I keep on bringing this up, because we still get many questions from our readers and clients about copywriting. Copywriting is not just having excellent writing skills; it involves a strong coordination between topic research, keyword research and understanding your specific audience for a specific page. I cannot emphasize it enough.

Before all of the Google updates, quantity was king.  You wanted to push out as many articles as you could and feed the machines in order to stay on top and ahead of your competition.  Now, with the Google Panda update, quantity is starting to take a backseat to quality work.  The update can better filter out spammy or overused content as well as keyword stuffed articles, and it can now recognize quality writing filled with brand new information.  Quality is what you should be after, and this is especially true for local businesses.

Unique content is the key, meaning you want to publish content on your blog or site page that a user would not find on 100 more websites using the same exact wording.  A local business truly needs unique content, given that they are actually aiming for local traffic.  If your local customers are clicking on your site and only finding poor quality content right at the start, they are likely to just click on through and not stop.  Informative, well written (meaning written for human eyes not robots) articles are what you should be investing in.

What should “quality” articles cover, anyway?  They still need to be related to your business, of course, but instead of trying to fit in tons of obvious keywords, you want the writing to flow naturally.  You also need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.  If they are doing a search for information on a product you carry, then articles with helpful details should be your focus.  People love to feel like they are gaining something from visiting a website, and that gain can be in the way of knowledge news, incentives and so on.

In the end, your articles should now be written to read like they are for your real human customers, and no longer for search-bots.  Focus on quality writing and stay ahead of the game when it comes to your local business.

If you’re unsure how to proceed, contact us today

This is an interesting question that comes up quite a bit in SEO marketing and business talk.  You probably know by now that Google and other search engines on the Internet place a high importance in the number of links a site has onsite (smooth internal linking structure) and offsite (total number of connections all over the web).

However, it’s confusing when you read reports about search engines penalizing websites that “over-optimize” or have too many “cheap links.”  Well, what are cheap links?  What’s the difference between a paid link, a cheap link and a free link?  It’s not actually about the price.

When search engine experts refer to “cheap links” they are referring to cheap writing or cheap links without any writing to accompany the link.  Ideally, Google, Yahoo and Bing place great priority on quality text and accompanying links that are appropriately “anchored.”  Think of a quality site like Wikipedia – it’s all writing and all quality anchor text that perfectly describes the linked page.

Now compare a quality link with a cheap link or a bad, SPAM link.  These links might include a directory with free for all links, too many consecutive links, links to low PageRank rated sites, links from link farms or links for low quality (no filtering), low traffic article directories.  Not all blog comments and footers and forum signatures are considered “high quality” links.

The best quality links are the ones that provide quality writing, excellent anchor text and that are actually read by human beings.  Even social media pages are considered average to high quality links.  It’s clear to see that search engines are really looking to “keep it real” and reward the sites in which intelligent human beings are communicating with their contemporaries.  The “robot” consumer doesn’t exist…not anymore.  It’s now the robot “crawlers” job to think more human.

Worried about your next move in SEO strategy?  One of Google’s most recent algorithm updates focused on giving credence and rewards to websites featuring local content.  Not only did the company create an algorithm that helped to drive more traffic to long-tail local keyword pages – it also helped locally created sites to increase their overall search rankings for broader search terms.

Now, with the recent trend of pushing local pages, suddenly Google Maps and Google Places are great web tools to utilize for your SEO strategy!  Google Places is actually made for local business and provides assistance in creating a quality link that shares local information about the business.

Google Places allows company owners to establish a physical address, owner verification, proper categorization, reviews and directory listings, searchable address matching, and other localized information.  Google Places acts as a “digital shop” for your company, and because of their exclusively local approach to SEO, many companies are now locally ranked as #1 in relatively broad keyword searches because of the relevance of the local search query.

Google Maps is a similar tool but focuses more on directions and listings rather than in-depth local information.  Still, Google Maps has the capacity to help establish a business and even direct users how to find the location, and what other businesses are nearby.  The potential here is massive, and we can clearly see that localized content is making a comeback in a big way.

The best strategy in a post-Panda Internet world is to focus on local content, not only as a means to SEO, but as simple marketing fundamentals.  Build your audience from the ground up, from the city up, and expand at a natural pace.  It clearly works offline, and this is the way it’s going to start working online throughout the next decade.

