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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!

Customer Reviews the Hidden Local SEO Gem

Free ebook – Marketer’s Guide to Customer Reviews

Content, content, content – that’s the message that marketers have been sending over the last few years and with good reason – customers expect to find it and search engines look to serve the best of it up.

Social media participation has certainly made its way onto the SEO road map as an integral element of the optimization puzzle as well.

The area in my view that doesn’t get enough talk however is reviews – particularly when it comes to local businesses.

Reviews are one of the more important ranking factors for local businesses because they are a) content (customer generated no less, even better!), b) often social and c) a trust and authority signal for both search engines and readers alike.

Customer reviewsLike most things SEO related, people have tried to game the review system, but also like most things related to SEO, there’s a perfectly natural way to build links, reviews and authority.

I teamed up with the folks at Grade.us to bring you The Marketer’s Guide to Customer Reviews – a free eBook that teaches you how to turn How to turn Google+, Yelp and other review sites into a new marketing channel.

Download the free ebook here

Grade.us is also a great tool for automating the review generation process and making it as easy as possible to add this source of content and SEO to the mix. You can see a Duct Tape Marketing review page in action here.

How to Make Your Time on Google+ Pay

So far Google+ has taken a back seat to other networks, such as Facebook, with all but the most Internet enthused and those in tech related fields. But, I believe Google+ holds some hidden opportunities precisely for this reason.

Google+

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

The key to making Google+ pay is to think about it as a way to make deeper connections in your key constituent groups – customers, suppliers, partners and industry influencers.

There’s no need to think in terms of building the largest network here – think instead of building a strategically broad and deep network where it counts. Create circle that contain the obvious suspects – customers and such, but focus on their connections, who they know, as a way to grow your relationships and network.

Then you can start searching for active Google+ Communities to participate in. Not all communities are active or valuable so you may have to look to find relevant ones worth your attention.

Below are four Google+ practices that will make your time spent there profitable.

Link your authorship – As outlined in this post on Google Authorship, linking the content you publish on the web with your Google+ profile may indeed be the best reason of all to participate on Google+. Don’t pass go until you do this! Think about the opportunity for social proof when a prospect goes out there searching for a solution and finds your content, with your picture and your Google+ profile on page one of the search results.

Create smart circles – Google+ is naturally built around custom groups and for obvious reasons you should start with your customers as your first what Google calls “circle.” Here again, think network and networking by exploring whom your customer interact with most if they are active on Google+. This can also be a great way to find new connections and new content to share on other platforms as people that are active on Google+ oftentimes are less so in other networks. Make sure to share and +1 on their content as well as Google is paying close attention to the interaction on Google+ when it comes to a more complete view of search.

Dig for communities worth joining – Google+ has a group tool of sorts called “communities.” Anyone can create and moderate a community and some are very active. Look for communities related to your industry and join a few that seem to have a fair amount of engagement. Communities work best when there’s an active moderation role stirring the pot and asking for input. Many communities are little more than abandoned spam parking lots so take a good look before jumping in.

Get good at Hangouts – I’ve talked about Google+ Hangouts previously, but I can’t say enough about the current opportunity to stand out from the crowd using Hangouts. This is essentially group video chat with all the bells and whistles to turn it into a very low budget TV station for you. The ability to live stream as well as record your Hangouts opens up so many content possibilities. And did I mention it’s Google? Think these Hangout archives won’t rank very well in search?

If you’ve stayed away from Google+ because it’s not today’s most hyped network, then I suggest you think about it differently and use it in a way that allows you to get the most from your time spent there.

In a Time When Authors Rule the Web

About a year and a half ago I warned bloggers and content creators to take author markup and authority and Google+ seriously.

Google was making under the hood noise about attaching authority to content published by individuals based on a variety of factors.

I advised bloggers to follow Google’s instruction to link their blog posts and about us pages to their Google+ profile in order that Google might start enhancing search results with goodies like profile pictures as below.

Here’s a tutorial on how to get author markup added using one of my favorite plugins.

And in this tutorial Brian Gardner explains how to add author markeup in the Genesis framework (the theme used on this site.)

By asking authors to add the attribute rel=”author” to their content Google was creating a way to beat spammers and duplicate content to a degree by attaching the real author to the original content.

author authority

Google adds images and social data taken from Google+ to search results with author markup

Now I ask you – when doing a search, which result are you drawn to – the first one or the one with a friendly looking, smiley guy next to it?

