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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
  • The 6 SEO Mistakes Your Business Can't Afford to Keep Making

    by Jayson DeMers

    Have you ever wondered what's holding your Google rankings and SEO efforts back? Proper SEO is complicated, and making a mistake in your SEO campaign is easy. It's possible your only roadblocks to higher Google rankings are foolish - yet fixable - mistakes. What are some common SEO don'ts, and how can you fix them?

    1. Ignoring Google's latest rules. It's difficult to keep up with Google's changing algorithms. Many inexperienced businesspeople working on SEO strategies are under the mistaken impression that if a strategy works, it will work forever. Google can roll out new changes with little or no advanced notice - and SEO strategies that worked yesterday can cause your rankings to plummet today. 

    Optimizing for Google's latest changes can be difficult, especially if SEO isn't your area of expertise. SEO is one of the most changeable areas of marketing out there. Failing to account for Google's latest content rules can cause a previously high ranking page to fall very low in rankings.

    2. Linking to the wrong sites. The reason Google refreshes its algorithms frequently is to keep up with businesses who are trying to game their system. Their goal is to provide searchers with quality results. With every new change come new SEO strategies. However, understanding the principle of Google's algorithm updates doesn't mean your strategy for beating them will be effective. One example of this is linking to suspicious and low quality sites on your business's page.

    Outbound links are a way to gain credibility for your business, but simply having many outbound links isn't enough. Your links must lead to quality pages. Too many outbound links to suspicious pages can cause your Google rankings to plummet. When linking, you should focus on quality rather than quantity. Outbound links on your page should be relevant to your industry. Avoid linking to pharmacy, gambling, or adult websites. These are specifically flagged by Google's algorithms as low quality and undesirable.

    3. Too many error pages. Another way linking can create problems for your business's page is if they are broken. Google will recognize your site as having quality problems if multiple links result in 404 errors. Broken links are a loss of credibility.

    Sites naturally accumulate errors as time goes on - especially in outbound links. It's important to regularly check your site for these errors and update or delete any broken links. Checking for broken links on your site is easy; check your Webmaster Tools and look for any pages under the section entitled "Not Found."

    4. Duplicate or plagiarized copy. It's fairly common for businesses to take another site's content and place it on their own page. This is illegal and causes Google rankings to plummet. If your business has a high level of plagiarized copy, Google may completely de-index your site. This is a death sentence for your brand.

    Even duplicating content within your own site can lead to consequences. Having multiple pages with exactly the same content can cause several problems for Google. The search engine can't be sure which version is better to retrieve. Even having the same title or meta description on more than one page can be a problem. Supply your website with unique content and titles. This allows search engines to properly index and retrieve the most relevant pages for a particular search.

    5. Optimizing for the wrong keywords. Choosing the right keywords might seem like a no-brainer. Selecting the wrong ones, however, is a common error, and can strike a big blow against your business. Your site should be optimized for keywords matching its purpose and the products it sells - however, the keywords should also be words people actually search for when they need your product or service.

    When choosing keywords, it's best to be as specific as possible. Broader keywords can lead to increased traffic, but low conversion - because people landing on your page don't actually want your service. There are tools online for choosing solid keywords.

    6. Slow page loading. Most people know that SEO requires good keywords and relevant content. However, many are unaware that Google actually ranks pages according to loading speed as well. If your business's site is slow, your search engine rankings will suffer. Especially when it comes to mobile webpages, it's easy to accidentally create a slow loading page.

    Designing your business's page according to responsive design principles allows you to omit certain pages from the mobile site. A professional can help you figure out what is causing your business's page to load slowly.

    Spotting and Addressing SEO Mistakes

    These SEO mistakes are common. However, if your site is performing poorly, it can be hard to figure out exactly what the problem is. The best solution for all SEO issues is regular SEO auditing. According to Chuck Aikens, CEO of Volume Nine, "Because algorithms and weighted factors shift over time, it's a good idea to periodically conduct a technical audit of your website to spot unexpected issues that may have cropped up without you knowing it. An SEO audit can analyze your site to determine where problems are and provide the best solution." Because of the ever-changing ranking factors and the highly technical nature of SEO, it's important to have a professional conduct a regular SEO site audit.

