Archive for July, 2011
Friday, July 29th, 2011
Chances are you’re in one of three categories regarding Google’s latest social network, Google+. You’re either:
- Banging at the gates of Google+ to get a prized invite,
- Already in Google+ but struggling to understand it, or
- Still clueless about the whole G+ ordeal. Aren’t Facebook and Twitter enough? Now Google throws this into the social media mix?
Right now, getting into the walls of Google+ is kind of like getting through an airport: it’s all hurry-up-and-wait time. You raced to get an invite, but now you’re sitting and twiddling your thumbs, waiting for users to arrive.
Most people still aren’t on Google+, and those that managed to get an invite still have no idea what to do with the thing. Circles? Sparks? Hangouts? The most common stream on G+ is “I have no idea what I’m doing on this thing.”
The good news for savvy businesses? You get to gain a jump on the competition by being an early adopter of G+. As fledgling Plus users slowly figure out their latest social media acquisition, you’ll one of the first up-and-running Plus users in the field.
Step One: Choose Your Profile Picture Wisely
Even more than Facebook or Twitter, finding a killer profile pic is essential on Google+. Your picture acts as your virtual calling card; it’s the first and the only thing G+ users see when they come across your name.
Google+ requires square-shaped avatars, so choose accordingly. Select a high-resolution image that will immediately grab G+ users’ attentions– but make sure it’s relevant to your business.
Step Two: Sort Out Your Circles
You know how you have one lump of people who “follow” or “like” you on Twitter and Facebook? That one lump is comprised of various interested parties: potential clients, colleagues in your field, or the three immediate family members you convinced to join your page when it was still in its infancy. Whatever you share goes out to the entire lump of people.
On G+, everything’s sorted out in separate circles, and you choose what you share amongst those circles. It’s kind of like having various virtual mailing lists for all of the people in your life. You can send an article you’ve written solely out to your colleagues or share a business special amongst your past clients. Create a VIP Club for your frequent customers or post pictures of your newborn that only your family can see.
Step Three: Invite People to Follow You
Google+ allows you a relatively lengthy introduction space, so use it wisely. Write an engaging introduction that invites people to follow you. G+ introductions also allow links, so be sure to link to your website and your various social media profiles. Also, make sure your page’s searchability is set as “Visible in Search” so people can find you on Google.
Step Four: Utilize Sparks
Sparks are essentially a live Google feed for something you’re interested in. For example, a “Movies” spark would keep you easily updated on movie reviews, upcoming films, or casting rumors. Utilize this for your business by easily following industry trends. For example, if you’re a content writing business like Copypress, you’d follow things like “SEO Copywriting,” “Social Media Marketing,” “Blogging,” etc. Then with the click of a “Share” button, you can easily share applicable links with one or more of your circles.
Since G+ is still brand new, you’re not competing with mega-businesses like you would on Twitter or Facebook. Jump in now and build your audience before the G+ waters get too crowded for you to stand out!
Image Source: Topgold via Flickr
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Article writing is the single most effective tactic for driving traffic to any website. Unfortunately, there are too many webmasters out there that place a greater importance on quantity than on quality. For every webmaster out there that focuses on writing quality content, there are at least a few who simply do keyword research and pump out as much content as possible to hit those keywords.
In the earlier days of Google, this was an effective strategy. However, things have changed and it is now more effective to spend time writing a few quality articles than it is to build a content farm out of mediocre articles. Low quality articles litter the internet, frustrate visitors and make the lives of legitimate website owners that much more difficult.
High quality articles are not written with the sole intention of hitting keywords. High quality articles are written with the reader in mind first. The best articles are those that are unique, well-written and backed by research. Visitors to your website can tell instantly whether or not the content is worth spending the time to read.
Here are four reasons why quality trumps quantity in the realm of article writing:
Quality Articles Provide Value to the Reader
By “value,” I’m referring to articles that readers find useful, interesting, entertaining or though-provoking. These articles reward website visitors for spending the time to read what you’ve written. This generates good will among your visitors and encourages repeat website visits. Every visitor that bookmarks your website is one less visitor that you have to earn through Google.
