When it comes to improving organic search rankings, business owners will do anything to get ahead. That’s why so many wonder whether using AdWords and being paying Google customers will help their rankings or not. Matt Cutts, Google’s Web Spam boss, says it does not.

Cutts participated in a Google Webmaster Q&A in October and explained that Google attempts to be as fair and even as possible, regardless who they’re dealing with. This means that those that pay for AdWords and those that don’t get equal treatment.

Check out some of Cutts Q&A session at the iNeedHits blog.

Every topic I cover can be as complicated as you let them be. With the focus on minute data and snippets of code, SEO could easily be intimidating for anyone trying to get started learning.

This is a problem for local SEO because most business owners aren’t experts. If they think of local SEO as a daunting field, rather than seeing the opportunities it could open up for them, they are likely to shy away.

With this in mind, I’d like to take us back to the basics. We haven’t covered local SEO here in depth, so this will serve as a great place to begin exploring the topic. But, the tips offered here are valuable for broader SEO as well.

For good local SEO, there are really three major rules.

  • Get your website up to standards
  • Spread your business details everywhere
  • Use social media to get your customers to do promotion for you

Getting your website up to standard

Google is beginning to combine regular and local search results, and your website quality helps decide where you will land in the local search results, as well as more broad searches. Making a quality site relies on you doing a few specific things. For one, your site should have a clear and functional structure with a set heirarchy of pages. This will help Google’s crawlers go where you want them too, and know what is most important.

Another, more basic step in making a good page is just filling your site to the brim with quality content. Your content makes your first impression to customers as well as search engines. Putting out continuous good content keeps bringing search crawlers back to your page, and generate backlinks to your site from other pages.

Spread your business details

This one is quick and easy, so I’m going to let Myles Anderson from Search Engine Land sum it up. “Having your correct business details widely available is positive for local SEO and sets you up nicely to take advantage of the mobile-boom. Many of the same data sources which feed the desktop internet also feed mobile sites and applications so even if your website isn’t mobile enabled your business will appear on popular mobile applications.”

This is especially true for local SEO because people are searching to be able to contact YOU. Make it easy for them. Google will reward you for it. But don’t get lazy once your information is out there. Remember where you have put it by keeping a record. If you ever move, or change phone numbers, you will need to go change it everywhere the old information is.

Be social!

Just like everywhere else online, Google is becoming more and more intertwined with social media. If you don’t have a social media account for your business, it is time to get one. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are all very influential in your SEO status. From there, make it easy to share your content from your site with social media buttons prominently connected with content. Once you have a following, you will notice they share content for you. You still have to be proactive by sharing your content with them on social media in the first place, but if you connect with your followers, you will be shocked to see what they do for you.


Of course, there are a ton more things you can do to help give yourself a boost. It is high time you have a mobile optimized page for your site, and it is important to make sure you are listed on Google and Apple Maps. But, these first three rules will help you easily expand, and see what investing in local SEO can do for you.


Maintaining an entertaining and engaging social media presence can be great for your business. Unfortunately, there are a lot of potential missteps that can also severely hurt your business.

Lewis Howes has a full list of what to avoid on social media at Entrepreneur, but here are the highlights.

Mostly, just use common sense. Post things that are interesting and grab people’s attention, but never even flirt with the line and post possibly objectionable or offensive material. The idea is not to alienate any portion of your audience. That includes staying out of possibly damaging photos.

Basically, once you connect your business to your social media profile, it is no longer yours for personal use. You are representing your business and your brand, so be smart and conduct yourself as you would with your most important clients watching.

Also, be active. Reply to those that take the time to reach out to you and reach out to others. Give credit, comment, promote and generally be a part of the social media scene. Your profile isn’t attracting anyone just sitting there, it has to be doing something.

Anytime you have an industry where creativity meets business, you face the conundrum of who to target with your work. Do you want to make something exciting and fun that other people interested in design will like, or do you want to make something consumers will enjoy?

The good news is that web designers can do both. If you have just a bit of marketing knowledge and some strategy, you can make a solid design that was as fun for you to make as it is for consumers to explore.  Any good designer should already be attracting their potential audience while making interesting designs. But what do you do if you aren’t?

The first step is to identify your target audience. If you can spot who your demographic is, everything else will fall into place.

Thankfully, identifying your audience has never been easier since you have tools like Google Analytics at your disposal. This isn’t to say this is a walk in the park, but pinpointing your customer base is much more simple and precise than it used to be.

By doing a keyword search in your analytics dashboard, you can also see what people are searching for, and what kind of people they are.

Another way to identify what your visitors like is by simply asking them questions. Blogs are a great platform for this, because you should already be trying to interact with your audience, and you can leverage to ask them what they think about different topics and to offer their opinions. It is also important to note, if you are struggling to interact with commenters because of spam overload, adding a simple Captcha is easy and rids you of most spam.

Social media also offers a huge opportunity to interact with your audience. It is easier to connect with readers on Facebook than it is to interact in the comments sections of articles. Taking advantage of social media also means your content is easier to share, which will attract more readers.

Once you know who you are designing for, you can find ways to make a great site they will enjoy, and you won’t hate making. Christian Vasile has great design tips if you’re having trouble getting started.

You don’t have to sell out and make boring websites because you are designing for a company. In fact, if you do, you are just making bad websites and your clients won’t be happy anyways.


Google reps have said that a good click-through-rate for AdWords is between two and five percent. There’s been no official suggestion for an acceptable conversion rate, however. Business2Community recently set out to remedy that oversight by conducting a thorough study of AdWords.

