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Hummingbird and Hashtags: Keeping Your Google Plus Content Strategy Alive

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Lauren Hogan – Enjoy!

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Photo credit: misspixels

With Google’s recent Hummingbird update, anyone who does online marketing was forced to review & revamp their marketing strategy. The Hummingbird update specifically impacts the social media marketing realm by increasing SEO dependence on Google Plus hashtags. Whereas, previously, it was used to track post content now, using hashtags with your Google Plus posts helps optimize your content to display in search.

Here’s why this update matters: Google Plus is the second largest social platform with just over 50% of the global internet user market and boasts roughly 1,203 million users per month (visits to Gmail are counted). These are astounding numbers not to be overlooked. Do not exclude the use of hashtags if part of your content strategy includes Google Plus. Here are 5 ideas of how to use hashtags in your content strategy:

1)  Basic Use

This is simple. If you are posting content to your business Google Plus account, throw in a few hashtags to help support the reach of your post. Find a happy medium between the standard hashtag use on Twitter and Instagram. 2-4 hashtags per post is a realistic goal.

2)  Optimization

You have a blog. You have an SEO strategy. You have a Google Plus account. Now let’s connect the dots. It can never hurt to optimize your post for organic search & use those optimized words as hashtags.

3)  Photo Content

The most popular activity on Google Plus is photo sharing. Utilize hashtags when you post to provide equal opportunity for your post to be viewed.

4)  Networking

Communities are a great way to reach a targeted audience and invite an opportunity for more sharing, +1’s and discussion. When you post content to a community make sure to include hashtags to encourage and track conversation around the topic of choice.

5)  Conversation

Just as you would on Twitter, use hashtags that relate to your business and your goals. This includes choices such as #tech or #socialmedia. However, unlike Twitter you can use specific hashtags such as #techtips or #socialmediamarketing. You can even attach on to a couple hashtags that already spark weekly conversation. Examples include #MondayMotivation and #FridayFun.

headshot squareLauren Hogan is the Social Media Coordinator at HomeAdvisor which offers homeowners tools including Cost Guide, a resource to help budget your next home improvement project and DesignMine, a site to help collect, organize and bring to life home project ideas. She enjoys trail running in the summer and spending time on the slopes in the winter. Connect on Twitter

 

SEO Consulting in 2013: What the Pros Know that You Don’t

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Warden. – Enjoy!

SEO

photo credit: SEOPlanter via photopin cc

SEO is changing, and for the most part, the life of an SEO consultant is getting better. Gone are the days of open keyword data and mass link buying, but we’ve been lucky to gain a few things too. Most notably, we’ve gained the ability to justify the cost of good SEO and shown that a good SEO consultant is worth the additional expense in easy to understand terms and ideas such as ROI and lifetime value.

As in all walks of life, it seems that the pros are always one step ahead of the amateurs and the hobbyists. What separates the pros from the amateurs in 2013 isn’t going to be a self-proclaimed “expert” title in their bio on LinkedIn. In 2013 it’s all about strong content and quantitative analysis to determine what’s effective and what isn’t.

Here’s what’s really important in 2013, and beyond.

Content is king. Really, we mean it this time.

Google has been telling us for years that content was king. Somewhere deep down inside, I think they really meant it.

SEO experts knew that content was important, but the only benefit to good content over bad content was the potential to get it shared, thus building more links in the process. Other than that, content was content. If it were indeed king, it was the king of a place we’ve never heard of.

Now, Google has shown the world that it means business. The “new” search results are going to favor brands – whether personal or corporate – to low-quality, niche-specific, here today gone tomorrow websites or those that just build massive amounts of low-quality content (I’m looking at you eHow) in order to spam the search listings with as many of their indexed pages as possible.

Maybe content was king all along, and Google just found the right algorithm change to weed out most of the bad content by sending it to the depths of the search results. Or maybe Google held on to the idea for far too long that links were absolutely the most important tool in SEO; even though what they really wanted was good and relevant content, even though they didn’t have a quantitative way to measure what good content and bad content looked like (other than human review). We’ll never know.

What we do know is that bad content is a thing of the past, at least if you plan to build a site that generates a decent amount of organic search engine traffic.

Backlinks are losing ground to stronger rankings metrics.

Backlinks are still the most important metric when it comes to ranking a site, but they’re quickly losing ground to other – more modern – metrics such as social indicators, citations, and instances of co-occurrence. In short, SEO is becoming more and more similar to PR every day.

Pro tip: If you’re a PR guy (or girl) it might be time to add a bit of SEO knowledge to your repertoire before you’re completely obsolete.

Content doesn’t mean blogging (necessarily).

Every SEO consultant or person who happens to rely on content in order to drive traffic, leads or sales dies a little inside when we talk about content with clients only to hear about how they’re “already blogging.”

