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The search engines are constantly upgrading their algorithms with the purpose of surfacing web pages with links and other search engine optimization elements that are difficult to manipulate, as evidenced by Google's Panda update in early 2011 and the Penguin update a little over one year later. Due to the transparency of communications between companies and their followers/friends/fans on social media platforms, these algorithms are steadily increasing the weight and significance of links and their bearing on how web pages are ranked on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

For businesses, the shift of the search engine algorithms toward favoring links and other facets of SEO that come from social media sites necessitates an active presence on these platforms, whether the interfaces are translating into increased revenues, or not. The alternative would be to stay away from social media entirely and hope that the search engines' accelerating prioritization of SEO in their ranking algorithms doesn't affect hard earned visibility on the SERPs. Measures that a company could take as an alternate path to social media would include increasing the number of internet assets, redoubling article distribution, and auditing the company's website to ensure that it is properly optimized.

The problem with this alternate path is that these actions would most likely result in a diminishing returns scenario, even if the algorithm shift to social media oriented SEO wasn't already under way. The reason for these diminishing returns is that companies that are actively engaged in SEO have usually already targeted the best venues for links, blog posts, content, etc., meaning that they will see a lower return on their investment as their actions expand to less relevant and weaker sites. In fact, weaker sites and the links generated from them were the primary target of Google's previously mentioned Panda and Penguin updates.

With the search engines signaling their preference for social media generated SEO as well as their disdain for specific and traditional optimization practices, thefuture for high rankings on the search engines results pages rests in the wide and growing variety of social media platforms. While engagement on these platforms may not lead (at least immediately) to measurably increased revenues, the alternate will likely be a slow deterioration in search engine rankings accompanied by decreasing visibility, consumer traffic, and sales.

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Best Buy, realizing that their current business model puts them at a disadvantage to smaller retailers and online stores like, is in the process of closing 50 stores with a stated objective of opening new locations with a much smaller footprint than their current 40,000+ square foot stores. The company also announced a price matching initiative for online orders as they target both the physical storefronts of independent electronics dealers and online sellers like Amazon and Rapidbuyr.


While the thought of competing head to head with a big name like Best Buy may seem daunting for smaller retailers, there are three areas where independent electronics dealers have the edge over their larger competitors:


  • Service and familiarity – Independent electronics dealers that have focused on providing exceptional service to their customers over the long term have typically built a high level of familiarity and loyalty with their customer base. As a trusted resource for electronics, these stores are positioned as the "go to" place for electronics being purchased for their customers' homes or businesses.
  • Best Buy's current over-arching business model – The current business model at Best Buy has two huge disadvantages; stores that are too big and employees that aren't knowledgeable enough with products on the floor. Smaller retailers typically don't have to carry the high overhead of cavernous stores and often have employees with more longevity, knowledge and experience than those at larger stores with a revolving door of new employees on the floor.
  • Access to competitively priced equipment through electronics buying groups – Joining an electronics buying group can level the playing field for independent dealers in terms of pricing equipment. These buying groups combine orders from their members to receive pricing discounts that are similar to those of larger singular buyers. These discounted unit costs can play a large role in helping independent electronics dealers price their products competitively while still maintaining solid profit margins.


In many ways, Best Buy has taken an, "...if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," mentality while possibly not fully realizing the advantages that independent electronics dealers already possess. That being said, competition in this industry space will most likely intensify, meaning that independent dealers will continually need to extend advantages where they exist and constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities.

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As Best Buy continues to close stores due to dwindling sales, independent electronics dealers can take lessons from a variety of mistakes and challenges that have hurt the former big box leader of electronics sales. The primary issue for Best Buy, as defined by industry experts, is a consumer action referred to as "Showrooming". Showrooming occurs when consumers go to a big box store like Best Buy to see, touch and feel a product but then leave the physical location to buy the same product on the web. For Best Buy, the problem had become so prevalent that the electronics store was increasingly referred to as's showroom.


