A trending topic for the last 6 weeks or so online has been the SEO changing Panda updates. Both the original and the latest versions of the algorithm updates. Some website owners have laughed, some have cried, but all of us in the SEO industry have had to adjust some to compensate for the changes.
A new twist on the update discussion that has been gaining traction as of late is the thoughts of the increased diligence that as SEO experts, we will be conducting when picking up new clients. Scouring the content, links and the structure of the site were always paramount to success, checking the backlink structure however was often just glanced at. With the scare which Panda has brought into the spotlight of using content farm back links or having a link farm tied to your site, checking on a deep backlink history for clients new and old has become a priority. The fear that snagging that new massive deal, be undermined because of shady link building practices in the past has elevated the concerns of the search community.
It has also raised another question about the discovery of link farm back links and paid link building schemes to boost clients page rank. The Panda updates and the Google algorithm in general, have often caught the ire of the masses as being poor and best and out right failing at worst. Being that anyone can check any websites backlink structure and history, the development of a built in website reporting widget for your browser from Google and it seems that the industry is due to become full of vigilantes. Imagine the scenario, while checking on a niche competitors backlinks you discover that they’ve been buying thousands of links to boost their page rank and SERPs standing. With just a quick click of your mouse and a short form filled out, you’ve essentially neutered your competition and kicked their feet out from under them in one efficient motion.
This could lead to a massive amount of finger pointing and name calling in the SEO community. But at the same time, it’ll help reinforce the organic search experts position in the field. Never forget the basics, always keep it simple, don’t buy into link schemes which claim to guarantee page rank and SERP position and always do your due diligence.
Occasionally a client tries to take things under their own control when it comes to their website optimization. They start changing and adding their own links and text onto the page and the next thing they know, they’re scraping the bottom of page 4 when they were previously rocking their way up page 1.
It’s not unusual at all to have curiousity where your website SEO is concerned, but devestating effects can occur when the uninitiated try and take the reins and drive their site they way they see fit. The constant and recent algorithm updates within Google, Bing’s addition of the Facebook metric can wreak havoc with a constantly changing website.
It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, you hire a search engine optimization expert to optimize your website to increase your visibility online. Grow your brand name online, manage your reputation, perhaps bury your competition in the process. Molding your content, cleaning up your code and making sure all the steps are in the right spots for you to climb to the top of your niche in the search world. What we are not paid to do, is fix fleeting experimentation on your website conducted by your web techs in your hopes of saving a few dollars. We are contracted to build your online worth to a point where you become the authority in your niche market and make you a globally known name if you so desire. When we’re confronted with web programmers who only have an idea as to what we’re doing because it looks the same, that’s merely the surface of our work.
I’ve said this a few times on the blog already, but I’ll say it again. You don’t pay a mechanic to fix your home plumbing, you wouldn’t pay a plumber to fix your cars transmission. You should not be paying a web designer for SEO work, nor should you be contracting an article writer to design your website. Choose the right tools for the job, don’t skimp on the bottom line as you always get what you pay for.
There are a long list of dos and do nots to be found online. A well coded website, decent content well written and relevant to your visitors needs and maybe a picture or two to liven the look of your website up.
An unexpected issue however, pops its head up from time to time when working on our clients sites. Even though everyone who knows everything talks about how keywords and description don’t mean anything in your SEO campaign, think of them instead as a gauge to begin your efforts. Your description is the snippet of information displayed in the SERPs when you show up as a result. As an example, a very popular content management system out there is Joomla! and more often than not when we have a client needing an overhaul, their keywords and description tags are full of joomla, joomla, joomla.
You might be saying to yourself now “So what, that SEO blog I read says description and keywords don’t matter”. Would you visit a website when their snippet for their website consists of “Joomla! – the dynamic portal engine”? It’s sloppy coding, poor diligence on the part of the designer and owner of the site and is reflective of their quality as a service vendor.
So to recap, as much as your description and keywords don’t matter to SEO, they matter as an impression to those who may be searching for your services. You need to bear in mind both as a website/business owner and as an SEO with a list of clients, that neglecting even the smallest detail can have a large impact on your visibility and marketability. One last small tidbit of information to help you along, don’t try and be too clever when creating your description and keywords. That’s all I’ll say about that point.. for now.
There are some general misconceptions about SEO which crop up from time to time and often come up when going over the process with clients. Some points are extremely valid questions to bring up while others receive ambiguous answers as it changes every day.
Some discussion points like “Why do we need to wait in building back links to our site?” for example tends to come up. To build up quality back links to your website takes time first of all, secondly if you were to go the shady route and buy thousands of links to boost your Page Rank, it’s a very quick way to get the search engines attention. And not in a good way!
