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Taking Advantage of Custom Blog Creation on Your Small Business Blog

When you hire a company to perform custom blog creation for your business, you get a direct line of communication with your client base — but you also get a powerful marketing tool that can win you a lot of search engine traffic. It’s no secret that blogs are commonplace business adjuncts these days, bringing visibility and sociality to a corporate website that may not offer either one innately.

Visibility
The thing about custom blogs is that they give you a place to write passionately and intelligently about your business — and when you do that, you have a tendency to write things that other people interested in your business will search for. Say, for example, someone searches Google for the phrase “direct line of communication with our client base”. Now the chances are good that there are several other websites out there that feature that phrase — but probably not so many that this very blog post won’t show up in the first few pages, and we’re really not even trying.

That kind of thing happens every day as a regular consequence of blogging.

Sociality
There’s not really a lot of reason for some random person to go and link to your homepage on Facebook or Twitter unless you’ve done a phenomenal job of wowing them. But when you put interesting, emotional, controversial, useful, or jawdropping content on your blog — and you should be shooting for at least one of those with every blog post you make — they might. Even moreso if you put a Like, Tweet, Pin, Digg, or other social media button on every blog post you make.

How Much to Blog
Some of that depends on the details of your custom blog creation. Various plugins can change the SEO quality and other details of your blog posts, allowing you to blog less often but to more effect. If you just open up WordPress and start typing, you’ll want to blog almost daily. With a blog created for SEO purposes by an SEO company, once a week should be more than sufficient. Just remember to stay interesting and relevant, and more than anything else, post like clockwork, even if that means writing a bunch all at once and scheduling your posts weeks or even months ahead! (Full disclosure: this post was written on July 15th, 2013. It will be posted on September 29th, 2013. That’s what we’re talking about!)

The Pros and Cons of Responsive Mobile Website Design

Responsive Web Design is the Google-approved way of creating a website so that it appears differently — but functionally — on desktop devices, tablet devices, and mobile devices. Because an ever-increasing percentage of search traffic is coming from mobile devices, it’s essential for any Internet-oriented business to have a website that can deal with mobile devices — and your choices are to have an entirely separate mobile site, or a single Responsive site that handles both sources of traffic.

Pros
The most significant benefit to responsive website design is usability — people accustomed to your desktop site will find your mobile site has the same basic functionality. It may (and probably should) appear differently, with some content moved onto tabs or deeper within the site — but it’s all there. Brand recognition is instant, as the same style appears across both types of device.

The second advantage is in having a unified website. This reduces maintenance costs, SEO costs, design costs, and so forth. That’s not a trivial consideration — in fact, it’s probably the single biggest consideration in this entire article. With lower costs involved, the responsive style of mobile website design has won a lot of adherents.

But it’s not the only thing to consider, naturally. There are also the…

Cons
The biggest con to responsive website design is that it can take a long time to get right. It’s relatively simple to put up a responsive website, but getting it right, so that your mobile customers really are being fed the content that they need to see the most and so that the site flows naturally from both desktop and mobile devices, can be a long trial-and-error affair.

There are also some browsers and rarely devices that don’t support the kind of CSS media query that responsive design uses in order to display content correctly. These kind of technical issues don’t come up often, but they do come up.

Finally, there’s the issue of purpose: there are some industries in which mobile users and desktop users simply have very different priorities. If you’re in the movie rental business, for example, a mobile user is much less likely to use your website to watch a streaming movie because their plans are bandwidth-limited — so having a separate mobile website devoted entirely to information about renting physical movies is more appropriate.

The SEO First Page Placement Guarantee is Almost Always a Scam

There are a lot of companies out there who use words like “guaranteed” when they announce that they can get your website on the first page of Google. But that’s almost never actually a guarantee they can back up. Even Google’s Webmaster Tools puts is succinctly: “Beware of SEO’s that claim to guarantee rankings.”

So why do people fall for it so easily? We have no idea — probably it’s because people expect, when they buy a service, to get specific, measurable results. When you pay for a maid, you expect a clean house. When you pay for a chauffer, you expect to get to your destination comfortably and on time. When you pay for an SEO, however, you’re not buying a sure thing. As prominent SEO speaker Rand Fishkin once wrote:

SEO scams have used ‘guaranteed rankings and traffic’ as a slimy catchphrase to lure in gullible buyers with too-good-to-be-true promises. That association has stained the entire industry. SEO’s cannot control the search results the way FedEx can control shipping packages or Coca Cola can guarantee the taste of their beverage. The search engines alone are responsible for…the rankings

Now, there are exceptions — every once in a long while, you’ll find an SEO company so confident that they don’t take any money from you until they’ve delivered a first page placement. Those groups are amazing — and usually quite expensive; moreso than you’d have to pay a typical SEO company for the same placement.

