Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Take Your SEO to the Next Level by Nick Stamoulis

So you’ve conducted keyword research, optimized every page of your website, and done some basic link building like setting up business profiles and local profiles and submitted your site to directories. While this is all important you know that that’s just not going to cut it. No matter what industry you are in, the web is a competitive place. Only so many websites can get onto that coveted first search engine results page. So what can you do to really take your SEO up a notch and improve your chances of getting there? Below are 3 tactics to implement right now:
1. Ramp up Your Content Marketing
Content is a huge part of SEO. After all, without content what is there to optimize? Obviously it takes time and resources to create quality content on a regular basis and that’s why many businesses falter in this area. They either don’t have the manpower, the time, or even the skills to do it right. In order to really be effective it’s important to create a blog and submit content to it daily, submit guest blog posts and articles to industry websites, create videos and upload them to video sharing sites, and create other “link bait” materials such as infographics and free whitepapers, guides, or E-books. Content needs to be taken seriously and content writers should be hired or the work should be outsourced to a trusted writer in order to really give your SEO campaign the boost that it needs.
2. Get Active in Social Media
Social media is no longer just a brand building tool. Social media activity is now a search engine algorithm ranking factor. The search engines rank web pages and web content based on trust and social media signals such as Likes, shares, tweets, +1’s and more establish that trust amongst social media users. If content is shared frequently, the search engines take note. Of course, in order to achieve these social signals it’s important to create social media accounts and keep them active. There’s no use in setting up a brand page and then not using it. Use social media to have a conversation with followers and promote content that they will find useful and that they will be willing to share. While the social media “Big 4” (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+) are important, there are numerous niche social networks that shouldn’t be ignored. In addition, social bookmarking sites can also drive traffic to your website and build your brand visibility.
3. Make Connections
A robust link building campaign aims to create links on related web properties across the web. These links can be created by submitting quality content to industry sites and other industry blogs. Of course, in order to be granted access to these sites it’s necessary to build a positive reputation and form relationships with others in the industry or in related industries over time. Take the first step by introducing yourself via social media or initiate a conversation by commenting on one of their blog posts. These relationships are extremely valuable and can lead to new linking and business opportunities over time.
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, and he writes a weekly SEO column for Daily Blog Tips. Visit the company website to find more about its services, or call             781-999-1222       to get more information.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 Strategies To Make Facebook SEO Friendly

Facebook represents a fantastic marketing opportunity for any business via shares & referrals, however, just like Wordpress and other platform based user sites, it’s critical to incorporate SEO strategies into your Facebook pages in order to get exposure out of them. Here are 7 Facebook SEO strategies to make sure your Face is getting the amount of Book it deserves!
Whether you are setting Facebook up for yourself or for a client it’s important to keep SEO strategies in mind. According to Google, they aren’t actually looking at Facebook “shares” as a separate part of their ranking algorithm, but traffic is traffic.
The number one thing to remember with Facebook shares: Their marketing value resides in the fact that they are coming from a reputable source; from someone known to, and respected by, the person on the other end. This invests the shares with clout and makes them very valuable. Make no mistake, Facebook is a marketing tool but nothing a business puts on their Facebook Wall should ever break that kind of trust. Period.
For businesses, Facebook is a delicate dance between, “be my friend” and “pay me money.” Always difficult, in the Facebook world it is critical to fall on the side of plushy slushy soft sell. This is why SEO strategies for Facebook are important. SEO by its nature lies behind the scenes and therefore customers can’t possibly interpret it as marketing.

1. Choose a Great Facebook Page Name

Back up; choose a great business name. Not too spammy, not too generic. Something descriptive and easy to remember. If it’s too generic Facebook might blacklist the name. Once you have a name, don’t change your page name. Once established, keep it and brand it. Renaming isn’t ever a good idea from an SEO perspective.

2. Facebook URL Names Are Also Important

Facebook now allows vanity names so make sure to add one if you can. The URL won’t exactly be yours but is a lot better than DavesGarden is interesting, theirs is: As long as the user name incorporates one of the terms related to your business you now have a URL that is searchable. It’s important to know that Facebook requires 100 fans before you can pick a username, of which you can then do by going to

3. Use Keyword Rich Text to fill out the “About” and “Info” Sections of Your Facebook Page

This will place searchable terms near the top of the Facebook page in the CSS. These are small areas so refine the elevator speech! In addition, make sure to include address information so that the page will pop up on local searches- a favorite of Google’s. In the info section also add links to your website.

4. Make Facebook Picture Descriptions Count

Facebook is a visual medium. Facebook will change titles on photos but descriptions live on. Use keywords as often as possible. Read each description from two angles- once for your customers and once from a computer’s angle. “Jack and Jamie enjoying the Keys on their 40th” could as easily be: “Luxury Florida Keys Bash by Private Jets Charter for Jack and Jamie’s 40th.” Both descriptions are better than “Jack and Jamie at their 40th Party.”
As a side note, give your clients an extra reason to stick with you as a designer by showing them how they can get lots of free advertising if they structure online promotional campaigns properly. For example, Private Jets Charter could offer a Groupon for birthday parties/events, get the event for the couple, encourage them to advertise the party through Private Jets Charter’s website and Facebook page (where everyone can easily get directions to the plane) and then provide/post pics of the party (with permission) afterwards using keyword descriptions. These photos will be strongly shared and each time they are, the words in the photo description, “Private Jets Charter, luxury, Florida Keys” are racking up ranking points.
Moreover, as the designer, you will likely get extra design work out of the process. Great designers always need to show ways in which their creativity in invaluable to their clients. With better and better templates and platforms around it’s critical that designers venture not only into SEO but also into marketing. These are two things that a customer can’t buy ready made or download for free.
Above is an example of descriptive text and URL slipped into Facebook code.

5. Use Keywords in Your Facebook Status Updates

Updates provide a great place to include your keywords and increase visibility. This is also the place to drive traffic to your own website. Never forget that one of your primary objectives for having a Facebook page is to drive traffic back to your website where you and not Facebook can take advantage of the traffic.
When you “attach link” FB gives you the opportunity to edit the text by clicking on the box. Include keyword-enriched text as early as possible. (Be aware that FB will channel this link through their own menu bar so this isn’t going to get you a direct link.) Next, include the URL of your website. Third, don’t put everything on Facebook. Instead provide an interesting enticing bit that will make people want to read more and make it clear that they can do this on your website.

6. Use Notes and Discussion Boards On Facebook

The content on both of these is indexable. Notes and the Discussion Boards are indexable and therefore they can make for great SEO. In addition, some people just use Facebook and do almost nothing else online. Using a discussion board gives you a way to reach this group of people. It’s important to note that automatic pull in of blog posts are now being phased out of Facebook.

7. Include Shares & Likes on your websites

Although not directly SEO,  you should include Facepage shares and likes into all of your websites. Also, take some time to stay on top of the Facebook Developers news. The developers page is also a great place to come up with new ideas about how to monetize the platform and get the most out of Facebook.
In summary, use Facebook as effectively as you can by paying attention to SEO. Take the time to use the above suggestions and then compare and track the changes in your FB code (Available to anyone for any page by viewing “source code” in your browser). Over time, graph long term changes in your traffic to see if the extra time and energy is really paying off.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to implement an advanced video SEO strategy

