Content and Small Business Websites

Ask any SEO webmaster what the #1 problem they have and they will tell you “Getting content from my clients.”  If you’re a client of an SEO firm you will probably agree simply because you know how many times you’ve gotten requests from your webmaster for new or changed content.

I recently took an excellent advanced SEO course from Search Engine News and as a bonus I have access to their FastTrack Membership program which gives me access to the experts at Search Engine News.  I submitted a question concerning the issue of content and the difficulty in getting this content from small business owners.  We all know by now that Google’s latest algorithm updates have all to do with content.  Quality content.  Usable content.  Unique content.  These are words that rend small business owners frozen to the point they prefer no action to any action.

The response to my question from the expert at SEN was to write for the client, have the client polish it or use an outsource firm to polish it, add graphics and submit.  She went on to add, “But in the end, if you can’t get the site owner to buy-in, then long-term they don’t have much chance.”

There’s no doubt any longer.  If you aren’t willing to pay for or do the copywriting work, then you may have to come to the realization that your website will not work for you.

 

 

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Semantic Search = The New SEO

So much has been written lately about the New SEO and how the process of SEO for websites has changed. It’s true, much has changed. Technically and aesthetically. If your SEO webmaster seems to be in a bad mood lately, be patient. Not only is he/she dealing with the technical changes that have to be done to your website but they are also dealing with the massive issue of website content. It has to be changed, it has to be re-optimized and worst of all, your website probably needs more content. More than most website owners are willing to add.

Well, I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on and taking advanced SEO courses to gain as much knowledge about all these new changes. One book that I’ve been reading is Semantic Search by David Amerland. It’s the best information I’ve found so far and I encourage you to read it if you’re at all interested in understanding how you can REALLY optimize your website.

The New SEO = Content

Someone recently wrote in a tweet that the new SEO is really blogging. I understand that statement because at the end of the day, the new SEO starts with content, it’s writing. But, it’s a bit more than that because “blogging” is really just writing about whatever you want to write about. At least that’s the general understanding. Bloggers, I’m sure will strongly disagree and truth be told, I agree that bloggers work much harder than many of us give them credit for.

Anyway, content writing IS the new SEO in addition to keyword research, schematic coding, on page optimization and citations. But without the “content”, none of the other SEO factors could be accomplished. So, at the end of the day it all boils down to content. Words, lots and lots and lots of words. BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE, it’s not just any words. QUALITY is more important now than ever so the days of just writing anything and putting it on the Internet are long gone. Now, what you write is extremely important.

David Amerland, the author of Semantic Search wrote an excellent article recently titled Semantic Strategies. He broke down the strategies needed to work on this new SEO into 5 basic steps.

1) Forget about Content as a daily grind.
It used to be that writing anything and putting it on your website was good enough. As long as it had the keyword phrases it was targeting. Those days are gone. Google is much smarter. He writes, “So focus on what your work is about: What drives you? What do you do? What would you most like your prospects to know about you? And go from there.”

2) Concentrate on quality
Forget about writing just so you have a paragraph posted daily. Instead, write about what your customers really want to know about. After all, you are supposed to be the expert in your niche. Armand explains it like this. ‘…semantic search looks for quality and within that quality it looks for real answers. So concentrate on that. Create one, maybe two really good posts a week written in a way that only you could have written them, containing answers and information that only you could have given, answering questions that your prospects are most likely to have.’

3) When you write show who you are
Here at Eckweb we have a copywriter on staff for website owners who will not or cannot write content for their websites. Although it’s wonderful to outsource the writing to someone, the truth is that for small business owners (our specialty) there is NO ONE who knows the business better than the business owner. I can understand the CEO of a large company not being in touch with his workers but a small business owner who is either a solopreneur or has a handful or less employees, that business owner can write and should write for his website. The content may not be as professional as a copywriter’s content but it will be filled with the personality of the business owner. “If you can write content that speaks to the reader, like that and allows your character and values to shine through, you’re onto a winner. ”

4) Focus on your prospects
Many businesses make the same mistakes on their websites and social media accounts. They think they have to sell. Believe me, I am on the Internet 12+ hours per day and I scroll past any article, tweet or link on Facebook or Google+ that even looks like it’s trying to sell me something. When I’m online, I want information. I want news. The truth is that it takes time to turn strangers into interested parties and then into customers. You do not convert by selling. You convert by securing your position as the informer. The expert.

