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.
A common concern (or more accurately, misconception) amongst business owners is that Internet marketing is an unquantifiable or even abstract enterprise. Although any SEO would vehemently disagree and offer up a plethora of resources which serve to disprove such claims; there are still doubters.
So, how exactly does one measure the ROI of search engine optimization, social media marketing, public relations or any other aspect of online marketing? It all comes back to where SEO began – Google.
Before Google Analytics was first unveiled in 2005, there were only a handful of third-party traffic and conversion statistics reporting tools available on the Web. While some of these proved to be fairly effective, none have quite lived up to Google’s proprietary service. In fact, Google Analytics remains the most widely-used application of its kind to this day.
An SEO’s Best Friend: The Google Analytics Dashboard
Not only does Analytics provide advanced functionality for experts, but it delivers viable real-time data that business owners can understand and use to get more from their site and improve their bottom line. By tracking traffic sources, gathering visitor data and learning which pages on your site are receiving the most views, you’re able to not only improve conversion rates, but easily re-strategize your entire online marketing plan with relative ease, as well.
The Winds of Change
Traditional marketing and advertising initiatives are still effective for many businesses; however, determining the cost-benefit of these efforts is still a difficult process. Today, even some of the world’s largest and most recognized companies have turned to the Internet to increase their sales and utilize Analytics to boost their lead generation and conversion optimization efforts.
As more brands begin to hop on the digital marketing bandwagon, traffic and conversion reporting has become an even more valuable asset. With Google firmly maintaining its position at the forefront of the analytics game, the search engine that started it all is bringing it all back home by offering one of the single most useful tools for businesses.
Thanks to resources such as Google Analytics, much of the skepticism surrounding Search Engine Optimization is beginning to dwindle. With statistics reporting and tracking tools providing solid facts and definitive data to back the claims of marketers, one thing is evident – a strong online marketing plan is a necessity for virtually every business.
WordPress is one of the most popular Content Management Systems currently being used on the Internet. In fact, more than 60 million websites currently use the popular CMS. For the average user who does not have a strong technical background, WordPress is an ideal back-end for a website because it allows users to easily update and maintain the content on their websites. From an SEO-perspective, WordPress has tons of great features built in, or easily added with one of the many plugins that have been developed by their network of open source developers. But just as with any popular piece of software, there are risks.
Recently a massive attack was launched against websites running WordPress and Joomla CMSs. Characterized as a ‘brute-force’ attack, the method of infiltration was to use as many different computers as possible to try as many different username/password combinations as possible.
The attacker was able to utilize over 90,000 unique IP addresses from all around the world in a coordinated attack on the default login pages of the popular content management systems. Using the standard username ‘admin’, the automated attack then attempted to gain access by trying thousands upon thousands of different passwords.
The result was a huge strain on hosting servers, which caused many websites to go down or load poorly. In worst-case scenarios, the attacker was able to gain access to website owners’ CMS dashboards where they can do as they please. Preventing and stopping attacks in progress was a task that each hosting provider handled differently. Many opted to change the URL of the default login pages that the CMSs use, or to remove them completely. For many people though, the biggest question is “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?” The answer may be easier than you think.
While it is nearly impossible to prevent some lunatic from launching a wide-spread hacking attack on any website he/she/it wants to, there are steps you can take to make this task exceedingly difficult for them. With a brute force attack such as this one, the prey was websites with weak passwords. ‘Password’, ‘12345’, ‘login’…if your password resembles any of these, then you have a weak password. Strong passwords are crucial to keeping your site secure.
You may be wondering “What is a strong password?” Generally, you want the password to be at least 8 characters, and a good mix of letters, numbers, and special characters, with some capitalizations thrown in as well. Many CMSs come with a built-in password strength checking tool, but if you find yourself wondering, you can use one provided by Microsoft: https://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/password-checker.aspx.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a unique username as well. ‘Admin’, ‘User’, ‘Manager’…avoid simple usernames such as these. Try to pick a username that is a mix of letters and numbers. Case sensitivity is normally not important when setting these up, and special characters are often not allowed. Pick something that is unbiased and does not have anything generally in common with the website it is being used for.
