Google’s “Hummingbird” Update and What it Means for SEO

In the past 12 months Google has pushed out “updates” to their algorithm around 620 times. Among these were refreshes to Panda and Penguin which essentially helped us because it drops out spammy, low quality and downright badly SEO’d sites from the index.

We align our principles with that of Google, and make sure what we are pushing for aligns with their overall goals. We play the long-game, not the short game – and it pays off in great measure.

“Panda” was an algorithm update that was enacted in 2011 to essentially find low-quality content sites, directories and things of that nature and to discredit them essentially in the ranking results.

“Penguin” was a “webspam” update that was meant to find and deem links positively or negatively, depending upon where the links were coming from, where they were going to, what connotation they had, what anchor text they were using, if they were from relevant sites, if they were from trusted domains, if they were from a related type of domain etc.

Both of these were essentially “Snap on” parts to the algorithm. They went on the side of the algorithm and bolstered it to make it far more effective. The overall algorithm though was still called “Pagerank” the algorithm that Google started out with and made modifications to over time. The current algorithm is a long-stride from the original “Pagerank” algorithm but it was essentially still the same thing at it’s core, just honed and better focused.

“Hummingbird” was Google’s newest and most extreme update-to-date. With Hummingbird Google literally replaced the “Pagerank” algorithm. It’s brand new. Penguin and Panda are still bolt-ons to Hummingbird, so it’s not the case that they were baked into this algorithm, they are still operating in their own medium.

Think about Hummingbird as a new 454 Big Block V8 Engine. Pagerank was a 350 V8. Google essentially took out their old “engine” and put in a whole new, big and improved engine with more power, more focus, far faster, and made an even swap. Think about Penguin and Panda as bolt ons to that. Penguin being an Air Intake, making Google’s listings far more efficient by cleaning out the spam and loading it with quality content. Panda being a good exhaust system, pushing out better content by siphoning out the old, less-quality content.

With Hummingbird Google has a few goals. Though Google has been a little bit clouded about this change, they’ve let us in on a few details.

1. Hummingbird will focus on long-tail content - no longer focusing on the short-form queries that are made up of 1-2 words, instead focusing on long-tail searches like 1-7 word searchs that could be targeted with blog posts and direct question answering via targeted content.

2. Hummingbird has exceptional abilities at “speech-like” queries - meaning searches in sequences as you would talk to Siri, or more “ask jeeves” style, instead of 1-3 keyword queries

3. Hummingbird will be taking more effect of “author” authorities

4. Hummingbird is faster at rendering content and representing it - focusing on speed and precision more than their previous engine (seeing as the old engine was built in 1998 and has only been “amended” since then)

Here are the things you need to do now that will make you succeed in SEO (these are the things we do and we recommend)

1. Write on your blog - gather questions from your community and customer base, answer their questions in blog posts, be direct about topics, provide content that helps your customer.

2. Be truthful and forthcoming with your content - don’t be light with your content, Google focuses on speed and efficiency and users don’t like being duped. If you promise to answer the question of a topic, do it, as quickly and simply as possible, provide all the information on that subject you can, but make sure it’s actionable. Google wants people to get to answers and get what they need as quickly as possible. That’s one reason why page-speed is such a massive ranking factor. If customers get to your information, see it’s not what they need and bounce from your page, that will genuinely hurt your rankings and your site’s authority within Google’s index.

3. Don’t focus on Google - focus on users, customers, consumers, the people who need information and what your user’s ultimate issues are. Google is focusing on their users and trying to get the best content for those users. Don’t focus on what Google is doing, focus on what Google is focusing on – the users. Focusing on Google will keep you in habits of “gaming the system” which isn’t the goal. First off Google’s team is made up of rocket scientists. They will figure you out and you will either get an automated penalty or even a manual penalty, which is extremely hard to come back from.

4. Don’t focus on link building - focus on earning links through your content and the questions you answer. This is where the real money lies. Promote your content on social spheres and to your community, but don’t go out begging for links from spammy directories and things of that nature. Hummingbird might not be a webspam update, but it sure as hell will work faster and in better cooperation with their other webspam algorithms – so don’t be a spammy mc-spammerson.

