SEO News/Tips

5 SEO Things to do in the First Year of Your Site's Life By Nick Stamoulis

By now, most site owners realize the importance and value of SEO in the development and growth of their site. A properly optimized site is going to rank better in the search engines, see more targéted traffic being directed over, have a higher conversion rate and much more. However, SEO is incredibly long term and nothing can rush time. It takes time for a site to build a good trust factor with the search engines and until that happens, most of your off-site SEO efforts are going to produce minimal results.

If you recently launched your site and are already looking into SEO, here are 5 things you should focus your time and energy on.

Learn the Basics of SEO for Yourself

There is no shortage of blogs, whitepapers, articles, reports, e-books, webinars, videos and more that can teach you the basics of SEO. It is imperative that you as the site owner arm yourself with as much SEO knowledge as possible during the first year of your site's life. The more you know about SEO, the less likely you are to be conned by a black hat SEO company and the less likely you are to make black hat SEO decisions by accident. A good place to start is with the Bing and Google Webmaster Guidelines. Consider those two sources as your SEO line in the sand; what they say goes. Look for other reputable blogs and sites that can help you learn more about SEO and how others in your industry are using it to their advantage.

By taking the time to teach yourself the basics of SEO (you could take an SEO course or spend time with a consultant as well), you'll be better prepared to take your SEO to the next level after your site has aged a little and earned the trust of the search engines.

Start a Blog

Start blogging right away. Start with at least one blog post a week and see if you can work up to one a day within the first year of your blog's life. That may seem like a huge ordeal now, but you'd be surprised at how easy it gets to write a 350-500 word blog post with practice. You'll learn how to better formulate your thoughts, present a single idea and flush it out entirely with time. If you aren't confident in your writing ability or are struggling to come up with topics, turn to your employees and co-workers for help. The worst thing you could do is launch a blog and then not routinely update it with fresh content.

It takes a long time to hone your writing skills, find and develop your niche, build your reputation and attract loyal readers to your blog, so don't expect to see major results fast. However, just like your site, as your blog ages it earns more trust from the search engines. Individual blog posts can start to rank for targeted keywords, increasing your online brand presence.
 

Build Your Social Network

If you are just getting onboard the social media marketing train, you're in for a surprise! Social media marketing takes a lot more time than most companies realize, and it needs a solid strategy to run on. Don't walk into social media blind and hope you'll figure it out before something goes wrong. Take the first year of your site's life to really develop your social profiles and connect with your target audience. What kind of content are they looking for from you? When is the best time to engage them? Which sites do they spend most of their time on? If you want your social media marketing efforts to be effective, you need to understand the behavior of your target audience so you can better reach them.

 

Focus on On-Site Optimization

The first year of your site's life should really be spent focusing on the site itself. Don't worry too much about developing a full blown link building strategy just yet; it's more important to make sure your site is in the best shape it can be! Work on creating great webpage content, developing an internal linking structure that helps keep your visitor engaged, tweaking your landing pages to improve their conversion rate and so forth. Your website is going to be the hub of the rest of your Internet marketing. It doesn't matter how great everything is off-site if your website doesn't measure up. At the end of the day, it is your website that is going to convince visitors to act. Does it matter how many show up or how they got there if you website fails to convert?

 

Develop an Editorial Calendar

Content pretty much fuels all of your SEO and social media marketing. Without great content, you don't give your target audience a real reason to check out your site, profile or blog. In addition to all the content you have to create for your sites, you also need to start looking into 3rd party sites where you can publish guest content. Take the first year of your site's life to build relationships with industry bloggers and other site owners that allow guest articles to be published on their site. Identify which popular industry blogs cater to your target audience and start laying the groundwork to get one of your articles published there. If you can create an editorial calendar for you to follow, you'll be able to get a jumpstart on your content marketing.

50 Top SEO Tips and Tricks

( @ SiteProNews) I’ve written articles that have gone viral around the world overnight and I’ve been featured in local and national media, yet the main question I get asked is “How do you do your SEO?”

I think most people asking are hoping there’s a magic bullet, a route to instant success but the truth is there isn’t. There are, however, things you can do to improve your chances of success. They just take a bit of creative thinking and a load of dedication.

Far and away link building is the key to success but that doesn’t mean that’s what you should concentrate on since gaining links for links sake won’t get you very far.

Google’s algo is very good at detecting sites that are just gaining links to improve PageRank. In the past, many believed they could beat it and many will continue to try, but it simply won’t work.

The only way to rank highly is to gain genuine links from genuine sources i.e. not spam. There are people that will tell you they can gain these for you and there are people that will claim they understand Google’s algo and can improve your position, but the truth is unless you’re the high priest at Google’s inner temple you are just guessing like the rest of us.

The algo is a closely guarded secret that no one truly understands but there’s one thing we know for sure that can help with our SEO. Google wants to drive traffic to the most relevant, high quality sites and the algo is designed to facilitate this. It sorts the wheat from the chaff and decides which sites are most worthy of the coveted number one spot.

Think of it in terms of the top 40. A song reaches the number one spot if it sells the most (for SEO purposes sales = links) but you can’t just take a collection of words, with no melody and try and get sales. In order to get to number one you have to start with a good song (for SEO purposes song = content). The song may not be to everyone’s liking but as long as a large enough number of people like it, then they will buy (or link to!) it.

So first and foremost you need great, original content that people want to link to. Without this you stand absolutely no chance, but once you have it, how do you go about creating links instead of just waiting for them to come to you. Hopefully, the list below will give you some tips.

Become an Authority and be Easy to Link to

1. Make your content grammatically correct and avoid spelling errors. This does depend on who you hope will link to your site and whether they will care, but in general, it’s good practice.

2. Ensure your content can be understood. This will help people to grasp what you’re trying to say and to spread the word.

3. Have a privacy policy, terms and conditions and disclaimer. It lends an air of authority to your site.

Create Lists

4. Lists are easy to share, grab a reader’s attention and, if good enough, can build authority.

5. Create a ten myths list for your specialist area.

6. Write a ten easy tips list. People like to link to these.

7. Create a 101 post about the lists noted above. If it’s good enough, it can easily go viral and people with similar sites love to link to things like this.

8. Make your site an essential resource site where people can find all the information they need on a particular subject.

9. List the movers and shakers in your industry. If you’re lucky and drive enough traffic their way, they may link back to you. Who can resist the fact that they are on a list of important people!

Use News and Articles

10. People like to feel that they are ahead of the game so give them the opportunity to discover you through news and other channels.

11. Swap your articles with other bloggers and webmasters. They will usually link to you.

12. Send an article to your industry specific news site. If it’s good enough, it will be used and will drive traffic and gain you links.

13. Use article websites. If the article is good enough, you will gain readers very quickly and if people are interested, in what you have to say they will seek out your articles in the future.

14. Find relevant sites with “in the news” info. They will link to sites that are writing about subjects relevant to their traffic.

15. Carry out a study or survey that gives information to your target audience. People always want to know the results of these and are highly likely to link to it if it is authoritative and well done.

16. Write press releases and submit them to journalists, radio and bloggers. Get them talking about your release and they will link to it or their audience will.

Enjoy Reviews

17. Write reviews about products relevant to you on Amazon. If they are informative people will link to them.

18. Start to review everything you come across or products/services you use. Utilize shopping sites.

19. Writing testimonials are a great way to gain links. If you are complimentary about something, then the people behind it are highly likely to link to you.

20. Use site review websites. These will drive traffic which will in turn gain some links.

Trade Links

21. This comes with a caveat. Re-read the beginning of this article because trading links wholesale could be damaging to your SEO.

22. That being said, trading links with a select number of high quality sites will give you authority and help to drive traffic to your site.

23. The best way to think about link trading is to forget about search engines. If you believe that a link will genuinely help your relevant traffic and improve the other site, then go for it.

Utilize Blogs

24. If you don’t have one already why not?? Start a blog straight away. Update regularly and make sure the content is truly great. Once you start to pick up regular readers, they will link to the posts they like.

25. List your blog on best blog sites – there are plenty of them out there.

26. Add links to other blogs your readers might like. Most good bloggers track where their traffic is coming from and when they start to notice your site they will probably want to link back to it.

27. Comment on other blogs. This is another way of getting noticed and can potentially drive more traffic your way.

28. Join Technorati. Instead of explaining it here, I’ll just tell you that it helps you rank well so join up and explore.

Quick Links for Free

29. Most free links will be No Follow so won’t necessarily help your SEO, but they will drive traffic which will in turn gain links.

30. If your company is established, then you should set up a Wikipedia page. Make it look as authoritative as possible and link to topic related pages.

31. Utilize question and answer services such as Yahoo and Google questions. If people like your answer, they could possibly end up on your site.

32. Craigslist offers free and easy advertising.

33. Gumtree is similar.

34. Set up a Squidoo page. It will help you to look like an industry expert and is relatively easy to set up.

35. Submit articles and stories to Digg. If they are popular enough, you will gain huge numbers of links.

36. Comment on forums using a link signature. People will follow the link if they like what you’re saying.

37. If you update your blog regularly, set up an RSS feed.

Use Community Support

38. There are loads of ways in your community to gain links to your site. All you have to do is go out and find them, but here are some ideas to start with:

39. Local libraries will often link to your site.

40. If your site is particularly authoritative, request council and government links.

41. Build relationships with businesses in your local area.

42. Speak to your Chamber of Commerce.

43. Speak to your business partners about linking to you.

44. There may be a business bureau in your area that will link to you.

Use Pay per Click

45. PPC will bring you traffic and, in turn, if people like your content, they will link to it. This is another example, however, of content gaining you the best links.

Undirectories and Bookmarking

46. The key here is quality. There are thousands of directories that will damage your SEO, but the good ones are like gold dust for your ranking. Spend time investigating which directories are actually providing a service and which are just a collection of links.

47. If one of your posts is really good (and you will know instinctively if that’s the case), start asking people to bookmark it on social sites such as Digg.

48. If you have the time set up your own directory, make it authoritative and use it to link to your own site. This could take on a life of its own if it really is directing people the way they want to go, gaining links all on its own and you could have a whole new business on your hands.

49. For this point, I would reiterate that it is all about quality, but some paid directories are worth using. Try a couple and run a test on the effect it has on your SEO.

50. Keep abreast of what is trending on the web so you can ensure what you’re providing is relevant. If you are operating a site that keeps abreast of current trends, then you will gain links.

So that’s 50 tips that may assist you. Are you already using them?

If not, don’t rush out and try and do them all straight away but spend a little time and over the next few months make sure you have all the bases covered. Above all, one thing is vital if you want to generate quality links – Be Creative!

AWSTATS: How To Measure WebPage Success

WebSites are about making money! They are not beauty contests and they’re not about flaunting technology

80% of web pages are only seen by friends and family and never shows up on a search engine

In order to be effective your WebSite must be Found, Read, and it must Motivate your viewer to Take Action

This requires a good Plan, Design, Implementation, Promotion, and Maintenance

Good Reporting is Essential!!!

AWStats is the best way we found to analyze webpage success. You can learn about how many folks visited your website, how long they stayed, what they looked at, and if they came back again. Best part it’s Free and comes with every website we host.

Our retail clients can see how many web surfers are serious about visiting their store by the number that view a map to their location or driving directions. Manufacturers and Job Shops can tell by how many look at their capabilities page, and how long they stayed. Of course, contacts page and email forms from the website itself are dead give-a-ways. Backlinks, Frontlinks, Spiders, and keywords are reported in detail as well.

AWStats is short for Advanced Web Statistics. AWStats is powerful log analyzer which creates advanced web, ftp, mail and streaming server statistics reports based on the rich data contained in server logs. Data is graphically presented in easy to read web pages.

AWStats is free software distributed under the GNU General Public License. The license chart illustrates what you can and cannot do.

Please take some time to look at the sample report below - this picture tells the full story:

Free Website Traffic Tips

Traffic Building Tips and Tricks

How to Get Listed & Ranked in Google and Bing-Yahoo
Learn how to list your site with Google and other popular search engines online.  Search engine advertising is one of the best ways to bring in free, targeted traffic.

How Search Engine Optimization Keeps Evolving
Discover how search engine optimization has changed over the years and what you need to know for the future.

The Importance of Targeting the Right Keywords
Here I address a common mistake made by people trying to rank their websites on Google.

Understanding Your Google AuthorRank
Learn why you should tag all your content and the importance of building up your AuthorRank if you want more Google traffic.

Creating and Ranking YouTube Videos
YouTube is an excellent, free way to drive additional traffic to your site. Discover how to get your videos to rank well.

Using Google AdWords to Drive Traffic - Is That Smart?
Here's an overview of how AdWords works. You can actually drive a lot of business and traffic with AdWords, but at what cost?

Improve Your Search Engine Traffic with Keyword Research
How to use Market Samurai for keyword research.

Email Marketing Strategies to Improve Your Traffic and Sales
Avoid making the biggest mistake most website owners make. Learn how to master email marketing to add another stable source of traffic and revenue to your site.

Using Pinterest to Increase Traffic to Your Website
How to use the latest hottest social media website to drive visitors to your site.

Social Media Marketing Tips
Basic tips on getting the most out of Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Tips on Increasing Your Blog's Traffic
Easy tips you can begin implementing today to help grow your blog's traffic.

Creating a Google XML Sitemap
Make sure Google knows about all your pages. Learn how to create a sitemap.

All About Google Plus
An introduction to Google's social networking tool.

Using Twitter for Traffic and Promotion
Discover how I use Twitter to drive traffic and build my personal brand.

A Step By Step Guide to Guest Posting
Guest posting can be a VERY effective way of building traffic to your website. Read this great guest post by Ann Smarty.

Trouble Building Traffic? Join My Forum!
One of the best ways to learn how to build traffic is to network and get help from your peers! Just look at all the traffic discussions here!

How to Create RSS Feeds 
RSS feeds are a great way of letting your audience keep up with the updates on your site.  Find out how to setup your own feed for a static website.

Google Pigeon Update Boosts Local Search Engine Optimization

( @ SiteProNews) On July 24, Google went public with a new algorithm change that, as opposed to affecting online retailers and businesses, pertains mostly to brick and mortar stores by modifying local directory listings. What does it do and how does it affect your business?
The Update and How it Works

While Google gave no name to its recent algorithm change, in keeping with the animal theme – Panda, Hummingbird and so on – Search Engine Land has aptly nicknamed the latest update Pigeon, after the birds that tend to fly back home.

While most of the changes are to the back end of the network and how it runs searches, the impact is clear for searchers on the front end. The algorithm is designed to provide relevant and accurate search results for local businesses that are more closely related to traditional search rankings and signals.
According to the network, the new algorithm uses Google’s web search capabilities on a deeper level, meaning that the way local listings are displayed in results will be more like how standard search results are generated with less favoritism toward Google Places listings.

The Pigeon update currently affects only US English results, and no information has been released as to when the update will be rolled out in other languages and locations. The main affect of the algorithm change? Local directory sites and listings are receiving better rankings and visibility in search results on Google than ever before.

Why?
While the reason behind the update has not been made public, there has been speculation as to why Google made the algorithm change.
Starting back in 2012 with the release of Google Places, online directories like Yelp started to notice a decline in the prominence of their listings. The “Yelp problem“, as it became commonly known, referred to the appearance that Google was manipulating results to put its own listings ahead of other directories, regardless of search term, popularity or other traditional SEO practices. Yelp’s report detailed one specific search term – “gary denko yelp” – and found that the results listed the official Gary Danko, a well-known restaurant in San Fancisco, California, website and multiple Google+ listings and pieces of content ahead of the Yelp listing that was specifically searched for.
While this is not listed anywhere as the actual cause or motivator behind the update, since the change, the same search term now lists the Yelp listing for Gary Denko first in Google results.

Who it Impacts
While the “Yelp problem” has been addressed with the update, other local directories will also likely see an increase in search rankings and overall popularity.
Sites like Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor that list local eateries and attractions will no longer have to battle Google’s listings. Instead, retailers and restaurants that use online directories can focus on the directories that attract the most attention, instead of catering to the requirements and needs of Google.
The update will also affect retailers and local businesses relying on traditional SEO for their own websites. Because of the new prominence of listings, going at it alone, without the support of larger networks may be more difficult than ever.

Increasing the Exposure of Your Business
In theory, Google’s new algorithm change is straightforward and easy to understand. But, what does it mean for your business? How can you be sure you benefit from the update instead of falling short? Follow these tips for success:

Study Your Listings
Maybe you switched to Google Places because of the prominence of the results and left behind a directory that was driving more traffic and receiving more attention. If this is the case, now is the time to step back. Look at where the traffic to your site is coming from and focus on that source. Because all directories now receive prominence on Google, understanding which site drives the most traffic to your site is important when deciding where to focus your attention and efforts.

Don’t Forget Google
New updates and algorithms are released daily – 500-600 times per year to be more precise. Because of this, you can never be sure of when a new algorithm will be released that will affect your business. Maintaining an active Google Places and Google+ presence is always recommended.
Focus on Major Directory Sites

As previously mentioned, the update will make it harder than ever for individual websites advertising local businesses to maintain a high search ranking with Google. Instead, directories are more prominent – and therefore more important – than ever. Take the time to create a business page on large directory sites – like 

Yelp and to optimize where possible.

Get Your Customers Involved
The best way to attract attention is to increase the number of positive reviews. Take the time to ask your customers to participate and to leave reviews. Link to your Yelp – or other directory – listing in your email newsletter and on your website. Leave pamphlets in your store or restaurant. Use social media pages to ask your followers for reviews. The more positivity you can generate, the more your listings will work to your advantage.
Maintain an Active Home Website

While your website may be more difficult than ever to promote through Google with the new algorithm update, that doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. It’s still the focus of your business and where your directory listings will send visitors. Be sure it is current, hosts relevant information, attracts attention and promotes your business in a positive manner.

Google’s Pigeon update may very well revolutionize the way listings are displayed in search results. Take the steps necessary today to ensure your business benefits from the new release.

Google Site Penalties and What To Do About Them

(Derek Jansen @ SiteProNews) So you pushed the limits in terms of link building – you built links to your site that weren’t exactly squeaky clean or natural. Perhaps you used some blog networks, perhaps some low quality directory submissions, or even forum profiles. Who could blame you? Truth is, it worked for a while – but then one day you got a not-so-pleasant message from Google Webmaster Tools – the dreaded “unnatural links to your site” warning.

You cringe, perhaps feel a little guilty, and hope that the impact isn’t too bad. But as the weeks roll by you watch your rankings rapidly diminishing – those top three rankings fall off of page one. Next you start seeing the impact trickling through to your financials – it’s all headed downwards. The reality of losing your Google-derived traffic starts setting in. You realize that you have to get the penalty lifted, as a matter of business survival – but how?

So you pushed the limits in terms of link building – you built links to your site that weren’t exactly squeaky clean or natural. Perhaps you used some blog networks, perhaps some low quality directory submissions, or even forum profiles. Who could blame you? Truth is, it worked for a while – but then one day you got a not-so-pleasant message from Google Webmaster Tools – the dreaded “unnatural links to your site” warning.

You cringe, perhaps feel a little guilty, and hope that the impact isn’t too bad. But as the weeks roll by you watch your rankings rapidly diminishing – those top three rankings fall off of page one. Next you start seeing the impact trickling through to your financials – it’s all headed downwards. The reality of losing your Google-derived traffic starts setting in. You realize that you have to get the penalty lifted, as a matter of business survival – but how?

In this post, we’ll look at the basic 3-step process we follow at Penalty Pros to get unnatural link-based manual penalties lifted. We’ve had the benefit of removing over 200 manual penalties, and have learned a thing or two along the way. Please keep in mind that the recommendations below are based on our observations of what works and what doesn’t, and that some of this advice may be contrary to what you read elsewhere, or even Google’s official recommendations.

Step 1: Manual Link Analysis

The first step in dealing with a link-based penalty is analyzing your incoming links to assess which are acceptable and which are problematic.

Data Sources – Which Should I Use?

There’s a fair amount of debate regarding what data sources you should use. Some say that you should use as many data sources as possible (for example Majestic, Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, etc.), while others say that the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) Data is sufficient. In our experience, having tried all the major data sources, we’ve found that the GWT data is generally sufficient, and at worst, should be combined with one additional data source (we recommend Majestic SEO).

Less Is More – for the purposes of getting a penalty lifted, we’ve seen no value in using every possible data source. Using multiple data sources just adds to the time investment required and yields no better returns in terms of lifting a penalty. To get started, you only need to focus on the downloadable links within Google Webmaster Tools. We recommend downloading both the “Latest Links” and “More Sample Links” CSVs in GWT, combining them and removing duplicates.

To be clear, we’re only referring to the impact on getting a penalty removed – not on having a squeaky clean link profile. If you want to audit every single link in an effort to eradicate ANY questionable links, there is definitely value in using every available data source.

Defining Unnatural Links

Once you’ve downloaded, combined and de-duplicated your links list, the hard work begins. You’ll need to manually comb through each and every link to assess its “naturalness”. This is painstaking, time intensive work, but it is absolutely essential that you take a manual approach to this. Please DO NOT utilize automated link analysis tools for this job. While the likes of LinkDetox, LinkDelete, DeleteBacklink, etc. do a great job of removing links (which we will come to later), their analysis is algorithmic and automated, and will never be anywhere near as accurate as manually auditing your links. The human touch is absolutely essential here.

You do not want to end up removing good links and leaving bad links by mistake. Take the time to do manual analysis.

So the next question is, of course, how do you define/identify bad backlinks that need to be removed? While there’s no hard and fast rule for making this assessment, having performed extensive penalty removals we’ve observed that Google’s main criteria is anchor text (even more so than link source).

It seems that commercial anchor text (or unnatural anchor text ratios) is what triggers their system, and this is what the manual team is really focusing on. We’ve noticed links on otherwise perfect sites getting flagged, purely because of over-optimized anchor text. By the same logic, we’ve seen links from very questionable sites fly under the radar because their anchor text was less questionable. This is only our observation, but based on 200+ penalty removals, it does suggest that anchor text is the key focus of the manual team.

That said, you want to pay particular attention to any links derived from the following typical spam link sources:

  • Blog networks
  • Low quality, irrelevant directories
  • Article farms/directories
  • Forum profiles and signatures
  • Low quality blog comments
  • Low quality or scaled up guest posting
  • Low quality press release sites
  • Social bookmarking sites
  • Any site that has “SEO” or “links” in its URL or title

The bottom line is that Google doesn’t want you to be able to influence your incoming links, and any link that suggests it has been manually created for the purposes of manipulating their algorithms can be a problem. When assessing links, ask yourself, “is this link plausibly deniable?”. If not, it most likely has to go.

A Note About “nofollows”

Tip – while Google should ignore “nofollow” links, we’ve observed this not to be the case (i.e., nofollows have been pointed out in denied reconsideration requests). Perhaps it was incompetency on the part of the manual reviewer, but it is always wise to disavow questionable nofollow links as well.

Step 2: Bad Link Removal, Editing And Disavow

Once you’ve manually assessed all of your incoming links and identified the problem links, you’ll need to make an effort to get problem links removed. Google wants to see some effort in this regard, and so you need to put some work into getting bad links removed. A simple spreadsheet documenting your removal efforts will do. We suggest the following process:

  1. Collect webmaster email addresses or contact form URLs for all problem links – you can find email addresses on the relevant sites, or use who.is to scrape contact details, or use a service like Rmoov to semi-automate this process.
  2. Create a generic request email and mail merge the data to send out requests. Submit the balance of contact forms manually.
  3. Send a follow up to all sites that fail to respond.
  4. Document all results in a spreadsheet for submission along with your reconsideration request.

A few things to keep in mind when contacting webmasters:

  • Your request is a corporate communication. Do not be rude to webmasters or threaten them when requesting link removal or anchor text editing. This can cause a major PR problem.
  • Check your referring data in Google Analytics before requesting link removals, because you could be killing a profitable traffic source. In such cases, ask the webmaster to edit the anchor text of the link to something more natural. If the link is still undeniably commercial, add it to your disavow list (more on this shortly).
  • The truth is most websites will not respond (why should they care?), and some will even be so cheeky as to request payment for link removal. Document all failed requests and mark them for addition to the disavow file.

Once you’ve completed the link removal outreach phase, you will need to prepare and submit a disavow file of all links that could not be removed. The disavow tool allows you to tell Google to effectively ignore certain links or domains. For more information on the tool, see Google’s official help page here. Be very careful when creating the disavow file – you don’t want to end up disavowing good links by mistake. It goes without saying, do NOT use any automated tool to prepare a disavow file – manual preparation is essential.

Once you’ve prepared the disavow file, you’ll need to submit it to Google via Google Webmaster Tools. You can find the function here. Please note that you DO NOT need to add comments to your disavow file. Google has recently stated that the disavow process is completely automatic, and they do not look at comments. Don’t waste your time.

When submitting your file, be sure to double check the data on the confirmation screen to ensure that there are no errors with the disavow file.

Step 3: Submitting the Reconsideration Request

The third and final step in removing the manual penalty is to submit a reconsideration request to Google, highlighting what you’ve done to resolve the issue, and request penalty removal. The function can be found in Google Webmaster Tools under “Search Traffic” -> “Manual Actions”.

Writing a quality, sincere reconsideration request is absolutely essential. You do not want to rush this part.

Constructing the Winning Request

While there is no golden rule for writing successful reconsideration requests, we have observed that the following are essential elements to include:

1 – Admit Guilt

It’s important to admit that the website was involved in manipulative link building (whether by your instruction or someone else’s) and state that this has now been stopped. Google wants to see that you have “come clean” and had a change of mind-set when it comes to SEO. Obviously, if you are a victim of negative SEO or an agency that promised white-hat and delivered black-hat, you need to explain this.

2 – Name & Shame

This one’s a contentious point. If your SEO or SEO agency is responsible for the problematic links, Google wants to know about it. Some speculate that the entire link removal and disavow process is a data collection exercise for Google (most likely true). Regardless, Google wants names – hand them over.

3 – Show Evidence

Now’s the time to showcase all the hard work you did to remove bad links. Share your spreadsheet on Google Drive (be sure to enable open access) and reference it in the reconsideration request. Provide as much detail about your efforts as possible. The more the better.

4 – Share Your Disavow

Even though you’ve already submitted your disavow file in GWT, it’s still wise to upload it to Google Drive and reference it in your recon request. We’ve seen many cases where the manual team ignore the disavow file (whether by human or technical error). Play it safe and include a reference in your recon request.

5 – Explain Your Future Strategy

As mentioned earlier, Google wants to see that you’ve had a change of mind-set when it comes to SEO. Briefly discuss your future plans to invest in a content marketing based strategy, or if you’ve decided to give up on SEO, mention that. Make it clear that you are not going to be a “repeat offender”.

Once you’re done, re-read your request and make sure that there are no spelling or grammar issues, and check that it flows well. You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to give their stamp of approval. Once done, hit the submit button. It generally takes Google 2-3 weeks to respond.

It’s Unlikely You’ll Succeed First Time Round – Don’t Beat Yourself Up About It.

As a non-specialist, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed first time round. The most common reason for this lies in the analysis phase. Most webmasters are simply too conservative when it comes to identifying problem links and believe that a link is “good” when it is not. Don’t despair though – it just takes a little perseverance.

If unsuccessful, you will need to repeat the above process with remaining links, and ensure that you have identified all problem links. Fortunately Google does provide 2-3 examples of problem links when denying a reconsideration request. Use this data to guide your efforts and identify remaining problem links.

Some points to note regarding repeat reconsideration requests:

  • Google will not process a reconsideration request for 2-3 weeks after declining the original. Use this time wisely.
  • Update your link list with the latest links to ensure that you have the full picture. Links change over the time from your first analysis to the second recon.
  • When updating the disavow, keep in mind that your latest disavow file replaces all previous versions, so make sure that you’re creating a comprehensive file. You do not want to “re-avow” old links when disavowing new ones!

Success!

If successful, you can expect to see a shift in rankings and impressions within 2 weeks post penalty removal. The extent of this improvement will be dependent on how many good links you still have. While every site is different, and there are no guarantees, we’ve seen sites skyrocket past their pre-penalty rankings and an average increase of 800% in impressions at Penalty Pros.

Wrapping Up

Removing your Google penalty is hard work – there’s no way around that – but it is well worth it. While some SEOs will argue that you should rather ignore the penalty and focus on building new links, our experience has been that even partial-match penalties still cause a substantial suppressive effect site-wide. If you’re looking to succeed in the SERPS you can’t move forward without first resolving your manual penalties.

Thanks for reading, and we wish you all the best in your penalty removal efforts. Please keep in mind that the advice in this post is based on our experience, and your experience may be different. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.

The SEO Challenge

(Tina Courtney-Brown @ SiteProNews) If you’re just starting out, every aspect of great SEO can feel intimidating and daunting. There’s a lot that goes into intelligent SEO execution; everything from high quality content, to site construction and coding, to organic search results, to paid search, and much more. Sometimes it helps to narrow down your focus to the most challenging aspects of a solid SEO campaign and build from there. To assist, I’ve listed this year’s most perplexing SEO tactics with insights on how to demystify each element.

SEO Challenge 1: Content

Google and search engines like it make money off of great content. Their algorithms, therefore, reward you when you hit the mark. According to eMarketer, 74 percent of businesses intend to focus more on content marketing this year; join them, or be behind the curve.

The operative word is always quality, however, and that’s a tremendous challenge to successfully navigate. Here are some tips regarding what makes content worthy of higher rankings:

  • Less is sometimes more; don’t crank out content just to have it, make sure you add value with everything you publish;
  • Know your audience intimately; this allows you to produce quality offerings that you know your demographic actually wants to experience;
  • Be consistent in your messaging; choose a specific tone and brand identity, and don’t deviate much from your voice, lest you start to seriously confuse your audience
  • Quality does not mean expensive, it simply means it’s inherently valuable. You can produce inexpensive videos that are meaningful to your customers and still hit a home run.
  • Create an editorial calendar, and stick to it as much as possible. Flying by the seat of your creative juices won’t always hit the mark; planning is integral to quality.

SEO Challenge 2: Promotion

This is where most businesses fall short. Once you have the content you’re proud to share, promoting it can be a much harder task. Do not hold the shortsighted attitude that great content sells itself. If that were the case, marketers wouldn’t be so needed.

Here are some tips to get your content noticed:

  • Use all your existing marketing channels with current customers to call attention to your content. This includes regular e-mail blasts to opted-in readers, social media integration, and prominent placement on your website(s).
  • Find folks in your industry with loyal audiences that are looking for your kind of quality content. Making friends with bloggers and media folks that share related information is invaluable, and a true win-win. They need the content, and you need the eyeballs. Don’t be afraid to make friends.
  • In fact, I advocate creating content specifically for a website that has a large following of readers in your demographic. Customizing the content increases the odds of publication, and it shows how serious you are about honoring their specific parameters and needs.

SEO Challenge 3: Brand Awareness

Brand identity is absolutely essential to a strong SEO campaign. If you think of SEO as a short-term, one-off goal, you won’t achieve the highest rankings. Don’t assume SEO is just about clicks, traffic and conversions. SEO is marketing, after all, and the big picture goal of marketing is always to increase your brand awareness and credibility in the eyes of consumers.

