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5 SEO Action Steps You Can Take Today

In a recent blog post I wrote about the new realities of SEO. For the most part that post revealed how the shifting form of search into a less content and more context driven world requires site owners and SEO professionals to think differently about how they approach search engine optimization.

Today I want to cover a couple tactics you can quickly employ that should help in each of the areas I addressed in the new realities post.

My goal for this post is to provide you with some action items to check off your list this week – as in right now!

Below are my five favorite SEO action steps you can take today.

Up the +1 and Like

Lots of people use WordPress plugins and Facebook content boxes and such to make sharing their blog posts much easier. I’ve used the Sociable and Digg Digg plug ins on and off for years. However, with the emphasis the search engines are placing on social signals, one way to get even more social juice is to add the native Google +1 button and the native Facebook Like or Share button to the main or secondary header sections of every page on your site.

This way you increase the odds of your homepage and other core pages accumulating more and more social signals over time.

+1 and like button

You can grab the code for +1 button here and Facebook button here.

Embed larger images

Okay, this one’s not technically an SEO play, but it may add to better engagement on social networks, which we’ve already agreed is crucial.

A recent Facebook redesign places a great deal more emphasis on images on pages by displaying them fully across a post – if they meet certain size guidelines. The greatly enlarged images make your post stand out on mobile devices as well as laptops and should be something you include in your content.

The new standards call for images that are 600 to 1200 pixels in width in the open graph image associated with your posts.

facebook larger images

Here’s a painless way to embed larger image in blog posts for social networks without doubling up on work on your site.

  • Install WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast (I’ve written about the SEO benefits of this plugin here but it also handles the open graph elements too)
  • Choose the larger image – 560 x 292 is recommended minimum. – I use PhotoPin for many of my images
  • Add the image to your blog post – the SEO plugin tags it on the default og image
  • Open the WordPress image editor found in visual view and reduce the image size to make it fit your post – I use 240 px left justified images in most posts so I can adjust it here.

That’s it, now when you share your incredible blog post on your Facebook page your stunning image will dominate the page. Which of course may mean you need to give some more thought to your image selection. Look for Google+ to mimic this behavior.

Get after the long tail

The term long tail has been around in the search world for many years now and it’s not going away. The more competitive a search category is the more important it is that you create content meant to compete specifically for those less popular, longer phrases that people use every day.

I could go into lots of detail about how your might get started in this arena, but my best advice is to use software called Long Tail Pro. It’s one of the easiest to use and best priced keyword research tools and can help you identify the best opportunities for keyword phrases you can go to work on with the hope of competing effectively.

With the move by Google towards semantic intent I’ll be producing as much content as possible that narrows in on context as well as content. For my kind of business that’s done by getting as specific as possible about addressing intent. I’ve started a question of the week post where I’ll address one very specific bit of information in response to questions that come up often. When someone poses a question in search the intent is often quite clear.

Should I pay for referrals? Is there any reason to add the meta description attribute? Answering questions related to your industry is a great way to get after the long tail.

Add micro data with rich snippets

For this on I’ll get a little more technical. Micro data is a form of HTML property mark-up used specifically by search engines (plural) to help them identify certain kinds of text like addresses, movie titles and product descriptions.

Micro data is crucial for straight ecommerce sites and it’s use will increase over time for just about every type of business.

Adding name, address and phone (NAP) rich snippets to every page, for example, is a solid bit of advice for any local business.

In my realities blog post I wrote about in depth articles becoming more important in search. Google has released a set of micro data properties that specifically addresses in depth articles so there’s a good chance there will be more on this front to come.

You won’t have to look any further than this MOZ study on the kind of content that draws the most links to see the need for more in depth content.

Structured mark up has already entered in many ways. For example breadcrumb mark up produces a more structured appearance of indexed content. (See the example below produced with breadcrumbs enabled in the SEO plugin from Yoast) – this mark up shows up in the HTML on the page to help with navigation and in the way Google indexes and shows the results.

structured mark up

You can add the in depth article micro data plugin to WordPress to avoid learning the specifics of coding with micro data.

And by all means add the Google Authorship markup if you have not – you can find my advice on Google Authorship here.

Want to get overwhelmed by this topic? Visit schema.org to really dig in.

Build authority relationships

Networking for link relationships has taken on a bit of a popularity feel due to Google’s emphasis on authority when it comes to content.

Links from sites that Google ranked highly have always been important, but now individuals inside of Google+ carry a great deal of weight as well.