5) Spend time on engagement
If you’ve spent the last few years ignoring the pleas from your SEO webmaster to “get involved” in social media, it’s my duty to tell you that the clock has run out. You can insist in driving to work with your horse and buggy but you must also concede that the others who are driving motor driven automobiles WILL get to work faster.

Armand writes that “If you cannot show who you are by engaging in the “conversation” taking place across the social web, no amount of schema.org or microformat semantic mark up implementation is going to give you an edge. The real mindshift that semantic search forces upon us is that we need to behave as people first and brands second. For a business this is understandably difficult. You need to find a way to clearly identify who you are and then devise the means to accurately (and engagingly) project this across the web. Consider however that you no longer have a choice. Those businesses and brands that do not do this will be marginalized.”

Use your social media to “talk” to your customers and your potential customers. Imagine that you are meeting them for coffee. What questions would they ask (or are they asking)? Give them the question and the answer! Maybe you had a staff meeting this morning and some industry news was shared. Why not share that with your customers? Why not tell them you’re considering doing a charity event? Why not give them some news about a new product coming? How about new trends? How about an employee’s birthday or wedding or workplace anniversary?

Showcase your personality, your thoughts and people will get to know you. They will learn to trust you. And they will buy from you. On a personal note, I can tell you that I’ve been writing posts on this blog for years and there is rarely a day that goes by that I do not get at least one request for work from someone who has been reading my blog for awhile. What you write today may bring in business a year from now. You just never, ever know.

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Is Your Site Top Heavy?

On Feb 14, 2014 Google released an update of its Page Layout Algorithm. They called this update the Top Heavy algorithm.  Essentially, it downgrades the ranking of a web page with too many ads at the top or if the ads are deemed too distracting for users.  But it’s not just “ads”.  Websites that have little to no content “above-the-fold” are also affected by this change.

The term “above the fold” refers to the section of the website page that is visible on the screen without scrolling.  So, obviously, it changes depending on the size of the screen.  But what doesn’t change is the algorithm.  If your website has large graphic or masthead above the fold with little to no content, you may see a drop in your rankings in Google search results.  So, for those of you stuck on your website design, think about it, is that large graphic REALLY working for your website?

Check Algorithm Changes On Your Site

If you want to see if your website has been affected you can do so using the Panguin tool. Here’s how…

1) Make sure you’re logged in to your Google account.

2) Go to http://www.barracuda-digital.co.uk/panguin-tool/

3) Click on the “Log-in to Analytics button in the middle of the page.

4) Click on Accept

5) Choose your website’s Google Analytics account

6) You will be presented with a graph showing you the major Google updates in the past 12 months.  You can click on each update to get more details.

If you’re managing your own website’s Internet marketing you’ll want to use this tool on a regular basis to make sure that you are staying up to date with at least the major changes that Google makes.

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My SEO Keeps Asking For More Content – Really?

You’re a small business owner and you’re doing your due diligence and having your website marketed via SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  It’s been working okay for a few years but lately, your SEO webmaster is hounding you (more than usual) for MORE CONTENT!  You might be asking yourself, WTF?  Do I REALLY need to add more content to the website or is my chain just being pulled here?

The Story Behind Needing More Content

As an SEO webmaster myself, I am here to tell you that there is nothing more annoying and aggravating for your SEO person than to constantly hound and beg for anything from you. It’s an extremely time consuming and often futile expense of energy but these days, there’s no getting around the fact that content has become the emperor of the SEO universe. And here’s why…

“Google is ever more sophisticated at picking sites which creep up the rankings and sit on the throne – page 1 of a search. Never has quality content been so important in determining your rank, according to Julian Thompson, Head of Digital at MOSH, the country’s top social media agency. ‘In the past people believed that simply repeating key words and phrases was a big factor in improving your page’s leap up the list but Google is way cleverer than that.” (Scoop Media)

With the last 3 major updates that Google has implemented, Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird, the importance of content (amongst a few other factors) has increased tremendously. Basically, Google is saying to all website owners….

Give your readers quality information that they are looking for and you will be rewarded with higher rankings.

Any search engine’s job is to give their users the best list of websites that match what the user is looking for. Doesn’t matter if it’s pizza or how to treat the flu. Google just makes it more difficult because they are trying to essentially “guess” what the user’s intentions are. But make no mistake about it, whatever algorithms are put into place be it by Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL, etc. The bottom line is that ALL websites are scored by the words on their pages. (Google also looks at about 200+ other factors but it all starts with the words.)

