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CONNECTED CULTURE Blog by Jerry Allocca

Now, more than ever, we’re all connected. What does it mean to be part of the Connected Culture? Share your thoughts and ideas here!
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You thought you knew what was happening online. Think again.

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Discover the driving force behind today’s CONNECTED CULTURE

The first email was sent in 1971.  Since then we have experienced a digital revolution that connects us like we’ve never been connected before.

A single email has transformed into more than 2.5 million text messages per day, trillions of web searches on Google alone and more than 40 billion collective hours spent in digital media each month.

This video reveals staggering numbers about today’s CONNECTED CULTURE, showing us how the use of digital media impacts our everyday lives.  How much are you contributing to these mind blowing numbers?

Question:

In your opinion, what is the most impressive stat in the video? Leave a comment below.

 

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Google Algorithm Updates – Just When You Thought SEO Was Safe…

Is the latest update to the Google search algorithm going to hurt your rankings?

Discover the best approach to keeping your search rank safe in the wake of a new algorithm update.

Google has updated their algorithm yet again with the Penguin update, marking yet another update that has business owners, marketers and SEO professionals scrambling to make sure their search rank remains intact.

While Google has the best of intentions with their updates, this fear, concern and discourse is the most common response from the general public – but why?

Why Google Updates their Algorithm – If It Aint Broke…

Marketers and SEO professionals may give a collected sigh when updates occur, because it means potential changes to the way they do business, but there’s a sound reason behind the algorithm updates in every case.

While we utilize search engines for marketing and info gathering, we have to remember that Google is a business. Their business is search, and in business we try to deliver the best experience to our customers. These updates are designed to do just that. In most cases Google is advancing the way their algorithm indexes content and serves it up in response to a search query.

Many of the updates such as the Panda update and the most recent Penguin update are designed to limit the visibility and performance of web spam in order to deliver more focused, targeted and relevant search results to the user. If Google didn’t make these changes, and search queries returned spammy pages and affiliate content, duplicate content, poor quality sites with thin content and sales-oriented pages then their search users would move on to a different search engine in order to find information or a solution to their problem.

Will Algorithm Changes Affect my Search Rank?

There’s no definitive answer as to whether or not an update to Google’s algorithm will affect how you site or content ranks. For some, their pages never move. For others they may see content move up or down.

It’s difficult to know if an update to the algorithm will affect your search rank because there are hundreds of factors that are considered in determining the relevancy of a given page of content when someone types in a query.

Here are two great videos from Google’s Matt Cutts about how their search engine works and ranks content


How do I Protect My Search Results

One of the best ways to ensure better search results, and avoid the hammer coming down on you for making errors with your SEO and content marketing, is to stick to “SEO best practices”. Search Engine Land shared an invaluable resource known as the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors which showcased positive ranking factors as well as those things that can negatively impact your search rank.

The concept is simple when you look at the big picture of how Google works; the search engine giant wants to deliver the most valuable experience to search users. They’re looking for quality, original, authoritative content that is certain to deliver value. That means content that is

• Fresh
• Well written
• Not duplicated (original)
• Relevant to the search query of the user
• Value oriented
• Socially sharable (and readily shared)

If you want to avoid losing your rankings, and improving the rank of your existing site, then always focus on delivering valuable content to your target audience through articles, blogs, social media content, engagement, video and more.

Avoid spammy practices like link bait, building low quality links, duplicate article submission and syndication, mass content curation and hidden content designed to manipulate your search rank. If you always focus on delivering value to your customers with naturally optimized content, you will never have to worry about losing your rank to an algorithm change.

Checkout this infographic that explains the different Google algorithm changes since 1998.

Thanks to the source of this infographic: ticsyformacion.com.

 

Question:

What has been your experience with changes to the Google search algorithm? Leave a reply below.

 

 

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Google+: The Impact on Organic Search ( SEO )

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Social Search and SEO

One of the most important things to consider is that Google+ is designed to be integrated into search, where social signals will have a significant impact on search engine optimization (SEO) and overall rank for brands.  Whether you’re posting about your own brand or your customers are talking about you and sharing a variety of media types, the real-time cloud based communication can impact your visibility in two ways:

Better Rank Among Networks

The content and rankings associated with a brand will appear more relevant to those followers who search for related terms in Google.  While this only occurs when someone is actively logged into Google, it still offers businesses an opportunity to get a great deal of content – particularly news and recently updated material – right in front of the eyes of a target audience (and ahead of the competition).

