In 2001, Grammy award winning rapper and producer, Dr. Dre, announced his return to the hip hop scene…taking his song to #1 after a long period behind the studio glass. He returned to the microphone to record “Forgot About Dre”. The song emphatically announced his reemergence into the spotlight.
What made Dr. Dre so successful in the past was his ability to speak to the needs of his core audience. Upon his return, he continued to provide music that was focused to what his loyal fan base wanted to hear. When looking at SEO campaigns, it’s important to take a note from Dr. Dre and continue to provide high quality content that speaks to the needs of the people who will make or break your business – your customers.
During Dr. Dre’s hiatus from behind the microphone, his fans and fellow competitors forgot about him because he stopped releasing new music. In the same vein, many prospective clients of ours find that their past customers forget about their business. Why? Because they never utilize the touch points below. By taking advantage of the following seven touch points, your business will be much like the legend of Dr. Dre in the music industry – unforgettable.
Your website is often times the introduction to your brand or company offerings. Too often, the website is forgotten and pages that haven’t been relevant in ages continue to be both prominent and live on the site. The website is used in so many ways through:
i. Communicating through product visibility
ii. Being upfront about the offers, your brand
iii. Allowing a customer quick easy access to checkout
A customer-centric web presence is key to the overall success of not only SEO (visibility), but also for the customer experience and loyalty.
2.) Follow up from purchase
a. What happens after your customer makes the purchase? Are there follow up emails sent? Are they entered into a newsletter program to stay current on the latest news/offers?
Keeping involved with your customer is essential to maintain a relationship for future interaction. This can be accomplished through the methods mention above, which can make a huge impact for your business. Not only will it allow the customer to speak highly of your brand and experience, but also keeps you current and relevant while their next purchase decision is underway.
How in touch are you with your customer through online news outlets…they are reading online just like you are. Public relations in and around your community, city or state is a great way to remain current. Press releases can also bring national exposure as well as beneficial link building from an SEO perspective.
Have you ever seen retargeted ads that ‘follow’ your online click paths and online navigations? This is called retargeting in our industry and it provides extreme value in terms of brand awareness and relevant ROI clicks.
Customers can leave your site for a variety of reasons. Distractions, competition, and improper use of your site are just a few. Why not through retargeting, remain with the prospect over a span of 30 days or so, which will prove to be a very effective way for brand distribution.
5.) Paid Search
Exploring the paid search platform is not only a great way to gain quick exposure and traffic, but also allows a great deal of learning as your potential customers respond to the ads. Some ideas to test with paid search include:
i. Keywords and how your demographics respond
ii. Ad groups and the impression/click rates
iii. Landing pages to better conversions (includes call to action that could be tested during the paid search initiative.)
Your blog is not only an SEO powerhouse (still), but your customers in many situations look to read more about and support information your company or brand is involved with. They will often times look for news, product updates, information, etc. Your blog also gives the customer a platform to interact with your brand or products.
More and more, we are seeing a tremendous amount of mobile data from Google Analytics on many online businesses. If your site is not mobile ready, then you are indeed alienating a percentage of your demographics and customers. Creating a mobile ready site is often times quick, and inexpensive, but can make a world of difference for the potential customers shopping experience.
As you can tell, it takes some work to be remembered. After all, it took a Grammy winning song for Dr. Dre to emerge back into the consciousness of the masses. And his competition was just fellow rappers, our clients are up against something that has unmatched credibility on the streets – Google.
How many times have you clicked on a link in a list of search results only to sit there and watch the little circle spin on your browser tab? Like everyone else, you probably hit the back button and proceed to click the next link in the long list of results. The speed of a website is a very important aspect of SEO that gets overlooked far too often. It is important that site owners start to make page load time a priority when optimizing their sites.
But why is site-speed such a big part of SEO, you ask? What if your site was the first link that was clicked in search results like the one mentioned above. But the page didn’t load fast enough and the visitor left your site to try another. You just lost a potential conversion.
Setting high usability standards is a big part of SEO and site speed is an integral part in building a user-friendly website. Unfortunately, users are not very patient and getting your visitors to your pages as quickly as possible is something you should always be working on. The average visitor expects a page to load in 4 seconds or less; if not, most are willing to leave your site for a competitors.