This integrates seamlessly into Google’s perspective too. More and more, they are rewarding businesses with high authority, trustworthiness and credibility. If your overall SEO strategies encompass the permeation of these qualities, you’re on the right track in a very big way.

SEO Challenge 4: Mobile

Many business owners still think mobile SEO is exactly the same as traditional SEO. Alas, that’s just not the case. Treating them the same will not only dilute your mobile results, it could diminish efforts on both sides, because Google is giving more and more credence to good mobile SEO tactics.

I hear lots of marketers tout that their audience isn’t accessing them on mobile, so it’s not a big part of their strategy. In almost every case, it isn’t that their customers aren’t using mobile devices, it’s that their content is either difficult to find or difficult to access on small screens. In other words, they don’t see high mobile traffic because there are flaws in their approach. This is why it behooves everyone to include small screens into every aspect of the site production and marketing efforts.

How do you appeal to the small screen masses? Make content just for them, for starters. Have a keyword strategy based on mobile trends and results. Ensure your sites, blogs, and content offerings all work flawlessly on small devices. Treat your mobile customers as an entirely different aspect of your demographic with unique needs and requirements. They are, after all, and with mobile traffic continuing to skyrocket, ignoring this area of your business could be hugely detrimental.

Yes, you still have to make sure your sites (mobile and otherwise) all have targeted keyword strategies, excellent SEO data, URLs, and descriptors, and robust site maps. These must-haves don’t change much. What does keep shifting is the challenge of staying on top of SEO trends and tools. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep going back to the core of what high rankings are all about: quality, consistency, content, and credibility. That’s the recipe for SEO success, and it’s never too late to start.

Gray SEO Should You Do It

( @ SitePro) Since the advent of SEO, like any human-created system, many have found it challenging to play by the ethical rules. Thus, “black hat” and “white hat” SEO were born. Black hat refers to shady practices where businesses buy links and engage in bot-scamming techniques, and white hat are all those standardized practices that develop increased rankings the old-fashioned way: by earning it.

It’s a natural progression, then, that the ever-present desire to bend the rules as far as they can go without breaking would manifest a new SEO term, “gray hat.” Many argue it’s the best search engine game in town, while others say it doesn’t even exist – there is no gray.

What exactly is gray hat SEO, and should your business consider pushing these boundaries? That all depends on your risk tolerance, adherence to structure, and willingness to walk the line between integrity and unethical practices. Read on to see where you land in the mix.

Gray Hat SEO: A Definition

Consider gray hat practices akin to a newly developed street drug – there’s a period of time where those in the know can use it before it’s deemed illegal. To some, these tactics are legitimate – crafty ways to play within the system, and come out on top.

In truth, gray hat is just a nicer way to say you’re attempting to cheat the process, without looking like it. To illustrate this point, let’s examine the most common gray hat practices.

Gray Hat in Action – Popular Tactics

Domain Purchases: Some businesses do a grab-and-buy on old yet authoritative URLs that can then add backlinks to the sites they own, thereby boosting rankings. While this may seem like an out of pocket expense, it can cost far less than the time and effort it normally takes to build your link juice.

Social Media Buys: Looking to increase your social media numbers overnight? There are services that automate this process, but proceed with caution: Twitter, at least, isn’t allowing these inflations any longer, and other platforms may soon follow suit.

Content Manipulation: Many now use software that scans the web for content on a particular topic, then “spins” it by rewording sections, thereby avoiding a duplicate content ding. Copyright infringement is still a possibility since normally no original content is added, but it can whiz past Panda’s watchful eye.

Cloaking: Famous in black hat circles, cloaking is an attempt to tell search engines one thing, and users another. By manipulating meta-data and IP addresses, you can convince search engines to crawl you when they otherwise would not, based on your content. Some argue this is a legitimate “gray area” for communities and membership sites.

Keyword Page Strategies: Another middle of the road tampering that involves creating landing pages for each keyword or keyword phrase. This can be time consuming, but certainly effective; as long as releases are staggered over time, so as to avoid spam filters.

Google-Bombing: A technique involving the formation of a big dose of links, generated solely for rankings. When combined with keyword bombing, this can inflate rankings in short order.

CSS Content Deception: Those with the coding chops can fool search engine bots into thinking a site’s content appears farther down the page than it actually does. The benefit? Google crawls content first, and if it’s perceived to be significantly down the page, the site can read as having increased value.

Microsites: Similar to keyword pages, some businesses create a different mini-website for each category they cover. As an example, a business selling pet supplies may create separate sites for cats, dogs, exotics, birds, etc. This is easy for search engines to sniff out, however; especially if you’re using the same contact information for each site.

Should You Consider Bending the Rules?

The argument for following standardized practices is always this: the bad guys seem to finish first. But is that really the case? And are there any exceptions?

Yes, it’s true that those that engage in questionable SEO tactics often seem to hit the top of the rankings. Monitor these results long term, however, and you’re likely to see cracks in the armor. Google, Bing, and Yahoo have an incredibly vested interested in catching deceptions as fast as they can, and years of algorithm shifts have shown they’re definitely paying attention. If you want your business to have staying power, it’s advisable that you not make the big dogs angry, or you may have to start from square one.

That said, some industries are themselves deviant and renegades, and in order to compete, you may feel like you have no choice.
In the SEOChat forums, one user, named Cygnus, puts it this way:

“I’m a white hat for some sites and a grey/black for others…trying to be a white hat in an uber-competitive industry doesn’t make sense with the current SEO environment. I can’t imagine someone trying to take on the phrase “viagra” with a pure white-hat approach…they probably wouldn’t crack the top 30.”

The Myth of White and Gray

In actuality, “gray hat SEO” is only a matter of perception. One person’s gray is another person’s pitch black. It’s really only a category created to make those breaking the rules feel better about their strategies.

That said, anyone attempting to only follow white hat SEO practices has an almost impossible task. Because Google defines black hat as any attempt to manipulate rankings, you’d be hard pressed to find a site that hasn’t crossed the line. We bribe sites to link to us by offering link juice in return. We study keyword density for content and do our best to make search engine bots take notice. The list goes on and on.

Because the world knows that SEO is a critical component to online success, it’s natural that folks do all they can to get their business on top. The game, therefore, becomes one of risk tolerance and ethics. Only you, the business owner, can decide where in the spectrum of black, gray, and white you choose to land. No matter how you choose, there are repercussions – and you have to be comfortable with potential outcomes before moving forward with your strategies.

Highly Profitable Companies Eleven Rules

 

How do you generate the most profit with the least effort? How do you maximize margins without sacrificing quality?

I'm not talking more customers, nor more revenue, nor more offices and employees. Profit.

Based on my interviews with high-performing CEOs ("high-performing" determined using annual-profit-per-employee measurements) in more than a dozen countries, I've listed 11 common "rules" below. This is a return-to-basics call.

Here's your cheat sheet for consistent profitability -- or doubling of it -- in 3 months or less.

1. Repetition is Usually Redundant — Good Advertising Works the First Time

Use direct response advertising (call-to-action to a phone number or website) that is uniquely trackable – fully accountable advertising — instead of "image" or "brand" advertising (e.g. billboards with no URL/phone/messaging), unless others are pre-purchasing product to offset the cost (e.g. “If you prepurchase 288 units, we’ll feature your store/URL/phone exclusively in a full-page ad in….”).

Don’t listen to advertising salespeople who tell you that 3, 7, or 27 exposures are needed before someone will act. Well-designed and well-targeted advertising works the first time. If something works partially well (e.g., high click-through with low percentage conversion to sales (CVR), or low click-through with high conversion, etc.), indicating that a strong ROI might be possible with small changes, tweak one variable and micro-test once more.

Cancel anything that cannot be justified with a trackable ROI.

2. Pricing before Product – Plan Distribution First

Is your pricing scalable?

Many companies will sell direct-to-consumer by necessity in early stages, often through a simple website. Only later do they realize that their margins can’t accommodate resellers and distributors when they come knocking. This is true whether your "distributor" is iTunes, a worldwide widget distributor, or Orbitz.

If you have a 40% profit margin and a national distributor needs a 70% discount off of retail (or "cut") to sell into wholesale accounts, you’re forever limited to direct-to-consumer… unless you increase your pricing and margins after-the-fact, or launch new "premium" products to fix the problem. For a bootlegged start-up, this distraction can equal sky-high customer churn or death altogether.

Plan out your first two years of distribution plan before setting pricing.

Think digital is different? Think again.

Test assumptions and find hidden costs by interviewing those who have done it: will you need to pay for co-op advertising, offer rebates for bulk purchases, or pay for shelfspace or featured placement? I know one former CEO of a national brand who had to sell his company to one of the world’s largest soft drink manufacturers before he could access front-of-store shelving in top retailers.

Test your assumptions and do your homework before setting pricing. It's not a small thing.

3. Less is More – Limiting Distribution to Increase Profit

Is more distribution automatically better? Not necessarily.

Uncontrolled distribution leads to all manner of head-ache and profit-bleeding, most often related to rogue discounters. Reseller A lowers pricing to compete with online discounter B, and the price cutting continues until neither is making sufficient profit on the product and both stop reordering from you (or selling/referring your product). This race to the bottom requires you to launch new products, as price erosion is almost always irreversible.

Avoid this scenario and consider partnering with one or two key distributors instead, using that exclusivity to negotiate better terms: less discounting, prepayment instead of net payment terms, preferred placement and marketing support, etc.

Whether Apple or Estee Lauder, sustainable high-profit brands usually begin with controlled distribution. Remember that more customers isn’t the goal; more sustained profit is.

4. Net-0 — Create Demand vs. Offering Terms:

This is related to Rule #3.

Focus on creating end-user demand so you can dictate terms. Often one large advertisement, bought at discount remnant rates, will be enough to provide this leverage.

Just because everyone in your industry offers payment terms doesn’t mean you have to, and offering terms is one of the most consistent ingredients in start-up failure.

To avoid getting strung out and cash-flow poor: Cite start-up economics and the ever-so-useful “company policy” as reasons for needing prepayment and apologize, but don’t make exceptions.

If you agree to receive payment on net-30 terms (they pay 30 days from invoice, or receipt of product), it will become net-60, which becomes net-120. Time is the most expensive asset a start-up has, and chasing delinquent accounts will prevent you from generating more sales.

On the hand, if tons of customers are asking for your product, resellers and distributors will need to buy. It’s that simple. Think a big order from Wal-Mart is a godsend? Be careful. Since they're almost always net-180+, and they can return unsold product, it could actually be the death of your company. How are you going to pay for the needed inventory? Typically, debt. What will you do if they return half of it because they didn't give it proper placement, so it didn't have sufficient sell-through? Be careful, lads and lasses.

Put funds and time into strategic marketing and PR to tip the scales in your favor. Consumer demand = your ability to negotiate better terms.

5. Limit Downside to Ensure Upside — Sacrifice Margin for Safety

Don’t manufacture products in large quantities to increase your margin, unless your product and marketing are tested and ready for roll-out. In other words, only when you already have a proven demand and can forecast sell-through rate.

If a limited number of prototypes cost $10 per piece to manufacture and sell for $11 each, that’s fine for the initial testing period, and essential for limiting downside. Sacrifice margin temporarily for the testing phase, if need be, and avoid potentially fatal upfront overcommitments.

6. Niche is the New Big — The Lavish Dwarf Entertainment Rule

Several years ago, an investment banker was jailed for SEC violations.

He was caught partly due to his lavish parties on yachts, often featuring hired dwarves. No joke. The owner of the dwarf rental company, Danny Black, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: “Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment.”

Niche in the new big, I tell you. And here’s the secret: it’s possible to niche market and mass sell.

iPhone commercials don’t feature dancing 50-year olds, they feature hip and fit 20-30-somethings, but everyone and his grandmother wants to feel youthful and hip, so they strap on Apple gear and call themselves converts. Who you portray in your marketing isn’t necessarily the only demographic who buys your product — it’s often the demographic that most people aspire to. The target isn’t the market.

No one aspires to be the bland average, so don’t water down messaging to appeal to everyone–it will end up appealing to no one.

7. Revisit Drucker — What Gets Measured Gets Managed:

Measure compulsively, for as Peter Drucker stated: what gets measured gets managed.

Useful metrics to track, besides the usual operational stats, include CPO (“Cost-Per-Order,” which includes advertising, fulfillment and expected returns, chargebacks, and bad debt), ad allowable (the maximum you can spend on an advertisement and expect breakeven), MER (media efficiency ratio), and projected lifetime value (LV) given return rates and reorder %. Consider applying direct response advertising metrics to your business.

Look at "lean start-up" metrics for more methods of measuring during the start-up phase. The work of Eric Ries is a good starting place.

8. Hyperactivity vs. Productivity — 80/20 and Pareto’s Law

Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, being busy is a form of laziness -- lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.

Forget about the start-up overwork ethic that people wear as a badge of honor–get analytical. I'm not going to say "work smarter; don't work harder," as I'm fine with hard work...but only as long as it's applied to the right things.

The 80/20 principle, also known as Pareto’s Law, dictates that 80% of your desired outcomes are the result of 20% of your activities or inputs. Once per week, stop putting out fires for an afternoon and run the numbers to ensure you’re placing effort in high-yield areas:

What 20% of customers/products/regions are producing 80% or more of the profit? What are the factors that could account for this?

Invest in duplicating your few strong areas instead of fixing all of your weaknesses.

9. The Customer is Not Always Right — “Fire” High-Maintenance Customers

Not all customers are created equal.

Apply the 80/20 principle to time consumption: What 20% of people are consuming 80% of your time? Put high-maintenance, low-profit customers on auto-pilot. Sure, process their orders, but don’t pursue them or check up on them. And “fire” high-maintenance, high-profit customers by sending a memo detailing how a change in business model requires new policies at your company: how often and how to communicate, standardized pricing and order process, etc.

Indicate that, for those clients whose needs are incompatible with these new policies, you are happy to introduce other providers.

“But what if my largest customer consumes all of my time?” you ask? Recognize that 1) without time, you cannot scale your company (and, oftentimes, life) beyond that customer, and 2) people, even good people, will unknowingly abuse your time to the extent that you let them.

Set good rules for all involved. Minimize back-and-forth and meaningless communication.

10. Deadlines over Details – Test Reliability Before Capability

Skill is overrated.

Perfect products delivered past deadline kill companies. Better to have a good-enough product delivered on-time. Google "minimal viable product" for more on this philosophy. Even the great Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, has wisely said that, "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."

Test someone’s ability to deliver on a specific and tight deadline before hiring them based on a dazzling portfolio.

Products can be fixed as long as you have cash-flow, and bugs are forgiven, but missing deadlines is often fatal. Calvin Coolidge once said that nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent; I would add that the second most common is smart people who think their IQ or resume justifies delivering late. Don't tolerate it.

11. Keep it simple. Complicated answers are rarely the right answers. 'Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you generate the most profit with the least effort? How do you maximize margins without sacrificing quality?

I'm not talking more customers, nor more revenue, nor more offices and employees. Profit.

Based on my interviews with high-performing CEOs ("high-performing" determined using annual-profit-per-employee measurements) in more than a dozen countries, I've listed 11 common "rules" below. This is a return-to-basics call.

Here's your cheat sheet for consistent profitability -- or doubling of it -- in 3 months or less.

1. Repetition is Usually Redundant — Good Advertising Works the First Time

Use direct response advertising (call-to-action to a phone number or website) that is uniquely trackable – fully accountable advertising — instead of "image" or "brand" advertising (e.g. billboards with no URL/phone/messaging), unless others are pre-purchasing product to offset the cost (e.g. “If you prepurchase 288 units, we’ll feature your store/URL/phone exclusively in a full-page ad in….”).