Real Time Data

For a period of time, Google fed off of Twitter to get real time data and updates on trending topics as it fed those microblog posts into search results.  When Twitter pulled their data feed, Google had little to fear; they can now actively use Google+ to feed real time data from personal networks and more into the results.  This reinforces the known fact that regardless of the platform, social proof and the authority of the individual still have a major impact on brand visibility.

Fleshing out Google’s Business Suite

Google already makes it easy for a business to run online with their suite of software and apps including Gmail, calendar, docs, cloud connect, groups, video and the app marketplace.  With the addition of Google plus these tools will allow for a seamless integrated solution perfect for just about any size business.  Essentially, by adding a social network into the mix, a business owner will have one central place to manage business, promote their products, communicate with customers and ultimately foster growth and engagement without spreading resources across multiple networks.

With Google+ in its infancy, it’s too new to clearly state what kind of results or ROI a business would get from utilizing the new tool.  However, it’s obvious by the growing user base that Google+ is not just another failed social experiment.  It’s on its way to becoming the next powerhouse in social networking and business owners would be wise to start thinking about how their own business could benefit from using Google+, and what the impact will be on SEO.

Question:

What has been your experience with Google+ and has it affected your SEO rankings?

 

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SEO: Good Links vs Bad Links

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How to Find Value, Prevent Violations and Avoid the Google Sandbox

Marketers and SEO agencies are quick to tell business owners that links to your website are what drives your rank in the search results.  Unfortunately, not all links are created equally.  If you launch a campaign to start building links in every direction, on any site you can, you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble with search engines like Google.

Getting flagged for linking violations can lead down an ugly path where your website loses rank and gets pushed back a number of pages into the search results.  Worst case, your site is sandboxed and de-listed.

So how do you know what kinds of links are permitted and what can get you in trouble?  Google makes it easy.  Simply put, any kind of paid link (where you pay money to get a link to your site placed on another site for the purpose of manipulating your search results), is considered bad.  In the eyes of Google, links to your site should be editorial in nature, and should reside naturally, relevantly, and perhaps most important — valuably — on another site.  The link back to your site should be the result of shared relevant information, or as a result of engagement with other users and websites — without compensation.

There are a lot of factors taken into consideration when Google weighs the quality of links for a website.  To help you sort it out, here are some examples of both good and bad link building practices.

Examples of Bad Inbound Links

Links from Link Farms

Link farms are sites or pages that contain many links to countless other sites or pages.  And that’s all they contain. These links are often unrelated, and the page that they live on has no true value to a search engine user. Here’s an example of a link farm, below:

Why Link Farms are Bad

If you look at the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors, link farms are thin on (or completely lacking) content, and the page itself is not at all relevant.  With lack of content that contains value or substance, all a link farm serves to do is manipulate search results by hosting paid links. You’re just paying for a spot on a link farm.  In some cases, reciprocal linking is included in link farms; this means you may not be paying for links but you’re still getting a link from a “seedy neighborhood.”

If you pay for a spot on a link farm, you’re wasting money.  Furthermore, these sites get shut down so quickly that, for the most part, you won’t even have time to build any “link juice” through your links for the short time that they appear.  And beware:  in many cases, sites that place links on link farms can also get devalued or sandboxed.

Link Spamdexing and Thin Content

Spamdexing is an ugly practice that adds zero value to the web.  Link spam or Spamdexing often involves spun, widely distributed articles with numerous links.  It also includes spammy blog comments that add no value to the conversation, extremely short blog posts with the sole purpose of generating links while providing no true value to a reader, and forum posts filled with links (even signature links) where the actual post provides no meaning or value.

In the two examples below you can see how the comments or posts provide no value and are only posted in order to get a link into the conversation.  In the case of the LinkedIn group post, it’s 100% promotional with the intent of driving traffic through a link.


Manipulation with Paid Links

Buying links with a dishonorable SEO agency can also land you in some serious hot water, because many of these “fly by night” SEO firms build links in bad neighborhoods or on sites that get your site sandboxed.  Remember that it’s technically a violation of Google’s terms to buy links of any kind in an effort to manipulate search results.

Overstock.com got hit with violations in 2011 not long after JC Penny went through a similar debacle.  Overstock.com was offering discounts to students and faculty who would link to product pages within the .edu domains, because .edu domains are considered trusted sites with search engines, especially those with age.  That means they pass a lot more link value.

JC Penny asserted that they had no idea their SEO agency was doing unethical link building and fired the agency in question.  Overstock.com however was aware of their practices, but not to the extent that it was a violation of Google policy.

Additional examples of bad links include hiding links within a website, such as by matching the font color to the background color or hiding links inside of invisible <div> tags in your site.