Although usability is the main reason why I try to keep a site fast, a slow website can also affect your rankings as well. Studies have shown that when slower sites rank in search results, people actually use Google less. Not to mention the negative effects a slow site and server can have on your crawl rate as well.
What Slows Down Your Site?
There can be many contributing factors to a slow, bogged-down website. Anything from the type of hosting service you choose to the amount of code in your sites files. Below is a list of the major reasons why your site may be bogged down:
Large Images – Images that are too large or take too long to download is probably one of the biggest problems with site speed. Before inserting images into a webpage, they must first be resized and compressed to ensure a faster download time.
Server/Hosting Issues – The type of hosting and server your site is on can cause many issues. Shared servers can be fast at times and really slow at other times and in some cases a hosting/server package may not be adequate enough to handle a specific CMS you may be using for your site.
Too Many Ads – Ads are a great way to earn some extra cash but is it worth losing visitors because you’re site isn’t loading fast enough? If you have several ads on your site, try removing a couple and you will probably see instant results.
Uncompressed Text Files – Compressing text files on your server reduces the amount of bytes sent over the network and can really save on bandwidth use.
How to Test the Speed of Your Site
There are many great and free tools available for anyone to use to get a good look how fast a site really is and what may be slowing it down as well. Below are a couple of my favorites. And because all of them give slightly different reports, it is a good idea to run your site on all of them to see what problems one picked up that the others may have missed.
Google PageSpeed Insights – This one is my personal favorite. To use this tool, all you have to do is enter your URL into the field and click Analyze and in a few seconds you have a list of items that are slowing down your site organized in High, Medium and Low priority. You can even go further by clicking each item to find out how to fix each issue.
YSlow – This is another great tool that can be used to analyze the speed of your site. This one works a lot like a browser extension or add-on. Once installed you can run an analysis on any site you are currently on. After a few seconds of analysis, you will receive a letter grade for all elements pertaining to site speed and suggestions on how to fix them as well. But one thing that YSlow offers that PageSpeed does not is the use of some tools such as Smushit to achieve your optimization tasks.
Press releases can be great tools for promoting your company, but in order to reap their benefits you need to make sure that you’re writing your release the right way. Writing a press release can be tricky because you’re trying to find the right balance between news and advertising. But if you follow these tips you’ll be able to write an engaging release that promotes your company and has news value.
Pick An Interesting Topic
Press releases are designed to get the press excited about something that’s going on with your business, and if you want your release to be noticed by reporters you need to base it on a topic someone would find interesting. This can be difficult for some people because they already see the inherent value about what they’re pitching in their press release. When you pick a topic for your press release, ask yourself these three questions:
- “What is interesting about this topic?”
- “Why would a reporter want to write a story about my topic?”
- “Will anyone outside of my business/company care about this topic?”
If you can confidently answer each of the three questions, you’ve found a good press release topic!
Get to the Point
I did an internship at a newspaper when I first graduated college, and the reporters there would receive dozens of press releases every day. How would the reporters sort through all of the press releases they received you ask? It was simple. They would literally delete any press release that didn’t clearly explain the point of the release in the first few sentences. Reporters are very busy people. If they can’t figure out the topic of a press release in the first five seconds of reading it, they won’t even consider covering it for a news story. The first few sentences of your press release should clearly state every important point you want to make, so save all of your quotes and statistics for the body.
Inform, Don’t Promote
This is the biggest mistake people make when they write a press release. A press release shouldn’t be a sales flyer, it needs to be saying something newsworthy or attention grabbing about your company. In order to better understand this concept, take a look at these two samples:
Release A: Houston Cycling is having a 25% off sale on bike chains for the month of May. Houston Cycling provides their customers with high quality cycling supplies at a low price. They have some of the best cycling supplies in Houston, and their products are guaranteed to last long and keep you satisfied for years.
Release B: Houston Cycling is having a 25% off sale on bike chains for May. Houston Cycling provides the greater Houston region with biking supplies and equipment, and they have a wide variety of bike chains and other professional cycling equipment available.
Release A and release B both mention the merchandise the store sells, but release A sounds more like a sales pitch than a press release. Don’t focus on promoting your business in release, focus on promoting the topic of your release. If you keep that concept in mind writing your release will be much easier.
Back in 1997 I was a webmaster for a site that incorporated businesses in Delaware. In those days, promoting a site meant finding ways to deliver traffic to its pages, and building relationships with other site owners and businesses. PageRank was unheard of at the time, and the idea of anchor text being used as a relevance signal for web pages wasn’t anything we were concerned with at all.
