SEO Waving Icon


We’ve all seen the cycle of Google updates. Every time there is a change to the algorithms, the blogs all light up with announcements, a fair sized group panics while the rest ride out the storm, and then the “how to recover” posts start rolling in. Eventually the excitement tapers off, and then it is time for a new update.

Probably the most shocking thing about all the commotion is how many people freak out in the first place. While some of Google’s changes are pretty significant, it isn’t like they don’t warn webmasters ahead of time with what direction they are headed for ranking websites. They won’t give the specifics, but they normally denounce a practice well before they start penalizing for it.

That is all my long-winded way of saying we don’t all have to be afraid of the next Penguin or Panda update. By simply following the best practice guidelines and keeping some solid tips in mind, you’ll find you have no reason to worry. Erin Everhart recently shared some great tactics you can use to keep your website in Google’s good graces.

1) Focus on Branding, Not on Ranking

It is no secret that Google isn’t actually a fan of a lot of what constitutes search engine optimization, mostly because of the way many try to take advantage of every loophole to get rankings. The common idea of SEO focuses solely on improving rankings, while Google wants to rank sites based on value to their consumers.

To start thinking like Google, you need to get your mind off of ranking and focus more on building your brand. If you search for any type of product like a flat screen TV, the results will be almost entirely brand names. Google views brand names as trustworthy and valuable parts of their community, and that goes for small businesses as well as large companies. Simply sponsoring events in the community and interacting with users in positive ways go a long way with search engines.

Of course, it would be naive to say the big brands don’t have advantages, but it isn’t the reason you think. Google evaluates them the same way they evaluate everyone else, but these brands are large enough that they never resort to the keyword stuffing, anchor text over-optimizing stuff that so many SEO professionals try to use.

2) Create a Good User Experience

Along the lines of taking your focus off of rankings, Google has been pleading with the SEO community to take their attention to actually delivering quality experiences for users. The search engine wants to deliver great sites that users will enjoy being on, not low quality pages with the most optimization. To achieve this, the engine made site quality more important than link profiles and has been refining their guidelines to push for faster sites with better content.

For marketers and optimizers, this can be a little confusing. Who exactly defines a “high quality site” and what are the criteria? Well we know the faster your site is, the better off it will fare. But, there are many more amorphous factors to deal with. The only real way to find out exactly what your users will like and how to make the highest quality site for them is testing. Run every type of test you can. Do user testing. Do split testing. Research your market.

3) Preserve Your URLs

It is a little bit of an outdated practice at this point, but it remains true that old URLs still rank the best. The only reason you should resort to changing your URLs is to fix an absolute mess of site architecture or absolutely have no choice. But, if there is any way you can avoid it, do. Canonicals and 301s reduce equity that you’ve built up, and new pages have to start all over again.

Instead, bigger companies like Apple use the same page for every new product launch, unless they release an entirely new product like the rumored upcoming smartwatch. They simply update the existing page to reflect the new product, while the old iPhone gets pushed to a new page. This way, you can take advantage of the equity you already have.


Focusing your SEO efforts on rankings isn’t sustainable any longer. You may shoot up the rankings more quickly than those creating a high quality campaign, but you’ll live in fear of every algorithm update, and eventually you will get hit. Chances are, you probably already have been penalized once, unless you’re walking the straight and narrow.

Negative SEO has been a topic of debate for a while now, especially since links became dramatically more risky with the introduction of Google Penguin. It is entirely possible competitors could simply point hundreds or thousands of low-quality or negative backlinks towards your site with the intention of causing your site to be penalized or possibly even completely removed from Google’s index. Buying links went from being a tool for cheating to algorithms to a weapon for destroying, or at least handicapping, competitors.

Google acknowledged this issue with the introduction of the Disavow Links tool, by giving webmasters a way to protect their site. The problem is, everyone seems to be using it wrong. According to Marcela De Vivo from Search Engine Watch, the Disavow Links tool isn’t best used after a site has been penalized. Instead, it should be used in combination with a link audit before you ever run into trouble.

It makes sense, the entire point of a backlink audit is to check the quality and status of all of the links in your profile. If you’re auditing properly and regularly, you won’t ever have to worry about algorithm updates or manual actions. You could catch every low quality link and disavow before search engines identify them.

Auditing isn’t difficult either. All you have to do is download your backlinks from your Google Webmaster account or any other backlink tool, and look for any links pointing back to your site that you either don’t recognize or look questionable. Usually fishy or spammy links are easy to pick out. Then, you can take action by emailing the owner of those sites and asking for the link to be removed. If that fails, all you have to do is turn to the disavow tool.

Running these types of audits is like exercising for your website. When done regularly, audits keep your site healthy, removes any unhealthy links from the profile, and makes it easier to fight off outside attacks. If you’re regularly auditing your links, you’ll quickly spot any negative or blackhat SEO attempts. Everyone living in fear of Penguin updates is spending too much time being reactive. If you proactively manage your backlink profile, penalties will seem far less menacing.

