Thursday, April 27, 2017

The SEO Writer: Five Key Skills

What is the difference between a good copywriter and a good SEO writer?

A good copywriter possesses writing talent and marketing expertise. A good copywriter creates succinct, error-free content that broadcasts a specific message to a general audience.

A good SEO writer also possesses writing talent and marketing expertise. Yet the SEO writer's marketing expertise includes a knowledge of search engine algorithms. A good SEO writer creates succinct, error-free content that broadcasts a specific message to a specific online audience. Specificity is key--as we discus below.

The distinction is akin to the distinction between traditional marketing and digital marketing. Both aim to attract a specific audience. Traditional marketing, however, is at least one step removed from the audience. To attract a specific audience, traditional marketing broadcasts to a general audience.

Think billboards, radio ads, or newspaper circulars. Traditional marketing casts a wide net to amplify a message. Success is defined in several ways: by increasing brand awareness; improving brand image; or attracting a percentage of viewers to a certain product, service, or promotion.

Apple's famous "Think Different" campaign, which some credit with saving the company from financial ruin, is a perfect example of how traditional marketing, when performed correctly, can make a brand "deeply recognizably."

Apple's "Think Different" campaign [Photo Source]
Traditional marketing, then, focuses on macro-audiences (although the goal may be to engage only a percentage of that audience). Digital marketing, on the other hand, focuses on micro-audiences. The success of any digital marketing campaign is contingent on defining the best keywords for the given micro-audience, and creating relevant, engaging content for that audience.

More on keywords: How to Perform Keyword Research

More on good content: How to Write Good Content: What is Your Point?

Of course, when speaking about the quality of content, the distinctions between traditional marketing and digital marketing is unimportant.  The term "digital content," is a misnomer: The best content--in traditional and digital marketing--is defined by the quality of the writing itself.

However, successful online writing requires a distinctive set of knowledge and skills. A copywriter may or may not understand how to effectively attract an online audience. To attract a specific audience online, you need the talents of an SEO writer.

The SEO Writer: Five Key Skills 

A Good SEO Writer Will Research & Effectively Use Keywords

A good SEO writer can help you research and choose the best keywords for your product or service. If you are not certain how to define your product or service, keyword research can help you clarify your offering: Imagine you are Googling your product or service. What keywords would you type?

A good SEO writer will then use these keywords resourcefully to attract targeted attention to your site--attention that will lead to conversions. A copywriter may overlook the details that make a piece of content work for a search engine. A SEO writer, however, writes with a keen eye on attracting on online audience. By nature, this sort of work is succinct and precise--to the point.

More on conversions: How SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization Work Together to Inspire Sales

A Good SEO Writer Crafts Search Engine Friendly URLs and Title Tags and Meta Descriptions 

A page's URL (uniform resource locator) is it's web address. A fully-optimized web page will include a coherent, simple URL that can easily be identified by humans and search engines alike. Crafting a good URL is a deceptively simple practice perfected by the best SEO writers.

A title tag is displayed in search results as the title of a web page. Once you click on the page, the title tag may or may not be displayed at the top of the browser (Firefox does; Chrome does not). Title tags should be hyper-specific and relevant, yet not spammy--keywords must be used judiciously.

Meta tags are inserted into the “head” area of your web pages, and are used by search engines to accurately list your site in their indexes. Every page of your website must have unique meta tags. A good SEO writer optimizes your meta tags to accurately describe the content of your page.


A Good SEO Writer Uses Structure to His/Her Advantage 

Many writers are enamored with their own work--to the detriment of the writing. A good SEO writer is a great writer, first, but he or she also understands that SEO requires structure.

Good SEO writers get finicky about details that other writers overlook--details that might supersede the writer's natural inclinations. A good SEO writer, for example, understands the importance of the appropriate number of words, keywords, and links as well as paragraph and article length.

For a view into the finicky side of SEO writing, read Neil Patel's article How Long Should Each Blog Post Be? A Data Driven Answer.

For more on content length and "content density": SEO Content Density: How to Write Like a Pro

A Good SEO Writer Composes Effective Links

The link above (for Neil Patel's article) precisely describes the nature of the link. Many copywriters create articles with arbitrary links ("click here") that have little to do with the actual content of the link.

To optimize a link, a good SEO writer creates a precise description of the link's contents. Just like URLs, title tags, and meta tags, this precise description allows the search engine to understand and "index" the link.

Again, an effective link description is a deceptively simple task, yet the best SEO writers have learned the value of outbound links, and how to effectively maximize this value.

A Good SEO Writer Chooses Relevant Images and Composes Effective Image Tags 

By now, you might have noticed several themes. First, every aspect of a page needs to be optimized, from the text to the tags. Second, SEO writers are not simply adept at writing--the best SEO writers perfect writing as well the technical and design aspects of SEO, including keyword research, URL and tag composition, and structure.

Choosing the perfect image for your content requires an eye for design; writing the perfect description requires SEO knowledge and writing chops. In a way, image optimization synthesizes the skills of a good SEO writer.

For more on image optimization: How to Optimize Images for Search Engines

This photograph of a person wearing a Cookie Monster costume, by Klaus Pichler, is an all-time favorite. To optimize this image, offer the most salient details: Klaus Pichler, Cookie Monster 
SEO Writing with Stepman's SEO 

Stepman's SEO understands how to effectively promote websites with good content. To learn more about how Stepman's SEO combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns, call: 215-900-9398.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What is Content Marketing?

In a recent survey of senior UK marketers, 92% admitted to not knowing how to run a content marketing campaign. Only 6% felt "definitely clear" about content marketing practices. The grandly titled "The State of Content Marketing Survey," which Moz cited earlier this month, nevertheless noted that 70% of the same respondents plan to increase content marketing spending in 2017.

These varying numbers obviously reveal a colossal disconnect between content marketing knowledge and spending. The rest of the survey substantiates this view, which is mind-boggling considering the recent popularity of content marketing.

"Incredible, isn't it?" asks Simon Penson on Moz, who called the numbers "eye-popping."

Content Marketing has been a hot trend since at least 2015, at least judging by the press (here, here, and here, too). This recent popularity, however, smacks of The Emperor's New Clothes: So many believe in the importance of content marketing yet so few understand what content marketing means.