Best Buy isn't the only big box chain being punished as more consumers migrate to the web for purchases of electronics and other consumer items. In fact, the big box business model, which thrived in the 80's and 90's as consumers flocked to single locations with massive inventories, may have run its course as those same consumers can now go online to find the same variety of products at lower prices due to operational inefficiencies at large physical storefronts.


One of the key aspects factoring in to these inefficiencies at big box stores is actually an advantage for independent electronics dealers; the shrinking size of many home electronics such as desktop PC's to tablets, for example. While this dynamic challenges big boxes, the same factor allows independent electronics dealers to offer consumers a wider selection of products without adding additional shelf space.


As consumer electronics become increasingly commoditized, independent dealers won't necessarily be faced with the same challenges as big box stores, but should still train their focus on increasing their competitiveness in all areas of their businesses. These areas include improving efficiencies in their storefront operations, assessing the benefits of selling online, and looking to offer services that add value to the electronics they sell, such as setting up home networks that connect the ever-increasing number of devices and electronics that have become a part of the everyday life of today's consumers.

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With 2012 coming in as the slowest year for Initial Public Offerings (IPO's) since 2008, business owners who have been contemplating a public offering are trying to decide whether to take the plunge or wait until the pace of offerings accelerates. Part of the blame rests with Facebook's disappointing (aka: failed) IPO last spring which saw shares slump into the teens after being sold to the public for $38 per share. Since making its low at $17.55, the shares have recovered to a current trading level in the high $20's but the IPO market has remained chilly.


Despite this tepid environment for companies trying to go public, the right IPO deal can still get done and the Facebook IPO can teach us a lot about what not to do. Here are some of the errors that were made in the third largest IPO on record.


1) A lack of experience in the team that was put together to take Facebook public – David Ebersman was hired in part due to his "public company experience" but that experience was gained during his 15 tenure with Genentech, which had gone public 14 years before Ebersman joined the company. One of his biggest errors was his over-estimation of demand for Facebook shares, which led to his push for a 25% increase in the amount of shares in the offering a few days before the IPO. This effectively flooded the market and shares took a dive in part due to oversupply.
2) Shares in the offering were structured with voting rights diminished to the point that shareholders had no power to effect change in the company. It was perceived as an act of hubris based on the hype surrounding the offering and led many institutional investors to a decision to sit on the sidelines instead of participating in the offering.
3) Rampant insider selling – In most cases, especially in high-visibility IPO's, insiders are forced to wait for the expiration of blackout dates or for a secondary offering after the IPO is completed to sell their shares. The high amount insider selling in Facebook's IPO looked like a massive exodus to many industry watchers.


IPO's in today's market can be completed successfully by making the right offering and learning from mistakes made by recent predecessors. Working with an experienced group, such as the team led by Dmitrij Harder at Solvo Group can put your company's IPO on the right track and keep it there through its completion. For more information, visit:

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While the markets, as measured by the S&P 500, are approaching highs not seen since 2007, the IPO market and other means used by private companies to raise cash from new investors have slowed to a pace similar to that of 2008 as the recession was going into full swing. Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of Facebook's problematic IPO in May of 2012 while another concern that dampened enthusiasm for IPO's in the second half of 2012 was the looming "Fiscal Cliff" battle, which had many industry watchers predicting a slide back into a recession due to spending cuts and tax increases.


Another factor, especially for private placements and reverse mergers, is the preference of investors for investments that have liquidity and can be sold into an active market. For many, the idea of owning restricted shares or shares that are months or years away from a liquidity event is simply not the most attractive use of their investment dollars.


These concerns aside, money is still being allocated these types of projects when the investment presents an attainable and realistically large opportunity. Here are the keys to presenting the type of investment that will attract attention and funding in this environment:


*Be ready to present the path your company will take on its way to reaching its objectives in detail – Being able to clearly describe how your business will get from where it is now to the point where it rewards its investors can help investors understand the workings of your business as well as the role their investment will play.

*Be able to show proof that your product/service is viable and has a market with enough size to drive the revenues that you're forecasting – A proven product/service with a market looking for the solution your company provides takes a significant amount of risk out of the equation.

