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Bing and Suri: What About SEO?

Ipad And Iphone

The general public was introduced to iOS 7 recently, to much anticipation and a touch of nausea. It seems there are a few bugs to work out yet, including that one that makes you feel as though you have a bug, an unpleasant stomach one. This probably wasn’t the reaction Bing was hoping for when they partnered with Apple! Nausea and only very occasional vomiting aside, Apple, in an effort to keep a step ahead of Google, has joined with Bing. When you use Siri, you will likely be using Bing. What does this mean for users, and for SEOs?

Apple is leveraging Bing’s search capabilities. When you query Siri, your results will appear within that screen without the need to navigate to an external browser. Bing, of course, will be the default search engine. Users will be able to:

  • See 7 trending searches.
  • View maps of local businesses near your location.
  • Get current weather conditions in your area.
  • Take advantage of streamlined sharing for social media.
  • Use Bing Desktop app to synch bookmarks from your PC to your iPad and Android devices.
  • Use Page Zero. It combines autosuggest, Snapshot information (the quick question-answering results on the right side of Bing’s results), and action buttons.

This last feature, Page Zero, is of interest to webmasters and SEOs. Instead of vying to top page one, you want to be on Page Zero. In other words, you want to appear before the search engine results are even generated. With autosuggestion, Bing returns suggestions in milliseconds. But doesn’t Google do this too, with its autosuggestions?

Yes. But, say fans of Bing’s search technology Satori, Bing does it better.  It can make an educated guess and show rich snippets in the suggest box. In the time it takes you to blink, you could have the answer to whatever question you are asking.

Unfortunately, UK users will have to wait a while for this technology, but it’s worth it. If we search for Big Ben, for instance, a small arrow appears before we’re done typing (or talking). Hovering over, we can see a thumbnail of Big Ben, a rich snippet, and quick links for images, videos, maps, and news.  How do you rank well on Page Zero? A Microsoft spokesperson says, “Bing selects content which consumers have proved to find trusted and engaging, and the best way for brands to be found by Bing and connect with consumers is to provide good, relevant content.”

Bing is expanding not only its capabilities and features but its reach. Apple’s iOS 7 is one step  more they have taken. Now might be a great time to consider optimising for Bing.

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.

 

Content is great. Duplicate content is bad. It can cause the full weight and wrath of Google to fall upon your website. Penalties can cause businesses and brands to virtually fall off the face of the world. The goal for Google is to penalise sites that scrape content or which try to game the search system. But some sites have duplicate content for legitimate reasons. They may be manufacturers who have product information that is standard, or you may have multiple versions of your website because you have different physical locations. By implementing rel=canonical, you can request that Google not index certain pages or sites because of duplicate content issues. How do you do this?

By implementing this tag, you are telling Google which version of a page is the preferred – or canonical – version. They do not have to listen to you; they could index it, but typically, they will respect that request. How do you make this request?

Go to the <head> section of your webpage; this is where elements like titles, title tags, and metatags, are listed. Here’s an example:

<html>
<head>
<title>Title of the document</title>
</head>

<body>
The content of the document……
</body>

</html>

Let’s say we have product information for blue socks. This is listed alphabetically, by price, in the sock section, and in the blue section of our site. We don’t want Google looking at all the duplicates, so we politely point them to the canonical version. So, into the <head> section, you simply enter a line of code, such as:

<link rel=”canonical” href=http://www.socksnmore.com/bluesocks.php?item=blue-socks/”>

Next, copy this into the <head> of all the non-canonical versions of the page.

You don’t want to use rel=canonical with pagination: for example, if you have an article that runs for three pages, and they all have the same URL, save the page number, that is fine. That’d not duplicate content, and Google will not recognise it as such. Google has some helpful hints and some “don’ts” that will help you determine when to use the tag and how to do it correctly.

Check it out, and see if your site would benefit from rel=canonical.

