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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.

 

7 Ways to Attract Lots of High Quality Links in the Age of Authority

Links back to your site from other sites give Google a potentially important signal – “Hey, I’m a human being and I think this is good stuff.” – that’s something Google can’t do with a spider and even better if the site in question is already known to Google as a trusted source.

Google

photo credit: dolescum via photopin cc

Links have always been important, but in the past it was just about getting lots of them. The “more is more” approach led to gaming and buying and other unnatural types of acts.

There was a time when SEO folks and site owners seemed more concerned about getting links than producing anything worth actually linking to and visiting.

Recent changes in the Google algorithm addressed this aspect of their ranking system in dramatic fashion.

Links still matter, but the emphasis has been placed squarely on the quality and authority of links and not on numbers of links. You could see this coming with every new tweak and pronouncement from Google folks like Matt Cutts.

Link building in the age of authority has more in common with effective networking than some sort of magic SEO art.

Below are eight tactics I’ve employed to effectively build and continue to build high quality, relevant links.

One word of caution – none of these tactics supplant the need to be link worthy and none involve tricks of any kind. You draw high quality, relevant links the same way you develop networking relationships – by focusing on the needs of your link partners and your readers.

1) Snack size influence

One of the best ways to get some very high authority links (and this includes RT’s +1s and Likes from high authority folks as deemed by Google) is to publish quotes, advice and answers from influencers in your industry.

The above statement is pretty obvious of course, but the key to getting said content from influencers is to make it as easy as possible for them to provide it. Ask one question, for example, of a dozen people, publish the answers in a thought-provoking and link to each participant’s site.

Many times this approach can produce a very high quality, or at least interesting, piece of content that others, including your influential guests, may think worthy of linking to and socializing.

 

Here’s an example of this approach that produced multiple high quality links – How I Write and How I Decide What To Write

2) Guest content

I know you’ve heard lots of people talking about guest blogging and with reason – one of the highest quality links you can get is a link back to some page on your site from the body of a blog post on an influential blog. So, get over to Topsy and do a search on your key terms + guest and find yourself some great opportunities to draw links from your guest content

But, don’t forget two other potent variations on this theme – a) Ask others to write a post on your site. You can get some tremendous content and likely as not they will link to that content once it’s published. Here’s a guest post written by my friend Chris Brogan. He linked to this post from his various profiles.

 

b) Interview guests for a podcast – Authors love to do this around new book launches and many influential folks in your industry may want to do the same. Not always, but more often than not, your guest will link to this content. Last week my friend Lee Odden linked to the podcast interview he recently gave for the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

3) Promote an event

Events are another great way to draw links. If you host an in person workshop or even online seminar you can likely attract links by listing your event on local event pages, MeetUp and Eventful.

In some cases you can get some pretty terrific links from the event space – I hosted a free talk at the public library in my community and got some terrific high domain authority links from local media calendars and the library .org link

4) Repackage across mediums

I write lots of blog posts and speak frequently for organizations. Just about every word I write or speak is fair game to be repackaged into eBooks, turned into videos and pitched to media outlets in one form or another.

The net effect is that one piece of content might be a source of link generation in many ways. For example, here’s my library talk from above posted to YouTube.

Organizations love to share free eBooks. Here’s a very high influence link from PRWeb.com to one of my free eBooks.

5) Your partners

Yet another reason to work hard at establishing a formal strategic partner network. Last week I wrote about ways to use content for referrals and many of these ways involved linking opportunities.

In a way this is the updated version of the linking networks that were in vogue before Google slapped them down. The big difference is these should be, by virtue of how you build them, far more natural.

Over the years I’ve acquired links from HP, Dell, Microsoft and Sage Software through partnering efforts.

6) Build something useful

Want to know the easiest, fastest, more productive way to draw tons of links? Create a highly useful free tool and tell people about it. People love to find and share stuff that’s useful and, of course, even better if it’s free.

One of the most linked to pages on my site is for a free press release generator called Instant Press Release that I created years ago. The tool also generates hundreds of newsletter sign up each month even though I never do anything to promote it and you can’t even find it without searching for it.

