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Weekend Project: Correct Content Mistakes that are Damaging Your SEO

This guest post is by Sophie Lee of IBS Tales.

In February 2011 my website lost 50% of its traffic overnight, and a further 20% disappeared two months later. I was a victim of Google’s infamous Panda update, and like many other webmasters, my first reaction was to assume that Google had messed up—my site contains nothing but high quality, deathless prose, and I’m sure yours does too.

As time went on, though, I began to realize that my site had been penalized because it deserved to be. I hadn’t deliberately set out to produce thin content, or put duplicate URLs in the index, or make other amateur SEO mistakes, but that’s what I had been doing, regardless of my good intentions.

I set about fixing aspects of my site that should never have been broken in the first place, and one year on, I believe that my site has markedly improved. I need to be honest and say that I haven’t recovered from Panda, and so I can’t promise that this article will help you recover your rankings if you’re a fellow Panda victim.

However, I can tell you that Panda has been a massive wake-up call for me, and opened my eyes to some horrible mistakes that I was making as a webmaster. Are you making the same mistakes? Are you sure?

Mistake 1: Thin or shallow content

Panda quickly became known as the update that targeted thin or shallow content. I checked my site and found that around 10% of my pages had less than 100 words on them. Now, word count alone may not mean a huge amount, but what, exactly, can you say in less than 100 words? I had intended to develop these pages as I went along, but I’d never got round to it. They had to go, so I removed them completely and left them to 404.

I also looked at pages that might be useful to my visitors or to me, but could easily be flagged as thin content by an algorithm. For example, I had a page named blank.htm that I used as a template page. It was, of course, blank, and it shouldn’t have been on the server. I had an entire page that showed my search box and nothing else. Another page showed my mailing list sign-up box and nothing else. If I worked at Google, I’d have penalized these pages too.

Mistake 2: Duplicate URLs and pesky parameters

One issue that I had neglected almost completely was the way in which Google was indexing my content. Panda woke me up. A search for my site on Google came up with over 800 URLs. I had roughly 400 pages of content on my site, so what was going on?

Firstly, for reasons lost in the mists of time, I had used dropdown lists in some of my navigation links. These links were being indexed by Google with [?menu] parameters in the urls, resulting in duplicate urls for a whole bunch of pages. I replaced the dropdowns with simple [a href] links and put canonical tags on all of my pages to indicate that I wanted the plain URLs with no [menu] parameter to be the “correct” URLs.

I also realized that I had the syntax [Disallow: /*?] in my robots.txt file, put there because it’s part of the robots.txt file that WordPress recommend in its codex. This command meant that Google couldn’t see the content on any page with a question mark in the URL, and that meant that it couldn’t see the new canonical settings in any of the duplicate URLs. I removed that line from my robots.txt file, and a couple of months later, the duplicate URLs had disappeared from the index.

Secondly, my WordPress blog was producing duplicate content on category, tag, and monthly archive pages. Previously, I had believed the Google guidelines that said you shouldn’t worry about duplicate content that is legitimate: “If your site suffers from duplicate content issues … we do a good job of choosing a version of the content to show in our search results.”

However, the prevailing view of the SEO blogs I read was that noindexing these duplicate pages was the best way forward, because that would leave no room for doubt as to which URLs should be returned in searches.

I found that the Meta Robots plugin from Yoast enabled me to easily noindex all of the dupes, and they were gone from the index in a month or so. I did find that some URLs tended to get stuck in the index, presumably because they were simply crawled less often, and in those cases I used Webmaster Tools to get the URLs crawled more quickly.

If I found a URL that just wasn’t shifting, I used “fetch as googlebot” to fetch the URL, and then, once it was found, clicked on “submit to index.” This tells Google that the page has changed and needs crawling again, and this got the URLs crawled and then noindexed within a few days, on average.

Mistake 3: Not using breadcrumb navigation

Almost every site I visit these days uses breadcrumbs—those links at the top of the page that say “Home > Cameras > Nikon cameras” or similar, to let you know at a glance where you are on the site.

They stop your site visitors from getting lost, they help pagerank to flow, and they look good. I should have added them years ago.

Mistake 4: Not displaying social buttons

I know, I know—you can’t believe I didn’t have social buttons coming out of my ears already. I just don’t like the fact that I have to register with Twitter and Facebook and Google+ to run my own website. But I do. So I have.

Mistake 5: Ignoring blog speed and server location

I got a shock when a search at whois.domaintools.com told me that my server was in Canada. I checked with my host and they said that all their servers were in Canada, which I had been completely unaware of—I had blindly assumed that they were all in the USA.

I won’t make that mistake again. It may not make a huge different to rankings, but Matt Cutts has confirmed that server location is used as a signal by Google so it seems crazy to host your site anywhere other than the main country you’re targeting.

I switched from the dirt cheap host I had been with to a Hostgator business package. I stuck with a shared server, although I did ask for a dedicated IP address to isolate my site from any potentially spammy neighbors.

I also took a look at the speed of my site using tools like webpagetest.org. The tests showed that although my site was fairly quick, I was missing some easy gains, the most obvious being that some of my images were 40kb or 50kb when they could easily be compressed to 10kb. I also turned on mod_deflate/mod_gzip in Apache, which sounds impressively technical but involved checking one box under the Optimize Website section in the Hostgator cpanel. That setting meant that all my content would be compressed before it was sent to a browser.

Finally, I made sure I was using asynchronous code for those dastardly social media buttons, making them load in the background rather than holding up the display of my main content.

Mistake 6: Misusing h1 headings

I found that, for some inexplicable reason, I had set up many of my pages with two h1 tags—one in the main content, and one in the left-hand navigation bar. I got rid of the left-side h1s so that the main heading for each page reflected the main subject for that page.