*Execute, execute, execute – Companies that take an aggressive stance toward executing their business plan can often succeed even when their product isn't the best on the market. Being perceived as a "doer" versus being a talker is where you want to be in the minds of your investors.


Private companies seeking funding are always operating in a challenging environment and current circumstances are making that job even tougher. Working with a team experienced in helping companies get funded, such as Dmitrij Harder's team at the Solvo Group, can get you prepared for outside investors and put your company in the best position possible for raising capital. For more information, visit:

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FurnishAmerica, one of the largest dealers of Ashley furniture online, is pleased to offer several helpful options to set up the perfect home office with Ashley Office Furniture. These options include information on optimal configurations for home offices, the right pieces to buy for specific circumstances, and efficient use of what can often be limited office space.

The nature of the work place is changing rapidly in the United States and around the world as more people in the workforce get some or all of their work done in home offices. These home offices can range in scope from a computer on the kitchen table to home office configurations that can rival the traditional office workspace. While it is true that these home office environments may not possess the same types of distractions and interferences as a traditional office, working at home can present a different yet equally substantial set of challenges.

One of the biggest challenges for people working at home without a room specifically dedicated as a home office space is getting set up in an area that is both functional and as far away from distractions as possible. In these situations the optimal area may be small, requiring high functionality for every piece of furniture to be used as part of the office. For these circumstances, Ashley office furniture offers two-piece office sets that include a swivel chair and a desk with plenty of surface for a computer/tablet, keyboard, telephone, etc.

For either larger open areas or small offices, options from Ashley office furniture include three-piece sets that add a small filing cabinet to the chair and desk configuration. Larger areas also present options for bigger desks with more drawers, leg room, and desktop surface area.

For larger home offices, Ashley home office furniture offers four, five, and six-piece sets that incorporate bookcases, credenzas, and hutches to the basic home office setup. In addition to these collections, accent pieces can be added for customization of an Ashley home office configuration to address any specific requirements. As with all Ashley furniture, designs and materials can be coordinated to present a fully integrated appearance to meet the highest standards of interior design.

"Home offices are being set up in an increasing number of homes around the country", said Jay Storey, President of FurnishAmerica. He added, "Our home office furniture selections give our customers the freedom set up home offices that range in style from simple to lavish".

With thousands of collections and individual accent pieces, FurnishAmerica ranks as one of the largest sellers of furniture online. The company offers furniture for the living room, dining room, bedroom, home office, and home entertainment centers at prices discounted by 30% or more.

FurnishAmerica offers Signature Furniture by Ashley, Ashley Furniture, and Millennium collections at the FurnishAmerica site for every room of the house. For more information, visit:

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Here’s the thing. Building the finest website the world has ever seen just isn’t enough. Unless you’re passing out business cards by the thousands, you’re going to need some SEO marketing and maybe a lot of it. Seo marketing starts with the selection of keywords and keyphrases possessing 3 characteristics:
1) There isn’t a ton of competition for the keywords – This is a bit of a “Goldilocks” situation where you want some competition to indicate traffic, just not too much of it.
2) There is enough traffic conducting searches using the specified keywords – the best SEO marketing ever will be meaningless if people aren’t using the search terms you’re optimizing.
3) Keyphrases are generally made up of between two to four words. The longer the keyphrase, the more specific it will be. Being more specific helps to define the type of visitors who are more likely to find value on your site and make purchases.
Once keyphrases that fit these traits are found, the next step is to start publishing content which will incorporate them in the text. There are many options both in terms of places to publish on the web as well as the type of content that will be published. Places to publish include:
* WordPress and  Google for blogs
* Ezine, Squidoo, and Hubpages for informational articles
* Mini-sites like LiveJournal, Vox , and Gather which can combine blogs and articles
With productive keywords and a multiple of places to publish, your SEO marketing plan will be able to start creating backlinks to your main website which will score points with the search engines while delivering targeted traffic to your site.      
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Within the last 18 months Google has released two algorithm updates that left most websites alone but rocked the world of others. Each update targeted different forms of spammy practices that were being used by a relatively small percentage of websites to manipulate rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). While the algorithm updates were dissected endlessly across the web, there are three main takeaways from the combination of Panda and Penguin.