    Don't let your business suffer as a result of these simple SEO mistakes. If you've never had a professional SEO audit, that's the best place to start. If it's been a long time since your last one, make a plan to regularly audit your website. It's an investment not only for the health of your website, but also the relationship you have with your customers and business as a whole.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Do You Know Your Blog's Audience? Don't Be So Sure.

    by Stoney deGeyter

    A blog without an audience isn't worth reading. Do you know who your target audience is?

    Most people don't. In fact, if you talk to many business owners, they'll tell you that their target audience is anyone who wants what they offer. Hmmm, not really zeroing in on your audience there, Junior.

    The problem is, not everyone is interested in what you offer, and trying to go after everyone is like throwing $#!^ against the wall and hoping to keep whatever sticks. What you end up with is a big pile of crap and a whole lot of wasted dollars, not to mention wasted time. To reach the audience that is actually interested in what you offer, you have to first identify those who are most likely to want what you offer.

    identify-your-audience.jpg

    Determine who the people are who will find the most value in what you offer, both in terms of blogging content and products or services that you are selling. By zeroing in on a specific audience, you will be better equipped to write the content that will resonate. It's true that the general audience is a "bigger" pool, but you usually find that you'll reach more people when you narrow down your focus. Why? Because when it comes to content, fewer people like the bigger pool. People congregate to content that is specific for their needs, wants and desires. One-size-fits-all content usually fits none at all.

    Know Who You Want to Reach

    Know Who You Want to Reach

    When going after a specific group as your target, the "who" is usually less about the people themselves and more about their needs. Anyone can target business owners or DIYers. But that still may be too broad of a category to make any difference. After all, one DIYer may be looking to build a patio and the other may be looking to build a gift basket--two very different projects. Similarly, one business owner might want to know the best way to manage their receivables, while another is looking at how to blog effectively. As bloggers, you have to narrow down your "who" by looking at specific things these business owners or DIYers need that relate to what you offer.

    Understand Your Audience's Priorities

    Everyone has different priorities, and over time those priorities shift and change based on what is pertinent today. My business focuses primarily on business owners and decision makers who's priorities are marketing effectively online. We don't do offline marketing so those people are out, at least until they realize how much potential they are neglecting by focusing their efforts online.

    Of course, those priorities can be segmented even further allowing us to get into narrower focuses of online marketing. To reach these segments, each of our strategists blog about their particular area of expertise within online marketing. For one that's content strategy, for another social strategy, for another it's SEO strategy and yet another, PPC and so on. This allows our blog to cover just about all areas of online marketing, offering something for anyone who has web marketing as one of their priorities. But at the same time they can follow one of our writers specifically for content that is more in line with their interests.

    What are the priorities for your target audience?

    Meet Expectations

    Look at other blogs in your space and see which ones get the most engagement. This will give you an idea of what your audience expects to get from blogs such as yours. If they expect engaging, be engaging. If they expect highly resourced, do that. If they expect step-by-step, then give that to them. If you're providing good content but it's not in line with what your target audience expects to read then you're really not helping out much.

    Find out what excites the readers, and brings them to comment, link, or contribute to the post. You can also read comments to find what might be missing from a blog and use that as a means to fill the expectation gap on your own blog. The point is, to give people what they want and more. And the only way to do that is to know what they expect to begin with.

    Help them Overcome Obstacles

    Everyone has challenges and they are looking for ways to overcome them. Set out to be a source that helps people overcome whatever challenges they face in your industry. The worst blogger is one that blogs about the challenges they think people have but completely miss their actual challenges.

    Use keyword research tools and scan through blogs, forums and other communities to see what problems people are having that you know how to overcome. Use that as an opportunity to build your authority by answering those questions and again by writing about the solutions on your own blog. The best blogs are those that help people overcome obstacles... even ones they don't know they have.