Facebook Sticker IconDespite constant detractors proclaiming the death of Facebook, advertising on the social media platform continues to show strong results for marketers according to the Q2 review of Facebook advertising by Kenshoo Social. Their statistics show significant increases for all metrics, from analysis of more than 75 billion Facebook ad impressions from advertisers using the Kenshoo Social platform.

Throughout Q2, the company saw click through rates rise 18.5 percent, with total clicks increasing by 16.5 percent compared to Q1 of this year. Engagement rates beyond the click also saw substantial increases as conversions rose 56.9 percent and revenue increased by 28.3 percent.

Todd Herrold, senior director of product marketing for Kenshoo Social says the gains are the result of advertisers continuing to refine their techniques and becoming more savy about the social media platform, as well as improvements made by Facebook itself. He told Marketing Land:

“Facebook has been steadily optimizing its ad units and launching new ad targeting products designed specifically for direct response, including Custom and Lookalike Audiences, Partner Categories and the Facebook Exchange (FBX).”

Google Adwords Time Chart

Jon Diorio and the Google+ account for Google Ads announced today that a new feature is available in Adwords that will allow you to get a better look at your data. It is a small addition, but many advertisers will find it very useful.

Beginning today, you can control the time aggregation on Adwords charts to show data down to a day-by-day view. You can also view it by week, month, or quarter. This way, you can see the big and small pictures with just a couple clicks, and keep track of the smaller level trends.

The announcement read:

Today, we’re making it easier and faster to get a customized view of how your performance is trending with a new button right above your chart in AdWords that lets you toggle between Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Quarterly data (shown below). We hope this will save you time and make you more efficient while optimizing your search campaigns.

Retro Icon

Source: Designrfix

Web design has a love of all things retro. You can’t scan the web for long before you come across a site with faux wood textures or faded and breezy images influenced by the aesthetics of another time. These old styles are even large parts of current design trends such as flat design and the new found focus on typography. Designers are constantly taking the old and turning it new again.

Some choose to lean more heavily into the retro styles than others. While many flat designs owe debts of gratitude to minimalist styles of the 50’s and 60’s, you usually wouldn’t confuse the two. Others however do their best to emulate the styles of earlier times as closely as they can, but translated into a digital medium.

Going retro is a popular style for many brands and artists, and it isn’t any more difficult to achieve than most other current design aesthetics. Designrfix recently shared tips to really get the look and feel of older times, if you want to try it out for yourself.

Think Retro – The first step is getting inspiration. It can be difficult to detach yourself from your contemporary ideas of good style, and the best way to do that is go directly to the source. Search out old magazines and newspapers, any sort of graphic media from the time you can find. There is a huge amount of it online, and you’ll be able to get inspired within just a couple searches.

Focus on Simple Shapes – Vintage and retro styles are characterized by simplicity. Designs of the past relied on impact to grab attention, and this was usually achieved by using very simple shapes like circles which demand attention. Consider a circle surrounded by decoration, or blocky and heavy arrangements.

Limit Your Use of Color – Modern designers have it easy. We can use any assortment of colors we want on the web, even down to slight shading choices. Designers of the past were limited by the expense of full color printing, so they often relied on two-toned coloring to come up with colorful designs without breaking the bank. Using black-white, orange-yellow, or cream-brown color combinations will immediately make viewers think of older printing styles.

Retro Typefaces and Fonts – As previously mentioned, big typography in retro styles is an absolute necessity of a vintage site. The style has grown some legs on its own, but it still is a defining trait of older styles. You need to choose a font reflective of the era you want to reflect. Using the wrong typeface can seem anachronistic or lazy, so take your time and get it right. Check what designers were using in the era you’re emulating and find something similar online. It shouldn’t be hard to do so.

Borders – Borders have always been a big part of design, and ornamental borders were definitely a big part of making older designs attention grabbing. Frame your images and content in borders and simple shapes and you’re site will already look pretty retro.

Badges – Interestingly, if you look at websites with retro designs, you tend to see lots of badges as buttons, even though badges weren’t actually a big part of designs in the past. Still, these badges remind users of county-fair days and older times, while also standing out on the page and drawing attention. It is a simple addition that works better than it should.

Using the Right Texture – Well used textures can make a boring page feel stoic and formal. They can entirely define how a page feels, and can certainly make a page feel more retro. The trick is subtlety and integrating the texture into the layout, not simply laying it over things.

Blogger Portrait

Source: Marisa Vasquez

Content marketing is all the rage in SEO right now. As links continue to get devalued (though they can still be potent if gained properly), optimizers and marketers are moving their focus to the actual content you see on the page. This is potentially a great shift to providing consumers with real value, but generating content on a regular basis is costly and intensive. If you slack, it can be worthless at best, and damaging to your rankings at worst.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it. But, content marketing has to be done right, with smart choices about how to spend your time and efforts. All it takes is some planning and extra thought that too many forget to do. If you think ahead, you can avoid most of the common content marketing mistakes far too many make. Jayson DeMers pinpointed some of those common mistakes, and if you know how to identify them, you can fix them.

1) Writing for the Wrong Audience

Every article or piece of content you put out there should be of value to someone, but that audience shouldn’t be arbitrary. As a business, you have a specific audience that you should be paying attention to. If you understand your audience, you can better choose topics and write in the appropriate tone for who you are trying to connect with. Home services such as plumbing and roofing have very different consumers and audiences than tech startups.

One of the most common ways to forget to write for consumers. We tend to get excited about the content we are putting out and the work we’ve put in – and that is great – but we also tend to geek out and write for those who are spending hours scouring blogs like us. We forget to communicate with the actual people needing their services. For every article, you need to ask, are we writing for our consumers or our peers?

2) Using the Wrong Metrics

Creating content takes a ton of time. You have to research, try to brainstorm unique topics, follow all the social media feeds. It would be tragic if all those efforts weren’t being properly measured and fine-tuned. However, getting started with the right metrics for your business at first can seem even more troublesome than making all that content.

Getting started, it is common to focus on measuring outputs rather than results. It helps ensure you follow through on your content marketing efforts and are achieving the basic creation aspect. But, once you’re in the flow of creating content you have to evolve your metrics to ensure they are actually achieving the larger desired results. You have to make sure you’re getting an actual return on your investment.

Not only do you want to make sure that you are strengthening your front on using the right keywords, you want to be checking on your conversions. You’re content isn’t successful if it isn’t helping direct people to the next step. Are you including clear calls to action? Are you getting people to make the next step you want? If not, you may want to change your strategy.

3) Failing to Focus on Branding

Content serves the purpose of making your brand trustworthy to consumers. Brand development can help build your brand as a leader in your market, or it can build the reputation of a service or product. Simply put, creating content allows you to build your brand as a leader in your industry to those who haven’t used your product or service yet. Writing as a leader or member of your business should showcase your expertise and make consumers trust you. The trick is doing it in a professional way, without being heavy handed.

Trying to make a hard sell with your content isn’t advised, so you have to achieve these goals much more subtly. The primary goal is educating and informing, but that has to be put in a package that will also strengthen your brand. It is a difficult line to walk, but with focus on your brand and the audience, you will find the proper mix.

The savvy social media marketer already has a hold on Facebook and is exploring new markets, tools, and apps they can reach out to and connect with. Twitter is the second most popular social media platform, but Instagram has risen quickly and has a surprising hold on it’s niche market and function. Both have video. So, which is that social media marketer to choose?

Instagram vs. Vine Graphic

Source: Simply Measured/Search Engine Journal

If you are in the majority, you likely chose Instagram over the past few months as Vine and Instagram Video rolled out. As Search Engine Journal’s analysis shows, twice as many top 100 brands use Instagram Video compared to Vine. That’s pretty surprising, considering Instagram Video is far younger – only a few weeks old.

What makes Instagram the favored platform for marketing on social media video? What sets it apart from Vine? The basic differences come in video length and features. Immediately, one will notice Instagram Video has over double the video length of Vine, clocking in at 15-seconds, compared to Vine’s 6. They say brevity is the soul of wit, but apparently 6 seconds just isn’t enough for most marketers, but the filters may play just as much of a role.

When Instagram first came out, it became popular for its focus on photograph filters which overlay effects that turn amateurish phone pics into nice looking images. Now, they offer you the ability to do the same to your videos. They also offer a stabilization doctor to try to help minimize phone shaking in the video. All in all, this means nicer looking videos.

All of those points might be moot, if it wasn’t for sharability. When it comes to social media marketing, sharability is of utmost importance. You want content to reach as many eyes as possible. Instagram, with its 130 million monthly users, is owned by Facebook, which offers its ownn 1 billion monthly active users. Vine overall is smaller, with only 13 million users, and Twitter only has 200 million people actively Tweeting.

Everything considered, Instagram Video simply offers much, much more than Vine.

Vine has it’s own benefits, such as a looping feature which can be taken advantage of to create very unique “endless” videos. Vines are also embeddable across the web, making them easier for content sharing websites such as Buzzfeed to share. But, the sharing capabilities, extensive video options, and more comprehensive features make Instagram better for marketers and users alike. Marketing campaigns on Instagram have much higher potential to gain traction and you’ll be more likely to see some rewards.

SEO IconNewcomers to SEO can often feel intimidated by the complex, lingo-filled field of optimization. There are countless articles explaining seemingly complicated concepts, constantly changing practices, and constant warnings about the cost of making mistakes. It all makes SEO seem very high-risk and altogether frightening.

