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Balancing SEO and Visitor Engagement part 2

Part 2 of SEO and Visitor Engagement..(Read Part 1)

Safe Ways to Increase Your Search Presence

The recent Panda and Penguin updates at Google have wreaked havoc among webmasters. Nobody knows for sure what works and what doesn’t work. Some SERPs are dominated by low quality websites while thousands of high quality websites have been banished. This has all created a climate in which webmasters are afraid to make big moves.

The good news is that not all hope is lost. It is still entirely possible to build backlinks and rank well for keywords. The key is to do it the old-fashioned natural way. Buying links in bulk does not work like it used to. In fact, bulk link buying is more likely to hurt your website than it is to help.

You might already know the basics of natural SEO, but let’s mention them again:

  • Produce fresh, original content and add new posts frequently
  • Make your website worth linking to
  • Contribute guest posts to other quality websites
  • Issue press releases that actually contain news
  • Fresh Content

Fresh content is always a good thing. Google likes websites that are updated frequently and your websites has more pages that can rank for long tail keywords. The more pages your website has, the more traffic it gets.

Big Caveat: Do not add new content for the sake of adding new content. Every piece of content you add should serve a real purpose. A million pages on your website will do absolutely nothing if you get pegged as a content farm. Take your time to write every page with a purpose and to engage your visitors.

Make Your Website Worth Linking To

The whole first half of this page basically addressed this point. You make your website worth linking to by engaging the visitor. Useful websites receive links. There is no better SEO strategy than to build a website that people think is awesome.

This is the most important part of building a successful website. A truly useful resource will sustain itself for years. Cheap websites that rely on SEO and new visitors do not last. They do not retain readers and they die as soon as the algorithm boots them off the first page. Make a website that people remember and want to link to.

Press Releases

Webmasters have been abusing press releases for years now and Google knows it. As a result, the typical press release doesn’t do a whole lot of good. But, that doesn’t mean press releases are dead.

Find newsworthy content and issue press releases that are actually worthy of their own stories. For example, don’t waste your time with press releases that talk about the awesome new website you just opened. Take a survey, collect data and issue a press release that provides a unique look at an interesting subject.

Don’t look at press releases as a “gimme links now” SEO tactic. Your press releases need to give more than they take. Mention your own website in there somewhere, but don’t focus everything on your website. Give the journalists out there real news that they can use in their own stories. This gives your press release the maximum potential to get picked up by major news outlets.

This type of press release is a perfect example of balancing SEO and visitor engagement. You are giving people something they want, while also getting something you want. The old days of just taking, taking, taking are gone. You have to produce stuff that people really want to see.

Guest Posting

The same thing also goes for guest posting. Guest posting is still a great way to build links to your site and make connections with other people. Look for high quality websites that produce real content and approach those webmasters with ideas of your own. Do not write for websites that obviously sell links or websites in which almost every new post is a guest post.
Make sure to make your guest posts as valuable as possible. The better your guest post is for that other person, the better it is to you. Make your guest posts so great that they get their own links. This will not only give you more link juice, but it will give you greater recognition as an author. You would be surprised at what kind of a name you can make for yourself with the help of guest posting.


About the Author: Wes Burns is a full time freelance writer and student of SEO. He values old fashioned, high-quality content over the latest link building gimmicks. His latest project is an online storage website located at OnlineFileStorage.com.

Balancing SEO and Visitor Engagement part 1

The traditional view of SEO is that webmasters must walk a fine line between visitor engagement and writing optimized content. This view says that webmasters must build content that targets specific keywords and find ways to keep that content interesting for readers. It’s a delicate balance between writing for visitors and writing for search engines.

I personally disagree with that point of view. The traditional view of SEO makes it out to be a battle between writing for search engines and writing for real people. The truth is that visitor engagement comes first. Search engine optimization should always come second to visitor engagement.

Bear with me. This is not another “content is king” piece. I still plan to explain how you can rank for keywords and build a profitable website. I’m just going to take a different point of view than what you see at most SEO forums.

Writing for the Readers vs. Writing for Search Engines

Let’s start with writing for the readers. If you don’t write for your readers, your website is doomed in the long run. What I mean by “writing for the readers” is writing content that other people actually find useful, entertaining or controversial. This is how you create a long-lasting website.