This misunderstanding is likely due, in part, to jargon; too often so-called experts confuse new marketing tools, whether content marketing or long-tail keyword research, with esoteric explanations. Moz is a prime culprit of jargon, though Penson's article is articulate and straightforward.

So what is content marketing? In reality, content marketing is as old as marketing itself. What is marketing if not the marketing of some form of content? In traditional marketing, the product itself--its packaging, its suggested use, its name--is the content. What makes content marketing new, if anything, is an emphasis on content that is independent from the product.

Andy Warhol understood that product is content. [Source]
Content marketing is most readily seen today in brands who write blogs. Penson points to Scotts Menswear as "one of the best blog strategies." Recently, we've enjoyed the blog of the direct-to-consumer clothing brand, Grana, which writes thoughtful posts about fabrics, style, and even the gender pay gap, an important issue for Grana's core customers, who value fair wages.

Another post attempts to explain why most brands t-shirts are a "Lying Sack of Price Tags": "Sometimes, you can find t-shirts for less than a slice of pizza and in other times you can find t-shirts that cost more than your monthly car loan."
For us, Grana's content marketing was convincing: We purchased a few t-shirts for a modest sum, $15, and we love them!

From fabric to pricing, Grana attempts to tell the story of its t-shirts with strategic content marketing.
Looking to brands like Scotts and Grana offers a perfect view of how to perform content marketing. Grana, especially, follows the advice of Penson to offer constant content: "No content plan is complete unless it's based around delivering content consistently."

Really, it's that simple. This is why the stats from "The State of Content Marketing Survey" seem so eye-popping. What's not to understand?

Content Marketing: A Brief History

Despite its recent popularity, Content Marketing has a lineage (according to Wikipedia), dating back at least to 1996:

"The phrase 'content marketing' was used as early as 1996, when John F. Oppedahl led a roundtable for journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors. In 1998, Jerrell Jimerson held the title of 'director of online and content marketing' at Netscape. In 1999, author Jeff Cannon wrote, 'In content marketing, content is created to provide consumers with the information they seek.'"

Today, if you Google the definition, you'll likely see the term defined by the lofty-sounding Content Marketing Institute: "Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

Content Marketing & SEO

With all the talk of content marketing, not to mention the social media admonitions so familiar to small business owners--"You're not on Facebook? You have to get on Facebook!"--you can't blame a small business owner for thinking content marketing is the key to success. In fact, many brands do create constant content.

The problem, however, is that too many brands focus exclusively on "content" to the detriment of "marketing."

As Jayson DeMers 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?"

We applaud the recent emphasis on content, yet like Mr. DeMers, we worry too much content is created and shared in a vacuum. What good is your website's content, for example, if the site itself has not been optimized for search engines?

When ranking a site, Google evaluates many elements--from content to design. In fact, some speculate that Google uses over 200 signals to rank a website. Yet despite the increasing relevance of content marketing, many small business owners view search engine optimization as an incidental process--one that, by nature, comes gift-wrapped with each piece of content.

"Oh," we've heard countless times, "my website designer is taking care of that."In fact, that "that" is not necessarily "taken care of" by your website designer. A website designer should be literate in SEO, but this is not always the case.

It's not, in fact, as simple as James Earl Jones would have it in his famous line from Field of Dreams.

If you build it, he will come.
Put another way, the content marketing proselytizers might say: "If you create it, he will come."

Not so fast. Not all website developers build search engine-friendly sites, and if a site cannot be easily discovered by search engines, it is invisible, a high-priced business card.

Before content marketing, then, think organic SEO. Make sure your site is optimized for the major search engines. And then optimize each new piece of content to match.

Content 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. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Local SEO: Why Online Reviews Matter

Moz recently released the 2017 Local Search Rankings Factors Survey, a review of the opinions of 40 local SEO experts. Since its inception, in 1998, the survey has been a go-to resource for local SEO campaigns--and now, after a year off, the survey offers fresh opinions on the state of local search and local SEO.

The said, the #1 local ranking factor, according to this year's survey, has seemingly little to do with SEO efforts: Proximity of Address to the Point of Search.

In one sense, the prominence of this factor makes perfect sense. Imagine you're driving through an unfamiliar town, and you need a gas station. Your search for "gas station" will reveal the closest station in proximity to your current location. That's helpful.

In another sense, the prominence of this factor seems misguided, especially considering Google's perennial emphasis on quality and relevance. Proximity "leads to poor results in most categories," the survey's author, Darren Shaw notes. "I’m looking for the best lawyer in town, not the closest one."

In reality, most people don't care about the best gas station in town. When you need gas, you need gas. But for most other local businesses, like lawyers, car repair shops, and hair salons, people do want the best in town. Proximity is negligible when the difference between a sub-par shop and an excellent shop is a few miles.

So Shaw argues for a concerted local SEO effort, and for good reason:

"While Proximity of Address to the Point of Search is playing a stronger role than ever in the rankings, it’s certainly not the only factor impacting rankings. Businesses with higher relevancy and prominence will rank in a wider radius around their business and take a larger percentage of the local search pie. There’s still plenty to be gained from investing in local search strategies."

Among these strategies, the survey lists some clear SEO winners. As Search Engine Land notes in its review of the survey: "links and reviews are hot."

Of course, we know that links are one of Google's top three ranking factors, so your local SEO link-building efforts may not differ from the efforts of a national or international marketing campaign. The key for all websites is links from other, reputable websites: "Don't Build Links--Inspire Links."

As Joshua Steimle wrote in Forbes:

"The right way to build high quality links is to not build them at all, but instead, earn them naturally. Natural links are earned by creating great content that people want to link to."

Beyond links, however, customer reviews are more specific to local SEO, and can be influenced by a concerted marketing campaign.

Car repair shops have always survived by the word-of-mouth of locals; today, the word-of-mouth is online, and accessible to the world.
Good Online Reviews: Local SEO Gold

BrightLocal recently published its annual "Local Consumer Review Survey."

Here, in BrightLocal's words, are the key findings from the survey:
  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation 
  • 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to 
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business 
  • 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews 
  • 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant 
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more 
  • 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important
To us, the key takeaway here, obviously, is that for local businesses (like car repair shops) online reviews can make or brake (pun intended) local marketing efforts.You can boost your website with SEO, but if you're local reviews do not reflect a good customer experience--well, your SEO efforts may be a waste of time.

This is a key lesson many local websites fail to grasp--at first.