The relationship between Google and the average website owner is indeed a complicated one.  Google has made many enemies over the past couple of years because of its controversial algorithm changes…and yet who doesn’t want to impress Google and be on the receiving end of a traffic hike?

The Google dynamic is highly sensitive, but truthfully, it is a relationship based on honesty.  The basic point these algorithm updates have reiterated is that Google wants white hat SEO methods, and is turning its back on SPAM, and SPAM-like content that is written cheaply and with SEO manipulation in mind.

This means avoiding keyword stuffing, avoiding cheap and easy links, and avoiding “content mill” style writing which basically recycles material into something barely readable.  The entire idea of the content mill is based on “cheap and easy writing” which will create a link or two.  However, the latest algorithms are now penalizing sites that do just this – namely, create dozens and dozens of “too easy” links in a shallow effort to boost reputation.

So yes, Google is going overboard and may accidentally be penalizing quality sites that simply have a few too many cheap backlinks.  However, by taking a stricter approach to quality control – actually analyzing your links and your content and checking them for black hat or gray hat techniques (i.e. poorly worded content, over-optimized anchor text, excessive keywording) you can avoid the penalties that are befalling many companies right now.

The mistake so many websites are making today – and paying for dearly – is to assume that they are safe from Google’s Panda-Penguin updates simply because they have quality content.  It is a far better idea to scrutinize your content well in advance and focus on giving a “clean” and “pure” product to the almighty Google Bot.  Do this and avoid Panda, Penguin and whatever other scare comes your way.

Keep your SEM strategy clean and honest and you will prevail.

Are you interested in increasing your web presence online?  This is a very important issue and is actually at the heart of the SEO industry.  SEO, otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization, is the process of promoting yourself online and increasing your search engine visibility.

If you are a business owner new to the idea of SEO then it’s easy to become overwhelmed at all the various facets of online business promotion.  We generally recommend a dual-action strategy: Organic SEO with PPC.

Organic SEO

Organic Search Optimization can take some time to pay dividends – sometimes as long as six months to a year, depending on your industry. Organic SEO can cost more initially, but can be more cost effective once you’ve achieved a certain level of market penetration.

PPC Marketing

On the other hand, PPC Marketing can yield immediate results, if managed effectively. This is good because you can start bringing in buyers right away, but it will also require a relatively constant amount of budget on an ongoing basis.

Here are three specific avenues you want to think about, and that will help you communicate with the SEO consultant.

1.    You want a strong local presence.

Make sure that Google Places, Google Maps and Facebook Places are all part of the plan.  It is much easier to compete and win for local search results, since the Google Venice update actually helps to send local traffic to you, even for broader keywords with local phrases added

2.    You want long-tail keywords relevant to your industry.

Don’t go after broad keywords unless you have lots of patience and time. Instead, go after less popular (but still niche popular) keywords.  Rather than take blind guesses, the best course of action is to research the most popular “long-tail” keywords that have a reasonable degree of searches but with low competition for them.  Make sure these words are relevant to your company so as not to face a penalty from the search engine.

3.    Diversify Your Links

Much attention has been given in recent weeks to over-optimization, which is essentially second-rate content used only to artificially increase the number of links.  With the recent Google algorithm updates, and presumably with more updates on the way, it is essential to diversify your links (from a variety of directories and blogs) as well as diversify your SEO by looking into other search engines besides Google.

It’s not hard to break into web marketing and to get some “instant success.”  It won’t be colossal success right away, but if you strive to follow these three paths, you will establish a strong reputation in the business.

Google Penguin has already affected numerous online companies since its debut in spring 2012.  One of the first casualties mentioned was Ezine Articles, which continues to fall in rankings, suffering penalties over “over-optimized content”.  In fact, many SEO companies are now shifting their attention away from article directories (now seen as cheap links) and are instead intensifying their efforts on guest blogging.  Guest blogging is when you post a guest blog for another website.  When an SEO company handles this, this indicates not only creating the material, but also finding a quality blog at which to post such information.

