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SEO Strategies: the latest in search marketing strategies, insights, principles, case studies as well as guest entries from other reputable blogs.

Whitehat SEO Techniques in 2013: Learning From Blackhat SEO

The phrases “white hat” and “black hat” are loaded guns, and we only use them because they’re so ubiquitous. The truth is, when you tell yourself you are a “white hat,” you can end up fooling yourself into thinking that your strategy will always work, and Google will never turn it back on you. Worse still, you can close your mind off to insights that dramatically improve business results.

Don’t misunderstand us. Ethics are crucial. If you don’t already understand why it’s absolutely vital for SEO to be crystal clear and ethical in the years going forward, take a look at what we wrote over at Search Engine Journal. (Hint: the algorithm is only a very small part of why ethics matter.)

But there’s a difference between ethics and restrictive labels, and if you aren’t learning anything from “black hats,” you’re probably missing some key insights, like these:

1. Testing is Always Better than Blind Faith

Before you head straight to the comment section and write a rage-fueled rant, let me point out the fact that these are generalized statements. They don’t apply to every single “white hat” or “black hat” out there. But here we go:

White hats are less likely to test things than black hats.

This is an unfortunate truth about our industry. While there are plenty of excellent number crunchers on the “inbound” side of SEO, like, say, Dr. Pete, your average white hat SEO is less likely to put things to the test than your average black hat SEO. There are a few reasons for this:

    • Black hats can test some theories much faster than white hats, because they can use automated software and create controlled experiments that aren’t practical with white hat tactics
    • A large portion of white hats are “reformed” black hats who couldn’t stomach tests that kept getting them penalized, and have decided to simply follow the advice of industry experts instead
  • Some confuse white hat SEO for doing exactly what Google advises, and thus don’t bother testing anything

Again, I’m not saying these statements are true for all, or even most, white hat SEOs. I’m simply saying that more white hats are guilty of this particular offense than black hats.

Things don’t have to be this way.

As we’ve said several times, it’s a bit ironic to put the word “optimizer” in your title if you aren’t doing any actual testing for optimization. Even the worst conversion rate optimizers understand this. It’s strange how few SEOs (on either side of the fence) actually test their pet theories about the algorithm, or run the numbers to see how well their cherished tactics and strategies are playing out.

We recently wrote an in depth guide for KISSmetrics on SEO testing. Here are a few of the takeaways from that post:

    • You can test quirks of the algorithm by tweaking single things and measuring how they influence traffic
    • You can put SEO strategies to the test on “real world” sites by running two different content strategies at the same time, and measuring which content group picks up the most lifetime value (note that lifetime value does not equal number of visits, subscribers, etc.)
    • You can use traditional split testing to discover which kinds of pages are most likely to pick up natural links, or links from outreach

We are living in the age of big data. There’s just no excuse to leave money on the table by relying on assumptions instead of hard facts. Intuition is crucial, but it’s most useful when you are also putting it to the test.

2. It’s Okay to Spend Money to Make Money

As we all know, black hat SEOs have no qualms spending money to make money. They will buy links, pay for inclusion in networks, pay for automated link-building tools, buy multiple IP hosting, and buy sites to set up their own private blog networks.

As all white hat SEOs already know, these tactics aren’t worth investing in if you care about long term results. For the black hats who know how to do it, these tactics can make a quick buck, but they are very far removed from the brand building that legitimate businesses need to survive. Sites that rank using these kinds of tactics are short-lived at best, and eventually get struck down by algorithm updates, manual reviews, or user spam reports.

So, what can we possibly learn from black hats on this issue?

It’s a basic lesson that marketers in every other field understand quite well: it’s okay to pay for results. Marketers buy ad space on television networks, they pay per click, they hire talent, and they invest. And there certainly are white hat SEOs who understand just how incredible results can be when you have money to invest.

Unfortunately, the whole “don’t buy links” mentality has really hurt our ability to think of SEO as a “put money in and get money out” field of marketing.

We can even learn direct lessons from some of these black hat tactics:

    • Buying links – While we can’t straight up buy links or even offer “free products and services” in exchange for links, it’s perfectly fine to hire talent from people with influence on the web. The over-emphasis on guest posts and link-begging has led some of us to believe that you just can’t offer money to people when you’re trying to establish an online presence. That’s a terrible way of looking at things. When you hire microcelebrities, influential bloggers, well-known photographers, and so on, you will attract traffic, and you will earn links. You just need to be willing to hire people who always earn natural links, no matter what they do. It’s that simple. Not to mention the fact that buying no-follow links for the referral traffic is perfectly fine, and seriously underrated.
    • Private blog networks – While setting up a private link network of sites that “pretend” not to be associated with you is a terrible idea if you care about a long-term online presence, we can take a page from the basic approach. It’s perfectly legitimate to buy blogs, redirect them to folders or subdomains on your site, and when possible, hire the blogger. This allows you to buy not just a link profile, but mindshare. Conglomerates understand the value of acquisitions. Why do so few SEOs?
    • Pay for inclusion in networks – Joining a link network, especially a publicly advertised one, is an extremely bad idea for brands. But there’s nothing ethically wrong with buying visibility on networks. Advertorials (not to mention advertisements) are an incredible way to increase exposure, when used properly. What many people don’t realize is that you can actually earn links by buying ads. Traffic turns into links, and if the content is better, it turns into more, higher quality links. That’s how Google works outside of the most competitive niches, and it’s a fact that you can use to build entirely natural links with ad exposure.
    • Pay for tools – While fully automated link building tools are an awful idea, tools like Followerwonk can make link building outreach much more effective and efficient. Reporting tools like AdvancedWebRanking make it easier to track and learn from your campaigns, and tools like KISSmetrics can teach us about our individual customer’s behavior. It’s very difficult to do any real optimization without tools in your arsenal.

SEO is business. We need to speak the language of ROI, and think about more innovative and effective ways to spend money, if we wish to be taken seriously.

3. It’s Worth Taking Advantage of What Works Today

White hat SEOs are playing the long game. They’re interested in strategies that will continue to work for years and years, because they don’t want to throw their clients under the bus, and lose their reputation virtually overnight. This is the only smart way to run an SEO agency.

And yet, it’s clear that some black hats can make a lot of money very quickly by taking advantage of loopholes in the algorithm. Sites can rank for ridiculously competitive terms like “car insurance” in 3 days using links from hacked websites. They can rank for terms with 40k monthly visits in 4 days using private link networks.

And let’s all face facts: everybody wants to make money now, not later. So is there something we can learn from the cheaters?

Long term strategy is crucial, but it shouldn’t exist in isolation.

When there’s an opportunity to make money today, you should take advantage of it, as long as it doesn’t compromise the future of your brand. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking advantage of the way Google’s algorithm works today, as long as you can justify what you are doing as legitimate marketing, and as long as you are investing the revenue in strategies that will continue to work for the long haul.

Conclusion

While it can be useful for SEO agencies to distance themselves from spammers, it can also become dangerous if it limits your thinking. Ethics are crucial for the success of your business, but they shouldn’t be used as an excuse to plug your ears and cover your eyes. Open minds are a must if you want to compete in this growing market.

What other lessons can we learn from the seedy underbelly of SEO?

Building Links in 2013: Strategies & Tactics

On average, Google employs 200 points of criteria to determine website rankings. These discernible categories are segmented by popularity, relevancy and content.  As implied in the name, “popularity” is perhaps the most crucial driving force for higher rankings.  How does one achieve a recognizable website? With a little help from  effective, linkbuilding strategies.

Link building is an-ever changing discipline that must be executed correctly in order to produce  advantageous results.  What exactly is linkbuilding, you may ask? Let’s get down to brass tacks!

The objective of linkbuilding is pretty straightforward: place high-quality website links across the web pointed to your site.  The more quality websites you acquire placements from, the better your website can rank.  Seems easy enough, right? Ah, if only it were so simple!

Many people confuse “link bait” with “link building,” and there in itself lies the first problem. Link-building strategies are endeavors you personally undertake (ie. the cause-and-effect falls on your shoulders), whereas link bait is intended to go viral upon conception as a result of high share volumes.

Similar to fishing, you “bait” some amazing content to the masses and wait to reel ‘em in. The problem with this technique? Unless you’ve hired professional SEO strategists who can ensure positive ROIs, you’re likely to be waiting on that bite for a long time. You’re better off taking the plunge and implementing your own linkbuilding strategies, rather than sitting back and waiting for a catch.  It’s like that old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime” (but with a little more marketing jargon).

Anyway – enough about linkbait; now onto strategy building!

Link strategy is essential when blueprinting your short and long-term goals.  You first must determine what links you’re capable of creating in moderate-to-high volumes. That’s the whole point of linkbuilding strategies: driving as much traffic to your site via organic linking methods. Let’s take a look at some of them!

Link Building for High Visibility

Consider taking advantage of trending pages that generate millions of visitors each month. For a small investment, buying links from such notable websites can optimize your linkprofile with natural, nofollow links (rel=’nofollow’). While these nofollow links don’t pass pagerank to your site, they do serve as Google-friendly, natural sources.  All-followed links, even from reputable sources, can raise a red flag if misconstrued by Penguin 2.0 algorithms.

In order to proceed with this strategy, the following measures should be taken:

1. page placement (ie. location of link)
2. determining style/format of chosen link (ie. opting for image vs. widget)
3. assessing your angle (ie. consumer-appeal vs. brand name insert)
4. inventory placement (homepage link vs. deep content link)
5. cost-awareness (ie. knowing your price limit)
6. link disclosure (ie. acknowledging third-party sources )

This method calls for some patience, along with strategic planning. Pursue your networking options and employ the expertise of ad brokers and associates.

Don’t get discouraged if Google’s linking limitations pose some obstacles every now and then. There is still industry growth potential; you just have to source out your own specific medium.

Link Building for Moderate Visibility

Guest posting has emerged in recent years as an effective way to increase page rankings.  A successful guest post is one that produces valuable content for the hosting blog site(s). The following are key steps to consider when executing a search-free, link traffic endeavor:

1. frequency of contribution(s)
2. depth and structure of shared information
3. the contribution benefits of your content
4. external promotion features

Your mission is to obtain consistent visitors for each site you contribute content to, so it’s important to produce quality content to pique visitor interest. Moderate site-traffic should see an influx of 10,000+ monthly visitors. While this seems like a high number, creative, optimal content can easily pull those figures. If you are unable to appease that volume, you may be marketing insufficient content that does not appeal to visitors.

Link Building for Social Media

Even though Lady Gaga reigns the Twitter realm with her multi-million (plus) fan base, the average Joe requires a bit more strategy than a stage name and arena of adoring fans (hate to be the bearer of bad news)!

Your social media audience will increase as you dabble in the networking process; friending, accepting and/or following a target niche, or individuals with similar industry interests. Some factors to keep in mind when executing this endeavor:

1. the positive outreach support you foster vs. the generic approach of others
2. your active participation within social media communities vs. standard, link publishing spiels
3. regular guest interaction vs. communicative indifference

In this situation, your goal is to ‘persuade’ without ‘pushing’ You want to convey the right amount of enthusiasm/chutzpah, but you should also avoid overly-aggressive, networking tactics that are likely to work against you. Ultimately, you want visitors to click on your links because of legitimate interest in your services/specific niche, so be socially-forthright instead of hard-selling.

Link Building for Mobile Apps/Mobile-Friendly Devices

This strategy works best for those capable of creating/marketing an engaging app that drives mobile traffic to your website. Consider the app as your very own publishing medium that showcases the benefits of your site.

If creating your own app is not a possible option, try creating a mobile-friendly website that supports smartphone browsers with easy navigation. Factors to consider for this endeavor are:

  • extended platform/device usability
  • app promotion efforts/appeal to target audience
  • work/effort needed to publish + maintain app and/or mobile site
  • designing a CTA link that corresponds with mobile presentation

 

SEO Linkbuilding: A Dying Industry?

Contrary to what you’ve heard, there are still plenty of search-influenced methods to tap into. Linkbuilding is not a “dying” industry, so much as it is “evolving” with the times.

Like any SEO venture, there are certain risks associated with linkbuilding. The launch of analytical, algorithmic tools like Google’s Penguin 2.0 (used to weed out spammers) have posed a problem for unnatural linkprofiles that are often perceived as manipulative link tactics.

The consequences of these anchored, SEO tactics are severe enough to sway some marketing agencies from link building strategies. The following are just some of the SEO tactics that have emerged on the market in recent years as “questionable” strategies:

  • manipulating the anchor text of links
  • mass, infographic distribution for link bait
  • vendor/tradeshow promotions aka. “giving away swag”
  • journalists who use “Help A Reporter Out” service to gather immediate feedback

While some webmasters are comfortable with link spam, Google algorithms are certainly not. The anticipated launch of Penguin 2.0 is sure to tighten the reigns around anchored, SEO strategies. As many spamming tactics violate Google policies, algorithmic interception is likely to occur; tarnishing your site visibility, along with any number of associated penalties.

Regardless of some of the current hesitancies surrounding linkbuilding strategies, correctly-executed links are still capable of influencing search rankings…without detriment. Though it may seem like the entire Google conglomerate have it out for every webmaster seeking higher traffic volumes, the search engine algorithms aren’t intended to destroy the linkbuilding industry’s SEO attempts. The whole point of this Google Penguin crackdown is to single out the manipulative links that have been distributed by automated spamming sites, and fair enough. Webmasters who have effectively-employed natural, linkbuilding strategies can finally reap the benefits of their hard labors, because they’ve earned it!

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you find yourself considering “white hat” strategies, we strongly encourage you to weigh the pros-and-cons of this risky attempt.  Realistically, SEO tactics that sell links via white hat strategies are far more likely to encounter marketing agencies that run like the dickens from these link acquisition services. In order to succeed in the current and ompetitive marketing realm, you have to plead your case, so to speak. Demonstrate that SEO is possible through natural linkprofiles, to lower their ‘linkbuilding guard.’

Also keep in mind that substituting guest posts and infographics for paid links is a very slippery slope that you should avoid at all costs. Realistically, these manipulative linking practices have already faced backlash, penalties and long-term, critical reviews. People are very quick to sport the fancy label of “content marketer,” but those who intend to streamline the labor-intensive processes just to manipulate search results are simply link spammers with a misconstrued job title.

The most important thing to remember? Relax and approach this venture with diligence.  Avoid linkbuilding shortcuts that may save you time, but cost you much more in consequences. Haste should not be a driving force for your marketing strategies. If you’re quick to expedite the linkbuilding process, you are likely to showcase a site that conveys exactly that: rushed efforts and/or presentation and illegitimate credibility. Always keep in mind that natural linkbuilding isn’t an urban myth. With the right strategies and legwork, you can avoid manipulative linking and all its associate penalties. Sure, this endeavor requires a fair amount of effort, but with a little bit of organic effort and an extra boost of gumption, it is possible to ensure your site’s successful placement in high search rankings!

Top 5 Free Press Release Link Building Resources

In order to increase brand recognition and visibility, many businesses are promoting their services and merchandise online these days. Press releases are an effective and inexpensive way to accomplish this task. The Internet provides multiple free sources for the distribution of press releases, but I have listed the top five here in terms of popularity, visibility and general SEO worth to your site.

24-7 Press Release
http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/

Alexa Rank: 15982
Pagerank: 6

24-7 Press Release offers a free press release plan which allows you to post one press release each day. They also have numerous other options for your PR team to consider. Their resources page also has some informative tips on writing press releases.

 

Free Press Release
http://www.free-press-release.com/

Alexa Rank: 4820
Pagerank: 5

This site is a little more functional since their free distribution option allows you to customize your press release with different font styles. They also offer the option to add up to three images to your release for one dollar, so you can really spice it up with your company logo or relevant photos.

 

PR.com
http://www.pr.com/

Alexa Rank: 8892
Page Rank: 6

This press release site is different from most others in that the releases are categorized. This comes in handy when you want to target a specific audience or bring qualified traffic to your site.

 

i-Newswire
http://www.i-newswire.com/

Alexa Rank: 12613
Pagerank: 6

With several distribution channels, such as a ‘new site’ distribution category, RSS feed distribution and search engine distribution; i-Newswire offers users the ability to meet specific needs other PR sites don’t. These specific channels are run by their distribution partners, which are listed on their Homepage.

 

PRLog
http://www.prlog.org/

Alexa: 2731
Pagerank: 6

PRLog is arguably the most functional of the top five, at least with the options available for free. You are allowed to include company logos, clickable links and a host of other options at no additional cost. There is no limit to the number of posts and many of the customizable properties of their formatting are SEO friendly.

 

Each of these sources offer tips on making the most of your press releases. The visual appearance and quality of the release is important but so are the distribution channels — who and how many people it will reach. Your best approach is to try several sites and see which one works best for you. When submitting, don’t forget to also promote your PR’s across social media channels.