SEO can only take a local business so far. Optimization can increase traffic to a website--and to a brick-and-mortar business. But it is up to the business to ensure a quality customer service experience.

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:
  1. Do you really sell a high quality product at the right price?
  2. Do you excel in customer service?
If not, now might not be the best time to perform website optimization. It is a simple equation: SEO drives traffic, and potential customers, to your site. Why drive more potential customers to your site, if you're bound to disappoint the customers?

Do you love your customers? If so, treat them like you do! [Photo Source]
If you do sell a high quality product at the right price, and you do have a few bad online reviews, do not despair.

As the survey above notes, "73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant." Most bad reviews are customer service-related.  If you currently have a one- or two-star review, you can improve your online reputation by improving your customer service.

The first, obvious step: Treat people kindly. Treat each customer as if he/she were your most valuable customer. After all, you never know who might write your next review.

***

Beyond reviews, for more information on how to improve your local SEO, read: "Local SEO: Tips for Online and Brick and Mortar Success."

A Unique Internet Marketing Company: Stepman's PC 

The information offered in this post (and elsewhere on this blog) is not typical of most Internet marketing companies. What separates Stepman's PC from its competitors is a focus on human beings. Alex Stepman, the owner of Stepman's PC, and the sponsor of The Organic SEO Blog, understands that website optimization is not simply about websites and codes and content--it is about understanding the motivations of real, actual people. If you want to speak to an SEO company with intelligence and empathy, call Stepman's PC now: 215-900-9398.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Voice-Based Technology: How to Adapt Your SEO Efforts to Digital Assistants

Siri was met with contempt when she was introduced to the iPhone, in 2011. Don't believe the Wikipedia article, which falsely claims, without any attributions, "Siri was met with critical acclaim for its ease of use and practicality, as well as its apparent 'personality.'"

In fact, as Jay Yarow wrote for Business Insider in September 2012, "Apple's voice-activated personal assistant Siri has been trashed pretty thoroughly since its arrival last year."

In another article about Siri, Yarow refers to a Fortune article about Tim Cook, which cites an employee, who said, "People are embarrassed by Siri ... Steve [Jobs] would have lost his mind over Siri."

Meanwhile, writing for The New York Times, tech writer, Nick Bilton, famously ended his romance with Siri, citing her inability to answer questions--a supposed core functions. Even then, in his article Bilton embraced Google's Voice Search, which was available on Android phones, and according to Bilton, was "a much better listener."

Like Siri at the time, Google Voice was in an "upstart" phase--and Amazon's now-famous Alexa was still a few years from a release date. However, since 2012, Siri voice-based technologies have become more intuitive, easier to use, and more helpful.

In 2015, The Times called the latest iPhone software update (iOS 9), which included a hands-free Siri, "An Omen of the Future," and Farhad Manjoo argued that Siri was poised to become a crucial part of our everyday lives:

"The new Siri is paving the way to what you might call 'ambient computing' — a future in which robotic assistants are always on hand to answer questions, take notes, take orders or otherwise function as auxiliary brains to whom you might offload many of your chores."

To facilitate this form of "assistance," the new Siri was able to respond to commands voiced from several feet away. The Times noted that this "hands free" technology was not new, yet with Siri, Apple improved its potential resourcefulness:

"In iOS 9...Siri also has more powers to connect to deeper parts of your phone. It can control devices compatible with Apple’s home-automation system, called HomeKit — you can tell it to turn down the lights, for example. Siri also controls Apple Music, the company’s new streaming service. In the car, say, 'Hey, Siri, play Dylan,' and up comes 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'."

The times they are a-changing -Bob Dylan
Of course, since then, Amazon's Alexa, has dominated the voice-based marketplace, and digital home assistants are now the rage--effectively leaving Siri in the dust. As Brian Deagon recently reported for Investors.com, Amazon's Alexa and Google's home assistant, Google Home, are in a "race for dominance" in this hot consumer category:

"Both devices are voice-activated speaker systems connected to the internet that can answer a multitude of questions, play music on request, read books, tell jokes, provide weather and traffic information, and much more."

Why have digital home assistants succeeded even as the first wave of phone-based assistants seemingly failed? Perhaps it's context. Business Insider cited a study last year that found most people "feel uncomfortable talking to their tech in public."

Voice-Based Technology and SEO

The emergence of voice-based technology has been predicted for years (first, of course, in science fiction), and recently in a major algorithm update from Google, which was made, in part, to accommodate the increase in voice-based searches, which tend to be longer and more complex.

This new algorithm was also a nod to the ubiquity of mobile phones. Increasingly, we know, most the worldwide online experience is conducted on mobile devices, a fact we've covered exhaustively in the past.

As the experience of search changes, at home and on the streets, the nature of search--how and why--changes. Good SEO specialists maintain pace with the changes, adapting websites as needed to ensure optimum rankings. Keeping pace with the changing search landscape is an SEO specialist's job. Yet the best SEO minds attempt to do more--to keep ahead of the pace. Practically speaking, this means watching the news, reading articles, and making informed predictions.

Even then, it is not hard to see how the increasing prevalence of voice-based technology will change SEO. Single word keywords will become irrelevant as searchers voice precisely what they want with longer, more complex demands.

Again, from The Times:

"A host of start-ups are entering the game, too. One, called SoundHound, offers a taste of the possibilities of talking to machines: Rather than going through several sites to make a hotel reservation, you can ask, “Find me a three- or four-star hotel in New York next Friday for less than $300,” and off it goes."

The vital challenge for any website is clear: More than ever, a website must fulfill a specific need. A simple way to think about a marketing campaign, then, is to ask: What need does your website fulfill?

Instead of defining your product with a few keywords, you must now work hard to anticipate your potential customer's questions--and to answer them with good content. To create new content, start with a question in mind--and then answer that question precisely. Anticipate the voice-based search that makes your website relevant.

Long-Tail Keywords: The New Search Paradigm

The sort of queries we're referring to here are "long tail keywords."

Although short keywords drive traffic to your site, long-tail queries account for more total impressions. Simply put, with the emergence of voice-based technology, people are using long-tail keywords more often.