If you’re doing your website’s content writing “in house” I recommend the Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals book.


Okay, So I Need Content – Do I Really Need So Much?

I won’t waste your time, the answer is YES. Here’s why…

If you have Google Webmaster tools set up for your website, go take a look at the search queries that your site is currently generating. You’ll probably see anywhere from 3 to 20 keyword phrases that get several visitors. But I will bet that you see many more that get just ONE visitor. If all those ONE visitor keyword phrases had their own page targeting that specific keyword phrase, you would get more than just one visitor. The reason is that it’s difficult to write content targeted to more than 2 or 3 keyword phrases. In fact, many experts will tell you to just target ONE keyword phrase per page. So, writing content specific to ONE keyword phrase will rank the page higher and bring in more visitors.

Small Business Owners And Website Content

Small business owners barely have time to run their business so finding the time to write something just seems impossible. On the other hand, the cost of paying someone to do the writing can definitely add up if you have to write as much as your SEO webmaster is asking. So, what can you do?

Eve Gelman has some GREAT tips…

1) “Stop focusing on adding content, and start concentrating on identifying and fulfilling customer needs. Do you often answer the same questions from customers? Ask them what they want to know and publish blog posts, case studies, newsletters, tutorials, reports, resource lists or podcasts to answer their questions. Customers will appreciate finding the information easily on your website without having to call you. You’ll appreciate the cost/time savings.”

This is a great way to approach content writing. Answer your clients’ questions. This allows you to do it in small, manageable pieces. Adding content doesn’t always mean you have to write 1000 words on a topic. It can be as simple as writing down the question and your answer. Send it off to your SEO webmaster and I guarantee that he/she will be ecstatic!

2) “Content that generates the most benefit for your web site is also content that fulfills your customers’ needs. Stop focusing on SEO for its own sake. Not all content will boost your traffic and search rankings. Choose content for which there is demand but not that much supply. It just takes a little homework to find out what topics or products are searched for frequently but not well covered on many other websites. By demonstrating your expertise with this unique content, you’ll start to be established as an authority in your field.”

I have been telling my clients for years and years that it’s important to “showcase your expertise”. Eve is right when she says that “Not all content will boost your traffic…” It’s important to write for your customers as well.

3) “Think visually. We live in the age of Pinterest and Instagram. It’s important that you discover visual content that you enjoy developing so you’ll be more likely to create it on a regular basis. Whether it’s making videos, or sharing photos, creating Infographics or interactive games, or producing webinars and slide shows, always think about what visual images will grab your customers’ attention.”

Content doesn’t ALWAYS have to be words, it can be visual. Pinterest and YouTube are two excellent marketing venues and ones that you should absolutely NOT ignore.

The point I want to leave you with is to not be afraid or overwhelmed by the task of adding content to your website. Start off small and build from there. It takes time to write, I know. It will take time for that writing to bring in traffic as well. But in the end, it’s SO WORTH IT!!!!

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Frustrations With SEO or Frustrations With Google?

As some of you may know the last year (especially the last 6 months) has been a major series of changes in Google and as a result, major changes in website rankings.  90% of the websites on the Internet have been affected.  It’s the largest change that Google has implemented since 2002.

Well, a colleague just forwarded an article to me and after reading it, I can at least feel good about the fact that I’m not the only one feeling this frustration.  It’s a long article, but it’s filled with LOTS of information and very, very frank commentary.  So, get yourself a cup of coffee and read what Rae Hoffman has to say about the latest Google changes.

One thing seems certain, the changes haven’t stopped, bigger ones are on their way and as marketers and website owners, we all need to be prepared for even more uncertainty.

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Is Content Marketing Realistic For Business Websites?

I am POSITIVE that my clients are sick and tired of hearing me say that we need more content on the website.  I know I’m sick and tired of saying it.  And frankly, I find it difficult to swallow because I don’t believe that the majority of businesses really need so much content!  But the truth is, the way Google is set up now, the importance of lots of quality content is very high.

I just read an article by Elisa Gabbert on Wordstream and the author wrote something that I think is so extremely true.