The other way you can go is to write specifically for search engines. This means you do lots of keyword research, you base new content ideas on keywords that you want to hit and you try to stick your keyword in the content as often as possible without getting dinged by an over optimization penalty.

The problem with writing for search engines is that it places your website at the mercy of search engines. The next time Google changes its algorithm, your website might be knocked off the map forever. And since you never wrote for the visitors, it’s unlikely you will get much return traffic or type-in traffic. As soon as your website disappears from page one, it is forgotten by everyone.

When you write for your readers, you build a search engine-proof website. You can handle the minor ups and downs because you get traffic from a variety of sources. Your visitors have you bookmarked, people recommend your site in forums and people come back to comment on old articles. This is also known as building an authority website.

A Healthy Balance

Write every article with the visitors in mind first. Even on your high converting pages, make the content useful. Give people your honest opinion and explain their options. If your conversion pages come across as salesy, it will turn people off and search engines will rank it poorly.

And speaking of which, not every piece of new content has to be designed to get more sales. Don’t be afraid to write content that serves no purpose other than to serve the reader. That alone is a good purpose. You will build good will among your visitors, Google will see that not every page is riddled with ads and other people will be more willing to link to you.

For example, I run an online storage website (here) whose goal is to earn money by referring visitors to online storage services.  If you visit that site, you’ll see that not every page tries to sell storage space. I have written long how-to guides about encrypting files, downloading music and increasing computer security. The purpose of these articles is to give visitors useful information, not to sell storage space.

Read more in Part 2


About the Author: Wes Burns is a full time freelance writer and student of SEO. He values old fashioned, high-quality content over the latest link building gimmicks. His latest project is an online storage website located at OnlineFileStorage.com.

SEO Killer! Google is the Primary Suspect

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the primary way to drive traffic to your website. It is what facilitates you coming up in search results and therefore facilitates people going to your website. But Google might be trying to kill your SEO.

SEO primarily operates from the use of keywords. These words are used strategically in your site to help the search engines find your site and match it with appropriate search terms. The better your SEO the better you will turn up in the search results. Really good SEO can result in you being one of the first few websites found in a relevant search.

Google is jumping on the privacy train, but not in a way that users will actually know. They are making it so if you do a search, and you are signed into Google, your search will be encrypted. What does this mean? Good question! This means that the information about your search, keywords and the link you clicked to get to the website will not be shared with the website.

What this means to websites:

When someone comes to your website from a search engine, they use a search term to find your site. That gives them a link to a page on your site. They click the link and go to your site. As obvious as this is, this information is important to your SEO strategy. You want to know the words people are using to find your site. You want to know the links that are bringing people into your site.

The data you will not be receiving due to the new encryption is:

  • Referral Data – This is the link they clicked to get to your site.
  • Key Words- These are the search terms the used to find your site.

This information will not be withheld on ads or sponsored listings, so if you pay for your listing you will still know how the user found you.

Whats the upside?

This is only affective when people are signed into their Google accounts, which is roughly only 10% of the users. So 90% of your organic traffic will deliver data to your analytics. The other 10% will show you that the user came, but not the how’s, what’s or where-from’s.

Why are they killing my SEO?

Good question. The primary argument is this is a step towards increased privacy. Google has often been criticized for being too invasive. They gather and share information about their users. This is giving users the option of increased privacy in their searches. Of course, Google still has this information and that information is still feeding into their ads, sponsored links, stories, etc. So you will not likely notice the increase in privacy.

From the users point of view nothing has changed. From the websites point of view, they are being denied some valuable data.

I heart SEO: Why Quality is King

I heart SEOHow to Organize Your Marketing Budget for SEO

In a world where it seems content marketing, social media and SEO change faster than it takes you to read this blog post, it’s more important than ever to nail down the your marketing budget’s top priorities in terms of what you’ll allocate to SEO. What works? What’s Google looking for these days that will help me rank? How is that different than what they were looking for a year ago? And most importantly, what web solutions do I need to allocate resources to that will most help my company’s SEO performance?

Industry-leading search engine optimization software developer, SEOMoz, published their 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors report earlier this year. The report can be an essential guide into what search engines are valuing these days. Their analysis should help point us in the right direction when we’re looking to allocate resources to managing our company’s SEO.

One of the most interesting things about the 2011 report was how different the factors are from findings published in the past. For example, in 2010, if you had an exact match domain that included a keyword, you were probably in pretty good shape to rank. Today, that correlation has dropped significantly.

