Category Archives: SEO

“WOW” Link Building Strategy

There are so many blog posts out there related to easy methods for link building. In the early days of SEO some of these “easy” options included directory submissions, press releases or even purchasing links (Bad!).

We approach link building here at InMarket Success by aligning our strategy with our goal.

  1. Our goal is to increase non-paid traffic from search engines.
  2. Google’s goal is to serve the best content for the query.

Going after easy links doesn’t align with Google’s goal and, thus, will not help us reach our goal.

Rather than focusing on obtaining a large number of easy links, we instead aim to earn relevant, authoritative (albeit fewer) strong links. Search engines “credit” sites that are linked to from authoritative, relevant websites. Google’s intention is to serve the best content for the query. So rather than trying to game the system or go after “easy” links we like to take a step back and make sure we are indeed providing that great content which Google want’s to serve up.

Having great content has two purposes: Google is smart enough to test if your content is worthy and your content has to be interesting or strong for others to consider linking to it.

Rather than focusing on building tons of easy links, we pool all of that effort into a larger link project. Something with a WOW factor.

We approach strong link building like this:

  1. Brainstorm and create some great WOW content/resource/tool
  2. Network and partner with like-minded blogs and websites that would be interested in #1
  3. Earn links, build relationships, network and repeat

For some industries, creating this WOW content can be a real challenge. But overcoming the challenge is what makes for a great link builder. Nothing is more rewarding than coming up with an amazing link building idea for a seemingly impossible industry/client and having the “That’s IT!” moment that drives the result.

The WOW content doesn’t have to be an amazing blog post or white paper.. We like to look at the latest trends/tech and think of big ideas. For example, does this client have the ability to make an awesome podcast? A free, informative podcast would definitely be something a like-minded, industry relevant blog would be interested in talking about. I like to consider tools, resources and more —like a podcast, a new app, an online tool, an infographic, interactive data, a great video on Youtube, all of these things provide value to the would-be-linker.

In short- with easy links you get what you put in, not much, and it could cause a Google penalty situation. If your goal is to improve search rankings and increase organic traffic- getting many low value links won’t help you achieve that goal. You need to think outside the box and focus on strong links and great content. With all SEO always keep in mind what Google is looking for—> the best possible result for the search query. Value+WOW is the ultimate goal.

“I Can’t Afford Digital Marketing!” We Believe you Can!

“Hubspot? Pardot? These guys are just too expensive!”

We hear this a lot, and we understand. We love working with both of them, but you may not be ready for the big guys of digital marketing. Don’t just give up…there are ways to make things happen if you’re a small to medium-sized business owner:

  1. Get your website priorities in order. The goal, of course, is to be so fully optimized that you’re on page 1 of organic search results. Is this going to happen for you? Well, it depends on so many factors. Just as with traditional marketing, there’s placement, competition and, what we believe to be most important, customer experience. You can have the most optimized site on the web but if customers can’t navigate to what they want, or have a pleasing buying experience, your competition is a click away.
    • We recently audited an online retailer for fine teas because they were losing customers during check out. While their selection was wonderful and their site was easy to navigate, their shopping cart had problems. Changing one mailing field created problems with the credit card verification, thus customers were becoming frustrated and leaving the site. Analytics showed most went to Amazon where the customer buying experience is fast and easy.
  2. The basic best practices for SEO still apply:
    • Do refresh your content regularly with keywords and phrases that you have researched and found to be what the customer is looking for.
      • The most compelling key phrase for your business may not have anyone searching for it. Unless you want to spend significant dollars on creating a category, find alternatives by doing your research.
      • Don’t overdo it. Keyword “stuffing” has a negative effect for search engines.
    • Quality links are better than the quantity of links you may have. One link from a highly trusted site can boost your rankings significantly. Competitive research, analysis, and using ethical link building (hint: don’t buy or pay for links) will provide you with the quality that Google is looking for.
      • One of our clients has #1 organic rankings for most of the prominent phrases in his industry. What was missing was the plural of these phrases – the competition was beating him out here. We refreshed page content and titles and, most importantly, found a few influential bloggers that linked over using the plural formats of his terms. Bingo, the site started gaining traction for those terms as well.
    • Use Webmaster Tools to understand how Google is seeing your site. This is especially important if you have bad links coming in. There are some very unscrupulous people out there that will send bad links to their competition to affect their rankings. If you think this is happening, find the bad links and disavow them. If you don’t, you may find yourself in a penalty situation.
  3. Mobile is here to stay. I won’t preach – since 2016, most sites are first found on a mobile device. If your site is not mobile friendly, you are losing customers on a minute to minute basis. And, Google’s algorithm rewards sites that are mobile-friendly. Just do it!