Don’t listen to advertising salespeople who tell you that 3, 7, or 27 exposures are needed before someone will act. Well-designed and well-targeted advertising works the first time. If something works partially well (e.g., high click-through with low percentage conversion to sales (CVR), or low click-through with high conversion, etc.), indicating that a strong ROI might be possible with small changes, tweak one variable and micro-test once more.

Cancel anything that cannot be justified with a trackable ROI.

2. Pricing before Product – Plan Distribution First

Is your pricing scalable?

Many companies will sell direct-to-consumer by necessity in early stages, often through a simple website. Only later do they realize that their margins can’t accommodate resellers and distributors when they come knocking. This is true whether your "distributor" is iTunes, a worldwide widget distributor, or Orbitz.

If you have a 40% profit margin and a national distributor needs a 70% discount off of retail (or "cut") to sell into wholesale accounts, you’re forever limited to direct-to-consumer… unless you increase your pricing and margins after-the-fact, or launch new "premium" products to fix the problem. For a bootlegged start-up, this distraction can equal sky-high customer churn or death altogether.

Plan out your first two years of distribution plan before setting pricing.

Think digital is different? Think again.

Test assumptions and find hidden costs by interviewing those who have done it: will you need to pay for co-op advertising, offer rebates for bulk purchases, or pay for shelfspace or featured placement? I know one former CEO of a national brand who had to sell his company to one of the world’s largest soft drink manufacturers before he could access front-of-store shelving in top retailers.

Test your assumptions and do your homework before setting pricing. It's not a small thing.

3. Less is More – Limiting Distribution to Increase Profit

Is more distribution automatically better? Not necessarily.

Uncontrolled distribution leads to all manner of head-ache and profit-bleeding, most often related to rogue discounters. Reseller A lowers pricing to compete with online discounter B, and the price cutting continues until neither is making sufficient profit on the product and both stop reordering from you (or selling/referring your product). This race to the bottom requires you to launch new products, as price erosion is almost always irreversible.

Avoid this scenario and consider partnering with one or two key distributors instead, using that exclusivity to negotiate better terms: less discounting, prepayment instead of net payment terms, preferred placement and marketing support, etc.

Whether Apple or Estee Lauder, sustainable high-profit brands usually begin with controlled distribution. Remember that more customers isn’t the goal; more sustained profit is.

4. Net-0 — Create Demand vs. Offering Terms:

This is related to Rule #3.

Focus on creating end-user demand so you can dictate terms. Often one large advertisement, bought at discount remnant rates, will be enough to provide this leverage.

Just because everyone in your industry offers payment terms doesn’t mean you have to, and offering terms is one of the most consistent ingredients in start-up failure.

To avoid getting strung out and cash-flow poor: Cite start-up economics and the ever-so-useful “company policy” as reasons for needing prepayment and apologize, but don’t make exceptions.

If you agree to receive payment on net-30 terms (they pay 30 days from invoice, or receipt of product), it will become net-60, which becomes net-120. Time is the most expensive asset a start-up has, and chasing delinquent accounts will prevent you from generating more sales.

On the hand, if tons of customers are asking for your product, resellers and distributors will need to buy. It’s that simple. Think a big order from Wal-Mart is a godsend? Be careful. Since they're almost always net-180+, and they can return unsold product, it could actually be the death of your company. How are you going to pay for the needed inventory? Typically, debt. What will you do if they return half of it because they didn't give it proper placement, so it didn't have sufficient sell-through? Be careful, lads and lasses.

Put funds and time into strategic marketing and PR to tip the scales in your favor. Consumer demand = your ability to negotiate better terms.

5. Limit Downside to Ensure Upside — Sacrifice Margin for Safety

Don’t manufacture products in large quantities to increase your margin, unless your product and marketing are tested and ready for roll-out. In other words, only when you already have a proven demand and can forecast sell-through rate.

If a limited number of prototypes cost $10 per piece to manufacture and sell for $11 each, that’s fine for the initial testing period, and essential for limiting downside. Sacrifice margin temporarily for the testing phase, if need be, and avoid potentially fatal upfront overcommitments.

6. Niche is the New Big — The Lavish Dwarf Entertainment Rule

Several years ago, an investment banker was jailed for SEC violations.

He was caught partly due to his lavish parties on yachts, often featuring hired dwarves. No joke. The owner of the dwarf rental company, Danny Black, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying: “Some people are just into lavish dwarf entertainment.”

Niche in the new big, I tell you. And here’s the secret: it’s possible to niche market and mass sell.

iPhone commercials don’t feature dancing 50-year olds, they feature hip and fit 20-30-somethings, but everyone and his grandmother wants to feel youthful and hip, so they strap on Apple gear and call themselves converts. Who you portray in your marketing isn’t necessarily the only demographic who buys your product — it’s often the demographic that most people aspire to. The target isn’t the market.

No one aspires to be the bland average, so don’t water down messaging to appeal to everyone–it will end up appealing to no one.

7. Revisit Drucker — What Gets Measured Gets Managed:

Measure compulsively, for as Peter Drucker stated: what gets measured gets managed.

Useful metrics to track, besides the usual operational stats, include CPO (“Cost-Per-Order,” which includes advertising, fulfillment and expected returns, chargebacks, and bad debt), ad allowable (the maximum you can spend on an advertisement and expect breakeven), MER (media efficiency ratio), and projected lifetime value (LV) given return rates and reorder %. Consider applying direct response advertising metrics to your business.

Look at "lean start-up" metrics for more methods of measuring during the start-up phase. The work of Eric Ries is a good starting place.

8. Hyperactivity vs. Productivity — 80/20 and Pareto’s Law

Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, being busy is a form of laziness -- lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.

Forget about the start-up overwork ethic that people wear as a badge of honor–get analytical. I'm not going to say "work smarter; don't work harder," as I'm fine with hard work...but only as long as it's applied to the right things.

The 80/20 principle, also known as Pareto’s Law, dictates that 80% of your desired outcomes are the result of 20% of your activities or inputs. Once per week, stop putting out fires for an afternoon and run the numbers to ensure you’re placing effort in high-yield areas:

What 20% of customers/products/regions are producing 80% or more of the profit? What are the factors that could account for this?

Invest in duplicating your few strong areas instead of fixing all of your weaknesses.

9. The Customer is Not Always Right — “Fire” High-Maintenance Customers

Not all customers are created equal.

Apply the 80/20 principle to time consumption: What 20% of people are consuming 80% of your time? Put high-maintenance, low-profit customers on auto-pilot. Sure, process their orders, but don’t pursue them or check up on them. And “fire” high-maintenance, high-profit customers by sending a memo detailing how a change in business model requires new policies at your company: how often and how to communicate, standardized pricing and order process, etc.

Indicate that, for those clients whose needs are incompatible with these new policies, you are happy to introduce other providers.

“But what if my largest customer consumes all of my time?” you ask? Recognize that 1) without time, you cannot scale your company (and, oftentimes, life) beyond that customer, and 2) people, even good people, will unknowingly abuse your time to the extent that you let them.

Set good rules for all involved. Minimize back-and-forth and meaningless communication.

10. Deadlines over Details – Test Reliability Before Capability

Skill is overrated.

Perfect products delivered past deadline kill companies. Better to have a good-enough product delivered on-time. Google "minimal viable product" for more on this philosophy. Even the great Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, has wisely said that, "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."

Test someone’s ability to deliver on a specific and tight deadline before hiring them based on a dazzling portfolio.

Products can be fixed as long as you have cash-flow, and bugs are forgiven, but missing deadlines is often fatal. Calvin Coolidge once said that nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent; I would add that the second most common is smart people who think their IQ or resume justifies delivering late. Don't tolerate it.

11. Keep it simple. Complicated answers are rarely the right answers. 'Nuff said.

Is Duplicate Content Killing Your SEO

(Stoney deGeyter @ WebDevNews) Building SEO By Killing Your Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is like a virus. When a virus enters your system, it begins to replicate itself until it is ready to be released and cause all kinds of nasty havoc within your body. On the web, a little duplicate content isn’t a huge problem, but the more it replicates itself, the bigger the problem you’re going to have. Too much duplicate content and your website will come down with some serious health issues.

I’m going to break this into three parts. In this post, I’ll discuss the problems that are caused with duplicate content. In Part II, I’ll address the causes of duplicate content, and in Part III, I’ll discuss some duplicate content elimination solutions.

This series is pulled from a presentation given at SMX East. Just for fun, it’s entirely Matrix-themed because, like, it’s so obscure and all.

Duplicate Content Causes Problems. Duh!

The Problems: Things aren't always as they appear.

Google and other search engines like to tell us that they have the duplicate content issue all figured out. And, in the cases where they don’t, they provide a couple of band-aid solutions for you to use (we’ll get to these later). While there may be no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty”, there are certainly filters in place in the search engine algorithms that devalue content that is considered duplicate, and make your site as a whole less valuable in the eyes of the search engines.

If you trust the search engines to handle your site properly, and don’t mind having important pages filtered out of the search results, then go ahead and move on to another story… you got nothing to worry about.

Too many pages to index

Problem: Too many pages to index

Theoretically, there is no limit to the number of pages on your site that the search engines can add to their index. In practice, though, if they find too much “junk”, they’ll stop spidering pages and move on to the next site. They may come back and keep grabbing content they missed, but likely at a much slower pace than they otherwise would.

Duplicate content, in practice, creates “junk” pages. Not that they may not have value, but compared to the one or two or dozen other pages on your site or throughout the web that also contain the same content, there really isn’t anything unique there for the search engines to care about. It’s up to the engines to decide which pages are the unnecessary pages and which is the original source or most valuable page to include in the search results.

The rest is just clutter that the search engines would rather not have.

Slows search engine spidering

Problem: Slows search engine spidering

With so many duplicate pages to sort through, the search engines tire easily. Instead of indexing hundreds of pages of unique content, they are left sifting through thousands of pages of some original content and a whole lot of duplicate crap. Yeah, you’d tire too!

Once the engines get a whiff that a site is overrun with dupes, the spidering process will often be reduced to a slow crawl. Why rush? There are plenty of original sites out there they can be gathering information on. Maybe they’ll find a few good nuggets or two on your site, but it can wait, as long as they are finding gold mines elsewhere.

Splits valuable link juice

Problem: Splits your link juice

When there is more than one page (URL) on your site that carries the same content as another there becomes an issue of which page gets the links. In practice, whichever URL the visitor lands on and bookmarks, or passes on via social media, is the page that gets the link value. But, each visitor may land on a different URL with that same content.

If 10 people visit your site, 5 land on and choose to link to one URL, while the other 5 land on and choose to link to the other (both being the same content), instead of having one page that has 10 great links, you have 2 pages each with half the linking value. Now imagine you have 5 duplicate pages and the same scenario happens. Instead of 10 links going to a single page, you may end up with 2 links going to each of the 5 duplicate versions.

So, for each duplicate page on your site, you are cutting the link value that any one of the pages could achieve. When it comes to rankings, this matters. In our second scenario, all it takes, essentially, is a similarly optimized page with 3 links to outrank your page with only 2. Not really fair, because the same content really has 10 links, but it’s your own damn fault for splitting up your link juice like that.

Inaccessible pages

Problem: Pages are inaccessible

We talked above about how duplicate content slows spidering leaving, some content out of the search engine’s index. Leaving duplicate content aside for a moment, let’s consider the page URLs themselves. We’ve all seen those URLs that are so long and complicated that you couldn’t type one out if it was dictated to you. While not all of these URLs are problematic, some of them certainly can be. Not to mention URLs that are simply undecipherable as being unique pages.

We’ll talk more about these URLs in part 3, but for now, let’s just consider what it means when a URL cannot be spidered by the search engines. Well, simply put, if the search engines can’t spider it, then it won’t get indexed. The browser may pull open a page the visitors can see, but the search engines get nothin’. And when you multiply that nothin’ the search engines get with the nothin’ they’ll show in the results (don’t forget to carry the nothin’), you get a whole lot of nothin’ going on.

Pages inaccessible to the search engines means those pages can’t act as landing pages in the search results. That’s OK, if it’s a useless page, but not if it’s something of value that you want to be driving traffic to.

There are a lot of problems caused by duplicate content and bad URL development. These problems may be minor or cataclysmic, depending on the site. Either way, small problem or large, it’s probably a good idea to figure out the cause of your duplicate content problems so you can begin to implement solutions that will pave the way for better search engine rankings.

Comments

About the Author:
Stoney deGeyter is president of Pole Position Marketing (www.PolePositionMarketing.com), a search engine optimization / marketing firm providing SEO and website marketing services since 1998. Stoney is also a part-time instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College, as well as a moderator in the Small Business Ideas Forum. He is the author of his E-Marketing Performance eBook and contributes daily to the E-Marketing Performance (www.eMarketingPerformance.com) marketing blog

Key Financial Recovery Services May 2014 Stats

Key Financial Recovery Services: Anita ask us to post their web results.

Here is the chart from webilizer: The important numbers are in blue and yellow.

Mozilla Introduces Improved JPEG Compression

(Zach Walton @r WebProNews ) The JPEG has been around for more than 20 years now. When technology gets that old, you either take it out back or teach it some new tricks. Mozilla is opting for the latter even as it prepares for a future where the former is a reality.

Mozilla announced Wednesday that it’s working on a new project called mozjpeg that will improve JPEG compression without breaking browsers. The non-profit says it’s doing this because the modern Web uses pictures more than ever before and this can really slow down a page’s loading time. With new compression techniques, they can decrease the time it takes Firefox to load a page full of images.

Even though its building mozjpeg, Mozilla doesn’t see JPEG remaining the dominant image format on the Web. Of course, moving to a new image format brings with its own unique challenges so mozjpeg is being built to help improve JPEG encoding even while the Web moves to a new format.

Production JPEG encoders have largely been stagnant in terms of compression efficiency, so replacing JPEG with something better has been a frequent topic of discussion. The major downside to moving away from JPEG is that it would require going through a multi-year period of relatively poor compatibility with the world’s deployed software. We (at Mozilla) don’t doubt that algorithmic improvements will make this worthwhile at some point, possibly soon. Even after a transition begins in earnest though, JPEG will continue to be used widely.

Given this situation, we wondered if JPEG encoders have really reached their full compression potential after 20+ years. We talked to a number of engineers, and concluded that the answer is “no,” even within the constraints of strong compatibility requirements. With feedback on promising avenues for exploration in hand, we started the ‘mozjpeg’ project.

If you want to try out mozjpeg for yourself, Mozilla released version 1.0 today. It’s a fork of libjpeg-turbo with “jpgcruch” functionality added for good measure. They found this combination can reduce jpeg file sizes by 10 percent and they’re obviously hoping they can increase this with help from the community.

My Three Dogs SEO May 2014

My Three Dogs Website: Donna asked if the number of site visits went down when we moved the website to WordPress. We noticed a little dip in January, the month we went live, but it has climbed steadily since.​

Here is the chart from awstats: The important numbers are in blue and yellow.

 

Off Page SEO Tactics That Work

(Adrienne Erin @ WebProNews) As someone who runs a website, you’re familiar with SEO. You understand that there are certain techniques and tactics that can take a webpage from the bottom of the barrel in terms of search rankings to the top. You’re probably aware that proper SEO is essential for being found on major search engines and that without it, growing an established online presence can be a challenge.

Now, think about your definition of SEO. Chances are, things like keyword optimization, meta-descriptions and even photo optimization are coming to mind. These are all wonderful, essential aspects of traditional SEO. They are also all considered to be on-page factors. Learn what off-page SEO is and about the tactics that really make a difference below.