Being included in directories was one way of being found, and finding complimentary businesses who we might share referrals with was a great way to cross promote a site, as long as you felt you could trust your visitors with the owners of that other site. We didn’t have social media sites like Twitter or Facebook or Google Plus, but the internet had been a pretty social place even before the Web came about, with newsgroups and Bulletin Board Services (BBS) providing a way for people to meet and interact. Forums provided similar chances to be social in the 90s.
I remember adding a link to a Polish Classified Ads site – written in both English and Polish. Honestly, I didn’t expect any response at all from it. I had found it, and it looked like people might be using it, but would there actually be any interest from people in the region in creating Delaware corporations. If I judged it by the standards of a world pre-occupied with SEO, I probably would have passed.
It didn’t leave me a chance to provide a live link so it wouldn’t have passed along any PageRank or anchor text relevance.
The audience was business people, but it wasn’t topically inclined towards people creating new businesses. I created a classified with address and phone number (the owner of the site liked talking to people on the phone rather than responding to inquiries by email), and left it there, and didn’t think about it again.
We started getting phone calls from Eastern Europe. Not a lot of calls, but they were interesting. Financial services companies from countries that were little known in the United States were working with clients that wanted to ship goods across the world, and wanted to incorporate each voyage, to limit their liability from other journeys.
The little classified advertisement I left on the Polish site lead to enough business to sustain the incorporation company for its first few years of business, all for the sake of getting cargo containers filled with commodities like olive oil from one side of the Atlantic to the other.
I recalled that link, the phone calls in response, and the business that it lead to because it reminded me of a time when the Web was more social.
Regardless of the lack of sites like Twitter, we built pages to answer questions, to offer goods and services, and to provide information to people. We weren’t concerned about how highly a site might rank in search results, or even what search results were. I think sometimes sites today forget about that social element of the Web, and worry more about where they might rank for some main terms, and how much traffic their products and part numbers might draw through web searches.
Social isn’t just about including sharing buttons and profile buttons on your pages to Twitter and Facebook and Google Plus, though those are a good start these days. Make it as easy as possible for people to find your profiles on those sites, and for them to share something you’ve written. Social isn’t just about making sure that you use avatars and images and backgrounds on social sites and profiles, though that can help as well.
Social is about what you contribute to social sites and how you interact with others.
Social is about building relationships with others, and taking the time to meet people, to talk with them, to find common interests and objectives.
Social networking sites are channels that enable to you find others, to educate and be educated, to influence, and to be influenced. There should be a thrill of discovery when you log into Twitter, and have a chance to learn something new.
Social media isn’t a broadcast channel where you blast out offers to others, and tweet and retweet things you think “your” audience might be interested in.
The “social” in social media and social networking is the most important part of being involved.
When I put the classified out there on the Polish website all those years ago, I was inviting conversations with others who might be interested in what we offered. It was a first step, and the phone number I provided was to someone who loved to talk, to educate, and to learn about others, and how they could work together. Being listed there in terms of today’s SEO might have revealed it to have very little value, but in social terms, it was the right place to be listed at the right time by people who needed the service offered.
Social Signals Today
Social media is being incorporated into both Google and Bing these days with social annotations appearing in searches from both. When you’re signed into Google and perform a search, it’s quite possible that you may see relevant results that appear because someone you’re connected to might have shared something from a site or endorsed it. When you perform searches at Bing, you may see similar results with annotations from people you’re connected to, that wouldn’t have appeared in those results (even though they are relevant) without those connections being made.
If you run a business and have a website, one of the reasons to get involved in Facebook and Twitter and Google Plus is to connect with people on those sites that might be interested in what you offer, and in what interests you may have.
Social networks enable you to reach out across your neighborhood and across the globe to find people who share common interests with you.
A lot of people are writing about Google Authorship Markup these days, and how Google might introduce Agent Rank, or an author rank, that might influence organic search results even when someone isn’t logged into a Google Account. Google hasn’t explicitly provided us with details on how they might rank such results, but there are a lot of hints that have come out via patent filings and white papers and even interviews that people have held with representatives from Google.