Here are a few things to consider when you’re dividing up your marketing budget:

Quality and Quantity Content

It’s no longer enough to simply have pages that point back to your site with links. It’s also no longer enough to have a ton of low-quality content stuffed with keywords. In the old days of SEO, you could get away with these habits and win some searches. Now you can’t cut corners with your content. Keyword stuffing or hiding won’t work. Creating large volumes of original, relevant, sharable content is more important now than ever.

Google’s crawlers analyze whether your content is relevant to both your website and the sites you link to.

In a sense, our marketing tools have come full circle. Earlier this decade, we were told that unique content was the key to driving traffic to our websites. After all of the SEO shortcuts people have tried to take the past few years, unique content that is relevant to your audience is, once again, king.

If You’re Ignoring Offsite, You’re Missing a Huge Part of the Pie

Offsite SEO accounts for nearly 40% of the SEO pie. If you’re only concerned with what you’re saying on your domain, you’re only doing about half of the work. Things like external links, domain and page authority and social media all play a huge role in how Google perceives you.

It used to be that if you had an external link with anchor text was highly regarded by Google. Not so much anymore. Similarly, if you buy a domain that includes an exact keyword, it’s not as helpful as it used to be. Search engines want to know the context of your domain and content. Links are nice, but what’s the context of the content surrounding them?

User Experience

We all want to find what we’re looking for easily. No one likes feeling like they’ve been tricked into finding a website. People are online looking for answers to their questions or problems, and they don’t want to feel mislead. Google has taken notice and places a value on user experience.

Google analyzes things like clickthrough rates and bounce rates. If people are coming to your website and are bouncing off quickly, chances are, it will affect your SEO. Similarly, if people are clicking through your ads to your website and stay there, you might see a boost.

With the smart phone boom in recent years, more sites are seeing traffic come from mobile users. If you aren’t optimized for mobile, your traffic probably isn’t as successful as it could be.

Today, Google values unique content and context. Those two are the biggest factors in how you will be ranked. Do your marketing resources and investments reflect the prioritization of valuable content, offsite SEO and your site’s user experience?


Justin Shimp is a digital handyman and content author at Smallbox, an Indianapolis web solutions consulting firm.

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Modern Mad Men: What’s in your Media Cocktail?

Mix. Layer. Repeat.

Our culture has a love-hate affair with advertising. What was once an art reserved exclusively for the Ad Men of Madison Avenue (you’ve heard of Mad Men?) has deteriorated over the years, as savvy consumers get harder to reach. It’s an embarrassing cat-and-mouse game now, as customers dodge behind pop-up blockers, DVR and no-call lists. Various brands shamelessly persist, seeking to interrupt us at the exact moment when we might pause long enough to be engaged or entertained by their message.

So where does the love part come in? The reality is that if it didn’t work, advertising would not persist. Consumers don’t realize it, but our habits indicate that on some unconscious level we’ve accepted advertising as a part of our culture. Mad Men is one of the highest rated shows on television, Super Bowl ads are almost as highly anticipated as the game, and Twitter allows us to follow our favorite celebrity brands who are likely tweeting about their favorite brands.

Mad Men

Your marketing strategy: like modern day Mad Men?

That’s the consumer side of the picture, and in real life we consumers are often business people who need to advance our businesses. Whether we need to sell more products or services, every business on the planet needs to get the word out to someone, about something. Is advertising the best way to do that? If you think of it as a paid vehicle through which you promote your message, then yes, you could probably benefit from some form of advertising.

If you’ve committed to telling someone about the something you are selling – product or service, B2B or B2C – then it’s time to talk about your mix. It used to be that when the Mad Men would talk about your media mix, they meant that you could complement your television advertising with radio advertising (insert nostalgic chuckle here) Oh, the simple days …

Today your mix must be strategic, dynamic and appropriate to your audience. Think about your marketing plan as a layering of messages that complement micro- and macro-targeted approaches. Here’s a look at a few of the myriad options, starting from the most wide-reaching media vehicles and narrowing down to laser focused opportunities:

Radio and Television

  • Overview: This is the big-picture nuclear bomb approach to advertising. Cast the broadest possible net!
  • Best for: Setting the tone of a campaign – creating the perception that your topic, product or company is part of a larger dialogue. This is a medium for overarching brand messages. With this you can plant the seed of an idea, but it may not be best for a call to action.
  • Optimization Examples: Nationally you can buy broadcast stations like NBC, or Radio mega networks like Clear Channel. Unless you are a big company like McDonalds though, you may be better off looking at cable and satellite networks, or keeping your buy strictly local for refined targeting to your key audiences.
  • Warning: Unless you can shell out for high-quality production and high-ticket time, step away from this medium as an option. You will only sully your brand with poor quality production, and your saturation needs to be adequate as well. Repetition gets results.

Print

  • Overview: Print is the old war horse, and getting a bad rap for lacking effectiveness and ROI.
  • Best For: Bolstering messages as part of a larger campaign. Use to promote specific events or sales, or relate your product or service to a specific issue being talked about in the publication.
  • Optimization Examples: Select a targeted print option. If you are a CPA, the business section in your local paper is a good spot. If you are an interior design company, look for the local home magazine. You can get even more granular and find target industry association publications which can be a very cost effective means of reaching just the right people.
  • Warnings: Your advertisement is just wallpaper unless you make it stand out. In newspaper, go with color; in a magazine go with a full-page full-color. Always ask for premium placements – back cover, inside front cover or better still, get an editorial calendar and ask for placement next to relevant editorial copy.

Outdoor & Transit

  • Overview: This is more of the grenade approach. Big coverage in small localized areas.
  • Best For: Reaching consumers in their everyday lives. Soccer mom on the way to practice, lawyer on his commute to work. This can be a good call-to-action medium, and is generally very cost effective.
  • Optimization Examples: A media agency can give you specific data on the customer segments that drive past a particular billboard, and you can geo-target bus routes by zip codes and demographic areas.
  • Warnings: What are we thinking about in our cars? All kinds of things! Make the message relevant, eye catching and briefer than your think it should be. As I whiz past your billboard at 75 miles an hour am I going to make a decision about the printing company I use at work? Not likely. Am I going to think about my car insurance? Possibly … if you get my attention fast enough!

Alternative Media

  • Overview: This category could be a blog post unto itself, as I am lumping in all kinds of wonderfully targeted options here. Find a great media buyer, and learn about the possibilities that await with options like:
    • Closed circuit television in airports and airplanes
    • Elevator advertising
    • Parking lot advertising
    • Bathroom stall advertising (if you sell feminine products or birth control, this could be the ticket!)
  • Best For: Targeting groups of people, at a key moment in time when they will receive an aptly paired message.
  • Optimization Example: Do you have an environmental campaign that wants to remind consumers to use reusable grocery bags? Parking lot strips catch that person before they forget the bags in their car!
  • Warning: As your approach gets this targeted, make sure the message matches the medium. When you are waiting for a plane to take off, are you thinking about cleaning products? Not likely.


Online & Social Media

  • Overview: This is the laser-targeted, sniper approach. You can try to reach millions worldwide on some sites, but it’s best to find the specific customers that matter most to your business, in their natural online habitats.
  • Best For: Just about everyone, really. The Internet is as big as the universe and the people you want to reach are probably online. The tools within this category are limitless. Twitter can be a great tool for solidifying a position of leadership in a dialogue, and pay-per-click contextual ads can be a great way to drive traffic to your site.
  • Optimization example: The optimization options are also limitless. Find a partner with the experience and capabilities to recommend the best options for you. Remember that you may not be reaching millions of people, but you will more likely reach the right 1,000 people. (see SMCubed Popularity vs. Influence: Are you the popular kid?)
  • Warning: This medium is changing so rapidly that last week’s trends may be prehistoric this week. Embrace what you don’t know, and find an expert partner with their eye on the ball to help you make the most of this medium!

If you are undertaking an advertising campaign, think about your customer and how to reach them at different times in different ways. Almost all of these vehicles are useless by themselves. When layered together, they become a dynamic brand presence that can actually get through to today’s dodgy audiences.

A last parting thought to ponder: you may have the best chance at reaching your target market right in your own back yard. Consider this: I spent a few wonderful years in marketing for Whole Foods Market, and you may notice they do very little paid advertising. What they understand is that they have hundreds of ways of reaching their customers inside their own stores. Every communication point is an opportunity – directional signage, price tags, point of sale signs, team member name badges, checkout kiosks and receipts.