What is Off-Page SEO?

Off-page SEO relates to all aspects of driving traffic back to your site that pertain to external factors – things that lie outside of your actual website. These include link building, social media, social bookmarking and other tactics that will be discussed shortly.

Off-page SEO is critical for rounding out on-page tactics. Off-page strategies can boost rankings, improve page rankings and garner additional exposure. All of this means more traffic and more potential for conversions in the long run.

A few off-page factors that really make a difference include:

Social Media Engagement

Your potential customers and clients aren’t a distant group of individuals that cannot be easily reached like they may have been just 10 years ago. Social media has changed the landscape. In fact, social media networks are designed to help individuals connect with other individuals and with brands like yours. Take advantage of it!

By building a social media presence – starting with the networks that your target market are most likely to frequent – you can offer opportunities for engagement that can’t be found elsewhere. While social media numbers and signals play an unknown role in page rankings, they play a definite role in online presence and brand appeal. As such, social networking opportunities to engage should be a major part of any off-page SEO strategy.

Local Search Optimization

Local search optimization is especially important for any business with an actual physical location, store or branch. The practice involves optimizing a website so that it is displayed according to the physical location of the searcher.

It’s nothing new, searches have been influenced by location for some time now using GPS and mobile technologies. While not new, it’s more important than ever. With a growing number of individuals looking to connect with local businesses and with technology that follows us everywhere, optimizing a site to show up in local searches is critical.

Look for local directories, register your site and business with Google Places and Bing and display your location prominently in social media profiles and other online locations for best results.

Building Business Reviews

Is there a better way to instill trust in your brand than to have positive reviews wherever you’re found online? Probably not. However, many marketers and business owners fail to see this as an off-page SEO optimization strategy. This should change; positive reviews help certain brands attract more attention than others, lead to higher conversion rates and play a role in page rankings as far as search algorithms are concerned.

In fact, a 2013 consumer review hosted by BrightLocal found that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from a friend or family member and 85% of online consumers claim to read reviews prior to making any purchases or taking part in any business transactions. Important? Absolutely.

Link Building

Yes, link building still matters. No, it’s not going away any time soon according to ‘one of Matt Cutts’ latest videos.

Link building – or, the process of getting your site’s link displayed on external websites to increase online presence in the eyes of search engines – has gotten a bad rep lately. This is mostly due to “illegal” link networks – illegal in the eyes of Google – that allow users to buy and sell back links. However, when done correctly, backlinks can be a search-approved way to increase rankings externally.

To increase backlinks, consider the following techniques:

  • List your site’s link in your social media brand profiles.
  • Submit press releases through PRWeb or other platforms that disperse releases to a wide audience.
  • Use guest posting sparingly. Look for opportunities that relate to your niche and include your link in a natural way inside of the posts you create.
  • Host a webinar, offering the recording on your website. If the material you share is useful and authoritative, you’ll have a better shot at it being shared.
  • Create content that has the potential to be shared. By creating content – that you share on social media sites – that is useful, informative and catchy, you’re more likely to receive attention and a higher number of social shares.
  • Mix up your site description and work slowly. Backlinking should be a process that takes time and patience, not a once and done effort.

Off-page SEO can be just as important as on-page SEO and should be taken seriously. Consider the ideas above when generating an SEO strategy or working with an SEO firm and think about the goals for your business. Are you looking to increase traffic and conversions? If the answer is yes – it should be – then adding off-page SEO efforts could be beneficial.

Organic SEO - 5 Ways To Beat The Competition

( @ SiteProNews) SEO is dynamic, more than a tad bit complicated, and highly competitive. Depending on your industry, staying at the top of rankings can range from mildly challenging to completely cutthroat. In order to stay ahead of the curve, you need to be committed to following trends, being efficiently reactive, and staying willing to examine the small and big pictures thoroughly.

The good news: SEO is not rocket science. It’s decipherable, and those that stay educated can absolutely succeed. If you’re ready to dive in and beat your competitors at their own game, follow the five tips below and enjoy your definitive edge.

Step 1: Study Your Top Competitors’ On-Site SEO
In order to beat your top competition, you need to know the tactics they employ. The aspects you need to study include:
Title tag / meta data structure and content
Keyword usage, especially in headers

Overall SEO activity – use a tool like Site Comparison for on-page analysis
Watch closely; if one of your competitors makes major changes to their strategy, that’s a key indicator. It usually means they were either dinged by a search engine and needed to change course, or discovered a new trend worth adopting. If you see their rankings improve as a result, you know what to do.

Step 2: Monitor All Backlinks
On your own side, it’s a good idea to keep a constant log of your company’s backlinks; this will help you identify any impending negative SEO attacks, and ensure all links pointing to your site are from relevant, reputable sources.

On your competitor’s side, watching their link strategy can unearth new link partners in your space, as well as expose tactics that are helping them stay ahead. Use a tool like Majestic SEO for assistance.

Step 3: Show-Stopping Content, and Lots of It
This might be step three in your approach, but it’s undoubtedly the most important. Your number one strategy in staying ahead of the curve is to have a consistent flow of epically relevant and appealing content. From blogs to white papers, videos to podcasts, slideshows to infographics, content is the best way to elevate your SEO rankings and your overall brand awareness.

Fresh content ensures the search engines are regularly taking notice. Automated indexing systems are looking for new content, and if your site becomes stagnant, that’s a surefire way to give your competitors an edge. Well-crafted content is also your best bet for going viral. It only takes a couple of highly shareable releases to really start getting your company on the map. If you do nothing else to propel your organic SEO strategy to the next level, let it revolve around consistent content creation.

Step 4: Smart Keyword Selection and Execution
While it is no longer necessary to focus on things like keyword density, your keyword selection is still an integral part of a successful SEO plan.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make lies around top-ranking keywords. If you find a combo that lands you in the top spot, don’t assume that’s helping your brand unequivocally. Being number one for a given set of keywords should not be the goal; your bottom line is. If you’ve targeted keywords and have successfully landed high rankings, but you see little to no overall traffic or revenue improvements, you’re simply targeting the wrong keywords.
Search queries that yield the highest traffic increases are all you should focus on. Use tools like Google Analytics to monitor different keyword combinations, and their related traffic correlations. Do the same for your competitors because that can help reveal strengths and weaknesses in your own strategy. Tools like Open Site Explorer can help you remain in-the-know.

Step 5: Stay SEO Savvy
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already aware that organic SEO is an ever-changing landscape. To stay competitive, it’s essential that you stay current. It’s astounding how many folks are still employing tactics from five years ago, while experiencing intense frustration that their businesses are not advancing.
If you’re staying on the cutting edge, have the courage to try new trends as they emerge. These are obviously not guaranteed to work, but if you find a magic potion before any of your competitors do, that’s a genius way to leap ahead.

Stay current. Keep on point for organic SEO, video SEO, and any specific discipline that is relevant to your company or industry. Being aware of rising trends and tactics that have fallen away can be the difference between leading the pack and scrambling to stay in the fray.
There’s really no option in organic SEO to commit part way. It’s truly an all-or-nothing game. Without a steadfast commitment to all the steps listed above, it’s highly unlikely you will see anything but lackluster results.

Creating an ironclad SEO strategy requires a consistent commitment to content, competitor research, on-site metrics, and current news. The result is a powerful combination of real-world results and future trends that can help you reach a rankings level your competitors only dream of.

Plus Google Turns Three - Whats Next

(SiteProNews) From the very start, Google Plus has had an uphill climb. Despite a bundle of stats that seem favorable, the social network has seldom been totally taken seriously, and has yet to be a significant gathering place. In other words, Google Plus is not particularly social. So why is it still surviving?

The undisputed opinion is that Google hangs on to its floundering platform because of massive integration in key apps like Gmail and Maps, and most pertinently, their search results. Most businesses and enterprising individuals have Google Plus accounts not to connect with others, but for SEO purposes. But is that enough for Google to keep pouring money and attention into this controversial social platform?

Google Plus just turned a very immature three years old, and it’s spawning all kinds debates about the site’s longevity and future. Google, of course, has never said anything definitive, but by examining statistics and reading between the lines, there’s some logical conclusions being made, and some indications spell a potential phase-out.

Google Plus: The First Three Years
While it’s been a slow crawl to adoption, Google Plus has not been a dismal failure, despite many who tout as much. The proof, after all, is in the numbers, and here are some that would indicate it’s been a smashing success.

Over 1 billion registered users

800,000 new sign-ups per month

1.2 million page views per month

Over 70 percent of businesses and brands have a profile on the network

Photo sharing is the #1 activity; more than 1.5 billion photos uploaded each week

The +1 button is clicked five billion times a day, and sites with the button generate three times more visits than sites without one

Any website owner would absolutely blow a gasket over those kinds of metrics. So where’s the disconnect?

Whether the UI and features of Google Plus have simply never appealed to the masses, or Google was simply too late to the social party is unclear. What is clear is that Google Plus has never really given Facebook a run for its money. Plus has never succeeded in being a social destination. Most people and brands have a profile in order to ramp up their SEO results, but these profiles are more often than not completely static. The result has been a sad feeling mega-site with very little life.

The Writing on the Wall?
Google had its recent Google I/O conference last month, and for many, it wasn’t what was presented but what wasn’t presented that held the most intrigue. Last year, Google Plus was all the rage in the keynote. 

This year, there was barely a mention. The recent changes to Google authorship, which are mostly detrimental and a step backwards, also has folks surmising a possible phase-out for the social network.

In addition, there are just as many worrisome stats as there are things to crow about. Here are a few of the most glaring issues:

There’s a huge volume of inactive users. In fact, 1 in 3 Google employees don’t update their Plus profiles; if they aren’t motivated to do so. You can imagine that the rest of the world is even less motivated.

Many that do use the network feel forced into doing so. Because it’s forcibly integrated into other Google products, like YouTube, the public has not taken well to being coerced into creating a Google Plus profile.

The UI has never been heralded as a success. Sure, the design is sleek and minimalist, as with all Google tools, but trying to find your profile edits option, as an example, can feel like a wild goose chase.

Facebook vs. Google Plus: The Real Story
The most telling evidence about Google Plus’s failures lies in the side by side comparison with Facebook, the nemesis they hoped to cripple shortly after launch. Scanning this metrics proves that at least for this goal, Google Plus is a failure.

Google+ active users: 359 million

Facebook active users: 1.28 billion

Average Google+ user: Male, 28 years old, IT or Engineering field

Average Facebook user: Male or Female (50/50 split), 38 years old, all industries covered

Top brands on Google+: Android 748k +1s, Mashable 468k +1s, Chrome 291k +1s

Top brands on Facebook: Coca-Cola 48.1M likes, Disney 35.5M likes, Starbucks 30.1M likes

Is There a Future for Google Plus?
The true fate of the struggling social beast is still uncertain, but there are other troubling signs. Vic Gondotra, the founder of Google Plus, left Google in April, and much of the team has since been dismantled. The lack of any positive press or advancements around the network is also a head scratcher.

Ultimately, however, the extent to which Google has integrated Plus into many of its most critical apps is likely the last word necessary. Google may no longer have visions of taking down Facebook dancing in their dreams, but by any other standards, Plus has been somewhat of a success. Google Plus’s strongest asset is the way it has unified the suite of Google products, and that’s no small feat. That alone is likely to keep the network around for a long, long time.

Resharing Old Content a Valuable Tactic

(Adrienne Erin @ SiteProNews) It’s no secret that conventional wisdom in the marketing online world strongly encourages the creation of brand-new content at a rapid pace, to the point that resharing older content is actually actively avoided like the plague by plenty of bloggers. That will likely always be true. However, a closer look at the potential benefits of resharing – used in moderation, of course – might be enough to change your mind on the practice.

As you might expect, this has proven to be a controversial subject amongst marketers. Even so, there’s sufficient evidence to suggest that this is not only an acceptable practice, but even a beneficial one.

Things to Keep in Mind About Resharing

It makes a lot of sense for blogs to set up a posting schedule; this is one bit of guidance that you’ve almost certainly heard before now. Should you set up a schedule for how often you repost older content? That might come down to exactly how much material you actually have to work with. Chances are good that you’ll have some slower weeks along the way, where you’re just not as productive as you normally are. If you don’t have a wealth of older content to pull from, it might make sense to save your reposts for slower weeks, where the newer content isn’t being posted as often.

Make Sure the Content Is Evergreen

Maybe it goes without saying, but the content you intend to reshare should be evergreen. That is, it should be relevant to your readers no matter when they read it. Something you originally posted during the holidays one year should be just as relevant the following summer.

As you can probably tell, you’re not going to be able to repost everything you’ve ever posted. Part of the reason you update your blog regularly is to be able to stay abreast of important headlines, and to react to important news. As such, your readers probably won’t need a rehash of a months-old news story.

So What Type of Content Should You Reshare?

If your blog is like most others out there, you probably have a healthy mixture of news stories related to breaking developments and articles that are more personally tailored to your brand. Reposting a news story months after the fact, unless it serves as a refresher alongside any breaking updates on the story, should be avoided.

What you have to ask yourself is whether the information in the reposted article is both factually correct and relevant to your readers. A good middle-ground, in the event that you want to repost a news-centric post, is to publish the original article with important updates that can take your readers on a guided tour of the original story, right up to the breaking developments as they occur.

Repost with Newer Followers in Mind

One of the main goals of maintaining a blog is to extend your reach to people who have not yet heard of your brand, product, or service. At the end of the day, you’re building a following. As such, your newest followers won’t have had a chance to see the older posts on your blog unless they take a journey through your archives.

As a result, it makes a lot of sense to repost older content from time to time so that your newer followers can get up-to-speed.

Important Sharing Techniques

One thing to keep in mind is that any reposted articles need to be slightly refreshed each time. You don’t want to give your readers the impression that you’re on autopilot, or that your blog has grown stale.

A good example is to “reframe” the content; that is, make slight tweaks to the title, or to the way you introduce the post, particularly on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Even if the post itself hasn’t been changed overmuch (or at all), making changes to how its presented is important.

It’s also a good idea to state the reasons why you’re reposting the content: why is it still relevant? Has anything changed in the meantime? Longtime followers of your blog will expect a solid reason for why they’re seeing the same content again, and even newer readers will appreciate a little bit of context as well.

Something else you’ll want to keep in mind is not only what type of content you’re resharing, but when you’re sharing it. One of the most popular reasons for reposting content is that it gives you the ability to individually target different time zones. If you’re a heavy Twitter user, for example, there are plenty of tools available to help you schedule when your tweets are released.

Use Resharing as a Testing Ground

If you plan to use resharing regularly in the future, you can take advantage of several opportunities to perform some simple A/B tests. Specifically: if you plan on posting the same content multiple times on Twitter, for example, you can reword the headline each time to see which version attracts more interest. After that, stagger the release of each version – about one hour apart is good – to see which headline grabs readers’ attention better.

From there, you’ll have a better idea how to go about sharing the content on other social sites.

Parting Thoughts

Again, a lot of this might seem like an affront to the sacred cows of blogging. You spend a lot of time creating new, thoughtful, and engaging content; why would you fall back on older posts? One way to look at it is to consider everything you write as an investment: ask yourself each time if it’s something that new readers will enjoy reading in the future, and if existing readers might appreciate a refresher. After a time, you’ll start thinking of each new post as a resource, rather than a one-off collection of words written simply for the sake of novelty.

If you’ve never given resharing a thought before now, or even actively avoided it, this might be the perfect time to give it a try.

SEO In Flux Google Post Prism

(Julie Ann Ross @ SiteProNews) SEO is in a constant state of flux. In fact, change is one of the only consistencies to search. Most often, the algorithm changes that affect search results have no true bearing on searchers. Or, at the very least, searchers do not notice the changes. The changes, however, are made for the searcher in an effort to serve up the most relevant results that engage searchers and keep them coming back to that specific engine.

