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Link building is important. Content marketing is important. In a world where all things are equal, which essential SEO task should get your attention?

Who Cares About Link Building?

Link building is still an essential part of any good optimisation programme. It helps to demonstrate to search engines your authority in a subject matter. After all, if everyone seems to like you enough to link back to your site, then it’s a good bet that you should be popular enough to rank well for a given set of keywords. Link building takes time. It’s a good demonstrator of your ability to work with other sites and build online relationships. It’s also one of the older ways to optimise your site.

Content, Content, Content

If you read any search engine news at all, you know that content has become increasingly important over the past several years. Nothing is more preached these days than the importance of solid content. It’s good for your rankings. It’s good for your customers. It’s even good for you because it directly demonstrates your ability to know your customers, know what they want, and offer them a bit of virtual value. Whether you’re getting it out there on your blog, on your site, or through your social media channels, it’s the one way you have to directly interface with your customers day after day, and that alone makes it important, not to mention the rankings boost it will offer you these days.

So, which of the two is more valuable? The bottom line here is that both of these tasks are important. There may be times when link building seems to be more important to your strategy than content marketing. The reverse might be true a week, a month, or even a year later. Look carefully at your analytical data, and go where the trends, and your company goals, take you.

Link Building Expectations and You

Link building is an essential part of any optimisation strategy. When you get started, though, your eyes may be a bit bigger than your results. Exactly what should your initial link building expectations look like?

  • Stay Small: Many people think “If I can just reach out to ten websites every single day. . .” Either you’re reaching out to every site that may have something to do with your keywords or you’re going to offer a course in speed reading on late night television. You cannot reach out to ten relevant sites every single day. Each potential link needs to be carefully evaluated, then you have to reach out to them in the right manner, not just in a self-serving way.
  • Stay Relevant: Keep in mind that you shouldn’t simply go for any and every site. Google will frown on it, the linked blog’s readers aren’t likely to actually visit your site, and you’re going to waste your time. Go only for sites that may be somehow relevant to yours.
  • Stay Analytical: You have to be able to measure your link building efforts to understand whether or not they’re truly paying off. Look at the data, then decide whether your efforts are actually working for you.

Remember that there are ways to create a successful link building campaign. If you’re just getting started, your best bet is to contact an SEO agency that handles link building campaigns regularly for the right help. It’s the only way to get high quality links and the relationships you actually want for your site.

Get Your Guest Post Accepted Now

If you’re like many site owners, guest posts are already an essential part of your marketing strategy. Most, though, struggle to find the right posting opportunities, then to actually get their posts accepted by blog owners. Some even resort to paying for those rare posting opportunities. Looking to overcome the conundrum? These tips can help.

  • Offer a Unique Connection: If it’s possible, draw a unique connection that others haven’t yet been able to establish. In some cases, that may mean using proprietary data, but it’s one way to offer a fresh post or take on a subject matter no one else is covering currently.
  • Use Research: You have to actually prove what you’re saying in your guest post, so if you’re going to cite facts and figures, it’s time to break out your best research skills. Use only solid sources with reliable rankings. The last thing you want to do is cite an unknown source that turns out to be too shaky to publish.
  • Write Well: Above almost every other concern, make sure you write well before you start offering guest posts. You simply can’t produce second rate content and accept others to accept it as an authoritative guest post. If you don’t write well but you have a good idea for a guest post, contact a professional copywriter to develop it for you.

Don’t overlook the simple strategies, too, Just choosing the right blog for your submissions can go a long way toward getting the level of acceptance you want.

Does Google simply exist to make your life harder? It’s certainly possible, and you probably feel more that way than ever thanks to their encryption of all keyword searches this fall. If you’re still left wondering what it means for your site and online marketing, we can assure you that it’s certainly nothing good.

Google’s Response (or Excuse)

Google has mentioned that they decided to move to keyword data encryption to offer a measure of protection for their searchers. It’s also possible that they wanted to block federal agencies from spying on them. More than that, though, there’s probably a solid financial motive from Google on this. They encrypted everything but the ad clicks, so they’re likely trying to drive people to use AdWords instead of other methods. Rest assured that there’s a financial picture behind every move Google makes.

A Happy Turn

Luckily, there are a few things you can do. One of the biggest is something you should probably be doing anyway, raising your organic traffic numbers. That means focusing on the results of your business instead of the keywords. You can also track the performance of your URLs, which may make a lot more sense given the volatility of keyword rankings anyway. One final strategy? Use other search engines like Bing and Yahoo to make up the utter data deficit provided by Google’s move.

Google is going to shift and change again and again, so building your entire SEO strategy around them is never a good idea, but in some cases, those changes they make will certainly affect you. Focus on good content, though, and you can never lose.