5. Utilize Google+ - the fastest way to get your content published in Google’s SERPs now is through Google+! Syndicate your content to publish to Google+ whenever you publish to your blog etc. Be alive in communities related to you, your local community or your business vertical. Anyone who is signed in to Google and has +1′d your content, your profile, your page, anything you’ve done on Google+ will be 10x more likely to see your content when they search for any query related to your content. Even if they haven’t +1′d your content, if their friend has +1′d your content, Google will represent your content to them essentially saying that their friend vouched for it. The ease of community building on Google+ is vast, it’s like Twitter and Facebook put together in their scopes, tied by rich communities and good linking / business pages. Twitter allows you to follow people without being friends and discover like-content with #hashtags, Facebook allows you to interact and post on a more elaborate scale than 140 characters and engage in related groups – Google+ does all of this, and makes you show up better in organic searches the more you use it. It’s a hugewin-hugewin if you take advantage of it.

6. Structure your content well - this is the main form of what the barebones of “SEO” has become, structuring your content in the correct ways and focusing on the right terms to gain you targeted organic results. The thing is, this is only part of the battle. Putting out good content and putting out targeted content are two completely different things. Both need to be worked in with absolute cohesion to be effective. This is where the real SEO comes in. Structuring your site is beyond important, but once that is done there is still a ton more that us SEO’s have to focus on in terms of structuring your content to align with your goals. All of the age-old things still matter – title tags, meta descriptions, h1′s, URLs, categories, site architecture, link architecture, link profiles, and more have been added. Now you need to worry about Google Authorship, which will be a big factor in Hummingbird within the next year. Essentially Google’s ability to determine the worth of a piece of content based on who wrote it, where it was written, how influential the writer is in that niche, what other content that writer has published, what other places that writer is contributing etc. Another is schema markup. Showing the best usability data for your site straight from the SERPs. Essentially this will just tell the user what reviews are had on your products, who wrote the post, where your business is located etc. This all goes into structuring your content. The better you structure your content, the faster Google knows what you’re all about, the better you rank, the faster you have users coming to your site.

7. Focus on the long-tail - questions and answers, the long searches that feel far more organic than “keyword + location.” This kind of focus will get you far more overall search visits, links and position from Google’s index. It’s where Google’s focus is heading and it’s where we need to be.

If you have questions feel free to email me (Sean, ssmith@gravityfree.com) or contact Kelli about our 360º marketing services at 941.927.7674!

SEO with Flowermanager and Wedding or Events Sites

There has been a lot of discussion recently in regards to the best practices of using Wedding or Event sites in conjunction with FlowerManager.

First off if you use the FlowerManager Wedding / Event site it is either hosted under your site at domain.com/events or under a separate domain of your choosing. There are pros and cons to consider having it set either way. We will specifically be focusing on SEO relevance and the blog portion in this post.

There are a few different scenarios we need to cover, the first being what we recommend the most for peak SEO performance as well as branding and user experience.

The Scenarios:

Top Recommendation:

Have your commerce site set up with it’s own internally hosted commerce oriented blog and have your Weddings / Events site set up with it’s own domain (separate from the commerce site) with it’s own internally hosted wedding oriented  blog. If you currently have external blogs we can import that content into our new internally hosted blogs.

This is the most comprehensive approach but would require you to generate content for both blogs. Your Wedding / events site should be completely targeted to that market, meaning the blog that is hosted on that domain should also be completely focused on that market. You should post wedding relevant content to this blog.

Then cross-link between the two sites (from the header of your commerce site with the header “Weddings” or “Events”), product detail pages and from blog posts. This “cross-linking” will help gain relevance for the Wedding site and also help improve your commerce site’s domain authority. It will also serve to help drive your users to each of your web sites and promote your brand.

The pros of this scenario:

  • Two individual properties, both aligning with the brand but targeting separate buying personas
  • Better user experience as all content is directly targeted at the buyer’s intent
  • Cross-linking SEO strategies between two well established domains
  • Two independent content engines using the blogs to generate traffic for each domain

The cons of this scenario:

  • Resource intensive, as you will have to generate good content for both domains (which we provide for our 360 marketing clients)
  • The Wedding or Events site that is on a separate domain than the commerce site may temporarily not rank as well while Google indexes the content of that site and re-evaluates it’s ranking patterns. The more content that you write on your blog however the faster it will be indexed and the better it will rank. In the long term it’s well worth it.
  • The commerce site will possibly drop in rankings in reference to “Wedding” related terms if we peel off the Wedding or Events site into a separate domain. Once the Wedding or Event domain is established though it will rank well on it’s own.