Post-Penguin SEO In 2013: Foundational Strategies

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s well-known search engineer, Google’s algorithms change as frequently as once a day. On average, the algorithm changes around 500 times per year. If you think about it, keeping up with this many algorithm changes is impossible. Instead of focusing your energies on Penguin, Panda and other algorithm updates, you need to go deeper and beyond the commonly employed SEO techniques. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Share-worthy Guest Posts

We all know that guest blogging is a hotly debated topic in the SEO community. It is arguably one of the best ways to get traffic, backlinks and improve your social profile, all at the same time. But in the same way we permanently ruined article directories by stuffing our articles with keywords, many people are also misusing guest blogging. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, full of useless, keyword-infused content with no real value.

The links within these so-called guest blogs never get clicked on, and the pages have abnormally high bounce-rates. However, the fact that there are tons of mediocre guest blogs out there makes it easier for you to stand out, especially if your content is unique, original and share-worthy. Truly useful content often gets passed around on social networks, and legitimate referral traffic from social networks is an indicator of human activity. Search engines look for pages with high levels of human activity, and actively measure social signals such as: facebook likes, tweets, shares and comments.

With this said, you have an even greater incentive to write useful content rather than writing content for the sake of it. Think of guest blogging as an opportunity to make an impression on the host website’s visitors. You will only get one chance, but if you write an innovative and unique post with a twist, the host might invite you to write more posts.

Author Rank

Author rank is yet another step by Google towards a better web. The idea is to rank authors based on the authority and quality of their content as determined by Google’s algorithms. So, how does one go about building author rank?

Google+ comes in handy here. Go to the “About” section of your Google+ profile and add links to the webpages you regularly contribute content to. It is important to remember that Google+ plays an integral part in building your author rank, and Google considers many factors to compute it. These factors include: the number of people in your circles; the number of people who have you in their circles; your frequency of content generation, and the level of social activity on your Google+ profile.

This is what you should do to increase your author rank:

1. Create great content regularly
2. Be active on social media
3. Share useful content with people in your network

Co-Citation

Co-citation is yet another hotly debated topic among SEOs, and there seems to be some disagreement on what co-citation is, in addition to co-occurrence. Some theorize co-citation as a step by Google towards a more intelligent and semantic web. The concept itself is pretty simple to understand, and there are real examples in which co-citation has helped websites rank for keywords that were neither in their title, nor in their description tags.

Co-citation can best be explained with an example. Suppose Rob’s Ice Cream Parlor makes great “Blueberry Ice Cream.” In this case, search engines cannot make a connection between the keywords “Rob’s Ice Cream Parlor” and “Blueberry Ice Cream” unless they have been mentioned together on various websites. Google can now spot if there is a connection between two keywords or key-phrases, like the correlation between a company and its products.

There are numerous examples of co-citation that help websites rank for keywords they aren’t even attempting to rank. SEOmoz’s famous, Open Site Explorer ranks for the search term, “backlink analysis,” even though it isn’t mentioned in title, description or the page itself. Google picked up some other article from somewhere else on the web for use in the search snippet and that article does mention “backlink analysis” and “Open Site Explorer” together.

Press Releases

Some things never get old. Press releases are one of the oldest tricks in a SEO’s arsenal, but they still work. A well-positioned press release with useful information about your company’s products or services not only drives traffic to your website, but also helps increase awareness about your brand amongst the public. Apart from usefulness of your content, you can also insert relevant anchor texts where necessary to your home and inner pages. This helps you get backlinks and traffic, simultaneously.

How you distribute your press release is also very important. You can choose to email it to journalists and online news outlets manually, or use the services of a company like PRWeb or PR Newswire. Most of these companies guarantee syndication of your press release to hundreds of online news outlets, so if you know how to write a great press release, it can prove to be a great tool (especially when you’re launching a new product, service or campaign).

It is important to note that Matt Cutts of Google has stated that backlinks from press releases do not contribute towards page rank, but some recent tests have proven otherwise.

Social Media Signals

A couple of years ago, Matt Cutts denied the effect of social signals on rankings, but his denial has now changed into guilty admission. Not only do social signals affect rankings, but Google also made social signals an integral part of their ranking algorithm with the introduction of Google+.

So, what’s all the fuss about? It’s quite simple, really. Social signals, as we mentioned earlier, are an indicator of human activity. The number of times something gets liked, tweeted or commented on becomes an indicator of social value. The more popular something is, the more authoritative it becomes. This means social signals not only have the ability to affect rankings, but also the perceived value and authority of a website in the eyes of search engines.

Google and Bing, both major search engines, actively consider social signals to help rank websites and make SERPs more relevant to the user. Therefore, it is more important than ever to create share-worthy content, which can even go viral if you’re lucky, and focus your efforts on creating value rather than brute link building.

Understanding the Value of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Content

LSI content is becoming an increasingly important factor in search engine optimization (SEO). LSI stands for “latent semantic indexing” and it is a method of analyzing the concepts connected with a document or a collection of documents.

Optimizing for LSI is not replacing traditional SEO, but instead, it works together with the older techniques. LSI content will likely become more important in the future as the major search engines try to deliver web content that provides closer matches for user queries.

What is latent semantic indexing?

The word “semantics” refers to the meaning of words and LSI attempts to discover the concepts associated with web pages by analyzing how words work in combination with other words. Many terms will have different meanings depending on the context of the document.

What LSI attempts to do is to map out the relationships between words in order to help decipher the meaning of the text. While the algorithms used to rank web pages cannot “think” like humans, they can compare the words used in a particular document along with categorizing the structure of that document.

Additionally, search ranking algorithms can analyze collections of documents to help in better determining the related concepts of the collection.

How LSI can change search engine result pages (SERPs)

One of the tangible results of latent semantic indexing is that it can have marked impact in many cases on search engine listings.

Previously, a user query would only return pages that contained all the specific keywords in the query. However, with LSI that no longer is the case. While in most instances, one would find all the included keywords, there can also be results that might miss a keyword or even all the keywords in the query.