Blue Website Buttons 3

In 2011, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and, later, Yandex (the largest search engine in Russia) teamed up to create Schema.org, a common vocabulary that webmasters and SEOs can use to markup their data. Structured data is becoming much more important as we move further into the “entity search” world. Using the schemas, users can essentially describe their content in a way that makes it more visible and relevant to search engines. Following are a few helpful tips for working with Schema.org.

Get some help. You do not necessarily need to know how to code to use Schema, but it helps. While it would take years to learn coding, you can get a crash course and at least learn the common terms and constructions to make marking up your text easier. CodeAcademy is one free, interactive resource that you can check out.

Know your <div> from your <span>. These are two very common elements that you’ll need. <div> can group sections of code and format them with CSS. <span>s are used to group inline elements.  Here is an example of each:

 

<div id=”content” style=”background-color:#0000FFheight:225px;width:450px;float:right;”>
Content goes here</div>

<span itemprop=”author”>Jack Smith</span>

Get familiar with Schema.org. Look at the types, properties, and hierarchies. Let’s say you have a men’s clothing shop. Your hierarchy looks like this:

Thing>Organization>LocalBusiness>FoodEstablishment>Bakery.

You would then open a text editor or HTML editor to markup your pages. Here’s how we would tell the search engines our business type and pertinent information:

<div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Bakery”>
<h1> Bakery </h1>
<p>Intro Text</p>
<p>Address: <span itemprop=”address”>555 Bakery Avenue, London, UK  E4454</span></p>
<p>Phone: <span itemprop=”telephone”> 444-555-3333</span></p>
</div>

Use the schemas to markup other areas of content. If you have a recipe on your bakery website, for instance,

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://www.xys.uk/Recipe”><h1 itemprop=”name”>zucchini bread</h1>

By <span itemprop=”author”<Bill Smith</span>

Published: <time itemprop=”published” datetime=”2013-09-25”>September 25, 2013</time>

<span itemprop=”summary”>A wonderful, moist zucchini bread recipe, perfect for cold fall days.</span>

<span itempropr=”rating”>4.8</span> stars based on

<span itemprop=”count”>210</span> reviews

Marking up your text ensures that search engines have detailed information about your website. It takes some time to complete, but once you have the basics, the rest is easy!

What is Entity Optimisation?

Blue Website Buttons 3

As the Hummingbird update rolled out, Google indicated that it was one of the most important updates it has made to its algorithm in years. While Penguin and Panda had a tremendous effect on a small number of sites, Hummingbird is different. It, essentially, affects all sites. It represents a fundamental shift in the SEO/search/content world. One of the terms that has come into play with the update is “entity optimisation.” What is this, and what does it have to do with the update – and, more importantly, what does it have to do with you?

Entities are just that: people, businesses, things. What Google is doing is moving ahead towards semantic search, or entity search. Instead of focusing on the keyword for meaning, it wants to analyse the users’ intent when they enter in a query. Websites need to create structured data by labeling each piece of information as an entity. Google can then better understand the context and the relationship between the various entities. What this means, practically, is that the search engine can return better, more accurate results.

In the future (and really, the future is now!), we won’t be concerned with keywords. Instead, we will have to think about creating machine-readable entities using structured data. We do this when we markup text using Schema.org, or the common semantic language of Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

In the move from “search engines” to “answer engines,” it will be important that we structure data so Google can discover these relationships and understand context. Next time, we’ll talk about using Schema.org to implement semantic markup on your website.

 

HummingbirdIf we were expecting cows, zebras, or skunks, Google surprised us all and announced the arrival of the Hummingbird update. It is, says Google, the biggest update to their algorithm since 2001. Uh-oh. Many businesses and SEOs are still recovering from Panda and Penguin. Should we be worried about Hummingbird?

Yes, very, very worried. No, not really! You should be right as rain, if you’ve been doing sound SEO. If you haven’t, you were likely caught up by previous algo updates. In fact, Google’s been running the update for a few months now.  So, what is it?

Hummingbird is designed to produce better search results. Specifically, Google is targeting longer and/or more complex search queries. This is in response to the change in search habits. We increasingly use questions in our queries: where is the best Chinese restaurant in Birmingham? And we are entering longer queries, particularly with the aid of mobile speech searches.

Google has to keep up – no, it must anticipate and surpass – search trends. With Hummingbird, they leverage Knowledge Graph and analyze relationships between concepts and keywords. Our searches are more “conversational,” so Hummingbird allows the search engine to better understand our locations, our contexts, the relationships between the words themselves. Google doesn’t want to return results that match what we’ve entered; they want to return results that match what we meant.

This update should not affect your website or ranking. As always, solid, relevant content is king, and implementing proven SEO tactics (i.e. creating optimised descriptions, titles, and tags and building sitemaps) will help you increase crawlability and visibility.