Recommended if you can only manage content for one property:

If you can only manage the content generation for one property then we recommend having the Wedding / Events site on your commerce domain. Which would basically mean if you go your FlowerManager’s commerce site the “Wedding” link would go to domain.com/events

To generate content from one domain you should have an internally hosted blog on your commerce site at domain.com/blog and from it post both content targeted at commerce users and Wedding-focused users.

The benefits of this scenario:

  • Less resource intensive
  • All links coming in to your Wedding site or your commerce site will be hitting one domain, meaning the authority of that domain will increase fast

The cons of this scenario:

  • Not targeting individual user-intents, bad for user experience overall
  • Harder to rank for Wedding terms as content is not as focused as it would otherwise be on separate domains
  • Blog becomes convoluted with both commerce and wedding focused content

Other Considerations

If you already have an active external Wedding / Event blog, setup the Wedding or Event site under that domain and we can import the content from that blog that is already present over to the FlowerManager Events blog. We can then 301 redirect the old content to your newly imported content so you won’t lose link authority from old posts. Then you will have all the content you already posted that was gaining relevance for the blog as well as the rest of the content on the site that is beautifully designed and laid out for SEO success.

If you already have your Wedding / Event blog on your FlowerManager commerce site but you can manage content for two individual properties we can move the Wedding / Events site and the Wedding / Events Blog over to the separate domain of your choosing where it can start gaining relevance in the search engines independently from your commerce domain.

Generally we don’t recommend having an external Wedding or Event site unless it has an internally hosted blog that is generating content. It is too hard to rank in semi-competitive markets without a content engine to support it.

This can get a bit confusing so please feel free to contact us at 941.927.7674 with any questions about the 360º marketing program or the information above!

GravityFree Search Engine Optimization

SEO, much like any other expertise can be looked at from the outside and seem simple. Maybe it is simple for some markets without strong competition, at least for now… but for most people that want to compete and dominate their markets it requires serious planning and detail-oriented execution. If you don’t get the customers now your competitor will.

It is an expertise that continues to change daily and requires a thorough knowledge of all the working parts if you are to control it, rather than just hoping it works. The more competitive the market the more work that is required. And that work is required on a regular basis because your competitors are continually reacting to you, just like you are reacting to them.

It’s more than making a few obvious keywords show up at the top of search engine results. It’s finding all of the different keywords that drive traffic and targeting all of them, without making your site look like it’s been over optimized with keywords, because that will lower your conversions. Remember your site is made for customers, not Google.

It’s about converting potential visitors into buyers. The quality, not just the placement, of the search engine result has a significant impact on converting visitors into into buyers. That means having solid local listings and having ratings tied to your search result; securing positive reviews and addressing negative ones. It’s showing potential buyers that they can trust you. It’s accomplishing all of this without making your site look like it’s been stuffed with keywords at the expense of the user experience.

It considers social media, blogging, site content, inbound links… everything is tied together. It’s not just stuffing some keywords into your site. While making sure your site is optimized is important, all of the other offsite factors are even more important.

GravityFree SEO consists of the best practices of SEO distilled down to their most basic principles, the most bang-for-your-buck essentials, the 80/20 lean weight of what works towards gaining results in the organic landscape carried out with absolute precision in an ongoing process.

Here is the 10,000 foot view on our SEO campaigns and what you can expect when working with us.

The Process

We have a three phase process. Obviously there is a lot more detail that goes in to each section, but this is to give a general perception of what you can expect in each phase and what kind of things we focus on during each phase of our campaigns.

Phase one: Onboarding, Research & Resource Assessment

  • Company Research
  • Competitive Research
  • Local Research
  • Keyword Research
  • Onsite Content Research
  • Onsite Assessments
  • Resource Assessment
  • Tracking & Analytics Setup

Phase two: Onsite & Local Optimization

  • Meta Data
  • Written Content Onsite
  • Structured Content
  • Link Structuring
  • Proper Categories & Group
  • Local Landing Pages
  • Local Listings Assessment
  • Local Listing Tracking

Phase three: Content, Offsite & Social & Community Building

  • Onsite Body Content
  • Blogging
  • Social Content
  • Social Interconnectivity
  • Link Building
  • Community Building
  • Review Gathering

The Constants

These are things that don’t really fit into any direct “phase” they are constants, things we are constantly doing, re-iterating, monitoring, acting on and pushing forward regardless of where you are in your campaign. There are obviously more but here are a few examples.

