SEO News

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.

Film Reel Series

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, according to Forrester Research, a single minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. That’s a lot of power packed into a minute of content. Seventy-eight percent of web users will watch a video this week, and 55 percent will watch every day. What is striking about this is that 46 percent will take some sort of action after viewing. We respond to video; our brains assimilate information more quickly and emotionally. Creating and hosting great videos isn’t the incredibly expensive production it once was, but that doesn’t mean you should shoot jerky, home videos on your iPhone and post them! Here are the best of the best tools to help you produce high-quality videos – and much more.

Camtasia.

How-tos and tutorials are tremendously popular, especially if you’re in a technically-oriented field. Camtasia is a tool that allows you to capture what you’re doing on your screen and then edit video to customize it for your audience. You can add audio tracks, HD video, photos, graphics, and much more to enhance your end-product. They’ve also added a new option, allowing you to superimpose yourself into the video for a more personal one-on-one feel. Check out their tutorial or take advantage of a free trial. This is a wonderful tool for teaching and training.

Pixorial.

Even if you’ve never created a video, Pixorial makes it easy with its intuitive layout and navigation. You simply upload footage and you can add transitions, soundtracks, text, and other elements. The Pixorial platform allows you to view, share, and edit videos without modifying the original. No “Whoops!” moments! Edit, upload, share on social networks, and store videos on the cloud. There is tremendous versatility within Pixorial’s family of products.

Wistia.

Wistia is a hosting tool with packages to meet a variety of business needs and budgets. The platform allows you to add social sharing buttons and CTAs, collect viewers’ emails for marketing, control access, manage who sees what, and monitor their interactions. Analytics help you see how people watch your videos: do they start and bounce out? Do they skip certain parts, or go back through them? What have they watched previously? HTML and Flash are both automatically encoded, buffering is minimized, and it works across devices. Wistia’s functionality is inclusive: this is a powerful way to ensure your videos reach your audience and that you have data to make them even more effective.

Others to check out:

  • Weavly (drag-and-drop operation, search/trim/combine tracks, add video and audio).
  • GoAnimate (fun animations, easy user interface, basic hosting, and basic analytics).
  • PowToon (drag-and-drop for cartoons, ideal for instructional videos).

 

Count On Us

Who are the key visitors to your website? Who are you trying to attract, the crucial – and buying – audience that you want to engage with winning content? Most businesses have a general idea: i.e. we sell football shoes, so we ‘re targeting young athletes or older enthusiasts who star in weekend leagues. But they don’t go much beyond that. Creating user personas gives us an in-depth look at potential audiences, their needs, and potential strategies for converting them into customers.

A Quick Look at User Personas

A persona is a fictional representation of your very nonfictional audience. For instance, we might have Sue, the weekend football star. Your research tells you that this is a demographic you want to hit. Sue is a professional with limited free time. She has children, who also participate in sports, and she wants to be more active and healthy. She is value-conscious, but she also wants great quality. This persona:

  • Describes this type of visitor to your shoe site: mother, busy, professional.
  • Targets her motivation: health, wellness, activity.
  • Hits on her need: budget, value, quality.
  • Implies potential objections: cost of top shoes, time. For instance, time is an issue – so are returns easy and convenient? Is shipping fast?

With this information (and much more – you can flesh these personas out so they actually have an accompanying photo and dossier!), you can develop content and design your website in such a way that her needs are met. What’s more, because you have different demographics within your customer base, you can create a variety of realistic personas.

Creating User Persona

It all starts with research. Who are your users? Why are they visiting your site? What expectations and needs do they bring with them? Can you categorize users? With social media and the ease of UGC, you can collect this data from your customers directly with online surveys, through comments and reviews, emails, and feedback forms. Questions you want to answer:

  • Where do they live? What types of jobs do they have, and at what level? Primary gender? Level of education? Average income? Marital and family status?
  • What types of beliefs and values do they hold?
  • What are their interests, passions, and hobbies?  What are their motivations?
  • What are their most pressing worries or concerns? What are their goals?
  • What’s important to them in life? What is meaningful to them?
  • What behaviors do they want to encourage or change in themselves?
  • How do they view themselves?
  • What value can you give them?

Using this information, develop 4-5 personas, and put as much detail into them as possible. Make them real people. You are trying to sell your product or service to a live audience, not a figment of your imagination! Address their needs and concerns, while offering solutions.

By understanding your customer base, you can build content that meets their needs (not every piece will be directed at Sue, for instance, but you’ll cater to each persona in different ways), and you can begin to optimise content to make it easy and convenient for them to take the next steps.

Do you use user personas to help you make content and design decisions?

 

+Newspaper Series+ 1If 100 people find their way to your blog or website, most will read your headlines. Only a small percentage – 20 percent or less – will actually read your article. It’s the power of headlines that pull people in, that tell them that there is information, or entertainment, in here that is relevant and interesting.  All that power – in just a few words. Far from an afterthought, your headline should be as carefully crafted as the rest of your content.