“There are more and more businesses and websites every day, but the first page of Google isn’t getting any bigger. Attention is scarce. The answer can’t simply be content (and I say this as someone whose job title includes the word “content”) because we’re already drowning in content. It should be possible for a business to exist without constantly churning out “content.” If the business offers something that people want or need, people should be able to use a well-made search engine to find that business, without having to indirectly happen upon their great content first. I’m dreaming of a simple website that does one thing well and doesn’t grow by one page size every day.”

Oh what a wonderful dream that would be!

The article is a great read and it points out the major problems that Google is having with their algorithim.  Placing so much emphasis on incoming links has proven to be more of a punishment to the website owner than it is to provide quality search results for users.  I wrote an article a while ago about Google’s search results and it’s accuracy.  Frankly, I’m seeing just as many relevant search results on page 10 of Google than I am on page 1.  That means that NOT all websites on page 1 are what I’m looking for.

The author (and a friend) think that possibly all this crazy content building will (or should) be replaced by a Quality Score algorithim.

“We think organic search could benefit from the same kind of algorithm – an algorithm that counts engagement metrics over links. These engagement metrics would include stuff like:

  • Click-through rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page
  • Social shares
  • Number of comments
  • Etc.”

I like the idea of a Quality Score for websites as a major player in the algorithim.  I think it’s logical and it would push website owners, designers and seo companies to REALLY provide quality content and design based on the user’s needs.  But I don’t agree with the assumption that Google has a handle on click fraud.  The stats that I see from my clients who use Google’s Adwords is that about 1/4 to 1/3 of the clicks are fraud.  I mean the number of visitors to the landing page designated just for the campaign is consistently less than what Google reports.  So, not sure that they would really be able to manage any fraudulent clicks, etc. on a Quality Score algorithim but I still think it would be a better method than what Google has currently in place.

What do you think?

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2014 SEO Tips For Small Businesses

If you haven’t yet heard, 2013 was the year that Google took SEO professionals for a wild roller coaster ride.  And of course, along with the SEO pros, the websites that they manage.  For us at Eckweb, that means small business owners.  And what a ride it continues to be.  In business since 2000, we’ve seen it all.  From the days when all it took to get a top ranking was a keyword phrase on the title meta tag to the days when incoming links were all the rage to today, where it seems to be all about showcasing the authority of each website.

Well, as I maneuver through these waters, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some tips that I’ve learned on the way.

1) Keywords – Forget The Research (well, almost)

Used to be us SEO pros would spend hours making lists of keyword phrases and then getting the numbers of how popular those phrases were and how much competition ws out there for each phrase.  Forget about doing this.

“In the past, Google’s algorithms processed user queries according to each individual word in the query string. As an example, a past search for the keyword phrase “hotels in Chicago” would require Google to parse through its index and find the best matches containing the words “hotels,” “in” and “Chicago.” … “But now users are more likely to enter complete questions — for example, “what is the best hotel in Chicago?” — into the engine, Google wants to understand the context behind the query in order to serve up the best possible results. Did you mean the best hotel in terms of price point or luxury level? Are you on the move in Chicago and looking for the best hotel nearest to your location? Hummingbird attempts to determine the context for your question, although it isn’t immediately clear whether it does so successfully in all cases.”

So, what should you do in response to this change?
Well, since Google now is looking less at specific keyword phrases and more at the content (does the content answer the question for the user?) it’s clear that we must begin tailoring the content to answers to questions.
In addition, I would also recommend not just answers to questions but information, tons and tons of information.  The reason for this is that the majority of Internet users make multiple searches for information before they decide on who to make the purchase from.  There’s no reason why they shouldn’t find all the information they need on YOUR website.  After all, if they find your website time and time again with the information they need, the likelyhood that they choose you to do business with, increases.
Here are some ways you can add questions (and their answers) to your site.
  • Comprehensive FAQ page
  • Q&A section
  • Interviews
  • Researches
  • Industry debates / updates
  • Ask the expert (Are you an expert? Do something with it. Google will love you more.)
  • Reviews of related products to your industry.  (i.e. – for dentist websites you can review over the counter whiteners)
2) Content Used To Be King – It’s Now The Emperor
We used to tell our clients that it’s important to add more information to their website on a regular basis.  “Posting new content to your site on a regular schedule has been an SEO recommendation for some time, but with Google Hummingbird in place, this tweak becomes even more important.”  (from entrepreneur.com).The new thing to know about content is to claim that content.  Google calls this “authorship”.  Basically, you want to let Google know that YOU are the author of the information they are reading.  And by YOU I mean a name, not a company.  Of course, in your Google Plus page your name is associated with your company, so the two will be seen as collaborators.  So, use the proper schematic code for article authorship on your site and of course, links those unique content pages on your site to your Google Plus account.

