Social Media Icons Engraved in Wood

Source: Alan Reeves

It seems like every business has some sort of social media presence, but you’d be surprised at the huge difference of engagement across many companies. When you look at businesses struggling with social media, you’ll often hear that they signed up simply “because everyone else is on there.” That could be a good argument for keeping up with your competitors, but it doesn’t actually mean you need to be on Facebook.

The problem is that many companies who try to branch out to social media don’t actually understand the platform and can be actually injuring their brand’s reputation. Blindly following the competition into the online arena can be leading yourself to slaughter if you can’t follow the best practices and actually establish your brand’s online presence.

Marketing Land came up with five reasons you might consider not signing up for Facebook, Twitter, or whatever the next popular social media platform is. Don’t get me wrong, social media can be hugely beneficial for your brand, but if you have any of these problems you won’t be seeing any of the benefits.

  1. Not Updating – The number one issue with small company social media accounts is the eventual neglect they fall into. It is easy to set up an account, get going steadily for a week or two, then gradually let the account slip into an artifact from an earlier time. Even worse, rather than giving up, most accounts stay “active” but without any actual presence or content. Not updating your social account may not seem like a big deal “because they can still find me that way” but in reality it gives the perception that your company may not be current. Visitors may find themselves thinking, “are they still in business?” or “what else are they neglecting?”
  2. Using the Wrong Platform for Your Industry – Not every social media platform is created equally. In fact, they all have their own niches which can be confusing when you are unfamiliar with the market. LinkedIn is for business professionals and companies looking to recruit workers, while Twitter facilitates direct interaction between brand and consumer. For that reason, advertising your local plumbing business on LinkedIn or Pinterest can be confusing or desperate looking. The best trick is to figure out what others in your field are using, and try to learn about those social platforms.
  3. Not Knowing What You’re Doing – Even companies that manage to select the right platforms for their brand might not know what to do once they are there. While personal Facebook pages are often used for sharing baby pictures, family events, or whining about life in general, most of those things shouldn’t go on a company account (unless you’re company is family based and your family event is related to business). Figure out what your customers care about, and focus on providing them with that type of content. The best guideline would be to post roughly 60-70% industry-related news and content, and 30-40% personalized content related to your business such as company events or important aspects to company culture. Customers want to be informed, but they don’t want to be blasted with things they don’t care about.
  4. Not Responding – Social media works both ways. It isn’t strictly for you to yell about your business at customers, but to create an environment where individuals and brands can freely and directly interact. That means you will start getting comments, questions, and posts from your user base (if you’re posting the right content.) It is your responsibility to respond in a respectable amount of time. Not responding makes it appear that you are only trying to sale things, not interact with your community.
  5. Not Taking Advantage of Interaction – While it is awesome that social media makes it possible for consumers to directly contact you, you should also be contacting them. Ask the community for their opinions and feedback about anything you want to know. How are they reacting to your products? What about your services? Consumers are usually more than happy to share their opinions, so give them the opportunity and listen to their thoughts.

All of these issues can be easily fixed and a social media account can always be salvaged, but it takes time and resources, which many small businesses don’t have. If you have the means to do it right, social media can be a big boost to online brand engagement. But, if you can’t afford to do it right, leave it alone. There are other ways to make your company findable online without taking on the responsibilities of social media.

DuckDuckGo LogoInternet security and privacy has been at the forefront of many people’s minds with the recent headlines about the NSA keeping data on the public’s online activity, and the issue has had subtle affects on search engines. We’ve seen a small group of searchers migrating to search engines with stricter privacy policies. Of course, those who are truly outraged by the NSA news would expect to see a pretty large shift, but so far the change has been slow. But, it is picking up momentum.

More and more people are learning about how Google actually decides which results to show you, as an individual, and many are a little concerned. While Google sees the decision to collect data on users as an attempt to individually tailor results, a few raise their eyebrows at the idea that a search engine and huge corporation is keeping fairly detailed tabs on the internet activities of users. The internet comes with an assumption that our activity is at least fairly private, though that notion is getting chipped away at daily. But, there is still the widespread assumption that our e-mails or simple search habits are our business alone, an assumption that is also being proved wrong.

These privacy issues have a fair number of people looking for search engines that keep our searches completely anonymous and don’t run data collection processes. The most notable solution people seem to be moving to is, a search engine whose privacy policy claims will not retain any personal information or share that information with other sites. The search engine has been seeing a traffic rise by close to 2 million searches per day since the NSA scandal broke.

