Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software

5 New Realities of SEO

Back in the day, SEO was more technical and less, well, semantic. Now I realize that for most a term like semantic query relevancy might as well be the name of computer programming language, but the fact is Google’s customers, the searcher and the advertiser, are no longer content with results based on related page keyword content. This Wall Street Journal article explains Google’s take

google search

To improve accuracy Google and Bing both are attempting to understand what is actually meant by a search and refine results based on things like recency, location, context and of course relevance.

For example if you search “best place to buy a MacBook Pro” there was a time when search engines would return results of blog posts about good places to buy a MacBook Pro or maybe even computer reviews. From that you might have been able to find what you were looking for, but with semantic knowledge graph built in Google is more likely to think – oh, you want to buy a MacBook Pro and I know where you are and I know the inventory levels of the nearest stores with sale prices, so here are your results.

What this means for website owners is they can no longer count on writing content about a subject, optimizing it and going to work on links to the page. Sure, that stuff will always play a role, but there are other significant factors at play today.

Google officially rolled out a new search algorithm recently that employs a great deal of their progress in semantic search. The update is called “Hummingbird” and while traces of it have been coming in previous updates, this one is significant and lasting.

Search has been heading this way for some time now. So, no SEO is not dead once again, unless you mean quick SEO – SEO that doesn’t contain relationship and authority building. Bottom-line though – quality, frequency, depth and authority matter more than ever.

Below are five realities that site owners and SEO professionals must address in order to remain relevant.

Social signals matter a lot

One of the biggest factors baked into search results are signals that search engines can receive about content quality based on social interactions. How many +1s a page has matters greatly as do shares, likes and retweets. My guess is that it’s nearly impossible to get most content to rank without it.

In depth is the new snack sized

One of the things blogs ushered in was the ability to create small little bits of content frequently. While readers seem to enjoy this, often the content lacked much depth and certainly did not engender many retweets and shares (unless you are Seth Godin and you’re followed by 113,000 people on Google+ even though you’ve never shared anything on Google+)

Many people still throw out thinly disquised lists as link bait, but nothing gets shared and strongly indexed today like long, in depth narrowly cast articles. Google has even created markup standards for in depth articles as long as 2000-5000 words.

Who writes it matters too

Authority based on authorship has grown to be a major ranking factor. Claiming your own Google+ Authorship for your content is vital. This includes telling Google other places where your content appears.

While there is no “kloutlike” scoring system as of yet, understanding whose content is thought of authoritative because that’s your relationship building hit list!

Link building is networking

Past Google updates with names like Panda and Penguin were different than Hummingbird as they we updates to fix stuff, mostly artificial link building. Like it or not the more sophisticated algorithms become the harder it is to fake link relationships. Link building in the old school SEO fashion is going the way of the compact disc so you better get good at writing high quality content, sharing high quality content and building authoritative relationships with people that Google thinks matter when it comes to content.

In case that sounds like good old fashion networking that’s because it is.

Keyword not provided is the new deal

Site owners long ago made a deal with Google – let us crawl your site and we’ll tell you who is visiting your site and why – just kidding – take a look at your Google Analyitcs these days and see if your “keyword not provide” or what terms someone searched on that brought them to your site is hovering in the 100% range like mine is.

There are some clever ways to hack together this data (future post on that) and word on the street is Google may find a way to sell it back to you through some sort of premium analytics, but look for some 3rd party tools to fill this gap and get used to a world without the ease of knowing why someone came to your site. (I suppose this is actually a step back into the more technical SEO need.)

Tomorrow I’m going to give you a look into my top 5 recommended action steps for addressing the new realities of SEO today.

 

8 Essential Tips to Guide Your Web Design Project

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

IMG_0140

photo credit: bibliojojo

Too often, when small businesses are redesigning their websites, they lose focus. They get caught up trying to design something super flashy and cool, instead of something that’s going to help consumers.