3) Your Website On MobileYou can’t ignore mobile website versions any longer.  More and more of your visitors will be coming to you from either a cell phone or a tablet.  It’s important to know that your website can be maneuverable on these and that your website loads up fast and it’s easy to go from page to page.
4) The Basics Are Still In PlayFor now, all the SEO basics we’ve known are still in play.  That means meta tags, page speed, internal links, alt attributes on images, videos, social media, directory profiles (especially for local businesses) and blogging are all still needed for proper SEO marketing.  So, don’t forget about these.

I hope this information is useful.  If you’ve found some techniques that have proven to work for your websites, let us know!

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Google Search Results + Accuracy

I’ve been reading all weekend about the major changes that Google made last year with Hummingbird’s update and so much more.  Some estimates report that Google made 500 changes last year!  One article said that Google took website owners on a “roller coaster ride”.  No doubt!

The ultimate goal for Google (with all these changes) is that they want to provide the best search results for their users.  That makes sense.  As a user myself I would like to see the best search results.  But I’m sorry to say, that is not the result.  At least, not yet.

Today I did a search for “auto glass repair spring tx”.  I signed off my Google account (so my past history wouldn’t affect the search results) and I got the following top 3 websites.

1) 7starsautoglasstx.com

2) autoglassbargain.com/auto-glass-spring.html

3) texanglassexpress.com

Now, all 3 offer “glass repair” and 2 are based in Spring, Tx.  But one offers glass repair of all types (it does include auto but it’s not the main business).  In fact, the page that came up is marketing “tub shower frameless” and “shower frameless doors”.

I suppose Google is still working on getting their results up to snuff but at this point, it’s just not there yet.  So, get ready for another round of changes that WILL affect your websites!

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Your Money, Your Life

Heard of the phrase “your money, your life”?  Sounds like something a mugger would say to you, doesn’t it?  What does this have to do with SEO?

Well, part of Google’s Hummingbird change includes this little update called “your money, your life” (YMYL).  The reason they chose to name this ruling as such is because “Google decided that websites and Web pages that have to do with your money or your life should be looked at a little closer,”.  So, this includes financial and medical websites.  I’m not sure if it extends then to alternative medicine websites (massage, acupuncture, etc.).

“Under YMYL, Google’s Web quality team reviews these Web properties to determine if they are experts; if not, Google puts a manual action against the offending website to lower its ranking and reduce traffic.” (from businessnewsdaily.com)

What Does YMYL Mean For Small Businesses?

For many years I have been telling my clients that it’s important for them to showcase their expertise on their websites.  It’s important to make their website the “hub” of information related to their industry.  Well, this little update makes this point even more important.

The overall idea is that Google is trying to determine the sites that are TRULY experts in their areas of interest. I will have to say this about Google, they are constantly in pursuit of trying to give their users the most relevant, up to date information available.  For that, I applaud them.  After all, SEO marketers are Internet users as well.

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Long Tail Phrases – Don’t Discount Them

The latest Google update, Hummingbird, focuses on whole queries (partial or complete sentences).  As Google sees it, the future of search is in voice and the natural tendency when doing a voice search is to speak more naturally.   So, that lends itself to the long tail phrases that many website owners tend to ignore.

Most website owners I work with want to be found for a main keyword phrase like…

Appliance Repairs
Divorce Attorney
Psychologist
Dog Leashes

But the truth is that these keyword phrases are difficult to target because more than likely very large companies or directories are already ranking high for these specific phrases.

Don Dodds at the Huffington Post wrote…

“Long-tail keywords have always been considered beneficial because they typically have a high conversion rate from highly targeted visitors. However, it has proven difficult to benefit from much traffic as a result of their being found on a page. Hummingbird will be looking at search strings of three, four, five, or more words and rather than breaking these down it will provide results for the whole search string.”

So, don’t hound your SEO company so much for those main phrases (not to say you SHOULDN’T still try to target those).  Look at all those long tail phrases as well.  Especially if they have higher conversion rates.

 

 

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