Would You Read Your Blog Posts?

Although blogs are seen as more time sensitive with less staying power than “regular” content, it’s useful to check off a few important things before you actually hit “Publish”. When you keep these things in mind, it will help grow your blog as well as help you become a better blogger. Think of it and ask yourself, would you read your own blog posts and find them interesting?

to-do-list-blog

Don’t overwhelm yourself and stay on topic. Here are some things to ask and remind yourself of:

Is this blog post reputable? Blog posts should not be blatantly spammy and full of links to your site, that’s so 2000. Don’t forget about how Google views advertorials – not in a good thing! And lastly, if you post any product/service reviews, make sure to have a full disclosure and to be transparent about whether you’re receiving any form of compensation.

Is this post social media friendly? – It helps to add relevant social media share buttons to your blog but that’s not enough to be social nowadays. Think about how you can share an accompanying picture on Pinterest, make a short on Vine or if the post topic would make an interesting status conversation.

Do you find the topic interesting? – Blogging about something you would actually read is an important part of creating unique content with your authentic point of view. This is becoming increasingly important as Google Authorship is greatly influencing clicks in search results. Remember, being real is important to readers as they want tips and thoughts on someone who is credible in the field.

Is the blog post long enough? – You don’t have to be so nitpicky as to count every single word but the optimal blog post length is around 250 – 500 words. It can also be just short of 1000 words, depending who you ask. Long form blog posts can also rank well, as do short posts that are straight to the point. The point of thinking about blog length is that it’s ok to vary the length and mix things up so readers have something different to look forward to!

How can I make it better? – Waiting to post a masterpiece of a blog can pretty much be impossible if you can’t get over yourself. There are also different SEO tips and optimization best practices that can also help your content be more search engine friendly. The main point of blogging is to do it well (well, well enough) and consistently so that your site gets crawled regularly. There is always room for improvement so don’t forget to read and write any chance you get!

Using Advertorials in SEO Content Marketing

Google has a long standing policy on how it views links from advertorials. The explicitly say that it goes against their policy to sell links that pass PageRank. First off, let’s review what advertorials actually are. Advertorials are content that is written like an editorial piece but they are really just content that  advertisers pay for to get published.

Clear Intentions
The intent behind these “stories” is to get links on major news sites and therefore pass off the link juice back to their site. And therein lies the problem. According to Google, these types of link have to be clearly marked as advertisements or sponsored. The links also need to have a rel=”nofollow” attribute attached to them to show search engines that they aren’t trying to game the algorithms.

The problem that Google (and readers) have with advertorials that they aren’t clearly marked as basically being paid ads. Without proper disclosure, it’s misleading to have content that intends to sell to readers. And publishers don’t have to be paid to violate Google’s guidelines. They also aren’t fond of publishers receiving gifts or other forms of compensation for publishing the stories.

Still Thinking of Using Advertorials?
Passing off advertorials as high quality content is a risky move and just when you think you can’t get caught, you can get slapped with an ugly penalty (see: Interflora). If this method of marketing still seems appealing, it’s important to go by Google’s rules and a) clearly mark content as sponsored and 2) follow through with the no follow attribute.

Advertorials aren’t a new tactic but Google has seen a rise in businesses taking this route, hence all the articles and videos against advertorials. In the long run, informative and quality content will help your website’s staying power and we aren’t talking about it through the form of advertorials. The difference is that advertorials tend to be more sales-y and self serving, whereas “evergreen” content is actually helpful.

Google’s Official Stand
Check out what Matt Cutts has to say about advertorials in the video above and let us know if you think it’s fair or not.

Was Penguin 2.0 What SEOs Expected It To Be?

Penguin 2.0 (or #4) officially rolled out on Wednesday May 22, 2013 but tools like MozCast showed turbulent weather in the days before Google’s long awaited algorithm update. If you haven’t been counting the days, Penguin 1.0 first rolled out on April 24, 2012.

Changes Foreseen
Matt Cutts and Google warned that there were many drastic changes to come before summer. But now that that it’s here, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much “jarring” and “jolting” changes as when Penguin first rolled out. Still, there were casualties from this update as SearchMetrics found, specifically in the industries of: online gaming, porn, and even brands like Dish and The Salvation Army.

Big Data for a “Big” Update
Taken directly from Dr. Pete’s post, here are the changes within industries as seen by MozCast data:

33.0% – Retailers & General Merchandise
31.2% – Real Estate
30.8% – Dining & Nightlife
29.1%  – Internet & Telecom
26.0% – Law & Government
24.4%  – Finance
23.5%  – Occasions & Gifts
20.8%  – Beauty & Personal Care
17.3% – Travel & Tourism
15.7%  – Vehicles
15.5% – Arts & Entertainment
15.4%  – Health
15.0% – Home & Garden
14.2%  – Family & Community
13.4% – Apparel
13.1%  – Hobbies & Leisure
12.0%  – Jobs & Education
11.5% – Sports & Fitness
7.8% – Food & Groceries
-3.7%  – Computers & Consumer Electronics

Best Practices Going Forward
Although it’s too early to distinguish the best methods of “recovery” for the latest Penguin update, some things remain to be clear:

– Raise authority with quality content and active engagement with your readers
– Take advantage of Authorship and other structured data for reviews, breadcrumbs, product prices and more
– Improve social signals and point it back to your site
– Natural content and links will win in the long run over black or grey hat techniques
– Co-citations, social mentions and natural links are an important part of your backlink profile
– Think about how you can earn more readers, clicks and links instead of buying them
– Disavow bad, questionable links and work on building better ones
– Recovery may not be an option

Better Alternatives and Options?
Perhaps, from what Google has been saying, SEOs expected the worst to happen or in the best case scenario, for their affected site to jump back to what it was. This doesn’t seem to be the case as only 2.3% of queries were affected and some people just continued to stay where they were. Remember, only about 9% of sites affected by Penguin claimed recovery.

This last point is something that you might not want to hear, but it may have to be something that needs to be done. But as a business owner, it might be just the thing that your website needs to move on and survive. Waiting over 1 year just for the off chance that your site will recover is a long time to wait for something that is uncertain. During that time, you could have worked on building a new, better site. Especially since there is so much information on website best practices and white hat techniques, which is drastically different than methods that were acceptable in the early 2000’s. Change isn’t what we always want, but sometimes it’s what we needed.

If your site was hit by Penguin 1.0 and there still seems to be no improvement after 2.0, it’s time for a change. Contact us today for more information on your specific case.

What Does it Take to be Trust(Rank) Worthy?

We’ve previously discussed PageRank, so let’s dive right into TrustRank.

The Concept of TrustRank
Researchers from Stanford University and Yahoo! combined forces to come up with a link analysis technique to “semi-automatically” separate useful websites from spammy websites. The idea is that feedback from human reviewers can only go so far and people can only go through so many pages. There has to be another way to distinguish good content from the bad content.

This is where the concept of TrustRank comes in. The basic idea is that established, authoritative sites (like NY Times, WebMD, etc.) will rarely link out to pages that aren’t equally well-regarded. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to come across webspam that links out to good sites (in very high and unnatural volume), or even name drops in order to trick visitors in an attempt to be a credible source.

The Difference Between Spam and Non-Spam
There are many indicators that can be used to detect spam. Spammy sites will often work in a network where they all link to each other in order to sculpt PageRank and pass link juice to a certain page. Volume of linking out, anchor text, keyword density, black hat techniques (like cloaking) are also indicators of spammy or malicious sites.

Then, there’s the issue of linking C-blocks. Tools like SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer give you a better idea of the amount of linking C-blocks to your domain. Sites hosted on the same domain may all link to each other in a scheme to gain higher rankings.