  • Reporting – sending detailed reports of our organic, social and local presence every month showing the detailed results of our campaign.
  • Tracking – tracking your organic SERP’s and local presence, always keeping an eye on where we are and where we are going.
  • Analyzing – keeping up to date on the effects of our efforts, keeping an eagle eye on the competition and capitalizing on our strengths.
  • Posting – constantly pushing out targeted organic content on the blog, on social media and in communities across the web.
  • Social Opportunities – acknowledging social opportunities around the web for organic goals
  • Educating – sending information to our clients and educating them on best practices, tips that they can do on the ground level to help them succeed.

Each piece of the puzzle has to be meticulously put together with absolute precision, social has to be interconnected to your site in such a way that you are providing value to the people who are following you, your site has to provide value for the information you post socially to be relevant. Your site has to be structured properly to convert local buyers, your local listings have to be optimized in such a way that opens the door to local searches for your business.

There are plenty of individual pieces that have to come together in a synced up cohesive ecosystem to succeed in SEO, and that’s what we excel at. It’s an investment in the long-haul to make short-term gains and long term absolution in your market.

SEO does not have a magical solution. It’s not witchcraft. It’s not a secret recipe for success online. It’s a constantly evolving behemoth of a convoluted mess that we have to study, analyze, test & experiment to stay ahead of the field and to earn our territory in a highly competitive yet highly profitable ever-changing landscape.

With over 400 ranking factors in Google alone it takes dedicated effort to stay an expert on the subject, knowing what works, what matters and what needs to be focused on while also making you flourish with organic traffic.

We get you more organic traffic, we make the pain go away. That’s what we focus on here at Gravityfree, that’s what we pride ourselves on, that’s Gravityfree SEO.

For any questions about our marketing services please get in touch with GravityFree Marketing by calling us at 941.927.7674

Understanding the Basics of PPC Advertising

Did you know that Google averages over 5 million searches every day and that 89% of consumers use search engines for purchase decisions? It only makes sense to market online to promote your products and services. PPC advertising is a flexible, cost-efficient way to market online. The beauty is that your ads show to people who have already expressed an interest in your product or service and you only pay if they click through the ad and visit your site. Want to learn more? Here’s a little overview of ppc advertising to start off my series of articles on search marketing.

PPC Advertising: The Basic Campaign

Structuring a ppc advertising campaign is simple. You want to use the keyword phrases that your target market would use when searching for your products. You write ad text that communicates the quality and value of your products and encourages the searcher to click through to your site. You choose the destination url that is the most relevant to your keywords and ad text. Here are some things to remember:

  • Use the keyword match type that allows you to most precisely target your market without excluding potential sales traffic. Too broad and you pay for clicks that have nothing to do with your business. Too exact and you miss a lot of potential buyers.
  • Compile a thorough negative keyword list to screen out off-target traffic. You wouldn’t want to pay for clicks from people searching for “flower arrangement classes” or “local florist jobs”, right? Don’t worry about nailing all of them on the first try. I am constantly adding negative keywords to my client’s campaigns to improve performance.
  • Your ad text should reflect the qualities searchers are looking for but you want your ad to stand out from the other ads on the page. Also, use Dynamic Insertion to echo the searcher’s query. But be careful, some keywords won’t work within your ad text.
  • Don’t drive all your ad traffic back to your home page. When someone clicks through to your site from your ad; they expect to find what they are looking for, not to search your site for it. Remember, Adwords is watching too. Landing page relevance is a key factor of the Ad Rank that determines which position your ad shows in as well as how much you as the advertiser will pay.

Managing PPC: Beyond the Basics

Ultimately it’s no different than how you would advertise in your store window. Tell customers what they want to hear. Don’t mislead then. Help them find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Impress them with your quality and selection. Remember, you may have “bought the sale” but if you provide a superior product and superior service; that customer will continue to shop with you for years to come. That’s when your investment really pays off!

GravityFree successfully manages pay-per-click advertising for a number of clients including several Flower Manager florists. We are Adwords Certified Professionals and members of Google Engage.  If you choose to hire an agency you should make sure they are Adwords certified. The Adwords Professional program requires recurring testing and demonstrated performance. With the constant changes in ppc advertising and national brands upping their game, you need someone who stays on top of ppc.

