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Panda 4

Introducing another Google update! Panda 4.0 is being met with great buzz and, of course, the big question: what does this mean for my website? Good question, and equally good news. If you have great, high-quality content, it is a positive change that can help your content filter up through the ether and onto the top of the results pages. So, what exactly is Panda 4.0, and what can we expect next?

Google has been going tough on low-quality sites, and it appears as though its newest update is designed to ensure that scraped, copied, or spam content isn’t rewarded with good standing in the SERPs. It does, however, reward sites that publish high-quality content with regularity, or even better, with frequency.

It’s no surprise that sites need to have fresh news, articles, videos, and other gems for visitors (and for search engines, given the emphasis on content marketing of late. The latest iteration of Panda underscores the need for a serious strategy that involves posting new material at least every week.

A note on content syndication: with the right technical SEO approach, offering a bit of syndicated content on your website is fine. It is even a great strategy if you are sharing valuable, relevant content with your visitors. What’s not so great is if you rely on  it heavily – or worse, totally – for your content needs. Such sites saw some distressing falls after Panda 4.0 unrolled. If yours is one of them, fresh original content, and keep it comin’, is essential.

There’s also some talk that Panda is looking after your total user experience, not just content. Are you mobile ready? Is navigation easy and intuitive? Do you have coherent metadata? If not, it’s time to update your site’s structure and get ready. It’s not wasted time: if Panda 4.0 is rewarding great UX, you can be sure subsequent updates, changes, and search habits also demand this aspect of your website function flawlessly.

What’s next from Google? You can bet future updates will continue to hone in on their message that quality counts. Get ready with an excellent content strategy.

Magnifying Glass Map


It can be easy to get so focused on SEO strategies and techniques that we miss the obvious, and essential, factors that can help our websites rank well. Sitemaps help search engines crawl and index your site and discover content that might otherwise go unnoticed. What do you need to know about these critical SEO tools?

Google bots typically crawl your site more often if you update your sitemap. Google’s JohnMu says, “If we find new content there every time we crawl, we may choose to crawl more frequently.” This doesn’t necessarily mean your site will rank better as a result, but if you’re adding new content and keeping your sitemap up-to-date, it does tend to reflect well on you as far as the search engine is concerned.

But let’s back up: what exactly is a sitemap? It is an XML file that contains a list of URLs for a site. Additionally, it lists metadata for each URL, such as how often it changes and when it was last update. Here is an example for a single URL, from

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<urlset xmlns="">







Elements that you must include:

  • Opening with <urlset> and closing with </urlset>.
  • A <url> entry for each URL as a parent tag.
  • A <loc> entry for each <url> parent tag.
  • The namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag

Other tags, such as <priority>, <lastmod>, and <changefreq> are optional and serve to give the search engine more information. For more information, mark as a favorite and brush up on protocols. You can also use any of a number of generators to create your XML sitemap.

If you don’t a sitemap, or an updated version, get on it now!

Film ProjectorWhen it comes to social media, the ‘usual suspects’ jump to mind: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and even Pinterest. One that may deserve a more prominent place in your social strategy is Slideshare. Acquired by LinkedIn in 2012, it’s the largest community for sharing professional presentations in the world. What can a Slideshare presence do for you?

Slideshare: Professional Presentations

Why Slideshare? Here are a few compelling reasons you may need to get familiar with PowerPoint soon:

  • The site receives 500% more traffic from business owners than Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 500%!
  • Mobile views increased 223% over last year.
  • The site sees over 60 million visitors a month.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests a high ROI and increased generation of qualified leads as a result of a strong Slideshare presence.

What Do Audiences Like?

Slideshare’s content consumers tend to have a voracious appetite for:

  • Business. The most popular topics are: business, research, trends, market, social media, and statistics. These folks are here to work!
  • Short, visual content. Fewer slides in favor of more images. Keep text to a minimum – and make sure it’s relevant.
  • Inforgraphics. These get “liked” 5 times more often than presentation and a whopping 21 times more than documents.

