Google Sets New Record with 40 February Algorithm Changes

Google’s monthly series on algorithm changes set a record in February – reporting 40 new changes. “Each individual change is subtle and important,” said Google, “and over time they add up to a radically improved search engine.” By the end of 2012, Google is expected to make over 500 changes to its algorithm.

Several of the changes appear to be rolling updates including tweaks to the Freshness Algorithm and Google Panda. Notably, Google has disabled several query classifiers for link and freshness evaluation.

Here are some highlights from the update:

  • One stand out February tweak is the Link Evaluation change. Notably, Google said, “We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years.” With the heavy emphasis on link-building in many SEO firms, it will be interesting to see if the effects of this change are noticeable.
  • This one could help local businesses. Improved local results is a new system that Google claims is “better able to detect when both queries and documents are local to the user.”
  • This one might be of interest for online stores with foreign customers. The international launch of Shopping Rich Snippets helps you to see product prices, availability, rating and reviews, to more quickly help you find the products you need. You can provide the info to Google that shows up in your snippets through merchant center feeds. Previously available in only US, Japan and Germany.
  • Disabling of two old fresh query classifiers. Looks like Google is continually placing an emphasis on improving the freshness of content.
  • And again. A freshness update, codenamed “news deserving score” uses online signals to detect current topics spiking in popularity.
  • For the world traveler. Google made improvements to try to help users get more accurate flight results. Originally created in December, the feature was developed to help users find the most useful online travel resources. 

Check out our earlier post on Google’s algorithm updates in 2012. 

The Klik Marketing Blog is your source for Charlotte SEO and Small Business topics. It is written by Klik Marketing founder and President Eric Fransen. Eric has been involved with the Internet Marketing industry since the late 1990’s.

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Google’s Search, Plus Your World And What It Means For SEO

Google’s New “Search, Plus Your World” And What It Means For Your SEO Campaign

What Is “Search, Plus Your World”?

We already know from Gmail advertisements that Google watches our every move. 

Now, Google is inviting us to check out Search, Plus Your World, which tracks your actions to provide a more personalized search experience. If you are already using Google’s social network, Google+, your search results will automatically be personalized while signed in. If not, you can upgrade to Google+ to get this search experience.

Google’s personalized search uses your web history – what you ended up clicking on and where you spent the most time – to place your previous search results higher up the next time you go searching. Google notes that “searches completed while Web History is paused won’t influence your search results.”

Connect with Klik Marketing on Google + 

However, Google still allows you to switch on and off your personalized results.

             This Icon In The Upper Right Hand Corner Means That You Are Viewing Personal Results

               This Icon Means That Personal Results Are Hidden

So far, however, people aren’t reporting drastic changes between their general and personal search results unless they have done some serious Google research on a topic in the past. The one big difference is the appearance of Google+ results in the SERPs.

How Can I Leverage My Google + Account For SEO?

Simple – do what you can to get more +1’s. Google+ is no doubt Google’s push to stake its claim in the online world of social networking. But it’s also a way Google can rank your site based on user-generated content.

It’s time to get on board the Google+ train for the sake of your company’s ranking within the organic search results. SEOMoz CEO Rand Fishkin and some other SEO geeks recently tried an experiment where they asked lots of people to +1 a site. They successfully got the site from 16th rank to 6th in no time. (Drag your mouse immediately to the right of a url in the Google SERPs to see the +1 button appear.)

Remember, Google owns the search market, and they have the control over how Google+ will influence the results. And so far, it looks like they are placing a good bit of importance on their social network in the SERPs.  

Google+ In Search Results- The blogosphere is lighting up with instances of Google placing Google+ results over relevancy in the organic search results pages. Check out this post from Search Engine Land for some examples.

Others are simply remarking that they’ve noticed a lot more Google+ results appearing from people they’ve put in their “circles” in their organic search results. Not surprising considering that Google said “relevant Google+ posts and comments that have been shared with you will now appear in your search results.” What does this mean? Type in your friend’s name and you’ll actually get the “John Doe” that you know, not some other guy. Images search will also include pictures from your friends and Picasa albums.

Google+1 For Human Relevance – Google+ could help Google overcome a big obstacle in the current search algorithm. It has been trying to develop a crawl bot that can determine the relevance and quality of a website. The Google+1 button allows users to do that work for them.

Instead of relying solely on keywords and backlinks, humans can tell Google which sites are most important with the single click of a button.

So, what to do? Get a Google +1 Button on your website landing pages. Try to post interesting content on your Google+ page to get others to +1 you. Make +1 profile connections by adding people to your “circles.” 

Connect with Klik Marketing on Google + 

The Klik Marketing Blog is your source for Charlotte SEO and Small Business topics. It is written by Klik Marketing founder and President Eric Fransen. Eric has been involved with the Internet Marketing industry since the late 1990’s.

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Is Google Playing By Its Own Rules?

As a small business, you are looking for the biggest bang for your buck. In SEO that translates to the most sales per dollar you hand over to your SEO consultant. Will Reynolds, founder of SEER interactive, recently blogged about how Google has turned the SEO “good guys” into “bad guys” by punishing them for spending money on “white hat” strategies.

How? By giving sites that buy lots of low-quality links the top spots in the search results pages. In doing this, Google is choosing not to reward sites that focus on quality content and creating a great user experience (what Google tells us we should do). Thus, Google is encouraging sites to do SEO one way, and rewarding those who do exactly the opposite. 

This month I wrote a blog about the importance of content marketing. It’s important that I note this isn’t a service that is offered by most SEO firms. That’s because it takes creative effort and can only be done by someone who has a marketing edge. These types of folks aren’t necessarily the ones running SEO companies.

Instead, it’s IT-savvy, html coding geeks that are plugging in meta data and pitching websites for we’ll-give-you-content-in-exchange-for-a-link deals.

And they’re smart for doing so.

As Reynolds shows with charts, sites with lengthy, but low-quality backlink profiles still fare better than blogs with lots of subscribers, lots of Twitter activity and sites that engage on Google+. This, he says, means that Google is “ ‘letting’ the bad guys rank, which only gets them more clients, and pollutes more of the web with crappy sites that have over aggressively linked.”

Here’s how we break this down at Klik Marketing. From my experience I would say the top four SEO activities that produce the quickest results are:

  1. Placing optimal keywords in the title tags
  2. Building back-links
  3. SEO-minded content
  4. Optimizing backlink anchor text to match keywords on the pages to which they link

Professional, quality content makes the user happy and can also be helpful for a website’s SEO campaign. Here’s the problem for Google: a search engine can’t evaluate whether or not content is quality in the same way humans can. It can only use an algorithm designed to try to be intuitive enough to try to guess the level of quality. So the SEO activities in the list above, like correct keyword density and anchor text, end up being the focus of many SEO campaigns.

The problem with stopping at quick fixes to try to rank higher in the search engines is that you haven’t stopped to think about what your visitors will think of your site once they arrive. If it appears “spammy” or like a machine wrote it, they aren’t likely to stick around. Traffic is half the story, conversion rates are the other.

The bottom line: Reynolds is right to acknowledge that Google is contradicting itself by rewarding sites using tactics it explicitly tells us not to use.

However, we shouldn’t be getting mad when what Google is telling is just plain common sense. Yes, rankings are the first thing we should be concerned with, but once we use strategy to get our sites ranked high, we shift focus to our branding, what others are saying about us online (social media) and providing quality content that make our visitors happy. That means a focus on content quality. After all, SEO is really all about turning visitors into customers.

And we should also not forget that Google is continually updating its algorithm. It’s possible that Google will eventually be able to think of better ways to match how it ranks websites in the search results to its own advice.

The Klik Marketing Blog is your source for Charlotte SEO and Small Business topics. It is written by Klik Marketing founder and President Eric Fransen. Eric has been involved with the Internet Marketing industry since the late 1990’s.

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New Report Shows SEO, Blogging, Social Media’s Big Return on Investment

Over 6,000 people (including Klik Marketing!) Thursday attended a webinar on The State of Inbound Marketing in 2012. Hosted by HubSpot’s CMO Mike Volpe and Inbound Marketing Manager Melissa Miller, the session outlined findings on “permission-centric” inbound marketing channels from a survey of North American marketing professionals conducted in January.

The HubSpot report reveals some serious advantages of spending more of our budgets on inbound marketing. Not only are inbound marketing leads less expensive, they are also more likely to convert to a sale:

  • Average cost per lead for inbound marketing-dominated businesses: $135 dollars. Meanwhile, the average cost for business primarily using outbound marketing rang in at $346 dollars per lead!
  • 89% of marketing professionals say that they will either maintain or increase their budget for inbound marketing this year
  • 47% of respondents said they will increase their marketing budgets. Of those, over half said this was because of their past success with inbound strategies.
  • Of those not planning on increasing their inbound budgets, 62% said it was because of the bad economy and 21% cited a change in management. Only 4% said it was due to past success with outbound strategies.
  • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads only close the sale 1.7% of the time.

 “Even the people not increasing their spending on inbound, there are other factors driving it,” noted Mike. Melissa and Mike let us in on some interesting quotes from the respondents regarding outbound marketing failures. One individual had zero return on an outbound marketing campaign.

“This past year we spent a few hundred dollars on a door hanger marketing campaign, we got zero response.”A small professional services business

Another said that the worst mistake his company made was attending trade shows which provided no return on investment. On the other hand, a marketing professional at a manufacturing company raved about the benefits of social media and blogging.

“The best thing we’ve done is embrace social media, establish a blog and convince the ownership to embrace inbound marketing.” – Manufacturing company

Small businesses, defined in the report as having 1-5 employees, said that they planned to spend a whopping 43% of their lead generation budgets on inbound marketing.  

 “Small businesses are leveraging inbound budgets more than large businesses,” said Melissa. Large businesses plan to spend only 21% of their budgets on inbound marketing.