    Understand their Decision-Making Processes

    There are a lot of steps in the decision making processes, especially for business owners and managers. Getting a handle on those processes gives you a wealth of opportunity to create content that reaches decision makers at every level. Lacking this understanding you may find yourself writing great content for all the wrong people, which, in the end, does you a whole lot of no good.

    Gather Intelligence

    Gather Intelligence

    The best way to truly know your audience is to learn more about them. Of course you can learn all kinds of neat facts about your (desired) readers but not every bit of information will be valuable to your blogging efforts. So what kind of information is valuable?


    • Demographics: Knowing the age and gender of your audience can help you get a better feel for who you are talking to and allows you to include information on a more relevant level. Talking to 60 year old CEOs can be vastly different from communicating with 30 year old start-up entrepreneurs.

    • Job Title: While actual job titles can vary, most of your intended audience will likely have similar job functions. A little research will likely help you uncover a handful of similar job titles that represent your audience. Use that to do further research and learn about your audience's needs. Driving down further, you can even look at specific companies that you want to reach and craft content that will pique this particular audience's interest.

    • Interests: Depending on your industry, your reader's interests may or may not be all that relevant. However, the best way to reach someone is to speak to something they have a particular interest in. The book How to Win Friends and Influence People gives great examples of getting over multiple rejections simply by talking of something specifically of interest (yet completely unrelated) of their target. In your blog, you can use examples that you know will strike a cord with specific readers. Sometimes getting a little personal is a great way to capture their attention professionally..

    • Goals & Challenges: The more you research your audience the more you'll learn about the goals and challenges they face. Learn to adapt your content to tackle these new findings. If you see a question that you don't know the answer to, find out so you can turn around and become the "authority" on that topic. Don't let someone else steal your thunder. Find out what they are seeking to accomplish and help them do it.

    • Words & Phrases: Many people use very different words to describe the same thing. Someone on in the car industry will refer to "pre-owne"d cars while the average consumer will call them "used cars". Find out the words and phrases your target audience uses and use those phrases throughout your content.

    • How they Describe Themselves: When writing a post, it's important that your audience know who the content is for. If I read a title of a blog post that appears to be for "web designers" it likely wouldn't catch my interest, as I'm a web marketer. However, there are many web design related posts that are also very pertinent to web marketers like me. If you're trying to reach me you have to know that I describe myself as a marketer and therefore tailor your content (and titles) to attract my eyes. This same principle applies to other industries. If you know the terminology people use to describe themselves or their position, you're better able to develop content for that role.


    Interview Your Customers

    The next step to really getting to know your audience--and going that extra mile--is to perform interviews with those that you want to go after. Not only do interviews help raise awareness of your blog, but it also shows that you are doing more than writing at an audience, but that you are writing for them.

    Even a short three-question interview sent via email (with their permission) can give you a wealth of knowledge about your target audience. Interview as many people possible to gain as much information about the type of content that will best resonate with your intended audience.

    Find Out What They Want

    Find Out What They Want

    So far, you've learned a lot about your audience and even how to translate that into blog content. But wants sometimes go beyond content and goes into how they want that content delivered.

    There are many different content delivery mechanisms and some will resonate with your audience better than others. Sometimes the same content can be repurposed into multiple formats, each providing unique and exceptional value but providing a different impact on the consumer. A good example of this is this post, which originated from a section of a presentation, which originated from a much larger presentation. I recently saw a slide deck that started out as an infographic. Thats great use (and re-use) of valuable content.

    Plan the Action For Them to Take

    Plan for them to take action

    No blog is complete without some sort of call to action. Think about two things: 1) What action does your audience wish to accomplish and 2) What action do you want to accomplish. The best call to action is one that fulfills both.

    But there can be many different calls to action on any single piece of content. Work in thoughts and ideas that lead people to specific actions that will help them feel they got the value they came for. This post, for example, outlines four broad actions readers can take to identify and speak to their target audience. If I write my title correctly that's exactly what they expected to find!