The search engine wars were highlighted in a series of commercials beginning in 2009. Bing, a search engine created by Microsoft, entered the market by force with a mission to prove to searchers that they were more intuitive and “searcher-oriented” than Google or Yahoo. This proved to be one of the first times that searchers became interested in the way search works and the actual results that were appearing on their screens. It led to comparisons between the search engines, and the way they use SEO began to really come into play. A 2012 set of Bing commercials further brought search engines to the forefront with the “Bing it On” challenge. Their argument was that Google was a habit, but that Bing was actually a more useful search engine. It might have muddied the waters a bit, but Google still reigned supreme.

Google’s algorithms now set the tone for the SEO industry. When changes are made, they reverberate through the industry and strategy changes are made quickly to adapt. The most recent Google change involves security and ensures more privacy for searchers. But, it creates a huge hurdle for internet marketing firms working diligently to provide top search result listings for clients.

Missing Information

Keyword research has always been, and will continue to be, a part of SEO. Keywords refer to the actual verbiage that a searcher types into a search engine when trying to find information. Through Google Analytics, SEO companies could research trends in keywords and note subtle changes in search that could make a huge difference on a campaign. The service is free, but there was always a bit of missing information.

In late 2011, Google employed encrypted searches for anyone who was logged into a Google account while searching. Because of Google’s other service offerings (Chrome, Gmail, Drive, etc.) this accounted for a large number of people. With this encryption, searchers’ queries were blocked and listed as “not provided” through Google Analytics. As more and more people created logins for Google searches, the number of “not provided” responses realized a steady increase. Steady, that is, until early September of this year when a huge spike showed as many as 75 percent of search terms being withheld.

Blame it on the Government?

This is the post-PRISM era, which has thrown the SEO world into a bit of a tizzy and sparked fear that even more “not provided” information may be coming. Google has denied involvement in the NSA (US National Security Agency) PRISM spying program, but that has not saved them from criticism. And, the blockage of keyword information has been attributed to this fallout.

PRISM, which was originally blown into a wide-spread data mining system, involves the government’s monitoring of electronic communications. Incepted in 2008 by Congress, PRISM has always been the subject of much speculation – both inside and outside of SEO circles. As written, monitoring can only be enacted if there is “appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside of the United States.” While explicit in the handling of information, especially in regards to US citizens, PRISM has caused fear and privacy concerns. When Google was clumped into the mess and accused of providing the government with search information, it became a PR nightmare that caused Google to lose money.

But, it remains to be seen if this secured search move is really about privacy concerns and PR countermoves – or a way for Google to gain increased revenue from other sources. Ad search traffic has never been made secure, so it is still easy to collect data on the searches performed on Google that result in ad clicks. This info is still available to advertisers, but non-advertisers are losing the ability to see it and use it to implement SEO campaigns that do not involve pay per click advertisements.

Heightened Ad Sales and Profits?

AdWords users are still able to see search terms through the Webmasters Tools area, but it only goes back a limited amount of time. This is why many people are calling foul on the post-PRISM excuse. The data is, in effect, still available – you just have to be the right kind of user.

AdWords is Google’s premiere advertising platform – and just so happens to also be their primary source of income with $42.5 billion in 2012. While it remains firmly planted on the advertising side, Adwords does provide a variety of options for clients including pay-per-click or cost-per-click advertising, cost-per-thousand-impressions advertising and site-targeting advertising in the form of text, banner and media-rich ads. The program also incorporates a variety of location specific off-shoots, allowing clients to choose a local, national or international distribution for each specific campaign.

It will be interesting to see if more Google advertisers are created over time because of this. For Google, this will remain a delicate balance – trying to ensure privacy for their searchers through SSL encryption while still providing enough information to SEO companies to remain relevant in the search game.

Traditionally, robust internet marketing firms have relied on far more sources than Google Analytics to get data. Those who have employed these methods from the beginning are doing a lot less scrambling now. For many companies who were performing SEO maneuvers on their own, the process is a lot trickier.

Partnership with a firm specializing in up-to-date SEO strategies as well as offshoots such as online reputation management, social media engagement and advertising has never been more important than it is today. The changes going on in the world of search must be monitored constantly. And, while a do-your-own-SEO company may have been able to enjoy high rankings in the past, those days are becoming numbered.

SEO Keyword Guide

(@ SiteProNews) To put it bluntly, keywords make the web go ’round. Without them, the internet becomes a scattered mess of an endless array of content. Keywords are like the road maps that lead us to the content we are looking for. From a business perspective, they are the neon signs that guide customers to our front door. Selecting the right ones for your business is therefore one of the most important marketing tasks you’ll ever take on.

While some aspects of keyword selection are intuitive and obvious, most require actual research to back up our assumptions, and it’s important to have the best tools in your arsenal. There is definitely an art to selecting the best keywords for your business. If you’re looking to craft the perfect keyword strategy, heed these warnings and avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

Avoid an Identity Crisis

This may sound obvious, but first and foremost, you need to define who you are as a business, as clearly as possible. If you’re a psychologist looking to expand your practice, you’ll want to drill down into your core expertise (PTSD, couples’ counseling, etc.) or you’ll forever live in generic-ville. Your keyword selection should be based on the fundamental vision of your entire business. Before you set about finding the right SEO terms, get clear on your goals and brand first, and only then should you soldier on.

Skip the Vanity Words

Vanity keywords are general, highly-competitive words or phrases that should be avoided unless you have a monster budget. Say you sell gifts and gadgets via an ecommerce store. Going after the term “gifts” would likely be a losing battle. Instead, you’ll want to identify what makes your business more unique, and focus there. Maybe you sell gifts for expectant moms, or all of your items are earth-friendly and sustainable. Go back to what you’ve identified as your core identity, and start listing the words and phrases that best describe you.

Get Into the Minds of Your Potential Customers

This is the step most folks skip – we all think we know who are customers are, and in fact, they may just surprise you. Before you bank your entire keyword strategy on what you believe are the phrases folks would use to describe you, it’s critical that you validate your assumptions.

The first step is to write a very detailed overview of what you know about your core customers. If you’ve already launched your site, you have data to back this up. If you haven’t yet launched, research your competitors, and find the demographic details based on who you believe you’ll be reaching out to. Be as detailed as possible in your pursuit. Parameters like age range, gender, geographic location, income level, education, likes and dislikes – this is all valuable information as you narrow down your SEO and keyword strategies.

Assessing the Actual Value of a Keyword

Next, as you ponder your potential list of keywords, you need to consider the actual value to your website.

If you create handmade furniture, for example, you’ll need to assess if phrases like “Custom Chairs” or “Custom Couches” have more value to your business. To do this, you first consider what brings you the most revenue.

I once worked with a woman that sold aromatherapy pillows filled with various plant essences. She spent scads of time creating keywords for “Lemongrass Aromatherapy” and “Rose Aromatherapy”, but when we assessed her sales, it turns out 75% of all pillows sold were filled with lavender, and that people generally searched for “lavender products” and related terms. She has since revamped her business to only deal with lavender pillows – and that, in turn, is now her sole keyword strategy. She simplified based on value, and thus substantially boosted her success.

Ask the Right Questions

Now it’s time to assess your strategy based on some targeted questions. If you can’t answer “Yes” to all of the following, you haven’t nailed down the essence of your keywords yet.

  • If a searcher uses the keywords, will they find exactly what they’re looking for on your site?
  • Is the selected keyword directly and clearly relevant to your website?
  • Will a searcher find direct value with a search term on the very first page of your site? Will they be happy with the results they see?
  • Does this result in increased revenue or the overall success of your business?

If you’re finding yourself nodding emphatically, keep on to the home stretch!

The Best Tools to Support Your Research

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. You’ve defined your identity and your core customer attributes, you’ve made an educated list of potential keywords – now you need the quantifiable data to verify that folks are actually using your selected words.

The first test is obvious – do a search in Google, and examine the results. Are there lots of paid results? If so, you’ve hit a competitive phrase. If you’ve got the budget to compete with the big dogs, this isn’t a bad thing – obviously these are popular terms. But if you intend to do your keyword magic on a shoestring, opt for results that are mostly organic, but more customized. That’s a healthier strategy for the long-haul.

Finally, you’ll want to access a few keyword tools to see the actual usage rates and data surrounding your keywords. The best ones for the job are Google’s Keyword Planner, Microsoft’s Advertising Intelligence, ‘Google Trends Keyword Demand Prediction, and my personal favorite, Wordtracker’s Free Keyword Demand Tool. Each of these apps will give you the tangible verification you need to see how popular terms are now, how likely they are to maintain that interest, and whether or not they’re viable for your long term growth.

SEO Strategies for 2014

( @ SiteProNews) With the end of 2013 coming up a little more quickly than perhaps we’d like, it’s time to start thinking about our resolutions for next year. The top of the list might be working off those extra Holiday pounds, but if you’re an online marketer, an equally important priority will be revisiting your SEO techniques in 2014.

Search Engine Optimization really is an ongoing process. While the coming and going of the years might bring in subtle changes, most of the skills you’ve accumulated this year will translate fairly well into the next. Stick with us here for a look at some important resolutions you’ll want to commit to for another successful year of online marketing.

Resolve to Learn Something New

The start of a new year might be just the kick in the pants you need to look at your skill set a little more objectively. While you may be perfectly competent and comfortable with your current success rate, web marketing remains a fickle mistress. There’s always a new trick to learn.

Case in point: Google. The big news in SEO in the second half of 2013 was Google’s new “Hummingbird” algorithm. Now that we’re living in an increasingly mobile-first world, Google stepped up its game and introduced new techniques to factor in the increasing number of mobile searches being performed.

In other words, there are new tricks for marketers to learn in the coming year and beyond. Hummingbird is taking into account the fact that more searches than ever are being dictated in the form of a question; as a result, subtle tweaks will need to be made to future content.

Due in no small part to Google’s influence, 2013 has been called the year of mobile search. More accurately, there will be multiple “years of mobile search,” and we’re right in the middle of them.

Resolve to Increase Your Conversions

This is what it’s all about, right? If you’ve found your conversions lagging this year, 2014 is the perfect opportunity to revisit your conversion process. You might think the biggest driver of conversions is increasing organic search traffic, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Quite frankly, the problem might be one that happens after visitors have already made it to your site.

That’s where Analytics comes in. Whether you’re using Google Analytics or something similar, resolve in 2014 to really dig into the details to see what might be getting in the way of your website conversions. Take a look at the keywords that are driving the most conversions, as well as which pages have been most successful.

When it comes to eCommerce websites, there are a number of unique problems that can arise. For example: an online retailer might be struggling with cart abandonment. If this describes you, make a resolution to get to the bottom of it. Revisit your checkout process and iron out potential frustrations like compulsory site registration or unclear pricing.

Resolve to Love Social Media

2013 may have been the year of mobile search, but it was also the year of Pinterest. Throughout the past year, Pinterest has grown significantly, boasting huge gains throughout the year and launching in new countries.

In the third quarter of 2013, Pinterest grew by a stunning 19.22%, while Facebook posted a gain of 14.78% and Twitter actually fell by nearly 8%. While this is certainly indicative of the familiar cycle of social media platforms rising and then falling out of favor, it’s still proof positive that marketers need to have their ear to the ground in 2014 and beyond. Staying on top of social trends will reveal new opportunities for growth.

That’s not to say that now-familiar social sites like Facebook and Twitter should be neglected. Twitter continues to evolve, as seen in the new scheduling tool and ads retargeting. It has created new opportunities for brands to set themselves apart from the crowd.

Meanwhile, Pinterest will follow in the footsteps of Twitter’s promoted tweets by taking its first step toward monetizing its services. According to Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest, the site is going to be experimenting with promoted pins as they move forward into the new year.

The short version of this is that, as a marketer, it’s going to be important to remember that social media is here to stay, offering new challenges and opportunities all the while.

Resolve to Provide Higher Quality Content

It might actually be passé by now to echo Google’s mantra of “content is king.” No matter how self-evident it might be, though, it’s still easy to forget sometimes. As a marketer, chances are good you’ve made use of guest blog posts from time to time, or you might even do so regularly. This is a great practice in moderation, but it can be easy to let sub-standard guest posts through the gates from time to time.

Link building is not to be taken lightly. If guest posts are a staple of your web campaigns, resolve in 2014 to hold yourself to a higher standard by being pickier when it comes to lousy guests posts.

Providing quality content to your visitors is also going to require a better attention to detail when it comes to understanding the needs of different types of customers.

For example: not everybody will be visiting your blog or website from a desktop. As a result, your conversion rate might suffer among mobile users if your site takes too long to load.

The phrase “responsive web design” will continue to be heard throughout 2014, and one of the tenets of its design philosophy is to provide an optimal experience to everybody, no matter their platform of choice.

Closing Thoughts

2014 is going to be a big year for marketers. Let’s welcome it by echoing our first resolution: don’t forget to learn something new. We face learning curves all the time in our personal and professional lives. Besting them and coming out the other side will prove not only that our campaigns will continue to thrive, but that they deserve to do so.

SEO: Spiders or Peeps - Why Writing for SEO Can Hurt Your Website Rankings

(Michele Pariza Wacek) “I chose that word because it’s a good SEO keyword,” they say. Ah. It may be a good SEO keyword but it’s certainly not a good people word. But before I get too far down this path, let me give you all a little background info. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. What that means is you make your website and other online copy “search-engine friendly” so the search engines will rank you high for your chosen keywords. (Like on the first page when someone does a search for that keyword.)

One of the main tactics used to optimize your site is to scatter your chosen keywords throughout your copy (the frequency and positioning seem to change depending on how close the Moon is to Jupiter so I’m not going to even go down this path today.) Why do you want that? Presumably so you get more online visitors to your site.

On the surface, it makes sense. Your website ranks high on the first page when people do a search for your keywords, they see your website and click on the link. Easy, right? Well… First off, SEO (like everything Internet-related) has changed. A few years ago, SEO made perfect sense. That WAS the main way people found things on the Internet. However, with social networking taking the world by storm, and more people on Facebook and YouTube than Google, people using the search engines have dropped significantly. Now, that’s not to say you don’t need to take the search engines into consideration. There’s no question people are still using the search engines.

But their searching habits have changed. Now they’re more likely to search for you after hearing about you via offline methods (like newspapers, magazines, television, direct mail, speaking, meeting you at an event, etc.) Of course, people will still do generic searches for keywords that relate to what you sell. But trying to get yourself on page 1 of those rankings can be really difficult. And with Google changing their algorithms every time the wind changes directions, you can be on Page 1 one day and knocked down to Page 20 the next. (Also known as the dreaded “Google Dance.”) So what do you do? Well, my thought is while optimizing is not a bad idea, I wouldn’t put too much energy into it. And I certainly wouldn’t put words that sounded weird or off to my ideal clients on my online materials even if they were strong keywords. (Look, if you’re going to do all this work to get your ideal clients to visit your site, do you really want to turn them off with bad writing and poor language choices?)

Google and all the other search engines are going to reward you if your website isn’t deceptive, offers great content, and the content changes regularly. If you do that, the search engines WILL like your site regardless of your SEO. (You might not end up on Page 1 but the search engines will regard you fondly and will probably not move you around too much during any dances.) And the reality is, it makes far more sense to focus on other avenues for people to find you. Be active on social networking sites, post articles, upload video, blog more. All of these things will increase your visibility out in that wild world we call the Internet FAR more than simply focusing only on SEO. And if you focus on those activities, then you can put your very best writing on your website — the kind of writing that will make your visitors eager to learn more about you and do business with you — instead of suffocating your copy with keywords that may make those very same visitors click away

SEO: Why Google Ignores You

Everyone wants their website on the first page of Google. But few make it. Why?