Conversely, I realized that my blog theme put the overall title of my blog into h1 tags rather than the titles of the individual blog posts themselves, so every single page on my blog had the same h1 title. I switched to a different blog theme (Coraline) and the problem was solved.

Mistake 7: Ignoring Google authorship

I had been seeing little headshots in my Google results for months, often clicking on them because they stood out without asking myself why they were there and whether I could get them for my content too.

What I know now is that they’re called rich snippets, they’re part of Google’s authorship program, and you need to link your site to a Google+ profile with special markup code to get one. I found the Google instructions for this process confusing, but this post from Yoast was much clearer.

I then used the Google rich snippets tool to check that I had set things up correctly, and filled in this form to let Google know that I was interested in using rich snippets for my site.

Once I had submitted the form, it took around a week for my photo to start showing up in the SERPs.

Mistake 8: Running sister sites

I was actually running two websites on the same topic when Panda hit, and the update crushed them both. The main reason that I had chosen to run two websites was to protect myself against a drop in search rankings. That obviously worked out great.

I began to wonder whether Google frowned upon two domains on the same topic. Obviously, ten domains on the same topic, all targeting the same keywords, would be spam … so could two domains be spam too, or at the very least ill-advised?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that splitting my website into two had been a mistake. Surely one brandable, strong website was better than two weaker sites? One site with 1000 backlinks was going to be more powerful than two sites with 500 each. The consensus within the SEO world was that multiple domains on the same topic was simply a bad idea, Panda or no Panda.

I decided to merge the two sites together, and so I had to choose which domain to keep. One domain was much newer than the other, contained a couple of dashes separating exact match keywords, and had a really, really, really silly extension. The other domain was at least two years older, had more backlinks, was a dotcom, had no dashes, and was brandable. It didn’t take a genius to figure out which domain I should be using.

I 301-redirected the newer domain to the old one on a page-by-page basis, so www.newsite.com/thispage.htm redirected to www.oldsite.com/thispage.htm. This is the code I used for this, placed in the .htaccess file of the new site:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule (.*) <a href=”http://www.newsite.com/$1″ target=”_blank”>http://www.newsite.com/$1</a> [R=301,L]

I checked that the redirects were working using the Webmaster Tools “fetch as googlebot” feature. It took around a month for all of the main pages of the old site to be removed from Google’s index, and about another month for the entire site to go. I then went on a hunt for anyone who’d linked to my newer domain, finding backlinks through the link: <a href="http://mysite.com" target="_blank">mysite.com</a> operator at Blekko and opensiteexplorer.org, and asked them to link to the older domain instead.

Now what?

If these changes haven’t returned my blog to its old position in the SERPs after a year, what’s the point? Why don’t I just give up?

The point is that I’m proud of my website. It’s suffering right now, but I believe in it. And that’s the greatest advantage that a webmaster can ever have. If you believe in your website, you should fight for it. Sooner or later, it will get what it deserves.

Sophie Lee runs the irritable bowel syndrome support site IBS Tales and is the author of Sophie’s Story: My 20-Year Battle with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

A Scientific Approach to Writing Page Titles

This guest post is by Alex of Think Traffic.

We all know how important page titles are for SEO and just the general success of our blogs and websites, don’t we? Well we are told often enough, so we certainly should… But how many people actually give page titles the amount of attention they actually deserve?

Most clever bloggers spend a little thought on each page title—they think carefully about how to word it in such a way as to get both the search engines and the potential readers to pay attention. But let’s face it, if this is your method, all you are really doing is typing something that “sounds good.”

Today I am proposing a slightly more scientific approach to page titles.

Step 1: Keywords

Any diligent blogger will already have some vague keywords in mind for their post—if you want to get some nice natural organic traffic, you will need to rank. So decide on your phrase and obviously make sure it is getting some searches.

I would recommend just one phrase per post. By the very nature of blogging you will be writing more posts soon, so there really isn’t any need to cram in more than one key phrase. Also, the extra flexibility will allow you to write a better title.

Also, make sure your phrase makes sense for a blog. Don’t bother optimizing your post for “electric showers” because if someone searches for that phrase, they are almost certainly looking for a retailer and not a blog post (try it: search for “electric showers” and see how many of the results are blog posts)> People searching on this phrase want to buy a shower, not read about it. A better phrase might be “how to buy an electric shower”—that’s a much better fit for a blog.

Step 2: Look at competitors’ titles

The great thing about Google is that they will show you what works best before you even start. So the next thing to do is Google the phrase you want to rank for. In 0.003 seconds Google will conjure up a page full of sites which it has found to be relevant for that phrase.

It stands to reason that not only does Google consider these pages to have relevant titles, but these titles have proven to perform well in terms of clickthrough rates (since Google has recently admitted to using user behaviour as part of the ranking algorithm).

Look for words which are bolded and for any obvious phrases which come up more than once—the words in the phrase you searched for will be bolded of course, but so will any other words which Google thinks are closely related. Make a list of the phrases Google likes most and consider using these in your title.

So, going back to our example, if I Google “how to buy an electric shower,” I see keywords like “buying showers, buying a shower, mixer showers.” I also notice the title:

Electric showers: the basics – How to buy an electric shower – Bathroom & personal care – Which? Home & garden

This looks like a reasonable title, but it is way too long. This might be a good basic format to work from though.

Step 3: Look at competitors’ posts

Hopefully at least a few of the results will be blog posts. If you find that all of the results for your phrase are other types of sites you might want to reconsider your target phrase. Is this a sign that Google doesn’t think a blog is the right sort of site for this phrase? Maybe, maybe not. Think carefully.

