Saturday, November 30, 2013

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

Thanksgiving 2013 has come and gone, so has Black Friday, and the official/unofficial holiday shopping season is off to an uproarious start. If you were wise enough to stay home on Friday, you happily missed the crowds, the fights, and the shootings! At the Organic SEO Blog, we can't help but wonder, "What's the point?" After all, many news outlets are reporting that Black Friday deals may not be all they're cracked up to be. The Wall Street Journal's blog, Speakeasy, notes:

"If you could pick only one month a year to shop, it would be December. Regardless of whether the economy is humming or slumping, retailers drop prices in December to either pad their bottom lines or try to save their years. This will be especially true this year because Thanksgiving is late in the month, leaving fewer shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas. So you’ll find lots of good deals if you wait until December to do your shopping."

In the same post, Speakeasy also notes the surging popularity of Cyber Monday:

"Cyber Monday sales once paled in comparison to Black Friday sales, but they’ve gotten much better in recent years. For that reason, this year it is easier than ever to make the case that you can save a lot by shopping on Cyber Monday."

For this reason, and more, the Organic SEO blog advocates Cyber Monday shopping for the best experience and deals. 

Now, so far we've been exploring the shopper's perspective. But what about the sellers?  Cyber Monday is a crucially important day for website owners, especially small website owners. For many website owners, a tremendous shopping day like Cyber Monday can often mean the difference between turning a profit or not. Unfortunately, the competition is truly remarkable. Millions of websites vie for the attention of Cyber Monday shoppers.

So how can you ensure that your website will stand out in your niche industry? Organic SEO, of course! The natural website optimization strategies we've advocated on this blog can catapult your website to the top of your industry. With the focus on sales, now is a good time to pay special attention to the following SEO strategies:

1. Perform a Website Audit

Now is a great time to perform a website audit to make sure your website is easily crawled by the major search engines and that your website design is user-friendly. You want to make sure you have no broken links or other problems that might disrupt a browser's experience. Our sponsor, Stepmans PC, offers a website audit service designed with organic SEO in mind.

2. Create a Unique Cyber Monday Landing Page

Obviously, this advice is not specific to Cyber Monday. If you would like to promote a specific product or service, make sure you offer a unique landing page optimized with appropriate keywords. If you are promoting a Cyber Monday deal, for example, you'll want to make sure you use that phrase on the page's title tag as well as on the page itself.

3. Increase Your Speed

A website audit can tell you if you're website is performing at optimal speed. You want to make sure that users can navigate from page-to-page quickly without any lag time. Remember, if a browse is forced to wait on your site, he/she might just as well open another tab, and forget all about your site!

4. Perform a Language Audit

We're writers here at the Organic SEO blog, so we're focused on language, but as a website owner hoping to attract business, you should be too. Language mistakes can trick the search engines, and lead browsers astray. The most profitable websites only display the best, error-free language. A website cannot be fully optimized if the language is not crystal-clear and error-free. A good SEO specialist should employ one or several copywriters who can perform this sort of work for your site.

5. Monitor Your Performance and Analyze Your Competitors

The only way to truly improve your website's performance is to monitor its day-to-day success and compare that success to your competitors. A one-day sale like Cyber Monday offers the unique opportunity to analyze your website's performance on a day when shoppers are intently browsing for products and services. If your competitors succeed and you don't succeed--well, that might mean that you need to tweak your approach to better suit your potential customers.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bad Links? Bad News!

Link-building has been a hallmark of SEO since the beginning. For a search engine like Google, the links between sites have offered clues to the relative relevancy and popularity of every website. Attracting quality links from well-respected sites has traditionally been one of the best ways to improve a site's placement. Today, most well-optimized sites enjoy a variety of quality links from across the Internet.

Unfortunately, link-building has been abused over the years by certain Black Hat SEO specialists. In fact, if not for link-building abuse, Google might not have ever created its Penguin algorithm. At the time, Google clarified its definition of a "bad" or "artificial" link:

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

Many SEO specialists lamented the change. Some even wondered: "Is link-building dead?" At the time, however, The Organic SEO Blog (and its sponsor, Stepmans PC) rejoiced! After all, the purpose of the new algorithm, to punish those websites and SEO specialists that built bad or artificial links, could only advance the work of the SEO specialists who had played by the rules and built links based on relationships, integrity, and quality content.

