Monday, 25 July 2016, 06:09 pm Written by 

Everyone with an Internet connection knows by now that WordPress is the blogging platform of choice for just about everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer of industrial conveyor-belt cleaners or a teenage boy blogging about how easily The Flash could beat Superman in a no-holds-barred fight, WordPress has the ability to put together a blog that will look decent and let you speak your mind in as much detail as you see fit. So why, then, do all of these SEO companies offer custom blog creation services?

You’d think they wouldn’t get much by way of customers, since anyone can have a blog in seconds just by applying at WordPress.com, right? Oh, so very wrong.

The fact is that, if you intend to use your blog for even the most humble commercial purpose, you need to hire one of those custom blog creators. They do so much for a blog that you’ll never notice — but Google will, and Google will respond by strongly considering ranking your best blog entries. Organic traffic can be a reality — but not without some strong customization.

Come Into My Parlor
The first big advantage that a blog customization will give you is the regular crawling of your blog — all of it — by the Google Spider. All too often, a blog post that’s more than a few months old will just fall right off of the Internet, invisible because even though it technically exists, Google’s spider hasn’t seen it in a while, so Google thinks it’s been taken down. A custom blog creator knows how Google’s spider travels, and provides a big, easy path for it to explore all of the pages on your site every time it comes by.

Feng Shwordpress
The second big advantage comes with the power of interior linking structures. The basic WordPress blog does a passable job with its innate Category and Tags pages, but there are a few tweaks that are performed during your standard custom blog creation that make them 9.5x more powerful than the default. These powerful interior links automatically point more juice at the pages that are already getting attention, making sure that they vault to the top.

Of course, that’s just scratching the surface — there are dozens of advantages you can gain just from a careful selection of theme and header, and the selection of the best keywords for your default categories and most common tags. The point, in the end, is that custom blog creation is well worth the money, even taking into the fact that the alternative is actually free.

Friday, 15 July 2016, 06:05 pm Written by 

Mobile websites come in three basic flavors. There’s the ones that redirect, where you have Wikipedia.com, but then when you log in from your phone, it’s m.wikipedia.com. There’s the ones that are responsive, where when you log in from your phone you see what looks like the same page, but it’s been rescaled and some content has been cut so that it fits better on your phone screen. And there’s the mobile websites that suck.

Yep, that’s it.

And while Google has spent much of the past few years crowing about the importance of responsive design and how it maximizes…stuff (they haven’t been all that clear on it), there are those gurus and those surprisingly-big websites (like Wikipedia) who just don’t do the responsive thing. You ready to learn why?

Con #1: Load Times
The thing about responsive design is that, while it’s great-looking (when done well), it requires the device that’s loading your page to load the whole page. Even if it’s only looking at 1/5th of the content, every graphic and flair and menu that is missing from the responsively-edited version still has to be in memory on the phone. That means long load times (which are bad-bad-bad for impatient mobile users) and it means larger downloads (which are equally bad for folks on limited-bandwidth mobile plans.)

Con #2: Conversion Rates
Simply put, it’s damn near impossible to perform Conversion Rate Optimization when your website looks like five different sites depending on the size of the screen that’s accessing it. A change that bumps the conversion rate of the largest size up will tank the conversion rate on the smallest two sizes. It’s massively easier to perform CRO on two separate, static sites than it is to do it on one responsive site.

Con #3: Build Time (and Price)
Websites designed for mobile natively are rock-bottom cheap, because they have relatively zero by way of features, flair, or other expensive bits. In contrast, to take a website that has been developed for desktop and then redesign it into a responsive website absolutely will take 50% longer and cost 70% more than developing a native-mobile version of the same site.

Mobile website design is a science that the world has pretty much mastered by now — but deciding between ‘what Google claims they want’ and what actually works for you is still an art.

Tuesday, 05 July 2016, 06:03 pm Written by 

Back in the glory days of SEO, when “Content is King!” was a new mantra and Google didn’t know a private blog network from an automated reposter, the expert SEO guy was just that — he was the expert SEO guy, and he did his job to your content after your content was created. By a different guy. Probably John.

But that doesn’t fly anymore. Today’s Google is much more self-aware, and much more lucid when it comes to stupid SEO tricks, so there’s no longer one guy who has read The Book™ and knows how to do The SEO™. Today, SEO happens at literally every phase of a business’ online development.