And I wonder how many millions of people have shared tools like Hubspot’s Marketing Grader?

I know this one might be easier said than done, but this is so powerful it is worth investing in having something built.

7) Real world networks

What organizations do you belong to? What alumni directories publish links? What business groups? What non-profit committees?

These may not seem like great places to get high traffic links, but they can often be terribly industry relevant and carry high authority signals for Google. They still like .org and .edu domains.

Most of the options above require real work, I realize that, but Google has said loud and clear that the days of buying links in farms are over. Keep creating great content, sharing great content, working on building your own authority and networking and links, the kind that won’t ever go out of fashion, will come.

The Future of SEO

Marketing podcast with TopRank’s Lee Odden

photo credit: Simon & His Camera via photopin cc

photo credit: Simon & His Camera via photopin cc

Does it makes sense for companies to invest in SEO as an independent activity? Can you influence search without content and social?

Those are some of the questions I asked Lee Odden, author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing and founder of TopRank Online Marketing for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

I think it’s easy to say SEO is dead. Certainly it’s not practiced the way it once was but does it still have a place as a stand alone marketing practice.

The practical matter is that when you’re in a competitive environment it’s not enough to put up good content. There’s still a need for content and digital assets to align with keywords and that takes intention. Social media participation and authority are increasingly important so as Odden shares in this interview – “you’ve got to be doing it all.”

Content marketing is perhaps the future of SEO right now, but it’s not just content – it’s content marketing. The implication being that the content has a purpose and a specific intent.

Odden’s recent blog post titled – The Truth About Content Marketing and SEO makes this distinction very clear.

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.

 

How to Stay Focused On Producing Your Highest Payoff Content

Today’s post is a direct answer to a question I receive frequently.

Writing optimized content

photo credit: madamepsychosis

First, the question – “I get that I need to produce lots of content but what should I write about?”

And now, the simple answer – “Write about things that your customers and prospects want to know more about.”

It really is that simple. Of course, the challenging part is understanding and staying focused on the most important, otherwise known as highest payoff, topics.

Today it’s not enough to simply write brilliant stuff. Yes, that’s certainly one aspect, but you’ve also got to write brilliant stuff that addresses what your prospects want to know in ways that search engines and searchers alike find relevant.

A little bit of research can go a long way when trying to develop a content strategy based on winning search results for phrases and topics related to what you do.

For this I’ll turn to a primary SEO routine.

Keyword research is a fundamental practice in the search engine optimization and marketing world. It’s how you determine what your pages need to say, it’s how you determine what your competition for important search terms is doing to stay at the top of the rankings and it’s how you determine what search terms and countless variations you want to bid on in your pay-per-click campaigns.

It’s also a great way to develop a body of primary topics for your editorial content calendar.

Below is a routine I’ve used over and over again to help sort out the precise body of topics that will produce the highest payoff in terms of search engine results. (If you want to read my thoughts on how I use these phrases once I discover them check out – The 7 Most Important SEO Factors for Bloggers)

List of 30 – 5 groups

The first thing I do is brainstorm a list of key search terms based on my own analytics, my sent email box and questions that clients routinely ask. I try to produce a list of suspects that reach thirty or so.

Then I try to group them into five or so major themes.

Google Keyword Tool

Next I take this list to a free tool like the Google Keyword Tool or a paid service such as WordTracker.

I run the words or phrases into these tools and quickly start working on revising my brainstorming list based on actual search volume, competition and a host of related phrases that these tools feed me.

Volume and competition prune

I revise my list, sometimes greatly, based on an initial analysis of the amount of search volume and how competitive a search term is and land on a group of phrases somewhere between perfect world and extremely long tail.

The more specific a search phrase is the more valuable it may be in terms of conversion. In other words, someone searching “small business marketing” could be looking for a lot of things, but someone searching “small business marketing growth strategy” might likely be looking for that killer course you’re selling – less volume, more relevance.