Mike added that if you want the most efficient marketing budget, you should focus on inbound and ROI. But as your business grows, you will start to have other objectives, like branding, that might require other outbound media channels.  

Blogging and Social Media

The webinar emphasized the strengths of blogging and social media as part of an inbound marketing campaign. In the survey data, blogs were most frequently cited as having a below average cost per lead. 

In the past four years, businesses have more than doubled their spending on blogging and social media. The HubSpot report noted a correlation between the frequency of blogging and return.  

 “The most successful category is those who blog multiple times a day,” said Melissa. 92% of companies that blog several times a day reported acquiring a new customer because of their blog. A surprising 25% of respondents said that their blog was “critical” to their business and 81% said that they viewed their blog as being “useful” or better.

Melissa and Mike acknowledged that though social media generates leads, it should be judged for appropriateness in relation to the industry. For example, one marketing professional said that he didn’t target social media because his client sells expensive software to banks, and those bankers don’t spend a lot of time on social media sites.

Generating great blog content isn’t easy, said Mike. The biggest problem for companies starting a blog is that they don’t know what to write about. One of the easiest ways to get good ideas is to consider the type of questions you are getting from leads and customers on a regular basis. Plus, the blogs will get more traffic because they are addressing keywords for which users are already searching.

Mike told webinar attendees that blogging is difficult, but that we should be glad it is.

“The more content the better. No one said that these things are easy. But we did say it works. The reason why it works is because not everyone can figure out how to do it.”

If everyone knew how to blog well, Mike added, “The entire internet would be flooded with this kind of stuff.” This gives us an advantage in using this strategy proven to convert leads into customers.  

The HubSpot hosts also said blogs should be integrated with social media to be effective.

“It’s important to remember that a lot of these techniques tie into each other,” said Mike. “A lot of the effectiveness [HubSpot has] had with social media is because we have a strong blog to support that social presence.”

During a question and answer session, Mike and Melissa responded to Twitter comments asking how to effectively use a blog to increase leads and sales. Mike said that blogging “gives you great content to use within social media.” It also helps to attract more people to your website through SEO by creating content with keywords, and attracts links with relevant content. The effectiveness of your blog can be measured by the number of page views and inbound links for each of the articles you write.  

Blogging Musts:

  • Include a call to action at the end of every blog. Point people to a lead generation form
  • Share blog content on social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Klik Marketing’s team includes SEO professionals and copywriters who can effectively manage your blogging and social media needs. Request an SEO Quote Today!

The Klik Blog is written by Klik Marketing founder and President Eric Fransen. Eric has been involved with the Internet Marketing industry since the late 1990’s.

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Small Business SEO – 6 SEO Tips for Local Optimization

A big part of small business SEO is local search optimization. The first step is providing search engines with information about your geographic location. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Add Company Address & Phone Number To Footer
    Adding your contact information to a footer that appears on every page lets search engines index your site for local search. Also, where natural, include the city’s name a few times in-text and in title tags.
     
  2. Add Your Company To Local Directories
    Look up industry specific directories or umbrella organizations that might be interested in listing your services. As a small business, it is especially important that you are listed in all local business or industry directories.
     
  3. Find and Target Local Exact Match Keyword Phrases
    If your city is large enough, many users will type in what they are looking for plus the name of the city where they are trying to find it. Use keyword tools to find and target complete keyword phrases with your city’s name in them. For example “Boston car repair shops” or “Atlanta salons.” Don’t forget to try searching for city abbreviations as well. Google Insights has a filter function where you can narrow search by city and state, though many results do not have enough search volume to return results.
     
  4. Add Company to Search Engine’s Local Listings
    Getting on Google Places, Yahoo!, Bing and Yelp’s local directories should be at the top of your list. Also, because of the rise of blended search (SERPs including a mix of video, images and news) make sure to add photos to your local profile. Ask your satisfied customers, especially those who are repeats, to leave you a review on one of the above listings. Your business will rank higher if it has more positive rankings.
     
  5. Add Company to Local Business Listings on LinkedIn
    It’s free. LinkedIn is considered one of the most important professional businesses databases online. Add your site by clicking here. Make sure to complete your profile, adding as much information as possible.
     
  6. Set Your Geographic Location in Google Webmaster Tools
    Some people try to use meta geo tags, or meta data that specifies a city, state and geographic location of a website. But Google says it places very little weight on those tags. Instead, Google recommends setting your location through Google Webmaster Tools! Go to Webmaster Tools Homepage. Site Configuration. Setting. Geographic target. Select your location option.  There are lots of different ways to tell the search engines about your geographic location. 

    Each of the steps above is just a small percent of the total equation for local optimization. So make sure to put your company on every local listing you can and keep on-page local optimization in mind.

    Once you’ve completed these steps, you can start using more creative ways to optimize your site for your target city or region. For example, try submitting press releases to PR Web. You should always tag the city where the news is happening in any press release. This affords you a great (and natural) opportunity for local optimization. 

    The Klik Blog is written by Klik Marketing founder and president Eric Fransen. Eric has been involved with the Internet Marketing industry since the late 1990’s

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