In our opinion, a true SEO specialist would never, ever build a "fake" link.

A fake link? You might ask: how can a link be fake if it works?

It's partly about a link's traffic flow. To Google and all other search engines, a "real" link is a one-way link: a link that points directly from one site to another. In the past, Black Hat SEO specialists had created links to a site in exchange for a return link. Google delegitimized this sort of link-building before Penguin. However, many savvy website developers knew about this limitation and tried to bypass Google with SEO tricks.

One especially destructive trick populated the Internet with a load of bad sites. Black Hat SEO specialists created multiple websites, up to ten or more, all owned by one website, and built for the explicit purpose of creating links to the primary website. With all the incoming links, the primary website leaped in the rankings.

Of course, this trick did not work for long. Google launched an algorithm update to punish this sort of link scheme. With Penguin, it appeared that this type of Black Hat practice had become "old hat."

As we noted above, the Penguin algorithm only helped the high-quality SEO specialists who had worked hard to create quality websites that attracted quality links. The only links that have ever truly mattered are those that arrive from relevant and high-quality sites. Relevancy is so important. Links from sites that aren't relevant to your site confuse browsers, and can now potentially hurt your site's ranking.

Has your SEO specialist removed your bad links? If not, you're in trouble. Now's the time to contact a reputable link removal service or quality SEO specialist, like Stepmans PC. After you remove your bad links, it's time to start thinking about how to build good links. We'll discuss this essential practice in next week's blog. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, remember: then, as now with the latest algorithm update, Hummingbird, the key for all SEO specialists is to pay studious attention to Google's every move.

With each new algorithm or algorithm update, Google studiously explains why the new algorithm is necessary, what will happen if you don’t follow the rules, and how to update your website to meet the new SEO standards. Yes, Google reveals this information. You might not know where to find it, but it certainly exists. A well-trained SEO professional will always stay up-to-date with all the major SEO techniques and updates.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Natural Website Optimization: A Helpful Video

If you're a regular reader of The Organic SEO blog, you probably know that we believe everyone website needs organic website optimization. Without organic SEO, most websites are merely high-priced business cards. Why? Not all website developers build search engine-friendly sites—and if your site cannot be easily discovered by search engines, it is essentially invisible.

Our sponsor, Stepmans PC, knows exactly what search engines like to see. They build beautiful, custom-made websites from scratch, and develop all sites for optimal search engine performance.

But what does this process look like? If you're a website owner, you might've avoided SEO simply because the process itself seems esoteric. After all, why pay for a service that you do not understand?

Well, just as you search for a trusted mechanic for your beautiful car, it is important to search for a trusted SEO specialist for your website. Just remember: you do not need to completely understand SEO to find a good SEO specialist. However, the more you know, the better equipped you will be to hire the best specialist as well as communicate your unique needs.

Of course, if you're thinking about hiring an SEO specialist, and you want to learn more about Organic SEO, we suggest reading our blog. ;) You might start here: "How to Select an SEO Company." And if you're interested specifically in the process of SEO, Stepmans PC has created an engaging video to teach you the basics. Enjoy!

As always, if you have any questions, please leave it in the comments below.

Natural Website Optimization: A Video

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Google's New Algorithm: A New Crucial Question

Since we've been writing about Google's new algorithm launch in late September, SEO specialists across the globe have been striving to update their client's websites to meet the new requirements. Much of this updating concerns the websites' infrastructure--precise, tedious work best suited to an SEO professional. Now, more then ever, your SEO professional is your best friend. However, website owners would also do well to pay attention to the new requirements, and to act now to meet the algorithm's new challenges.

What new challenges?

Well, the new algorithm will effect up to 90% of search results, but perhaps the most salient feature is Google's evolving 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...rather than single words or simple phrases."

Over the years, most SEO specialists have urged their clients to think about their product or service in terms of highly-specific keywords. Although we believe this practice is an essential SEO strategy, we've also urged website owners to use keywords judiciously, and to compose text that focuses on relevance and quality. The over-use and misuse of keywords has been a scourge of the Internet. We've wrote about "keyword stuffing" before. Please read: "For SEO, Content is King."