This fact alone makes taking the time to add the required elements a no-brainer.

More recently Google has admitted that they are testing author authority in a much bigger way and actually choosing content to index based on this ranking.

Author authority is, like most things Google, a bit of a mystery, but you can bet that content that is found, shared and +1’d in Google+ is helping an author’s authority. This dollop  of search fairy dust is why you cannot ignore Google+ or rel=author attributes.

If that weren’t enough Google is also allowing you to tell them where you contribute content. Think about that one for a bit. Now that brilliant post you submitted to Mashable, Huff Post or Social Media Examiner is going add to your author authority in some meaningful way perhaps.

contribue

Edit your Google+ profile with sites you contribute to

By creating an authority ranking of sorts Google is creating another way to beat link spam and assign authority and importance to all manner of things left about the web such as comments, Quora answers, and Retweets.

So now we have an entirely new networking landscape. Instead of simply networking for links, we’ll have to get good at identifying and networking for author authority.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself – first things first, it’s time to go to work on your own author authority.

  1. Get your content linked to your Google+ profile
  2. Optimize your Google+ profile with links to your articles
  3. Get to work creating and sharing great content
  4. Build your Google+ engagement and following
  5. Hmm, I wonder if a Wikipedia page would help?
  6. Make a list of potential sites/publications to submit guest posts

You can also start the process of signing up for Google Authorship here.

Plenty of authors and SEO types are covering this top these days and you would do yourself a favor to start your research with these two pieces from Copyblogger. Brian Clark on why you need to get on Google+ and 64 Google+ Content Strategies.

Google Moves Local Businesses to Google Plus With Brute Force

In a move that I predicted from the very beginning, Google has finally scrapped the Google Places offering and rolled all Places profiles into what they are calling Google+ Local.

Google+ Local offering

Now, you could argue, and some will, that forcing local business owners on to Google+ is yet another sign that Google is putting way too much emphasis on their desire to become relevant in social media, but the fact is, it’s still very much Google’s world that we playing in.

The most frustrating aspect of this in my opinion is that it took so long. I’m guessing a lot of local business owners jumped in and built brand pages, so now what?

If you’ve created a Google Place page, as I’ve been advising as part of any local search plan, then you may already be aware that Google has moved your page onto Google+.

If you’ve got a Google+ account you can find your page through either local search or through the Local button that now appears on the left sidebar when logged into Google+.

If you don’t have a Google+ account, well, I guess you’ll get one now if you still want to play with Google.

Google has already flipped the switch and is showing these new Google+ Local pages when you conduct local searches in Google and on Google Maps. While you can still gain access to and edit your Places profile pages through the Places login, my guess is that will give way to Google+ profile editing at some point.

Here are some things to note:

Clean up your profile.

Now is the time to clean up your profile

When Google moved the pages to Google+ it made a mess. A bit like moving anything does, I suppose. Go jump in and choose and edit your profile image and banner image. Right now Google is either picking from photos you uploaded or simply using a map.

You might want to add some things to your profile as some of the customization you may have done previously could be lost. Add links to your page.

Check out the reviews

Google purchased the restaurant rating service Zagat a while back and it appears they intend to inject the Zagat ratings system into the entire review process.

Visitors now have the opportunity to rate your business using a point scale. Not sure how this will translate over into the services of a plumber or insurance agency, but it’s certainly worth noting.

Reviews that came over from your previous page are very messy now. You, as the page owners, have a period of time to clean this up. When you first sign into Google+ and find your page you’ll be able to tell Google+ if you want all your photos and reviews from your Places page to be moved and be attributed to you or remain private.

So, now any reviews that you had previously will simply show up as anonymous Google user. Seems like if you really didn’t have much going in the way of reviews, this is a bit of a do over.

It will be interesting to see how much more emphasis Google puts on reviews.

Here’s the bottom line in my view. No mater how you feel about this rather forceful move, Google looks poised to make it a significant part of the Local Search landscape and you can’t ignore that. My guess is there will be plenty of tinkering, adding and tweaking in the weeks and months to come. You can bet advertising and offers will move into this somehow.

Now is the time to get in there and claim, prune, decorate and otherwise take control of your Google+ Local offering.