Designers even encourage this routine, because it secures their unlimited all-you-can-design fun passes. With “make website pretty” as the agreed-upon primary goal, designers can focus on creating uber-creative sites without being bothered by annoying distractions like measurable outcomes and ROI.

The problem with pretty websites is that they don’t do much more than look pretty. They don’t work.

After participating in countless design projects for small businesses through Madtown, I know the difference between a pretty website and a functional one, and I know what likely happened in the design room to lead to each result.

Here are 8 important tips to tuck away for the day you launch your next website redesign project. If you remember and actually follow these guidelines, it’ll help ensure that your next website is rooted in usability and business strategy, rather than ambiguous creativity.

1. Trust is the currency of success

Trust is the backbone of any design project. Accomplishing big things takes a lot of trust between designer and client. If you don’t trust your designer enough to let him run the show, you need to find another designer.

2. Content is design, too

The way you tell your story, describe your product or service, and present your tone and mood are just as important as the visual aspects of your website. People want to know what you’re offering and what makes you unique, which is something design can’t do on its own.

Remember: people visit websites to learn things and to figure out how to solve their problems, not to marvel at cool designs.

3. Designs always go out of style

Don’t worry about website design trends. They’re constantly changing, and they’ll do nothing but ensure that your website will look outdated in a few years. (“Look at this guy, still doing the minimalist thing!”)

Focus on providing real value and connecting people to the solutions to their problems, and let the rest fall into place naturally.

4. You’re not just designing, you’re solving problems

You will never have all the answers for your small business. Which means it’s never time to stop listening to new ideas, even–or especially–if they come from your website designer.

Design projects start with business problems, so your designer is going to be very familiar with what’s not working at your company. Really great designers have an inherent ability to not only identify those deficiencies, but to help you find solutions for them.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Websites are rarely successful the day they’re launched. After a website goes live, dozens of unchecked tasks remain on the To Do list: thing like AdWords, social media, analytics, heat maps, SEO, testing, and updates. These and countless other changes and problems will continue to present themselves for eternity, regardless of how strong your initial design was

What might work today could become ineffective 3 months from now. That doesn’t mean the idea was wrong in the first place–just that it’s no longer right.

6. Simplicity is power

Always keep a laser focus on what really matters for your business. If your main goal is to generate leads, don’t lose focus by adding other features that don’t help accomplish this.

7. Fear is healthy

It’s easy to get comfortable and complacent when all you care about is putting something on the internet that’s fun to look at. But if launching your new website doesn’t scare you even a little, you’re probably too focused on the design rather than the outcomes.

Fear also comes from taking risks. You can keep updating your website every few years, or you can try to do something unique and, by extension, scary.

8. The journey is part of the fun

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Starting a business takes years of hard work, lots of mistakes, and a smattering of small victories. You better be in it not only to summit the mountain, but to appreciate the climb.

Business owners often think that if they can just get a killer website that generates a bunch of leads, their business will change. And when that doesn’t happen, they’re quick to blame their designer, who did nothing but give the business owner exactly what he asked for: a cool website.

jay-baronJay Baron is a brand strategist at Madtown and Mighty Zombie.  You can follow him on Google+ and Twitter.

8 Alternatives to Google Keyword Tool

Keyword research is vital. It’s an essential tactic for developing a powerful content strategy, targeting pay per click advertising campaigns and improving search engine optimization.

keyword research

photo credit: shawncalhoun via photopin cc

For many years Google offered what was undoubtedly the most used free tool for conducting research on popular and not so popular keyword phrases with useful information regarding popularity, competition and suggested variations of phrases.

The tool was actually an AdWords offering that effectively helped people do better AdWords planning, but it certainly worked for all manner of research.

Recently Google decided to more tightly integrate the tool with AdWords and rebranded it as AdWords Planner. In addition to requiring users to log in to an AdWords account to access the tool a great deal of useful research functionality has been stripped away.

