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So after talking about the new patent papers filed about tricking spammers into showing themselves, with Penguin and Panda breathing down your websites neck, what is there left for you to do as a webmaster? You follow the basics and stick to the best practices guide, it sounds boring and cliche, but it works.
Focus on content creation, when you put forth effort when creating great pieces of content, the result is increased traffic to your website via shares and referrals. Another strong candidate to let your company and site become well known is to distribute press releases for major changes. Make sure you don’t abuse press releases, as it can give your company a bad image as a spammy site when you talk about every little bit of activity. Focus on taking advantage of press releases and the traffic they generate when you have something impressive to share.
Make sure to take care of the increasing social boom, and add social sharing buttons to your website. Don’t make the assumption that users will take the initiative to share your content on their own. Making it simple for your visitors to share you content with social share buttons is a quick way to garner additional views. Going hand in hand with using social sharing and social media, is to create your own YouTube channel. YouTube is the web’s largest search engine, so when you can create videos showing off your product or services it is a great way to expose new audiences to your brand. And with the search engines starting to include media results mixed in with the organic results, you may even begin to find new visitors coming to your site via your Youtube channel.
And one of the most important tips that can be offered on how to improve your visibility, when you find yourself with a new client you should always do your best to over-deliver on your company’s products or services. Word-of-mouth is still one of the strongest advertising methods online, offline, new media or old. Once you’ve thoroughly impressed a new client, the odds of them bringing their friends and family to your site are very high. Be sure not to step on their toes however, or to ruin a relationship when dealing with a client, as the only thing that travels faster than great news, is bad news.
There have been adjustments, changes, and what seems like complete rewrites of the algorithm that Google started with in the beginning. At first when you searched, the results you were given were based directly upon the query as you’d entered it, and sorted by how many back links it had. Now however, when you search for ‘Winnipeg Jets’, images and video for the team appear even though the words “images” or “videos” weren’t in the query.
The algorithm that Google, Bing and a handful of others use, has grown and evolved to a point where it’s trying to anticipate what you’re searching for, as well as the direct query you may have typed. The search engines are getting better at bringing what you want to see on your given topic, and seem to be weighing the number of clicks through to a result as well as all of the previous criteria as well. As you’ve probably mistakenly typed a word or two while searching as well, you’ve probably noticed that search engines are also able to correct spelling mistakes which are commonly made. What the engines are getting much better at doing however, is not correcting your spelling, but interpreting what you may actually be searching for. Google can load dictionaries of how words should be spelled and common misspelled variations of those words and can look at how searchers correct searches and when they click on different variations. And it can use this data to not only suggest a query with a different spelling but to treat the misspelling as a synonym behind the scenes and rank the correctly spelled matches.
And as with what goes in the same basket as interpreting what you might be looking for, Google is noticeably moving forward on trying to discern your intent while searching as well. A basic description of how it works:
Keyphrases don’t have to be in their original form. We do a lot of synonyms work so that we can find good pages that don’t happen to use the same words as the user typed. – Matt Cutts
Even Bing is getting in on the act as if you mispell a common word or phrase, you’ll still often be brough to the correct results. Perhaps soon enough, you won’t need to search by typing, but by simply visiting your preferred search engine. And because you researched a new car and purchased one via online dealership shopping, the engine knows that in a few months it should perhaps deliver you information on local garages which offer oil changes and tire rotation services.
Late last week Google announced an additional metric to how it will be handling search results. Starting from last Friday, Google will be taking into consideration valid DMCA requests when parsing the index. While the new portion of the algorithm hasn’t been made live, they did have this to say:
Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results. This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily – whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify.
There are a couple of Google owned properties which are notorious for having copyrighted content, specifically Youtube and Blogger. And while they tend to receive the lions share of DMCA requests, Google has said it’s the valid takedown requests which will be used as the metric to decide who should stay, and who should fall. It’s the next major algorithm shift in store for site owners and it’s going to be interesting to see where it takes the content of the web.