  • The network engineer has to know enough about SEO to understand that load times, both time-to-first-ping and time-to-full-render, are important factors in how a page is ranked, albeit indirectly in the latter case (see the UX part below.)
  • The web developer has to know enough about SEO to understand that creating an information hierarchy with structured vertical silos with internal crosslinking sufficiency is critical to your future rankings.
  • The interface experience designer has to know enough about SEO to understand how bounce time, dwell time, and other signals of user satisfaction are interpreted by Google when it comes to ranking a page.
  • The content creator has to know enough about SEO to understand that despite Google’s protestations, keywords are still a thing, and Latent Semantic Indexing is actually more important than ever.  Depending on the kind of content created, they might also need to know ‘expert SEO’ such as how to optimize a video, an image, an app (yep!) and more.
  • The social media/outreach coordinator has to know enough about SEO to recognize which industry powerhouses and which social influencers wield websites that are influential, relevant, and accessible (i.e. able to achieve a backlink without investing too much time/money into the process.)

So Then What Is My SEO Company Doing?
Most likely, your SEO company is doing basically the last two parts from the above — not because they can’t do it all (or even because they shouldn’t, because they totally should), but because you came to them and told them the first parts were already done. They were essentially forced to take over someone else’s work.

Chances are, if the first guys who did your web development weren’t expert SEO guys themselves, your current SEO company could significantly improve your results if you let them start over and build everything right the first time around.

Saturday, 25 June 2016, 05:58 pm Written by 

Let’s get one thing clear: pay-per-click marketing is a fierce industry. There’s a reason why it’s Google’s largest profit-maker by far — because they’ve set themselves up to be the party that benefits from the cutthroat competition over keyword bids. Every company is encouraged by simple market forces to up their bid as high as they can so that they nail the traffic they need to convert into sales — often to the point that their sales’ profitability is significantly hurt by the cost of each click. Simply put, handling the PPC campaign requires a level of expertise and time dedication that most businesses simply can’t afford to commit.

That’s why there are companies out there that provide PPC management services — they have experts on staff whose business is to quickly grok your business, figure out what your profit margins are, research the best keywords for your campaign, and stay on top of your campaigns’ daily fluctuations so that you can actually turn a significant profit from your pay-per-click budget.

They’re kind of like those big, buff, armor-clad, sword-wielding dudes who walk around with the Prince strictly for the purpose of being the Prince’s stand-in should someone challenge the young ruler to a duel. Most of them are named Vlad.

Having a PPC manager does cost you a bit of money up-front — I’m sure Vlad does, too — but it’s one of those classic cases of “it takes money to make money.” If you can’t afford a Vlad, your chances of taking a sword to the navel go up by several hundred percent. If you can, you basically don’t have to worry: you pay the big guy, he figures out which soft part to stick the sword in, and you pocket the gold he loots.

Only the case of Vlad, he’s there to keep your viscera on the inside of your skin. In the case of a PPC management company, they’re there to make certain that the gold you pocket is more than the gold you spend keeping them nearby and ready to jump in. It’s a great way to increase your cash-in at the expense of your cashflow. As long as you’ve got the cashflow to spare, there’s almost no reason you wouldn’t get a big, buff PPC management stud to supplement your income.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016, 05:56 pm Written by 

Just over a decade ago, people discovered the magic that was del.icio.us, the website that popularized the now-defunct term “social bookmarking” and also the incredibly-popular term “tagging.” Social bookmarking was hyped as a revolutionary way to share sites with other people and allow the crowd to decide what was awesome and what was weaksauce. (There was an earlier generation of social bookmarking sites, but they literally all died in the dotcom crash in early 2000.)

It didn’t take long for the SEO crowd to latch onto the idea of social bookmarking as a great way to snag a killer backlink for almost no effort. Sites like Digg and Reddit were authoritative, ‘nofollow’ wasn’t a thing, and it took all of 12 seconds to whip out an entry on one of these sites. Along with techniques like “submit your site to every directory on the Internet” and “comment on random blogs,” social bookmarking’s easy-linkbuilding value has died an ignoble death with Google’s aggression against SEO spam.

This, of course, means that Social Bookmarking is completely dead and no SEO company would ever use it…or, you know the exact opposite of that.

Putting the ‘Social’ in Social Bookmarking
See, at the same time that Google killed easy linkbuilding, they also did this other thing where they amped up the importance of social media mentions and social links for fresh content — which means higher placement, which means a better chance to earn longer-term, more authoritative backlinks from relevant sites.

So nowadays, social bookmarking on authoritative sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Digg (and industry-specific sites like Technorati and Slashdot) is done regularly by plenty of mid-sized players across almost every industry. It’s just not part of the “Content Creation” department — it’s part of the “Social Media” department. And even though for most of these companies, that means John does it in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning, it’s still an important part of the overall SEO process.

If a company tries to tell you otherwise, ask them in detail about their social media plan — you’ll probably find out that their social media savvy is a bit behind the curve.

Sunday, 05 June 2016, 05:52 pm Written by 

Targeted email marketing is a tool that virtually every business on the Web recognizes the power of by now — but (as our Spam boxes can attest!) very few of those businesses actually understand how to craft a message that works. There are four things every targeted email must do:

  • Get Opened
  • Provide Value
  • Impress the Reader
  • Call to Action

Getting Your Message Opened
The art of getting your email opened is the art of creating headlines that attract attention and pique the curiosity without sounding like clickbait. People are used to clickbait now; you might have gotten someone to open an email labeled One Weird Old Trick to Prove Obama Wrong and Lose 47 lbs Overnight! in 2012, but no longer. Today, people have opened that email, and they have been disappointed, and they’re never going to open another email like that again. Ditto titles like Re: The Thing You Asked About and even worse, I Need Your Help! Your title needs to be honest and upfront about what the reader can expect, but still make them want to open it. Yes, that’s a challenge, but it’s one you have to master if you want to get the most of your targeted email marketing.

Providing Value
Of course, the promise your title makes has to be fulfilled inside. If opening your email gets the reader a short story that isn’t good for anything but a half a grin and a wasted 2 minutes, you might as well have left it empty. Give them something valuable, for free, no strings attached, with every message you send out. It doesn’t have to be much — just a tip about something you know concerns them — but there has to be something. (Oh, and while you’re at it, stop writing emails about yourself. No more “I” and “we” — make it about them first!)

Impress the Reader
This one is simple: no errors. Perfect spelling, grammar appropriate to your audience, formatting for ease-of-reading, and be an expert in your topic.

Call to Action
This one you already have down pat — most of the targeted marketing emails that get sent out are little other than a call to action. Work on the first few parts; then, your call to action will actually do something.

Thursday, 26 May 2016, 05:47 pm Written by 

SEO wasn’t ever dead, regardless of the vespers-blowing trumpeters that have been sounding off since 2008 or so. It just changes form regularly to adapt to whatever adaptation Google or Bing or whatever has come up with to punish them. When Google punishes a given technique, a different one crops up, but the basic concept of ‘drive traffic by creating quality backlinks’ has never changed.

What has changed, in the last 6-8 months, is the number of sites that have more-or-less ‘SEOed out.’ That is to say, they’ve spent enough to reach a top-3 spot for a few dozen potent keywords both short- and long-tail, and they’re basically just in maintenance mode now, to make sure they don’t slip. So what does a website that is already at the top of the heap do with its SEO budget?

They Spend It to Improve The Effects of Their SEO!
Yes — even once you’ve reached the Top 3 rankings, you can still improve the effects of your SEO. Not the SEO itself, but what the SEO does for you. That’s because the profitability of your SEO is measured like this:

Profit = Total Visitors[(Conversion Rate x Profit Per Sale) – Cost per Visitor]

Your SEO efforts are what produces the visitors and what costs the money, so they create the Total Visitors and the Cost per Visitor numbers. Your Profit per Sale is determined by the profit margin on each sale of your product. That leaves the Conversion Rate.

The Conversion Rate is the percentage of Total Visitors that actually buy something when they visit your site. And the process of testing different configurations of that website and seeing which ones result in the greatest Conversion Rate — called CRO for Conversion Rate Optimization — is the top SEO technique of 2016.

CRO has a few variations, but the important thing to know is this: It’s way more profitable to sell 20% of 100 people a thing than it is to sell 10% of 150 people the same thing. If your traffic is already close to peak, switching some of that SEO funding over to CRO is likely to have a far better effect on your bottom line than spending ever-more on optimizing just one part of the equation.

Monday, 16 May 2016, 05:43 pm Written by 

There’s a big argument that’s been plaguing the expert SEO world for the past few years, and it’s one that doesn’t seem to have a clear winner: the argument about content length. Some businesses swear that their best success comes from in-depth, long-form content that goes in depth on a particular subject; others insist on what’s called ‘snackable’ content that can be consumed in 2 minutes or less. Yet more believe that mid-length content like the kind promoted by most WordPress SEO plugins is the way to go.

The truth is simple: all kinds of content can be winners. The choice between snackable and long-form content isn’t a choice between a ‘better’ and ‘worse’ form of content — it’s a choice between attracting different market segments.

In short:

  • Long-form content is most attractive to people who are already experts in the subject, because it offers insight and angles on the topic that they might not already have, and experts crave that stuff. Most SEO-related content is long-form these days, because most people who Google SEO-related topics are experts in the first place.
  • Mid-form content (like this blog post) is most attractive to people who interact with the topic, but don’t live it. The middle management guy who heads the expert’s department, or a student who has yet to get a job in the field, for example. Most customer-service-related content is in this format, because very few people are genuinely “customer service experts.”
  • Short-form ‘snackable’ content has the broadest target audience by far: anyone who is interested in the topic, but doesn’t necessarily interact with it directly (much/yet). Note that this can potentially be anyone if the content itself is provocative, because as the guy who invented TED talks says, “knowledge itself is interesting.”

Why Choose Snackable Content?
Snackable content is the easiest to share on social media, because it’s much more socially acceptable to send your grandma, spouse, and best friend from high school an interesting 2-minute skim than it is to send them a 25-minute in-depth tome.

Snackable content is the cheapest to produce for a few reasons. First, you don’t need an expert to create it. Second, it’s short, which means less cost per-word or per-minute or whatever. Finally, because it’s intended to be super-sharable, you don’t need to spend as much expert SEO time on it.

The best course of action for a comprehensive content marketing/SEO strategy is to mix and match — create bits of content at all lengths. Just do about 1 long-form to 2 mid-length to 4 snackable pieces, adjusted to match your target market segment of course.

Friday, 06 May 2016, 05:41 pm Written by 

There’s a lot of SEO in the world — literally, every single piece of content you put up online can and should be optimized if you intend for people to actually see it. In fact, the SEO world is getting complex enough and deep enough that it’s possible to find people with job titles like Image SEO Specialist, Video SEO Specialist, and so on. The question that business managers the world over are asking themselves is, “are these various SEO specialists worth the cost?”

The answer, being perfectly honest, is “sometimes.” There are three major factors that go into the equation (assuming all SEO specialists are equal in overall talent):

  • The Function of the Content
  • The Placement of the Content
  • The Term of the Content

Function
Every piece of content has a specific function — if it didn’t, you shouldn’t’ve produced it in the first place. Every content deserves some SEO, even the stuff you’re only putting up so that a industry insider who skims your blog can be impressed at your insider expertise. But the only content that really needs the full, in-depth SEO treatment where you hit up the SEO specialists for their unique services are:

  • Content intended to ‘go viral’ on the social scene,
  • Content intended for reputation management (that needs to outrank something horrible),
  • Content that exploded and got more views on basic SEO than you expected, and
  • Content that is targeting a new market segment or announcing a new product/service.

Placement
So we’ve just eliminated probably 40%-60% of your content as not needing ‘advanced’ SEO due to function. What about placement? This one’s a bit more open to interpretation, but the basic rule here is that if you’re putting the content on a platform that provides its own traffic and targeting — say, an industry forum — you don’t need the extra SEO. You intend to get your traffic from sources other than Google in the first place, so save the money for a piece of content that is Google-centric.

Term
Short and sweet here: content that is intended to ‘catch’ a momentary wave, like a trending Twitter hashtag or a one-off news item that you don’t expect to start a long-term national conversation, doesn’t deserve the extra spend.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016, 01:28 am Written by 

Last April, Google added another ‘supplementary algorithm’ to its current host (including Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and others.) This new algorithm, nicknamed Mobilegeddon! (you are required to put it in bold with the exclamation mark, by the way), affects about 50% of all searches. Specifically, it affects the 50%+ of all searches that come from mobile devices.

The upshot is pretty simple: if you have a webpage (and it is by page, not by website as most of Google’s other algorithms target) that is ‘mobile unfriendly,’ Google will penalize it to the depths of the SERPS, but only if the search is coming from a mobile device. So you could sit at your desktop and type a search, and then whip out your iPad and do an identical search at the same time, and get very different results because the iPad’s search results will be skewed heavily toward mobile-friendly webpages.

What does this mean for you in terms of actual business practice? Simple: it means that if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website (or at least a couple of pages on your website), you need to hire an expert to do some high-end mobile website design for you. Ideally, you would have one mobile-friendly version of every landing page your website contains, so that you don’t lose any traffic.

What does mobile-friendly mean? Well, on this, Google is pretty clear. It means:

  • Don’t use any bits that many smartphones can’t process (i.e. Flash, Shockwave).
  • Don’t use text that would be too small to see on a smartphone screen.
  • Don’t pack your links so close together that someone with Fat Finger Syndrome would have trouble tapping them.
  • Either use a Responsive Design setup that adjusts your website based on what kind of device is viewing the page, or use a mobile redirect that will send a mobile customer to a webpage that is mobile-friendly.

It’s that simple — if you can follow those rules, you can ignore the Mobilegeddon! update. If you need to make some changes to take advantage, don’t wait! The faster you can get your site updated to take the new mobile-friendliness rules into account, the faster you can recover the business you’ve been losing since April.

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