I hope to make this an on-going series of articles discussing the benefits, the challenges, and the latest changes in PPC advertising. I love what I do. I love talking about it. Hopefully you will find the articles entertaining and informative. There is so much going on in the world of search advertising and I look forward to sharing it with you. Please take a moment to leave a comment if you have any questions!

Local SEO Best Practices, Keypoints and a Whitepaper

Today there are over 10 billion unique searches done each month collectively over Google, Yahoo and the other engines in the United States alone. The need for local optimization is greater than ever, and growing exponentially every year.

As more users move into the mobile space, local information is becoming more important and relevant. Pulling up information about the location you are in, where you can find certain shops, finding local delivery and general local businesses is far more common of a task than ever before.

50%+ of Mobile queries have local intent

We believe local SEO is absolutely key to any physical shop’s marketing, often as important as having your open sign lit up. We have refined the best practices of a local SEO campaign down to the simplest core principles that have the greatest effect over your local presence. At the end of this post you will also find a Whitepaper that we have written to be a more thorough explanation of the points below, download this PDF to get a further drilldown of local SEO tactics.

So let’s get started.

Optimize your major listings

The “major listings” are the ones that you want to really focus your efforts on, they will have the highest return of influence, traffic and organic position. They are also the easiest to acquire and set up and typically have the most information that you can fill out.

Major listings are also the most influential to Google’s (and Bing / Yahoo’s) local ranking algorithms. If information is synced properly and well established across all of these listings the chance that your listings will show up organically highly increases.

These local listings are:
Google - Google+ Local is the most important listing you can have for any local business. The most heavily influential in organic visits and most used for mobile searches.

Yelp - 
Debatably the second most important listing you can have. When Apple switched from using Google Maps on their iOS to using their own “Apple Maps” they started pulling local review and venue information directly from Yelp, making it the anchor-point of local searches on the most used mobile platform in the world.

Bing - 
Bing makes up about 30% of the search market share whereas Google makes up the controlling 70%, this makes Bing still important but significantly less relevant. Regardless this is an important listing that should be well established.

Yahoo - 
Yahoo and Bing run on the same organic search index, yet their local listings are separate from one another. Yahoo, even though far less relevant as a search engine now still has quite a large local index, and local listings should definitely be taken advantage of on this service.

Foursquare - 
The check-in social network that has a large amount of integration with Facebook and Twitter makes this an important local listing to bolster a physical location’s social influence and awareness. There are over 20 million users on Foursquare, and over 1 million business listings. Foursquare has been known to have better mapping functionality in foreign countries and suburban areas due to their ease of verification and massive venue information.

Citysearch - 
Citysearch is one of our “secondary main listings” that doesn’t quite count for as much as say Google, Yahoo and Bing however still counts as a good strong NAP listing with it’s own unique functionality.

Hotfrog - 
Local listings on this service are free and should be set up just as the NAP listings above.

Yellowpages - 
Yellowpages offers two types of listings, a free local listing that has limited functionality and visibility and full on paid listings that are majorly enhanced with a full range of functionality and enhanced exposure to their local network.

Superpages - Yellowpage is made by Superpages, so having a superpage listing ensures that you will show up under both networks. Having these listings is very powerful as this is a very large local network with high trust-indicators for Google’s as well as other engine’s ranking factors.

Make sure that all NAP information is synced perfectly and listings are claimed and optimized (meaning filled out 100%).

All information should appear as it does on the website in every other point on the web. This means, address, phone number, business name, website etc. Anytime there is a kink in the chain it looks untrustworthy to the engines and can negatively impact how that listing ranks and how the associated business’s website ranks.

If a business has a local number present on the website but uses a toll free or 1-800 number on their local listing, this will also heavily influence the listing in a negative way.

Information that should always be filled out:
Business name
Address
Phone number
Website URL
Email
Categories - 
as many as possible and relevant.
Hours of operation
Description
Images
Videos
Reviews - 
user generated, but should be paid attention to with close detail.

Optimize your website

To optimize your local presence you need to start with your website, then branch out from there. Website to listings, then to social, then into link building across the places in the web that you don’t have direct control over, all while pointing back to your local listings and website.

