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The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

It seems like only yesterday the "experts" were advising that to achieve the best search engine performance you needed a properly optimised website layout along with the use of hand-picked keywords in the important areas of the pages.

The way Google ranks search results has changed the SEO game dramatically, however, and the tactics and strategies for Search Engine Optimisation have shifted to be almost totally content focused.

It would seem content marketing has replaced "traditional" methods of search engine optimisation (SEO), so we ask, how relevant are these   traditional SEO practices and is there any use in still following them?

Let's begin with a quick look at the history of traditional SEO.

Traditional SEO

Keywords and inbound links are the two broad philosophies directing the SEO industry. The goal: to have your website at the top of the results pages whenever a specific keyword is typed into a search engine.

This gave rise to strategies that aimed to deceive search engines using techniques such as "keyword stuffing" (using keywords or phrases numerous times on a page without any context or providing meaningful content for the reader), creating link farms and other practices that took advantage of the simplicity of search indexing algorithms to gain a higher ranking.

Legitimate websites found it difficult to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages against these tactics, and it ultimately led to search engines changing the way they index and rank websites to ensure that the end user was being given high quality search results that gave them the information they were searching for.

New Age SEO

In response to deceitful SEO tactics, Google introduced a new algorithm that uses latent semantic indexing, which follows the idea that words used in the same context tend to have similar meanings. For example, the phrase "complete guide" is given the same ranking as "definitive guide" when either phrase is used in a search query.

Suddenly, the websites that had a stronghold on certain keywords and key phrases, and that were reliant on being at the top by pushing the competition out of the circle, found themselves now having to compete with websites using similar phrases. The distinguishing factor was now the content that was being provided to the user, not just the keywords in the search query.

Enter Content marketing. Content marketing, which involves the creation of high quality content to get ahead in website rankings is being touted as the new SEO.

Content marketing strategy also provides a greater return on investment by boosting a website's ranking through content being shared on a variety of social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and others.

A case study by Kissmetrics, presented by Neil Patel, studied the number of visits and back-links to 47 info-graphics which cost $28,200 to produce. These info-graphics received 2,512,596 page views and 41,142 back-links from 3741 unique domains. The social media contributions were 41359 tweets and 20,859 likes.

Patel estimates that the costs of trying to manipulate Google by buying Tweets, Likes, visitors and links would be $1,072,905.80 as compared to the $28,200 spent on producing the infographics. 

That is quite a difference.

Apart from the cost factor, another major advantage for content marketing as an SEO strategy is the fact that good quality content will remain unaffected by future changes that search engines might make to their algorithms.

The Conclusion

The positive practices of traditional SEO that helped search engines to deliver high quality search results to their users have remained a part of the New Age SEO practices, while the practices that worked against helping search engines have been dropped.

The answer to our question - how relevant are the traditional SEO practices today and is there any use in still following them? - is that since the positive traditional practices are part of the new age practices, it is worth focusing on a content marketing strategy to provide and boost SEO rather than trying to implement and manage two strategies in parallel.

As Aaron Agius from Louder Online told Huffington Post recently, "Content is the foundation of any successful online marketing campaign. A great strategy is needed in order to fuel social media activity, to create high converting landing pages for pay per click marketing and to power increases in search engine rankings for target keywords."

Further Reading:

What is your current SEO strategy? Have you shifted your focus, or are you still following the same practices? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

Is Your Content Accessible?

The Internet has created a platform to provide solutions to many every day problems. From basic websites that share information or entertainment, to highly complex applications that allow people to complete banking transactions on-line or see other parts of the world in real-time, we have been able to open our world like never before.

Just like in the real-world however, website owners must consider how their website or on-line application is used by visitors, including people with a disability.

For a web developer or a content author, this means that there are some techniques and tactics that need to be considered when creating a website or a piece of content that is published in the Internet.

So, we'll take you through what Web Accessibility is all about, and what you need to do to play your part in building an accessible World Wide Web.

What is Web Accessibility?

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
- Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Very simply, Web Accessibility ensures that the same detail of information is accessible to a viewer with a disability as is accessible to a viewer without a disability, so that the end experience for all users is as equal as possible.

The disability could be from a visual impairment, or a hearing impairment or a physical or mental disability that affects how the user is able to interact with the website and the content.

The Web Accessibility Initiative

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been ensuring that all areas of the World Wide Web are accessible to everyone since 2005 as part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA).

As stated on the Web Accessibility Initiative website, web accessibility depends on several components working together in order for the Web to be accessible to all, and content is one of the essential components that, when formatted to meet the WAI guidelines, could substantially improve Web accessibility.

The Web Accessibility Initiative website provides strategies, guidelines and resources for website developers, software developers and user agent developers to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.

