SEO Myths to Avoid

SEO has its share of myths. There are quite a few that can damage your website if you adhere to them. View a few of the SEO myths to avoid.

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How Machine Learning is Changing the Face of Search

How Machine Learning is Changing the Face of Search

Generally Google doesn’t spring to mind when considering competition in the world of digital marketing because it seems to dominate whatever it touches.

Aside from that however, the realm of digital marketing has always been an extremely competitive landscape, with certain exceptions of course. Established brands with long standing trust frequently held the top SERP positions, while new domains had to take a place at the back of the line. Black hat SEO made it possible for webmasters to play the system and produce high ranking for substandard content. In the recent past, SEO providers and webmasters could apply trending keywords and simple heuristics to achieve rank regardless of content quality or relevance.

These concepts were entirely changed by the Hummingbird update and the unveiling of RankBrain.
These two things should be changing the SEO world’s ideas about how to achieve success as well. Although many SEO providers understand how important RankBrain is, or at least will be in the future, they still cling to the conventional strategies that worked a decade ago.

It’s time to rethink your views about search engine optimization and there are several SEO strategies and machine learning applications that can help you stay competitive in this constantly changing landscape.

How Machine Learning is Changing Search

RankBrain is, according to Google, the company’s 3rd most important factor in ranking. It is used to decipher the context of searches that it hasn’t received before. It distinguishes the context by comparing semantically similar keywords with similar searches from the past and delivering the results that are most relevant.

Through the use of machine learning, patterns can be found and user engagement data analyzed. Through this data, an algorithm can be used to evaluate user intent. This allows results to be filtered more effectively and gives users a better overall experience.

As of today, conventional signals still apply in ranking the best results. With each relevant search however, machine learning is able to analyze which of the pages involved are getting the most favorable user signals and deliver the best results for meeting user intent. It is important to remember however, that machine learning is a slow process. The result would be slow changes in ranking that are based on a growing amount of data from the SERPs.

In the more competitive niches, increased user engagement and content quality will steadily overshadow conventional signals and level the playing field. In lower volume searches, the conventional ranking signals will remain as the standard until sufficient data is gathered and user intent can be determined.

Humans aren’t being Replaced Yet

Not to worry, automation isn’t going to replace humans in the near future. Machine learning can be used to help boost marketing campaigns, but the actual creation and execution will ultimately rely of human intelligence. The same rules still apply to SEO.

Provide a good user experience
Provide solid content boosted by good keywords
Employ natural language
Personalize the journey

The big difference may be in how we provide these things to potential buyers. The technologies that are being developed every day can potentially allow for great improvement in the competition for SERPs and allow today’s digital marketer to deliver a much stronger product.

Ethical SEO

I mentioned not too long ago what my definition of ethical SEO, and particularly ethics in online business. Apparently there are those who disagree.

Ethics is defined as a set of moral principles– a line that we won’t cross whether it’s for making money or damaging the competition or our own personal life.

Defining ethics doesn’t seem all that difficult. Creating an environment online whereby those ethics are a part of what we do and how to operate our business seems to be much more difficult. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that more than fifty percent of the online business that we use today are practicing questionable ethics and chalking it up as trivial and unimportant.

As writer and site developer I see a lot. At times I’ve turned down jobs in order to adhere to my own–apparently foolish–set of principles and personal codes. For example the man who wanted to hire me to write him 100 high quality SEO testimonials for his business, or the company who built a site named just slightly differently than the writing site they used to use and then sent out invitations to that company’s writers to entice them onto the writing team. Bear in mind this is a large company with a big following–and they didn’t perceive it as anything more than trivial to behave in this way.

It has been a source of amazement to me that companies hire people to increase their star count, to improve their like count, to promote their content and to write false testimonials from customers that never existed. Entire companies are being built on this premise. Fake testimonials, artificial counts, spamming and gaming and theft of workers and customers. It’s not surprising I suppose that some people are going to misuse business ethics for their own purposes.

What’s amazing to me is that they honestly don’t “get” why it’s perceived as poor business ethics.

