Search engine optimization and link development strategies based on ethical principles, which are mostly focused on scalability and growing business sales as well as conversions.

6 Actionable SEO Tips

Technical SEO has clearly been one of the pillars that enabled many businesses to thrive in the information age.

With 3.5 billion searches being made each day (which is still stirring towards a consistent growth pattern); it only proves how more significant – and more competitive – search optimization will be for many businesses in the years to come.

SEO, as a medium for traffic acquisition, hasn’t changed that much in over a decade of its existence. The primary objective of the practice is still the same – “to make it easier for people to get to the information/solution they need”.

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13 simple SEO processes you can use to improve client acquisition and retention

When I started doing SEO 4 years ago, it was already at a stage where everything was starting to get a bit more difficult (May Day, Caffeine and Pre-Panda era). And the way I see it now, it will seriously get a lot tougher in the coming years.

But I guess that was really the perfect time for me to start a career in this industry. I didn’t expect for me to be genuinely passionate about SEO – but I think that passion became the one main factor that really made me embrace everything about it, including its most challenging parts.

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(More) Enterprise Link Building Strategies

Many people already argue that links, as ranking signals, are getting less valuable. Google’s search algorithm is still based on the link graph.

Most of their actions (such as Penguin update, and the successive batches of manual unnatural linking penalties) to win against web spamming may perhaps just prove the real importance of links to the search technology. Seeing that links are still one of the best signals they can use in determining the relevance, authority, popularity and the credibility of a web page or an entity.

Well, that just means that getting the right types of links is still very much important in this age of SEO (and even on the entire digital marketing space). Because links don’t just help a site get better visibility on search results – it also helps information, products or services get discovered through referral.

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How to Really Rank in Google SERPs

Ranking in Google’s search results has been a lot more challenging these days, compared to how SEO was typically done a decade ago.

Over the years, Google has gradually integrated several advanced factors/metrics – mainly to fight web spam – and also to make the web search experience more relevant and useful to people worldwide.

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YouTube Marketing for Businesses

gdayspampangaI was invited to speak for one of this year’s GDays events here in the Philippines – which will be held in Angeles City, Pampanga this coming Saturday (April 26, 2014). This event was organized by Google Business Group in Angeles and is also supported by Google.

Originally, Glen Dimaandal (one of the smartest SEOs I know here in the country) was chosen to speak for this event, but sadly, he has to leave the country earlier this month for a business trip in the US.

And he just asked if I can substitute for him. Also, he’s going to do a guest post here on KTS early next month, so better watch out for that (he’s currently working on a really huge post about content marketing)!

Anyway, the topic assigned to me is about YouTube for Businesses, and I’m really excited about it, as I have been genuinely interested about it ever since I started doing online marketing. You can check out the slide deck below.

 

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

 

Hummingbird SEO

Hummingbird, Google’s new search algorithm that was launched August last year, is said to have impacted 90% of search results.

The majority of the affected results are for long-tail search queries, which is why many practitioners didn’t notice the changes when it was first launched (30 days before the update was publicly announced).

This particular algorithm aims to make search results faster and more precise.

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Link Building Tactics I’m Focusing on this 2014

I’ve been asked this question many times, way before the year even started. So I just thought of writing about it, and perhaps to also serve as sort of a module for our staff here at Xight Interactive.

The methods that I’m going to share on this post are the things that I’m implementing for the other sites I’m currently handling (that are aside from the clients we’re working on with our company) for over the next few months.

Scalable Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering competitors’ link data has been a standard process in SEO over the years.

But as search marketing continuously evolve – which makes the practice more complex and competitive on many verticals – spying on competitors’ link marketing activities and outdoing them will certainly need more attention.

Knowing where your competitors are getting links and brand mentions is easier to track these days, as there are many available tools specifically made for this particular task that can provide extensive and up-to-date data, such as Fresh Web Explorer and Mention.net.

mention.net

You can spend an hour a day listing and sorting the mentions and links that your competitors get on a daily basis. It’s also important to understand why and how they are able to acquire these brand mentions.

Because it’ll be easier to come up with ways on how to get link placements from the sites where your competitors are getting more visibility, when you know where, why and how they’re getting it.

Terms that you should be tracking:

  • Competitor’s brand name – to see publications writing about them.
  • Competitor’s branded products – to find people or blogs sharing and reviewing their products
  • Authors/bloggers writing under your competitors’ brands – to see where they are getting published.
  • Don’t forget to monitor your own brand mentions – as this can also help you build long-term relationships with linkers/publishers, as well as in reclaiming unlinked brand mentions.

