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Small business hit in the pocketbook by Google Keyword Planner changes

Aug 20, 2016 - filed under SEO 1 Comment
 

Google has been busy, busy, busy with its Keyword Planner tool these past few weeks. The fun began in June, when several users complained that it was suddenly mandatory to have at least one active Adwords campaign to access the Keyword Planner.

A few days of outrage later, Google clarified that this was a technical glitch and would be fixed.

Oops.  Hehe.

A week or so after that, Google made a real change to the Keyword Planner; this time with the way search volumes are showcased. While you could view traffic estimates for individual keywords previously, the Keyword Planner now consolidates these figures to include search variants as well.

For what it’s worth, this is in sync with what Google does already on Adwords – advertisers can no longer solely target exact match keywords and all such campaigns now inevitably target close variants as well.

So what are close variants anyway?

I love this, because this really is about targeting the user, not just one variation of the user. Let’s take the example of a keyword like “car wash”. There are a number of close variations here that convey the same meaning, such as:

  • car washing
  • car washers
  • car washer
  • carwash

Whereas you could look at the search volume for each of these keywords separately in the past, their volumes might be combined if Google thinks they are close variants.

Did you notice that I said “might be combined”, not always combined? This is because Google does not seem to apply the concept of close variants all the time. As Ginny Marvin points out in her SearchEngineLand blog, while “car wash” and “carwash” are considered close variants and are reported together, similar keyword pairs like “dog walker” and “dogwalker” are reported separately. Sometimes abbreviations are considered a variant of its expanded form while it is not in other cases.

Is this a problem?

As a matter of fact, yes. There is, of course, the frustrating question of inconsistency. But even if we were to assume for a moment that Google applies close variants uniformly across all keywords, it is still a problem. Here are a few reasons why.

Misleading data

First, close variants are misleading. Unless you have been diving deep into the Keyword Planner tool regularly, you may fail to notice these subtle changes with the way the search volumes are being reported. So when Google shows nearly 550,000 people searching for “car wash” and just as many people searching for “carwash”, one might falsely assume that the market is 1.1 million searches strong. In fact, it is only half that according to the Planner tool.

Google Keyword Planner lumps similar terms together

If the variants were shown together, it would be much clearer.  If you are listening Google, that one’s an easy fix.

Masked intent

The second problem with the change is that it masks the intent of the search performed. For instance, people who search for “car wash” are typically looking for service stations where they could take their cars for a wash.

On the other hand, people looking for “car washer” may be looking to buy equipment to wash their cars. These are two completely different markets.  Google no longer lets you know the number of people looking for service stations and washing equipment separately.

Higher costs for small business

Eren McKay, a Brazil based SEO expert, says this is a huge blow for small business.

“Although uniting the keywords may seem like a good thing to some larger corporations, for small business owners or bloggers, this is truly a huge blow to their ability to find less competitive long tail keyword phrases or ‘low hanging fruit’, as many in the industry call it. These phrases are considered golden nuggets to SMBs and aren’t usually targeted by large enterprises because of their low search volume.”

She notes that small business owners target several small streams of traffic. This converts into large amounts of traffic overall. When each post provides high quality content specifically targeted for a long tail keyword phrase, it makes the target audience happy.

If the author also uses co-occurrence words throughout the copy, and knows how to spread the words about that post, it will end up getting traction and many times ranking in the SERPs.

With Keyword Planner no longer showing us data for specific search terms, small business will have to pay for tools such as SEMRush to predict the traffic a long tail keyword phrase might attract. So Google’s change will cost small businesses money.

Bye bye long tail, Google Keyword Planner

Does this mean that the Keyword Planner is no longer a useful tool for keyword research? “Not at all,” says Nathan Gotch, a St. Louis based SEO expert.

“Google Keyword Planner has always been an estimator tool that is useful for benchmarking keywords or niches against one another. The changes with the Planner are in line with what you can already see in the Google Search results. Gone are the days when you needed to optimize for variants like ‘SEO’ and ‘Search Engine Optimization’ separately. Google already recognizes these different variations to mean the same and, therefore, the search results you see for these two search terms are not too different.”