It’s a sad situation, but the fact is that SEO is a ‘magic pill’ kind of industry — people want there to be silver bullet-style solutions, fast workarounds, and guarantees, and there’s just no way to go about doing any of that. So long as there’s opacity in the system — and there has to be because Google requires it — there will be people out there willing to take your money, do nothing for you, and then claim that they worked their butts off to no avail.

In short, the lesson is this: if your SEO company is guaranteeing results, be suspicious — and ask them for specifics. Ask them for a timeframe, and if they don’t deliver within that time frame, don’t hesitate to ask for all your money back and switch companies.

Simplify Your PPC Management With These Five Tips

PPC campaign management is a tough job — but there are a few things you can do to simplify the process and make it easier on everyone.

Clean Up Your Ad Groups
It might seem at first that throwing all if your keywords and ads into one massive ad-group is going to be easier to manage — but that’s not the case. If you take the time up front to create several (dozen?) tightly-focused ad groups, each with a few highly-relevant keywords, ads targeted toward a specific market segment, and landing pages that match the ads, you’ll find that the amount of work you have to put in on the back end is significantly smaller. You’ll also see your Quality Scores rise, which is huge!

Make Bulk Changes
Using campaign-level tools like Google’s AdWords Editor, you can change bid prices on dozens or hundreds of keywords at a time, or change which landing pages your ads are pointing to all at once. Because they work offline and then connect once to make all of your changes simultaneously, they don’t have any issues with network latency and they don’t end up with the occasional user getting stuck ‘mid change’.

Use Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are every PPC management firm’s best friend. There’s no point in having your ads show to people who type “free” or “info” or some other tire-kicker giveaway into the search engine. It not only reduces the amount of profitless clicks you pay for, but it also simplifies the campaign data analysis down the road by reducing statistical “noise”.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion Is Your Friend
Dynamic Keyword Insertion is the art of writing ads with variables in them — ads that will fill in the variable with the user’s exact search term when the ad comes up. They’ll see that the ad has their exact search term included and bolded in the copy, which will improve your clickthrough rate as well as your Quality Score. Cleverly used, it can also allow you write significantly few ads. Just switch from broad-match to exact-match, or you’re likely to end up writing ads that don’t make sense at all in context.

Use Ad Scheduling to Turn Off Your Campaign at Night
Ad Scheduling allows you to only run your ads during particular times of day or days of the week. If your data analysis has shown that the majority of your conversions come in particular parts of the day or week, you can simply only run your ads during the most profitable times.

The Many Business Benefits of Regular Blog Posting

Attract More Traffic
It’s a simple mathematical law: the more pages on your website that are filled with high-quality content, the more natural search visits you’ll see in your Analytics. That’s because each unique article that’s meaningful to your business will quite accidentally end up having a few long-tail keywords that people are actually searching for. You don’t need to do research to find these keywords; they’ll come up as a natural part of writing passionately about the industry you’re a part of and the products and services you offer.

Attract More Traffic Deliberately
If you DO get into keyword research and deliberately develop a blog posting style that can incorporate those keywords naturally and simply, you can drive traffic quite deliberately as well. In addition to the coincidental long-tail keywords, you can focus on the deliberate, shorter keywords, and nail serious traffic that way.

Demonstrate Your Competence
One of the greatest challenge for startup businesses is establishing themselves as authorities in their field. There’s few better ways to do that than writing about your products, services, industry, and expertise — and there’s no better place to do that than on your blog. When someone visits your blog and they find a mixture of useful how-to posts, recent industry news, changes within your company, and details about what you do best, they’ll see how competent you are, and you’ve just overcome the their reservations.

Develop a Following
If you can write your blog posts in a way that encourages a response from the reader — perhaps in the comments section, perhaps in a social media venue — you’re developing a following. In business speak, that’s called “building a brand”: making yourself a strong entity in the customer’s minds and carving a place for yourself in their thoughts. At the positive end, you may even get social mentions and shares, which help your SEO (again) as well!