First, try to include your city or regional keywords in:

  • Your URL
  • Page Titles
  • Meta Description
  • H1 and H2 tags
  • Throughout your site content

Next, include all of your main local information in your site-wide footer:

  • Address (as it will read for every local listing)
  • Zipcode
  • Local phone number (make sure to use your local phone number and not a 1-800 or toll free number)
  • Link to either your Google Local listing or the landing page you set up for that location.

Finally, create unique content for your local businesses:

  • Landing pages for business locations, cities and businesses served
  • Blog about local promotions, events, businesses etc.

Local Reviews

Reviews make up nearly 40% of Google’s local ranking algorithm. 

Reviews are extremely important to ranking within the local search engines, but their worth does not stop there. Social proof is one of the most immense indicators of worth towards local reviews. If a business has 15 positive reviews it is far more likely to get business and click-throughs to their site than a business who has 2 reviews, one of which is negative.

For a locally focused business, the reviews on your local listings are essentially your business testimonials. Ones that everyone will see when they search for you through an organic landscape.

In a survey conducted between 15th January – 1st March 2012 of over 2500 participants, 72% of consumers said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, while 52% said that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business.

As well as this it’s been proven that the more local reviews you have the higher click-through rate your listing will have over your competitors.All of this makes pushing local reviews a high priority must.

 

Local Link Building

Local link building is basically the practice of building links from sites that have local focus in your area such as local blogs, directories, businesses etc. Local link building could either be building links to your local landing pages on your website or on your local listings such as Google, Yelp and Yahoo.

Where to find local link building opportunities:
- Twitter lists
- Facebook Groups
- Google+ Communities
- LinkedIn Groups
- Organizations (Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
- Local blogs
- Local magazines with an online presence
- Local directories
- Local citations
- Local, related stores with an online presence
- Local communities with an online presence

All of these opportunities can be explored for linking possibilities  and should be thoroughly researched.

Local SEO Whitepaper

As promised I have attached a downloadable PDF below with all of the information above plus a great deal more, drilling down into each individual subject.

The Whitepaper shows you
- Specifically how you should optimally fill out each major listing
- A more in-depth explanation of each major listing
- Guides for optimizing your website, landing pages etc.
- How to accumulate more positive reviews, how to monitor them and how to go about following up on negative reviews to turn them into positive reviews
- How to blog for SEO
- How to do more effective link building for SEO
- How to optimize secondary citations

And far more.

Please download the PDF and let us know what you think!

The Game of SEO, Future vs Previous Tactics

SEO is an ever-changing beast, being constantly molded and redefined from multiple factors. Factors changing the game of search often originate from Google’s algorithms to stop [or minimize] web-spam and hone the quality of their products. Examples of such web-spam fighting algorithms include Google’s “Penguin” and “Panda” updates, as well as their recent “Page Layout” update. These constantly updated algorithms make the game of search marketing a very unstable, yet very rewarding venture.

When you play the game of search you win or you die. Ok, so the consequences aren’t quite that harsh. Your website isn’t going to explode if you get hit by a “Penguin” or a “Panda”, yet if you are using the wrong tactics things could get very messy. Tactics that would cause such messiness to occur are often referred to as black-hat or gray-hat. Even those who perform what was thought to be white-hat practices are sometimes affected by these updates. As Google’s ideal for the future direction of search changes, their algorithms evolve to scale.

The way to truly win in the game of search is to play for the future. By studying the tread-line of recent and past events SEO’s can gain a better view of the future direction of search.

In the olden days of search (which could be considered to be in the past 10 months) it was still viable to exhaust every resource to appropriate large amounts of on-page links with exact match anchor text, sometimes even in the footer of a site as to have a link coming from every page. This is a perfect example of the old tactics that no longer hold the same weight. Not only do these tactics not hold the same weight anymore but some of them are downright risky. When Google’s “Penguin” update came through it thrashed sites that had these exact sorts of links on low quality sites, directories or sites that just didn’t relate to your page what-so-ever.

In study, SEO’s have realized that the future of search no longer encompasses the rugged approach of acquiring large amounts of links through not-so-clean methods such as burning through email lists to request text links with exact match anchor text or the tactics mentioned above. We have found that it is through fresh content, social engagement and interaction, problem solving and generally doing cool shit that will push you into the limelight, get your company seen, evolve your brand and ultimately get you the business from search that you so crave.