 

 

Film Reel Series

YouTube is a juggernaut of video and brand power; over 6 billion hours of video are viewed each month; 100 hours are uploaded every minute, and YouTube reaches more people than any cable network. It has global reach, immense power, and unlimited content. And in the billions of hours of video, where are you? How can you ensure that the right audience can find you? You don’t need to go viral in order to be successful with YouTube. Here are a few useful tips that can help you become more visible?

You know you should write descriptive titles and descriptions. Here are some other “musts.”

  • Improv is fun and spontaneous! But it can also be difficult to pull off in a video for your brand. In most cases, having a script is the best way to go because you can be sure to get your message articulated fully and effectively. And, another benefit, you can add the script to the description. Google will index this, and you’ll improve your visibility.
  • Don’t use a generic video file name. Use a targeted keyword in your file name. YouTube – and, hence, Google, notices. Be sure that the keyword directly relates to the content of the video.
  • Add closed captioning. You will be able to reach viewers who are hard of hearing or deaf, and you will be providing Google and YouTube with indexable, crawlable content. If you follow your script, you can simply upload that as your transcript. If not, you can use Google Voice to create your captions.
  • Use what you have. Your website, blogs, and social media presence should be interconnected, so cross-promote your videos. Simply posting a video on YouTube is unlikely to bring you the success you want, but tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about it, posting it on your website, and creating a link from YouTube to your site are effective techniques for seeding your video content.
  • Create a YouTube channel. Again, this will interconnect with your other platforms, and it will provide viewers with easy access to other interesting content. Your channel also gives you the chance to write descriptive titles and descriptions for greater visibility.
  • Try Annotations. This feature allows you to create an interactive video experience.  You can add background information or link to relevant content. This could be a big opportunity because a lot of videos either do not use these or don’t use them well. Get creative.

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. When you optimise your videos, you have a much better chance at standing out from the crowd.

Hand Over KeyboardContent curation has become a hot technique to use in content production because it provides (or should!) value to our readers and helps us put out fresh content. But like any content marketing, SEO, SMO, CRO, acronym-of-your-choice technique, there are big caveats to its use. Content curation can be a helpful tool, or it can impact your rank. How do you know if it is going to help or hurt you?

Eric Enge of Search Engine Watch writes in a recent post, “Content curation could be a very risky practice for you.” Why? It depends on your site’s authority. As Enge explains, if you happen to be the New York Times, you will be fine. You have a recognizable, authoritative brand. The editorial practices make it difficult to get content published in the NYT – it has to offer real value. As well, it has a profile of high-quality links and both publisher and individual author authority. Curated content will not hurt the NYT because it has these factors in spades.

You don’t have to an internationally-known brand to use curation – it helps though! If you have a good link profile, authorship (use your authorship tag!), and a solid, reputable site, curation is, indeed, a useful too. And let’s not forget the real value: giving something of relevance to your audience. If a curated list will help them, publish one. But again, there is a caveat.

Google doesn’t have to index your site. It may regard your curated lists as search results, and they don’t want your results to compete with theirs. What you can do to avoid the problem but still curate is to put noindex tags on curated content. So, make sure you have some sort of brand, site, authorship authority, do a link audit, use noindex. Are there any other content curation best practices to help you use this technique effectively?

  • Use curation judiciously. Offer a mix of content to your audience: create, curate, and use user-generated content. This can be a winning formula.
  • Publish across platforms. You have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites available to you. Find out which are most appropriate to you, and get active.
  • Point your readers to reputable, high-quality sources, and give credit where credit is due.

When you make content curation part of your content plan, you can see great results. Don’t use it simply because you don’t know what to write about on a given day! Provide value to your readers.

AnchorThe SEO and search landscape is changing so rapidly that once-valuable and completely white hat techniques are now targets for penalties. Your anchor text is one of them. This used to be a major ranking factor, but given the ease of manipulating anchor text, Google’s Penguin update downgraded its importance and even penalises sites that utilise exact match anchor text. What do you need to know before you “name” your links?

First, the basics: anchor text is the text that you use to indicate a link to another page, whether internal or external. “Click here” has gone out of fashion because it simply does not give your website users – or search engines – any real information. Websites then started to use targeted, exact match keywords in their anchor text. That is, they use the exact keyword they’re trying to target. What’s the problem?

From both a Google and user perspective, exact match anchor text looks spammy. A natural link, on the other hand, is placed to offer the user more information. For instance, we could link to an article on the Penguin update. This would be completely natural and would provide the user with additional, helpful information. It is not placed here so we rank for “Penguin Update.”  Natural links get more clicks: it is that simple.

Google may look at exact match anchor text as an attempt at link building, and they penalise sites that use the technique too much. So if you happen to use an exact match for your link, will it bring down the wrath of Google? If you did it because it leads to a page that gives the reader useful information, and if you do it sparingly, then, no. You should be fine. Google looks at different factors when judging whether it thinks you’re trying to game the system.

When crafting text for your links, follow the same principles that you do for content creation. Just write for your audience. If you want to point them towards more information, do so naturally.

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