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How often do you go online to look for advertisements? If you answer is a number above zero/never, you’re in a minority that is shrinking rapidly as consumers adopt new technologies that enable the blocking of advertisements across the board. On the other hand, how often do you go online to seek out information on places to go, services you need, or products that you want to buy? These searches, even if the answer to the advertising question was actually a number, will likely result in a ratio that dwarfs searches for ads.
 
Welcome to the new age of business-to-client communications as the creation of resource-style content and follow-on interaction steadily unseats the one-way messaging format of advertising as the preferred method for consumers to learn about and buy products and services. While there are numerous hybrid versions of distributed content that mix advertising with information, the type of content that consumers are searching for, gravitating toward, and sharing in social media communities on an increasing basis is characterized by free access and high value information.
 
This paradigm shift to developing content as a resource versus pumping out advertisements presents three advantages for businesses:
 
* Content as a resource has an indefinite life span on the web – As opposed to advertisements that disappear as soon a business stops paying for them, information based content will stay on the web indefinitely, meaning that a business can build an extensive and growing library of content that can be found by consumers again and again.
* The intrusion of advertising versus sought after content – The nature of advertising is intrusive in that, at minimum, it consumes the time of the target audience. Content as a resource, on the other hand, will be willingly searched for and shared.
* Content as a resource can play a significant role in branding initiatives – The consistent provision of high value content can fortify a business’ brand perception with consumers by building high levels of trust, credibility and authority over time.
 
The budget allocations you set for your marketing activities will play a large role in the success of your business. By analyzing how you interact with advertising versus content for which you have searched, you’ll have a true indication of where your potential customers are going as well, which can help to allocate your marketing budget for maximum returns.
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As far as major algorithm updates go, Google’s Hummingbird update rolled out with far more subtlety than the previous two, titled Panda and Penguin. In fact, Google had implemented the Hummingbird changes 5 weeks before announcing the modification and no one had noticed. The primary reason for this relative non-event when compared to the aftermath of the Panda and Penguin updates is that, rather than targeting black hat SEO practices and punishing sites that had used them to gain high search engine rankings, the Hummingbird algorithm change fine tunes results from two types of search; mobile and long tail queries.
 
Essentially a modification designed to analyze search terms in context rather than basing returns on keywords alone, the change caters to the more conversational and complex queries entered via voice commands on mobile devices. Typically, these queries are also longer in length, hence the focus on long tail search terms as well.     
 
The algorithm change presents two takeaways regarding content:
 
* Content must mobile device-friendly – Google has been very clear about the importance of mobile device-friendly content, with the Hummingbird update serving as another reminder. If you are currently running a website that formats content in the same way regardless of the device, consider an upgrade that implements responsive web design architecture. This approach automatically reformats your web pages according to the screen size of the device providing access to optimize each user’s experience.
* Content must provide value, solutions and/or answers for keyword-related queries – Now that Google can understand questions in context, it’s logical that the search engine will have a better grasp of the best answers to those questions. Instead of pages that appear relevant to a search because they have relevant keywords sprinkled through the text, the pages will be returned for the related query must now deliver specific answers to the questions being posed.
 
Google indicated a “Mobile first” priority a few years ago and continues to make changes as these devices increase their share of internet access. By building a mobile-friendly web presence that is supported by high value content, your site will be positioned at the busy intersection of mobile device access and longer search queries. 
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Looking back at some of the SEO news that took place in 2013, we have created a list of SEO tips for what not to do in the coming year. These are:

 

* Don't buy into the idea that any inbound link is good thing. Secondly, don't subscribe to the pitches that promise thousands of inbound links within hours or days.
For proof, look at JC Penney's link buying fiasco in early 2011. In that one, JC Penney hired a firm to create links from any and all sources possible. Plumbing sites linked to pages about dresses, construction sites linked to pages about women's shoes and the list went on from there. Google brought hammer down once the scheme came to light and the company was suddenly faced with pages that were buried and a PR nightmare.
* Don't pump out low quality and/or duplicate content. Google's Panda/Farmer algorithm update targeted both of these types of content which didn't have too much of an effect on most sites but effectively wiped out those that had built rankings on low quality and duplicate content.
* Don't be tempted by black hat SEO - It's going to be harder to get away with and getting discovered is never a good thing. Just ask Overstock to see how their plan to buy .edu links worked out. Like JC Penney, the scheme came to light and Overstock paid for it in falling rankings and PR problems.

