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MozCon Recap and Test Driving a Starship

MozCon 2014The past week, I had the joy of spending the week in Seattle to experience not only my first MozCon, but my first marketing conference. Having spent the majority of my workforce life in hospitality, most conferences were sponsored by food and beverage vendors and were dedicated to eating and drinking the latest and greatest while wandering booths pretending that you hadn’t already tried the meatballs, similar to Costco’s sample day.

Moz went above and beyond anything I could have expected.

There are so many things to mention about the conference, but I’ll recap the top five that really stood out to me.

5. Mike King – API Killah. 
This guy blew the crowd away entirely. If you were following the Twitter feed for #mozcon you would have witnessed a plethora of “I’m officially freaked out.”, “Mike King just blew my mind”, and “WTF?” tweets. He kicked things off by describing a user’s unique fingerprint they leave on each website which was interesting in itself. He then threw us down the rabbit hole of linking APIs to take that fingerprint to find out EXACTLY who each user was, their demographic, their location, their habits, etc. It was insane. Unfortunately, he didn’t also blow us away with his rap skills this year, but I’m told they’re pretty epic. You can download his slide deck from the conference here and follow him on Twitter under the handle @iPullRank.

Mike Ramsey Shuffleboard4. Mike Ramsey – Small Town Man, Doing Big Things
I had the awesome opportunity to meet Mike Ramsey before his presentation and watch him and Ed Reese clean the shuffleboard house at the Unbounce MozCrawl afterparty. The following day he gave his local search presentation and was nothing short of incredible. He creatively and seamlessly incorporated his hometown of Burley, Idaho into every aspect of his slide deck and polished it with gorgeous photography, strategic humor and even pictures of his kids (who may kick you in the face). His firm, Nifty Marketing, focuses on “making local search sexy” and they do a damn good job. Check out his slide deck here and follow the genuinely nice guy on Twitter at @MikeRamsey. He also loves Weezer. Just saying.

Tesla S3. Test Driving A Starship
I have the pleasure of living a short drive (read: long, but worth it) away from Seattle, but it is usually the best idea to cram as many things into the trip as possible. We decided to take a quick break from the conference to walk over to a little car company named Tesla to take one out for a spin. We fully warned our co-pilot that we weren’t planning on buying one for a while and she reassured us that no one is, because you simply can’t; they’re booked out on production for the next year and a half. That being said, we hopped in, played with every option on the 17″ display and took off into the streets of Seattle. With 100% of the torque going straight to the wheels, my face hurt afterwards from smiling too much.
Note: I did not get paid for this shameless plug.

MozCon At The Garage2. MozCon’s Partner Hub
Moz did a great job in picking several partners for the event who hung out outside and gave demos and information on their products. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of fun people and learn more about some of the partners that we use, or are definitely using in the future. Never once did I feel pressured to purchase anything, they simply wanted to share what they were up to and get to know their potential clients. Had great conversations and a fantastic time hanging out with Paul from Buzzstream, Oli and the Unbounce team, and Taylor from Optimizely! Look forward to seeing all of them at future events!

1. Content
I’m not sure the best way to really title this concept that was generated throughout the conference but it is a breath of fresh air. Sure, we can’t game Google search like we used to be able to, but they’re forcing to provide something the internet truly needs: Good Content. We can hate on Google and their 1000s of employed PhDs who tweak and twist their algorithm without anyone knowing the better, skewing our client’s search rankings we’ve pushed so hard to produce. We can get mad every time they name an update after an animal we will soon despise when we see at the zoo, but they’re pushing us to make a better internet. Nearly every presentation held an underlying tone that we can be as technical as we want, but in the end, just make your site better, publish something people will share, write articles readers will love and want to come back to read again. Stop worrying about the little wins and focus on the big picture. The saying I have been throwing around the office lately can sum up the greatest idea from MozCon, “Do the thing”. Time after time, we get caught in the weeds focusing on unimportant projects, or financials, or who knows what, the problem is that we ignore the main idea. #DoTheThing

0. MOZ
So I am probably breaking some sort of countdown rule by going all the way to zero, but I owe the biggest shout out to Moz for putting on a seamless conference. The production value was outstanding with incredible and entertaining videos, great music, food, shirts, and even stuffed Roger dolls. We’ll be back next year, Moz. See you all then.

Shopping for an Internet Marketer? Buyer Beware!

Taming the Wild West

The Search Marketing industry is trying hard to outgrow its Wild West roots. In fact, Google is demanding it by making a concentrated effort to rid its index of low quality content. Google’s algorithms continually evolve to demote and eliminate websites that employ such tactics as: keyword stuffing, manipulated links, doorway pages, hidden text, micro site networks, and exact-match-domain names. These spammy, old-school tactics used to work like magic, but are now liabilities.