Yet since long-tail searches are so specific, you may have a harder time discovering the best long-tail keywords for your content. But long-tail keywords must be a part of your optimization campaign. Why?
  1. Ad campaigns for long-tail keywords have less competition so they cost less.
  2. Long-tail keywords increase conversion rates by attracting real customers to your precise product or service. 
  3. Long-tail keywords are a by-product of good content; if you write excellent content, you will not have a hard time discovering the best long-tail keywords; your content will do the work for you.
As we note above, long-tail keywords attempt to answer browser's specific questions--the type often asked of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home.

So ask yourself: What is my ideal customer looking for? Or: What question does my product or service answer?

This information on long-tail keywords is adapted from our keyword post, which discusses both short and long-tail keywords.

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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.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

SEO 101: Website Design and Google's Latest Design Losers

Since we wrote about Google's recent algorithm update, "Fred," three weeks ago, certain sites have experienced dramatic changes in ranking. Search Engine Land reported this week on a fascinating study by Sistrix, "an SEO toolset data collection company," which revealed the big losers: ad heavy sites with "little or poor quality content, which had no value for the reader."

In one sense, the Sistrix study confirms what we already know: Google prefers sites that add value for the browser--and will penalize sites that seemingly focus on revenue generation to the detriment of content. Yet the study's findings also provide a nuanced view of how to design a Google-friendly website.

This nuance is especially valuable in light of Google's recent secrecy about the algorithm updates. Since the retirement of Matt Cutts, Google's former head of search quality, who had a congenial relationship with the SEO and digital marketing communities, Google has become decidedly tight-lipped about algorithm updates.

In fact, as Search Engine Land reported, Google's search engine leads decided not to talk about Fred, and would only confirm that the update targeted techniques documented in Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

So what does the Sistrix report tell us about Google-friendly website design? Content is key, of course, yet the way the content appears on the page is also crucially important.

Website Design: How to Impress Google 

The term website design is often used interchangeably with website development, though design is a subset of development. People often refer to website design as the "front of the house" look and feel of a site, including the layout and graphics. Website development includes website design, yet also encompasses the "back of the house" work of coding, which makes a website secure and search engine friendly.

Of course, when design focuses on "look and feel," the result is often an attractive website. Unfortunately, attractive does not always translate to effective--especially if the design compromises the website's usability.

We often see attractive designs that fail at functionality. The use of Flash, which can be beautiful, yet can also make websites unruly, and worse, invisible to search engine "crawlers," is a perfect example.

Certain fashion websites are notorious for offering beautiful designs that sacrifice functionality. Unionmade's site, while beautiful, is often derided for its poor functionality.
In reality, SEO and "attractive" design are often incompatible. As Justin Taylor notes for Moz:

"The problem is simple. Websites that look amazing typically offer little opportunity for on-page optimisation and conversely pages that are well optimised will often compromise the design and user experience."

The key, as we see it, is to never compromise functionality in favor of beauty--and, as much as possible, to not compromise beauty in favor of excessive optimization.

So how do you design a SEO-friendly website? Focus first on how the website will appear to search engine crawlers. Your content must be rendered in a language the search engines understand.

"The easiest way to ensure that the words and phrases you display to your visitors are visible to search engines," Moz notes elsewhere, "is to place them in the HTML text on the page."

Additionally, you must present and streamlined website structure. As we noted in our post on website structure: "A good website is not simply a series of pages, but a carefully-plotted structure that describes, identifies, and classifies pages by topics and sub-topics."

Sound sexy? Perhaps not. But the world of search favors function over form. Speed and efficiency are more important than beauty. Yes, you can have both, but all is lost if browsers cannot access your content quickly and easily.
Other factors of SEO-friendly design, including meta tags and title tags, for example, assure that a website performs its essential role--to communicate information.

Fred: What We Learn About Design from Google's Latest Algorithm Update

Google's latest algorithm update has penalized ad-heavy sites--specifically sites that place ads "above the fold"--a phrase thatdescribes the content visible to a browser without scrolling down the page. Ideally, a website will offer content before ads, above the fold, yet many ad-heavy websites do the opposite. As Colt Ager notes for The Tech Reviewer:

"Understanding what 'above the fold' means is a basic, but critical component in web design. You want to be sure to design your website around this concept with your best and most appealing attributes shown in this area to entice readers to continue to scroll down to the content below the fold."

So your content above the fold should inspire a browser to scroll below the fold. Above the fold ads often inspire browsers to click away. The Sistrix study cites the case of Thefactlist.com, which lost 50% of its traffic post-Fred on Google UK. The layout before the update shows an ad-heavy page with two AdSense ads above the fold:

Source: Archive.org via Sistrix.com


As Sistrix notes: "Thefactsite.com seems to have quickly noticed the loss in rankings and made the decision to decrease their ads presence, above the fold. When we take a look at their layout today, there is only one ad block and their Visibility Index this week managed to recover."

Source: Archive.org via Sistrix.com

The design lesson here is clear, and confirms what the essential view we confirmed above: Google prefers sites that add value for the browser--and will penalize sites that seemingly focus on revenue generation to the detriment of content.
Of course, Google understands that websites must monetize, yet again, not to to the detriment of the content. And this is the essential point of Google-friendly website design: Prioritize user experience, in terms of content, usability, and speed. Otherwise, all attempts at monetization may be doomed to failure.

An SEO Company That Understands Website Design: Stempan's PC!

To build an effective, fully-optimized website, you need a web design and development company that understands SEO. 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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cross-Posting: The Single Worst Social Media Mistake

This week, while researching what others have written about Instagram and SEO, we discovered this bit of advice from the second resultLink Your Facebook and Twitter Profiles to Your Instagram Account. 

"Be sure to link your Twitter and Facebook profiles to your Instagram account," writes Misty McPadden of V3B.

You might have heard this advice before, from other so-called experts. McPadden's advice comes with a seemingly sensible rationale: "When your accounts are linked," she writes, "when you share on Twitter, it’ll be posted to your Twitter feed as a link and posted to your Facebook feed as photo with text. This will increase the visibility of your posts and build more engagement with your brand."

This rationale seems so sensible, in fact, that most companies wouldn't hesitate to follow McPadden's advice. It's easy to link accounts, after all, and to "cross-post" across multiple platforms.

However, we must ask, is the easiest choice always the best choice? And is McPadden's assertion true, that cross-posting will "build more engagement with your brand"?

Style Over Substance?

First, a word about Misty McPadden's company, V3B, which bills itself as "an innovative agency specializing in the digital space."