But, SEO doesn’t have to be that way. While you can dive straight into the rabbit hole and try to make sense of it all if you want, there are also many resources available to break it all down in simple terms, if you know where to find them. Pan Galactic Digital is one of those resources, as they regularly publish “SEO 101” articles trying to educate consumers, beginners, and anyone else interested.

SEO can seem unwieldy because it has to pay attention to the countless ranking signals that Google and Bing use to rank sites, but in all actuality, it all can be collected into two categories: on-page and off-page SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is exactly what it sounds like. It is made off all the areas you can optimize directly on each individual page of your site, especially Content, Code, and Site Architecture.

You are most likely familiar with content, because it is what you interact with most often. Specifically, content is everything you read and all the images you see directly on the page. Are they high quality? Does the text inform and engage? Is the content using keywords you would want to rank in a search engine, but not overusing them so that it feels unnatural? High quality content offers value to the viewer.

You can also optimize some of the HTML code on your page around chosen keywords. Titles, Image Alt tags, and Headers can all be potentially optimized to help search engines understand what your site is and what it offers. However, just as with content, overstuffing these areas with keywords isn’t advised.

Lastly, you have your site architecture, or how your site is laid out through proper URL management and loading speed of webpages. You want to make sure search engines can easily access your site once they’ve found you. You will want your keywords to incorporate important keywords that are relevant to your content.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is everything that happens outside your site, which can actually be fairly out of your control if done properly. The most well-talked about example is linking. Links to your site from other sites have historically been highly favored by Google as a sign of a quality site. They act roughly like votes in favor of your site. But, these have been partially demoted because numerous optimizers would attempt linking schemes such as buying links or syndicating content on other websites in inappropriate ways. Don’t ever buy links or try to take advantage of a loophole to get them. They must be earned.

One of the quickest growing off-page SEO signals is social media. It isn’t entirely clear how much social media presence directly affects your rankings compared to how much it just brings you traffic, but its no argument that well managed social media is a great tool for your website and business presence.

Obviously, you can dig deeper into these two categories and find far more ways that Google and Bing decides where to rank your webpages, but those basic factors are by far the most important. If you can get a handle on everything above, you will be well suited for anything else you encounter moving forward.

Social media has gone from internet oddity to one of the strongest tools in an online marketer’s toolbox. These days, social media presence can be just as important to your online marketing as your website. In some markets, social presence can be even more vital.

Many companies have already stepped up the the plate to meaningfully incorporate social media marketing into their brand experience, and they’ve found that the tactic can be a serious powerhouse for marketing at a fraction of the cost of many campaigns. The trick is knowing exactly how to use the medium.

The successful marketers on social media aren’t yelling about their products at every turn, they aren’t taking part in silly novelty marketing attempts (Chipotle’s recent Twitter “hacking” …), but most importantly they aren’t ignoring their customers. Social media creates a brand new opportunity for consumers to directly interact with the brands they purchase and create a real relationship between businesses and their audience.

Social media is new, and the companies finding success are experimenting and taking advantage of the real benefits the platforms provide, but they aren’t playing completely by ear. There may not be a rule book set in stone for social media marketing yet, but there are definitely some guidelines.

MarketingProfs tried to tie down some of these guidelines and guiding traits of successful social media marketers, and they put the results into an infographic (seen below). If you’re struggling to find your brand’s voice in the social arena or simply haven’t lept into action yet, this infographic will help you develop a useful approach.

10 Superpowers of Social Media Marketers

Google IconHow fast does your website load on mobile devices? Under five seconds? If you said yes to the second question, you are probably pretty happy with your answer. What about under one second? Probably not. But that is how fast Google says sites should load, according to their newest guidelines for mobile phones.

Before you start freaking out at the suggestion their site is supposed to load in under a second, it should be clear that Google isn’t mandating an insane guideline. They don’t actually expect most websites to completely load that quickly. Instead, they are focusing on the “above the fold” content. They think users should be able to get started playing with your page quickly, while the rest can progressively load.

It is probably a wise insight, considering most mobile users say they are more likely to leave a site the longer it takes to load. On smartphones, every second really counts, and if you can get the above the fold content loaded within a second, most users will be happy to wait for the rest of the content while they start exploring.

The update reads:

“…the whole page doesn’t have to render within this budget, instead, we must deliver and render the above the fold (ATF) content in under one second, which allows the user to begin interacting with the page as soon as possible. Then, while the user is interpreting the first page of contents, the rest of the page can be delivered progressively in the background.”

To match with the new guidelines, Google also updated its PageSpeed Insights Tool to focus more on mobile scoring and suggestions over the desktop scoring. They also updated scoring and ranking criteria to reflect the guideline changes.