In the past, business owners / nonprofits / universities, etc. could put up a website and that, in and of itself, was the achievement. Today, websites require constant updating in keeping with best practices for Usability, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), graphic design, and security protocols. It is a lot to ask of business owners, to display expertise in their field (e.g. auto repair) as well as internet marketing. More and more, internet marketing is requiring not only general expertise, but specialists who focus on one aspect. Trained professionals go to conferences to keep current on skills, trends, and best practices, as well as provide thought leadership through writing, speaking, and presenting. Staying current is an important part of the job description. Unsuspecting business owners need to be wary of internet marketers who have not kept up with best practices for attaining and retaining good rankings in Google search.

Who You Don’t Want to Hire:

Unfortunately, there are quite a few unproven, inexperienced people and agencies calling themselves internet marketers, SEOs and link builders.

  • Some are scammers and spammers who have nothing more behind them than a website, a free email address, and some low-cost helpers who may or may not know what they are doing.
  • Others have good intentions, but do not have the knowledge or expertise to deliver on what they promise.  Sadly, this category includes some traditional marketing or advertising agencies, and newspaper or yellow pages-type outfits. Most of the time, their backgrounds are in paid advertising, rather than in Search, and they cannot seem to get out of that mindset.
  • Some are using other people’s websites to experiment on and try to learn the business. 
  • Sometimes people will even offer to create a website and/or market it for free, but free isn’t always good.

While I have sympathy for newbies trying to break into the market, I don’t want to trust my online business to them any more than I would want to be the first patient an intern does surgery on. Too many people are scrambling onto the internet marketing bandwagon, without first getting appropriate training or earning their chops. None of them will really do you, the business owner, much good in the long run. 

The skill sets needed for successful internet marketing are in huge demand now. Most of us didn’t experience any slow-down during the recession. Now that the economy is picking up, seasoned marketers are raising their prices out of the comfort level of many small, local businesses, because we cannot keep up with the demand for our services. This leaves an opening for new players and scammers. Small business owners are left wondering whom to turn to.

How to Find Quality Internet Marketers

It is not usual to interact with agencies or individuals that are experts at selling. How do you know if they are also good at delivering results? Here are some things to consider when you plan on hiring an individual or company to help you to promote your business online:

Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations. Find out who is delivering new customers to them via the internet, and ask for details. This is the best way to begin your search for someone to hire.

Search online for the name of the person or company, and examine what you find. Have they written articles on their area(s) of expertise? Do they get paid to train other people in what they do? Have they done any public speaking on their topic? Have they earned the respect of their peers, through awards or collegial collaboration? Do they have a detailed profile on Linkedin that shows their own training and experience? If the answer to any or all of these is yes, then they are more likely to be legitimate internet marketers than not. However, the lack of any of these may not be a solid indicator of skills and results – it might mean that they are not concerned with marketing themselves.

Look at reviews and testimonials. Search for reviews of “name here” and complaints “name here.” Take what you read with a grain of salt, but it will give you an overall impression of the company. Be wary of the testimonials published on the company’s website.  After all, no one is going to place bad comments about themselves on their own website. If the testimonials you find are anonymous or only use a first name, they are not as believable as those that display the person’s full name and/or the name of the business.

Ask for references and then communicate with them. I would be very wary of anyone unwilling or unable or to provide references. Some companies insist on non-disclosure, but there must be one or two clients that they’ve worked for who would take a few minutes to speak with you.  If someone has done a bang-up job for them, they should be happy to tell you about it. Don’t demand too much of their time, but do ask what the agency did for them and if they were happy with the results. If they want to tell you more, then listen carefully. What you hear may help you determine if they would be a good fit for you or not.
 
Experienced, proven internet marketers do not make cold calls or send out unsolicited emails fishing for new business. They get plenty of business without using these types of sales tactics. My best advice is to completely ignore any sales calls or emails you receive that you have not specifically requested. Some of these companies are so persistent that you may even need to block their phone numbers and email addresses.

Some of these cold-calling outfits mislead you into believing they are calling from Google or that they have some special arrangement with Google. Most of the time, that’s completely untrue. Please see this article if you want to know Is That Really Google Calling?

Ask them about their guarantees. This is a trick question! No one who really knows Search Marketing will guarantee anything in regards to rankings. There are just too many variables and too many continual and unpredictable changes in Google to make any guarantees. If you hear guarantees about ranking on the first page of Google, run!  Don’t walk, run away!  Those who make such promises are either selling you paid placement via advertising, or their flimsy guarantee will only cover a handful of obscure keyword terms that will not bring you many visitors even if you do rank for them.

Ask them what they plan to do for you and why.  Many marketers will fit you into a pre-determined package of services that depends on your budget and time frame for success. Packages make it easier for the agency, allowing them to provide these services at a lower cost than those who are willing to customize a marketing plan just for you.  Customizing plans requires a thorough examination or audit of your current internet presence, so that the best opportunities can be discovered for your particular business.  You can expect to be charged for this research and planning. Only you can decide what is best for you, your budget and your business, but don’t buy a low cost package and then expect to get more than you are paying for.

