Not Even the 4th of July? Think Christmas!

Don’t you hate how the stores start cramming Christmas down our throats so early, like around Halloween? Makes me nuts. But…

Guess what? Good marketers and SEOs should be thinking about Christmas now. Want to learn why? Read this roundtable discussion from SEMRush. You might see someone you know:

Google Panda 4.0 Is Working

Monday, we saw Matt Cutts offer this tweet:

There was some blather about imminent updates happening at Google, but we’ve gotten so used to no big announcements about Panda or Penguin that this one was a tad surprising to those of you who aren’t into SEO as much as well… I am.

What does it do?

It’s another spam catcher. Since we know that Panda is self-educating, it’s actually updating all the time, but for Cutts to announce this newest change, it has to be important. (Meaning algorithm change.)

This was a global roll-out, so all languages are affected. For English, it supposedly affected only 7.5% of all queries. Uh-huh. That’s what they said about Penguin and so many of us were caught in its beak, it wasn’t funny.

If you’ve noticed a change in your organic traffic rankings, either up or down, Panda 4.0 may be the culprit or the angel. I haven’t seen much going on just yet, but I’m wondering and waiting.

I know that one of my clients had a slight down-turn 2 weeks ago, before this happened. And yet, I think I found the answer to that and it has nothing to do with Google.

This is kind of interesting, so I’ll share:

One site with high page rank had linked to my client’s site approximately 4,000 times. OK, so sitewide link, not terribly valuable. But… the site that was linking back was on a blog service. The service shut down so the linking site went to its own domain. Apparently, the webmaster didn’t take the time to redirect links or they only redirected some of them or they did redirect all of them and it’s just taking Google time to catch up.

But here’s the interesting part: I’m seeing about half the links are back and my client’s traffic came back proportionately, too. About half the backlinks are showing now and about half the missing traffic is back.

So, go figure. The correlation seems evident. And yet, sitewide links are supposed to be useless. Hmm… Maybe because they were from a site with a PR5? No idea. But figuring out these mysteries of Google are interesting in that when you think something should zag, it zigs.

Anyway, if you’ve noticed any Panda hijinks with your site, let me know in comments. I’d love to get some extra intel on this. Thanks!

The State of SEO in 2014

I haven’t written here in some time. Used to be that I could quit working at my job at 5 p.m. and then, write a blog post about something SEO or marketing. But when you no longer have a j-o-b (which is great, thank you very much), you really don’t have set hours. I like that and I sometimes hate it.computer keyboard

Jobs have to be completed on time and so, as in the case of the last few weeks, I’ve worked 18 days straight without a day off.  And I don’t quit at 5 anymore, either. So, there are pluses and minuses. Most of my work days last about 4-5 hours, and in slow periods, I might only work 3 days out of the week. It just depends on the workload and how much of it the people who work with me can do and how much I have to do myself. We handle SEO jobs, but we also handle any other digital marketing process from copywriting to web design and Facebook ads. We do it all, which keeps things fun and varied. I love this business!

SEO Has Morphed Dramatically Over the Last 10 Years

Oh, yes, my friends. There have been HUGE ups and downs in the world of SEO (where I have lived for the past 10 years or so). The state of SEO in 2014 is totally NOT the SEO of 2007.

For example, we used to be able to load up footers with rich anchor text links, spin content and post it everywhere, buy anchor text links on other sites and sell them, and even load up keywords until your page would almost burst under the weight of  them.  That was all well and good for getting search positions, but some of that stuff wasn’t so for your visitors.

I can’t say that I ever did things that wasn’t good for visitors.

Yet, duplicate content was totally OK. You could upload a piece of writing to 187 directories and stuff like that, I did for my job. Yet, I never saw the percentage in doing that. I mean, nobody wants to read the same information more than once, unless there is some time in between reads and they had time to forget what they read, right?  Well, if your piece of content took up every listing on page 1 of Google for a certain keyword, all they got was the same stuff just published on several different sites. Not good for Google, their audience, and IMO, not good for us webmasters, either.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that content is GOOD for your SEO. Content has always been and will continue to be Queen (you can call it King, if you like). That hasn’t changed one iota. But…

What Makes Content Effective?

on-page optimization doesn't matterOne thing that has changed is that the content you deliver has to be awesome, not just rich with information, but init needs good grammar and perfect spelling, as well. It has to flow. It needs images to accompany it, and it should be broken down by sub-heads, bullets, pull quotes and stuff that makes it look easier to read. Plus, don’t use ONE paragraph for the whole article. If you do all the no-nos, why bother? Google won’t even count your content contribution as viable.