In January, I wrote a post titled, What’s Your Google Viral Score? about a patent from Google that describes how Google might come up with a viral score, or “content propagation likelihood” score that attempts to estimate how information might be spread by someone within social networks based upon activity such as sharing, responding to comments and threads, endorsing content, liking pages and profiles, and so on. Such a score might attract advertisers to choose a particular member of a social network to share something with them.
Signals Involving Activity and Influence
In 2010, Google published a whitepaper titled AdHeat: An Inﬂuence-based Diffusion Model for Propagating Hints to Match Ads (pdf), to be presented at the WWW 2010 Conference held in Raleigh, North Carolina (and it was a Best Paper Nominee at the Conference). Yesterday, Google published a patent application based upon the paper which provides some additional details about how an advertising system like the Adheat system might be set up on a social network such as Google Plus. The patent is:
AdHeat Advertisement Model for Social Network
Invented by Dong Zhang and Edward Y. Chang
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent Application 20130103503
Published April 25, 2013
Filed: September 14, 2012
In one implementation, a computer-implemented method includes receiving at a server information indicating activity levels of users of a computer-implemented social network or acquaintance relationships of the users on the computer-implemented social network. The method further includes generating by the server influence scores for the users based on the received information.
The method also includes recursively propagating by the server an ad through the computer-implemented social network between users having an acquaintance relationship by transmitting the ad from a propagating user to a recipient user when a difference between a first influence score of the propagating user and a second influence score of the recipient user is greater than a threshold.
According to the paper on Adheat, this advertising method was tested on Google’s Q&A websites throughout the world. Google doesn’t have a Q&A site in the United States, but they do in many other countries across the Globe. Those sites are very social in nature, and participants’ reputations and results are ranked on the basis of a user rank that looks at both contributions and interactions they make to the sites.
One of the interesting things about this user rank is that it would translate over very well to Google Plus, and a system like Agent Rank, which could potentially be used to help rank web search results based upon user activities with the social network.
We don’t know if Google will ever run advertising on Google Plus, and it’s possible that they might not, but that they might look at Google Plus activity for people, and use that information to show people ads in Google search results and on pages that carry Google sponsored results.
At the heart of such an advertising method is how people might be decided upon by advertisers to show ads to, and how those ads might be spread to others as well:
In some instances, a method and system is described by which an advertiser can target ads to users of a social network according to a user’s interests and influence on the social network. An opportunity to display an ad to an influential user with interests relevant to the ad may be more valuable to an advertiser than an opportunity to display an ad to a non-influential user with unrelated interests (or even a non-influential user with related interests). A user’s influence on a social network may be determined by looking at the user’s level of activity and/or acquaintance relationships on the social network. An advertiser may receive a ranked list of anonymous users according to user interest and influence. A bidding mechanism may be used to accommodate multiple advertisers seeking to obtain the opportunity to display ads to a finite number of relevant, influential users on a social network.
In some instances, once an opportunity to display an ad to a specific anonymous user has been awarded to an advertiser, an ad from the advertiser may be propagated from the user to the user’s friends using a heat diffusion model. For instance, a user’s influence on the social network can be represented as a heat intensity or a heat score, where users with more influence have a higher heat score. Propagation between users can then be modeled using a heat diffusion model. For example, an ad may spread (propagate) between two connected users as long as the user targeted with the ad has greater “heat” than the user yet to be targeted. This may result in ads propagating throughout the social network from more influential users to less influential users. One advantage that may be gained from the described method is the ability of advertisers to maximize advertising efficiency by propagating ads from influential users to influenced users.
The patent filing and the paper on Adheat do provide more information on how social activities and interactions might influence the spread of advertisements based upon user interests and user influence. They also provide hints at how Google might be viewing participants in a social network such as Google Plus. These can include who you interact with, what topics do you write about and respond to, how you interact with others, who shares the content that you create and share and respond to.
Google Plus cares little about a link graph, and more about an interest graph that is uncovered based upon the topics that you are involved within, a social graph that identifies who you interact with and whom you might influence and be influenced by. That’s not to say that profile and post pages in Google Plus don’t accumulate PageRank and might show up in search results themselves. They are pages that can be ranked that way like other indexable pages on the Web. But that’s just a small part of the picture.
We’ve been told by representives from Google that Google Authorship and social signals will likely become part of how pages are ranked on the Web at some point in the future, and it’s something that the search engine is experimenting with.
As my story at the beginning of this post illustrates though, social activity can lead to good things regardless of whether a search engine is working upon how to incorporate those signals into search results.
