HOW TO: Hire Someone for SEO - Learn what Google recommends when it comes to hiring for SEO

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I came across this great video from Google's Maile Ohye offering tips on how to hire someone to help your website get found using SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

 

SPOILER: Build a quality site that is good for your customers.

She goes into detail about linking, audits and optimizing, but upfront she shares my sentiment that the key to SEO is focusing on creating a great experience for your customers. After all, what Google is trying to do is send their customers to sites that provide a good experience.

It’s easy to be fooled by slick salespeople telling you that you will rank #1 and gain all the web traffic overnight. It takes time to build your business and reputation, online and in the real world. Slow and steady wins the race.


Want to know more? Check out Internet Marketing for Newbies.

 
 

Why You Must Claim Your Business on Google

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Claiming your business listing on Google is one of the most important things you can do. The good news is that It’s pretty easy to get done, and it’s free.

I work with a lot of small business owners that don’t have a large marketing budget. They want to know how to get started and the best place to focus their resources. I always emphasize the hierarchy of digital marketing: 1st Website, 2nd Email, 3rd Social Media, 4th Paid Ads.

But a quick thing you can do today is to claim and update your business listing on Google. This provides the info people will see when they search for your business directly, or a product or service that you offer.

This listing is shown to potential customers based on geography. So if you type “Italian Food Near Me”, Google will display Italian restaurants in your area.

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This is why you want to claim your listing and make sure the information is correct (hours, location, pricing, etc.)

These listing also provide ratings and reviews for your business. By claiming your listing you can interact with people leaving comments about you.

Go to Google.com/Business to review or claim your business today.


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PS - Google just added the ability to add a Shortname for your business. Make sure you claim yours before someone else does.

A New Look for Your Google Results

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Google's New Look

Just a quick word on an updated look for Google's Mobile Search Results. They will soon be adding a logo for your brand next to your name on the page. This is the image that appears in the browser tab - also known as a favicon.

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If you need help adding or updating the favicon/logo for your website, I can help.

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Read the full details from Google

Let me know if you need help updating your favicon.

HOW TO: Pass the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ) test (GAIQ)

Yes, I passed, w00t!

I did not even know there was a Google Analytics certification a week ago. When I stumbled across the designation I said "I should get me one of those." I've been using GA for years and figured a certification was within my grasp. It took me about 8 hours of study and $50, but I got it done.

OK, this is more the story of how I passed the test than an authoritative guide, but I hope it helps. I did the most logical thing first, I Googled "Study Guide for GAIQ." I found some great advice, but I think this post did the best job:

Passing the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) Test

Everyone who has taken the test says to watch all the videos provided by Google in Conversion University and I concur. I usually hate watching videos for training because they tend to suit the slowest learners. I like to read, skim and hone in on things I don't already know. These videos are well done though. They are really more like slide shows with a few videos dispersed throughout. They go quickly so I paused and re-watched a few slides that I needed to study more.

I had a second laptop setup as suggested, but I found it was easier to open a second browser than to change computers. Note: You need a second browser not a second window in your browser. I used Chrome for the test and Firefox to look up answers I was unsure about.

One thing I did not like about the test were all of the questions that were not in the study materials. A few I could not find even after Googling for answers and scouring the GA help section. I took my best guess on those.

I did learn some new things by going through all of the training materials. Definitely worth the effort. If you are a regular user of GA, I recommend getting this certification. Good luck!

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OVERVIEW: Getting Started with Google Analytics

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I put together this quick overview of Google Analytics for my clients. Google Analytics is a fantastic tool that every website owner should be using. It has so many powerful tools it can be overwhelming, but don't be intimidated.

Every site owner should have some key performance indicators (KPI's) that they track. Things like visitors, sales and traffic sources are easy to set up and follow.

And like a lot of Google products, Google Analytics is free. So get started by visiting Google.com/Analytics.

New Compose Page in Gmail - Revolutionary?

I've been trying the new compose page in Gmail. It's one of those "what took you so long?" ideas. Many times I have opened Gmail again in a second tab when composing to get information while composing.

It is missing a few things like CC and BCC that made me go back to the previous version to finish my message, but overall I think it is a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Have you tried the new compose page in Gmail?

 

 

How To: Stay Ahead of The Search Engines

Recently Google announced they were changing their algorithm for displaying search results. They are going to start penalizing sites that have content they view as "spammy".

Google's Principal Engineer and anti-spam czar Matt Cutts writes on the Google blog, "...we recently launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly."

This is a big deal to search engine experts who are constantly trying to figure out how Google ranks site content and adjust accordingly. There are other search engines, but Google is dominant and usually sets the standard for the industry.

There are several search engine optimization (SEO) sites out there giving advice or offering their services. In general it's a good idea to follow their lead and to build your site using best practices.

The problem is creating your site for the search engines alone. The purpose of your site is to be read by your customers, not the search engines. Search engines can play a vital role in people finding your site, but if the user does not have a good experience then it is a wasted effort. The discipline of designing for users is called User Experience Design or UX.

