Posts by Jon Clark:

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Though Google+ has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011–reaching 540 million active users this past October–Facebook remains the world’s largest social network (Google+ is the second). Nonetheless, the relevance of Google+ as an engaging social platform, and its importance to web marketers as a Google-owned property, cannot be debated. Described by Google itself as a “social layer”, the purpose of the tool is to act as an interlay, allowing users to interact socially with google-enhanced websites and services.

One way that Google is doing this is through Google Authorship, which Forbes is calling one of the Top 7 SEO Trends Dominating 2014. Google Authorship is an important factor in the Google algorithm that aims to surface quality content in search rankings based, in part, on who authored it. Content is no longer enough to help a website rank for search terms. Google’s algorithm is continually evolving to highlight websites with content that is authoritative, engaging, diverse, and, just as importantly, written by an expert in the field.

With more and more businesses implementing Google Authorship in their marketing strategy, it is important to know the basics so you can determine if it is relevant to your business. Chances are, it is.

What is Google Authorship?

Google+ and Google Authorship go hand-in-hand. The wide integration of Google+ profiles into Google’s other properties, including its search engine (and, consequently, search results), has essentially humanized, or socialized, the way we search. According to The Huffington Post, Google Authorship was created “with the goal of allowing writers to claim their content, as well as allowing search engine users to find more content written by the same writer.” This allows users to see the face behind the content they’re reading, and adds to the trustworthiness of the website. If a user can see that one person is writing on the same topic across different sites, it establishes that person’s reputation as an expert in the space.

Authorship does not only allow users to find content created by a reputable writer; it also allows Google to do the same. The concept was implemented to reduce spam and improve the quality of content, and, by extension, of search results. As the algorithm evolved to incorporate social media more actively into search results, Google+ became an important tool for sites to improve their rankings. That is exactly how Authorship works: by creating a solid Google+, writers can link their profiles to the content they create, allowing Google, and the user, to infer authority through their social presence.

With Google+ allowing authors to “claim their content”, how do businesses ensure that their content is written by an authority figure? While not every business is in the position to source expensive content externally from prominent figures in their space, Forbes suggests “designating a person within your organization to take ownership of contributing great content to leading online publications…to become your true thought leader.”

What Author Rank Means for Your Page Rank

Google Authorship implies that eventually Author Rank will become as much, if not more, relevant than page rank. As an author’s web presence becomes more prominent through the sheer amount of content they have authored, and the number of sites to which they contribute linked to on their Google+, they become an authority. Ultimately, their rank will factor into search results. It is even speculated that websites that have not implemented Google Authorship will eventually be phased out of search results entirely (though that is just speculation at this point).

An excellent infographic by Internet Marketing Inc. (included below) highlights the importance of Author Rank. Author Rank is directly impacted by the writer’s social activity on Google+ and other social media platforms. The amount of engagement on Google+, including frequency of posts, number of connections, the number of shares and +1’s their posts receive, and comments all factor in. And since Author Rank is tied directly to the writer’s content, not the site on which it is posted, Google’s continued emphasis on Authorship means that the value lies in the writer, not necessarily in the site. Your page rank will always matter, but you will benefit directly from the writer’s Author Rank.

Because the content matters as much as the page on which it is hosted, Internet Marketing Inc. recommends guest posting as a way to improve Author Rank, in addition to active social engagement. Linking a writer’s Google+ to their content means that a snippet of their profile, including their picture, is included in search results. It has been proven that Authorship can increase click-through rates by 30% to 150%, all by humanizing your content. A friendly face can do wonders for the trustworthiness of your site, and the frequency of clicks.

Check out The Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Google Authorship for a thorough breakdown of how to effectively set up a Google+ profile, and scroll down for the full infographic from Internet Marketing Inc.

Facts Behind Google Author Rank & Authorship [Infographic]

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Is Facebook Limiting Your Page’s Reach? What to Know About How Facebook Controls What Your Audience Sees

Is Facebook Limiting Your Page’s Reach? What to Know About How Facebook Controls What Your Audience Sees

Facebook Limits Organic ReachHow would you adapt your social media marketing strategy if only one to three percent of your Facebook audience saw your page’s posts? If you’re a brand with a larger following—say 100,000 Facebook fans—that leaves you with a relatively sizeable audience of 1,000 to 3,000 people.But assuming your page’s fans are in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, that means only a few dozen to a few hundred people see your posts.

While this may seem a grim exaggeration of the limits Facebook places on a brand page’s organic reach, reports say we may not be too far away from this. Valleywag recently published an article contending, “A source professionally familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells [us] that the social network is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent.”

Facebook has always limited organic reach, last disclosing in 2012 that pages only reach 16% of their audience on average.  But Time reports that as of February, pages now reach about six percent. An analysis of over 100 brand pages put forth by Social@Oligavy, Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach, shows the steady decline of organic reach from approximately 12% in October 2013 to roughly six percent in February 2014. Are we nearing the drastic one to three percent reach predicted by Valleywag?

To Pay or Not to Pay: Is Facebook Pushing Us Towards Paid Advertisements?

Many argue Facebook is trying to push companies towards buying ads and paying for distribution of content on what is otherwise a free platform.  Ad Age was one of the first to report on the sharp decline back in December, a month after Facebook announced the drop-off. According to Ad Age, “In the document, titled ‘Generating business results on Facebook,’ the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.’”

Paid advertisement is not a foreign concept to marketers. While the emergence of Facebook Pages seemed to provide a free avenue for building an audience of potential customers, social media was always meant to be just one component of a well-rounded marketing strategy. If anything, this shift is a reminder that Facebook fans are not a network for free content distribution as much as a targeted audience for more effective advertising.