Ask them which aspects of internet marketing they specialize in. This is another trick question! Back in the day, all internet marketers were generalists who were able to do just about anything needed. Now, internet marketing has become so complex that it is extremely difficult for any one person to be an expert in every aspect, especially if they haven’t been at it for very long. Subcategories of internet marketing include:  SEO, Local SEO, Social Media Marketing, Conversion Optimization, Email Marketing, PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising, Mobile Marketing, Content Marketing, Analytics, and so on. If someone tells you they specialize in just one or two phases, then that’s great, if that is the area that you need. If you need a well-rounded approach to your online marketing, then look for an agency that has yeoman-like skills in most of the above areas for the best results.  I’d liken this to choosing a family physician over a specialist for your primary medical care. The family physician can take care of most of your needs, and can refer you to a specialist when needed.

If you’re shopping for an internet marketer or agency to help you grow your business online, don’t be dazzled by fast-talking sales people.  Instead, do your homework and find someone you feel confident and comfortable working with.

 

Optimizing for the New Google Maps

The New Google Maps

Recently, Google has greatly changed Maps and it is now available to everyone. You can see a demo of it and sign up for it here.

Google Maps header image

Google Maps banner

The new Maps was clearly designed with two related goals in mind: to assist searchers in finding what they need, and to show them that information right within the search results, when practical. The new Maps is highly interactive, and its tagline, “Discover more with every click,” is designed to enfold users into a more comprehensive experience.

As you move around the map and click on different things, the map’s focus changes, and you see information that may be helpful or relevant, such as photos and directions (by car, public transport, bicycle, or walking). The map is also designed to learn from a user’s actions, and it adapts to become more personalized to their preferences as time goes on.  For example, if you tend to search for, ask for directions to and/or review vegan restaurants frequently, your new Map may begin showing the vegan restaurants near you as you travel around.

When new Maps first appeared, it seemed that Google was attempting to make rankings matter less by not showing businesses in the customary ranking order. But then, it began showcasing the top 3 businesses ranked in the Maps interface. This change not only makes the rankings continue to matter, but it makes ranking in positions 1, 2 or 3 even more critical than it was with the “classic” Maps.

Classic maps view vs new maps

On the Map itself, businesses with more location prominence (think of this as potential ranking power for Local Search) show up with bigger markers than other businesses, and their name is shown on the map. Other businesses have small markers, and some markers are downright tiny, and have no name listed.

new Google Maps result

Ratings, Reviews & Photos – Maps & Local Carousel

Although the new Maps and the Local Carousel were not released at the same time, both features highlight what Google thinks is most important to searchers: reviews, ratings, and photos. If you click on a map point in new Google Maps, a prominent box pops up with star ratings, the number of reviews, snippets of  from reviews, and a Google offer, if the company has one.  Positive online reviews make a difference in consumer’s choices.  The box at the top left expands to show those same features, along with the address, phone number, website, photos, and hours open on the day of the search.

1-New Google Maps 2

If you are not familiar with the Local Carousel, it is a row of listings for local businesses that Google displays at the top of some search results pages. Right now, most of the searches that result in a Local Carousel are related to the hospitality industry. We can only speculate as to whether this is will expand to other industries.

Here is an example of the Local Carousel results for the search query, “seafood near San Francisco”:

new Maps Local Carousel

As you can see, Google is showcasing ratings, reviews and photos.

Also, Google is displaying ratings, reviews, and photos in the Local Knowledge panel that appears when someone hovers over a local listing in the Google organic search results or clicks on a Local Carousel listing. Here’s an example:

local knowledge panel in Google Maps

In Conclusion

To be competitive in the new Maps search, you need to optimize your company’s Local Search presence. If you need more advice about how to maximize your Local Search presence, you are in luck! Our blog has a whole section devoted to Local Search! Help your business have systems in place to ensure that:

  1. You have great star ratings from past customers;
  2. You have plenty of good reviews from past customers; and
  3. You need high-quality photos that appeal to searchers on your website. These photos will appear in your knowledge panel, Maps listing, and Local Carousel listing. Ideally, your photos should convey aspects of your business that will appeal to searchers: kid-friendliness, accessibility, elegance, professionalism, attention to detail, etc.

If you haven’t yet taken a close look at the new Google Maps, get in there, poke around, see how it affects your company, and learn what your competitors are doing. Most importantly, make sure you have a continual system in place to deal with less-than-happy customers out of the public eye, and to encourage more good reviews by people who are happy with you.

Are Homepages Important Anymore?

Do a Google search for “are homepages important anymore” and the top results might have you thinking that no one ever visits your homepage.