High quality articles also generate more natural links to your website. When people stumble upon well-written content, they are more likely to share that content with other people. This generates links on social media sites such as Facebook and on third party websites. Those links bring more direct traffic and help your site rank higher in search engines.
Let’s look at an example:
A 500 word article on the topic of wireless internet is way too short to fully explore such a wide-open subject. There’s nothing inherently wrong with short articles, but a 500 word article on “wireless internet” is highly unlikely to provide any real value to the reader. A better approach would be to drill down to a more specific topic and then thoroughly cover that topic.
Quality Articles Generate Trust
If you consistently provide your readers with useful information, your readers will come to trust you. Not only does this trust earn repeat visitors and more backlinks, but it also makes your readers more likely to listen to your recommendations. People who trust you are more likely to buy your products and click on your affiliate links.
But remember: trust is not earned in a day. Trust is earned over time by posting high quality articles again and again. No matter how many articles you publish every day, it takes time to develop a relationship with your visitors. That is why it is so important for you to always write high quality articles, even if it means a slower rate of production.
Quality Articles Last Longer
High quality articles last longer because they remain useful to your readers. A thorough “how-to” guide of some sort can last for years if the subject remains relevant. Once again, these articles encourage repeat visits to your website.
As an added bonus, high quality articles stick around longer in search engine results. When people share high quality articles over a long course of time, those articles slowly generate new links and maintain high rankings in search engines. Low quality articles eventually fall off the top page of Google and collect dust in the vast archives of the internet.
Google No Longer Rewards Content Farms
Google has actively stepped up its efforts to weed out obvious content farms from its search engine results. The recent Panda update was designed specifically for this reason. Google has always stated that its goal is to provide the most relevant and high quality search results possible for its users. Websites that simply pump out low quality content all day long do not provide searchers with the information they want.
The Panda update goes to show how important quality content is. Hate ‘em or love ‘em, you have to admit Google has a good handle on what kind of search results people like to see. If Google places greater importance on quality than on quantity, you can bet the people that use Google do as well. Besides, common sense tells us that people would rather find a few snippets useful information than a truck load of filler text.
by James Wilson
Friday, July 15th, 2011
The Internet is a really strange environment. No other business model has ever been so contradictory, so hypocritical, so confused. Here’s the problem.
For a website to rank well in any search engine and especially Google it must have links. Although there are many ranking factors at play, links are still key to getting organic traffic. However, the best links according to Google are natural links, that is, when another website chooses to link to your website or their own accord because they like your business. This is considered a “vote” in Google’s PageRank system.
But, if your site is new there is no way for anyone today to find out about it in the search engines. In the past people used to find new websites by searching web directories. Today everyone goes to Google (or one of the other SEs) first. So if you are not in the search index how do you get discovered to then win some natural links? It really is a catch 22 situation. And although Google loves natural links, to get anywhere in the Google you have to build your own links.
Link building is almost considered to be spam. It can be argued that every single link that you personally create with the sole purpose of boosting your site in the search engines is a form of spam. Even if you are contributing to a blog by joining the discussion or writing a guest post, deep down inside you know that you are there to get your links. Is this wrong? Many people think so. Is there an alternative? There are some, but not many.
Google is extremely strict on buying links. If you buy a link on a website just to boost your PageRank then Google will punish you and probably also frown severely on the site that sold you a link. So buying links is not an option as you could get stung and never recover.
So you need a link building strategy of some sort. Really all you can do is accept that from now on every link you get could be treated with mistrust by Google at some future date, because they could change their search algorithms further to reduce the amount of gaming that webmasters and SEOs do. But for now, here is a plan that mostly works, when done right.
First, use some good old fashioned favourites. List your site in all the free directories that are still active and have some good search presence. There a thousands of web directories out there and a vast majority are completely useless, free for all link farms disguised as a web directory, but there are some good ones still. Best way to find a directory that is liked by Google is to search Google. There is no point submitting your website to directories that are not in the Google index, this will do nothing for your SEO efforts.