In sorting your list of link prospects (domains linking to your competitors), it’s also crucial to evaluate if the link opportunity is really worth pursuing – ask yourself if do they have enough authority to pass and impact how people see your brand, or do they have substantial traffic to refer back to your website?

Don’t just follow your competitors’ footprints.

Take a step ahead and grow your own list of link opportunities by finding websites that are similar to the ones linking to your competitors. Get visible on those websites too!

related

HARO

I’ve taken Nishank Khanna’s advice seriously on making good use of Helpareporter.com’s email service to get better branding opportunities.

Lately, I’ve been spending 30 minutes a day trying to answer queries from publishers and journalists (who are looking for sources for the story they’re working on) that are coming through HARO’s daily emails.

But of course, I only pick the queries/topics that I know I’m really knowledgeable about, and you should too. And as for the industries that you’re not really an expert at, forwarding the queries to your clients (who know the topic better) is the best way to go.

haro

For a more detailed guide on how to user HARO to get high-quality brand mentions to your site, you can check out this post by Mathew Barby (as he has included this tactic on his list) or on this forum thread where Nishank shared how he personally does it – including the email template he uses.

Linker Outreach

This tactic works best when your client already has existing linkable content assets on their website (or is very active in content development).

How it works:

  • Identify the pages (informational and/or non-transactional) within your client’s website that are performing really well in terms of user-activity, and contain information/ideas that perhaps no one in their vertical will be able to match. This is also applicable when you’re still at the content planning stage (for upcoming content assets).
  • Find your competitors’ contents that are similar to the assets that your client already has (or planning to have).
  • Make a list of the people and sites/blogs who have linked to their content or shared via social media (list them down on a spreadsheet, including each prospect’s contact details). You can extract these data using tools like Topsy and/or Open Site Explorer (you can also do a manual Google search, using advanced search operators to find social shares from Facebook, Linkedin and Google+).
  • Start reaching out to them. You’ll have better chances of getting them share or link to your content, especially when your content is better than what your competitors have – knowing that they’re genuinely interested about the subject of your content (since they’ve linked/shared your competitors content in the past).
  • Pro tip: don’t ask them to link or share your content, since they are linkers, and they’ll certainly know what to do next.

I did a case study of this method 2 years ago. You can check that post out for a more comprehensive step-by-step guide, with the sample email template I used.

Content Strategy for Links

I was able to meet and catch up with Zeph Snapp (CEO of Altura Interactive) a week ago. He shared a case study on how pushing out more content on a regular basis (like publishing content 5x a week) can steadily grow the traffic of a website from that meeting.

And that approach can definitely strengthen a link campaign, given that the more eyeballs you can get to your site’s content, the higher the likelihood of getting more links to them.

Nurturing your target audience through continual content publishing also puts your brand on top of their minds, making your brand more linkable (a link magnet).

But of course, content alone wouldn’t the trick, that’s why building a strong readership is very vital to semi-automate content promotion (through social sharing and natural linking). And to truly get loyal readers, you’ll really need to invest on creating engaging, actionable and useful content.

Types of content that can help attract more visitors and links to a site:

  • Evergreen content focused on answering most frequently searched queries by your target audience/customers.
  • Content that aims to build relationships (ex: lists, roundup posts, ego bait, interviews, or just plainly citing industry influencers on your own content).

John-Henry Scherck did an awesome presentation recently for SearchFest that also further explains this strategy:

Build Traffic Generators

I’ve always believed that the most valuable links on the web are those that are able to pass traffic back to your site, constantly. They are the ones that will most likely impact your search rankings as well.

Here are several ways to build constant traffic generators to a website:

Distributing content on content-sharing sites that have high search share

Pages from user-generated content sites like Youtube, Slideshare, Pinterest and many others, can easily rank for long-tail search terms – making them a really good traffic generator.

slideshare

Regular content contribution/columns on authority industry sites

This method is my personal favorite, and has been an integral part of most of the campaigns I’ve handled for the past couple of years – and will definitely still use it this year.

Instead of reaching out to hundreds of blogs for guest blogging opportunities, I just chose to focus on a few ones that can really drive results (traffic, brand impressions and conversions).

What makes this approach more valuable is that these domains normally have high DA, high traffic (and most of them are also your target customers), and the content you’re contributing to them have higher chances of ranking very well on search results – which often leads to continuous traffic generation.

Improving existing traffic generators

Identify the domains linking to your site that have been continuously driving traffic and conversions (Assisted Conversions on GA).

assisted conversions

Then further improve your brand’s visibility on these sites:

  • Build 2nd-tier links to specific linking pages that are driving highly targeted traffic and are able to generate conversions. This will help improve these linking pages’ search visibility.
  • Get more links from these domains, to continuously absorb more potential customers from them.

