How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Niche and Build Your Brand

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

How do you build brand recognition and develop brand authority in your niche?

As we say in the industry, “Content is king.”

After selling my old company, I started a new company. That meant building an entirely new brand from the ground up. Fortunately, I was able to use my personal brand to bring in an audience for my business and establish trust in the quality of my work.

ADVERTISEMENT

As a thought leader in the search industry, I frequently deliver keynote speeches, write guest blogs, and produce content for my company’s website to gain exposure for my personal brand and my business. The added exposure amounts to increased leads for my business and greater brand authority for me and my business.

Google holds a sweet spot for major brands in its organic results, as they usually get first pick for crawling and indexing. This is why we must utilize content marketing to establish ourselves as thought leaders and gain trust and authority for our brands.

Thought leadership and brand authority essentially go hand-in-hand.

Brands are built on the backs of leaders who can choose to emerge from underneath their brand.

So how do you become a thought leader for your brand?

How to Become a Thought Leader

Create Your Platform

You can’t just declare yourself a thought leader — that is up to others to decide.

The first step to becoming a thought leader is building your brand and establishing your credentials.

For personal branding, it’s key to leverage your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn and Facebook. Fill out a detailed bio of your accomplishments and career skills. These will become important channels for brand outreach and content promotion.

To beget your brand, you must ultimately improve your web presence. Go through the proper channels to position your website to gain exposure:

  • Establish a branded domain name.
  • Create a unique logo and complementary color scheme.
  • Acquire local citations for your website.
  • Optimize on-site technical factors to provide quality user experience.

Most importantly, discover an underserved niche in your industry that presents room to scale and that you’re proficient in. Conduct your keyword research to gather a better understanding of how to meet the demands of your customer base.

Now, it’s time to formulate your ideas and disseminate them to the masses.

Building a Branded Blog

Most marketers realize the value of branded blogs in conducting their SEO campaign and creating brand awareness for their business.

Branded blogs allow businesses and individuals to express their ideas about topics important to their niche.

Consistent blogging allows you to provide commentary on current industry trends and display your command over their subject matter.

Google rewards content that is relevant, fresh, and presents a unique spin on a topic. Producing evergreen content strategically positions your web pages to acquire backlinks, develop page authority, and help your website rank organically for targeted keywords.

More importantly, building a consistent blog establishes your brand’s authority over its niche through quality content. The higher the quality of your content, the more customers trust your brand. This, in turn, amounts to greater brand loyalty, which contributes heavily to your return on investment (ROI).

Building Your Content

Following Your SEO Talents

You want to develop thematically related categories for your content to position your web pages to index and rank for a wide range of semantically similar keyword phrases.

With machine learning technology, Google can evaluate the quality of your content and determine its relevance to user intent better than ever.

Expand your content marketing strategy to different sources to acquire backlinks and establish your value to customers in your niche.

Providing comments on relevant blogs, participating in niche forums, and writing industry reviews all get you engaged with your community and communicate your command over its most important topics.

Everything you put your name on could be a valuable backlink and traffic source for your website.

You should also consider producing content that serves to display original research, such as a white paper or an e-book. In terms of writing, long-form content is shared at a much higher rate than short-form content and typically ranks higher than thin content.

Other content with high shareability include:

  • Infographics
  • Images
  • Lists
  • Videos
  • ‘How to’ articles
  • ‘Why’ articles

Identify your brand to customers through keyword terms utilized in your content and across all web pages of your sales funnel. Optimize all meta tags with appropriate keywords from your research and include social media buttons to encourage easy shareability.

Marketing Your Content

Social media marketing is an absolute must today.

Leveraging social media can help increase your brand’s exposure, expand your audience, and allow you to engage with your audience to create brand loyalists.

Your Facebook and Twitter feeds allow you to syndicate content with backlinks that will improve their rank. Compounding posts will also grant your content more inbound links.

Connect with influencers in your industry that would benefit from your sponsorship. Not only does your content reach a wider audience but also a more relevant audience. Look on BuzzSumo for ideas on topics that are going viral on social media.

Use different channels to market your content, whether through paid promotion or email marketing campaigns. Email marketing often has a higher ROI than search marketing and is effective at retaining existing customers and keeping them up to date with your brand. My business uses monthly newsletters to keep customers updated and to create social value for our products and brand.

Building a brand should not necessarily seek to acquire a wider audience, but to retain your existing one to foster a community and create brand loyalists. One way to do this is to always respond to user comments and reviews, whether on your native website or your social media page.

Establishing Expertise

Finally, a syndicated blog or podcast may be effective to curate thought leadership, but it’s critical to become more active within your community.

  • Interview other thought leaders in your industry. Publish the interviews on your website.
  • Quote thought leaders: Reach out to a thought leader for a comment or quote next time you’re writing an article.
  • Ask a thought leader to share some of your content with their audience. This creates a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties, generating valuable backlink and content promotion opportunities. I regularly post and share content from other influencers in the SEO industry on my social media accounts.
  • Write a book. I wrote a best-selling book on Search Engine Optimization, which gave my personal brand (and various businesses) immense exposure and established myself as a thought leader within the SEO field.
  • Speak at industry conferences. This will allow you to present your ideas in a professional setting. Public speaking engagements put your name in front of some very powerful influencers and put a face to the brand name.

It’s also important to establish the value of your products and business to your customers.

Publish testimonials on your website to show successful case stories and have someone else brag about your expertise. Online reviews and word-of-mouth advertising affect consumer decisions more than any other advertising factor out there.

The Advantages of Thought Leadership for Your Brand

It’s no secret that brand authority and thought leadership reaps multiple benefits. Businesses considered as thought leaders enjoy more sales, profitability, and are less price sensitive.

Consider IBM’s Smarter Planet Program that launched amid the 2008 recession. It generated $3 billion in revenue in 2010 alone and increased their brand value in every region globally.

Thought leadership makes brands more innovative and creative and differentiates them from the competition. Consider how valuable brand authority remains in today’s highly competitive consumer market.

More importantly, becoming a recognized thought leader in your industry usually comes as a result of measurable SEO results–more average shares per post, high conversion rates, and more authoritative backlinks than your competitors. This all communicates trust for you and your brand, which means higher organic rank and greater brand exposure.

There are more benefits to being a thought leader and making your brand authoritative:

  • Higher indexing and crawling rates for your website
  • Larger audience to market content
  • Increased leads for your business
  • Higher CTR based on brand recognition

Conclusion

It’s important to realize that SEO is not static. It requires consistency and years of churning out content to get your voice recognized as a thought leader.

Historically, I’ve been experimental and ambitious in my business strategies, which is why I’ve enjoyed many successes up to this point. Go against the grain and establish yourself as a thought leader and brand authority in your niche.

Becoming a thought leader boils down to the quality of your content and what you can provide for it. What can you say that no one else has said before?


Image Credits
Featured Image: Pixabay

The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors 2017

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

 

The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors 2017

Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors has been updated, with its fourth edition now available. It sees factors related to mobile, direct answers and site speed increase in importance. Factors related to search history have decreased. Factors related to site identity and personal social sharing have been dropped entirely.

Below is a further explanation behind the changes, along with a reintroduction to the table, for those who are new to it. For those who just want the latest table to download, scroll to the end.

The table’s goal & philosophy

Our goal with the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors is to help publishers focus on the fundamentals needed to achieve success with search engine optimization.

To do this, the table doesn’t try to list all of Google’s 200 major ranking factors (most of which aren’t publicly known) or detail the search engine’s 10,000 subfactors. It doesn’t try to decipher if the keywords you want to rank for should be at the beginning of an HTML title tag or the end. It’s not about whether Facebook Likes count toward a ranking boost or not.

Rather, the table is intended to broadly guide both those new and experienced with SEO to focus on major areas of importance. Title tags are generally important; you should ensure they are descriptive. Social sharing is often generally seen as indirectly benefitting SEO. Aim for social shares, without worrying about the specifics.

To understand more about our philosophy behind the table, see our post from when the first edition debuted in 2011. You can also read how it changed with the second edition in 2013 and the third in 2015.

What the SEO table covers

There are two major classes of factors:

  • On-the-page SEO: These are factors largely within the control of publishers.
  • Off-the-page SEO: These are factors influenced by others or not directly tied to a publisher’s site.