Google search results for are home pages important anymore

Your homepage might be the top landing page if you’re a business-to-business (B2B) site with a healthy balance of web traffic: search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic, and other campaigns. However, much of the traffic coming from search and external links takes visitors directly to the deeper content on your website — hopefully, the specific content they are looking for. For this reason, you should consider designing more pages on your website as important landing pages than you might have previously thought.

The majority of visitors to media company websites and blogs arrive directly at article pages, rather than the homepage. According to Nieman Journalism Lab, “Eighty-Eight percent of traffic to The Atlantic comes in sideways, meaning just 12 percent of site visits begin on the homepage.” Atlantic Digital Editor Bob Cohn wrote that the homepage serves an important purpose as the “ultimate brand statement,” but is not as important as a place to drive traffic.

Let’s Look at the Data

Sixth Man Marketing took a look at data from our clients’ websites to see what percentage of visitors are landing on homepages. Here’s what the data shows based on our sampling of websites:

  • B2B site average: 50 – 60%
  • Business-To-Consumer (B2C) site average: 20 – 40%
  • Blog & News site average: 10 – 20%

Especially in the B2C category, there is a lot of variance in landing page statistics. A few of the sites we looked at had extremely high or extremely low homepage traffic: as high as 98% or as low as 4% landing on the homepage. Neither of these extremes is inherently good or bad, but could indicate areas for improvement in online marketing strategies.

Extremely high homepage traffic implies that you could be missing opportunities in search, social media, content marketing, email marketing, and other external links to specific, deeper content on your site.

Alternately, extremely low homepage traffic might mean that your brand awareness in the marketplace is low and could benefit from campaigns that promote your overall brand. In a 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmarking Report, Optify found that “Branded searches (searches that include the name of the company) show the highest engagement of any other source (3.71 page views per visit) and account for 31% of all visits from organic search.”

What Should You Do?

No matter what type of business or website you have, you can begin the process of improving your website by: analyzing your web data; finding out where visitors are landing on your site; and optimizing every page so that your site can meet visitors’ needs and increase conversions. This is also a good time to check out this list of ways to annoy website users and drive them away from your site – and then make sure that your website has none of them.

Consider what happens when a visitor comes to a page from Google and does not immediately find the content they were seeking. If the page fails to give users enough information about where they are and how to get to the content they want, they will quickly leave. Shane Cassells of Google, speaking at Digital Journeys, reports that “Fifty percent of all users don’t buy something or complete an experience on a website because they can’t find what they’re looking for.”

The requirements of a successful homepage – context, strong way-finding cues, the right keywords in links and headlines, a well-designed layout – are now necessary for every page the user might land on.

Does Your Homepage Still Matter?

Yes, but perhaps not as much as you thought it did. Even if it is not your #1 landing page, your homepage still serves as the primary brand statement. It is the place many users will go if they want to understand more about you and your complete offerings. You need to make sure the homepage is engaging and useful. Just don’t expect every visitor to start there. And don’t even get me started on carousels (that topic deserves a dedicated post all its own.)  :)

Next Steps

Do you want to know where users are landing on your website and what they’re doing once they arrive? Let Sixth Man Marketing help you by taking one of our upcoming summer classes:

July 18: Intro to Google Analytics

July 25: Social Media Analytics

August 1: Intermediate Analytics*

August 8: Website Usability

All classes will be at our new office location, 542 W Cataldo, Spokane, WA, and each class, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., will include a light lunch. Also included are a 90-minute additional lab (TBA), and access to Sixth Man’s analytics forum for 30 days.

*It is highly recommended that registrants for this class have taken the Introductory Analytics class. 

Register for classes here.

Pandas, Penguins and Website Rankings

You may have heard about Google Panda and Penguin updates and penalties, but what do they really mean and why should you care?

Panda and Penguin are both filters and penalties in the Google algorithms that adversely affect the rankings of what Google considers to be low-quality websites. Panda is mostly about low-quality content on a website.  Penguin is mostly about webspam, especially low-quality links pointing to a website (a.k.a. inbound links or backlinks). Some sites suffer from downgrading for both practices.

These algorithms are often refreshed (re-run), and updated (changed and re-run).  Google also gives each refresh a version number, to make each update easier to identify.  It is helpful for people who work in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to know about specific updates: for example, the Penguin 2.0 update, which took place in May 2013.

Google says this about Panda:

This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Google says this about Penguin:

Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.

The criteria Google uses to make determinations of quality is not a mystery. Google has been telling us for a long time what it expects to see in a good-quality website, including not only the type of content, but the kind of links which direct users to good-quality pages.

The Panda updates target low-quality content.

Signs of low-quality content:

  • Duplicate or near duplicate content: This includes articles that have been distributed to multiple sites across the web. Changing a few words or sentences or rearranging their order is not enough for content to be considered unique.
  • Not enough content: Pages with insufficient content are not considered meaningful, and therefore are not much use to readers.
  • Keyword-stuffed content: We all feel the pain when we try to read this stuff. It was obviously written for the Search Engines and not for humans.
  • Irrelevant content:  Content on a page that is off-topic and not related to the rest of the website.
  • Content that’s not useful: Content that Google cannot decipher is not considered to be useful enough to humans to appear in search results.
    • Content shared with other websites is considered not useful.
    • Pages that are just lists of links are not useful.
    • Pages full of images or videos with little or no explanatory text are considered not useful.

In the past, this type of web content only hurt the rankings of the individual pages where it was published. Now, it negatively affects the rankings of the entire website on which it appears. The more low-quality content a site has, the more it is likely to be demoted in the rankings.

The Penguin updates target webspam.

Penguin: Cute but Deadly

The target of Penguin is webspam, which is indicated by unnatural or unearned incoming links, and keyword-stuffed internal links which direct traffic from one pages to other pages on the same website.

Signs of low-quality links:

  • All or most links go to home page: Google contends that if a site is full of quality content, it will attract links to different pages and not just to the home page.
  • Off-topic links: Links from forums, blogs and websites that are unrelated to what you do, do not help your pages rank.  If a link doesn’t make sense to humans, it doesn’t make sense to Google, either. Good links come from pages that are about your industry and/or your location, or are from other websites in your location or industry.
  • Links from bad neighborhoods: This includes free-for-all directories and sites participating in links schemes. (See Google’s definition of a link scheme here.)
  • Too many links from other sites you own or control.
  • Sitewide links: These are links from all the pages on a site, and are usually found in the page footers or sidebars.
  • Too many exact match links: These are links with text that exactly matches the term(s) for which you wish to rank. This can hurt you if it appears on your site, as well as on other sites.
  • Too many links of the same type: such as forum links, article links or blog comment links.
  • Linking out to off-topic pages and low-quality websites rather than to good ones that naturally segue from your pages.

Unnatural Link Notices

The surest sign of a link-related penalty from Google is a written warning from Google via your Webmaster Tools account. The warning will state there are unnatural links pointing to it, although websites that receive these are often egregious offenders. However, having even one link from a site that is being targeted by Google might be enough to get a formal notice.

These notices are sent out after a human review of a site’s links.  In order to get this penalty lifted, all the bad links need to be removed, and you must file for reconsideration. Most business owners should avoid trying to sort this out themselves. If you’ve received a warning from Google in Webmaster Tools, get professional help fast.

Panda Detection and Recovery

If you’ve been hit by Panda, there’s no point in pussyfooting around: Google thinks your entire site is of low quality.  Unless you take drastic steps to improve it, your website will sink further in the rankings as additional updates and refreshes appear.

First, evaluate all of your pages for quality and usefulness. If you think they are good quality pages, you may need more objective eyes to take a look. Then, make sites more useful to readers by eliminating pages with little value, and combining shorter pages about similar topics. Remove any content that is not unique to your website, and avoid presenting the same content on more than one of your URLs. Create new, more useful content and promote it on social media, so that it attracts viewers (and tweets, shares or +1s). Make sure you are not overusing keywords in either your text content or in the links pointing from one of your pages to another.

Penguin Detection and Recovery

Although you may have not received a notice from Google, you may not have escaped the consequences of a manipulative-looking link profile. The websites that Penguin demotes do not receive these warnings:  they simply become adversely affected by the algorithm. No reconsideration request is needed to recover from an algorithmic Penguin hit.

If it looks like you suffered from a Penguin update, a thorough examination of the website’s backlink profile is in order. Obviously, bad and iffy links should be removed in a process known as link pruning. At the same time, good-quality links need to be gained to get the backlink profile back on track towards a good balance. Before the site will regain its rankings, Google will need to re-crawl your site, find and index your new, good links, and prove that the bad links have disappeared.

Free Tools to Help You Tell

It’s fairly simple to tell if you’ve taken a hit from either Penguin or Panda by using the Panquin Tool. It’s free, easy-to-use software that overlays known Google quality updates on your traffic as recorded by Google Analytics. You need to have Google Analytics installed on your website and you must give the tool access to your account.

If you see a precipitous drop coinciding with an update, that should be proof enough to spur you into action. Here’s an example of a site that was slammed by Panda last October and has not yet recovered:

Google Analytics graph

You may find little to salvage on a site that has been badly damaged by either or both of these penalties, and decide to start over completely. When this is the case, take a long, hard look at your online goals and design your new site to support those goals and to be valuable to searchers. Then, you must not do anything where the primary purpose is to manipulate the Search Engines. This is the best way to Panda-proof and Penguin-proof your site for the future.

If you find that your site has taken a few hits and not recovered, you may want to find expert help. Sixth Man Marketing is dedicated to helping to make your website work better for you. Please call us if you need assistance!

Do You Know Enough To Do Your Own SEO?

In many areas, a little knowledge can be just as dangerous as no knowledge at all. After all, if you admit to yourself that you don’t know how to do something, you’ll most often do one of three things: do nothing; learn how to do it yourself; or find an expert you trust to handle it for you.