Another thing you have to remember these days is that your content can’t be generic. It needs stats, a good angle (the perspective from which you view the topic),  and quotes from known authorities. Who wants to read the same old hashed and re-hashed information about on-page optimization, right? Not me. I can write about that in my sleep.

But if I said on-page optimization doesn’t matter? That would make you wonder why? Am I right?

Guess what? On -page optimization doesn’t matter — at least not as it did in the past. Sure, you should have your meta tags completed properly, but not to the point of over-optimization. If you choose a keyword, it shouldn’t be forced into the piece, you should write the piece and then, perhaps decide what the keyword should be. Think content value, not keywords.

My advice for 2014

If I were to give my ONE piece of advice for  SEO in 2014, it would be this: Learn to write well.

That’s it.

Google is now more about the content you provide than anything else. So, if you suck at writing, don’t want to write, or know that you’ll never get it done, forget all that slick, chocolate-y goodness of free, targeted SEO traffic. You see, without content out there with your brand on it, you’re sunk. Even e-commerce stores should have a blog.

In his article, “SEO in 2014: How to Prepare for Google’s 2014 Updates” at Search Engine Watch, Jayson DeMers wrote:

“Content marketing will move from buzzword to mature marketing movement in 2014. From an SEO perspective, Google will be looking at companies that have robust content marketing efforts as a sign that they’re the kind of business Google wants to support.”

I totally agree with what Jayson wrote there. Content is about marketing — more than ever before, but also about SEO.

But here’s the thing: If you can’t write, don’t want to write, or don’t have the time, hire someone to do all of that for you. That’s what my company does. We write for people, and we post each piece content in one good place, not two or three or a hundred. We use our clients’ voices and just write about topics that they know about and want to promote.  And without breaking any proprietary secrets, I can just say that it works like CRAZY!  When I started with one of my clients, they were making $7K a week. Now, they’re averaging $32K a week. BIG diff, eh?

If you want to do well in search in 2014? Write… Write well… And if you can’t to that, pay someone else to do it for you. Make a difference in your niche, and Google won’t just rank you. They’ll love you. Why?

Because you’ll actually be adding value to the Web. It’s all about that.

Want more SEO advice? Visit me at SEMRush’s blog, where I post twice a month. Here are some of the most recent posts:

And a bunch more. If I helped you at all, please drop me a comment!

Three Important Keyword Research Strategies

This guest post from my friend, Ness, talks about keyword research. I just wrote a post for the SEMRush blog that pretty much indicates that keywords are going away. And yet, we can’t get away from using them still. The article explains why.

But… Do you know how to perform keyword research properly?

Improve Your Online Traffic with These 3 Keyword Research Strategies

keywords keyboard

 

No matter how much effort you put in building your website, if it is not visible to search engines, then it’s still as good as nothing. You should know how to properly optimize your website to rank high in search engines and get more traffic.

Researching keywords is a necessary part of any SEO or keyword strategy. Without the proper research, you are blind to the statistics and could be choosing keywords that have absolutely no traffic, or you could be choose extremely popular keywords that are going to be impossible for you to rank for. Either way, your keywords won’t be giving you much traffic. Instead of trying to guess your way to success, let’s go over a few different strategies that you are going to be able to implement into your SEO campaigns.

Targeting Terms Based on the Searcher’s Intent

The first strategy you should be researching is figuring out what the actual intent of the search is. Whether or not they are attempting to accomplish something that will be profitable or promote growth should be one of your biggest concerns.