Google is taking another page from Facebooks social networking prowess, and will being allowing vanity urls to some select profiles. Currently the majority of the Google+ urls are followed with a long string of numbers denoting your profile, while some are being tidied up.
While the idea is to roll out the feature and vanity value to all of the users, currently they have only passed the cleaned up address to a few on the social network. While it’s a step in a good direction for Google+ social offering, they still have a fair amount of ground to cover in order to catch up to Facebook. A small problem has been picked out currently with the change, as the new vanity urls haven’t been forwarded with optimization in mind. The new addresses are being used as canonical urls as opposed to being a full 301 to pass the full and proper content to the search engines.
When you’re looking at any kind of online branding or search engine optimization, there are a whole bunch of points you need to keep in mind. There’s all of the technical stuff, which has been covered in this blog a number of times. Things like your content management system, your coding structure and how clean it is and if it’s to proper web standards. Your content need to be clean and concise, and ideally be keyword rich and act as link bait so as to encourage other websites to link to your site.
A major element that unfortunately seems to be over looked, or perhaps misinterpreted, is budget allocation. The two major budgets that you need to keep in the fore front when considering SEO or online branding, are the budgets of time, and money.
Where the monetary component is concerned, it’s going to fluctuate depending on what your target is. Everyone would love to be on page 1 number 1, but what it takes to get there is different for everyone. It shouldn’t be any surprise that to hold the number 1 spot locally, takes a much different budget amount than that of a website trying to take the top spot nationally. It should also be known, that in order to place in top spots is going to take more than a few hundred dollars in a one time payment, online branding and organic search engine optimization are not one time deals or costs.
That’s the monetary cost where your website optimization is concerned, and as far as time is concerned, there needs to be realistic objectives as well. Smaller, local targets can be hit quicker in a search campaign, while massive national campaigns will take much more time to climb. The small local campaigns can begine to show results in as short a time frame as a few weeks, while larger campaigns can take a few months to show the improvements deemed necessary.
In the middle of last year or so, Google started slowly pushing out warnings to webmasters of what they deemed as ‘unnatural links’ which were pointing to their website. Unnatural links, for lack of a better description, fall under the realm of being unrelated to your website. As an example, like a plumbing forum having links pointing to a website on cooking or gardening. Earlier this year, Google stepped up the notification significantly and almost immediately, sent the world of search engine optimization into a tizzy.
It was at that juncture, that webmasters began to start to drop links too and from their website, probably in the hopes that sending in their reconsideration request they would be able to clear the mark from their webmaster tools page. It’s an interesting process that Google has put in to place with the unnatural links notifications, some webmasters have laid evidence showing that they did nothing and plummeted in the search results. While others, who went through untold rigmarole trying to get their links cleaned up, reported no change in their positioning, despite multiple notifications.
And to muddy the waters just a little more, over the last day or so, Google has sent out another massive batch of notifications of unnatural links to webmasters everywhere. It seems that as of late, with all of the features Google has been adding to it’s webmastertools suite, they’re really looking at placing responsibility on the web owners. An interesting twist to the equation, is when you consider that search engines place at least some of the portion of their ranking factor into the links pointing to a website. Maybe, this is the beginning of Google trying to diversify their ranking algorithm and ideals? Time will tell, but giving webmasters the idea that they need to carefully maintain their link profiles is an interesting step.
With the way things have been progressing online, it’s not much of a stretch to think that some of the old ways have gone to the wayside for search engines. Google, Bing, Yahoo and all of the others out there need to choose a metric of sorts where by it allows them to determine what is relevant to certain topics and categories. The long running, and highest contributing factor since the beginning, has been linking to websites; both those which are relevant to your business and those which may help your positioning. It’s a very simple formula really, site A compiles a great deal of information about cogs and becomes known across the country as the top producer and information source for them. Site B, is a reseller of site A, and as such provides a link directly too site A, helping cement their positioning online as the top purveyor of the cog industry. That’s a very basic example, multiply that a trillion times and you’re beginning to see the beginnings of the internet, and how linking works to sort out the web.