 

Generally speaking, trying to manipulate rankings or trick the search engines is not going to end well. Following these SEO tips, earn your rankings honestly and you'll be rewarded. You'll also sleep better.

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Local search marketing has become the best and most cost effective way for businesses to reach out to targeted customers in their geographical area. As consumers have abandoned old staples such as the Yellow Pages, they have gravitated towards local search on the web in order to make decisions on where to shop, dine, and buy.

 

The true beauty of local search marketing is that a typical business' competition for search engine rankings is limited to the targeted region, city, county, etc. This means that front page exposure on the search engines is both a possibility and a reality for businesses, regardless of their size or available manpower.


Assuming you already have a website up and running, the first thing to do on your local search marketing task list is to claim your listings at Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing, and Yelp. There are more sites where you may want to claim your listings but these are the major players in the game. Upon your arrival at these sites you may find that there is already a listing for your company but you'll still need to claim the listing in order to make modifications and add information to the site. In addition to general information, these sites allow for pictures, video, coupons and promotions.


Next, make sure to place your company's address as well as a local phones number on each page. This reinforces your local positioning with both the search engines and visitors on your site. If you're not using the footer on your site's pages, the address and phone number can be placed there.
Congratulations! You have completed two of the major steps to launch your local search marketing.

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There is no place that describes "Survival of the Fittest" better than the web. Much like any competitive environment, those that execute on the web survive while those that don't, well, don't. If you're serious about developing a presence for your site, you are going to have to adapt to what the fittest entities on the web are doing to both survive and thrive.

While it may sound a little (or a lot) Darwinian, the websites that adapt and execute the best are the ones that succeed. While site design plays a big role in the game, the defining issue always comes down to the execution of web marketing strategies. These strategies are always multi-faceted depending on the type of business but still fall generally along the same lines.


The crux of successful web marketing lies in two areas; developing quality content both on and off the site and building inbound links to the site. The quality of published content, while it can play a role in the search engines' algorithms, is pointed more toward developing credibility and trust with readers.
In terms of what the search engines look for, inbound links play one of the most significant roles. These links rely on quality content to survive and are considered as "votes of approval" from the originating site, which links out because it deems the receiving site as both worthy and relevant. Because these links are considered by the search engines as objective third party referrals, their weight plays a significant role in how pages fare on search engine results pages.


By combining these two characteristics, quality content and inbound links, your website can win the battle of the "survival of the fittest".

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The Gervais Group, a recognized leader in the execution of web development, internet marketing and reputation management strategies, is pleased to announce that it will be presenting two informative sessions covering the best practices in social media for businesses during Nationwide Marketing Group's "Prime Time" conference and trade show, which starts on March 3rd and runs through March 6th, 2013 in Las Vegas. The presentations, titled "Establish your R.E.I.G.N. over Social Media" will provide insight and information on how companies can successfully Reach out to their target market, Engage with customers, Interact, Get feedback, and Note progress.

 

Topics will include:
An Introduction to Social Media – This discussion will cover how social media works, popular misconceptions, benefits, and risks of participating on social media platforms.
How to Develop and Execute a Customized Social Media Strategy – This section of the presentation will help businesses in their preparation, building and execution of strategies that can build their brand, improve rankings on search engine results pages, engage with new and existing customers, and more.
Metrics and Tools to Measure Social Media Initiatives – Information presented here will provide insights on the ways in which companies can keep their finger on the pulse of their social media initiatives.
The next opportunities in social media – The presentation will close with a discussion of the ongoing evolution of social media and where the next opportunities for businesses will arise.

 

The Gervais Group, founded in 2001 and a strategic partner of the Nationwide Marketing Group, has built its industry leading reputation by delivering cost-effective and result oriented internet marketing solutions for companies across the full spectrum of business. Strategies are customized to each client company based on industry, products/services, related keywords, and a host of additional factors. Initiatives typically target the optimization of rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs), participation across a variety of social media platforms, distribution of high value content, and website design.

 

Nationwide Marketing Group's PrimeTime! Conference is held semi-annually and is attended by thousands of business owners, vendors, and dealers from across the country seeking updates on best practices, the latest industry trends, and networking. Nationwide Marketing Group members now total over 3,000 in number and generate an aggregate of $12 billion in revenues annually.

 

Said Jason Gervais, Senior Project Manager of the Gervais Group, "The entire team at Gervais Group is very excited about our participation with Nationwide Marketing Group at the PrimeTime event in Las Vegas". He added, "Being asked by Nationwide to speak at the event is quite an honor and we are looking forward to presenting high value information that can take the social media initiatives of those in attendance to the next level".

 

Presentations by the Gervais Group at the conference are scheduled for Monday, March 4th from 7:30am to 8:45am and Tuesday, March 5th from 9:00am to 10:15.

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Whether you are building a new ecommerce site or redesigning an existing one, there are three major considerations that should factor in to your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. 
 
  1. Responsive web design – Internet access in general and visits to your site specifically via mobile devices will increase steadily as computing moves toward always-on tablets and smart phones. Responsive design architecture will allow your site to deliver a positive experience for mobile users whether the interface occurs through a large monitor or a small iPhone screen. Because the search engines are also interested in an optimized user experience, dynamic sites with responsive web design architecture will be rewarded with higher search rankings.  
  2. Optimizing for Google’s new search paradigm – In the third quarter of 2013, Google switched out its existing algorithm for determining search rankings for a new one. One of the biggest changes implemented in the Hummingbird update, in terms of SEO strategies, was the shift of focus from specific keywords to the full context of search terms. The change was fomented by the increasing use of questions by mobile device users as search terms, primarily through voice commands. Successful SEO strategies will now have to optimize for longer phrases that answer questions about their products rather than building campaigns based around keywords that drive traffic. One of the biggest opportunities presented by this change is that companies that can define the most common questions asked just before purchases can position themselves on results pages at exactly the time when consumers are ready to buy.    
  3. Social media is not a plug and play channel – Facebook and Twitter have been long standing default choices for businesses seeking social media exposure, but both platforms present challenges in terms of generating revenues. Before dedicating resources to these platforms, look for “social shopping” sites like Wanelo and Poshmark and/or networks that are dedicated to specific interests that include your products and services. These smaller sites can put your business in a position where it is communicating with a receptive audience versus one that is more interested in sharing pictures of food and cats.
 
A new site or a redesign of an existing one presents numerous SEO opportunities. By starting from scratch with these current strategies, your site can deliver exactly what the search engines and your target market are looking for.
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The Gervais Group, an industry leader in the provision and execution of results-based strategies in search engine optimization (SEO), web design, and e-commerce, is pleased to announce its return to Las Vegas to participate in Nationwide Marketing Group’s bi-annual “Prime Time!” buying show and members’ conference. The event, which takes place at The Venetian, begins on Sunday March 9th and runs through Wednesday, March 12th, 2014.


Headquartered in Atlanta Georgia since its founding in 2001, the Gervais Group has been designing and implementing comprehensive web-based strategies for the members of Nationwide Marketing Group since earning preferred provider status in 2012. These customized strategies encompass all aspects of marketing and selling products and services on the web while simultaneously driving targeted consumers to clients’ physical storefronts as well.


Nationwide Marketing Group’s core services are designed to benefit a membership that is made up of independent store owners specializing in appliances, furniture, consumer electronics, custom installation, and rent to own programs. One of the key benefits delivered by Nationwide Marketing Group, which is the largest group of its kind in North America, is the inclusion of its members in specialized buying groups which facilitates product discounts and rebates based on aggregated purchase orders. The aggregation of members’ purchase orders results in pricing and volume-based rebates that are competitive with those of national franchises.