Conduct searches

Now I take my revised list that is probably no more than ten phrases, to the Google. I plug each phrase in and note the page one results. (These days it might make sense to do this logged in and out of your Google account as the results can vary greatly.)

I analyze the top results to make sure this is a place I want to land and create a list of what I now call my “competition” for these phrases. I then employ a few competitive research tools, such as the free Open Site Explorer or SEO Toolbar from SEOBook or the paid Raven Tools to learn a great deal about why these sites or pages are ranking well for these terms.

Website content feature

google keyword tools

Using the website feature you can easily learn what search terms Google thinks a page or site is optimized for.

One last step I like to use is to return to Google Keyword tool and use the website content feature that allows you to run a keyword analysis not on a search phrase but on an actual URL.

I do this with many of the competitive sites to learn why Google thinks what they do about this page and drum up more related search term candidates.

From all of this research I can generally come up with a meaty list of topics that I know I need to blog about in a very optimized way. My only task now to is find ways to say some of the same things over and over again in highly interesting ways. I also employ a tool like Scribe in my writing to help keep me laser focused on the content strategy.

This isn’t the only way to do keyword research and I’m sure many of the SEO folks have great strategies and routines for accomplishing what I’ve described here, but this is a way that works for me and helps me naturally balance the need for content with the need for optimization.

The 7 Most Important SEO Factors for Bloggers

Blogging software, such as WordPress, automatically gives your content an advantage when it comes to the “on page” factors that search engines consider important in determining what content to show in search results.

Ranking higher in Google

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

That’s one of the reasons I promote the use of blogging software for every small business site on the planet. Right out of the proverbial box your site stands a better chance of ranking for key terms.

Of course that assumes that are consistently feeding your blog high quality, keyword rich, educational content. (But that’s a story for another day.)

Today I want to focus on the most important SEO factors for bloggers and talk a little about how you can do a few things to modify your blog’s default settings and get even more optimization.

Title

The title is an HTML attribute that does not actually show up on your pages, but is displayed at the top of the browser window. By default, most blogging software makes the title the same as the post title or headline.

This may be one of the most important elements to consider altering. Many times your headline for a post benefits from being catchy or even intriguing to attract readers from Twitter, but that may not make the best title for people searching.

You can change default settings in the code or you can use one of the many SEO plugins designed to give you the flexibility to alter the important the elements I address in this post. I use a plugin from Yoast called WordPress SEO.

With the plugin installed you will see a screen below your post that allows you to change elements such at the title and description.

In most cases I create a much more search engine friendly title, with important search terms, no matter the headline of the post.

SEO factors in blogging

Preview of how this post, with modified settings, might show in search results.

URL

The URL or permalink for each blog post is also something you can alter. The first step is to make sure you are using search friendly URLs. By default WordPress creates database URLs with numbers and such that aren’t search friendly at all. You can create customer URLs by going to settings – permalinks and choosing a custom structure that includes the post name.

Once you do this WordPress will by default create URLs from the headline of your post. You can edit these URLs and in some cases this makes sense. Some blog posts headlines, as I’ve mentioned, don’t make the best URLs, so this is the place to shorten and edit in some keywords for more SEO impact from the blog post URLs – another very important factor.

How to edit URL of blog posts

You can edit the URL in post screen for keywords and length

H1 tag

H tags are used in HTML to show hierarchy for things like heading and subheadings. (They are often used incorrectly by designers for styling as well.) Search engines use these tags as yet another way to make a determination about what’s important on a page so wise use of H tags can help emphasize keywords in the content.

By default your blog post headline is shown in the HTML as an H1 tag. You may also want to style subheadings with H2 or H3 tags (Something that you can easily do with the Visual editor.) Careful use of keywords in these headings and subheading can give your post a boost.

Description

The description is another HTML attribute that does not show up on the page but does show up quite often when your post in featured in search results – it’s the text that describes what the post is about.

If you don’t complete this for your posts the description text will likely be the first few words in the post. This may or may not be a good way to draw someone in to reading your post.