Everyone has plucked a strawberry or two in the strawberry patch and eaten it as they picked to make sure that they tasted good before we bought them. Some of us have padded our content a bit heavily with keywords we want to rank. Where’s the line– or is there a line that we need to draw? A line that we don’t cross over in order to ensure that our customers get what they came for and that they receive the kind of service that they deserve from us?

Is padding your testimonial count any different than adding a school you didn’t attend to your resume? Is it any different than adding a company for which you have not worked to that resume? Not really. You’re telling the world that you are more experienced than you really are and you’re implying that your approval rate is much higher than it actually is.

The online world –Wikipedia and the various Open Source development projects–was built with an implied trust in the goodwill and good works of others.

It’s an attitude that seems to have changed and one that I personally miss a great deal.

The internet as a whole was built on co-creation and working as a unit and helping others to find a way to a profitable business. When did that change, or has it changed? Are the people who are misusing the anonymity of the internet simply people who would be unethical in every other way and the internet just gives them more latitude to be so?

Ethics in online business is no different than ethics in any other portion of your life.

Companies and sites which have been caught using bad ethics, horrific seo, paying reviewers and so on, are of course vastly unhappy that someone outed them in the overall scheme of things.

Where does profit making end and personal or business ethics begin? What should our priorities be in online business? Do we justify damaging an entire group, such as open source software, or bloggers as a whole in order to create a high short term profit for ourselves or our company?

What it boils down to is that there is no difference between the business who steals employees or pretends to have worked for someone or who adds a much cheaper steel beam to the apartment building and the online company who adds fake testimonials, steals employees or violates business ethics by creating a lookalike business online.

It’s up to the internet users to demand good online business ethics and to out those who don’t use them so that others are not taken in.

Sound harsh? Maybe, but if someone knew that you had a faulty furnace in your new condo or a bad beam in your office building, I bet you’d be pleased if they told you so. Likewise people are going to be pleased that you helped them to avoid an unethical business.

What kind of online business behavior do you consider unethical and where have you found it? Is the online world just a “buyer beware” scenario, or are there actually businesses out there online who believe in ethics.

Holistic SEO What it Is and Why it Matters

Most people see SEO, or Search Engine optimization, as a way to get search traffic. The fact is that search traffic is important, but it is not the overall goal. The traffic that you’re looking for is going to be used to help you to gain higher sales and a higher bottom line.

Any SEO agency can give you traffic. The question is, once they get to your site, is your traffic going to convert to sales? The answer is in your website.

SEO & marketing can take the form of building high quality links by interaction and building content that is link-worthy. SEO can be used to drive traffic and to create videos or to do many other things that will send traffic to your site. Each of those things is only a part of the whole.

The term or phrase SEO can be used to describe any of these things, but each, as we mentioned, is only a part. Typically, they will work best when they all work together.

As a former nurse, I often equate the processes that are involved in SEO with the same processes that are necessary to keep the body healthy.

Holistic health takes into account the total health. It realizes that full health cannot be attained without taking into account every component of the body. You can’t be healthy without considering the body, the mind, and the spirit. In much the same way, your website and your marketing can’t be healthy without the whole website, sales funnel, content, navigation, and marketing campaign being healthy.

Holistic SEO takes into account every process that goes into the website, plans and executes it carefully, one step at a time.

Is SEO Really Dead?

We’re all hearing that SEO, or search engine optimization is dead. The reality is that it isn’t dead, but much like any other job, task, or component of technology, has undergone a real metamorphosis. There is nothing that has remained the same in the technology field over the course of the last few years. For some reason, people expect that Google and other search engines need not update, need not change their methodology or their algorithms.

Consider your own computer. Are you using the same technology, the same amount of ram that you were using even two years ago? How much more vital is it that companies such as Google or Bing address the changing technology, the changes in the computing field? They are as reliant upon the current online climate as you are. Changing their methods to address those technological changes is common sense. What is not common sense is that we’re crying the blues and casting blame over every small change all the while making our own changes to address new methods and new computing methods.