Free Copy of What the Plus Book and Interview with Guy Kawasaki

Marketing podcast with Guy Kawasaki (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Update: Guy offered 500 free copies of his book What The Plus and they were snapped up in a matter of hours. We’ve added another 1,000 so grab your free copy of What The Plus and pass the word. (Update No. 2 – the additional 1,000 have now been given away – thanks again Guy.)

Depending upon who you listen to, Google+ is either the Holy Grail of social networks or another passing fade, but make no mistake, Google is Google and Google thinks this is important. So, even if you’re still waiting for some sort of critical mass from your industry to join Google+, you can’t ignore the fact that Google is starting to weight its search engine results with content from Google+.

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visit with one of Google+’s biggest evangelists and power user, Guy Kawasaki. Guy has written a very down to earth book on using Google+ called What the Plus-Google+ for the Rest of Us (Read on to see how to get a free copy of Guy’s book)

What I really like about Guy’s book is that it is filled with tons of very practical little tips gleaned from using the network on a daily basis. Beginners and more advanced users alike will get plenty from reading this book.

For example, I picked up a much better way to use Google Hangouts and a totally clever way to run your own polls on Google+.

Guy is selling fully functioning Kindle, eReader and Google Play versions for $2.99, but you can download a free PDF copy of What the Plus courtesy of Guy here. (8.5 mg PDF file limited to the first 500 downloads – expires April 23, 2012)

How to Run an Engaging Poll on Google Plus

Quick tip for Google+ users to start off your week. I got this from Guy Kawasaki, who said he got it from someone else, so I’m not sure who gets ultimate credit. Look for my full interview with Guy this week as we talk about his new book – What the Plus – I’ll also have free copies for my reader.

Running polls and asking your followers questions are proven ways to increase engagement and turn up some handy research. Currently, there is no 3rd Party app that makes this an easy task on Google+, but with a little ingenuity, you can create very engaging polls.

Using comments to create a poll on Google+

You start by creating a question and then creating the answers as comments. Once you create all the comments/answers you want you simply turn off comments so no one can to the answers and instruct readers to +1 the answer they want to choose.

Google Search Plus Is Shaking Things Up a Bit

This week Google realigned it’s search results to officially add a feature that many had witnessed leaking into search results

The new functionality is potentially as important as the switch to Universal Search a few years ago. (I say potentially because Google seems to have a knack for live testing.)

The feature is something called Google Search Plus Your World – doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but most are simply calling it Search Plus.

The idea is that Google is going to give you the option to search with results focused primarily on those in your social circles. Currently, this has heavy focus on Google+ as Facebook and Twitter don’t seem interested in helping Google paint a bigger picture at the moment.

The functionality is switched on and off with a little selector that shows up in the right hand corner of your browser window when you are logged into your Google account. (Oddly, the feature shows up in Chrome and Safari, but not in Firefox for me at the moment.)

The results are sort of fascinating at the moment as it’s fun to see some of this data organized in this manner. Time will tell whether or not this is a killer feature, but there are some things to like and certainly some things to note.

The rel=author attribute is more important than ever. I wrote about adding rel=author a while back but it seems it’s in full swing now. I am seeing search results for generic, but important search terms produce my homepage with my photo next to the results making it stand out even more. (For the time being it appears you can use the attribute on any page you author and eventually create this result – NB: for the time being, we’ll see how sorts out.) See the images below.

Page one results for search term - small business marketing

Page one results for search term - Pinterest for business

Notice my image to the left of the results from my site and the “more from John Jantsch” link embedded in the results. This came about through Google’s author highlighting that ties the rel=author attribute on all my pages to my Google+ profile and it’s hard not to think that highlighting makes that result stand out on the page. (Note: these searches were conducted while signed out of my Google account.)

Google is going to force you to like Google+ – okay that may be a bit strong but right now there is very strong evidence that playing in Google+ will benefit you when it comes to showing in Search Plus. It’s do in part to the vast amount of content that Google has total access to there and I’m sure it will settle down some or Google will damage its search integrity, but for now the connection is pretty blatant. See the image below.

Page one results for search term marketing - with Search Plus on

Go read up on the rel=author attribute and go listen to my interview with Google+ maestro Chris Brogan and you’ll be off and running in the Search Plus game.