Sunday, December 27, 2015

Organic Website Optimization & Negative SEO: The Battle Between Good and Bad

A recent article from The Dallas Morning News reveals the most complex challenge facing SEO firms today: perception. Despite the increasing knowledge of experts and laymen, SEO continues to be characterized in a negative light.

The Morning News' characterization of SEO is laughably biased--and false. The article focuses on the extortionist practices of William Stanley (or William Laurence, William Davis or William Harris--the man goes by many names), who had been charged with extorting a Dallas firm--referred to as "GE"--who had hired him to "improve its online reputation."

Of course, Mr. Stanley himself, working under the guise of SEO, reveals a terrible view of SEO. He was hired by the Dallas firm (and others) under the pretense of performing website optimization. In reality, instead of optimization, he performed a form of "negative SEO,"--as Stanley admits in his plea, "illegitimate SEO."

In his plea, Stanley admits to threatening his clients by "posting fraudulent comments and creating negative reviews online if the victim did not pay him a certain amount of money."

Negative SEO--the practice of harming another site's search engine rankings--is as old as SEO itself, yet this form of Negative SEO, however, is relatively innocuous. Worse is the creation of websites whose sole purpose is to damage another website's reputation. Stanley practiced this form of negative SEO, too: "he created websites," he stated in his plea "that had the ability to damage GE’s reputation by associating GE with a scam."

Stanley is likely referring to the creation of "bad links," one of the earliest weapons in the arsenal of so-called Black Hat SEOs.

Like Darth Vader, Black Hat SEOs represent the "dark side" of SEO
In early incarnations, Google's algorithm used incoming links as an indicator of website success. Black Hat SEOs manipulated these early algorithms by creating link-building schemes, such as building subsidiary websites to send links to a primary website. With an abundance of incoming links, the prime website outranked many reputable sites.

The Penguin Algorithm was created to eliminate this type of abuse. Google clarified its definition of a "bad" link: “Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.”

With Penguin, it wasn't the quantity of links that improved your site but the quality. 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."

Penguin was good at eliminating link-building schemes that profited websites, yet the problem of Negative SEO, is seemingly trickier to handle. Despite Google's best efforts, this practice of harming other websites has become easier in recent years. With its Penguin 2.1 update, in 2013, Google's began penalizing companies for bad incoming links, creating a new way for Black Hat SEOs to perform Negative SEO.

Of course, Negative SEO hardly deserves the to be called SEO at all. After all, building bad links is not at all "optimization." 

The trouble with The Dallas Morning News article is how it associates this form of trickery with a reputable practice, endorsed by Google, and performed by millions of ethical SEOs across the world: organic website optimization. 

When describing SEO, the author of the article, Robert Wilonsky, seems to take his cue from Mr. Stanley:

"Stanley was in the search engine optimization business, meaning he was paid by companies to make their websites more popular by any means necessary."

Nonsense. Organic SEO, when performed with integrity, does not use "any means necessary" to optimize websites.  In fact, the best SEOs view their work as a partnership with Google--an attempt to make websites that work best for the people who use Google.

In short, the Morning News rightly points out the extortionist practices of Stanley, but it does not offer a balanced view of SEO.

***

Any website can be harmed by incoming links. You might be surprised by the links spammers have created to your site. More then ever, now is the time to contact a reputable link removal service or quality SEO specialist, like Stepmans PC.

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. 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, December 18, 2015

SEO 101: Learn From Your Competitors

The goal of SEO is to increase traffic. The value of traffic is different for each website, but the goal is the same. The nature of this goal is competitive; to increase your own website's traffic you must, by definition, decrease your competitor's traffic.

The intensity of this competition is most evident in the diminishing traffic from to the top to the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP). According to a 2013 study from Chitika, the first result on on the first SERP receives 33% of all traffic; the second result receives about 18%; and the third result receives 11%. Websites not on the first page miss 92% of all traffic.

Citing this study before, we added a simple calculation:

"If you know how much traffic the Internet drives to your business, and you can quantify that number in dollars, you can easily see the difference between, say, the third result and the first. By optimizing your site to be the first result, you could potentially triple your profits (from 11% to 33%)."

The value of a top ranking is evident: increased profits [Photo Source]
Is this a realistic goal? In a word, yes. Unfortunately, for many websites owners, this goal seems unrealistic.

New websites owners, especially those transitioning from brick and mortar business, have a hard time visualizing a first page ranking. A brick-and-mortar's competitors are located nearby. When you enter the online marketplace, the competition increases exponentially. After all, for each specific industry thousands of websites vie for the same first page search ranking.

The numbers are daunting, but the dynamic nature of search engine algorithms guarantee that each and every website has a fighting chance. Algorithms crave change. Over time, browser's interests change. By paying attention to this evolution, you can learn how to keep pace with the top results.

To study the evolution, pay attention to your competition--the top results for your specific industry. To discover these results, search for the precise keywords that most adequately describe your website--the keywords you would want your customers to use to find you.

Scrutinize the top three results. Then try to answer these questions:

1. Why is this website ranked first (or second or third)? 

SEOs constantly analyze top-performing websites for website optimization clues. If you have no website optimization knowledge, you can still learn the same clues by paying attention to your competitor's design and content.

In many cases, the quality of a top result is apparent. Look at that design. Read the content. Is the website attractive and easy to use? Is the content helpful and relevant to the keyword?

Define the elements of your competitor's success.

Incidentally, if the quality of the top result is not apparent, the website might very well be the best of a bad lot. When this is the case, pounce accordingly. In this scenario, an SEO campaign can work quickly.

2. How is this website better (different) than my website?

If you an define what the elements of your competitor's success, you can easily create a plan to beat your competitor at his own game. Of course, you do not want to steal design ideas or content; instead, translate your competitors successful elements to your own style.

To do so, simply compare the design and content of the top results to your own design and content. How can you change (evolve) to meet the standards of the top results? This is a very straight-forward question.

Remember, though, your goal is to attract real people. We say "search engine" optimization, yet we do not optimize for search engines. In fact, SEO shares the same goal as the top search engines: to deliver relevant and appealing websites that answer the needs of humanity.

3. How can the this website improve?

Better than defining the elements of your competitor's success is defining his inadequacies. Do you notice certain design flaws? Is his product up to par? Is the content truly relevant (and error-free)? Has he provided copious relevant content? One of the easiest ways to compete with a top result is by matching not merely the quality but the quantity of content. Offer more and you will begin to attract more.

Is your indecisiveness about SEO costing you money? Call Stepmans PC!

If you sell a high-quality product that deserves customers, you also deserve a well-optimized website. Do not let the changing search landscape compromise your sales. Now, more than ever, you need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional.

