is Your Online Identity Spoiling Your Chances?"

This article, written four years ago, made a suggestion that is even more important today:

"You should assume that they [employers in this article, but anyone today] are at least looking you up on search engines. So it’s wise to review the results of a quick search of your name."

Now, depending on what you find, you might have the opportunity to change what people see. But you must be proactive. As Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a career management business in New York, noted in the Times article:

"It is very hard to remove anything questionable about yourself from a search engine, but you can at least push it lower by adding positive entries."

In essence, Safani, is advocating a sort of SEO. The goal, of course, is the same goal as a web-based company: to better control how and when you appear in search results.

Since beginning my work with Stepmans PC, I've come to see the true power of SEO. On my own blog, The New Savagery, I've increased traffic by a factor of ten simply by following the simple principles outlined in The Organic SEO Blog.

I've focused on content, design, and yes, I've paid attention to keywords. Doing so, I believe my purpose hasn't be so crass as to simply increase traffic. No, I believe my blog is worth sharing, and that the information can help others. Just take a look at the comments on this blog--many people testifying to the value of a simple remedy I'd suggested: a yogurt mask.

I do not say this to toot my own horn, but to motivate others. If I can do this, you can do this. You can easily take control of your own brand by applying the lessons of this blog.

Of course, this idea speaks to the essential goal of an online business, too. If you sell a high-quality product at the right price you deserve customers. Organic SEO is about connecting your product or service with the very people who need it the most.

This is the elegance of SEO: it's not so much about marketing as it is about creating connections--between people; and between people and the products or services they might enjoy or need.

This might sound naive to some. But we believe that SEO, if practiced with integrity, is about communication--communication between brands and people. And since we're all brands (and presumably, all people) we would all do well to use SEO to make this communication efficient.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Organic SEO is a Specialized Talent

The Organic SEO Blog is on the road this week--in Boston for a national conference for immigration lawyers. Last night, as we walked around the Back Bay area, we spoke to a young website developer who works for Lockheed Martin. The developer, Eugene, told us, "I've always been interested in website development."

Before attaining his current position at Lockheed Martin, Eugene built websites for his friends and family--much like our very own Alex Stepman, whose passion for computers eventually led him to organic SEO.

"It was a lot of work," he said. "But I loved it."

"Did you perform SEO?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said. "I used to play around with SEO, but after awhile it began to feel like a cat and mouse game: I was always chasing Google's new algorithm."

I gave Eugene a knowing smile. Ahh, the algorithm.

Of course, if you read our blog, you know: the true work of an SEO specialist is staying current with the mind-boggling array of algorithm updates. And this is why so many talented, tech-savvy people like Eugene eventually stop performing SEO: it is a very specialized practice, quite distinct from all other computer-related tasks.

The success of organic SEO depends on complex search engine algorithms—and the world’s largest search engines, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, change their algorithms about 500-700 times a year. The work of understanding and utilizing these ever-evolving algorithms is time-consuming and tedious. A high-quality SEO company understands how to do this work without wasting time.

You wouldn't hire a personal injury lawyer to secure your green card. So why hire a web developer to perform your SEO? Or worse, why waste your own precious time trying to learn the algorithm?

As Eugene's story reveals, the complicated work of organic SEO is best left to a professional SEO specialist.

His story also reveals another crucial fact: the algorithm is key.  If you're seeking a talented SEO professional, your first question might be: "What do you know about the algorithm?"

A talented professional should be able to speak fluently about the latest algorithm changes in a way that makes sense to you. If he/she cannot do this--well, then, you might be best finding another specialist. And take our word for it: like lawyers, this country is overrun with SEO specialists.

A high-quality professional SEO company will help your business attract customers and boost profits. And this should be the goal of every thoughtful SEO campaign: increased traffic and/or increased profits.

So how do you choose an SEO specialist?

A good SEO specialist should offer a one-stop shop for development, design, and SEO. And since these talents are all quite specialized, a good SEO specialist will have a dedicated staff, including a web developer like Eugene, a website design specialist, and one or more professional copywriters.

The best SEO specialist will also employ marketing specialists—experts who will help you develop inventive ideas for online promotion.

Of course, as regular readers of this blog know, we're partial to the work of our blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC, a professional website marketing agency that focuses on natural website optimization and organic marketing. If you wish to talk to a trained professional, do not hesitate to call Alex and his staff today: (215) 900-9398.

But if you want to expand your search to other specialists, remember to ask about the algorithm! Like an immigration lawyer, a true SEO professional should help you navigate the most complicated requirements.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Negative SEO: What You Need to Know

Negative SEO--the practice of harming another site's search engine rankings--has been getting a lot of press in SEO circles recently. The well-respected site, SEO Roundtable, even conducted a poll and 75% of the respondents agreed: "Negative SEO is Easier" thanks to Google's most recent algorithm updates.

If you're interested in the details, WebProNews, has posted a detailed article with quite a few links to various articles and forums that have debated the viability of the nefarious practice. And the consensus seems to match the SEO Roundtable poll: Negative SEO is now certainly easier.

