Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why HubPages is Not Worth Your Time

The folks over at Search Engine Land have received a confirmation from Google that the search engine has recently changed how it assesses quality. As Barry Schwartz reports:

"It’s not your imagination. Google’s results have changed since the beginning of this month, and Google’s officially confirmed to Search Engine Land that this is due to a change with how it assesses content quality. Call it 'The Quality Update,' if you will. Earlier this month, some publishers began noticing changes to Google’s search results. We had asked Google if this due to a Panda Update or any other type of update, but Google replied no."

Read Barry's article: "The Quality Update"

According to Barry's report and posts elsewhere on the web, the update, which does not seem to be tied to any specific algorithm, may or may not have effected "How-To" sites like HubPages, which reported in its own post:

"On May 3rd, our Google traffic compared to the prior week was off by 22% across all of HubPages. Google has said that this isn't a Panda update. Even so, it's pretty brutal. I feel tremendously bad for Hubbers and the team at HubPages that have worked extremely hard over the last several years to improve the site."

Read more about Panda here.

In its post about the loss of traffic, HubPages goes to tedious length to make the case that Google gave the entire site a "blunt-side whack" without much regard to the apparent quality of the content:

"When we analyze each Hub by internal quality score, we see very little differentiation between our lowest-rated and highest-rated content...We compared the traffic losses of our hand-picked, high-quality Editors Choice Hubs that are on the main HubPages domain vs Hubs on subdomains and they both lost 22%."

HubPages is a user-generated content site that allows any user the opportunity to join for free, to create content, and to make money from that content. From our perspective at the Organic SEO Blog, it is not hard, frankly, to see why this site has recently been "whacked" by Google.

Many small business owners mistakenly believe that sites like HubPages provide a good platform for promoting content. We disagree. Frankly, the quality of a great deal of the HubPages content is sub-par.

For better or worse, a site like HubPages is not generally used by knowledgeable professionals interested in building a good reputation. Remember, anyone can join HubPages, and anyone, regardless of writing skills, or even understanding of their subject, can post pages.

It is not hard to see why Google would "whack" a site like this. HubPages might do its best to curate the best content, but it still hosts page after page of poor content. Why should a site like this be ranked above, say, any number of media outlets who hire professional writers to craft relevant, engaging, mistake-free content?

Rather than associate yourself with a site like HubPages, then, we believe it is best to create an optimized, algorithm-friendly site stocked with your own original content. We have written extensively on quality content here at the Organic SEO Blog.

To read any number of articles on content, please click here

Better yet, you might take the advice of Google, whose post from 2011, "More guidance on building high-quality sites" is still the gold standard for content guidelines.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Verizon, AOL, Online Ads, and the Importance of Relevancy

If the name AOL conjures the screech of a dial-up connection or the 90s-era catchphrase, "you've got mail!", you might've been scratching your head about the recent news that Verizon has purchased AOL for $4.4 billion.

A still from the film You've got Mail, 90's to the core.

In fact, the merger makes sense for Verizon, and not simply because AOL's cache of popular web content, including The Huffington Post.

As The New York Times reported on the day of the deal:

"AOL may be known for its dot-com rise and fall and for current web content like The Huffington Post, but Verizon is looking to gain the company’s powerful but little-known mobile video and advertising technology."

Well, there it is. Mobile. As Tim Armstrong, AOL's chief executive, said in a memo to his employees about the purchase:

"If there is one key to our journey to building the largest digital media platform in the world, it is mobile. Mobile will represent 80% of consumers' media consumption in the coming years and if we are going to lead, we need to lead in mobile."

Armstrong's goal to build "the largest digital media platform in the world" is certainly ambitious, and perhaps delusional.

Right now, the two web powerhouses, Google and Facebook, control 55% of the mobile ad market--a market that Verizon hopes to crack with the help of AOL.

What makes this seem possible is, as the Times reports, is the marriage of AOL's ads with Verizon's knowledge about its customers--a knowledge rivaled only by Google and Facebook:

"People in the ad-tech industry said that in buying AOL, Verizon's immediate goal may be to marry its data about customers to AOL's capacity to serve ads to increase this sort of relevancy."

Right now the success of both Facebook and Google is largely contingent on their ability to collect data about their customers. With Facebook, the availability of this data is quite obvious: you share your life on the site. With Google, the date is more nuanced, and perhaps even more available. Google knows what you like to shop for. As Business Insider reported last November:

"When you use Google, you are making a deal. You get to use Gmail and search and YouTube and Google Maps for free and in exchange, you agree to share information about yourself. Google gets to sell that information to advertisers."