For website content, this standard is outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline, and it is up to version 2.0.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was first introduced in 2008 and it defines how to make Web content more accessible "with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally". The recommendations and techniques provided to achieve WCAG 2.0 compliance are updated once a year to stay current with changing technology.

The guidelines, along with the resources that come from the guidelines, are all built upon a foundation of four principles of accessibility, such that anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:

  1. Perceivable
    Which means users must be able to perceive the information being presented, it must be visible to at least one of their senses). For content, this means providing text based alternatives for non-textual content like images or audio. Multimedia content should have captions which are accessible to screen readers, or should also provide an alternative version such as a written transcript. The guidelines also cover techniques of displaying content that should be avoided, such as time-based media that may not be displayed for long enough to be read properly; or styling content in a way that makes it difficult to read or hides content from view.

  2. Operable
    Which means users must be able to operate the interface (or put more simply, navigate around a website) using in the very least, a keyboard. In most cases, users have a keyboard and a mouse to interact with a website, but alternative means to navigate around a website must be provided. This alternative is typically provided through the functionality of the web browser (using the TAB or arrow keys to scroll through navigation elements on the page), or it is handled by assistive technologies that are based upon keyboard commands to a web browser.

  3. Understandable
    Which means users must be able to understand the information as well as easily determine how to use the website. Authors of websites must make their text readable without much effort by the visitor. This includes choices of font, size of text as well as the layout of the page. Content must also be structured in a predictable format so as to not leave the user guessing. For example, providing the user with clear and meaningful feedback after interacting with the website, such as after submitting a form.

  4. Robust
    Which means users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible). From a content point-of-view, this principles means that content is structured in a way that is future-proof. Using valid HTML with correct semantic mark-up is the best way to ensure that your content will be future-proof.

So what does it mean for you?

As a website owner or content author, you should check your website to see whether it meets the current WCAG 2.0 standards, and then take steps to address any areas that are not up to standard.

For most websites, this will typically be ensuring that meaningful images also have meaningful text alternatives (so background images don't count), and that hyper-links and anchors have meaningful titles and can be activated (clicked) by using the keyboard. If your website has video, then ensure that your videos provide subtitles and/or a transcript that users can read instead if they are unable to watch the video.

Services like AChecker will let you check if your website meets the WCAG 2.0 standard of accessibility for free. Several other such services are available online and can be found in a list of tools provided on the WAI website.

It is also highly recommended that you read the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document to give you an idea of what to consider when creating content to ensure that it will be WCAG 2.0 compliant.

Further Resources:



Do you think Web Accessibility is important? Join our discussion on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

5 Content Marketing Fundamentals

A well planned and executed content marketing strategy is no longer optional in order to stand out in the crowded digital landscape.

Content marketing is now a mandatory component of any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy and a powerful way to give your audience a great experience of your brand.

Content marketing helps attract new visitors and build a loyal audience, which generally leads to increased conversions. Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Association is the discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.

For most of small businesses, all media channels and platforms typically means a corporate website, some Social Media engagement and hopefully some level of pro-active marketing in the form of promotional e-mail campaigns or other digital or traditional media advertising.

To point you in the right direction, we've listed 5 Content Marketing Fundamentals to help you plan and develop a content strategy that delivers on your investment.

1. Plan: Know your Audience and Objectives

Before you start chalk out a plan.

You may not have all the questions to begin with, let alone the answers, but beginning with why, who, when and how is a good place to start.

Who are you talking to and what areas of your business is of interest to them? How will you communicate and engage your audience?

Remember - it's all about building a community interacting with your brand!

2. Be Prepared to Spend

Ongoing creation of high quality content is neither easy nor cheap.

As a professional in your industry you are well placed to set the content agenda, but if you're talents (and time availability) don't allow you to be hands on in the entire process you might consider outsourcing as an option.

Here at Hub Com Digital, our management team develops an editorial calendar containing the topics we want to focus on for the coming weeks.

We then internally work up an overview for each individual content piece.

In the case of an article that will be published on our company Blog as well as our Social Media platforms, we would first develop the overall premise of the article and give it a working title. We then attach a couple of suggestions for a headline and send all that information to our graphic designer to create a suitable image for the article.

The articles themselves are either entirely written by our internal staff, or outsourced to external professional content developers, who write the actual article based on the premise / title and headline suggestions we provide.

3. Content for Brand Building

Gaining respect for your brand is not easy. It's the outcome of a process containing many steps over time.

Relating information about the evolution of your brand and your journey to the present gives credibility and builds empathy.

When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to include reference to your origins, what motivates you to succeed and what motivates your customers to keep coming back.

The aim here is to create personal connections with your audience and reinforce what your brand represents.

