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Archive for September, 2011

SEO You Should Know: Why We Blog

One of my neighbors is starting his own business, and as such, a new website. He asked me earlier today if he should bother putting a blog on his site, as he’s seen on his competitors and other sites across the web.

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is as follows.

There are several great reasons to have a blog on your company’s website, no matter what stage of business you are in. One of my major rules in SEO is that while your site should be optimized for the search engines, it should be geared towards your potential customers. Your blog puts you in a great position to do both.

Blog For Your Customers:

Having a blog and updating it frequently with stories and anecdotes relevant to your industry tells potential customers that you are an expert. If they are using a search engine to find you, they have other options. You want to stand out from this crowd. Your blog doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just have to be stories about your specific business, though it is great to throw up a few self-promotional posts about a deal, product or service every few posts. You can also write about what is trending in your industry, and how that affects your business and your customers.

This is also a good opportunity for you to expand your brand. If you can write a few posts that are very informative, charming, funny, witty, etc. your readers will put you in front of other readers, who become followers, who could become customers. Your blog can and should easily tie in to the other social media you are running for your site (you are right?). When you have a new blog post, tweet it, share it, plus it; and invite your followers to do the same. Maybe offer a few prizes or discounts to followers who help get you out there. The more people you can attract to your blog, the more people you attract to your site where people can learn about who you are and what you do well.

Blog For Search Engines:

Again, you should write posts targeting your customers. They are the ones that will be hitting up your shopping cart and calling about services, not Google. However, you still need to make sure you are optimizing your blog for search engines. This means using this valuable space for keyword rich content. Since you’re already writing about your industry, it isn’t hard to relate it directly to your business and a specific keyword you want the search engines to notice.

Next, your site can be developed so the blog posts count for additional pages. It helps your site to have extra inner pages indexed by the search engines, especially if they are rich in valuable content. And while your blog should be a separate page on your site, it will help to have the most recent post on your homepage (and just your homepage). This ensures that your homepage is getting fresh new content every few days or so, which will make the search bots want to crawl your site more. And having the new post on your site will draw your readers to your home page to check up on the latest. This will build your site’s value in the eyes of the Google bots.

In the end, the long answer arrives at the same point. Yes, it is very valuable for your site to feature a keyword rich blog that happens to tell your customer what they want to know. You don’t have to post every day, but don’t wait too long before you write a new one either. You want your customers to come to your site often and like what they see.

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Why Can't We Be Friends? – A White Hat's Thoughts on Google Places

I guess it’s a good thing for the industry that the letters S-E-O are seeing an influx in news articles, especially in heavy hitters like the New York Times. In the last few months, I can remember reading several articles about the dark side of our otherwise under-the-radar industry. There was the article about the terribly negative reviews benefiting a sunglasses salesman / customer service pariah. Then there are the articles about link schemes that put the big businesses at the top of every search result, until they got caught.

I guess it’s a better thing that Google also reads these articles, because that seems to be the only time white hat SEO’s see results they’ve been clamoring for.  The most recent article was again posted by The Times, and brought to light Google’s shortcomings in their local search section, a section Google has been actually been placing more value on in recent months. In an effort to keep listings as up to date as possible, Google allows searchers to request that a business’ status be updated to “reported to be closed”. After a couple of clicks on this link, the listing will begin to show that the listing is in fact “reported to be closed”. With more clicks, and a supposed review, that listing can be updated to “permanently closed”. One of Google’s responses here is that it also places a “Not True?” clickable text next to these closed reports, in case the listing is actually open. However, honest local businesses trying to re-open their never closed business have had varying, if any, success.

Not long ago, I read how one of the good guys – Mike Blumenthal – was leading the “fight” against this problematic system. He went right to Google’s places page and reported it to be closed, inviting followers to do the same as part of his experiment. In no time, Google’s listing was reportedly closed. It’s nice to know they don’t play favorites.

For how long Google remained closed is not the main issue. The problem is that a stand-up SEO has to resort to these creative and relatively drastic measures to get noticed and bring attention to a problem that local businesses feel is pretty serious.  Google recommends businesses claim and fill out their local profiles to enhance their ranking in local search. This makes it extra disheartening to know that local businesses have little to no support from Google itself when their listing is victim to a competitor or an upset customer.

Businesses will benefit from Google’s effort to localize search, especially as more, and soon all, people turn to their smartphones for nearby results. But this benefit will be equally damning if an open business shows up closed, removing honest competition and preventing potential customers from making their own choices. Google often responds with numbers about how long it would take to respond to every claim or complaint filed, and the man power it would take. This is true. We do ask a lot of Google. But Google has dominated the game, and will continue to do so, so small businesses are at their mercy.

The underlying problem is the relationship Google has established with SEO’s. For every shady black-hat firm or tactic, there are ten more honest white hat SEO’s just trying to do right by their clients and the search engines. SEOs are the best way for Google to learn about bugs and shortcomings, but are kept at arm’s length with no direct answers or support. Instead of SEOs and SEs working together to make the S better. for everyone, it’s still Google’s world. I just prefer we not have to read about it in The Times.

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