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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 Sitemap.org:

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

<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">

   <url>

      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>

      <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
 
      <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
 
      <priority>0.8</priority>

   </url>

</urlset>

 

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 http://www.sitemaps.org/ 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.

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.

Paper Emotions - Aggressive

It can be so discouraging to receive negative comments about your business, your writing, or some other endeavor.  After all, this is your passion in live, it is what you have dedicated tireless hours, and very likely, copious amount of your hard-earned capital to.  So, when someone attacks it, it can be very difficult to take the personal element out of it. You must remember that generally negative statements are made by those that don’t know you and are only unhappy with some small piece of what you do. It is not a personal attack and with a little forethought, you can smooth it over and come out looking even better on the other end.  Just think about how happy you are when you experience excellent customer service.

Move the Comment Down the Feed Before you do anything else, it is a good idea to generate a lot of new content on that particular social media channel to push the negativity from the forefront of your page.  Social media platforms replace old content with new as soon as it is created, so get busy.  Once you have lessened the threat and the number of potential customers likely to see the negativity, you can react to the attacker.  If the comment is not on your page, but on someone else’s, then consider requesting that they remove it in a personal message.  If it holds a true potential of damaging your reputation or that of your company, then there is the option on some platforms to report it as defamation.

Respond with Grace Don’t retaliate or spout out with anger.  It will serve you much better to take the higher road.  Remember, every company makes mistakes and if you were caught in one, the best thing that you can do is admit fault, apologize, and showcase your willingness to work with unhappy customers.  If the complaint is related to a product that you manufacture or a service that you provide, you might consider smoothing the problem over by correcting the reported problem or offering a discount to the individual in question.  If it is a more generic attack, then consider the source of the anger that fueled the comment and how you might politely diffuse it, while upholding your image.

Baseless Negativity If you know for the fact that there is no truth in the comment or it is clearly some sort of misunderstanding, don’t be afraid to say so publicly.  However, do so with tact.  Don’t attack the other person, just simply state facts laced with humility.

Man With A Megaphone 2

If you want to see real organic growth, then you will want to encourage your readers, your customers, your clients to engage with you in a public forum.  Getting others to generate content on your page requires a bit of effort on your part.

Give Them the Tools If you want members of the public to interact, then give them the tools to do for.  Create a clear area for comments to be made, include social media buttons on your website, so people can easily share, like, =1, etcetera.  Nowadays, this is not a difficult thing to do.  The HTML code for these items can be found quickly via internet search and the addition to your articles and blog posts will likely lead to a boost to your organic growth.

Provide Teasers Those the invention of social media has demonstrated how willing people are to share and talking about things that interest them, there is also, very often, motivation for doing so.  Contests are a great way to give people a reason to generate content on your behalf.  The great part is that several free, online services are making it simple to build and maintain these giveaways.  Consider companies like Rafflecopter to assist you in creating the contest and offer prizes related to your area of expertise.  Authors might give away free ebooks or signed paperbacks, while a structural engineer could provide free blue prints of the most popular house layouts.

Know the Motivation Contests are an obvious draw for some people, but that is certainly not the only reason that people share content and talk about it on the web.  Topics that evoke emotion – whether it is an uplifting success story or an image that pulls at the heartstrings or something that simply makes a person laugh – are likely to be shared.  Similarly, many individuals are willing to act simply to showcase their involvement in a community.

Respond!  The greatest way to ensure that people keep generating content in response to your page is to take the time to read and respond.  Conversation is the ticket to real success in the social networking world.  Consider every comment and share the opportunity to engage a potential fan or customer.  A question should be answered, a complaint should be addressed to showcase your company’s stellar customer service, and even the simplest remark can provide a starting point for interaction.  Do not make the mistake of missing out.

Camera

The human eye is drawn to imagery.  This is one of the first things taught in Marketing 101.  This is becoming even more abundantly clear as the world of social media continues to boom.  It was reported that tweets using imagery were clicked up to 150% more often than those containing text alone.  For this reason, the leaders in the online business world have quickly taken to infographics, which are defined as “images used to represent important information or data.”

Get Friendly with PhotoShop If you have access to this software, you should definitely be using it.  PhotoShop provides the user complete control over what an image becomes.  Whether you want to add text over the top of a photo, you want to make yourself thinner in your profile picture, or you want to create amazingly attractive graphs and charts, PhotoShop tools make it possible.  Plus, there are a multitude of free guides and tutorials available online that will teach you everything you need to know to maximize the worth of this program.

Make the Most of Freebies There are a lot of sites available online, which offer a multitude of image editing services.  This includes PicMonkey for image manipulation, Social Media Image Maker for resizing photos, and PhotoVisi for collage creation.  These tools are completely free and can make infographics a much simpler undertaking.  There are a lot of them available on the web, but also consider mobile apps for infographic creation on the go.  

Appeal to Stats Lovers Statistics are loved online.  People from all walks of life and from a multitude of different industries are more than willing to share a bit of information, in the form of a statistic, with their friends, followers, and circles.  However, text gets lost in the mass confusion of social media feeds.  Get the most of your amazing statistic by putting it in picture form.

Compare and Contrast What images are making the biggest splash on social media networks?  Those that are evocative or highly contrasting.  That is to say that something that makes a person smile or tear up is likely to be shared.  Additionally, images that have a strong color contrast will grab the eye before those that are dull or faded. People want to be pulled away from the mundane and the right images can make that happen. Make the most of these facts and use them to your advantage when creating infographics.

 

Measuring Tape

Search Engine Optimization is a big, never-ending undertaking.  If it doesn’t result in a strong ROI, then the worth is questionable.  Rather than giving up entirely, it is better to learn from the data and alter efforts as needed.  There are several parts of the SEO puzzle that can be monitored.

Keyword Stats It is important to track the traffic to your website, but that hardly paints the full picture.  Success with branded keywords (which are those that include your specific brand name) simply suggests that people already familiar with the brand are searching for it.  The real picture of new growth is seen by examining success with non-branded keywords.  Follow the path below to see which keywords are working for you:

Google Analytics  > Acquisition > Keywords > Organic

Here, the keywords will be listed with their individual statistics.  You can exclude terms with your brand using the advanced search filters available at the top of the screen.

Inbound Link Count There are a number of tools available on the web that will give you a read out on the number of inbound links there are leading to your website.  Successful SEO depends a great deal on others linking to your site.  So, it is a very good idea to regularly check this count and to change tactics if the number is not climbing.  Small SEO Tools’ Backlink Checker is one example of the free services available for this purpose.

Visitor Quality You got them there, but that doesn’t mean that they saw any value in your site and if a person is coming and leaving in less than a minute, it doesn’t bode well for your ROI.  Fortunately, Google Analytics provides a great deal of information about the visitors to your site.  The Behavior report includes stats on the number of Unique Visitors (people seeing it for the first time), the Bounce Rate (the percentage of people who didn’t bother delving beyond the first page they saw), and the Average Visit Duration.  These can really paint a clear picture of what is happening when someone logs onto the site.  It can also point to a need for changes to content or design.

Keeping track of these SEO statistics is a great way to see how well your efforts are drawing in potential customers, but ultimately the ROI will come down to have the sales figures are impacted.  You might consider tracking your conversions with Google Analytics’ Multi-Channel Funnels

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.

 

 

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