Within these two classes are seven categories of factors, which are:

  • Content — Factors relating to the content and quality of your material
  • Architecture — Factors about your overall site functionality
  • HTML — Factors specific to web pages
  • Trust — Factors related to how trustworthy and authoritative a site seems to be
  • Links —  Factors related to how links impact rankings
  • Personal — Factors about how personalization influences rankings
  • Social — Factors on how social sharing impacts rankings

Overall, there are 35 individual factors, which range from making use of descriptive HTML title tags to whether a site has success with visitor engagement. Here’s a close-up of the table, focusing on just the factors:

How to understand the table

Each factor has a two letter symbol. The first letter represents the category a factor is part of, such as “A” for Architecture. The second letter represents the element itself, such as “m” for Mobile, giving “Am” its symbol.

Each factor also has a weight. This is a relative guide to how important it is to focus on a particular factor versus others and overall. Those with a +3 are most important, with +2 and +1 indicating factors of lesser importance.

It’s also important to understand that the factors work together. No single factor guarantees success. But several factors working together, even if they are minor ones, can increase the odds in your favor.

Violations are negative factors, spam activities that can harm your visibility. Don’t do these! Violations, unlike the other elements, all begin with “V” regardless of what category they are in, so that they can more easily be identified as violations. Factors marked -3 are considered worse than -2 and -1.

Our Search Engine Land’s Guide to SEO has been updated to reflect all the changes to the table, and it goes into more depth about each factor.

What’s changed?

As with previous revisions, Search Engine Land’s editors considered new elements that should be included, pondered ones that should be dropped and reviewed those that deserved an increase or decrease in weight.

We also ran a survey asking readers to give their own opinions of how existing elements should be weighted, along with open comments about adding new elements. We received over 300 responses in all, and thanks to all those who helped!

For 2017, no new elements were added. Three elements had weight increases; two had weight decreases. Two elements were dropped entirely. The summary is below.

Factors with weight increases: Mobile, speed & direct answers

Am: Mobile — Google continues to push for content to be mobile-friendly, no surprise given that more than 50 percent of Google searches are done on mobile devices. In addition, by the end of this year or in 2018, Google will use a mobile-first index, even for desktop users.

All of this made us feel the mobile factor should increase to +3, a rise over the +2 it had in 2015 and the +1 when it was first added to the table in 2013. Those surveyed agreed, giving it a 2.8 average weight.

As: Speed — Google has continued to emphasize the importance of speed as a ranking factor, including widely implementing the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) format that it backs. AMP didn’t even exist when our SEO table was last updated in 2015.

With so much attention on speed, it made sense to increase this factor’s weight from +1 to +2. Those surveyed gave it an average weight of 2.6, but we decided to be conservative with our increase.

Ca: Direct Answers — Both Google and Bing are increasingly showing direct answers that are culled from web pages above regular listings, something Google calls featured snippets.

Some publishers worry these are harmful, because if an actual answer is shown, why would people bother clicking to the source page? However, many others compete to be an answer, finding they do indeed drive traffic. Google’s featured snippets also serve as the single spoken answer that’s often given by the Google Assistant on mobile devices or in Google Home.

This factor was added in 2015 with a conservative +1 weight. Given the increasing prominence of direct answers, it made sense to raise the weight to +2. That also matches up with survey respondents, who gave it a 2.1 average weight.

Factors with weight decreases: Site and personal search history

Th: History — Google seems to have downplayed, in public statements or a lack of them, the importance of a site’s age or history versus years past. Given this, we felt dropping this factor from +2 to +1 made sense.

The factor was raised to +2 for the first time in 2015, when we agreed with the average survey response of 2.0. This year’s survey saw that drop to 1.8, giving us further reason to feel a decreased weight was in order.

Ph: History — Someone’s personal search history also felt to us like a factor that has decreased in importance. That’s why we’ve dropped it from +3 to +2. Survey respondents put it at 1.7, further reassuring us that the decrease was justified.

Factors that were dropped: Site identity and personal social sharing

Ti: Identity — We heavily debated dropping site identity as a factor when doing the 2015 edition, because Google had ended support for Google Authorship, which was the primary way identity seemed to be having an impact. However, those surveyed then gave it a 1.6 average score. Google also suggested that authorship was still being determined in other ways.

Since then, Google has backed away from authorship entirely. This year’s survey also saw it drop slightly to a 1.5 average. To us, there seemed little reason to continue listing this factor at all. We decided to drop it.

Ps: Social — Google+ was the primary way Google was using personal social sharing to influence someone’s search results. Google+ might continue in name, but its impact on Google’s search results seems all but gone — along with the users and brands that were active on the service. Because of this, we decided this factor deserved to be dropped. Survey respondents gave it an average weight of 1.6.

Factors considered but not added: App indexing and AMP

We wondered if we should add new elements for app indexing and AMP pages. People were asked to rate these on the survey. The average for app indexing was 1.7; for AMP, it was 1.8. We ultimately felt those were better considered as part of the existing mobile factor (Am) and decided not to add them as new elements.

Not changed but notable

As shown above, we don’t always go with what our survey suggests for a factor’s weight. Ultimately, we try to be a bit more cautious than what the survey suggests, plus we take into account things we’ve seen the search engines say or do.

Here are some notable diversions from the survey, where factors did not have their existing weights changed.

Au: URLs — The survey had keywords in URLs at 2.1, but we felt keeping it at +1 was fair.

Ah: HTTPS — The survey had the impact of running a secure site at 2.0, but we felt it was appropriate with its existing lower weight of +1. However, this could change in the future — and there are good reasons beyond SEO to make a site secure.

Ah: Titles — The survey gave keywords in title tags a 2.3 average weight. We kept it at +3, viewing it as an easy and still important area of focus.

Ah: Headers — The survey gave the use of header tags (H1, H2, etc) a 2.2 average weight. We felt that was too much and kept it at +1.

Ta: Authority — The survey gave the idea that a site or page has authority that helps with ranking a 2.4 weight. Google has certainly downplayed the idea of site or domain authority, as we covered recently. But it has given even further emphasis to the idea of page authority. We felt keeping this factor at +3 made sense.

Ln: Number of links — Those surveyed gave an average weight of 1.9 to the idea that sheer number of links is an important ranking factor. We remain conservative on this, keeping it at +1.

Pc: Country — Survey respondents gave a 2.1 average weight to the importance of someone’s country on the impact of the search results they receive. It’s easily demonstrated that country location has one of the most important influences on search results. Just ask anyone in a country different from the one you’re in to do the same search. They’ll usually have widely different results. We kept this at the highest +3 weight.

Pl: Locality — The survey gave a 2.3 average weight to the importance of someone’s city or locality on the impact of search results. As with country, we know — and anyone can easily test — that a city or regional location can have a huge impact. We kept this factor at +3 weight.

Ss: Social shares — The survey gave a 1.6 average weight to the idea that the sheer number of social shares can have an impact on search rankings. Social is generally an indirect benefit, in terms of Google. It has repeatedly said that it doesn’t try to measure social signals from Twitter or Facebook to rank results. But social sharing might lead people to link to and engage with sites, which are direct factors. Overall, we felt remaining conservative here with a +1 score made sense.

Vd: Piracy — The survey put the impact of having pirated or copyright-infringing content at -2.6. Sites with pirated content can indeed be hit hard by Google, but most sites don’t do this and so don’t need to worry about it. Hence, our lower weight of -1.

Va: Heavy ads — The survey put the impact of having sites heavy with ads or intrusive interstitials at -2.4. We agree that Google certainly seems to be looking harder (and penalizing) for this. Still, we decided to remain conservative and keep it at -1. However, there’s an excellent chance this could change in the future.

Vp: Paid links — The survey average for buying links was -2.1. We think that underestimates the negative impact on a site that’s caught doing this. We kept this at -3.

Factors not mentioned & the importance of quality

Above, we’ve only covered factors that had changes from the last edition or where we deviated from how survey respondents felt. There are many more factors than these, however — so please do review them all.

More than anything else, Cq: Content Quality, remains the bedrock of success. It’s the first factor on the chart and heavily weighted for a reason. If you have great content, all things good SEO-wise flow from that. Survey respondents agree, giving it a 2.8 average.

Thanks!

As always, updating the Periodic Table of SEO is a lot of work. Thanks again to all our readers who participated in our survey. Your feedback was appreciated.

Special thanks goes out especially to our news editor, Barry Schwartz, who watches over the SEO space like no one else. His thoughts and feedback were incredibly valuable.

Finally, a huge thank-you to the good folks at Column Five Media. They helped create the original table in 2011 and have continued to support it since through each edition, giving it a fresh new look for 2017.

