Browsing articles in "SEO Blog"

How to Use WordPress to Communicate in Every Language

May 11, 2012   //   by AmandaDi   //   blogging, SEO Blog  //  9 Comments

Designing a website is all about driving traffic to that website—a website can have the greatest information in the world, but it means nothing if no one is reading. You want to catch a reader’s attention through infographics and cool typography, and then the reading will begin. In a sense, you as the designer are the first piece to the puzzle. Once the reading begins, it is out of the designers hands and into the hands of the writers, right? In many cases yes, a writer has to provide quality, clear information to make a website worthwhile. What many designers don’t realize, however, is that they too can improve the actual content of a website (beyond making it look nice).

Many companies are starting to see the potential in translating their websites into different languages. According to the Internet World Stats, English is the most used language on the Internet at 536.6 million users. For this reason, having a website in English is extremely important; however, the benefits to translating a website into different languages are a little less well-known. A few of these benefits include:

  • Wider Audience – This is probably the most obvious reasons a company would want to translate a website. You will be opening up information to people around the world.
  • Loyal Readers -Although many people speak English, many speak it as their second language. If you offer information in their native language, you will likely capture those readers time and time again.
  • Improved SEO – You will be able to rank highly on search engines in other languages because there is less competition. You website may also do well if someone was to type in a different language on an English search engine. Either way, it can’t hurt.
  • New Perspectives – Most company websites have an option to give feedback or comment on a blog. With other languages able to read the website, you will have a variety of opinions to help you improve your website.
  • Duplicate Content – This does not count across languages, so if you are managing a blog you will not need to worry about writing separate articles for each language you’re targeting.

Most Popular Types of Translation Services

Once you and/or your company have decided to offer content in another language, it is the job of the web designer to install a WordPress plugin. At first glance it seems a bit confusing because there are so many plugins available, but consider a few that are the most popular:

1. Google Translate – This is one of the quickest and most inexpensive ways to translate your blog into different languages. This is considered the best if you expect that most of your readers speak English, but you want to offer the option of different languages. Download the plugin here at Google Translate and then copy the code into WordPress just as you would with any plugin. If you need a refresher course, the Google Translate website will walk you through step by step. You will be surprised just how easy it is!

 

2. Global Translator – This is one of the best WordPress plugins if you expect your website to be read in a language other than English. If you decide to take this route, it will create subdirectories for all of the translated content. Although this causes extra pages on a website, some prefer this for organization. Download it here and get started.

3. WP Translate – You can’t get much simpler than WP translate. Your readers will be able to select the language they need from a drop down menu. The plugin works as a widget on your WordPress site and you can select the title of this widget. You can download this plugin and learn more information here.

Getting Started with Translation Step by Step

Once you decide which plugin is right for you, it’s time to put the plugin into WordPress. All three services are extremely similar when it comes to downloading and uploading. The below steps take you through how to set up Google Translate onto WordPress:

Step #1: Download – You can download Google Translate here. This widget will bring Google Translate to your sidebar. All your readers have to do is choose from a dropdown menu which language they’d like to read.

Step #2: Select Type of Translation Element – You will have one of two choices: You can either add translation to the entire webpage or add translation to a section of the webpage.

Step #3: Select Language of Your Webpage – This will most likely be “English” for those reading this article.

Step #4: Translation Language and Display Mode – Here you decide which languages you want available to readers and how you want the dropdown menu to look (vertical, horizontal, etc.). You can click specific languages or select all languages available.

Step #5: Copy the Code – This is the most important step. You will need to copy this code into the body section of the web page that you want to be available in other languages.

Once finished, be sure to preview your webpage and make sure everything looks the way you had envisioned. Both of the services will take you through the steps as you begin the process, so few people have any problems. It’s as easy as that!

Quick Tips about Translation Services

  • Just as with any language translation services, no computer can translate a piece of content absolutely perfect. Some slang terms or formalities may change, but the general message will remain intact. Even if the language is not perfect, readers will understand that you are using a translation service. They will still get the overall message.
  • Many business owners get nervous that they will not be able to answer a comment if it is in a different language. However, it is possible to use Google Translate to translate your responses. Copy and paste the comment into Google Translate that you can find online, see what it says, type your comment, translate it, and then paste it as a response to the comment. It’s extremely easy! I will also add that although many people may read your blog in another language, most will actually answer in English!

In the end, translating a website into several languages will be worthwhile for just about every company. For this reason, knowing how to set-up these WordPress plugins will be a necessity in the future. If you are a web designer who knows how to make this happen, you will be all the more marketable to companies hoping to optimize their website in 2012.

Photo Credit: webtechpoint.com

AmandaDi

Amanda DiSilvestro is a graduate of Illinois State University. Although she graduated with an English Education degree, she found herself working as a full-time blogger in the SEO/social media department at HigherVisibility SEO, a leading franchise SEO company.

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Why I Chose the Plain Jane WordPress Comment System Over Others

May 11, 2012   //   by Kristi Hines   //   blogging, SEO Blog  //  25 Comments

There are a lot of options when it comes choosing a comment system for your self-hosted WordPress blog. So when people ask me what I suggest, I always say that I go for the basic WordPress comment system that comes with your blog upon installation. Here are some questions I always ask people to consider before choosing a third-party comment system.

1. How will your site speed be affected?

Pingdom did a great study on the WordPress comment system’s load time vs. four popular third-party systems: Livefyre, IntenseDebate, Disqus, and Facebook. Here are their results.

Third Party WordPress Comment System Speed Testing

Is the time difference significant? In most cases, not really. But what you have to consider is that if you want a speedy site, you need to optimize everything possible. 1,000 milliseconds here and there can add up to a lot when you consider all of your other plugins, banners, widgets, and images.

2. Who will own your comment author’s data?

When you comment on the basic WordPress comment system, you enter your name, email address, and a comment. That information goes into the WordPress database which the blog owner can backup and export at will. Most third-party comment systems will put the same comment data into your WordPress database. Before you install a third-party comment system, you should be sure that you will still be able to get this information into your database so you can retain ownership of your comments if you decide to remove the comment system at a later date. Speaking of which…

3. What will happen to your comments if you switch systems?

For most people, migrating from a third-party comment system back to WordPress is pretty simple. For others, I have seen some “interesting” things happen. Things like the comments from one post somehow duplicated themselves onto other posts and had to be manually deleted. Also, I saw a customized WordPress theme that was built around the third-party comment system. When the blog owner removed it, they lost the formatting and threading of all of their comments. So along with the question of who owns your comment data, you have find out what will happen to your blog if you choose a third-party comment system and change your mind.

4. How easy will it be for your visitors to comment?

As a tech savvy person, you might forget about how people who are new to the blogosphere will feel about comment systems that require logins. Anyone can understand name, email, website (optional), and comment. Some might get lost in the signup process for a third-party comment system and never get around to actually leaving a comment on your blog.

5. Is it spam you are worried about?

Third-party comment systems boast about spam control and advanced community management features. Registration supposedly cuts down on spammers, right? Not necessarily. Comment spammers can figure their way around any system. Allowing them to register for a comment system means that they get the green light on blogs that allow registered users’ comments to post automatically.

Need more reasons?

If these aren’t good enough arguments to keep you on the base WordPress comment system, then there are two more things to consider.

  • CommentLuv Plugin – A great way to encourage comments and get to know comment authors by seeing their latest blog posts. You can even encourage social sharing with CommentLuv premium!
  • Aweber Plugin – If you use Aweber as your mailing list program, you can install this plugin which will add a simple checkbox to your comment form. This makes it easy for comment authors to also subscribe to your mailing list.

If you own a self-hosted WordPress blog, what comment system do you use and why? How do you feel about the others?

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Don't miss her Web Domination Review on Kikolani. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!

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Inspiration for Online Marketing Success with Pinterest

May 9, 2012   //   by Kaila Strong   //   SEO Blog, Social Media  //  7 Comments

If you don’t know already, I’m obsessed with Pinterest. I use it a bit as a hobby but mostly I’m interested in browsing to see what others pin and how they organize their pins. There is so much valuable marketing inspiration contained on Pinterest, you just have to go out and find it.

Tomorrow I have a post going live on Search Engine Watch that discusses using Pinterest as a way to conduct market research. One of the things I share in the post that I discovered, is what a wealth of information you can glean to help you improve your website using Pinterest. In the end I think I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key areas in Pinterest that can help inspire a website owner.

Categories
The sheer nature of Pinterest is enough to inspire a bit of a website upgrade. The site is so clean, sleek and modern that it’s easy and simple to browse. Additionally, the site’s magazine type layout and heavy photo focus is what appeals to many.

Using the categories as well as search function on Pinterest, you can conduct a bit of research to see the images and items in your niche or industry that are popular. Whether it’s instructographics and how tos to infographics and photos of products, each of these image asset types can be developed and used on your site. Pinterest may inspire you to start a gallery on your website and add additional image assets throughout your site.