In this case, I notice that for “how to buy an electric shower” the top two results are how-to style posts and so is one of the lower results, but all of the others are commercial sites. This makes me think that Google wants more blog style posts, but perhaps there aren’t enough good ones—definitely a gap to fill!

Assuming you find some blog posts, read them. Firstly, they will give you some ideas that could make your post even better. Secondly, you are looking to check that these posts are similar to yours (but hopefully not as good).

This stage is all about understanding what Google thinks is relevant for the target phrase; if your article is a lot different than the prevailing content, then consider which of the following is true:

  • Your post offers a new insight or angle that hasn’t been covered before (great, keep up the good work).
  • Your post isn’t really about the same thing as these posts (again, consider whether you are targeting the right phrase).

After a snoop around the top results I find that the number one post is actually just an intro which leads to a four-part post about buying a shower (the second result is one of these parts, too). There is a lot of good info here, but you could certainly improve upon it.

Additionally though, I suspect by splitting the post into four parts, the author is dividing their link juice. So if I can create one, long definitive post, it could do well here.

I also note that the other three parts of the post are: FAQ, features, and installation tips. These terms might also be helpful for building the title.

Step 4: Build a cracking page title

Okay, so you’re 100% confident that you have picked a highly relevant target phrase for your post, and you have a list of words that Google has told you it thinks are relevant to the chosen phrase…

Start by slotting your words together in the usual, obvious ways—ideally your target phrase should be the first word(s) in the page title, then follow up with some related words which add to the title.

Your page title doesn’t necessarily need to be written in full sentences because that isn’t what search engine users expect—make it concisem but not gibberish. The key is to catch users’ attention and convince them to click.

So let’s see what we get. I will start of course with our key phrase, and throw in a few extra words:

How To Buy An Electric Shower: The Basics, Features & Shower Installation Tips

I have included a few hooks that I liked from other titles and other posts, added the word “shower” for extra relevance, and of course my target phrase is the start of the title. I actually really like this, but unfortunately it is 78 characters long, so now comes the dilemma of which bit to trim. Remember, Google will only show 70 characters.

How To Buy An Electric Shower: Basics, Features & Shower Installation

69 characters! Okay, it’s not as good a title, but I am still pretty happy with that, and I now have some great ideas to go make my actual post even better. You may notice I have left out the word “mixer showers”—that’s because that is actually a different type of shower. However, I will probably at least mention them in the post and perhaps make my next post about them.

Step 5: Learn and improve

Writing a good title is more art than science. It is a skill. Hopefully the tips above will stop you from making blunders and point you in the right direction, but to be a real pro, you need to learn from past successes.

Once you have published a few posts and got some rankings, you can start to monitor your traffic. Set up your Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools if you haven’t already, and each time you publish a new post go and check out your data.

In particular, look for posts which are ranking well and have good click through rates (Google gives you all the data if you make the effort to look). This will give you a great insight into which posts have a) ranked well and b) do a good job of catching users’ attention.

So hypothetically with my bathroom related blog I might have five posts which I know are popular, about baths, showers, tiling, and so on. I would look in my analytics (traffic sources, search engine optimization, and landing pages) and filter results so I just see blog posts (or just ignore the data from other pages).

Here is a hypothetical screenshot:

If this were my blog, I would notice for instance that posts 1 and 5 are both ranking position 5 on average, yet post 5 is getting 50% more clicks per 100 impressions. Post 4 is ranked second and only getting 6% CTR, which suggests the title needs some work, whereas post 3 is in position 9 and getting 5%—that’s not bad, so this post probably has a good title.

By regularly studying this data you can pick out your most successful page titles. You will soon start to get a feel for what is a good CTR and you will notice which posts and titles do best. You can then try to emulate past successes and improve upon poor performers. You will soon be an expert!

This article was written by Alex and the Gang from Think Traffic. The SEO agency who care about ROI and not just rankings for the sake of rankings.

Build Keyword Density the Right Way

This guest post is by Bill Achola of SeoArticleWriteService.com.

It would be great if the only purpose of your copywriting was to sell your products. Unfortunately your copy often has to serve two purposes: attracting visitors to your site, and then selling to them.

Attracting traffic using copy requires using search engine optimizing techniques, and adding keywords. Using the topic of baby food, in this post we will look at a few ways to include keywords in your copy.

Keep it natural

The key to successful keyword optimizing in your copy is to keep it natural. As Greg McFarlane points out in his post Why Bieber SEO Copywriting Sex Doesn’t iPad Work Minecraft, people often make the mistake of overloading the text with keywords, and replacing every generic key term with the keyword or phrase. This will not give you high-quality persuasive copy, as you can see in the following example.

Keyword = baby foods

As new mothers we all want our babies to have the best baby foods; we spend a lot of time researching good baby foods recipes and making sure we buy high-quality baby foods. Giving your child a good start in life with healthy baby foods ad not giving them baby foods that they are not ready for, is one of the major concerns of new parents.

The above example is not only annoying to read, parts of it have been made grammatically incorrect in an attempt to use the keyword as often as possible. While you might get a lot of traffic to your website from parents searching for the keyword “baby foods,” they will quickly move onto another site when they start reading.

Make sure you select your keywords carefully so that they fit in easily with the subject of your copywriting. This will improve the flow of your copy, increasing your sales conversions.

Here are three ways to include keywords naturally.

1. Break up keywords phrases

It can be hard to fit a long keyword phrase into your copywriting. I was once asked to use the key phrase “baby food recipes 6 months.” This is an awkward phrase to use altogether, but it works well when split up by punctuation. Search engines read straight punctuation marks such as full stops, commas and colons so think how you can use these to split your keyword phrase.