The first problem with such a study is how loosely defined ‘conversion’ is. Not all businesses require a sale to consider a successful conversion. In general, the average search network conversion rate for AdWords in this year’s third quarter was 5.63%. For the Google Display Network, that number dips slightly to 4.68%.

But to truly be able to gauge how well your business is performing with AdWords, you’ll need to look at the industry specific numbers. Follow the link to find the top 10 advertising industries broken down into their specific conversion rates and cost per conversion.

These are not official numbers from Google, but you can consider these a barometer for how well you’re utilizing AdWords.

Another week, another Google update. This time around it is an EMD, or “Exact Match Domain” update.

So how does it effect you? What did the update do? What does it all mean?

Mainly, this update means bad news for spam. Many in the SEO community were frightened the EMD update would go through and destroy every exact match search result on the web, but that is far from the truth.

This update doesn’t ruin exact matches, but looks for signs of spammy abuse of the system. Alex Becker over at Search Engine Journal has a full explanation of the update and how it effects all of those spammers out there, but the important message is clear. No, the EMD update should not hurt you, if you are following all of the suggested guidelines.


You’ve heard me preaching the benefits of responsive web design, but you probably haven’t seen much about responsive typography. This is interesting because for most websites, the text is by far the most important content on the page.

Well, good news everybody, because responsive typography is pretty easy. You just need to think through how you want type to respond to the changes in screen size, and then follow through.

Responsive typography has two main factors. The first is resizable type, which is obvious. Resizable type rescales itself based on the size of the screen, but it is also important that it is resizable by the user.

The second factor is optimized line lengths, which are still readable. On some screens, keeping content areas smaller actually makes more sense, though they technically could be larger.

Cameron Chapman has all the code and technical information you need at Weddesigner Depot to implement solid responsive typography. Most importantly, you should be using rems for sizing your type because they are relative to html elements, which makes maintaining proper sizing of your type very efficient. Chapman also will help you through how to keep your line lengths the optimum length, which is slightly more tricky than just making your text resizable.

Designers should never neglect their typography on the page, and making it readable for any size screen is essential. Sure, if your site is more image and video heavy, it may not be as important for you as it is for bloggers, but I doubt your site has zero text on the page. Even in those situations, you want every part of your page to work perfectly for everyone.


Meet Paul Downes. He owns his own woodworking shop, which specialized in cabinets and conference tables. He contributes regularly to the New York Times small business blog and recently shared a crisis that surely will or has affected many small business owners.

Paul added a low-cost alternative to his line of conference tables after receiving a number of inquiries from school’s and non-profits. He then added ads in AdWords to get the word out about his new product and started selling quite a few of them.

However, he eventually saw an overall drop in his monthly sales even with this increase in new product sales. The problem was not with a failing economy, as he initially told himself.

Instead, Paul put some thought into his problem. He discovered that the calls for these low-cost, new tables mostly came early in the business day. Calls from big corporations, who are responsible for purchasing the higher-priced models that garner Paul bigger profits, usually came later in the day.

After poking around on AdWords, Paul found that his campaign wasn’t showing his ads for the higher priced tables to the audience that would buy them. Instead, AdWords was optimizing for conversions and the low-cost option was getting good conversions.

Paul made the simple fix of splitting the two products into their own campaign so he could get the most out of his budget. This is a real life example of the importance of paying close attention to your AdWords campaigns. Paul has since seen his sales steadily rise back to normal, but he will be playing catch-up for the rest of the year. Thankfully, he had the metrics available to fix a problem that was crippling his company.

Most bloggers know how important tagging is. Tags allow you to retain a similar structure across almost all blogging platforms, unlike categories. What may be surprising however, is the amount of freedom tags give bloggers also leads to them being badly used.

With that in mind, let’s start at the top and explore what tags really are and what benefits they offer. Then we can cover how to use them properly.

What are Tags?

As one blogger describes them, “tags are your index words.” That is to say, tags allow users to easily find articles based on keywords. If a reader finds a post on your website about content marketing, they can easily find more about the topic on your site. This helps readers become more informed and spend more time on your site.

How to Use Tags Effectively

The most common issue with tags are over or under usage. You want to use enough tags to cover the relevant points people may be looking for, but you don’t want to overdo it. Sufyan bin Uzayr uses the example of tagging an article about the recent conflict in Syria to illustrate this idea. If you just tag the article “Syria” and “Middle East” you are missing out on a few important opportunities. However, if you use redundant tags such as “War in Middle East”, “Arab Revolt” and “Arab Spring” all on the same article, you are overdoing it. The key is to try not to repeat yourself.

SEO and Tags

Lately some bloggers have been suggesting that using tags in certain ways will increase your ranking somehow. This is clearly too good to be true, but that doesn’t mean you should write tags off immediately. If you index your tags efficiently, they hold their merit, but they aren’t ever going to be the magic potion some are suggesting.

Most importantly, tags are for your visitors to help with navigation, but using them improperly isn’t going to help anyone. Trying to keep navigation organized reflects in your SEO performance.


Facebook recently made it possible for users to search specifically in its App Center. You can search by an app’s title or by generic keyword. Josh Constine of TechCrunch suggests that this could open the door for ads within the App Center.

Though there is currently no results page, just a drop down menu after a search, Facebook could easily add sponsored results similar to what Google has already been doing with AdWords. Ads for apps related to the user’s search could appear at the top of the current drop down format, or as full-on entries in a results page.

App Center is not only set-up for ads to easily be included, but it also already has the audience. After only 2 months of operation, it boasted more than 150-million monthly users and that number was up to 220-million at the beginning of October.

App Center has “qualified leads, ample traffic, a model proven by Google, and a huge base of developers/advertisers”. All that’s left is to actually make the ads a reality.