There are numerous debates surrounding these issues. Political discourse focuses on the legality and ethical aspects of the government and large corporations working together to collect information on every citizen of the United States (other companies included in the NSA story include Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft). But, as SEO professionals, the bigger question is the ethical and practical reality of individually tailored results which rely entirely on data collection.

If you’ve ever taken a look at the ads on the edges of websites, you’ve probably noticed that the ads are loosely based on your personal information. The ads reflect your gender, age, location, and sometimes loose search histories. The ads you are shown are chosen based on information your computer relays to almost every site you access. Google acts the same way, but they collect this data and combine it extended data of your search history to deliver search results they believe are more relevant to you.

There is a practicality to this. We all have fine tuned personal tastes, and innately we desire for search engines to show us exactly what we want with the first search result, every time. While poll responses say that the majority of people don’t want personalized search results, are online actions belie our true desires for efficient search. The best way to do this is to gather data and use the data to fine-tune results. On a broad scale, we don’t want results for a grocery store in Los Angeles when we are physically situated in Oklahoma. On a smaller scale, we don’t want Google showing us sites we never go to when our favorite resource for a topic is a few results down the page.

In this respect, the move towards search engines like DuckDuckGo is actually a step back. These privacy-focused search engines are essentially acting how Google used to. They use no personal information, and simply try to show the best results for a specific search. It is a trade of privacy for functionality, and this could possibly explain the slow uptake or migration to these types of search engines. But, people are moving.

The longer the NSA story stays in the news, the more searches DuckDuckGo receives, and this could potentially have a significant affect on the search market in the future. The question is, do we want to sacrifice personal privacy and assumed online anonymity for searches that match our lives? Andrew Lazaunikas recently wrote an article on the debate for Search Engine Journal. He admits DuckDuckGo delivers excellent, unbiased results, but in the end, “when I want to know the best pizza place or car dealer in my area, the local results that Google and Bing shows are superior.”

Lazaunikas isn’t deterred by the aspect, and notes, “I can still get the information I need from DuckDuckGo by modifying my search.” He ends his statement by vowing to use DuckDuckGo more in the future, but the question is whether the public at large will follow. For the moment, it seems as though most people prefer quick easy searches and familiarity to trying out these new search engines.

After two fairly explicit warnings about advertorials this year, Google has added advertorials to their webmaster guidelines, as well as other popular spammy linking techniques in the Link Schemes help document.

Google Continues To Downplay Links

The biggest change is the removal of the entire first paragraph from the help article, which addressed how incoming links influence rankings. Search Engine Journal says the removed paragraph read:

Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links influences your ranking. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.

Links have been steadily falling out of favor throughout the past few years, and it appears we are finally reaching a tipping point for Google’s reduction of linking’s role in search algorithms. Or, as Google has been advising, high-quality sites matter much more than links of any quality.

Keyword-Rich/Optimized Anchor Text Links

Google also tackled heavily-optimized anchor text used in press releases that are usually distributed across other sites. The technique has enjoyed a quick rise in highly competitive markets, and Google appears to finally be putting the squash on the practice. They did note that guest posting is still a popular practice, which can be valuable when done correctly. However, sites that accept guest blogging have been using nofollow or an optimized URL link to avoid issues.


And of course, the final change is the addition of advertorials as an example of unnatural links that violate Google guidelines.

Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.

Google has been making swift changes to linking policy and practice, so it is highly likely changes like this will keep occurring. Links can still be a strong weapon in your SEO strategy, but you have to tread carefully, and they maybe shouldn’t be your highest priority when optimizing.

Endless CodeIt is a little ironic that most web designers hate coding. We’re all familiar with it, and we’ve all spent sleepless night chugging coffee and endlessly editing code until we feel like we’ve lost touch with reality. But, the best coders realized the entire process can be simplified and sped up with all the free tools available online.

Web Design Ledger created a “cheat sheet” of tools and resources designers can use to cut through the fog of coding. You’ll never be able to completely escape coding, but you can at least make it as painless as possible.

Code Editors

One of the main tools any designer should already have is a code editor such as Sublime Text 2. Back in the dark days of coding, many designers were forced to create Notepad files that seemed to endlessly drag on as they were filled with line upon line of code, but no one should know that pain in these days. Code editors can help you quickly jump between the tags you want to work on, and best of all, they highlight problems in your code as you write. To anyone who has ever searched for hours trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack, that alone is reason to find a new editor to use.