Jason Gervais, the Senior Project Manager of the Gervais Group, said, “Nationwide Marketing Group’s ‘Primetime!’ conferences offer a bounty of information to its membership ranging from intelligence on the latest models across a broad scope of products to the best practices in web-based operations.” He seconded, “These events enable us to keep members current with the constant changes on the web, such as the opportunities presented by rise of mobile device access and responsive web design, both of which can enhance ecommerce efforts.”


The Gervais Group, which was founded in 2001, has been designated as a preferred service provider for Nationwide Marketing Group’s members since 2012. As a recognized leader in the delivery of customized ecommerce solutions, the company develops cost-effective strategies that drive sales while also enhancing the brand of each of their client-companies.

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This is not to say that categorizing these expenses in this manner is completely incorrect but, by examining the relationship between SEO and reputation management as well as their effects on marketing initiatives, there are a number of advantages in consolidating the two practices. These advantages include:
 
* A better focus on key search terms – Putting SEO and reputation management campaigns in separate “silos” unnecessarily dilutes efforts on both sides. Instead, combining the resources required to achieve multiple objectives can generate greater efficiencies, lower costs, and improved communication of the business’ messaging via unified content development.   
* Increased visibility with multiple listings for key search terms – One of the primary actions in a reputation management campaign will be the development and optimization of numerous web pages with the objective of dominating the top listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This action increases visibility on high value search terms while relegating competitors’ web pages to lower listings that are outside of the most common search parameters.     
* The development of defensive measures that also generate revenues – While the first two advantages listed here relate to marketing, the primary objective of a reputation management campaign can also be achieved by the same revenue-generating tactics. In fact, taking a proactive reputation management stance can prevent negative content from surfacing in the first place, which is far more preferable than working to submerge potentially harmful content that is occupying high rankings for important search terms.
 
While SEO has always played a significant role in reputation management, the two practices are often run separately. Instead, companies that combine these initiatives can improve online marketing results and protect their brand while realizing efficiencies in costs, messaging, and operations.
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Despite a minimum of fanfare when Google introduced its new Hummingbird algorithm in September, 2013, the complete makeover of the formula used to set rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs) also changes the effectiveness of many of the traditional SEO tactics. At the same time, other tactics will retain their importance and continue to deliver positive results. 
 
Here are the tactics that Hummingbird has rendered as obsolete: 
 
  • Keyword-centric SEO strategies – Strategies that focused on traffic generated by selected keywords are becoming extinct as the sophistication of the new algorithm enables the return of results based on the context and nuance of search terms in their entirety.
  • Keyword-centric pages on web sites – Web pages that have been created with content that is purposed to match keywords used for searches will see their search rankings fall, due to their being seen as delivering an inferior user experience than the pages that provide answers to specific queries.
 
And the practices that will continue to work:
 
  • Writing for your target market, not for search bots – The new algorithm has reduced/eliminated the rewards for mechanically formulated content while shifting the focus to delivering information that results in an optimal experience for people.  
  • Consistently creating on and off-site content that delivers value – Valuable content answers questions and/or solves problems. The consistent production of informative content will broaden the number of queries that can be answered on your site’s pages as well as your other online assets such as blogs and social media platforms.
  • Developing content that generates natural links – The process of link building is now one of producing selected high level content rather than distributing masses of spun or low quality articles. Authoritative and professionally written content can motivate sites to link to your web pages and produce high quality social signals through sharing, re-posting and other forms of engagement. 
 
While a high percentage of SEO activities were keyword-centric and should be abandoned to reflect the changes in search formulas, there are other tactics that can still yield big benefits. These tactics share a common thread of delivering value to readers, and the sites that can consistently execute them will benefit by gaining customers and earning high rankings on the search engines.

