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.

Much like personal relationships, when one person is signaling what they want while the other ignores it, the connection gradually...

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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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.      
 

The danger of making search engine optimization mistakes, especially after the rollout of Google's Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, has implications beyond failing to drive visitors to your site. Fall in with the wrong scheme now and you might see your site being delisted for manipulative or abusive practices.

 

Here is a list of mistakes to avoid while building your next SEO campaign:


* Blasting out duplicate content to hundreds of sites - This won't get you penalized as much as it will be a waste of time. The increased sophistication of the search engines now detects duplicate content and counts only the original publication.

* Spending money on services that promise a bazillion links in a week - These guys can get you in trouble and links from non-relevant origins don't factor in the search algorithms anyway. On top of that, trying to get sites where the links originate to take them down can be a long and arduous task.

* Settling for mediocre content - Increased sophistication at the search engines also means they're getting better at discerning low quality content versus high value information. Google has already given indications that their next initiative will focus on surfacing high value content at the expense of mediocre offerings.

 

Avoiding these mistakes while sticking to the fundamentals of SEO can keep your site out of trouble with the search engines. Better still, building and executing a campaign that plays it straight will yield results, possibly at the expense of those who try to bend the rules for their own benefit.

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.

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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  • User Experience and SEO

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    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

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    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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