Keyword phrase = baby food recipes 6 months

Look no further for tasty and healthy baby food recipes. 6 months is the perfect time to start introducing your bay to new tastes and textures.

The above example keeps the keyword phrase intact so it will be recognized by the search engines, but does not seem out of place or awkward.

2. Lengthen the keyword phrase

Some phrases are difficult to include because they are singular when you would usually use a plural or vice versa. Adding words to the end of the phrase can help you overcome this problem as well as giving you inspiration for your writing.

Keyword = food for baby

  • Food for bay weaning
  • Food for baby meals
  • Food for baby taste buds

Adding a word or two to the end of this phrase makes it less grammatically awkward and helps you to fit it into your copy writing sounding repetitive.

3. Use a keyword phrase that describes what your product is not

Take the example of the keyword “cheap baby food.” When a parent enters this search term they are looking for good value, high-quality baby food that they do not have to pay very much for.

However, if you describe your product as cheap baby food, it will give the impression that it is poor quality, and therefore not great for their precious child. Avoid this by using the keyword to describe what your product is not.

Keyword = cheap baby food

Try out one of our healthy, easy-to-make recipes as an alternative cheap baby food. Once you’ve tasted one of these nutritious homemade meals, you’ll never want to feed your little one cheap baby food again.

Using the above techniques will ensure your copywriting remains natural and that you don’t have to sacrifice quality to keyword density.

A final tip: write your copy first and then go back with your keywords in mind and place them where appropriate. This will make your copy flow more naturally, and will appeal both to your readers and the search engines.

Visit the blog at SeoArticleWriteService.com to learn how Bill Achola can write high conventional marketing content for bloggers and affiliate marketers.

25 Reasons Why Google Hates Your Blog

This guest post is by Belinda of The Copy Detective.

Your blog is a good read. Everyone says so.

Although “everyone” is really just people you already know. Like your Mum.

So why isn’t your blog being found by other people? The millions and millions of people hungrily consuming blog content out there in the global online space we call the Internet?

The cold, hard truth is that Google hates your blog. And it’s nothing personal. You just don’t have anything that Google wants.

Creating high-quality, relevant content is a must if you want your blog to be noticed by search engines but it’s only part of the picture. If you’re not sure if Google really hates your blog, or whether it’s just ambivalent, then step through these warning signs.

1. You don’t know which keywords your readers are using

The very heart of search engine optimization is understanding what people are searching for online and aligning your own content to those searches. When you use the same words and phrases that your audience members use, your blog posts can be matched to online searches. If you don’t? Well, you may as well be blogging in another language.

2. You don’t know how to find the right keywords

Google has a free keyword tool that will show you different phrases being searched on, the amount of traffic they get, and how many other sites are also trying to rank for those phrases. Spend a few moments before writing each blog post to find the most popular phrases for your blog topic, or use keyword analysis to think of new topics!

3. You don’t use your keywords frequently enough

Using your keywords as frequently as is natural will help Google understand what your blog post is about. Use an online tool such as wordle.net to produce a word cloud from your blog post. Your most frequently used words will be the largest ones you see and you can quickly see if you’re using the right phrases often enough. But beware of over-using your keywords and being labelled a spammer.

4. You are trying to rank for too many keywords in every post

Keeping it simple is definitely the best approach when you are optimizing your blog posts. Focus on a single theme and choose one main keyword to avoid diluting your SEO efforts.

5. Your blog headlines don’t even mention your main keyword

Strategic marketing aims your message like a laser rather than spraying it into the wind, and the same applies to SEO. Your headlines (h1 text) and subheadings (h2 text) are given more weight than regular text, so they’re prime candidates for your keywords and phrases.

6. You don’t bother putting descriptions on your images

You might include images to catch your readers’ eyes, or to help balance your text, but Google can’t see your images and unless you attach a description of some sort, your image will be ignored. Attach an image description using the ALT tag or caption, and don’t forget to use those keywords.

7. You never link to your old blog posts

Creating links between your blog posts makes it easy for your readers to discover other content, which naturally keeps them hanging around for longer. From an SEO point of view, Google pays particular attention to links, making them the ideal location for your keywords.

8. You never link to other bloggers

Although it sounds contrary, you will also get some SEO benefit from sending your readers away from your blog by linking to other blogs. You might do this with a “best-of” list post or with a blogroll—however you do it, but Google sees you sharing high-quality content with your audience, and rewards you for it.

9. You don’t fill out your page title and description fields

Meta data is the code name for the information you can use to advertise your blog post to Google. When you search on Google, the results are displayed as a post headline in bold and a brief description underneath. Search engines can work this information out but you are better off writing these yourself and popping those keywords in.

10. You don’t make your URLs search engine friendly

Using recognizable words, especially your keywords, in your blog post URL will help Google to make sense of your blog posts. The bonus, of course, is that your blog posts will be easier to remember for everyone else. So take a minute to edit your blog URL before you publish.

11. Your blog has broken links all over the place

Broken links occur when a URL points to a page that no longer exists. It might be that you changed the URL slightly or you deleted the blog post, but broken links give the impression that you aren’t maintaining your blog. Broken links also stop Google from crawling your blog posts and when you put the two together you get a big SEO cross against your name.

12. Your blog doesn’t have a sitemap

A sitemap is a website page that has all the links and pages of your blog mapped out. Sitemaps make it easy for Google to index every page on your blog, which can affect how quickly you appear in search engine results. Most content management systems will have a plugin that will create and submit your sitemap to Google, taking all the hard work out of the process.

