Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Internet of Things Will Change the World; How Will it Change SEO?

Writing for Wired, Daniel Burrus believes the Internet of Things will be far bigger than any one predicts. In fact, Burrus and others predict, will track and collect innumerable types of data from our world. And this data will be used to make smart homes and cities.

Burrus describes a Utopian traffic scenario:

"We’re going to have traffic flow optimization, because instead of just having stoplights on fixed timers, we’ll have smart stoplights that can respond to changes in traffic flow. Traffic and street conditions will be communicated to drivers, rerouting them around areas that are congested, snowed-in, or tied up in construction."

As a prediction, this is heady stuff, but in describing this perfect traffic scenario, Burrus also offers a great definition for the IoT:

"So now we have sensors monitoring and tracking all sorts of data; we have cloud-based apps translating that data into useful intelligence and transmitting it to machines on the ground, enabling mobile, real-time responses."

Burrus may or may not be speaking about the not-too-distant future. But the IoT is already here. Take a look at cutting edge products like Neurio, which uses a sensor connected to your home's electrical panel to monitor your energy use; or Rachio, which enables you to use your laptop or smart phone to schedule watering times for your yard; or any number of smart door locks or security systems.

A visual of how the IoT will influence or day-to-day lives [Source]
But the communication these products engender is not necessarily the prime benefit.

"There’s simply no point in objects talking to each other just for the sake of it," writes George Leopold for Enterprise Tech, "and the IoT only provides the communications backbone. An Internet of Sensors looks more like the roots of a tree, with sensors of all types at the extremities, capturing and feeding data upwards to the main trunk—the Internet."

Read: "Is the IoT Really Internet of Sensors?"

In other words, the IoT is poised, first, to change the plain old Internet. With this change, of course, the world of search will change, too. Accurately predicting these changes, in one sense, is impossible. Yet Jayson Demers, writing for Forbes, lists a few predictions--some self-evident; some bold--that can be taken as  immediate action items for enterprising websites and SEO firms.

Read: "6 Predictions for How IoT Tech Will Effect Internet Marketing and SEO"

Action Item #1: Optimize for Specific, Detailed Answers 

To begin, Demers believes the IoT will accelerate the shift to voice-based recognition:

"Already, searches have started to shift toward more conversational queries; rather than only using one or two carefully selected keywords, users are asking Google long-form questions."

Google acknowledged the popularity of voice-based recognition searches with its latest major algorithm update, in 2014. The new algorithm which effected up to 90% of search results, highlighted Google's 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..."

For website owners, the action item is obvious: In your content, try as much as possible to answer specific, detailed questions. Ask yourself: What question is your ideal customer asking? How are you the best product or service to answer that question?

Action Item #2: Optimize for Quick Answers

Demers also believes that the IoT will reduce the click-through rates:

"Users will rely on IoT technology for functions throughout their daily lives—from figuring out how long to bake chicken to ordering more paper towels—and many of these commands, orders, and conversations won’t require users to visit websites in any context."

Demers is essentially referring to something like Google's Quick Answers, which attempt to answer general questions quickly and easily. Search Engine Land wrote a good guide for optimizing for quick answers that advocates familiar SEO hallmarks: optimizing for user experience and creating quality content relevant to the audience.

This form of optimization is similar to the action item #1 above; instead of answering questions uniquely suited to your products or services, however, the goal here is to offer content that expresses your authority on a theme related to your product or service.

Action Item #3: Use Increased Data to Market to People's Individual Needs

Implicit in some of Demer's other predictions is the emphasis on the need to put the new data (acquired by all those sensors) to good use.

"People want individualized experiences to avoid the feeling that they’re being mass-marketed to and to get more relevant content and information in their lives," Demers writes. "With IoT, personalization will become not only more important, but more feasible; integrated systems will be able to collect data on individuals’ search histories, typical food purchases, driving habits, and everything in between."

Enterprising online business and SEO firms can get ahead of the curve by understanding now how to interpret and use the data already available. A good place to start is by analyzing the habits of your own website's visitors. Are you using the data currently available to you? If not, you're not setting yourself up to take advantage of the IoT's influx of data.


SEO Success 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.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Two Crucial Differences Between Traditional and Online Marketing

The online marketing community is fond of making distinctions between SEO and other forms of online marketing.  A simple Google search yields pages of commentary about the distinctions--some astute; some opaque, at best--between SEO and SEM (search engine marketing), social media marketing, and content marketing.

"The difference between SEO and SEM," writes Alex Chris for Reliable Soft, a digital marketing firm, "is simply that Search Engine Optimization is part of Search engine marketing."

True, SEO is a part of SEM--and vice versa--but this is not a "difference."

Elsewhere, Coastline Marketing Group, an Internet marketing agency, asks "What's the difference between SEO and Internet Marketing?"

"Although some people use these two terms interchangeably," the agency writes, "each platform serves its own special purpose."

SEO, according to Coastline, includes keywords, links, and page content, and is the "more technical half of the two platforms." Internet marketing, which includes "article marketing, video marketing and social media," is the "more human aspect of the two platforms."

The distinctions here are fuzzy at best. After all, what is "page content" if not articles and videos? And what is social media marketing without links?

We quote these two (of many) attempts to draw distinctions to prove a point. The distinctions between different online marketing strategies are arbitrary. The difference between SEO and SEM, for example, is largely semantic.

While there are undoubtedly strategical differences between, say, how any given agency might perform an SEO campaign and a content marketing campaign, most online marketing strategies share a singular goal: to target and attract a specific audience.

For a newcomer, this is the essential takeaway.

By focusing on the distinctions, we confuse the market. Worse, we repel newcomers. For this reason, we believe online marketing is best viewed (at first glance) as a singular entity.

To understand how online marketing works, a newcomer would do better to ask "What is the difference between online marketing and traditional marketing?"

Is traditional marketing and online marketing different? [Source]

Now, a simple Google search about the differences between traditional and Internet marketing yields more fruitful commentary. Google "online marketing vs traditional marketing" and you will find a host of articles exclaiming the differences in, say, cost and tracking.

Beyond the measurables, though, we believe traditional and online marketing reveal two distinct philosophical differences--differences that speak to the prominence of online marketing as the marketing method of our time.

Online Marketing Distributes to a Precise Audience 

In essence, the goal of online marketing shares the same goal of traditional marketing strategies like print newspapers and magazines, radio and television ads, and circulars. At its core, all marketing is about communication. From the beginning of commerce, the art of attracting customers has been about crafting and distributing a message.

Today, both traditional and online marketing craft messages targeted to attract precise audiences. However, distribution differs dramatically.

Traditional marketing relies on advertisements in newspapers, magazines, brochures, or on the radio or television. Many new businesses receive no returns from this form of advertising. The problem is not necessarily the message. The problem is the distribution.

As we've noted before: "Many consumers today do not read periodicals or listen intently to radio commercials; and those who do might not distinguish one ad from the overabundance of others. Among those who do notice an ad, many are not interested in the product or services."

Contrary to this "blanket approach" to message distribution, online marketing messages reach a precisely targeted audience. Organic SEO (and PPC campaigns), for example, empowers potential customers to easily discover your website. When optimized for search engines, a website is visible to the precise customers who are looking for your product or service.

Online Marketing Focuses on Products (Keywords) First

All businesses promote products, of course, but marketing online requires a specific emphasis on product over brand (at least for new and upcoming firms without established brand names). In selling products to the greater populace, traditional marketing attempts to tie a brand to a product. To be successful, a traditional marketing campaign must work to create a trusted brand image.

Of course, online marketing requires a brand to engender the same trust. But when attracting customers, online marketing focuses, first, on keywords.

Online brands must work hard to clarify precisely how to market products through carefully chosen keywords. At the beginning, your ideal customer will not know your brand name from a bar of soap. However, you can attract your customer by targeting the right product keywords.

When speaking to clients, our sponsor, Alex Stepman, implores each firm to, "imagine you're 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." Alex then researches those keywords to see how best to compete.

Organic SEO with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with carefully chosen keywords, 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 18, 2016

Is Facebook Still a Viable Marketing Tool for Brands?

Facebook has been working hard to improve the News Feed. In June, the company announced sweeping changes to its algorithm, diminishing the appearance of content posted by publishers and promoting content posted by friends and family.

As Facebook announced on its blog in late June:

"Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family. That is still the driving principle of News Feed today. Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook."

Although Facebook did not explicitly refer to publishers in this blog post--the company actually said "we don’t favor specific kinds of sources--the implications were made clear elsewhere.

The New York Times reported that "the side effect of those changes...is that content posted by publishers will show up less prominently in news feeds, resulting in significantly less traffic to the hundreds of news media sites that have come to rely on Facebook."

At the time, publishers from The Times to smaller outfits like Vox and BuzzFeed would have been justified lamenting the changes as a sort of "Facebookpocalpyse."

After all, in April of the year, the analytics company, Parse.ly, reported that Facebook dominates news referral traffic, besting even Google:

"In our most recent Authority Report," Parse.ly reported,"we saw that Facebook is still driving a higher percentage of traffic to news sites (41.4 percent) than Google (39.5 percent)."

Yet in a recent report, cited by NiemanLab, the Facebookpocalpyse has seemingly been averted: "New data from analytics firm Parse.ly finds that Facebook traffic to its network of publishers has been flat or even slightly up since the June 29 announcement."

Even then, in early August, Facebook announced another change to the algorithm, minimizing stories it considered to be "clickbait," yet as NiemanLab notes, "There hasn’t been any noticeable change after Facebook’s August 4 announcement it was clamping down on clickbait either, although it may be a little early to know the full impact of that change."

The operative phrase here is likely "a little early to know."

These algorithm changes point to an ongoing emphasis by Facebook to make the user experience more "authentic."

"The strength of our community depends on authentic communication," Facebook says. "The feedback we’ve gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most."

In an attempt to provide a more authentic experience,
Facebook plans to marginalize clickbait. [Image Source]

Despite the emphasis on publishers specifically--and the news that traffic to publishers has not diminished--Facebook's stated goals should ring a bell for all savvy brand managers.

Facebook is still one of the most viable marketing venues online. To compete, however, your brand will need to evolve with the algorithm.

Here are three simple tips for keeping up with the changes.

1. Provide Content Relevant to Your Users

Search Engine Journal rightly noted that these recent changes may strike another nail in the coffin for the organic reach of brand Pages: "Organic reach was already on decline over the past few years, the site wrote, "and even before the latest algorithm change, SocialFlow observed a drop of 42% from January to May."

If organic reach is still available--for the time being--a brand will have to work hard to connect. In its post about the changes, Facebook said the News Feed should "inform" and "entertain" with "authentic" stories.

Translation: Try to connect to your audience on an emotional level.

For inspiration about connecting to your audience on an emotional level, follow the advice of The Law of Attraction, and Kelsey Libert and Kristin Tynski who reviewed 30 of the top 100 images from imgur.com "to understand the best emotional drivers" of viral content: "Think carefully about how your company, product or service is related to a topic or topics that taps into deep-seated human emotions within your target demographic."

Connecting on an emotional level--with informative, entertaining, and authentic posts--you might grab a share of organic reach; yet you also might inspire a few shares, which can increase your visibility exponentially.

2. Pay to Play

Simply put, if you want to compete for visibility you will need to pay for visibility. This is nothing new for brand pages, who were hit with algorithm changes three years ago. But this recent news about publishers just emphasizes Facebook's evolution.

Unfortunately, as more people vie for ad space, the costs of ads are rising. To make your money worthwhile see the first tip above: Make sure you promote only your best content--and make sure it is relevant to selected audience.

3. Promote from Your Personal Page Tactfully

For the most part, we advise against marketing from your personal page--all too often, marketing from your personal page alienates friends and family, which is the exact opposite goal of Facebook's new algorithm.

However, you can still market your business from your personal page with tact and authenticity. For example, instead of merely inviting people to like your brand page, send a personalized message to the group. Tell your friends about your business in your message, and make an honest plea for support and/or feedback.

You can also post status updates about your business. Do not market explicitly. Instead, write meaningfully about your experience as an owner or employee, and what your brand means to you and may or may not mean to your friends.

Kissmetrics posted a helpful list on this subject: 8 Tactful Ways to use your Personal Facebook Account as a Marketing Tool.

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, including Pinterest, 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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Should You Update Your Site Frequently?

In the world of search, a "finished" website is a dead website. Building a speedy, attractive site with relevant content is a great place to start; unfortunately, too many small businesses stop at the beginning.

At the beginning, a speedy, attractive site with relevant content should rank well. Over time, however, a website that does not update or refresh content and design risks losing traffic and rankings.

To meet the demands of today's information-hungry browser, you must change and improve. A static site will falter, but a dynamic site will maintain rankings and increase traffic.

Major e-commerce brands refresh their websites often--every month, week, or even day--with seasonally-appropriate content.

The best local websites follow the lead of the major e-commerce brands, creating fresh content targeted to specific populations.

In the end, the goal for any business, large or small, is  the same: a dynamic website. 


A graphic from a web marketing firm, Peterson Communication. In a blog on website refreshes, Peterson asks: "Is your site aligned with the current business climate and target market?" Sadly, for many local sites, the answer is "No."

Is a Dynamic Site Worth Your Time? Think About Conversions! 


For most local websites, the problem is time. As we've noted before: "The presumed problem for most website owners is time--the smallest companies believe they just don't have the time for a simple homepage refresh, let alone a blog post."

Please Read: How Often Do You Need to Update Your Website?

Of course, time can be made--if a business owner believes the time is well spent.

So more to the point: Will the added time expense be worthwhile?

To answer this question, you must first understand precisely how your current website converts visitors. The difference between your daily visitors and converted visitors defines the success of your website. In SEO circles, this difference is called the conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who perform a desired action.

This desired action can be different for different websites.

"When most people hear 'conversion', they think revenue," writes Glenn Gabe of Search Engine Journal.

But, Gabe adds: "Using an ecommerce site as an example, you might have several other success events, including email marketing subscriptions, contact form completions, clicks to social accounts, engagement goals like time on site or pages per visit, events like watching product videos, downloads like product specs or product guides, [and] clicks to trigger live chat with your customer service reps."

Unfortunately, most local sites have not yet defined a "success event." And obviously the same sites are not tracking conversions of any kind.

Gabe has written an insightful beginner's guide for and defining and tracking conversions: A Beginner's Guide to Conversion Goals in Google Analytics.

Once you see clearly how your site converts customers you can begin to understand the value of your traffic.

If you do not currently convert customers or do not believe your website should serve that purpose, your added time expense might not be worthwhile. (In this case, though, we have one question: What is the purpose of your site?)

If your website currently does convert customers, or you believe that your website could convert customers by better defining your conversion goals, you stand to increase your success with a dynamic site. In this case, the added time expense is worthwhile.

Post New Content Often

The key to a successful web marketing campaign is to never rest on your laurels. By maintaining a dynamic website, you give visitors a reason to visit and return. Frequent updates also translate to search benefits. With each new update, the search engines will crawl your site, looking for the new material.

As the blog SEO Site Check Up notes in its article on fresh content: "The more frequently you update your website with articles, downloads, and new web pages, the more frequently a search engine will stop by to visit your website. When search engines look at your site more frequently, you have the opportunity to achieve higher rankings based on the content you provide."

For larger sites, this process often happens quite quickly, so posting relevant, timely content is a good way to attract attention. In a post asking "How Often Does Google Update Search Results?" the blog SEO Mechanic tells an interesting story about speedy indexing:

"Often, we could drop a new article, and see traffic from search in less than 5 minutes, if it was a timely article.

One time, during an earthquake, I tested the indexing speed of our website with Google.

Seconds after the earthquake I posted a simple update featuring a snapshot of the seismic activity and the location.

 Within seconds our story was the number one search result tied to the Chino Hills Earthquake. We received close to 5,000 visits, in under 10 minutes, because we were the most authoritative article until the L.A Times published their piece."

SEO Mechanic is a larger site with good volume; smaller, local sites might not see the same, immediate results: "If you have a local business with low search volume," SEO Mechanic writes, "your indexing rate will be slower – sometimes painfully slow."

Remember, painfully slow does not translate to never. The key is to update frequently, to gain visitor momentum relative to your site's traffic, and to increase your traffic--and, hopefully, your ranking.

In the next few weeks, we will explore both website updates for content and design in more detail. For now, if you have any immediate questions, please feel free to call our sponsor Alex Stepman, of Stepman's PC, 215-900-9398.

Friday, August 5, 2016

SEO 101: How to Optimize URLs

SEO is both a creative and technical venture. When creating any given page, content is the first priority, but the best content is worthless without technical optimization.

Any piece of content--every single page--benefits from SEO technical know-how.

In the past, we've spoken about two essential elements for any page: title tags and meta descriptions.

Today we will speak about perhaps the most elemental aspect of any page: the URL.

A page's URL (uniform resource locator) is it's web address. The address for the home page of this blog is http://www.stepmanseo.blogspot.com/. A URL, naturally, is displayed in your browser's address bar. A fully-optimized page must include a coherent, simple URL that can easily be identified by humans and search engines alike.

The following is an example of a URL from a page about URLs and Title Tags:





This URL follows a few crucial SEO best practices, but it fails to nail the optimization. When you're optimizing your own URLs, follow three simple rules:

1. Create a Reader-Friendly URL

Just like your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions, a URL should be easy-to-read for humans and search engines alike.

A good URL will read much like a good title tag: clear, precise, and to the point. If possible, avoid extra words that do not necessarily add to the description. In the example above, the URL could easily dispense with "that."

The URL image below, from HubSpot, reveals the difference between a wordy and precise URL.


"How to optimize URLS for search" is much more to the point than "How to optimize your URLs for search quick tip."

A readable URL also dispenses with variables that add nothing to the description. Check out the bottom link below from Moz's URL Readability Scale. The red link at the bottom includes excessive variables.


2. Use Keywords in Your URL

The precise use of keywords in your URL will let both readers and search engines understand precisely what your page is about.

Shockingly, the top URL above, from New Media Campaigns, does not follow this simple rule. "A few words that can make your break your SEO" does not really speak to the point of the article, URLs.

A URL with appropriate keywords will speak better to the search engines as well as humans. And for humans, especially, the URL might just be as important as Title Tags and Meta Descriptions. As Moz notes in its article about URLs:

"Keywords in the URL show up in search results, and research has shown that the URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when selecting which site to click."

The fact that New Media Campaigns seemingly misses this essential element in its own URL for an article about URLs shows how deceptively tricky SEO can be. To truly optimize each and every page, we must be efficient and diligent about each and every aspect of optimization.

3. Use-Hyphens-to-Separate-Words

A good URL uses hyphens to separate each word. In all the good examples above, the URLs increase readability with hyphens. Without hyphens, a line of text can read as jumbled, even if it includes precise keywords.

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.