The problem seems to be Google's recent practice of penalizing companies for bad incoming links--links from disreputable or spammy sites. Unfortunately, it's impossible to entirely control bad incoming links--and so, theoretically, your website could be "attacked" by negative SEO.

Now, the very existence of bad links stems from the earliest days of SEO, when Google's algorithm placed a high priority on the quantity of incoming links. Black Hat SEOs took advantage of the algorithm by creating link-building schemes. These schemes took on many forms, but the most basic version looked something like this:

A primary website created multiple other websites--sometimes ten or many, many more--all owned and operated by the primary website for the explicit purpose of creating incoming links. With an abundance of incoming links, the primary website favored well in the Google rankings.

The Penguin Algorithm was created, in part, to combat this type of abuse. 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.”

Since Penguin, it wasn't the quantity of links that improved your site but the quality. This seemed to be a good sign. As we wrote in a previous post, "Bad Links? Bad News!":

"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."

With Penguin, a site could not improve its performance by creating multiple incoming links. Unfortunately, successive updates have seemingly made it easier to do the opposite: to harm a site's performance by creating multiple incoming links.

So what does this mean for you?

Websites both large and small can easily be harmed by incoming links. And if you think your website is too small, think again. You might be surprised by the links spammers have created to your site--links built explicitly to create traffic to reputable sites. More then ever, now's the time to contact a reputable link removal service or quality SEO specialist, like Stepmans PC.


With apologies to class bad guy actor, Lee Van Cleef, we offer a PSA from The Organic SEO Blog: don't let Black Hat SEO destroy your site's rankings.


Now is also a great time to take advantage of Stepman PC's FREE Website Audit.

If your website is under-performing, Stepmans PC’s Organic Website Optimization Audit will clarify the exact elements of your website that require improvement--including bad incoming links!

As apart of the audit, Stepmans PC will provide a detailed report showing you the quality and quantity of your links.

Now, in May, Alex Stepman offered this FREE audit to the first ten companies to respond--and the response was overwhelming. So Alex has decided to open the valuable FREE service to ten more companies. To take advantage of this limited time offer, call Stepmans PC now: 215-900-9398 or complete the form on Stepmans PC's website.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Elegant Simplicity of Mobile SEO

We're halfway into 2014, so we'd thought we'd re-visit a few blogs from 2014. In a post from early January, "New Year's Resolutions: Are you Afraid of SEO?", we discussed the concept of "loss aversion"--the idea that humans strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. We also speculated that the reason many website owners do no try SEO is simple: fear.

In part, this is why we write this blog: to dispel fear. As we noted before, the decade-long experience of our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, has proved that business owners are often: 1) fearful of making the investment to build a website 2) and doubly fearful of making the investment to optimize a website.

In the first case, business owners simply cannot see past a $999 investment to the demonstrable advantages of joining the world of e-commerce. In the second case, business owners simply cannot see past the initial investment to the clear long-terms advantages of SEO.

As time has lapsed, and the country has turned from the remarkable gloom of winter 2014 to the serene, sunny days of spring and soon summer, we've seen case after case of this second fear hindering, and sometimes crippling, new online businesses.

In March, we received a few inquiring emails about our blog: "Mobile SEO in 2014: What You Need to Know." It seemed to us, from the varied responses, that many website owners felt that mobile SEO simply did not apply to their site, and for those who did, the expense for optimizing for mobile seemed prohibitive. Once again, we discovered that many website owners had fell prey to the second fear discussed above: of making the investment to optimized a website.

For these intrepid website owners, we wrote a second post in April, "Don't Lose Sales: Optimized Your Site for Mobile Search Now!", which examined the difference between two websites: one clearly optimized for mobile and one clearly not optimized for mobile. We tried to reveal--with a real world example--ow a website optimized for mobile trumps a website not optimized for mobile. 

What does a site optimized for mobile look like? Well, to be honest, we're not talking rocket science here! A recent article on WebProNews included the following graphic, which neatly shows the lucid simplicity of well-optimized website text:


Take a look at the site on the left. It's very easy to read! The screen is not cluttered. It is easy to scroll, too. But this particular page is essentially text, so it is easily translated to mobile.

How about a dynamic website with multiple links and images?

Well, instead of compromising the look and feel of a conventional site for mobile, you might simply design the conventional site with mobile in mind.

Stepmans PC did just this for a recent client. Take a look at the elegant simplicity of this Russian site--as viewed from an iPhone 5:




On this mobile-optimized site, USATravelRu.com, the text is easy to read (if you read Russian!) The screen rotates automatically (this is the horizontal view). And the images serve as buttons for easy navigation.

This simple website provides the benefits of a traditional website with the increased visibility for mobile devices. Now, of course, mobile SEO can entail much more complexity, but we share this image here to express a simple point about mobile SEO--and any form of SEO, for that matter: SEO is not some arcane practice to be feared!

At its very core, SEO is about providing elegant solutions to simple problems. If you're curious about these solutions, we suggest reading this blog: you just might find the inspiration to overcome "loss aversion" and make an investment that can truly help your business.