Over the last couple of years especially though, the social web has made a big splash. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, all social sites which are being hooked by the spiders and are being more frequently plugged into your search results. Some companies out there like to make the correlation that the larger the web has gotten, the more community focused people have become. Instead of searching out for the best cog company, people are asking their friends on Facebook and Twitter for example. It was a shock that ran through the SEO industry to think that the value of links was going to be tossed away, all because people suddenly had the ability (not that they didn’t already) to ask their friends for their opinion. It’s a (non)issue that continues being blown out of proportion by the unseasoned search experts out there.
Bet a very simple truth is this, the weight that linking and back linking to websites sin’t going to go away. Not just yet, and not in the near fore seeable future at any rate. That’s not to say that social signals and social linking isn’t going to become the heavy weights at some point, but that point is not today, not next month, and not next year.
There’s a lot of mistakes that can be made with your search engine optimization campaign if your chosen provider isn’t totally on the ball. In the coming blog, I’ll discuss some of the simpler mistakes, how to spot them, and hopefully with that knowledge in hand, they will be avoided.
One of the primary mistakes that can be made when beginning to optimize your site, can actually be the combined fault of both the site owner and the SEO. Failure to conduct proper keyword research on your site, and on your competitors sites can actually hamper your efforts online. Improper keyword research can even lead to you creating or posting content which is improperly optimized, and your brand or website can become associated for the wrong terms. If the wrong terms become indexed it’s not just your current ranking which can be effected, but your long term can also be via backlinks from other websites. As an example, if you create a great document, well written, not too spammy and highly relevant, but for a topic unrelated to your website and someone finds and links to it; the search engines will index and categorize that link. If your website becomes the target for irrelevant backlinks, it begins to affect your authority on your niche market, especially if backlinking site is completely different from your business. So if you’re not sure which keyword phrases or targets you should be going after, allow your SEO experts to do their research and present you with a solution.
A mistake which is often overlooked because it isn’t painfully apparent, is when you’re having a website built or revamped, that it’s constructed in such a way that it impedes the search engines ability to index your site. Having a website which encourages intuitive use by the user, as well as the search engine spiders is very important to help propel you to the top. If you’re building a website with images or scripts as navigation, the users may be able to work out how to process it, but search engines don’t see things the way users do. If there is no way to identify the menu or page elements, the spiders will guess, or disregard the pages. That’s a dangerous place to put yourself for the sake of design, because it doesn’t matter how pretty or fun your site is if it can’t be indexed. A third common mistake which site owners get caught up in is lack of updating the site, either via consistent content updates, a blog, active forum or even a twitter feed. Building and launching a business website isn’t just a fire and forget enterprise with which you have one shot to be indexed and ranked, you should be working on your site and it’s content in a constant cycle. Either a blog every day or so, a forum update for members or a few tweets here and there during the day, engaging your clients and customers. If you allow your site to become stale and never udpate it, you’ll slowly be pushed further and further into the index by others in your space who do.
Lastly, even though we’ve already discussed the construction of your website, a last point to mull over. You cannot build a website purely for user interaction that is highly graphical with no actual content and expect to rank in the top of the searches. But by that same note, you cannot build a website with only the search engines in mind as all text and no user support or interaction. So while your site can’t be all flash and no substance, it also can’t be comprised of all substance with no flash, users will visit and never return due to poor user interaction. It’s a balance that needs to be met, and if your current SEO can’t help you with your existing site, call the search experts and we’ll have you flying in no time.
If you’re the owner of a small business, often times one of the best way to generate content for your website is to have an active blog where you can make postings about your product or services. It also allows your customers and clients to ask any questions which may be on their mind at the time, and can give your professional site a friendlier feel.