Online video is now a virtual requirement and one of the best practices for businesses to gain an advantage competitively. Video boosts search engine results, increases stickiness, and improves conversion rates. Smart online video lets businesses reach consumers in real time with what they need to know in the most engaging, informative, and entertaining way possible.
In order to understand the best search engine optimization (SEO) practices, you need to first know the value of video SEO.
The value of video SEO Many of today's online businesses find that gaining market share has more to do with winning a competitor's customers than with expanding the size of the industry. One of the most effective and widely used tools to increase market share is employing comprehensive SEO strategies.
According to an internet-retailer survey conducted in August 2011, 53 percent of e-retailer respondents claimed they would continue to increase their search engine marketing (SEM) spending this year. According to the survey, more than half of the respondents claim that up to 26 percent of the traffic to their sites comes from natural search, and nearly 50 percent claim this percentage has increased during 2010 and 2011. 
Video continues to be the fastest-growing format, and by implementing a thorough video SEO strategy, companies can complement their SEM investments, if not decrease them significantly. Simply put, video helps businesses get found online. Companies can increase the value of their videos further by following basic video SEO guidelines, making them more accessible to site visitors, scaling videos to reach long-tail keywords, and automating production to have video available as soon as new products are introduced.
Best practices for implementing video SEOIn a 2009 report, following the introduction of Google's universal search, Forrester Research concluded that video results on Google have a 50 percent better chance of appearing first on result lists than on text-based sites. Video results are more appealing because they include thumbnails that grant more search page real estate. The thumbnail attracts eyes to the results, regardless of the ranking order. In a traditional search of textual results, there was a common tendency to view the results by their organic order -- scanning the page from the upper-left corner, down vertically, and then across -- when a title catches the viewer's attention. Effective video SEO requires a range of guidelines and activities. The goal of these guidelines is to provide as much information about the videos and embed them in a way that provides search bots and crawlers with an understanding of what the video is about. Unlike on textual pages, bots cannot automatically gather this information.
Video for every product: Add as many videos as possible to increase the chances of being discovered. There is a common misperception among businesses that the top 20 percent of the products account for 80 percent of site traffic. However, that's not the case, as seen with a few industry avant-gardes (led by Overstock, Zappos, and HSN Stores) that have video-enabled tens of thousands of their products. Scaling the video repository enables targeting long-tail keywords, which generates significantly more traffic and a more targeted audience.
Keep videos updated: To maximize SEO potential, the content of all videos should keep up with any changes made to the product page content. The challenge with content on business sites is that it's constantly changing -- prices fluctuate, seasonal deals are launched or expire, last-minute offers are added, etc. Automated video solutions can help maintain video-content pace.
On-site video: Many e-commerce businesses are posting videos on their YouTube channels. By neglecting to implement videos on the company's website, they miss out on significant SEO potential. Videos with a unique URL maximize SEO benefits; therefore, we recommend placing each video on its own landing page.
SEO-friendly video URLs: Similar to general web page SEO guidelines, videos embedded on the site should have SEO-friendly or "clean" URLs. Specifically, for video SEO, it is important to include the video format file extension relevant to the video, such as .FLV, .WMV and .AVI.
Video sitemaps: Google rarely indexes videos on its own. It is therefore important to create a complete video sitemap to help Google discover and index each video. Video sitemaps should describe the entire repository of videos embedded in the website.
Properly embed videos: Search bots have short attention spans. They need to identify the video on the page they're scanning within the context it appears.
  • Avoid browser pop-ups: Embed the video so that it plays on the web page itself and doesn't appear in a browser pop-up. This is important because the embedded video object needs to be available for search engine bots when they crawl the page.
  • Avoid browser pop-ups: Embed the video so that it plays on the web page itself and doesn't appear in a browser pop-up. This is important because the embedded video object needs to be available for search engine bots when they crawl the page.                                                                                                 
  • Add video metadata: In addition to explicit contextual information, search bots look for metadata that can help them further understand the content of the video and optimize the way the results look on the search results page. The key elements in this metadata are video length, video dimensions, video thumbnail, and video transcript (a written version of the video).
Synchronize video content: To enhance the SEO effect of online videos, it is important that the content of the video matches the content of the page in which it is embedded. Therefore, when embedding a video on a product page, ensure the following:
  • Provide the video with a descriptive title in accordance
  • Add keywords to the video in correspondence to the keywords of the web page with the H1 title of that web page.
Some of the best practices prescribed above are quite challenging to maintain with manually produced videos. However, they are possible with automated solutions. The automation of video production today can support best practices by creating videos at scale with quicker-than-ever time to market and dynamic data that is kept current when sites get updated. With relatively little human intervention, online video production can increase a business's competitive advantage, while creating a better shopping experience for the user.
Yaniv Axen is the co-founder and CTO of SundaySky.