But if you think you know and you really don’t, you are very likely to make your situation worse. This is totally true of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Doing Nothing

Even though I’ve been immersed in SEO since 2003, I have to admit that if someone creates a website in a way that is useful to their human visitors and doesn’t try to do any SEO on it at all, it is possible for it to rank well and get plenty of targeted traffic. Of course, saying that it’s possible doesn’t mean it can or will happen. It just means that I have seen instances of this, especially when the business was early to get a website or in a fairly uncompetitive location or industry.

It is more likely, though, that doing nothing means Google will see duplicate content on your site or not see the valuable content on your site at all. It can also mean that Google has a hard time figuring out what your pages are about, so it’s unsure what terms to rank them for. Either of these problems can have an enormous impact on your rankings. So, doing nothing really isn’t your best choice, especially if your competitors are doing good things for their own SEO and surging ahead of you in the rankings.

Learning To Do SEO Yourself (DIY)

This is a tried-and-true method that plenty of small business owners have adopted over the years to help their enterprises succeed online. Some of them have become so good at it that they have pretty much become full-time SEOs and turned their original businesses over to others to run.

SEO certainly isn’t voodoo, and anyone willing to put in the time and effort can learn to be pretty darn good at it. However, in the world of SEO, change is continual and occurs at a rapidly accelerating pace. If you think you are keeping up, check out this list of recent Google updates to gauge how well you’re doing.

Some of these algorithm changes are minor and benign. Others, like the ongoing Panda and Penguin updates, have widespread, drastic impacts on rankings. If you have been hit by them and need to recover from their negative consequences, you probably need new tools, new skills and a new way of thinking: not just about SEO, but about your overall internet marketing efforts, as well.

You can do your own SEO, but if you are not willing to commit to keeping up with all the changes in the industry, you will quickly be left behind, and may not even realize what your problems might be or how to correct them.

Doing your own SEO may not be very cost effective, either, especially if your time is better spent making sales and earning money. A professional SEO consultant spreads out the costs of research, testing, skill building and professional tools over all of their clients, while a DIY-er must carry the burden of that time and money expenditure on her own.

If you rely on your web designer, developer or in-house IT department to do your Search Engine Optimization, keep in mind that they need to be continually upgrading their SEO knowledge and skill set, in addition to executing their primary functions. What has worked in the past certainly doesn’t work now. Heck, tactics that produced great results just 6 months ago could actually be penalizing your site today.

Find an Expert to Help You

Think about how valuable a well-performing website can be to your business. Consider your current skills and how much time and effort you’re willing to devote to improving your site on an ongoing basis. Then, if you need it, get some professional help.

When you’re ready for some assistance from a professional SEO team, fill out the form here.

Why Get Listed University Works for Business Owners

The Get Listed Faculty at O'Doherty's the night before the 1st Get Listed University event.

Get Listed University has presented to nearly 2,000 business owners and marketing professionals since our innagural event in Spokane in February of 2010. It’s been amazing to be part of such an A-List team. It’s a priveledge (and absolute blast) to get to spend time with these wonderful people five or six times a year at these events. But what’s been even more incredible is talking with business owners over the years and being in a position to help. I’ve been thinking about Get Listed University a lot recently and wanted to put together a quick summary of why I think Get Listed University is so valued by business owners.

1) No Pitches. Ever.
I go to a lot of conferences. Nothing makes mad like traveling to a conference, paying the price of admission, and then getting pitched by a presenter. At Get Listed there are no “back of the room” sales, no pitching of our services in any way, and no uttering the cardinal sin of the conference upsell world,… “We’ll be covering that at the follow-up conference for just X dollars. Register today!” Nope. That just ain’t our style.

2) We Don’t Hold Back Any Content.
Not only do we not hold back content, we continue to find ways to provide even more content for business owners to use to their advantage. For example, this year we have created a more formal structure for our site clinics to really maximize it so you’ll have more time to ask any of our experts 1-on-1 questions about YOUR website.

3) We Provide Actionable Information & Real Case Studies
This information is not collegiate theory. You will literally be able to take these insights and apply them immediatelly to your business the following day. We use examples highlighting how real businesses use these strategies to improve their business. In fact, David is unveiling a new presentation in Spokane called “Prioritizing Your S*!t” that provides a roadmap of actions that will guide you along your way to online greatness.

4) The Faculty are Amazing!
I’m not kidding when I say how fortunate I feel to be part of this team. At times I feel like snuck in the back of the pickup when they left for town – and now they’re stuck with me :) These folks are the best in the business! We are so fortunate to have them back in Spokane again.

5) We Know & Respect Business.
We know running a business is hard. I believe all us have either owned a business in the past or are current business owners. We know it’s tough to committ a day to learn about online marketing and we work very hard to make every second count. We keep finding new ways to improve the events for our attendees. For example, for the Spokane event this year we added social media and paid search as well as expanded our site clinics.