    Very few people or businesses build successful blogs simply by blogging randomly. The blogs that stand through time are those that have successfully identified their audience and went after them with great content that resonates. But you can't resonate until you know who your audience is and what they want. You don't have to spend months researching your audience, but never stop learning about them so you can continue to create content that is perfect match for what they want.

    Editor's note: This post is a portion of a larger slide presentation. See full slide deck here:

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Will social media listening replace market research?

    by Mike Moran

    Advertising Age had an interesting story that was brought to my attention by a colleague, where a Procter & Gamble exec speculates that social media is already changing the world of market research. It's an interesting story, mostly because of who is quoted. When a company with the marketing chops of P&G says something, you've got news. But the news is actually much bigger than what you are reading in Ad Age.

    So, yes, the world is changing, but in an even bigger way than we think. Social media is not able to replace all uses for market research today, and won't for many years, in my opinion. But I work with clients every day who use social media for market research. [Full disclosure: I serve as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leader in social media listening platforms.] In fact, one of the largest companies I know has worked on social media for several years, led by its market intelligence team.

    Not only is social media listening replacing some traditional market research already, but P&G (as quoted in Ad Age) says that it's changing the willingness of consumers to even be part of panels because there are so many other different ways that they can tell a company what they are thinking. The allure of being part of a panel went far beyond the gift the participant received--it extended to the ability for a consumer to tell a big company what to do. But now they can do that every day through social media.

    But that client (and a number of other smart clients) has always known that social media is only one part of market research. Market research has always depended on the statistical sample that is representative, something that social media cannot easily deliver today. But traditional research also suffered from the dilemma that you can't get the answers to questions that you don't ask. And that you can't control how the act of surveying changes people's answers. So smart clients have used social media listening to find things they didn't find with traditional research, using surveys and focus groups to confirm social findings when needed. So social is only a part of market research.

    But while social media is only a part of market research, it is much larger than market research, too. Yes, customers have many ways of giving feedback to companies besides being chosen for a focus group. But you can't just look at that for how it affects market research. You must recognize that social media has implications across many functions in the modern corporation. If market researchers recognize how these changes affect themselves, they ought to take a minute to tell their colleagues how it affects them.

    The same tweet that complains about the poor battery life in your newest electronics product might need to be seen by many areas of the company:

    Market research. Well, sure. We want to collect the voice of the customer through all means necessary, including social media.

    Customer service. Wouldn't you want to reach out to that customer and help?

    Marketing. If power users are running out of battery life, might it make sense to target your marketing toward people who are lighter users?

    Public relations. Is this meme taking off? Will this become a viral story that you need to respond to?

    Product development. Shouldn't they be thinking about how to fix this in the next version?

    The list can go on and on. As each group (market research in this case) discovers how social media has an impact on them, they are reminiscent of the blind men examining the elephant. If they hadn't shared their opinions with each other, they would have learned only a small part of the story. Don't be seduced into thinking that social media will neatly affect your specialty without blurring it into five others. Those neat functional lines that we draw on our org charts won't hold up as the new transparency comes crashing in.

    The smartest clients I know are breaking out of these traditional roles and taking an enterprise approach to social media. You would be wise to follow.

    Originally posted on Biznology.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Go the Blogging Distance: Planning for the Long Haul

    by Stoney deGeyter

    Blogging isn't a one-and-done item on your web marketing checklist. It's a long-term endeavor. In fact, until blogs go the way of web directories, once you start blogging you really cannot stop. Not if you want to maintain the value of all the time and energy you've invested thus far.

    There are certain components to blogging that will hold their value over time. Great, evergreen content you've published will be universally valuable. However, if you don't keep producing blog content on an active basis, even great ranked evergreen content will lose it's value and appeal, both to search engines and readers alike.