1. Your domain name is meaningless
Your cryptic domain name means something to you, but it doesn't contain any keywords relevant to your business. So it means nothing to Google.

2. Your site is slow
Remember all those amazing graphics and special effects your designer did for your site? Well, they're slowing it down. Google hates slow websites, and so do your visitors.

3. Title Tags
Every page has a title tag, but it's not on the page, it's in the html. Google expects title tags to be short, descriptive, keyword rich and highly relevant to page content. Google hates poor title tags, and it especially hates a poor homepage title tag.

4. No Text
Google looks for regular text on your page and ignores text you've put in a graphic. It expects text to be informative, focused, keyword rich and completely relevant to the title tag. Google hates pages that lack text, or contain text that's not relevant to the page topic.

5. Nobody Likes You
You've fixed everything above, so now you think you have a great website. Trouble is, Google will not take your word for it. Instead it will check the Internet to find websites that link to yours. Then it will check their quality. If it finds a few high quality sites that link to your site Google will take that as a vote of confidence. And it will finally stop hating you! 

Search Engine Optimization 10 ways

Featured Article Picture() Accurate and efficient SEO is critical to your site as most sites are found via search engines. Search engines have evolved and are now much more selective in what they look for in a site. Your SEO must adapt to this evolution to keep up your rankings.

While SEO methods can get complex and confusing, there are basic and clear things you can do to increase your chances of showing up in the search engines. By integrating the following optimizations into your site your rankings and your traffic should increase. Take note of the things you should not do as well.

1. Keywords – Many professionals will tell you that keywords are one of the most important factors in successful SEO. When choosing keywords you need to zero in on your business as much as possible. For example: if you sell jewelry, using the word jewelry will more than likely not be enough. You need to target your products in more detail. What kind of jewelry do you sell? What attracts people to your jewelry? What would you search for\when searching for jewelry? You can find out what keywords people use the most when searching for products by using Google’s keyword suggestion tool.

DO NOT be too repetitive in your use of keywords. This is called keyword stuffing and is very much frowned upon by the search engines. Use a Keyword Density Tool to make sure you have not overused your keywords.

2. Page Titles – Page titles are important for your SEO because they let the search engine spiders know what the page is about and in doing so make your webpage easier to index. When writing a spider-friendly title it all comes back to keywords. Choose some of your most effective keywords but be sure to make the title appealing to human eyes as well. Be sure your title makes sense and reads clearly. For example: jewelry diamonds, rubies, emeralds, rings, bracelets and more, is not a title but a string of keywords.

DO NOT make your title more than 70 characters because the excess will not show up in the search engines. You will then get one of these ……. which does nothing to get people to click on your page.

3. Quality Content – The search engine spiders are always looking for quality content on the websites they index. Don’t make your site a giant advertisement. Provide tips, information, resources and more pertaining to your business. If you own a home décor site, provide decorating tips, ways to save money with home decorating, etc.

DO NOT let your content go stale. You must add new information on a regular basis. This is critical to your SEO success.

4. Quality Links – Getting other quality, high-ranked sites to link to your site can be significant to your rankings. Always link to sites that will be helpful and beneficial to your visitors and to you. Find high ranked authority sites and contact the webmaster. Offer to place their link on your site if they do the same for you.

DO NOT link to junk or spam sites just to get more backlinks. A good thing to do is to ask yourself if you would find the site helpful. Would you visit this site or spend any time on it? Does it actually provide any useful information or content? If not, don’t chance damaging your reputation by linking to it.

5. Clean, Clear and Concise – Make sure your site is clean, easy to use and read. Have you ever been to a site that just takes you round and round and you never seem to find what you’re looking for? I call them merry-go-rounds and leave as quickly as possible. To me, they are about the worst kind of site. Be sure your site provides clear and concise navigation to all your products, content and other aspects of your site. Provide links to all your pages organized in a user-friendly way. Keep your site clean and clear of too many ads, clutter and junk.

DO NOT load your site with flash or frames. Both of these can cause problems for the search engines.

6. Image Alt Attribute – Search engine spiders cannot read images so be sure to use alt attribute to add keyword rich image descriptions.

DO NOT make your image description too long. A few words are usually sufficient but you could use a short sentence or two if appropriate.

7. Site Map – A site map will help make your site much easier to read for the search engine spiders and your human visitors. A site map is simply a page that lists and links to some or all of the pages of your website. Using an XML site map will make it much easier and effective for the search engines.

DO NOT put too many links on your site map. This could confuse the spiders and they might mistake you for a link farm. Stay within a 25 – 40 link range.

8. Social Networking – The astronomical rise of social media has had a huge impact on SEO. Be sure to get involved in social media and link to all your social sites via your website. Be sure they are all connected. My favorites are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Get on over to those sites and get connected!

DO NOT join too many social sites. Find a few that work well for you and focus on participation and building your brand.

9. Page Speed – The speed at which a webpage loads is not the most important factor in your site ranking but making the speed the most efficient it can be will be well worth the time. Many visitors will leave a webpage in about 10 seconds or less if it does not load. Clean up your pages as much as possible. Make excessively long pages into two or more shorter pages. Reduce the size of your images. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to improve your page speed.

DO NOT load up your site with special effects, flashy lights and other unnecessary clutter. You want your site to look sharp and professional, not like the Vegas strip.

10. Broken Links – If you have excessive dead or broken links on your site the search engines will consider your site to be a poor quality site and it will affect your ranking. If you have a lot of external links on your site, be sure to check them regularly. Sites do die out and the links are no longer valid so you want to make sure you check them often.

DO NOT underestimate the impact of broken links. If you let them go unchecked and amass too many of them your site will suffer.

Don’t be intimidated by search engine optimization. There are many small things you can do that will make a big difference in your search engine ranking. Take some time to learn how to do these not so complicated steps and watch your site start rising to the top!

Seven Steps to Success

Here are 7 steps that every local business should be doing to improve their visibility in search engines and find more customers:
1. Research keywords

One of the first and most important steps is to find the right keywords that customers will use to find or search for you.

If you own a restaurant in Orange County, California, using “orange county restaurants” as a keyword phrase will be important to you.

Create an excel spreadsheet to keep track of your keyword ideas. It may be tricky to rank for your most important phrase depending on how much competition you have.

The main focus when coming up with your keyword phrases is to understand the language your customers will use to search for a business like yours.

(If you need some help researching the right keywords for your audience, our free marketing analysis will help point you in the right direction.)

2. Optimize your website and its content

Don’t take outdated advice to “stuff” your content with keywords. It’s not good for search engines or your customers. Instead create a reasonable amount of high quality content which is important for both your visitors and search engines.

Customize your meta title. Keep in mind that this is what most platforms use as the title when your content is shared on social sites so make it appealing and useful to your readers.

Update your meta description. Google will usually publish this on the search engine results page so make it attractive and inviting.

You should also include your city and state in your content where it’s natural. This will help let visitors and search engines know where you are located.

As a local business your Contact page can be the second most important page on your website…so get the most out of it.

 
Make sure you include:

      - The name of your company/business
      - The address where you are located
      - The primary phone number

Now that you have some of your keywords and on-page optimization in place, let's look at some other factors that are not directly associated to your site.

3. Get your business on Google+ Local & Google Places

I am sure you might have heard of Google Places or Google + Local pages. But if you haven’t you aren’t alone. Do you need one, both, or neither?

Google Places is the information search engines use when listing your business. The search engines might already have your business listed in results, but your Google Places page will give you control on what information Google has and displays to potential customers or people searching for your business. You can fill this page with information like a description, hours of operation, and contact information.

A Google+ Local page is more about connecting with your customers. It also allows you to get more exposure. They add social interaction to your listing and give you an opportunity to create a path of communication with your customers by responding to their reviews and creating post updates.

It’s vital for businesses to get involved in both for two major reasons:

      - It helps put you in control of your brand.
      - It helps you gain more visibility.

Both are easy to use and FREE to set up. With so many searches made each month, Visibility and control of your online presence are a must.

4. Ask your customers for genuine reviews

Do not use fake reviews. It will only create issues for you later on when search engines or customers catch on to what you are doing.

Try asking your customers kindly who have done business with you to leave a review on your Google+ Local page or yelp. Give them options. Let them choose their preferred service. More options = more results.

 
5. Update your social profiles

Check your social profiles and make sure they include your physical location. Include the city, state, business name, and URL back to your website. Keep these consistent across each of your platforms.

6. Optimize for mobile

Mobile is the future! Your customers are constantly on the move looking for your business on their mobile devices. If you don’t have a mobile presence yet, you need to get up to speed. Think about getting your website mobile responsive so you’re your customers can have a better experience when they visit your site. Give consideration to how your most important sites look to your mobile viewers. 

7. Track and analyze your results

Set up the tools that will help you track and analyze your results. Glance weekly over your impressions and click of your keywords in Google Webmaster tools. Check Google Analytic's to see if your organic traffic is improving.

Using Pay Per Click WITH Organic SEO

With the rise of social media and Google’s search algorithm favoring new and unique content, there’s been a lot of buzz these days around producing content. Blogging, informational videos, infographics, guides, and the like are more popular now than ever. All this great content provides businesses with a unique opportunity to gain new customers.

If your business isn’t currently producing content for your prospects and customers, you should definitely start now. Writing and producing content that speaks to your target audience is a fantastic way to get your name out there and build trust with potential customers. Even if you start small, it’s worth the time investment. In this post, we discuss ways you can get even more out of the content you’re already producing by using it in conjunction with Pay Per Click (PPC) ads.

Bidding on Relevant Keywords Around Your Content                                    

Oftentimes, customers choose companies, products, and/or services based on brand recognition and trust. Steering these customers to your content through paid search efforts is a terrific way to beat your competitors and start building the relationship before they buy. It’s a good idea to bid on relevant keywords around what your blog offers. For example, if your business sells garden tools and you have a blog that features daily gardening tips, you’ll want to bid on the keyword phrases like  “gardening tips,” “gardening guides,” “gardening resources,” “gardening blog,” etc. By bidding on these keywords and bringing in traffic to your content, you can reach potential customers higher up in the sales funnel. If you feel your content is especially helpful, it can go a long way to establish brand trust and thought leadership. One thing you have to remember is that these customers may not be ready to buy yet and therefore may take longer convert. Through additional messaging, you can nurture these customers until they’re ready to purchase.

Placing PPC Ads on Your  YouTube Videos

Perhaps your business produces video blog posts (vlogs), webinars, video tips, or other video content such as product demos and loads them onto a business YouTube page (another good idea).  You can actually place PPC ads right over your videos. If viewers like what they see, they can immediately click on your ad and go directly to your website versus having to visit your website on their own. This is more beneficial because you can tailor the experience and the messaging to those viewers, which should increase your closing rate.

Remarketing to Your Content Visitors

PPC Remarketing is another fantastic method that gives you additional opportunities to convert your content visitors. By placing a remarketing pixel on the webpages that contain your content and/or resources, you can show remarketing ads to someone after he/she has left your page and is browsing the web. Again, this is helpful because you can tailor a relevant message based on what previous pages or content they visited on your site. You can offer additional information or promotional offers in order to entice them to come back, sign up, or make a purchase.

Creating content is an easy way to get customers to your website and establish brand trust and thought leadership. Brand trust and reputation is a key step in the decision process for most buyers. By pairing relevant content with PPC, you can increase the effectiveness and the overall impact of that content.

Web Stats Please Take A Look And Tell Me What You Think

Web Stat Benchmark. Most Web Design and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) companies do not publish their web stats. We do. Please take a look and tell me what you think.

I just could not wait until end-of-day to capture the numbers. 

The important numbers are in Yellow and Light Blue

Webalizer Webpage and SEO Measurements

Webalizer is a fast, free web server log file analysis program. It produces highly detailed, easily configurable usage reports in HTML format, for viewing with a standard web browser. It should be checked monthing to assit in determining the health of your website and online marketing success

Features

  • Is written in C to be extremely fast and highly portable. On my 1.6Ghz laptop, it can process close to 70,000 records per second, which means a log file with roughly 2 million hits can be analyzed in about 30 seconds.

  • Handles standard Common logfile format (CLF) server logs, several variations of the NCSA Combined logfile format, wu-ftpd/proftpd xferlog (FTP) format logs, Squid proxy server native format, and W3C Extended log formats. In addition, gzip (.gz) and bzip2 (.bz2) compressed logs may be used directly without the need for uncompressing.

  • Generated reports can be configured from the command line, or more commonly, by the use of one or more configuration files. Detailed information on configuration options can be found in the README file, supplied with all distributions.

  • Supports multiple languages. Currently, Albanian, Arabic, Catalan, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal and Brazil), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian are available.

  • Unlimited log file sizes and partial logs are supported, allowing logs to be rotated as often as needed, and eliminating the need to keep huge monthly files on the system.

  • Fully supports IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Includes built-in distributed DNS lookup capability and native Geolocation services.

  • Distributed under the GNU General Public License, complete source code is available, as well as binary distributions for some of the more popular platforms. Please read the Copyright notices for additional information.

Webalizer example and use for benchmarking

In March 2012 we took on a small Charleston SC Real Estate client that previously averaged about 400 visits per month.

We immediately created a local viral SEO event that netted good results for April. 2,798 visits - 13,9097 hits. (without AdWords)

However, that same month our client contracted with YoXXX. In May the YoXXX landing pages with YoXXX-owned phone numbers and email addresses siphoned off all of the viral campaign gains. When the YoXXX campaign was canceled at the end of the month, their landing pages remained for several month leaving our client with numerous landing pages to nowhere. Phone numbers to nowhere! email addresses to nowhere!

Even so, the clients webpage received steady growth each month.

In February 2013 our client received 10,686 visits and 128,581 hits directly to their webpage..

Are you getting this kind of internet activity directly to your website? The Numbers in Yellow and Blue are important.

Analytical Terms

Website traffic analysis is produced by grouping and aggregating various data items captured by the web server in the form of log files while the website visitor is browsing the website. Some of the most commonly used website traffic analysis terms are listed below:

URL: A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) uniquely identifies the resource requested by the user's browser.

Hit: Each HTTP request submitted by the browser is counted as one hit. Note that HTTP requests may be submitted for non-existent content, in which case they still will be counted. For example, if one of the five image files referred by the example page mentioned above is missing, the web server will still count six HTTP requests, but in this case, five will be marked as successful (one HTML file and four images) and one as a failed request (the missing image)

Page: A page is a successful HTTP request for a resource that constitutes primary website's content. Pages are usually identified by a file extension (e.g. .html, .php, .asp, etc.) or by a missing extension, in which case the subject of the HTTP request is considered a directory and the default page for this directory is served.

File: Each successful HTTP request is counted as a file.

Visitor: A visitor is the actual person browsing the website. A typical website serves content to anonymous visitors and cannot associate visitors with the actual person browsing the website. Visitor identification may be based on their IP address or an HTTP cookie. The former approach is simple to implement, but results in all visitors browsing the same website from behind a firewall counted as a single visitor. The latter approach requires special configuration of the web server (i.e. to log HTTP cookies) and is more expensive to implement. Note that neither of the approaches identifies the actual person browsing the website and neither provides 100% accuracy in determining that the same visitor has visited the website again.

Visit: A visit is a series of HTTP requests submitted by a visitor with the maximum time between requests not exceeding a certain amount configured by the webmaster, which is typically set at 30 minutes. For example, if a visitor requested page A, then in 10 minutes page B and then in 40 minutes page C, then this visitor has generated two visits, one when pages A and B were requested and another when the page C was requested.

