About Kalena Jordan

In my day job, I'm Director of Studies and tutor at the online training institution Search Engine College. In my spare time, I'm a search engine agony aunt and SEO to global clients. I've been marketing websites online since 1996 and blogging about search since 2002. To learn more, visit

Are You Over-thinking SEO?

no-inspirationYou might be a little shocked by the time you finish this article. You might even refuse to believe me. But I’m telling you straight: when it comes to SEO, you are almost certainly over-thinking it.

Let’s take a quick poll. Are you reading every SEO article you can get your hands on? Are you constantly tweaking your page title and meta tags to see if your site moves up the rankings? Are you running daily search queries to see how your site ranks for certain keywords? Do you break into a cold sweat every time Google rolls out a new algorithm update?

If you’re guilty of one or more of these actions, you are totally over-thinking SEO and you need to stop. Right now.

I’ve been in the Search Engine Optimization business for 18 years – long before the acronym SEO was even coined. I’ve witnessed the birth of Google, the death of AltaVista and more algorithm tweaks than Yahoo’s had CEOs. With all the changes the search industry has experienced over the years, I can tell you that the key to SEO is this: understanding your audience. That’s IT. That’s all you need to know.

You don’t need to understand latent semantic indexing, you don’t need to know HTML, you don’t need to know Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon or any of the other latest algorithm changes. You just need to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you don’t know your audience you need to get to know them. Quickly. Talk to them, talk to the staff who deal with them most often. Find out what makes them happy and what is turning them off. Look at their purchase history, their feedback, their interaction with your brand on social media. Survey them.

There is a lot of talk these days about the Semantic Web and how this is changing SEO best practice. Well guess what? SEO has always been about semantics. The main purpose of the Semantic Web is to enable users to find, share, and combine information more easily. Just like it has always been, the Semantic Web of today is based on searcher intent.

Every search is a question in disguise. When deciding what web content to rank highest in search results, Google compares the content of your pages with the original search query to see if they match semantically. In other words – does your content answer the intended question posed by the searcher?

Let me give you this example:

  • Oil
  • Hammer
  • Spaghetti
  • Car
  • House
  • Toothbrush

Take these six items and mentally put them into either two groups of three, or three groups of two, based on the first grouping that comes naturally into your mind. My initial grouping was:

  • Oil / Hammer / Car
  • Spaghetti / House / Toothbrush

My justification was that the first group was outdoor related and the rest indoor related. Did you group the items the same way as I did?

Now, if you give this same exercise to someone else, their groupings would likely be different to yours. I regularly present this exercise to my SEO training workshops and the outcome is almost always different for everyone. Some people group the items based on assets and consumables, others might group based on the number of letters in the words and there are always different assumptions about whether *oil* is the edible kind or the motor kind.

What does this tell you? Everyone is DIFFERENT. Depending on what time of day you did this exercise, or even whether you were hungry at the time, it might change the outcome. What does this tell you about the way people search? Everyone searches with a unique mindset and question in their head. Different day, different mood, different mindset, different question.

So how do you identify searcher intent? How do you use the semantic web to your advantage? By understanding your audience. By studying the search terms that your target audience uses to find the goods and services you offer. Once you understand HOW they search and what questions they are asking, you can optimize your content to ensure you answer their questions. Doing that will give you a much better chance of Google, Bing and Yahoo ranking you above your competitors in the search results.

Another SEO shortcut is to create user personas for your main customers. Track what pathways they take through your site. Notice what pages they visit most often and what content they share. Publish more of that type of content. Create unique and distinct marketing campaigns for each persona you identify. Your ROI will hit the roof.

Call your best customers on the phone, buy them a coffee. Get to know them, reward them. Show them you care. They are your advocates and should be your best friends. Turn them into brand evangelists and they will do half the marketing for you.

Spend less time looking at algorithms and more time looking at your analytics and customer feedback. Publish content that your audience is asking for. Publish content that your audience is searching for. Publish OFTEN. Internal Site Search is your best friend. Don’t have internal site search? Get it fast and review what people are searching for within your content.

Re-purpose and re-package your content in different ways. That newsletter that you sent out via email last week? Publish it on your web site – and I don’t mean a PDF – put each individual article on it’s own page. Search engines love fresh content. Ask your best customers why they like your product. Write an article about that. Create a Q and A blog post out of a help-desk ticket. Publish your customer testimonials. Write a case study with the help of your favourite client. Turn your Knowledge Base into several white-papers for download. Republish your blog posts on your Facebook page. Tweet the links from your Twitter account. Add the images to your Pinterest boards. Embrace social media and cross-promote your social channels.

You can do this. Everyone reading this article can do SEO. Everyone. It is NOT a specialist skill. It takes a holistic approach, but primarily it comes down to 3 words: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

So stop over-thinking SEO and just get on with it.

Fast Five in Search – Week 39, 2014

fast-five

 

So it’s already Fast Five time again. This week is pretty much all about mobile marketing, with a sprinkling of Google and Facebook into the mix.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) More People Accessing Internet Via Mobile Devices by SiteProNews. Experts had predicted a massive upswing in mobile Internet usage with the birth of the iPhone and iPad, but the rate of growth has taken everyone by surprise.

2) How Responsive Web Design Works by HubSpot. And while we’re on the subject of mobile devices, this cute Infographic published by HubSpot is a handy reference about responsive design and why you need it. If this doesn’t convince you to switch your site to a responsive design template, nothing will.

3) Everything Happening Right Now on the Internet by Digital Marketing Ramblings. Regardless of the misleading title, this graphic is quite an eye-opener. It’s actually a snapshot of the Internet in real time, showing you how quickly data is generated and accounts created on some of the web’s most popular sites including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Amazon.

4) Facebook Working on Private Sharing App by Mashable. With their privacy protocols consistently in the news for all the wrong reasons, Facebook is reportedly working on a new app designed to encourage private content sharing. Apparently, the app will provide users with a grid-style interface from which to share private moments with friends and family.

and finally…

5) Google+ Is No Longer a Requirement for Creating a Google Account by Marketing Land. Google’s unpopular decision in 2012 to make a Google Plus account a mandatory part of the Google account creation process appears to have come back to bite them. In response to demand, Google has dropped the requirement and now made Google+ account creation an optional choice when signing up for Gmail and other Google products.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Fast Five in Search – Week 38, 2014

fast-five

 

So I answer a lot of questions about search engines on this blog. But did you know that Google also has a Q and A site? This week’s Fast Five is dedicated to some of the more popular questions asked about Google.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) Does validating my site’s code (with a tool such as the W3C validator) help my site’s ranking in Google?

2) How can I get those links displayed under my site’s listing in Google’s search results like some other sites have?

3) Is the server location important for geotargeting?

4) Why doesn’t my site show rich snippets? I added everything and the test tool shows it’s ok.

and finally…

5) Why is my sitemap file showing a submitted URL count that does not match the number of entries in my sitemap file?

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Q and A: Will Google penalize me for redirecting my old site to my new site with duplicate content?

QuestionHello Kalena

I have a current subdomain webpage that is ranking on page 12 on the Google SERP’s. I just bought a new domain name and created a new website with pretty much duplicate content so I could use that as my prime domain. What I did was re-direct my subdomain to the new prime URL.

My new site has been indexed, but not yet ranked by Google. I intend to delete the sub-domain page as soon as the new page starts appearing in the SERP’s. My question is, because of the duplicate content, is Google going to ban me for this?

Thanks,
Paul

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Hi Paul

Ah yes, the old hosted sub-domain ranking conundrum.

For the benefit of readers who might not understand your situation, here’s a brief explanation. Paul’s current website is free-hosted on a sub-domain provided by his hosting company. For example, instead of having his site at www.PaulsPlace.com, it’s currently at PaulsPlace.hostingplace.com. This means that any links pointing to his site contribute to the hosting site’s link popularity and not his own. It also means that he is helping his hosting company to rank better in search engines, rather than his own brand and content.

To avoid this, Paul has done the right thing and purchased his own domain name, transferring all his site content over to the new domain and then putting an automatic sign-post up on his current sub-domain site that redirects people to his new domain when they hit his old site or click on a link to his old site within search engine results.

Paul, provided you used a 301 redirect on your sub-domain, there shouldn’t be any problem at all with duplicate content. In fact, this is the recommended process to use, according to Google. Just don’t forget to remove the redirect (and dump your old site) once you see your pages start to appear in the search results. You can hurry this along by creating a XML sitemap for the new site and uploading it to Google via Webmaster Tools.

Hope this helps.

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Free Online Marketing Training for Charities and Not-For-Profits

SEC-smiley-150x178Search Engine College has now enrolled students in 65 countries.

We’re thrilled that so many people around the world have benefited from our courses, but we’re also aware that many small businesses and not-for-profit sites don’t even have a marketing budget, let alone a budget for training.

So to make it easier, we’ve decided to offer 25 charities per year the opportunity to learn search marketing skills at no cost, to help them make the most of their limited marketing budgets.

We’d like to extend an invitation to any registered charities interested in taking online marketing training (regardless of global location) to get in touch. We’ll take the first 25 charities to respond and send them a coupon giving one staff member a 3 month  subscription to all our courses – a retail value of USD 297.

To qualify for the offer, your charity / NFP organization needs to:

1) Have a web site.

2) Have been incorporated at least 12 months ago.

3) Be listed on CharityNavigator.org, the UK Charity Commission, the NZ Charities Commission or the equivalent in your country.

4) Not have any religious or political affiliations.

When contacting us, please use the phrase “charity training” in your subject line or comments field and include your charity registration number if you have one. Please also include a sentence or two about why you think having your staff take our courses would benefit your charity.

To prevent fraudulent claims, we will be carefully screening charities to ensure they are legitimate. We’ll be announcing the beneficiaries one by one as we distribute the coupons.

If you know of a worthy charity or not-for-profit that might benefit from our courses, please direct them to this post, or tweet it to spread the word.

Thanks!