SEO is not dead. It’s undergone changes that you must address in order to have a site which is worth spidering and ranking. We’ve all at some point been lured into creating links that were not necessarily of the highest quality. Many site owners, in an attempt to game the system, have done things that we knew were not totally above board. Those things need to be addressed and corrected. Creating high quality content rather than spending a dollar to buy the lowest quality and the lowest amount of research is no longer going to benefit your site. This is not to say that every site which was hit deserved to be hit–in my experience and from my research, they did not. Some were quite valuable and they lost out too, but many of those who had wonderful quality content also had tried on some level, by buying links or creating spam links, had gamed the system and the truth is that they shot themselves in the foot.

Many site owners were making a vast amount of money on websites that were of little to no benefit to anyone who read them. Those days are absolutely over. Spending time, offering quality, creating a site that benefits you, the person reading it, and reflects well on Google or Bing by being listed there is the future of SEO. Quality sites, solid metas, good quality content and real links which are derived by people who find your site worth linking to, as well as social media exposure is the future of SEO and your future.

The choices we are facing are very simple– continue to whine about what was, about losing money and losing ranking when the reality is that for about 75% of us, the fault for that was our own, or addressing our shortcomings and building a site that is worth seeing. Is SEO dead? Definitely not. Is gray hat SEO dead? If not, it’s definitely suffering some pangs and quite frankly, maybe it’s time that it did.

WordPress Plugins You Can’t Live Without

WordPress is among the most well-loved and often used blog and content management software in the world. One of the most commonly asked questions about WordPress by the new user is what they need so far as plugins and add-ons to the CMS.

Several plugins are really recommended, not the least of which are SEO plugins for WordPress.

WordPress by nature is very SEO friendly. It can stand on its own two feet–as it were– when it comes to search engine optimization. One way to give WordPress a little added boost is by the use of an SEO plugin to assist you in becoming more visible in search.

The top SEO plugin that is in use today for WordPress is All in One SEO. This is a free plugin, created by the open source WordPress community. It offers you the ability to send the title and the keywords that you want to the search engines attached to the posts and pages. All in One SEO is a plugin that is available to everyone and is supported by a WordPress community numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

While SEO is important, it is not the only aspect of WordPress with which you might need assistance.

Among the other plugins which can assist you in creating a higher level of visibility are several which make your WordPress website more interactive.

Mingle Forum plugin for WordPress allows you to set up a bulletin board type forum for your customers and readers. They may ask questions, get answers, and interact with other forum members to share information. The posts are widely viewed in search and are helpful both in getting your site viewed more often and in keeping your traffic on your site interacting with each other.

WordPress visibility typically means that you’ll require more security. Among the most important plugins and tools for WordPress are those which will help to make your high profile WordPress website more secure.

Login Lockdown is one such tool which is recommended for every website built with WordPress. While WordPress is a remarkable tool, it has one issue that should be immediately addressed by every website owner. WordPress, by default allows that someone can try to log into your website as many times as they want to attempt it. One issue with that is that when they are using software to attempt to brute force a website or find a password, it can be very successful if the person who is attempting it has the ability to try hundreds of times. What the Login Lockdown password does is to limit the number of attempts that someone may try to log in. You specify the number of times they may try to log into the website. If a single ip address tries more than the allocated number of times, the WordPress site locks down that IP address and will not let them log in for a given time span. You specify the time span, making it from ten minutes up to 24 hours.

There are several other recommended WordPress plugins that we use and suggest that our customers use, including a firewall or Wordfence plugin, which we’ll add to our post list on a regular basis.

SEO and Marketing – Who do You Trust?

The search engines can be a very powerful method of getting you the traffic that you need for your website. It’s a given that you need some kind of SEO working for your website. Without it you’re going to be lost in the shuffle of the literally millions of other sites that are ahead of you and behind you, pulling traffic from the search engines. The problem is that getting the right kind of SEO and a good quality team isn’t always an easy task.

Not too long ago, Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Land did a very nice article on the kind of SEO that is being offered and some of the most amazing answers they had received to their questions about SEO.

That item–located here, The Sad State of SEO Consultants Today is a remarkably amusing, but also, as Schwartz says, a remarkably sad testament to the state of SEO online.

The simple truth is that anyone can open a site and call themselves an SEO. I’m not sure that I am calling for any kind of regulatory body, or even for a given amount of experience but some kind of training or experience is in order. A recent client who came to me through another person had been paying about 400 dollars a month for SEO services.

While that isn’t by any means an exorbitant amount of money, they should certainly have received some kind of assistance. Instead we found links to their baby products laid out nicely on very low rent sites including some Russian sites as well as several cigar stores.

It wasn’t what she had in mind and it certainly was not helpful to the company in any way. It was something we recognized as very rapid and very worthless SEO, and what it did was to see her paying month after month for a service that simply was not helpful.

Someone came to me recently and requested a resume. That’s a great way to go, but this is the real world. A beautiful resume doesn’t mean that I am going to give you a great service any more than a feather in my hat makes me a partridge.

Finding out that you’re not getting what you need isn’t something you want to learn the hard way.

Find an ethical seo company who can answer your questions for you in a reasonable way. Inbound links are important but test them. ART is the way in which links need to be created today. Authority, Relevance and Transfer. Using your networking skills to meet and greet others who are related to your niche, obtaining your links honestly and in a forthright way, is the only way to fly today.

Build your sites with a nod toward Google but with a focus on what your customers and clients want to see or read or do while they are on your site. Then, no matter whether Google loves you, tolerates you, or hates you, you’re going to rank because PEOPLE will like you and that’s the best way to go when it comes to who you try harder to impress.

Anyone who offers you links from irrelevant sites, hundreds of links in a week or tells you that you’re going to rise in search faster than a rubber ducky flips to the top of the bathwater is not a company you should be using. The simple and sad truth is that you can’t trust them and you can’t depend on them working toward the betterment of your site.

I implore every site owner to learn a little something about SEO even if you pay someone a little to teach you. Know what’s right and by virtue of that, know what’s wrong, so that you can recognize poor techniques.

A great resume doesn’t mean a great service. Get testimonials or get references. You can’t attain those as quickly and as easily as you can build a resume that looks great on paper but means nothing.

Getting Website Traffic-Exploring Various Methods

by Robbi Drake

If you have a website, of course your main goal is to increase that traffic which is flowing through it. Increased traffic plus good quality content, plus good products or services equals a higher monthly income for you or your business. In order to get more traffic to your website and to increase your income, what are your best options?

One of the best ways to increase website traffic is to invest in PPC or pay-per-click.  These ads are usually found on the right side of the web page, with the search engine results.  Before investing money in this system, you should thoroughly research the service and then decide if this is the best way for your company.  A very simple way to generate traffic is to come up with an ad that contains keywords that will describe your business.  Your ad should be attractive, which will draw people to it and also should include keywords in the title.  Using PPC can cost you hundreds of dollars a month, but you can count on it, it really works.

One  Search Engine Optimization provider (SEO)  will advise you, that the way to increase website traffic, is by optimizing the search engine.  Others will tell you that the best way is to keep a good social profile.  Writing articles, blogs, and forums are recommended .  Basically, what all these people are telling you is there is no clean cut best way to increase your website traffic and that every method will work to some extent.

In fact, today you need solid on page SEO, working off page networking and SEO, solid social networking presence and you need to interact with others in your niche area to give you both some  added exposure.  The professional webmasters use several methods and are very effective in increasing their traffic.  By using some of these methods, you can often get some free traffic, and that free traffic is worth a lot. The more optimized your site is, the better it will work in Adwords and the less the adwords will end up costing you. That is a simple secret that not too many smaller website owners know.

Another method of increasing traffic to your site is by purchasing traffic from a traffic company.  These companies will tell you that this is the absolute best way to increase the traffic to your website.  Customers that visit their sites are usually targeted.  This simplifies your work, because you only have to contact the company and instead of having to wait for customers to click on your ads, you automatically get hundreds of visitors to your site. The reality is though that sometimes the traffic companies cost far more than they actually bring in so far as revenue goes. Consider the cost and ensure that your traffic is well targeted, as well as having your website content very well optimized and well written so that the website traffic that you pay for will actually convert to good sales.

Fake Facebook Likes are No Longer an Option.

by Robbi Drake
Have you been one of those companies using some social media help from a group that lets you buy “likes”, retweets and Pinterest pins? If you’re not doing well in the social media department, but you want things to look like you’re a little more liked than you really are, you’ve probably been doing business with a “social buzz” generator, and we all know who and where they are.