It’s important to build relationships in your industry with those authors that Google already thinks highly of. I’m not talking about stalking, I’m talking about discovering the most valuable relationships and finding ways to build value within them.

Reverse Google image look up reveals list of places where this author contributes.

Find those authors in your industry that appear with an author box in common searches with your industry and do a Google reverse image look up to find where they contribute content currently.

  • Find an author whose image shows next to highly indexed content
  • Navigate to their Google+ profile, right click their profile image and copy the image URL
  • Paste the image URL into a Google “search by image” box
  • Scan the results to find a great deal about their contributed content landscape
  • Create a plan to build relationships based on value

This way you’ll turn up some great guest post opportunity possibilities for yourself as well as gain some insight into ways you can connect with authors of authority.

So, that should keep your plate full for a few action packed days!

3 Social SEO Tweaks Every Business Should Make

SEO, Content and Social Media are so tightly wound together these days that business owners and marketers need to grab every little advantage they can to wring the most out of their efforts in each area.

Most of the major social networks have created ways to help content producers enhance the sharing of their content on their respective networks by making it easier and more beneficial to share.

Today I would like to discuss three, what I’m calling Social SEO, Tweaks that site owners should take. While they involve three specific social networks – Twitter, Google+ and Facebook -  they are all drawn from the increasingly useful, almost standard, Facebook Open Graph Protocol. (Don’t worry you don’t really need to know what that is, but if you want to know, here’s more in on OG)

Essentially what Open Graph does is allow you to insert meta data in a web page or blog post that turns that content into a social object of sorts. So now when someone tweets a link to your awesome blog post you have control over how things like an image, description and link are displayed.

Because the protocol is being widely accepted as the standard, just about every social network is adopting ways to implement it. So now when someone pins your awesome product a rich description, link to your shopping cart, price and even availability are all transported with the pin to display in Pinterest.

Okay, back to the tweaks I think you should explore first if this topic in new to you.

Facebook Open Graph

Since this is the foundation for all three of the plays I’m suggesting, let’s start here. The good news is that for WordPress users, plugins have been built that make all the coding aspects of these tactics very, very simple. I recommend that every WordPress Site owner install the WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast. This plugin not only handles most of the important on page SEO factors for bloggers, it also has a tab to instantly create the Facebook Open Graph settings as well as the Twitter and Google+ settings I’ll discuss in greater detail below. The NextGen Open Graph plugin is another good one for this topic.

If you are using either plugin mentioned above simply follow the instructions. The thing I like most about this feature is that it gives far greater control over what content shows up with your posts in the status updates on Facebook. I’ve always viewed the description tag as way to advertise why someone might want to click through and read and with this setting you get total control over that.

By using the featured image setting in WordPress you also get to control what image is viewed with your posts. It can be a single image, like I use in this post, or it can be any other image you choose to mark as featured, whether it shows in the post or not. Again, total control!

For non WordPress folks you can read the Facebook Open Graph implementation instructions here.

Twitter Cards

About a year ago Twitter added something called Twitter Cards that use a mix of OG and Twitter only tags to allow Tweets and RTs to be much richer.

The implementation is pretty straightforward and the documentation pretty useful. Once you’ve set the meta data up on your site or page you do have to get validated and approved for the card types you wish to use. Simply go to the validator and click on the validate and approve tab and put in the URL for blog post. The tool will check for the OG code and allow you to submit. Twitter says it takes 2-4 weeks for approval, but when I submitted it took about 5 minutes. Once again, plugins make this a snap.

Below you can see the difference the addition of the Twitter Card makes both on the Twitter site and in the Twitter app.

 

Google Authorship

I’ve written a lot about Google Authorship because I think it’s a biggie. You’ve probably seen search results like those in the image below. Google allows content producers to link their site and Google+ profile to content they produce. This includes content you write on your site and content you contribute to other sites. Simply add all the sites your contribute to in your Google+ profile to get this additional feature started. (It may takes months to actually start showing up in search, so do it today!)

Not only does this create a more compelling view of your content in search, it allows Google to connect ownership and authority to the content – two good things I think!

Google Authorship
Content from Duct Tape Marketing highlighted by Google Authorship

Google Authorship on Entrepreneur
Here’s content I wrote for Entrepreneur also highlighted by Google Authorship

The Yoast plugin mentioned above handles this one but you must have a Google+ profile to link to and it’s a good idea to signup and validate authorship with Google+

Another nice tool for validating your sharing code on  your site is the KnowEm Social Media Optimizer.

Overachievers might want to also check out the instructions for adding Pinterest specific meta data as well.