Give Browsers a “Home” For Your Brand
When your blog kicks butt, you have a ‘targeting system’ that you can use from almost any webspace. It doesn’t matter if you’re marketing to teenage moms on Facebook or to black senior citizens on Twitter, if you post often and passionately on your blog, you’ll have at least one page that’s the right page to send them to in order to further interact.

How to Get Signups for Your Targeted Email Marketing Campaign

Signing up with an autoresponder and scheduling a year’s worth of amazing emails is a great step toward forming a long-term relationship with your customers and prospects…but how do you get those people to actually opt in to your email list?

Website Placement Strategies
One of the simplest ways to get signups is to put a place on your website that encourages people to sign up in exchange for some sort of bonus. It should be ‘above the fold’, or able to be seen on your website without any scrolling necessary. It should be easy, with no more than an email address and first name entered in order to sign up. And it should be on every page of your website, in the same place on every page.

Incentive is Everything
Few people are going to sign up for an email list no matter how amazing you make it sound — but if you give them a little extra incentive, you’ll find that they’re more than willing to sign up for your targeted email marketing scheme. Maybe the first email that they get when they sign up has a coupon or coupon code in it. Maybe they’re not signing up for “an emailing list”, but rather for a “seventeen part email course” on a subject related to your industry — and opting into receiving marketing emails just happens to be part of getting the course. Whatever you do, the stronger your incentive, the more signups you get. Just be careful that your initial emails are high-quality, useful-content emails or you’ll get just as many cancellations.

Offline Email Marketing?a
One of the least-used but most useful techniques for building readership is marketing your email list. Most cash registers, for example, allow you to put some short comment on the bottom of each receipt. Point out on your receipts that signing up to the email list will get you a coupon good for next visit. Or mention it in your newsletter. If you sell an eBook, mention in your eBook that more information on the subject can be had for free by signing up for the email newsletter.

The opportunities are limited only by your creativity — get your list built, and start profiting!

New Website For Your Small Business? SEO Is In Your Future

If you’re just starting to promote your small business’ new website, you’re going to have a lot of people trying to get your attention. They’re going to try to sell you on a variety of different ways to promote your website and get visitors to come to it. Before you say ‘yes’ to any of them, however, you should read a little bit about what they’re trying to do.

Black-Hat Crap That Will Get Your Site Nuked
If you have someone come up to you and offer you an opportunity to partake in their “link exchange”, “link ring”, “link swap”, or basically anything else that starts with the word “link” and has a second word that means either “trade” or is a form of construction like a ring, pyramid, tesseract, or some such, they’re almost always a black hat SEO guy. Black hat SEO works — and it works fast — but it’s not anything you want if you intend to be in business for more than a month or three. That’s because black hat techniques are inevitably discovered, and once discovered, they’re penalized so hard that you’ll never get a first page placement on Google ever again.

Grey-Hat SEO That Will Rank Your Site, but Not Much Else
If someone says that your small business’ SEO should consist of “backlink building”, “link building”, “link generation”, “link creation”, or other phrase that sounds like they’re going to create links themselves out of thin air and effort, you’re dealing with a grey-hat SEO company. Google doesn’t like grey-hat SEO, but they don’t nuke it. Grey-hat SEO works, but it’s not ideal — you’ll pay your money, and you’ll probably get some decent ranking, but there’s better to be had.

White-Hat SEO That Will Build Your Brand
The best SEO is based around content, not links. It’s more expensive, so for many cash-strapped small businesses, grey-hat SEO is actually preferable at first — but white-hat SEO has benefits. Because it’s based on getting high-quality content onto the Internet, it creates positive vibes through social media, builds brand awareness, and get you ranked on the search engines at the same time.

It’s possible — even normal — for a single company to offer both white-hat and grey-hat SEO, depending on what you can afford. If you want the best, ask about ‘content marketing’ and ‘linkbait content’. That’s where the gold is.

Local Internet Marketing The Google Way: With Professional Help

The first thing that a small business owner needs to do to take advantage of the plethora of new Google-based local search marketing is to make sure that their website is in good standing with Google. Your Google Plus Local listing needs to match up with your details on your website perfectly, and your site needs to be abiding by all of the content rules of Panda and all of the linking rules of Penguin.