Host: In general, a host is the visitor's machine running the browser. Hosts are often identified by IP addresses or domain names. Those web traffic analysis tools that use IP addresses to identify visitors use the words hosts, domain names and IP addresses interchangeably.

User Agent: User agent is a synonym for a web browser.

In order to illustrate the difference between hits, pages and files, let's consider a user requesting an HTML file referring to five images, one of which is missing. In this case the web server will log six hits (i.e. one successful for the HTML file itself and four for successfully retrieved images and one for the missing image), five files (i.e. five successful HTML requests) and one page (i.e. the HTML file).

Website Success - I Like Spiders and Bots

The concept of search engine optimization (SEO) has gained a lot of importance due to the success it brings to a website. After all, if you don’t show up on the search engines, your prospects will never find you on the internet...

You may have the best products and services to offer, best performance certifications, and an amazing team of professionals ready to serve your customers. But if you don’t have any business.

So how do search engines work?

I Like Spiders and Bots!
One of the facts about search engines is that they utilize software programs known as bots or spiders that crawl the web and build a database based on their findings. These spiders are sent to view and index pages which are later processed and retrieved from the database. A search engine spider is designed in such a way that it reads any document from top left corner to the bottom right corner as humans do. From this database, programs use algorithms to determine what type of your website you have and how it should be ranked compared to the other websites it has spidered.

Text Links
You can also use these bots to your benefit by allowing them to spider your site completely. You can place text links that direct to some of your main pages on the website at the bottom of your page so that spiders can easily crawl through your site. It is also recommended to have a text link that directs to your site map.

Site Title
The title of your site is very important as it not only serves as a reference for the Internet users who type in the keyword but also it is one of the first things that is viewed by the search engines. You must select the best keywords and place in your title and also make sure that these keywords are relevant to the content on your webpage. In other words, if you have a title about widgets, that page should talk about widgets.

Meta Tag Description
A meta tag description contains a brief description of the webpage content. It is usually placed after the Title tag and before the Keywords Meta tag. Search engines usually use this as a source of information to know the theme of the site and to aid them in listing and ranking the website. Your meta description may contain two to three sentences with the main keyword placed in the beginning of every sentence. This description appears fully or partially along with your reference link when users search. If a keyword appears in a meta tag, you must have text in the body of your page or risk being blacklisted.

Keyword Usage
Choosing the right keywords to optimize your site is very important. The content on your WebPages should contain the keywords that you are optimizing so that the search engine can easily track your website when a user enters a search query containing your keyword. Using your keywords correctly can help identify your site related to that particular keyword from all other sites on the Internet.

Keyword Rich Content
This is a crucial part of the SEO process as it involves creating compelling text that would make readers remember by linking back to it. Your web page content should be written in such a way that it contains targeted keywords with an ideal keyword density. The content you write must make sense and should be relevant to the person visiting the site. You should also avoid mixing too many themes on a single page. It is also good to know that search engines are mainly text driven and are oblivious to images, sounds, flash movies, java script, frames, directories, and similar stuff. Therefore having lots of these on your website may not be very helpful from the SEO point of view.

Anchor Text
Anchor text is hyperlinked text that you can click on. This is used in the content as an internal link that directs visitors to different topics contained in different pages in the website. Keywords that are most relevant and that relate to the overall content of your site should be used in the anchor text as search engines use this to relate your webpage content to the user query.

In summation, to get a favorable listing in search engines, feed your Spiders and Bots!

Why Spend Money On Search Engine Optimization During Hard Times???

Advertising is usually one of the first items on the chopping block (though it shouldn't be). You've got to cut costs, and you certainly don't want to lay off any employees if you can help it, so you start looking a bit more closely at your marketing budget to see where you can rein in ad spending. It's a natural reaction to a tightening budget, and there is a good reason for it.

Most business owners know that you need to advertise. Sure, word of mouth is great - there's nothing like a referral from a happy client to instill trust in a prospect - but you still need to be proactive in getting the word out. The trouble with advertising in the traditional sense is that it is difficult to know whether your efforts are working and what is generating the best value for your dollar. The uncertainty makes it hard to keep throwing money into your ad spend. When your budget tightens it is even harder to justify the cost when the benefits are fuzzy at best.

But marketing on the web is different. The costs are lower, return on investment can be much higher and traffic data allows you to chop out the dead wood and optimize your budget.

Search engines are a primary driver of traffic on the web (second in use only to email according to a report by Pew Internet & American Life Project and comScore). Search engine optimization (SEO), as a result, has received an increasing amount of well-deserved attention.

For most small businesses, SEO is new. Some have considered it, perhaps even done a bit of research on the topic, but haven't yet invested in it. Others have invested in it in the past and found themselves disappointed with the results. A few have found real success. In this economy, why should a company consider a new marketing channel like search when they're already looking to cut their budget? What about the risks involved in such a new endeavor? What if it doesn't work? These are all valid questions. For those who spend most of their time building and maintaining their businesses and systems, reading up on what makes search engines tick is unlikely. Understanding SEO enough to truly leverage it for growth can seem a long way off.

So Why SEO, and Why Now?

  1.     Unparalleled ROI
  2.     A 2006 MarketingSherpa survey of 3,053 client-side marketers determined that SEO was 
        viewed as the most valuable marketing solution in terms of ROI, even higher than email 
        marketing to in-house email lists. ROI is everything - especially in uncertain economic times.
  3.    Targeted Traffic
  4.     Traditional "push" marketing/advertising options often have you publishing an advertisement

         in a place where you're hoping it will get a lot of eyeballs. That's great, but the real question

         is: who owns those eyeballs? Are they the right people? Do they want or need what you're

         offering? With SEO, up front keyword research can tell you a lot about your market and what

         kind of language they're using. When you choose your keywords and optimize for them,

         you're addressing an existing need or desire - and you know that at least a good portion of

         visitors referred from search engines through your target keywords are looking for exactly what you're offering. In short, SEO helps to drive
        high quality traffic to your website and gets your   message in front of the right people at the right time.

  5.   Precise Tracking
  6.     Web analytics allow you to track your users with a great deal of granularity. The most basic

         and easy to set up analytics platform is Google Analytics - and it's free. Out of the box,

         Google Analytics will tell you where visitors are coming from (including what search engines

         and keywords), what pages bring in the most users, what keywords have the lowest bounce

         rates (the measure of users who immediately leave your site after viewing one page), what

         keywords drive the most pages per visit and average time on site and a lot more. With basic

         conversion tracking you can even tie keywords to conversion rates - an incredibly valuable

         way to identify the most valuable keywords and focus on them. Bottom line: with web

         analytics you can identify the dead wood in your campaign and focus on better opportunities

         to optimize your marketing budget in real time.

How should you approach SEO?

If you're considering investing in SEO as a marketing channel there are two basic options:

1. Take the SEO work on in-house

2. Hire an agency or consultant and outsource SEO

The In-House Option

Hiring for an in-house SEO position is often out of the budget range for small businesses - in this economic climate especially. Existing employees, on the other hand, can play an important role - especially those who are already regularly updating your website. It requires careful research, planning and execution, but with the right training and guidance much of the work required can be handled in-house.

There are also some simple things you can be doing in-house to improve your SEO. That company you partner with - do they have a website? If so, consider asking them to link to you (after you link to them). Links are a powerful way to improve your search engine rankings. That trade organization you belong to - do they have a directory on their website where they list and link to members? That could be the source of a quick and easy link.

Consider starting a blog? It's a great way to build content on your site and bring in attention and links - just keep in mind you've got to be serious about it and actually post regularly.

Search engines are very complex, but in the end the websites they reward with high rankings are those that get the simple things right: they feature interesting content on a regular basis, they stick around with the same domain name and with the same topic for years and they build links over time and from other relevant and trusted websites.

The Outsourcing Option

Full disclosure: I am biased. I run a search engine marketing agency. But I hope you'll hear me out anyway. Hiring an SEO agency to either handle the full scope of work or to consult on research and strategy and delegate to your web developer makes sense in many situations. SEO agencies usually spend a great deal of time researching strategies and tactics and compiling resources – all of which can help you hit the ground running with your SEO campaign. But you need to find the right agency.

Let's be clear: no SEO agency can guarantee you rankings or growth. If they tell you they can, they're being either dishonest or foolish, or both. The bottom line is that SEO experts don't control the search engines. Changes to Google's algorithm can, and usually do, come unannounced. That is out of our hands.

This doesn't mean, however, that the burden of risk should fall entirely on your shoulders. Failure of a campaign shouldn't mean you lost your investment, the agency \"did their best\" and it just didn't work out. Smart agencies recognize that the best thing they can do is share the risk with the client. How? Simply: they set specific goals and benchmarks and stick to them. That may mean they continue working at a discounted rate if they don't reach a goal. On the other hand, they may choose to work on a performance-based contract from the start so their compensation will be linked directly to the return on your investment. The point is, it should be more of a partnership than a client/vendor relationship. That is as important now as it ever has been.

SEO is scalable - you don't have to throw everything and the kitchen sink into it. Sometimes just taking a few small steps here and there over time adds up to success. Other times you need a one-time overhaul of your site, or maybe a long-term relationship with an expert who can help chart the course. It will depend on the goals you set for your website and how realistic they are given the limits of time and resources. But search engines are going to remain the primary driver of traffic and sales on the web for the foreseeable future. SEO, for that reason, shouldn't be an afterthought to your marketing plan, even in tough economic times - indeed, with such a high potential return on your investment, it should be a priority.

Write Google Panda SEO Content

( @ SiteProNews) The world of SEO content writing has once again been brought into line with the introduction by Google of its Panda 4.0. Primarily, Panda is an innovative technique, designed to eradicate short and duplicated content material. For any content writing service it means ensuring their content is not only audience-friendly, but crucially, Panda-friendly.

The first and critical awareness, must be directed at writers avoiding any duplicated content and, instead, concentrating on providing subject matter that is unique and of a high quality. It could mean that the short-cut action of “spinning” articles will be influenced. The originality demanded by Panda 4.0 makes it mandatory to produce interesting and stimulating reading, related to the subject.

This overall service enhancement will benefit the vast online audience, by providing them with original website content writing without intrusive, irrelevant material that could be construed, as misleading. In addition, all pages should have original title tags and Meta descriptions, with the further, recommended enhancement of using images and videos when appropriate.

Google Panda 4.0, which was officially released in May, has the purpose of reducing thin content, which has minimal or no value. This is designed to protect consumers from landing on a page of no value.

Professional SEO writers are aware of the need to produce copy to meet the demands of the search engines, with a composition of at least 300 unique words, if they want to attain high rankings. This is not a rule written in stone, but the purpose of audience connection, as well as SEO, should be kept in mind.

The implications of Panda 4.0 are that Google has different objectives in identifying websites and it will take a content writing service time to determine how it will impact, either positively or in a negative perspective. One important aspect that could make a significant difference is by SEO agencies being employed to audit websites and their content.

Should due care and attention not be given to the new Panda 4.0, then many online marketers, among others, could see their website rankings decline at a rapid rate. This could be regarded as a critical revision in the Google algorithm process and follows the 24 updates that have been implemented since 2011, which saw the launch of Panda on the Internet world.

Yelp On The Defensive Once Again

Do you really believe Yelp does this? Tell me what you think :-)

(Chris Crum @ WebProNews) Once again, Yelp is drawing the kind of media attention that it would like to avoid, but which has been following it around for years. You know the deal. A business claims Yelp is holding positive reviews hostage in its review filter because they refused to pay for ads. We hear this claim time and time again from business after business, and it can't be good for Yelp's reputation.

This time, a reddit post to the Toronto subreddit is the starting point. It has roughly 250 comments at the time of this writing, mostly from others bashing the company. A few other media outlets, including the Daily Dot and Consumerist have reported on it. The reddit post, titled "I want Reddit Toronto to see how bogus Yelp is" goes like this:

My family opened a Mediterranean Restaurant approximately 2 years ago called Ba-Li Laffa. During the first number of weeks, we were approached by a marketing member of Yelp who asked us to pay a fee for preferential display on the Yelp website. Due to the fact that were we a new establishment and bills were through the roof at that point, we politely declined their offer. This is where the issues with Yelp begin to arise.

Yelp claims to have an "advanced review engine" that apparently is knowledgable to sift out all the "fake" reviews and only put the "legitimate" reviews visible to those who are searching the restaurant. In theory this makes sense that those account with the sole review being that of your restaurant are probably fake accounts (or possibly someone that you asked to review it for you). Although this is not how it works, and according to numerous accounts from other restauranteurs that I have met through reddit, it is essentially a blackmail money grab by Yelp.

If you go to the site of our restaurant, http://www.yelp.com/biz/ba-li-laffa-kosher-mediterranean-grill-vaughan, you will see that 5 reviews have been selected, all 2/5 stars. If you look below the 5th review, in a light grey text it says "23 other reviews that are not currently recommended". The majority of those "not recommended" reviews are by users with multiple reviews who have given the restaurant between 4-5/5 stars. In essence, they have taken every good review and made it categorized as a "bad review".

Fortunately, our restaurant is not suffering from a lack of customers because our food and service is great (obviously my opinion), but the number of customers we are losing from internet traffic to Yelp is unfortunate. The problem is that the majority of people making review based decisions either visit Yelp or Urban Spoon (which our restaurant is not on). Maybe I'm giving a little too much credit to Yelp for their popularity, but even if I am losing a minor percentage of my business due to their unfavourable reviews they are giving to our restaurant, it is very frustrating because there is nothing I can do about it.

I have message the Yelp Business support center numerous times with no helpful directions or answers. I think word of mouth from these types of things are really important especially because of how many people use and trust Yelp.

As usual, there is no actual evidence revealed. The Daily Dot shares a response from Yelp (along with a screenshot showing positive reviews it says were "likely fraudulent"):

Yelp told the Daily Dot the team had hidden the positive reviews because they'd found them all to be sent from the same IP address within a short period of time, indicating fraud. "In cases where businesses have a large number of reviews that aren't recommended, it's often because they've solicited positive reviews from friends, family, or favorite customers or tried to game the system by writing fake reviews for themselves. Yelp does not support these practices as they result in biased reviews which aren't useful to consumers," a Yelp spokesperson said.

The screenshot shows five accounts created within 45 minutes of each other, all writing five-star reviews of the same business, and with email addresses: yelper91@gmail.com, yelper90@gmail.com, yelper94@hotmail.com, yelper93@hotmail.com, and yelper92@hotmail.com. It shows that they all joined on 6/1/2013. Only one is listed as having logged in since then.

No, that's not very legitimate-looking.

Some have argued in the past that IP address isn't a great signal, because there could be other reasons people leave reviews from the same address, like if they're leaving it from the business' actual venue. That, however, would also be taken as a negative signal by Yelp, because it might suggest to the company that you're asking people for reviews, and for better or worse, it basically considers this spam.

Strangely enough, they advise you against asking customers for a Yelp review, but instead suggest you tell them to "check you out on Yelp".

If Yelp is not engaging in the practice described by the reddit poster, it's quite phenomenal that SO many businesses have made essentially the exact same claims, and are showing no signs of stopping. That is some real dedication to a conspiracy theory by a slew of businesses seemingly unrelated to each other. It's even been brought up on the People's Court.

But still, nobody is able to show any proof, and Yelp's screenshot seems to blatantly illustrate abuse. There's no Consumer Alert on the business' page, however.

Unfortunately for Yelp, the loudest voice in this argument is the one of distrust and anger. Just peruse the reddit thread for a few minutes, and you'll find slam after slam. Typically, it's a similar situation in other comment threads on the subject.

The Better Business Bureau has defended Yelp, and given it an A+ rating. That's actually down to a C+ now, interestingly enough.