A Mobile Compatible Website Will Be Essential for a High Google Ranking in the Future

By Jessica Bates , in Articles, on July 25, 2013 | No comments

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Think of your first home computer. If it was anything like my family’s first computer, it was large, clunky and slow – the complete opposite of sleek. Today the world of tablet computers and increasingly smarter phones is causing a decline of the desktop computer in favor of something lighter, something more mobile. Many tech journalists are speculating about when mobile search will overpower desktop search. There’s no consensus on exactly when, but everyone knows the day is approaching.

The mobile takeover discussion even flared up at the recent SMX Advanced conference, says Sinai’s founder Ali Husayni. According to Husayni, Google heavyweight Matt Cutts stated developers should focus on finding the point where mobile users will exceed desktop users.

“You really need to be thinking about mobile,” Cutts says. “We’re starting to think a lot about mobile.”

My husband and I own and operate an app development company, so we spend lots of time thinking of the mobile future. And mobile is the future, guys. What we envision is a world where smartphone, tablets, smart watches, or some device we haven’t yet dreamed of will dominate the personal computer world. Then, you’ll plug your smartphone or tablet into a docking station, and that station will display your content on a large, gorgeous touchscreen.

While that vision may not come to complete fruition, what we know is that mobile is extremely important to today’s Web design. It is, I dare say, more important than designing for desktop computers, especially if your customers are finding your site on-the-go and you’re seeing a high bounce rate. That high bounce rate could be due to a cluttered, nightmarish mobile presence.

The best companies out there understand that mobile is their next big fish. PayPal reported a 190 percent increase in mobile payment from the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday – from 2011 to 2012. People aren’t just using mobile to find things they want; they’re using mobile devices to make purchases.

If you reach the top of Google and your site isn’t smartphone friendly, you probably won’t stay at the top for long. You can use a Google PageRank checker to see how important Google thinks your site is. Your page rank could be improved if you step up your mobile game. So what can you do to prepare your site for the rise and inevitable takeover of mobile search?

Test Your Site for Mobile
First, evaluate your current site’s strengths and weaknesses in regards to mobile. Visit your site on all the mobile devices you can find. Test your site on iPhones, iPads, Androids, and a variety of tablet computers. An easy way to do this would be to visit a large mobile retailer or a big box store like Best Buy. Take notes on what is good, what could be better.

Some business owners know their own sites so well that they have a skewed perception of a real user’s experience with their site. Ask a few friends (friends of several different generations, if you can find them) to interact with your site on their mobile phone or tablet. You might be surprised when your tester tries to interact with your site in a different way than you do.

It’s also a good idea to test your competitors’ sites on mobile devices. See what they’re doing as far as mobile compatibility; see what works and what doesn’t. Check out some of your favorite blogs or websites on mobile devices too and evaluate them.

Responsive Design with Media Queries
Lorrie Walker wrote a recent article for our blog discussing custom-designed websites. For websites that look good on any screen size, your best bet is to create a custom website that uses responsive design. One way to achieve a responsive design is to use media queries.

Unless you’re a Web developer, you probably aren’t familiar with media queries. That’s OK – the concept is simple. When a user pulls up your website from a smartphone, a fixed-width site (i.e., non-responsive) will shrink down to the size of the user’s screen. Your site may look fantastic on a 13-inch laptop, but shrunk to a 4-inch iPhone screen your images are tiny, your navigation is difficult to see, and your content is unreadable. Sure, the user can pinch and expand his fingers to “zoom in” on your site, but is this the very best user experience you can give your visitors? The answer is no.

An experienced web developer can program your site to “query” (or ask for) the screen size for each user who visits your site. Then your developer can tweak the elements of your website (such as text boxes, images, buttons, etc.) depending on the screen size. For instance, on a tablet computer you can fit multiple columns of pictures beside each other. On a smartphone, your multiple columns of images will now be displayed as one column so the user can scroll through them and see them easily.

Simplify Your Design
When you tested your site on various mobile screens, did you find it cluttered? If so, get rid of the clutter! Users, especially on smaller smartphone screens, don’t want a cluttered page full of advertisements and repetitive buttons. Respect your user and only include the most relevant information on your website – especially on the home screen. If the user wants to know more, let him find it within your website’s navigation. A crisp, clean, concise design will look fabulous on a variety of screen sizes, and it will let your content – the most important part of your site – shine through.

Simplify Your Navigation
When a complex site is viewed on a mobile screen, it’s almost always the navigation that suffers. A difficult to navigate website will most likely mean your visitors will abandon your site quickly. Web visitors aren’t the most patient bunch, so a quick-loading site with simple navigation is best for retaining your visitors’ interest. Think of ways to cut the fat, so to speak, if your site has a large set of navigational buttons. Is there a way to better organize your content? Can the most important navigation elements live at the top of your site? Can you move the less important elements to a navigation bar at the bottom of your site?

Add Touch Features
One of the largest differences between your desktop computer and a mobile device is that mobile devices respond to touch. Users today expect to interact with their devices. Does your site respond to “swipe” gestures to browse through slideshow images? Adding touch features may sound like icing on the cake, but recognizing user gestures can take your site from mobile-friendly to mobile-fantastic!