Google adwords PPC campaign tips

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business

 

Google adwords PPC campaign tips

None of us set out to have our PPC programs fail. But sometimes they do, despite our best intentions.

Why do these programs fail? There can be many reasons. But sometimes, behind those failures, is some inadvertent self-sabotage — sabotage that will virtually guarantee a failed PPC program.

To help you avoid inadvertently setting your PPC programs up for failure, I’ll use this column to describe four ways to “help” your PPC programs falter or self-destruct.

1. Put too many options on your landing page

I know, I know. I’ve talked before about how landing pages are critical to PPC success and how important it is to keep them focused. But I’m going to repeat myself because it’s that important.

As you know, the purpose of landing pages is to facilitate conversions. You want people who’ve clicked on your ad to take the next step, whether it’s requesting a quote, giving you a call, downloading a package or something else.

Landing pages go astray when they provide too many options for visitors. Ideally, you want to limit the number of actions that landing page visitors can take to just one or two.

When you give visitors too many options, they’re likely to get sidetracked or confused and take no action at all.

Let’s look at this example:

PPC programs

As you can see, this landing page sends visitors in all kinds of directions, taking them down a wandering path that may never lead to a conversion.

In this case, I would narrow the options to a phone number (and use website call tracking to see if it’s getting any traction) and either a download or a contact form (preferably one landing page for each so you can test which option works best in this market).

2. Don’t touch your PPC account for six months or more

Whenever I log into a new client account and find it hasn’t been touched in six months or more, I have to pause. How did this happen?

Sometimes, it’s just one of those things. Maybe the client’s marketing team opened the PPC account and assigned it to a team member. Then that team member left, and the team hasn’t gotten back to it. These things happen. And while it’s not ideal, it’s understandable.

But sometimes we find that accounts haven’t been touched in months when we take them over from an ad agency. (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.)

How is it that an agency-monitored account hasn’t been touched in six months? It might be neglect. Or it might be a difference in strategy.

Some agencies make risk management their highest priority. (And, to be fair, sometimes the client is highly risk-adverse.) Some have tight budgets they need to adhere to. Either way, the agency locks down the account settings like Fort Knox. They choose conservative settings — such as exact match, shared or limited budget settings, tight ad schedules and standard ad rotations — so there’s no chance of “wasted” ad spend or overages.

Perhaps coincidentally, these settings also minimize the need to manage the account. If you choose nothing but the most restrictive settings, there’s little to monitor and few decisions to make.

But the problem with this kind of “batten down the hatches” approach is that it’s extremely limiting. You’ll never get awesome results unless you’re willing to experiment, try different strategies and tactics, and, yes, take some risks. And that means putting some money behind your efforts and monitoring daily, even hourly, to see what happens.

Will a “batten down the hatches” approach cause your PPC program to fail? Possibly. If your results remain unimpressive, there might be pressure to move budget and resources to other marketing initiatives with a higher ROI.

More importantly, this kind of approach closes the door on mega-results that could take your PPC marketing program to the next level.

3. Don’t include sitelinks

Most of us can agree that sitelinks are a key component of almost any PPC campaign or account. They offer advertisers many advantages.

As I’ve explained elsewhere, sitelinks are an important way to add additional links to your ad and take up more ad real estate. They’re a great way to send visitors directly to the most relevant page for their needs (a win for everyone).

They can even improve ad rank, as noted in the AdWords blog:

Ad extensions and formats … influence the position of your ad on the search results page. If two competing ads have the same bid and quality, then the ad with the more positive expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher position than the other.

But even with all these advantages, clients will occasionally ask us not to include sitelinks in their ads. When we ask why, we get one of these responses:

‘I don’t think they’re necessary.’

Sometimes clients state that they only want to send visitors to their one landing page. And because the ad is sending visitors there already, sitelinks aren’t necessary.

What they don’t realize is that we can use sitelinks with different messaging to capture visitors who might otherwise not have clicked on the ad — all while continuing to get the visitors who are clicking to the main landing page. Having the extra ad real estate is well worth the effort.

‘My competitors aren’t using them.’

If your competitors aren’t using sitelinks, that’s exactly why you should be using them. Sitelinks will help you stand out from the competition and may even help rank your ads higher.

‘I don’t want to draw too much attention to my ad.’

I have to question the logic of this one. As an advertiser, you want to draw attention to your ads.

Will a lack of sitelinks cause your PPC program to sputter and die? Perhaps. If it indicates a general reluctance to explore different AdWords features, then it could be the canary in the coal mine.

4. Focus on the ‘wrong’ metrics

One of our clients likes to test things — and we love that about him! Thanks to his willingness to let us experiment, we’ve been able to discover and deploy some highly effective and profitable strategies in his accounts.

Recently, he read an article that said having a high Quality Score can save money on ad spend due to lower costs per click.

This makes sense. But generally, we don’t focus too much on Quality Score as a metric. In our experience, if you have relevant keywords, which trigger relevant ads, which land on relevant landing pages, then your Quality Score will take care of itself.

In this case, our client’s Quality Score was already good (his lowest was a seven), so we weren’t totally convinced that bumping his score to an eight or nine was going to make much difference. But he was adamant in wanting to try it, so we agreed.

We reviewed his ads and landing pages and bumped up bids to improve his click-through rate. After a month and a half (with an accompanying BIG increase in ad spend), we did see an increase in sales. But at the same time, we saw a decrease in year-over-year ROI and no change in Quality Score.

How helpful was this exercise, ultimately? Not much. True, it might have contributed to the lifetime value of these clients, but it’s hard to say for sure. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to convince our client to change his focus to other, more relevant and informative metrics.

It’s easy to get fixated on one or two PPC metrics, to the detriment of the others. This is especially true when the metric seems to encapsulate everything into one simple number. But if you steer your PPC program based on one metric, and one metric only, you’ll probably end up in the ditch.

No one wants their PPC program to fail

Of course, no one wants their paid search program to fail. And in some cases, you can do everything absolutely right and still struggle.

But at the very least, you can improve your odds of success by not sabotaging your own efforts with these four PPC duds — guaranteed!

How to get quality backlinks from traditional press release activity

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business

 

How to get quality backlinks from traditional press release activity

If you’re doing search engine optimization (SEO) properly today, then a significant portion of your effort will overlap with traditional public relations (PR).

This is because over the last few years, Google has minimized the effects of easily gameable ranking signals and refined their algorithm to better represent user experience. In other words, websites that satisfy their users tend to rank better than those that do not.

Inbound links are still a critical component of any SEO campaign, but the easy link-building tactics of the past have been wiped off the board, largely thanks to Google’s Penguin update(s). This includes buying links, guest blogging at scale, embedding links in plugins or themes and more.

The only type remaining as valuable and effective over the long term are the proverbial Holy Grail of link building: natural editorial links from high-traffic, authoritative websites.

And therein lies the challenge: How do we earn these coveted editorial links? Well, it’s a two-part equation.

The first part is to produce amazing content. I know, that dead horse has been beaten to a mushy puddle of goo at this point, but the fact remains that without amazing content, no one will link to your website.

The second part is where traditional public relations comes into play, because all of that amazing content is useless if no one knows about it. And despite Google’s frequent claims, no, your content won’t just magically earn links by virtue of existing and being amazing.

link building magic

Effective link building requires outreach, and that requires you to truly understand what motivates people — contributors and/or editors in this case. You have to introduce yourself, frame your pitch and demonstrate how you’ll make their job easier all in a couple of hundred words.

That’s no easy task, which is why most people do it so poorly. But once you master that skill, it produces tremendous leverage for your link-building efforts. When you’re featured in a major publication like Forbes, Entrepreneur or Fast Company, you tend to get noticed by contributors at other major publications, which makes it a lot easier to pitch them to be featured in the publications they work for as well.

Increased exposure typically equals other publications wanting to cover you, too, resulting in even more exposure and links. It’s a powerful cycle.

This works on the concept of social proof, which basically means that people see you as trustworthy and authoritative because they perceive others they already trust as seeing you that way.

The evolution of search algorithms has resulted in link building and public relations becoming incredibly similar today. In the past, link building was simply about building links. It didn’t matter if they came from obscure little blogs with zero traffic or from media powerhouses with millions of visitors.

Obviously, links from authoritative websites have always been preferred, but the goal for most link builders has always been to simply acquire more links to move the needle in terms of organic ranking. Google’s algorithm updates over the last few years — especially in regard to Penguin,

RankBrain and their growing use of artificial intelligence — have helped them move away from ranking websites based primarily on the volume of links, and instead base rankings on quality, user intent and user experience.

This is where public relations comes in, because it focuses on getting real humans who work at legitimate, authoritative publications genuinely interested in and talking about your story. It’s about truly adding value, which in turn tends to generate inbound links, as opposed to simply producing garbage links on websites that no one visits.

Part of the beauty of this strategy is that since your links are based on relationships, it will be more difficult for competitors to replicate them, giving you a more dominant position in your market.

If you think it sounds like a lot of work, you’re right! But it’s also well worth the time and effort.

Making PR work for you

So now the million-dollar question: How do we get people talking about us?

The first thing you need to do is find a newsworthy angle to your story. In order to do this, you’ll need to look at it from an outsider’s perspective, because frankly, no one cares about you yet.

Contributors are typically juggling dozens of deadlines while engaging with their audience on social media and keeping up with the content in their industry — so your self-serving pitch will get moved to the trash folder with the dozens of others they receive every day.

You may claim that you’re “the premier real estate agent in Tampa Bay,” but how is that newsworthy? (And what does it even mean, anyway?)

A few examples that might be newsworthy for a real estate agent could include:

  • If a contributor recently wrote a story about falling home prices in the area, you could pitch them on interviewing you about inexpensive home improvement projects that have the biggest impact on how much a home sells for.
  • If you’re a veteran of the US military and a real estate agent who specializes in working with fellow veterans (riches are in the niches, right?), then you could pitch a story about what veterans should expect when purchasing their first home as a civilian. (This transition is something that only a veteran can truly understand.)
  • If your area has experienced an influx of millennials looking for housing, you could pitch a story about how to engage with them, since many older Americans seem to find that difficult and frustrating.

Cheryl Snapp Conner, CEO of SnappConner PR breaks it down:

“In all you do, add meaningful value. The writer’s only constituents are their readership (and by extension, the editors or producers they write for) — so knowing this, offer the information and angles that you believe will meet agenda for them. It’s that simple. Yes, you (or your client) will be cited and linked as the source of this information. But even better than getting the link, the link will be associated with high value add in an area that speaks to the value proposition of your product, your service or your area of expertise. This, in a nutshell, is the best of PR combined with the best of SEO. Furthermore, your willingness to add meaningful value and to follow through on commitments to the reporter will instill a trusted working relationship with that individual for the future as well.”

Conner speaks from a wealth of experience. In addition to being the CEO of a respected PR firm, she’s also a contributor to several high-profile publications, which gives her ample experience in both sending and receiving pitches.

Cheryl Snapp Conner at the American Association of Orthodontists 2016 Convention, Moscone Center, San Francisco

Depending on the circumstances of your story, you may need to pitch a contributor cold. This will usually be the most difficult and least likely way to get you the coverage you’re looking for compared to the results you’ll achieve after you have an established relationship. That’s why I recommend being proactive and engaging with them long before you need anything.

You do that by first compiling a list of contributors in your niche who produce content that is valuable to your target market. Next, follow their work. When they share something that you find particularly valuable or useful, share it with your audience; when possible, link to their work from your own articles.

Over time, you’ll get to a point where they will welcome your pitches — so long as they provide value to their audience. It’s important to remember to treat them like humans, not objectives, because they will see right through that, and it will hurt both your personal and company brand. If you can’t do that, be a decent person and don’t waste their time.

In fact, Conner notes, if you are in a conversation with an editor and realize you do not have a fitting proposition for their need, you should ask two questions:

  1. Is there someone else you can suggest that I talk to?
  2. How can I help you right now?

Be generous with connections and support, even (and perhaps especially) in the cases where you have no direct benefit or vested interest. Your willingness to support even when it doesn’t advance your personal agenda will go far in reinforcing the working relationship over time.

Whether you’re pitching cold or warm, you’ll follow the same basic structure.

A short introduction followed by a value proposition — why will your story matter to their audience? Follow that with a little bit of relevant information for the story, and if you want to put some icing on the cake, mention that you’re happy to share the data you’ve already compiled on the topic to save them some time and work.

You should also include your phone number because they might prefer to simply call you rather than go back and forth over email.

But it’s not over once they publish your story, because you’re not like all the other self-absorbed marketers out there, right? So your next step is to share it on social media, link to it from relevant websites that you manage, include it in your social media share rotation going forward, and then continue engaging with that contributor and sharing their other content whenever it seems useful for your audience.

Link building today is a lot more like traditional public relations in that it is all about quality — in terms of publications, people and exposure, rather than just the volume of links. Approach it with that mindset, put in the necessary work that most others won’t, and you’ll enjoy the results that they can only dream about.


 

The Complete List of Google Penalties & How to Recover

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business

The Complete List of Google Penalties & How to Recover

There is lots of confusion about Google penalties. The most common one is mistaking an algorithm for a penalty.

High-profile updates like Penguin and Panda aren’t actually penalties; they are algorithms. Algorithms rely on a set of rules and calculations to automatically deliver the desired outcome.

In the case of Panda and Penguin, the end game for Google is to reward websites in the search results that meet their “quality standards,” as defined by webmaster guidelines. Google also employs an army of human reviewers to manually review and rate websites that slide through the algorithms but don’t meet Google’s quality standards.

Being on the wrong side of an algorithm sure “feels” like a penalty. The net result can be the same — a huge and sometimes devastating loss of organic traffic.

Understanding the difference between having your website impacted by a manual penalty vs. triggering an algorithm is important. It determines how to proceed in terms of developing a recovery strategy.

The most notable difference in dealing with a penalty vs. dealing with an algorithmic event is the need and opportunity to interact directly with Google.

A website that is penalized by Google will receive a manual action report via Google Search Console. Once the noted violation is fixed, there is a requirement to explain the origins of the problem as well as the resolution in a “Reconsideration Request”. Conversely, there is no need (or ability) to file a reconsideration request to escape an algorithmic smack-down.

This post will focus on known manual penalties and steps for recovery.


Cloaking and/or Sneaky Redirects

A magician's black hat and wand to represent cloaking

Cloaking is the act of showing different pages to users than are shown to Google. Sneaky redirects send users to a different page than shown to Google. Both actions violate webmaster guidelines.

This penalty comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

The Fix

  1. Navigate to Google Search Console > Crawl > Fetch as Google, then fetch pages from the affected portions of your website.
  2. Compare the content on your web page to the content fetched by Google.
  3. Resolve any variations between the two so they end up being the same.
  4. Check all redirects and remove redirects that:
    • Send users to an unexpected destination.
    • Conditionally redirect (ex: only redirecting users coming from a certain source).
    • Are otherwise “sneaky”.
  5. Submit a reconsideration request after fixing these issues.

Pro Tip: These types of redirects are often created by CMS plugins, may be in your .htaccess file, or could be written in JavaScript.


Cloaking: First Click Free Violation

This cloaking penalty is levied against websites that show full content to Google but restrict content viewable to users, specifically users coming from Google’s services in accordance with Google’s First Click Free policy. A website is not in compliance with the policy if it requires users to register, subscribe, or log in to see the full content.

This is another penalty that comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

The Fix

  1. The content shown to users coming from Google’s services must be the same as that shown to Google. Make any edits necessary to come into compliance.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request after fixing the issue.

Pro Tip: Utilize Google’s “First Click Free” policy. Allow users to see a full article on your site without registration, subscription, or logging in when coming from Google’s services.


Cloaked Images

Cloaking applies to images too. For example, serving images that:

  • Are obscured by another image.
  • Are different from the image served.
  • Redirect users away from the image.

These would all be considered as cloaking.

The Fix

  1. Show the exact same image to Google as the users of your site.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request after fixing the issue.

Pro Tip: Check any plugins you have installed to ensure they aren’t creating an image cloaking issue.


Hacked Site

Hackers are constantly looking for exploits in WordPress and other content management systems to inject malicious content and links. This is often cloaked and difficult to find and fix.

When Google picks up on this, a notification that “This site is hacked” is inserted into the search result for affected pages. This often leads in a demotion in the organic search results.

The Fix

    1. Contact your web host and build a support team.
    2. Quarantine your site to prevent any more damage.
    3. Use search console to help identify the hacking type.
    4. Assess the damage if spam or if malware.
    5. Identify the vulnerability to figure out how the hacker got in.
    6. Clean your site to close the vulnerability that let the hacker in.
    7. Request a review and ask Google to reconsider your hacked labeling.

Pro Tip: Be proactive. Always have a clean and recent backup of your website. Install website security features on your site. If you are technologically challenged, use a website security platform like Sucuri for protection.


Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing

The heading says it all. Google has discovered your website is guilty of using hidden text or keyword stuffing.

This is another penalty that comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

The Fix

  1. Navigate to Google Search Console > Crawl > Fetch as Google then fetch pages from the affected portions of your website.
  2. Look for text that is the same or similar in color to the body of the web page.
  3. Look for hidden text using CSS styling or positioning.
  4. Remove or re-style any hidden text so that it’s obvious to a human user.
  5. Fix or remove any paragraphs of repeated words without context.
  6. Fix <title> tags and alt text containing strings of repeated words.
  7. Remove any other instances of keyword stuffing.
  8. Submit a reconsideration request after fixing these issues.

Pro Tip: Don’t confuse tabbed content or JS dropdowns with hidden text. In an increasingly mobile world, those are perfectly acceptable ways to add content to a page.


Pure Spam

Unlike many of the other penalties, no one can plead ignorance when it comes to this one. It is reserved for websites that aggressively engage in a combination of spammy techniques, including the use of automated gibberish, scraped content, and cloaking, among other egregious violations of webmaster guidelines.

This is another penalty that comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

The Fix

  1. If this is the first offense, get your act together and comply with  Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request after fixing the issue.

Pro Tip: If this is the second offense, shut it down and start over. It’s highly unlikely that Google will give you another chance after breaking their trust.


Spammy Free Hosts

There’s no such thing as “free hosting.” What may be saved upfront in hosting fees will be flushed down the toilet in spotty reliability and spammy ads that you can’t control. Google has threatened manual action against entire hosting services. There is no point in taking that risk.

The Fix

  1. Migrate to “name brand” shared hosting.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request once the migration is complete.

Pro Tip: Avoid “free hosting” and suck up the $40 bucks a year for reliable shared hosting.


Spammy Structured Markup

If you don’t follow the rich snippets guidelines and markup content invisible to users or markup irrelevant or misleading content, you will be penalized. This penalty also comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

 The Fix

  1. Update existing markup or remove any markup that violates Google’s rich snippets guidelines.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request after you’ve made these changes.

Pro Tip: Resist the temptation to succumb to rich snippet spam; follow the guidelines.


Thin Content With Little or No Added Value

Low-quality or shallow pages that trigger this penalty generally come in the form of:

  • Auto generated / spun content.
  • Thin affiliate pages with OEM descriptions, no added value, and/or no unique information.
  • Scraped content from other websites.
  • Low-quality (often guest) blog posts.
  • Doorway pages.

This is another penalty that comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

The Fix

  1. Identify and remove auto-generated or spun content.
  2. Identify affiliate pages that don’t provide added value beyond what the manufacturer or retailer offers. Thicken or eliminate those pages.
  3. Use duplicate content detection software to identify content found elsewhere on the web. Remove and/or replace that content.
  4. Identify content with low word counts and where appropriate, thicken those pages to be useful and informative.
  5. Identify and remove doorway pages.
  6. Submit a reconsideration request after fixing these issues

Pro Tip: Invest time and resources into creating content that is both unique and useful.


Unnatural Links to Your Site

This is far and away the most common penalty. The root cause is always the same: buying links and/or participating in link schemes to boost organic SERPs. This is a clear violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.

The Fix

  1. Download the links to your site from Google Search Console.
  2. Audit these links to identify any that may violate linking guidelines.
  3. Remove or add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to non-conforming links.
  4. Disavow any links that you are unable to get removed or no-followed.
  5. Submit a reconsideration request after you’ve cleaned up your link profile.

Pro Tip: Invest time and resources into building links the right way and avoid link schemes.


Unnatural Links From Your Site

Google loves busting webmasters for selling links. In fact, any links that exist for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings are ripe for triggering a manual penalty. In Google vernacular, these are considered “unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links.”

This is another penalty that comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

 The Fix

  1. Remove or modify these links by adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute so they no longer pass PageRank.
  2. Submit a reconsideration request after removing non-compliant links.

Pro Tip: Use a machete and not a scalpel when cleaning up these links. Google has handled hundreds of thousands of these penalties and you won’t “get one” by them. Instead, you will only prolong the pain.


User-generated Spam

You know those daily spam emails offering cheap SEO and page one results? You can thank those “black hat SEOs” for creating this headache. (For the record, this is NOT link building.)

User-generated spam is usually found in forums, comments, guestbook pages, and user profiles. This penalty is another one that comes in two forms:

  • Partial matches affecting portions of your site.
  • Site-wide matches affecting your whole website.

The Fix

  1. Identify pages where users can leave comments.
  2. Look for spam in:
    • Advertisements posing as comments.
    • Comments that include non-relevant links.
    • Spammy usernames like “Cheap Viagra”.
    • Auto-generated, generic, or off-topic comments.
  3. Remove all spammy and inappropriate content.
  4. Prevent unmoderated content from appearing on your website.
  5. Request a review once your site is clean and no longer in violation.

Pro Tip: Be proactive. Don’t allow unmoderated user-generated content to appear on your website.


The Takeaway

You can’t game Google. If you want to build a sustainable web presence, you must know, understand, and follow Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Resist the temptation to cheat and cut corners. Now, more than ever, SEO is a marathon and not a sprint.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Pixabay
In Post Image: Pixabay

Understanding link building in SEO easy way

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

Understanding link building in SEO easy way

We all kow that we need links to rank well, but some people are still unsure of what constitutes a good link or a bad one. That information is critical in making smart link building decisions. Dabble in questionable link building activities today — even unintentionally — and you will eventually find yourself on the wrong side of a penalty costing you traffic and sales.

That’s why it’s so important to understand exactly what kind of links have a positive impact on ranking and are acceptable according to Google’s webmaster guidelines.

So we’re going to delve into the good, bad, and ugly of links to explain which type will hurt your website, which will just waste your time by not improving ranking, and which will propel you to the top of the search results.

On a related note, it’s important to have a strategy rather than just blindly building links. This will save you time, money, and energy while improving your results.

The Good Links

Good links tend to be earned naturally and generally aren’t scalable.

Organic link building takes a lot more time and effort, but it also means the links you do get are more valuable because they are more difficult for your competitors to replicate.

This gives you a more dominant position in your market, and that’s what we’re all looking for, right?

Editorial Links

The most obvious example of a good link is when, unbeknownst to you, a journalist (or contributor, or blogger) is so amazed by you, your company, or your products or services that they take the initiative to write an article about you and link to your website. Contrary to what some in the SEO community (including Google) claim, this is pretty rare.

Equally as good is when a personal relationship leads to a similar situation, either directly or through an introduction to a journalist, contributor, or blogger — provided that there is legitimate value for their audience in your story. For example, in a recent article on the role of traditional public relations in SEO that I wrote for another search publication, I included several quotes and a link from a friend who runs a large and successful PR firm precisely because her insight was incredibly valuable to the audience, thanks to her extensive background.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging, when done properly, ranks just a little below the previous two examples in terms of value, primarily because while the website it’s published on has editorial oversight, it’s still produced by you rather than a more objective third party.

It’s imperative that these articles provide value to their audience and not be there just for a link. In fact, because Google has cracked down hard on guest posting as a link building tactic, I find it best to be overly cautious by going way beyond the expectations of value and be extremely conservative in terms of outbound links to your own website.

To play it safe, any guest blogging should be done with the intent of building your brand and reaching a larger audience — rather than building links. Building links is simply a byproduct of doing a great job at that.

Niche Directories

In general, directories are all but dead. However, highly focused niche directories can still be a valuable source of links.

That being said, you may only find a handful of worthwhile directories focused on your niche, and their SEO value will vary dramatically, but it’s definitely worth looking into. You should expand your thinking beyond the traditional idea of a web directory and look at trade organizations, niche-specific networking groups, and professional associations as well because most have a members directory these days.

When evaluating a directory, you’ll want to ensure that they:

  • Have a vetting process, rather than just accepting anyone who is willing to pay the fee.
  • Regularly publish valuable content that search engines can access and index.
  • Regularly prune broken links from members who no longer have an active website.

This may sound overly puritanical, but I would avoid any directories that allow keywords in the anchor text of the listings.

Building Those Good Links…

Gone are the days of precisely matching anchor text to the keyword phrases you want to rank for. It looks unnatural, and thus easily identifiable by Google’s algorithm, which will only continue to get better at spotting patterns thanks to artificial intelligence.

