Archive for June, 2013

Understanding How the SEO Process Works

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Having a website these days means that you have to be familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to a certain degree. SEO is more than just a buzzword used in marketing circles. It’s a way in which webmasters can actually help search engines find their site relevant in a certain niche and rank it accordingly. Incorporating SEO strategies into your web-based marketing is crucial to getting noticed on the web, but understanding how SEO works can be a little confusing. Here’s a brief overview of how the SEO process works.

1. Consistency is Key

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process and it pays off in the long run to be consistent and persistent. The old saying, "slow and steady wins the race" is applicable here. For an SEO campaign to be truly effective expect to spend a lot of time conducting keyword research and creating high-value content that is relevant to your business or industry around those words. Keyword research is vital to the success of your SEO campaign, without it you stand very little chance of getting noticed online.

Consistent monitoring and testing by your SEO specialist will help keep you on track, but don’t expect results overnight. That’s not how SEO works. Effective SEO includes developing a well-structured site that would be accessible to both search engines and users, incorporating the keyword work mentioned above and adding strong inbound links. You’ll also have to work hard to establish authority and trust to help build your brand and boost your online presence. This is often accompanied by social media marketing, strategic website coding and site analysis and analytics. The results of these activities are sometimes visible after a long time, but the consistent increase of your customer base is well worth it.

2. Keeping Current With Google Algorithm Changes is a Must

Long gone are the days where keyword stuffed pages ranked first no matter the quality of the content. You can thank Google and their algorithm changes for removing most of the spam the users had to struggle with until they found what they were looking for. This isexactly why your SEO consultant will refer to the Google algorithm changes so frequently. The different algorithmic changes have a direct impact on the search engine rankings. In order to continue rising or at least retain your position in a storm of constant algorithmic changes you need to be familiar with how they work and tailor your content to them, and to the users demands for conversion purposes (which is also an important part of SEO).

Though rumors spread every day about possible Google algorithm changes, you have to separate fact from fiction by following the news from the latest search engine conferences, Google’s Head Spam Fighter Matt Cutts, Google’s blog or interviews with Google execs given usually on various reputable SEO blogs.

On average, Google releases 500+ search engine changes every year. Nearly two different changes per day! Luckily, Google makes it easy to track these changes by their formal announcements, usually given after the latest change has been deployed. SEOmoz, for example, compile the changes on a regular basis and organize them by date for easy reading and follow up.

You can also check daily changes happening in Google search with this fun Mozcast tool. The higher the temperature, the more ranking changes have been happening in search engine results. It’s a fun, easy and graphic way to see how busy Google has been.

3. Understand the Impact Algorithm Changes Have on Your SEO Campaign

Keeping current with algorithm changes is essential to understanding the impact they have on your SEO campaign. Fortunately, we know which updates are likely to generate the biggest changes in search results and can focus our attention on those. Google Penguin, Google Panda and Exact Match Domain (EMD) updates always have a big impact on search results. In the official Google statement after each of these is deployed, we are told the exact percentages of results affected by these, to get a notion of the size of the specific update.

Panda updates target bad content, low-quality content and duplicate content. Penguin updates roll out every few months since April 2012, and Penguin 2.0, the next generation has just been rolled out on May 2013. Penguin targets bad or clearly links pointing to websites, comment spam, links in posts on questionable sites. EMD updates prevent poor quality sites from ranking well, just because they have the keyword combination searched in their url, and give high-quality sites a chance to move up in rankings.

The point to remember about all of these updates is that any changes you make to your content or site, such as removing bad links for example, in between updates will have an effect on your site’s rankings, but you may not necessarily see the results of those changes until the next update is deployed. So even if you deleted a bunch of bad links pointing to your site as soon as you received an unnatural link warning from Google, there’s a very strong possibility that you won’t see much change in your search engine ranking until the next Penguin update rolls out. If you don’t want to wait that long you can always try Google’s Disavow Tool. The Tool allows webmasters to notify Google of the low quality links that they cannot get rid of on their own and that they do not want them affecting their site rankings. However it is important to stress that Google highly recommend not taking this tool lightly, and use only if no other way to manually remove the links has succeeded. Having said that, Google do not commit to take into account your link submission (and they will obviously disregard your request if you ask to disavow all your incoming links.