Over 400,000 presentations are uploaded to Slideshare each month. The top slideshows are posted on the homepage, as are featured users, recommended presentations, and more. If your presentation can land on the first page, it’s all the better. A bulk of your traffic will come directly from Google, though, so if you can attract the attention of your target audience, you can boost your ROI and see significant results. Some tips to that end:

  • Optimise. SEO rules apply just as readily to your slideshow as they do to your website. Choose strategic keywords that reflect what your audience is looking for.
  • Images. Choose compelling images that are relevant to your subject. Forget the adorable puppies – unless you’re speaking of puppies! Feel free to include animations, photos, graphics, and other images.
  • Inforgraphics. They sell like hotcakes. There are various sites online to help you generate these interactive graphics.
  • Titles. “Top Tips for Using Slideshare,” “How to…”, “5 Mistakes You’re Making…” Just as you would with a blog or article with a compelling, enticing title, make sure you draw your visitors in with compelling title.
  • Tags and description. Slideshare allows a description and up to 20 tags. Take advantage. Craft these with your carefully-selected keywords and information relevant to visitors and to search engines. Google, by the way, will rank Slideshare material over blogs.
  • Links. Google pays attention, so add high-quality links in your presentation. As with anything you do, “relevance” is the keyword.

If you’re not sharing on Slideshare, maybe it’s time! What message do you have to convey to your audience –and is this a viable medium? Likely, the answer is yes.

Together 1When someone mentions “duplicate content,” thoughts of content scraping and blatant plagiarism immediately spring to mind. While this certainly can – and does – happen, there are other instances when duplicate content appears on websites accidentally, innocuously, and even completely ethically. What are these situations, and how can you avoid penalisation from search engines?

First, taking content, including images, videos, and other non-text content, from other sites and appropriating it for use on your own without attribution is unethical. Reputable site owners and webmasters understand this and make every effort to produce original content. Now that we have that out of the way, how does duplicate content pop up on good websites?

Ecommerce Product Descriptions

You sell blue-tinted sunglasses. While your service, prices, and winning charm may set you apart from the competition, the bottom line is that your sunglasses are the same sunglasses visitors can purchase on a host of other websites. In this case, retailers tend to use the manufacturer’s description – just like all the other shops selling these glasses. The result: a useful description for visitors – and duplicate content.

The solution is to write your own product descriptions. They don’t have to be long, but they do have to be original. It can help, too, to post a photo that you (or better yet, if it’s in the budget, a professional photographer) have taken of the product. You can even involve visitors, requesting photos, videos, and reviews  (UGC is great!).

But what if you’re selling, say, organic, vegan, gluten-free brownies, and you have to list the ingredients for your patrons. These ingredients will be the same as they are on other sites which sell the product. In this case, list them. It’s essential to your customers. Matt Cutts indicates that this will not get you into the muck with Google. However, you should write your own introduction or text to set your content apart – and entice hungry buyers!

Products in Various Categories

This is a similar situation with a fairly easy fix. Ok, say you have 30 products. Your visitors can search by price, by popularity, by alphabetical order. Now, this creates three pages with the same information/content, albeit in different orders.  To avoid penalisation, simply add a canonical tag to the initial category URL. This lets you stay in the good graces of the search engines, and it preserves your link weight for that page.

To find out more about canonical tags and setting yours up, go straight to the source: Google’s webmaster tools.

Great Content You Want to Share

Sometimes, content on other sites is so great that you have to share with your visitors. You want them to access this relevant information – but you want to keep them on your site. This happens all the time. Good site owners secure permission to use the content and attribute it to the proper source. They’re not trying to pass it off as their own. But it’s still, technically, duplicate content. So, again, pop in a canonical tag like this to let search engines know aren’t trying to game the system or steal content:

<link rel=”canonical” href=””/>

These are just a few of the legitimate reasons why duplicate content appears on good sites. When possible, provide original content. When that is just not feasible, make sure to use tags to communicate with Google.




Hello My Name Is

Google has been so successful because it remains dedicated to those that it serves.  Do not be fooled for a moment, believing that Google serves the webpages, businesses, or web designers.  Google is for those performing the searches, but, at times, the services meant to appeal to that audience is also beneficial to those of us trying to make the most of SEO.  Google Authorship is definitely a good example of that.

Create a Google+ Profile If you don’t have one, now is the time.  Likely you already have an account, since Google automatically creates one when you sign up for any other Google service, but it isn’t going to do you much good if you haven’t filled it with your relevant photos and information.  A headshot on your Google+ profile is a must, as this is the picture that Authorship will display in the search results, alongside your content.

Set up a Domain Email Though it isn’t required, this is the easiest method of connection your Google+ account to your domain and setting off the chain of Authorship connections in search results.  All you have to do is submit the email from your domain account to Google and the process is underway.

Social SEO It is clear that Google is starting to put more weight on the social aspect of the web when calculating search results.  Authorship is among the first examples of this.  By connecting the author to his or her content, Google is putting a face to the words and adding to the social feel of the web. Furthermore, the need for a Google+ profile in order to make the service work means that Google is drawing more players into their social community.

Eye Appeal Even if you are not the most attractive bloke, your picture will make your content stand out against the competition because the human eye is immediately drawn to imagery over text.  That will mean a higher click through rate, which could, ultimately, translate into a higher ROI.

Boost Your Brand They say that branding is all about face time.  The more often your picture or your logo is seen, the more readily recognizable it will become, which makes Authorship a piece of Branding Heaven.  With the image of your choice appearing beside your content in Google search reviews, potential customers will be exposed to your brand on a regular basis.

It’s simple and carries many notable advantages, so why wouldn’t you give Google Authorship a try?  For those investing precious time and expertise into improving SEO, it’s simply foolish to overlook this gift from Google.


Thumbs UpIt took a long time for this service to be given the green light, but the good news for businesses internet-wide is that Google is now providing the opportunity to make a better first impression with Google Review Extensions.  Why does Google want to give businesses the right to publish reviews as part of their Adwords snippets?  The reasoning is simple – Google serves the search user and reviews give that user more information about the products or services he is seeking.

Be Sure Your Review is Relevant As always, Google does have some rules in place to ensure that you are not planning to abuse the system.  One of these regulations is that the reviews that you use for this purpose must be made within the past twelve months, so don’t try pulling up that amazing testimonial from five years ago.

Size Matters Ah, the statement that we all hate to hear applies more than ever when it comes to Google Review Extensions.  There is a significant length limit to the reviews used.  Those used for this purpose can be no more than 67 characters long.

Better to Be Broad While all positive reviews are meaningful, the best used for the Google Review Extensions are those that are all-encompassing.  That is to say that you should opt for testimonials that speak to the company as a whole, rather than a specific product or component of your business.

Know Your Way Around In order to make Google Review Extensions work for you, you have to know how to implement them.  In your Adwords account, there is a tab entitled ‘Ad Extensions’.  For this menu, choose ‘+Extension’ and then the campaign that you want to apply the review to.  Google will want to know if you are listing an exact quote or a paraphrased review, but otherwise installing the extension is simple.  Type in the quote or the URL where it can be found and save.

It should be noted that, as with ads, Google must review your extension entry before it will be seen by the masses.  How you enter the testimonial will make a difference in how long the review process takes.  It has been noted that campaign-wide extensions are generally processed faster than those used for a single ad group.  The minimal time and effort required are well worth it.  The addition of a review at the end of your snippet can improve the first impression that others form upon seeing it, which can lead to great click through rates and a better return on investment.

Card Index Box

It is so important to achieving greatness online, yet there are still millions of users who don’t understand what crawling and indexing mean.  Google crawlers, which are the pieces of code that make it possible for Google to explore your site, scour websites much like an average user would.  The crawlers explore all of the links and pages, bringing that information back to the Google servers.

Once the Google bot has crawled the site, the information enters the serves and is catalogued based on the content and its perceived worth.  This indexing places pages on a multitude of lists that can be referenced when an individual performs a related search.  There are a number of criteria by which a site might be indexed.

Create a Sitemap It is important to understand that Google is not perfect and will not immediately recognize all of the websites active on the Web.  The crawling process depends on the site being found.  Those that have already been crawled in the past, obviously, are known to the servers, but newer sites are found via sitemaps.  Of sitemaps, Google says:

“Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover. In its simplest terms, an XML Sitemap—usually called Sitemap, with a capital S—is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.”

If you want to know more about how to make a sitemap, visit Google’s instructional sitemap page.

There are very few that fully understand the alogrithms used by Google, which determine which sites are crawled and when that process will occur.  However, those coding sites do have some say over how Google processes the information contained within. There are special files called ‘robots.txt’ which site owners can use to provide clear cut instructions to the crawlers that access their webpages.

Acknowledge the Importance of Links While your site may be crawled, it is not going to earn any precedence, if there isn’t much chatter happening in regards to the contents contained on it.  That is to say that if no one is linking to your content, then Google is consider it of little worth and, if the site is indexed at all, it will be buried at the bottom of some long list, not likely to be seen by search users.

Recognize The Danger of a Slow Server If you notice that you aren’t making the Google ranks, it could also point to a problem with your server speed.  Google will limit its crawling expeditions if your server is slow because, in the company’s words, it doesn’t want to “use too much of your server’s resources”.

Know When it is Time to be Re-Indexed As part of the indexing system, Google saves cached versions of your website pages.  That version of the page will not change in Google’s system until the page is crawled again.  You can force Google to re-crawl and re-index your page when you create new content.  In order to do so, follow Google’s instructions on how to Submit URL to Index, found here.



Old Typewriter Wanderer Continental 2

It has been said a million times by thousands of SEO experts – content is the king online.  If you are not creating great, meaningful content, then your website is very unlikely to see the desired traffic.

Put the Audience First Unless you have already earned fame and acclaim, then it is unlikely that an audience is arriving at your website just to see you bask in your glory.  They are arriving at your page because there was a promise of worthwhile content.  It takes a person only seconds to determine if that is truly the case, so if you aren’t providing something worth seeing, then your bounce rate is going to be ridiculously high.

Stay Relevant If you haven’t hear the term ‘evergreen’, as it is related to your website content, then this is the time to learn more.  This is a very important concept in the virtual world. As the trees that this content is named for, evergreen content is lush, full, and eye appealing.  It maintains its relevance throughout the year and for years to come, rather than being a simple flash in the pan.  Be sure that your content can be called evergreen.

Say Something Meaningful Are you suffering from writer’s block?  Stop what you are doing and turn to the internet – not to copy content already written, but to read the comments made beneath those pieces.  Often, people will ask follow up questions to blog posts, articles, and other material written about your area of interest and those queries will never be answered.  Aha!  The perfect inspiration for your next piece of evergreen content.

Divide and Conquer Spread your wealth of knowledge and keep track of where it is posted and how it does, statistically speaking.  Be relatively narrow with the topics that you write on – become an expert instead of a jack-of-all trades – but be broad with your placement, so your brand will become more recognizable in more circles.

Is That a Headline or a Teaser? It should be a little bit of both. A title is meant to pull the audience into the text.  If it isn’t doing so, then it isn’t worth anything.  A great headline suggests the topic of the writing without giving away too much.  It should be suggestive, enticing and used to promote that which follows it.

Find Your Audience Once the content has been created, titled, and posted… it’s time for it to be read, which means that you need to reach out to your target audience.  But, where do you find them?  If you know your niche, then you will have a good idea what interests them and that can often lead you in the direction you need to go to get your content seen.  Be sure that you are aiming at those arenas and not spreading your efforts thin, in areas where your niche wouldn’t be.