Google is thinking about mobile, and they certainly should be. You should be, too. Contact Sinai Marketing’s team to receive one of the best consultations you can imagine. Sinai can help you gear up for the mobile revolution while retaining all the great SEO qualities that Google loves.

Website SEO Audit – Important Steps You Need to Take

By Obaidul Haque , in Articles, on July 22, 2013 | 6 comments

EVERGREEN, COLORADO – There was a time when SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was nothing more than guesswork but that time has passed. Today, the situation has changed; in fact, the game of how to provide the best SEO continues to change with each passing day. In the past few years we have become acquainted with several facets of SEO, not known to webmasters earlier. Thanks to the changing mindset of Google, the cat is now out of the bag. They are keeping things more transparent now with an emphasis on white-hat SEO.

SEO audit

Think about all those on-page and off-page factors that webmasters and top consultants in SEO consider. It’s this knowledge that makes the game of SEO more competitive than ever, with everyone trying to achieve the best Google search results.

“There is no “one size fits all” package when it comes to SEO. Every case is unique and different. Trying to speed up the process and rushing to provide quick-fixes add little value, while you risk losing focus and direction. First, take the time to diagnose what’s wrong — and only then begin your SEO treatment,” says Trond Lyngbo of Metronet Norge.

Effective SEO takes more than just a Band-Aid. To take your website’s SEO to the next level, you need to have a good look at everything going on with your site. That’s where an SEO audit comes into play!

Whether it’s a website or a blog, conducting an SEO audit will help you determine the current status of a website, identify those issues that ruin a site’s keyword rankings, fix them, and let you know if other adjustments are required. As a matter of fact, an effective SEO audit throws the guesswork out of SEO. When you know where your site stands now, it becomes easier to work out search optimization strategies that will bring you guaranteed results.

The bigger question, however, is whether it’s possible to conduct a website SEO audit on your own. Well, it’s all about how much you know about the practices and procedures of search engine optimization, how many years of experience you carry and whether you are truly committed to completing the entire process.

If you haven’t done an SEO audit of your website before, below are some essential tips to get you started the right way.

#1. List All the Key SEO Factors

There are so many elements that comprise the SEO of your website. The first important step, therefore, is to create a list of all those factors that you want to check. However, you should never dwell upon only those factors that you think might be harming the search rankings of your site.

In fact, you should consider all factors that affect the search engine rankings of a website or blog.

On-Page Factors – Though there are so many on-page factors that play an important role as far as SEO is concerned, those you should never miss out on include a) content b) meta title c) meta keywords d) meta description and e) keyword density.

Other than these, you may want to take a microscopic look at the internal structure of your site to see whether everything’s in complete order. For example, it’s important to know whether your site is easily accessible to your target audience. You may also like to know whether search engines robots are able to crawl and index the pages on your site without effort. The download time of your website also plays a major role in terms of SEO.

Off-Page Factors – As you know, SEO is not just about what you have on the web pages of your site. There are plenty of things that impact your website’s SEO from outside as well. Simply put, off-page SEO is all about building links that point back to your domain.

Link building is not as simple as some may think. Most importantly, you need to look at it in the light of the recently rolled out Google Penguin updates. Any kind of link spam will get you penalized.

In terms of off-page SEO, you should audit factors like the number of inbound links to your website, the relevance of the links, the quality of the links and the usage of anchor text in links.

#2. Get the Right Set of Tools

It’s more than the knowledge, it’s the choice of tools that differentiates one SEO expert or consultant from another. When it comes to SEO audits, you should be equipped with the right set of tools. Having the right tools at hand will help you identify the issues with ease.

Depending on what SEO factors you want to evaluate, you’ll find a wide range of tools out there, both free and paid. In fact, Google itself provides you with several free tools that will come in handy when conducting an SEO audit of your website. Google Webmaster Tools is one of the best examples. You can access it as soon as you sign up for a Google account and complete the website verification process.

Open Site Explorer, Moz Analytics, Raven Tools, Brow SEO, Majestic SEO and Built With are some other tools that you may want to use in order to perform an SEO audit of your website successfully.

#3. Identify Issues and Fix Them

Finally, it’s time for analysis. Take a closer look at all the SEO data that you’ve gathered. Your site may have visibility issues which include page errors, blocked pages and redirects among others. Your site may require appropriate meta data optimization. You may also need to remove or replace all the duplicate or shallow content from your site.

Many times, it’s the poor quality of links (pointing back to your domain) that negatively impact search rankings. Broken links are also one of the most common issues that webmasters have to deal with.

Likewise, an SEO audit can open your eyes to all those issues that must be fixed over time for improved search rankings.

Anybody (even you) can perform an SEO audit. All you need is a well-rounded knowledge of the SEO procedure and some experience and versatility with the tools needed for the job. If you think conducting an SEO audit sounds like a lot of work for you to take on alone, it’s advisable to work with a reputed SEO agency or experienced SEO consultant like Sinai Marketing to make sure a thorough audit is conducted and properly analyzed.