I’ve never invested too much of myself in any keyword research tool. To me, such data always provides just a clue, a hint.  This is for several reasons:

  • You see just a snapshot of the past.  It is a predictor of the future, but an inaccurate predictor (sometimes very inaccurate).
  • The data is not always clean.  What about bots? What about repeat searchers?  So many issues.
  • Is Google really sharing its full intelligence with us?  Really?  For free?  Seriously?

Of course, at high volumes, this data is useful, at least to the extent of showing whether a search term really gets high volumes.  But for long tail searches, the data is IMHO not very useful. No data is very accurate with a small sample size, because the “confidence level” is low. This is the first thing you’ll learn if you ever try to conduct any market survey or public opinion research. The confidence-level rule applies just as much to search data.

Nevertheless, the latest development with Google Keyword Planner reflects the changes with organic search, as well. What shows as a close variant on the Planner is likely to be used as a variant even in the search results. That makes Google Keyword Planner more useful, in a way. You can use it to find out which search phrases Google sees as one, and that should help with your organic SEO.

So it’s not all bad.  But the more data lumped together, the less details you have access to.  On the whole, this is a step backwards for small business.  But it could be worse, as a few people noticed with panic in June.


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How to promote your blog in 111 easy steps

Aug 14, 2016 - filed under blogging 6 Comments
 

Call me lazy, but I’m going to throw stuff today.

First, I’m going to throw a list at you. Yes, that means I don’t have to do the fancy writing I love so much. But, wait! Coming up with 111 easy tips to promote your blog takes time and effort. In fact, more effort than letting the words pour out. Just so you know that I’m not really being lazy.

Second, I’m going to throw out a challenge. Tell me how many of these 111 tips you are already doing. Then come back in one month and tell me how many you are doing by then. Let’s see who gives their blog promotion the biggest kick in the caboose!

111 ways to promote your blog

111 easy ways to promote your blog

  • Make sure your RSS is functioning.
  • Ask your friends to add your RSS feed to Twitterfeed.
  • Join Triberr and start participating in as many tribes as possible.  Add your RSS feed to your Triberr account so that other people will share your posts on social media.
  • Submit your RSS feed to RSS directories.  But only to the high quality ones, please.  There’s a lot of trash out there.
  • Build an email list. Du-uh, everybody says that, so I can’t leave it out.
  • Use the list to promote your most important posts.  Send more than one email.  You can send an “It’s coming” email.  Then an “It’s here email.”  Then a trivia question or feedback email about the post.  Don’t do this every week.
  • Promote your blog - Add your post to RSS via Twitterfeed
  • Create an editorial calendar, as Neal Patel suggests in his now famous guide to creating a money-making blog.  But here’s a twist – share it with some of your blogging friends and your social media audience.  Get them excited about your content before it’s even written.
  • Make sure you have the major social buttons on your posts – at the top, at the bottom and floating down the side, if possible. Make it easy for your readers to promote your blog.
  • Prompt readers to share at the end of each post. Encourage them to promote your blog.
  • Make your best posts “sticky” on your home page.
  • Include a tweetable link in your post, pulling a quote from the text.
    • Promote your latest post in your email signature.  Give people the ultimate up-to-the-minute link to follow.
    • Blog directories.  OK, that was too obvious.
    • Interact with your Twitter followers and FaceBook fans.  You can do that while watching TV.  It’s easy.
    • What questions does your blog post answer?  Find those questions on Quora and use your post as part of your answer.
    • Use hashtags on Pinterest. They are not just for Twitter anymore.
    • Find large Pinterest group boards and get permission to pin to them.
    • Include a header pic, with a title that shows up well.
    • Include a message pic that people can share on social media.  Think of it as a mini infographic. There’s a great example here.
    • Use a Pinterest plugin that puts the pin button right on each image.
    • People love sharing motivational quotes. An image with a quote on it is always a bonus in a blog post.
    • Create stand-alone quote images just for social media to build a following.  They don’t have to be in a blog post.
    • Promote your blog - Motivational quotes
    • Participate in FaceBook groups for bloggers.  Active ones routinely share each other’s posts and leave comments on your blog.
    • Join mastermind groups anywhere you can (like on Skype or Slack), so as to network with other bloggers.
    • Start your own mastermind and post-sharing group with like-minded bloggers.
    • Find communities or groups in your niche on Google Plus, LinkedIn and FaceBook, and participate.
    • Create your own-topic focused group on LinkedIn, FaceBook or Google Plus.
    • Create a weekly topic-focused Twitter Chat.
    • Participate in other Twitter Chats to build a bigger network.
    • Tweet many times.  There are social automation tools for that.
    • Retweet your old posts. There are plugins for that.
    • Link back to old posts from new posts.
    • Of course, make sure there is a link to your blog in all your social media profiles.
    • Create mini-posts from your post to publish on FaceBook, Google Plus and Tumblr.  People can click through to the full post to read more.
    • Attend live events to make real-world connections.  Face-to-face makes the strongest allegiances.
    • Get star power.  Hire Beyoncé to sing a song about your blog.
    • If Beyoncé  is too expensive, my daughter will sing for slightly less.
    • Comment on other blogs in your niche.  Say what you think.  Add value.  And always be polite. It’s the single best way to start building relationships.
    • Guest post anywhere you can.  You open yourself up to new audiences every time.
    • Post a video on YouTube as a teaser for your post.
    • Post the outline of your post on Slideshare. People will click to read the details.
    • If you have employees, contractors, family or others you can count on, give them suggested tweets or FaceBook messages for them to use.
    • Use a different hashtag each time you tweet.
    • Pin your latest post to the top of your Twitter streams.
    • Pin your latest post to the top of your Google Plus profile.
    • Pay.  Twitter and FaceBook are both happy to accept your cash in return for promoting your content. So are most other social media.
    • Retweet when people tweet your post.
    • Say “Thank you” when people share your content.
    • Say “Yes” when asked to participate in a round-up post. Somebody will notice.
    • Do a monthly round-up post of your own. The more influencers participate within your posts, the more they’ll participate in promoting your posts
    • Find people who have shared similar content and let them know about your post.  They might share yours, too.
    • Find people who have linked to similar content and let them know about your post.  They might link to yours, too.
    • Promote your blog - Blog commenting builds valuable relationships
    • Quote other bloggers in your post, then let them know.
    • Ask social media influencers for a quote, then let them know when your post is live.
    • If you mention or link to other bloggers in your post, tag them on FaceBook, Twitter and Google Plus.  Do NOT randomly tag people.  #MyPetPeeve
    • Promote your content on other blogs through a native content network.
    • Target a keyword in each blog post, and try to incorporate it in the title.
    • Write a clear title that offers a benefit to readers.  That’s how to get them to click on it.
    • Use “How to” in your headline.  People always want to know how to do something.
    • Use an SEO plugin to create custom meta tags.
    • Publish in the morning for more traffic and better social reach.
    • Include a number in your title.  That tells people they’ll find specific information.  I used 111 in this post’s title. Did I write 111 tips?  I honestly didn’t count – who has the time?  Really, it was either that or proofread.
    • Proofread your posts. Nobody wants to share a mess with their followers.
    • Don’t count words.  Just make sure you cover the topic, and cover it well.  In 100 words or in 10,000 words, whatever it takes to do it well.
    • Give people an easy summary to cut and paste into social media.  It could be an intro paragraph, for example.
    • Participate in post-sharing communities, such as Viral Content Buzz.
    • Submit other bloggers’ posts to social media. Make sure to tag them, so they know.
  • Comment on other bloggers’ posts on social media.  This is how you build a network.
  • Syndicate your blog posts on LinkedIn and Medium.  Wait a couple months, then republish (best to republish with some edits to avoid duplicate content and to address the variations in audience).
  • Hire a virtual assistant to help you do more promoting in less time.
  • Give your blog a catchy name – a brand!
  • Create a logo, and use it as an avatar across all social platforms for better brand recognition.
  • Do a weekly round-up of best posts in your niche.  Make sure to let the other bloggers know that their posts have been chosen.
  • Promote your blog - Pinterest group boards
  • Invite others to guest blog on your blog.  They will share their post with their audiences.
  • Turn a few posts into PDF eBooks, and offer them as an incentive to sign up for your list.
  • Update old content.
  • Better yet, write a more-up-to-date version of the old content.
  • Add a cartoon.  People love cartoons, and they are great for social sharing.
  • Get interviewed by a local newspaper.
  • Hold a contest.  People love contests.
  • Participate in linkies. This will drive a fairly involved audience in certain niches.
  • Interview niche experts and other bloggers.  People tend to share interviews of themselves with their followers.