Stepmans PC is now offering a free mobile website audit. Contact Stepmans PC today to learn how you can improve your website's mobile performance: 215-900-9398.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What is Good Content?

Good content is the key to achieving a high search engine ranking. A blazing fast, beautiful website can only take you so far. To attract the visitors you deserve, you must create good content. But what is "good content"? The term is ubiquitous, yet often misunderstood.

In its Webmaster Tools, Google offers a working definition:

 "Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site."

When writing content, then, heed these guidelines from Google:

1. Offer useful/helpful information targeted to your specific audience
2. Offer intriguing content that will inspire visitors and webmasters to "link to your site"
3. Answer your specific audience's questions
4. Provide rich, detailed information (properly cited) that "clearly describes your topic"
5. Include precisely-targeted keywords to attract your specific audience.

In essence, when writing, ask yourself, "What can my audience do with this information?"

Your content must be useful, intriguing, and precise.


For Google, content is king [Source]

Easy enough? Hopefully--because useful, intriguing, and precise content is not enough...

Many websites fulfill these requirements on a weekly or daily basis. To truly compete, you must match the content-production of your competitors, article for article, word-by-word.

For some websites, especially local websites, this task is not so hard. Many local competitors, you might notice, fail to update or refresh their content frequently (or even infrequently). To compete in this context, you need only to create enough content to stay atop the first page results.

How much content? To assess your needs, monitor your rankings and search metrics daily as well as the rankings and search metrics of your competitors.

For websites that hope to compete on a national basis, however, the task is more daunting. How often do you add new content to your site? When answering, remember, content can be defined as images, videos, or even emoji, but the cornerstone of content is--and will likely always be--text. The most successful websites add new content on a weekly or daily basis.

More than simply adding new content, however, the best websites refresh old content. Remember, good content must be useful--or, as the SEO community often says, "relevant." To assess the value of your old content, ask yourself the following questions:

1. How old, exactly, is your content? Months? Years? Decades?
2. Does your content accurately reflect your business and the marketplace?
3. Is your content still /useful to your specific audience?
4. Is your specific audience interacting with your old content?

If your old pages don't attract much attention, you might dramatically improve their performance simply by "refreshing" the content to conform to the guidelines above.

When doing so, pay special attention to the evolving marketplace. Ask yourself more questions:

1. Are your keywords still relevant?
2. Is each piece of content answering a specific question?
3. Are your links bad?

In future weeks, we will cover these topics in depth. Check back soon for our post on refreshing old content.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with good content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cyber Monday Three SEO Tips For Optimized Sites

Last year, 127 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday (source), the consumer "holiday" that now rivals Black Friday. In fact, the distinction between Cyber Monday and Black Friday has essentially collapsed, for consumers, at least, who now view the Thanksgiving weekend (which also includes Small Business Saturday) as one long shopping event.

Even Thanksgiving, the sacred family holiday, is part of the action. Last year, both Thanksgiving and Black Friday broke online sales records, of $1.33 Billion and $2.4 Billion respectively (source). On Thanksgiving Day last year, "mobile traffic accounted for 52.1 percent of all online traffic – the first time mobile devices have outpaced their PC counterparts for online browsing" (source), a trend that likely threatened many dinnertime discussions.

Whatever your personal thoughts about America's relentless consumerism, and how it has now invaded Turkey Day, it is clear that certain online retailers stand to benefit greatly from the upcoming holiday weekend. Of course, who benefits (and who does not) will be determined by traffic. Who will attract the most attention?

For any online business, the distinction between success and failure is not necessarily about the quality of a given product; instead, success is more often defined by effective marketing, not simply SEO, but content marketing, email campaigns, social media campaigns, and more. A day like Cyber Monday makes this distinction all the more evident. If you want to succeed, you need to attract more attention than your competitor.

Perhaps this distinction is obvious. We venture to say, however, that too many retailers (both online and brick-and-mortar) spend too much time on product development to the detriment of marketing. And too many online retailers ignore SEO in favor of PPC campaigns that yield little results.

For two years now we've offered SEO tips for Cyber Monday. In offering these tips, we have also submitted a basic truth: good Cyber Monday SEO is simply good SEO. In other words, a thoughtful, consistent SEO campaign performed over months and years will prove beneficial for your site on any given day, especially Cyber Monday.

If you have yet to perform basic SEO for your site, we suggest reading our first Cyber Monday article:

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

If you want to get a little more advanced, read last year's Cyber Monday article:

Organic SEO: Five More Tips for a Successful Cyber Monday & Beyond

Ah, the wonder of window shopping--today a great deal of our gifts are purchased online.

If you do perform consistent SEO,  and your site is established and competitive in its industry, you can improve your clicks (and hopefully your sales) by performing a few small SEO tweaks. This is SEO for established brands.

1. Create a Gift Guide

This advice is akin to our previous advice to "create a unique Cyber Monday landing page." Creating a new page on a well-optimized site can attract immediate attention. This is the advantage of an ongoing SEO campaign. (New page on a site that has not been optimized will likely not attract much attention).

A gift guide collates your best products into a unique landing page that you can easily promote on social media. If your guide is stylish and savvy, you will attract increased shares and likes. If you have the budget, this is the place to use new product photos, models, or savvy art work and design.

2. Create a Thoughtful Social Media Campaign

Again, if you're already practicing SEO, you likely have a good social media following. Take advantage of your followers by crafting a unique and thoughtful social media campaign. Start early by promoting your best products. Be consistent in your message from the beginning of your campaign to Cyber Monday. Share your gift guide.

On the day itself, schedule time to interact with your customers. Be responsive to immediate questions and concerns. If possible, answer all and any queries on your Facebook page or Twitter profile. By showing yourself to be responsive to your customer's needs, you create a relationship that might extend beyond the day.

If you're on Pinterest, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of great design or marketing collateral.

3. Update Your Popular Pages

A well optimized site should enjoy a variety of popular pages. Take advantage of the existing traffic by updating these pages for holiday-specific keywords (change the keywords after the holidays). For your most popular pages, you might even create Cyber Monday-specific header and title tags to attract a specific audience. Just make sure to give the search engines time to "crawl" the new content. If you're already a trusted site, this should happen relatively quickly.

Cyber Monday Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites for specific seasonal shopping days--such as Cyber Monday, Christmas, or Valentines'--we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepman's PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective SEO campaigns that can attract your ideal customer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What is "Good" SEO?

"Build for users, not search engines." This popular maxim has been a guiding SEO principle for many years--and for good reason. After all, the goal of algorithm design is to improve the specificity of search results. The goal of a good SEO firm is to deliver an optimized website with content tailored to a specific audience. When the two disciplines come together, all stakeholders benefit: the search engine, the website, and the user.

