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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

May Design Speaks For Itself

io, you think a designer has got nothing with SEO. To some extent, it may be but I must say, SEO has got something to do with the design and structure of the website for sure. As Google is changing its metrics and shifting focus on visitors’ loyalty, loading time, average time on website and more such minute issues, it is becoming a necessity for designer to come with a design that looks good and feel good too so that visitors find a homely atmosphere to spend more time in the website which will have a direct bearing on the visibility of the website in Google’s SERP. In simple English, modern website needs to be simple yet highly powerful to accommodate future changes depending on the algo shuffle.

Here we are going to share some characteristics of a great website that can help it make SEO protected and algo proof, at least, we can fancy so:
Make it Simple: Search is a complex thing but Google is always trying to make things simple for users and so, it is your duty as a designer to make your website simple. However, I am not asking you to deny your creative streak all the time. No certainly, what I am asking is to make the entire thing looks aesthetically pleasing to look at. Try to reduce the use of bells and whistles like heavy images, loads of JavaScript applications, heavy flash files etc, as they can kill the design besides adversely affecting the online visibility of the website to some extent.
Add Freshness: Would you ever like to revisit a website, where change never occurs? Definitely not because there will be nothing new to explore. The same thing is applicable with search engine bot. Bot is likely to visit a website where changes are made fast and thick. However, I am not suggesting you to change the entire structure of the website every week. Just suggesting you that you should add a dynamic field at the least in the home page so that it keeps getting refresh and thereby giving enough reasons to search engine bot to crawl your website frequently and frequent crawl will lead to better online visibility. This is the reason why news sites are being crawl so frequently because the dynamic nature of their template.
Reduce Boilerplate template: Boilerplate template as you all know it is a combination of ‘elements designed to be used over and over’. So not that much great for the health of a website, and therefore, it makes perfect sense to reduce its over usage expect some exceptional cases. It might look good from designing point of view but it is a pointless addition from search engines perspective. For example, if a page contains only boilerplate templates and nothing else, it deserves to be delisted from SERP because it is showing information from other pages  and has nothing of its own. Better get rid of this practice.
Reduce Loading Time: Since loading time is going to be the next big factor in the SEO industry, you should make it a point that your template score at least 75 when tested in Google Online page Speed tool. Try to club images in a single image via CSS Sprite, make some tweaks in the .htaccess file etc in short go for every minute thing that can make your website fast, really fast. Whenever possible, try to preload elements by using rel=”prerender”
or ‘prefetch’ elements but make sure that it makes sense and in tune with the user’s behavior. Take a pledge that you will never use large images unnecessarily and never use flash when it is not absolutely needed. And bingo! You will have your share of success.
Michael Evans is a passionate writer and he has been writing for Site2You which is the best business website builder. He has written different article on web design, online marketing and SEO. He is equally enthusiastic about latest gadgets.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Boise SEO Company that Delivers Results

Looking for products and services moved a long way from print ads to web marketing sites. If you have a company, maybe you have seen somebody suggesting that you get it online. How? Well, apart from having your own website for your company, its better if you come up with Search engine optimization services that will help you a lot in becoming more visible for visitors. Your corporation in Boise for instance, might drive potential clients from other cities if your website may be easily seen in search engine.
Before you think about your internet presence – recognize how page ranking works. Of course, there will be competitors in the process so it’s vital to have Search engine optimization services that works (at least allowing you to show up on the first page of the search engine – such as Bing, Google, or Yahoo). It will undergo some methods that might have not heard before (as long as it’s legit), so doing it by yourself won’t be a smart move. Let the experts do this stuff for you and focus more on your services and products.
Another thing that you have to think about is that SEO isn’t the single thing that means something. These days, optimizing for Google Places is also a smart move – this gets you ahead of the regular websites! In addition to that, this approach is extremely helpful for local-based corporations (such as your boutique or store in Boise) that will drive more targeted consumers to your internet site. Boise SEO company Power Marketing Consultants knows this issue to create an effective SEO strategy.
Having your website appear on page one is ideal, but it does not mean that you will be able to get what you desire. Of course, competitors in the same industry will always try to top you off from the list – so, how do you make a difference? Your plumbing organization in Boise for example, will most likely have competitors – your target consumers will always check everyone out and see to it that they get the best deal! The catch: You need a strategic plan to turn targeted traffic into consumers.
SEO will certainly increase web traffic and might increase sales in the process – but never guarantees it. Thus, the only way to get the most out of your Search engine optimization services is to build a web marketing strategy that works! If you’re looking for Search engine optimization services, you also have to check out whether you can also get some doze of strategic marketing plans.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mobile App SEO and Opportunities

A Recent infographic from Nielsen that focuses on Social Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) had a few interesting sound bites.  One of that jumped out at me is that of smartphone users two-thirds of these users time is spent in apps. It doesn’t say how much of this is spent on Angry Birds, but it does illustrate how important apps are to mobile users today, and if apps are where the action is in mobile, it is likely where search will start to take place.
As a search strategist this tells me there is likely an opportunity for many companies to tap into a greater user base through apps, and in app optimziation.  Further it tells me that over time we will likely see different types of SEOs.  There will be the traditional optimizations for Google and Bing, but we will likely see the rise of SEO app optimizers as well.
This will come in 3 forms:
  1. Optimizing apps to be discovered in market places to try and maximize installs.
  2. Optimize in app content to capitalize on valued apps in particular segments
  3. Web content optimization for apps that operate as a view through to the traditional web.

