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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.


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.


3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

3 Hassle Free Tactics To Keep Your Website Content Fresh

In our recent article - Google Panda Goes Kung Fu On Your Website - we pointed out that Google is giving website owners a nudge to update and refresh their published content. With that in mind here's our top 3 hassle free tactics for keeping your content fresher for longer.

1: Regularly update the key message on your homepage.
It does not have to be a major re-write every time, but regularly (at least once a month) edit the primary message on your home page.
Remember, it's all about engagement, so consider including a topical or seasonal message of relevance to your audience. You might mention the season and how it relates to your business e.g. "Winter is a great time for one of our famous Irish Coffees sitting by the fire" or "With Easter fast approaching it's the perfect time to book our free vehicle safety check" or "Don't forget, your next BAS Statement is due on June 21st".

HCD Tactic: If your website allows inclusion of some sort of main image such as a banner on your homepage it is highly recommended you invest in updating this image regularly - at least several times each year. If you have a scrolling banner function you will get away with the same images in rotation for longer, and you might further extend the shelf life by swapping around the default starting image and the rotation order of the images.

2: Should you include the Date Published / Updated in your website content?
When it comes to newspapers, topical content that was news yesterday is old news today. When it comes to some areas of corporate website content there's a longer shelf life - for example your "About Us" page might only change when you have staff or other significant organisational changes and your "Product Descriptions" may also remain relevant indefinitely. In these cases you should never include the date published. Alternatively, if you publish news or a blog and write regular articles (at least one per month), then you should always include the publish date. 


HCD Tactic:
If you are not writing at least one news / blog article per month you should consider removing the news / blog altogether or at least removing the date published from articles (which is not ideal) - better still, increase the frequency you publish articles to at least one per month.

3: Recycle your content.
You can save time by publishing / archiving / re-publishing content. Be sure to give the content the once over before re-publishing to be certain it is still relevant and accurate. Re-writing the headline and the opening lines will be enough to attract a new audience.

HCD Tactic: Publishing a new image with recycled content is a great way to refresh it.

If you've got anything further to add we welcome your comments, or if you are struggling with your website content, HCD may be able to help. Please feel free to get in touch.


Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

The big news in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world is the recent release of Google Panda 4.0. If you're looking for this new app in your Google+ account, don't bother, Google Panda is one of Google's many algorithms that determine their search result rankings.

While done in the name of fairness, Panda 4.0, like many of Google's modifications, has resulted in wide-ranging change to positioning within Google search results. It even caught some of our clients in the net.

For the uninitiated, Google is now targeting websites publishing copied content or poor quality content more aggressively than ever. Panda 4.0 encourages publication of fresh, unique, user-friendly content.

The primary target: websites that 'scrape' content from other websites for publication on their own. 

This will challenge operators engaging in questionable content practices, however, it seems at the same time legitimate operators are also being penalised.

For example, consider accommodation portals such as Wotif and Expedia. Individual Accommodation providers using these platforms provide the content themselves, which in our experience is typically fed directly from their own website.

Should parties engaging in this type of practice be penalised by Google? Does Google expect the Accommodation provider to write a unique description for every Accommodation portal it advertises with?  

Only Google can answer these questions.

So what do the new changes mean for your website, and what can you do if you've been "hit"?

Google's own suggestion is "If you believe you've been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content."

HCD Tactic: Go through your content and give it a good spring clean. Rewrite your old content, remove duplicate content, and add new content that brings life back to your website.

Considering that SEO tactics at the moment consider the entire user experience, such as website navigation and having an intuitive website structure, mobile optimisation, and user-friendly content and metadata, it might also be time for a redesign or rebuild of your website.

No doubt, Google is being inundated with enquiries from businesses and website owners who have been penalised over the last fortnight, asking why they have dropped down the search results and what they can do to fix it.

If you think your website has been penalised unfairly, you can contact Google and ask them to restore your rankings.

We've compiled 5 useful sources for more information about the latest Google Panda release, and advice about what you can do to recover:

  1. Google Panda Update
  2. Google Panda Tips
  3. Google Panda Update Survival Guide
  4. High Quality Web Sites - The New Google Ranking Factor
  5. How to run blogs that inspire

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

When it comes to producing your website Terms and Conditions the best (and some would say only) approach is to seek professional legal assistance.

However, providing your lawyer with a draft for proofing should be more economical than having them prepare the contents from scratch. But then we are dealing with Lawyers.

HCD Tactic: When dealing with any service provider - Lawyers included - always get a clear indication of time / cost estimates before approving any engagement.
Lawlive.com.au is an Australian website that sells personalised templates of legal contracts and documents, including many relating to website terms and conditions for around $100.00 per document.

If your website is published in Australia you need to comply with current Australian Consumer Laws, and there may also be other industry specific requirements that could cause serious problems if overlooked.

If you're selling products or services online and accepting credit card payments, your merchant facility provider may also have specific requirements relating to the legal information you publish.

So if you're ready to tackle composition of your T's & C's, here's our 8 Point Guide outlining some of the key areas you need to cover...remembering of course that we're not lawyers, and the following is not in any way intended to be legal advice.

  1. Copyright - Australian Law automatically applies copyright to your website and content, but adding a copyright notice confirms this. Apply the statement to everything from the website design, your products, your images and your text content.
  2. Use of Information - Include a disclaimer that protects you against the use (or misuse) of the information or advice that you provide on your website. What you say may not work for everyone, and you can't predict how people may use it.
  3. Customer Returns - If you sell products or services on-line, it is essential that your Terms and Conditions comply with the latest consumer laws. You must include the following:
    • A statement that you comply with the latest Australian Consumer Law
    • The terms under which you will provide a refund, repair or replacement on faulty items or undelivered service.
    • Details of your guarantees.
    • Details of your warranties (if you provide any).
  4. Shipping Policy - If you sell products, and send them to customers by courier or mail, provide a clear outline of the terms of sending goods. Include expected costs and delivery times, your policy for late or undelivered goods, and any responsibilities of the customer.
  5. Industry/Product Specialist Risks - If you are in certain industries, or sell products that have a higher set of risks (like health advise or products for example), you should seek professional legal advice in relation to inclusion of special terms and conditions, such as for example disclaimers that limit claims for possible injuries or losses that may be caused by using any of your products or services.
  6. Amount of Liability - Most importantly, include a clause that limits the amount of your liability from any claims made against you or your business, including a maximum claim amount for damages (the amount paid for the product or service for example).
  7. Terms for International Customers - If you sell your products or services to customers overseas, include separate terms that cover international customers and their consumer laws.
  8. Privacy - Australian Privacy Laws changed in March 2014. Australian Private Sector Organisations are required to have a "clearly expressed and up-to-date privacy policy describing how they manage personal information". While not every Australian website is legally obligated to publish a privacy policy, if you are engaging your audience via interactive functions such as newsletter subscriptions, online shopping systems or even just simple online forms such as a contact form, you'll need to disclose how you manage the personal information you're collecting.

Publishing current, clear, business specific Terms and Conditions that have been approved by professional legal counsel provides peace of mind for your customers while serving to mitigate the risk of legal action and costly penalties and fines for non compliance with your obligations.

For the latest consumer law information, visit the Australian Consumer Law website and for more information about the new Australian Privacy Laws visit the Privacy section of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, or select the link below to download the plain English factsheet.