But with all good things, especially with the anti-spam algorithms that the search engines have running, it’s a very good idea to know how to mitigate the possibility of having your web authority tarnished. It’s not just the cheaters at the search game who get caught, more often than not it’s websites and businesses that follow the rules, but just happen to forget a very important step, moderation. Moderating the comments on your blog or any forum threads you may be actively participating in is greatly important, as nothing on the internet is truly private. If a thread you’re active in begins to get spammed, your name and business could be caught up in an anti-spam net, and you could end up devalued simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you have your own company blog, and you allow comments on your postings, it’s a good idea to have comments allowed so as to encourage discussion on your website. It’s a very good idea however, to also have a firm hand where moderation is concerned of any and all comments which are placed on your site. Blog spam comments are easily spotted however, as they’re usually placed automatically by bots roaming across the web. Their posts are typically poorly written, although some might surprise you, and contain a few links to sites which have no bearing on your own. There is thankfully, a rather simple way to deal with comment spam if you have a highly active forum or blog, and don’t have the time to moderate all of the discussions or comments occuring. You can simply add the NOFOLLOW meta tag to your discussion pages or directories, it’ll tell the spiders to simply disregard any outgoing links on the pages and you can let the discussion flow. It’s a simple line of code which allows you to protect your sites page rank, as well as it’s online profile with the search engines.
At present, there are a couple of different sets of active penalty systems being tossed around on Google. There’s the Penguin update, and the link penalties which are being levied against sites with strange link profiles. If you’ve noticed a backtracking in your site position, how are you to know which way to proceed? Let’s have a quick look and see if it can be narrowed down some.
Firstly, the Penguin update which is still running around, seemingly causing mass havoc with some site owners. The most recent version of Penguin in the wilds of the web are searching for unnatural backlinks, a tighter field of view when looking for fresh content, better page title generation (if your page doesn’t have one), and better detection of hacked websites and pages. Note as well, that all of these algorithm changes, and much more, all run automatically as the spiders break down your site. If you’ve received no notification in your webmaster tools area, chances are you’ve been hit by a Penguin drive by.
The second current most common way that sites are being hit, is with what is called an unnatural link penalty. The key difference between this method and Penguin, is the link penalty is manually handed down against your website. If you pay heed to your webmaster tools notifications (you did remember to set that up right?), then just follow the steps in place to correct the penalties levied.
Or as I saw it put so succinctly:
Unnatural links is more about link networks, paid links, blog networks and unnatural link patterns.
Penguin is more about low quality links with weird looking anchor text, plus other over optimization related link building techniques.
In the discussion that has followed, it has been noted that the two seem to be inter-related to each other, so be sure to keep tabs on your websites performance, and don’t ignore the notifications you receive. You’ll only be sinking yourself faster should you choose to ignore any warnings or messages.
Search engine optimization, it’s the big marketing buzz word of the last 5 years or so. And what was once known as a highly technical, and relatively unknown business tactic has become a medium embraced by the masses. So well embraced in fact, that it’s become more and more populated by people who barely understand what the term means, let alone how to properly implement it on a clients site.
It’s becoming ever more obvious when we speak with prospective clients, that their first introduction to the world of SEO wasn’t all it is cracked up to be. The most common way to be taken in is usually with your webhost, offering what seems to be an amazing suite with submissions to directories and search engines. What these small, and sometimes large companies don’t seem to realize, is that directories don’t carry much influence with the search engines, and as for being submitted to them, well it’s not a process that exists in so many words. This scenario, as bleak as it may seem, is the best case scenario unfortunately.
The worst case scenario, and we’ve run into it a few times, is a client who’s been attracted to the false promises, and ‘darker’ side of SEO. The black hat entrpreneurs, if you can call them that, lure in their clients with promises of page 1, top 10 positions and quick return on their investment. The problem here, is the tactics that employed often destroy the online reputation of the company, and lead to the website often being removed from the index. When we’re engaged with a client in such a predicament, we’ve actually had them start over entirely, new url, new website, the works.
Key points to remember about legitimate search engine optimization are: It is not a one shot deal that will place you in the top rankings
It is a long term, high ROI solution
It is the highest ROI marketing solution when the costs and gains are weighed
And a real SEO expert will engage you as a client, to help you create content, and create an online experience to help bring qualified visitors consistently to your site.
Don’t be fooled by get rich quick schemes where SEO is concerned, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t exist and anyone who is trying to sell it to you should be black listed in your contact book.