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How to Dominate Search Results

By | Web Marketing | No Comments

As the web continues to evolve, so do the criteria that the engines use to determine which sites deserve the best rankings.

The web has grown into a thriving social community. Users seek interactions with each other. They care about what their friends are doing: what products they buy and what they would recommend. And as a result, so does Google.

Content will always be one of the most significant factors contributing to a website’s rankings. Even more important than good content however is how you get good websites and good people talking about it.

Put it this way:

Let’s say you are a new chef on the scene who is a whiz with chocolate cake. Your goal is to become the world’s greatest expert on all things chocolate cake.

How do you get your chocolate cake content to the top of Google?

In steps the social community.

More important than having great content about chocolate cake is having a community of trustworthy and diverse sources (all over the web) who are talking about it. That being said, here’s how to get to the top of the engines for all things chocolate cake:

  1. Your website’s domain name includes (in some form) the keywords (or a long-tail phrase of) chocolate cake (www.bestchocolatecake.com).
  2. On your website you continually post new, valuable content about chocolate cake (how to make it, where to buy your ingredients, how to best share it with friends, etc.). Throughout your website the content naturally discusses all things chocolate cake (using all of your related chocolate cake keywords in your in-text links on each page) providing your users (and the engines) with a clear path between and among the pages in your website that illustrate all of the things that you know about chocolate cake.
  3. You develop infographics and videos to help explain and add more value to your chocolate cake content. You use keywords to describe your infographics and you post your videos on YouTube (with your keywords in tact). On your website, you provide  transcripts of your video dialogue alongside the embedded videos.
  4. You publicize your content through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.
  5. Now you’ve done your work. Your chocolate cake content and videos are so good that credible websites and people associated with those websites (reputable recipe sites, chef sites, restaurants, directories, food blogs, etc.) link to your website or blog talking about your prowess with chocolate cake. They all tell their friends about your chocolate cake website.
  6. On sites throughout the web (yelp.com, Google Places, etc.) those same credible people provide a review of your chocolate cake information. These reviews encourage other people (who don’t know anything about you being the chocolate cake master) to visit your website.
  7. Your chocolate cake articles get liked (Facebook) by all of your site visitors, friends and fans. Your chocolate cake content gets tweeted (and re-tweeted) by all of your dedicated chocolate cake followers (and, coming soon, your articles get the “+1” votes for Google’s sake).
  8. When people visit your website to learn more about chocolate cake they stay a while. They find lots of valuable information about chocolate cake and so your analytics reflect their desire to hang around. This tells the engines that you know what you are doing and vouches for your authority and value.
  9. If your business doesn’t just exist online, your contact page has an actual physical address. You have claimed your listing with Google Places, Bing and Yahoo to solidify your local presence.
  10. The process continues to repeat. Over time, your effort becomes less and less and your digital footprint naturally spreads. Before you know it, you dominate the phase “chocolate cake” and all longtails associated.

If you want your website to earn top 5 rankings in Google (or Bing), you need to get involved in your online community. You need to put yourself out there and give people (and other websites) a reason to talk about you (and your content).

You can work on your inbound marketing (linking sources) with the use of:

SEO
email marketing
blogs
social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
content/articles/whitepapers
direct links from reputable sites
forums
videos
podcasts

Remember that the engines are important, but so are your customers. Don’t just self promote. Offer enough value and provide such excellent products and services that users want to discuss it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and rate your business (or information) somewhere online. Then watch your website dominate the search results.

Link Building, Google and the “Farmer” Update

By | Web Marketing | No Comments

One of the most proven techniques for desired rankings is link building. Link building requires two key components:

  1. A quality website that provides valuable content.
  2. People “talking” about and linking to that content from their websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter (as well as writing reviews of your website).

Link building is the conversation that Google hears when determining which websites to return for a search. If there is a great deal of conversation about your website (from lots of different credible and relevant websites) Google is more inclined to return it as a match to a search. Especially for a very competitive one.

Sites like JCPenney (and BMW before them) experimented with poor link building and SEO practices that are frowned upon by Google. These practices provide a quick path to desired rankings, but then a quick journey to the depths of Google’s index (JCPenney linked in the top 3 for dozens of targeted phrases until Google was alerted of their practices. They have now plummeted to #71).

The “Farmer” Update
In late February (2011), Google implemented its latest algorithm in the US; what is being referred to as the “Farmer” update. Meant to shake down low quality websites spamming for rankings, Google’s wrath came down hard (impacting both bad and good websites). Normally when Google releases a new algorithm (in an attempt to improve the quality of its results), approximately 2 to 3% of all search results are effected. With the Farmer update, nearly 12% of all results were effected. On average, websites that were negatively affected by the update lost nearly 60% of their traffic (ouch).

The Farmer update was a long time coming. Google had been receiving a great deal of criticism for the quality of its results and it was time to do something about it. If a site like JCPenney (or even a content farm) is earning its popularity the easy way, how is Google to tell the difference? If a site develops low quality (often times stolen) content, but a lot of it, how can Google decipher?

Is Google doing anything about it?
Google is constantly changing and improving its algorithms in order to provide the highest quality results. The aftermath of the Farmer update handed pink slips to a lot of bad websites, but also to a lot of good ones (Google’s engineers are doing what they can to adjust the blow and ensure that the proper adjustments are made to the algorithm to ensure accuracy).

Google’s existing algorithms are already taking author authority and quality into account. Just like factoring the quality of the author with Facebook and Twitter posts, trust, authority and reputation is being considered when delivering results.

The most current shakedown with the Farmer update seems to be considering factors like a site’s bounce rate, a visitor’s duration on site, and the social implications of the site (how many credible users are talking about the site on places like Facebook and Twitter) all in an effort to analyze quality and determine whether a user values the site as a whole, not just by looking at the inbound links or the content that is featured on it.

Additionally, Google just recently released a new feature that allows users to filter low quality sites from their own search results. This will allow users to block undesired websites from showing up in future searches (and yes, it can be undone). It appears that this feature will help searchers to better filter their own search results,  although its hard not to think that Google will eventually use this data as part of an algorithm to further eliminate spammy sites from their index.

Bottom Line
A couple of points to be made here:

  1. Desired organic rankings take time for a reason. You have to prove yourself to your users and to Google. But once you’ve established yourself in your community, and Google gets the word on your credibility (quality content, domain age and reputation, inbound links, etc.) the word spreads and the rewards come naturally without effort.
  2. Google wants to do a good job. They want to return relevant, quality results that actually provide value. With billions of web pages in its index, Google has its work cut out. Do your part. Get working on the value of your content and make it good enough for the whole web to link to it.

Google Instant Preview: How does your website hold up?

By | Web Marketing | No Comments

In a continued effort to assist users in getting the search results they really want as quickly as possible, Google is now featuring Google Instant Preview (launched November, 2010). When searching in Google, you may have noticed a small magnifying glass icon at the right of each search result. If you mouse over this icon, you will receive a quick snapshot of the page where the link leads.

Google claims that Instant Preview will help searchers find results faster with a thumbnail peek at a site’s content (entire page shown at 300 pixels in width). If Google Instant Preview does prove to provide faster results, the feature will certainly be here to stay. That being said, the individual pages of your website may warrant a closer look.

How does the basic structure and layout of each page on your website hold up? Meaning, if searchers only saw a thumbnail preview of one of the pages on your website, would they be convinced to click through?

Optimize for Google Instant Preview

  • Utilize a clean, simple layout. Embrace white space (padding) throughout the page.
  • Simple navigation is key; you want the user to get the impression (quickly) that your site will make it easy to find what they need.
  • Although users are accustomed to scrolling, with Google Instant Preview the most significant branding elements definitely need to display above the fold.
  • Headings and other clarifying visuals like info graphics (that can be interpreted when compressed) can help to bring quick clarity and may help your result get selected.
  • The background color for Instant Preview is white, so try to use background colors that contrast well and help your result stand out.
  • The image of your website pages will be compressed, so be aware that colors like red, purple and orange will degrade in the compression.

Links from Facebook and Twitter can help your Search Engine Rankings

By | Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

You’ve heard this one before:

Quality, relevant links that point to your website can help your search engine rankings.

This one’s new:

Links shared on Facebook and Twitter can help your search engine rankings.

So, in addition to cultivating quality, relevant inbound links you can now count on Facebook and Twitter to give your rankings a boost. How?

Take this example:

You go to Google.
You search for a Pizza Place.
Google wants to provide you with a list of results that include the very best Pizza Places available. But how does Google know what the best pizza place is?

Enter Facebook and Twitter.

In order to determine the Pizza Places that Google could return on that Pizza Places results list, Google takes into account:

  1. What Pizza Places have been mentioned (Google checks among many other factors, Facebook and Twitter)
  2. Who has talked about those Pizza Places? (see [1] Author Quality)
  3. How many different people have talked about those Pizza Places? (see [2] Diversity)
  4. How often have people talked about those Pizza Places? (see [3] Popularity)
  5. How long people have been talking about those Pizza Places (see [4] Age)

When returning results, Google takes into account links shared on Twitter and Facebook and considers:

[1] Author Quality
Quality vs. quantity applies here too. A link carries more weight depending on the credibility of the author of the Facebook post or tweet. The credibility of the author is based upon:

How many people the author follows
How many people follow the author

Certainly Google will be spending a lot of time sorting out the inauthentic accounts and detecting spam. Bottom line: if the people who follow you and who you follow are quality people, those links are likely to be valued higher.

In addition to credibility of the author, Google will most likely be taking engagement activity into account when evaluating the source of a link. In other words, if the person facebooking or tweeting has 100 friends or followers and they don’t engage with each other very often, that link won’t hold as much weight. If the person is engaging in activity with the majority of their followers on a regular basis, they will have more clout.

[2] Diversity
If 25 different people tweet about your company, this carries more weight than if 1 person tweets about your company 25 different times.

[3] Popularity
How many people “shared” or “liked” the website or content may affect how much value Google places on the link.

[4] Age
It’s possible that “older” websites or content that is “shared” or tweeted may hold more weight than newer content. The reason for this is that older content that is continually shared tells Google that it is still valuable which may trump newer, less seasoned content.

As always, think of your users first and the engines second. Participate in your online community by providing valuable content and resources and your rankings will benefit.

Human vs. Google: User Experience and SEO

By | Web Marketing | No Comments

I talk a lot about the big picture of SEO and making sure that you put your users first and Google second. After all, if the web had no users, Google would be out of a job.

There is a way to provide a good user experience and help your rankings.

Here’s how:

  1. Create a clear path
    When a user comes to your website, they need to see a clear path to what they are looking for. Designate your audience’s top three tasks when visiting the home page of your website. Provide calls to action within the design and content that direct the user to the most significant places you’re expecting they will want to go.

    As you add new content to your site, the “calls to action” on the home page can change to reflect. This way, your users (and Google) have direct access to the new stuff (helping to boost your rankings).

  2. Respect the hierarchy
    Like your customers, the search engines see your main navigation as the most important pages in your website. Those pages hold the most value, the sub pages of those sections hold the second most value, and so on.

    Make sure that you place your most important information, resources and materials towards the top of the hierarchy. This will help your users to find anything quickly and easily, and it will also help the engines to understand what pages are most valuable. If you must bury anything deep within your site, make sure it is easily accessible through your predictable navigational structure. And, if it is really important, make sure that you provide a link to it from somewhere on your home page (or the engines may not ever find it).

  3. Learn to evolve
    As the web continues to evolve, the user will continue to take precedence. Your website’s job is to provide value through content, user interaction (blogs and forums), and media (images and video). Your job is also to participate in your online community (social media websites, blogs, forums) and help your potential customers (and other websites) to learn the value that your website provides.

Do your best to satisfy your users, the humans that are visiting your website. Naturally, over time, you will watch your rankings become stronger and more stable, and you will also have happier customers.

I know, finally!

By | Miscellany | One Comment

Yes, it’s true, Mack Web Solutions now has a blog. It only took us 8 years.

Even though I’ve been writing and posting articles on our website for years, I never felt the need for a blog. I didn’t want to make the commitment to weekly posts. But, as the web has evolved, so have we (as a company), and now I have decided that the time has come.

The most important goal we have for our customers is to keep them informed; provide our clients with the knowledge necessary to make the best decisions. And that is the reason that I finally bit the bullet.

Although this blog will feature information about anything web, the Mack Web blog will primarily focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge. In today’s market, SEO has become all consuming to a lot of people, including our clients, and it is important to me that we are a reliable source of knowledge on the subject.

I look forward to providing useful and valuable information. I hope you choose to participate and enjoy.

P.S. If you are on Linked In, you can join our “Search Engine Rankings” User Group.

Mack