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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • How to Learn SEO When You Know Absolutely Nothing About It

    by Jayson DeMers

    Search engine optimization (SEO) can be intimidating if you're a newbie. Even the concept -- making changes to your website to increase its visibility in search engines for specific keyword searches -- sounds complicated, and once you dig into the technical details, it all seems even harder to grasp.

    But in reality, SEO is much simpler than it appears on the surface. Almost every tactic you need to increase your rankings can be learned in a matter of weeks ... at least enough to get you going.

    All it takes is the certainty that you can learn this, the dedication to follow through, and a good starting point. So I've come up with the following six steps to master SEO even if you know nothing at the start.

    High-Level Basics

    First, keep these key and high-level basics in mind:

    • The learning never stops. As with any entrepreneurial venture, you should recognize that you'll never learn everything. As Sam Ovens comments, you need to commit to an ongoing learning process if you want to keep making progress. SEO changes all the time, thanks to new technologies and search algorithms, so you want to stay on your toes if you hope to prosper.
    • Scale your knowledge gradually. You aren't going to learn everything overnight, no matter how hard you work. So instead of trying to cram as much information into your brain as possible, focus on a small segment of SEO at a time.
    • SEO is an ongoing experiment. Even if you had all the current knowledge in place, there's no guarantee that you'll succeed. You need to measure, analyze, and refine your efforts constantly to improve your approach on an ongoing basis.
    Phases of Learning

    With those precepts in mind, you can start to learn SEO over six key phases:

    1. Get the 10,000-foot view.

    Start with the basics. Before you tackle anything with regard to SEO tactics, you need to grasp the strategy: what it isn't, how it's used, and how it can benefit your firm. Even if you believe you have a good idea, it's wise to check your assumptions: There are a number of misconceptions about SEO that might skew your approach if you start working under those premises. Moz has an excellent Beginner's Guide to SEO that's worth reading, even if you're already familiar with how SEO works.

    2. Learn how Google works.

    Next, you'll want to get a feel for how Google works as a search engine ... but don't worry: you don't have to learn any programming. Instead, you'll want to learn how Google's algorithms evaluate the authority of domains and pages, how keyword contexts are determined, and the various Google updates that have altered the SEO game over the years. (High-level understanding is fine for most of these.) You can go straight to the source for this one: Google has a great interactive feature that explains the long and short of how Google search operates to index sites and calculate rankings.

    3. Study keyword research and strategy.

    After that, you should learn how keyword research is performed -- as well as why it matters. Hummingbird has transformed the function of keywords within Google search over the past three years, but it's still worthwhile to include target keywords as part of your strategy. Backlinko has a detailed guide on this topic if you're completely unfamiliar with it, but try to experiment with lots of keyword research tools before you settle on the best one for your brand.

    4. Understand how to measure and analyze your campaign.

    Before you start experimenting with the tactics that are intended to help you rank higher in searches, you need to know what you're looking for and how to gauge your success. In this phase, you'll become acquainted with the tools that can help you measure your progress, understand your effectiveness, and ultimately improve your results. Google Analytics is a nearly perfect tool for beginners, and Google offers a fantastic help guide that can walk you through it.

    5. Delve into on-site SEO.

    Once those basics out of the way, you can start to work on the individual tactics and strategies that will make your site rank higher. First, you'll want to look into on-site optimization: all the technical changes, modifications, and best practices that you can apply to your website to make it more visible, better targeted to your demographic pool, and more authoritative. Quick Sprout has a guide with most of the information you'll need to start.

    6. Learn off-site SEO tactics.

    Finally, you'll need to work on the off-site facet of SEO, which includes such tactics as link building and social media marketing. Even though this phase is our final one, it's one of the most powerful phases to master, because of its potential impact on your rank and the risk of costly errors are huge. If you're looking for a good place to start learning, Wordstream has a valuable guide on the subject.

    Once you're gone through these six steps, and learned as much as you can along the way, you should have all you need to start, strategize, and execute an effective SEO campaign.

    Again, there's never going to be an official end to the learning process, so keep reading SEO news sites and don't allow yourself to get too comfortable with any one strategy. The more time you spend in the industry, the stronger grasp you'll have on the ebb and flow of optimization.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • Which Social Media Platforms Should You Use for SEO?

    by Jayson DeMers

    Social media has become a wonderfully diverse field, with dozens of different platforms in all kinds of different niches. While some powerhouses have clearly risen to the top (i.e., Facebook), some platforms offer incredible niche opportunities for businesses trying to get the most out of their campaigns.

    But when it comes to choosing the right platforms to support your SEO campaign, things can get a bit confusing. It's too much effort to pursue a strategy on every single platform you can find, but at the same time you want to make the most of your budget. So which social media platforms work best to support an SEO campaign?

    Why Social Media Matters for SEO

    First, we need to clarify an important misconception: social media doesn't directly affect your search rankings. It may seem like getting more popularity on social media could feasibly improve your rankings, but that's not how Google's algorithm works. So why is social media still important for SEO? Because it has a number of peripheral benefits for your search optimization strategy:

    • Building an audience. Social media makes it easier to build an audience, helping you expand your brand visibility and reputation, which in turn makes it easier to pursue SEO strategies like link building.
    • Promoting your content. Syndicating on the right platforms can also increase the reach of your content.  With more reach, a better reputation, and a bigger audience, you'll also stand to earn more inbound links, which have a powerful effect on your organic search rankings.
    A Look at Each Platform

    Now let's take a look at how each of today's major platforms can help you in this regard:

    1. Instagram.

    First up, we have Instagram, which now stands as the second-most popular social platform in the world (with over 400 million users). Instagram has a huge visibility advantage--if you run a contest here, you could easily attract hundreds of new followers or retain some of your older ones. It doesn't take much effort to manage a branded account, but there's one major disadvantage; you can't include links in your posts. This makes it exceptionally hard to distribute your content and earn more links.

    2. Facebook.

    Facebook remains the king of social media, with more than a billion users worldwide and enough flexible functionality to make even the pickiest marketer happy. You can post links, written content, images, or video, and employ contests, run ads, or join groups and participate in discussions. It's arguably the best platform for content syndication and audience growth due to its universal appeal, but keep in mind that organic reach is slowing down, making it more difficult to scale effectively.

    3. Twitter.

    Twitter is a fast-paced platform that allows you to syndicate links quickly and reach out to new people easily. For these reasons, it's one of the better platforms for quickly building an audience and pushing your content out. However, the main drawback for Twitter is that it's showing signs that it may be past its prime as a social media channel. Many people have predicted the imminent death of Twitter, and its user base doesn't show many signs of a potential recovery.

    4. LinkedIn.

    LinkedIn serves a great niche--professionals, entrepreneurs, and career builders. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks. LinkedIn caters to individuals, so there aren't as many opportunities for brand pages to get visibility. However, if you're using personal brands as conduits to gain connections, participate in groups, and promote your core brand's content, it can be highly effective.

    5. Pinterest.

    Pinterest's format makes it a make-or-break platform for most brands. If you're interested in promoting image-based content or appeal to its consumer demographics, it can be one of your greatest assets. However, there isn't much range of functionality here, and it's not going to appeal to every business. It also has a comparably smaller user base than the above candidates.

    Though all of these platforms have advantages and disadvantages for SEO, you still need to consider how your specific brand fits into the equation. Different platforms will cater to different individual brands, so it's important you know what your specific business's advantages and disadvantages are. For example, if you're consumer-focused with lots of visual products, Pinterest will work better for you. If you're a business consultant catering to late-career professionals, LinkedIn will be better. Of course, the only way to tell for sure is to try a platform and see how it performs--just don't be afraid to cut the dead weight.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • A List of Steps for a Multi Site SEO Migration

    by Todd Bailey

    A multi site migration can result in a better user experience, increased organic metrics and a simpler long-term management solution.  But many SEO's get hung up or miss the most critical pieces to a successful transfer.  Having done many migrations I can say there is more to it than you may have previously thought.

    Let's start with the fun part, Research.  
    Exactly - Not so exciting.  But this is the most important part of the process.  A professional SEO expert will compound hours of research and data to formulate the best migration plan.  Creating lists of high priority content, looking at search console and evaluating how you will accomplish the project.

    Research can be an intangible to a client.  Sending them a spreadsheet of URLs with a roadmap and justification is good document to ease their mind.  But how you come up with that roadmap is part of your strategy, which you should pull from research online from others who have done it.

    Here are some of the items one needs to consider for a multi site migration to maintain as much of their SEO value as possible:

    • Internal Content Analysis
      • Prioritize Legacy Content/Posts on age, authority, linking & traffic
      • URL Structure Analysis & Mapping
      • 301 vs. 404 Analysis of Legacy Content
      • Media Mapping (Images, Videos, PDFs +)
      • CMS Plugin/Tool Review
      • Migration Architecture Development (Categories, Tags, Posts)
      • Internal Linking Mapping
      • External Link Analysis
    • Post Migration Consultation
      • Header Check
      • Unified XML Sitemap Development & Submission
      • Analytics Set Up
      • Indexation Monitroing
      • Search Console Analysis (404, Server Errors)
      • Link Reclamation from External Link Partners

    NOTE:  It is recommended not to change the following at the same time during site migration:

    • Platform (CMS)
    • URL Structure/Naming
    • Design
    • Content
    • Hosting (whois, IP - Only if Necessary)
    Have any other steps?  Drop them in the comments below.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • 7 Strategic Decisions You'll Need to Make for Your Link Building Campaign

    by Jayson DeMers

    Link building is one of the most effective ways to improve your rankings in search engines, passing authority to your domain and making your site seem more trustworthy to Google. But link building isn't nearly as simple as it used to be, and if you want any hope of earning top rankings in search engines, you'll need a solid strategy directing your efforts.

    Why Link Building Matters

    The first step is to create an interesting and profitable blog--if you haven't done that, be sure to check out Neil Patel's guide on the subject. But simply having a profitable blog isn't enough to generate revenue; you'll need to drive traffic to that blog and raise awareness that it exists. It's almost impossible to build authority online without association with other authorities--and that goes for search rankings as well as earning followers and a generally bigger reputation. Link building is indispensable for establishing those associations.

    Strategic Decisions to Make

    Before you go posting links indiscriminately, take some time to sit down and go over the strategic direction you want for your campaign. These are some of the most important areas to address:

    1. Guest posting, link attraction, or both?

    If you want to avoid any possible penalties for link building, you'll need to ensure your links are "natural." The main ways to do this are to use guest posts to embed your links in highly valuable, relevant content, or work on promoting great content on your own blog in the hopes that other people eventually link to it on their own. There are advantages and disadvantages to each; guest posts take more time and scale more slowly, but they're also more predictable and easier to control. Viral content is wholly unpredictable, but could net an explosion of links for your site.

    2. How to approach your niche.

    Your site should belong to a specific niche, and the first round of link building you pursue should be based on establishing your authority in that niche. There are many ways to do this, so you need to have a solid idea behind your approach. For example, will you try to get yourself featured on an industry site, like an association for businesses like yours, or will you partner up with influencers--or even competitors--in your space to create impressive collaborative content? You can choose multiple routes, but you need to know what each one has in store for you.

    3. Page targeting.

    When you build a link to a page on your site, you'll be passing authority both to your overall domain and to the individual page you've chosen (donned "page authority" by Moz). This allows you to selectively target pages of your site with specific links, building up the rankings for the most important or impressive pages of your site in addition to improving your domain. Think carefully about which pages you'll want to specifically promote, and how those might change over time--you also don't want to spam links to only one page, so diversify your strategy here.

    4. Pacing and frequency.

    You'll need to figure out how fast you want to build your link profile, but remember--building links too quickly can appear unnatural. Instead, it's better to think about how often you'll want to guest post to various outlets. This is less about how fast you can see results from your link building campaign and more about how much time and money you're willing to invest in your campaign to see it grow.

    5. How to scale.

    Next, you'll need to think about how your campaign is going to scale. A single link on a high-authority source is worth more than several months' worth on low-authority sites, so how are you going to work your way to higher and higher authority sources? Will you do so gradually? Through internal connections? Are there specific sources you have your eye on?

    6. When to analyze.

    It's important to analyze the effectiveness of your efforts, both from a high-level perspective (such as referral traffic and organic search ranking metrics) and from a closer inspection (such as examining your backlink profile using Open Site Explorer or a similar tool). But how often are you going to measure your results? Monthly? Bi-weekly? This will depend on the intensity of your campaign.