    Go The Blogging Distance: Planning for the Long Haul
    To create a valuable blog you have to plan to be in it for the long term. There are no shortcuts to creating a great and valuable blog. On the flip side, there are tons of shortcuts to creating a lame blog. But perhaps that's a post for another day... "Blogging Shortcuts That Will Get Your Readers Excited To Leave". Has a nice ring to it.

    Know Who You Are

    Know Who You Are

    To blog effectively, you really have to understand who you are. There is more to that than just understanding what you do as a business or even understanding who your target audience is. It's more about understanding what your audience wants from you. Don't think of yourself as a business trying to attract customers, but instead, be a relational entity that seeks to inform, educate and even maybe entertain a bit.

    Ask yourself the question, how does your business make a difference in people's lives? Now tell that story. Let your readers know what you're passionate about and why. But don't stop there, use your skills, experience and knowledge to help you readers attain information they wouldn't know otherwise. Use your "you" to help them be "them".

    Many businesses try to be something they are not. It's tempting to see someone else's success and think, I want to be them. The problem is, you're not them. There are probably a hundred reasons why someone else's blogging and social media efforts are effective and you may only be able to duplicate a few of them. The good news is that there can be a hundred different reasons why you can be effective and they wouldn't be able to duplicate being you either!

    No Copy Errors

    One of the companies we once worked with told us they wanted to be the Chief David Oliver of the copier world. For those who don't know, David Oliver is the chief of a small-town police department located in Brimfield, Ohio. There is nothing remarkable about Brimfield, but there is something remarkable about Chief Oliver. Brimfield PD's facebook page has over 100K likes. Why? Because Chief Oliver regularly posts his wit, humor and old-fashioned common sense when it comes to policing and crime in his city. It's fun, it's engaging and it makes a lot of people laugh. He even wrote a book, "No Mopes allowed."

    Large business copiers don't exactly have the attraction of stupid things criminals do. There isn't much room for a copier company to be the Chief Oliver of copiers, but that's not to say that they can't write fun, engaging and interesting blog posts. Yet a book titled "No Copy Errors Allowed" isn't exactly going to be a runaway best seller. Scratch that... that's probably a great title for a book! But this client would be more likely to write "No Copy Jams Allowed". Snooze.

    Set Your Goals

    Set Your Goals

    Growing up I remember being told, "if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." That can be paraphrased as, "if you have no goals, you'll never score." In business, setting goals is the only way we have to measure our success. If you are not setting goals, you are often left wandering aimlessly, blown around by whatever comes along.

    The same is true with your blog. You can write for the sake of writing, or you can write with a purpose. While most businesses may think that getting new customers is the number one goal of their blog, be careful about falling into that trap. Blogs are rarely about customer acquisition and more about branding, engagement and authority building.

    Most people who read your blog will never be customers. However, when you use your blog to showcase your knowledge and provide valuable help to your audience, you're building up authority that will help convince many others that you are the company they should be doing business with.

    Determine Your Focus

    Determine Your Focus

    A blog doesn't have to have to be hyper focused, producing content with singular appeal. Mix things up a bit by producing content that targets your audience but will appeal to different people differently. You can do this by including customer testimonials, stories, and even self-promotional posts about your products or services.

    However, it's a good idea to have at least one primary focus that will help you keep zeroed in on your goals. A good mix of post types, including short vs. long posts, video content, how-to and self-promotion makes for a more interesting blog. One type of content that tends to bring readers back more than anything else is helpful content. Everybody likes being helped!

    Determine what type of content your visitors are most interested in and make that your primary focus. But don't be afraid to stir the pot with varying approaches.

    Stick With It

    Stick With It

    If your blog doesn't rocket to the top of the "most widely read blogs" list, don't fret. A good blog takes time to grow. And the more you stick with it the more you'll start to see your leads increase. According to HubSpot, you need to get close to 50 blog posts published before your blog will begin to be a lead generator for your business. That can be a 4-12 month wait depending on how often you're blogging! But the more you post quality content, the more effective you're blog will be over the long haul.