A glance at V3B's site reveals the sort of sleek digital marketing agency you're likely to find all over the SEO world today: an agency that offers "solutions" to "leverage the web for growth." Doubtlessly, a company like V3B can help your online marketing efforts. In fact, too many online businesses ignore the value of digital marketing agencies, like V3B, to disastrous consequences.

"The problem is simple," we recently wrote. "Many business owners are dissuaded by the cost of digital marketing."

Please Read: Are You a Part of the $65 Billion SEO Economy? Should You Be?

Obviously, cost is not the only determinant. In conversations with hundreds of business owners, we have learned that some online businesses are also dissuaded by the style of many digital marketing agencies. V3B's site, for example, is beautifully designed, streamlined and stylish, and for many, impersonal and cliché.

The Problem with Clichés

cli·ché noun 1. a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. 

Surely we don't need to define "cliché" for you--and, of course, you might know the problem with a cliché is the apparent ease of usage. A cliché is the crutch of a bored writer who cannot (at the moment, at least) think for him or herself. Instead of creating a language that speaks to others in a way that feels real, the bored writer mails it in, substituting buzz words or jargon for sincere thought.

George Orwell's description of clichés rings true:

"A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically ‘dead’...has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between those two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves."

George Orwell himself spawned a few clichés, most notably "Big Brother is Watching You."

Why You Should Not Link Your Social Media Accounts

Orwell's quote here reveals the problem with McPadden's advice to link your social media accounts. This advice, however sensible and easy, shows little to no real understanding of the nature of social media. Effective social media is about engagement. It is impossible to engage with anyone if you're attempting to (warning: cliché coming!)  kill three birds with one stone.

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram.

As we've said before: "Each platform is unique and should be respected as such. Respect each individual audience for what it is, and remember: be an active member of the community."

The advice to link accounts disregards the unique nature of each social media platform; it essentially favors quantity over quality.

A perfect example of this is Misty McPadden's Twitter account, which shows surprisingly little engagement for an account with nearly 46K followers. Perhaps this is because McPadden follows 42.1K people--or, really, no one. Just take a look at her "Tweet's and Replies." There's little to no conversation happening--none at all. One could be excused for believing the account was a spam bot.

To contrast, take a look at the "Tweets and Replies" of one our favorite Twitter personalities, Duchess Goldblatt. The Duchess is followed by a mere 5.5K people, 1/7 the amount of McPadden's followers, yet her tweets routinely receive many, many more likes and RTs than McPadden's tweets. We were fond of a tweet from today, which turned a cliché on its head:
What is the difference between the Duchess and accounts like McPadden's, that have tens of thousands of followers but relatively few likes and RTs? In a word, engagement--the cherished upshot, McPadden assures you, of linking your social media accounts.

Nonsense. True engagement requires a more nuanced approach, of the sort recommended by Ben Donker, a social media analyst at Link Humans and Microsoft:

"If you’re going to post the same content to multiple social networks because you want more people to see and benefit from that content, feel free to cross-promote but make sure you tailor the text to suit the network you’re posting it on and the audience that will be seeing your post. If you’re going to post the same content to multiple social networks just as a “filler”, please don’t."

Read: Why You Should Never Cross Post on Social Media

The "filler" Donker speaks of is, essentially, spam--quantity over quality. The analogy of email spam is relevant:

A spammer works on the principle of nearly 100% quantity. Blasting emails to millions, regardless of the recipient's preferences, spammers care little about the quality of their content. Instead, spammers play a numbers game, hoping for bare minimum conversions: 1% or less.

Sounds inefficient? Well, it is, in a sense. Yet a 1% conversion for one million emails is still 10,000. Would you like 10,000 customers? Perhaps. But if you're goal is a sustainable business, of course, spam is not the answer. Spam comes at a cost: when you spam, the quality of your brand image is degraded. You might attract 10,000 customers, but you positively repel 990,000 others. This is why we refer to spam as the lowest level of marketing, and why we believe is it entirely inefficient.

Read: Quality over Quantity: A Different View of SEO Marketing

The upshot: Be real. Engage.

The single worst social media mistake is playing the numbers game, favoring quantity--"increasing visibility," in McPadden's words--over quality.

Digital Marketing with Stepman's PC

If you're looking for a small SEO company that takes the time to communicate one-on-one with each client, 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 marketing campaigns.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

SEO 101: Consumer Email Guide

How do you connect with your customers? Social media? Content marketing? E-newsletters? A successful digital marketing campaign attempts to connect with customers across multiple platforms--ideally with unique content for each.

On this blog, you will find articles about building effective social media campaigns on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as well as "Five Simple Steps for the Social Media Newbie."

We've also written about the value of great content, the centerpiece of any content marketing campaign: "Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content" and "Content Marketing is Useless Without SEO." 

Both social media and content marketing attempt to accomplish the timeless goal of all marketing campaigns: to attract and engage a targeted audience.

But what if you already have an audience? Call it what you will, audience, target list, or followers, a succinctly defined (and refined) audience is marketing gold.

Consumer Emails: One of 88

The trick to leveraging your audience is much the same as attracting new customers: unique and effective content. Unfortunately, quality content creation is a shortcoming for many--or, really, most--established businesses. Many businesses, in fact, own impressive contact lists to absolutely no avail.

Many businesses send mass emails and newsletters without a great deal of intention--let alone editing or revision, the hallmarks of good writing.

Yet, for some reason, these businesses expect sub-par content to work like magic: to inspire some sort of conversion, like a click through.

A recent Email Statistics Report by The Radicati Group, estimated the average number of consumer emails sent and received each day to be about 88. The average office worker, incidentally, receives 121 emails each day. An impressive targeted list can not change this simple fact: Your email is one of 88--or, perhaps, 121.

So how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you inspire a click through?

Great content is a must. If you're writing emails or e-newsletters to your target list, however, you can improve your conversions by following three simple tips.

This image, from an article entitled "Please Unsubscribe Me: How Many Emails Are Too Many?", makes a strong case for testing the frequency of your emails. Yet most brands face a more elemental question: 
How do you craft a single effective email?


Write a Captivating Title

Obviously, you want your recipients to open your emails. Considering the deluge each person receives each day (88 emails!), you must attract attention from the get-go.

Without a captivating title, that speaks specifically to your target audience's needs or desires, your email will likely never see the light of day.