When someone else links to you without your input, the anchor text tends to be pretty natural, so you don’t have much to worry about. When you’re the one creating the links, however, such as when guest posting, you need to be much more careful because your own actions (vs. those of a third party) will be viewed with much more scrutiny if you’re ever manually reviewed.

There is a time and place for exact match anchor text, but in most cases, I tend to opt for something more descriptive, like I did in the previous link to my SEJ article on artificial intelligence. You should also generally link to the most relevant internal page rather than the homepage (unless you’re citing the company, in which case you should use the company name instead of a keyword).

The Ugly Links

While it may be easy to produce these types of links in large numbers, they won’t have much impact (if any) on your organic ranking.

Investing time in producing these type of links is a waste of time, money, and energy because they will never generate much of a return on investment.

To make matters worse, if you use these link building tactics — even though they aren’t effective — you’re likely to eventually suffer a penalty.

Guest Posting at Scale

If you’ve been in the SEO industry for more than a few years, you probably remember when article directories were the hot new thing and you could simply fire up a program to submit your article to thousands of these websites at once. Most of these programs even had the capability to “spin” or modify the content, resulting in a “unique” article for each submission. This created a swath of trash websites that served no purpose other than displaying ads within mostly useless and redundant content.

Those days are thankfully behind us. However, even when performed manually and at a smaller scale, this tactic is problematic when you’re doing it primarily to build links because it creates obvious patterns that Google’s algorithm can easily identify.

Links From Non-Relevant Websites

There is virtually no value in links from a divorce lawyer’s website pointing to a general contractor’s website. Today Google is pretty good at identifying the topic of a website, and they generally only assign significant weight to links that are relevant to their target. No matter how easy it may be to acquire a link, don’t waste your time if it isn’t relevant.

Header, Footer, and Sidebar Links

Google doesn’t give much weight for links in certain areas of a web page, including headers, footers, and sidebars. In general, sitewide links are a bad idea except in a few cases:

  • Linking to a relevant sister publication that you own. For example, if Huffington Post linked to their India edition, that would be fine. However, if you ran a general contractor business and a mortgage company, a sitewide link from one to the other would be risky.
  • Identifying software that runs a website, as you see with most content management, blogging, and e-commerce systems.
  • Identifying who designed a website.

An important caveat here is that while you don’t need to use the nofollow attribute on these links, you do need to use branded terms such as the company or publication name rather than keyword rich anchor text.

The Bad Links

Further down the rabbit hole are links that must be avoided at all costs.

You should disavowed any bad links you’ve used in the past because they will absolutely result in a penalty when you’re inevitably caught. From that point forward, Google will start watching your link building efforts with far more scrutiny.

When you’ve landed on Google’s radar, any actions that may have been dismissed as an honest mistake will now be viewed as an attempt to unethically manipulate ranking.

Paid Links

You might be thinking that you can get away with buying paid links because you’re doing it on a small scale and/or through personal relationships, right?

That sounds plausible until you consider that if a website owner is selling links to you, they’re most likely selling links to at least a few other people too, and those people are most likely buying links from other websites. You can see how quickly the network expands from there.

Think of how many people, buyers and sellers, are really involved, and then ask yourself how difficult would it be for an organization with the data and resources of Google to identify paid links. All they need to do is catch one buyer or seller and then follow the breadcrumbs to identify the other buyers and sellers.

Comment or Forum Spam

While it’s easy to blast thousands of links to forums and comment sections of blogs, it’s also easy to destroy your brand by doing this because you’re slapping your spammy links all over someone else’s website. Besides, links in the comment section of blogs are nofollowed, and many forums nofollow outbound links as well, so you won’t see much, if any, SEO benefit but you will open yourself to the risk of a link-based penalty. Especially since you’ll anger other website owners who will be more than happy to report you to Google.

General Directories

We’ve already discussed how niche directories have the potential to be valuable, however, you should avoid general directories like the plague. These are the epitome of everything Google hates because they typically accept any website (except those promoting porn, gambling, or violence) so long as you’re willing to pay their fee.

This is a textbook example of a paid link. The directory isn’t relevant to your website, and in most cases, it lacks any useful content.

Private Blog Networks

Why go through the hassle of building legitimate links when you can just install WordPress on a few dozen domains and link to any website you want anytime? Well, for starters, just like with paid links, it’s pretty easy for Google to identify private blog networks, leading to penalties in the short term, and more scrutiny in the long term.

The more significant reason not to use private blog networks as a link building tactic is that you’ll still need to publish loads of original, high-quality content and create inbound links to the blogs in your network in order for it to have any value at all. That time, money, and energy would be better invested creating amazing content and earning inbound links to your own website.

When you consider that owners of most legitimate websites continually work to produce new content and earn new links, the value of a link from their website to yours continually becomes more valuable.

Conclusion

Links are an essential part of SEO today, but if you don’t know which type violate Google’s guidelines, you can easily end up doing more harm than good. Since links aren’t going to disappear as a ranking factor anytime in the foreseeable future, it’s critical that you understand exactly which type will improve your ranking, which type won’t, and perhaps most importantly, which type will get your website penalized.

Image Credits

Featured image created by author.

Top E-commerce Link Building Strategies

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business

Top E-commerce Link Building Strategies

As the e-commerce industry continues to grow at a steady average rate of about 10 percent each year, competition to get sales and exposure increases. That’s where link building comes in.

Link building is an effective way to gain more exposure and traffic for your website. Building links for e-commerce sites in particular can translate into more sales and return customers.

I mentioned some of the below tasks during my webinar for SEJ, but below are a few examples and how they apply specifically to e-commerce.

1. Influencer Outreach

Running an influencer program where bloggers and other online influencers can share reviews and information about your product is an easy way to get links.

If you don’t want to do the outreach yourself, you can hire a link building or influencer agency, or work with an influencer platform.

Clever is a popular platform for e-commerce goods. They have a proprietary backend system that allows you to choose the types of influencers you want, including their demographics (e.g. location) and audience.

Influencer outreach is an art and science all its own, but it mainly deals with the following steps:

  1. Identify your target audience.
  2. Find influencers and bloggers that have the same audience.
  3. Craft an outreach email or message to send to each influencer.
  4. Work with influencers who accept a campaign.
  5. Ensure that FTC guidelines for disclosure are followed at all times.
  6. Track social shares, posts, and links about your product to gauge success.

To evaluate the success of your influencer campaigns, identify your tracking metrics and goals. For instance, you could aim for each blogger’s review post about a product of yours to translate to a certain number of sales.

Make sure your goals are as specific as possible. Several marketers follow the SMART method, where goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Having a clear goal helps better identify success or failure.

Working with bloggers and social media influencers can create more buzz about your products, which will lead to more online reviews. That’s another great way to get links.

2. Editorial and User-Generated Review Sites

Review sites usually do great on search engines and can lead to more links and exposure for your e-commerce site. There are basically two types of review sites that I’m including here:

  • Content reviews, like when TechCrunch has a reporter try out a new computer.
  • User-generated content review sites, like Yelp or TripAdvisor.

No matter the format, impartial sites like The Wirecutter, Product Hunt, or TrustPilot can help generate referral traffic and increase brand trust and loyalty.

As with influencer outreach, you’ll want to set up a strategy for getting listed on review sites:

  1. Create a list of editorial content and user-generated review sites you want to target.
  2. See if your company and products or services are already listed. If there is a profile available for your company, make sure you claim it.
  3. For editorial written reviews, identify the process for pitching to each outlet.
  4. Double check that proper disclosure is in place, according to FTC guidelines.
  5. Share reviews on social media and your own website as they become available.

Any reviews need to be impartial and honest. Don’t try to hide or delete bad reviews if they are true. Instead, publicly comment on the review to show your willingness to fix the situation.

gravity review response

Additionally, whenever you find reviews of competitor products that are no longer available, you can use a link tool like Screaming Frog to find external links pointing to their website. You can then reach out to those sites to recommend one of your own products as a suitable replacement.

Working with other websites, especially if they sell related products, is a great way to get more of your product links in front of your target audience.

3. Partnerships

If there are other retailers in your industry that aren’t in direct competition with what you sell, consider creating cross-promotional partnerships with them.

For instance, Life Time Fitness is a series of elite gyms around the United States. Throughout their website and their online store, they offer special discounts and offers for related but not competing products like protein bars or restaurant gift cards.

life time health store

Since Life Time doesn’t make their own line of protein bars, they aren’t in competition with the manufacturer. However, because their audience is interested enough in a healthy lifestyle to pay $60-140 monthly for a Life Time membership, they are likely to also be interested in purchasing protein bars and shakes. Life Time has their audience so narrowed down, they even offer a media kit for potential partners.

4. Related Internal Links

While most of the above strategies have to do with external link building through building relationships with partners, customers, and influencers, your internal link building efforts shouldn’t be ignored. Try installing a plugin or developing a solution that automatically displays products related to the one the user is currently on.

Amazon is a master of linking to related items. Their “customers who bought this also bought” widget not only shows related products but also uses social proof of past customer purchases to convince customers to buy.

Amazon's "customers who bought this item also bought" widget

Dick’s Sporting Goods also employs a similar tactic, but with a sidebar that is present with the user as they scroll down.

Dick's Sporting Goods' "You May Also Like" sidebar

Adding a related products widget or box on your e-commerce pages can help increase average purchase rate and time spent on site as customers consider other items. You can also see what products are purchased frequently together using Google Analytics data so you know what to recommend.

In addition, if you have content or a blog on your e-commerce site, you can link to mentioned products or additional content that may convince them to make a purchase.

Summary

Working with influencers, customers, and other retailers for better e-commerce link building takes a lot of effort. You need to grow relationships to make campaigns a success. However, most e-commerce sites will find a benefit to focusing on link building strategies when looking at how they can become more visible online.

Image Credits

Featured Image by Kevin Rowe

Screenshots by Kevin Rowe. Taken May 2017.

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo birthday, Bing soccer match & Google stylish offices

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

Marissa Mayer’s Yahoo birthday, Bing soccer match & Google  stylish offices

In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have and more.

On Marissa Mayer’s birthday, Yahoo decorated her office?


Source: Twitter

Bing soccer matches:


Source: Twitter

Fancy Google room:


Source: Instagram

Google pink hall:


Source: Instagram

Google tron-like cubicles:


Source: Instagram


 

Know latest about Google algorithm update

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business

 

Know latest about Google algorithm update

As SEOs, we tend to obsess over changes to the organic results. It usually works like this:

You get to your computer in the morning. Ready to start work, you take a quick look at Facebook to check what you have missed. You run across someone asking if anyone saw changes last night. They’ll typically also note that there was “a lot of activity.”

“Activity” means that SEOs who follow changes to search rankings saw some fluctuations in a short period of time. If there is “a lot of activity,” that means there were large fluctuations in many websites’ rankings in a vertical or across verticals. Sometimes these results are positive, but mostly they are not. Big updates can often mean big drops in traffic.

So you quickly go check your Analytics and Search Console. Phew! The “activity” didn’t impact you — this time. But what about the next one?

This is what happens when Google rolls out large-scale changes to its search algorithms, and what is in these rollouts has been the topic of many articles, tweets and Facebook posts over the years.

What if I told you, though, that while it is very important to know what Google’s algorithms contain, you do not really need to know granular details about every update to keep your site in the black?

No-name rollouts

When former Head of Web Spam Matt Cutts was the point of communication between SEOs and Google, he would confirm updates — and either he or others in the industry would give each update a name. This was very helpful when you had to identify why your site went belly up. Knowing what the update was targeting, and why, made it much easier to diagnose the issues. However, Google does not share that information much anymore. They are much more tight-lipped about what changes have been rolled out and why.

Sure, Google will confirm the big stuff — like the last Penguin update, when it went real-time — but how many times have we seen an official announcement of a Panda update since it became part of the core ranking algorithm? The answer is none — and that was over 18 months ago.

The ‘Fred’ factor

As for all the other unidentified changes SEOs notice, but that Google will not confirm? Those have been just been given the name “Fred.”

Fred, for those who don’t know, is just a silly name that came out of an exchange between Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes and several SEOs on Twitter. Fred is meant to cover every “update” SEOs notice that Google does not confirm and/or name.

Gary Illyes on the Fred Update

So, what’s an SEO or site owner to do? If your site suffers a downturn, how will you know what caused it? How do you know what to fix if Google won’t tell you what that update did? How can you make gains if you don’t know what Google wants from you? And even more importantly, how do you know how to protect your site if Google does not tell you what it is “penalizing” with its updates?

Working without a net

Today, we work in a post-update world. Google updates are rolling out all the time. According to Gary Illyes and John Mueller, these algorithms update most every day, and usually several times a day, but they don’t share that information with the community.

If they update all the time, how is it a post-update world?

Post-update world refers to a world where there is no official identifying/naming of algorithm changes, no confirmation that an update has been rolled out, and consequently, no information on when that rollout occurred. Basically, the updates they tell us about are becoming more and more infrequent. Where Matt Cutts might have told us, “Hey we are pushing Penguin today”…

Matt Cutts Penguin Tweet
… Illyes or Mueller might just say:

So, if you cannot get the information about updates and algorithm changes from Google, where do you go?

Technically, you can still go to Google to get most of that information — just more indirectly.j

Falling off an analytics cliff

While Google is not telling you much about what they are doing these days with regard to algorithm updates, you still can wake up and find yourself at the bottom of an analytics cliff. When this happens, what do you do? Running to Twitter might get you some answers, but mostly you will just get confirmation that some unknown algorithm (“Fred”) likely ran.

Outside of reading others’ thoughts on the update, what can we use to determine exactly how Google is defining a quality site experience?

Understanding the Google algorithms

A few years back, Google divided up most algorithm changes between on-page and off-page. There were content and over-optimization algorithms, and there were link algorithms. The real focus of all of these, however, was spam. Google became the search market leader in part by being better than its competitors at removing irrelevant and “spammy” content from its search results pages.

But today, these algorithms cover so much more. While Google still uses algorithms to remove or demote spam, they are additionally focused on surfacing better user experiences. As far back as 2012, Matt Cutts suggested that we change SEO from “Search Engine Optimization” to “Search Experience Optimization.” About 18 months later, Google released the Page Layout Update. This update was the first to use a rendered page to assess page layout issues, and it brought algorithmic penalties with it.

What do algorithm updates ‘cover?’

Most algorithm updates address issues that fall under the following categories (note mobile and desktop are grouped here):

  • Link issues
  • Technical problems
  • Content quality
  • User experience

But how do we know what rules our site violated when Google does not even confirm something happened? What good are categories if I don’t know what the rules are for those categories?

Let’s take a look at how we can evaluate these areas without Google telling us much about what changes occurred.

Link issues: It’s all about Penguin

One of the most vetted areas of organic SEO is, of course, links — and Penguin is the algorithm that evaluates those links.

It could be said that Penguin was one of the harshest and most brutal algorithm updates Google had ever released. With Penguin, if a site had a very spammy link profile, Google wouldn’t just devalue their links — they would devalue their site. So it often happened that a webmaster whose site had a spammy inbound link profile would find their whole site removed from the index (or dropped so far in rankings that it may as well have been removed). Many site owners had no idea until they walked in one day to a 70+ percent drop in traffic.

The site owner then had to make fixes, remove links, do disavows and wait. And wait. And wait until Penguin updated again. The last time it refreshed, there had been a two-year gap between algorithm updates. Without the update, your site could not fully (or sometimes even partially) recover its ranking losses.

September 2016: Real-time Penguin

In September 2016, everything changed: Google made Penguin part of its core algorithm. Penguin’s data now refreshes in real time, and it no longer impacts an entire website’s rankings by default. Thus, with this update, Penguin was no longer a site killer.

When Penguin runs now, it will only devalue the links, not the site — meaning that rankings might be adjusted on query, page or section level. It would be rare to come in and check your site in the morning to find it has fallen off an analytics cliff entirely. That could happen, but if your site links are that spammy, it is much more likely you would get a manual penalty.

When real-time is not real-time

Now, “real-time Penguin” does not mean literally real-time. Google still needs to recrawl your site once the link issues have been fixed, which could take weeks, depending on how often Google crawls your site. Still, this real-time update makes it much easier to fix your link profile if you determine that links are your issue (spammy links are typically very obvious).

Remember, all sites will likely have some bad links. After all, it is not natural for a site to have a perfect backlink profile. But when bad links are comprising a significant percentage of your inbound links (let’s say around 25-30 percent), you need to start looking with a critical eye towards fixing spammy links and/or anchor text. (A general rule of thumb is if you have over 50 percent spammy links or anchor text, you most likely have a link devaluation.)

So, identifying site issues related to links is fairly straightforward. Are your links good links? Do you have over-optimized anchor text? If you have a spammy link profile, you just need to fix the link issues — get the links removed where you can, disavow the links where you can’t, and work on replacing these spammy links with good ones. Once you’ve fixed the link issues, you just have to wait.