As both Time and Ad Age say, the best way for distributing content will always be paid advertisement. Experts have also weighed in, embracing the necessity to temper organic reach with a paid strategy. John Clark, Fuze SEO, Inc.’s founder, recently told lonelybrad, “Previous to the change, we used to have a set budget to help promote specific posts for campaigns, events, etc. Now, we are giving everything we post an incremental dollar amount — at this point in time that amount happens to be $50/post. We have found this approach to be successful in helping to get initial shares, likes and lifting the content out of the abyss…we are actually seeing improved organic reach even after the funds are depleted.”

Why now? Opponents maintain Facebook is merely seeking to increase. However, it’s easy to understand how Facebook would be motivated to improve user experience. As the sheer volume of content available to users continues to increase, brands are in competition for limited space on peoples’ Newsfeeds. This can lead to an abundance of spam content—memes, duplicate posts, “like-baiting”—all vying for fans’ attention.

Facebook continually updates its algorithm specifically to penalize spam posts, to ensure users see only relevant content on their Newsfeed. Whether or not the company is trying to increase ad revenue, they are encouraging pages to post high-quality content that engages fans.

Work With What You Have: How to Engage Your (Limited) Audience

Paying to promote your page is becoming more of an inevitability, but what about those six percent of fans you can still reach organically? How can you get the most out of your organic reach?

  1.  Make Every Post MeaningfulIf only a fraction of your audience sees your posts, every post must have an impact. The Social@Oligavy report offers some valuable insight into the type of content you should share. News, current events, and trending stories are encouraged by Facebook, as these establish the quality of a page’s content. “This model establishes the value of brands acting as publishers,” says the report.Not only will sharing quality, timely stories maximize your reach, but it establishes your brand as a trusted source of information in the eyes of your fans.
  2. Engage Your AudienceYour fans shouldn’t just see your posts—they should interact with them. While Facebook is penalizing posts that solicit “likes”, you can still encourage people to engage with you. Treat each post as a catalyst for conversation. If you post a news story, share your brand’s thoughts and pose insightful questions that foster discussion.Social Media Explorer suggests encouraging people to share your stories. Your posts become theirs, and as a story shows up in their newsfeed, it reaches their friends as well. Their share becomes a recommendation, an endorsement of your brand that gets your page in front of even more people.
  3. Encourage People to Visit Your PageEven if you reached 100% of your audience, posts only live in their Newsfeed for a limited amount of time. The best way to ensure people see your posts is to encourage them to visit your page. You can share content in a series of posts (such as a developing news story) that encourages visitors to check your page again for the next post. When promoting your page outside of Facebook, as opposed to using a widget for people to “like” your page, share a link to your page so they have to visit it directly to become a fan.
  4. Balance Your Marketing Strategy
    One of the most important things to remember is that organic marketing should only be a part of your overall strategy on Facebook. If you want to increase your reach, you will eventually need to bite the bullet and pay for advertising. Paid and organic reach complement one another, and a well-rounded approach ensures every avenue is covered. Shift Communications offers some useful tips on budgeting your paid advertisements on Facebook.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth – A Free Software Package to Find Broken URL Links

Xenu’s Link Sleuth – A Free Software Package to Find Broken URL Links

With the proliferation of World Wide Web’s records and URLs, the ongoing checking and validation of URLs of the websites is an essential and potentially time-consuming task. However, assistance is at hand.

There are a number of models that can be used to regularly check the validity of URLs of websites. One method would be to work from a list of websites and check each one individually. This may be suitable if you are managing a single website but what if you had 200, 500, 1000 or more websites as is the case with many large enterprise and Fortune 500 businesses? The enormity of the task begins to sink in, particularly as it should be done on a regular basis like other ‘housekeeping’ tasks such as authority control.

Over the years, software developers and programmers have developed URL checking software to automate this task as much as possible. This enables time saved to be spent investigating and repairing broken links. One such package covered in more detail below  is Xenu’s Link Sleuth™ and is available free of charge from their website.

Xenu Link Sleuth Screenshot

What does Xenu do?

Xenu’s Link Sleuth™ is a spidering software that checks websites for broken links including standard URLs, images, frames, plug-ins, local image maps, scripts and Java applets. The list of URLs is continually updated and a number of different criteria can be set if required. The software supports SSL websites (i.e. those commencing with https://) and reports on redirected URLs.

Xenu System requirements

In order to run Xenu’s Link Sleuth™ you will need Microsoft Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, Vista or 7. Unfortunately, it will not operate in a Windows 3.1 or Macintosh system and is not supported with a mobile app at the moment. However, I have been told that it runs flawlessly under Fedora 13, Red Hat 8, Ubuntu and OS X via wine or WineBottler, and under Crossover on a Mac

Getting into a routine

At Fuze, we check our clients links on a monthly basis as part of our ongoing technical strategy. We include everything from standard URLs to PDFs and images as it is  imperative that these are all rendering correctly. By leveraging Xenu’s Link Sleuth™ we are able to identify and correct any broken links. We consistently find the software extremely functional to use.

Further information

You can download the current version of the software 1.1f from the home page of Xenu’s Link Sleuth™ at http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html.

The Ten Best Practices of Social Media Professionals

The Ten Best Practices of Social Media Professionals

Every modern marketer knows that a social media presence is key to reaching new customers and maintaining relationships, but too many brands are baffled by how to make the platforms work to their benefit. Here, we outline the best practices of social media professionals everywhere and offer a glimpse at a few strategies you can use to take your efforts to the next level:

1. Being social is the primary goal

While it’s easy to get caught up in the soapboxing nature of social media, the key to winning in this space is to create quality interactions. Ultimately, your social campaigns aren’t about you; they’re about your followers and subscribers. Use the Honeycomb Framework of Social Media as a basis for engaging with your brand’s champions, asking relevant questions and creating a sense of curiosity in each of your outlets. The goal is to drive engagement and repeat visits, and nothing does that more than a fresh, interesting conversation.