Bonus) We Do Our Best to Make it a Dang Good Time!
We know your brains will be full by the end of the day. But we balance your efforts with a good dose of humor, enough food and snacks to keep you fueled up, personalized Q&A, and an awesome networking happy hour to close the event out right! It’s also important to note that our speakers don’t take themselves too seriously and are approachable the entire day with any questions you have for them.

What t-shirt will Mike Blumenthal be wearing this year? Oh, the suspense!

We look forward to seeing you at Get Listed this year! If you have any questions about the event please feel free to call the Sixth Man Marketing office at 509-624-5580 or going directly to the Get Listed University website.

Get Listed University – Spokane Agenda Video Preview

Get Listed University – April 27th, 2012

Location: Northern Quest Resort & Casino
Time: Friday, April 27th from 8am to 5pm
Cost: $199 (Save $50 by entering “SIXTHMAN” as your discount code at checkout.)
Agenda: Complete Get Listed Spokane Agenda
Capacity: The event is limited to 100 people and will likely sell-out. Register now!
Registration: Call (509) 624-5580 with any questions about registration or register on the Get Listed Website today!

We’re really looking to this year’s Get Listed Event. I’m excited knowing that I’ll get to hang out with the Get Listed Crew again soon. And so can you! These are some really amazing people, folks.

Attend Local Search U – Get Free Stuff

I’ve had a lot of fun putting putting together GetListed.org’s Local University with David Mihm, Matt McGee, Mike Blumenthal, and Mary Bowling. They’re SEO’s that I’ve followed for a while. It’s been great working on an event with some of my industry heroes and having the opportunity to bring them to Spokane for what I know will be an amazing event. They are really talented folks.

In fact, three of our presenters are finalists for a SEMMY Award. It’s the search engine marketing equivalent of The Oscars, except the nominees aren’t nearly as good looking. While I doubt the awards will be covered by E Television, it’s an honor to be nominated.

Alright, what’s up with the this talk of free stuff?

We’re thrilled at the registration numbers so far, but my goal is a 100% packed house. Beyond a personal goal of having a full room for the event, a packed house helps send a very positive signal that Spokane is a destination for technical conferences. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of having to go to Las Vegas, Orlando, or San Jose for conferences. It’s time for more technical conferences to come to Spokane!

But I also have a personal goal – to beat Matt McGee. You see, Matt took the early lead in attendee registration and politely reminded me that he’s not even from Spokane. That just ain’t right. All speakers have individual discount codes that saves you $50 (the same discount offered via The Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Inlander, and LaunchPad). The only difference (until now) is the code tracked in our registration engine.

Let’s see some schwag (free stuff)!

For those of you familiar with trade shows, there is always the allure of schwag – free stuff from vendors. As this is a non-profit educational event, we don’t have the budget for traditional schwag. However, here’s what I’m throwing out there for reese2010 attendees:

Register For The Event Here
Add “reese2010” during the check-out process to save $50 and select one option below.

Free One Hour SEO/Marketing Assessment: Pick my brain for one hour at your office. Yep, one hour of free Internet marketing advice. No pitch. No proposal. One free hour of SEO advice for you and anyone else at your company that you’d like in the room. Bring your questions and I’ll do my best to answer as much as humanly possible in one hour.

Free Foosball Lesson: Back in the day I made an attempted a career in professional foosball. In fact, I’ve played four of the top 20 foosball players in the world. True, my 0-4 professional record doesn’t exactly make me the Roger Federer of the foosball circuit. But I’d call myself a very good recreational player and can teach you some really cool tips and techniques that will help you beat your friends and neighbors the next time you play. I’ll meet you at Trent & Dale, THE place to play foosball in Spokane. I might even be able to talk Lotus Leong-Chesbrough into swinging by. She has won a $100,000 invitational tournament, represented the United States in international competition, and destroyed me in a tournament back in 1994.

Free Disc Golf Lesson: As an aspiring disc golf player tournament player, I’ll offer tips about improving your game and guide those who would like to learn more about the sport. I’m still a relative novice to disc golf, but play quite a bit and am happy to share what I’ve picked up so far. To learn more about the sport, check out the Spokane Disc Golf Association.

 

 

Register For The Event Here
Remember to add reese2010 before final check-out

But what about people that have registered for the conference already?

No worries. All attendees that registered before January 27th will be grandfathered in! This is all in good fun. The local search community is a very close, supportive group of people. Our goal is to provide you with all the tools necessary to immediately head back to the office and improve your business. And if we’re able to play some foosball or disc golf along the way, all the better. We look forward to seeing you on February 4th!