So, where do you start with digital marketing outreach? If you are a small to medium-sized business, you can start small and reap rewards:

  • Create some content that people will find compelling
  • Have customers sign up to receive this content
    • Now you have their email address
    • Use a small, free email service (Mailchimp, etc.)
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • TRACK in analytics.

It’s pretty simple, will bring more customers, and potentially pay for the big guys someday.

We can help! Talk with us…the first conversation is always free!

 

The Rising Tide that Lifts All Boats

Well, as much as I hate to say it. I’ve been around a long time. My first real “career” was in marketing automation at American Airlines back in the 80s. Helping travel companies grow their business using hard-wired computer terminals, later followed by PCs.

When we got into this Internet thing in the early 90s, we were all neophytes…taking a stab at things and seeing how it worked. Google wasn’t even around…the big players were AOL and the newcomer; Yahoo!. I was fortunate to be working for a company with vision that let us make our way by making good and bad choices and learning from them. The most successful online ventures at the time continued to focus on customer service as they grew their websites. Lands’ End carried its “Guaranteed. Period.” and strong customer service model to a successful online shopping experience. We had eAAsy SABRE running on the Compuserve and Prodigy networks, which morphed into Travelocity. In a similar way, we invoked the strong customer service model that helped our customers learn about the wild and wooly practices of booking travel.

With that history in my pocket and Google becoming the prominent search engine, I struggled to learn SEO and all its minutiae. As my boss at the time, Stephan Spencer used to say; “SEO is the rising tide that lifts all boats,” and this is still true. The technical side of SEO broadened to include things like link building, social media, and other best practices…culminating in the practice that’s now called Digital Marketing.

My point in this little trip down memory lane is that learning from mistakes can lead to success, and it’s a game of inches. Google can impose penalties on those online businesses that try to cut corners, but overcoming this using online marketing best practices can lead to stronger results. Spending thousands of dollars on firehose marketing campaigns that produce few results is a learning experience that can result in being receptive to (full circle for me!) marketing automation tools that drive ongoing customer relationships.

One of our clients, TVLiftCabinet.com sells those nifty TV Lift Cabinets that hide the TV when you don’t need it. Back in 2014 when we started working together, they were the target of some spammy links, and were put in penalty situation with Google. The process to fix this took several months of tedious work to identify the offending links and implement the process to disavow them. The result of all this work more than doubled TVLiftCabinet’s natural search traffic and revenue. Since that time, we’ve done some pretty creative things along with the day to day work of SEO, all within the ethical best practices of online marketing, to continue to grow their business.

Finding the solution for your business can be about learning the hard way or finding someone with the experience (and the mistakes under their belt) to lead you in the right direction. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune…and will save you money in the long run.

Talk with us…the first conversation is always free!

 

Do the Work! Get Results.

With all the algorithmic changes happening at Google, a north-star strategy has definitely emerged:

 

But that doesn’t mean your website, text content, images, links, videos and social media presence should be oblivious to Google, either. As Google itself points out with more than 362,000 results, “hope isnot a strategy.”

Don’t try to outsmart Google. That’s pretty good advice. If you’re looking to improve your company’s revenue, build a more competitive presence online, and really nail the whole digital marketing thing, it’s important to understand it takes mindful intent. It’s complex and inter-related—symbiotic relationships abound.

Great results center on good old-fashioned marketing work. It means in-depth looks at competitors, keywords, content and links. It means making digital marketing a priority as a core lifeline. It means doing the homework, investing the time, reaping what you sow. It doesn’t happen by accident, or from an approach that’s mostly “It’ll just take care of itself.” Instead, it comes from careful consideration of what you’re purposefully saying and doing online.