For more tips, you can check out my old post about conversion-oriented link building.

Building microsites

Investing on microsites that will be able to capture smaller segments of your target market is also a good option to make, especially if your business is in for the long-haul.

Niche or geo-targeted blogs are, more often than not, easier to build a community around in, since it specializes on a specific area of an industry. This method can allow your brand to get more quality leads and build links that’ll certainly be hard for your competitors to replicate.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Dealing with Penalized Websites

The growth of inquiries for search engine optimization services has certainly increased over the past couple of years.

In the past, businesses mostly contact SEO companies or independent consultants for help to further improve the visibility of their websites – and eventually to increase its traffic. But sadly, these days, perhaps more than half of the businesses looking for SEO help are businesses hoping to recover from algorithmic updates/penalties.

traffic

Campaigns that are mainly designed to recover from penalties (whether it’s Panda, Penguin, manual penalties, etc…) are a bit more challenging than the campaigns that many seasoned SEOs have been used to.

We all know that a one-size-fits-all campaign doesn’t exist, considering that we work with different types of sites on different verticals. Though, I strongly believe that having a “think marketing” mindset can break the barrier that sets a complex recovery campaign from a standard traffic generation campaign.

Because the optimization concepts involved in trying to recover a site from algorithmic penalties are just basically the things that SEOs should be doing to improve a site’s traffic performance in the first place.

The focus areas of search optimization these days aren’t just there to be implemented to future-proof a website. It’s already universal.

Dealing with a penalized website is absolutely the same as dealing with a newly launched or unharmed website. And when we’re cleaning up a site for it to regain its old rankings, we’re just doing what the site should have done before.

Optimize for Experience

A good site experience is the ultimate indicator of relevance. A major factor that search engines use to determine pages/sites they have to reward with better search visibility.

And apparently, analyzing and understanding visitor behavior stats are very crucial to succeed, not just in search, but as well as in actually growing an online business.

Improving the overall experience that your website can provide to its target users can be done through several optimization processes such as:

  • Information Architecture – making it easier for users to navigate and find information available from the site by categorizing topics/information into a coherent structure.
  • Optimizing for long-click – don’t just focus on increasing your search listings’ CTR, but it’s also important to improve the visitor retention rate, once organic traffic lands on your site’s pages. This can be done by ensuring that the information within the content really matches the search query that people use to get to that page. This also means blocking crawlers in accessing and indexing poor-content and duplicate pages from your site, given that they aren’t really useful when served/displayed to search engine users.
  • Technical SEO audits – while optimizing for humans, it’s also best to make certain that your site is search-friendly. Make it easier for search engines to crawl, access and understand what your website’s pages are about. Use this comprehensive SEO audit checklist by Annie Cushing.
  • Site speed – make your entire site load faster. It’ll help improve site activity, conversions, and search rankings. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to know how your site is performing in terms of its loading speed.
  • Internal links – build more thematic internal links to increase page visits. And this way, you’ll also pass more page authority to your site’s other key pages (and help them rank better on search results).
  • UX design – invest on a conversion-oriented website design (make it responsive or have a mobile version if necessary). Like what I’ve mentioned on my last blog post, design separates successful websites from their competitors.

Sometimes, you just have to forget about rankings and to just remember that your main goal is to make sure that you please your users and be able to provide a remarkable experience for them.

Note: You can also check Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History regularly to determine if you’ve been hit or to identify what type of update have hit your site.

Improve Domain Authority

When it comes to link-related penalties, removing and disavowing bad/spammy links pointing to a site have been the popular ways to recover.

Though sometimes, outnumbering the bad links with quality and hard-earned links is the better approach.

This is also very applicable to websites that aren’t penalized, as the more you build your site’s Domain Authority, the more it will be able to compete for tough keywords (and definitely rank even better for long-tails).

There are two ways to continuously increase a site’s DA:

  • Build more useful/actionable pages that can procure links over time, so that they can improve their Page Authority. The more pages on your site that have high PA, the more it helps increase your domain’s overall authority. And internally linking your site’s pages also allows the link/ranking value flow throughout the website – which helps your other pages rank for the search terms they are designated with.
  • Get more links to your site and its inner pages from other sites that have high domain authority. You can also check this post for more tips on how to get hard-to-replicate links.

Rohit from Techtage.com also did an infographic last year that offers a more in-depth look on how to increase a site’s domain authority:

Increasing Domain Authority

String Entity Optimization

Search engines’ constant evolution, from indexing to understanding (keywords to context), certainly means that it’s going to be a lot more difficult for penalized websites to cope up. Not unless you strike while the entity graph is still in its developmental stage.