Boards
I love looking at how users pin images and organize their boards. The board names themselves are hilarious, creative and often interesting. As a website owner, you can use the boards of users pinning posts on your site to help you organize content better. Maybe several users have pinned products on your site and added them to a board called “Graduation party ideas”. If you don’t already have items categorized into a list that is easy to find on your site during graduation season then you should – and users have already done it for you. Check out that board and see what other products and items are there.

Boards can also help you to understand how a user might categorize pages on your site and products as well. Seeing this data may inspire you to set up split testing with different navigation pathways for visitors or organize content differently in the future.

Gifts

Many products are submitted to Pinterest and marketed by their owners. Often these are small business owners and they know a thing or two about marketing their products. Monitoring the Gifts section in Pinterest can give you ideas to improve the product offerings on your site and show you better ways to present your items.

If you carry an item that many others carry in order to be successful you need to make yourself stand out. Pinterest can help you to see what makes others stand out and eventually you may start to see a pattern in the information, a display style and color combination that really seems to work all because you saw it on Pinterest.

Comments
While the platform isn’t heavily comment based, there are still a lot of comments to read through and glean information for your online marketing purposes. Many users simply repin or like but don’t comment, sowhen they do you should listen. Start monitoring what users pin on your site, by going to pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com, and see what they comment on their pins.

A pin that might say “this would go well with” something else, or “I like this but in a different color”, can be used to pair a product with something else or improve a product offering on your site. Additionally the comments may shed some light on other competitors. Users are often asking each other where to buy the item in the photo. Those with the inside track will give little known places to purchase the item. These sites might be your competitors and are worthy of investigation.

Pinterest can be used for so many things, inspiration for your website is just one of them. How are you finding inspiration on Pinterest? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Kaila Strong

Kaila Strong is an avid tweeter (@cliquekaila), and marketer in the Phoenix area.

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The Case of 60% (or Above) ‘Money Keyword’ Anchor Text!

May 8, 2012   //   by Obaidul Haque   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  9 Comments

Anchor text has long been the SEO trump card. However, the last couple of algorithmic updates have turned things around quite a bit. On the one hand, Google’s Panda is targeting low quality sites (low value for the user, copied content). On the other, Google’s Penguin update is hitting those sites that engage in web spam (keyword stuffing, link spam). All these updates clearly signal that you can no more loophole your way to higher search rankings in Google.

The golden era of ‘exact match anchor text’ is finally over.

Thanks to manipulative link building techniques, exact match anchor text is fast losing its importance. In fact, Google is trying to close all the loopholes one after another. A lack of natural links is all you need to see your site fall apart.

Though Google had already been targeting sites that over-optimized their anchor text (for higher rankings overnight), its attack is now more intense than ever. The recently rolled out Penguin update has taken all the webmasters by storm. You can no more blast a site to the top of Google search results by getting tons of links with an exact match anchor text like ‘best seo company’.

According to recently conducted study by Microsite Masters, it’s come to light that sites that were negatively hit by Google’s Penguin update had used ‘money keyword’ in their anchor text as much as 60% (or above) of all linking text. Such a high percentage of money keyword in all inbound links of a site sent manipulative signals to Google. And that’s why these sites with aggressive exact match anchor text were negatively hit. Sites whose money keyword percentage in anchor text was below 50% were not affected by Google’s Penguin update.

Exact Match vs Partial Match Anchor Text
The fact that sites that had a money keyword as their anchor text below 50% were not impacted negatively also clarifies that exact match anchor text hasn’t lost their weight entirely. Yes, it definitely means one thing that you should quickly quit obsessing over exact match anchor text linking. Instead of focusing too much on similar anchor text, it’s a good idea to use partial match keywords.

If you want to rank for keywords ‘article marketing software’ for example, you can use partial matches like ‘the best software for article marketing’, ‘make your article marketing easy’ and ‘article marketer’s software’ among others.

Link Relevance & Diversity
Most importantly, you need to focus on two major elements of anchor text linking – relevance and diversity. When a search engine crawler crawls a link, it also tracks the degree of relevance. A good link value is, therefore, passed when the crawler verifies that links pointing back to your sites are from credible and related sources (both linking page- and domain-wise) . Apart from focusing on link relevance, you need to use different variations of anchor text.

Variations may include your brand name, the URL name, short-tail keywords, long-tail keywords and partial match keywords as anchor text. The more diverse your anchor text linking profile is, the more natural it will look to search engines.

This is What You Need to Do
The first step is to take a closer look at your internal or on-site anchor text linking (over which you’ve all control). Make sure you’re not over-optimizing. Second, you need to analyze the anchor text links pointing back to your site from external sources. If you notice a higher exact match anchor text pattern, you need to take action. If it’s in your control (in case you know site owners personally), you can tweak the anchor text with different variations. If this is beyond your control or doesn’t sound practical, you should start building links with different variations of anchor text to balance out things before it’s really too late.

What’s in your anchor text? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

Obaidul Haque

Obaidul works as an SEO manager handling client projects. He focuses heavily on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). Also a passionate blogger and freelance writer, he shares his insightful views regularly on HelloBloggerz . You can follow him on Google Plus or Twitter.

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In Case You Missed It: Your Rank Tracking Reports Are Now Useless

May 3, 2012   //   by Lukas   //   SEO Blog  //  36 Comments

Truth be told, I was never a big fan of keyword ranking reports. Sure, seeing your website in that sweet #1 spot is a nice ego boost, and a lot of clients fixate on the precise position of keywords that they deem most important to their business, but these reports often obfuscate metrics that actually matter. After all, attaining that much sought-after top spot is virtually meaningless if it doesn’t translate into qualified visitors, leads, and/or sales.

That said, pending some major, fundamental change in the way people search for information online, it doesn’t look like keyword ranking reports are going away anytime soon, so the least you can do is make sure you’re using a software package capable of producing reports that are accurate.

There are quite a few options on this front, some better than others. I’ve had success using rank tracking software produced by SEOmoz and Link-Assistant.com, but no solution is perfect, and you should do your own due diligence, especially if you’re opting for a paid package.

Still, courtesy of the Google Venice update, if you’re currently in the market for rank tracking software, you might want to save your money, at least for the near future. Here’s why:

In February, Google announced that it was releasing a major update to its ranking algorithm. Dubbed “Venice”, the update was developed to improve “the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.” That’s a handful, so here’s a ten-second primer.

Prior to the update, if you searched for a keyword like “bagels”, you’d generally be presented with two sets of results. At the top would be Google Places listings, i.e. local bakeries, as determined by your location, which Google can detect automatically. Underneath would be national organic results, e.g. Wikipedia links, blogs with bagel recipes, etc.

In other words, local content was limited to the Places listings at the top. If you wanted to have organic presence, you’d literally have to optimize for the keyword “bagel” and beat out major brands like Einstein Bros Bagels and Dunkin’ Donuts.

With Venice, things have changed. Just take a look at the screenshot below:

Google Search Results Page

What you see are depersonalized results for the term “seo” with my location set to Tampa, FL.

Carefully look through the organic results, specifically #3. See that? An organic result for an SEO training company that’s based in Tampa, Florida! Notice that we didn’t search for “Tampa SEO”. In fact, we didn’t include any sort of geographic modifier in our search query, and yet a small company is holding #3 spot for what would normally be an uber-competitive term.

Now let’s try changing the location to Miami, FL.

Google Search Engine Results Page

Again, take a look at result #5: Royal Internet Marketing, a marketing company that provides SEO services and that’s based in Miami, Florida.

Essentially, Google got a lot better at recognizing when there might be local intent behind the query, and is displaying organic results that change based on your location. Let’s try setting our location to USA. It was hard to take a screenshot of the entire search results page, but the results are what you were probably already expecting: all of the relevant local listings disappeared!

If you haven’t put the pieces together yet, this change profoundly impacts the way we measure rankings. Virtually all popular rank tracking packages check results that have been fully depersonalized, i.e. the location is set to USA. What does this mean in practice?

Say that your client is a divorce attorney in Chicago, IL. For demonstration purposes only, let’s assume that the client’s website URL is www.divorce-lawyers-chicago.com (disclosure: I have no connection or affiliation with this website, it’s being used here only as a relevant example). As part of your monthly report, you look at where your client ranks for the keyword “Chicago divorce attorney”. This is the set of search results that most rank tracking software packages would be working with to determine where you stand:

Google Search Results Page

As you can see, within the organic results, you hold position #3, not bad (first two organic results are not shown). But not all people think in terms of the keyword + city paradigm. In fact, even my own primitive research with a few AdWords Express campaigns has shown that people regularly search without geographical modifiers.

Let’s look at what happens if we change the location to Chicago, IL and do a query for “divorce attorney” (same query as before, just removing the “Chicago” modifier).

Google Search Results Page

WOW! Suddenly, we’ve moved up, and are now #1 in the organic results, even above majority of the Google Places listings that follow.

Here’s the thing, though. Because most rank trackers work with the depersonalized results where the location is set to USA, you’d never be able to make and report this discovery unless you had performed the ranking checks manually.

In other words, if you’re currently relying on ranking packages like those of SEOmoz and Link-Assistant.com, your reports are largely incomplete! These tools simply don’t have the option of emulating local search behavior, at least not yet.

There is some glimmer of hope. According to the head of customer support at Brightlocal, the company is actively working to implement this feature in the next roll-out of their web-based rank checking software, but no information yet on just how soon that’ll happen.

I can only presume that the awesome folks over at SEOmoz and Link-Assistant.com are also aware of this problem and are working to update their own rank trackers, but to the best of my knowledge, there have been no details released yet of the when and how. My coding knowledge is pitiful, so I unfortunately can’t comment on how difficult of an undertaking this is.

The lesson here is pretty simple, but important: checking rankings manually is boring and burdensome, especially if you’re working with a large keyword set, but if you want to get an understanding of where you truly stand, it might be time to ditch the automation tools and get busy.

What rank tracking solution do YOU use? How has the Google Venice update affected your keyword rank monitoring strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Lukas

Lukas Pleva is an SEO intern at Webhead Interactive, a full-service online marketing firm based in Tampa, Florida. When he’s not a student at The University of Chicago, he likes to dabble in SEO, social media marketing, and web design. He currently oversees marketing campaigns for St. Pete Bagel Co., an online merchant specializing in the sale of mail order bagels, bialys, and high-end coffee.

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The Role of Metrics in Social Media Campaigns

May 1, 2012   //   by Obaidul Haque   //   SEO Blog, Social Media  //  9 Comments

Seeing the number of your social media fans (Facebook), followers (Twitter) or subscribers (YouTube) grow feels good. But is that an accurate measurement of the effectiveness of your social media campaigns? Definitely, not! That’s why the biggest challenge that most of the small businesses face today is how to accurately measure the ROI of a social media strategy. Unless and until you know the goals (in regard with your larger sales and marketing strategy) and select the right metrics to focus on, it’s impossible to gauge where your social media campaigns are actually headed.

Before you take a plunge into measuring the ROI of your social media efforts, it’s vital to be clear about what you’re looking to achieve. Different social media campaigns have different purposes or goals. When you’re aware of your ultimate goals, you’ll also find it easy to choose the most appropriate social media channels to focus on.

Do you want your social media fans to engage with your brand? Do you want them to share your content? Do you want them to purchase your products? Do you want them to spread the word about your brand? There are many other goals that you may want to fulfill by launching a social media marketing campaign. The more clarity of goals you have, the better metrics you can select to measure the ROI of your campaigns. As a result, this strategic approach also enables you to modify your campaigns as required.

Measuring the ROI
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to measure the ROI of your social media strategy. There are general metrics that you can use to measure the degree of interaction for your social media pages. Second, there are campaign-focused metrics that you can use to find out whether you’re achieving your larger sales and marketing goals. General metrics relate to networking or building a community of followers whereas campaign-focused metrics are about conversion.

General metrics for a social media campaigns may include ‘likes’, ‘fans’ ‘followers’, ‘shares’, ‘comments’, ‘replies’ etc. By focusing on these metrics, you’ll find out whether your fans are followers are interacting. As a result, you’ll be able to learn the significance of your social network community.

Examples of campaign-focused metrics or goal-based metrics would include traffic to your website or blog, rate of subscription, sales of products and online lead generation among others. If your goal is to drive traffic, you can track URL shares and the rate of click-throughs. To dig out further, you can try to find out what visitors actually do or how they respond once they are on your site. This type of analysis can help you to improve the rate of conversion.

What’s the meaning of having 10,000 Twitter followers if your business objective is to generate online leads? That’s exactly why there’s a sea of difference between general metrics and campaign-based metrics. It’s always important to focus on those metrics that align with your large business goals. If you fail to select appropriate metrics to track, you can never get the maximum out of a social media marketing campaign. So, focus on the right metrics!

Network-by-Network Analysis
Apart from measuring the effort on all your social networks on an aggregate basis, you should also remember to get the picture of how you’re doing with each of the networks you’re using. A network-by-network analysis will help you identify which social platforms are most fulfilling your goals. And then you can invest most of your money and time on those networks that bring you the best results.

Have you chosen the right metrics to focus on? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.

Obaidul Haque

Obaidul works as an SEO manager handling client projects. He focuses heavily on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). Also a passionate blogger and freelance writer, he shares his insightful views regularly on HelloBloggerz . You can follow him on Google Plus or Twitter.