In fact what Google and the other engines are trying to do with their algorithms is figure out if they are sending their users to sites that provide a good experience.

Good site design is often a balancing act between SEO and UX. When in doubt you should err on the side of good UX. Providing a great experience for your customers will never be obsolete, while following a strict SEO formula could change tomorrow.

HOW TO: Get Traffic to Your Website Part 1 - Search Engines

(This is an excerpt from the book Internet Marketing for Newbies)

There are many ways to get traffic to your site. Building a positive reputation is important, but it takes time. Alternatively you can take a shortcut and pay for traffic using paid advertising. Both methods work and a combination of the two can be very effective. 

Types of Search Engines

Most people use a search engine to look for information on the web. Google is the most popular search engine today, but others include Ask, Yahoo! and Bing (Microsoft). There are two types of results on search pages, sponsored (paid) results and organic results.

Organic and Paid results on a search engine results page (SERP)

Organic search results

Organic search results are the listings that show up that are not paid for by advertisers. Google’s organic search results are displayed on the top left hand side of the page, with paid or sponsored results on the right hand side. Occasionally Google will also place paid results at the very top left hand side of the page.

Organic results and the Golden Triangle

Many studies have been done about how people view web pages and search engine results pages in particular. Heat maps show that people naturally look to the left side of the page about one inch from the top.

In fact most people do not naturally look to the right of the page where Google serves the majority of their paid advertising. The heat map image below shows how people view a Google search results page. The brighter the area, the more people viewed it and for a longer amount of time. This highlighted area is called the Golden Triangle of search.

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The Golden Triangle of search

This does not mean that no one is looking or clicking on the sponsored results. If that were true, Google would not be the multi-billion dollar company it is today. The key strategy for you to remember is to be in the top three organic search results. If you are, you are sure to be getting lots of looks for your search term.

Because of this trend some sites like Ask have started mixing paid and organic results together. This can be dangerous. When you mix advertising with your content it can hinder your credibility. I’m sure they make money, but I question the long term strategy.

One reason Google does so well with their advertising is because they are straightforward about what is organic and what is paid search. I highlighted the areas in the first screenshot, but notice how difficult it is to distinguish the organic and paid results on the non-highlighted page.

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Highlighted mix of sponsored and organic results

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Non-highlighted mix of sponsored and organic results

Many companies use a hybrid of paid and organic search. Often they will kick start their website with paid ads, and transition over to getting organic results once people become aware of their site.

How to get ranked high in organic search results

The best way to be ranked high in the organic results on sites like Google is to have lots of in bound links- that is other sites that link to your site. Google calls this PageRank- the higher your page rank on a scale of 1 to 10, the more likely you are to show up first in search results.

Google Juice

Though PageRank is the official name, many people call page ranking Google Juice. When a high ranking site links to a lower ranking site they can bring up the rank of the lower site, and vice versa. If you can get a high ranking site to link to you that’s good news, but be careful about linking to low ranked sites because it can take away from your own ranking. It’s better to get the juice than to give it.

The easiest way to see your PageRank is to install the Google Toolbar. Not only will you know your PageRank, but you can see the PageRank of any site you visit or that you link to yourself.

Notice that my site only ranks 2/10, but it is still the #1 ranking for Michael Daehn. This says two things; first, my name is relatively unique so it still has top results with a low PageRank. Second, I need to spend more time getting inbound links to my site.

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Google PageRank 2/10

Link Love

When you link to a site, you are essentially voting for that site, and in a way telling Google you think it is a valuable piece of Internet real-estate. It is usually a good idea to link to people and sites you think are valuable to your visitors. It helps to establish you and your site as a valuable resource. Because linking to another site helps their rankings it is often referred to as showing Link Love.

Link Swapping

Have you ever received an email asking you to swap links? You post a link on your site and in return the other person promises to post a link to your site. In general you should stay away from these reciprocal linking schemes. It is appropriate to link to a site that links to you, but do it for legitimate reasons. If the sole purpose is to increase PageRank you are working in the realm of Black Hat SEO.

Black Hat versus White Hat SEO

Just like in the old western movies, the bad guys wear black hats and the good guys wear white hats. If you are involved in shady link trading or other scams that try to game the system you are participating in Black Hat SEO. If the search engines catch you, or they think you are doing something suspicious, they will black list your site. While Black Hat techniques can gain you some short term traffic, they are not a good long term business strategy for legitimate businesses.

Next HOW TO: Get Traffic to Your Website Part 2 - Banner Ads

HOW TO: Create Your Free Google Promo Video

Have you seen those Google search commercials? The latest one features the characters from Toy Story 3. Now Google has a neat little tool to help you create your own Google promo video called Search Stories.

After choosing a few search terms and the music you like it's ready to go. Take a look at the one I made for myself below:

Be sure to choose different ways to display the results. In my video I repeated the search for Michael Daehn, but used Google Image, Books and Maps search.

How could you use a promo video like this for your business or organization? Be creative. And if you make one yourself, post a link to it in the comments.