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Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

What is the Value of Twitter?

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment

People who don’t “get” Twitter often ask me what it’s really good for. Charlie Sheen isn’t the only one getting some mileage out of the microblogging service. I tell people it’s a real-time search engine. If there’s one takeaway from this article for you, I want that to be it.

In the example above, I asked a question about something I didn’t know about. Within minutes I had an answer…from somebody I trust. While I don’t know this person in real life, I do know their expertise and found it to be trustworthy. I also received responses from two other people I didn’t know with a few other suggestions.

My biggest concern was finding a host with easy WordPress installation. I know what’s a competitive price for hosting and Dreamhost was slightly higher than what I’d been paying. I checked out Dreamhost’s site from a link in their Twitter profile and everything looked good. When I went to sign up, it asked for a discount code. I didn’t have one, so I Googled it. Within seconds I found one that discounted the price $97. For $22, I got a year of hosting with a one click WordPress install.

It’s not all the way up yet, but my new SEO website is at least presentable. That is the value of Twitter.

Black Hat SEO Will Cost You

February 25, 2011 2 comments

It’s not often that SEO makes the news. However, in the last two weeks, SEO has been a big topic in several mainstream media publications.

Two weeks ago the New York Times wrote how JC Penney used scammy link building to craft a successful online holiday shopping season. When the reporter contacted Google about the tactic, the top rankings disappeared.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal wrote how Overstock.com paid college students for inbound links to their site in another questionable SEO campaign.

Finally, today Google announced it was changing the way its search algorithm works in an attempt to delist “content farms.”

What is important about this recent news about SEO? It’s a clear message to the spammers and scammers of the online world black hat SEO tactics won’t be tolerated. The fact the SEO industry even has a recognized “black hat” category is quite telling. There are rogue operators in any industry, but they keep a low profile and operate in the shadows to avoid detection. Black hat SEOs like to brag.

If you hire a black hat SEO, you may benefit for a while, but eventually you will pay…maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your domain’s life. It worked for JC Penney during a crucial time -

Kate Coultas, a company spokeswoman, wrote to a reporter in January, “Internet sales through jcp.com posted strong growth in December, with significant increases in traffic and orders for the key holiday shopping periods of the week after Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas.”

Today Penney’s has lost significant position on its ill-gotten rankings.

The situation with Overstock.com wasn’t as blatant as JC Penney’s. Rather than buying links from the dregs of the online world, they offered a discount to people who would link to them. These were namely tech savvy college students who blogged from high authority .edu domains. The end result was the same…a significant drop in search rankings for top keywords.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…

These high-profile cases beg the question, “Are paid links legal in the search algorithms?” The answer is no. Google’s search algorithm won’t consider paid links. The only legal paid links are those that have a “nofollow” tag or those that go to an interstitial page that has the robots.txt file blocked.

Penneys and Overstock haven’t been banned, they’ve simply had the “link juice” or Page Rank removed from their links. The results have been devastating.

Content farms are another concept altogether. They involve low quality articles written purely to attract the attention of search engines and gain rankings. Human visitors to these sites are typically bombarded with an array of ads and the site owners hope to gain advertising income. The largest organized creator of such content recently had an IPO worth millions of dollars. Google has decided to change how these sites are ranked.

The aftermath for these companies is up in the air. JC Penney fired its SEO consulting company and blamed the entire fiasco on them. The Overstock situation is still playing out and Demand Media claims their rankings haven’t been affected.

Perhaps the better question relies on strategy. Was JC Penney duped by an SEO company? They’re in a tough position; either admit they went black hat on purpose (it was effective after all) or claim ignorance (something a multi-billion dollar company should never do.

Overstock obviously adopted a grayer hat approach, but still knew their tactic was wrong and could have consequences. Paid links that pass Page Rank are never legal. NEVER.  Demand Media and its ilk also chose the path they went down. The search engines allowed it. Now they don’t. Adapt or become extinct.

My policy has always been white hat. Over the years I’ve been passed by temporarily by black hat tactics or black hat SEOs only to find out later their results didn’t work long-term. I don’t worry about algorithm changes, because I produce good content. I’m not in business to test the gray/black line. I’m here to create good content and get good, lasting rankings for myself and my clients.

How do you choose a good SEO?

Ask them. Ask their clients. Ask their former clients. Find out what their link building strategy is. While certain tactics may be proprietary, it’s easy enough to find out where inbound links are coming from by searching for an inbound link checker.

