Monday, 30 April 2012

Content is King!

The Importance of Good Content

When it comes to high rankings, and getting ranked as high as possible on the SERP, the adage ‘content is king’ is as true as it gets!

If you’re looking to get your website or blog ranked, the formula for success is simple: create good content that is (a) unique, (b) fresh, (c) not copied or spun, (d) updated regularly, and of course (e) is comprehensive and thorough.

Ever since the now-infamous update to Google’s search algorithm called Google Panda, a lot of emphasis has been placed upon creating good content. Google will now look at the content of the website in order to determine its ranking (among other things), and websites with high-quality and fresh content will be placed higher up the SERP by Google, simple as that.

Furthermore, good content is also essential in order to have a low bounce rate and a good conversion rate. A page with low-quality content, with bad grammar, copied or spun content will only put off the readers, forcing them to move onto another website. This will result in a low conversion rate, a high bounce rate and hence, a low revenue.

What all of this means is that creating websites with high-quality content is the cornerstone to having good rankings and SERPs, and should be a vital part of any and all of one’s SEO efforts.

Value is Key!

According to statistics, it takes just 5-7 seconds for an average visitor to determine whether your website is worth sticking around on or not. If you put high-quality content that provides value to your target market, the niche that you might be targeting, as well as your readers, they would, most certainly want to stick around.

‘Value’ is the key term here. What value are you providing to your visitors? What is the one thing that is unique on your website? What makes your website different from the others? Why would someone want to stay on your website?

When it comes to content, going the extra mile usually pays off in the long run. For instance your target market might be football fans, but what sets your blog apart from the million-and-one other football blogs out there? You could try giving interesting statistics on your blog, or providing useful ‘insider information’ on fantasy picks or betting info, for instance, to provide that little extra something to your visitors.

Quality Content

Quality over quantity is what really matters. Remember that when someone sticks around on your website, becomes a regular visitor, or bookmarks your website, it is usually because of the quality of content on your website.

Not only will good quality get you higher SERPs and a stream of regular ‘targeted’ visitors, good quality content also tends to be shared and spread around more often, and will have a higher chance of ‘going viral’.

Quality Content Checklist

Good quality content is usually:
  • Informative
  • Unique
  • Relevant
  • Not spun or copied; in other words, unique
  • Updated regularly (not necessarily daily)

Quality Content Ideas:

Be creative, share ideas, provide ‘insider information’, ask questions, provide statistics and infographics, use humor, give advice, give tips, tricks and share DIYs, and be controversial. These are just some ideas that you can use to come up with interesting content.

Concluding Words

So in conclusion, good content will always form the foundation of any good SEO campaign, the defining factor of good Search Engine Optimization.

But remember, content should always be written for people and visitors, NOT for Google or getting higher rankings. Anything written with the sole purpose of serving and providing value to the people will always be given preference by Google when it comes to higher SERP ranking, and even Google backs this up.

Plus good content has the potential to be shared more, which gets your website more exposure and possibly traffic from high-PR sources!

So yes, in conclusion, content indeed is the king! 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Avoid Website Over-Optimization

Google’s ‘Panda’ updates have, quite literally, rocked the SEO and SEM industry to its very core, forever changing how Google’s search algorithm functions.

This is forced internet marketers and search engine optimization engineers and experts to adapt accordingly, and alter their marketing and optimization practices in accordance as well.

Google recently announced that over-optimized websites and pages would be liable to penalty as well. If you’re engaging in over-optimization practices on purpose, it could potentially land you and your website in a bit of a predicament. But you might also not be sure what exactly qualifies as over-optimization according to Google’s rule book.

In either case, read on, as I’ll be going over some over-optimization practices, how they can be avoided and what you need to do (ASAP!) in order to make sure your website does not end up getting penalized by Google.

1. Authentic Titles

All your titles need to be authentic and read and sound as if they were written by a human and not a machine. Titles that are too robotic, or make it obvious that they were written with the sole purpose of getting your keywords ranked are a big no here.
Consider the following example, which clearly demonstrates the difference between a good and a bad title:
  • Bad title: football transfer, football news, football gossip, match reviews
  • Good title: Your one-stop for all football transfer news, behind-the-scenes gossip and match reviews!

See what I did there? The first title is as far from being a human-written title as possible. No one would stop to read it and think yeah, this seems to be human written and look legit. The second one, however, has a much more chance of grabbing the reader’s attention, looks and sounds legit and above all, is still able to include all the keywords that were present in the first one!

You need people to think that your titles are legitimate and genuine, and not manipulative or spammy.

2. Keyword Stuffing

Often times, you find yourself on a website that, besides having useful and informative content, would have these text boxes scattered throughout the page containing absolute gibberish. It would typically be a totally random block of text, stuffed with the keyword, among other random, useless text.

That is a deliberate ploy to fool search engine crawlers to pick up the keywords and ranking the website for those keywords. While fooling Google might’ve worked in the past, all it’ll now do is help it penalize you.

With the recent changes, it is strongly recommended that you get rid of any and all such spam text boxes, as keyword stuffing is a sure-fire way of having your website de-indexed, thanks to the recent changes. They are not good for conversions, CTR, or even good traffic, might put off your visitors and now, might penalize your website.

Besides, there are other better ways to have your website ranked, not to mention which are legit and totally whitehat. Sharing your content and website on Facebook, for one, could be a good way to start!

3. Backlinks from Penalized Sources

Tough one to identify. You’ve probably spent days, if not more, to create backlinks on hundreds of thousands of places. What if those sources were also potentially in danger of being penalized? This would mean your website would now be getting traffic from penalized sources, which quite obviously would hurt your rankings.

Be wary of private link networks, reciprocal link-building networks, or any article marketing sites. There are many other great ways of building links than by getting onboard with sites which are using shady, quite possibly blackhat backlinking methods, putting you and your website in danger while quite obviously endangering their own.

Reciprocal links, where people exchange links by putting each other’s links on their websites is a big no here. Stay away!

4. Internal Linking

Manipulative internal linking is like handing Google a reason to ban or de-index you. Repeated words, thrown across the website or a page – like in the footer or a sidebar, and especially those containing anchor text which points to the same page repeatedly, is just asking for trouble.

From an SEO perspective, having too many backlinks pointing to the same page is useless anyway, as it doesn’t do anything to improve the value of the page, and above all, look like the page has been spammed with links to anyone reading our browsing the website.

The secret of effective internal linking is avoiding repetitive linking, and link once to those posts which you think people might find helpful or useful in the context of your post/page/content.

Also avoid putting too many anchor links in the footer of the pages, instead put things in your footer that people would actually expect to find there. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Google Panda and How It Affects SEO and You

March 2011 was probably the worst month of my life! A couple of my blogs and websites, which had generally been doing very well for a good few years until that point, took a real SERP nosedive, and I lost a lot of visitors and traffic (and a good chunk of my revenues) almost instantly.

Turns out that those websites had become the casualty of the now-infamous ‘Panda’ – the change in Google’s search algorithm dubbed the Google Panda.

My first thought was that it was all quite obviously a mistake, an error, a screw-up on Google’s part. Because all my websites were in complete coherence with Google’s list of recommendations for webmasters, had good quality content on them, and above all, all my SEO practices consisted of completely whitehat SEO methods. I was doing nothing illegal or what Google would term blackhat methods.

However upon further investigation, it was discovered that the dip rankings and the traffic was deserved. I had made some mistakes that had cost me a good 3+ years of hard work, and chosen to ignore a few good SEO habits. I therefore set about to rectify those mistakes and I’m glad to say that a year later, I have made a pretty good recovery from the setbacks.

So what exactly are these changes, and how do they affect you and your website? Most importantly perhaps, how can you, as a fellow SEO and webmaster, adapt? Read on.

1. The Content

Google’s Panda update was notorious for its emphasis on unique, high-quality, well-researched and comprehensively-written content that provides value to the reader.

Therefore, make sure you avoid writing those 100-words-or-less articles.

Write well, be comprehensive and above all, write quality! Quality over quantity is what the Panda and Google will look at, but having said that, you cannot honestly expect to be comprehensive and thorough with whatever you want to say in a 100 words, right?

While it is not a written rule, it is generally a good idea to stick with a minimum of 300-400 words. Spun or copied content is a big no here, as such content almost guarantees your website getting de-indexed and banned for good.

2. Breadcrumbs

Using breadcrumb navigation is essential. I am of course referring to the links on top of a website that show where you might be on the site at a single glance. For instance Home > Football > Match Reviews > Champions League. Or something similar to that that.

Almost every website uses breadcrumbs, as not only they are good in terms of good rankings, they also provide your visitors with proper navigation and help them from getting lost on your website.

3. Blog Speed

Google has pretty much made it crystal clear that blog or website speed (overall speed, load times, etc.) would be playing a big role in determining its rank. It is therefore essential to ensure that your website has optimal loading times. Pingdom for instance, is a tool that lets you check just that.

Make sure that (a) your website is hosted locally, or in the country you’re targeting, (b) you get a good host, because even shared packages from good hosts work well, however do look into investing in a dedicated hosting package if budgets allow, and (c) keep your website as light as possible, by not putting too many plugins, high-res and high-size images or anything else that would slow down its load times.

4. Social Integration

The Panda update is also well-known now for its emphasis on social integration, and I’ve always been a big fan and an advocate of integration all my websites and blog with Facebook, Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Youtube and more recently, Pinterest.

Not surprisingly then, did I see specifically all those blogs taking a hit which had poor social media integration. Now however, all my websites are properly integrated with social mediums, with Facebook, Twitter et all.

Above all, buttons for all these social sites are now properly displayed on all websites. This in particular is something that is extremely important – having ‘like’, ‘+1’ ‘RT’ etc. buttons on your website and all posts. Most themes (such as those on the Wordpress platform) already come with such integration; all you need to do is link your account with these buttons.

For those who might put this off because of time/hassle, well, it doesn’t take too long to set up a Facebook page, does it?

5. Rich Snippets

Panda also introduces a little something called rich-snippets, essential to good SEO. But what exactly are these?

Ever run a search on Google, and seen results accompanied with those little headshots or mug shots of people, in the results page? Well those are rich snippets, and they are actually a part of Google’s authorship program.

All you need to do to get your own mug right beside your website in the results is to create a Google+ profile, fill out a form, and get a markup code which is to be inserted in your website, and voila! You’ll be a certified author, with the ability to have rich snippets for your website appear in the search results.

Not only do rich snippets make your website stand out in a sea of search results (almost forcing the user to click), they also improve the SEO worth of your website considerably, allowing you to rank higher in the SEPRs. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Getting Traffic through Social Mediums

Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, StumbleUpon, Twitter, G+ and Pinterest are all the rage right now, right? It is therefore only logical to harness the power of these social mediums, in order to get as much as traffic to your website as possible.

The stats pretty much speak for themselves. Facebook recently crossed 900 million users and is quickly closing in on that magical and rather monumental 1 billion users mark. Every day, almost one-third of those user check-in to their Facebook accounts. Facebook alone is responsible for generating 26% of the total referral traffic!

Twitter isn’t doing too badly either: half-a-billion users (500 mil in February 2012, to be exact) – half of which are active Twitter users, and a million new users sign up on Twitter every single day. In addition, a massive 170 million Tweets sent out every day, and Twitter also generates 4% referral traffic, just about the same as Pinterest does.

Many even believe that it is just a matter of time before traffic generated from social mediums surpasses that from Google!

So we see that social mediums alone are referring massive amounts of referral traffic, and it is quite evident that there is massive potential to generate traffic. The best part is that these social mediums are free to use, and most of us probably are already active Facebook and Twitter users, which means there would be a much small learning curve involved.

But what exactly can you do to have your website make its mark on Facebook, StumbleUpon or Twitter, get 100s of likes, shares, +1s and retweets, and generate traffic off these social networking sites? Here is a beginner-friendly guide, which lists down 5 easy steps aimed at helping you and your website be part of the social media storm!

1.  Create a well-designed and attractive profile

First off, make sure that all your personal profiles are separate from your website ones. Create separate pages, groups, circles, channels and account for your website on any and all social mediums - whether it’s a Facebook fan page, Facebook group, a Twitter or a LinkedIn account or a Youtube channel.

Secondly, you need to make sure that the page is well-designed – has a proper niche-targeted name, proper information filled out such as the website URL, description and a logo. And it should look attractive – you might not have a lot of options in this regard on Twitter, for instance, But Youtube lets you build some extremely unique and attractive-looking channels.

Put the link to your website everywhere possible – on the profile, description, display image, etc. A good idea in this regard would be to watermark all your pictures with a logo and URL of your website.
A well-constructed profile will give you a good brand personality, and reflect well upon your image.

2. Engage and connect with your audience frequently

Usually, the most successful Facebook pages or Twitter profiles – usually those with a lot of ‘likes’ and followers – are those which keep reminding people that they’re there, they exist! Send out regular updates to your followers, subscribers and fans, and keep them engaged. Link back to your website as often as possible.

However know that there are certain limitations when it comes to sending out updates: send too many and people might ignore and discard your updates as spam. This varies from medium to medium – sending out a Facebook update twice a day would be the best strategy, while you could probably take liberty to send updates every few minutes on Twitter!

The important thing is to keep reminding people of your existence, and linking back to your website as often as possible.

Above all, remember that social networks are all about friends and relationships. Make sure you connect with people, reply to them, retweet and share their content, and be part of the conversation!

3. Target individuals with a high social networking potential

Facebook or Twitter users with a lot of friends, and those who are able to engage and influence a lot of people are individuals with a high social networking potential, or SNP. When one of these ’leaders’ shares content, it tends to usually be read out, retweeted, shared, and liked by a lot of people as well. You might just even see a nice surge or spike in traffic when this happens.

Your content might even spread like wildfire in some cases, allowing you to potentially ‘go viral’.
We all know such influencers from out daily lives – maybe a friend, someone from our social or professional circles, a Facebook friend with a large number of friends and subscribers even.

Connect with these people and build relationships with them. Ask them to share your content. And if they do, then make sure that your return the favor, whenever possible, by linking or sharing their content.

4. Go for paid solutions

Stuff like buying advertisement space on Facebook, sponsored or promoted tweets on Twitter usually work like a charm. Facebook Social Ads and Twitter Sponsored Tweets would be a good place to start. Sponsored tweets, for instance, is a platform where advertisers sell their tweets. Promoted tweets allow you to pay to target Twitter users in your niche.

Similarly, Facebook allows you to purchase ad-space, and the amount paid for these ads depends on how long you would the ad to run, its appearance frequency, target geographical locations, etc. Ditto for Youtube.

5. Reward your fans and followers

Giving something back to the community usually goes a long way! Find ways that you can reward the people who are following you and sharing your content. Running promotions usually is a sure-shot way of getting a lot of traffic back to your website. Sky’s the limit here – you could run a contest on the website, reward every 500th visitor on your website, add an interactive Flash-based game on your website and give winner a reward – and of course, link it all on your Facebook or Twitter.

In addtiton, running something like a Facebook-only promotion would also go a long way. Send out an update on your social mediums which includes a discount coupon; a fans-only promotion, where whenever one of your fans purchases something from your website, he is eligible to a discount.

It is up to you to determine whether you would want the reward(s) to be monetary or non-monetary. Stuff like upgraded membership, a discount, and/or access to a free eBook, a free consultation or a free lesson are good non-monetary ways of running an effective promotion campaign aimed to get more traffic on your website. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Advantages of Good SEO

Pretty much a ‘back to the basics’ post here, where I speak about why good SEO practices are important.

Anyone who has anything to do with internet marketing, or is even remotely related to web-design, web-development and the like would probably be well aware of search engine optimization and the benefits of good SEO practices.

However it is still important to know why good SEO practices are important. But before we get to that, it is equally important to know that SEO and all SEO practices broadly fall into two categories: on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

It is a combination of both that makes for a solid SEO strategy, enabling website owners to truly reap the rewards of their SEO practice. Both on- and off-site practices go hand-in-hand in order to produce far-reaching and long-term advantages in terms of traffic, conversions, CTR and revenues from your online efforts are concerned.

So what really are the advantages of having a good SEO strategy?
  1. SEO helps you pull in traffic to your website. By enabling you to be able to rank as high up on Google’s SERPs as possible, SEO increases the visibility of your website and its content and helps get you more traffic. This is just one example of how SEO can pull in traffic for your website, as there are a lot of other aspects involved which help you pull traffic.
  2. SEO takes your brand to the next level by increasing its global appeal. Geographical boundaries don’t mean anything now, if you’re online, and if you have a strong online presence, your brand, your business and your website can go global easily. SEO helps you do that, allowing you to reach clientele from all corners of the world.
  3. A good SEO strategy, which is ideally a keywords-based SEO strategy helps pull in not only traffic, but ‘targeted’ traffic to your website. For instance a website or an ecommerce setup specializing in the selling of electronics or Wordpress plugins would want to be ranked for keywords such as purchase TV online (for the former) and best wordpress plugins (for the latter). This would help you reach out to your potential clientele, and vice versa.
  4. SEO helps you achieve the purpose your website was built for. Every website out there has a purpose, an action that it wants its users to take. It could be purchasing a product, subscribing to the email list or liking its Facebook page. This is called call to action or CTA. Good SEO practices ensure you have a strong CTA, that is effective and works as intended.
  5. SEO is a proven way of making money off your online efforts, such as off your website. Filling your webpage with adverts is one thing, SEO is actually what tells you how to put ads the right way, and how to make sure that you get maximum revenue from ads and/or any other of your online efforts.
  6. SEO ensures that your website remains on top of Google’s SERP in the long run as well. As compared to traditional marketing efforts, SEO can prove to be extremely cost-effective over the years, and provide a better ROI than other methods of marketing.
  7. SEO strategies not only give more exposure to your website, they can also be immensely useful for your social media efforts, and enhancing the visibility and exposure of your social media presence such as your Facebook page, Twitter page, Youtube channel, etc. For instance with SEO, you could have your Youtube videos ranked – go viral even – very easily, and get a large number of views and subscriptions. These mediums can then become a part of your SEO strategy in the long run, by general referral traffic to your website.
  8. SEO allows you to measure the success (or failure) of your online marketing efforts. Coupled with stats and analytics, you can  easily view and analyze the success or failure of any and all your marketing efforts as well as how effective your SEO strategies really are.