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Rand Fishkin Speaks on Common SEO Myths We’ve All Fallen For

Last night I heard one of my favorite SEO speakers, Rand Fishkin speak (he has a personal blog!). I love his insights because it’s  not the same tired or outdated advice about SEO. He likes to bust SEO myths. I admit to buying into every myth he talked about at some point in my learning. I’m still wondering about a few.

The premise of Rand’s tips are that giving up your misconceptions can free you to meet your goals (sometimes the solution is easier than you might think).  This applies in life too.

Here are 5 myths which are my notes from the evening.

Myth #1: It’s always best to rank first on Google for your keyword phrases.
People used to click on the top result in Google first. We’ve gotten more sophisticated. Now we look at many elements before clicking. Things like: what the text (snippet) says, the source (PDFs  usually kill the click), if there are reviews/ratings next to the listing, and images. That means we have started looking for the best result, not necessarily the first or easiest one.

This is good news! You can outplay the competition you can’t outrank by making your listings look more attractive to searchers.  Poor quality listings can cost you trust, which translates into less clicks and traffic.

Myth #2: Testing is the best way to increase your conversion rates.
Conventional wisdom says to test elements of your website to see what converts best. You might test  your buttons, your text, word or image placement, or your call to action. Rand says another approach is to make your site faster. This is esp. true for ecommerce sites like REI (the link gives suggestions on how to improve your site’s speed) who saw double digits increases in sales by making their shopping cart and product pages 1.5 seconds faster.

You can also create higher quality content – because no one will convert if they’re unimpressed with your site. One way SEOmoz applied this is they interviewed segments of their audience to find out what motivates them to purchase and what objections they had to overcome. Then they redesigned their sales page to reflect what they learned. They addressed the common questions and motivations from their potential and current customers. The changes translated into an extra million bucks in sales in a year.

And last, be sure to fix errors on your site. They create friction with people, therefore with Google.  This includes fixing things like 404 errors.

Myth #3: Google’s Keyword Tool is the best tool for doing keyword research.
Rand made a great point that Google Keyword tool isn’t always useful because it shows historic data not what’s hot now. Google Search Suggest is more current (start typing a search into Google and it fills in suggestions of words to add to your search, based on what others are searching for).

My suggestion is to build your site around solid historical keywords in your niche. Use trending keywords to create content such as press releases, blog posts, or video, Google+ updates, Facebook posts, and tweets.

Other tools that help: Topsy and PopURLs. These tools can help you predict search demand before or as it happens based on social media shares.

Need more inspiration for current content? Search Google News by topic and look at the recent headlines in your industry. Create content around those themes. Then you can take advantage of Google’s reward for fresh, new content. This is what I call “riding the wave” (and not trying to create your own wave, which is much harder).

Myth #4: You should publish your best content on your own website.
Sites such as Slideshare or YouTube have instant trust and recognition with searchers. Sometimes it’s more effective to put your content on a more powerful or known domain than your own. That’s another reason it’s a good idea to actively communicate on several social media sites.

I learned this lesson when I let Mashable publish our Pinterest infographic first, and not putting it on our Pinterest marketing blog. It essentially launched our site which was new with almost no traffic.

Myth #5: When you post content doesn’t matter.
When you post something matters too, because there’s a better chance of people seeing it if it’s posted when most of your audience is awake and online. SEOmoz bought FollowerWonk a tool that shows you when your Twitter followers are online. (I love to use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios for media contacts.) Since it’s unlikely people are online all day, you can post your tweets more than once, at peak times.

Favorite thought of the evening: Don’t build a website, build a brand. Later when I asked how affiliates can compete in search. He looked at my name tag and said they have to build their own brand too — like Newspapergrl.

Google is constantly tweaking how they rank websites. What are they trying to do? Rand says Google’s goal: to show brands that people will love and that reflect positively on the niche. Yep, it’s less about keywords and more about being known and liked. Just like in life (read the book The Likeability Factor for more on how important it is to be likeable).

That’s why hiring an SEO firm can sometimes hurt you. Many tend to buy into these myths. Or they really can’t know your brand well enough to create high quality content that will get shared. Most focus only on keywords and rankings. That leads to cheap work like writing poor quality articles with keyword phrases peppered in them. Or neglecting to look at site speed or other factors that affect rankings. Many never even discuss these factors. Having someone on staff who knows your brand and works for it exclusively is a huge benefit.

Do you have any SEO myths you’d like to bust?