To make a long and technical story short, you can think of it like this: Your IP address is where your website resides. The C-block you belong to is your “neighborhood”. If your IP is located in a “bad” C-block, it could be harmful as your site may be associated with spammy sites.

Google’s Official Word?
Although Google doesn’t officially recognize a single page ranking factor of TrustRank, they do acknowledge that the search algorithm takes the concept of trust into consideration. So, it might not be a bad idea after all to think about TrustRank as it can improve your PageRank and overall rankings and reputation.

Have you ever heard this quote? “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. Apply that to who your website is associated with and keep good company!

Is Your Content Magnetic?

If you’re looking for a new outlook on creating quality content creation, you don’t have to look further than an everyday object for a little bit of inspiration – the magnet.

Magnetic content is content that’s so good that it can’t help but attract more readers. And like a magnet, the end result can rub off on other people so that they’ll engaged and want to share it. Magnetic content doesn’t have to be a flashy term reserved solely for something fancy like an infographic or book download. Besides, how often do you look for the latest news to see a simple blog, article , or tutorial? Also remember, magnets range in size and even the smallest ones can be powerful.

Here are a few examples of magnetic content that you can begin with today:
– top 10 list
– how-to video
– strongly opinionated editorial piece
– personal and revealing story
– non traditional interview
– even cute animal pictures!

These are just a few generic examples, but you’ll need to ask yourself:

Is it relevant? Think about the relevancy of your content in terms of your: customers, competitors, industry and even your own business objective. If all these aren’t checked off on your list, chances are, it’s not as magnetic as you think it is.

This can be a tedious step that involves research, listening and being tuned in yourself. Being active on social media and the latest news helps!

Is it significant? Creating significant content with a purpose means being current and aware of popular trends. This can involve: current events, important local news, seasonal trends, pop culture events, and other trending topics. Be in the now and explore Google Trends for more writing inspiration.

Is it shareable? This is where your networking skills on social media sites matters the most. Having social media sharing buttons on your site is crucial, and it’s important to understand where most of your readership lies. Don’t overwhelm readers with a flurry of share buttons but showcase ones that are most useful for you and your readers. Infographics make it easy with an embed code. Slideshows are popular and you can easily add a shorted URL that you can use to track (bit.ly or goo.gl)

Does it inspire?The main idea behind magnetic content is that you want to share a compelling story. You want readers to have a reason for reading, sharing and feel inspired to do something. This can be a conversation starter and fuel social engagement that is important and relevant to your brand.

4 Common Content Problems & What to do About Them

As many people have been saying, content copywriting and marketing is the “new SEO”. Although it may sound less complicated, there are quite a few obstacles you can still run into. Here are a few problems and some fixes to help you over come them:

1) Thin content – Older web pages and e-commerce sites often have this problem. This might mean having a page only filled with a list of links or pictures with very little to no actual content.

Fix: Let’s say you’re selling something like a dog sweater. You can spruce up the thin content on the page by adding a catchy title, relevant sub headings, a brief summary/description paragraph, and user generated content (like reviews). This added content will search engines a better signal that it’s more than just a filler page. It will also engage readers and encourage them to stay on page for longer. A good example of this is Amazon, think of all the different things to click and read while browsing for a single item.

2) Irrelevant content – Your content may be well-written and unique but why aren’t people contacting your business? Or they might be calling for the wrong reason or leaving as soon as they land. This is mostly a writing issue that can be fixed with the right analysis.

Fix: A good indicator that visitors aren’t getting what they want can be seen by analyzing your bounce rate. There are many things that can turn readers away and Webmaster Tools and Analytics can help you better understand what users are searching to get to a certain page and why they might be leaving. Check out Google’s Content Experiments for more ways to optimize and test your content.

3) Static content – Do you have content on your site that hasn’t been updated in years? This is not a good signal to search engines and definitely not helpful to your readers. Although it helps to consistently add new content, it’s also worth it to go back to important landing pages and make updates every couple of months.

Fix: Having an on-site blog can help show search engines and customers that you’re always adding new, quality content to your site. Adding a social networking share buttons on web pages also helps with social signals and can give old pages that are already ranking well an added boost. Having social shares associated with your pages is an indicator that it is relevant and worth sharing.

4) Duplicate content: If you’ve hired and switched marketing companies in the past, it’s important to re-evaluate old content and see if it’s unique or duplicated across multiple sites. I’ve encountered pages that are 90% and up duplicates of other sites! This is not good at all, especially when it comes to Google Penguin updates.

Fix: There is no shortcut but to identify and re-write the duplicate content. Tools like CopyScape can help you find duplicate content. You can also copy a paragraph from a page and search for it with quotes and see if that exact blurb pops up anywhere else outside of your site. If it’s the issue of other sites or scrapers taking your content and outranking your original content, it might be worth it to file a DMCA complaint.

Dreading Google Updates? 4 Memes You Might Relate To

If you’ve noticed that your website traffic and/or search rankings were significantly down this week, you might have been affected by Google’s EMD and Panda 20. How convenient of Google to release these updates right before the weekend and so close to each other that site owners will have a hard time figuring out what went wrong. Like the Panda and Penguin algorithm, the exact match domain updates will also be reoccurring in the future.

During this tumultuous time, many webmasters are becoming increasingly frustrated with keeping up with acceptable SEO best practices. Here are 4 memes that may properly convey the emotions that you can’t quite put into words:


1) Derp guy best represents owners who are clueless about their website and Google’s quality guidelines. Many businesses have websites that are built, optimized and forgotten. Even though it might not seem like that long ago, the SEO world is always evolving. Recently, it’s constantly changing at an even faster pace than most SEOs can keep up with. Some search marketing companies provide clients with quarterly or semi-annual reports. Don’t wait! In the midst of all these algorithm updates, if you haven’t heard about the state of your website recently, it’s time to ask and get informed. No more herp-derping allowed.


2) Rage guy knows exactly how you feel. Your site was a well-ranking exact match domain that virtually disappeared from SERPs overnight. All because an exact or partially matched domain that was purchased years ago? Why, Google… why? It’s too early to tell exactly what the factors are but sites from all different industries have been affected. Dr. Pete’s early analysis of 1000 sites showed that even credible, established sites like the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) can take a hit, all because of the “exact match” domain – charterschools.org. While your rage is warranted, it’s best channeled into productive activities. This means not trolling search marketing sites and leaving negative comments about Matt Cutts or Danny Sullivan, but rather researching them for your plan of action.


3) Challenge accepted guy can relate to rage guy, but differs in that he’ll do something constructive about it. Sometimes, you just need to ask for help or have a different set of eyes look at your website, back link profile, quality of content etc. Who says that you have to go through this alone? Many companies are available for consultation, you can get training and learn from webinars/seminars. And there are also helpful forums (like Google Product Forums) for free feedback. Challenge accepted guy isn’t going to let Google discourage him from regaining his rankings, especially before the busy season of the holidays. Let’s do this thing!


4) Forever alone guy is feeling alone. He just can’t take it anymore! After Penguin’s massive hit in April, his site traffic has virtually dried up. No clicks, no calls and no emails. Visitors that make it to his site aren’t even sticking around and his bounce rate is high as ever. Social networking? Forget about it… this guy has no interest in social signals. But then again, what loner does? Don’t feel too bad for him though, he might just try his luck on loneliness with Bing or Yahoo. At least then, he won’t feel so alone…

Was your site affected by the recent algorithm updates? Feel free to share the meme that best describes your feelings.

