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Film Clapper 4Move over, blogs. Well, they’ve moved over a while ago as internet users’ tastes and preferences changed. Vlogs, though, remain a relevant and effective method to reach a wide audience. How wide? Consider a few YouTube states: there are more than 1 billion unique users to the site each month, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. With the glut of content, how can you be sure you stand out?

Some tips for spreading the word about your vlog:

Hashtags: They’re not just for Twitter anymore. The ubiquitous # is a useful tool for helping audiences share and discuss your videos. Reach out to those who do not currently follow you on social media and provide them with this easy route to your vlog.

Social Media: Speaking of social media, branch out from the usual suspects – Facebook and Twitter – and try Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other platforms. Use them to announce new videos, highlight favorites from the past, and seed upcoming content. Remember, with social media, you don’t have to be everywhere: you have to be where your audience is. Do some consumer research to find out their social preferences, and get active in those communities.

Fan Finder: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a free, easy way to reach new fans? Wish granted. YouTube’s Fan Finder allows you to create a short video ad for your channel. They show this to potential fans (based on user preferences), and, hopefully, your channel is flooded with interested and eager viewers. Create a 30-60 second video – a 30-60 second eye-catching, enticing video!

Commenting: Be a good internet citizen! Find videos, vlogs, blogs, and websites that relate to your niche and become an active participant. Say that you are a personal trainer who wants to drum up some more business. You may visit a health and wellness lifestyle blog, a YouTube video channel dedicated to nutrition and cooking, and a site that promotes exercise. Read, watch, and comment. You can mention you own channel or site – but don’t be spammy. Even if you aren’t blocked by moderators, you’ll alienate other sites and their audiences.

This works well because when people are interested in and passionate about a topic – whether health, fitness, business, or hobby car mechanics – they want more information from a variety of sites.

IRL: Why keep your expertise and quality content online? Promote it in person. If you’re at an industry event, for instance, why not pass out business cards with your website or channel name and URL? If business cards don’t do it for you, try fun decals or stickers. Put your web information on your newsletters, on correspondence, and on other communications that happen “in real life” or on old-fashioned paper.

A vlog can be a great way to issue high-quality, relevant content to your audience. As YouTube stats tell us, billions of people love a good video! The interest is there; the tools and platforms are there. Are you?

SEOFoot traffic and paper directories just don’t cut it anymore.  A confluence of events – from the meteoric rise of mobile to the emphasis in many communities on supporting local establishments – means that local businesses need to create a lively, optimised online presence to engage their customers. Over 46 per cent of shoppers use their mobile devices to research local products and services. Will they find you? Here are a few targeted tips for being on top of the local game.

  • Set up your Google Places space. Run, don’t walk. You can control the information you provide to Google, and to your audience. Use this opportunity to disseminate the essentials: hours, contact information, images, and a keyword-optimised description. After you fill this out, all you have to do is verify your account via phone or mail. Bing and Yahoo also have “Local” services for businesses, so if you want to target these engines as well, follow their specific procedures to get your account set up.
  • Get social with Google+ Local. Here, you can connect with your customers and others related to your specific industry using Google+ circles. You can control the information and the “story” your business tells.
  • Use a real address and phone number. People who search for local products and services want a “real” address, not a virtual one. Not only does it tell them where to go if they want to visit the brick-and-mortar location, but it lends your business greater credibility. Same goes with the telephone number. Adding a map is another nice touch that will help visitors feel more comfortable visiting either in person or onine.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings. These are terrific for boosting your online authority and profile. Make it easy and convenient for them. Try printing a link to a review site on a receipt or adding one to an email communication to solicit feedback. If you should get some negative comments, address them immediately! Stay respectful, positive, and helpful – remember, these things can go viral.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-ready. While people do search for local businesses from home, it’s a mobile world. Is your site optimised for smartphones and tablets? If not, work on creating a responsive website or creating a separate mobile experience.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Keywords, site speed, metadata – all critical in local search campaigns.

Customers are out there, searching for quality local businesses. Make sure they find you by implementing these SEO strategies.

Ipad And Iphone

There are more mobile devices on earth than there are people. More than half of us have smartphones, and for half of mobile phone users, their device is their primary internet source. Just one more statistic for you: more than a quarter of all internet searches are conducted on a mobile device. A few years ago, you could get away with a desktop-based site. Not today. To reach your audience, you have to go where they are, and they are on the go. Here are the three ways you can accommodate mobile users.