 

Online PR Link Love – Press Release Edition June 8, 2012

Nothing could eclipse the big news this week that the company I work for, OrangeSoda was recently bought by Deluxe Corp.

Press Releases:

  • I found a local newswire service that puts your press release online, plus sends it to local media via email. It’s affordable. I’m going to test it out soon.
    Note: my favorite Utah PR service is Utah News Source. I’ve used it for years with great results. But it only covers Utah so I’m testing this one.
  • PRWeb has the best deal I’ve seen in a long time. Try their press release distribution (for 1st timers) for 25% off the regular price. Hurry though, the offer only lasts until June 10th.

Social Media

SEO

  • How to Perform the World’s Greatest SEO Audit. With tools and explanations.

And a bonus link about how women in the workplace are not your wife, and while well-meaning, treating us in that way is not helpful. Be sure to read the comments, that’s where it gets fun.

Utah Small Businesses: Danny Sullivan to Speak about Search Engine Marketing

A prominent speaker and authority in search engine marketing is coming to Utah to speak next week.

Image representing Danny Sullivan as depicted ...

Image by Danny Sullivan on Flickr via CrunchBase

It’s Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land. If you’re a small business or want to learn more about online marketing, you should attend.

Social networking is great for building brands and can lead to sales, but when you are at the top of search engines for key terms relating to your business you can capture people who are ready to buy. I believe both are important.

Danny is coming as part of SLCSEM a group of people in Salt Lake interested in search engine marketing. So far the events have been very high quality and worth attending. There’s an hour or so of networking and then the presentation. Last time the food rocked too.

State of Search Marketing with Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land
Day/Time: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM (MT)
Place: 209 E 500 S (the Leonardo – formerly the Salt Lake City main library, right next to the new library)
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Sign up here: http://slcsem-feb2012.eventbrite.com

Related: Make it a day of learning from the best. Alan Hall is speaking at a free event the same day called The Profit Experts Symposium.

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Utah Social Media Event Features Speakers from Sundance and Bing

It’s a big week in Utah for social media and the outdoor industry. There are 2 social media events and 2 social media conferences on Wed., January 18th. The Outdoor Retailer show is also going on.

I’m going to Shift Summit and going to try to also make it to the tail end of the SLC Social Media Club meeting.  (Gabrielle Blair of the amazing Design Mom blog is coming over from ALT to speak at Shift).

Here are the events taking place this week:

  1. ALT  runs Jan. 18-21. It’s huge for design/mom/craft bloggers.
  2. Then there’s Social Commerce on January 18th from 6:30 to 8:30.
  3. The Social Media Club (SLCSEM) is meeting at the Leanardo on January 18th 6-9pm.

For the SLCSEM event Bing, Sundance, SEO.com, and SLCSEM.org are speaking about video search. It features speakers from Bing and Sundance.

Topics:

  • Video search engine optimization
  • Why search engines are changing to videos and images

When: Wed. Jan. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City, Utah (the old Salt Lake City library building that has been turned into a museum of sorts)

I didn’t know this but Bing, (owned by Microsoft) controls about 30% of the search engine market and a major sponsor of Sundance.

More info and register for the Salt Lake City Social Media Club event here. Unfortunately it says to get on the waiting list. When I tried signing up last week the site wasn’t working and I finally gave up). Too bad because I just got the press release a few moments ago.

Hope to see you at both events!

7 Social SEO Tips from Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz

I recently heard Rand Fishkin from SEOMoz talk about how social influences search. He also recently wrote about how Twitter influences rankings.

Here are 7 Social SEO Tips from SEOMoz:

  1. Infographics are still effective for SEO (look at this score for a web site called “Medical Coding and Billing” on Mashable). Develop your own powerful network for sharing them (or let an influencers put it on their blog. They get the social and you get the link juice). Use the tineye plugin to see who has published your infographic. Make a list. Grease the wheels by thanking those people, connecting with them, letting them know about new content they might be interested in/share with others. I also recommend that you check out the Social Buzz Club.
  2. Google draws from Quora, Facebook (indirectly), LinkedIn, Yahoo 360, Twitter and other social networks to rank your influence. So being active on these sites could benefit you.
  3. Find influencers in your industry by using FollwerWonk (Twitter) which sorts by # of followers, search Google profiles (sorted by author authority), LinkedIn (search by region or topic and look at # of connections). These are the people you should build relationships with and hope will share your content.
  4. Develop a user-generated content strategy. Here’s a great example – Sugarrae interviews experts in link building. She asks everyone in her network for the questions and then poses those questions for experts to answer. Could you find and interview experts in your niche? Start by asking what people really want to know, then provide the answers.
  5. Use bit.ly and WhentoTweet to fine see what content works for your audience and when to tweet it. You can find the best content in your niche, re-write the headlines and add a link.
  6. For Facebook, send a photographer to your events and tag everyone who was there on Facebook. They have to “like” your page to comment on the photo.
  7. What about videos influence on SEO? After all, Google owns YouTube. Rand asserts that video doesn’t influence rankings but it’s a good idea to embed video on your site and use the video sitemap for Google indexing. Videos can be great for traffic. They often get more clicks than regular search results, even if they are further down on the list.