CSS Pre-Processors

CSS is notorious for spiraling into obscenely long and confusing script that becomes eventually unworkable. Sass (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets) is a meta-language that can be put on top of the original CSS to clean up all that messy code and make it workable and lightweight again. If you combine Sass with Compass, an open-source CSS authoring framework, you can easily create responsive designs with cross-browser friendly scripts to keep everything simple.

Code for Humans

We all have to deal with our own code, but writing for yourself or entirely for machines can leave the code hard to understand when you come back to it later. If you get caught up using entirely your own coding style, colleagues may not be able to make sense of it all, but if you write exactly as computers read it, your code can become difficult to update and read. Instead, write in a way that will keep everything easy to find and understand, with small file names and consistent organization. You can use Codekit (Mac) or Mixture (Mac/Windows) to convert it all into computer-friendly language later.

Use GoMockingbird

Wireframing is one of the first steps designers go through when constructing a site and creates the entire foundation you will build the site upon. These foundations are also used to present site designs to clients, so using sketches and doodles is a bit too unprofessional of an option. Instead, GoMockingbird creates professional looking wireframes that can portray even the more tricky elements of a page to everyone who needs to approve the design. You can include widgets, sliders, check boxes, and even social buttons, so that clients get a clear and complete understanding of how their site will end up.


There are tons of other tools included in Nicola Allen’s cheat sheet over at WDL. The ones I highlighted here can make the biggest effect on the time spent slaving over code, but every shortcut helps. There are tools and resources for every design task, including creating Lorem Ipsum dummy text so that you don’t have to. If you want to design, but hate the long nights associated with coding, you’ll appreciate everything the cheat sheet offers.

Google has begun the process of pushing over the last few stragglers to Adwords Enhanced, and to reflect the big changes taking place, they’ve also been updating just about everything related to AdWords. Over the past week, they’ve redesigned the AdWords Help Center, as well as making some changes to how AdWords quality scores are reported.

AdWords Help Center Redesign

AdWords Help Center Graphic

The AdWords Help Center has always been an important resource for both new and old PPC campaign managers. Just as Google offers best practices for SEO, the help center for AdWords helps break down exactly how managing ads works and the best suggestions for those just getting started. The new redesign came with three major updates aimed to improve how the help center works and update the information contained within.

  1. Improved Navigation – To start out, Google has made the site much easier to get around, making the information more readily available. From the main navigation, you can now find portals to information on setting up and basic AdWords info, managing ads, community resources, and guides to success.
  2. More Visual Help – Google has openly said they will be making the Help Center more visual by filling it with infographics and screenshots. But, the Search Engine Journal report on the update found very little visual additions from the update. It is possible these additions are taking longer to implement, or that they have stepped away from this addition, but there are some new graphics to help explain AdWords, such as the one above.
  3. Guides to Success – Google has added a collection of instructional guides and tips to help get greener PPC managers started with their AdWords campaigns, but the information can also provide a helpful refresher for AdWords veterans who might not have checked up on Google’s latest suggestions.

Quality Score Reporting Revisions

The more functional change Google has made is an update to how the AdWords quality scores are reported within accounts. The company says these changes are aimed at making it easier for advertisers to adjust and revise any ads based on quality score, and to make it easier for users to gain more information on what is and isn’t working.

In their announcement, Google said:

As part of our ongoing efforts to help improve the quality of our ads, we’re announcing an update that changes how each keyword’s 1-10 numeric Quality Score is reported in AdWords. Under the hood, this reporting update will tie your 1-10 numeric Quality Score more closely to its three key sub factors — expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. We expect this update to reach all advertisers globally within the next several days.
We’re making this change so that the Quality Score in your reports more closely reflects the factors that influence the visibility and expected performance of your ads. We hope that providing you more transparency into your 1-10 Quality Score will help you improve the quality of your ads.

The way Google is calculating quality scores hasn’t changed at all, so there isn’t a great need to suddenly change how you’re running your campaigns, but they are simply changing the way these scores are reported to us and expanding on the information available.

However, advertisers using quality scores as part of automated rules will need to change or correct how the rules are interfacing with the new display methods.

Site audits can be ugly work. Nothing can be more disastrous to a client-SEO relationship than informing someone of all the issues wrong with their site in too harsh of a way. They’ve spent time and money having a site created that they think works well for their business, and then we audit the page and everything under the hood and have to break the news that their site is sick or badly put together.

The process is similar to playing “website mechanic” as Stuntdubl SEO put it. We offer diagnostic information and recommendations that are absolutely critical to keeping a site relevant and valuable to organic search, but many people don’t want to hear how bad of shape their car or website are in. Not only will it be costly to fix, but they’ve developed a sentimental relationship to the site they have.

To be able to break the news in the best way possible, we have to be as prepared and informed as possible, which means running extensive auditing and answering a lot of questions. This also means understanding all of the tools at your disposal so that you can get the best answers in the fastest way possible.

Todd Malicoat took 50 of the most important questions for site audits, and identified the best tool available for answering every inquiry. Not only will this speed up your data collection and auditing, it will make you more prepared to create a better site and communicate properly with the clients you are working with.

Hotel FrontEverybody talks about SEO as if it is a monolithic entity. At most, you might hear conversation about local SEO and every few weeks someone will chime in to remind us about international SEO, but the vast majority of the dialogue just refers to SEO as a whole.

But, ignoring its constantly changing nature, SEO is also a lot harder to pin down. Great optimization bends and molds to match the client and the unique needs of a market. What works for a nearby plumbing company may not translate to a small tech startup or a healthcare provider. The absolute basics are the same, but all of these companies have different online needs that can’t be handled with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality.

Hotels are one market with especially unique needs, and now that summer is winding down and many people are trying to squeeze in a vacation before the kids return to school, now is as relevant a time to talk about SEO as any. Aleh Barvsevich broke down the topic in detail, covering how search results for hotels are chosen and displayed and what opportunities hotel clients have in PPC and SEO.


We all have busy days where we seem to be running from the minute we get up, but as PPC managers, we can’t just ignore our campaigns for a day. There are many aspects of a campaign that have to be tweaked and worked with on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be great if you could manage to take care of all the most important PPC tasks in 10 minutes? According to Melissa Mackey from Search Engine Watch, you can.

Of course, no good PPC manager is doing just 10 minutes of work a day, but on those days when work is piled up and you’re forced to squeeze it in, her “10-minute PPC workday” might just be able to help you keep all your basis covered.

It all starts with checking the stats on your top KPI. If conversions are your KPI, look at both your total conversions and cost per conversion. If you’re already doing this daily, you’ll be able to notice any anomalies immediately. Once you’ve spotted the outliers, you’ll spend the next nine minutes focusing on them.

The best step on fixing outliers is to pause the worse performers. Any ad group or keyword that has cost quite a bit but isn’t performing can be paused. You can re-enable it later when you have more time to focus in on the problem.

Next, you’ll want to check out your underperforming keywords. Whether they simply aren’t earning back the cost or maybe they just aren’t leading to conversions, you’ll want to see what keywords are dragging you down. The fastest method is to use in-line search query reports in Google to check the details of the keyword in question and create negative keywords directly in seconds.

Once that is over, we can move on to the positive things: top performing ad groups and keywords. Start with your best-performing ad groups (generating the most conversions at the lowest cost) and up the bids. Then, use AdWords editor to make any bulk bid increases on the best keywords. Keep it short, but tackle the most important and best few performers.

You will want to move on to quickly checking out your ad copy tests to see if you have any obvious winners, and try to replicate it by pasting it into your ad group a few times. The last couple minutes of actual work will be devoted to positive keyword research by running a quick search query report for your best performing keywords. Sort by conversions, and then add the best queries as positive keywords.

Once all is said and done, you’ll want to make notes for the next day. If you’ve kept yourself limited to 10 minutes, you’ll have noticed many issues you weren’t able to deal with at the moment, and you will probably have some questions to address. Jot down some quick notes while everything is fresh so that you’ll be able to tackle it all properly tomorrow.

Duplicate content has always been viewed as a serious no-no for webmasters and search engines. In general, it is associated with spamming or low-quality content, and thus Google usually penalizes sites with too much duplicate content. But, what does that mean for necessary duplicate content like privacy policies, terms and conditions, and other types of legally required content that many websites must have?

This has been a bit of a reasonable point of confusion for many webmasters, and those in the legal or financial sectors especially find themselves concerned with the idea that their site could be hurt by the number of disclaimers.

Well of course Matt Cutts is here to sweep away all your concerns. He used his recent Webmaster Chat video to address the issue, and he clarified that unless you’re actively doing something spammy like keyword stuffing within these sections of legalese, you shouldn’t worry about it.

He said, “We do understand that a lot of different places across the web require various disclaimers, legal information, and terms and conditions, that sort of stuff, so it’s the sort of thing where if were to not to rank that stuff well, that would hurt our overall search quality. So, I wouldn’t stress out about that.”