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SEO and the next big optimization

Jul 11, 2016 - filed under SEO 2 Comments
 

What is SEO all about?  I’ll bet nine out of ten webmasters will answer, “It’s about my Google rankings.”

Well, yes, that’s the result you are shooting for.  But what is the process?  What does SEO do?

And that’s where nine out of ten webmasters will say, “Ah…um…well…I dunno.”

SEO is about optimizing.

There is no such thing as over-optimization, despite almost 70,000 mentions in a Google search. When something is optimized, it is the ideal.  It is the very best it can be.  It is at the very summit of the mountain. Take one more step, and you are not over-optimizing.  You are de-optimizing.

So what happens once you’ve optimized?  Is your work done?  Can you take any steps in any direction?  Or are you on the pinnacle of the mountain, where any step will just take you down?

Climbing Mountains Read the rest of this entry »


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How can I get my website indexed by Google?

Jul 02, 2016 - filed under SEO No Comments
 

It’s the biggest F in the FAQ of SEO.  The most frequently asked newbie question: “How can I get my website indexed by Google?” The answer is simple.  It will get indexed on its own if it’s any good and you do any promotion.

As Neil Patel puts it, “You can take the ‘tortoise’ approach – just sit back and wait for it to happen naturally.”

Like all things in life, you had best read the fine print. Those are two huge “ifs”.  Let’s take a look at each one.

How to get your sit indexed by Google

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Are we entering a new age of SEO?

Mar 19, 2016 - filed under SEO Comments Off on Are we entering a new age of SEO?
 

Some people say that we are entering a new age of SEO, that the tricks of the past will become the stuff of legend, and that we will be blazing a new trail through unchartered waters – possibly even the end of SEO altogether.

Sound familiar? Well it’s not all that new a concept. People have been ringing the SEO-is-dead bell for years.

Long live SEO.

However two “facts” are clear. The first is that the basics of SEO have not changed much in a decade. I even wrote about this a year ago, so it must be true.

On the other hand

On the other hand, SEO has changed tremendously. A decade ago, nobody cared about mobile search, and Google was now offering a mobile option (AMP) that works off its own server, rather than off of yours.

A decade ago, people were not talking about bounce rates or time on site as a ranking factor.

A decade ago, nobody was making the connection between SEO and social media.

A decade ago, nobody was speculating how the Internet of Things would change the nature of searching.

And nobody was talking about an end to links as a ranking factor. Today, Brian McFarlane is wondering out loud whether we are already seeing the beginning of a slow decline of link building, an activity that often occupies over 90 percent of many SEO professionals’ time. Read the rest of this entry »


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Social media is the next frontier in social selling

Jan 13, 2016 - filed under social media 2 Comments
 

If you are puzzled by the title of this post because you think you are up on the latest trends and are sure that “social selling” means selling on social media, be prepared to learn something.

Social selling has a long, long history. In fact, Jesus used social selling.

What? Are you saying that Jesus preached on Twitter and Facebook?

Of course not. Social selling has nothing to do with social media. Nothing. You can use social media for social selling, and in 2016, you would be a fool not to. But social selling is about “social”, not about technology (otherwise, it would be called “technology selling”).

In the words of Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Officer at SAP:

“While technology can help, social selling is about building stronger relationships with potential buyers, based on an authentic sense of empathy and a deep understanding of the problems they face.”