App Optimization

If two-thirds of mobile users spend time on apps then it makes sense to want to optimize apps to increase downloads.  Hopefully your app has value and gets used frequently as well, and then it gets rated.  From some top level investigation there seems to be a couple factors at play in how the iTunes store works for search.  They look at:
1)      App name
2)      Company name
3)      Volume of downloads
4)      App quality ratings
5)      Number of ratings for the app
6)      App description
An example I ran is “analytics”  The fact that “Snake & Ladder” shows up on this search can only be explained based on a combination of the company name “Travancore Analytics Pvt.Ltd” and the volume of downloads/ratings.
Over time I can see the value directly to app installs as there is a correlation to revenue for most companies.  More importantly apps that lead the space can become deeper windows to search.

Optimizing in App Content

Some apps have propriety data sources or have created unique ways to interact with content that the traditional web has not allowed for. Mobile devices provide so many different ways to search besides limited text.  And the type of content we can search for from apps and perhaps the web will change. The multiple ways mobile devices provide to search include: audio sensory (Shazam, Siri, etc.), optical (Google Goggles, SnapTell, etc.), geo location/time awareness (Movie apps, Yelp, etc.).  Each of these search types will have new and different ways to optimize. Does your site provide geo-specific data as micro formats?  Are your product images registered and identifiable in image search engines?  Audio search means having text that is clear and concise as users learn to navigate with voice.
Apps typically provide very specific services and allow a user to complete a very specific and specialized task. When we say content is king for the web today, for mobile apps it will be usefulness will reign supreme (ok maybe that doesn’t have the same ring), but apps that enable users to successfully and quickly complete tasks will be apps that are used the most frequently.

Web Content Optimization

Some apps pull data through RSS or other feeds.  Think about apps for product comparison.  Think about apps for real-estate or movies.  Many of these apps lease or pull content from specific sources.  Optimizing content in apps can again impact the opportunity and revenue value to a company or individual.  Because this is still such a niche place identifying a couple data sources used across multiple apps can make a big impact across a lot of smaller apps.
Further targeting a couple key apps that use common data and understanding how they interpret that common data can also be another strategic approach to optimizing content.  Different niches will likely have different approaches and it can be either shot gun data or sniper like accuracy to a specific app.

The Very Near Future

Each of these spaces is new, unevolved, and ripe for opportunity. I can see a great potential for spam across each space, and how this is dealt with will likely determine the success of different forms of mobile search and more likely the success or failure of some or many apps, but more importantly in the mobile space I suspect we will see a variety of verticals within it where SEOs can focus and provide added value and opportunity.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HTML 5 and What it Means to SEO

Seemingly every single day, HTML 5 is being more and more talked about as it becomes near to completion. Something often brought up as a concern is  what is HTML 5, and what is it going to do for my SEO. Whether we like it or not, sooner or later HTML 5 will replace the present version of HTML, so sooner or later we will have to use it, and we will have to optimize our sites accordingly if we want to stay on top of the rankings. Although you may not want to hear this, if you chose to ignore the future of HTML 5, you will also be refusing to perform the best SEO practices.
So first what is HTML 5? There has been a lot of talk about how HTML 5 will be geared towards a programming language, but in practice HTML 5 will still be an XML based presentation language. In fact HTML 5 is designed in a way that it will be backward compatible to HTML 4, its predecessor. Because of this HTML 5 opens a lot of doors, and will still be very important for SEO.   It still coincides with basic web design practices. HTML, CSS, and Javascript all working together to provide for a fully functional website.

On of the biggest topics for HTML 5 is that it will replace Flash. While there is definitely a possibility of this, at this point this is not the case, nor is it forecasted in any way. Don’t listen to everything Steve Jobs tells you. This is important because Flash is not as easily identifiable to Google when indexed. Sometimes Flash may not be indexed at all. However, Google can index Flash, which is a common misconception. It even shows you how to have your Flash indexed on Google’s developers page. The thing about HTML 5 is, that indexing for your site will become a lot easier, rendering SEO more effective. At this point, HTML 5 should not replace Flash. In fact they should be used together.
HTML 5 has a few key problems with replacing Flash at this moment. First, it typically doesn’t work as fast, and users will use much more of their computer processor, when running. The second problem is that HTML 5 isn’t recognized the same way for every browser, and some of the tags will not be recognized at all. This will result in you eventually having to revert to using Flash. For a highly interactive site it is still common practice to use Flash development. But for simple things like fade in and out, or simple interactions HTML 5 might be more appropriate for SEO.
Some great features of HTML 5 include the easily indexable tags that it will include. First and foremost HTML 5 will improve page segmentation. The way that it will do this is “footer”, “header”, and even “nav” tags. This will prove to be very helpful for SEO. One interesting tag in particular is  the “article” tag. An article tag will prove to 
be effective for identifying key content which may hold backlinks to various sites, and can be very important forlink building services. Improving the page segmentation will help Google and other search engines, easily index your site when complex functions are running.
HTML 5 will prove to very important for SEO. Not only will things like video and audio be much simpler to use with tags, but page segmentation will make your site a much more indexable webpage. This is key for SEO, and certainly will play a big part in web development in the upcoming years. It is important to understand that not all things have been solved by HTML. If you want a highly interactive site that runs smooth, you still might want to use some Flash plug ins. The most important thing to do is stay on top of HTML 5, you do not want to be playing catch up a year from now, losing out on money, and potential customers.
This article was written by Stephen Jackson. Stephen is a web designer who also uses SEO tactics for the best results. 