If you make a commonplace mistake, like keyword stuffing your site’s description, it can cost you valuable traction with Google’s ranking algorithm. That said, Google makes mistakes of its own surprisingly often, so make sure when your Places listing gets merged with it’s Plus Local page (which may have already happened) that it’s correct.

The most difficult problem to resolve — and yet, one of the most common — is having your business listed multiple times on Google Maps or within Google Places. This happens most often when Google finds a citation somewhere on the website that gives your business, but with a different phone number, address, or name. If you’re “Tea Leaf II” in Lacey, WA, but someone’s website lists you as “Tea Leaf 2” in Lacey, WA, you can end up with two separate listings for the same business. Google penalizes you for this even though it’s not in any way your fault. Even having your hours updated incorrectly can mess you up.

If you’re not following Google’s local internet marketing forum and their email list, a lot of these things can escape you. It’s a full-time job just to know what kinds of things could be causing problems, much less to keep them from actually penalizing your listings. Even many local search experts have been boggled by the rapid-fire changes and mistakes that Google has made — you could hardly be expected to keep up with them and run your business at the same time.

That’s why we suggest getting a professional to help you with your local online marketing — it’s just about the only way to do it right.

What Are the Modern Website SEO Standards?

A modern website’s SEO standards look very little like they did when we first got into the game several years back. But rather than reminisce about the olden days, let’s look at what you need today to make a website rock.

Content
Content breaks down into a few different sections. First, it needs to be formatted properly, with proper spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. It needs to be concise, feature a variety of formats (i.e. not just 800 “top 7” lists), and yet be consistent in it’s quality and the material it covers across the entire site. The content must be high-quality in that it should cover the depth and breadth of the topic appropriately, and it should be very close to 100% original.

Content should also have elements that are stable, including company mottos and their ilk, but also content that is often-referenced or important to the site’s theme, and other elements that are updated or transient. This reflects that the company is both offering value and keeping itself up-to-date.

Code
The code must have all of the critical elements in the right place (no broken pages). It should also have all noncritical elements correct (no stupid errors). It must be as simple as possible, with no redundant code. It should also have perfect HTML semantics (i.e. no unclosed tags, tags nested properly).

Hosting
Hosting is simple: the site should be hosted by a service that has a fast connection, and as close to 100% uptime as possible.

URLs & Internal Links
The domain should be old and trusted, as should the homepage. Internal pages should range from older to newer, with ‘background’ pages like the About Us, Privacy Policy, and other similar pages being older and content being updated more frequently. Internal links should never be broken and should avoid redirects (though redirects are a very minor issue.)

Backlinks
Backlinks should come from authoritative sites within the industry or niche of your site. They should come from the largest possible variety of unique root domains, and they should be as old as possible.

Most SEO efforts go into that last heading, but in reality, backlink building should only be prioritized after the other elements are satisfactory.

Organic SEO Is Worth the Effort

Laboring as we are under the black and white tyrants called Panda and Penguin — Google’s updates that have invalidated a good chunk of what website SEO people used to do for a living — isn’t actually as bad as it sounds. Sure, we’re not building backlinks like we used to, by submitting automated requests to hundreds of directories, portals, and other link-gathering sites, or by outsourcing hundreds of thousands of words of content to our favorite Bangladeshi writers. But what we’re doing today, while it takes significantly more effort per link, is worth it.

A Level Playing Field
A good part of that is because everyone is playing by more-or-less the same rules. It used to be that there were people who believed in paying for quality and putting together profiles with a limited supply of high-quality backlinks — and then there were people who were a little less conscientious about the quality of their links, and made up for it in quantity. These days, the high-quantity/low-quality crew is gone, but all that means is that everyone’s backlinks profiles are easier to compare.

Still The Best Investment In Town
Because everyone is playing the same game now, there’s a lot fewer people offering — and a few less people even looking for — “secret SEO tech” that can boost their sites. Everyone knows what you’re supposed to do now:

  • Create content.
  • Put that content out there.
  • Link that content back to your site.

It really is that simple — there are a lot of variations on that plan, but essentially, that’s it. You may be creating content in the form of words, content in the form of videos, content in the form of infographics (or just plain old graphics). You could be creating content for marketing, content for social networks, content for linkbait, content for specific links, or content for specific end-user intent. But organic SEO is all about content, and getting that content in front of the people who want to see it.