Saturday, April 30, 2016

No Short Cuts: The Hard Truth of Organic SEO

The SEO community promotes the belief that in-bound links or "backlinks"--links from another website to your website--are a key to ranking success. We believe this is true, to a point. For search engines, a backlink from a reputable source is a vote for your content. At the very least, a backlink implies that someone else found your content relevant.

Of course, established sites enjoy an abundance of backlinks. And popular wisdom says that backlinks are one of the best ways to improve placement for any site.

According to Google, however, link-building "can do more harm than good."As we reported last year,Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, advises websites to avoid link-building.

"We do use links as part of our algorithm," Mueller stated, "but we use lots and lots of other factors as well. So only focusing on links is probably going to cause more problems for your web site than it actually helps."

Link-building, as defined by Moz,"is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own." Mueller's statement implied that this "process" is not necessarily organic.

As we noted:

"In theory, even when practicing 'good' link building, a website owner is essentially venturing out into the wild Internet, shouting, 'Come visit me!' This could be as simple as a comment on a blog--'Hey, check out my blog'--which is bound to annoy the blog owner, if not the readers. Or it could be as 'sophisticated' as an ad campaign, which could do more than annoy. At the very least, most attempts to artificially promote your site are met with annoyance."

Our contention then, as now, is that website owners should not work to "acquire" links. Link-building is artificial, not organic; it smacks of the sort of spam that promises "25,000 Unique Visitors Every Month!"

A Facebook sponsored post from Backlinko

We recently spotted the sponsored post above, from Backlinko, on Facebook. The post purports to be an authority on "high quality content," yet the content itself is teeming with mistakes. 

As you might know, Google advocates error-free content. In its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, Google says to avoid "writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes." Elsewhere, Google equates mistake-ridden writing with "things" like spam and broken links--things "that can make visitors not trust your site or leave."

The sponsored post from Backlinko above essentially defines what Google is not looking for--and despite the company's name, "Backlinko," the post does not reveal the sort of authority that inspires backlinks.

That said, Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, is viewed as an authority in the SEO world. His blog inspires countless comments; on Twitter, he counts over 33,000 followers. We can only imagine that this post from Brian is an aberration.

No matter Dean's relative influence, though, this post is bound to failure--Dean himself would likely admit it is not a great example of "high quality content." Of course, a sponsored post can--and often will--attract traffic to your business. Yet, that traffic will be short-lived, even pointless, if your content does not make visitors trust your site.

So how do you create a durable following?

John Mueller's warning is relevant here because it points to a simple truth: There is no shortcut to a true, organic ranking.

When Mueller speaks about "link-building," he is essentially referring to any SEO practice meant to attract attention. According to Google, all attempts to attract attention must be organic.

Note how Google defines "high quality content" in its Webmaster Tools

"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."

Note, too, the operative words here: Useful. Attract. Entice. Creating. Helpful. Information-Rich. Clearly and Accurately.

His unfortunate sponsored post aside, Brian Dean has obviously done enough enticing to build a tremendous following. This is organic SEO. You cannot buy attention. Instead, you must entice and attract. Brian Dean surely knows this.

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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

SEO Hallmarks: Quality Links, Honesty, and Unique Content

Google is now penalizing bloggers who did not disclose free product reviews.

As Search Engine Land reported on Tuesday:

 "Yesterday, we reported that Google sent out outbound linking penalties to a mass number of webmasters over the weekend. It turned out that this was directly related to the warning from Google a few weeks ago for bloggers to disclose free product reviews as such and nofollow links in their blog posts over these product reviews."

The news is not necessarily earth-shattering, we admit, but Google's stance clearly illuminates some crucial themes we write about on The Organic SEO Blog. An analysis of Google's recent notice on the Webmaster Blog, reveals--again--the crucial importance of quality links, honesty, and, importantly, unique content.

Quality Links 

For a search engine like Google, links offer clues to the relevancy and quality of a website's content. In the SEO world, we often define "backlinks"--links from another website to your own website--as low quality or high quality. High quality links can be defined in different ways, yet most come from trusted, relevant sources that send increased traffic.

Established sites enjoy an abundance of such quality backlinks. For a new site, attracting backlinks from established sites is one of the best ways to improve placement.

For more on link building, read: "Don't Just Build Links; Inspire Links."

Unfortunately, link-building has been abused by Black Hat SEO specialists. Google created its Penguin algorithm, in part, to penalize bad links. At the time, Google clarified its definition of a "bad" or "artificial"--or low quality--link:

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

In its recent announcement about product reviews, Google intimated that bloggers who post links for free products were essentially participating in this very sort of link scheme:

"Bloggers should use the nofollow tag on all such links because these links didn’t come about organically (i.e., the links wouldn’t exist if the company hadn’t offered to provide a free good or service in exchange for a link)."

Again, that word, "organic," defines the most sensible approach to SEO. And, in case you're wondering, here is more info on the nofollow tag.

Honesty

Honesty, transparency, and integrity are the hallmarks of a good business--and, of course, of good SEO. As Google states in its notice: "Users want to know when they’re viewing sponsored content." Put another way: users do not want to be duped in any way.

The success of any organic SEO campaign begins with the integrity of a website's brand. Without a transparent offering, a website can not possibly create the sort of content that attracts attention.

In fact, as we've noted before, "our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, refuses to work with companies who do not have a clear offering. If a company does not have a good product to promote, organic SEO will not be nearly as effective."

For more on brand integrity, read: "Brand Loyalty & Organic SEO."

Honesty? [Photo Source]

Unique Content

Google framed its recent Webmaster post as "Best practices for bloggers reviewing free products they receive from companies," although, for the most part, the post reads like a admonition: Don't do this! Google's final "best practice," however, is a framed in the positive--a "do this" that will ring true for any regular reader of The Organic SEO Blog:

"Create compelling, unique content," Google says:

"The most successful blogs offer their visitors a compelling reason to come back. If you're a blogger you might try to become the go-to source of information in your topic area, cover a useful niche that few others are looking at, or provide exclusive content that only you can create due to your unique expertise or resources."

The subtext of this comment strikes to the heart of what makes so much of the Internet, frankly, bad: generic writing.

Google's assumption is that a review of a product received for free--and not disclosed--is essentially biased. What possible value can a biased review offer?

At the very least, disclosure informs a user to be weary of the "review," especially a glowing review. And yet, disclosure lends a review credibility. Without disclosure, the review might just be, essentially, a generic advertisement that offers little value beyond the product's own promotion. We go to reviews for unique knowledge of the sort Google is constantly trying to promote.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote 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.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Promote Your Content: Three Simple Steps (with Inspiration from Walt Whitman)

Writing is no small task. Many of the best writers spend hours, days, and weeks laboring over a single article or post. Unfortunately, the effort is often wasted. The Internet is loaded with relevant, engaging, informative content--quality writing that no one ever reads.

Not all good writing attracts an organic audience. For new websites/writers, especially, the very act of publication can feel like shouting into the void. The problem, of course, is not the writing itself. The problem is promotion. Too often, good writers fail miserably at promotion. In fact, on social media--at least in our circles--it is nearly axiomatic: the best writers abhor self-promotion.

It is accepted, of course, that a published author has to self-promote, yet many good writers feel the need to apologize. So many self-promoting posts begin, "Sorry for the self-promotion..."

Of course, the two talents, good writing and self-promotion are not mutually dependent.

Walt Whitman, for example, practiced an inventive (and deceptive) means of self-promotion. After the publication in 1855 of his book of poems, Leaves of Grass, Whitman wrote "anonymous" reviews praising (and sometimes criticizing) his work.

"An American Bard at last," he wrote in The American Review, later declaring himself  "the largest lover and sympathizer that has appeared in literature"--a true statement, in our estimation, but still.

Whitman's "anonymous" review [Photo Source]

"I celebrate myself," Whitman famously begins his poem, "Song of Myself," a sentiment--in literature, life, and self-promotion--that has since rarely been matched.

Whitman's unique brand of self-promotion might seem outrageous today, but his impulse, in the end, is instructive. He wrote an amazing book. He believed the book deserved attention. So he engaged in relentless (shameless) self-promotion.

Of course, self-promotion need not be shameless. Plenty of authors practice self-promotion with humility and panache.

Below we offer the three essential steps for attracting an audience.

Contact Well-Known Writers in Your Niche 

Walt Whitman famously sent his first edition of Leaves of Grass to the most famous writer in American, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Emerson wrote back, "I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of 'Leaves of Grass.' I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed."

Don't expect this sort of response, but do reach out.

By contacting a well-known writer in your niche, who might be willing to share your article, or offer a quote, you might gain access to colossal audience.

KissMetrics suggests contacting influencers at scale by using BuzzStream. This is a terrible idea. If you're going to contact a well-known writer, write a personal, genuine note.

As with your writing itself, the quality of this form of self-promotion is much more important than the quantity.

Contact Your Immediate Social Circle

When contacting others, do not limit yourself to "influencers."

Your article might be of special interest to certain friends in your social network. Again, though, do not follow the terrible advice of KissMetrics. Make it personal.

Take the time to reach out to your friends via private messages. Let them know that you've written a piece that might interest them.

In this way, you cultivate a devoted (and personal) readership--a group of core readers who are more likely to share your content.

Scale with Humility and Tact--and Persistence 

"The public is a thick skinned beast," Whitman wrote, "and you have to keep whacking away at its hide to let it know you’re there."

In his quest to "sound [his] barbaric yawp," Whitman might've neglected humility and tact, but he certainly understood the value of persistence.The key to successfully promoting your work at scale, however, is humility and tact.

Read this simply-stated, genuine tweet from the writer, Dominic Smith, whose novel, The Last Painting of Sara De Vos was released earlier this week:
Simply put, without fuss. When sharing, there is no need to apologize. Just share your stuff without pretense. Here it is. I hope you have the time to read.

Of course, then, for beginning writers, persistence is important. You just want to make sure you're not overloading anyone's feed with relentless self promotion. Remember, humility governs not only how you share your stuff, but how often. There is no golden rule here. Only this: share enough to attract attention, but not enough to annoy others.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote 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.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

SEO Basics: Organic SEO & Multi-Channel Marketing for Your Website

By definition, organic SEO promotes a natural connection: A browser searches for a specific word or phrase and finds a relevant website on the search engine results page (SERP). For any given search, a higher website ranking implies a good organic SEO campaign.

Yet, organic SEO is not the only path to visibility. Some websites pay for visibility. Ads, banners, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns can attract a great deal of traffic to a website.

Many websites choose a mix of organic SEO and paid advertising to ensure placement on the first SERP. Organic SEO is essentially free, yet any SEO campaign can take time to produce results. For most websites, the wait is worthwhile. For new websites, however, paid advertisements provide a quick, easy route to placement.

A paid result, however, is the opposite of a (free) organic result. More importantly, a paid result is often not as relevant to a browser's search. In the end, the best online exposure cannot be bought; exposure must be earned.

The first, most important step to earning exposure is to build a well-optimized website loaded with engaging, relevant content. If you're interested in building an organically optimized website form the ground up, please read our series on how to build an optimized website, beginning with Website Design and Website Development.

Once you have built a well-optimized website, Content Creation (and, obviously, Conversion) will be your prime tasks. For organic SEO, content is king.

That said, it is clear a well-optimized website with engaging, relevant content is not enough to attract visitors. Too many websites focus exclusively on organic SEO and content creation to the detriment of  traditional marketing.

As Jayson DeMers recently wrote at Forbes:

"If you’re a savvy marketer, you’re already actively engaging in content marketing. Unfortunately, many business owners are so focused on the creation of their content that they’re forgetting the marketing component of the equation. After all, what good is amazing content if nobody knows about it?"

In other words, too much content is created and shared in a vacuum. What good is your website's content, for example, if it is not promoted on multiple channels.

This graphic from Search Engine Watch is spot-on:

[Source: Search Engine Watch]

Organic SEO is at the center of any good online marketing campaign. In this context, SEO refers specifically to your message--your content. A site optimized with organic SEO will attract visitors, eventually, but a multi-channel marketing campaign will accelerate the process.

The crux here is time vs. cost. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest work like organic SEO, offering a free means to engaging and attracting customers. If you have the time and resources, no marketing method (beyond organic SEO, of course) will be more productive for your website. If you're interested in learning more about how to use social media and email to engage and attract visitors, please read some of our most popular posts:

Why Twitter is the Social Media Choice for Today and Tomorrow

Facebook, Sociability, and Organic Reach 

Pinterest Refers 5X More Traffic Than Twitter

Three Simple Tips For Optimizing Consumer Emails

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What is the current state of your marketing efforts? Are you engaging in organic SEO, content creation, and multi-channel marketing? If not, do you actually expect to make money from your online efforts?

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.