13. You copy your content from other bloggers

Smart people don’t try to reinvent the wheel. They draw inspiration from the world around them. Google rewards original content but “original” refers to the wording rather than the concept. If you lift large amounts of content from external sources, and Google will mark it down as duplicate content and give you no SEO points. Adapt or attribute. Always.

14. You don’t publish blog posts often enough

Google loves fresh content and new posts on your blog are a great incentive for Google to come back and visit. Some bloggers publish when they are inspired. Some bloggers write every day. The question you need to answer is how often can you publish valuable and relevant posts to your readers.

15. You never use bullet lists in your blog posts

Google loves bullet lists. Not quite as much as headlines, subheadings and links, but a lot more than regular text. That, of course, means you should use lists to break up long passages of text and pop your keywords in, especially in the first couple of words of each list item.

16. You don’t have a presence on any social media platforms

Google is always looking for ways to return search results that are valuable and relevant. Social recommendations are becoming a huge influence on how search engines view your content and that’s exactly what active social media pages are. So go and get social, and build a community around your blog.

17. You don’t share your blog posts on your social media pages

Social media pages are fantastic for building a community—see above. They are also the perfect vehicles to share and promote your blog posts! Don’t be afraid to share your new blog posts across social media and ask your community to share the love. You are building social currency that Google loves to see.

18. You don’t invite blog readers to leave comments

Comments give your blog the kind of freshness that search engines just love. Comments also show that your blog posts are still relevant to readers. Invite readers to leave their thoughts and continue the conversation or blog about something a bit controversial to get the discussion started!

19.You don’t know where your biggest referrers live

Google Analytics will show you where you have the greatest numbers of people sending traffic to your blog. It’s worth knowing who they are so you can give them the attention they deserve. Your analytics will also show you the keywords that led people to your blog, how many times they visited, and which other pages they clicked on.

20. Your blog content will age like a b-grade actress: badly

Blogging about topical subjects is a great way to start a conversation but it might also date your blog posts into irrelevancy. Creating helpful, educational content, instead of editorial content, is just one way you can create a library of blog posts that will be relevant again at a later date. Mixing different types of blog posts will also keep your readers interested.

21. You don’t write about topics people are interested in

If you ever ask yourself if your blog posts are interesting enough, you’re asking the wrong person. If your blog isn’t getting much attention from readers then Google isn’t going to give it a second look. You can discover a wealth of potential topics from comments on other people’s blog, surveys, keyword analysis, trending Twitter topics, and simply asking your current readers. Don’t be shy!

22. You have advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic

Paid advertising is more than ok but if you have a lot of advertising that is irrelevant to your blog topic then it kind of makes you look bad. Google is getting really good at picking out poor poor-quality websites and lots of irrelevant advertising can give off all the wrong signals.

23. You don’t have share buttons so people can’t spread the word

Social share buttons let your readers promote your words of wisdom without ever having to leave your blog. Apart from the extended reach, the more often your blog posts are tweeted, liked and commented on, the more value they have … and the more Google will notice you.

24.Your guest posts are replicated on other sites, word for word

Opening your blog up to guest bloggers is a fantastic way to add depth and variety to your own blog topics—not to mention giving yourself a break from writing! But if your guest bloggers publish the same content, word for word, on their own blog, then you don’t get the kudos from Google for original information. Ask your guest bloggers to give you exclusivity or at least a few weeks’ head start.

25. You write about too many topics and Google is just plain confused

If you have a lot of different passions, that’s wonderful, but blogging about them all on the same blog will get you nowhere. In fact, from an SEO point of view, your blog will look like a big pile of books on the floor: too hard to categorize. Keep it simple and Google won’t get so baffled.

Remember that Google’s ultimate mission is to match online searches with the most relevant and reputable content. You will be rewarded when you create content that focuses on your readers’ needs and you build a strong network around your blog. It won’t happen overnight nor is it a one-off process but if you keep at it, people will find you (and it will be Google that shows them).

Belinda is a professional marketing copywriter confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. You don’t have to choose between them! Read her copywriting blog, The Copy Detective, and improve the way you write about your business.

Your Social Media and SEO Game Plan for 2012

This guest post is by Herman Dias of SEOsoeasy.com.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the Google Panda update and what it did to many low-quality websites last year. It was more like a Google sniper attack on all the spam and rubbish sites. Honestly, this does not seem to be the end of the Panda: there is more to come, and we need to watch out.

The whole reason Google made these changes was to give Google users a good experience when they use Google search, and why not? When I look for something on Google the last thing I would want to see is rubbish information.

That is why, as SEO marketers, we need to take a different approach to ranking on Google and driving free organic traffic to our sites. If you have done any kind of SEO, you know what the key principles of ranking on Google are.

  • choosing the right keywords
  • building a well optimized site with good content
  • building quality backlinks.

These are the core principles of SEO, and they may get you on page one of Google, but you won’t stay there for very long. You have to do more and more of what the big G wants.

Google has started giving social media a lot of importance. It rewards sites that incorporate the core SEO principles and social media strategies by ranking them on page one and keeping them there. In fact, I think last year was the start of the cleanup process by Google. So if you think you got away without incorporating social media to rank on Google, you’d better make the change now or you may be surprised.

Incorporating social media into SEO

In the near future, you won’t be able to just pick keywords, optimize your site, and build links, and expect to rank on page one and stay there. Your site probably will rank on page one, but it won’t be there very long.

You really have to incorporate social media into your SEO efforts to rank and stay on page one. Here’s how you need do it.