Writing for HubSpot, Ginny Mineo collected 18 of the Best Email Subject Lines You've Ever Read, from Barack Obama's "Hey" to this humdinger from Thrillist: "DO NOT Commit These Instagram Atrocities."

"I always ask myself one question before opening an email," writes Mineo. "Will opening this email be a waste of time? Typically, the answer to this question is based entirely on the effectiveness of the subject line."

Mineo's article offers helpful insight on how to craft an effective, captivating title. As Obama's "Hey" proves, it's not all about surprising your audience. The key is enticement. When writing a title, you have one goal--to inspire a click.

Design a Succesful Template

Many businesses spend hours creating consumer email content only to waste the content on a poorly-designed layout. The way your email looks is important. Chunky blocks of text, for example, might repel readers. Some experts even advise abandoning paragraphs altogether for lists or bullet points.

Remember, even when your email is opened, your readers are likely pressed for time. Pay attention to font, font size, and paragraph length. Attract readership with a clean, simple presentation.

Salesforce's Pardot, which offers B2B marketing automation, collected 7 Examples of Succesful Email Templates with some helpful tips:

"Research has shown that people scan emails in an “F” shaped pattern," Jenn Hannington writes for Pardot. "Keep this in mind when creating your templates. Important information should be at the top, including your company logo, your call to action, and any key points that you’d like readers to take away from your email."

Beyond the necessity of designing a good template, however, remember: Your actual content is the most important element of a consumer email. We especially like this tip from Hannington, which speaks to a core organic SEO practice:

"If you know your readers’ interests, send them content that’s specifically related to those interests. Add value by including additional content that your recipients might find useful."

Optimize for Mobile

Remember, most of your consumer will be reading emails on mobile devices. As with websites, no one wants to read an email that is not optimized for a mobile device. Make sure your template translates well to email, lest your consumers suffer the indignity of pinching and zooming.

Writing for Marketing Land, Chad White created an insightful guide for optimizing consumer emails for the mobile experience: The Five Levels of Mobile-Friendly Emails.

"What’s certain is that with the majority of B2C brands using mobile-friendly email design," Write writes, "consumer expectations are rising. Increasingly, they’ll be expecting an email and Web experience that works on smartphones and tablets. That also means that if you’re not being mobile-friendly, the risks to your brand image and to subscriber engagement are rising, too."

The word "risk" here is apropos: By neglecting the quality of your consumer emails you do your customers and your brand a disservice--in short, you may do more harm than good.

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, March 10, 2017

SEO vs. Spam: New Google Algorithm Update (Fred), Same Old Story

If spam is the plague of the Internet, organic SEO, if performed correctly and with integrity, is the white knight. Unfortunately, many people associate SEO with spam--a link that likely dates to the mid-1990s, when the first search engines began cataloging and ranking websites.

At the time, many keen entrepreneurs recognized the value of digital marketing. Compared to traditional marketing--on radio and TV, or in the pages of local newspapers or magazines--digital marketing was convenient, effective, and much less costly.

The new market for digital marketing created opportunities for webmasters who understood how to increase website visibility by working with--or often against--the algorithms.

Those working with the algorithms, so-called White Hat SEOs, attempted to make their sites easier for the search engines to "crawl," by creating streamlined pages with precise HTML language. The search engines crawled these websites then returned information, such as relevant keywords and links, to an "index." Once stored in the index, the websites could be retrieved for any number of relevant browser searches.

Those working against the algorithm, so-called Black Hat SEOs, recognized the early emphasis on keywords and links, and attempted to manipulate the algorithms by manipulating code, chiefly placing excessive keywords in each page; and by creating artificial websites, ten, twenty, or more, owned by a single website, and built for the purpose of creating links to the original website.

What distinguished the White Hat from Back Hat at the time was an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Even then, as the effectiveness of SEO, both White Hat and Back Hat, became more apparent, search engines developed new algorithms to curtail keyword abuse and "bad links."

The latter changes were seemingly intended to combat the spammy practices of Black Hat SEO. Yet search engines also developed a paid alternative, Pay Per Click (PPC), which now offered a viable alternative to organic ranking--and the practices of White Hat SEO.

With PPC, website owners pay for each click delivered to their website by a search engine's own advertising. PPC created a new environment online, and may have inadvertently increased spam.

With PPC, most websites, regardless of quality, could now pay for clicks. At the same time, PPC made the challenge of White Hat SEO all the more apparent. Yes, compared to PPC, organic SEO was free, but the practice required knowledge and a studious devotion to detail.

Today, of course, organic SEO is the exact opposite of spam. Spam requires no knowledge, is inattentive to detail, and requires no time commitment.

Unfortunately, early Black Hat practitioners defined SEO for a generation or more.

"Thankfully," as we've noted before, "this practice is increasingly irrelevant, but Black Hat SEO has proved effective in the past. Techniques such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, and the creation of duplicate content continue to haunt the Internet, compromising businesses and personal users alike"

New Google Algorithm Update: Fred

For this reason, Google (and other search engines) continue to perfect the algorithm, and ever so often the SEO world is abuzz with news of a major change. Today, for example, Search Engine Land reported that a "New, unconfirmed Google ranking update [has] shake[d] the SEO world":

"Since yesterday morning," Barry Schwartz writes, "the SEO industry has been watching an unconfirmed Google ranking update that seems to target more of the link quality aspects of the overall algorithm."

The same industry, noting Google's recent step away from reporting on algorithm updates, is calling this update Fred.

Not that Fred.
Does this recent update matter for your site? Hopefully not--hopefully you won't need to give it a second thought. Just like SEO trend articles, we believe you can safely ignore most news about Google's algorithm changes.

What is important, of course, is understanding the difference between practices that may get your site penalized by new algorithm updates and truly organic and timeless practices--in other words, the difference between Black Hat and White Hat SEO.

SEO vs. Spam

Only recently, with the help of Google, has true, organic SEO emerged from the shadow of the Black Hats. Today, organic SEO is a valued practice, which stands in contrast to spam. On its Webmaster Tools "help" page entitled "Do You Need an SEO?", Google cites an email from a spammer that is just plain ridiculous (and funny):

"Dear google.com, I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories..."

"Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue," Google warns. "Amazingly, we get these spam emails too. Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for 'burn fat at night' diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators."

No one takes spam seriously. Unfortunately, since spam is so often associated with SEO, many website owners do not take SEO seriously. However, to use the hyperbolic language of spam to prove a point: If you're a website owner, this simple mistake could doom your business.