Here are some tips for excellent, attention-grabbing headlines:

  1. Include a number. 7 Ways to Beat Stress; Top 5 Tips for Synchronized Swimming Success; 3 Easy Steps to Mastering Chess. Whatever your industry and niche, there are always tips, tricks, and lists to share. Numbers indicate to readers that they will be getting some helpful advice.
  2. Ask a question. Increasingly, searchers enter questions instead of keywords. For example, instead of “mount plasma screen,” they might query: “How do I mount plasma screen on wall?” In addition, asking a question in your headline implies that you have the answer. It invites readers to click through or keep reading so they can find it.
  3. Use tried and true structures. Top 5 Mistakes SEOs Make, for instance, combines a number, as well as a point of pain for your audience. Both will help draw people in – if only so they can check whether they’re making the mistake!
  4. Use a thumbnail image to accompany your headline. Research from the Guardian indicates that headlines with an image saw an increased CTR of 27 percent. It’s worth a shot!
  5. Don’t use your brand. Testing shows that when you use your brand in your headline, you see a drastic decrease in engagement and CTRs. Here’s an example: Brand X Announces Their Secret to SEO Success. Well, good for them! Far more effective is: 5 Secrets of SEO Success, or Five Steps to SEO Success. This puts the focus on the value your readers will derive from your content.
  6. Use strong adjectives. While you don’t want to overdo it, adding a descriptive, powerful adjective can help create interest and prompt the reader to continue on.
  7. Get inspired. Take a look at content that has gone viral. It has done so because, in large part, because of the great headlines. Go on Reddit, StumbleUpon, and other sites and see what’s trending.

A great headline grabs the attention and the imagination. It’s just as – or more – important than you content itself!

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.

 

Colorful Tacks

Pinterest has achieved phenomenal growth in the last few years, but many businesses persist in believing it to be just a place for foodies to get new gluten-free recipes, thrifty parents to get ideas for budget-friendly birthday parties, or for crafty folks to get their newest idea. It’s great, they think, for individuals but not for our businesses. But consider this, Pinterest refers more people to websites than Yahoo. Admittedly, Yahoo is no Google, but this is a powerful reminder that there is an opportunity to be had. If you’re not pinning, maybe you should be.

Pinterest is the fourth largest traffic source in the world. It often referrs more people than Google+, Bing, and LinkedIn. Most of its users are women (some put the number as high as 80 percent) and most are between ages 24 and 34. Half have children. If these hit your target demographics, it might be smart to build a Pinterest presence for yours business. Here are some other statistics:

  • Pins with price tags get 36 percent more likes than those without.
  • 69 percent of users have found at least one item they have purchased or wanted to purchase.
  • Average users spend 1 hour and 17 minutes on the site.

That last stat is particularly remarkable. Over one hour – most sites are lucky if users stay for a few minutes. What the duration of the stay tells us is that users are engaged. They are being pulled in by great content, and they don’t have to “bounce” because they are finding information, comparisons, prices, and products that meet their needs.

If you think that Pinterest is of importance and value to your target audience, create an account. Here are some tips to help create a presence:

  • Set up a business account for a more professional, credible appearance. This will help boost consumer confidence in your brand.
  • Use Pinterest Analytics. In keeping with its status as a major traffic source, Pinterest offers Analytics. Track how many people are viewing and pinning from your website. You can also see the most popular “repinned” items to help you optimise your efforts and create better pins.
  • Think about hosting a contest. These are popular and can help highlight your content and your website. Make sure to read Pinterest’s Terms of Service before you start.
  • Be visual. Use images (that you create or that you have secured rights to) and infographics to appeal to Pinterest’s visual nature.
  • Know your audience. Pin only what you think they’ll be interested in. Doing some research is a great way to start. Not only should you get a sense of your “user personas,” you should look at what your competition is doing as well.
  • Take advantage of tools. There are now a variety of helpful tools to build and maintain a positive Pinterest presence. These include: Shopinterest (to set up shop in minutes); Repinly (info on top pins and boards); Pinstamatic (appealing boards); Pinpuff (measure influence); and Piqora (analytics and pin scheduling).
  • Spend an hour or so yourself pinning, repinning, and gathering information on what works, what doesn’t , what your business can do, and how you can reach your audience.

Does Pinterest make sense for your business? Are you already there?

 

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.

 

 

Shaking Hands

One of the primary goals of content marketing, and indeed, all internet campaign efforts, is credibility. Your online brand is only as good as the trust that you build with your audience, and it is critical that you establish your integrity and authority, especially if you are asking for sensitive personal or financial information. How can you establish greater trust, and put customers at ease?

Trust seals can increase conversion rate optimisations: 86 percent of online shoppers feel more confident when they utilise sites that display the seals. According to research, the most well-respected trusted trust seals are: Norton Secured, powered by Verisign, McAfee Secure, and TRUSTe.

Let’s take a quick look at a Norton option: Secure Site Pro with EV SSL Certificates, for instance, gives you extended validation, green address bar (another visual for customers), 128-bit minimum to 256-bit encryption, and $1.5 million warranty and vulnerability assessment.  Your site will have that level of protection and security for users. McAfee Secure offers daily scans for hacker vulnerabilities and threats, proactive alerts to threats, remediation assistance, and unlimited technical support.

When you get these seals, you get more than a logo to put on your website. You get protection for your site, and for your customers.

In addition to trust seals, you can take other steps to help boost your credibility, including:

  • Posting authentic testimonials and customer reviews.
  • Display and provide links if you are mentioned in industry publications or by news organizations.
  • Create and prominently display a privacy policy, guaranteeing that customer information will never be sold, traded, or used for purposes other than stated.
  • Ensure the trust seals are displayed prominently.
  • Link to social media profiles to further establish a presence and to allow potential customers to engage with your online community.
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