Awesome Analytics, Local Search, SEO, Social Media, & Converstion Rate Optimization Info

A big thank you to The Spokane Club and everyone that attended my presentation earlier this week at their Networking Breakfast! I really appreciated your questions, engagement, and enthusiasm. As I mentioned during our session, I want to provide additional resources for you to continue your education in the ways of analytics, SEO, local search, social media, and conversion rate testing. We covered a lot of topics in a short period of time and as a follow-up I wanted to create an awesome resource library for you. Now it’s time for you to choose your own Internet marketing adventure and learn from the best and brightest in the industry.

ANALYTICS, ANALYTICS, ANALYTICS
analytics-culture1conversions

As I’m sure you recall from my presentation, I hammered home the importance of understanding analytics. I’m not talking about “reporting” or “monthly reports” for your boss. I’m talkin’ about kick-butt, actionable analytics that teach, provide valuable insight, and inspire action. What’s workin,’ baby? What does the data tell us today? This higher level of attention to your data is not optional… if you want your business to succeed. You must “know thy data.” Here’s how:

Occam’s Razor – Awesome analyics blog from Avinash Kaushik
Web Analytics an Hour a Day – Great introduction to actionable analytics (also from Avinash)
Google Analytics Blog – Resource for understanding Google Analytics (beginner & advanced)
Google Analytics Videos – Educational videos that show how to use Google Analytics
Conversion University – A curriculum of analytics video tutorals
Analytics 2.0 [The Art of Online Accountability & Science of Customer Centricity] (Thanks Avinash!)

MAKE SURE YOUR WEB SITE CONVERTS TRAFFIC

I think it’s great when companies embrace new technologies and ways of thinking. Social media has taken the Internet marketing world by storm and generated all kinds of buzz (much of it well deserved) this year. However, I’m always wary of what I call the “Shiny Penny Syndrome.” It’s a condition where companies throw resources at the latest and greatest marketing techniques without testing and tracking what the shiny penny actually does. I’ve also seen companies completely stop doing what works (like email marketing) just because it doesn’t have that new marketing smell.

Don’t Make Me Think – Great read (really fast, too) about web site usability
Conversion Rate Experts – UK company focused solely on conversion rate optimization
108 Ways to Improve Conversion Rates (from Conversion Rate Experts)
Google Web Site Optimizer Blog (The Official Optimizer Blog)
Always Be Testing – Great book for learning A/B & Multivariate testing
Marketing Experiments – I love these guys. Their webcasts rock!

LOCAL SEARCH = LOW HANGING FRUIT

spokane-restaurants

As an Internet marketer I’m always looking for the low-hanging fruit–”the best bang-for-the-buck in the shortest period of time. And for most small and medium businesses that’s Local Search. Like I mentioned before, this doesn’t mean you stop doing everything else and go local only. It means that it’s time for a dedicated local search strategy to compliment your existing marketing efforts. Learn more from these experts:

David Mihm – Portland, OR Local Search expert & designer
2009 Local Search Ranking Factors – I’m proud to be a contributor to this research project :)
Mary Bowling – Denver, CO Local Search expert
Understanding Google Maps & Local Search – For those that want details, details, details.
Small Business SEM – Local Search + SMB Advice = Awesome!
Miriam Ellis – San Francisco, CA Local Search expert & designer
Chris Silver Smith – Cartographer & Local Search expert. Again, for folks that want the technical details.

ORGANIC SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)

There is a lot of information out there about SEO. In fact, there is so much information that it’s tough to know where you should even begin. These folks provide the best information and their content is always up to date.

SEOmoz – Free and premium levels of membership – Both are great!
SEO Book – Again, free and premium levels of membership – Great as well
Search Engine Journal – Free SEO content from a variety of SEO experts – including me starting next month
Search Engine Land – Center of the universe for all things search – Look through the categories
Vanessa Fox – She has an uncanny ability to explain complex details in very simple terms
Rand Fishkin’s HostingCon Preso – Awesome SEO explanation (and motivation for my art project)

BUT WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA?

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about social media. Remember, this socia media stuff is new for everybody so the importance of testing and learning from data is paramount. I think this bit of reading will provide good insight for you.

Outspoken Media – More than social media, but they cover it very well. Many good social media posts here.
Copyblogger – Read Copyblogger now! Writing is so freakin’ important. This is one of my favorite blogs!
7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing – Great new post from Copyblogger
Trackur – Cool way to track social media mentions & reputation
Samepoint – See all mentions of your name or company online. A very cool social media monitoring tool.
5 Facebook Case Studies – Yes, 5 real case studies about marketing with FB.
Twitter, Tacos, & Trucks – The Story of Kogi Bar-B-Que

LIKE I SAID,… WHAT MATTERS IS HOW IT HELPS YOUR BUSINESS
Here’s an example from the presentation. I know it’s hard to believe,… but I didn’t even go to art school!
sales-funnel1

WANT MORE INFORMATION? HAVE QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? JUST LET ME KNOW.

Please feel from to leave a comment below, send an email, or contact me at my office (509-456-4350).