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Monthly Archives: April 2012

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How Organic Search Has Transformed The Rules Of Business

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By Trond Lyngbø

For decades, the music industry thrived on a successful model — selling physical copies of song collections (CDs, tapes, records, etc.). Then, the internet changed everything.

The ability to download digital mp3 files transformed the music industry and paved the way for the iTunes revolution. That was a consumer-driven shift that forever altered the way music was packaged and sold.

In a similar manner, online search is transforming conventional selling models. While Google is innovating at warp speed, the sales process of many businesses remains stuck in the 1990s, relying on outdated and ineffective strategies.

Just think about how buyer behavior has changed in recent times. When you decide to buy a car, do you rush straight to the car dealer? Of course not! You’ll spend hours online, researching various car makes and models.

Google Is Guiding You

Search engines have become an integral part of the buying process.

Whether it’s the restaurant where you’re having dinner or the business colleague you’re meeting there, you use Google to learn more – and that affects your perception of the experience.

Businesses that “get” this concept can profit massively… and that’s why sellers need a new rule book.

Prospects are sick and tired of cold calling, unsolicited email and intrusive advertising on social media. Busy sales people can’t find time to be helpful and educate prospects.

In this climate, the old style of passing out generic information and trying to shoehorn everyone into a “one-size-fits-all” culture just doesn’t work.

A more strategic approach to selling involves:

  • Sharing information about products and services
  • Assisting clients with buying decisions
  • Managing feedback on social networks

Consumers want everything they need right at their fingertips. Your only task is to be found — by offering your audience what it’s looking for!

  • You can’t push products, only educate and inform
  • Don’t interrupt; instead, share value
  • Do it on your customer’s timetable, not your own
  • Focus on what your buyers want and need
  • Stop “selling,” and you’ll make more sales!

Content becomes the link connecting businesses to customers. Storytelling sets the tone for their engagement. Blogs, social networks and video-sharing sites inform, entertain and empower your best prospects and clients.

The smartest sellers deliver proprietary information in the form of white papers and research reports. They also scour the web for other helpful content to share with their audience.

Not “Selling Cycle” But “Buying Cycle”

Control has shifted to the customer — and to search engines, which help them find your business.

Google wants to give searchers the best possible experience. Where you are and what your customers say about you will influence whether or not you are visible on a Google search to your ideal buyer at the time she is ready to make a purchase!

Local businesses and stores are the most heavily affected by this shift. They need a strong, local-centered, mobile-specific SEO strategy to survive and thrive in this brave new world of e-commerce.

Your Customers Are Empowered

While many business leaders have reluctantly accepted the need for an online presence to compete effectively, most haven’t a clue about how things work behind the scenes. Uninformed, unaware, and unwilling to change, they make critical decisions about their company’s future… where the wrong choices can be self-destructive!

Why play Russian Roulette with your business future, especially when there is a solution to stay ahead?

That solution is the content you share with your prospects. People want to talk to specialists. They are your new sales force. Intelligent content is their powerful marketing tool. That’s what generates new sales 24/7, all year long.

Don’t hide your specialists away. Showcase them. Display them front and center. Let them share their knowledge, help people, and become the marketing beacon that draws informed buyers into your sales funnel.

This isn’t a sterile theory… it actually works! I’m getting new, highly qualified leads on a weekly basis just through sharing my expertise.

Strategy Isn’t The Icing — It’s The Cake!

The battle for your customer might loom ahead in the distance, seemingly far away… but it can be lost overnight, unless you prepare in advance!

The problem often begins long before a website goes live. Deals are signed with web designers and content producers. Mobile apps and cool scripts are programmed. Graphics and video are created. And just before launch, I’m asked to sprinkle SEO pixie-dust — and magically have it rank on Google’s front page.

SEO process

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Painting over the cracks might make a building look better , but it won’t fix structural defects beneath the surface.

Restoring a business’ search rankings is harder work than preventing the slide in the first place. It is also more expensive.

Until things are fixed, your business will move at a snail’s pace, limping around, losing money, underperforming, and being overtaken by competitors.

Organic Search Is Ubiquitous

The popularity and growth of organic search is hard to deny. According to the Pew Internet & American Life’s Search Engine Use 2012 report:

In January 2002, 52% of all Americans used search engines. In February 2012, that figure grew to 73% of all Americans. On any given day in early 2012, more than half of adults using the internet used a search engine (59%). That is double the 30% of internet users who were using search engines on a typical day in 2004. And people’s frequency of using search engines has jumped dramatically.

Organic search impacts nearly everything your customers do today, and it will only become more ubiquitous in the years to come. Now is the time to position yourself to take advantage of this shift. The action you take must be professional, strategic and meaningful – cosmetic changes aren’t enough.

You must integrate organic search into your marketing strategy in a manner that connects it to all other business processes. Make it the heart of your customer acquisition — because just as the heart pumps blood to every part of your body, organic search will pump customers and cash into each section of your business!

Mobile Search: A New Frontier

Mobile search has created a paradigm shift as well. When I use my smartphone to search for sushi, Google shows me results for Nydalen in Oslo where I live, not in Bergen (which is another part of the country).

Even within Oslo, my search result rankings change as I move around. That’s because Google is tracking where searchers are (through GPS) and serving up results from the vicinity.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a pure online business or a brick-and-mortar store. Mobile search with a local flavor has changed the game, and organic search results have never been more critical.

It’s no longer 10 blue links on a page. You must start thinking differently to dominate the results so your best customers and prospects can find you.

Things like how well you treat customers, how delighted buyers are with your service, and even apparently trivial things like whether your restaurant smells of cigarette smoke, could influence customer reviews… and in turn impact your search rankings.

Final Thoughts

Consumers have made organic search an integral part of their lives, and businesses and the economy have been deeply transformed as a result. Some are calling this a revolution. I think of it as an evolution of how businesses have changed to better serve their clients.

Because ultimately, this isn’t Google dictating terms to you – it’s your customers who are really driving the shift. And If you don’t listen to them, you won’t survive.

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How To Maximize Local Search Traffic This Holiday Season – November 13 Webcast

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By Search Engine Land

Based on the latest Pigeon update, Rio SEO’s retailers saw a 20% increase in online traffic from search above last season. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to make sure your local search strategy is utilizing best practice SEO and user experience.

In this webinar Bill Connard, Vice President of Local Search Solutions at Rio SEO, will give you some tips and tactics to follow to insure your visitors have the best user experience. You’ll learn the 5 essential elements for user experience success, the SEO best practices to follow, and which reports and KPIs that you should be measuring.

Registration is free at Digital Marketing Depot.

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Baidu is Now a Mobile First Search Engine by @5le

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By Eli Schwartz

On October 29th, Baidu, China’s largest search engine, announced their Q3 earnings. In their earnings report, they declared that they had a “very strong quarter,” mostly as a result of mobile, which provided 36% of the total revenue, up from 30% in the previous quarter. Mobile Eclipses the Desktop Most newsworthy in the earnings report is that for the first time ever, mobile accounted for more traffic than desktop. Mobile has been an intense area of focus for Baidu, and they have spent heavily to conquer the mobile market. Baidu has paid smartphone makers to bundle its apps in their […]

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4 Easy & Honest SEO Mistakes That Could Penalize Your Site

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By Neil Patel

No one gets a site penalty on purpose. Sometimes it happens through carelessness, sometimes through black-hat techniques and, sometimes, through honest SEO mistakes.

I’ve watched four such mistakes happen recently. These sites were honestly attempting to follow SEO best practices, but they were penalized. Why? I’ll explain all.

It is worth noting that I wrote this article based on a real-life experience, so this isn’t pie-in-the-sky theory. Each point that I discuss below is tied to a real life ranking problem. Each example that I discuss is connected a to a real-life online business. (However, company details have been changed to protect their identities.)

A Disclaimer: If you find any points of connection between your site and the examples, don’t panic. Millions of sites have affiliate programs. Millions of companies engage in cozy relationships. Just because you share a commonality does not mean that you’re careening for a penalty.

1. Link-Leveraged Business Relationships

The problem explained: Many businesses create relationships with other businesses. As a way of cementing the relationship, the businesses offer to create links to one another in order to enhance SEO and click-through traffic.

Sometimes, however, these good intentions – trading links – end up hurting one or both of the sites.

Example: A major online retailer of greeting cards – we’ll call them “FaithCard” — entered into a relationship with a major brick-and-mortar retailer, “AM Stores.”

Every AM Store (and there are thousands of them) carried FaithCard’s products. FaithCard’s arrangement with AM Store provided a discounted product price, as long as AM Store’s website would include a link to FaithCard’s website.

So, AM Store placed a footer link to FaithCard.

Obviously, FaithCard got a ton of links as a result of this footer link – 16 million, to be exact. Every page of AM Store’s website included a direct link to the homepage of FaithCard.

This became highly problematic. Soon after the footer link was added, FaithCard got hit with a manual penalty.

Investigating the link profile, it was obvious that FaithCard had a highly suspicious link velocity (rate at which inbound links are acquired), a disproportionately high number of links from a single site, and link positioning in the footer.

The problem with FaithCard was compounded by the fact that they had quite a few other harmful backlinks. The footer link buildup from AM Stores, however, was the last straw. Footer links are notoriously slippery for SEO. Their impact ranges from negligible to dangerous.

This issue could have been worsened if the two sites had swapped links – that is, if FaithCard linked to AM Stores, and AM Stores linked to FaithCard in a reciprocal way. Reciprocal linking is a shady area and needs to be entered into with extreme caution – i.e., as naturally as possible. No footer link swaps.

Solution: In this case, the solution would be to have the partner site remove the footer link to FaithCard. Obviously, FaithCard will now have to deal with the fallout of the penalty, but one of the best ways to swiftly and conclusively deal with it is to have an actual link removal rather than a simple domain disavowal.

2. Affiliate Programs

Affiliate linking can either help SEO or it can kill it. It all depends on how you implement it. Rand Fishkin once called affiliate links “a nasty gray area and a frustrating one for many SEOs/webmasters/sites over the years.”

It’s true, and it leaves many SEOs scratching their heads to how exactly to deal with affiliate links.

The Problem Explained: Online affiliate relationships are big business. For the most part, they’re spam free. Companies can engage in affiliate relationships without fear of penalization.

But if a company goes into affiliate linking willy-nilly, they can get bit.

Example: In my client’s case, they put together an in-house affiliate program pretty quickly and rolled it out without a very clear explanation to their affiliate partners.

Their business — we’ll call it “ZoomZoomPic” — did brisk sales in the stock photography business. Their affiliate program was designed to help existing customers gain some income while also growing their subscriptions.

When it rolled out, however, the existing customers weren’t told how to implement the affiliate link successfully. Many of these customers, amateur photographers, added sitewide links to ZoomZoomPic’s homepage. These weren’t affiliate links, though. They were just generic homepage links.

You might think that ZoomZoomPic would benefit from all these links, even if they weren’t strictly affiliate links. In actuality, however, it hurt them.

ZoomZoomPic’s affiliate clientele of amateur photographers did not have high-authority sites. In fact, all the links from these sites looked more like junk links.

With the sudden buildup of harmful links, ZoomZoomPic got hit with a major penalty, which crushed their business. Instead of growing through the affiliate program, they got sunk by it.

Solution: ZoomZoomPic engaged in typical link remediation, but they had to be really careful how they asked for removals.

Most of these harmful links came from their existing customers. What’s more, these customers were excited, because they thought that by linking back to ZoomZoomPic, they would be cashing in on some affiliate money.

ZoomZoomPic was honest about the situation, but they still had some negative backlash after requesting the link removals from their existing customers.

The safest way to conduct affiliate linking is through the following methods:

  • Use a trusted affiliate relationship provider to conduct 100% of the affiliate program rollout. This option is best if you or your development team do not have the skill or experience required to create an affiliate program from scratch.
  • Create a dedicated landing page for large affiliate providers. If you have relationships with major organizations, go ahead and created a dedicated landing page for them specifically. This helps them while also protecting your site.
  • Test all affiliate links from time to time. To maintain site integrity, it’s best to go through each affiliate link and make sure it’s functioning properly. If you find any broken links, be sure to create a permanent redirect.

3. Influencer Outreach

Influencer outreach is a powerful SEO strategy, and many times it works just fine. Basically, you find the major influencers in a given niche, reach out to them with a request, and get link juice, audience exposure, and other major benefits.

I recommend Eric Enge’s article on the topic. Even after we’ve been rocked by several search engine algorithm updates, influencer outreach still benefits the receiving sites.

The problem explained: Influencer outreach is great. But yes, the silver lining is fronted by a cumulonimbus cloud.

If the influencer outreach targets a low-authority niche, the backlinks could compromise the site. Although the influencers are “influential,” the link value from their sites will not enhance your site’s SEO. On the contrary, it could ruin it.

Example: My client’s website, “Superstellar Designs” created inexpensive, ready-to-wear jewelry for tween girls.

They decided to conduct an influencer outreach. Based on their market research and personas, the most valuable source of influencers was in the mommy blog market. Moms with influential blogs were pitched to blog about Superstellar Designs (or tween jewelry in general), and get free Superstellar swag in return.

Superstellar’s influencer outreach seemed successful. They pitched thousands of mom blogs and got an overwhelming response. But the success was short-lived. Rather than exercise discretion over influencers, they invited influencers of all varieties to join in the party.

That’s where things went south. Here are some problems that occurred:

  • Some mom blogs went overboard with links, creating as many as 15-20 exact match anchor text links in the same article.
  • Many mom blogs keyword-stuffed the articles, thinking it would attract more traffic.
  • Many of the mom blogs were very ad-heavy, and under penalty themselves.
  • Many of the mom blogs were very low authority and the backlinks devalued Superstellar’s site.

Solution: Superstellar had a lot of cleanup to do, and they ended up quietly disavowing the links from all the blogs that they had pitched.

If you run an influencer outreach campaign, pick your targets carefully. If you have no choice but to pitch a niche that is characteristically low-authority and spammy, then I recommend the following:

  • Ask influencers to use nofollow links. Provide the code for them to copy/paste into their blog articles for this purpose.
  • Create a specific landing page for the influencer outreach. Use a service such as Unbounce to direct users to a specific page that is designed for the outreach campaign. The upside of this is that you can customize the landing page to the niche, and even conduct A/B testing to boot.

4. Guest Blogging Niche

If you do it right, guest blogging is awesome. However, guest blogging is not without its dangers.

I’m going to discuss one of those dangers, but it might not be what you expect. Like point three above, this danger involves the niche in which you guest blog, not simply the fact that you are guest blogging.

The Problem Explained: Earlier this year, the SEO world blew up when Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, announced that guest blogging was largely “done” as a link building tactic, explaining that it had become increasingly spammy over the years.

He didn’t outright condemn the practice, however, noting that there “are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging” and that he wasn’t referring to “high-quality multi-author blogs.”

And so, we all stood back up, dusted off our jackets, and went on guest blogging with purpose and caution. We became selective with our guest blogging opportunities, limiting ourselves to high authority sites that would provide some benefit beyond a link for SEO (e.g. traffic, brand exposure, etc.).

Unfortunately, some of us didn’t realize that it wasn’t just about the sites themselves – it was also about the niche we were guest blogging in.

The niche I find myself in is completely legitimate. I’m guest blogging on high-authority sites with impeccable editorial standards and extremely high authority.

But some of my clients weren’t so fortunate.

Example: I worked with an individual who ran one of Europe’s most successful online casino sites. He faced problems prior to the guest blogging fiasco in 2012 when things really spiraled out of control for online gambling and casino sites.

The poker niche is not known for its adherence to ethical, white hat SEO standards. That’s why a lot of the black hat forums are given to discussing nefarious methods of ranking gambling sites.

Thankfully, there are legit ways for gambling sites to rank. The approach taken by my site, “MoneyManCasino,” was not a very effective way. He chose to guest blog on all the gambling sites he could find.

Unfortunately, those sites were spammy, penalized, and downright dangerous. The bio linkbacks he received from the guest blog spots were sending dangerous link juice to his site, which eventuated in a penalty clampdown on his site.

Solution: Obviously, the general solution is to be careful where you guest blog. Although guest blogging lives on and still carries SEO value, it does have sharp edges.

In my experience, the most dangerous side effect of guest blogging has to do with the neighborhood in which you do your guest blogging. If you choose your neighborhood carefully and wisely, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Conclusion

So, what now? You blew it. You’re sorry. You need to move forward.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as bashfully sidling up to Google with a sob story. You’ve actually got to do penance – the hard and time-consuming spadework of a penalty recovery process.

I’ve met very few people who actually enjoy having their sites penalized. No one goes in hoping for a penalty. By staying aware of these honest mistakes, you can avoid the plight of a penalty and keep your SEO held high.

What honest mistakes have you made that caused your site to be penalized?

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5 Easy Link Building Tactics for Small Business by @linkbuildingjon

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By Jon Ball

Many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) dismiss link building as something they don’t have time for. SEO in general can often be viewed as an unnecessary nuisance that many SMBs ignore. In fact, link building is absolutely necessary, but only if your business is interested in search visibility. If your business would benefit from search visibility and traffic, then you should be considering links. Not only is link building important for visibility in search, it’s also achievable for small businesses. Anyone Can Build Links The truth is anyone can build links. Link building requires hard work and determination, but really […]

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