The key to both Facebook and Google's success, as noted above, is relevancy--a word (along with mobile) that we bandy about quite often at the Organic SEO Blog.

Relevancy describes one of the goals of a good organic SEO campaign: How do you connect with your ideal customer?

After all, in the new marketing world, it no longer makes sense to market to a great swath of people--not when you at your disposal the ability to pinpoint customers.

If you’re a website owner, you are likely confronted with a multitude of techniques to promote your website online. Before you choose any single approach, you might want to answer for yourself a simple question: What does online marketing really mean?

Just think about two available marketing techniques,Pay Per Click (PPC) or Google AdWords. Without getting into a detailed description of both, we can see, quite simply, that both work on the principle of relevance.

As such, an effective website campaign should address several important questions:

Who are your targeted customers?

What product or service you are trying to promote?

Where is the best place on the Internet to promote your website?

As our blog's sponsor Alex Stepman says, "All websites face the same online marketing challenges, so it is important to remember: your product or service is less important than how actually you present your product or service."

This same to be the case for Verizon and AOL now. Will the combination challenge the mobile ad supremacy of Facebook and Google? More to the point, for our readers: What can we learn from the moves of these major companies?

Got an idea? Let us know in the comments.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

How Often Do You Need to Update (or Refresh) Your Website?

It's a beautiful day in the Philadelphia region: 80 degrees and sunny with a mere wisp of a cloud in the sky. It's hard to believe that only a month ago, we were mired in a seemingly never ending winter. Philadelphia was not hit as hard as, say, Boston, but for many in the region the bitter temperatures that continued into April felt like a personal insult.

A Boston car dealership buried in snow [Source]

The picture above is a testament to the amount of snow Boston received, but we're betting you'd probably prefer to look at something a bit more...sunny. For all things summer, we simply love the somewhat annual Secret Forts "Full on Summer" series.

Ahh, now that's more like it [Source]

We offer this seasonally-inspired prelude today to illustrated a simple SEO point: the importance of refreshing your website content.

Most major e-commerce brands refresh their websites with seasonally-appropriate images and content quite often--monthly, weekly, or even daily. The J. Crew of today, for example, looks a lot different than the J.Crew of, say, last December.

If the big guys are doing it, why shouldn't the little guys do it, too? 

Even smaller, local websites can stand to benefit from refreshed content. The presumed problem for most website owners is time--the smallest companies believe they just don't have the time for a simple homepage refresh, let alone a blog post. 

Our advice?

If you attract a significant amount of exposure from your website (say more than 500+ visits a month), you could double or triple your exposure simply by refreshing your content.

Would doubling of tripling your online exposure translate to more profits?

If so, we suggest letting go of the tired excuse, "I don't have the time!" 

Make the time! 

Website Update 

Once you do make the time, you might be wondering, now what? If you own a small website, it's important to understand the difference between a "website update" and a "website refresh." These terms are often used interchangeably; many SEO writers take them to mean the same thing. We think it's helpful to distinguish between the two. 

A website update is a major change. Ideally, working with a website developer and SEO specialist, you would update your website as you update your brand and build your offering. This update could happen yearly or bi-annually, but you want to make sure you don't perform major changes too often. For better or worse, an update can have a major impact on your SEO.

Here's what Jayson DeMers has to say about major updates over at Search Engine Watch:

"There are many good reasons for updating a website, and because of the rapid evolution of technology, you’ll need to update multiple times over the course of your company’s development. When you update your website, you’re bound to experience some SEO shakeups — even if you’re extra careful, at least a handful of keyword ranking movements will be inevitable."

If you're planning to perform a major update soon, we suggest contacting your SEO specialist--or at the very least, reading Jayson's article.

Website Refresh

A website refresh might simply include new seasonally-appropriate graphics, new contact information, or new content. Ideally, you would refresh your website quite often--weekly or even daily.

Now, please keep in mind: we are not using the term "refresh" in the way that some other publications might use it. Illuminant, a public relations and strategic communications firm, includes the following image in its article "How to Refresh a Website: The Five Most Important Factors."

A website "refresh" does not need to be this complicated

Save the complicated work for your website developer and SEO specialist. Instead, to "refresh" your website simply, you might try a blog with frequent updates. If you're handy with basic coding, too, ask your website developer and/or designer how you might simply change the graphics on your home page.

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