4. Expect Constant Changes and Tweaks to the Campaign

Overall, an important part of the process means is to understand that constant changes and tweaks to your SEO campaign and website are inevitable, as we learn from every algorithm change as we go. In fact, you should be pleased if your SEO consultant recommends changes. It means they’re on top of things, watching out for your rankings and trying to do something about it.

Successful SEO campaigns respond to algorithmic changes and website traffic patterns. You may need to find new keywords, add content or reorganize your site according to customer expectations and the way they use your site constantly changes, meaning that you have to change your site and perspective accordingly. It’s really no different than adjusting your business in other ways to meet customers’ needs and expectations. And, just like other business processes change, it can take some time to see the results of your efforts.

5. Constantly Monitor the Competition

Knowing and researching your competitors is a crucial part of the SEO campaign. Both you, as a business owner and your SEO consultant must know the top 10 results by heart and constantly following up on the search ranking fluctuations. In order to be the best, it is crucial that you learn from the best so make sure to do a comparative research of your site vs that of your competitors in terms of backlinks, title, description, site content, user interface, design and much more to learn how you can get better or where you can appear on the web to push your rankings or improve your conversion.

6. Bounce Rate and Conversion Research and Monitoring

Google have always said that the most important thing for them and the reason behind every algorithmic update is the user or end consumer, and that should be your concern as well. Google loves sites that the users love, so there’s no doubt that the time a user spends on the site before bouncing back to the search results, a quick flow towards the goal of the site or ranking high on a theoretical “trust scale” are very important issues that you should not neglect. Keep the flow of your site clean, the design of your site simple yet visually appealing and the information on your site really useful for the user, not for the search engine.

Despite the time and effort that a proper SEO campaign requires, have no doubt that this is the most profitable marketing channel you can have with the highest ROI. Make sure to give it the proper attention or hire a professional and reliable SEO consultant, with the finger on the pulse, that will involve and consult you every step of the way to yield the best results for your business.

How to Identify Unnatural Links and Remove Them

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Webmasters around the world are still busy trying to clean up their websites after the Google Penguin launch of 2012, and they are even more baffled following the release of Penguin 2.0 in May of 2013. If this sounds familiar you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a brief overview of why unnatural links are bad for your site and provided some tools you can use to identify and remove those links.

Unethical. Before Google upgraded their quality guidelines and started enforcing them in, some might say, a “brutal” manner, anything worked and most of the websites with a history of SEO have purchased or attained links, and these are today considered “unnatural” (the only legitimate “natural” link is a link that another admin chose to place on his site voluntarily because of the added value of your link). SEO professionals and many webmasters didn’t even realize they had those links pointing to their site until they got a warning message about them from Google. Now they are left with trying to figure out which of their links need to be removed and how should they go about doing it.

What Are Unnatural Links From Google’s Point of View?

In a nutshell, unnatural links are artificial links that are intended solely to manipulate page rank and rank higher on the search results. As previously mentioned, these links were often purchased back when any link was considered a good link and it boosted your search results, no matter if it was relevant, surrounded by content or on a low quality site. They may also have been specifically created and linked to your site by spammers.

Why You Don’t Want Unnatural Links Pointing To Your Site

any and all links boosted your search engine results, but that time isis the days when “all links were created equal” are long gone. These days, Google is encouraging webmasters to earn links by creating high-quality content. This type of content encourages users to naturally share it or link to it and gain links naturally and, as a result this will increase the site’s rankings on the search engine result pages (SERPs). If Google identifies a site as having too many unnatural links, the site’s rankings on the SERPs can fall dramatically.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to improve the content. You also need to get rid of the unnatural links that are pointing to your site.

The Message

Many webmasters first learn of their unnatural links when they receive this message from Google:

“We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes….”

While it is helpful to know you have bad links, the message doesn’t tell you how to identify them or remove them.

Google Tools You Could Use To Locate Unnatural Links

Recently, Matt Cutts, Head of Search Spam at Google, posted a video that explains how to find unnatural links. In the video he explains that in the near future Google will be adding examples of the bad links as a part of their unnatural link warning messagesin the future. .This is meant to help webmasters identify which links Google considers harmful within the site’s incoming links profile.