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  • User Experience and SEO

    SEO

     

    Prior to Google’s implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm in the second half of 2013, search engine optimization and delivering a positive user experience with published content were distinctly different practices. Despite Google’s mission to surface high value content, its algorithms were easily manipulated with SEO tricks that didn’t necessarily deliver the information that the search engine users were looking for. At the same time, content that delivered relevant information often earned lower rankings than poorly written articles that prioritized packing in keywords over adding value.

     

    Hand it to Google, the search engine has stayed true to its commitment to deliver improved user experiences and is now far less vulnerable to manipulative practices. Its ranking algorithm now factors a variety of signals that result from positive user experiences, including:        

            

            Links from authority sites – Content that contains valuable source material, topic-relevant information or delivers a positive user experience in general can earn links from authority sites to provide additional information or to be cited as a reference. These links carry an increasing amount of weight in the ranking algorithms due to the quasi-vetting process from originating authority sites. This is a completely different ranking methodology than the one which rewarded web pages that had thousands of spammy backlinks purchased for a few pennies each.       

            Social actions – When content is posted to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, user can elect to share that material with their friends and/or followers. Sharing or liking posted content is referred to as a social action, which is an indication that the content delivers a positive user experience, whether it’s entertaining, informative or a combination of the two. Steady and/or increasing social actions with specific web pages can then boost rankings due to the implied legitimacy of independent referrals.    

             Active and positive comment threads – Quality content draws engagement in the form of active commentary threads. Content that is generating shares and likes will also elicit commentary, with the actions reinforcing each other when being weighed by search algorithms. While these reinforcing actions are great for SEO campaigns, they are equally capable of driving higher rankings for negative content, such as news stories.    

     

    In today’s SEO campaigns, manipulating the algorithms has become increasingly difficult. This is due in part to the growing sophistication in algorithm methodology that can detect spammy links and content. It is also due to the evolution in the way people communicate and share information on the web. The paradigm change now forces SEO and content distribution campaigns to focus on the same primary goal; delivering a positive user experience. 

  • One SEO Change to Implement Now

    social-media-marketing

    As the sophistication of search algorithms continues to increase, search engines are improving their understanding of what their users are looking for with their inquiries. Prior to replacing its search methodology with the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, search results typically showed results that had a high percentage of the same keywords included in users’ inquiries. While the pages that were returned based on keyword matches generally reflected some relevance to the search, there were also results that had nothing to do with the nature of the inquiry.

     

    Two of the primary reasons for these unrelated results were black hat techniques that were used to trick the early algorithms into granting high ratings, as well as words that were spelled the same but had different meanings, known as homonyms. An example of a homonym is the word “lead”, which can either be a noun as in the metal or a verb as in “to guide”. An inquiry such as “lead dog” could list sculptures of dogs made of the metal as well as dog teams in the Iditarod race. Refining the search to “what is a lead dog Iditarod” could still return mixed results. With the implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm, searches provided results based on the context of the inquiry, rather than trying to find pages with identical keywords.

     

    The change to contextual search, in addition to providing a higher percentage of relevant results for all users, was also influenced by the more conversational nature of inquiries from mobile device users. When voice commands are used, it’s more natural to ask a question than limiting inquiries to a few key words. As the search phrases became longer, keyword-based algorithms struggled to return listings that answered the questions that were being posed, which required follow-on searches and lead to a less than optimal user experience.

     

    For businesses that have not changed the foundation of their SEO initiatives to the new search methodology, previously high rankings are likely to start falling, if they haven’t already. The key to success in context-based search is to modify content so that it answers the questions posed verbally by mobile users. As a simple example, a searcher may pose the question “Where is a pizza place in Anytown?” Content that answers that question, which would earn a higher search listing, would include something like “Jack’s Pizza is located at 123 Main Street in Anytown.”

     

    As Google and the rest of the search engines try to deliver the best user experience possible, the focus is on eliminating listings that don’t deliver the answers sought by searchers. To that end, the listings that are presented will increasingly address the full context of inquiries with the delivery of specific answers. In this environment the SEO campaigns that are modified to answer questions, rather than match keywords to searches, will deliver website and storefront visits which will drive revenues.  

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