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Is Facebook’s BranchOut Really Going to Outshine LinkedIn?

May 1, 2012   //   by AmandaD   //   SEO Blog, Social Media  //  16 Comments

Facebook truly seems to be the network that likes to compete. First the takeover of MySpace, then the Twitter-like change to the homepage, then the purchase of Instagram to compete with Pinterest, and now BranchOut—LinkedIn’s new nemesis. This professional networking platform was actually launched in July, 2010 and has quietly been gaining speed ever since. Today, BranchOut has 25 million users with a rate of 3 new users per second. Although this number sounds great, I could help but think to myself: But LinkedIn still has 131,200,000 users, so what’s all the buzz about?

As it turns out, the answer is quite clear: It took LinkedIn 65 months to reach the level that BranchOut has now achieved in a mere 16 months.

How BranchOut Works and How to Get Started

Although people were reluctant to connect professional matters with the very personal matters of Facebook, BranchOut only shows education and work history. You can also connect with someone on BranchOut without becoming Facebook friends, which adds an extra level of privacy for the skeptic. You can get started with BranchOut by either accepting an invitation from another BranchOut user, or typing BranchOut.com into the Facebook search box. Once the app is installed, it will prompt you to grow your BranchOut network. Below is an example of when I was asked to include my friends in my new BranchOut network:

Once you click “include them,” your friends will get a request asking if they would like to join your community. Getting started is as easy as that. You are then brought to your profile page where you can import a resume, look through all of your connections and search for new connections, and check out your endorsements. Below is a screenshot of my profile page:

My profile is fairly empty right now, but the idea is there. You can see that I still need to improve my resume and flesh out my work history. However, Facebook took my work history information from my profile and went ahead and added it to my BranchOut profile. This makes creating a profile very easy and quick for those who have a fairly detailed Facebook account.

You will also notice that there is a tab at the top of the screen titled “jobs.” This is where I can go and type in a job that I’m looking to find. Below is an example of a search I did for the job “social media manager” that turned up three results:

If you were to continue scrolling down the page, you would see that you could filter results based on your experience, a specific industry, and whether or not you’re looking for full time, part, time, internship, etc. Although I am a new user, I can already tell that this application is intuitive and easy to use (which is something I can’t say about all the features of Facebook).

The Benefits for BranchOut vs. LinkedIn

Having a presence on both social networks will help you expand our circles to the fullest. Certain employers may use one over the other, so a candidate will want to be prepared on both platforms in order to find the maximum number of relevant job listings. As long as you can stay active and can maintain both profiles, employers will be happy to see that you are social media fluent.

Saying that BranchOut is better than LinkedIn would be incorrect, but there are a few things that make BranchOut different and a few extra benefits that the application can offer:

  • Facebook is larger. Most people sign up for a LinkedIn account and have to try and sync it up with an email address to find connections. With Facebook, you can find a huge pool of connections with the click of one button.
  • The connections are broader. The connections you will make on BranchOut are much broader than those you would make on LinkedIn. Many of your friends may not be on LinkedIn, but chances are they are on Facebook. This helps make your connections more personal.
  • It’s easy to get started for those intimidated by LinkedIn. Young graduates are more likely to get started with BranchOut over LinkedIn because they already have a Facebook account. For this reason, there is a good chance BranchOut will be the next big thing.

In terms of features, both sites are very similar—search functionality for jobs, filters, finding connections, promoting content, etc.—so I believe it is really a matter of preference. If you have a large following on Facebook, BranchOut is worth setting up. If Facebook was never really your network of choice, sticking with LinkedIn only is still a great way to grow your personal brand. As long as you can make at least one work, you’ll be in a good position when it comes time to find a job.

Are you active on BranchOut? What have been your experiences? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: recruiter.com

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to employment background checks. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including recruitment to small businesses and entrepreneurs for a lead generation website, Resource Nation. 

AmandaD

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for Highervisibility, a nationally recognized SEO firm that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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Were You Hit by Panda 3.5?

Apr 27, 2012   //   by Kristi Hines   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  15 Comments

As you are probably well aware of, Google released their latest Panda / webspam algorithm update this week in order to reward high quality sites. What they specifically targeted was “black hat webspam” including keyword stuffing and link schemes. By devaluing sites that participated in these black hat techniques or anything against Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines, they are hoping to provide better user experience for searchers on the web.

Was Your Site Affected

According to Search Engine Land’s Winners & Losers post about sites affected by the latest Panda update, losing sites could be summarized as those which use databases to aggregate information, press portals & aggregators, and heavily templated sites. The top sites that lost the highest percentage of SEO visibility included familiar names like:

  • Similarsites.com
  • Cubestat.com
  • Merchantcircle.com
  • Aboutus.org
  • Digg.com
  • Bloglines.com

So how can you tell if your site was affected? Start watching your Google Analytics, particularly your Organic search traffic.

If you start to see the graph significantly dip after April 24th, then there is a good chance your site was affected.

You might also want to check your Google Webmaster Tools if you have set it up for your websites. Google has been sending notifications to webmasters in the last month about unnatural link activity.

Don’t freak out right away if you have new messages – Webmaster Tools also notifies you if you need a WordPress update!

What to Do If Your Site Was Affected?

So what do you need to do if your site was affected? You’ll need to be on the lookout for two things: over-optimization with your on-site SEO and unnatural, spammy links. Over-optimization usually boils down to keyword stuffing – too many keywords on a page in the title tag, meta description, and within the content. Unnatural, spammy links usually boils down to too much exact match anchor text and links in unnatural places. SEO.com has a great post on red flags to look for in your link portfolio.

If possible, you will want to remove any over-optimization on your website and try to have any spammy links taken down, then contact Google and ask for reconsideration back into their good graces.

How to Prevent Your Site from Getting Penalized

If your site wasn’t affected by the latest update, and you want to keep it from getting penalized in the future, be sure to do some preventative work like making sure your on-site SEO isn’t overly-optimized. Translation: have more quality content than keywords.

Also, don’t participate in unnatural link building tactics including, but not limited to:

  • Over-used anchor text: Yes, it’s ok to use anchor text, but don’t build every single link to best SEO agency. Mix it up with different keyword phrases, your business / website / brand name, and other variations. Remember that the point is to look natural, and Google knows that 500 sites won’t link to the same exact keyword phrase every single time.
  • Spamming: This includes crappy comments, crappy forum posts, and crappy article directories using crappy spun content. Again, all unnatural looking elements.
  • Link exchanges: While it’s OK to link to someone with a similar website and have them link back to you, it’s not OK to link to just anyone’s homepage and have them link back to you on their link exchange, resources, or other sites of interests pages. Especially if those pages on other sites are linking to a ton of different websites that has nothing to do with yours.
  • Paying for links: If you are following a competitor’s backlink trail and buying blogroll links on the same sites they are, then you will start creating a noticeable “pattern” that Google might detect one day. Think about it – if they bust Site A for buying links, and they see that Site B and Site C have links on the same exact sites that Site A has links on, they’ll make the connection.

Was your site (or a favorite of yours) hit by the latest algorithm update? What are you doing to prevent your site from being penalized?

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Don't miss her Web Domination Review on Kikolani. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!

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Google Webmaster Tools You Should Use Today

Apr 25, 2012   //   by Kaila Strong   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  12 Comments

Whether you have a large site or a very small site, having a Google Webmaster Tool account set up is essential. In GWT webmasters can see the inner workings of a website as it relates to Google. That information can be extremely valuable when evaluating your sites performance and tailoring your efforts to achieve your goals faster.

Crawl Errors
In GWT users can see what errors were encountered by the Googlebot when crawling and indexing your site. Errors with crawling sitemaps, HTTP errors, pages not found or broken links, URLs not followed, URLs restricted by robots.txt, URLs that take too much time to load, and pages that are unreachable can be seen in the “Crawl Errors” section of GWT. This information is extremely helpful if you have a large site to manage.

Errors may indicate an issue with innumerable items on your site. Each error should be examined in detail by an expert to determine its accuracy. Servers can often act strangely and not perform correctly for search engines. Some have even found Googlebot has crashed their sites, but offer solutions in many posts available online. Look at the error reports and determine the cause. Attempt to fix the issues you find because a site that can be crawled without error is certainly a good thing.

Meta Descriptions & Title Tags
I find the meta descriptions and title tags section to be very useful in GWT. Duplicate pages are shown in this section and errors with title tags or descriptions are shown as well. Any duplicates should be examined for accuracy. Inaccurate data should be further researched as it may showcase an issue.

For example, I’ve seen sites that showed thousands of duplicated meta titles and descriptions but the duplicated pages weren’t suppose to be seen. They had 301 redirects in place but Googlebot was still finding the content. These errors in GWT notified us of an issue which required additional research. In the end the issue led us back to their website’s load balancers and cache server settings. GWT can hold valuable information so make a point to examine this particular area often.

Search Queries
Find the top queries and top pages drawing in the most impressions and clicks on Google. With the limited data available in Google Analytics due to encrypted search, users can use GWT to see additional data as it relates to specific queries. Average position of a search query is available in this section along with percent increase and decrease over the course of a set period. A little over 30 days of data is available at a time and is available for download on demand.

Some webmasters have discovered their sites were hacked by examining this section in GWT. Search queries that contain pornographic terms, drug terms, or gambling terms are obvious signs you have an issue in the innermost workings of your site.

+1 Metrics
While the effect and popularity of Google + is still being determined, I’ve started to examine the +1 Metrics section of GWT to see if I can start to discern any patterns or growth. For certain sites with a high tech male demographic, Google + is performing quite well. GWT will show you +1 annotated impressions, CTR without +1 and CTR with +1.

Activity and audience data is also available, so you can see popular posts as they get +1s and grow over time. As the site grows in popularity, examination of this data will be important to your efforts with content marketing and social media marketing. Have a post that is seeing a decline? Repromote on Google+ and push renewed strength into the content piece. There are many ways you can use the data, the first step is actually looking.

These are just a few of the ways I use Google Webmaster Tools to help examine issues with a site and stay on top of all the moving parts involved in managing a website for search.

How do you use GWT to help you with your website? Share with us in the comments below. 

Kaila Strong

Kaila Strong is an avid tweeter (@cliquekaila), and marketer in the Phoenix area.

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Use Post Titles to Create Social Signals (for Better SEO)

Apr 24, 2012   //   by Obaidul Haque   //   SEO, SEO Blog  //  14 Comments

Last few updates by Google have made it quite obvious that social signals will play a major role in ranking content. Five to ten years ago, ranking at the top of search results was all about algorithms. To rank at the top, all you needed to do was to optimize the content copy for a set of targeted keywords. Now, search is also about people while social is just about people. That means, social media and search are highly intertwined today.

Major search engines like Google have begun to understand people (and relationships). That’s why you need to create as many social signals for your content as possible for higher search rankings.

When it comes to creating social signals for your content, titles have got a major role to play. Apart from creating content that’s really useful to your audience, you also need to make sure that your content is shared by a large number of people. The more shares your articles get, the better social signals you send to search engines. And, titles have a huge impact on shareability.

Usually, sharing is instantaneous. Great content with average titles may get a good number of shares. But it’s actually harder. Many people would share an article only because the title grabbed their attention immediately. That’s a clear signal that titles can make a great impact in terms of social sharing.

Great Titles = More Social Sharing = Better Search Rankings

Writing great titles is also a good practice from SEO point of view. Today, post titles have far outweighed meta keywords and meta description. As SEO continues to evolve, major search engines are placing more value on top quality content and downgrading over-optimized ones.

Titles are more important today than ever before.

Those few words that you use in the title will decide whether your content will be shared by thousands of people or barely noticed. Well-crafted titles can spread your content like wildfire across the web.

In their book ‘Made to Stick’, the Heath Brothers state that any good news or editorial writer may devote 80% of their time to writing the title. The time that’s left will be used to put together the body of the content.

Since social signals are vital to enhance your SEO, it’s high time to pay some careful attention to crafting titles. Some of the most important elements that make a title attention-grabbing include emotion, expectation, curiosity and benefit among others. Titles that are short, descriptive and eye-catching carry high viral potential. Though a title is just a group of few words, it’s the real game changer in the world of social media. In any case, you should never compromise on the overall quality of the article.

There are multiple ways to assess the effectiveness of your post titles. One of them is using a URL shortener. A URL shortener like bit.ly can help you a great deal in this regard. It can tell you the CTR and the number of shares for each of your links posted to different social networking websites. Using such URL shorteners, you can also A/B-test your titles.

You can get started with it by creating two different shortened links for the same article. Next, you can use two different title versions to post the article. The bit.ly stats for those links will tell you which title version made the most impact.

I would also recommend the use of Most Shared Posts WordPress Plugin. Once installed on your blog, this plugin will inform you which of your posts received the most social sharing on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. This data will help you analyze the effectiveness of your titles.

How much time do you spend crafting the title of your post? Please feel free to talk back in comments.

Obaidul Haque

Obaidul works as an SEO manager handling client projects. He focuses heavily on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM). Also a passionate blogger and freelance writer, he shares his insightful views regularly on HelloBloggerz . You can follow him on Google Plus or Twitter.

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