“Why should I pay you every month when this other guy says he can do the same for a one shot job?” This is probably the largest misconception about the SEO industry and one of the hurdles which we are met with in dealing with new clients. The biggest reason that you can’t do just a once over and expect the results to carry on forever is because the internet doesn’t shut off. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t sleep, it’s always changing. And in order to compensate and keep up, the search engines do exactly the same. The change their algorithms, tweak the results and shift the rankings on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis. Upkeep is absolutely essential to remain competitive in search engine optimization and someone telling you they can plant you firmly at the top for a one time cost of $200 is yanking your chain.
“SEO doesn’t seem so bad I’m sure our techs can do it here” This is perhaps the most closed minded statement to be encountered. I’ve written of it here on the blog before, but pick the right horse for the course. When you’re building a new website, contract a web designer. When you’re adding basic information to your site or updating information, use your techs. When you want to bring your brand and website up in the rankings, use a search engine optimization expert. Saying that your tech who does your database scripting will do your optimization for you is basically money lost at best. At worst, they try and shortcut your site and you get kicked from the index for breaking a rule or two.
There’s a new Google search results page being tested out in the wilds of the internet. Varying reports have been given at present, but there seems to be a central theme to the different layouts discussed. The most consistent trend that is being reported in the new pages is.. more white space in the results.
It doesn’t sound like a search game changing shift, but in reality it very much is. There are millions of people using the internet every day do a myriad of things. Searching, playing games, writing stories and blogs or researching who knows what. Almost all users use a 17 inch monitor or larger and the resolution to match. As strange as it may seem, monitor size and resolution also play into the new search results page and how it may affect your search ranking.
Simply defined, white space is literally just the amount of blank space between elements on a web page. By adding more white space to the search results pages, Google has effectively lengthened the page, meaning to get to number 10 of the top 10 results, you have to scroll down on the page. Just as in the real world, location is everything when it comes to search results. If you’re not in the top 10, you’re not betting the views you need to be competitive as a very high percentage of search users don’t click on page 2 let alone page 5 of their search results. It’s been seen in demographics as well, most users don’t even scroll down to the bottom of the top 10 of their searches!
At present most users see the top 5 or 6 on their search results page. If Google were to decide to go live with this change of adding more white space, you would only see the top 4, or 3 even depending on your monitor and resolution. If you were happy and content seeing that you were sitting at number 5 or 6 in your niche, it may be time to take a long hard look at your current site to see if you can kick start some forward gains. The top 3 when it comes to being found is becoming more and more important.
Search Engine Optimization, we’re in the business of driving your website to the top of the search results relevant to your industry. A lot of the time, it sounds too good to be true, that when reaching this position you can literally count yourself as a leader. So you sit back, relax and watch as the visitors pour in. And then you start to notice something you didn’t prepare yourself for, your visitors start dropping off.
Where you once were receiving hundreds of qualified visitors to your site, you’ve watched it drop off to a trickle of where you were at your peak. So what happened? Did your SEO expert fail you? Possibly, we do make mistakes from time to time. But the first rule of SEO is KISS it; Keep It Simple Stupid. With that in mind, grab your pencils and paper and let’s take a look at what are the contributing factors to dropped traffic.
First and foremost, check your content. Have you been creating fresh and compelling content for your site? Have you allowed your SEO to read it before you upload it to your site or did you just toss up what ever jargon you happened to jot down in a hurry? The search engines have always proclaimed that content is king and when your content doesn’t measure up anymore, you’re going to lose your crown. That means when you’re being creative, you need to bear in mind your visitor base. Do they understand industry terms? Or do you need to use generic terms. Will they be able to handle acronyms and specific statements about your products and services? Being hasty in the creation process can be a huge contributor to losing traffic to your site. Properly spelled, grammatically correct and most of all relevant to your site content, can drive you to the top of the mountain and keep you there like an anchor.
Another avenue to explore for you, have you done any massive changes to your website either functionality or design? If you’ve changed the way your navigation works on your site and didn’t properly relay that information to the search engines, you’ll likely slip off of search until the spiders find all of your content again.
Have you kept an open and consistent dialogue with your SEO expert? When a change is requested that needs to be completed, you need to bear in mind that the internet doesn’t stop. It doesn’t sleep, rest, eat or use the washroom. The bots are always out there, always searching, parsing and indexing. A requested change needs to happen as soon as possible. Lost time when making changes can make a huge impact on your search position.
The marketing game has changed significantly in the last 10 years with the growth of the search engines. Gone are the days of dumping a quarter of a million dollars into an ad campaign and waiting for the kick back from it. International marketing superstardom can be had with a well coded website with strong quality content created by one person sitting behind a keyboard.