It may have seemed like the ideal solution, but according to Barry Sullivan, Facebook has decided that they don’t “Like” your fake likes. Even Twitter was abuzz–or should that be aTweet–with the news. The comments went something like this:
Tod Maffin ?@todmaffin–“Another reason not to buy Likes for your Facebook brand page: Facebook’s going to start deleting them.”

According to Facebook’s posting on the subject they are stepping up their attempts to remove the false likes and to get rid of the accounts that are facilitating them.

Does this mean that sites and companies who are selling FB likes and who are promoting fake “Likes” and selling them to customers are going to lose a portion of those likes that they’ve previously sold? Apparently so, if we’re to believe the Facebook post. In fact, the “likes” which are being purchased and are found are going to be removed from the pages. They are in violation of the TOS of Facebook and Facebook was very quick to point that out.

Facebook says, to be very clear they do not now, nor have they ever agreed with or permitted anyone to buy Facebook likes. Their goal is to see real people connecting with real brands and anything else is “deception to generate fraudulent Likes, which is harmful to all users and the internet as a whole.”

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that they believe that about 8 percent of Facebook accounts are not real and that their goal was to remove those accounts. “We also seek to identify “false” accounts. . . which represent user profiles that we determine are intended to be used for purposes that violate our terms of service. ”

If that doesn’t spell it out for you, nothing will. Get your likes the old fashioned way, work hard… and be likeable.

Why Your Help Video, Sales Video, Solicitation Video Doesn’t Cut It.

I recently received an email trying to sell me a product. It provided me with a link to a video that was about 9 minutes long. Two days ago, I received another email. This one pointed me toward a video selling me a marketing product. That video was more than 10 minutes long.

At the risk of seeming ungrateful for your product tips, I’d like to say that if you honestly want me to buy into your credibility as a marketer or you truly want me to buy your product, presenting me with an excruciatingly long video and forcing me to sit through it is the least likely way to accomplish either one.

I’m a member of a site that also offers only help videos. Despite commenting on this multiple times, having clients comment on it and requesting another way to find helpful information, that method has not been forthcoming.

This week I quit that site.

There are several reasons why your marketing, sales, and help file videos just don’t work for me. These are just the least of them.

My time, like yours, is valuable. I read very quickly and retain what I’ve read quite well.

In the ten minutes I would spend watching your video, I could assimilate ten times that much text.

Your video seeks to control my time and effectively hold me hostage while you divulge the secrets to your success, the benefits of your product and/or the low, low price that I will enjoy.

If it hasn’t entered your mind, consider this point. By using a video of a specific length you are controlling the time of others for that span of time. If you create a ten minute video, effectively you are saying, I want TEN minutes of your time and I am not going to settle for anything less.

By sending me an email you are saying, “I want you to know that I respect your time.” Read it in two minutes or pore over it for  ten minutes, whatever works for you.

If you send me an email with the text incorporated in it, not a link to a video, I can review that text and determine if your product is worth buying in a third the time. That time savings to me is important. Your demonstration that you respect my time is also important and will probably net you the sale. Add the link to your video if you must and if I have time, I’ll watch it.

Granted, not everyone is the same. Some people  like videos that need to be searched for the right answer or viewed in their entirety. They enjoy not being able to open an FAQ or a help file while they work on a site.

They may love being constrained to a video and having to search through each one to find the audio that is relevant to their problem. Those people obviously don’t have a lot to occupy their time. . . but still, they do exist.
Your videos may be just what they want.

Even so, there are a few issues with videos that annoy many of those who want to use them.

Here are a few little tips for the video makers in the group.

If you  create a video to sell your product or to help your customers:

    • Make it easy to start and stop.
    • Make it short and to the point
    • Make a link below it that offers a transcript of the video.

If your video serves as a help file for a website then definitely make a transcript or a bullet point brief of it and offer it for download or below the video on the site.

A download lets users keep it open while they are using your site.

Try to avoid assuming that everyone uses Windows. PDF is something that everyone can use, they are not denied whether they use Mac or Windows or Linux as some formats like  pages or docx accomplish.

Videos are not SEO friendly so by adding the text of the video you also get the added benefit of doing something good for your site.
Happy Sunday!