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SEO Software: Is It Worth the Money?

When I search for “SEO software,” Google comes back with 40,000,000 results. Even if only 1% of those results are unique SEO software product pages, that leaves me with 400,000 SEO software options to choose from! Some of those options can be downright expensive too. A while back, I had been considering giving an SEO software like SEOMoz or Link-Assistant a try, but I always found myself unable to pull the trigger and actually make the final purchase. I just couldn’t justify the cost of SEO software for my company.

As an SEO Professional—

Let’s take a step back for a second and lay the ground rules for what constitutes an SEO professional. I’m going to cast a wide net and just say it applies to anyone who calls themselves an SEO expert/guru/mogul/maven/consultant/freelancer/etc. It will also apply to those that work in SEO firms/agencies/companies/business/corporation/etc but don’t get a fancy New Age title.
I have had the opportunity to test and review some really great SEO software tools over the course of my 12 years in the industry—I’ve also come across some pretty bad ones. Most of them make running a link audit or ranking report or a competitive analysis (one of the favorite tasks of any SEO professional) a breeze. I just drop in whatever URLs I need data on; let the software chug and POOF, out comes a shiny report for my client that looks very impressive. I know the data is reliable, which helps guide my decisions for the SEO campaign. Whenever I need an update on what is going on with that particular client’s site, I just boot up the software and wait for the finished report to download. The software does the heavy lifting, the client is pleased and I look good—what more could an SEO professional want?
Here is where you have to get into cost-benefit analysis. I run a small SEO agency. We have a good amount of long term clients and I’m hustling as best as I can to drum up new business, but I’m not pulling in 3 new clients every week. And as much as I would like to see growth like that, I doubt that’ll happen any time soon. So those big time consuming projects that SEO software is great for aren’t cluttering up my calendar. I might have to run a link audit or two every month, but do those two link audit justify the price tag that comes with a good SEO software tool?
If I owned a larger SEO company that had hundreds of clients and dozens of account managers I might be singing a different tune. With so many reports to crank out every month, SEO software tools must seem like a God send. It helps account managers automate some of the easy, yet time consuming tasks associated with SEO and lets them focus on link building, content marketing and social media marketing for their clients. Whatever it costs each month is well worth the price.
I would love to hear from other SEO professionals about their experiences with SEO software. Was it worth the cost?

As a marketing professional—

Again, let’s take a step back and define “marketing professional.” This can be the marketing manager/director/assistant/etc. of any sized company in any industry. They might work in PR, advertising, brand management or any other form of marketing that isn’t SEO. They could be a one man marketing team for a small company or the head of a 5 person (minus SEO) marketing team. Is SEO software worth the cost to them?
I can see the pro-software argument. SEO software is great for DIY marketers, it keep SEO in-house without having to hire another full-time employee, it might be cheaper than hiring an agency and so forth. Yet a common problem I’ve run into with many consulting clients over the years is that they mistake an SEO tool, like software, for actual SEO knowledge. Microsoft Word is a tool, but it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know how to write. I feel that SEO software works the same way. The SEO software might come up with a list of 10 on-site SEO recommendations, but if a marketing professional doesn’t have the knowledge as to how to actually implement those changes what good are the recommendations? Even if they do implement the changes, if they don’t understand why it’s important for SEO they are missing important information.
Marketing professionals also have to account for the learning curve when using SEO software. Even the most user-friendly interface ever created takes a little getting used to. Do you as the marketing manager of a mid-sized company have the time to spend an hour a day learning how to fully utilize this new software? I think about how confused some site owners are with Google Analytics and all the ways data can be interpreted there. SEO software is going to spit out the same data in a different format, but that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically know what it means and what to do with it. If you are unable to fully leverage what the SEO software can do for you, is it worth the cost?
I would also love to hear from marketing professionals about their experiences with SEO software. Was it worth the cost?
Written By:

Nick Stamoulis Search Engine Optimization Journal |@NickStamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of social SEO solutions firm Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of industry SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips in his blog and the Brick Marketing internet marketing blog and often publishes helpful SEO white papers