Egregious keyword stuffing might be one reason Google has decided to update the algorithm. As we learn more about the new algorithm, we see that specific keywords might be losing precedence to more generally informative content. After all, by evolving to answer more complex questions, Google seems to be acknowledging that people no longer search by keywords alone. Instead of searching merely for "dress shoes", for example, a dapper young gentleman might be more inclined to search for "the best dress shoes for a dapper young gentleman". 

If you own a website that sells shoes, then, you might focus less on the keyword "dress shoes", and instead write new content that attempts to answer the question: What is the best dress shoe for a dapper young gentleman?

We've written before about how SEO can help you clarify your business offering: By participating in a thoughtful natural website optimization campaign, a website owner must clarify his/her business offering to his/herself. In that article, we urged website owners to imagine an Internet user searching for their 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. If you are an expert tailor in Philadelphia, perhaps you might simply choose the following keywords: 'expert tailor Philadelphia.' But that cannot be your only option. You must think of many possibilities!"

Now we must update our advice to reflect Google's new algorithm. Website owners can no longer think simply in terms of keywords. The new crucial question for any website owner is simple: What question(s) does your product or service answer?

This new paradigm is, by nature, customer-focused. Instead of asking a website to define its product specifically with a few keywords, we must now ask a website to anticipate its customers questions--and to answer them with relevant content. The best way to create new content now is by setting out with a question in mind--and then answering that question as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible.

So, ask yourself: What question does my product answer? And then write about it!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Drag and Drop Websites: Are They Worth Your Time?

Are you thinking about building your own website? If you're a business-owner, and you hope to make money from your website, a custom-made site is definitely your best option. Custom-made websites are designed and built from the ground up, typically for a single company, product, or service. Many design companies offer template websites for the use of a variety of clients. Template-designed websites share a similar look, feel, and functionality. In contrast, a design company like The Organic SEO Blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC, offers custom designs, crafted for each unique brand. We feel these custom-made sites are more attractive and certainly more marketable.

If you're considering hiring a design company to build a custom-made website, please read our essential guide for website owners: "Building a Website: Read This First."

Now, a custom-made site is certainly not your only option. A simple Google search, for example, for "build a website" highlights a host of D.I.Y. "drag and drop" website builders. Sites like Wix and Squarespace promise a quick and simple D.I.Y. experience. Here is how Weebly, one of the most popular sites, explains its "Drag and Drop" service:

"Build a professional-looking, interactive website that's reflective of your business simply by dragging and dropping site elements onto your web pages. Easily integrate videos, pictures, maps, contact forms, a blog and more."

Drag and drop sites can be a good option for individuals or small businesses with a limited budget and a need for a basic website structure. As stated above, a drag and drop site easily integrates a variety of elements into a simple template design. With a drag and drop website like Weebly, you could wake up in the morning with an idea for a website and build your website before lunch!

However, keep in mind, the limited cost (often these services are FREE) can also be a drawback. Obviously, the work of creating a custom-made website design is far more complex than using a drag and drop pre-built template. This complexity demands a higher cost.

What are you paying for?

1. Well, of course, a unique site that you can call your own (Weebly users do not own their sites).

2. And perhaps more importantly, a site that can be easily optimized

Unlike a custom-made website, a website built by drag and drop will necessarily have limited SEO functionality. Of course, you might be able to perform a few SEO upgrades, such as acquiring your own domain name, and creating engaging content with the judicious use of keywords. But really, a drag and drop website cannot be optimized in a way that will truly produce results, and if you're business-owner, and hope to make money from your website, this is a serious problem.

The website Weebly Forums (an independent company in now way associated with Weebly), has written a handy breakdown of the pros and cons of attempting to optimize a Weebly-built website: Weebly SEO Review--The Pros and Cons. If you follow that link, you'll notice that the pros are generally tools accessible to any website owner; the cons, on the other hand, are more technical--the type of work you might hire an SEO firm to perform.

This is an important distinction, and it points to a simple truth: Weebly's websites can only be optimized in the most elementary ways--not in the sophisticated ways that can truly make a difference for a business, and certainly not in the ways that can inspire first page placement on Google or any other search engine.

You want to make money, right? Then you need website optimization. And if you want true website optimization, you should avoid Weebly. Otherwise, as we're fond of saying at The Organic SEO Blog, your site is essentially a business card. You can tell people you meet about your site; and you can send people your site's link. But your demographic will remain appreciably small, and you won't attract business from across the Internet world.