So the maxim is true: Good SEOs build for users. This truth, in theory, should inspire more people to use SEO, especially any online business focused on customer service. Unfortunately, SEO is often viewed as counter to the user experience.

Many view SEO as a manipulation of algorithm design, a way to trick the system. Those outside the SEO community often dismiss SEO talk--algorithms, alt text, anchor text, and we're still at "A"--as so much technobabble. For many people, SEO is sheer manipulation of code; the guiding principle is flipped on its head: "SEO builds for search engines, not users."

In the experience of our sponsor, Stepmans PC, this misconception is the primary reason so many websites do not take advantage of SEO. As Alex Stepman says, "You would be surprised: many website owners dismiss SEO as a manipulative practice. It is 2015! Still, so many people view SEO as counter to the goals of the search engines."

The problem, Stepman notes, is that too many people associate modern SEO with the Black Hat practices of the past: unethical coding, spammy link-building schemes, and domain jacking, to name a few.

In fact, when asked, "What is black hat SEO?" Google offers a definition from webopedia:

"In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, black hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience."

So Black Hat SEO "builds for search engines, not users." This distinction is important--there is a difference between good and bad SEO.  Elsewhere, in its own page on SEO, Google discusses the difference between a good and bad SEO:

"Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site."

Many website owners collapse the implicit idea of this quote, viewing SEO as an either/or proposition: Improve your site and save time vs. risk damage to your site and reputation. When practiced ethically, however, good SEO is not an either or proposition. From Google's (and other search engine's) perspective, algorithms reward organic SEO efforts. At the same time, algorithms dissuade Black Hat SEO practices.

What Google is advising here is to perform your own research to find a good SEO company that understands the value of users--read: customers. Ask any potential SEO: What can you do for my customers? How can you attract my unique customers? What do you know about my customers? If an SEO cannot speak to the human side of online marketing and SEO, look elsewhere.

Is SEO Worth Your Money?

To navigate the complicated challenge of SEO, you might need to hire an SEO specialist like Stepman's PC. Do not let the changing algorithms compromise your sales. You need the astute wisdom of a search engine optimization professional who can help you answer the question honestly: Is SEO worth your money? Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

Stepmans PC has a handy checklist to help you discover a good SEO company.

Click: How to Choose an SEO Company

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Why #SEOHorrorStories Presents the SEO Industry in a Bad Light

Last week on Twitter SEO trended when the industry, following the lead of Aleyda Solis, a columnist for Search Engine Land, tweeted her own "SEO Horror Story." For industry insiders, the tweets offered a sardonic view of SEO horrors. This following tweet, from Google Analytics offered a relatively straightforward (and common) horror.

We couldn't help but notice, however, that many of the tweets (including the tweet above) implicitly poked fun at industry outsiders--the people who perpetuate these horrors.

Of course, it was all in good nature (we hope). And of course, most "outsiders" wouldn't understand (or care to understand) a great deal of the tweets.
Say what? This was all apparently quite funny:
Funny, right?

What struck us about the "hilarious and horrific" trend was how easily the industry slipped into pessimism. All of these SEO horrors seemingly involved clients, or developers, or designers who had made grave mistakes while the SEO insider stood by, aghast, shocked, horrified.

At times, frankly, the tweets read as spiteful.
We couldn't help but think: in a way (a big way), SEO is about fixing problems. The fact that the problem exists is not necessarily the fault of a specific client, developer, or designer. SEO is a complicated affair, mastered by few, misunderstood by many. By poking fun at the mistakes of others aren't we betraying the mission of the industry: to help our clients; to demystify the process?

SEO, as we've noted before, is a highly specialized talent:

"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."

Some in the SEO community might read this post as sour grapes. Fine. We wonder, though, how would the same people react to, say, another hashtag from another specialized industry? What if your lawyer was tweeting about your "legal" mistakes? Well, of course, that would never happen--lawyers abide by a Modern Rules of Professional Conduct, and confidentiality is key. Perhaps the SEO community needs a similar rule book.

In the end, we must admit, #SEOhorrorstories was a harmless exercise that elicited little attention outside of the industry. For us, however, the lesson here is clear.

If you're searching for an SEO company to optimize your website, make sure you choose wisely. You want a firm that believes in the value of a consultative approach. You want a firm that will make you feel comfortable with the process. A good SEO firm will teach. You should not be excluded from the process or the knowledge. And you certainly do not want a firm that pokes fun at your mistakes.

If you simply want to learn more about SEO, do not be discouraged by the condescension of insiders. And please do read our blog, which is decidedly not written by experts. Our writers aim, simply, to learn and to share this learning in an accessible way.

As we've noted before: "once you get past the misconceptions, you discover real human beings." It's important for the SEO community to understand that this is a two-way street.

Internet Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to demystify the process of SEO, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398.

Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

RankBrain and the Future of SEO

Last week when Google's parent company, Alphabet, reported a better-than-projected quarterly revenue of $15.1 billion, the company's stock price soared to a new high. As the financial world scrambled to buy, buy, buy, however, the tech world was intrigued by the excitable talk of "machine learning."

On the earnings call, Google’s Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, seemed downright giddy about the possibilities of the new technology.

“Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing," he said.

Perhaps it should have been no surprise, then, when Google announced Monday that the company has been using machine learning for several months.

The new system, nicknamed RankBrain, uses artificial intelligence to sort search queries, including, as Bloomberg reported,"the 15 percent of queries a day it gets which its systems have never seen before."

RankBrain will take these often ambiguous queries and "learn" from them by making connections between the search itself and the websites they lead to--in other words, where the browser finally clicks.

Traditionally, these connections have been coded by humans. Each and every search result, in fact, has been defined and ranked by the most talented coders in the world. As we've written before, this human component can--or, by nature, must--be biased:

"We end to think about algorithms as neutral, but really, although engineers base algorithms on mathematical principles, most of the judgments about those principles are exactly that--judgments, made by biased humans."

Please Read: "On Algorithm Bias and the Important Work of Organic SEO"

RankBrain will seemingly replace the human element, taking the "bias" out of human coding and algorithms.

An A.I. robot from the Will Smith movie, I Robot. Artificial Intelligence is no longer the stuff of science fiction. 

Search Engine Land has written a comprehensive FAQ for RankBrain, including a helpful distinction (or lack of one) between "machine learning" and "artificial intelligence":

"How’s AI different from machine learning? In terms of RankBrain, it seems to us they’re fairly synonymous. You may hear them both used interchangeably, or you may hear machine learning used to describe the type of artificial intelligence approach being employed."