When it’s done well, the results are legitimate, impactful and real—a significant asset for your business.

More Google Changes

Another big change just happened at Google. Well, actually two.google

First, you probably noticed Google’s elimination of right-rail paid ads in search results.

But wait, there’s more: With the right rail gone, paid results will now take up the top FOUR spots on the page. If you haven’t consciously looked in a while, check it out—it most certainly looks and feels different than before. And it emphasizes the need to be fast, relevant and current when it comes to SEO.

The other big change is a little more under-the-hood: The launch of AMP.

What’s AMP? Last October, Google announced an initiative called the Accelerated Mobile Pages project, or AMP. Its goal: Dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web.

With a reworked version of HTML that strips out a lot of other stuff (like Javascript and third-party scripts), Google claims a page created with AMP HTML can load anywhere from 15% to 85% faster. Considering the explosive growth of mobile devices, that’s a pretty good idea.

Not surprisingly, in keeping with Google’s own desire to make mobile experiences faster and better, AMP-coded pages will receive better search rankings. After all, according to Kissmetrics, 40% of web users will abandon a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load—a waiting time that seems almost unbearable on a mobile device. And for the icing on the cake (and another ranking boost), a secure connection (HTTPS) is mandatory. So AMP-based pages could prove to be a significant advantage.

Of course, AMP code won’t just happen on its own. In the coming months, we’ll monitor advances in WordPress plug-ins and other software that can generate this code on the fly and suggest ways it might work for your site, improve your rankings and create a better experience for your customers.

If nothing else, these changes illustrate the simple truth that the web is never static. If it’s time for a check-up or review of your site, let us know.

Three Not-Trues

As marketers, it’s essential that we sometimes step back and challenge our own assumptions. In many cases, we take things for granted that are simply not true. Here are three.

  1. “Email marketing doesn’t really work.”

    Mailchimp
    Mailchimp

Not true. E-mail marketing absolutely works. In fact, over the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, it continues to be the strongest channel for generating online sales. In fact, it accounted for 25.1 percent of transactions, according to Custora, which tracks e-commerce and benchmarks retailers. The key? Sending impressive and relevant offers to customers who have expressly opted in. Companies that do this well are seeing big returns.

  1. “Social media drives e-commerce sales.”

Not true. Over the same five-day shopping period, Custora also found that social media drove only 1.7 percent of online sales. So if you’re dubious about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter driving any serious sales (retail or otherwise), you’re probably right. Simply, while social media plays a role in influencing purchase decisions and search results, it doesn’t drive e-commerce sales yet. Yes, there are a few exceptions. But considering we’re past the peak of the Facebook era, social media in its current form may never establish itself as a main sales driver.

  1. “When shopping online, consumers go to Amazon first.”

google shoppingNot true. While many consumers may indeed end up making a purchase on Amazon, Google Shopping is establishing itself as the 800-pound gorilla of online deal hunting and where they start first. In other words, instead of consumers wading through lots of different deal sites (like slickdeals.net or woot.com, for example), Google Shopping provides a consolidated look, right there in the regular search results.

Since Google transitioned to Shopping campaigns last year and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continued to explode in popularity, retailers now have access to more tools, more advanced reporting and more competitor data than ever before. The e-commerce consulting firm Channel Advisor notes that Google Shopping is even cannibalizing its own search results.

As always, we encourage our clients to challenge their assumptions, look beyond the status quo and make data-driven decisions. Not surprisingly, given the dynamic nature of online shopping and e-commerce, hard-and-fast rules usually don’t last too long.

If you’d like some help evaluating your assumptions and discovering what’s actually true for your business, drop us a line.

Now what? 5 Great Tips for Continued Online Success

now-whatLet’s say you’ve done a fantastic job of incorporating keywords into your site and you’re perfectly tweaked for efficient SEO. You’ve got a good inbound linking strategy. You’ve built a nice user experience and maybe even incorporated some video. Your reporting and analytics functions are tuned to your liking.

So is that it? Are you done?

Nope.

Certainly, SEO efforts and keyword optimization are an ongoing function of your business. But it’s also critical to make sure you’re welcoming Google with open arms. It’s as simple as this: When Google doesn’t crawl your site frequently, your ranking will likely drop.