The right efforts today can mean meaningful, organic-growth-worthy content that will continue bringing your audiences for many tomorrows to come.




For those unfamiliar with the term ‘Semantic Markup’, it can be a confusing concept, but with a basic understanding of HTML, it can also become a highly beneficial component of your SEO strategy.

Semantic Markup: The use of specific HTML language to reinforce the meaning of the information found on a website.

Great semantic markup will help improve your click-through-rate (CTR) by as much as 15%.  Of course, CTR also weighs into overall SEO, which means that enticing users to click will ultimately lead to better search engine standings.

Snippets: the small amount of text that appears beneath every search engine result

There are a few different types of HTML markup formats for snippet creation, however, it is generally best to follow the recommendations of the search engine that you are trying to appease.  Given that, it is wise to use the Microdata format.  With these small bits of html code, you will help the search engine systems better understand the information on the page, by clearly defining names, titles, dates, and affiliations.

Authorship: Google’s effort to connect author with content in search results

One of the greatest ways that Semantic Markup can help you improve CTR, and adorn snippets, is with the use of Google Authorship.  By including blog URLs in the Google+ profile ‘Contributor to’ section and pasting the query string <a href=”[profile_url]?rel=author”>Google</a> as a link on your website, you can ensure that your face shows up next to the content that you create in search results.  Pictures draw attention, give written material a perceived credibility, and arouse curiosity that can make a person click on the link.


The ability to showcase reviews in a location as public as Google search results is pretty powerful.  With the right Sementic Markup, you can alert Google to the fact that you have testimonials on a website and these can be included with the snippets seen by Google searchers.

Breadcrumbs: Additional links seen by Search Engine users beneath the primary search result link.  Breadcrumbs are used to make sense of a domain hierarchy.

Google search bots are not perfect and can often fail to detect the breadcrumb code written into a website.  Markups can be useful in ensuring that the breadcrumbs are detected and included in the snippet.

Semantic Markup can be a major benefit to your website, improving the way that the public views its worth when it first appears to them as a search result.  With the added bits of information, there can be enough to entice a greater number of people to click on through to your precious content.




Optical Microscope 1A/B testing is an invaluable tool for website owners. If you don’t test it, you can improve. Do your visitors respond to this type of graphic or that? Does the red CTA generate for click-throughs than the green? Does integrating social prove increase CTRs? If you have it on your site, you can – and should – test it! Google’s Content Experiments is a tool that allows you to do just that.

What is Content Experiments?

This Google tool allows you to test up to 10 versions of a landing page to determine which specific changes yield the biggest improvements in conversion rates. It’s not straight A/B, then, which compares two versions, and it’s not multivariate, in which you test various combinations of different onpage elements. Instead, you can test up to 10 versions with separate URLs.

Improving Conversion Rates

The following tips will help you use Content Experiments to boost your conversion rates:

  • Focus on a goal. Do you want to increase opt-ins for newsletter subscriptions by 10%? Do you want to increase sales by 15% Whatever your goal, clearly define it. Make sure it is reasonable and achievable, or testing will only frustrate you.
  • Even though you can test up to 10 versions of your landing pages, target one feature at a time. Why? Because you won’t know which specific element is the one either attracting visitors or increasing bounce rates. You could, for instance, test your CTA. The versions remain much the same except for the CTAs. Test the call to action copy, the color, the style of the button. When you have your data, move on to the next critical element.
  • Analyze your traffic and decide on a timeframe. In general, the lower your daily traffic, the longer you should run your tests. Say you have a few hundred hits per day: take a week or so to collect data. Send the majority of your traffic to the test site to accelerate the process.
  • Optimise Ads. Google now allows AdSense users to use Content Experiments to optimise ads. You can experiment with placement and size to determine where you’re getting the most bang for your advertising buck.

Google provides a host of free tools for webmasters; this is one you definitely want to take advantage of.

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