Make it easy for people to interact with you and your website through social sites and profile buttons and social sharing buttons and get on those social sites and actually interact with people in meaningful ways. It can lead to positive results regardless of how it might be incorporated into search engine rankings in the future.
Managing your brand on the Web is critical and even the strategies you employ to market your organization can influence your consumers. The evolution of SEO has made quality a priority and has also greatly reduced the success rate of “black hat” search engine optimization campaigns.
Why has Google cracked down on unethical tactics? While there are several definitive (and largely correct) answers to this question, the primary reason is often cited to be disruption of the user experience. Often times, strategies such as keyword stuffing or spun articles are an eyesore to users (and potential consumers) that may be looking for relevant and useful information.
Today, these not only impact rankings, but they can also lead to negative reviews and complaints from disappointed readers.
Online marketing firms such as WebiMax have weathered the Panda and Penguin updates and emphasize quality and originality when developing content. By applying our knowledge and philosophies to our client’s campaigns, we have avoided complaints related to low-quality content or other black hat tactics.
It is essential for every business to understand the importance of quality within digital marketing and that “cutting corners” can lead to serious reputation concerns. Designing an SEO campaign with a strong focus on proven “best practices” will help to protect your brand from damaging user-generated content and diminished revenue.
What are your thoughts on White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO? Give us your feedback in the comments below or send your Tweets to @WebiMax!
Let me ask you a question: How long would you read this blog post if it was written in one sentence – just a sprawling maze of stream of consciousness, statistics, industry jargon and analysis that led nowhere and had no real clear message or idea of whom the author was writing for? And even worse, there were no pictures!
I’m assuming not very far, so don’t worry, I’m not going to do that to you. However, in relation to that question, I will discuss one of the biggest issues I find when reviewing sites, both professionally and on my free time: disastrous web copy. Web copy can quickly welcome or deter potential customers, so it’s important to take your content seriously and invest your time and money in producing the best content available.
You might already be asking, what does good content even mean? To examine this question, it’s often advantageous to look to the past experts – for the purposes of this blog, I’ll use George Orwell. Although George Orwell never saw a computer or surfed the web, he knew how to effectively convey his message and deliver a good story to the reader. Besides his numerous novels and news features, Orwell’s greatest contribution to writing might be his essay for writers, “Politics and the English Language.”
In this, Orwell offers five rules that can certainly can and should apply to your own web writing. Let’s take a look at the original rules and then modernize them to make them relevant to your business or organization’s content.
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print: When Orwell wrote this, he was referring to dead metaphors, metaphors with meanings that differ from original intent. Writing with dead metaphors could confuse the reader who doesn’t have knowledge of the intended meaning of the metaphor. In regard to web copy, make sure to use examples and allusions that are universally known, so the correct message is conveyed to the reader.
- Never use a long word when a short one will do: Knowing seven syllable words is great for the SATs and dinner parties, but it will do you little good in regard to web copy. The general rule of thumb is to write web copy at an eighth grade level. While the actual sophistication of the diction used will depend on the target audience and industry served, you should try and make your copy understandable to the general public.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out: A long piece of copy can be intimidating to a visitor of your page. Remember your consternation when I posed that question about writing this entire blog post in one sentence? While you do want enough content on the page for search engines to crawl your site, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader with content, so they’re exhausted. Format matters here too. Using shorter sentences, lists instead of paragraphs and playing around with bolding and fonts can make your content more approachable.
- Never use the passive when you can use the active: Passive voice often sounds awkward to the reader. When describing your products, philosophy and anything else related to your business or organization, try to structure it in a way that sounds sensible and correct to the reader. Not sure how to do this yourself? Read it out loud. If you’re reading your own writing or copy that you commissioned from a professional SEO and you’re stumbling a lot or need to backtrack, something is wrong.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent: This fits in line with the second rule. For example, let’s say you have a home improvement e-commerce website. If your copy is inundated with technical terms and construction industry jargon, you might confuse or intimidate some visitors who are unfamiliar with the terms. While not always possible, if you can simplify your web copy, do so to attract a larger audience.
Of course, George Orwell follows this up with a sixth rule that says these rules can be broken to avoid bad writing, but these rules go to show that good writing is good writing at any age. Use Orwell’s rules in your own web copy or hire those who know how to get the correct message and branding you want for your business or organization.