    Good blogging takes a significant investment of time and you have to be prepared to commit to making it work. Too many blogs fail or get abandoned because the bloggers simply did not understand what it would take to succeed. But now you know! Is blogging something you can commit too? Are you able to zero in on who you are, what you want to be and what your goals are? Start there and you've got the first steps covered in blogging successfully.

    Editor's note: This post is a portion of a larger slide presentation. See full slide deck here.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • 5 WordPress Plugins to Ensure Your Pages are SEO-Optimized

    by Jayson DeMers

    A variety of factors impact how well a page ranks in search engines, including quality of content, page meta descriptions, and the URL name. But for a busy professional, keeping up with algorithms and making sure every page on a business website is optimized can be complicated. In light of the results of recent Google search ranking correlation studies conducted by Moz and SearchMetrics, businesses realize certain factors are more important than others when creating content with the intention of ranking well.

    Since many businesses use WordPress for their websites and blogs, several plugins can be a big help. In minutes, a professional can have the WordPress installed on a WordPress site, creating a form that walks content creators through the process of adding optimized information like tags, descriptions, and search engine-friendly URLs. Here are some of my favorite WordPress plugins to assist with SEO meta elements.


    Developed by Yoast, a firm that specializes in creating plugins that use "the art and science of website operation," WordPress SEO makes it easy to create optimized content. Simply type in the focus keyword for a piece of content and the plugin will count the number of times it appears in the headline, page title, page URL, content, and meta description. Users can also type in a meta description that replaces the default description captured by Google, allowing for a more concise description of the content to attract readers to the page.


    Abbreviated WPSSO, WordPress Social Sharing Optimization gives you greater control over the descriptions your page is given when it's shared on social media. It's one thing to add buttons to a page to encourage visitors to tweet, like, share, pin, or +1 an item, but if a sharer's post is merely a link, users are less likely to click it. WPSSO creates the code necessary to ensure that a site is optimized to take care of all of the latest sharing features of each supported social network. The plugin allows the user to check off all desired options, as well as create descriptions to be used when the item is shared on each social network.


    With the All in One SEO Pack, WordPress users enjoy automatic meta-tag generation, XML sitemap generation and management, title and description editing, and more. A performance feature reviews a site and makes recommendations as to how it can be improved to better rank with search engines, as well as provide a better experience for those visiting the site. A free version of All in One SEO Pack has limited features. The pro version with advanced features is available for $39.99 plus $10 per month.


    While it isn't free, SEOPressor5 conducts LSI keyword analysis on your content as you create it. You simply type in the keywords you want to optimize a page for, and the analysis tool monitors how well you're using it. If you want to change one of the keywords, you can change it throughout the content by only changing it within the plugin. Best of all, if you've overused a keyword, SEOPressor5 gives an over-optimization warning. In addition to ensuring your page content and descriptions are SEO optimized, SEOPressor5 helps with your link-building strategy by automatically linking relevant cross-linking content.


    With more than 20 modules available for free, SEO Ultimate has a dedicated meta description editor, designed to help create description tags for posts, pages, attachments, categories, tags, post format archives, and homepages. The tool also searches an entire page's content for anchor texts specified by the user, automatically linking the ones it finds to the destination the user chooses. Businesses can avoid penalties for over-optimization with SEO Ultimate's autolink control feature, which limits the number of times a post or page can link to the same destination.

    Conclusion

    Learning the different techniques to keep a business on track with its SEO marketing strategies can be time-consuming and frustrating, since algorithms change from year to year. These WordPress solutions equip businesses with the tools they need to create successful marketing campaigns through their WordPress sites quickly and easily. Because they're so affordable, even free in some cases, these plugins are the perfect addition to any business's WordPress CMS. Take a look at the infographic below to see how on-page elements correlate with organic search rankings, and you'll have a clearer idea of how and why SEO Wordpress plugins give websites an advantage when it comes to search visibility.


    Via: AudienceBloom.com

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