Separate Mobile Site

With this option, you maintain a desktop version of your site and a separate mobile version. This has a few benefits: you can create a fully customised experience for your users. If, for instance, A/B or multivariate testing reveals your mobile users prefer infinite scrolling while your desktop users like vertical. You can also pare down your “big” version and create a simplified, streamlined mobile site that loads faster. Another plus is that you can employ HTML5 and other technologies without having to worry about compatibility.

Why not opt to create a separate mobile site? Well, it costs more, and that’s certainly a big consideration. Another issue is that if you have users who rely on both traditional and mobile versions (think of an Amazon shopper who likes to search for gifts at a coffee shop and then purchase at home), they may dislike having two separate experiences. It may create a disconnect and reduce the efficacy of the mobile site. Think about SEO, too. While having a separate site does not have to hurt your rank,  you will have to be on top of your redirects to make sure.

Dynamic Serving

With this option, you use the same URL, regardless of what type of device is attempting to access your website. So, how does a site load optimally for, say, a desktop, an iPhone, and a Galaxy? The specific devices employ User Agents. When the user agents request the site from the server, the server delivers the correct HTML for that particular device. This is beneficial because you only need one URL.

On the downside, Google  may not recognize the mobile HTML set, so you have make sure that you point the content out to the bots. The bots will need to crawl the content with different user agents, and redirecting them can be tricky. Check out Google’s help page for more information on that, if you choose dynamic serving. Another issue is that you have to continually update user agent strings for new mobile devices as they come on the market. Finding this information can be difficult, especially when the devices are brand new.

Responsive Web Design

This is the method that web design experts typically recommend. The website uses only one URL and responds to the type of device on which it is viewed. All devices read the same HTML. How does it work? CSS changes the page dimensions and the layout to fit smaller screens. Googlebot and Googlebot Mobile need to be able to crawl your CSS, Javascript, and images, and this reconfiguration process is automatic. No page redirects mean sites load faster; there is just one URL; and bots can crawl more efficiently and index more often; and mobile experiences are the same as desktop. This can be a big plus for many users who want that continuity.

The downside is cost and technical difficulty. Responsive web design is highly technical in terms of implementation, so an experienced web developer is an invaluable asset.

How are you going mobile?

Blank Notepad 5

A recent Hubspots/SmartInsights survey found that one of the top challenges faced by European marketers is producing enough quality content. Why? How hard can it be to write a couple of articles, maybe a whitepaper, craft some infographics, and do up some tweets? Easy peasy, as they say on Pinterest. It is! But producing all of this content all of the time – there’s the rub. Here are some tips to help out.

  • Take stock of your current content. What do you have? Look at your analytics as well: which pieces are most popular? Why? What types of information do you cover, and in what format? Which pieces have high bounce rates or low engagement with your visitors? Again, look at the topics and the formats to determine why your audience gives these the cold shoulder.
  • Brain storm relevant ideas. Fortunately, you have a host of tools at your disposal to help. Use Google’s Keyword Planner, for instance, allows you to search for keyword ideas. Look through LinkedIn groups for professional discussions, Quora for trending stories and hot questions, and Ubbersuggest for keywords. Even sites like Pinterest can help you gather, and organize, great ideas.
  • Organize everything. All these ideas, snippets, and stories can create chaos. Organize it all with a program or app. EverNote is a good example, but far from the only available – and free – option! You can jot down thoughts, store all sorts of content, and use the search function to find it all again. With cloud access, you can do this anywhere, anytime so you never lose an idea for great content.
  •  Schedule your content. Create a content calendar so you have a schedule. You can build a bank of articles, infographics, images, and other content to release at specified dates so you always have a steady stream of relevant goodies for your audiences. It also allows you the flex to respond to news stories and current events. You can use Excel or find a free template online.

Taking a methodical approach to content development ensures that you have relevant articles, whitepapers, editorials, infographics, and video when you need it. You don’t need to depend on the muse; you need to depend on your schedule! And you need to make scouring the world for new, fresh ideas a daily activity.

BlogIn the search and content marketing worlds, you have to stay flexible – otherwise you’re apt to get whiplash from all the changes! Nothing is permanent, and as we’ve seen with the decreased emphasis on specific keywords and the shifting status of links, today’s tried and true techniques may be tomorrow’s black hat. Guest blogging is the latest tactic to come under question. So, what’s the answer? Yes, no? Maybe.

 

 

Why Not?

Because Matt Cutts said so! In a recent blog post:

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

And our favorite line, “Stick a fork in it, guest blogging is done.” Cutts takes issue with unscrupulous use of guest blogging and shams set up to “automate” guest blogs or buy and sell links.

Done as in “Done”?

Guest blogging as a content strategy is not horrible practice – but with a big caveat. It has to be genuine, good, solid content. Say you are a management consultant and you help clients improve their leadership abilities. You work with a senior manager at a real, reputable company and she wants to write a post on how to improve communication skills. Or, perhaps she has done such a tremendous job improving her own skills in this area that you ask her to share her thoughts or tips with your readers.

Here’s why this guest post is different and why it’s not “done”:

  • No one’s getting paid, no one’s outsourcing guest posts, no one’s buying links. It is, as they say, on the up and up.
  • It’s content that your audience could learn from and use in their lives. The point of good content!
  • You know this person, and you can vouch for the authenticity of the post as well as its veracity.
  • It’s one post. You have (or should have!) lots of other great content on your site.
  •  You don’t spin this article or post it on more than one site.
  • You use other reputable SEO and content management techniques to bring traffic to your site. You don’t depend on guest blogging to generate all your link activity.

This type of guest post can help add value to your site. It’s genuine content, and that’s what Google – and more importantly, your audience – wants to see. If it’s not real, don’t do it. It’s a good SEO rule to live by.

LoupeRecently, Google’s Matt Cutts indicated that the biggest SEO mistake he sees is that people do not have crawlable websites. It’s interesting that one of the most common errors is one that is unrelated to mysterious algorithm updates or complex changes in Google’s search methodology. It’s just good old SEO. If you’re guilty of this optimisation error, what can you do to get back on track – and in the SERPs?

If Google cannot crawl and index your site, it cannot categorize it or return it to searchers. The first step is to create, if you have not already, a Google Webmaster Tools accounts. This is going to be the best tool in your toolkit.

In your account, go to the Health section and choose Crawl Stats from the menu on the left side. This will tell you if, and when, Google has crawled your site. While you’re there, also check out Crawl Errors This will provide a report on any broken links, malfunctioning 404s, site errors, and URL errors that prevent Google from crawling.

So, what if you have a soft 404 error, for instance? Webmaster Tools provides thorough, and clear, explanation, as well as instructions on resolving issues.

One more Webmaster Tools feature: Under Health, select Fetch as Google. You can request that the search engine crawl pages that you’ve just uploaded.

To ensure that your site is optimally crawled and index, there are several other steps that you can take:

  • Submit a sitemap. This is just what it sounds like: a map that helps Google identify pages within your website. Luckily, there are free online XML sitemap generators so there is really no excuse not creating and submitting one!
  • Add fresh content. This attracts bots and can help encourage them to keep visiting your site.
  • Put your code on a diet. Lose any bloat and ensure that your code is clean and in compliance with W3C standards. Again, you can find W3C validators online that you can use to help you with this. Lean sites load faster and index more easily.
  • Check for pages that are “disallowed.” Robots.txt files, which request that Google not index certain pages, keeps Google from…well, indexing certain pages. Are any pages “disallowed” that shouldn’t be?

These and other steps can roll out the welcome mat for bots. Make sure Google can crawl and index your site so searchers can find you.

Poor EyesightSEO is alive and well, but what about the traditional mainstay of search engine optimisation: the keyword? Is focusing on keyword strategy worth your time and resources, or is this still a vital part of your SEO approach?

First, why do many believe that keywords are endangered species that are on fast-track for extinction? A few reasons:

  • The 2013 Hummingbird update reflects Google’s progress towards semantic search. Instead of focusing on keywords, the search engine wants to focus on the meaning behind searchers’ queries.
  • Google moved all of its search results to https:, or secure sites. This blocks SEOs and webmasters from accessing rich keyword data from organic searches.

Despite this, one fundamental truth remains: keywords organize the Internet. According to some experts, the internet contains over 1.2 zettabytes of information – or 1.3 trillion gigabytes. With the sheer volume of information, there has to be a way to categorize it and return relevant search results.

Keywords serve this important purpose, and despite how “intuitive” search becomes as Google seeks to infer meaning we still have to use them. For instance, if we entered “Why are aardvarks purple?” Google knows we need information on purple aardvarks. We’re not going to get results on orange cats, yellow panda bears, or 1949 Fords.

So, no, keywords are not dead; in fact, they’re an integral part of ensuring your websites are visible and that Google can serve them to searchers. The key to keywords is natural and relevant. Keyword stuffing has long worn a grey or black hat, so that’s not a change. Instead of worrying about ranking for a particular keyword, the focus should be on providing clear, informational, trustworthy answers to the most common questions about your business, your industry, your particular niche.

Google does want to figure out the intent of a search – but they still need to find results with relevant content, and they still use keywords in this effort.

Some tips for optimal use of keywords:

  • Use keywords naturally and don’t be afraid to use synonyms. Google will recognize them, and readers will not get a spam vibe from your site because you’ve used the phrase “best gloves in the UK” 14 times on a single page.
  • Cover a single topic per page. Target the users’ intent: for instance, do they want to learn how to properly knot a tie? Dedicate a page to this helpful topic.
  • Don’t overdo it. One page is enough to help people learn to put on a tie. You don’t need another page with a video, another with tie-knotting FAQs, and yet another with famous celebrity tie-wearers. One thought, one page.
  • After you publish content, do a search of Google, Bing, and Yahoo to see what types of variations come up. You can use this information to create more specific keywords that ensure people looking for the information you have can find you.

Natural, relevant keywords that target your audiences’ intents can help you rank more highly – and more importantly, reach the people you need.

Wonder what happened to your appearance on page 1? It’s not uncommon for sites to make a brief appearance near the top, only to take a quick tumble back down the rankings list. For most, an occurrence like this one is the definition of panic in the streets. What can you do if it happens to you? It starts with a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the rankings loss.

Server Outage: It might sound a little on the outrageous side, but if your server crashes, your rankings can actually go with it, especially in the case of extended outages. Don’t worry. If you have a brief crash, then a return, you likely won’t lose any rankings over it, but a crash of twelve hours or more, and you’re headed into serious damage territory, and it will take some time to restore your rankings to their previous level of glory.

Your Site Got Hacked: As unfortunate as it is, sites get hacked all of the time, even good sites that are high on the security end of things. Once a site gets hacked, all kinds of bad things can happen, and among the terrible, horrible things that might occur is a serious rankings loss. In fact, one of the first things you may want to check if you lose your rankings is whether your site has been hacked and your code compromised.

Bad Optimisation Techniques: Whether you’re handling the optimisation of your site on your own or you’ve hired another company to do it for you, poor optimisation is the single biggest reasons sites lose rankings. Google doesn’t even care if it’s your fault. If you outsourced your SEO work to another company, and they completely messed everything up, Google isn’t going to just take your word for it and restore your rankings. Instead, you’ll have to pay your dues to get back up to the top again.

No matter what the reason you lost your rankings, the result is always going to be the same – poor traffic flow. Your best bet to get things up and running quickly is to consult with a reputable SEO team, even just in the short term to enhance your rankings again.

Panda. Hummbingbird. They sound like a nice trip to the zoo, but for online marketers and businesses alike, they’ve added up to one thing – a big fat headache. Google seems to make shifts as often as the wind blows across an open prairie, but how does that affect your site? At the end of the day, do you really need to care?

The Rebellious Answer

In some ways, you really can be a rebel when it comes to caring about this update or that one. The bottom line is that if you stick to good content that your readers or customers will enjoy, full of keywords that they might actually search for, you don’t need to be worried about the changing nature of Google or any other search engine for that matter. Your existing customer base will find you again and again, and that will likely lead to new customers finding you, particularly if you use your URL in your other marketing.

The Right Answer

For many businesses, new and old alike, higher page ranking means more customers. Without new customers headed to your business, you may as well file for bankruptcy. Often that means better optimisation practices, and the best SEO work comes with a better understanding of how Google indexes the various sites on the web. The more you know about those practices, the more likely you are to be able to address them as Google changes.

Google’s ultimate goal is to become the most intuitive search engine, and update after update, they’re getting closer to that goal. For many sites, though, that means making changes to their optimisation practices, often in a hurry.

So, should you prepare for a panic attack with the next update release? Maybe. Or you could just stick to the best practices for your site, and do what you can on the optimisation end as things change.

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