It’s impossible to read the latest news in our industry without noticing the tone of immediate concern that so many others have. Ever since the more recent Panda updates started taking a significant toll on SERPs linked with popular trending keywords, everyone has been pointing at Google and blaming the company for the increasingly poor performance of their websites. Add to this the shakeup with Penguin and company’s ongoing silence regarding its algorithm and it’s easy to see why so many well-known voices in the SEO community are up in arms.

When the Penguin update first hit a few months back, Google was quite forward with the reasons for why we saw the rankings drop. Citing duplicate content and heavy anchor text usage as prime elements of sites that were trying to game the system, the company came under fire by many webmasters who themselves were using these disingenuous tactics. It also certainly didn’t help that the initial version of the algorithm hit several well-to-do sites and messed up their rankings for a brief stint as well. Nearly everyone in our industry was up in arms and panic was rampant.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom. Months after the most significant updates, thousands of link-farming directories and sites fraught with black hat SEO tactics have finally been dropped from Google’s SERPs. While not every exploitative page has disappeared from the page one results, most keyword searches now return results that have achieved their position due to smart design and ethical SEM campaigning.

Tried and True Tactics with the Best Impact

At the end of the day, it’s those SEO companies that have used and continue to rely upon transparent marketing techniques and natural linkbuilding practices that have fared the best since the Google’s updates began rolling out in full force. Google-friendly site optimization, social media campaigning, and original and interesting content generation are all methods through which the most notable online marketers are getting their clients onto the top of the SERPs these days.

Although search engine users continue to see mainstay sites like Wikipedia appear in the top 5 spots of their queries, many non-brand specific search terms have now become easier to lock down as trending keywords for clients’ brand. And, surprisingly enough, it’s Google’s Panda and Penguin updates that we have to thank for these SEO opportunities. While the constant search algorithm revisions certainly have made all our lives a little more complicated, these new challenges are being made in the name of better content for users. And that’s something we can all get behind.

While it’s important to hire an SEO company that’s committed to working for you, since the release of Google’s new algorithm, Penguin, it’s crucial more than ever that you select an SEO company that is following organic SEO practices.

Since the webspam algorithm launched, businesses should be cautious that the SEO company they choose doesn’t perform black hat techniques as this will result in a penalty from Google. Sites that are penalized will be removed from Google’s index, thus becoming invisible to search engines.

No business wants to invest money, time and trust into an SEO company only for their business to be ruined. Receiving a penalty from Google not only results in your site being removed from Google’s index but will significantly hurt your business’s reputation.

The best way to avoid receiving a penalty from Google is to hire a quality SEO company that isn’t going to cheat the search system. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when searching for an SEO company that’s committed towards working for you and won’t leave your business damaged:

Company background
You can start by researching the background of the company. Learn about when the company started, their mission and philosophy, how many clients they’ve worked for, the types of campaigns they perform, their achievements and awards, and the management team. You can do this by checking out the company website and researching the company on search engines. This will help you get a feel for SEO the company.

What do you want to achieve?
When you turn to an SEO company to work for you, of course they will jump at the opportunity to gain a new client. But, don’t let their words alone lure you in. You should determine ahead of time what you want to achieve. Think about your objectives and what you want to gain from the SEO company. Whether you’re looking to increase traffic to your site or want your website appear higher in the SERPs, you should have an objective.

What’s their take on what you’re looking for?
After you discuss your objective, let the SEO company impress you with their knowledge of SEO and what measures or tactics they believe should or shouldn’t be used to help you reach your results. A company that’s truly dedicated towards helping you won’t just give you what you want, but what you need. They will explain to you the best practices and best approach to help you achieve what you’re aiming to reach.

What strategies do they follow?
While the SEO company may not be able to give you a nail on the head explanation of how they would approach your campaign, you can ask them about their common strategies and tactics. You should ask about the keyword selection process, how they measure competition, how content is created onsite and offsite, how backlinks are formed, and every strategy they’d follow in an SEO campaign.

Also, this is the perfect opportunity to discuss the Penguin update. Ask them what they know of the Penguin update and how their company avoided being affected by the new algorithm. The more knowledge they have of the Penguin update and of Google’s algorithms is clearly a good sign.

Do they know the latest in SEO and have an obsession for analytical data?
The SEO company you choose should know the latest tactics in SEO and what work must be performed in order to help a site rank well. They should understand your target market, know how to reach your market, have a creative side to attract online audiences and know how to switch up an SEO strategy quickly if the current strategy isn’t yielding the results you’re looking for.

Also, the company should be literally obsessed with analytic data and measuring your campaign progress. You should be able to turn to them whenever and ask them of your progress and current rankings. Staying up-to-date with the latest in SEO should essentially be a lifestyle for an SEO company.

Do they communicate regularly?
You want a company that communicates with you regularly and informs you of your campaign progress.  While the company may be working to service you, this is your company’s reputation on the line. Also, don’t be hesitant to question the steps they take or ask them to explain something. SEO companies understand that business owners aren’t SEO experts.

So, while you’re on the search for an SEO company to work for you, keep these guidelines in mind and help your business succeed.

The old adage of “a picture’s worth a thousand words” is an all-encompassing one in today’s 21st century society. As the internet has become the primary form of communication for millions of people the world over, businesses often emphasize the importance of their media assets. While print magazines and newspapers struggle to maintain their relevance with a digitally-focused generation of media consumers, online organizations and companies are able to capture the attention of countless users effortlessly using only a handful of eye-catching photos or entertaining video clips.

In an age where a single social network update can steal the spotlight from one’s competitors, media resources are being used increasingly frequently by online marketing firms. From SEO agencies to PPC companies and various internet advertisers, everyone has caught wind of how valuable eye-catching images can be. It’s also something that small business owners and companies hailing from every industry should be taking note of.

Capturing the Media that People Want
Many company owners have no doubt recognized the power of imagery in marketing, but don’t have a clear cut idea of how to go about getting their media. Sure, stunning images and interesting videos can be powerful motivators for getting social media users to click through links, but obtaining these resources can be a challenge in and of itself. This task is made even more difficult when one needs to consider what elements make up the media that users want. As such, business owners will want to look towards the following venues for good content.

Image Databases: High Quality Media Content Made Easy
Sites such as Shutterstock offer access to tens of thousands of royalty-free images for a monthly fee. These photos come in a variety of sizes and are taken by professional photographers. Many budding businesses turn to image database services when trying to find relevant photos for their websites. The one downside of this is that some images on Shutterstock are so widespread that savvy users may recognize a common shot as being a stock photo. This can potentially reduce the impact of content from the site.

Hire a Photographer: Original Content with a Professional Eye
It is always recommended that small business owners either hire a photographer or purchase a high-end camera for capturing images of their company. Quality images and video of a business’ staff, locations and sponsored events are incredibly valuable for a number of reasons. For one, these photos can be implemented into a business’ official website as well as its Google Places or Bing Local listing for a more robust user experience. Also, unique original content can also be shared on social networks as a way to interact with followers and regular customers.

By building up a collection of quality media assets, a business can provide itself with visual elements that will prove useful in its marketing and social media efforts. For additional advice about quality content generation, I can be reached at jwersits@webimax.com.

SEO companies and CSRBusinesses across industries have become more interested in corporate social responsibility (CSR) over the past decade than in any time previously. What constitutes CSR varies but it generally covers the equitable operation and often the “giving back” from businesses.  To mitigate harmful impact to the environment and the wellbeing of the communities impacted by a business’ operations, it can make conscious choices as to the way they source materials, manufacture their goods or deliver their services, the way they treat their employees, and interact with local or impacted communities.

Businesses have various stakeholders that are impacted by their functioning and the more they factor these different parties into their work, the more likely they will be responsible in their operation. Different industries present different opportunities though for such responsible action. Further, equitable choices can have varying levels of impact on a company’s bottom-line, and given the industry, the size of the company, its level of success, and whether it is publically held with shareholder interest, there are very different elements in play from business to business for incorporating CSR.