These tips are great for your CMS logins but can be applied to all aspects of your life. Applying these simple principals when signing up for bank accounts, customer accounts at ecommerce websites, or loan or credit accounts can save endless amounts of frustration in the future. When it comes to your personal information, privacy is key. Having a strong set of login credentials will help you keep your personal information out of the hands of hackers. If you do not have strong credentials, take some time today to update them, you (and your wallet) may thank you later.
I hope you brought a few extra cookies to the lunch table, because with the way SEO is evolving, you’re going to need to make some new friends – and those friends are Twitter and Pinterest.
I’ve been SEO writing for several years, and the increasing overlap of the two circles in the Venn diagram of “content” and “social media” is the biggest change to which I’ve had to adapt. Now, there’s scarcely a time when I’m in the process of writing or posting a blog post, article, infographic, or what-have-you and I don’t visit one of these social media platforms. This is not to say that there isn’t a place in the SEO world for Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp!, and the rest of the gang, because those provide a whole new slew of optimization opportunities. I’ve simply found that these two are a) largely accessible to content writers of any level of experience and/or expertise, and b) the ones that make it super easy to pigeonhole your audience.
Let’s delve further into how the writing and social media departments of SEO overlap, shall we?
When deciding on a blog topic, we know how important it is to choose a title that’s attention-grabbing. One way to go about that is to make sure it’s current and relevant. We’re a culture of short attention spans – we’re so connected that there are constantly a million different things competing for readers’ attention, and that’s why you need to be strategic if you’re one of those competitors. For this reason, you want to make friends with Twitter and, more importantly, its ‘Trending’ and ‘Discover’ tabs. Twitter is your inside source, letting you know what people are talking about right now – it lets you know what already has people’s attention, so all you have to do is stay on-topic so social media users can’t resist a click.
Keep in mind that hashtags are the best thing to happen to social sharing since sliced bread. Once you’ve posted your blog post or infographic, tweet it and slap one of those trending hashtags on it. Just like that, you’re automatically visible to the millions of people browsing that hashtag.
People go to Pinterest for ideas. You’ve got ideas, don’t you? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing that article or blog post. The best way to make use of Pinterest is to be creative: write a lively how-to blog post, or create an infographic with wild and interesting facts. (Another helpful tip from me to you: try not to get sucked in in the process.)
Once you create a pin of your post and post it to the relevant category, the nature of Pinterest does the rest of the work for you. You never know when something might go viral – I once pinned a blog post on bridal showers, and it got over 800 re-pins.
On the flip-side, if you don’t have ideas, you can be one of those people who uses Pinterest for just that reason. Go to the relevant category and see what’s getting the most pins – what are people interested in right now? On my feed right now, I can tell you that an article on how to make an all-natural slug repellent (yum) has tons of re-pins. It makes sense, it’s springtime and this is a current issue. Play off the seasonal idea since that seems to be working.
As I said before, one could easily make the argument for other social platforms and their usefulness, but based on my experience, these have the fewest limitations for both resources and sharing. They require the lowest level of craftiness (and don’t ask for any money, which is always a plus) for making what you share visible to a large audience, and it’s easiest to search for what’s popular on any given topic.
How does your content socialize? Comment and let me know, or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long gone are the days where stuffing numerous keywords into a blog post or article is considered the norm for Search Engine Optimization. Whether you’re an SEO professional or are just beginning to explore the world of SEO, you’ve probably already found that this field is an ever-changing industry that loves to keep everyone on their toes. The best method to remaining on top of the latest SEO trends is vigilance accompanied by knowledge of the past and present.
Previously, writing for SEO included a large amount of keyword-stuffing and concern with keyword density, making for not-so-interesting articles. Because in the past, blog posts and articles were written with a search engine in mind rather than an audience, content became “spammy” and people were uninterested in reading or sharing this content – content was created simply for the value of the link. Past content was also text-focused and title tags and Meta descriptions were often unhelpful to the user as they were used mainly for keyword value.
Today, post PANDA and PENGUIN updates, writing for SEO is all about creating shareable, interesting, and diverse content. Keyword density is not overly important and you risk your content being marked as spam when keyword density is too high. As demonstrated in this blog post, content doesn’t only include text. Today, content includes photos, video, infographics, and more, all which hold SEO value.
Check out the infographic below to see how writing for SEO has changed over the years: