Fast Five in Search – Week 40, 2014

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Lots of very interesting tech and search news this week. A couple of game changers for those of us using search channels to market products and services.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) Google AdWords Offers Ad Creatives at Scale for PPC by Jessica Lee at Search Engine Watch. This month, Google launched the ability for AdWords advertisers to create ads using custom parameters that you want inserted into your ads. Using a spreadsheet you pre-fill, the feature allows AdWords to retrieve product information that is most relevant to what each customer is searching for and dynamically insert it into your ad text.

2) New Panda Update Rolling Out, Google Takes Another Stand Against Thin Content by Matt Southern of Search Engine Journal. Earlier this week, an analyst at Google UK let slip that a new Panda update was in the process of being rolled out to the Google algorithm. Matt has the scoop on what you can expect from this update.

3) The Yahoo Directory – Once the Internet’s Most Important Search Engine – Is to Close by Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land. This news came as a bit of a shock. As someone whose job (for years) consisted of submitting client sites to the Yahoo Directory, it was an *end of an era* moment to hear the Directory would be closing down. I’m with Danny on this one – Yahoo has cruelly glossed over the closure of the Directory that started the entire company AKA “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”. So long Yahoo Directory.

4) Want to Improve Your Blog’s Conversion Rates? 11 Tests to Try by Pamela Vaughan of HubSpot. In this post, Pamela shares some logical testing formulas for improving your blog’s conversion rate. Suggested items for testing include Click Through Rate, content balance, calls to action and publishing rate.

and finally…

5) 14 Conversion Rate Optimization Tools Every Expert Needs by Steven Macdonald of Search Engine Journal. This one does exactly what it says on the label. Steven has provided a handy list of tools for testing your conversion rate, conveniently categorized by topics such as Analytics, Research and Testing. Be sure to bookmark this one.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Search Engine College Now Teaches in 67 Countries

SEC-smiley-150x178There were cheers in the staff room at Search Engine College this month, when it was announced that we now teach students in 67 different countries worldwide.

The 67 country milestone was reached when a new student from Switzerland took advantage of our Study Month promotion to sign up for our monthly subscription.

Since its inception in 2004, Search Engine College has set new industry standards for online training in the field of Search Engine Marketing and we are very proud to have produced nearly 1,900 happy graduates.

Here’s a list of countries / regions where our students are located :

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Barbados
Belgium
Brazil
Bulgaria
Cayman Islands (UK Territory)
Canada
China
Columbia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
Egypt
England (UK)
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong (region of China)
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Jordan
Kenya
Kuwait
Latvia
Lithuania
Malaysia
Malta
Mauritius
Mexico
Montenegro
New Zealand
Norway
Pakistan
Philippines
Portugal
Romania
Russian Federation
Scotland (UK)
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Switzerland
Syrian Arab Republic (Syria)
Thailand
The Netherlands
Trinidad and Tobago
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
Ukraine
Uraguay
USA
Vietnam
West Africa

We’re already taking bets on which country will be next. I’m hoping it’s Antarctica. Oh wait, that’s a continent partly owned by several countries. Um, ok how about Greenland? C’mon you Greenlanders!

 

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Q and A: Is re-writing content from another blog a legitimate SEO tactic?

QuestionHello Kalena

My sister has just hired a SEO company based in The Philippines to provide weekly content for her company blog. As I’m a bit more web savvy than she is, she asked me to look over their service outline just to be sure she made the right decision.

Problem is, this “Google optimized content” they are providing seems to consist of copying popular blog posts from other sites in the same industry (women’s health and beauty) and re-writing them in a slightly different way before publishing. I don’t know a lot about SEO, but I am sceptical that Google would approve it. Besides the SEO consideration, this tactic just doesn’t sit right with me.

Is this a legitimate SEO tactic or could it harm my sister’s site in any way?

Thank you

Leon

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Hi Leon

You are absolutely right to be sceptical. By the sound of things, this *SEO* firm employs a technique called site scraping – where the content of other sites is copied or “scraped” and either republished unchanged on a different site, or re-written slightly and THEN republished.

Long term readers of this blog might recall my hilarious battle with site scrapers in the past and the revenge I took on them. I’ve got no problem outing site scrapers, especially when all attempts at communication have been ignored. Their tactics are not only unprofessional, but go directly against Google’s published Webmaster Guidelines.

Take BrainySEO for example. This “blog” (run by some clown called Mayank Jain in Singapore) blatantly scrapes the content of hundreds of blogs across the net, including mine. What’s hilarious is that the scraped content is run through some bizarre automated plagiarist thesaurus (I’m guessing Babel Fish) to translate it into a slightly different version of the same content as a way to avoid Google’s duplicate content filters. It is then published on servers based in the UK.

Compare these two posts:

1) My Fast Five post from week 39 (original)

2) BrainySEO’s scraped Babel Fish version (scraped)

The second (scraped) version reads like a drunk Aunty.

The service that your sister has signed up for sounds suspiciously similar. As Google re-iterates in their Quality Guidelines:

“Scraped content will not provide any added value to your users without additional useful services or content provided by your site; it may also constitute copyright infringement in some cases”.

Typically, Google and other engines will ignore or filter scraped content out of the search results for target search terms. But that’s not the only negative impact it can have.

Sites like ScamAudit.com provide a rudimentary way of measuring the trustworthiness of sites and suitably, BrainySEO is ranked as *seems suspicious*.

So my prediction is at best, the content your sister pays for will be worthless. At worst, it may impact the reputation of her business and the trust of her customers.

My advice is that she should sever the contract immediately, perhaps citing Google’s Quality Guidelines as her justification.

Let us know what happens!

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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.

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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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