Being just relevant for the keywords that you’re targeting will not be enough in the future. Your brand must be synonymous to the industry terms you’re targeting to really win in search (just think of how “Bruce Lee” became synonymous to “Kung Fu” – think branding).

There are several web platforms and methods that search engines can extract data from to better understand entities. Optimizing a brand’s web presence through them could not just help regain lost rankings, but might also help build a solid foundation for a site’s future online presence.

Using the Skyscraper technique

Brian Dean wrote a comprehensive guide on using this content marketing method on his blog, and Nishank Khanna summarized how to do it on a forum thread I stumbled upon last week:

Step 1: Find link-worthy content (authoritative content that people already link to).

Step 2: Make something even better.

Step 3: Reach out to the right people (the low hanging fruit is the people who link to the content you found in Step 1).

Basically, the more you provide extensive content that supports the core keywords that your site is targeting (or the content topics that are frequently searched in your space), the more search engines will understand how important your brand is in its industry’s ecosystem.

It’s also the best approach to be an authority in your chosen niche, as well as to demonstrate your brand’s unique value proposition.

This is actually the core of my own strategy for this blog, where I only focused on creating foundational and evergreen content to eventually establish expertise, relationships, and my brand as a publisher.

So if you have existing content assets that can still be enhanced, updating them could really be a big game-changer.

Structured data

Schemas and Microdata helps search engines better understand what websites and webpages are about (specifically for Semantic web). Implementing these on your website can prepare your campaign for the inevitable advancements that search engines (particularly Google) are currently working on.

Relationships and associations

Social connections also play a big role in evaluating authority, web popularity and in the categorization of entities (industry, location, etc…).

For instance, it’s easier for search engines to determine what industry you’re in when you’re also actively contributing content or participating on discussions from other industry-specific websites.  These interactions can simply tie a brand to the market it belongs to.

It’s imperative to build relationships and a strong social following base nowadays.

Get coverage or mentions from authoritative publications

Search engines rely on other authoritative sites for data and information. Getting mentioned by a-list publications can certainly be a big lift when it comes to understanding more about what your brand is about (co-citation and co-occurrence also matters).

Use HARO to get connected with journalists or influential content publishers.

I’ve been spending more time in using this service to get more brand mentions (not just links) these days. Nishank Khanna (again) shared a great tip (plus the email template he uses) on how to efficiently use this method for getting press mentions:

1. Sign up to get HARO leads (free) and/or PR Leads (paid). Both these services provide you leads on what journalists are writing about.

http://www.helpareporter.com/
http://www.prleads.com

2. Pick the leads that are relevant to you. Don’t waste your time responding to or pursuing leads which you don’t have expertise in.

3. Write 2-3 bullet points with data that would help the reporter on the article they’re writing. Keep the email short, and DO NOT promote yourself in this email — that will come later. Your goal here is to get quoted as a source in the article. The reporter is not going to write an entire piece dedicated to you right off the bat.

4. In the subject line for the email you’ll be sending, use this simple formula:

(HARO|ProfNet): (The title of the lead)

So, for example, if a HARO lead is a journalist writing an article about “how does data loss effect businesses”, your email subject should be: HARO: How data loss effects businesses

Journalists get a gazillion emails a day, so keeping it 100% relevant is the only way you’re going to get noticed. And again, don’t promote yourself in this first contact with the journalist / blogger. Can’t stress that enough. You will build rapport 100x faster when all you’re doing is offering help.

5. For the content of your email, here is what I send (and I’ve split tested this again and again over the years):

Hi Tim,

My name is Nishank Khanna, founder of Bright Journey. Here is how data loss effects businesses:

  • 1-2 sentences.
  • 1-2 sentences.
  • 1-2 sentences.

I’d love to talk more and help you with your article. Just drop me a line atnishank@domain.com or (800) 555-1234.

– Nishank

Connect with me on http://twitter.com/nishankkhanna

That’s it! All it takes is responding to 4-5 targeted leads a day to get press. 15-30 minutes is usually all it took me to pick the leads and craft the message.

Once a journalist quotes you, they’ll be way more receptive to what you have to say in the future. And I don’t mean send them a press release. Press releases must die! Use your valuable time to craft content that journalists want to use, not writing generic press releases.

With this strategy you can start getting a few mentions that’ll lead to traffic and sales. The next way to get press is creating useful content (for example, put a spin on data that your business generates as an industry report). Send this first to the journalists that quoted you earlier. Again, keep the emails short and too the point.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re working on a penalized site or not, we’re all here for the long haul. Today’s best practices may change tomorrow, but what’s important is to always have the right mindset, in order for you to get the right actions to get to your objectives.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre