SEO: Search Engine Optimization

Penguin 2.0 – Success in the New Algorithm

Late yesterday (May 22, 2013), Matt Cutts of Google’s Anti-Spam team announced that the long awaited Penguin 2.0 search algorithm update had been deployed. Impacting an estimated 2.3% of search queries in US-English, SEOs across the country are now evaluating the algorithm change. After digging through the numbers and graphs this morning, we are ready to make a few high level observations about the latest algo update.

To start, none of our clients noticed any serious degradation other than a SERP place or two for terms other than primary ones. We don’t practice In several instances though, we’ve noticed some solid improvements in client rankings. These clients had undertaken three primary efforts from which they now seem to be benefiting. The commonalities of those improved sites seemed to fall into three categories:

  • an updated, well researched on-page tagging,
  • a linking strategy based on content, and
  • a Google+ and social media engagement plan.

On Page Tag Strategy:

All web pages should undergo a periodic re-analysis of title, description and yes.. even keyword… tag information. Keeping these tags fresh and focused on good quality keyword terms is always a good idea to maximize possible search engine visits.  In the recent update, pages that had been updated within the last month seemed to enjoy improved placement. Reconfiguring the title and description tags, even around the same essential keyword terms seemed to help.

Linking Strategy Based on Content:

Simply put, clients that distributed regular press releases, posted interesting blog articles and distributed other content, found their search engine rankings improved this morning.  This indicates that the traditional, value and content methodology works with the new algorithm. (Although Google’s Cutts contends that no SEO value exists for links contained in a traditional press release, a press release does seem to be a part of a successful content outreach strategy when undertaken as part of a blog outreach process.) Clients that noticed improved rankings were ones that issued regular press releases,  posted consistently to their blogs and developed (and executed on) a content production schedule.

Google+ and Social Media:

Similar to developing an outreach or content production schedule, a social media engagement plan seems to be the other common thread of sites that improved in placement and position following the release of Penguin 2.0. This is perhaps the most intriguing of the apparent algorithm changes.  The clients we observed that have so far come out the best were ones that engaged in an energetic social media outreach program that included Google+. One client began the Google+ portion of the plan early in 2013 and just this week hit the 500 follower level. Using Google+ to promote its blog and other content seems to have attracted readers, referrals and may have contributed to the improved search engine placement.

As the implications of the latest Penguin search algorithm update become more apparent, we’ll pass on our observations.

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Creating Good Content – Just the Basics

No doubt about it, developing good content requires investment. Time, research and expertise all go into crafting interesting stories that others in your market will find interesting and valuable. This ‘value’ inclusion is the element that builds strength for your website and strength for your reputation as an author.  As author and sponsorship authority and rank become more important in attracting new readers from the search engines, these story elements cannot be taken lightly and in the end, define what is ‘good content.’

What is good content?  Simply put, good content:
·    benefits others
·    offers help and assistance, and
·    answers questions

Note in particular that there is nothing in this list about selling a product. The place for product advocacy is on a product web page that the user can be invited to read. Content created for the purpose of building a relationship should in most cases avoid a direct sales pitch and instead offer suggestions, solutions and information geared to making the reader’s life better.

Does informational content qualify as marketing content?  The simple answer is ‘yes.’ Marketing establishes relationships with those that may become future buyers and brand advocates. Content that helps build these relationships then qualifies under the business marketing function.

Many marketers and marketing organizations fail to distinguish between marketing and sales. The selling function provides information necessary to the buying decision and in many instances, attempts to compel the reader to take action. The marketing function tends to fall under a higher level of research, relationship building and brand management. It is within this latter area that content marketing tends to be the most effective.

Making this content effective – in addition to meeting the basic good content requirements – provides a benefit to those reading it that they don’t have to pay for.  It is though, an invitation to continue visiting the site or blog and when the need to buy arises, the author will have the credibility to compete for the business.

Benefits:
Benefits take many forms. Ways of thinking about certain problems or overcoming obstacles qualify as a reader benefit. In terms of form, content may be presented graphically or with a bit of humor. Humor is in fact a big reason readers return to certain sites.  Information that is delivered with some entertainment value is disarming and makes consuming the content enjoyable.

Giving some credit to one’s readers is also important.  Letting the reader distill his/her value from your content  by presenting case studies, results of system trials and other attempts to do things differently are terrifically valuable.  In the end, providing a benefit to your reader simply means sharing something that you have learned in your business or in life.

Help and Assistance:
Offering help usually takes the form of offering a resource list or some type of suggestion for solving critical problems.  In addition to problem solving, information to help in problem avoidance is also quite valuable to the reader.  In either case, providing this value is a good reason for the reader to consume the content and to return at a future date.

Sometimes, problems and obstacles are either hidden or somewhat embarrassing.  Recovering from mistakes and errors can make for compelling content. Besides, everyone loves a comeback!

Questions:
Answering questions is a frequently overlooked way of connecting with readers. Simply maintaining a list of issues that others in your industry are wrestling with can give you a never ending supply of content ideas. Presenting questions and answering them also keeps you in a leadership position in your industry.

Creating good content may not be easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it.  in the end, the effort to create good, basic content is conceptually easy, but more challenging to deliver.  But.. by attracting readers in your niche and by presenting your ideas, you can attain a leadership role in your industry and with that, attract business when readers become buyers.

How to Get Followers on Google+ .. Using Photos and Images

Getting more followers on Google+ is the endgame for many social media managers. More followers means more traffic, better acceptance, a wider community and in some instances, improved search engine rankings. In the end, attracting followers is a function of effort; one just can’t build a good following without investing time in the process.

Putting in the time to reach out to others within the niche, comment thoughtfully on information and to participate in the wider online conversation is the essential procedure to attract followers. However, there are some elements that are frequently overlooked that, if unaddressed, will inhibit the organization from attracting as many Google+ followers as it otherwise might.

These overlooked areas of Google+ engagement include creation and management of the images and pictures used in the Google+ page itself as well as on any blog article or page that the manager chooses to link to from Google+.

Google+ managers compete for readers’ attention and must do so in an extremely limited amount of time – perhaps in sub-second intervals. In that short time, the manager has to provide a reason for the reader to look at the comment, article reference or click over to the G+ page for that organization. In most cases, that reason is the thoughtful comment or note. It is not uncommon though, for readers to skip over a comment if they cannot discern anything about the organization making the comment from the images displayed.

When setting up a Google+ page or evaluating its performance, it should be noted that images are important. There are three main types of images that most frequently appear in Google+:

  • Cover Photo
  • Profile Photo
  • Blog Image or Photo (from a page linked on a comment or post)

Each of these images should say or represent something about the company or about the business focus.

Cover Photo:
This image is the main masthead for the Google+ page. It is amazing how many users simply do not post anything! Google then inputs a non-descript image with some circles and colors across the top. Whenever a reader “mouses” over a comment, this image displays along with the top of the Google+ page. If G+ readers are looking for serious members of the niche to interact with, it isn’t helpful at all to be presented with a boring, generic image.

Every time your information gets in front of a reader – even if only for a split second, it is an opportunity to reach out and communicate. The Cover Photo is an opportunity to share information about the organization. Leaving it out is a missed opportunity! Taking the time to create an image or a photograph of the storefront (or even the sign on the door) is well worth the effort!

Profile Photo:
A Profile Photo is necessary for a Google+ page. The Profile Photo appears on the face of the Google+ page and is the square image that overlays the cover photo. It is very important that the Profile Photo or image be easy to read and reflect something about the organization. The reason for this is that each time the G+ manager makes a comment on other content, this image is displayed in a very small size next to the comment.

Images that look great at full size may not render well when the image is contracted. So.. care is needed to create a Profile Photo or image that will display well when reduced. Images using a lot of text typically do not display well. As a result, another opportunity to connect with readers may be lost. Care and testing should take place with selecting a Profile Photo to ensure that the image is still meaningful when displayed in reduced size. This may take some trial and error, but it is worth the effort.

Blog Images:
Blogs allow uploading of images of course to help the writer make her/his points. When promoting this content on Google+, these images are grabbed by the system and displayed as part of the news feed that goes out to all your followers. Infographics are hugely useful for inclusion in blog as they can deliver a great deal of information in a short period of time. When these graphics are included within a blog article, the image can help attract readers. Again, some forethought and testing can make the most out of one’s limited time to invite readers to follow and communicate.

Social Media Management assistance is provided by Denver SEO Consultants as part of a regular service package. Managing SEO and Social Media together allows the client organization to engage the community, expand its communication reach and even improve page rankings. Visit our home page to learn more, or simply click the ‘contact us’ tab and send us a note!

Google+ For Business: SEO Link Building Strategy

The Google algorithm updates over the past few years have had a dramatic impact on how companies attract visitors and internet traffic to their pages. Traditionally, organizations and SEO consultants would set links out in the greater internet world that would point back to the client site using a variety of well-chosen anchor text terms.

Over the years, though it became possible for companies to buy links or engage in practices of acquiring these links that were based not on the value of the content, but on other factors. The search engine providers decided early in 2012 that they had seen enough of these practices and have endeavored to come up with a better way of identifying good content and rewarding the websites that contained it. This resulted in some major changes to search results throughout the year.

While “natural” link building in this traditional form (where a content provider simply asks for a link is rewarded with a link for providing good content) is still important. Another method though has emerged that seems poised to be a very effective link building strategy for 2013.

Social Media Engagement

Social media interaction has emerged as an important measure of an organization’s level of engagement in the internet community. As Google and the other search engines do not necessarily want to refer readers to pages and environments that haven’t been updated, aren’t well maintained or are just posted up as a stagnant commercial billboard, social engagement has turned out to be a good measure of an organization’s commitment to providing information. Simply put, the more engaged an organization is on social media, the more likely they are to have more frequently updated (if not better) content.

Actually measuring an organization’s level of social media interaction is then a matter of quantifying the activity taking place on social platforms. Usually this takes the form of ‘likes’ in the case of Facebook, or on Google+ where the number of earned followers and ‘plusses’ to specific content provide the data.  As Google controls the algorithm to the most widely used search engine in the world,  access this data currently exists and according to early research, Google has built this into their search models.

Google+

Google+ is a simple platform somewhat similar to Facebook. A user follows businesses, individuals and companies, comments on interesting points and posts links to good content. Readers review the content provided by others that it has on its ‘follow’ list, comments on the material and posts links to its own content. If the text and material posted has value and other readers see it, readers can ‘plus’ it or endorse it online.

Since the environment is a Google, property, Google sees all of this activity. The more positive feedback a content provider receives, the more confidence Google in particular has in the value of the material presented.  Sites with more valuable material and higher levels of Google+ engagement are then frequently rewarded with higher search engine results placements.

Followers

Increasing numbers of followers on a Google+ business page seems to cause the business page to improve somewhat on the search engine results. In our research here, there is an improvement in SERP placement for every 100 or so followers attracted to an organization’s Google+ business page. Of course there would seem to be other metrics, such as relevancy of the followers to the business, that are built into the model, but the essential result seems to be that attracting followers results in better search engine placement.

The real challenge to building a Google+ following is the level of interaction required to attract followers. Great content, good observations, wit and humor all seem to play a part in building a strong community on this social platform. However, great and compelling  content is necessary to attract and retain readers anyway, so most organizations are already making an investment in creating this type of content. Engaging in Social Interactions on Google+ requires an investment of time to be successful, but doesn’t need to run up the company’s FTE count.

Future posts will provide ideas on managing a social media presence and integrating it a link-building and SEO effort. Check back frequently for new posts and updates. Future article topics will include ‘how tos’ and suggestions on attracting followers, generating good and compelling content and ways to incorporate Google+ into a company’s web environment. For more immediate information, please visit the SEO Consultants in Denver website.