Pushing content that inspires emotion, inspires action, inspires risk-taking or simple laughter will give you and your brand such an edge in the social and search sphere that it can’t be quantified through analytical statistics. Companies like GoPro, RedBull, Apple, or even Google have created such an inspiring image that captures the thoughts and minds of their users and followers in such a way that they will never need to “build” links… they earn them.

GoPro has their incredible sponsored athletes create videos which can be reduced to content for the web. Take this video for example:

This video has been active for 2 days [when writing this post] and it has already been viewed in excess of 3,000,000 times. Their target is to inspire action and when you are taking action you want to record it, so you buy a GoPro. It is the simplest idea for a simple product, but it was the best idea and created the best product in their niche.

Take Felix Baumgartner’s Space Dive, which was sponsored by RedBull: http://www.redbullstratos.com/

This campaign made the whole world stop and watch in awe and dare to imagine. RedBull probably got a few links out of this I would imagine. As I said before, the affect of pushing this sort of content will not be able to be represented in sheer numbers alone, but will propel your brand into the forefront of your niche. You will bypass the engines and get straight to the people, which will in-turn make you #1 in every engine.

Ed Fry wrote about “Outranking Google“ in this SEOmoz post and it is true to every word. By creating a brand that people will want to go to directly and not search for, essentially you are outranking Google. When you outrank Google it is only right that you would be at the top of their SERPs, which is exactly where you will end up.

Your content doesn’t always have to be as grand in scale as RedBull’s Space Dive, it can be something as simple as posting a picture to Facebook of your coffee on the 50 yard line of a football field.

starbucks-facebook-status

This simple picture running on a trend got Starbucks 27,000 likes and 6,900 shares. What is a share if not a link, a link which is instantly visible to ALL of the person’s friends. If the average Facebook user has 200 friends that would mean those 6,900 people just pushed your content to over 1.3 million people.

So what do we say to the SEO practices of the past?

not-today

For some more direct examples of old SEO practices vs future practices check out this SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday by CEO Rand Fishkin, “The Death of Link Building and the Rebirth of Link Earning”

How Businesses Fail on Twitter

Twitter is an incredibly powerful tool that new and existing businesses can utilize to interact with their target market. Many companies forget, however, that the end goal is to engage their audience and create a community, not sling endless amounts of advertising and mass marketing. This is a slippery slope, admittedly, for any business. How can you tell where the line is drawn in today’s shifting landscape of social media? Here are a few common things to avoid along the way!

  1. Overusing Hashtags- Hashtags are a great way of stimulating conversations on the topic of your choice. Use caution though. Overusing hashtags is annoying and you may lose sight of the very topic you are trying to encourage.
  2. Poor Reply Etiquette- When replying to a tweet you received, include the Twitter handle of the user who tweeted at you. If you don’t include the handle, it looks like you are pretending to respond to a tweet rather than helping your followers. And more importantly, it is rude!
  3. Unrelated Tweets- Avoid postings that have nothing to do with your brand. For example, if your company manufactures running shoes, your followers probably have little interest in hearing about dairy farms.
  4. Shameless Self Promotion- It is perfectly fine to post positive content, but in the age of transparency it is equally important to include some critical or honest feedback. This promotes legitimacy and increases follower loyalty and participation.
  5. Don’t Appear Desperate- Please don’t promise anything for a retweet. Contests that require little or no user investment can lead to poor brand image.

These are just a few of the basic guidelines commonly agreed on. Have you seen any brands do annoying things on Twitter? Please feel free to share your thoughts below, and #thank you for taking the #time to #read this #article!

The Social Media Holy War

Recently, I spoke at a conference where I got to hear from Eric Weaver, a brilliant digital marketing strategist who makes simple, but profound, observations about the impact and future of social media tools. In his presentation, he referred to the “Social Media Holy War”. It was an attempt to define the 2 sides of the discussion with one side talking about how social media is essential as a tool to influence and drive the market’s discussion and the other saying that social media is ultimately useless because it is impossible to track ROI. The extremes unfortunately drive the conversation. Social media gurus claim you have to tweet and post about making the bus on time while the other side says that social media is a fad. There is some truth to both arguments, but each position can claim some legitimacy. Facebook has over 600 million users worldwide and Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media tools are continuing to carve their respective niches. Many businesses, however, continue to invest millions in their social media strategies, resulting in poor returns. What do you think?