Content is writing. Content is also video, podcasting, design (infographics, presentations, etc.), and social media posting. There are quite literally dozens of ways to produce content and writing it in  a blog is certainly not the only way. Depending on your business, it might not even be the most effective way.

In essence, content is a way to express thoughts or ideas to other people. Writing is but one of may forms of content, and it is certainly something you should educate your clients to understand.

Integrated strategies are the new one trick pony.

In the last few years, the Internet marketing community has grown very segmented. With the rise of segmentation within our industry, we’ve come to rely on several one trick ponies – or people who specialize in just one thing – to get the job done.

The future is made for the strong generalist within all of us. SEO in general is switching from building backlinks, analyzing keywords and optimizing pages to an all-encompassing medium focused on everything from social media strategy to content production.

SEO consultants of the future don’t necessarily have to be good at everything, but they certainly need to be aware that SEO is more than linking and optimization, which is largely what the past generation of SEO revolved around. The good SEOs of the future understand that SEO is a mix of research, optimization, link & citation building, content production, social media and data mining. SEO can’t stand on its own anymore. To succeed in the future, you have to understand the importance of integrated marketing strategies and how to implement them for your clients.

There’s no better time to be (or hire) a great writer.

Anyone who calls himself an SEO consultant – or SEO expert – knows 2013 is the year of the writer, thus making it the year of content. We’ve been building to this point for quite some time, but the time has finally arrived where the best writers – or those that know how to find and retain the best writers – are going to leap frog over the outsourced link builders and the automated software. In short, this is the year the SEO consultant that plays by the rules is really going to shine.

For the first time in the history of search engines, we’re starting to see sites with established and authoritative writers ranked better than those that aren’t as high on the food chain. For example, Rand Fishkin is always going to have better ranking content on the subject of SEO than me, no matter how good I am at SEO. The reason for this is due to the perceived authority (deservedly so) that Rand has achieved within the SEO community.

The same goes for your business, or your clients. Better writers are beginning to show greater returns on investment than the $25 articles from no-name writers we’ve been purchasing from freelancers for the last decade.

It’s time to really dive in and learn all you can about producing great content, or to find someone who can. Good content runs in the range from $75 – $350+ for a blog post, but those that are producing the best content are those that are going to be rewarded with the links, shares, and recognition within the industry.

Cheap content is dead and gone.

There is no more room for shortcuts.

Automation software and overseas employees used to rule the SEO game.

Those days are gone. SEO is now an art form that needs micro managing and near constant supervision.

When your clients ask, can you tell them with 100-percent confidence that nothing is going on that is going to get them penalized by Google? Of course you can’t. And if you can’t be sure that you are providing value to your clients, you shouldn’t be in this business in the first place.

Conclusion

Good SEO consultants are constantly on top of the changes that happen (seemingly daily) within the industry. The main thing that separates a good SEO from a bad one is education. Educate yourself, and stay on top of trends in order to provide your client with the most bang for their buck and you’ll stay relevant no matter what changes the SEO world faces in the future.

Warden_HeadShotChris Warden is a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO. Starting his entrepreneurial career at age 19, he has performed in numerous capacities owning and managing both offline and online companies. Chris now serves as CEO of Spread Effect, a leading content marketing and publishing company. He is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and often writes on topics of content marketing, SEO, and business development. He’s passionate about building and mentoring world-class teams and loves to chat with like-minded individuals. You can connect with Chris via Linkedin, Twitter – @ChrisWarden_SE, or Google+.

5 Simple Steps for Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Aaron Houghton  – Enjoy!

Image Credit: Qole Pejorian Flickr CC

Throughout my career I’ve run my own small businesses, consulted with small business owners, and built software for small business users. I’m one of the biggest small business advocates you’ll ever meet. The passionate entrepreneurs who decide to launch and run their own businesses are the force that drives this world forward.

One of my favorite things about small business owners is that they’re natural do-it-yourselfers. As a small business owner yourself, you’ve probably learned that in order to get something done right, you oftentimes have to do it yourself.

In this article I’ll show you how to take your web marketing results into your own hands.

Although it’s common to assume that web marketing should be handled by the techies, don’t make this huge mistake. Your knowledge about your business make you the person most capable of generating big web marketing results – more sales leads and new customers for your business.

Small business owners who use this process acquire new customers at drastically lower costs than buying visitors through cost-per-click ads. Our research shows that following this process over one year produces high quality free website traffic equal to that from a $100,000 paid search engine advertising campaign.

Let’s get started.

Build a Website that You Control

You probably already have a website for your business, but if you don’t, it’s critical that you set one up immediately. A business website is the digital representation of your personal expertise. It’s where you build your authority as an expert on the topics you know best.

To establish your expertise you’ll write blog posts and articles using keywords that are important to your prospective customers. In order to do this, you need to have access to quickly and easily add new blog posts and pages on your website.

Websites built on simple editing platforms like WordPress or SquareSpace allow you to edit existing pages and add new ones at any time.

If you can’t easily edit your current business website, just create a new website right now. Imagine that you’re starting a little online magazine. Register a domain name that explains your primary topics of expertise, for instance home-garden-talk.com or makeup-for-weddings.com and set up a hosting account with GoDaddy that gives you the ability to edit and add pages to the site on your own.

Choose the Right Keywords For Your Business

In web marketing, keywords are the building blocks of success. Having the right web marketing strategy really just boils down to having the right list of keywords. It’s that simple.

Your best keywords are the words that your customers are already using.

Ask a few of your customers how they describe your business when talking with friends. Pay special attention to the words they use and write them down.

Think about the problems that your prospective customers are experiencing that your business can help them with. Add descriptions of those problems to your keyword list too. For instance, if you are a locksmith, you would write locked out of my car or need to change the locks on my house.

If your business serves a local region make sure to include all of its names too. For instance Chapel Hill, North Carolina is also referred to as part of the Triangle Area of North Carolina, and Central North Carolina. Create multiple versions of each of your existing keywords by adding the region names at the end, like locked out of my car chapel hill north carolina and locked out of my car triangle area north carolina.

You should have 25-50 words or short phrases in your list now (each on its own line). Copy your list and paste it into the Google Keyword Tool to see which keywords have the highest volume of searches and lowest level of competition.

Find the ten keywords that have the highest search volume and the lowest level of competition. You now have the perfect web marketing strategy for your business. Let’s get started implementing it.

Create a Content Schedule

You need to begin writing blog posts and articles about each of your top ten keywords. Don’t expect to do this today. It’s actually best to add these new pages to your website steadily over time.

Take a look at your schedule and add a recurring weekly event to remind you to write at least one new article each week. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Ask employees, friends, business partners, or customers to contribute. Give them a topic from your keyword list and tell them to take any angle they would like.

A good blog post or article page is three to four paragraphs in length, is focused tightly on a single keyword from your list, and is written in a friendly, conversational tone.

Write your article, or edit an article submitted to you, and then add it as a blog post or new page on your website. Include links in the article, where relevant, to product or service pages on your website.

Optimize Your Pages

Give your new blog posts and articles the best chance possible to pull in new visitors by making sure they’re optimized for the search engines.

The search engines pay special attention to certain page fields so you can gain a better search engine rankings just by putting the right words in the right places. Check for basic optimization by making sure that each page’s keyword (or keyphrase) can be found in the page title and meta description and is also used several times within the article’s text.

Use free tools like BoostSuite or SEOMoz to automatically scan your website and see where changes need to be made. Most optimization fixes are just simple text changes so you can optimize each new article in only a few minutes right when you post it online.

Commit to the Process and Get Started

Our research shows that adding one new optimized article to your website every week for one year generates an amount of free search engine traffic that would have cost around $100,000 if purchased through paid search engine advertising.

Now that’s a competitive advantage! But you actually have to follow this process to generate these results.

Are you ready to take your business to the next level? Are you willing to do the work required to grow your business and have new customers knocking down your door?

Start back at the top of the article and work your way through the process. Find your best keywords, write your first article, optimize it then add it as a new page on your website now. Your website will start receiving new visitors in just a few days.

Keep it up week after week and you’ll build a powerful web marketing system that produces thousands of website visitors and a steady flow of new customers for your business throughout the year.

Aaron Houghton is a serial entrepreneur who builds web marketing products for small business owners. Aaron is currently co-founder and CEO of BoostSuite.com. BoostSuite is a product that helps small business owners get more marketing results on their own. Formerly Aaron was co-founder of email newsletter leader iContact.com that was sold to Vocus in 2012 for $180M. Aaron was an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner in 2008, was listed to Inc Magazine’s 30 under 30 list 2010, and was named as a Top 10 Most Influential CEO in 2010 (behind Zuckerberg, Andrew Mason, and Matt Mullenweg). In his free time Aaron is an avid wakeboarder and outdoor adventurer.

 

SEO Is Not Really That Complicated

LotusJumpSo, I know this post will draw the ire of some SEO folks, but that’s alright, some need their ire drawn. SEO can be a complex science and there are those, Aaron Wall and Lee Odden come to mind immediately, that have much to add to the field of SEO when it comes to highly sophisticated implementations.

In my experience however, the typical small business need only focus on three things to greatly improve their chances for showing up in search results for key phases. (There are many, many things that can be done, but get your head around these three first.)

1) Consistently create education based content that is optimized for important keyword phrases – another way of saying this might be write lots of useful information in blog posts and work the phrases that people might use searching for your business or the problems you solve in the title of the posts.

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Don’t Just Do Search Better, Do It Differently

bingMicrosoft’s relaunched search tool, named Bing, came live this week and I think there’s a lot to like about it. The primary focus it seems is to reposition how we use and interact with search results rather than simply try to do a better Google. But, in doing so, perhaps it will create a better experience too.

While you can do regular old search on Bing, it is billed as a “decision engine” and presents and organizes results best when you are trying to find something like health answers, travel or shopping deals, local info or comparing items. With Bing, it appears that Microsoft is attempting to allow surfers to find and compare items or services they are shopping for and then integrate the actual purchase into the engine with Bing cashback. (Some items that you buy while searching on Bing reward you with cashback)

Travel is another important focus on Bing. You can bring together airline and hotel searches with price comparison and ratings and reviews. The look and feel of the travel portal is much more like that of an online travel agency than a search engine. You can even get the latest travel deals by following @fareologist on twitter.

Local search seems to get the short end of the stick. You can perform a local search and get results for local business much like you could via MSNLive Search. But, you must click on the local results tab to drill down and sort and filter your search by things like ratings. I was hoping this functionality would be more front and center.

    Some random features you might like:

  • Really like the page snapshot – just hover near the description of a search result and get a peek at the content
  • Video and image search engines seem to locate well and have nice search and filter tools
  • Related searches show up in the left sidebar and can help you refine your search
  • When you search for an individual you get all kinds of related searches such as quotes and interviews by that person

It’s worth checking out and I plan to work the travel site pretty hard to see what it turns up.

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Great SEO Tool on Sale Today Only

LotusJumpI just stumbled upon what looks like a very cool do-it-yourself SEO tool and for today only I get to offer it to my readers for $10/mo for life – this offer ends at Midnight PST today. (It’s usually $99/mo – I don’t think I would pay that much, but at $10/mo it’s a steal. By the way, I am using this tool, paying $10/mo, and passing this discount on to my readers, but I don’t profit at all from your sign-ups.)

The tool is called LotusJump and it’s very simple and very useful. You enter the URL for your site and three key search phases. The tool then presents you with a list of tasks that fall into categories such as building high-quality competitive backlinks, buzz, content and directory listings. The thing I like the most about this is that it’s not simply a list of tasks, each task comes with the “how” built right in. You simply click and follow the instructions. The tool also learns over time and keeps presenting new and ever more relevant tasks.

    Here’s a mini-sample of tasks it lists for me.

  • Build a backlink at michelemiller.blogs.com – marketing – Competitive Backlink
  • Post a comment at cindyking.biz – marketing – Buzz
  • Write an article on MSN Groups – marketing – Content-building
  • Submit www.ducttapemarketing.com to MavicaNet – Directory submission

I just love how simple and direct it is. Do this, do that. For people who don’t really know how to find this kind of road map, this is a gold mine – for people like me, who know how, but sometimes don’t want to take the time to dig up the road map – it’s still a gold mine – in fact, using this tool, you can delegate your SEO activities to just about anyone.

There are lots of options out there when it comes to getting your website to rank higher in the search engines, but this simple tool really shines when it comes to ease of use and low cost. Watch this short movie at lotusjump to see how it works.

Google Intros SearchWiki

Google has added an interesting feature to the search interface called SearchWiki.

Essentially what this allows is the ability to add notes to your search results – wiki style. In addition, you can move the results around on the page. You need to be logged into your Google account to access the full feature set.

The changes you make only affect your own searches. But SearchWiki also is a great way to share your insights with other searchers. You can see how the community has collectively edited the search results by clicking on the “See all notes for this SearchWiki” link.

So, my question is, what will Google do with what it learns from the collective dynamic search notes. Will this help/hurt rankings, will SEO folks start looking for ways to spam this, will it change the way you interact with Google?

I’ve always admired Google’s ability to keep it simple, it will be interesting to see if this is valuable or simply feature creep. Check out the video demo here

Is This a Skype Killer?

Free online phone, chat and now video chat is a tremendous business and personal tool.

Skype pioneered the platform, but Google just launched it’s own version of voice and video chat that connects directly into Gmail. You can download the Gmail voice plug-in here.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really worked Skype into my routine, even though many swear by it. I’ve already got so many Google services integrated into my day to day activities, that I’m guessing this will be a natural add-on.

Once you download the plug-in and log into Gmail you will be asked to verify your audio and video settings. Obviously you need a camera attached to your computer and those you want to chat with will need to set-up Video chat as well.

If you already use Google Talkr, you may have a head start on access to your connection.

Here’s a screenshot from Google Blog

Google video chat