2. A consistent voice makes all the difference

We’ve seen it dozens of times: Companies take to the social sphere with a voice that bears little resemblance to their brand image. While it’s certainly okay to be slightly more casual than you’d be in a company report, don’t make the mistake of changing your tone so drastically that it sends your followers’ heads spinning. Your demographic flocks to you for a reason, and they want to feel that your social presence is an extension of your established brand voice. When a law firm suddenly shares 20 Grumpy Cat photos or a local pub posts nothing but severe tirades, it doesn’t create a sense of dimension; it raises eyebrows and smashes your credibility. Strive for a tone that matches your website, and enlist the help of an experienced copywriter if you need some extra guidance.

3. Transparency is the word of the day

Social users don’t want to feel as if they’ve hit an impenetrable fortress when they visit your pages. Let your followers and subscribers know a little more about your brand and its vision by sharing behind-the-scenes videos, introducing your team and answering any key questions. If you’re able to do so without wading into tricky legal territory, you could even offer users a peek at previously unseen processes like brainstorming meetings and business events.

4. Each outlet requires fresh thinking

Repeat after us: Facebook isn’t Twitter, and Instagram isn’t Pinterest. What works for one outlet won’t necessarily work for the other, and social media professionals know that driving engagement in each sphere is all about knowing how users interact with them. Consider these guidelines as you create stories for individual platforms:

  • Twitter is about timely tidbits that are short and sweet. Use this platform to discuss breaking developments, release time-sensitive information, and engage with other brands and users in a quick, informal way.
  • Facebook is equally good for time-sensitive information, but it’s more suited than Twitter to in-depth conversations and evergreen content. What’s more, the user base skews slightly older here, so make Facebook your focus if your demographic reaches heavily into the over-40 crowd.
  • Pinterest makes the biggest splash with women, but its rules are completely different than nearly every other platform. Long pieces of text are generally unwelcome, and engagement is based entirely on the quality and uniqueness of images you share. Dive into it only if you run a heavily visual business — or have an art director on staff who can create an image-centric tone — and don’t pin only your own pictures. That’s a big no-no among the Pinterest set.
  • Similar to Pinterest, Instagram is a largely visual medium. Unlike Pinterest, it’s entirely based on images you’ve taken. Use this for behind-the-scenes photos and casual shots targeted toward a younger demographic.
  • LinkedIn is the business side of social. Though it’s still on its way up in terms of active sharing, this is a great place to discuss company news, post relevant industry articles and engage with other professionals.

5. Brand boasting is a slippery slope

Though it’s okay to crow about your company’s accomplishments from time to time, steer clear of constant updates to that effect. There’s a large difference between brand awareness and brand boasting; where the former helps bring your company name and vision to the front of the conversation, the latter comes off as hollow and egotistical. Think of it like this: Would you want to be cornered at a party by an acquaintance who talked for hours about his accomplishments but never once asked how you were doing? Social media is that party. Don’t be that guy.

6. Content is more important than keywords (and hashtags)

Content managers routinely toe the line between search optimization and quality information, and no place highlights the importance of that balance like the social media sphere. While well-placed keywords and hashtags can help your brand hit crucial awareness, the tactics are also slightly more transparent — and the users much savvier — on these platforms. If you plan to lace your posts with attention-getting keys and tags, make sure you’re providing inarguably solid content. A tweet packed with hashtags may show up in search results, but few users will engage with such blatant self-promotion.

7. Collaboration isn’t a dirty word

Yes, social media is a popularity contest. No, you don’t have to go it alone. Some of the world’s best online marketers turn to collaborations to bring new users into their social folds. Fashion companies team up with popular bloggers, restaurants hold hands with food providers, and instrument stores pair with local musicians.

One of our favorite examples of this strategy, however, comes from an off-the-cuff moment involving Kit Kat and Oreo. In response to a tweet by a user who followed both brands, Kit Kat challenged Oreo to an online game of tic-tac-toe to see which company could win her affections. Though Oreo declined the actual game, they responded with a playful image and the hashtag #GiveOreoABreak. Talk about social prowess.

8. Guidelines leave nothing to chance

It’s an undeniable fact: Most of us have experience with social media. How we interact with our friends on private pages, however, varies greatly from how a brand should position itself across the space. Before beginning any social campaign, create a list of voice, tone and conduct guidelines and disperse them to each person involved in your business. This allows everyone to stay on the same page in terms of what to post and when to post it, and it eliminates the possibility of any one person throwing your brand into a public relations tailspin with a poorly worded tweet. You can even create a list of rules regarding what’s acceptable to share personally; if you don’t want employees discussing the brand in a negative way on their private pages, put it in writing.

9. Measuring is winning

If you’re not measuring the impact of your social efforts, you’re merely acting on blind assumptions. Dozens of new technologies exist to monitor everything from Web-wide conversations to promotional effectiveness, and the world’s top brands use these tools to target their content and future campaigns. Simply Measured and Social Bakers measure social results, Group High and Klout help you identify influencers, and Brandwatch and Social Mention keep an eye on who’s talking about you and where they’re having the conversations. Invest in any of these options, and you’ll shine a light on where your brand is most — and least — effective.

10. Feedback allows you to grow

Too many companies shy away from social media for fear of negative opinions, but the ability to monitor less-than-stellar feedback is actually one of social’s biggest benefits. After all, focus groups only tell you so much; by watching what customers say when they’re not being asked the questions by a company representative, you’ll get invaluable insight on how your business could better serve your audience.

It’s also a fantastic opportunity to right any wrongs. If a user posts about a disappointing experience, for example, you can easily respond with an apology and the offer of additional services. That sort of transparency is what social is all about — and it’s the best way to win at digital marketing.

How Hummingbird Should and Shouldn’t Influence SEO

How Hummingbird Should and Shouldn’t Influence SEO

As Google recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, the world-famous company also implemented a new change to its search engine algorithm. Called Hummingbird, the search engine update was not widely publicized by Google, but it certainly has wide-reaching effects on how people receive information and how marketing companies need to present their content. Anyone involved in the world of SEO, Internet marketing or website management should fully understand Hummingbird, how it will change the Google search function, and what should and shouldn’t change when it comes to content.

How Will Hummingbird Affect SEO?

There are several major ways that the Hummingbird algorithm update from Google will affect how the world’s most popular search engine is used. First, the search engine is now poised to respond to full sentences rather than keyword fragments. In addition, it skips over or negatively penalizes content full of unnecessary and duplicate backlinks. The search engine is also taking into account bounce rates, which refers to the length of time that users spend on a certain page before closing it or moving on. Pages that keep users for longer periods of time are deemed to be more useful and are thus moved to the top of the rankings for related search terms.

What SHOULD Internet Marketers Change?

There are some individuals who believe that quality content is quality content no matter the algorithm, but the reality is that this update will affect how often users find particular pages. In order to be readily accessible to people searching for information in your field, you need to be aware of the changes in major search engines. Here are some of the key things that every Internet marketer should be doing as a result of September’s Hummingbird update:

Remove Unnecessary or Duplicate Backlinks

Up until quite recently, one of the ways that Internet marketers and website managers would drive traffic around their website was to include multiple backlinks on every page. While some internal links can be very helpful, especially if they are referring users to a specific and related piece of information, they are often just going in circles and trying to keep users on the site for as long as possible. Hummingbird is now aware of unnecessary backlinks, and webpages may be penalized in rankings due to having duplicates of the same link when not required. As a marketer, learn to be careful about how many links you use. Links are important, but the same link should rarely, if at all, be used twice on a single page.

Add in Hashtags Where Relevant

Hashtags may have originated as a minor function on Twitter, but they are now commonly used in almost every form of social media. You can search via hashtag on Google+, Twitter and Facebook, and now the search engine itself is recognizing these hashtags as separate search terms altogether. Many Internet marketing companies have been wary of including hashtags in actual content, but there is reason to believe that this could be beneficial. When people search specifically for hashtag phrases, such as #NYpizza rather than simply “NY pizza,” it is the results that include hashtags that will come up first thanks to Hummingbird. While this is not something you want to overdo, adding hashtags in when appropriate, especially in content geared towards younger audiences, is a smart move.

Include Infographics or Related Pictures

good-infographicOne of the ways that Hummingbird rates and ranks pages is by seeing how long users stay on a particular webpage before leaving. Therefore, one of the best ways to enjoy better rankings on Google search is to create content that keeps people interested for longer. While interesting written content is certainly key, there is no question that pictures, videos and infographics are also helpful. Infographics, in particular, work well because they require the user to slowly read the information as well as mentally process the visual image. This provides the user with interesting content, and it keeps them on your page for longer than text would alone.

Encourage Organic Referrals

Another key factor that Hummingbird acknowledges when presenting search engine results to users is the number of referrals for a particular page on the Internet as a whole. However, the links have to be organic. Simply leaving a link to a website on a popular forum or pasting it into the comments section of a larger blog will not help with that page’s rankings, and it could actually count against the page over time. Organic links will improve your ranking in Google’s search engine, however. These are links that are on related pages and are deemed to be natural ways of sharing information with people who might benefit from it.

Focus on Answering Common Questions

Perhaps the most talked-about change to Google search, thanks to the algorithm update of Hummingbird, is how longer-tail keywords are poised to surpass shorter phrases. Thanks in large part to the popularity of voice searches on smartphones, people are searching for entire sentences or even full questions more than ever before. Internet marketers and SEO specialists can capitalize on this by including question and answer type posts on their pages. It is certain that you can expect to see more query-based content online in the near future as well as longer keywords that are more specific than ever before.

Regularly Add Interesting Content

Hummingbird will also take into consideration how often websites add new content and grow in size. While some websites have been able to enjoy success without adding new pages or changing their content for months or even years at a time, that is not the case today. In order to maintain or improve your current ranking on Google search, you should aim to add content on a regular basis. While you don’t need to necessarily churn out content at a rapid pace, making a goal of weekly additions is reasonable for even small businesses or pages with a niche market.

Stop Keyword Stuffing

Keyword-stuffingSuccessful Internet marketers have been against keyword stuffing for years, but the practice remains popular among many websites. By seeing which keywords attract customers to a certain page, website developers and content creators sometimes focus exclusively on adding these words to their content. Unfortunately, sometimes the abundance of keywords can actually distract from the meaning or relevance of the text. Hummingbird recognizes this fact, and the newest algorithm will penalize those pages that have keywords stuffed into content unnecessarily.

It may be clear to you that Hummingbird, the newest algorithm update from Google search, will affect SEO in some major ways. While Internet marketers should continue to focus on relevant, interesting content that can be shared through social media, there are some additional ways to help improve the rank of particular pages. Key ways include no longer stuffing keywords into content, continually adding to your website, creating query-based content, encouraging organic referrals, getting rid of duplicate backlinks, and including relevant hashtags and infographics.

Keeping up with Smarter Search Engines

Keeping up with Smarter Search Engines

With fewer than 25 percent of your potential users ever scrolling past the first page of search results, you really need to make your site stand out. Unfortunately, search engines are constantly changing how pages get ranked. It’s imperative that you adopt a flexible SEO strategy that you can change along the way without experiencing major service interruptions. Here are some strategies that might help you keep up with the times:

Focus On Content

Content marketing has actually been around since John Deere started a trade magazine in 1895. The longevity of the content-based strategy relies on the fact that customers enjoy learning about their options at their leisure. Being open about the details of your products and services makes them way more appealing, and it makes it easier for you to establish a critical rapport.

Improving Inbound Strategies

Remember that search engines don’t just cater to consumers who like reading blogs. Podcasts, videos and PDF-based whitepapers are all indexed by major search algorithms, so it’s smart to incorporate various forms of media into your overall content delivery strategy.

In general, you have to be extremely market-conscious no matter what you’re working on. Create high-value content that goes into detail about the way you tailor your products and services to meet market demands. Make these trade documents available online along with market analyses and interesting technical reports on the innovative new technologies you’re developing.

By increasing the number of resources available from your Web portals, you make it much easier for people to find you based on what they actually need, and your pages will naturally bubble up through rankings. In addition, users who find your information at random will stick around to read it simply because it’s interesting. This, in turn, will positively influence whether search engines classify your site as being important.

Packaging Your Content Properly

There’s no real secret to staying ahead of search engine algorithms with fresh content. Simply be a bit more honest with yourself. Try to separate your sales goals from what you think other people might genuinely want to learn about and focus on the latter. Pique consumer interest with articles that:

  • Explain how to do things or use generic product families without being overtly brand-centric
  • Help readers identify strategies and resources that might enable them to assess the merit of products in an objective fashion
  • Gather interesting facts, news items or images from multiple sources into one cohesive piece that readers don’t have to search through

The critical difference between these kinds of blogs and those that spend valuable text expounding the pros of your product is that content articles actually attract organic clicks. Nobody is looking for your biased write-up of how great your services are; they could easily read a product description for that. Content that has intrinsic merit of its own will garner awareness from consumers who are looking for your services as well as those who don’t even know they might need them.

Being Seamless

If you do things right, you’ll find it easy to work your brand into the content in a natural way that fosters easy reading. For instance, mentioning your brand name 10 times throughout the course of a 300-word article tends to not make things flow very well. Search engines are also smart enough to recognize these spam techniques and relegate your pages to the bowels of the Internet. On the other hand, using keywords and phrases that describe something related to your business is a much more organic way to inject your business presence into your content, and it’s far less off-putting.

Integrate with Relevant Subject Matter

Original news articles are great ways to drive inbound traffic and force search engines to recognize your pages as valid organic results. Even if you cover a commonly discussed industry scandal, the fact that you do so from an original perspective might draw a lot of attention from search engine robots that hunt for novel content. If you’re timely about it, you may even put your website or firm on the national map by providing industry-insider analysis that gets relinked or cited in other blogs, forums and news sites.

Your integrated content can still address current affairs without losing its evergreen status. Simply be smart about using blog tags and organized links to distinguish news articles from other items, and be careful about how you reference current affairs. Forego language that assumes the reader is viewing your article close to the time when it was published. Instead, employ distinct dates and explicit language to describe events that have already occurred so that the reader doesn’t have to keep looking back at the headline or publication tag to place the information in context.

Location-Conscious Content and Continuation

Also, pay attention to where you decide to insert key terms. While it’s only natural to stick some important brand-related phrases in towards the end of an article, you can’t just distribute the others at random throughout. Try to use keywords in a sequence that makes sense within your overall marketing campaign.

For instance, say that your website sells auto parts, and you’re writing an article that explains the workings and necessity of a specific product, such as a radiator. If you end the piece by mentioning what kind of engine parts a radiator is used to cool, you might want your next article in the series to describe one of those parts. That way, you can finish up your article by directing people to your site’s radiator section or to the next piece of content where they can learn more about something related.

Content that fosters continuation is critical, but it’s unlikely that you’re going to enjoy your audience’s rapt attention for more than a few minutes at a stretch. Make sure your content provides memorable links to additional resources so that it has some replay value and keeps people coming back after they get distracted by other things.

Leaving Options Open

Your site’s ranking might take a hit when Google or Bing changes their search algorithms, so you can’t necessarily rely on a single SEO strategy to get people to your pages. Evergreen content marketing does aid in your pursuit of more reliable traffic, but it’s still critical to design your entire site with ready adaptability in mind.

While changes like the original 2011 Google Panda implementation confused a lot of webmasters by causing sudden changes in rankings, one important takeaway from its aftermath was that advertising-heavy pages dropped in rankings while social media sites went up. This reflects Google’s focus on probability; if a hypothetical user is deemed more likely to click on your site, its ranking will increase.

Adapting Your Advertising

So, how does your site change its strategy at a moment’s notice? The easiest way to keep your Web portal ready for search engine updates is to work with an SEO team or designer that can help you implement a complete content delivery system. Your corporate pages shouldn’t all be hardcoded; this kind of architecture takes way too long to revamp and modify. Make sure that your site is built around a blog platform or other content management system (CMS) that allows you to reorganize your links and add new content rapidly. This is the first step towards adapting to new trends in Web browsing and search-conscious marketing.

New Internet Marketing Agency, Fuze SEO, Founded by Jon Clark

(PRWeb) New York, NY – Small and medium-sized businesses now have a new option to select from when it comes to online marketing solutions, thanks to Fuze SEO. Founded by Jon Clark, the company was created to make solutions that are simplified and more affordable. Using contractors that are seasoned in their field, Fuze SEO, Inc. seeks to give its clients quality services that are designed to give them the online presence they desire.

For any company to be successful it is important for it to have an online presence and this requires a good marketing plan to attract the attention of search engines. In addition to simply catching the eye of search engines, it is also important to establish a tangible reputation while staying within budget. However, most marketing solutions are quite expensive with additional fees and billing options within each solution.

Jon Clark understands the challenge these marketing plans present to small and medium-sized businesses and started Fuze SEO, Inc. to meet those needs.

“We are excited to bring our affordable and strategic agency model to market and believe our deep experience across a wide set of Internet marketing tactics will continue to propel our clients ahead of their competition,” Mr. Clark says.

Launched in June, Fuze SEO has assembled a team of marketing professionals to give clients the same kinds of solutions that large corporations enjoy. Their line of internet marketing services includes:

  • Search engine optimization – using content optimization, link popularity, technical architecture, content gap analysis and in-depth keyword research.
  • Social media – SEO best practices are used to create content that is sharable, talkable and discoverable.
  • Pay per click management – focus on click through rates from professionals who are Bing and Adwords certified.
  • Link building – data from a number of sources is used in developing effective links and creating a back-link profile that is well-balanced.
  • Local – ensures that a business’ location is correct with online publishers, improving its online presence.

Since its opening, Fuze SEO has worked with clients from a wide array of industries such as financial, retail, manufacturing, real estate and technology. The team strives to treat each client as an individual company and create a marketing plan based on brainstorming and development that helps the company reach its revenue goals. In addition, Fuze SEO makes it a priority to stay informed of the latest trends in online marketing and then incorporate those trends into its solutions. For more information on the services that Fuze SEO provides, please visit fuzeseo.co.

About Fuze SEO

Fuze SEO, Inc. combines the best thought leadership of the consulting world with the leading capabilities of the online marketing industry to support our clients’ business needs, such as improving online visibility or participating in the social world. Fuze SEO serves clients in markets across the United States including All Star Glass, PGM Billing, Shipwire, Treadmill Reviews and Oak Creek Trail to name a few. Visit fuzeseo.co for more information or follow Fuze SEO, Inc. on Twitter at @fuzeseo.

What Google’s 3 Big Changes Mean for the Future of SEO – And How to Adjust Your Internet Marketing Strategy

Google is no stranger to algorithm tweaks and Adwords changes, but the recent Hummingbird update and full-on move towards semantic search represent the company’s biggest search shifts since the early 2000s. Even much-feared updates like Panda and Penguin pale in comparison to these changes. In this post, we’ll talk about three recent Google changes and touch on what they mean for your Internet marketing efforts. Don’t worry: As always, we’ll leave you with some useful takeaways to help you position your business for an uncertain but exciting future.

Hummingbird: Googling the Future

google-hummingbirdHummingbird has gotten the lion’s share of the public’s attention, so we’ll start here. Previous updates like Penguin and Panda had certainly made substantive changes to the ways in which Google’s search engine indexed and ranked sites. For instance, Penguin identified new black-hat techniques and increased the “penalties” for such tactics. By contrast, Hummingbird uses an entirely new algorithm to translate search queries into relevant results. If Penguin and Panda were the virtual equivalent of oil changes, Hummingbird is analogous to a wholesale engine rebuild.

In a nutshell, Hummingbird represents the most advanced iteration of an evolving system known as “semantic search.” Unlike the keyword-driven algorithms that Google once used – and that search engines like Bing and Yahoo will continue to use until they release Hummingbird-like updates of their own – semantic search aims to uncover the actual intent or meaning behind everyday search queries. In some circles, this is known as “natural language search.”

Just What Is Semantic Search, Anyway?

Techopedia offers a concise definition of semantic search, describing it as a “data searching technique in a which a search query aims to not only find keywords but to determine the intent and contextual meaning of the words a person is using for search.”

Rather than returning a static slate of results for general keywords like “muffler,” semantic search looks at the context of each individual search for “muffler.” Factors that might influence the results of a post-Hummingbird search include the searcher’s location, current news, or product-development trends and keyword synonyms.

This has important implications for local businesses that aim to improve their local inbound marketing efforts. Since Google now uses searchers’ locations to return relevant results for local products and services, a San Jose-based user’s search for “Where can I get a new muffler?” will return very different results than a New York-based user’s search for the same tail.

Semantic search is also better at interpreting long-tail searches that ask specific contextual questions. Pre-Hummingbird, “Where can I get a new muffler for my Honda?” might have returned results that contained the words “get,” “muffler” and “Honda” in the meta tag. Unfortunately, meta tag keywords don’t always guarantee relevance. Post-Hummingbird, the same query is apt to point users to local muffler repair shops or car dealerships that work with Honda owners.

If you own a business that serves a local client base, make sure that your website clearly defines your trade area and markets to folks who live within it. Also, don’t be afraid to update the content on your site to include fewer awkwardly phrased keywords. As you’ll see, it’s far more important to write relevant, engaging content about what your business does than attempt to game search engines into indexing your site based on keyword density. In fact, Hummingbird preserves and strengthens Google’s notorious distaste for keyword-stuffed content.

(Not Provided): Has Encrypted Search Killed the Keyword?

google-not-provided

The growing focus on semantic search highlights another important trend that has major ramifications for your Internet marketing operation: the gradual shift to fully encrypted search. In September of 2013, Google indicated that all organic, non-AdWords searches on its platform would be encrypted within a matter of months.

“What is encrypted search,” you ask?

Simply put, encrypted search hides the source of keyword queries. For years, webmasters could look at their Google referrals and see the exact keywords that brought users to their sites. Following the above example, an auto-repair shop owner could easily evaluate the relative efficiency of search terms like “mufflers” or “brake pads.” This is no longer the case. Today, the majority of Google referrals contain a cryptic “(not provided)” message. While this is partially due to the company’s legitimate concerns about user privacy, it’s also an indication that Google intends to reduce its long-held focus on keyword-based searches and improve its semantic search capabilities.

This is the natural endgame of the move towards quality content that began with 2011′s Panda update. If Hummingbird represents the first major move towards semantic or “natural language” search, the demise of organic keyword referrals represents the final nail in the coffin of the pre-Panda era.

This doesn’t mean that keywords are completely dead. For the foreseeable future, it will remain possible to track keyword searches that lead users to your site.

Analytics and Technical SEO: Still Plugging Away

google-adwords-100-credit

There are a few different ways of doing this. First, Google has shrewdly – some might say “cynically” – moved all direct keyword reporting to its AdWords platform. While you’ll no longer be able to see organic search results for free, you’ll have no trouble obtaining and analyzing keyword data through AdWords’s paid search feature. Incidentally, this gives Google yet another way to make money off of your Web traffic. If you’re like many business owners and webmasters, you’ve probably received an official snail mail letter from Mountain View that advertises a substantial AdWords credit. This is no accident: The company aims to monetize this recent shift before the end of the fiscal year.