There are risks and rewards to be found for your business in any advertising avenue, when you get to the bottom line you need to weigh the costs versus the return on the investment. And while some of the oldest marketing tricks in the book still work, like television, radio and newspaper. The simple truth is, less and less people are buy newspapers, watching television or listening to the radio.
Consumers are beginning to PVR their favorite shows, skipping the commercials and spending their time watching the content they want to see. Newspapers, once one of the largest staples of information, readership has been steadily dropping as more and more people get their news from an online source whether it’s via their computer or even a smart phone. Radio is starting to show some declines as commuters plug in their portable music devices and tune into their own music libraries. Online advertising is still in its infancy here in Canada especially and it’s painful to see when businesses and organisations just flat out refuse to listen to the evolving market.
Here in however, also lies a problem in and of itself. When you’re making that step online, who do you turn to for help? There’s no SEO club, there’s no secondary education available in a formal schooling to teach people how to effectively code online for optimization. We don’t carry cards, we don’t have a monthly news letter and we most certainly do not all fit into the same basket. So what is there you can do to ensure that the “expert” that you’ve hired is the real deal?
You can start at the beginning, asking for such things as previous clients and how their rankings were affected. You can search for their website using keywords you would expect them to be optimized for. Touting themselves as a PPC expert? Google them. Search for them on Bing, Google, Yahoo, pick your engine and scour away. If you’ve found that you’ve hired someone selling themselves as an expert and all they do is build you a Facebook account and a Twitter account, then don’t worry you still have time to get into the game. But don’t be fooled, your competitors are playing the same game as you, and if they started before you, they have the lead however temporary. To catch up, you’ll need to play harder, faster and better than everyone else.
Dear PR Professional
You probably had no idea, but the work you do could be among the most valuable SEO strategies out there, And it’s not because you’re a press release or SEO-optimization guru (sorry!), but because you know how to drive media, mentions at scale and media mentions can drive links.
So in this spirit, let’s address a few myths and assumptions so we can work together effectively, I going to do couple each a day for the next week.
PR-SEO Myths and Truths
1.Myth: Press release optimization is an important value-add for PR-SEO.
Truth: There are very few situations where the tens or hundreds of transient,
low-quality links gained from an SEO-optimized press release will be more
valuable than a single link from “earned” coverage. Press release
syndication sites tend to be poor signals of quality because anyone use them,
even relatively poor websites. In other words, the links tend to be low
authority. Also, any good links tend to disappear as quickly as they appeared.
PR delivers its primary value in traffic, branding, word-of-mouth buzz, awareness, influencer mindshare, and thought leadership.
Maybe for some, but for websites that care primarily about organic search traffic (i.e., traffic they get from Google), your value is in links. And since search engines can only see links that stay in place, and only count “followed” links, PR’s value to SEO’s is measured by its ability to deliver permanent followed links. In fact, to put this in perspective, in most
cases, an SEO-driven site would prefer 50 links from no-name, medium authority
publications than a mention in a USA Today story.
Here is a great pictorial from Aaron at SEO Book & Jess Net. Click to make Larger
Infographic by SEO Book
With JC Penny & Overstock.com getting penalized from Google for trying to outfox the search engines, what lesson can you learn from these stumbles?
Be careful when it comes to technology you may not fully understand. Let me say this again, Be careful when it comes to technology you may not fully understand.
Today, countless organizations—small businesses especially—are being told that their fortunes will improve if they learn to harness the magical powers of SEO. If you own or operate a Web site for your business, the come-ons are no doubt familiar: “I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines,” goes one popular one.
Do organizations fall for these pitches? They sure do. In fact, entire industries have become enamoured with SEO. Take the media business. Today, many publishing companies are putting more investment into search gimmicks than in quality content. The result? Fewer impactful features, more animated slide shows and plenty of SEO-optimized headlines, including one from The Washington Post that read simply, “SEO headline here.”
Infatuation with SEO and related technologies extends to companies of all types. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), North American spending on search marketing is growing nearly 15 percent annually and will top $17 billion this year. This is in addition to the vast sums spent on SEO technology and consulting.
With these figures search has seized the attention of scores of business executives worldwide, Sooner or later, every competitive company will develop or invest in SEO capabilities. When this happens, distinguishing your organization with basic SEO technology and knowledge will become very difficult.
There are signs that some SEO companies are having to go to greater extremes to produce results for their clients. Is the sun is about to set on SEO. It might, but don’t cancel your contract with your SEO provider just yet, For the foreseeable future, SEO technology will remain a very valuable business tool, but only if you keep a competitive advantage. For that, you’re going to have to focus on business basics, including your innovation, prices and operational excellence.
Some thoughts echoed from Inder Sidhu the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Planning for Worldwide Operations at Cisco