That sense of empathy is key.  If a potential customer feels that you are “one of the good guys” or that you are “one of us”, he will be much more open to buy from you.  There is implicit trust.  So the sooner a salesperson can determine whether you are a Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan, the sooner he can start sharing a common bond with you and bring you on his side.

Consider the difference between sitting across the table or across a desk from somebody trying to sell you something, or sitting on the same side of the table.  Across is confrontational.  Same side is cooperative.  Same side of the table selling is bound to be more effective, because there is the implicit assumption that the salesperson is on the same side as you.

We humans are so easily swayed by us-and-them psychology (which is why successive Miss Universes have failed to achieve “World Peace“, but that’s another problem to ponder at some other time).

Sell from the same side of the table Read the rest of this entry »


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TrueTwit marketing is evil genius

Nov 30, 2015 - filed under marketing 8 Comments
 

Why does every story have to have an evil genius? TrueTwit has done something visionary, but you’ll have to get past my rant first.

I am impressed by something TrueTwit is doing these days, and has been for the past month, in the field of marketing. For those who know what I think of TrueTwit, this might come as a surprise. For those who have never had the pleasure to hear me rant on this topic, now’s your chance.

What makes this marketing visionary?TrueTwit is a service the forces people fill in a captcha field before they can follow you. Here is how TrueTwit works:

  1. You follow somebody.
  2. Truetwit sends you an automated direct message (DM) with a link: “To validate click here“.
  3. You click the link, and land on a TrueTwit page
  4. You successfully complete the captcha on that page, and now you are finally following the person that you had actually followed three steps ago.

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Click Here! Two action words worth using

Oct 26, 2015 - filed under SEO Comments Off on Click Here! Two action words worth using
 

Some people will tell you to avoid linking with “Click here” as anchor text.  But look what you would be missing.

If you are old enough to remember the olden days when SEO was “a thing” – before it became something to carefully ignore with a studious sideways glance – we were all counseled to avoid using generic terms like “click here” as anchor text on links.  “Click here” was a dirty word.

Even I was counseling against that approach, and with two very good reasons.

First, the search engines could see what a page was about by reading it, but they also wanted to know what other people thought the page was about.  So they would read the anchor text of hyperlinks pointing to the page for clues.

If the anchor text said “content marketing for real estate promotion”, the search engines would assume that the page was at least somewhat about “content marketing for real estate promotion”.  The page would therefore rank higher for “content marketing for real estate promotion” and for related phrases, such as “content marketing for real estate” and “real estate promotion”.

Using keyword-rich anchor text made good SEO sense.
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Your website’s need for speed

Aug 24, 2015 - filed under website conversion 15 Comments
 

If it seems like life has been getting faster every day, that’s because it has. And if it seems like the Internet is getting faster every day, that’s because it is. We’ve moved from pedal boats to rocket ships.

As the Internet speeds up, your competitors speed up, too. And that creates expectations on the part of your two most important audiences – your customers and visitors, and the search engines on whom you probably rely to bring you customers and visitors.

Public expectations are pretty harsh these days. With life so fast-paced, is it any wonder that 47 percent of the public expects your web page to load in two seconds or less? Or that 57 percent will abandon your website if it take three seconds or more to load? Or that the reason half your customers don’t complete their purchases, but rather abandon their shopping carts, is due to impatience with load times:

“Roughly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before checkout, and new findings suggest that slow load times are the number-one culprit.”

As long as people can get what they want at the speed they want elsewhere, they won’t put up with a slow shopping cart. Slow pages cut conversions. They also increase bounce rates…and that can affect your search engine rankings.

Does your website have enough speed?

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Four ways to get your retail business online

Aug 11, 2015 - filed under marketing 2 Comments
 

It’s almost comical to imagine it, but there are still a ton of businesses that are not online.  I know, right?  That includes retailers.  But it is never too late to get online and discover how the Internet can make your business take off, as Brian Young discovered.  He got punched in the face, but you don’t have to take it that far to see why getting online makes good business sense.

Here are a few ways to quickly get online.  There is so much more than this that you can do, of course, if you want to be serious about it.  But this is a start.

Get your retail store online Read the rest of this entry »


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