If performed correctly and with integrity, SEO is, indeed, serious business.

A good SEO campaign means the difference between success and failure.

So how do you find a good search engine optimization specialist. Why not trust Google? We suggest asking any potential specialist the following questions from Google:
  • Can you show me examples of your previous work and share some success stories? 
  • Do you follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines? 
  • Do you offer any online marketing services or advice to complement your organic search business? 
  • What kind of results do you expect to see, and in what timeframe? 
  • How do you measure your success? 
  • What's your experience in my industry? 
  • What's your experience in my country/city? 
  • What's your experience developing international sites? 
  • What are your most important SEO techniques? 
  • How long have you been in business? 
  • How can I expect to communicate with you? 
  • Will you share with me all the changes you make to my site, and provide detailed information about your recommendations and the reasoning behind them?
Organic SEO with Stepman's PC

The Organic SEO Blog is sponsored by an SEO specialist who will happily answer each of these questions for you. Alex Stepman, of Stepmans PC is the epitome of the white knight SEO. We believe this blog is a testament to Alex's integrity. After all, our mission is to offer knowledge, with a studious attention to detail. This work, of course, takes time, but we believe we're fighting a good fight against dark practices like spam.

If you're serious about website performance we suggest calling Alex: 215-900-9398. We list this number, of course, to promote Alex, but also to offer a resource for any questions you might have about SEO.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

How Does Google Rank Websites and Keywords?

Online success is often based on a simple measurement: popularity, evident in search engine results. For most search engines, this measurement is based on several criteria or "ranking factors," including website content and the number and quality of incoming links to a website from other sites.

The digital marketing world is crowded with "ranking" resources. By measuring the popularity of keywords, web pages, and websites, these resources claim to help digital marketers improve ranking.

SEMrush offers a ranking tool as part of its "All-in-one Marketing Toolkit," which claims to "boost digital marketing efforts."

Moz Pro's Rank Tracker, billed as "Your Search Engine Rank Tracking Tool," claims "to save time and improve your SERP rankings."

Many digital marketing websites offer similar ranking services, each providing unique scores based on unique parameters.

No doubt, these tools can be helpful, especially for enterprising website owners. In essence, however, these tools replicate the work of search engines

As Moz Pro notes, "Moz Pro’s powerful rank tracking software tool retrieves search engine rankings for pages and keywords, and stores them for easy comparison later. No need to manually check daily."

This "manual check," of course, refers to a daily search. For many websites, in fact, Google is the only necessary tool to measure the ranking of different websites, pages, and keywords. The "tools" offered by Moz and others are helpful for some, but not helpful for all. For many websites, entry into the digital marketing world relies on a streamlined view--and no tool offers the ease and accessibility of Google.

Why Google? If a digital marketing firm uses the term "website ranking," and promises a "high" website ranking, they are likely talking about Google ranking, and nothing else.

To check a "ranking," a simple search is often all you need.

So How Does Google Rank Websites?

In a recent announcement about its core algorithm, Google referred to "200 unique signals or 'clues' that make it possible to surface what you might be looking for." These signals, often referred to as "ranking factors," are a popular source of speculation for SEO experts. In the end, though, much of the speculation is exactly--mere speculation.

The top ranking page (on Google) for "Google's Ranking factors" is Backlinko's "complete list" of 200 ranking factors. However, Brian Dean, Backlinko's founder, admits upfront: "Some are proven. Some are controversial. Others are SEO nerd speculation."

As we noted above, though, the important ranking factors are obvious.

In the recent algorithm announcement, Google clarified some important factors: "These signals include things like the specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank."

PageRank, incidentally, is generally believed to be a measure of the quality of incoming links. PageRank is not to be confused with RankBrain, another component of Google's algorithm, which uses machine learning to gather information about websites, and which was confirmed by Google to be the "third most important factor."

Google has also seemingly confirmed the top two ranking factors. As Search Engine Land reported last year, "In a Q&A with Google, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors were links and content."

 "I can tell you what they are," Lippattsev said. "It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site."

Inbound links--"links pointing to your site"--can come from anywhere: blog, forums, personal websites, corporate websites. Google treats each incoming link as a "vote," although some votes count more than others. A link from The New York Times, for example is more important than a link from your mother's blog. Still, every link counts: When another website creates a link to your website, they are saying to Google, and the rest of the web, "This is a good website."

This vote, of course, is about your content. The best content is relevant to your audience, yet also relevant to another website's readers. 

So Google uses RankBrain and PageRank, two algorithm tools, to measure the quality of your content and links. Based on these measurements, your website is compared to other websites and ranked.

Of course, each ranking is relevant only to a specific keyword search? For this reason, most digital marketing and SEO campaigns try, first, to achieve a high ranking for several keywords.

What is Keyword Ranking? 

Most successful websites are optimized for specific keywords. (Please read our post on the difference between optimizing for keywords alone and quality content). So what does keyword ranking mean? 

A keyword is the word or phrase you type into a browser. When you perform a search for any given keyword, Google scours its database to find examples of websites that match your query. Imagine all of these websites are well-optimized; all deserve to be on the Google’s first page results. However, there are only twelve available spots per page. So who will occupy the top spots? To deliver the best results, Google compares websites by rank. Let's say out of thirty well-optimized websites eight have high rankings--only these websites will appear on the first page results. All other websites will be placed on the second and third page results.

This is, in essence, the definition of a high ranking as well as"keyword" ranking: a website that beats other well-optimized sites because it has received many clicks, or many incoming links, based on a certain keywords. 

How Important is Ranking?

For most websites, a first page ranking is a perennial, yet often elusive goal. However, a first-page ranking does not necessarily equate to increased profits. As Josh Stelmle notes in Forbes: "Search engine rank is the metric focused on more widely than any other, and yet in only rare cases is it the metric that matters most."

What matters more than ranking? Well, a ranking is only as important relative to the amount of traffic your website can convert into profits. Too often websites focus on ranking, but neglect this crucial point:

Increasing traffic to your site is a pivotal goal, but true success requires the right traffic: targeted visitors, interested in your product or service. SEO is about refining a website's content and design to attract this targeted audience, the sort of audience most likely to lead to conversions--when a visitor performs a desired action, like purchasing a product or clicking a link.