Thinking Out of the Box: 6 Link Building Strategies

Link building is increasingly becoming more important but at the same time, more complex. Nowadays, it’s about more than just tweaking your on-page SEO and submitting articles to to directories. It’s easy to give broad advice like “network with local colleges and ask for a link” or “call a related local business and ask for a link” … Here are some easy to implement ideas that can help with your link building campaign:

1) Create a free stock photo gallery – Whether you’re an avid photographer or Instagram fan, offering free use of your pictures can be a great way to get a link. It’s easy to set up a dedicated page on your site with stock photos that people can freely use. Even better, if you’re a web designer, you can offer free social networking icons, fonts, or even stylesheets – all while asking for a link back to your site.

2) Broken/dead link building – This can be a tedious process. One way to do this is to search the top terms you want to rank for and check out the top competitors. You can run a broken link check on them (like Xenu) and see if they have any broken links. It’s more than likely that they’ll have a broken or outdated link on their resources/links page. At this point, you can send a friendly email informing them of the dead link and asking (but not pressuring them) to add your link in place of this broken link.

3) Build a definition/glossary page – This strategy is great way to show that you are an expert in your field. At the same time, you’ll get to cover your most important targeted keywords and then some! Think of something like this, that will be helpful for years to come and something that can always be updated – so that people keep it in their references.

4) Wikipedia and wikis
– Although links on Wikipedia are nofollow, it’s a great addition to your backlink profile and it can bring relevant traffic your way. The key here isn’t to spam but to find relevant articles and to make citations or add to helpful “External links” at the bottom of the page. Remember, Wikipedia is not the only one out there. It’s a matter of digging around to find some more relevant ones to your business like wikidoc, AboutUs and so on.

5) Give away badges
– Post Penguin/Panda, it might not be such a good idea to get or ask for links with the same block of anchor text. Images are a great and safe way to diversify your link profile and it doesn’t take much. Many niche bloggers (tech, moms, gamers) appreciate well-made badges that they can add to their site. Think of something fun and simple, like Foursquare badges.

6) Live blogging at industry events
– Microblogging platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous combined with smartphones make it easy to live blog before, during and after events. An important part of having your posts re-shared is offering interesting insight not just mundane updates like “So excited for the seminar to begin!”. Take creative pictures, add your opinions and provide non-attendees with info that just might make them wish they were there with you!

What Highlander Can Teach You About Online Marketing

By some inexplicable feat, Highlander has become a cult classic. The 1986 has been deemed a “confusing movie that makes no sense” by some and “a top 10 fantasy film” by others. Regardless of your opinion, there are important things this film can teach you about online organic marketing. Let’s take a look:

“There can only be one” – This catch phrase is repeated throughout the movie, especially when one “immortal” is about to be killed. This memorable quote has stuck by the movie for over 25 years. Now, that’s branding! Take this into account with your own brand message or mission statement. It’s important that this message accurately represents your business and is something that you can relate to for years to come. And remember, some of the most famous taglines are the most simple.

Attract attention in the right ways – What makes sense about having a Frenchman (Christopher Lambert) playing a Scottish warrior? Or having a Scottish man (Sean Connery) play a Spaniard? These bizarre casting choices brought Highlander attention, which has earned its place in cinematic history. If the internet and memes existed back then, you bet that bloggers would be all over this film! Attracting attention is important and sometimes, it doesn’t entirely make sense. Viral videos, anyone? The point is, these precise choices were made to raise awareness and interest in the film.

Re-work and re-write for remakes – Audiences love remakes and reboots, so it only makes sense that Highlander is slated to be restarted with Ryan Reynolds. What better way to get the public interested in an old franchise than with a handsome, young star? If you apply this strategy to your content, it only makes sense. It can be difficult to decide whether to trash a page that doesn’t rank well or to try and fix it by re-working it. As we know the value of older domains, it’s helpful to keep strong, SEO-friendly URLs whenever possible. Instead of starting over completely, you can use the page/topic as a starting point to come up with something newer and more relevant to your customers.

Sometimes, we can find inspiration in the strangest places. Let us know what you think about Highlander and all things internet marketing!