The Puppet Master Makes Another Demand

So, everyone knows that Google is the king, the “puppet master” and all us SEO folks and businesses across the world are all trying to please the puppet master and his demands.  Well, just a few days ago a new demand came out…

Google is now saying that they eventually want all websites to be “https”  that means that they will be more secure.  So, less chances of your website getting hacked, of any information through your website (emails, forms, etc) getting hacked.  That’s all a good thing but to give an incentive to do this they’re tying it in to their rankings.  So, if your website is “https”  then Google is saying you will get a slight ranking boost.

See what other SEO folks are saying about Google’s new ruling.

What they’re not saying is…

1) whether or not Google is going to be in the business of providing https service.
2) they’re not letting website owners know that obtaining an https is not easy.
3) they’re also not letting website owners know that it’s not cheap and it is a yearly charge.

Personally, I do believe Google will go into the https business, it makes economic sense.  At the same time it does make sense to secure websites that the move to https is a necessity.  But to tie it to rankings?  At this point, I can only roll my eyes and just add another “to do” on the ever growing list of things that must be done to get rankings and traffic to my clients’ websites.

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SEO Is Dead – Sort Of

The phrase “SEO Is Dead” has been around for many years.  Whenever some drastic changes occur in the industry, the proclamation that SEO is out of business comes up.  I know, I’ve been in this crazy industry since 2000.

Recently the phrase is popping up again quite frequently because of the major updates and upsets that Google has been presenting these past couple of years which are really surfacing in the last few months.  So, it’s no surprise to me that I opened Google News yesterday to see another article titled “SEO Is Dead.”  But, always curious, I had to take a few minutes to read it and I thought I’d share the author’s (Andrew Edwards) take on the matter.

1) He is basically saying that SEO may not be the answer for all business websites.  At least not like it used to be.  That aspect is true.  SEO hasn’t been THE ANSWER to website traffic accumulation for some time.  It’s just ONE OF THE ANSWERS.  These days, you can’t do Internet marketing without Social Media, Video, Copywriters and PPC (although PPC may not be necessary) in addition to SEO.

2) I love his sentence… “Really, it’s become more about just building a great site with great (and focused) content.”  I’ve been saying that for so long I’m sick of saying it.  I just told a friend on Saturday that if they wrote some decent content, answered client’s questions every day, their website would do GREAT as far as bringing in traffic and sales.  Yes, of course, the website needs the technical SEO aspects (properly coded, schematic code, meta tags, h1 tags, etc.) but once that is all done, it’s just a matter of writing, writing, writing.

You know, I’m going to clarify that more.  It’s not REALLY just writing.  It’s REALLY about having the information your audience is looking for.

If you’re a plumber your website should have information about money saving tips related to plumbing, information about how to choose the right plumber, information about DIY for small plumbing jobs around the house, etc.

If you’re a preschool your website should have information about how to choose a preschool, what makes a good preschool teacher, how to deal with bully children and their parents, how to help your child make the best of preschool, etc.

INFORMATION!!!!!

3) The author also mentioned that every second 105 people search for SEO on Google  Imagine, every second of every day, 105 people are searching for information related to SEO.  I would imagine the majority of those are people doing SEO, but still.  That’s 6300 searches every single minute, 378,000 every hour.  That’s just amazing!

4) The author believes that the SEO industry is going the way of Megalodon (a very large, 100 foot shark rumored to exist a million years ago).  Personally, I think the way SEO used to be is going that way, but SEO is not dead, it’s just evolving.  Megalodon probably evolved into the sharks we see today, SEO is evolving into it’s next metamorphosis.  What that will eventually look like who knows.

SEO is SO MUCH more than just fixing a few meta tags and adding schematic code here and there.  For me, SEO is and has always been a 2 prong process.  First, the website itself has to be “fixed” so that it’s got clean code, it comes up fast, users can find what they need easily and also the search engines need to be able to identify what the website and it’s pages are all about.  Second, the website needs to be updated and altered constantly.  If 300 people come to the product page but only 20 go to an actual product, something is wrong.  If no one is clicking on the “email us” button, something is wrong.  These issues and many more have to be looked at, experimented with and fixed somehow.  This takes months and years.

The factors that I believe will influence how SEO will work today and in the near future…

1) Websites on mobile units.  Whether it’s smart phones or tablets, how websites are viewed and used on mobile units will influence what SEO factors will be important.

2) SEO is about the website, but the future will include many other factors beyond just the website.  At some point in the not to distant future here, we WILL be searching not only on our smart phones and tablets but on our TV’s.  A few years after that we will also be searching on our appliances and vehicles.    It’s the Internet that is drastically changing and with that, we have to consider how websites will be affected.  Will they even still be relevant?  (I’m guessing yes)

3) The quality and volume of information your company is willing to share online does and will continue to have an impact on the traffic and sales that you get from online.  You must work to make your company the source, the hub of information for your field.  Period.

So, what do you think?  Is SEO dead or just turning into something else?

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Know When SEO Is Right For You

I’ve been doing SEO (search engine optimization) since 2000.  So, 14 years in this crazy business has taught me that my services are not for everyone.  Although there are some SEO firms out there who will want you to believe that their magic will help you no matter what.  The truth is that it’s not for everyone.

Here’s a great article titled When Is SEO The Wrong Choice?  Take some time to read it, you’ll be glad you did.

 

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Check Out “If This Then That”

If you’re looking for ways to automate some of your tasks, here’s a GREAT service that’s FREE and will give you that automation.  It’s called ifttt.com (stands for “if this then that”)

Basically, you sign up.  You choose a “recipe” which is essentially the formula that they’ve already created, you set up the permissions and you’re done.

I’m using it for this post here so whenever I publish a new post on my WordPress blog, it is automatically sent to the list that I chose on my Gmail account.  How great is that?

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SEO Will Be Changing More Than You Know

In 2013 Google purchased a company called Nest.  (just one of the companies it purchased in 2013).  The technology that Nest develops and continues to improve is used for “smart homes”.  You know, homes that are equipped with electronic devices, lighting, heating, etc. that are controlled via computer, phone or tablet.  These devices have memories, they are automated, they are connected to a main computer and some are connected online.

In 2014, Apple announced their smart home tool called HomeKit.  It’s supposed to come out in the autumn of 2014 so if you’re an iPhone or iPad user you should be able to get this very soon.

Now, these may look to you like just apps for your smart phones and tablets.  But the impact on SEO and how we “search the internet” will be coming and it will have started with the use of these kinds of apps.

Daniel Cristo wrote a great article and I encourage you to read it.  This post is my take on his article.  He has many good points in there that I won’t go into so I say get a cup of coffee and spend a few moment reading it, you’ll be glad you did.

It’s difficult for us to see that how we search the Internet will change so drastically.  Especially for those of us over 30!  (whew, where did the time go?)  But rest assured that changes are coming and those changes will have an impact on SEO and Internet marketing.  How can they not?

The Future Of Searches and Shopping

A few nights ago my husband and I were watching The Wolverine and (as usual) I wanted to know the end of the movie before it even started.  (I know, it’s weird, what can I say?)  Anyway, the next morning I picked up my phone and the card on Google Now was about a news story on the movie The Wolverine.  I didn’t search for that news story, but Google saw that I made a search for it and they are therefore giving me more.  This happens all the time with the searches that I make.  The point is, Google is “listening” to what I’m doing online.  The future of these “smart appliances” is that they will be “listening” as well.

Right now, it seems that within 1-2 years many of us will have some type of “smart home” app on our phones.  I don’t think that’s out of the question.  A few of us will have appliances that we can connect to as well.  In the article Cristo talks about “smart refrigerators” but there are other appliances currently available as well.

GE has smart ovens.

Whirlpool has smart washers and dryers

Well, you get the idea.

Right now, these appliances are in your home and connected to your phones but at some point, they will be connected to online services and they will then be “listening”.  The example in the article is online grocery services.  Amazon is expanding their Amazon Fresh service and with so many smaller online grocery services currently available throughout the country, it’s just a matter of time before it takes off.  (I know when I lived in Florida I used Publix’s online service and absolutely loved it.  They stopped it after a year I think.  The mistake they made (in my humble opinion) is that they went too big too fast.  But it was an amazing service!!!)

So, imagine your online grocery service being alerted that your refrigerator is out of milk.  And let’s say that you have conducted searches for almond milk.  You may start getting messages recommending brands of almond milk for your next grocery delivery.  Maybe even coupons.  Perhaps washing machines will hold large amounts of detergent and they will automatically dispense what’s needed for each wash.  When that container gets low you may get notification that you need more detergent.  Again, based on any previous searches, you can get recommendations for certain brands, coupons, etc.

Your searches will affect future purchases.

And not just searches.  What you watch on TV, on Netflix, maybe even on Roku or Apple TV will also create a database of information about you which can be used by these smart apps to talk to you.  I love SyFy movies, good ones, bad ones, I love them all.  I may start getting notices about Comic Con conventions, a new Star Trek cereal, etc.  I didn’t even search for that stuff but because of my “database” my apps are recommending what they think I will want.

Your TV – The Internet – Shopping

Years ago I read an article about how Google’s plan was to eventually be integrated with TV’s.  Not sure if they’re still working on that but the concept was that TV’s would be equipped in such a way that I could just click on a product in the show I was watching and purchase it.  Well, a simpler version of that has already started.  Target and the show Cougar Town worked together to create ShopCougarTown.com.  Check out this article explaning it.

TV shows are becoming more and more integrated with Twitter and Facebook and like Target, even creating their own sites.  Audiences are voting and participating with the shows they are watching, in live time.  It will get to a point when you won’t need your smartphone with you to interact with your TV.  Your television set will be integrated with that technology.

The Impact On SEO

Right now, the goal of any SEO is to “get the word out” about the website they are marketing.  Whether it’s through search, through social media, email marketing, videos, etc.  There are many ways to do it but the core has always been the search results.  Getting top rankings for keyword phrases the audience is typing in.

But as these trends I mentioned here continue, the act of typing in keyword phrases and searching will decrease more and more.  As these smart appliances and our smart homes learn to read our databases the will simply recommend services and products to us.  And let’s face it, humans are lazy.  It’s so easy to be lazy!  So, the chances that we will take action on these recommendations vs. doing the work ourselves, is pretty high.

When this happens, SEO will no longer be about rankings.  It will be about authority, it will be about product placement and it will be about how interactive the company is.

By “authority” I mean the amount of knowledge on the website.  Have you demonstrated that you are an expert in your field?  The only way to do that online is to have as much information about your field as possible.  The answers to questions users are asking should be on your website.

By “product placement” I mean getting your products on as many visible mediums as possible.  Videos, online publications, tv shows, etc.

By “interactive” I mean social media sharing, online reviews, blog comments, local mentions, etc.

Yes, the times they are changing and they are changing fast!!!  Time to retire!

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Long Tails Win The Sale

John Fox from Huffington’s Post wrote a review on a free ebook The UnFair Advantage Book on Winning the Search Engine Wars by Stephen Mahaney. I read this book years ago when it came out, I’ve read it’s updates and for any business owner, this is an excellent book to help explain what is going on as far as website marketing.

But one quote in the article caught my attention. “The only type of keyword that consistently converts to sales is the last one used before making a purchase.”

I know this to be true, of course but I wanted to see some actual phrases so I did some research on the sites that I am marketing. Here’s what I found….

  • “what is the law in florida about parental alienation”
  • “attorneys who specialize in parent child alienation, cape coral fl”
  • “cheap destin beach wedding packages”
  • “getting married on navarre beach”
  • “drug & alcohol testing mobile service 24 hrs a day for chamblee ga”
  • “hurricane certified front doors”
  • “mission style dining sets”
  • “stackable insert planing/jointing cutter – series 4045″
  • “dealer for guhdo saw blades and cutters”

What The Results Show

So, what I’m seeing from these results is that the keyword phrases that are converting are Long Tail keyword phrases. That means they’re more like sentences than just 1 or 2 keyword phrases. Now just like the article said, it makes sense. Think about it when you do a search, you may start off with a couple of words but as you gather more information you start using longer phrases.

The websites that you find with those longer phrases are the ones who are more likely to get your business. Of course, if you consistently find the same website that comes up for short and long phrases, multiple phrases well the normal reaction is that you will tend to trust that website more.

What Does This Mean For The Website Owners?

What all this boils down to is that you must have information on your website. Tons and tons and tons of information. It’s literally impossible to have too much information on your site. Imagine writing down, in a list, all the possible keyword phrases and combinations that anyone in the world would use to find your website. I’m sure you would agree that the list would include thousands and thousands of phrases. You want to make sure that your website will be found for as many of those phrases as possible.

So, when your seo marketer asks you to spend some money on copywriters or begs you to write some content for the website, don’t ignore him/her. They’re just looking out for you and your business.

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Schedules, Discipline and SEO

Google has been keeping us on our toes for the last 12 months or so, changing so many page-speed-optimizationestablished ranking procedures that frankly, I’m not even sure what works anymore. Well, sort of.

I was having lunch with a friend yesterday (who happens to also work on SEO) and we were discussing these changes and how they impact our daily seo lives. My comment was that every few months I had to change how I practice SEO. Not so drastically that it seems like a new profession but enough that it affects the amount of time spent on each client.

An Experiment I’m Still Figuring Out

Last year a new client came to me wanting to be found for the phrase “destin beach weddings”. Her website was well established, her business was well established but her site needed major SEO work. So, we did that. We recreated the website in clean code making sure it was easy to follow for it’s users. We set up the meta tags, did the keyword research, added lsi phrases, placed schematic codes and h1, h2 tags where needed, etc. You get the idea, we did the “usual” stuff.

We then began going through submissions to citations and of course, social media.

After 6 months, although there was more traffic to the site, I could not move the website from it’s 3rd page position for the phrase “destin beach weddings”. The content wasn’t keyword stuffed, it wasn’t “unnatural”, there weren’t any major flaws that I could see.

What Changed

So, I finally gave up on targeting the client’s phrase. I thought, let me target a larger phrase and at the very least, help the client to get more traffic and more sales. So, I changed the focus of the home page from “destin beach weddings” to “florida beach wedding packages”.

A week later, I received an email from my client so ecstatic that she was #2 on Google for “destin beach weddings”. WTF? (excuse my language but please understand my frustration).

This website page does not come up for the new phrase in the top 10 pages of search results (SERPS).

What did I do?

1) I altered the content so that the new phrase was in the meta tags and in just one h1 tag.
2) I abandoned focusing on a keyword phrase and just slightly altered the content so the page would have information that I thought the user would need.
3) I did use LSI keywords but did not bang my head against the wall trying to fit them in.
4) We started adding new pages to the site, one at a time. Nothing fancy, just some “how to” information in the form of articles.

That’s it.

Can We Target Keyword Phrases?

As I said at the beginning of this article, the changes for SEO practice are coming fast and furious and I don’t pretend to even believe that what I think I know today will work next month. But, it does seem to me that we cannot target specific keyword phrases on website pages. Instead, we simply must write pages as informative as possible and keep on writing. Monitor the phrases these pages are bringing in and keep on writing some more.

What do you think? Write me at esther@eckweb.com. I’d love to know what I may be missing here.

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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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