So what does this all mean for your SEO efforts? After all, Bloomberg reported, quite surprisingly, that a Google representative, distinguished RankBrain as the "third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query."

What are the first two most important signals? We don't know. Google has never before offered this sort of information before. As Search Engine Land notes in its FAQ:

"It’s annoying and arguably a bit misleading that Google won’t explain the top two. The Bloomberg article was no accident. Google wants some PR about what it considers to be its machine-learning breakthrough. But to really assess that breakthrough, it’s helpful to know the other most important factors that Google uses now, as well as was was knocked behind by RankBrain. That’s why Google should explain these."

However you might feel about Google's secretiveness, we embrace the lesson implicit in this latest PR move: artificial intelligence is the future of search.

Amidst the talk of the future, however, what should comfort the everyday website owner is the tried-and-true: as search engines become better at delivering laser-specific results, the most informative, relevant websites will continue to rise to the top. As before, a thoughtful SEO campaign is the key to success.

Remember,  Google and your SEO specialist share the same goal: to connect users with the most relevant information. If you believe your product or service is relevant, then you deserve SEO.

The Renaissance SEO Company: Stempan's PC!

To build an effective, fully-optimized website, you'll need the help of many experienced professionals to perform different tasks. Or you can call one multifaceted company. Stepman's PC is the rare company that offers a host of SEO and marketing professionals to optimize your website. Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to Check Your Site's Perfomance

For many people, SEO is a "dark art," at once mysterious and impenetrable, the domain of tech junkies who manipulate codes for higher rankings. In the distant past, the SEO landscape was, indeed, plagued by "black hat" practitioners who practiced coding tricks and spammy link-building. Today, however, the SEO world is a dynamic place, populated by a diversity of talented people who employ time-tested techniques to optimize website performance.

In part, SEO is still about (ethical) coding, but today's SEO specialists are just as likely to focus on the production of great content in any number of mediums: not just text, but images and videos, and interactive applications. More then ever, too, today's SEO landscape is taking cues from traditional marketing. "Optimization" is now about story-telling, the projection of quality images, building relationships.

Still, the false characterization of SEO as "mysterious" (or worse, "dark") endures. One way to dispel this myth is to reveal SEO practices. In part, that is the purpose of this blog. If you were to take the time to read our posts, you would be equipped to optimize your own site.

Of course, most website owners do not have the time or inclination to perform SEO; most just want a simple answer to the question: What can SEO do for my site?

To answer this question, of course, an SEO specialist, will need to understand the current performance of the site. This is a relatively simple practice that can be performed by anyone--however, like SEO itself, it is shrouded in mystery. Below we offer a simple outline for how to check your site's performance.

Believe it or not, SEO is not mysterious.

Test Your Site's Speed 

When analyzing your site, an SEO specialist will look at many factors, including the design (appearance), quality of content, and the website's ability to be crawled (discovered) by the search engines. A fairly simple measure of performance, however, can easily be tested online.

Speed is crucial to your website's success. As we noted a few weeks ago, KISSmetrics reported several years ago that 47% of all browsers expect a page to load in two seconds or less.


If your page is not loading quickly, you are likely not converting your visitors to customers--people who do visit your site, will navigate away quickly.

To test your site's speed, we suggest the Pingdom Website Speed Test. If you do find that your site loads slowly (longer than two seconds) your design could be burdened by any number of factors, including unoptimized images or coding problems.

Test Your Site's Mobile-Friendliness  

The advantages of a mobile-friendly site should be apparent to anyone with a working smart phone. Mobile browsing now exceeds desktop browsing, and more and more consumers are using mobile devices to purchase products and services.


To test the mobile-friendliness of your site, you can take Google's "Mobile-Friendly Test" here. Easier still, you could simply Google your website name from a mobile phone.

Since November, 2014 Google has distinguished mobile-friendly sites with a "Mobile-Friendly" tag in search results. A search for, say, "big pumpkin" reveals two mobile-friendly sites and one not-so-mobile-friendly site.

The middle site here, BigPumpkins.com, is not mobile-friendly.

Check Your Site's Traffic--And Your Competitor's Traffic

You likely know how to check your own site's traffic  but how do you analyze your traffic for meaningful insights? The best way to understand your site's relative effectiveness is to compare your traffic to a competitor's traffic. There are many tools to do this. For a comprehensive overview, try Moz's "Tools to Predict and Monitor Competitor Traffic."

With many of these tools, you can look into the traffic numbers to understand precisely who you and your competition is attracting. If you understand how your competitors beat you, you can begin to plan a counter-attack (that would likely include a targeted SEO campaign to attract a portion of your competitor's visitors).

Check for Broken Links

To Google, a "real" link is a one-way link that points directly from one site to another. In the past, Black Hat SEO specialists created links to a site in exchange for a return link. Google delegitimized this sort of "bad" link-building long ago. No less harmful, however, are broken links that lead nowhere. If your site is riddled with out-of-date, broken links, your compromising not only your SEO, but your user experience and possible conversions.

We like Chrome's extension for checking broken links.

Browse Your Own Site  

We know, this is painfully obvious, but the best way to get a good idea of your site's performance is to browse the site yourself. Do the pages load easily? Is the content accessible? Is the content unique? Do you find the site attractive? If you answered no to any of these questions, your potential customers are likely thinking the same thing. If so, you might think about a site re-design or a new site. Sometimes the best option is starting from scratch.

FREE Organic Website Optimization 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.

As apart of the audit, Stepmans PC will provide a detailed report showing you how many people have visited your website for a specific period of time, how many of those visitors are unique, the time visitors spent on your website, and other information that will help you convert visitors into potential customers.

With this information and more, you learn your website visitors in depth. To take advantage of this limited time offer, call Stepmans PC now: 215-900-9398 or complete the form on Stepmans PC's website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Advantages of a Text-Heavy Website

After writing about SEO for images last week, we can't help but return to our favored form of content: text. Of course, a great website should contain a mix of content, both images and text. In reality, though, search engines continue to favor text-heavy sites above all others.

The advantages of a text-heavy site are clear.

Load Time - Page Speed

First, in the absence of bulky images, a text-heavy site will load quickly. The SEO world knows from experience that search engines favor sites with simple codes and speedy load times. Google has even developed a tool, PageSpeed, that helps webmasters "identify ways to make your site faster..."

Although load time (or page speed, to use Google-talk) is only one of 90 ranking factors, it tends to receive a lot of attention from SEO specialists. The reasoning is simple: page speed not only effects your page ranking; it influences your browser's perceptions of your site.

As KISSmetrics reported several years ago: 47% of all browsers expect a page to load in two seconds or less. No doubt, in the age of mobile SEO, this number has increased.

Stripping your site of all the unnecessary frills, like excessive images (or worse, Flash), can dramatically improve your load time. If you do use images, of course, make sure you optimize each image for SEO. In the end, though, for browsers and search engines alike, the appeal of a text-heavy is clear. Text is clean, simple, and fast.

As soon as a browser clicks on your site, you're on the watch--for two seconds or less! A text-heavy site can help you reduce your load times.

Voice Search Compatibility

As the value of keyword-based optimization diminished, search engines continued to prefer "long-tail keywords," three or four word phrases that more accurately specify the nature of a certain search. In the distant past, a browser looking for a grey sweatshirt might have typed "grey sweatshirt." Over time, however, most savvy browsers learned to be more specific: "slim-fit grey sweatshirt," for example.

Today, however, voice search is changing SEO. A voice-based search has a different goal than a traditional search. Instead of "browsing," per say, most voice searches attempt ask a question or state a problem. Instead of revealing sites based on keywords, then, today's search engines attempt to answer questions and solve problems.

This is most easily seen in Google's semantic search, introduced at the time of the Hummingbird algorithm, which analyzes the spoken word to attempt to discover the intent behind any given search.

Naturally, a text-heavy site will be more likely to meet the demands of voice search. An image will not necessarily answer a question or solve a problem. The key, of course, is to make sure your text counts. When thinking about your content, try to answer your ideal customer's questions; try to solve a crucial problem.

Answers. Solutions. This is why your built a business in the first place, right?

Mobile Compatibility 

A text-heavy site will also be easily compatible on all devices: a desktop, tablet, and of course, mobile phone. We've reported exhaustively on the necessity of optimizing for mobile. Today we can safely say: of all possible search venues, mobile is the most important.

Since 2014, we know, mobile search has exceeded desktop search. As we wrote earlier this year (on the eve of Mobilegeddon):

"Mobile's ascendancy is likely due to its convenience, a fact that can be observed on any pedestrian street, and, unsettlingly, on any highway in America. One only needs to glance aside to see another person looking down to his or her phone."

If convenience is the name, you want to make sure your playing the right game: simply put, a text-heavy site will be much easier to read on a mobile device.

Read: "9 Things You Need to Know About Google's Mobile-Friendly Update"

Or: "Google is Making "Mobile-Friendliness" a Ranking Signal: Are You Optimized?"

***

Of course, we're not advocating a total disavowal of images (and other forms of content). Even text itself can be made to look like an "image." Today's programming languages are so sophisticated that a knowledgeable web developer can transform text to look like an image with simple CSS styling rules.

But it is important to remember that most browsers are looking for text-based information, and the clean presentation of text is often the quickest path to a high page ranking.

Need Mobile SEO Help? Call Stepmans PC!

We believe that ecommerce is now a mobile game! To navigate the new rules of mobile SEO, you might need to hire an SEO specialist like Stepmans PC. If you sell a high-quality product that deserves customers, you also deserve a well-optimized mobile website.

Do not let the changing search landscape compromise your sales. Now, more than ever, you need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional.

Stepmans PC is now offering a free mobile website audit. Contact Stepmans PC today to learn how you can improve your website's mobile performance: 215-900-9398.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to Optimize Images for Search Engines

Search engines love text. The written word, expressed clearly and concisely, is the most straightforward path to ranking success. Of all forms of content--including images, videos, and music--text is the easiest for web crawlers to identify and parse for meaning.

This is an essential SEO adage--so essential, in fact, that other forms of content are often neglected in the SEO world. A text-based site, after all, is easiest to optimize. Other forms of content can create SEO complications. Flash, for example, is notoriously bad for SEO--despite Google's efforts to index it. As Rand Fishkin writes over at the Moz blog:

"Google's indexing Flash and Flash developers can rejoice now that their content is SEO-friendly. Sorry - I don't buy it for a second. Flash content is fundamentally different from HTML on webpage URLs, and being able to parse links in the Flash code and text snippets does not make Flash search-engine friendly."

Read: Flash and SEO - Compelling Reasons Why Search Engines & Flash Still Don't Mix

That said, we all understand that a website can not succeed without a variety of content. Image content, especially, can dramatically add to the appeal of a website without harming SEO efforts. In fact, if used correctly, the right image can boost performance. The key, of course, is the proper optimization of each and every image.

A picture is worth a thousand words--just ask Cookie Monster. In the SEO world, however, the picture needs to be appropriately optimized for search engines

Just Like Text, Your Image Should be Relevant

We used the image of cookie monster above to illustrate a simple point: your image should be relevant to your topic; if not, the image must provide some illustrative purpose.

This image of cookie monster is not relevant to SEO. It is relevant to a blog post about images. If properly optimized, this image might help attract an audience--just not the right audience. After all, the audience of an SEO blog is not the same as the audience for a cookie monster picture.

This picture's value, then, is visual intrigue. This is great, of course, for readers of this blog. Yet the image itself, even if optimized, does little to attract new readers via search.

Sadly, this is the case with many online images today: they are not relevant to the topic; they only function as visual intrigue; and they add little to nothing to the SEO value of the text.

Before you  begin to optimize an image, then, make sure the image is relevant to the topic at hand.

Just Like Text, Your Image Should be Unique

A relevant image is great; a unique image is better. The best pages include images created explicitly for the page. You spend time creating text for your site; why not create images, too? An image created explicitly for a specific page can be optimized to create an additional attraction--beyond the text itself.

Most browsers can spot a stock image from a mile away. Stock photos smack of generic content. Avoid stock photos, whenever possible. If you do not have the time or resources to create your own images, consider a site that offers "creative commons" images, like Flickr.

Now we turn to the actual optimization of your relevant and unique image. 

Choose a Descriptive Title for Your Image

If you take your own pictures, you'll note that your camera assigns each image a name: IMAGE10.jpg, for example. Many images downloaded from the web share a similarly arbitrary name. To optimize your images, make sure you name each with a keyword-rich description.

The cookie monster image above, for example, could be named Sad-Cookie-Monster.jpg.

Note the dashes between each word. A search engine will not easily recognize SadCookieMonster.jpg. The dashes separate the words for the crawlers, who can then properly index the image.

Create Alt Tags for Each Image

An alt tag is a text-alternative for an image. Sometimes, your image will not be properly loaded by a browser. When this happens, your visitor can hover over the image to see the text. This is valuable for this unique situation, yet it is also another way to associate specific text with your images. Here is an example of an alt tag for the Cookie Monster picture:

"src="Sad-Cookie-Monster.gif" "alt="Sad Cookie Monster"

Scale Images Appropriately 

As a rule, you should scale images to the smallest size possible--without compromising image quality. The smaller the image, the faster the loading time. The free tool, image optimizer, can perform this function for you.

Image Optimization with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with text and images, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398.

Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

When a Top Google Ranking is Not Helpful

We've written before about the value of a top Google ranking. In a way, this blog is devoted to exploring this value--and how you can benefit from it. But how do you determine the value of a top ranking for your website, specifically?

It's no big secret that the top Google result for any given query receives most of Google's traffic. According to a 2013 study from Chitika, a top ranking receives 33% of all traffic. After that, the drop-off is steep. The second result receives about 18% of all traffic. The third result receives 11%. If you're not on the first page, you're missing 92% of all traffic.

Even then, for certain businesses, a top ranking for might not be all that helpful.

You might be thinking, "WHAT?!"

[Photo Source]
Well, in the SEO world we talk so much about the value of a top ranking, we often neglect to explore the value of a specific ranking.

Do you have a top ranking? If so, it's value may be variable. And it is certainly not so simple as stating, "A top ranking receives 33% of all traffic."

The key, of course, is the profitability of any specific top ranking. Unfortunately, many websites achieve top rankings for keywords that do not necessarily attract business.

Is your website the top result for a certain keyword? If so, what is the value of that top result to your business? To estimate the value, ask yourself, "Is my website driving profits?" If not, you might want to think about ranking for other, potentially more profitable keywords.

For example, we recently spoke to a local purveyor of handmade vegan products. He had been in business for seven years, and he was happy to report that his site ranked first for a Philadelphia-specific search.

However, he lamented, he did not believe his website had increased his profitability at all. He was performing well in the Philadelphia-area, yet he wanted to expand his reach, to other metro areas in the Mid-Atlantic region. He also wanted his customers to order directly from his website online.

Upon reviewing the website, we learned that the interface was outdated, the content weak, and the functionality serviceable at best. We tried a variety of other searches, yet the website did not even appear on the first page for any other search.

In reality, his top ranking for the Philadelphia-specific search was mostly due to his physical presence in the area--he's the only local purveyor of his unique vegan food. To truly expand his business, we told him, he needed to rank for more general searches--beyond the Philly area.

Before then, however, we stressed the importance of a clean website experience. As currently constructed, the website of this local purveyor of handmade vegan products was terrible. In fact, we wondered whether the current traffic he received might actually be hurting his business.

In last week's post, we wrote about the importance of high quality products and customer service:

"If you sell a high-quality product at the right price, you deserve customers. If you perform excellent customer service, you deserve repeat customers. However, you, the business owner, must honestly asses your business before choosing to optimize your website. Ask yourself these two key questions: Do you really sell a high quality product at the right price? Do you excel in customer service?"

Now let us hasten to add: Is your website an actual asset to your business? 

The value of a good SEO specialist is his/her knowledge. A good SEO specialist should be able to assess the value of your website quickly (without charging you). A good SEO specialist should also be able to tell you--and not the other way around--the most profitable keywords for your industry.

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With this information and more, you learn your website visitors in depth. To take advantage of this limited time offer, call Stepmans PC now: 215-900-9398 or complete the form on Stepmans PC's website.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is SEO a Dark Art?

A few years ago, Paul Boag wrote a widely-shared article for Smashing Magazine, "The Inconvenient Truth," that many believed called for "an end to the SEO sector."

His argument was that the fundamental purpose of SEO, to achieve higher rankings, was the wrong approach:

"If you hire a SEO company to improve your placement and you measure their worth on the basis of how high they get you in the rankings," he wrote, "then you are out of line with what Google is trying to achieve."

Instead, Mr. Boag suggested a strategy readers of this blog might find familiar: "your primary objective should be better content, not higher rankings."

We mention this article now, nearly two and a half years after its publication, because its assumptions about SEO are still prevalent in the greater online community today. Frankly, as Boag himself noted back then:

"Most website owners perceive SEO as a dark art, shrouded in mystery. They have heard phrases like 'gateway pages' and 'keyword density' or have been bamboozled by technobabble about the way websites should be built. All of this has left them feeling that SEO is the purview of experts. This is a misconception reinforced by certain segments of the SEO community."

Do you view SEO as a "dark art"? [Photo source]

Boag was right, of course. The fact the "SEO is the purview of experts" is a misconception. Yet Boag's article itself seems to lapse into the same misconception.

By pigeon-holing the practice of SEO--the relentless pursuit of "higher rankings"--he misconstrues the evolution of the SEO community; he neglects just how this community has adapted to the diverse demands of Internet marketing.

True, many specialists are still mired in the single-purpose pursuit, via design and development "tricks"--of higher ranking, but any SEO specialist worth his salt understands that the key to performance is quality, relevant content.

The "tricks" are often necessary, but as Benji Arriola was quoted in Forbes, predicting the future of SEO, earlier this year:

"SEO & social media will further merge with traditional PR & marketing practices."

As Brent Gleeson wrote (quoting Arriola):

"Old SEO tricks at the code level and spammy link building will continue to decrease. SEO will focus on the production of great content that can come in a number of mediums: textual, images, videos, interactive apps, and more. This is what traditional advertising experts excel at; they just have to adjust it for the user behavior on the web. Link building will involve content promotion, influencer outreach, and relationship building. All the same tactics used in traditional marketing, but powered by new tools and social media. SEOs that do not evolve and understand the fundamentals of traditional marketing and storytelling will become obsolete."

This has been happening for years. Unfortunately, like Boag, many continue to view SEO as "a dark art." For his part, Boag suggests performing the work of online marketing in-house:

"Ultimately organizations need to change so that online marketing is a more distributed role with everybody taking responsibility for aspects of it."

Where we fundamentally differ from Boag is our belief that a good SEO specialist can be an integral part of this team--even if he or she is hired from outside the company.

It is truism of business consulting that an outside force is best suited to view the dynamics of a company in a new way--to help the company break habit patterns and mechanical ways of being.

In many ways, a good SEO specialist plays this same part for a company's marketing: he or she observes, reports, and catalyzes a new approach. If he or she is proficient in design and development, all the better.

The face of SEO is not dark; it's humble, approachable, and keen to help.

Alex Stepman, our blog's sponsor: a humble and approachable SEO specialist who understands the diverse demands of Internet marketing. 

If you're prone to think of SEO as  the "purview of experts," we invite you to read the Organic SEO Blog. This blog is decidedly not written by experts; our writers aim, simply, to learn and to share this learning in an accessible way. Once you get past the misconceptions, you discover real human beings.

