Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to Increase Your Facebook Likes--and Why

How do you increase your Facebook "Likes"? It's a simple question. The answer is quite simple, too. Yet, a simple Google search yields an incredible diversity of answers--from the esoteric to the practical. You might be told, for example to "post often, but not too often" or to "keep it short."

Neither of these answers is false, but neither is necessarily true. Infrequent posting does not necessarily diminish the Likes you receive per post. And there is no real evidence that shorts posts attract more Likes than longer posts.

Still, a great deal of of the advice on Google will help you increase your Likes. Much of this advice is obvious. If you're a frequent user of Facebook, after all, you've probably noticed what type of posts attract the most attention. Even if your own posts do not attract attention, perhaps you've noticed which of your friend's post do.

Yet we believe the sheer amount of advice negates the value of attracting more Likes.

More Likes, of course, might tickle your fancy. Perhaps there is value in this. For many, in fact, this is the only value. If you're reading this blog, though, you just might think about value in different terms.

Social media provides a platform for exposing your unique image to the world. Whether you're a brand or an individual, you can benefit greatly from social media. These benefits are obvious: increased exposure, for example, can lead to more opportunities.

And this just might be the problem. After all, what type of opportunities are you looking for? If you follow a great deal of the advice for attracting more Likes, your opportunities will look a lot like a hamster wheel: attracting more Likes will grant you the opportunity to...attract more Likes, endlessly.

But just know this: if you're attempting to artificially attract more Likes by manipulating Facebook's algorithm, by posting at certain times, with a certain length, and so on, you very well might attract more likes--of the artificial type. In a way, this is tantamount to practicing a form of Black Hat SEO. You're just trying to manipulate the algorithm.

But you, brave readers of the Organic SEO Blog--you do not want artificial Likes! To attract true attention, the type that inspires action, you need to only to follow two simple rules.

But first, what do we mean by action? As we've reported before, Facebook drives the majority of social media traffic. Last year, in fact, a report from Shareaholic revealed that Facebook dominates the social media referral game.

Of the eight top social media sites, Facebook refers much more traffic than all the other sites combined...
Action, then, is more than a mere Like. It's a click.

When you truly engage on social media, you can more easily inspire your friends (stop calling them followers; and please stop calling them your audience) to take an action, like clicking a link. You choose the link destination, of course, but the power to influence people to click, wherever the click may lead them, is the true value of attention. 

So what are the two simple rules for increasing your Facebook "Likes"?

1. Be an active member of the community. Engage. If you're a sincere individual (or brand) who understands social media, you know that engagement is everything. 

2. Create quality content. This is so obvious it scarcely needs to be mentioned. Yet each day we log onto Facebook, we're stunned by the apparent disregard for truly quality content. 

If you'd like to learn more about quality content, please read any number of our articles labeled, well, content

These are the only two simple rules you need to know. Of course, however, engagement and quality content are not easily achieved. Both take time and thoughtfulness. But hey, you want your Likes to matter, right?

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Algorithms Have Consequences: "Mobilegeddon"

We've written before about how algorithms have real world consequences. Remember #Ferguson? Remember the ice bucket challenge? Both occurred around the same time. It was natural that the ice bucket challenge would dominate Facebook--and not Twitter. After all, the point was to share a video of your "challenge," and at the time Facebook was more amenable to posting and sharing videos. (Twitter only introduced their mobile video feature in January, 2015). Yet it seemed strange that only Twitter was talking about the story that had gripped the nation: the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a cop, in Ferguson, Missouri.

In fact, people on Facebook were talking about Ferguson. The talk just wasn't showing up on most people's News Feeds. Why? At the time, there was much speculation that Facebook's algorithm had somehow buried the story. To some, this amounted to algorithmic censorship. As Zeynep Tufekci wrote at the time:

"But I wonder: what if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure. Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?"

Tufecki went on to say, famously, "algorithms have consequences."