If you’re a bit cheaper, you can still use free tools like Google’s Trends and Keyword Planner tools. Trends dovetails with Google’s Knowledge Graph to analyze and quantify the online penetration of brand-specific terms. Think of it as a “heat meter” for your company’s products and services. Keyword Planner is even more straightforward: It offers information about the cost-effectiveness of common paid search keywords and suggests synonyms or alternatives that may cost less than others. Of course, you’ll need to spring for paid search tools like AdWords to leverage its findings.

If they’re used properly, these tools can wean you from your dependence on old-fashioned organic keyword searches. It’s even more important, however, to focus on maintaining and improving the fundamental quality of your website’s content. It’s all about building authority: No matter what your company does, focus on convincing prospects that it’s the best in the business. Worry less about working relevant keywords into your website’s written content and more about uploading engaging posts, videos, pictures and other media on a regular basis. If your website is the go-to resource for queries about the complex problems that your business exists to solve, new leads and customers will follow.

Hashtags and Social Media

Google+-hashtagThere’s a third major change that has largely been lost in the hullabaloo about Hummingbird and encrypted search: Google’s hashtag search feature and the rise of “Social Media 2.0.” As recent IPOs from Facebook and LinkedIn indicate, social media platforms are finally learning how to monetize their services. For Internet marketers, this opens up a whole new box of exciting possibilities.

Let’s be clear about Google’s hashtag search feature. It remains in its infancy, and the verdict is still out on its effectiveness. However, this is beside the point: In this specific corner of the inbound marketing world, Google is stuck playing catch-up. These days, search engines aren’t the only platforms that can drive streams of traffic to your site.

Moving Beyond the Search Box

According to a recent Ad Age survey, nearly 60 percent of CMOs plan to increase their digital media advertising budgets over the coming 12 months. By contrast, just 30 percent plan to boost spending on cable television. While AdWords outlays do account for a substantial chunk of digital media budgets, Facebook ads, promoted tweets and sponsored content are growing at a rapid pace. Even once-staid LinkedIn is getting in on the action: The business-oriented social media platform just poached a noted Google executive in preparation for a major push into paid advertising.

If you run a consumer-facing business, many of your prospects spend their free time on Facebook. Take advantage of the platform’s intuitive ad-bidding service to work your way into their feeds and sidebars. With powerful algorithms that cater ads to highly specific user demographics, Facebook advertising is arguably more cost-effective than AdWords spending. Meanwhile, B2B marketers can look forward to LinkedIn’s increasingly sophisticated marketing options.

Making Lemonade: Why It’s a Great Time to Be an Internet Marketer

What can we learn from Google’s three big changes? First, we can learn not to overreact to sudden, unexpected changes that could affect our business plans. Microsoft’s increasingly popular Bing marches to the tune of its own drummer, and many SEO strategies that no longer work for Google continue to find a receptive audience there. By and large, the inbound marketing strategies that work for one search engine work for all of them.

More broadly, each passing month brings new online marketing options that savvy business owners can leverage to their benefit. Whether you’re focusing on improving your content marketing operation with authority-building blog posts or trying out powerful new social media tools, a post-Hummingbird world holds tremendous promise for your business.

Should Your Content Inbound Marketing be Driven by Data, Creativity or Both?

Should Your Content Inbound Marketing be Driven by Data, Creativity or Both?

Conventional wisdom about creating content for the Internet constantly changes, but the options for generating ideas for that content don’t. You can rely on data, including metrics for things like traffic and conversions, or you can rely on creativity. The third option is to incorporate both techniques into your content-creation process. Which inbound marketing option is right for you?

The Best Content is Creative Content…

If you’re thinking strictly in terms of what appeals to actual human readers, creatively inspired content is the best. Internet users are savvier than ever, and they can spot unauthentic content from a mile away. When content is created based on things like personal knowledge and enthusiasm, it tends to go over better with readers.

…But What Does Your Audience Want?

Just because creative content is more genuine doesn’t mean it will automatically be a hit with your target audience. The most effective way to figure out what your audience responds to favorably is by turning to concrete data. Which types of content generate shares, comments and the like? Analytics can be used to find out.

Which Approach is Correct?

So, creative content is the most enjoyable to read, but ignoring data about what your target audience wants can doom your content strategy to failure. Which approach should you use? Do you really have to pick one or the other?

Any time you adjust your content-creation process, you have to tweak the way you generate topics. This isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Your editorial calendar will have to be changed accordingly, and your writers will have to be brought up to speed too. With these points in mind, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of both approaches before implementing any changes.

The Case for Data-Driven Content

Data Driven Content Marketing

Data-driven content is content that’s based on information from big data, real-time analytics and similar resources. There are some significant advantages to generating content ideas with this approach, including:

  • It’s Easy to Plan and Predict – By relying on data to generate topic ideas, you can easily create an effective editorial calendar. Just figure out the kinds of content that appeal to your audience and rotate them throughout the month. You can even use data to figure out the best times to post content.
  • It Relies on Consistent Metrics – With data-driven content, you commit to creating content that’s been proven to work in the past. By analyzing important metrics, you can see what generates buzz and what falls flat. Therefore, you can be more strategic about the content you write and are more likely to enjoy consistency when it comes to things like traffic and conversions.
  • It’s Scalable – Because you’re relying on the tried and true when using a data-driven approach to content creation, you can easily adjust the volume at which content is generated. The topics themselves just need to be reworked so that they are unique enough to avoid making Google angry.

Drawbacks of a Data-Driven Approach to Content

When you base your content strategy strictly off of data and metrics, you’re always following and never leading. You’re basically saying that you’re unwilling to blaze new trails when it comes to content, so your odds of making a truly big splash are slim. Additional drawbacks include:

  • It Often Results in Generic Content – Because the same basic, proven ideas are reused and reworked again and again, the resulting content tends to be stale and generic. This may work at first, but regular readers will start to see what’s happening.
  • It Alienates Your Audience – As readers begin realizing that you’re resting on your content laurels, they may stop coming back for more. After all, your content is uninspired and boring. In this way, basing your content off of data alone can backfire in a big way. When it does, what will you do?
  • It Stresses Out Your Writers – Even the most talented writers will start running out of ways to rework the same ideas. Expecting writers to rely on a formula that’s based solely on data isn’t realistic. Despite their best efforts, your writers will start churning out content that’s dull, vapid and pointless.