Internet Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively build and promote websites, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398. Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New Search Ranking Factors Study from Moz Confirms the Importance of Quality Links

Moz, the SEO software company, recently published its biannual study on search: The 2015 Search Ranking Factors.

The study rates over 90 Google search ranking factors. It is based on two resources:

1. The opinions of industry experts--over 150, according to Moz.

2. And an "extensive correlation study" to determine the website elements most often associated with high rankings.

To "enhance the study" with even more data, Moz partnered with SimilarWeb, DomainTools, and Ahrefs.

The study provides a helpful tool for SEO specialists and online business owners alike--if only to reinforce the information we've expressed over the years here on the Organic SEO Blog.

Unfortunately, Moz offers tons of data to scrutinize--much of it replete with SEO jargon. For the layman, the study itself might seem inscrutable.

The simple interpretation of the data is that inbound links are the primary ranking determinant for Google. But remember, "link building," as Google has said before, might not be the best way to "earn" links. As we've said before, "Don't just build links--inspire links."

How do you earn links? Take the "natural" approach of organic SEO.

Build an appealing website with engaging content. Of course, remember the distinction between good and bad links. And definitely do not focus on link building to the detriment of creating great content.

Beyond links, keywords still play an important role, helping the Google discover, as Moz puts it, "content relevance" and "on-page optimization of keyword usage." The key to keywords, so to speak, is using them judiciously with a focus on poignancy. Keywords count--but only when they're used in the right way.

We're reminded of the famous quote of Raymond Carver:

"That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say."

Raymond Carver: his quote is a good lesson for any writer, and especially those writing content for websites.
A surprise from the Moz study is the relatively low value of "social metrics" although it is important to remember just how many links social media generate.

For more, check out the study itself. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. And here is the infographic summary of the results:



SEO with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively build and promote websites, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Are Keywords Dead?

Are keywords dead? Back in January, Jayson DeMers, writing for Search Engine Watch, announced "the focus on keyword-based search engine optimization is dying quickly."

His point was similar to a point we've have made on this blog many times--at least since the inception of Google's Hummingbird algorithm, in October, 2013. With this new algorithm, Google seemed to acknowledge that browsers, especially mobile browsers, were using longer, more complex search queries--what DeMers calls "long tail keywords."

This is how DeMers defines long tail keywords:

"Essentially, long-tail keywords are less popular keywords because they have less search volume and less competition to rank for. Consider the following two examples: 'home remedies for bed bugs' or 'how to get rid of depression.' These are each considered long-tail keywords as compared to trying to rank for the much more competitive search terms 'bed bugs' or 'depression.'"

A founder of a Seattle-based SEO agency, DeMers speaks the language of the trade. For him, keywords are about "trying to rank."

We agree, although we believe keywords are also a useful way to clarify your offering. We believe keywords should also serve as the germ for good content. No doubt, a rigorous SEO campaign must now compete not merely by keywords, but by information, too--the sort of information that answers questions.

As we noted before:

"By paying attention to the unique specificity of your product or service, you can dramatically improve your visibility on Google. Instead of thinking about keywords, however, think about questions. What question(s) does your product or service answer? Once you've answered these questions (for yourself), you can begin to compose your answers."

Please Read: "SEO 101: To Compete, You Must Evolve"



Keywords can help you rank. [Photo source]

So are keywords dead?

Not by a long shot. Alex Stepman of Stepman's PC (our blog's sponsor) recently had occasion to discuss the importance of single-word keywords--and how a new business should use simple, inventive keywords to compete.

Quality content is a must, yet before you start writing, you would do well to choose a few, succinct keywords to populate your site.

"After all," as DeMers notes, "Google still needs some kind of text to figure out what it is your company actually does."

You can view keywords as guideposts for Google. The search engine uses your keywords to classify your business.

DeMers' article has a lot of great information about how to use keywords to your benefit. For more, read "Are Keywords Relevant to SEO in 2015?"

Alex recently told us about a client who wished to compete based on his own, carefully chosen keywords--keywords, in Alex's estimation, that had already seen a massive amount of competition. For this reason, Alex offered the client (and this blog) a different view of choosing keywords.

In fact, Alex believes, it is often best if the client does not choose specific keywords. In Alex's view, the SEO company is better positioned to choose keywords.

"Technically," Alex said, "a customer will not really know the competitive keywords. Additionally, he or she will not know what it takes to promote any specific keyword, or if it even makes sense to compete for a specific keyword."

Often, it turns out, it does not make sense to compete for certain keywords. Why? Many new businesses choose obvious keywords--keywords that are dominated by industry leaders with extensive visibility and standing. To compete for these keywords, then, a new business would have to battle for months, even years, without any guarantee of success.

As an SEO specialist, Alex believes, "it is my duty to do the keyword research, to define the most popular keywords for any given industry, to study how search landscape and the demographics for a given keywords--per day, month, or years. Only then, based on this report, should a website owner decide to compete or not."

The key, Alex believes, is to compete where you can, and to create inventive new content for new keywords that have yet to see much competition.

This thought echoes a similar thought by Rand Fishkin, of the Moz blog.

"You're not going to have an opportunity to rank," he writes. "It's much, much harder to get into those top 10 positions...than it was in the past because there are so many ranking signals that so many of these websites have already built up over the last 5, 10, 15 years...

Really, where I want folks to go..is 10x, 10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today. If I don't think I can do that, then I'm not going to try and rank for those keywords. I'm just not going to pursue it. I'm going to pursue content in areas where I believe I can create something 10 times better than the best result out there."

Keywords are not dead. You just need to know what keywords to use--and how to use them.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with 10x content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why Twitter is the Social Media Choice for Today & Tomorrow

In last week's post, "Five Steps for the Social Media Newbie," we listed Facebook as the de-facto social media choice for most brands. After all, of the top social media sites, Facebook refers, by far, the most traffic to other sites.

There is, however, one caveat with this distinction. A "Page", which Facebook defines as "businesses, brands and organizations [that] share their stories and connect with people," does not  necessarily show up in its fans News Feed.

To make a Page show up in the News Feed, a fan has to manually go to the Page, hover over the "Liked" button and choose "Show in News Feed."

As a social media manager for your brand, then, you must figure out some way to let your fans know about this--say, by email (if, of course, you have access to relevant emails).

Another option, is to create a personal profile, and to serve as a brand ambassador from your personal page. In other words, promote your business from your profile.