If you’re Liked, followed, and pinned enough, thinking about one more social media platform is likely to make you feel, well, anti-social. Google+, though, is not one more social media platform. Searchmetrics has studied tens of thousands of search terms and has concluded that “Google+ has the highest correlated effect on Google UK’s search rankings.” It is a very important place to see and be seen. The connections and engagement is part of it, but having a strong Google+ presence can also give you stronger rankings. How can you + your Google+ profile

Here are some Google+ best practices:

  • Create. As with your website, blog, and other media platforms, you need to focus on creating and posting fresh, relevant content frequently. Daily or, at the least, weekly updates help keep you current and in your audience’s eye.
  • They say that Facebook helps you connect with people you know; Google+ helps you connect with people you want to know. You do not need to “know” someone in order to add him/her to your circle. When you do, basic etiquette rules apply: stay on topic, be respectful, participate, ask and answer questions, and be a member of this little community.
  • Cross promote your content. One blog post doesn’t have to be just one blog post: you can leverage it and promote it via Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or even Pinterest, if applicable. Point your audience towards your website. Also good for your search visibility.
  • Use hashtags (sparingly! Too many is irritating – and it looks spammy). They are helpful tools, though, for organizing content and getting ideas for people to connect with.
  • Build your own community. LinkedIn Groups allow professionals to talk about important issues, ask questions, find and give answers. Start your own targeted community and invite associates in to get the ball moving.
  • Don’t always be the star of the show. Comment on other people’s content, share it, ask them questions, etc. You’re there to learn too.
  • Use the same name across your platforms so people can find you easily and efficiently. Also, enable AuthorRank!

These are just a few tips to get you started. The most helpful, though, is to just go in and say hi. Explore and start using Google+ as part of your overall social and content marketing strategy.

Blue & Chrome Website Buttons 1Web searchers are much more likely to click on a result that includes a picture, an author’s byline, a great review, or a preview of a delicious restaurant menu. These glimpses into the website give searchers confidence that their question will be answered or their curiosity satisfied, and this results in a higher click-through rate for sites that employ rich snippets. Rich snippets give search engines more information about your site, and by extension, give searchers the information they need to make the right clicks.

Rich snippets benefit megasites and small local businesses alike. In fact, they can be a great boon to local businesses. Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, and the fact that mobile searchers are also very likely local searchers, it is important to mark up your content to make it more visible.

Google supports a variety of snippets. Let’s look at one that will help differentiate your local business, “Organisation.”  You can enter the following properties:

  • Name.
  • URL.
  • Address.
  • Telephone.
  • Location (longitude and latitude).

So, let’s say we are Sally’s Seashell Emporium. Our HTML would look like this:

<div>

Sally’s Seashell Emporium

Located at 458 Seashell Lane, London, UK.

Phone: 555-555-5555

<a href=http://sallysseashells.com.http://seashells.com</a>

</div>

 

Our microdata markup would look like this:

 

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Organization">
   <span itemprop="name">Sally’s Seashell Emporium</span>
   Located at
   <div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
      <span itemprop="streetAddress">458 Seashell Lane</span>,
      <span itemprop="addressLocality">London</span>,
      <span itemprop="addressRegion">UK</span>.
   </div>
   Phone: <span itemprop="telephone">555-555-555</span>
   <a href="http://seashell.com/"
itemprop="url">http://seashells.com</a>
</div>

 

We might also add snippets to describe our best-selling products, to introduce readers to our blogger, Sally, or to provide reviews or ratings. This information gives searchers reason to click through to our site in addition to making it more visually pleasing in the search results pages.

You can do this yourself or use a rich snippet generator (there are a variety available online). Google also provides a few tools, including the structured data markup helper (try it!) structured data testing tool (use it!).

Retro RobotWhat is it? robots.txt is a file that restricts bots from accessing specific pages of a site. Google’s bots, and those of other search engines, will look for a robots.txt file before they attempt to access a page. If they don’t find one, they crawl away. If they do, they typically respect the request to skip it. Remember, that is what this file is: a request. It is important that your robots.txt file be properly formatted so search engines can read your intent accurately.

Why use it? Webmasters use robots.txt when they want to exclude certain pages from Google’s searches. Why would they want to do this? You might, for instance, want to protect sensitive information that is online or, more commonly, you might have duplicate content (for instance, product information that appears on more than one page) that you do not want indexed.