      SEO Targeting

      Monday, November 28, 2011

      The Dynamic Duo of Business Blog Marketing: Optimize & Socialize

      Blogs are often rated one of the top content marketing tactics for attracting and engaging customers and eMarketer has reported blogs reach over 50% of the internet audience. But many companies fail to combine two of the most important tools for boosting relevant traffic and reach: Optimization for search engines and for social media.
      Most marketers and bloggers understand the basics of a good business blog and the notion of search engine optimization but often focus more on keywords than the customers that are actually searching.  Adding keywords to blog posts is a common SEO tactic but developing a blogcontent plan around both search keywords and social topics that represent what customers care about can result in content that is inherently more search, social and customer media friendly.

      The Business of Optimizing Social Media

      Social Media Optimization involves optimizing social content for topics of interest to both the brand and the communities they seek to engage. SMO also focuses on the ability for social communities to share links and media they find interesting.  Links to content shared on social networks and media sites can drive direct traffic to blog content and serve as a signal that search engines use for ranking blog web pages.
      Essentially, socialized and optimized blog content can drive traffic through search and those visitors can share that content through social channels, driving even more traffic. Social sharing can also impact better search visibility, providing  more relevant visitors that are actively looking.

      Search and Social Media Friendly

      As Internet marketers have emphasized making websites search engine friendly over the past 10 years, the importance of making websites and blogs social media friendly is also important. Great blog content isn’t really great until it’s consumed and shared, so consider how your customers find information online that is most likely to inspire them to do what you want them to do.

      A Better Business Blog Strategy

      To get more out of the opportunity to improve online discovery of business blog content, here are a few key questions to ask for an “Optimize and Socialize” blog strategy:
      • Who is the blog intended to influence? Prospects, customers, employees, industry analysts, reporters, bloggers.
      • What content will your blog offer that will meet target audience needs?
      • How will addressing those customer needs and telling the brand story manifest as a blog content plan?
      • What search keywords and social topics are relevant to your target audience?
      • Where does your blog content fit in the customer lifecycle of communication with the brand?
      • If the blog content is properly optimized and socialized, how will it influence (directly or indirectly) measurable business outcomes?

      Interest In Your Blog Is Related to Your Blog’s Interest in Readers

      One of the reasons business blogs fail as being optimized and socialized, is that their content tends to be very brand-centric. Most business blog posts talk about the brand, it’s products and services without a lot of consideration for customer perspectives and language.
      A self-centered business blogging approach tends to push ideas out, hoping to get a reaction in the form of search engine rankings, fans, friends and followers.  Many SEO centric blogs share these characteristics.
      The problem with a mostly brand content focus is that there usually isn’t as much sharing, engagement or direct influence on business outcomes because the content is all about the brand, vs. empathizing with customers and the language customers use.

      To Be Great, Your Business Blog Must Participate

      Conversely, a search and social optimized business blog develops and participates in social communities online, offline, internally and externally. To do that, blog editors need to figure out where the great ideas and stories are in the company.
      All this said, it’s not enough simply to have an optimized and socialized blog content plan that aligns brand solutions and ideas with those of your target audience. To tap into a high quality stream of customer-centric content ideas for your business blog, it’s essential to engage relevant social communities. Ask them questions, crowdsource content ideas, give those who participate recognition and repeat.
      By shining a light on the awesome within your community, you’ll provide the fuel of positive reinforcement to motivate fans and customers to partake in both content creation and promotion.
      Walk the talk by telling your brand stories and those of your community. Lead by example and your community will start to tell your stories for you. And so will their friends, and their friends’ friends. That’s the benefit of optimizing your business blog beyond search to include social media, networks and communities.