Using the SEO plugin mentioned above I write descriptions that read more like an ad for the post so that someone reading it really wants to dive in and read the entire post.

Adding Alt image tag

You can add a title and alt image description in the Add Media screen

Images

If you use images in your posts, and I believe you should, take the time to complete the title and alternate description fields when you upload an image as search engines can’t see the image so your descriptions in these fields offer another opportunity for keywords related to the post topic.

Also, choose the featured image setting for the image that you want to show when someone retweets or shares your post to Facebook.

Sitemap

Sitemaps are files or pages that as the term suggests map out all the pages on a site. There was a time when these were popular navigation tools but for the most part site maps have become a tool to let search engines easily access content and changes on your site.

The WordPress SEO plugin comes with a sitemap function and there are many others available as well.

Make sure that you also submit your sitemap to the Google and Bing Webmaster Tool Portals.

Speed

This last item isn’t an SEO or on page factor directly, but search engines, not to mention humans, hate sites that load slowly. Google has repeatedly implied that slow loading sites are being penalized in their latest updates.

There are many factors that impact site load speed, including theme issues, caching and plugins. Using a caching plugin such a W3Total Cache has become a pretty standard recommendation.

Another factor is hosting. Larger WordPress sites have big databases and when that’s coupled with lots of traffic a host configured for WordPress is a must. Over the years my site started to drag so I switched to Synthesis hosting recently and coupled with the Genesis Theme framework my site is once again lightning fast.

You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights test to see where you might have issues.

How to Use Press Releases to Create a Steady Social SEO PR Downpour

There was a day when the press release did a lot of the work in generating actual media coverage for a firm announcing a new product, acquisition, award or some other newsworthy milestone.

Yan Arief via Flickr CC

Today a great deal of this kind of news is either delivered directly to audiences through social channels or carried by a PR professional as part of a broader pitch for coverage or advocacy.

The humble press release, however, is not a relic of the past. The press release still performs a very valuable function in the online world that requires the constant care, feeding and gathering of keyword rich content, social signals and links.

Publishing a consistent stream of press releases as a tool to announce and distribute news is a proven lead generation tactic right now.

Below are the five elements required to view and implement this tactic as a systematic process in your overall lead generation plan.

Publish

Commit to publishing at least once a week. You don’t need earth-shattering news to create an announcement of update. Think about things like milestones, new hires, new products, new eBooks, awards, new clients, or new certifications. Focus on things you would like your clients to know about.

Write each release on one page using standard press release format. I’ve created a free press release tool that walks you though the process of writing a press release. It does all the formatting once you fill in the blanks.

Distribute

Once you create a press release you’ll want to get it distributed to various news and media outlets. By using a distribution service you do run some chance of garnering some media coverage, but the primary purpose of this step is online distribution. If you have a local media list you may want to submit your releases to local journalists, Chambers, industry newsletters and even your alumni newsletters.

Below are a number of choices for distribution ranging from free to full service. As you might guess, you get more options when you pay, but you can still get some coverage from free and low cost options. Most small businesses can get by with a Submit Press Release 123 or PRWeb.

Curate

Once you commit to a steady stream of releases you should house them on your website as a newsroom or use a tool like Submit 123 or PRWeb’s newsroom options so you start to build a library of keyword rich news releases, media coverage and related content.

If you use a newsroom service or a content tool like WordPress you can also create an RSS feed for your news stream allowing others to subscribe or republish the content on various pages and sites you own.

Amplify

Make sure that all of your press releases contain ways for people to connect and share in the most common social networks and social bookmarking sites. Use your Twitter, Google+. Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, Reddit and StumbleUpon accounts to amplify each press release.

By posting news to these sites you’ll garner even more readership and links as people republish and share for various reasons.

Analyze

Make sure that you add your newsroom to your Google Analytics or other tracking tool routine. When you do this you can start to test and track various distribution services, produce link reports and monitor which social sites are sending you the best traffic.

This is one of those long-term, slow and steady tactics, but if you commit to it and stick to it, you’ll find the local, social, SEO and traffic benefits to be significant.