While I found that it was sufficient for most basic research it no longer serves that need very well.

Below are four free alternatives and four paid alternatives that I suggest business owners and marketers consider adding to their resource and research routines.

Free keyword tools

My favorite paid options

Assessing the Profitability of Top, Middle and Bottom of the Funnel Content

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is John-Henry Scherck – Enjoy!

funnel

Image Credit: M Glasglow

Create engaging content! That’s what we tell every client. In the past few years, SEOs have fallen in love with top of the funnel content because it can help generate natural links and is less competitive/easier to rank for – but few SEOs analyze how profitable (or unprofitable) the content they recommend is for one of their clients.

A few weeks ago I met with my client, BodyLogicMD. It was a great meeting, we talked about how their brand is positioned against competitors, where the brand is going, current and future SEO initiatives… and then we started discussing next year’s content calendar.

It was at this point in the conversation that my client raised a very interesting point My agency advised our client to create a lot of content. There’s a page for each and every symptom, diet recommendation, and general questions patients may have (here’s an example).

BodyLogicMD was concerned that although this content might have pulled users into their lead funnel, they were driving low quality leads that didn’t convert to sales and tied up their call center’s time.

fluff

Image Credit: ginnerobot

Basically, the leads were weak.

I’ve been agency-side my whole career. When I look at Google Analytics in the morning and I see a year-over-year increase in conversions, I think my team and I are doing our jobs. However, if I’m not looking at my client’s close rate for all the leads that are being generated due to our efforts – I have no idea if the work I am doing is actually growing their business.

That’s why it is essential to check in with your clients about lead quality.

I asked BodyLogicMD’s in house search marketing team for a huge data-dump:

1) Close rates for just the landing pages that had form fields.

2) Cost of converting a lead to a close

3) Average time a call that doesn’t result in a sale takes. T

4) Average pay of a call center employee.

5) Average value of a new patient.

We then categorized all of their content into three categories:

bio hormone therapy1) Bottom of the Funnel – These pages drive high converting organic visits. These pages mainly consist of physician bio pages (example) and geographic pages (example). This content is all geo-targeted, conversion focused and is sometimes served to search engine users in nearby areas when search for head terms.

2) Middle of the Funnel – This type of content fulfills information search queries. The content is not nearly as conversion oriented as the bottom of the funnel content. The users who land on these pages via a search engine are usually coming in via head terms.

photofarmer

Image Credit: photofarmer

3) Top of the Funnel – These are the pages that we, as SEOs, beg our clients to create. They are tangentially related to BodyLogicMD’s business and are mainly educational pages with the goal of pushing a user to convert through a very long funnel.

We analyzed the profit and loss of each of these three categories to make sure that:

1) Top of the funnel content was profitable

2) Figure out just how profitable each type of content is for BodyLogicMD.

Here are the results for leads that converted on a form field of a landing page:

Top of the Funnel Content

9.8% of leads, 6.7% of new business with a 6.7% close rate

Middle of the Funnel Content

73.1% of new leads and 56.6% of new business with a 4.8% close rate

Bottom of the Funnel

17% of leads and 36.6% of new business with a 16.3% close rate.

Using the information that the client provided us with and some basic math, we were able to figure out that every bottom of the funnel lead is worth twice as much as a top of the funnel lead and almost three times as much as a middle of the funnel lead.

With this information in hand, we’ve augmented our strategy to make the bottom of the funnel pages our #1 ranking priority. We know these pages are highly effective at converting prospects into sales, so we are going to focus a large chunk of our efforts here.

Although it would be great to just focus on bottom of the funnel terms, we know there isn’t nearly as much search volume for geo-modified bioidentical terms, so we are still going to pay attention to the middle of the funnel as well, but now that we know where the real money is being generated – we are going after those keywords with full force.

A large chunk of BodyLogicMD’s visits come through top of the funnel, but few of their sales do. This content still drives leads, so we aren’t going to kill off top of the funnel content. However, we are no longer going to do any intentional link building to top of the funnel pages because we know they are not nearly as valuable as middle or bottom of the funnel pages.

In order to compete on a local level, we have decided to charge up our marketing strategy to focus on community events and event marketing, local citations that provide links, and getting doctors who are not as prominent in the press. In the past we focused on BodyLogicMD as a whole, but with this new data in hand, we are going with a more granular process that will allow for success on a local level.

Analyzing the effectiveness and profitability of your content is a must for every SEO, especially when it comes to focusing raising rankings for certain pages, because if you don’t know how profitable that type of content is, you have no idea how it will impact a business.

JHTScherck PicJohn-Henry Scherck is an SEO Consultant at SEER Interactive. When he’s not building links or assessing the profitability of client content, he can be found cooking up a storm in the kitchen, abusing and over-using his Netflix subscription and blogging about scalable marketing strategies on his blog, TLCSEO.com.

3 Step Content Marketing Audit for Small Business Marketers

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

Content

photo credit: john.schultz

Use this quick and easy process to improve your website in order to attract more visitors and customers

You may have heard that content is king. Backing up this cliché is the fact that paid advertisements that interrupt people just aren’t working that well on the Web anymore. These days simple, helpful, instructional content is more effective at attracting new customers to your website.

But to take advantage of the power of content marketing, you have to have website content that attracts your targeted audience. Don’t worry, even if your existing website is lacking, the process I’m about to share will still set you on the right path going forward.

Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Review Your Existing Content and Keywords

Take a look at your website and start building a master list of all the keywords you’re already using.

One way to find your existing keywords is with a free BoostSuite account. BoostSuite (the company I work for) will crawl all of your pages and show you a list of all of your keywords automatically. Also, if you already have a Google Webmaster Tools account you can export a list of keywords from there too.

Or you can simply view the source code (in your web browser) of any page of your website and search for the text “keywords.” And even if you haven’t set any keywords for your web pages you can use this free keyword extraction tool to find your keywords by typing in your URL.

Repeat this last step on all of your competitors’ web pages to make sure you don’t miss some incredible keyword they’re using that you haven’t caught on to yet.

Now that you’ve created a big list of keywords, let’s figure out which ones actually matter.

Step 2 – Analyze and Evaluate Keywords For Opportunity

Not all keywords are created equal, especially for your unique business. The best keywords for your marketing strategy are keywords that have high search volume (lots of people searching for them) and low competition.

Copy and paste your big list of keywords into a keyword research tool like Google Adwords keyword tool to determine the search volume and competition level for each.

Sort your keywords by search volume (highest at the top) and then move any keyword with a high competition level to the bottom of the list. Take your top 25 keywords and copy them into a new document.

You are now looking at the keywords that will take your content marketing strategy to the next level. Let’s see how your current website stacks up.

Step 3 – Map Your Best Keywords To Your Existing Pages

Now that you have your top keyword list, beside each keyword write the page URL of a single page on your current website that is about the keyword. You can do this manually or use a tool to automatically map your keywords to your existing website pages.

How many keywords have matching pages? Great content marketers have at least one page of content about each of their most important keywords.

For keywords that are matched to a page, make sure that actual page has the exact keyword in its HTML title, meta description, and H1 heading.

You will probably also have some leftover keywords that cannot be applied to any existing pages, and that’s great! These keywords become your writing punch-list, meaning your next blog post should be about one of them.

Write a new blog post then optimize it for one top-opportunity keywords. Keep writing new content until you have at least one page on your website about each of your top opportunity keywords.

Follow these three easy steps and you’ll start marketing your business online using content that will attract your perfect target audience, just like the pros do. It’s that easy.

Did you find some new keywords for your business that surprised you? If so, tell us what you learned in the comments below.