The Case for a Creative Approach to Content Creation

Creative Approach to Inbound Marketing

Content is, has been and will continue to be king, and it needs to be fresh, unique and engaging in order to work. That fact alone should convince you of the merits of generating content ideas through creativity. A few advantages of doing so include:

  • It Results in Unique Content – It’s technically possible to brainstorm a seemingly new idea and find out that it’s been covered before. In fact, that happens a lot. The simple act of coming up with it on your own, however, increases the odds that it will be unique in the most important ways.
  • It Produces Content that’s Authentic and Sincere – Your readers aren’t fools. They are aware of the fact that a lot of online content is just created with search engines in mind. By using a creative-driven process to come up with content ideas, the results will be authentic and sincere. Readers tend to respond a lot more favorably to content of this nature.
  • It will Strike a Chord with Your Audience – It’s all well and good to create content that appeals to your readers. What about content that blows them away? That kind of content is the stuff that gets shared with others, and it’s what will really help you get ahead in terms of marketing your website. Creatively generated ideas are far more likely to make the kind of splash you need to gain invaluable visibility.

The Case Against Creatively Driven Content Creation

There’s a lot to be said for coming up with content ideas using your creativity alone. Like anything else, though, there are some pretty big drawbacks as well. A couple of examples include:

  • You’re Rolling the Dice – Even if you have a terrific idea that truly excites you, it could easily fall flat with your audience. Just because you’re enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the topic doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a winner. That’s the risk you have to take when using this approach.
  • Planning is More Difficult – In many ways, taking a creative approach to generating content ideas is akin to flying by the seat of your pants. The process is much more organic, so it doesn’t lend itself well to long-term planning. You may find it difficult to stay on track with this approach.

Strike a Balance – But How?

If there are drawbacks and advantages to both content-generation strategies, perhaps the best thing to do is strike a balance between them. That’s an admirable goal, but it’s not something that magically happens. Increase your odds of combining both approaches by following these steps:

  • Ignore the data – at first. Try to go into the content idea generation process with a clean slate. Don’t think about what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t. By doing this, you will have an easier time coming up with creative, exciting ideas.
  • Hold brainstorming sessions. There are many different ways to brainstorm new content ideas. Get the team together and start batting ideas around. Make a rule that there is no such thing as a bad idea. Have participants think of things that they’d personally like to read. Ask them what kinds of things they’d be excited to share. A little enthusiasm goes a really long way.
  • Compare your ideas with what the data has shown you. Now that you have a list of content ideas, take them and compare them to what the data has shown in the past. With any luck, some of the ideas will dovetail nicely with what’s been shown to work.
  • Compromise by periodically mixing in data-driven content. Basically, the majority of the content you post should be brainstormed using a creative process. To ensure that your site continues to enjoy forward momentum in the rankings, though, mix in data-driven content from time to time.

Make it an ongoing process. There is no finish line when it comes to generating ideas for new content. For one thing, your audience’s tastes and needs are bound to evolve and change. Current trends in what constitutes excellent content will morph continually as well. It’s crucial to revisit the brainstorming process often and to keep an eye on important metrics like conversions, traffic and social media sharing.

A Two-Pronged Approach Wins Every Time

Don’t ask yourself whether you should base your content off of data or off of activities like brainstorming. Instead, ask yourself how you can make it fall into both categories. If you have to prioritize one method over the other, however, content that is created using a creative approach is the way to go. When your content is engaging, fresh, unique, informative and compelling, you can’t go wrong.

Google Secure Search POV – Impact on SSL Searching

On Sept, 23rd Google announced an update that impacts visibility to keywords used by a visitor coming to your website via an organic search on Google.com. This is an expansion of a previous Google update which was first announced in October of 2011 known as Google Secure Search.

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Google Secure Search Updates

With Google Secure Search (HTTPs) Google does not pass the organic keywords that referred traffic to websites through the URL via Google.com searches. In the case of secure search the keyword parameter is recorded as “not provided.” When this news was first announced this was limited to signed-in Google users ( Gmail, YouTube, etc) on Google.com netting out to impact ~12% of the organic referrals originating from Google.com. Over the past two years, (not provided) data has grown significantly ( 60-70% in the month of September). It is important to note that Paid Search is not impacted by this change.

Google Analytics Not Provided Keyword Data

Overview:

Google will no longer provide organic keyword referral data due to Secure Search expanding to the entirety of their searches.

Impact:

In the near future when this fully rolls out, (not provided) will continue to increase and eventually all organic traffic from Google.com will no longer be mapped to a specific search query. This will affect the way marketers and webmasters look at organic data and measure the impact of optimization efforts.

Solution and Implications:

At a high level, keyword level metrics must now shift to a page-level focus. While the specific options available and tactics with which to measure are certainly in their infancy, there are a number of tools at our disposal that, when measured independtly don’t paint a comprehensive picture but when marreid together can help close the gap and build out the story of keyword performance:

  • keyword rankings
  • page-level data
  • paid search data
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google AdWords
  • other search engine keyword data (which is not blocked)

Reliance on keyword planning tools and paid search data is increasingly important to gain insight to holistic site traffic and ROI trends. Paid Search will also play a larger role in content gap analysis and discovery through query reporting insights.

Conclusion:

At this stage, I don’t think there is a solid answer that fits all applications. This will certainly be a topic of high interest moving forward and Fuze will continue to share insights around this shift as they become available within our Search practice.

What are your thoughts or questions on this update? Leave them in the comments!