For an easy example, let’s imagine that you own a retail website that focuses on selling guitars. There are going to be plenty of different keywords you can choose from. You would have much better success at targeting a phrase such as “Good deals on Guitars,” rather than focusing on “pictures of quality guitars.” The difference between the two search terms should be pretty obvious, the second term’s goal is to just find some pictures and do some window shopping without any intentions of ordering a guitar. The first search term says that the searcher is in the market to buy a new guitar, they are just waiting for the right deal before they make that purchase.

You are going to run into an incredible amount of different keywords. Don’t target those that won’t help you to achieve your goals. Understand exactly what it is that the searcher wants with the words they are typing.

Targeting Terms That Have Winnable Battles

Another aspect of keyword research you will have access to, is finding out how much competition you will be going up against. A good strategy to use when trying to find a good keyword is to find one that isn’t as popular, but doesn’t have much competition either. It might not get as many overall monthly searches, but it will be able to provide you with easy rankings, giving you much more traffic than the other option would.

The easier it is to rank, the less work you will have to do to see that traffic come in. Some larger companies don’t mind trying to target keywords that have high competition because they have enough resources and manpower to be able to effectively campaign towards it. Unfortunately, most of us won’t have enough time or money to be able to launch full scale campaigns on highly trafficked keywords that all our competitors are trying to rank on.

Targeting Multiple Long Tail Terms

The last strategy we will be covering is making sure not to just limit yourself to a few keyword phrases. Some companies have targeted millions of keywords to get themselves successful, so don’t expect a few keywords will get you an unbelievable amount of traffic. You should be looking for as many relevant keyword that can help you achieve your goals as you can. The great thing about keyword research is that there is the “long tail,” which basically means the less popular search terms. Like we just went over, it is best to try and focus on keywords you will be easier to rank for. Luckily for us, the majority of all searches on the Internet are long tail searches, so we have plenty of keyword phrases to choose from.

If you are just starting out with SEO, keyword targeting, and keyword research, it is understandable that all of this might seem a bit confusing or unnecessary,  just to gain rankings. Yet, after doing it for while, you will realize that it is actually pretty simple and it makes all of the difference in the world to your website. It just takes a lot of time, patience, and content.

There are plenty of different keyword strategies out there and as you get more and more advanced, you will learn them, and may decide to implement them. Until that happens, these 3 strategies should work well for you.

 

This is a guest post by Ness – a blogger and a freelance writer with an extensive experience in SEO and internet marketing. She also writes for a web hosting review site called MakeAWebsite. Visit their website to have a closer look at the performances of well-known hosts in the industry.

 

Warning Signs that You’re Dealing with a Bad SEO Company

Yeah, it can happen. There are tons of folks out there claiming to be SEOs, who don’t really have the chops. So, you hire them because they gave you good speak, but when it comes down to the brass tacks, they don’t have a clue.  Here’s an article from my friend, Chloe, who alerts you to what to watch out for:

Warning Signs that You’re Dealing with a Bad SEO Company

SEO strategies are constantly changing in response to updated algorithms, the discovery of new successful techniques, and the behavior of the competition. Staying on top of all those changes can be a lot of work – and a lot more time and energy that you have or want to spend.

Hiring an SEO company can help you to ensure that your site is in top shape without you having to spend any time on it yourself. However, there are thousands of SEO companies out there all promising you results, and it can be difficult to distinguish the good from the bad. Here are a few warning signs that will let you know that you’re dealing with a bad SEO company:

They Offer a Free Trial

Good SEO work requires a lot of time, effort and patience. You should not only not be getting it for free, but you should be paying quite a bit of money for the service. Anyone who offers you a free trial is likely not worth the money they would charge you later. In addition, free trials are often covers for scams. The companies gain your login information during the trial and then use it to crash your site or to steal your data. Steer clear of any company that offers you a free trial of their services.

They Offer Results in a Short Time Frame

Getting results with SEO takes time. It requires a lot of analysis and a lot of adjustment. There is also a lot of waiting, as the SEO expert puts strategies into place, waits to see how they impact the site, and then makes adjustments as necessary. The site should be expected to continue to grow over time, and when it reaches its page rank, it can expect it to remain somewhat stable.