What else do I need to know?

Just because you use robots.txt does not mean someone cannot find your pages. It means that Google won’t craw or index that content. The search engine may still index specific URLs if they can be found on other pages. This means that this information and other data, such as anchor text, may appear in search results. Google advises using a noindex metatag or x-robots-tag to prevent this from happening.

How do you implement Robots.txt? Unfortunately, Google’s robots.txt generating tool is no more. You can still create these files manually or with other tools. To DIY:

  • Create a plain text (NotePad) file entitled “robots.txt”.  When bots look for the robots.txt file in a URL, they look at the path component and replace it with robots.txt. So, if our domain www.seois great.com, the file would be placed as: www.seoisgreat.com/robots.txt.
  • In the file are two instructions:

User-agent:

Disallow:

  • User-agent indicates whether you want to give the same instructions for all bots. If you do want to, for instance, tell Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc., the same thing, you write: User-agent: *

If you want to specify the bots, you would write:  User-agent: Bingbots

This indicates that the request to ignore these pages are being made to Bing’s bots.

  • Disallow tells the bots which folders you would like them to ignore. For instance:  Disallow: /folder1

You can also choose to block entire sites,  images, directories, folders, and other pages or elements. If, for instance, you want to block your entire site from being indexed (which you probably don’t want to do!), you’d indicate:  Disallow: /

When you’ve created your robots.txt files, test them to ensure they are working properly. You can find a host of helpful tools online to help you.

Boost Visiblity with a Sitemap

Folded mapWill Google index a site if it has no Sitemap? Yes. So why bother creating one? It ensures that Google crawls each page and indexes them. It says, “Hey, Google! Look over here!” And this is useful for those pages or URLs that Google might otherwise miss.  Sitemaps also provide invaluable information on dynamic content so the search engine can properly index it. Building a Sitemap for your site is definitely worth your time – now, how do you start?

With the basics, of course! Let’s look at a sample Sitemap:

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

<url>

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

<lastmod>2013-06-09</lastmod>

<changefreq>monthly</changefreq>

<priority>0.8</priority>

</url>

<url>

<loc>http://www.seoisawesome.com/about-us.php</loc>

<lastmod>2012-05-11</lastmod>

<changefreq>yearly</changefreq>

<priority>0.4</priority>

</url>

</urlset>

 

What does all of this mean? The first tags we’ll note are required, the bookends:

 

<urlset> and </urlset>

 

These are required tags that indicate where your Sitemap starts and where it ends. Notice the first is open and the second closed. Start, finish. It is very clear to Google where your page starts and stops.

 

Next, you’ll see:

 

<url> and </url>

 

Notice again that the first is open and the second closed. This is where you list each individual page of your site. In our example, we have the Home and About Us pages. The last required tags are:

 

<loc> and </loc>

 

As you might guess, this refers to the location. This points Google (or other search engines) to the pages’ URL locations. These need to be in place or the Sitemap is useless.

 

We have implemented other tags in our example, though these are not strictly necessary to Google. They do, however, provide extra details that can help search engines index your site properly. These include:

 

  • <lastmod> When was  the page last changed? (Remember, Google wants fresh content.)
  • <changefreq> This tells the crawlers how often is a page changed or modified. You may choose from: always, never, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
  • <priority> This is a subjective measure of how important you think a particular page is to crawlers. The default is 0.5 (range is 0.0 1.0).

 

Sitemaps contain the vital information bots need to crawl and index your site properly. With them, you increase your visibility and makes new content easier to find (and return to searchers). Whether you generate manually or via an online tool, make sure you have a Sitemap in place today.

 

different is greatA new study by Ascend has discovered that half of companies struggling with search engine optimisation have not taken steps to fully integrate SEO and social media. SEO cannot be a siloed approach; it has to encompass CRO, content marketing, branding, social, mobile…SEO is a pixel in the overall picture. The bottom line is that businesses that integrate SEO with social media are more successful than those that do not.