Website managers can also use their existing Webmaster Tools account to help identify bad links. Specifically, Cutts recommends sorting the links by date and using this information to get an idea of which links are the problematic ones.

Getting Rid Removing Of Unnatural Links

Once you’ve located the links, the focus now shifts to getting rid of them. To remove unnatural links you need to contact the website’s administrator and ask that the link be removed. Surprisingly, some administrators are willing to do this for you, that is if you legitimate contact information to send the request to.manage to get in touch with them through their site, which is not always the case.

Unsurprisingly, a whole new industry has sprung up aimed at helping webmasters get rid of their unnatural links. Sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee, sometimes for a large fee, these services can help you identify the unnatural links, find contact information for the website, generate and send email requests asking that the link be removed and even track your progress for you. A more negative type of “fee”, in regards to link removal is the one that many of the more “cunning” webmasters demand, which is payment per link removal (another way for low quality site admins to make a living after Penguin and Panda wiped the possibility of them selling another link) .

Unnatural Link Removal Tools

So if you don’t manage to clean your link profile on your own, there are a few tools that could help you with that. Cyrus Shepard at Above The Fold has complied a great list of four tools for link cleanup. Another good tool is the one by SEOGadget. This free service makes it easy to collect the data on all of your inbound links and identify the links that need to be removed.

…And if all else fails: Google’s Disavow Tool

Following countless complaints by admins frustrated by the various algorithmic changes that turned things for the worst for them, and the various difficulties they encountered upon link removals, Google finally announced the launch of their Disavow Tool. This tool is meant for webmasters who have already pointed out the bad links coming in to their site and were not able to remove them any other way, despite previous attempts. Via this tool, available directly from their Google Webmaster Tools account, admins can send Google a detail report of which links they would like Google to “ignore” (low quality/unnatural links). However, they clarify that Google has no obligation to act upon the admins request, and this tool serves merely as a recommendation for Google, perhaps another way for them to learn about low quality links and even (as the more “paranoid” SEO professionals think) be used as a tool for Google to identify sites that violate their quality guidelines systematically and punish them as a result.

In conclusion, although it can be frustrating and time-consuming, SEO continues to be a very profitable and traffic generating channel, and in order to safeguard your online business, you need to continue being on the lookout for new updates and constantly study your impact on the site. And f you want to play by Google’s rules you need to get rid of those artificial links, and the previously mentioned tools can be just what you need to get started.

7 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Their Bigger Competitors Online

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

If there’s one thing the internet has done for small businesses its level the playing field a bit. Online marketing isn’t always reliant on how big your marketing budget is, instead, it comes down to what you do with it.

Online marketing is one of the most affordable marketing techniques available. For the one-time cost of a website and some optimization services, companies of any size can get their name out there and start attracting customers. It’s much less expensive than traditional marketing techniques, has a far greater reach and can be quickly and easily adjusted to meet changing business needs or customer demands.

With the right approach, smaller companies can sneak up on their competitors by carving out a niche and creating their own customer base.

Here are 5 ways small businesses can give their big business competitors a run for their money:

  1. Create a Well-Designed Website. The first component of your online marketing strategy involves creating an intuitive, well-designed website that is easy, accessible and visually appealing for customers to use. Pave their way around the site, removing every obstacle that might come between them and the service you can provide for them. You want the actions to be seamless and functional. In addition, your content should be structured in such a way that is easy for the customer to quickly skim through and find what he or she is looking for.
  2. Localize and Develop Your Online Presence. Do your research, consult your analytics and find out where your customer base is coming from to develop your marketing strategy accordingly. Make sure to target your efforts in your highest traffic areas. The Dimensions tab in AdWords will help you in identifying your most successful geographic areas.
    A basic but essential part of being picked up by search engines is to publish your company’s name and address together consistently. Make sure to clearly display your contact information on your website as well as on as many credible online directories you can find. This information helps search engines pull local results for internet users. GetListed.org is an example of a good place to get started, but there are hundreds of other directories for you to list your business and increase your visibility.
  3. Give Your Customers What They Really Want. If you sell products, make sure there is an ecommerce function on the site instead of redirecting potential clients somewhere else and ruining their user experience. If you provide a service, include further information or “How-To’s” or tutorials that customers might find useful. Make it easy for your potential customers to contact you for additional information so that they can hire your services or purchase your products. By knowing and understanding your customers’ needs you will be able to provide them with the right solutions quickly and efficiently. Make sure to stress that every comment or feedback will be addressed within a specific time frame and stick to it. Their feedback will help you improve and a proper response from your end gains you trust and reputation.
  4. Understand Your Customers Vocabulary. . This is a crucial part that helps you understand how customers find your site: Are they searching for your business name? Are they searching for certain products or services? In short, this is how you learn what keywords and phrases are being used to find your site. Incorporate those words into your web pages. Be sure to include the locations, cities, etc. you are targeting (as mentioned in #1 above) as part of your keyword phrase to gain local attention. Keywords are essential for your online success. The keywords you choose to target will affect your search engine rankings, affecting how new customers will find you and will eventually   impact your business growth. Do not take this part of your online marketing campaign lightly.
  5. Post Content That Gets Noticed. Another way to get noticed and increase your search engine rankings is to create interesting and useful content about your niche, as opposed to posting a sentence on Facebook with a link to your site. To create buzz around your site and generate traffic and potential clientele, you need to create good content or useful information that, on the one hand reflects on your expertise and on the other that people would want to read and share with others. Post this content in various locations: Your website, niche blogs, guest blog spots, social media accounts, etc., and askfor the reader’s interaction and feedback. The more people use and share your information, the more search engines will start to notice your business and the better chance you have of achieving a higher search engine rankings. Don’t forget to have social share buttons on every posts to maximize your exposure.
  6. Maximize Your Potential and Generate Sales with Social Media. Social media for businesses today is far beyond posts with links, it has now become a standalone marketing channel that your business can no longer afford to live without. This is a great opportunity to increase your revenue significantly simply by highlighting the best features of your business and spreading the word. Think about what makes your business unique and take a comprehensive and creative approach to social media. If you don’t know how and where to start we’re happy to give you an example, but you can also have this work done for you by a professional. No matter how small your small business is, it can have a great impact. We are happy to offer you a short yet creative guide on how to get started with social media  to maximize your profits
  7. Study Your Competition to Outrank it. Know who the biggest players in your niche are and learn everything there is to know about their online presence: Where are they getting exposure from? Do they have a consistent marketing strategy? What do they have that you don’t and how can you offer it to your customers? What do you have that they don’t and how to properly highlight it to get the customers that they are not getting and much more. The deeper the analysis of your competitors’ online marketing strategy is, the better are your odds to develop a strategy of your own to outrank them, or at least to increase your rankings and customer base significantly. This can be as easy as looking up their mentions on Google, or a more in-depth look via one of the various backlink research tools to study each and every link they get.

To summarize, it doesn’t matter how big or reputable your competitors are, the search results are an open playing field where every site has the possibility to succeed. It’s up to you to think outside the box and give customers new, exciting and accessible opportunities and earn your own clientele just by being unique and knowing how to communicate it

How to Maximize Your Potential and Generate Sales with Social Media

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Social media for businesses today is far beyond posts with links, it has now become a standalone marketing channel that your business can no longer afford to live without. This is a great opportunity to increase your revenue significantly simply by highlighting the best features of your business and spreading the word.

Think about what makes your business unique and take a comprehensive and creative approach to social media. If you don’t know how and where to start we’re happy to give you an example, but you can also have this work done for you by a professional.

No matter how small your small business is, it can have a great impact. Let’s say you’ve just opened your own little cupcake store in the neighborhood and you want take orders online in addition to those from people in your actual store.

    • First thing’s first: You must have your products photographed professionally. These photographs are crucial, and should be used across marketing channels both online and offline. Have inviting posters with pictures of your products in your actual store with a QR code that people could scan with their smartphones so that they can easily find it (don’t forget to include your social media usernames as well).

 

    • The best way to make online orders available directly from your site would be to have an ecommerce mechanism so people could order your lovely cupcakes and pay for them without having to make a call. Add the picture of each cupcake with its price, desired quantity and social media buttons (tweet, pin it, like and +1 are the most important ones) to get your customer’s friends interested too.
    •  If you choose not to use an ecommerce structure, that is fine, but make sure to include as many high quality pictures on your site as possible for people to call and order. Make sure to have your contact info very clear and accessible throughout the site, in addition to inviting icons to follow your business via the different social media accounts.

Here are a few tips to generate traffic and sales from your different social media accounts (those considered the most important ones):

1. Facebook:

    • Make sure to use your best product pictures and logo for the profile and cover photos. Don’t forget to add your phone number and address to your cover picture.

 

    • Publish photos of your fresh-made cupcakes of the day or success stories.

 

    • Create a local listing for people to be able to check in whenever they come in to your store.

 

    • Allow people to post on your wall – share great reviews written on your wall from time to time and address negative reviews as quickly as possible with a satisfying solution. Do your best to pay attention to all post on your wall (at least like them).

 

    • Make sure to have a “call” button from your page info.

 

    • Include all the information about your store in the “about” section – describe your business in an inviting way, introduce yourself talk about your background and credibility as a professional, add the store’s working hours and much more.

 

    • Constantly publish limited-time offers and promotions.

 

    • Throw “sharing giveaways” and competitions to encourage more fans to join.

 

    • Encourage people to place order on your wall or via private messages – be responsive!
    • Create sponsored campaigns that will show up on people’s feeds by interests

2. Twitter:

    • Take care of your background and profile pictures to make your business inviting. Here too make sure to add your contact info everywhere possible.

 

    • Fill in every little detail and contact info in the description. Use relevant keywords to help anyone who might be looking you up on twitter.

 

    • Upload the pictures of your fresh baked goods and limited time offers here as well.

 

    • Make sure that your followers know when popular products are ready (e.g. in 10 minutes) – this creates excitement and it serves as an invitation for people to come to the store.

 

    • Create a #hashtag for orders via twitter or for any possible competition you might be throwing.

 

    • Use sponsored tweets to further promote your business.
    • Thank every single person who follows you and follow them back.

3. Instagram:

    • Make sure to include all the possible info about your business in your Instagram profile (these can also be pictures of you at work and the tools you use to show how professional you are).

 

    • Post the most beautiful picture of each of your cupcakes for people to follow.

 

    • Create a #hashtag for people to take their own pictures of your cupcakes or of themselves eating them. They want to share your products with their friends, and you win more customers.
    • Create picture competitions by assigning a specific #hashtag – post all the details of the competition on Facebook or add an Instagram app on Facebook for this purpose.

4. Pinterest:

    • Make sure to constantly post the most beautiful images you possibly can so that these can get “pinned”.

 

    • Add a detailed description to each and make it inviting – don’t forget to use keywords for possible searches!

 

    • Occasionally add the cupcake’s price to the description – if you add a $ sign it will appear on the image (don’t do this for each cupcake so it doesn’t look too much like a store, that might be confusing as you can’t buy products on Pinterest, yet.)

 

    • Give your followers “projects” and invite them to recreate cupcakes you post or make a competition out of it.
    • Constantly post your freshly baked goods, just like you do for the rest.

5. Google +:

    • Create your local listing on Google Plus: Include every possible bit of information about your business, especially its website, location, opening hours, payment methods, links to other social media channels, and especially every way in which you can be contacted.
    • Post promotions, links and pictures – This listing might increase your chances to appear on the Google search results, as one of the five results (or sometimes more) of the 1st page, giving you a chance to outrank your competitors that do not have this type of listing.

A few more important tips in general:

    • Make sure that all of your social media accounts link to each other and, most importantly, to your site.

 

    • Encourage good reviews on all your social media channels with a lot of free goodies.
    • Encourage a “refer a friend” policy in return for free stuff, exclusive promotions or discounts.

These tips were meant to give you a general direction that your business can take to increase your customer base via social media and how to do it right. You can choose to adapt them all to your business or just one or two of them, but the conclusion is that proper management of your social media channels can increase your customer base significantly so it deserves proper attention. Monitor your social activity done whether by your staff or yourself, or hire a professional to work alongside with.

Remember that the bigger and stronger your social media presence is, the more attention you get from search engines, which cannot afford to ignore you.

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