Surprisingly, even Google’s own Blogger.com was caught in the crossfire, and actually suffered a slight traffic decrease after the Penguin algorithm update went into effect.  This is a strong indication of at least two things: (a) that Google is not necessarily giving preferential treatment to its own sister sites; and (b) that low quality individual pages are definitely negative factors affecting the overall site.  This explains why Blogger and Ezine Articles both took a hit – just think of the many individual pages on each website that are of very low quality.  While there may be some solid gold content on both sites respectively, not every page is a winner.

Companies are already reacting to Penguin, and perhaps even more so than Google Panda, since the world has had the chance to learn about Panda over the past year and a half.  Now, website owners are rewriting their pages and making sure that all content is fresh, and ready for new and improved Penguin crawling and indexing.  Lastly, some companies that are now thoroughly frustrated by the ever-changing algorithms – are now focusing attention on local advertising (through Google Places, Facebook Places and mobile marketing) as well as other search engines like Yahoo and Bing.

Don’t give up hope.  Diversify your web marketing plan and you will be rewarded!

Whether you need Organic Search Engine Optimization or PPC Marketing, Level9Solutions can help. Complete our SEO Research form for further information.

Some months ago, I wrote about ineffective data security practices in my blog titled “How much do you really know about your internal computer security?”. In that blog post, I discussed how senior management in many large corporations are simply not aware of many of these weaknesses.

Even when management is made aware of severe security threats, there are no processes in place to expedite a thorough review of all security processes and put fixes in place. Most companies have separate project ‘queues’ in place to deal with compliance and regulatory updates, but not for security issues. Considering that a serious breach could result in massive loss of customer confidence, huge fines, loss in market value, this is a no-brainer.

Now back to LinkedIn. By all accounts, LinkedIn is storing passwords in encrypted format, unfortunately a big lesson learned is that just because you have some encryption, does not mean you are protected. Having ‘effective’ encryption, and overall security mindset is what helps. In the case of LinkedIn, even though they used SHA-1 encryption, they neglected to use ‘Salting’. ‘Salting’ is when random bits are added to the password hash, so that the resulting output is unpredictable. PC World has some more details on this.

The bigger issue for LinkedIn and other breaches like this is that since people tend to use the same password of multiple websites, same users’ data is vulnerable on many other websites as well.

The lesson learned is that security issues have to be taken seriously and existing issues cannot be fixed using simple band-aids. More often than not, applying band-aids can cover up more serious underlying issues – issues that may never be discovered till personal user data starts showing up on sites like Pastebin. It is unbelievable that some companies still think hiding columns of unsecured data form website interfaces solves the problem. Unfortunately some companies learn the hard way, after they are faced with massive regulatory fines, loss of customer confidence and plunging market value after a major leak. Don’t let your company be one of them.

One of the most important statements from Google, and every SEO expert who claims to know Google so well, is that it’s time to stop writing content for search crawlers (or robots) and instead to focus on writing content for human beings.  Now, if you have ever written articles for “robots” (meaning a bunch of standard paragraphs, somewhat coherent, but mainly existing so as to accommodate a series of odd keyword texts) then you may find the idea of writing for human beings intimidating.

How does one write for people and stop thinking of search engine optimization in terms of keyword density?  (Indeed, keyword density is not as important as it once was)  There is still such a thing as keyword density in web marketing and SEO today.  The only difference is that the algorithm has been highly improved, and can now detect “natural” occurrences of the keyword rather than the somewhat obsessive 5% or even 1% repetition.

When you converse with or write to other human beings, there really is no reason for keyword density – a staple of the search engine design.  Rather, there is a need for repetition and emphasis; an artistic and persuasive use of a recurring word or sound.  Obviously, using too many instances of a word would distract your audience.  And yes, when they read content obviously written for SEO robot purposes and not for human readers, they will lose interest.

So your first order of business is to analyze all of your website’s pages and make sure they pass the “human test.”  Do all of the articles and the web copy pages make sense?  Or is there incoherency from one paragraph to the next?  It helps tremendously to stop “selling” your idea and instead to focus on more important issues like product details, the ins and outs of your industry, and the latest news that concerns your customers and your unique market.

Writing for human beings is actually a much more rewarding process so take steps now to make sure your entire website passes the human test and is spared from Google’s Penguin rampage!