Did you ever conduct an SEO audit of your website or hire someone else to do the job? Please share your views in the comments.

Competitors be Damned! No One Does “You” Better Than You

By Lorrie Walker , in Articles, on July 16, 2013 | 3 comments

TAMPA, FLORIDA – Good writers are like Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to a great story idea – they get so excited about sharing the news, they can taste it.

As a writer, there are few things more disappointing than having a client tell me about something phenomenal they’re doing that would create a favorable opinion in a potential customer’s eyes, only to have them say, “But don’t write about that – we don’t want our competitors to know what we’re doing.”

Writing about what our clients are doing is the cornerstone of Sinai Marketing’s work to increase ranking for those clients. Our clients’ articles and press releases primarily are written for their websites and distribution sites. They serve a couple of purposes: we want them to be educational for readers, and we want them to improve our clients’ organic SEO.

Using these assignments to improve SEO is easy. They will look good to search engines as long as the content is original and the keywords are there. But for them to attract a human’s attention, they must be engaging, interesting, helpful or newsworthy.

Sometimes the most interesting and newsworthy information happening in clients’ businesses is the very information they hold close to the vest, for fear of their competitors finding out and replicating their ideas.

I recently reached out to two leaders in the public relations field to get their opinions on this misguided belief that stating publicly what you do and how you do it harms you and empowers your competition.

“Any time anyone says to me ‘my competition is going to find out,’ they have to understand no one gives a crap about that they do,” says the always-candid Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations and author of eight books. “You could be curing cancer and no one is paying attention.”

The reason? Most people are so self-absorbed today, Woody Allen needs to rewrite his classic line to: “80 percent of success is just showing off.”

The days of the competition watching you like a hawk and attempting to replicate what you’re doing are over, Laermer says. We live in a much faster paced world. First movers get the credit. Even if another person steals the idea, they’re likely to be laughed at for stealing. That’s because people are savvier today.

Fear of competition results in shortsighted thinking. It limits how much a company reaches, educates, shares and engages with its own customers, says Deirdre Breakenridge, an author and CEO of Pure Performance Communications, a strategic communications and consulting firm in New York.

Trying to hide the specifics of your marketing efforts is an exercise in futility. The competition can easily find information about you.

“They just have to use competitive intelligence and analysis, and listen to what people are saying,” Breakenridge says. “The fear of ‘don’t do this because others will catch on’ just means you’re losing market share.”

Some business owners like to argue that because they’re in a small town and it’s easier to find out what the competition is doing to market themselves, it’s even more imperative to not go public with what they’re doing. Wrong. The damage you cause by withholding information is the same whether you’re a small company or a large one, and whether you’re in a small town or a big city.

To use a large company as an example, Breakenridge asks, “Can you imagine if Pepsi did the whole Refresh Project but didn’t tell anyone why they were doing it?”

Addressing the “why” and “how” in a press release are important because they often become the most interesting parts of the story. Writing a press release on the fact that your business recently donated toys to a nonprofit organization that caters to children but not explaining why, or sharing that you chose the organization based on a contest you held is silly. No purpose is served by being elusive.

“It’s not like you’re sharing proprietary information,” Breakenridge says. “I think there’s a big difference between a food company giving recipes and helpful ways to use its product, versus sharing what is in your secret sauce.”

And if your competitor sees what you’re doing and replicates your program, so what? Now multiple nonprofit organizations benefit. Isn’t the purpose of your community outreach efforts to help the community? In the event that it’s important to you, trust me – people eventually will figure out who did it first.

Here’s the truth: as a business owner, you need to have faith in what you do. You need to do it – whatever “it” may be – better than anyone else. When you’re the one doing it first and in a heartfelt manner, the competition – even if they had a roadmap – isn’t likely to do it better than you.

Why Should I Get A Custom-Designed Website?

By Lorrie Walker , in Articles, on June 19, 2013 | 6 comments

TAMPA, FLORIDA-You might ask yourself why an Internet marketing company that focuses on search engine optimization to help increase traffic to clients’ websites and improve their Google site ranking is devoting a blog post to custom-designed websites.

There’s actually a good reason for it. With so many people turning to WordPress websites these days, people are increasingly interested in purchasing templates, tweaking them slightly to fit their own needs, and taking them live online.

On the surface, it’s an attractive option. You usually can spend $50 or less to purchase an attractive template. But saving money up front can end up costing you dearly in the long run.

Michael Barrett, a Lakeland Web designer and owner of Barrett Creative, deals with a steady stream of clients annually who come to him with complaints that their website doesn’t work.

He has found that one reason behind this is dirty code.

“We know by experience that the code included with template sites isn’t always clean,” Barrett says. “This means it might look satisfactory in your browser, but it can cause a lot of grief when trying to rank in search engines.”

The problem begins with trying to make a template fit your business’s unique needs.

“If you look at any template site, you’ll find that almost all of them are image driven,” Barrett says. “They have awesome photography on them, but once you take that out, the template almost automatically crashes.”

In diagnosing the problem behind one particular client’s website woes, Barrett discovered that when the template was installed, some of the images and/or links were still going back to the original template creator’s website. For whatever reason, the template creator’s site showed up on blacklisted sites. Because of this, not just Barrett’s client, but anyone with that template for their website would have problems getting their website found by Google.

The more junk search engine spiders must crawl through to locate your content, the less likely they are to rank you.

“Google is all about user experience,” says Sinai Founder and CEO Ali Husayni. “A website needs to have original content, it needs to load quickly, and on the back-end, it needs to be clean and well-organized.”

When a site has code that directs to a blacklisted site, Google essentially punishes you for it. For all intents and purposes, your site essentially is blacklisted as well, Barrett says.

A customized website eliminates this issue. A designer who knows what he/she is doing only uses the necessary code. They aren’t putting a bunch of nonsense code behind the scenes, which means the sites are more easily indexed. Good designers also create a site map file they submit to Google that lets them know where to find your content. Templates don’t come with this.

Although this doesn’t have as much to do with a website’s ability to be indexed by search engines, there’s one more important reason to avoid a template for your website. It has to do with user experience and the potential to lose out on business, Barrett says.

When you have to force your information to fit into someone else’s template, you’re no longer considering the user’s experience. The user may not find your information easily, which can frustrate them and drive them back to Google to search for another – read, better – website.

“It becomes more difficult to clearly define and target what your business needs to do by backing yourself into someone else’s creation and strategy,” he says. “With a custom site, you’re starting with a white board. It can be built from the ground up to do exactly what you want it to do.”

So do yourself a favor and spend the extra money to get a customized website that addresses your needs. This added expense up front not only has the potential to save you money in the long run, but to increase business by giving visitors a reason to stick around.

Matt Cutts Lies About Google SEO at SMX Advanced 2013

By , in Articles, on June 12, 2013 | 22 comments

SMX Advanced 2013 was amazing, as always. Danny Sullivan, Matt Cutts, Bruce Clay and many other influential online-marketing professionals came together for an intense two day conference on SEO, SEM and SMM. The attendees varied from mom-and-pop small businesses to multi-billion dollar corporations.

Here is what I found intriguing:Ali Husayni and Matt Cutts at SMX Advanced 2013

The keynote You&A session with Cutts and Sullivan which happened Tuesday at 5 pm was phenomenal. From multiple angles Sullivan “attacked” Cutts and Google’s search algorithm’s crazy swings. Most of the questions put to Cutts from the audience were also related to algorithmic updates.

“We have over 500 changes that happen, algorithmic changes, every single year and so on any given day we’re usually launching one or two things,” said Cutts.

Why they have so many algorithm updates is a good question to ask.

I met Cutts after the conference and told him I felt he lied in his You&A session. He was furious and said that “he’s incapable of lying”. I agree. He is a very kind and caring person and very ethical. So, maybe he’s misinformed.

Below are some of the things I felt were untrue from what Cutts shared in the SMX Advanced conference:

Lie #1:

“If someone on your team or if you or someone hired an SEO or for whatever reason generated spam links and you need to clean it up, the disavow tool is there as a way to help you do that […]”

After Rand Fishkin’s recent blog post on Moz.com regarding the disavow tool and how it helps “REDUCE” your ranks on Google as well as our own internal tests with this tool, there is no doubt that the disavow tool doesn’t help any sites.

Other SEO gurus at the conference agreed. They believe Google uses the disavow tool to “identify” bad sites to help them weed out the so-called “spam”.

But how accurate are they?

Lie #2:

“Given the events of the last week, I feel pretty good about trying to make sure that people have an encrypted connection when talking to Google.”

Although there may be some merit to the above, I see this as a total marketing stunt to separate the big brother from the rest of the crowd and make Cutts the white knight of the Internet world. Contrary to what Cutts is trying to portray, Google has said previously that each year, they release the information on hundreds of individual Google accounts to the “authorities” without informing the users. In fact, USA Today published an article Tuesday talking about this.

Lie #3:

“A press release link, by definition, is a link that you’re paying for. You give someone 100 bucks or whatever and you get to write whatever you want and some of them you embed anchor text and that anchor text is fundamentally paid and shouldn’t count.”

When he said that, people around me responded by saying “what is he talking about?” They’re right. We have effectively used press releases for over four years and I’ve often seen that a simple press release published on a site like PRWeb gets that site ranked at the top of the search results.

Other Updates from the Conference:

Bruce Clay Going Viral

For those of you who don’t know Clay, I say he’s the “father of SEO”. I met him in person for the first time and it was a great experience.

We talked about how crazy our industry is and how it needs to be transformed. He agreed. He told me that he’s going to meet with government officials to help standardize the SEO world. I cannot agree with him more and I wish him the best.

Rand Fishkin Missed the Conference

I was looking forward to meeting Fishkin, but he didn’t make it to the conference. He was still in Europe after his keynote speech at the conference in France.

Looking forward to your thoughts and feedback.

 

Tags:

Do This to Your Website to Turn Its Traffic into Revenue

By , in Articles, on June 12, 2013 | 8 comments

TAMPA, FLORIDA – If the only source of content you’re using to engage search engine traffic is your blog, you’re overlooking some valuable tactics and opportunities that can enhance the effectiveness of your SEO campaign.Happy customers waiting in line.

Don’t get us wrong, a blog is great, and by regularly updating it with fresh content, you are utilizing one of the best techniques for driving organic traffic to your website. However, there are several other tactics that we believe help improve the results of expert services in SEO  from traffic to sales. Which in the end is the point of SEO, right?

Let’s pretend you are a plastic surgeon. If someone performs a search for a “top plastic surgeon” they are going to find your website on the first page of Google because, not only are you are using an SEO firm that is good at what they do, but one that utilizes the best techniques when it comes to ranking clients organically. When this potential patient arrives at your page, maybe they will read your blog, but more importantly they have just arrived at the page of the “best” plastic surgeon. What else are they going to see besides your polished writing skills that’s going to take them to your contact page – phone in hand -instead of back to their original search to click on another top surgeon’s link?

The following are some Sinai-approved website additions (besides a regularly updated blog) that help to “seal the deal.”

Testimonials – A customer testimony is like gold when trying to prove yourself to your website’s visitors. Like references on a resume, a customer testimonial gives an unbiased, third party account of your work. Just remember to keep the following in mind:

  • Keep them current; having a long list of testimonies from five years ago makes you seem like you’ve lost your touch.
  • Get permission; have we told you how much we dislike plagiarism of ANY kind?
  • Format; we suggest following Alex Mandossian’s “Before/After/After” format to get testimonials that are beneficial without sounding like paid advertisements.

News coverage – Have you ever had your name on television, the air or in a written publication? Whether it was for your business or not, there is value in this coverage since it provides another third party account of your work or character. This information can be displayed on its own page or used in a press release, which can then be distributed to news sites to gain possible backlinks – we love backlinks and so does Google.

Videos – Videos that work best are in the form of testimonials or you, the face of the business, discussing what you do or a specific topic. Videos are the real factor. While the website visitor can’t reach out and touch you or your past patients, they can see and hear you and that makes an even stronger connection than words on a page. As a bonus, when a patient gets tired of reading they may still have interest enough to watch your video when they would have ordinarily left the page. If a visitor spends a substantial amount of time on a page it tells Google that the page has beneficial information; Google rewards these pages by increasing their rank.

Links to social media outlets – If you have various social media outlets, make sure you provide a link to them on your site. While your site is a place to share your business information that includes services, testimonials and blogs, social media is a place for friendly human interaction. Outlets like Twitter, Google+ and Facebook are great ways to generate testimonials, show your human side and spread your name further than local marketing since the person who likes, +1′s or tweets about you also exposes your name to their circle, friends and followers. And don’t forget about Pinterest or Instagram. Pictures are entertaining, which is why these outlets are so popular. Plus, if your visitor is an avid user of any of the same outlets as you, bingo, common interest!

List unique services or practices – No one knows your business’s industry and competition better than you. If you offer a unique service, utilize a breakthrough technique or offer top of the line products, by all means, toot your own horn. You have to assume that the people who visit your site have or will visit other sites before making a final decision. By offering something unique you give them a reason to choose you when they compare your business to others. Their impression they get could include the following:

  • Wow, I’ve never seen that type of guarantee on services, they must really be confident in their abilities.
  • I have never heard of that particular technique, this company obviously stays up-to-date with the changes in their industry.
  • I don’t need all of the services they provide now but, by choosing them, when I do I’ll be purchasing services from a company I already know and trust from past business transactions.

We hope that you found this information helpful and that applying it increases the fruits of your SEO labor. Do you have any questions? Would you like to learn how to establish yourself as an expert in your industry or maybe, about the science behind an effective blog?  Let us know; we’d love to hear from you.

The Benefits of Guest Blogging to Achieve Guaranteed SEO

By Katie Manry , in Articles, on June 10, 2013 | 11 comments

TAMPA, FLORIDA – SEO isn’t just about spiders, scutters and robots crawling your website to determine if you’re worthy of a high search engine ranking. The human side of SEO depends on real people reading and recommending content. The growing trend in guest blogging is a step in the right direction; it’s the “I’d like to introduce you to my friend” of SEO marketing.

Any time a blog publishes an article written by someone not associated with the website that person is a guest blogger.

Guest blogging encourages writers to create unique, high-quality content that will benefit the host blog by giving their readers an additional perspective that meets their needs. When you succeed at getting a guest post in front of the right audience, you are rewarded with increased attention to your own website through an active link placed in the article.

How Guest Blogging Fits into Search Engine Optimization Marketing
Search engines rank websites largely based on frequency of references to that website and visits by real people. Guest blogging increases visits by real people, naturally raising your SEO.

People traditionally seek information through sources they trust. With so much variety in the information available online, connecting with an audience that appreciates your perspective and writing is the goal of any SEO marketing campaign.

Content-based SEO marketing takes a lot of time and skill because it requires the ongoing creation of new and relevant content. You could post 10 great articles on your blog you feel address your target audience’s needs, but if you’re still building traffic to your website the right readers may have trouble finding you. Guest blogging is an opportunity to put your best content right in front of the exact audience you wish was already flowing to your website.

“Building high-quality links is one of the trickiest elements of effective SEO,” said Sonia Simone, co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. “Guest posting allows you to get a relevant, natural link, using the anchor text of your choice, on a website that has excellent search engine authority.”

According to Google Webmaster Tools, when a website links back to yours, Google sees this as a vote for your website’s importance and relevance for certain keywords. Guest blogging on a page that ranks high on search engine results gives more weight to the link sending readers to your own website and boosts your SEO.

The complicated and ever-changing rules of SEO can make using SEO software seem like the safest way to improve your ranking. Advertisements from SEO software companies pull you in with the promise that their products will easily and automatically handle the tedious tasks needed for strong SEO such as tracking search engine rankings and link building tools.

SEO is Art
Even with the best SEO software, you have to trust that the techniques used are current. The problem is that the rules of SEO are always changing. A website that stands the test of time is built around the idea that high search engine rankings result from providing quality content your target audience can easily find.

Creative strategies like guest blogging offer guaranteed SEO with benefits over the long term, organically. If you could simply use SEO software to automatically get better rankings, there would be no need to focus on creating engaging content geared to your target audience.

“We do not believe any SEO software can tremendously help your SEO efforts,” said Ali Husayni, CEO of Sinai Marketing. “SEO is an art and any sort of art cannot be confined into software.”

When search engines like Google notice a lot of traffic coming to your website from an active link you placed in your guest post, you are seen as more of an authority on that topic which boosts your ranking. This guaranteed SEO strategy works so well because it’s audience-driven. When you find an article you love, wanting to explore more of what that writer has to offer is the natural response.

Tips on How to Attract More Readers with a Great Guest Blog Post
Leo Babauta created his blog, Zen Habits, in 2007 and in just two years he had one of the most popular blogs in the world with more than 260,000 subscribers. This got the attention of Time magazine, which included Zen Habits in their list of Top 25 Blogs of 2009 and 2010. Contributing a lot of guest blog posts to popular websites like Copyblogger and Get Rich Slowly is one of the main ways Babauta skyrocketed the number of subscribers on his blog.

Here are some techniques used by successful guest bloggers like Babauta to attract more readers:

  • Spend time reading the blog you want to write a guest post for. This will help you get familiar with the writing style, keywords and topics so your article fits the theme of the host blog while providing a fresh perspective.
  • Research your topic’s keywords on websites like Google AdWords. Focus on key phrases in your article that fit what your target audience is actually searching for.
  • Make sure your guest blog article is clear and easy for readers to scan through with features like bulleted lists. A catchy headline that includes the main keyword of your article also helps attract readers to your post.

Guest blogging gets to the heart of what a great SEO campaign is all about. As a trust-based networking tool, it’s a great way to show off helpful content to the audience you want to attract and provides a sense of personal connection with your readers.

 

App Developer Mark Freeman Returns for A Follow-Up Interview on Mobile Trends

By Jessica Bates , in Articles, on June 6, 2013 | 4 comments

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – We chatted with app developer Mark Freeman in late March, and he gave us some helpful app SEO tips, as well as an in-depth explanation on the differences between websites and web apps. Another thing we discussed was the difficulty of searching for certain apps on the App Store and online. This follow-up interview explores a few more mobile questions I had, including the epic battle between the Google-owned Android and Apple-owned iOS.

Jessica: Why do you code for iOS over Android devices? Do you prefer iOS to Androids?
Mark: Yes, I do prefer iOS to Android. As a coder and a user, iOS is better because it’s a unified system. When you use Apple devices you’re also using Apple software, and there aren’t that many different versions of it. Android, however, is extremely fragmented. There are thousands of Android devices made by different companies, and these devices are running different versions of Android’s operating system. If I coded applications for Android devices, I would have to consider at least 100 different scenarios, whereas for iOS I have to consider three or four. When I code I only have to consider the different hardware versions of iPad, the iPod Touch and of course, the iPhone, and that is still fairly difficult. Sometimes people haven’t updated their iOS software, and that can cause bugs in their applications. With Android, there are countless bugs, devices and combinations of software. Your app isn’t going to work universally across Android devices. To even test for all the Android devices and combinations of software is nearly impossible, especially for small development companies such as mine. It’s a nightmare for developers, but it’s also bad for users. Some apps will be buggy, they won’t look great across multiple devices and sometimes they won’t work at all. The user experience is compromised with Android since there’s less control.

Jessica: Should Google back off the mobile platform and stick with what it’s great at – Search, Gmail, Maps, Drive, etc.?
Mark: Not necessarily. The Android philosophy is the complete antithesis to Apple’s philosophy, and I can see some real benefits to it. Android software is open source, which means anyone can develop for it and anyone can see the code. In contrast, developers for Apple have to sign agreements saying they won’t discuss new features for operating systems that haven’t been released yet. Android is really cool because it allows the development community to help advance the software. The fragmentation problems I discussed earlier though limit how well developers can do their jobs. I think Google could certainly benefit from reeling in the Android market and having some oversight, at the very least in versioning.

Jessica: How could Google improve their search results for apps?
Mark: Most apps have websites that should obviously come up first in Google’s search results. Most of those sites have links to their download pages. If you’ve searched for apps before, you may recognize the standard call-to-action button that says “Available on the App Store.” These are normally black rectangular buttons with rounded edges, but sometimes the button is white or gray.

App store

When users search for apps from a device that supports the desired app, ideal search results would include this button so users could easily visit the download page. Google could do this for their Google Play apps, also. These call-to-action buttons would be extremely useful from a search results page, especially if a user types “download” into their query. I know I would like that, and I’m sure other users would appreciate fewer steps preceding the option to download an app.

Interestingly enough, people have complained about Google down-ranking app pages on their search results. On April 2, MacRumors reported that Google was down-ranking iTunes links. Links that used to show on the first page of Google search results were now showing on Page 8, even if users included “iTunes” in their search queries. The reason for the drop could be relevancy. For instance, maybe users searching from their mobile devices are looking for an app’s download page, whereas users searching from their laptops may be more interested in information about a specific app. Google stated after these reports that the down-ranking was simply a glitch. Either way, we talked about the problems with searching for apps in our previous interview, and I think the system needs improvement.

Jessica: A recent study Google conducted with Nielsen revealed that 77 percent of mobile searches occur at home or at work. Equally interesting, the study found that 55 percent of mobile conversions (including phone calls, purchases or store visits) occurred within one hour. What implications do you think this will have on website development?
Mark: I think the increase in mobile searches will make people reevaluate the look of their websites. Lots of companies create websites made for laptops and desktops. It’s also pretty popular to have a mobile version of your website, but these are generally poorly done. Creating a mobile version means developers have to either code your website twice, or they send your website’s code through software that creates a mobile version from it.

My philosophy is to design your website for mobile first. A significant number of people are using their mobile devices to search the web. Even my mom searches the web on her iPad. So what I think people should do is design their websites for mobile users first – it’s called responsive design. Responsive website designs look great on small mobile screens, and they look equally impressive on midsize tablets and larger laptop and desktop screens. Responsive design also means no redirects are necessary. It’s the website of the future, and the best SEO companies will design your website to work on a variety of platforms.

Jessica: Thanks again, Mark. It’s been a pleasure!

If you have any app or mobile questions, feel free to ask them here or find Mark on the web at Red Room Software.

Responsive Design v. Mobile Apps: Which Should You Choose for Your Business?

By Jessica Bates , in Articles, on May 29, 2013 | 11 comments

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – More Internet users are using tablets and mobile devices to search the web, and as more people get smartphones and tablets, these numbers will grow. This shift in usage from desktop computers to tablets with varied screen sizes has some businesses scrambling. Should they invest in responsive design websites, or should they consider developing a native mobile application?

Before we delve deeper, let’s break these two options down.Web design

Responsive Design
Web designers understand that users could access a site from a small smartphone screen, larger tablet screen or even larger desktop screen. Responsive design refers to a website built to adjust to varying screen sizes. The result is a website that looks amazing on any scale. It may be more challenging to develop, but users will enjoy a seamless experience across all devices.

Mobile Apps
Mobile applications are made for mobile devices such as smartphones or tablet computers. They are independent of websites, and users download them from a mobile app distribution platform. Apple users get apps from the App Store, Android users find apps on Google Play and BlackBerry users get apps from the BlackBerry App World. Once the application is downloaded, it is accessible from the device even if there’s no cell or Wi-Fi signal.

There is not a simple answer to which would work best for you. Lots of factors will go into your decision, and asking these questions will get you closer to your answer. You should discover the advantages of each option and have a clearer picture of the best plan for your unique business.

Are your mobile visitors looking for different information than your laptop and desktop visitors?
YesMobile App
If you develop a mobile application, chances are you’ll still need a regular website. Mobile applications shouldn’t be replicas of websites. If your visitors simply need your store hours or your contact information, a mobile app isn’t really necessary. Users expect different information and functionality when they download a mobile app, which brings us to the next question.

Do you want to utilize navigation? Photo capabilities?
Yes → Mobile App
Mobile apps have more interactive features, including navigation and image/video capturing capabilities. One really cool aspect of mobile apps is that they can use a mobile device’s accelerometer and gyroscope. If you own a sporting store that focuses on selling running shoes, you could develop a mobile app that lets users track their speed and running distance, allows them to set goals and sends them tips to achieve their fitness goals. Your app may also suggest a great pair of running shoes. In this case, the app achieves something tangible that a website cannot deliver.