      Friday, November 25, 2011

      There’s No Such Thing as “Gray Hat” SEO

      If you’ve been in the SEO field more than five minutes, you’ve likely become familiar with the informal “Black Hat”/”White Hat” classification system for SEO techniques. White Hat methods involve creating useful, original methodologies and content for humans, and then presenting that content so that search engines can find it and show it to whoever’s looking for it. Black Hat techniques involve deceiving users and search engines in order to achieve rankings without providing long-term value and potentially causing the client harm.
      grey hat right side
      Then there’s a third category of techniques that don’t fall easily into either the “white” or “black” category. They seem to exist at the borderline between the two, an ethical gray area, so they’re referred to as “Gray Hat.” The problem with Gray Hat techniques, however, is that they don’t exist.
      This is not to say that there are no gray areas when it comes to SEO ethics. It’s ethics, after all. What I mean is that when applied to individual SEO techniques, the label “Gray Hat” is not only inaccurate, but also gives false legitimacy to those “borderline” techniques by situating them halfway between the extremes of black and white.
      Of course, I have to define “Gray Hat” if I want to argue it doesn’t exist. But everyone seems to have a different idea of what exactly it is. I found several slightly overlapping definitions:
      • Techniques that are somewhat deceptive yet not specifically disallowed by search engines’ published guidelines – but may someday be.
      • Black Hat techniques used for legitimate, non-deceptive purposes, or techniques whose legitimacy depends entirely on the intent of the webmaster.
      • Techniques that search engines disapprove of, but won’t (or can’t) penalize your site for using.
      • In a 2008 newsletter article, The Case for White Hat SEO, Bruce Clay estimated that “about 80% of the people who are Gray Hats are just undereducated in the White Hat way of doing SEO.
      • John Andrews defines Gray Hat as “techniques which remain ill-defined by all that published material coming out of Google, and for which reasonable people … could disagree on how the tactics support or contrast with the ‘spirit’ of Google’s published guidelines.”
      Part of the confusion, I think, results from the fact that we’re talking about both the letter and the spirit of search engines’ published guidelines, so there are two different questions we should ask about any particular SEO strategy:
      • Does it follow search engines’ published rules and guidelines?
      • Is it intended to deceive search engines and/or users?
      We can use these questions to generate following matrix:
      Does it follow search engines’ published rules and guidelines?
      Is it intended to deceive search engines and/or users?
      White Hat
      “Undereducated” White Hat
      Gray Hat
      Black Hat
      We can see that techniques termed “Gray Hat” are distinct from the “undereducated” White Hat tactics mentioned by Bruce – techniques that violate search engines’ published guidelines only because the webmaster didn’t know any better.
      What about the rest of “Gray Hat”? Below are some techniques commonly referred to as Gray Hat, but if we look closely we find that there’s less gray area that we think.
      Non-malicious cloaking: Say your site advertises a brand of alcohol, so you give visitors a popup that verifies they’re 21 before letting them in. But you want to allow Googlebot unfettered access, so you present the robot with a version of the page without the popup. This is sometimes a Black Hat technique used for a White Hat purpose: what’s important is the intention. There’s no intention to deceive anyone, so this is White Hat.
      Buying an expired domain and 301 redirecting all the incoming “link juice” to your own site:The argument for classifying this as “Gray Hat” is that Google won’t penalize you if it catches you – it’ll just discount those redirected links. But even if you don’t risk a penalty, this technique is still deceptive and misrepresents your site’s popularity on the Web.
      Article spinning: This involves replacing words or phrases of an article to make it seem like original content. This is considered Gray Hat because it’s harder to detect and takes more effort than simply publishing duplicate content everywhere. But it’s still a shortcut to rankings using deception.
      The second two examples above are attempts to deceive search engines and achieve rankings while doing less work and creating nothing useful. Is this really a gray area? Aren’t those techniques just a weaker form of Black Hat?
      I think so.
      I believe the SEO community should ditch the “Gray Hat” label and call those techniques something along the lines of “weak” Black Hat, as opposed to the “strong” Black Hat of malicious cloaking, link farms, scraped content, etc.
      That said, the matrix above may now look like this:
      Does it follow the search engines’ published rules and guidelines?
      Is it intended to deceive search engines and/or users?
      White Hat
      “Undereducated” White Hat
      “Weak” Black Hat
      “Strong” Black Hat
      Of course, gray areas still exist. And reasonable people can still disagree about which techniques are White Hat and which more closely resemble “weak” Black Hat. But because the term “Gray Hat” is inaccurate, misleading and ultimately unnecessary, we should stop referring to it as a category of SEO techniques.