Paid link efforts wind up costing you a lot of time and money for minimal results.  Good link building focuses on editorial links that can cost you virtually nothing more than the time it takes you to join the conversation and create really good, quality content.

Examples of good link building practices

Quality Blog Comments

Just about every industry has some popular blog or social platform attached to it now.  Many of these sites offer a way for you to engage others and join a discussion about specific topics.  In blog comments and on forums, you can optimize your name or signature, or provide links within the content, while expanding on the conversation or offering your perspective. Offer real value to the post, add interesting conversation to the topic focus, and your link will be welcome.

Take a look at sites like Mashable.com, Techcrunch.com or SearchEngineJournal.com and you’ll find a mass of comments on many popular articles where people share ideas and input.  Some optimize their links for targeted keywords, where others are content to simply provide URL links or link through their name.

That link might not be optimized, but it’s still a link from a quality, authority site and that can pass a lot of value along to you.  Especially when it’s relevant to your own site or content offering.

The key is to focus on providing value and avoid promotion.  You’re more likely to get links accepted and shared, and your comments published, if you provide value.

In the following example image you can see how the first comment was enough to express personal stress relevant to the topic (utilizing Pinterest for business was the subject of the post).  The name “job affair” was also their business name and is included in their URL so they have an optimized link in their post comment name.  Still, they provided some value and further spurred the conversation.

Links from a Professional Press Release

There’s a way you can pay for links where you’re technically *not* paying for links.  Press releases are a powerful tool for link building because you’re publishing quality content that is news worthy, relevant to your audience and is often based around important industry or business related info.

When you pay for premium distribution through sites like PRWeb, your press releases is syndicated to, and picked up by, other news sites, blogs, news aggregators, etc.  Those sites also publish a copy of the release with a link back to your site (if one was included in the original PR).

From the example below you can see how a single press release can generate hundreds of thousands of impressions.  While an impression isn’t a link, it takes more than a single site to get that many impressions per day.  With that kind of visibility, you’re not only seeing widespread syndication, but it’s also possible for others to share your release across their own social network or media channel.

To help you create a well-rounded link building strategy, especially one that won’t pile on the violations, always refer back to the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors. Knowing the right factors used in on-page and off-page ranking will help you build the right kind of content, make smart decisions about building links, and ultimately help you understand the difference between good links and bad links.

Question:

What has been your experience with link building?

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Achieve Total Domination on Google

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If you’re still struggling to get one listing on the first page of Google, let alone at the very top, it’s time to learn not only how to play the game, but how to dominate it.

More visitors to your website

The more listings you have on the first page, the greater the probability that someone will click on your site instead of your competitor’s site. By filling the entire page with your listings, you basically make the competition mostly invisible. Remember, your listings can take the form of web pages, blog posts, articles, press releases, social media profiles, social videos, photos and more.

No other medium offers this opportunity

With TV, radio and traditional advertising, you pay your money and you get your space, air-time, etc. But with natural search marketing, you can pay tons of money and still not get any visibility and clickthroughs or responses.

Does it matter that you have your one listing on the first page, if your competitors have numbers 2-10? Get as many listings on the first page as possible and strive toward total domination. That does two things. One, it gives you more visibility and visitors. Two, it takes visibility away from your competitors.

More quality content

The name of the game is getting more and more quality listings in the top positions of the first page, not just getting one listing at the top. And don’t think just web pages. Remember that listings can be all kinds of content on and off your website, including multimedia content. So plan all your campaigns with total domination in mind!

Question:

What are you going to do to achieve total domination for the search terms you’re targeting?

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Keyword Research — The Starting Point of Any Successful SEO Campaign

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Invisible Websites

A number of businesses find that when they do a search in a search engine for the name of their company, it appears on the first page of search results. However, if they do a search for their companies’ products or services, the company website appears nowhere. For example, let’s say Acme Bank does a search for its website AcmeBank.com on Google and the correct website appears at the top of the search results. Now Acme Bank does a secondary search on Google for its product-related keywords, such as “low-interest loans” or “safe deposit boxes,” but now AcmeBank.com is invisible and nowhere to be found.

The Goal of Your Website

Your website serves two purposes. One is to provide more information about your company to people who have heard a little about it. The second, larger objective is to reach out to potential clients/customers who are looking for the exact type of products or services your business offers but don’t know anything about you. These online visitors would search for a keyword relating to the service or product they are looking for and if your website is not optimized around these words, finding you will be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Grabbing Keywords by the Long Tail

A common misconception is that most web searches contain one to two words. Such searches comprise just 30 percent of all web searches. The remaining 70 percent is composed of what is called “long tail” keywords. These are the words most people use to represent their thinking, preference and approach toward finding what they are looking for. Returning to our bank example, 30 percent of the searches would contain a keyword like “bank loan,” while 70 percent might go for “low-interest housing loan San Jose area.” The key is to thoroughly analyze how your potential clients/customers conduct their searches. What are the terms they use and how relevant is your website content to these phrases?

Keyword Research Extends to All Sub Pages

It is estimated that only a small percentage of all users are directed by search engines to your home page. Most online visitors are looking for precise products or services that would usually be contained in a website’s sub pages. It is therefore extremely important to optimize all the sub pages of your site and effectively place in them the relevant keywords your audience uses. Unless all pages are appropriately optimized with the right keywords, your site will never see the light of day.

Keyword Difficulty

Another important consideration is keyword competitiveness. There are some high-demand keywords that larger companies may be targeting. If you are just starting out, you can be sure it will take you more than just a few months to achieve good search engine visibility. Start out with keywords that are easier and less competitive, and then work your way up as you see more success.

Keyword Research Tools

Fortunately, a host of keyword research tools are available online to help you research your keywords. Google’s AdWords’ Keyword Tool and Wordtracker’s Free Basic Keyword Demand tools are a couple of the most popular ones. Both will tell you how competitive, costly and in-demand the keywords and phrases you want are, which will help you make vital decisions for your campaign.

Ultimately, to tap into that massive market of people who don’t know about your company, you will need to make yourself easy to find. Effective keyword research is the starting point for any successful search marketing campaign.

Question:

What tools do you use to research keywords and how effective have they been for you?

 

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The two most important parts of SEO

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Search engines – Yesterday and today

Back in the ‘90s, search engine optimization (SEO) was mostly about keywords on your web page and in the meta tags, which are instructions for search engines that become the search listing. This is the equivalent of what your site says about itself. Today, search engine algorithms have gotten a lot smarter. The algorithms recognize that everyone believes their own site is great, and every site can have the right keywords. So, all things being equal, how do you choose one site over another; whom do you rank #1, #2, etc.? The answer is in what others say about you. That’s right; your site has a reputation online, especially to search engines. And the better your reputation, the higher you will be ranked. But how can you increase your site’s reputation and get others to speak highly of you and recommend you, or send targeted traffic to you?

You can no longer trick search engines into ranking you highly by stuffing your page with keywords, or using other “black hat” or illegal techniques. Most SEO efforts that are limited to on-page keyword placement don’t yield the desired results of a high search engine results page (SERP) ranking. To truly make your site search engine friendly, it needs to encompass the two integral components of search engine optimization, which are the focus of both on-page and off-page optimization techniques.

What is on-page optimization?

On-page optimization relates to efforts made to ensure that text, images and other details on the page clearly indicate what the page’s topic is about.

What is off-page optimization?

Off-page optimization relates to link building or efforts to get other sites to add links to your web page and refer people (or send traffic to your page).

On-page optimization – Keywords and more

The focus of on-page optimization is to give search engines a clear idea of what your site or web page is about, and keywords are the foundation and where it begins. The first step is to conduct thorough keyword research while studying the search patterns of your target audience and the current competition for the keyword phrases that people are using to find business.

Next, you have to place your keywords effectively within your site so that search engines can find them and consider them relevant. The URL, page title, headings and subheadings are all optimal places for keywords, including the file names of pages and embedded images.

Finally, ensure that you preserve the relevancy of your website content and don’t fall into the trap of high keyword density or keyword stuffing. Search engines know when you’re trying to manipulate them and can block you for attempting to do so.

On-page optimization – Meta Tags

Search engines used to depend heavily on meta tags to decipher a site’s relevance. Today meta tags don’t carry as much weight in the ranking formula, but you should still ensure that these elements are optimized. The title tag allows you to provide a brief caption that should be very specific to the topic of your web page. The meta description tag allows you to provide a more detailed summary of what your web page is about, and the keywords tag enables you to specify the keywords for your web page. Again, don’t fall into the trap of high keyword density or keyword stuffing, for which search engines penalize your site.

Off-page optimization – Link Building

Building strong and relevant links to your site and web pages is a surefire way to get search engines to notice and respect your site. Search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms to find the most authoritative site on a subject. One way search engines recognize the authority of a site is by the number of other sites that contain links to that site. The more popular and authoritative the site that links to you is, the better your reputation will be for search engines.

That said, building credible and relevant links is one of the toughest components of the SEO process. A number of SEO service providers offer link building, but in most cases this involves reciprocal links or link farms, which search engines don’t like and are clever enough to identify. The links you need are pure nonreciprocal credible ones, which are not easy to get.

Question:

How do you get other websites to link to your site?


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