Quickly, here are some major findings from the survey:

  • 38% of those who identified themselves as “successful” with SEO were heavily integrating their tactics with social media techniques.
  • 50% who identified themselves as “unsuccessful” with SEO were not integrating social media at all.
  • 60% of companies said they had “limited integration.”
  • 24% responded that they did not integrate at all.
  • 16% said they had “extensive integration” of social and SEO.
  • Nearly half said that creating original content was the most effective SEO tactic.

So, this of course begs the question: how do we integrate SEO and social media? This is important because some experts believe that in the very near future, SMI – search marketing integration – will be a must for first page rankings.

  • Get social – within reason. Sometimes Twitter does not make sense for your business. Sometimes it’s not wise to have a Facebook page. What you need to determine is if these platforms will help you advance your objectives and reach your specific audience. If you are not already there, LinkedIn is an almost universal must for business, as is Google+. YouTube is another one that is tremendously flexible for professionals. In addition to valuable backlinks, Google counts +1s, likes, and retweets in its ranking algorithms. Social indicators are like beacons to Google, so you have to be somewhere.
  • Link from these platforms to your website.
  • Make it easy for people to share your content with social sharing buttons.
  • When you do establish a social platform, be choosy as to who you follow. It’s not a contest: the business with the most friends, fans, or followers doesn’t win. As Google refines its algorithms, the quality of those you follow will be more important. Target influencers.
  • Quality content can be leveraged via social platforms. With LinkedIn, for instance, you can be active in groups and establish a position as a thought leader in your niche. You can use your other media profiles, such as Google+ or Twitter to refer readers to your LinkedIn group content or to your website. You can create an entire encyclopedia of you that is interlinked and connected. Fans and friends can easily navigate to new information, and new prospects can more easily find you.
  • To that end, use Google authorship! It is a crime that more businesses and individuals are not leveraging this tool. It is too easy to neglect – and it’s free! You can instantly gain credibility and visibility.
  • Don’t forget to track your efforts. Using Google Analytics, determine which keywords are the big traffic-getters and those that are the biggest converters. Create content that targets those keywords organically. Remember, SEO rules apply! Don’t over-optimise or write for Google. Write for your audience, but include a few targeted keywords to help them find you.
  • Likewise, use different analytics, such as Facebook Insights, to determine which types of posts are most popular and which drive visitors to your website. Capitalise on that knowledge with posts that engage visitors.

The good news is that there are several things you can do right now (like sign up for LinkedIn and get your Google authorship tags set up!) that can help you integrate SEO and social media. Doing so will help you compete in the increasingly social world.

Photo Frame 8January 2013, Google rolled out its new image results format. It’s a great change for searchers; at the top of the page are different categories that you might be interested. If we’re searching for “ducks,” at the top is “flying,” “swimming,” “female,” etc. Under are high-quality pictures. Previously, you’d get a thumbnail and a bit of a description. When you clicked on the image, the site of origin would appear in the background. This no longer happens. Google says this is to speed up the experience and reduce the load on servers. True, but it can also reduce click-through rates. How, and is it still worth optimising your images?

Instead of a one-click process, getting to the original website is a two-click job. This can impact conversion rates, often significantly. Define Media Group did a small scale study of 87 sites along a variety of verticals. Collectively, traffic decreased 63 percent. Optimising images is still important and worth the time to do it. It certainly cannot hurt! It is not the highest on the SEOs to-do list, but it’s not time-consuming either.

Quick steps you can take include:

  • Use descriptive image file names with targeted keywords. Instead of simply “duck,” for instance, you might name a file, “male mallard duck.”
  • Use Alt tags. This will help increase visibility. This will look like the following:

<img src=”male mallard duck.jpeg alt=”male mallard duck”>

  • Use Alt tags for things like products, not decorative images. This may draw an over-optimisation penalty. And while we’re at it, don’t overuse keywords.
  • Minify images. This compresses and formats the images correctly so they load quickly.

These steps won’t take much time to implement for important images. Regardless of whether Google displays them differently in image searches, it’s important to optimise your content with images. Your site should be built for your users, and images help create a great experience.

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