According to Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute, telling the story of your brand can be likened to conventional story telling at a level. In a post on CMI, Rose lists out ten steps divided into three broad categories which will help you understand how to create content that captivates and enthrals.

4. Content for Reputation

On-line reputation management, which involves the maintaining of your digital reputation as well as dealing with negative public feedback, has become a thriving business today. Many of us have Googled the names of companies along with keywords like 'negative', 'bad' to check the reputation of companies (and people) we are planning to deal with.

While most reputable organisations are unlikely to be subject to an attack like the infamous case where a large number of websites attached the keywords 'miserable failure' with a link to George W Bush's official biography page hosted by the White House, the reality is that social media networks have given customers a powerful platform and dealing with negative feedback - whether it is true or not - is an increasingly important part of modern business operations.

A pro-active content marketing strategy distributing positive content on-line is a powerful way to mitigate the damage of an attack. It also pays to have a solid policy for dealing with negative feedback in place. Refer to our Blog article: Five tactics to address negative customer feedback.

5. Content for Search Performance

Search Engines like Google are making it increasing difficult to manipulate their search rankings artificially. Google's documentation clearly states they reward "high-quality" sites, and by this they mean websites that give "great user experience" and "fulfill information needs".

Just as Google rewards "high-quality" sites, it penalises sites for "low-quality content". Before embarking on your content marketing journey have a look at this important article on building high quality websites in the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Summary

A content marketing strategy requires a significant commitment of resources. The impact is not usually instant and mistakes can be very costly.

On the other hand, the long term benefits from building and nurturing a community centred on your business are coveted by many for good reason.

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


The Apple, the Watch and the Wardrobe

The Apple, the Watch and the Wardrobe

The Apple, the Watch and the Wardrobe

Earlier this month, Apple launched the latest version of the iPhone. Alongside the new iPhone, Apple also launched the newest of their products, the highly anticipated Apple Watch.

Will the latest Apple gadget follow in the footsteps of it's world-changing ancestors: break the competition and dominate the market? A week after the launch (but months before it actually hits the streets) and the Jury is still out.

Forgetting and dismissing all of the rumours of what the Apple Watch would come with, lets look at the base specs, and then find the nearest competitor to compare against.

To begin with, the Apple Watch comes in 3 versions - The Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition.

The difference between the 3 models is: The material of the casing, the material protecting the display, and the band (which is interchangeable on the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition).

The Apple Watch is cased in polished stainless steel or space black stainless steel, with sapphire crystal over the display.
The Apple Watch Sport case is made from anodized aluminium in silver and space grey (think Mac Book look), making this model much lighter than the other two, and has Ion-X glass over the display.
The Apple Watch Edition case is crafted from 18-carat gold (available in yellow or rose gold), and the display is protected by sapphire crystal as well.
While the Apple Watch Sport lucks out with choice of bands (only the sports bands is available, but in a range of colours), the other two models have a selection of different bands to choose from that will suit most everyone.

Apart from this, the 3 models are identical in features and technology.

The Apple Watch will allow you to receive notifications, as well as send and receive messages, phone calls and e-mail all through the device's User Interface. A new level of communication is added through the new Digital Touch feature, which allows you to share a sketch, a tap, or a heart-beat with another Apple Watch user - which they can view or feel (as is the case for a tap or heart-beat). The Apple Watch also features an integrated fitness tracker to monitor your movements and activity (or lack thereof), and can help you to set and achieve your fitness goals.

The Apple Watch, as we've come to expect from Apple, has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use. The face of the watch is touch-screen that functions just like touch-navigation on other Apple devices, but also has new ways to get around. On the side is the "Digital Crown", which allows you to control the zoom of the display and doubles as the home button. On the bottom of the watch is the recharge contact point, as well as sensors that can detect your pulse, and a vibration unit that allows the watch to let you know when something needs your attention...and you can use Apple's voice command platform: Siri.

From our perspective one of the most exciting features of the Apple Watch is Apple Pay, a new generation of tap-and-go payment technology. Apple Pay is part of iOS 8, and is also on the iPhone 6, but having an Apple Watch will not only save you the need to carry credit cards, it will also save you having to even get your phone out! The system launches in the US first and we expect it here in Australia some time later in 2015 - as one of Australia's leading providers of e-commerce and m-commerce systems, here at Hub Com Digital we can't wait for it!

Perhaps what lets the Apple Watch down however is that the device must apparently be tethered to an iPhone 5 or 6. Everything the Apple Watch requires from GPS or Internet is provided by the iPhone, which apparently improves the battery life. This might seem trivial now, since every smart watch available at the moment has this same requirement; but the Samsung Gear S, which was unveiled in Berlin recently and is set for release shortly after Apple Watch, will come with its own SIM Card to remove this dependence. When you take into account everything that both devices offer and had to sacrifice, only time will tell how damaging this exclusion will be.

The Apple Watch also drew criticism from some who claimed it could not be used by Left Handers. As has since been found however, the watch does have a left-handed mode, and the crown does flip the User Interface around; so "Mollydookers" need not despair!

The only competitor that is markedly comparable to the Apple Watch at present seems to be the Samsung Gear 2, however Samsung will be releasing the latest version of the Gear - the Gear S - very soon. For the sake of the argument, we'll only compare the latest from Apple with the latest from Samsung, keeping in mind that both will become available to buy around about the same time, and both are keeping very mum about the finer details.

The Samsung Galaxy S has a 2" (51mm) curved AMOLED screen, a dual core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal memory, and comes with WiFi, BlueTooth and USB 2.0 connectivity. Compared to the Apple Watch, with a screen that is 42mm or 38mm (give or take a millimetre) and an industry first computer-on-a-chip. Processor speed, RAM and internal memory are not mentioned anywhere yet, but the S1 chip in the Apple Watch is said to be comparable to the new A8 chip in the iPhone 6.

Both smart watches come with a heart-rate sensor, and accelerometer. The Samsung Gear S kicks it up a notch by also coming with a gyroscope, a compass, light and UV sensors and a barometer (for when you're outside and want to know if a storm is coming).

Both smart watches go at lengths to show how customisable their device is, allowing you to change this part and that part to suit your style. On both, you can change the band of the watch, the clock face, probably even more. So no real notable differences on that front.

The only notable exclusion with the Samsung Gear S is an Apple Pay equivalent, but it is safe to assume that there'll be an app for that soon enough.

It seems that what the Apple Watch lacks, the Samsung Gear S makes up for; and what the Samsung Gear S lacks, the Apple Watch makes up for. The final decision is really going to come down to what smart phone you already use (or are willing to change to). Despite being able to use the Samsung Gear S on the go without needing to be within cooee of your phone, chances are that you're going to have your phone with you most times anyway to cover the gap between what the phone provides and what the watch doesn't (games, apps, video, etc). But it would be nice to duck out for a walk or a run without needing to have your phone strapped to you somewhere.

If you have an iPhone, you'll love the Apple Watch and won't miss the features that the Samsung range will offer. If you have a Samsung Galaxy, you'll love the Samsung Gear S, and will be willing to overlook the clunkiness that Apple seems to remove from their products.

Having said all of this, rumour has it that Microsoft are working on their own smart watch, that will be compatible with Windows, Android and Apple devices, just to make the choice even more difficult.

What are your thoughts? Watch the (very impressive) films of the Apple Watch. Let me know if you found it just as difficult to not be swept up in the awe. What is your first impression of the Apple Watch? Does it compare to the Samsung Gear? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Apple Launches Biggest Advancement in History.. of iPhone.

Apple Launches Biggest Advancement in History.. of iPhone.

Apple Launches Biggest Advancement in History.. of iPhone.

Many Apple fans around the world despaired as Apple's servers crashed under the global embrace during their new product launch event on September 9th.

As much as I planned to resist, I too was taken in by the innovation and overall fabulousness of the 2 new Apple iPhone 6 models: the 4.7" iPhone 6 and 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus.

You can compare iPhone 6 and iPhone 5 models together on the iPhone model comparison page of the Apple website.

The boss has already pre-ordered his new iPhone 6 - he's upgrading from an iPhone 5, and after using that phone for a couple of years and having a large-screen Galaxy Note II as his back-up, he reckons the new 4.7" version with 64Gb of storage will suit him perfectly...the 5.5" version is just that little too big, and he carries a full size tablet most places, so really had no need for a "phablet".

I too will be in the queue to get the new iPhone from the 19th (and reckon since I'm still sporting the now doubly-redundant iPhone 4, I should get priority).

Along with the 2 new iPhone 6 models (and the Apple Watch, which we'll look at next time), Apple also announced the release of the next generation of their mobile operating system: IOS8, which will open the door to a new level of innovations from the App Development community, along with the US introduction of Apple Pay - a technology that turns Apple devices into a virtual credit card - that has the potential to finally replace the fundamentally flawed "plastic" cards we now use as virtual currency.

Our US payment gateway partner Authorize.Net announced integration with Apple Pay within 24 hours of it's launch and we expect our local payment gateway partners to all over this exciting new innovation. Watch this space!

Rather than rewrite what has already been written over 9000 times across the Internet, instead, we will save you the search and list the best resources about Apple's latest offering to the Gods..

Got an opinion? What do you think about the new iPhone range? Does it stack up to the competition? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.