  1. Select keywords with good commercial intent and good search volume, and build your main site and sub-pages around these keywords.
  2. Have the best content on your site, and optimize your site as per Google’s requirements.
  3. Make sure your subpages are interlinked with one another to create a strong internal linking structure.
  4. Create a Google Plus page and give your visitors something free to subscribe to your page. Make sure this page has a link to your main site.
  5. Create a Facebook page and give your visitors something free to become a fan of your page. Make sure this page has a link to your site.
  6. Create a Twitter page and link it to your site as well.
  7. Create Youtube channel with a link to your site.
  8. Bookmark your main site, and sub-pages at social bookmarking sites.
  9. Choose between three and five blogs in your niche to write good articles and submit a guest post to them, these posts will have a link to your blog and sub page.
  10. Get links from authority sites like .edu and .gov sites, news sites, or high-PR sites.
  11. Submit press releases to top press release distribution sites. Make sure your releases include links to your main site and relevant sub-pages.
  12. Submit articles to at least five article directories. Make sure these articles include links to your main site and relevant sub-pages.
  13. Share your content through sites like Tumblr, Livejournal, Weebly, Squidoo, and so on. Make sure the content contains links to your main site and relevant sub-pages.
  14. Tweet interesting, relevant links your main home page and sub-pages on Twitter.
  15. Share your blog entries on your Facebook wall and Google Plus page.
  16. Prepare videos and post them to your YouTube channel.

These steps will not only help your rank on the search engines fast—and get traffic from them—but they’ll also help you attract traffic from social media sites. These visitors will then have the option of liking your page on Facebook, tweeting your post, giving your page a +1 on Google, subscribing to your YouTube channel, and commenting on your blog post.

This process plays a very important role in ranking on the first page of Google, fast. It will not only create extra traffic and user-generated content, but it will also create backlinks naturally, as well as a community of people who will visit your site often.

This is exactly what Google is looking for. It wants to see activity on your sites; it wants interaction between people; it wants to see fresh, good-quality content; it wants to see quality sites backlinking to your site; it wants to see how long people spend on your site.

Your three-month plan

For this entire process to work successfully you need to create a three-month plan and execute it carefully.

  1. You need to have a three-month (90-day) content strategy. For example, you need to have about 45 good quality blog post ready and set up in WordPress to be posted every other day.
  2. You need to have content ready to submit to article directories, press release sites, those social sharing sites, and as guest posts. You should do these tasks at least twice a month if not more often.
  3. You need to prepare at least one video every week for 90 days and post it on your YouTube channel. If you haven’t tried this tactic before, you’ll be surprised to see the traffic you get from YouTube.
  4. You need to publish each blog post to your Google Plus page, Facebook page, and Twitter page, over a period of time. Slowly will start to get links and visitors from each of these sources.
  5. You need to bookmark all the pages on your site at a steady pace over a period of time using social bookmarking sites.
  6. You need to follow steps 8 to 16 consistently for at least three months. Then you can lower the pace—or increase it—depending on the results you see.

Please note there are many more backlinking sources you can use to build backlinks—consider directory links, blog contextual links, blog comments, and video directory links, for example. You don’t need to stick to the ones I’ve mentioned above.

But make sure whatever method of backlinking you choose, you use it consistently. That’s why I prefer picking a few sources that have worked for me and using them for about three months. Then I introduce the other back-link sources.

Now’s the time to integrate social media into your SEO plans. If you follow this process, you will see some good ranking in Google and other search engines—as well as decent traffic from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and YouTube.

Here is a live free case study were Herman Dias shares the exact same method of How to Rank on Page One of Google in 15 days . He also likes writing on topics related to SEO Tips, blogging, list building, traffic strategies and other Internet Marketing Topics.

What Has Blog SEO Got to Do With How Your Readers Feel?

This guest post is by Dr. Mani of Internet infopreneur.

My blogging has evolved. Since 2003, when I first started blogging, the style and nature of my writing has changed to match trends, experience, and personal growth.

One thing however has remained constant. I write for my audience—and about things that matter to them. Or at least, I try to.

And, from what I’ve seen shared by many successful bloggers, that’s one of the keys to enjoying rich rewards from blogging. I read this snippet in an article about gaining social media influence by Haydn Shaughnessy:

“Writing stopped being a megaphone a long time ago and is now a journey where you meet a few of the same people regularly and a whole lot of new people all the time.”—Haydn Shaughnessy

So the key to blogging success is to attract a relevant, clearly defined, and in some way ultimately profitable (to you) readership—and this begins by knowing what to share with them in order that you may reach out meaningfully.

Listen, no one cares about you. Not in the beginning. Maybe never. They only care about how much you care for them—and how you can help them.

It helps when you genuinely care about them, because then your blogging will automatically align with ways you can help them meet their most pressing needs, get rid of their most worrying problems, and take them closer to their most desired dreams.

In order to reach the largest possible audience of such prospects, you need to rely upon tactical approaches like blog SEO. For many years, I blithely ignored that and wrote ad lib. In the early days, it worked because a. there was little, if any, competition, and b. the writing still appealed to readers, who then helped amplify the signal to others like them.

This last point is still in effect, except that the playing field has grown unbelievably more crowded. Everyone is an author. Everyone has a blog. Everyone is out to find more readers. Everyone is clamoring for your attention. Everyone is getting frustrated at not finding it.

Everyone wants a magic wand to wave at their computer screen and attract blog visitors.

Blog SEO can become yours.

Search engine optimization is partly the art of weaving into your content specific keywords and phrases which are used by people seeking information on search engines. Google and Bing get a humongous number of visitors every day, all of them in pursuit of more information. By positioning yourself in front of this crowd, you can funnel a few folks to your blog.

But you’ve got to know the right words to use.