As mentioned above, it can take up to a few weeks to see a recovery. In the meantime, you need to review the other areas of your site to see if they are in line with what Google defines as a quality site. “But I know the problem is links!” you say. Well, you might be right — but a site can receive multiple devaluations. You always want to check “all the things!”

Technical, content and user experience issues

This is where we have so much less guesswork than when we are looking at a link issue. Why? Because Google has provided webmasters with a wealth of information about what they think makes a good site. Study what is in their documentation, come as close to the Google site ideal as possible, and you can be pretty sure you are in good standing with Google.

Where do you find this information?

Following are some resources you can use to get a solid idea of what Google is looking for when it comes to a website. These resources cover everything from SEO best practices to guidelines for judging the quality of site content:

  • Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide — This is a basic outline of best practices for helping Google to crawl, index and understand your website content. Even if you are an experienced SEO, it never hurts to review the basics.
  • Google Webmaster Guidelines — These are Google’s “rules of the road” for site owners and webmasters. Stay on the right side of the Webmaster Guidelines to avoid incurring a manual action.
  • Google Quality Raters Guide — This is the guide Google gives its quality raters to help them evaluate the quality of search results — in other words, when a user clicks on your website listing from a search results page. Quality raters use this guide to determine what is and what is not a good page/site, and you can garner a lot of helpful insights from this content.
  • Bonus: Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Factors — This isn’t a Google resource, but it’s helpful nonetheless.

Almost anything and everything you need to know about creating a good site for Google is in these documents.

One note of caution, however: The resources above are only meant as guides and are not the be-all and end-all of SEO. For instance, if you only acquired links in the ways Google recommends, you would never have any. However, these documents will give you a good blueprint for making your site as compliant with the algorithms as possible.

If you use these as guides to help make site improvements, you can be fairly certain you will do well in Google. And furthermore, you will be fairly well protected from most negative algorithm shifts — even without knowing what algorithm is doing what today.

The secret? It is all about distance from perfect, a term coined by Ian Lurie of Portent. In an SEO context, the idea is that although we can never know exactly how Google’s algorithms work, we still do know quite a lot about Google considers to be a “perfect” site or web page — and by focusing on these elements, we can in turn improve our site performance.

So, when your site has suffered a negative downturn, consult the available resources and ask yourself, What line(s) did I cross? What line(s) did I not come close to?

If you can move your site toward the Google ideal, you can stop worrying about every algorithm update. Next time you wake up in the morning and everyone is posting about their losses, you can be pretty assured you will be able to go check your metrics, see nothing bad happened and move on with your day.

The resources listed above tell you what Google wants in the site. Read them. Study them. Know them.

Quality Rater’s Guide caveat

It is important to note that the Quality Rater’s Guide is (as it says) for Quality Raters, not search marketers. While it contains a great deal of information about how you can create a quality site, remember it is not a guide to SEO.

That being said, if you adhere to the quality guidelines contained therein, you are more likely to be shortening that distance to perfect. By understanding what Google considers to be a high- (or low-) quality page, you can create content that is sure to satisfy users and search engines alike — and avoid creating content that might lead to an algorithmic penalty.

Get busy reading!

It’s important to educate yourself on what Google is looking for in a website. And it’s a good idea to read up on the major algorithm updates throughout the search engine’s history to get an idea of what issues Google has tackled in the past, as this can provide some insight into where they might be headed next.

However, you don’t need to know what every “Fred” update did or didn’t do. The algorithms are going to target links and/or site quality. They want to eliminate spam and poor usability from their results. So make sure your site keeps its links in check and does not violate the rules listed in the documents above, and you will likely be okay.

Read them. Know them. Apply them. Review often. Repeat for future proofing and site success.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here

How to sell PPC campaign to your client

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized

 

How to sell PPC campaign to your client

One of the chief success metrics for our agency’s account management team is organic growth. We define organic growth as the amount of additional revenue generated through our existing client relationships.

Clients come to us because they want more out of their paid search and social program; they want consistent volume, revenue and profit growth. To drive organic growth, account managers must “always be selling.” This article will discuss methods PPC account managers in any situation (agency, consultant, in-house) can use to persuade their stakeholders to invest more budget into their PPC accounts.

Method #1: Have a solid strategy

Having a solid strategy is the cornerstone of any PPC program. Without a coherent plan in place, it would be extremely difficult or nearly impossible to convince stakeholders that investing more budget in paid search is a wise idea. Stakeholders want to know why more budget should be invested, how the extra budget is going to be spent and what the expected results are going to be.

Working under the guidance of a coherent, larger plan creates both trust and credibility, which is the first step to complete in any sales process. If clients don’t have trust in the plan — or worse, don’t trust that there is a plan — it will not be possible to create the necessary justifications to win any extra budget.

What does a PPC strategy look like? The pillars of solid PPC strategy should contain the following elements:

  • A deep understanding of the overall business situation (performance metrics, competitive landscape, deep understanding of the client/stakeholder’s most important goals).
  • guiding principle that governs overall direction. Translating the guiding principle into a simple-to-understand core objective will keep the PPC program tied to an overarching plan.
  • A coordinated action plan with initiatives that are tied directly to the guiding principle.

Carve out time to create a solid strategic plan. Good strategy is the conduit for positive performance — which, in turn, makes it easier to state your case for more budget.

Method #2: Pitching new ideas

Presenting new ideas to clients is critical to winning more budget from them. Why is it important to always be presenting new ideas?

  • PPC is dynamic, and the landscape is changing all the time. A strategy or tactic that’s implemented today could be outdated in a few months, or it could simply stop working. New ideas prevent stagnation and keep your PPC program fresh.
  • There are more pay-per-click platforms than ever available for marketers to utilize. Breaking into social advertising platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter opens new possibilities for growth and expansion.
  • Expansion leads to new budget over time. For an account to grow, it often needs more budget to properly test new ideas and initiatives.

How do we pitch new ideas to clients in a convincing way? Here are some tactics to use that can lead to a successful pitch for new budget:

  • Define the scope of the idea your pitching. Are you proposing a small modification to your PPC program or a radical change?
  • Tailor the pitch to who the decision-maker is. In most client/stakeholder relationships, there’s the daily contact who has operational control. Based on the size of the idea, the client might need to bring in their superiors to sign off on the decision and approve additional testing budget. Ensuring your pitch answers the questions of the most important decision-makers increases the chances of winning additional budget to fund your proposed initiatives.
  • Boil ideas down to their most important points. The easier it is for stakeholders to understand your idea, the budget required to successfully implement it and the urgency for moving forward, the better the chances of getting sign-off.

Always strive to bring new ideas to the table. Innovation is the key to account growth, and ultimately, to growing PPC spend. Successfully convincing clients to invest in new initiatives vs. routing budgets from existing ones provides more flexibility to test and iterate, which are key backbones of PPC success.

Method #3: Overcoming objections

In any selling situation, you must be prepared to overcome objections. Despite having a strong strategy in place and regularly presenting innovative new ideas to clients, there will come a time when clients say no.

“No” should not treated as the final word but rather the beginning of a rolling dialogue that ultimately leads to winning more budget. Use those nos as an opportunity to strengthen your pitch and develop a stronger case for obtaining more budget. Following are a couple of ways of overcoming objections:

  • Educate your audience. In my experience, when I see a pitch fail, it’s mostly due to a lack of context. When preparing your pitch, make sure you understand the big problem your stakeholder faces, and educate them as to how your initiative will solve it.
  • Having a strong point of view. Many pitches also fail when the presenter does not have a convincing point of view regarding the subject matter. The best way to develop a strong point of view is to do extensive background research, make solid projections on potential outcomes and consult with others to gain feedback about your plans and pitch. Based on that information, you can develop a point of view that can be communicated in way that garners trust and confidence in your way forward.

Overcoming objections is all about building credibility. Being fully prepared and confident in the information being presented can help reduce objections and lead you to secure more budget for your PPC initiatives.

Conclusion

Growing PPC accounts is all about selling clients on the notion that your approach is the best way forward and that more budget is required to execute the plan. You need to have a coherent strategy, a steady stream of new ideas and a compelling argument for why they should be implemented to expand your client’s PPC program.

Always selling — whether it’s a new optimization, tactic, strategy or platform — demonstrates a commitment to growth, which ultimately leads to increased budgets, stronger revenues and profits.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.