With that said, CSR is seen more in larger companies that have a supply chain for example that they make sure is sustainable in all facets, but less in technology companies in general, specifically agencies selling information or internet services. This, I would argue is unfortunate, but it presents an opportunity for companies to set themselves apart. Tech firms that manufacture goods, like Apple for example are not included in this, but other companies that offer cloud services, app developers, and SEO companies delivering internet marketing services are examples of those that could take this on and blaze a new path.

What CSR Looks Like for Tech-Internet Solutions Companies
So the question is how does a solutions-based services company integrate responsible action into their operations? Besides equitable employee treatment down the line from in-house staff to outsourced talent, such companies can “give back” in ways that relate to the services they provide and the work that they do. Google, is the leader in search, and although they are diversifying now having their hand in TVs and the mobile market, they are a search provider first and foremost. So looking at their recent actions offers some insight.

Through its Google Cultural institute, Google supported the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive project with an initial $1.25 million grant to get the multimedia project off the ground. Housed within the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the project is a work-in-progress but once fully completed will document though written works, photographs, and video imagery the life and work of the former South African president, anti-apartheid activist, and human rights advocate.  The project stands as an example of how a tech business can take action beyond what is required of them and “give back” in a way that relates to their industry.

The most compelling examples are when businesses work the extra benefit they create into their operations such as every time a certain service is used, a certain responsible action is taken. Additionally, SEO companies have the particular opportunity to work with a nonprofit of interest to offer assistance with their web presence. With that said, businesses need to be in a solid position before they can take such action so as to not put them at a disadvantage financially.

Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com and @ryanwbudd regarding how tech firms can incorporate CSR into their operations and further, how SEO can improve the online exposure your company receives.

Purposeful targeting to drive traffic is the essential point of both organic SEO and paid search. Utilizing tools in each mode of internet marketing allows for the catering of specific messages to different contexts. This assists the ability to split test ads for paid search and bring localized web searchers to your web properties in terms of SEO. Now, new zip-code and location functionality out this week from Google allows for marketers using AdWords to target over 30,000 ZIP codes offering a greater ability to more specifically cater the ad message to a specific location. Similarly, “Location Insertion,” another new feature, gives marketers the freedom to establish a single ad and have information placed into that ad depending on the locations of the search queries that initiate it. The two features are considered location extensions in AdWords, and they have important implications for businesses partnering with SEO companies in an effort to increase paid search spend and traffic.

Location Extension in Use
In terms of using the postal codes, marketers can add up to 1,000 ZIP codes at a single time and will have analytic reporting for ad campaigns per ZIP code, which makes all the difference for marketers. This allows them to see, track, and make campaign changes based on actual performance. “The Location Insertion” feature will place town or city information in the displayed ad. The town name, ZIP code, and phone numbers can be put into the title of the ad, its body text, actual URL, or display URL. This feature will work as well even when other extensions have precedence over the location extensions.

Location insertion will work even if other extensions (such as sitelinks) take precedence over your location extensions. Additionally, with advance location targeting, there is a slight change that allows marketers to select “Target using physical location: Device-based location signals.” So when customers are searching something in a specific location say in San Francisco, but the searcher is in Denver, the search query intent does not override searcher location in determining which ads display. It can, but essentially there are more options now to choose if that is desired or not. If a marketer wants to have ads for San Francisco display when the search originates in San Francisco even though the query intent relates to Denver, then they can.

Further, marketers can utilize another change with location signals on the Google Display Network. Marketers can target searchers based on the content of the pages they are viewing as it relates to a specific location. So ads can be targeted to a person about a specific location if they are viewing pages that contain information about that geographic spot.

Essential Takeaway
Businesses now have more options in terms of targeting. Some verticals are impacted more than others with these changes. As a Search Engine Land article on the subject details, it appears the travel sector is potentially most impacted as users can be searching for travel or vacation information in one location but still be targeted for relevant ads for their own location. Beyond the travel sector, businesses should evaluate these changes and determine if they could benefit from maximizing them – if they cater to a specific spot, chances are they can and should be using these features.

Reach out to me at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com if you have any questions regarding how your business can utilize ppc and the advance location targeting features in your traffic driving initiatives.