Unfortunately, for many websites this simple statement will ring particularly true this week. On Tuesday, Google rolled out a new algorithm for mobile rankings--an event many in the media have taken to call "mobilegeddon."

Mobilegeddon, indeed, at least for some sites. We've been writing for weeks about this update, imploring website owners to make sure their websites are optimized for mobile--or else! Before we get to that "or else", we'll answer the simplest of questions: How do you know if your website is optimized for mobile?

1. You can easily take Google's "Mobile-Friendly Test."

2. Alternately, Google your website from your mobile device. Since November, Google has distinguished mobile-friendly sites with a "Mobile-Friendly" tag in search results.

3. You can look for that "Mobile-Friendly" tag, or simply view your site on a mobile device. If you looks like the website below, you might have some problems.

Tiny text: a hallmark of a not-so-mobile-friendly page.

We profiled the website above in a prior article about the change. At the time, the page actually ranked third on a search for "summer blazer." Googling the same phrase today on the same device, we see that the page now ranks sixth--and likely, soon, it will fall off the top page entirely--unless the site optimizes for mobile. 

The downfall of an article about "the summer blazers every man needs" is trivial. (We're tickled by the plural "blazers"--every man needs multiple summer blazers?!) But Google's algorithm updates can have real world consequences that are anything but trivial. 

In one of its article about "mobilegeddon" the BBC profiled the case of Out There Interiors, a web-only furniture store:

"For any online retailer, appearing on page one of Google's search results can make all the difference between a profitable business and one heading for the scrapyard.

Just ask Jenny Hurren, owner of a furniture retailer called Out There Interiors which sells its products exclusively online.

Search Google for "mirrored furniture" and her site pops up on page one...

But in 2011 when Google released the Panda update to its search engine, disaster struck.

'We went from having page one positions, to being nowhere or page six or seven,' she remembers. 'It had a massive impact, we almost lost the business because of that algorithm change.'"

The case of Jenny's furniture store is not unique. The algorithm can make or break many a business. Now, we do have a quibble with the BBC article, which continues:

"Since then, she has tried to depend less on crude SEO techniques, more on the kind of PR which will get the firm linked to from high-quality sources, and so boost its search ranking."

No doubt, certain SEO techniques can be crude. But the author of this article, Rory Cellan-Jones, a "technology correspondent", is likely referring generally to the practice of SEO. How do we know? Well, he seems to misunderstand SEO. Remember, high quality SEO necessarily includes good PR, and acquiring links from "high-quality sources" (by creating spectacular content) is the hallmark of any high-quality SEO firm.

In any case, the writing is on the wall for sites that have not been optimized for mobile: optimize now or risk the one-time fate of Out There Furniture, which nearly went out of business after the Panda update.

As we've seen before "algorithms have consequences."

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Last Warning: Optimize Your Website for Mobile Now!

Folks, the time draws nigh! As we reported last month, Google will soon improve the mobile experience for users worldwide. As Google reported on its webmaster blog:

"Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices."

The "significance" of this improvement cannot be overstated. In an incredibly thorough primer, Cindy Krum at The Moz Blog, predicts that Google will introduce a new mobile-only index and crawler. This means that mobile and desktop rankings might be appreciably different. it also means that a website's ranking in one will not necessarily effect its ranking in the other.

A good desktop ranking, however, is no excuse to ignore your mobile ranking. This should be obvious. We've covered the emergence of mobile SEO quite extensively, citing many facts and stats to confirm the viability of mobile SEO. Perhaps the only statistic you need to know, though, is the simplest: mobile search now exceeds desktop search.

According to comScore, this change happened at least as early as August, 2014, and perhaps before. "The days of desktop dominance are over," the report announced. "Mobile has swiftly risen to become the leading digital platform, with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for an astounding 60 percent of digital media time spent in the U.S."

According to comScore, Sometime around August, 2014, mobile exceeded desktop search.

The graph above illustrates mobile's ascent quite elegantly. One can only assume that mobile search will continue to rise even as desktop search remains stagnant. The only question is: How much of the search share will mobile occupy?