Blog SEO is, in that respect, unique and special, because it speaks to the way your audience thinks and feels. When you’re in synch with your viewers, you already know intuitively what keeps them awake late into the night. You sense what things might get them bounding out of bed each morning, eager and excited.

You know because you care.

You care enough to ask people in your niche. You care enough to monitor your blog metrics and follow trends. You care enough to engage in conversations with your loyal readers. You care enough to take time to read other blogs, network with other bloggers, and keep up with industry developments that fuel these fears and dreams.

And then, you care enough to write (or speak or record a video) about these things—things which speak deeply, intimately, personally to each individual member of your tribe who favors you with their attention and time.

Blog SEO involves using that insight about your audience, matching it to time-tested principles like keyword density and anchor text for links, and optimizing each of your blog posts in such a way that they not only rank high on search engines, but also resonate with those who visit and read them.

Your keywords aren’t always those with the highest search volume—they are the ones closest to your readers’ hearts. Your on-site optimization isn’t all about seeding the text of your blog with the right density of phrases, but sharing value that your market craves.

Because blog SEO is no longer influenced by purely on-page factors, but also depends heavily on social sharing, this approach maximizes your impact. Your blog readers will happily share things they find helpful and interesting with their friends and contacts, growing your blog’s ranking ability and attracting new readers into your fold.

That’s why the craft of SEO for bloggers has morphed into a fine art that hinges more upon how your special people feel—and why. Understand that, apply it intelligently, and you’ll crack the secret code to blogging success—even in this over-crowded and cluttered marketplace.

Dr. Mani is a heart surgeon and Internet infopreneur. His information business helps fund treatment for under-privileged children. He has taught thousands of entrepreneurs “how to earn a steady online income doing what you love”. Learn more about information marketing at his blog, or get his book Think, Write & Retire!

Why Fresh Blog Content is Now 35% More Important

This guest post is by Oz of OzSoapbox.

I like to think of SEO in general as one giant cauldron of murky soup that’s never quite just right.

The cauldron has been simmering on the fire for so long that we’ve kind of lost track of exactly what we’ve put in there. All we can do now is tweak the broth by adding different ingredients in a continual effort that will hopefully improve its taste.

Taste, of course, being the positive effects good SEO brings to our blogs.

One of the gazillion factors that makes up SEO, and one we’re going to explore today, is content freshness. Gone are the days of static websites and even the seemingly most mundane of web pages usually had some sort of dynamic element to them.

Whether it’s a Twitter feed, Facebook integration, reader comments, or just a good old-fashioned constant stream of new articles, these days there’s a good chance even a website dedicated to your grandma’s cats is dynamically updated with some form of fresh content.

And as far as SEO goes, that’s now indisputably a good thing.

Measuring the impact of content freshness on our blogs

Previously, content freshness was something we knew was a good thing to do because SEO spiders loved new and updated content. Much like adding salt to a cauldron of soup, quantifying the exact impact content freshness had on our blogs has always been somewhat problematic.

Whilst we still don’t have a definitive answer on this (coughcough trade secrets coughcough), Google recently announced a major change to their search algorithm “that would impact roughly 35% of searches”.

That change? The quantification of the effect that freshness has on search results.

Google handle roughly three billion search queries a day, and 35% of that is one billion and fifty million searches a day affected in some way by content freshness.

That’s 1,050,000,000 daily search results … do I have your attention yet?

Google’s freshness algorithm change and your blog

Now obviously content freshness doesn’t mean that if you go berserk updating your content all of a sudden you’re going to be outranking Wikipedia. Yet this is a change to Google’s search results worth taking stock of.

That said, note that even at 35% of searches, this change simply might not really apply to your blog. Let’s face it, some blog niches are timeless.

For others, such as Digital Photography School, with digital camera models and new gear coming out all the time, Google’s algorithm change likely has huge potential.

If you don’t do anything about it though, that potential could easily swing from positive to negative.

Keeping your blog fresh

Even if you think your blog’s niche isn’t really impacted by time, it’s still worth keeping your blog fresh. In the vastness that is the Internet, the last thing you want is readers tuning out because they think you’re no longer relevant.

If you’re serious about keeping your blog stocked with fresh content, these would be the first three things I’d focus on.

Publish, publish, publish!

You don’t have to publish every day, but a strongly maintained publishing schedule is easily your best bet for fresh fresh content. What better way to show the search engines you’re full of fresh content than providing them with new pages to crawl every time they visit?

Comments

Why do all the work yourself? Although some bloggers prefer to turn comments off, as far as SEO goes, comments on your articles most definitely count towards freshness.

I’ve got some articles on my blog that I wrote a few years back, and to this day, they still receive the odd comment. This not only keeps the discussion going but keeps a page relevant, which is what Google’s latest algorithm change is all about.

Update your old articles

Even if you think nothing’s changed since you last wrote about a particular area of interest, it can’t hurt to go back and visit the topic.

I write a fair bit about current events in Taiwan. Often, a news snippet comes out that’s relevant to a story I’ve previously written about, but not significant enough to craft a new article around.

In these cases I simply go back to the article I originally wrote and provide an update. You can see this principle in action in my post on the DEHP scandal in Taiwan earlier this year.

I originally wrote the story in June. Since then I’ve updated the page no less than 19 times, with the last update on the 28th October.

The end result is a page that combines both age authority and content freshness. In the eyes of search engine crawlers this translates to relevance, because the page has been constantly updated with fresh content that is strongly on-topic.

Darren has previously written in more depth on keeping fresh content flowing on your blog, and it’s a great reference for some further fresh content ideas.