SEO companies that offer to get results in a short time frame – such as ranking on page 1 in 24 or 48 hours – are lying. They are making promises they can’t keep. And if they do get you to page 1 in that short a time, worry. They’re using black hat tactics that may get you banned from the index! That means, no listing in search engines at all, maybe ever. Avoid doing business with any company that makes such promises.

They Guarantee Results

There are no guarantees in SEO. Even if you optimize the site, build up quality links and create strong social media profiles, your site may still not reach a top page rank and may still not get the traffic you want. SEOs who make a guarantee of getting you to a PR1 – or make a guarantee of any specific page rank or traffic numbers at all – is lying or is overly confident. They may or may not be able to achieve these results for you, but they can’t guarantee anything.

What you should expect to see from a good SEO is the continued growth of your site in terms of page rank and traffic. A good SEO should also provide you with a detailed strategy for your site, as well as thoughtful reasoning behind the strategy.

They Focus on Thousands of Search Engines

There are thousands of search engines out there – most of them micro sites. However, few people actually use these sites, and most of them won’t bring you significant traffic. The primary search engine that matters is Google, followed by Yahoo! and Bing. An SEO who promises to submit your site to thousands of search engines is either misguided, out-of-the-loop or plain doesn’t know what he’s doing. 

They Offer Too Many Links Too Soon

Getting quality links is an important way to build your page rank and drive traffic to your site. However, it takes time to get quality links. An SEO company that offers you hundreds or thousands of links is likely not going to deliver you quality links. They are typically going to be placed on spammy sites and in forums and comments. These are not only not going to help your site, but they could also actively bring down your page rank and hurt your traffic.

Hiring an SEO company is a great way to improve traffic to your site while freeing up your time to grow your business in other ways. Make sure that your money is well-spent by hiring a quality SEO company that will get you real results. Pay attention to these warning signs to help you steer clear of scam artists and fly-by-night companies.

What other warning signs have you noticed when dealing with shady SEO companies? Share your experiences in the comments!

Bio:

Chloe Trogden is a seasoned financial aid writer and a major contributor at http://www.collegegrant.net. Her leisure activities include camping, swimming and volunteer work.

Sheer SEO: A World of SEO Amazing

From time to time, I’m asked to evaluate SEO websites.  I try to do it when I have the time because often, I stumble upon great new tools to implement in my business.  A couple of weeks back, Roy B. from Sheer SEO sent an email and asked me to check out their site. I’ve had some killer work to do and then, had personal reasons for being off the grid, but I’m finally getting to check the site out, and. well…

WOW! I am impressed!sheer seo

Sheer SEO software takes you places where many tools do not, and I’m talking supplemental index information!  (If you don’t know what that is, the supplemental index is where you probably don’t want to be.  It’s a collection of pages that search engines deem to be too old, too ugly, or too unworthy to be in the main index. You can still see results from the supplemental index, but only if the page is specifically requested or if there are few results for the search query and the main index has run out.)

But Sheer SEO is so very much more than just supplemental index information! Here are the topics this site covers for the domain you choose to evaluate:

  • Keyword rankings, both current and historical
  • Page rank, current and historical
  • Main referrers (Sites that send you the most referral traffic): This is too cool. It shows you the page rank of the referring site, whether follow or no follow, and even how much link juice you have from the link on the site that’s referring. Pretty nifty.
  • Number of back links, current and historical
  • Twitter Information, current and historical
  • Facebook Information, shares, likes, and comments
  • Social Bookmarking Information
  • On Page SEO: Keyword density, for single, double and triple keyword phrases, and you can create a content benchmark analysis for keywords you’re currently employing. Here’s what they have to say about this option: There’s so much more about Sheer SEO you can learn, if you click here!

Four Hot Tips for A/B Testing

Something that many of my clients neglected before I came along was testing. They didn’t have any idea how to accomplish it, or even that it was important. Yet, when I explain the benefits of testing to them, they’re all about learning more and fast!

Why?

Because testing = more money. That’s it! You should test everything about your pages — headlines, bullet points, images, calls to action, etc. You will find out what works best and in time, make better conversions because of it.