There will always be s certain percentage of people who will use desktop search--desktops and laptops are still the mainstay of most businesses and on most college campuses. Yet it's important to remember, nearly everyone who works on a desktop/laptop has a smart phone at his/her side.

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

Most people would probably agree: all things considered, the desktop search experience is better. With Google's new changes poised to change mobile browsing for the better, however, one can easily envision a scenario where mobile search becomes the preferred choice--convenience or not.

So have you optimized your website for mobile? A negative answer is essentially tantamount to throwing away money. Then again, we could say the same thing for a negative answer to the question, "Have your optimized your website at all?" And yet, business owners continue to neglect the crucial practice of website optimization. Why?

To prepare you for the upcoming change, we suggest spending a little time with the following articles:

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

For everyone else: "Google is Making "Mobile-Friendliness" a Ranking Signal: Are You Optimized?"

Need Mobile SEO Help? Call Stepmans PC!

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Future Doesn't Look Good for Tech-Centric SEO Specialists

Yesterday Forbes posted an article, "7 Bold Statements About the 10-Year Forecast for SEO," that prophesied some intriguing long-term changes for SEO, including niche search engines, the final downfall of old-school marketing tactics, and the unfortunate truth that SEO will never be a professional degree.

The article, by Brent Gleeson, adapted from a talk by Benji Arriola, a big name in the SEO community, is a good read, if only for the "boldness" of the predictions. They're not far-fetched at all, but the're also not common topics in today's SEO world.

One theme struck us as particularly relevant: the evolution of the SEO specialist. Another way to say this: the merging of SEO with other distinctive practices--like, say, content marketing. This is a common theme here at the Organic SEO Blog.

We believe the traditional view of the tech-centric SEO specialist, who codes his way to optimization, is outdated. Today's SEO specialist must be a Renaissance man or woman, talented at many disciplines--or at least smart enough to team up with other talented individuals.

Unfortunately, we are programmed to pigeon-hole specific disciplines. We might hire a website designer, for example, to create a visually-appealing website, and then a different professional to code the website for both users and search engines.

Yes, these tasks are different, and require different parts of the brain, but in today's competitive environment there are plenty of professional SEOs who can accomplish both design and development with skill and talent.

This merging of disciplines inspired one of Arriola's must prescient predictions: "SEO & social media will further merge with traditional PR & marketing practices." As Gleeson writes (quoting Arriola):

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

This last line, especially, could be read as the rallying cry for the Organic SEO Blog. Just read any number of our articles on the value of content--of telling a story.

Creating good content can and should be the role of a good SEO marketing company.

Please read: "Quality or Quantity: A Different View of SEO."

For Arriola, the evolution of the Renaissance SEO is tantamount to the end of the tech-centric SEO agency. In another prediction, he regulates the tech-centric agency to its own niche:

"Technical SEO professionals will find better opportunities with software companies, as opposed to marketing agencies."

Again, as Gleeson writes (quoting Arriola):

"Google is always getting better at reading code. It is already interpreting some JavaScript code that other search engines still struggle with. It’s also one of the primary search engines that reads content within Adobe Flash files. On the other hand, software companies that create content management systems are getting better at being search engine friendly, have many features built in, and have advanced plugins many of which are for SEO purposes. B2B and B2C businesses will continue to have more opportunities to use out-of-the-box CMS and ecommerce platforms rather than developing sites from scratch. This will be faster and more cost effective. Businesses will still need agencies and consultants for audits, content strategy and promotion. But most of the technical SEO work will already be done. Technical SEOs will be needed to help build more platforms of this nature."

The last line here feels like Arriola is throwing a bone to the tech-centric SEOs. In reality, the majority of that quote implies that technical SEO work will become automated--and thus obsolete. Of course, in the beginning, SEOs will be needed to "build more platforms," but once this work is done--well, the same SEOs might be looking for work in a different industry!

Have you recently hired an SEO specialist or SEO company? What tasks do you expect your SEO to perform? Let us know in the comments.

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