    7. What to analyze.

    You'll also need to decide what the most important metrics for your "success" are going to be. For example, some businesses will primarily focus on earning higher rankings for long-tail keyword phrases, while others will focus on earning as much referral traffic as possible. What are you going to define as "success"?

    Once you can confidently answer these prompts and assert the main goals of your campaign, you'll be ready to start building links. It's a slow and compounding process, so don't expect to see results all at once. But as long as you keep a critical focus on your long-term vision, you'll gradually make progress toward achieving higher rankings and greater traffic for your site.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

  • 6 Ways to Make Your Content More Authoritative for SEO

    by Jayson DeMers

    Content marketing is one of the most important strategies in establishing a solid online presence for SEO, but it's not as simple as "writing lots of content." There are dozens of factors you'll need to carefully consider if you want to be effective, including the content's topic, appropriateness for your brand and audience, practicality, length, and entertainment value. But there's one factor many marketers end up neglecting: the authoritativeness of a piece.

    How Authoritativeness Factors Into Search Rankings

    What is authoritativeness, exactly? Though no strict definition is available, authoritativeness is a general measure for how you're able to produce content. The more a source can be counted on as a reliable provider of information, the more authoritative it is. So how does this measure affect search rankings?

    • E-A-T Criteria. Google doesn't go into much detail about how authoritativeness is quantitatively measured, but we do know it has a major impact on how valuable Google deems a page or a domain to be. According to its publicly available Search Raters Guidelines, three of the most important factors for content to demonstrate are expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T), which are all interrelated. Making your content authoritative should give you a boost in page and domain authority.
    • Linkability. Authoritativeness will also make your piece appear more valuable to outside parties. This alone will turn it into more of a linkable asset, giving you more backlinks pointing back to your domain, all of which will pass authority and increase your propensity to rank.
    • Reputation Factors. Don't forget the peripheral and long-term reputation factors that authoritativeness will bring. As you start developing more authoritative content, you'll become more respected as an authority, which means you'll gain more followers, more publishing opportunities, and other indirect ways to increase your rankings overall.

    How to Make Your Content More Authoritative

    Now that you know why your content needs to be more authoritative, how can you go about actually doing it?

    1. Write from the professional's perspective.

    First, try writing from the perspective of a real professional, demonstrating your authority by referencing a professional title or other credential to validate that authority. For example, rather than writing a simple guide to home security, you could step up the authority like Milwaukee Lockstar by making it a "locksmith's guide" to home security. Or you could write blogs like Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, framing your posts as the advice from a professional plumber.

    2. Use personal brands.

    You could also make your content more authoritative by using personal brands inside and outside your organization to author posts. Over time, your authors may develop niche areas of expertise, generating followings of their own and lending more power to the content they write. Just make sure you're supporting your personal brands with appropriate strategic initiatives on social media.

    3. Include more images and videos.

    Another way to make your content more authoritative is to include more images and video in the body of your work. On a surface level, these multimedia additions will make your content more engaging to users, but they also show that you're going out of your way to illustrate complex subjects.

    4. Cite real examples and facts.

    It's easy to speculate about ideas, but it's hard to prove them. That's why it's important, and authoritative, to cite examples as specifically as possible. Instead of using general hypothetical examples, try to cite real examples backed by true anecdotes or statistics that you've measured. The more specific information you're able to offer, the more authoritative your piece will become.

    5. Link to outside sources.

    Authority is perhaps easiest to earn when you're getting it from someone who already has some. Associating yourself with a known authority will make your authority increase in direct proportion, so be sure to link to outside authoritative sources to validate your points. Cite major influencers in your industry, or domains with high authority of their own.

    6. Make yourself available for inquiries.

    This is a small step, but it's an important one. When using a personal brand or writing from the perspective of an expert, make yourself available for inquiries and discussion afterward--even if it's just in the comments thread.

    With these strategies, you should be able to make your content seem more authoritative, both to search engine crawlers and to your human readers. It might take some time for these changes to result in a noticeable increase in your domain authority and rankings. In fact, only after weeks of consistent execution will it start to bear an impact on your results.

    Stay consistent and you'll eventually reap the benefits.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.

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