In the context of your immediate social network, this might alienate certain friends and family.On the other hand, we believe you can attract attention for your brand with minimal annoyance, if you follow the two simple rules we noted last week:
  1. Be an active member of the community. Engage. If you're a sincere individual (or brand) who understands social media, you know that engagement is everything. 
  2. Create quality content. This is so obvious it scarcely needs to be mentioned. Yet each day we log onto Facebook, we're stunned by the apparent disregard for truly quality content.

With apologies for the language, here is a tweet that expresses the second of the first of the two simple rules--rules that apply to all social media. More on Twitter on below...

Yet another option is to venture elsewhere in the social media universe.

Despite the recent Shareaholic report that listed Pinterest as the site that refers the second most traffic--a whopping five times more than Twitter--we believe a good Twitter presence will be more available today and tomorrow for emerging brands.

First, for today: we admit that the Shareaholic numbers are quite hard to ignore, yet they don't speak to the true value of Twitter, which is its unique culture, stronger than all other social media networks. It is this culture, too, which might explain why the social media network refers less traffic.

One of Twitter's strengths is its insularity. Tweeps, as they're sometimes called (not by us; only this one time), engage in conversation more often than users of any other social media network. Indeed, when we speak about "the national conversation," inspired by such events as Ferguson, a lot of that talk originates on Twitter--and decidedly not on Facebook.

This conversation, however, often stays within the realms of Twitter--thus, less outbound traffic. "Less outbound traffic" might just be a misnomer, though. Tweets are often mentioned in the news; and many people visit Twitter first to follow national events.

Even then, you might be wondering how an insular conversation can be helpful for a small business trying to promote its brand.

Take a look at these numbers from social media strategist, Jay Baer:

"In addition to following brands, Twitter users research and engage with companies. 42% learn about products and services via Twitter. 41% provide opinions about products/services. 19% seek customer support."

As Baer notes: "I maintain that as Facebook continues to tie together the real-time Web with the open graph, Twitter usage will inexorably shift from person to person connectivity, to customer to company connectivity. I believe Twitter will ultimately be the way that we interact with brands, and will power the social CRM movement..."

We happen to agree with this assessment--to a point. To our view, Twitter will grow as both a network for personal communication as well as customer to company connectivity. Even now, Twitter is much more brand-friendly than Facebook.

Second, however, is Twitter's potential to become an even more visited source for news, information, and knowledge. This potential is seen most readily in the deal (announced earlier this year) between Google and Twitter.

Since February, Google has been indexing tweets for the purpose of enhancing its own search results. And just this week, Search Engine Land noted a 466% increase in this indexing.

Again, though, engagement is key. Google does not necessarily preference accounts with the most followers: "it may not be all about follower count, and there is a correlation between those with higher engagement levels and overall 'authority' and indexation."

Are you on Twitter? Do you engage with your "followers"? How? Let us know in the comments below.

Social Media Marketing with Stepman's PC

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites on all social media channels, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective social media marketing campaigns.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

To Compete, Discover Your Niche

A few weeks ago we wrote a post about creating attention-worthy content with reference to Rand Fishkin, of the Moz Blog, and his idea of "10x content." Fishkin's premise is that simply creating "good, unique content" is not enough to rank. In order for new or smaller to medium-sized websites to rank, Fishkin believes, they must create 10x content:

"Really, where I want folks to go..is 10x, 10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today."

Fishkin gives an outline for creating this sort of content, which is at best, nebulous, but still helpful for beginners. He asks, for example:

"What questions are being asked and answered by these search results?

What sort of user experience is provided? I look at this in terms of speed, in terms of mobile friendliness, in terms of rendering, in terms of layout and design quality, in terms of what's required from the user to be able to get the information? Is it all right there, or do I need to click? Am I having trouble finding things?"

Answering these sorts of questions will give you an idea of why a piece of content is successful (or not), but it might not necessarily help you create great content. In any case, we simplified Fishkin's recommendations to two simple questions.

Read: "Two Questions to Inspire New Content."

Still, the question remains: Is the creation of superlative, outstanding, 10x, or whatever you want to call it, content really enough for a new or small or medium-sized website to compete in the rankings?

This is the question Adam Stetzer asks on Search Engine Watch, and his answer is definitive:
"The Google mantra: 'Create great content and it will earn links,' works for big business, but not for small ones."

Read: "Come on, Google. Let the Little Guy Earn a Link."

Stetzer focuses his discussion specifically on high-quality, relevant links, which work as editorial votes, and are supposed to boost a website's ranking. The problem, Stetzer asserts, is that "small businesses are not going to get links just by virtue of having good content."

This assertion, of course, is in contrast to Fishkin's claim about 10x content. As Fishkin writes,
"If you use this process or a process like this and you do this type of content auditing and you achieve this level of content quality, you have a real shot at rankings."

Not really, Stetzer says: "Google policies are seemingly oblivious to this reality: without links, small businesses get no traffic and without traffic, they get no links."

In our view, both are right (and wrong). We happen to agree with Fishkin's assertion that outstanding content can boost rankings and attract traffic. But Fishkin himself makes a key point that Stetzer overlooks:

"Really, where I want folks to go...is 10x, 10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today. If I don't think I can do that, then I'm not going to try and rank for those keywords. I'm just not going to pursue it. I'm going to pursue content in areas where I believe I can create something 10 times better than the best result out there."

And this is a reality of a small business, which by nature is not trying to compete with a large business.

A small bookseller, for example, will not try to compete head-to-head with, say, Amazon, the behemoth of online book sales. But a smaller bookseller, like Powell's Books, which originated as a neighborhood bookseller in Portland, Oregon, can certainly discover success.

Powell's Book City in Portland, Oregon
Powell's ingenious way of marketing itself is "The World's Neighborhood Bookseller." If you Google "books," the number-one result is, of course, Amazon, followed by Barnes and Noble and Google Books. Powell's is not even on the first page. Yet Powell's has earned a durable success with unique branding--and, ironically, by selling its books on Amazon.

The point is that to compete you have to discover your niche.

Stetzer's assertion, then is not entirely true. To be fair, Stetzer seems to imply that a smaller bookstore like Powell's should be able to compete with Amazon. He begins with an ideal scenario:

"Some would say that the Internet is the great equalizer, that every business, large and small, has an equal shot at page one rankings and with that, web traffic, leads, sales, and growth."

But this is simply not true. And that's OK. As we've written before, "To Compete You Must Evolve." And for a new or smaller business this means answering the questions that have not yet been answered. Create your own rankings. Be unique--and specific about your offering:

"By paying attention to the unique specificity of your product or service, you can dramatically improve your visibility on Google. Instead of thinking about keywords, however, think about questions. What question(s) does your product or service answer? Once you've answered these questions (for yourself), you can begin to compose your answers."

For more, read our posts about content.

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