Have you tried any of these tactics and found them to have an impact on your rankings?

The SEO Value of a Dedicated Server

When it comes to SEO, there are hundreds of elements that come into play when search engine algorithms determine rankings. From Title tags to anchor text rich links, the tactics are many and varied.

However, one element of the ranking algorithm that is often overlooked is the server on which your site is hosted.

Believe it or not, the type of server you host your website on can have an impact on your rankings. While it isn’t the most important element, when you are targeting a competitive niche every little bit helps.

When it comes to servers, you have 3 main options:

  1. Shared Hosting – Your site is on one server with dozens or hundreds of other sites, usually on the same IP address. This is the least favorable option from an SEO standpoint.
  2. VPS, or Virtual Private Server – Your site is hosted on a server with other sites, but your IP address is unique. A much better option than shared hosting, but still not the best.
  3. Dedicated Servers – Your site is on its very own server, with a unique IP address. The best way to go, for many reasons.

Out of the 3 main set-ups, Dedicated Servers are the best from an SEO point of view. Why?

For one, it essentially guarantees that your website won’t suffer from any “bad neighborhood” penalties from being on the same IP address as potentially low quality or spammy sites. A dedicated server also tends to provide better up-time and much faster page load speeds, all of which are known elements of Google’s ranking algorithm.

A dedicated server is also much more secure, since you have complete control over what sites, programs and code go on your server. If your company deals with sensitive data such as customer credit card information or social security numbers collected through your website, you can’t afford to not be on a dedicated hosting account.

Though dedicated servers aren’t the least expensive web hosting option, they are absolutely worth every penny…consider it an investment in your business’s future.

This is a guest post from Sam McRoberts is the CEO of VUDU Marketing, a Utah SEO company. He has been involved with online marketing since 1999 and has worked with hundreds of clients, from small local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Sam was compensated for this post, but the views and opinions on the topic are his own.

SEO Company Introduces Toilet Paper Rationing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Inflation and cost cutting measures cause company to urge employees to save money through a variety of initiatives.

Silicon Valley (NOT) April 1, 2011 –Due to rising inflation and the desire to economize, SEO startup SEOCause has introduced toilet paper rationing.

The company notes that their work force is made up of hundreds of college-age males who eat a lot of food. They have noticed the number of rolls of toilet paper used per day has dramatically increased as the company has grown. Combined with the rising cost of commodities such as cotton, it was time to make some changes.

“I made a trip to Walmart last week and the supplies that were purchased were gone in about 3 days (the supplies should have lasted at least one to two weeks). For both productivity and cost savings, effective immediately, I’m only buying toilet paper every two weeks,” said the company purchaser.

Walmart CEO Bill Simon recently stated that American consumers could face “serious” inflation in the coming months for clothing, food and other products, including cotton.

“I’ll restock supplies tomorrow. They need to last two weeks this time or you’ll be stuck bringing your own toilet paper or going to nearby businesses to use the facilities,” she noted. “Let’s all work together to make the supplies last.” As a guide employees were told to count the number of squares used and to use no more than 5 squares per visit. To increase productivity, she also suggested employees wait until their lunch break to use the restroom.

Employees were encouraged to “be green” and watch the resources used, including water usage. They were urged to keep flushing to a minimum and not to let the faucet run while washing their hands. There will be a drawing with prizes such as candy bars from the Dollar Store  to reward those who comply.

“While we try to provide free pizza on occasion (limit of 2 slices each) and a work casual environment, we are not Silicon Valley,” noted Brent Seed. “Companies there go overboard. Besides department lunches, Cisco has a cafeteria, massages and yoga classes! Startups have cupboards full of pop-tarts! They take their employees go-kart racing and bowling.” It’s ridiculous, he notes. “On their dual-income salaries they could save a lot of money and offset those costs better. It’s not our job to feed and clothe you, your wife, or your 4 kids trying to live on $30k per year.”

In individual department meetings, managers will review the policy and demonstrate the proper amount allowable. Employees will be required to record and report the number of squares used per day on a shared spreadsheet. If supplies run out too early, employees will be asked to bring rolls from home.

As for employee morale? It’s in the toilet.

———————–

Thanks to my friend Jason at Jibberjobber and Dilbert for the inspiration. If you got laid off from a job at any point, you’ll appreciate his new service for job seekers (be sure to read his brilliant press release). Oh, and HAPPY APRIL FOOLS to economizers and SEO companies everywhere!

Affiliate Summit Day 2: Focus on SEO




The theme of day 2 at Affiliate Summit was SEO. All sessions all day. And despite dancing the night away and getting 3 hours of sleep, I never got bored.

Meeting My SEO Heroes

When I went to the bloggers lounge I saw a laptop in front of me with a screensaver that said, “Bruce Clay, Inc” Ah, an SEO legend. So I asked the obvious, “are you Bruce Clay?” And he was. So I got to interview him about local search (blog post coming later). I’m trying not to show my braces, despite comments that they make me look younger and sexier (I have tweeted how I paid for them by doing blogger outreach for my orthodontist).

I also got to meet Wil Reynolds who’s been a favorite from past Affiliate Summits. He looked at my name tag and recognized my name because I blogged about his presentation in 2006. I thanked him for sharing his expertise by giving him some killer anchor text (search engine optimization). Four years later he thanked me back. Apparently, he remembers and appreciated the link. He told me it really helped him out. Despite the earned reputation that SEOs don’t shave (the men or the women!), have poor social skills, and love to work in the dark, it’s not all true. SEOs can be classy!

DO NOT Stick Out

Besides the growing prominence of local search results, the other theme was how when it comes to SEO, you want to be like the crowd. You do not want to be unique. You do not want to stand out. Instead, you want to blend in with everyone else who’s ranking well in your industry. Otherwise you could be flagged for having an unnatural link profile.

How do you know if you have an unnatural link profile? Wil says Google Webmaster Tools can help. They have a new alert that will tell you if Google thinks your links profile look suspect.

It’s normal for your brand name and domain name to rank highest. It’s NOT natural if most of your links have the exact same anchor text. So your links are for you or your company name that’s normal (for me “Newspapergrl”) But if most of my links say “online pr” it looks like you gamed the system (and you probably did). It’s unnatural and you’ll lose ranking. I better check mine!

Quality Over Quantity (Sorry SEO Companies!)

Rather than building a large quantity of low quality links, focus on getting a link from an authority site. This can be a problem for SEO companies who focus on building directory links and low quality article marketing that will never get shared or published elsewhere. I could argue that for local business SEO it may work only because you’re so niched that there isn’t as much competition. Or, less local businesses do SEO.

What I’m saying is if you get on the home page of USAToday or a huge blog in your industry, that can be better than hundreds of junk links. And it won’t matter what the anchor text they use to link to you. You’ll get trust. And once you have trust everything you write will have more value. Then you can add keyword (aka anchor text) links.

Next I’ll write about SEO content creation to help you land some quality links.

Business Wire Press Release Case Study

I’ve had some strong results with Business Wire recently that highlight how capitalizing on trends is so effective. In both examples (next one coming soon) it was taking something that was already being talked about and piggybacked on it by sending out a press release while the issue is still hot.

Here is one of the press release case studies from OrangeSoda

Here’s the background story. A competitor in the local search space ReachLocal had just gone public. This is big news in the industry. OrangeSoda wrote a series of blog posts about ReachLocal’s IPO. It’s also a hot topic because Google had also shown interest in the industry. As the post states Google  reportedly offered “over $500 million for Yelp” and “a decent volume of smaller acquisitions and investments by consolidators like Deluxe, AOL, IAC, and YPG/Canpages.”

Right during all of this OrangeSoda sent out a press release on Business Wire about a new product release. It mentioned another fact that was big news – that OrangeSoda is now partnering to bring SEO services to local newspaper advertisers. That alone was a big story and got coverage in some blogs like Search Engine Strategies.

Now for the results (incredible)

Used with permission, here are the results:

  • Over 200 sites and publications picked up the release so far
  • Over 20,911 headline views and 1,533 full views.
  • There have also been 84 links.
  • 125 Tweets mentioning OrangeSoda and the press release (from both the Business Wire web site and bit.ly). This is how I found out about the story even though I work there.
  • 40%  increased traffic to orangesoda.com (as of Thursday after the release).
  • 166%  increased traffic to our blog (as of Thursday).

They continue to see increased traffic because of the press release.

Lessons Learned:

For maximum exposure time your news around what’s happening in your industry right now.

Write your press release in conversational or easy-to-understand terms. I didn’t write it but that’s the way I like press releases to read – like a story – not full of PR jargon.

You can get incredible results in terms of traffic, social mentions and links to your web site with a well-timed press release.

Online PR Book and Next Case Study

I spend an entire chapter talking about the importance of capitalizing on trends in my book, I Need a Killer Press Release, Now What??? and show you what tools I use to find trends in my Online PR Book. I also go over promoting your news online through social networks.

OrangeSoda really demonstrated how this works. In my next post I’ll talk about one of my clients who got some great print media and TV exposure for her book with a single press release. She had never sent a press release before but when the topic of adoption hit the news, she knew she needed to.

Blogging Tip: Use Descriptive Post Titles

When I coach clients at OrangeSoda one of the things I tell them is to be specific. A part of that advice is to use a descriptive title for your blog post. Many times people use either clever or generic titles. General titles are boring. Clever titles often lose people. Read the title of your blog post to yourself. If it could apply to almost any topic or any business, then you need to re-write it.

Search engines don’t take people to the home page of your blog every time. They deliver information out of context. This is good because if someone is searching for a hotel in Connecticut to spend Valentine’s Day then your blog post might pop up. They type in “city, Connecticut hotel” and hopefully your blog post shows up high on the list, they find you and give you a call. I’ve seen blog posts about a business come up higher than the official web site for the business.

Each blog post is its own entry into search engines — its own web page. Some people write as if we know who they are and what they do. Chances are we don’t. And that we don’t care enough to find out (unless we have or you give us a reason to).

Why is it important to use descriptive blog post titles?

  • A descriptive blog post title is good for SEO.
    Search engines try to categorize information for searchers who are looking for information. If your title is too vague then a search engine may not know what it’s about. They might index it incorrectly (or not at all). The title of your blog post is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT aspects of blogging when it comes to SEO. Don’t ruin the chance to get more targeted information into search engines by writing a descriptive title to your blog posts.
  • A descriptive blog post title tells the reader what they are going to learn about.
    Readers want to know what they’re getting and make split second decisions on what to read. If you make them think too hard then you’ve probably lost them. Don’t just tell us what it’s about – sell it a little. Your goal is to make people want to keep reading. The more they read the higher the chances are that they will care or trust you enough to call you, comment, or participate in some way. And if they do that, chances are higher that they’ll become a customer, regular reader, etc.
  • A descriptive blog post title helps people.
    When you write descriptive blog post titles it helps people get what they are looking for. They appreciate that. Most likely they are not reading your blog post, they are skimming over it to see if there’s any reason for them to read more. If you tell them what they’re going to get up front, they can judge if they found what they were looking for. Don’t make us hunt for it. Cut down on frustration and time people must spend to figure out what your blog post is about by saying it up front in the title.

Example of a Vague Blog Post Title:

This blog post is titled: It’s Not Too Late!

If you read that you’re first question is – not too late for what? To learn to play the violin? To tell that special someone we love them? To lose 20 lbs. before the next class reunion?

After reading further I found out that the blog is a local business – a hotel. It’s based in Connecticut and it’s called Interlaken – at least that’s what I think. Nothing on the blog really tells me who they are – I’m unsure if the blog is about things you can do in a certain city or the name of the hotel. But I’ll assume it’s the name of the hotel.

The first paragraph is vague too: Valentine’s weekend is here, and we do have a few rooms still available, so no worries – just give us a call and we can still take care of you!  (1-800-222-2909).

New Version of the Blog Post

Here’s the new title: It’s Not Too Late to Plan a Romantic Valentine’s Day Getaway in __ Connecticut

Valentine’s weekend is almost here. If you live near by or are visiting (city name) Connecticut we invite you to stop by the Interlaken hotel. Not only do we still have some rooms available, we have many Valentine’s Day packages for a last minute getaway. Surprise the person you love, celebrate and spend time together. Just give us a call — and we will take care of you!  (1-800-222-2909).

P.S. My next tip would be – use paragraphs in your blog posts! and Links! But that’s another blogging tip. This one is just about the title.

Have any examples of great blog post titles? Please put them in the comments (along with a link).