Online marketing is now about transparency. Anything underhanded, shady or gray will be found out. There is no shortcut to creating good content. Outsourcing your content generation to countries where English isn’t their first language is not an effective strategy. The same applies if you’re creating content for a non-English website.

Bottom line: Black hat SEO isn’t good strategy. Your site’s search results will pay and pay dearly.

SEO Results?

August 9, 2010 Leave a comment

SEO results or something else?  Does it matter?  Comments?

SEO.com Gets Called Out

June 24, 2010 3 comments

Thoughts?

Change – Sometimes Waiting is a Good Thing…

June 3, 2010 6 comments

It’s been a while since I’ve “updated” this blog with a real article.  It’s not from a lack of trying.  I have two drafts sitting in queue that I never published and in the light of day, don’t know if they’re worth publishing.

Part of the reason is I’ve had to make a few reassessments on strategy and because there is so much reliance on third parties (Facebook) that seem to be reversing course as quickly as a feather in a hurricane, it’s actually been worthwhile to step back and watch.

This is not to say I haven’t been active or working.  Nor is the blog stagnant.  Anyone who follows the Twitter feed that posts on the right side knows it keeps moving.  So do the images.  In real life, I’ve been speaking regularly on Fridays and had two big events I presented at in May.

At one of them I actually said if I were starting this blog today, I wouldn’t do it.  I’d work more on my Facebook fan page than a blog.

Heresy!  I know.

Here’s what’s changed.

1.  Facebook “like” becoming ubiquitous.  This is a game changing development.  While it has created a privacy backlash, what it does is allow easy sharing of things like-minded (friends) people, well…like.  I compare it to watching Superbowl commercials during the big game.  Everybody looks forward to it.  If you were only shown commercials that interested you, wouldn’t you watch more of them?  That’s the like button.  It’s word of mouth on steroids and I recommend everybody install the button on their website.

The average Facebook user has 130 friends, so instead of speaking to one person with your message on a website, email or blog, you can speak to more by using Facebook.  On average, I see somewhere between 120 to 160 people on this blog.  If I published on Facebook, with the number of “fans” I currently have, I have a reach of 13,000.  It’s a multiplier effect.

Besides, pulling in the RSS feed of this blog to my Facebook page, each article is pulled into the “notes” feed which creates a separate, search engine optimized page, plus the multiplier effect.  I’ll let you know how this goes, but I suspect it will go quite well.

2.  Curating information is almost as important as creating information.  One of the really great things I got to do last week was meet in real life one of my online mentors Pat Kitano.  We both spoke at REbar Camp SLC and wound up sharing the stage all afternoon.

Pat has a great project he’s working on regarding local, breaking news.  He creates blogs that are essentially completely automated that develop an audience and search engine rankings in a very short time.  The site owner doesn’t have to do anything to keep it running and Pat has some great ideas on how to monetize them.  Meanwhile, the site owner, typically a real estate agent, gains great credibility because the sites are so informative and relevant on a local level.

A few months ago, Pat made a prescient observation about Facebook fan pages.  I’ve been playing around with FBML and really took his post to heart.  He said that within a year, stores would be putting their weekly circulars on Facebook.  That prediction inspired this page which I created using existing graphics or RSS feeds.  With the graphics, I have to manually update, which I’ve stopped doing.  I’ll soon dump those vendors or convince them to convert to RSS.  For Smith’s and Fresh Market, the feeds update automatically.  With Smith’s, the feed even sends an update automatically to Facebook when it updates.  I don’t have to do a thing.  I’m supplying great information that every local person should be interested in.  We all have to eat, don’t we?

3.  Automating social media in a meaningful way is actually possible.  At the same time Pat was presenting his breaking news idea, I was actually testing another idea that utilizes Google alerts.  By tying keyword sensitive alerts to my Twitter account, over the last 12 days, I’ve been able to automate my Twitter updates with useful information and gain new followers, i.e. build my audience.

I can actually create a second Twitter account that will update to a Facebook page with a lower frequency to match that platform.  The end result is I have an automatically updated social platform that people like and value.  I actually get more followers and retweets from this method than painstakingly creating and promoting my own content.  Of course I mix in my foursquare updates and personal content to create my own personal and authentic “voice.”

In the mean time, I’ve been anxiously waiting, but I still get to “update” this blog through Twitter and I update my fan page on a daily basis too.  You don’t have to “be everywhere,” but you need to be where the people are.

I love writing original content, but in a regular week when I’m finding content, posting it and creating in person live content, the ability to automate part of it is extremely valuable.  The fact that it’s shared and increases my audience is further proof of its’ worth.

Speaking of automation, Pat shared a semi-automated way to blog that I’m going to try out.  Until then, it will be slow, but steady….

Custom Search is Changing SEO

March 12, 2010 1 comment

I’m not sure it was a premonition, or a lucky guess, but I’ve shifted my business model to move from search engine optimization.  That seems like a strange statement from an avowed SEO guy, but the truth is, the rules of search are changing faster than anyone can keep track.

One day I’m doing a search for a keyword relevant to my business and my competition that I follow on Twitter shows up on the results.

Recently, tweets related to my keyword showed up in search results on Google.

If I perform the same search on Explorer, Firefox and my mobile phone’s browser, I get three different sets of search results.

Search has become personal and that creates a headache for SEO guys that think SEO is all about meta tags and inbound links.

Internet marketing is about findability and more than ever it means more than search.  It means local search through Google Maps and Yelp and Foursquare and social search through Twitter and Facebook and relationship search through LinkedIn and Facebook and every other tool we use to find what we want and need online.

At the beginning of this month Google introduced “stars,” a function that places your favorite search results at the top of what shows up for relevant search terms.  This should scare the crap out of any old school SEO.  SEO experts don’t control search results any more, people do.

For businesses and SEOs willing to adapt, the strategy needs to change from SERPs to influence or “findability.”  I can’t promise, suggest or command a front page listing from Google for my desired result, because somebody may use a filter to exclude it.

What I need to do as a web marketer is use every tool in my arsenal including Twitter, Facebook and other industry relevant social media platforms to create a profile that can be found.  More importantly, I need to be searching for the connectors in my target industry that will talk about me or my client’s business.

With social media, search has literally been turned on its head.

I really don’t mean to criticize my competition, but I’ve recently seen first hand how Yellow page turned web marketing businesses are using the old models of Internet search to pursue business.  I don’t blame them.  They really don’t know any better.  I really think tools like SEO and PPC are losing influence in the wake of social media.

Pay per click or PPC is a tool I’ve seen get drained in effectiveness.  Ten years ago, I could make a business using PPC.  Today, I can see businesses be broken by the same tool in the wrong hands.

As much as we’d all like to be able to apply the same solution to every marketing problem, to be successful, we have to be creative and be unique.  For example, I was recently presented with a client opportunity that I realized couldn’t be solved with social media.

The potential client’s target audience simply doesn’t use it.  Regardless, I can still use social media effectively by identifying who talks about the potential client’s services and connecting with them.  The effective “social” method may indeed be face to face.

In the last three months, I have literally seen a transformation in the online marketing space.  SEO and PPC have become questionable methods of increasing quality traffic and conversions.  A revolution in search marketing is underway.  Findability is more important than search engine results.

Article Marketing Class

January 17, 2010 1 comment

I’ll be teaching a class on article marketing this Tuesday at BetaLoft in downtown Salt Lake at 2 pm.  It’s free to attend, but space is limited.  If you’re interested, please RSVP on Meetup.com or Facebook.

Here’s what you can expect to learn:

The “what,” “why” and “how” of article marketing.

Topics covered include:

How to title articles for maximum impact.
Which article submission sites to use.
Is there a duplicate content penalty?
The quandry of quality vs. quantity.
How to write interesting articles that will get published through syndication.

Plus much more. Don’t miss it!

For those that can’t attend, I’ll publish the Powerpoint afterwords.
Tags: ,

The Evolution of SEO

January 9, 2010 4 comments

A few weeks ago, technology blogger Robert Scoble asked if 2010 would usher in the death of SEO.  He has some good points on why it might, but ultimately I think he’s not asking the right question.  The better question is whether 2010 will bring about the death of gimmick driven SEO, the type of “black hat” chicanery that gives SEO a bad name.  The short answer is “no” because scammers and cheaters will always exist.

The better question Scoble raises is why more SEO companies don’t expand their service offerings to encompass more than just SEO.

No longer is it about optimizing search engine results and the new breed is going beyond just search engines to provide holistic systems that find and track customers not only on search engines like Google and Bing, but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

It is this holistic approach I’ve offered to clients since I started this business.  When I talk to a potential client, I ask questions about tracking, design, navigation, contact forms and marketing expectations long before the phrase “search engine optimization” passes through my lips.  Once I do mention SEO, I talk about Facebook, Twitter and blogging as other ways to engage visitors and further the marketing cycle.

As I finalized forming this business into a legal entity at the end of last year, the thought weighed heavily on my mind that SEO by Swaby wasn’t really an accurate description of what I do.  Neither is Web Design by Swaby or Social Media by Swaby, though I can perform all those services.  Hence a LLC was formed called Swaby Online Media.  I’m still keeping the SEO by Swaby as a DBA, but you’ll begin to hear Swaby Online Media more often.

Further, my mission and value proposition has evolved.  I make websites successful and I do it through design, navigation and marketing.  Do I still do SEO?  Absolutely, but it’s not the only thing I do.

Let me give you an example of just one way I’m different from any other Utah SEO company.  I provide tangible results within 30 days of being hired because I use press releases.  I use them for my company and my clients.  Worst case scenario I get the press release ranked on the search engines and it serves as effective social proof for my client.  In a best case scenario the release gets picked up by the news media, an interview is scheduled and a story gets published.  That’s what happened this week for my client Personal Family Physicians.

No other Utah SEO company can do this.  There’s only two that even try.

Returning to Scoble’s thesis whether SEO is no longer needed, I must disagree.  The components he says are replacing search, namely Twitter and Facebook, still help with search.  I do believe we need to move beyond the concept of search and develop the concept of being found.  As SEO becomes more competitive, it’s natural businesses will need to be found on other sites besides Google.  Thus the concept I’ll be using is findability. 

The concept of findability was introduced in 2005 by Peter Morville and references the ability for a user to find the information they are seeking within a particular website.  I’ve discovered a movement exists in the Internet marketing community that is advancing the concept of findabilty as the next evolution of SEO.  As social media becomes more prominent, I think we’ll see it included as part of this movement.

Is SEO dead as Robert Scoble suggests?  No.  Is it evolving?  Definitely yes.  If your online marketing strategy consists only of SEO or paid search, you’re definitely missing something.  Take a step back and figure out all the steps that transform a curious searcher into a valued customer.  Once you have that plan in place you’ll see better results, more sales and higher customer loyalty.

The Easy Way to Make Links

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Facebook is becoming the popular commenting system on many websites and blogs.

Here’s the easy way to make sure your link counts.  You are leaving your link when you make a comment, aren’t you?

WWW isn’t necessary, http:// is.  Leave a link?  Make sure it has http:// before it.  The www is optional.  If you want a link, the http:// isn’t.

www.seobyswaby.com and

http://seobyswaby.com have different linking results in different media.  Don’t waste your time.  Use http://yoursitename.com instead of www…

Robots.txt and Other Ways to Fight Bad SEO

December 6, 2009 1 comment

I’ve written before about how web designers don’t know how to do search engine optimization and why bringing an SEO company into your project as early as possible is a good idea.

This last week I saw one of the worst uses of meta tags on a new client’s site.  The company that set up the WordPress blog for my client coded in a meta tag that tells the search engine spiders to ignore every page and link on the site.

The worst thing is every method I tried to change that code failed.  However, I know a work around for everything.  Since I couldn’t change the meta tag, I added a robots.txt file.  Spiders look at two things when they visit a site, the meta tags and the robots.txt file.  On my client’s site the meta tags said “go away” but the robots file says index my entire site.

It’s entirely likely that a robot might find the same links on some other page without a NOFOLLOW (perhaps on some other site), and so still arrives at your undesired page.

The other thing I did to fix the situation was submit the URL to Google for indexing and created a directory listing for the site at Merchant Circle.  Tomorrow a press release hits that also contains links, so I know we’ll be getting a lot of quality inbound links for my client in a very short time.

In the mean time, I’ll still be figuring out how to move that irresponsible meta tag.  The reason the tag exists is to avoid the so called “duplicate content penalty.”  However the penalty no longer exists.

There is one reason and one reason alone to ever use the noindex, nofollow meta tag.  It’s when you’re running a paid search campaign to a specific landing page and you don’t want organic traffic to skew your numbers.  That’s it!

Where do you place the robots.txt file?

It goes in the root directory like this – http://www.seobyswaby.com/robots.txt.  It’s just like a page except it’s in basic text instead of .html.

What’s in a robots.txt file?

Very simple commands for the spider.  Here’s what my client’s file looks like.

If you’re doing a site redesign or having a site made for the first time, be sure to get someone who understands SEO involved early because you will save money and possibly avoid having your site tagged to be ignored by Google.

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