Such results would be more common with queries that contain multiple keywords that the search algorithm recognizes as LSI content. The algorithm can make a probabilistic guess on the concepts that the user wants, and then look for pages that best match those concepts even if they do not contain all the query keywords.

For example, if a user searches using the query “fast Italian cars,” a specific page may match the general concept of the query precisely. However, that page may not use any of the keywords contained in the query. For example, it might not use the words “car” or “cars,” but instead, replaces them with other words like “automobile,” “vehicle” and “roadster.” Words like “powerful” and “speedy” might appear instead of “fast.” Rather than the keyword “Italian,” the text would simply mention popular Italian sports car brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini.

Why good writing is important for LSI content

One of important features of latent semantic indexing is its ability to recognize what types of words to expect when dealing with specific concepts. In this way, it can detect, to some extent, the “meaning” of a particular document or collection of documents.

One of the main techniques of traditional SEO is to place a certain density range of keywords and related keywords throughout the text and particularly in certain parts of the text like the first sentence and the last paragraph.

While such techniques may still be important, they are not sufficient to give a document or collection of documents a high semantic score. That is because latent semantic indexing recognizes the types of words used in high quality documents for specific concepts.

An SEO specialist is unlikely to be able to guess these word combinations or to figure them out well using the Google Keyword Tool or other applications. These words along with the desired ratios tend to come out when a knowledgeable writer creates a well-written document.

Site structure and links

LSI does not just analyze single web pages, as was mostly the case with the old algorithms. The methodology places more emphasis on analyzing collections of documents.

Just how search ranking algorithms determine what constitutes a document collection is an important question. Many SEO specialists use the “silo” method to create a file structure on the site server that organizes web pages in “collections.”

For example, on a car site there may be a particular folder or silo that deals only with Italian sports cars. All the important topics on that car site will have their own silos, i.e., British cars, American cars, Japanese cars, etc.

In this way, the SEO team hopes the algorithm will recognize the structure and analyze the documents in the folders as collections. Of course, it is very important to ensure that all web pages and other documents in these folders are directly on topic.

Another way that algorithms may detect document collections is through links. For this reason, it is important to include links to other documents that deal with the same specific sub-topic. If you do have links that diverge from the particular focus of the collection, it is best to create these as no-follow links.

How to create LSI content

Most SEO experts use applications like the Google Keyword Tool to find related semantic terms. Obviously, it would seem best to use keywords that people search for commonly.

At the same time, though, it is good not to overuse related keywords in a way that is unnatural. The algorithms pay close attention to densities and positioning of words and, in most cases, it will be able to detect excessive keyword stuffing.

The best idea is to create content that reads well and covers the important concepts related to the targeted keyword.

Remember that search engines are constantly trying to provide higher quality results to their users. They do not want to deliver results from spammy, poorly written pages. LSI is part of the effort to analyze content that reads like other highly regarded documents for the same concepts.

One thing to ask yourself when analyzing LSI content is: does it explain the topic well or answer a specific question? If the content leaves you better informed after reading it, then it will likely past the LSI test.

However, if the content leaves you confused or unsatisfied, then it probably will need more work.

Social Media Marketing Strategies: Why Google+ Communities Is Essential for SEOs

As any business owner with an online presence knows, social media is a key component of increasing your search engine rankings. Unlike some services, social media channels act as a low-cost or free opportunity to increase your visibility to the general Internet public. The goal of using social media is to get people talking about your company, product or services. The more Likes, Shares and +1s you can get on social media, as well as the more people begin talking about your website, products or services, the better your search engine optimization and the higher ranking you can achieve on various search engines, Google in particular.

Google+, Google’s social media answer, recently rolled out Google+ Communities. The initial buzz is positive, and the service can definitely have uses in search engine optimization. The main purpose for Google+ Communities is to allow conversations to be started with people who are interested in what you have to offer. This has the effect of bringing customers, and potential customers, closer to you than ever before. And, similar to Facebook Groups, these communities can be hyper-targeted towards nearly any niche regardless of how small it might be. Best of all, Google+Communities can be used to increase your search engine rankings if used properly.

Google+ Communities allows you the opportunity to grow your market by targeting people who are actually interested in what you have to offer. It’s safe to assume, since people have to opt-in to join the community, this gives you a great opportunity to raise your brand awareness to those who would be interested in your services or products but aren’t necessarily aware of your brand. The potential for mining new leads and contacts through posting information about your services or products, website links and just generally having open dialogues with potential new customers. To get the most out of your Google+ Community, you will definitely want to pair it up with your Google+ Business page.

In addition to attracting new potential clients ore opening the lines of communication better with existing clients, posts to a Google+ Community are a great way to get people talking about your company. As people respond to posts and create new posts your presence on Google+ and, by default your SEO with Google, increases. Furthermore, when a Community member shares a post to his or her Circles and those people share with their Circles and so on, this can increase your exposure and your SEO efforts exponentially.

Google Hangouts, which are integrated right into your Google+ Community page, is another way to interact with your customers and potential clients. It allows you to start up a video chat which will allow you to present your company with a “face,” allowing it to feel like more than another faceless company. By taking advantage of a Hangout, you can get people talking even more about your company, product or service. Additionally, you can broadcast your Hangout on your public profile. This also can allow you to answer questions potential clients and customers might have on a real-time basis, fostering good will and showing that you actually care about what their questions or concerns are. This can create a feeling of goodwill that is difficult to duplicate on other social media channels, which can lead to more discussion in general of what you have to offer among Google+ users.

One of the most common uses for Google+ Communities is the ability to use it as a sort of question and answer platform. This gives you the ability to show that you are an expert on a specific topic. You can use this opportunity to link back to your website or blog, and to have friendly social intercourse with customers and potential customers. You can also use Communities as a way to gauge interest in what sorts of topics you should be talking about on your website or blog, giving you a great opportunity to learn what interests people directly from the members of the Community. From what you learn about the questions people ask, you can plan to create a future blog post addressing questions that have been brought up on your Community. In the future, if those questions are brought up again, you can simply point to the appropriate blog post.

Because Google+ Community content is made public by default this means an increase in indexing by by Google’s organic results. The end result is several great chances to improve on your search engine optimization. These benefits are especially visible when combined with +1s provided by Community members and can definitely have a quickly visible effect on your organic growth. Furthermore, it helps Google find and index your new content with greater speed than before. It shouldn’t be long before you begin to see real, quantifiable growth in your search engine optimization efforts.

Google+ Communities are also a great place to connect with others in your field or industry. Many of these potential contacts are going to be tech-savvy individuals, and they will most likely be active with their own websites and profiles or groups on various social media sites. As you begin to get familiar with people in your Community, you will be able to tell who the truly influential members are. Those people can then be asked to write guest posts on your blog or perhaps you might get invited to create guest posts on their blog. Make a point to share quality content, and you may very well find that the influential followers in your Community will share that content with others. Aside from the potential SEO opportunities, this will provide a great chance for you to network with other industry professionals and networking is rarely a bad thing.

Although there was some criticism of Google+ when it first released the service has come a long way since it’s initial opening to the public. Google has released several features since the service’s inception, and many of those features provide excellent opportunities for business to interact with their customers.

Post-Panda SEO: Stop Building Links, Start Writing Content!

Search engine optimization has long been a goal of virtually every website owner, but recent updates to Google’s search engine algorithms have many scrambling to completely change their ways. In recent updates known as Google Panda and Google Penguin, the world’s largest search engine changed the very structure of the way pages are evaluated, displayed, and ranked during a keyword-targeted internet search. It has had a number of major effects on website developers and marketing professionals, including a strategy that has shifted away from links and toward quality content.

Down with Links: The Changes that are Transforming SEO

Google’s search engine algorithm changes came in two parts. The first was known as Google Penguin, and that update focused on content. Developers at the company found that many websites were taking advantage of Google’s focus on keywords, engaging in an act known as “keyword stuffing” to propel their websites to the top of search result pages. That resulted in a number of spam websites being the “most recommended” website in the eyes of visitors, and it was a serious problem for the company for several years.

The update virtually eliminated that problem, focusing instead on a website’s value, authority, engagement, loading times, conversion rates, and other factors. Excessive use of keywords was punished, rather than rewarded, and habits began to shift.

A second update to the system, termed Google Panda, focused primarily on link spam and excessive outside referrals. Another major way that spam sites were taking advantage of Google’s policies was by building a simply unmanageable link of referrals from outside websites, many of which they actually owned themselves. In Google’s eyes, each of these links was a virtual endorsement of content, improving that site’s authority and sending it upward in search results.

With Google Panda, the emphasis on referral links was greatly diminished. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly three percent of websites saw their ranking change in a negative way after the update simply because they were relying too heavily on link-based SEO techniques. With results like that, website owners everywhere should consider the balance of their SEO between links and content, and make the appropriate adjustments.

How to Live in a Penguin and Panda World: Fresh, Authoritative Content

Since links are now virtually a non-starter when it comes to improving a website’s ranking and performance at Google, website owners have had to look elsewhere in order to make sure that their site doesn’t slip to the back pages of a keyword-targeted search result. That has been a pretty difficult process, largely because it’s new to many websites and they’re not familiar with how to accomplish this.

The operative phrase when making the transition into Penguin and Panda compliance is “content marketing.” In essence, content marketing involves creating robust, authoritative content for a website that is posted frequently and draws visitors based on how informative it is. Instead of luring people into keyword-spam traps, or link-heavy sites that offer no value at all, content marketing proves that a website knows what it’s talking about, carries some authority in the industry, and is worth visitors’ time. When Google gets word of that, they’ll reward a content marketing website with prime placement among their results.

Content marketing might sound like an easy solution to link-based search engine optimization, and it generally is. There are a few guidelines to follow, though, to ensure that these rich articles are not used in vain. To keep Google’s favor, be sure to make a few considerations when writing, soliciting, or posting content marketing articles to an existing website.

1. Focus on Keyword Density

Any search engine optimization professional is likely familiar with the term “keyword density,” but they may not be familiar with Google’s changed view of keywords on websites. While there was a time when more keywords meant a better ranking, that is not the case today. Instead, Google views excessive keywords as spam. If there are too many instances of a single keyword within any content marketing article, it will not help a website’s ranking at all. In fact, it will generally send the website down.

Be sure to focus on density that doesn’t exceed 5 percent, in most cases. This will make the keyword sound natural, and Google will rank the website far more favorably. A few different keywords throughout the article will make this easy to accomplish without sacrificing placement in any current targeted search results.

2. Freshness is a Priority

Articles must be fresh. Content marketing is viewed by Google has a field that is exceedingly dynamic. Information changes every day, and the search engine’s algorithm now accounts for this. Articles that are a few months old do not score highly anymore, and those that are a few years old will probably not appear in search results at all. Instead, focus on fresh content that is posted on a regular basis.

One article per day, or three articles per week, or ten articles per month, is a great way to get started. With fresh content and a predictable update schedule, Google will reward a website with higher rankings.

3. Post Content Marketing Articles on Other Sites

The importance of the “guest post” on outside blogs has become significantly more important since the Penguin and Panda updates. Websites that link to another site as part of a blog entry lend significantly more authority than those sites that merely operate a link list. Therefore, website owners should focus on striking up relationships with others in the industry, exchanging guest posts and creating a rich environment for competition and SEO improvement that Google will view as authority and credibility.

Easy Changes to Make for Penguin and Panda

The changes that need to be made in order to accommodate the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates are actually pretty easy. Most people already operate a blog within their site, and they like to discuss topics relevant to their products or niche. By emphasizing keywords, freshness, and authority, link-based marketing can easily become a thing of the past without harming a website’s rankings during the transition to more modern techniques.

How Google’s Panda and Penguin Changed the SEO Landscape

The world of search engine optimization has evolved in the past few years. Each time Google rolls out an update, panic spreads like wildfire across forums, blogs, and social networks. For marketers, knowing the date of these updates can help explain changes in organic website traffic and rankings. Google’s recent Penguin and Panda algorithm updates have dramatically affected search results. No one knows what Google’s next move will be.

Why the Updates?

Achieving high search engine rankings has become critical to business success. Google aims to deliver the best user experience. Panda and Penguin updates are a boost for marketers who have worked hard to provide quality content. Their goal is to identify websites that use questionable SEO strategies and improve search engine results. It is important to understand how these updates affect your website so that you can optimize your pages and make sure you don’t lose out.

Since Panda and Penguin target two different issues, it is essential to know the exact algorithm that hit your website. Penguin targets unnatural backlinks and spam, while Panda is all about low quality content. Both updates will be rolled out periodically. Therefore, you have to continuously improve your SEO strategy and provide the highest quality content. In order to be successful and maintain your search engine rankings, it is necessary to make a few changes to your website, including:

– Remove poor quality content
– Create fresh, interesting content
– Build relevant links
– Eliminate unnatural back links
– Vary your anchor text
– Ensure proper navigation
– Optimize pages for multiple keyword phrases
– Remove duplicate content
– Avoid over optimization and keyword stuffing

The best way to determine whether you have been hit by Penguin or Panda is to launch Google Analytics and check your stats. You must know the problem in order to address it. Based on how Google rolled out these changes recently, many marketers are confused about which update hit their websites. These updates force people to keep producing quality content and use ethical SEO techniques.

Google Panda Update Overview

Google Panda was released in February 2011. This update aimed to lower the rank of “thin sites” and “low quality sites” that provide little or no value to users. At the same time, Google Panda provided better rankings for high quality websites with original content and fresh information. This change to Google’s search results ranking algorithm has had a great impact on content farms. These website were loaded with hundreds of low quality, keyword stuffed articles.

According to Google, over 12 percent of searches in the United States were affected by Panda. This update is just one of more than 200 different factors that Google uses to rank pages. In the last year, Panda began to have a monthly schedule. As a result, many websites tried to diversify their content beyond search engines and create better quality articles. To lose the penalty, webmasters must remove or improve low quality content.

This update made people realize that some widely used practices were actually going against Google’s recommended Best Practice guidelines. Panda affected web pages that don’t have relevant content, but simply exist to push users to cloned sites, landing pages, parked pages and more. Many websites hit by Google Panda are loaded with intrusive ads or provide duplicate content. It takes just one or two pages of poor quality content, and your entire website can be penalized.

How to Recover from Google Panda

The best thing you can do to recover from Google Panda is to constantly update your website with fresh, relevant, and informative content. Webmasters should also avoid over optimization. Try to keep the optimization ratio around 70 percent. Every time you write a new post, ask yourself a few questions. Is it well researched? Is it useful for readers? Are you providing information from reputable sources? Focus on creating unique content. For example, if you have an ecommerce website or an online store, write unique product descriptions.

What Is Google Penguin?

Google Penguin was released on April 24, 2012. This update affected over three percent of English-language search queries. It aimed to decrease rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using black hat SEO tactics, including content spinning, link schemes, cloaking, and keyword stuffing.

Many SEO experts agree that Penguin was just the official word that Google is taking action against people who are trying to cheat the system and use unnatural linking practices. Website owners should check their Google Webmaster accounts for any messages from Google warning about a potential penalty. Some contributing factors to Penguin may include:

– Keyword stuffing in internal/external links
– Blog spam
– Low quality article marketing
– Overuse of exact-match domains
– Excessive links from poor quality websites’
– Aggressive internal linking
– Unnatural inbound links
– Paid links
– Link exchanges

Google Penguin is cracking down a common black hat SEO strategy: abusing links to achieve higher search engine rankings. If your website has links from low quality directories, link schemes, and dubious sites, you may receive a penalty. It is estimated that 94 percent of Google Penguin victims did not fully recover. Overly-optimized websites will continue to be targets. For now, the best approach is to focus on the quality of your site in terms of content value, link value, and visitor interaction.

How to Recover from Google Penguin

The first step to recover from Google Penguin is to analyze your website’s traffic data and identify the problem. Check the backlinks pointing to your site and determine which of them are contributing to your penalty. Remove as many bad links as you can. Send out link removal requests to webmasters and then start a new link building campaign. Safe post-Penguin link-building anchor types include hybrid-branded anchors, universal anchors, and branded anchors.

Focus on link quality. Work on collaborative projects with reputable webmasters. Offer you services in exchange for relevant backlinks. Publish guest posts on high quality sites. Spend your time building connections with industry influencers. Keep your bounce rate low and write great content. Make sure your website has a diversified link building strategy.

Google vs. Bing: Why Microsoft Can’t Overtake Google in Search

BING — but its not Google?

For years, Microsoft has been trying to outperform Google when it comes to performing searches online. The company’s MSN Search and Windows Live Search options failed miserably at achieving such a goal, and Microsoft eventually shifted to renaming its search engine operation entirely. The newly named “Bing” has been making pretty big wave online since its debt several years ago but it has only managed to carve out a 12 percent share of the online search market in that amount of time. Meanwhile, Google maintains an enormous lead, with slightly less than 67 percent of all online searches being performed via Google.com.

Microsoft has made a lot of noise about the superiority of their operation, going so far as to challenge Google to a “search off” in a wide-ranging promotional campaign. All it has gotten the company is an extra 2 points of market share, with no real results to show for it. Toward the end of 2012, Bing’s rising position in search market share stagnated, even as advertising ramped up for the Bing search engine, the Surface tablet, and the release of Windows 8. The reasons that Microsoft will likely continue to fall well behind Google are many, but there are a few that are particularly painful for the company to deal with.

Google Sets the Search Engine Optimization Conversation

Google’s hugely dominant position in online search has given it the ability to largely define the terms of what constitutes a good website, with its algorithms being trained to identify good, authoritative, highly valuable content. That means developers are designing their sites specifically to fit within Google’s own paradigm, while the competitors online are merely fitting themselves into Google’s model for what constitutes a good, highly-ranked website.

Bing has tried to bring extra value to this by pairing with Facebook, which Microsoft owns a pretty big stake in. Using Facebook, results are filtered in a “social” way that aligns them with a person’s own interest. However, with 12 percent of the search market share and the inclination of many Facebook users to safeguard their data, this approach has had a negligible effect online. Furthermore, Facebook users who are logged out do not benefit from this social approach, making Bing’s returned results a touch less accurate than those provided by Google.

Search Placement on Google is Far More Valuable than at Bing

The problem with Bing is that it’s mostly perceived as an afterthought for marketing professionals who are looking to pay a premium for excellent placement in results. Google allows sponsored results to appear before its ranked ones, and many companies take advantage of this service. Bing has its own form of sponsored, highly ranked results, but they’re purchased by marketing professionals far less often. Most medium-sized businesses often have a budget that forces them to choose between placement on Google or Bing. With majority market share position, who wouldn’t choose Google?

The problem with this strategy is that it sets Bing up to continually take financial losses. In fact, the search engine has been a loss leader for Microsoft since the very first day it appeared online. Google, meanwhile, derives the vast majority of its revenue through its search product. With a combination of paid placement and Google AdSense products with every search, the company has mastered profitability and search result relevance all at once.

Google’s Web Services Beat Microsoft’s, Hands Down

Microsoft had an early lead in web services toward the late 1990s, when virtually everyone hat a Hotmail.com email address. That edge vanished over the course of the next decade though, largely at the hands of Google. In the years that have followed since Google unveiled its industry-leading Gmail product for consumer and business email, the company has released cloud-based calendars, productivity applications, blogging tools, and its own social network. Google Analytics monitors a website’s SEO, while Google News allows access to the latest headlines. Its investment in YouTube has paid dividends, and its Google Play store has tens of thousands more applications than Microsoft’s own Windows 8 Store.

Customers can, and often do, using Google for everything. Of course, every single one of Google’s web services runs its search operation through the company’s own software. Because Google beat Microsoft in web services, it now counts a larger base of daily users and higher revenues from virtually all aspects of its business.

Android, Android, Android

The battle for mobile dominance is one that exists largely between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Windows Phone 8 has single-digit market share, and it’s clear that BlackBerry is no longer a major competitor. Though Apple and Google compete in a major way, all searches conducted on an iPhone do, by default, run through Google. For all but the most recent year of the iPhone’s existence, its mapping tools used Google services and a YouTube app was installed by default.

On Android, every service runs through Google unless users change it on their own. With a majority of the international smartphone market share, this is an advantage that Microsoft will likely never overcome. Even if they did, it would take them the better part of a half-decade just to reach parity with the sheer number of Android devices currently on the market. With every Android phone sold, Google counts another search customer among its ranks that likely wont’ defect to Bing, Microsoft-owned Yahoo, or any other options.

Relevance is the Difference

Conduct the same search at both Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s search engine, and Google is likely to present a better set of results than Bing does. That’s what most users have found, except for those that Microsoft proudly touts in its “Bing it On” commercials that claim it offers more relevant results than does Google. When it comes to search, the relevance and value of every result is what determines the relevance and value of the search engine. This alone is what has contributed to Google’s dominance and, without a major change to Microsoft’s product, that isn’t going to change now or in the near future.

Considering Pay For Performance SEO? Guaranteed Rankings Exist, But Do Your Research.

The SEO industry has become clouded by the propaganda spread by both search engines (Google, specifically) and the so-called ‘community leaders’.

Without a doubt, the world of search engine optimization has changed since the integration of Google’s Panda & Penguin search-algorithm updates. Content creation and external link building has had a massive facelift. Long gone are the days of directory blasts, mass article submissions, and paid links.

However, when it comes to selecting your SEO provider, one universal truth remains unshaken by the industry’s recent turbulence: can they deliver results?

You know: traffic, rankings, conversions, and ultimately ROI.  Isn’t that the reason you hired them in the first place?

There are only a handful of ‘actual’ performance-based SEO agencies that deliver real results.

Some will charge you massive up-front fees or for minor ranking improvements.  Other ‘guaranteed rankings‘ agencies will only charge for page 1 rankings, but with a catch: the agency selects the keywords for the client. In many cases, these are obscure, low-volume terms which are brand-oriented or extremely long-tail with a negative ROI..

The true gems in this rising industry are the agencies that work for free. Yes, there are a few loyal leaders who stand by their word and charge absolutely nothing until page 1 rankings for highly-relevant  queries are achieved.

Tactics & Strategies

When seeking a pay-for-performance agency, make sure you ask the following questions up-front:

  • What type of content and links will they be driving to your site?
  • How long do they anticipate it to take to rank on the first page of Google for your keywords?
  • Do they have case studies of prior clients available for review?  References?

 

Our Recommendations

ResultFirst San Jose, California Manish Mehta 888-512-1890

Red Evolution Barrow-In-Furness, United Kingdom David Robinson 44-01224-443551

imwave, inc. Reston , Virginia Tony Pantano 717-801-1506

 

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