What might these opportunities look like for you? Invoices, email signatures, meeting signage, Powerpoint presentations, proposals, conference programs … every touch point is an opportunity to present the brand image you desire. The Mad Men of the 1960s would be very proud of such ingenuity!

 


Colleen Rauscher brings over 10 years of strategic communications experience in a variety of industries including energy, non-profit, insurance, hospitality and retail. She specializes in integrated corporate marketing communications, brand strategies, Hispanic marketing and advertising strategy.

Prior to joining GBSM, Colleen served as an independent marketing consultant in the alternative energy and hospitality industries, helping clients articulate complex technical concepts, define their market niches and build well defined brand identities. She also served as a Regional Marketing Associate for Whole Foods Market, where she worked on seasonal campaign development, supervising staff in 33 stores and four states in the Rocky Mountain Region. She was recognized by the Global Consumer Research group for her work using customer data and demographic information to create innovative market strategies.

Colleen began her career in New York City, working for dotcom start-ups and advertising agencies. She moved to Denver to work in the meetings and incentives arena, with clients including Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Ameritrade, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and 3M Corporation.

Colleen has a BS from the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies. She serves on the Board of Directors for Global Energy Options, Inc. and the Denver Hooperz Youth Organization, a program that uses competitive basketball as a vehicle to give at-risk youth opportunities to learn life skills, discipline and responsibility.

SEO…yourself? Optimizing your Personal Brand

Article first published as SEO…yourself? Optimizing your Personal Brand on Technorati.

When was the last time you googled yourself? For many of us, it was not that long ago. But when was the last time you checked your SEO value?

Your what? Personal SEO value? Yes!

SEO, aka. search engine optimization, has more value than just boosting your website search ranking. It can also boost your personal brand.

In my writing I speak a lot about social media and related topics. However, I also frequently reference Smith College. I am an alumnae and a very proud Smithie. Recently when writing I referenced my alma mater. In looking for an image to use with the post I did a quick search for “social media smith college“. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the first two lines of the search results turned up three photos of me and one graphic I created.

Lauren MacEwen Google Image Search

The success of personal SEO branding can be seen when you are associated with other strong search terms

Through my writing, linking and social media efforts I have associated myself with Smith College and social media. This is an honor I will gladly accept. Not to mention in image searches the results are usually flooded with generic clip art and stock photos, it is great to see your own personal branding infiltrating the sea of brand X images.

Social Business

The social business model is becoming the leading trend in business development. Companies are realizing that social media is more than just chatting on Twitter or playing Scrabble on Facebook. It is a way to directly communicate with your consumer base. It is a way to improve your reputation, build your authority, create a new avenue for customer service, and of course sell. Often what happens, especially for smaller businesses, is that one person becomes the voice (and face) of the brand. This is why managing your own online reputation is an important component to managing your online business reputation.

When you become the face of a brand then you are the person that is looked to as the authority. You are the person that is building the trust. You are the one people look to for answers to their questions. The more of an authority you become the more of a resource you become. This will extend beyond your brand. You can actually establish yourself as an authority in your area through personal branding. Do you think people only talk to Mari Smith or Chris Brogan about their services? Of course not. They are authorities on business social media and people look to them for advice and opinions on all avenues of social media, not just ones related to their business.

By building your personal brand you establish yourself as an authority in your topics. Part of the way you do that is by doing SEO on yourself!

SEO Yourself!

  • Get the Byline!

Writing a blog is a great way to get yourself out there. But don’t forget to give yourself the byline. Even if it is your blog make sure that it says “By …” at the top of the post. When the search engines crawl your site, they will also be crawling your name. The more time it comes up, the more you will be associated with keywords in your post

Guest blogging will also help get your name out there. The more bylines you have in more places, the better your personal ranking in Google.

  • Photos!

Every time you use a picture of yourself put your name in the image title, in the alt tag and in the description. You know the picture is you. Your audience might know the picture is you. But search engines do not know the picture is you, so make sure you tell them.

  • Social Media!

Social media is a great way to communicate with industry relevant people. The more you talk to people in your industry the more you will be associated with that industry. The search engines rank Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Sometimes having a conversation with a “influencer” in your industry can give your personal brand a huge boost in SEO. Through the conversations with influencers, they lend you their authority. Not only do other people see that you are talking to them, and they to you, but the search engines see it to. It would be like if CNN linked to your website. Your authority increases because of their authority.