1) Create content for the people who will read it, not for the bots that will crawl it. Sticking the same keyword in every sentence on a page may have counted with search engine bots in the past but their sophistication has increased to the point where stuffing keywords will work against you. You'll also lose visitors who see your content as nothing more than a repetitive exhibition of the search term they used to find your site.

2) Develop unique content and be selective where you post it. Duplicate content posted all over the web doesn't count with the search engine bots. Unique and informative content on sites that have relevance to yours is what counts with search engines now.

3) Getting links from authority sites that are within your industry is far more important now than having thousands of links from all over the web. Inbound links from sites that do not have relevance to your site no longer count and could get you penalized if you have enough of them.


If you're doing the basics of SEO correctly, updates like Panda and Penguin won't hurt your search engine rankings. In fact, they may help if they're knocking competitors out of the game that have manipulated their way to the top listings on the search engines.


Call Gervais Group at (800) 381-9358 for an initial assessment to maximize the potential of your business with coporate internet marketing/SEO marketing services.

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The Penguin Update hit many high-ranking sites after determining that high percentages of their inbound links were coming from link farms and sites that had no relevance to them. Some websites that were hit by the update saw their listings plummet from the first page of the search engine results pages (SERPs) to depths of 50 to 60 pages. Websites found to be excessively abusive were delisted by Google, never to be seen on a SERP again.

Websites that were punished by the Penguin update now have a decision; quit or rebuild. For those who decide to rebuild their links, the process will take time but it can be done by taking the following actions:


  • The link building process must follow a natural growth curve. A site with 8 inbound links on Monday that 900 links on Thursday will be right back in hot water with the search engines.
  • Links should be directed to a variety of internal pages on the sites, not exclusively to the home page.
  • Links should originate from a variety of sources such as social media sites, blogs, press releases, etc.
  • The natural growth of a link profile will include "no-follow" and "do follow" links. The search algorithms will be expecting both so make sure that you build no-follow links as well as do-follows.
  • The growth rate of a site's back-links should be closely correlated to its growth in traffic numbers. Additionally, the number of visitors to the site should outnumber its back-links by a wide margin.


The Penguin update has served two notices; that an unnatural link profile will be found out and penalized and that keeping your SEO practices above board with a natural growth curve will be rewarded. With that in mind, take a methodical link-building pace when rebuilding and let the other guys take the hit from the next "Penguin".


Call Gervais Group at (800) 381-9358 for an initial assessment to maximize the potential of your business with coporate internet marketing/SEO marketing services.

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With their two recent algorithm updates, Google has taken steps to counter abusive practices designed to manipulate rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). The targeted practices violate Google's "Webmaster Guidelines" and sites found to be using them either saw their rankings fall precipitously or disappear after being removed from Google's index.


Surprisingly, some of the practices that Google detected and punished are still being used by webmasters/websites at the risk of severe consequences. For some, use of these blacklisted activities on a website can be purely unintentional or unknown to them. Either way, the penalties can be severe.


Here are some activities that should be stopped immediately:


  • Being on the receiving end of links that originated from sites that have no relevance to yours - These types of links were clearly in Google's crosshairs as they went after link farms and the sites that received links from them. The biggest problem here is that you have to contact the site of origin to get them removed. As you might imagine, removing these links is not a high priority for the sites of origin.
  • Stuffing keywords into your content - Google appears to be de-emphasizing keyword density as they look to start targeting "over-optimized" websites.
  • Getting tricky with cloaking and other black hat activities - These practices will be dealt with harshly by the search engines, so if they're a part of your online presence, get rid of them immediately.


There is now so little upside to engaging in these practices it makes no sense to use them. This is especially true considering the risk of receiving a "death sentence" (delisting) for using practices that not longer help with search engine rankings.


Call Gervais Group at (800) 381-9358 for an initial assessment to maximize the potential of your business with coporate internet marketing/SEO marketing services.

Featured News

  • User Experience and 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


    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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