35% of over a billion searches a day are now quantifiably impacted by content freshness, and even a tiny percentage of this traffic is worth optimizing for. Fire up your favorite blogging platform and let’s get those blogs updated!

Updated daily, OzSoapbox is an English language blog about Taiwan cataloguing life in Taiwan, the good times and the bad. Interrupted only by social commentary on current events facing Taiwan, feel free to drop on by and join Oz on his journey through this beautiful island.

Infographic: Is it Time to Consider SEO Automation?

This guest post is by William Tyree of SEO for Salesforce.

Is it safe for bloggers to stop caring about SEO yet? Can we all just install an SEO plugin for WordPress and focus on creating quality content?

If you read some of the problogger.net articles this year about how Google’s Panda updates sent some bloggers looking for a life boat, the answer is unfortunately no.

In terms of risk mitigation, we all need to be savvier about the way search engines perceive and rank our sites.

We also need better strategies to maintain a competitive edge. For better or worse, online advertisers and PR firms are getting smarter about distinguishing between sites that reach vast, highly engaged audiences and those that connect with smaller communities. When companies send out invitations to lucrative industry blogger events, they have to choose between you and other bloggers.

Relationships play a factor, but so do the sizes of your web traffic and social media reach. Increasingly, advertisers are using independent measurement sites like Compete.com and Klout to verify the size of your impact.

We all know our audiences intimately. But what few of us have is the luxury of time, or the budget, to hire an SEO agency. That’s why experimenting with good SEO automation tools may be a wise bet. SEO automation can’t create great sharable content for you, or define business objectives. But it can help with a lot of other things that you would need to clone yourself or pay someone to do.

For example, a good automation tool can identify problems with your site in a few minutes that an SEO firm might charge thousands to find for you. They can also auto-generate solutions and monitor the impact of your efforts. If you use a CRM to track your sales or contact lists, a few automation tools can even automatically correlate specific keywords to leads coming in from your blog contact form and eventual revenue.

That kind of information makes it possible for you to make smart choices about what niche topics to blog about. For example, if you’re a tech blogger, and you find that every time you blog about 3D TVs you get above average numbers of page views, and many more leads from advertisers, then that might have a strong impact on your content strategy.

This infographic illustrates how using automation tools to handle time-intensive SEO chores helps free up time for web publishers to focus on strategy and content.

William Tyree is VP of Marketing for DemandResults, an evidence-based marketing company and creator of cloud marketing products SEO for Salesforce and RingDNA. He has contributed his stories and thought leadership to Harvard Review, The Atlantic, Japan Inc, YouMoz and elsewhere. He blogs regularly for EvidenceBasedMarketing.net.

On the First Page of Google? Now What?

This guest post is by Keith Bishop of Online Digital Junkie.

If your goal is to publish a lot of meaningless content that doesn’t get read, then you’re in the wrong place. On the other hand, if you desire your pages to engage and help the reader take some type of action based upon what they were searching for when they found your site, read on.

With time and proper SEO practices, visitors will likely show up on your site through search by using keywords that relate in some way to your page. With that said, it only makes sense that you should optimize your off-page content in a way that promises to alleviate whatever issue led the searcher to your door.

All you have to do is consider the impact of your keywords before you use them. This is very important because the keyword you choose is actually your first promise to your potential visitor. If I were going to rank something like “why is the sky blue,” I would want to make sure my page does a couple things right away so that they click my link.

Proper meta data

A good way to digest meta data is to view it as a miniature representation of your real page, sort of like a business card. It includes a title, description, and tags. Tags are not as important to search anymore so I will focus this article on just the title and description.

Meta title

The first thing that has to be done is to come up with your title. Meta titles are the text you see at the very top of the page, on the tabs, and beside the little logos known as favicons.

They are also the linkable text that you see in the search engine results page (SERP). This means that it is the first thing your potential visitor sees in regards to organic search traffic.

You might use something like; “have you ever wondered why the sky is blue?” Did you notice that the keyword is in the page title? This is important for search engines and visitors alike. Search engines and visitors use it to help determine what your page is about. It can push you rank higher and get more clicks because it is directly relevant to your chosen keyword.

Meta description

Another must-do is to clearly let the reader know that your page will solve their problem by explicitly stating that it will do so in the description.

This is the text portion that shows up in the search results. For those of you that are not familiar with this, it is the snippet or short paragraph you see directly under each link after you search for something in Google (or other engine).

If you do not manually set a meta description for your page, Google will just use some of the text from the first paragraph of your article and go with that. This is not advisable, because it technically qualifies as duplicate content.

It also does not convert as well, since your description is the second promise you are making to your potential visitor, and there is no need to have them read the first couple of sentences twice. Instead, you might use something like the following:

“This article is in response to people like you and Bob who want to know why the sky is blue. After much research and contemplation, you can now find the answer in this article by visiting my page.”

A description like this says, “hey you … yes, you in the green shirt. You have been wondering why the sky is blue, right? Awesome! You’re not alone. And I have spent a good deal of time finding the answer for you. Come on inside and instantly solve your problem right here on my site.”

Now you have clearly set the stage with some direct promises that show confidence in your ability to deliver a solution. It can help make a difference when your content is sitting in the fifth to eighth spot on page one of Google Search, which is where many of your articles will hover at.

Don’t just rank: close the deal

There is a definite difference between ranking a keyword and closing the deal on one.

Just make sure you don’t ask for anything until you have provided the reader with something valuable first. And what you are providing is always the answer to whatever problems the reader is facing, which led them to search with your keywords in the first place.

Keith Bishop is the founder/designer at Online Digital Junkie. He also co-manages an up and coming travel nurse blog with his wife Melissa.