So don't worry too much about ranking. Instead, focus on satisfying the needs and desires of your ideal customer. If you do this, the top ranking will come, but it won't matter--you'll already be profitable. 

Digital Marketing & Website SEO with 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.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Organic SEO: Increase Sales, Reduce Costs

Even in today’s tech-obsessed business world, digital marketing is often discounted as a mere additional expense. Conventional wisdom tells businesses to limit costs, and many business owners see digital marketing as a risky investment--an expense that may or may not increase sales.

 When faced with the decision to invest in digital marketing, then, these same business owners inevitably choose to limit costs. In reality, you don't have to choose. Here is a secret successful online businesses know: Digital marketing--specifically organic SEO--can increase sales while reducing costs.

Digital marketing--specifically SEO--improves the quality of your content and the speed and efficiency of your website. The result is increased conversions and decreased costs. [Photo Source]

Digital Marketing: Quality > Quantity 

Obviously, different digital marketing firms employ different techniques with varying results. Some firms use traditional marketing techniques such as banner or website ads. These sort of display ads reach many people, but the click-through rates for these ads have been plummeting for years.

Of course, display ads can be targeted to specific demographics--but demographics alone do not define a unique customer base. For most people, the Internet is inescapable, integrating, informing, and often defining daily lives. Display ads act as intrusions. Inevitably, we confront display ads in the wrong place at the wrong time, and often in the wrong state of mind.

We use the Internet to be more efficient, to accomplish specific goals--and when we confront an unwanted ad, we click away. Are all advertisements ineffective?

Alice Truong, writing for Quartz, notes a distinction between display ads and native ads: "Display advertisements on websites—the kind that stand apart from the content and invite you to click through for more information—are widely seen as ineffective and annoying. That perception is confirmed in a new study that found native ads, which blend into a website’s design and sometimes even offer related content, more engaging than traditional display ads."

The study Truong cites--linked in her article--and covered more extensively here, also reveals that native ads are consumed in the same way as original content, and that consumers look at both native ads and original content for roughly the same amount of time.

The distinction this study reveals between traditional ads and native ads speaks to an elemental point: Banner or website ads rely on quantity—reaching as many people as possible without concern about the consumer’s tastes or preferences. This is also called spam. Digital marketing, instead, endorses quality.

Traditional marketing techniques, like display ads, do not translate to online success--
most displays ad are dismissed as mere spam.
[Photo Source]
Organic SEO: Increase Sales while Reducing Costs 

Native advertising is seamlessly blends into a website's existing content--content that a browser is already looking for. Why else would the browser click to the website in the first place? However, the challenge of attracting visitors to the website still remains. The Internet empowers businesses small or large, local or global, to profit from direct and immediate access to targeted customers.

However, no company will realize this singular benefit merely by creating a website Most websites, even newly-developed websites, are not effectively marketed--most websites, in fact, amount to little more than a high-priced digital business card.

The key, of course, is finding a digital marketing strategy that makes sense for your business. If your concern is cost, the best possible solution is organic SEO. Organic SEO is not a technology; it’s not a tool; and it’s not special equipment. It is a strategy applied to a website’s content, and partially to technical development aspects, that empowers the site to be easily “crawled” by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.

Search engines like Google are always hungry for new, exciting, and informative content. You never know what a visitor has in mind when browsing your site. You can only hope your content, including text, images, and video, will transform your visitor into a customer--a conversion. Likewise, your website should offer the best experience for visitors. Speed and reliability matter.

If your website loads quickly, visitors will easily navigate between pages, and will be less likely to visit other websites for the same product or service. In working with the search engine algorithms, organic SEO practices targeted marketing. Banner ads may or may not reach your intended customer. Organic SEO, on the other hand, helps your intended customers find your website with ease.

Unlike advertising, however, both traditional and native, organic SEO is not tied to any specific cost. You can perform your own search engine optimization by using the tips and tricks detailed on this blog.

The Organic SEO Blog is sponsored by a top SEO specialist, Alex Stepman of Stepman's PC. If you're a website owner in need of SEO, we suggest calling Alex today. If you're hesitant to try SEO, we suggest reading our series of articles for website owners: 215-900-9398.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

What is "Organic" SEO?

An "organic search result" appears on a search engine results page (SERP) because it is relevant to a browser's query.

The search engine industry uses this term to make a distinction between results that satisfy the search engine's algorithm and paid results. Google calls an organic result a "free listing," whereas "non-organic search results are paid advertisements."

This is the standard definition you will find, say, on the Wikipedia page for "organic search." However, in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), the meaning of "organic" is more nuanced.

Why "Organic"?

For most people the word "organic" conjures images of the bountiful fruit and vegetable displays at Whole Foods Market. For a select few "organic" conjures a discipline in chemistry.

Few people, however, are familiar with the word "organic" as it applies to search engine results and search engine optimization (SEO).

For all of these examples, one definition of "organic" is relevant. From Merriam-Websteror·gan·ic : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms.

Organic Strawberries from Whole Foods Market
For the first two examples--produce and chemistry--the relation to "living organisms" is obvious. Of course, a search engine's results cannot be classified as living, carbon-based organisms. Nevertheless, search is alive.

The Six Pixels of Separation explains Twitter and Facebook's "living" nature quite eloquently: Twitter and Facebook are "living organisms that change, evolve and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated."

The same explanation can be applied to search engines results. Just like living organisms, search engine results "change, evolve, and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated."

What is Organic SEO?

To appear on the first page of search engine results, a website has two options: organic SEO or paid advertising. Organic SEO describes the use of certain strategies or tools to elevate a website's content in the "free" search results.

Many websites use a mix of organic SEO and paid advertising to ensure placement on the first SERP. Organic SEO can be the most cost-effective solution to online marketing, yet SEO can take time to produce a first page result. 

The goal of organic SEO, of course, is to maintain a high placement on the "free" search results. To do so, organic SEO as a discipline studies the search engine's ever-changing algorithms to keep up with the evolution of organic search. This work can be tedious and time-consuming. 

As Wikipedia's helpful article on SEO notes: "According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day."

Google's goal, of course, is to increase the quality of organic results. Organic SEO, then, works with the search engine algorithms to produce quality content that satisfies the algorithm.

Even then, the guiding principle of Organic SEO is to "write for users, not search engines."

Although organic SEO and search engine algorithms often focus on technical aspects of search, the goal for both, in the end, is to promote quality content to users.