RyanRyan Kettler is Director of Communications at BoostSuite. He’s an internet marketing zealot, sports fanatic, devoted runner, avid golfer, beer connoisseur, and live music enthusiast. When he’s not writing or helping BoostSuite customers he can be found running 5ks, sampling IPAs, and attempting to dance/sing at concerts. BoostSuite allows small business marketers to get more website visitors, sales leads, and customers by optimizing their websites on their own. Follow BoostSuite on Twitter and Facebook.

Some Things to Like About WordPress 3.6

WordPress 3.6, dubbed “Oscar” in honor of the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson released this week with some substantial, if not mind blowing, feature updates.

You can read the entire announcement from WordPress here

This video was embedded using URL only

Better support of post types – Every new major release comes with a new theme and Twenty-thirteen showcases some pretty forward uses of post types.

Better menu customization – Adding menus to the appearance section was a big step forward several releases ago, but I always felt the execution was pretty clunky even if it was better. This release adds more intuitive menu creation along with some added functionality.

Better autosave – For anyone that forgets to save when they edit or even write directly in WordPress admin you’ll be happy to know that autosave kicks in every 15 seconds now.

Better revision handling – If you’ve ever edited and changed and updated a post you know that all those revisions get saved with the idea that you can roll back. Only problem was comparing one version to another was pretty hard. Not any more – revisions cleary show comparisons – this looks very promising. Also, you can lock a post down when editing some no one else can edit.

Better native media support – Built-in HTML5 media player for native audio and video embeds with no reliance on external services.

A few more additions to oEmbed – Several years ago oEmbed was added so that you could simply add a URL from supported services and get the player or show the image without embed code. The list has expanded – here’s the entire list as of today

As always, no matter how much testing WordPress does things break during major upgrades as plugin and theme makers don’t always jump in and test – so backup and proceed with caution.

This is also a great place for me to suggest paid themes like Studio Press and tipping your plugin makers so they have motivation to support!

3 Website Trends That Customers (and Business Owners) Will Love

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

Website trendsI know what you’re probably thinking: oh, great, another trends post.  Personally, I think trend-watching is interesting because it can give you new ideas for your business.  But, a little bit of trend-watching goes a long way.

When it comes to the web – and specifically, websites – there are plenty of trends.  The trick is to identify which trends will add meaningful value to both your customers and you as well.  Here are 3 website design trends I think you should be watching.

1. Responsive Design:  A Great Experience, No Matter Where

Have you heard the term “responsive” website design and laughed it off as techno-mumbo-jumbo?  Now’s the time for you to embrace it.

Responsive design is simply a way that your site is coded so that the site checks how big of a screen the user has (such as a large monitor, medium-sized tablet, or smaller mobile) and then adjusts how the site looks based on that.  This means that no matter whether your customer is having a quick browse on their phone while in line at the grocery, or spending quite a bit of time on your blog while relaxing on the sofa on their tablet, they have a great browsing experience.

If your website technology doesn’t allow for responsive design, it’s time to start talking about an upgrade to a platform that does.  Otherwise, you’ll start to see a decline in engagement – customers now demand a great experience whether no matter where they are.

2. Minimalism:  Get Your Message Across, Quickly

Just like in fashion, web designers tend to go through a lot of fads – specifically color schemes and font choices. (Hint: cursive fonts are now the hot item; now that I’ve mentioned it to you, you’ll probably start seeing them everywhere.)

However, I’ve noticed as the design community has leaped  from font to font, color to color, designs are converging on a theme of minimalism.  Less colors, but more meaning behind each color choice.  Fewer crazy fonts and more judicious choice about those fonts.

Remember, the purpose of your website’s design is to support your brand and brand message.  That’s even more important these days, as many customers’ first interaction with your company is now often via your website.

My advice for you, with the web being so oversaturated (and consumers being over stimulated), is to think like you are Google’s famous ultra-lean homepage:  if you only had to pick a handful of things, what the priority?   More critically, what’s extra fluff that’s getting in the way of what is important?

3. Specialized Web Hosting:  Less Hassle, Worth the Extra Money

Web hosting has come a long way since I setup my first self-hosted domain back in 2004.  Even as of late, web hosting companies have had a reputation of lackluster customer service and user-unfriendly tools.  It was only a matter of time before we started to see specialization in the industry.   I use WordPress as my website’s platform, and recently have switched to WP-Engine and Zippykid – two examples of web hosts who have specialized in one specific platform.  It’s not just WordPress where this is happening – if you just want an ecommerce solution, you could go with something like Shopify.

Why pay more for a hosting that is specialized like this?  Many reasons, such as better customer service and more technical support, since everyone on the hosting team is an expert in your software platform.  These companies have optimized their infrastructure as well, which means a faster site, fewer viruses, and less downtime for you.  Switching hosting companies isn’t always easy, but I speak from experience when I say that it’s worth investigating.

Andy HayesAndy Hayes is a creative web producer based in sunny Portland, Oregon. He’s worked in usability testing labs, owned a hospitality and tourism marketing company, and now is focused on website optimization and content strategy.  When not delivering his famous website critiques, you’ll find him managing a team of collaborators on the lifestyle magazine  Plum Deluxe.

 

How to Get Higher Rankings for Your WordPress Site

Every site owner and blogger wants their content to rank highly in the search engines for key terms. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the content, how well it’s optimized and how many other well ranking sites think it’s worth linking to.

google rankings

photo credit: Ken Lund via photopin cc

But, from a WordPress technical standpoint one of the most important elements is a hardworking plugin.

The hardest working plugin in my WordPress set up is the WordPress SEO Plugin from Yoast. While there are thousands of plugins for WordPress this is one of the few that I deem a must.

This plugin does so many good things related to running a healthy site and achieving higher rankings that it’s a bit limiting to simply label it an SEO plugin.

SEO basics

The function that most might be familiar with is the ability to customize many of the elements that search engines use to determine page content on a post by post and page by page case. Instead of the default WordPress on page optimization the SEO plugin gives you the ability to change title, keyword and description meta data. Couple that with keyword friendly URLs and image descriptions and you’ve got on page factors pretty nailed. (More on page ranking factors here)

Sitemaps

What some may not know is that the SEO plugin is also your best option for producing sitemaps that make it easier for search engines to find all of your content and interact with new content in the best possible manner. For new sites this may be how your content gets discovered in the first place. For larger more established sites this is how your new content gets indexed in a matter of minutes. Another great thing about having sitemaps in the SEO plugin is that if you set a page to no index your sitemaps knows it too!

If you have not claimed your Google Webmaster and Bing Webmaster accounts and submitted your sitemaps to each this is another mandatory step. First, you’ll be sure they are receiving your updates immediately and you’ll find a lot of useful data on how they see your site along with any issues they find.

Duplicate content

One the cool thing about WordPress is that you can sort by things like date, category and tag. The net effect of all these option however is that your archives create lots of duplicate content and the search engines have grown increasingly fussy about that. It’s not that Google penalizes you for this, it just means you don’t have control over which version they throw to the top of your results. Using the Titles and Meta settings in the plugin you can choose to disable your date based archives and set subpages to no index.

Scrapers love

This is a little thing but Yoast adds a way for you to easily insert some text and links into the RSS feed for your content. This way those silly scrapers of content will have a line about where the content originated and a link leading the search engines back to your site as the original author.

Social

Since SEO and social are so thoroughly connected why not make it easy to add Google+ authorship and Facebook OGP data. This way your images show up in Facebook along with the title and description you’ve chosen instead of the default first few words when you post and once you link your author content to your Google+ profile using the SEO plugin Google will start to attribute all of your content more accurately. (I wrote about Google Authority here)

For a full explanation and tutorial check out the last word on the plugin from the author.