Are you selling products on your website?
YesEither
If you are, you need to consider your mobile strategy. A recent study by Google and Nielsen revealed that mobile users make decisions fast. For instance, 55 percent of conversions (either a purchase, a phone call or a store visit) occur within one hour of a mobile search. This means mobile users are fulfilling a goal, and they mean business. If you sell something online, you may consider selling your product through an interactive app that will wow your users. Responsive design is also a good choice for selling products, and in many cases responsive designed sites will be less of an investment than creating a mobile application.

Does your store have a strong cell connection or offer Wi-Fi?
YesEither
NoMobile App
One advantage of mobile applications is their accessibility. Since mobile applications live on a user’s device, the user doesn’t need an Internet connection to use the app. For a large store that has spotty cellphone service, a mobile app may be the way to go, especially if your users are attempting to access information while they’re in your store. A mobile app can give users sale information, coupon codes or product information even when they have unreliable phone reception.

Do you already have a lot of online traffic?
YesEither
NoResponsive Design
If you already enjoy a large user base, you can easily spread the word about a mobile application through your website, social media outlets and email marketing. If you’re struggling for views, it’s probably best to start with a responsive design website and invest in SEO services. A responsive website will allow you to optimize your site and gather valuable content for your blog. SEO companies can help you gain links and build a credible website that Google will reward.

This is only a starter guide for deciding which plan is best for you. Mobile apps certainly pack a lot of punch, and younger generations will appreciate a useful app. Responsive websites, though, have a larger reach and can benefit more from SEO services.

Which have you chosen for your business, and how have your customers responded?

Which Content is King? It’s Not All Created Equal

By Lorrie Walker , in Articles, on May 23, 2013 | 11 comments

TAMPA, FLORIDA – We’ve heard for years that content is king. I’ve written the phrase several times myself. But not ALL content is king. Some of it is actually crap.

Today I’m sharing information on types of content so you’ll know what to focus on if you’re looking to increase Google search traffic to your website or simply are concerned about what constitutes quality content.

Let’s start with the content that truly is king.

Original ContentContent
Just as the name implies, this is content written by you, or by someone else for you. It is unique and doesn’t include verbatim information found anywhere else on the Web. It’s perfectly fine to hire a professional writer to create this content for you. We include original content creation in our Internet marketing packages, and I include content writing services in my public relations business.

I consider it a best practice to write your own content or hire a writer to interview you or your staff periodically when writing blog posts, articles or press releases about your business. The knowledge you share will be unique. Even if it’s information that can be found elsewhere on the Internet, the way in which you write or explain it to a writer can’t possibly come out word for word as it is written on another website.

Canned Content
This type of content, although it may be well-written and factually correct, is content that you’re likely to find elsewhere on the Internet. We have a lot of clients in the dental field, and we routinely find canned content on their sites if they have previously worked with some marketing companies that cater specifically to the dental industry.

Let’s say you’re an orthodontist and you need a website. There are website companies who only work with orthodontists, and they make website creation easy. You pick a template and color scheme you like. Then you tell them what services you offer. Are you an Invisalign provider? They’ll slap their standard “Invisalign” page onto your site. Do you offer Damon brackets? They have a ready-made page of content that explains the Damon System. Do you offer ZOOM! teeth whitening to patients after they get their braces removed? These companies have prewritten content for that, too.

Trouble is, every other orthodontist who offers those services and uses that website company will have the same content on their websites. Google doesn’t like this. It identifies canned content and often penalizes websites that feature it.

Duplicate Content
In a way, canned content is duplicate content. But in this case, I’m talking about something more sinister. I’m talking about plagiarized content. Let’s say you’re a real estate agent in Little Rock, Arkansas and you find an agent in Seattle whose site you love. She explains the business better than you think you can yourself, so you simply copy and paste her content onto your site. Big no-no.

First, it’s just wrong. Don’t steal someone else’s hard work, or the work that they paid someone else good money to produce.

Second, Google is on to you. Or they will be soon. Google understands where content gets posted first and what is duplicate content. You won’t do yourself any long-term favors by lifting great content from another site. The original source of the content almost always gets the credit. I say “almost always,” because unfortunately, sometimes cheaters win. Sometimes sites with duplicate content actually achieve great rankings and Google gives them the credit for the content. However, this doesn’t happen often, and you certainly shouldn’t adopt this as a best practice.

Poorly Written Content
It’s a toss-up between which is worse – duplicate or poorly written content. Understand this: if you aren’t a good writer, you need to hire someone to write your content for you. And if you hire someone, make sure they are good writers. That means don’t fall for the allure of cheap prices. If you’re in the U.S. and your content is written in English, it is likely that someone you hire in India or the Philippines isn’t going to write your content as well as someone whose native tongue is English. But they’ll probably be cheaper than hiring a writer in the States. You must pay for quality.

I’ve devoted a lot of attention in this post to what Google likes and dislikes, but the humans who visit your site should be your top priority. Opinions are formed about companies based on their websites and the content they contain. If you have poorly written content filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, site visitors might believe you’re not intelligent enough to be good at your job. You could lose sales opportunities as a result.

Put your best face forward on your website by providing visitors with well-written content that contains helpful information and you’ll make everyone happy, including Google.