Here are five tips to make sure Google stops by for frequent visits, courtesy of Pratik Dholakiya over at Search Engine Watch:

  1. Make sure your web server is fast. Slow load times and unreliable servers can incur SEO penalties and discourage frequent visits from Google. So whether you host your site yourself or contract for hosting services, it’s critical to optimize for better performance.
  2. Update your site. A lot. Need a good reason to have a blog? This is it, because Google likes new content. Another benefit: Google applies the SEO benefits of your blog to your entire site, so frequent updates can pay big dividends. Just make sure your blog falls inside (not outside) of your site’s core domain. In other words, it should be yoursite.com/blog, not blog.yoursite.com.
  3. Get more inbound links. Quality counts more than quantity, but links pointing to your site continue to tell Google “Hey, this is good stuff.” If you need more quality inbound links (and who doesn’t, right?) just be sure to ASK for them – don’t buy them. Ever.
  4. Ask Google to crawl your site. Using the “Fetch as Google” tool, you can tell Google to crawl any page of your site. This is especially useful for time-sensitive updates to your content.
  5. Keep your sitemap updated and error-free. An XML sitemap, when properly maintained and implemented is like a plate of warm cookies when Google shows up at the door.

Most of these things you can do yourself, but some are definitely more complex. Some require intentional effort and planning. Just know that we’re always here to help, with a combination of strategic marketing and extensive technical know-how.

8 Things You Can Do to Drive Traffic and Create a Good Experience

Yep, it’s time for a list post.

These tips are especially good because they’re time-proven. They aren’t based on flavor-of-the-day techniques to outwit Google or give you a quick temporary boost you’ll later regret. So if you’re looking for some solid traffic drivers and good experience builders, try these tips:

  1. Use good keywords in your content. Doing your homework with keyword research pays off. You’ll know what to say in your content because you’ll know what your customers are looking for.
  2. Make sure your sitemap is working hard. When done properly, your sitemap gives Google, Yahoo and Bing a list of everything you’d like them to see.  An XML sitemap is the place to start.
  3. Use simple page titles and good descriptions. Not only do humans like to see pages with appropriate and understandable titles, so do the search engines.images
  4. Fix broken links and 404 errors. Nothing kills an experience like an unexpected 404. There are lots of tools out there to scan your site and see what might be broken.
  5. Strengthen weak content. If the page contains more template content (headers, navigation, buttons, footers, etc.) than actual content, it might not provide a great experience for your customer. Fix it with more information, better product descriptions, an instructional video, product specifications, links to other resources, anything.
  6. Fix content errors. Hey, it happens. A misspelling. An incorrect price. Missing information. Take an hour with a few other sets of eyes and be as nitpicky (but objective) as possible.
  7. Decrease page loading times. While not always easy, your IT resources or web host may have suggestions to make your pages lightning-fast. And who doesn’t love that? The search engines certainly do…it’s a ranking factor!
  8. Get more backlinks. Organic backlinks to your site are precious. There’s no shame in asking for them, especially with trade associations, charities, or anything you’ve sponsored. And don’t forget to create your own backlinks using your social media accounts. The more stuff that points to you, the more valuable your web channel becomes.

For more insights or assistance with any of these, call us any time or contact us by email.

Reflections on 2013

Welcome to 2014.

I haven’t written in a while…we decided to drive to Florida over the holidays with the dogs along. Suffice to say I didn’t get much work done. Except for Wisconsin losing the Capital One Bowl, and coming back to the Polar Vortex, it was a nice holiday!

It would be wonderful to talk about huge revelations from 2013…the truth is, back to basics remains the theme:

  1. SEO is not dead…it’s just hiding behind the mother ship: marketing 101. A good marketer knows their product or business and talks about it in a way that their customers understand. Putting the technology aside for the moment (which can still be a real showstopper,) a good website needs good content. In 2013, I worked with a couple of excellent content writers for the web and the one thing they have in common is their ability to TALK TO (not at) THE CUSTOMER in phrases and language the customer understands. In SEO terms, that means doing keyword research, ensuring keywords are prioritized based on what the customer is searching for, and writing compelling content. As someone in authority once said to me…”marketing is just common sense, right?” Well, yes, it is just common sense, but the skills to get there are real, and budgets can be improved or lost without a good understanding of the nuances of digital marketing..
  2. Content remains King…see #1
  3. Don’t try to fool the system…you’ll always get caught. When I worked for an airline and was fortunate to have wonderful benefits including flight privileges, there were always one or two people who tried to beat the system and break the rules. Inevitably, they would be walked out of the building with a box in their hands. YOU’LL ALWAYS GET CAUGHT. Do things the right way…form relationships with complementary sites and partners and get links naturally, don’t spam on your site by keyword stuffing, and if someone is telling you something that sounds too good to be true when it comes to SEO, it is. SEO and content marketing are hard work, but the rewards are great and long-lasting.
  4. Make decisions with facts, not opinion, or guesswork. In 2013, I came across several business opportunities where analytics were not used to measure success. In the world of FREE (Google Analytics,) I find it difficult to understand how a business can stay afloat without knowing where their customers are coming from, or what they’re looking at, or how many have responded to that promotion they did…I could go on and on. If there is one thing you can do for yourself in 2014, find someone that can help you understand the key metrics of doing business online. PLEASE!
  5. Embrace Mobile. According to Google, 90% of people use multiple devices to perform their online research. Google recommends that webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design. If your website is not built with mobile devices in mind, then you need a mobile app so your customers can reach you from their phone or tablet without needing a magnifying glass.
  6. Finally, if your website is not driving legitimate leads, sales, and revenue, please read 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 again and give me a jingle. I’d love to help. If this stuff is old hat to you, are you doing it?

Have a wonderful and prosperous 2014!

(Oh, and I guess I’ll have to settle for Seattle winning the Super Bowl considering their star quarterback Russell Wilson was also a star at Wisconsin!)

Mobile App Optimization & Marketing Sort of Like SEO…

Besides building amazing websites and providing search engine optimization services… we also build, optimize and market mobile apps.

In many ways app optimization and marketing is similar to search engine optimization and online marketing… you start with a great app (or website). You ensure that app (or website) is built with a strong foundation for optimization.  For a website you want to make sure it is crawl-able by the search engines, with friendly URLs and great content.  With an app you want to be sure the app is optimized for strategic keywords. In both scenarios you start with keyword research (https://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner) to identify keywords that are relevant to your app (or website) and that have the best opportunity to be searched for by your target market.

app-optimizationTitle tags are important for SEO and the title of an app (Android or IOS) is also very critical. The name or title of the app becomes the Title Tag on the app store and it usually becomes the title tag on dozens of other app review sites or sites that aggregate apps.  For IOS apps, Apple allows the app publisher to designate 100 characters worth of keywords to each app.  These keywords are also important and could be thought of like meta-keywords-in-the-early-days-of-seo.  If you don’t know what I mean.. back in the day a webmaster could “stuff” his meta-keywords full of strategic terms and the search engines used these signals in their ranking algorithms. Too many people went overboard and now meta-keywords are of no SEO value. But the 100 characters worth of keywords Apple allows, do hold value- so use your 100 characters wisely.

Once we go off page- links are important for any website. The same holds true for apps.  Building links is usually one of the most difficult SEO related tasks. F ortunately with an app, it is usually easier to get links because many apps are interesting or useful tools.  People like to link to useful or interesting tools (think about it, would you rather rank to some eCommerce website or a really cool iPhone App?).  There are also many app review websites that will review and link to apps.

Social media is key as well. Social links, likes and mentions will only help a website. These social cues are like “votes” for your content. The same is true for apps.  One of the interesting things with app optimization is that the more installs you get, the higher your app will get ranked and things can snowball.  So getting social links and buzz and links from app review sites can lead to more installs, which leads to higher rankings and even more installs. Earning a review for an app today can lead to more installs tomorrow, higher rankings the next day and more subsequent installs in the future.

When it comes down to it SEO is all about value.  Sometimes people over-complicate it.  Google wants to return a relevant result that provides the most value for the searcher.  The same is true for apps.  The app stores want to return the best app for the relevant search. Optimizing your website or your app for your target market is a very important step, but always remember that delivering a great product, and value is going to be the key to long term success.