A/B testing

Though I have written about this topic before, my friend, Ruben Corbo, has some new  advice about the simplest type of testing — A/B Split testing and he’s written a great post for you to consider and put into practice. Here goes:

The 4 Most Effective Tips for A/B Split Testing

As an entrepreneur, you probably wonder how to expand your market share and outmatch the competition by providing products and services that clients need and relish—while making money in the process. Right?

“A/B testing, a byproduct of advanced statistics, helps you forge an effective marketing and product differentiation strategy,” says Edward G., a marketing specialist who for several years has advised clients on everything from A/B testing to multivariate testing and behavioral targeting.

Don’t worry, though; you don’t need a PhD. in math to understand and use A/B testing. By applying a few key tips, you can implement a successful, fact-based A/B testing routine.

1. Understand A/B Testing

A/B testing involves changing only ONE element of your page, while leaving all else the same, in a closely monitored experiment. For example, say you are getting ready for the Thanksgiving sales season, and you want to add a turkey image to your call to action button, hoping that its familiarity and charm will encourage people to buy.

Create two versions of the page, with Version A being the “control version”—the one that does not change—and Version B being the one in which you modify only that one aspect (add the turkey) and then, run the pages side by side in a kind of rotater. Visitor A sees the control page, while visitor B sees the new and improved turkey version.

Then, it’s important to keep watch on your stats. How many people clicked through to buy in a certain period of time? More clicks on the new page means that the turkey was successful, so that page becomes the control and you can run that page against a new page with ONE different element  against it.  

2. Learn What A/B Testing Entails

A/B testing—especially for Internet marketing, which is what we are focusing on here—entails two versions of your website, hence the “A or B” concept. Next, you should launch both portals simultaneously or at approximately the same time interval.  People buy more or less at different times of day and if you run your pages at different times of day, along with the change you made to the page, you won’t know what worked to increase your conversion. So, launch both pages at the same time, if at all possible.

Keep everything intact in both versions, except one element. Generally speaking, you don’t have to create two websites from scratch. Just copy the page you want to test and then, change ONE thing about it — the headline, the bullets, the call to action, the background color, etc. Choose ONE element to test at a time, or again, you won’t know which element made a difference in your rate of conversion.

3. Identify Key A/B Testing Criteria

When it comes to A/B testing, criteria are as varied as colors in a rainbow. It all comes down to what you want to evaluate, so the sky is the limit with respect to choices. That said, Edward G., our A/B testing expert, says that a few elements are essential to draw up and implement an effective A/B testing campaign. These elements, aside from those mentioned above, can also include product or service descriptions, pricing, special discounts and other promotions, and content length, but really, anything that can be changed is an element for testing consideration.  

4. Familiarize Yourself with the A/B Testing Process

As explained earlier, A/B testing is a straightforward process, but you still need to follow specific procedures to make it a success and you need enough traffic to the page to have statistical significance. If you’re not terribly skilled technically, there are online tools and companies that are available to help you.  Having a company test for you will be well worth the expense in increased revenue that will come from it.

Here’s a quick review:

  • Review your existing content and determine what to alter, improve, or remove.
  • Come up with a list of elements that you want to test over time. You can categorize the elements in the 4 marketing-mix clusters: product, price, promotion, and point of sale.
  • Figure out key testing elements (Make the most important changes first.)
  • Test both versions of a page simultaneously or enlist a professional to help jump-start the process.
  • Assess the results. Then, keep or discard the tested elements. If you keep the tested element that changed page becomes your new “control.”
  • Begin the process all over again with the second testing element on your list

Recap

A/B testing can be simple or as difficult as you want it to be, but you will be successful,  if you understand the process and familiarize yourself with its main stages. You can also hire a testing professional or company to help you in the process. This is a painless way to handle testing, and though it will cost you, the gain in improved conversions will be well worth the expense.

Testing isn’t a quick fix for a non-converting site, but ALWAYS be Testing. Even if your sales page is converting, why not allow it to convert better? It’s all about making money and testing is one surefire path you should take.

Ruben Corbo is a freelance writer and writes very frequently about topics in the Internet marketing arena. Ruben specializes in writing about traffic to online sales conversion tools like A/B Testing, Multivariate Testing, Product Recommendation Engines, and more. To learn more about these conversion tools, go to http://www.maxymiser.com


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