Blog commenting is another simple link building method. Do not spam. Everyone hates spammers. Go for quality rather than quantity and go for discussion rather than random remarks. So find blogs in your area, or in totally different fields that interest you and join the discussion. Consider your website being linked as an additional extra, not the sole reason for you being there.
Guest blogging is one of the better new ways to build links. Communities such as MyBlogGuest.com bring professional writers, businessmen, bloggers and publishers together. Again, the links are an added bonus, the main reason to guest blog is market yourself and your business to others.
More traditional methods simply involve contacting other websites and asking if they would link. This is very hit and miss, but if you personalise your message you may get lucky. A friendly email praising their site and suggesting how a recent article you wrote would fit in well with their next blog post is one way to ask for a link. Or you could take the route of “please add me to your blogroll”.
Forums are another way to get links. Forum moderators are really hot on spammers these days, so again, like blog commenting, join a community, be a part of it, and then when the time is ripe, share something specific on your site that will add value to the conversation.
If you can get some links using these methods then you will get listed in Google and in time your rankings should increase. Continue to build a high quality site and hopefully people will start to talk about your business and link to you.
Do not forget social media today, this is the next big area and is still evolving. Some SEO pundits believe that in time social media will be as important as traditional links, although the volumes of user interaction will have to be much higher. Maybe 10,000 social media likes will be equal to 1 link on a PR5 website (for example).
Right, now you have a plan, get to work. Happy link building.
Jon Wade writes. He used to dig holes. For a while he moved bits of paper about on desks in some of the worlds biggest financial institutions. But now he writes. Mostly he writes for Shareholders Portal, but also blogs about SEO and Google too, because he finds it interesting and it fills in the time when the markets are a bit slow. SEO is not so much a hobby, more a chore, as there is nothing worse for a writer than having his words go unheard.
Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
Infographics are widely used today and you cannot open a newspaper, turn on a news channel or drive for long without bumping into one. Infographics are used widely online by media savvy businesses looking to build their brand identity and also because they are able to transfer a great deal of information using a graphic – they are much, much more than a simple picture.
We created Infographics Showcase a year ago to help with our clients’ link building and branding needs and it has been a wonderful tool for us. It has also lead to some infographic design work which has been a nice source of income for Big Oak Studios.
The format for an infographic is varied, but there are some common themes; they are very relevant plus how they render up the information to the user is easy to understand plus there is an added bonus of playing to a humorous aspect of the information or context.
Infographics are also widely shared – instead of people sharing a news article or blog post, it is simpler to share the infographic. The propensity to be shared is what makes an infographic such an excellent tool for SEO – not only are they highly relevant and easy to understand, but they create a lot of links by being shared or adopted by other users.
Infographics lend themselves to almost any situation; if you have even the most convoluted business model or idea, you can convey the fundamental features and benefits effectively using an infographic. An online storage company, Mozy.com, had a problem in getting people to understand how much data storage was provided by a petabyte. Many users are familiar with a gigabyte, but they do this by equating what a gigabit of data actually represents – for those downloading video, a gigabyte is a couple of episodes of a favorite TV show, or 300 to 350 songs on an iPod. The problem is consumers don’t have a conception of a terabyte (1024 GB), and the idea of a petabyte (1024 TB) is beyond any day-to-day equative understanding. How much data is represented by a petabyte falls into focus when you are told that it equals the information stored in 20 million 4-drawer filing cabinets though.
Infographics do take a lot of time to design because the different strands of information need to be drawn together. The designer needs to have a good view of the “big picture” and be able to handle large amounts of information as well as understand how the target audience is looking at the world. Companies using infographics tend to start off with small examples and work up from there; there is a degree of trial and error to find the right format, the right level of information to pitch at readers and the overall impact and feedback they generate for the business. You should not lose sight of the fact you are using an infographic for a specific set of business reasons – link backs, sharing of information, delivering relevant information to increase consumer awareness of you and your products/services or indeed, sales conversions.
Touching on the link backs for SEO purposes; if you create an infographic then you should be credited as the owner of the work. This means including your copyright mark (© 2010) and the link to your own website together with the small print stating the infographic can be shared but with attribution. This is also a good time to look at whether you have a company logo or not, because you should be aligning your brand identity with the infographic.