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Keyword Planner Screenshot

The time has come. As of yesterday, the Google Keyword Tool is officially dead. The sentiments are mixed as the tool has been frequently used by webmasters and SEO professionals across the world, but Google has offered a replacement called the Keyword Planner which has some advantages over the old tool. It also has some drawbacks associated with the switch.

In Google’s opinion, the Keyword Planner can accomplish all the important tasks the Keyword Tool could, as well as that of the Traffic Estimator. There are even some new features included which neither of the older tools offered. Matt Southern from Search Engine Journal broke down the pros and cons of being forced to make the change, which are shared below. Chances are in a few months you won’t even remember using the old Keyword Tool, but the transition could take some getting used to.

Positives

The Keyword Planner allows local SEO professionals and marketers to acquire keyword search volume data down to a city level with better geographic segmentation than the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator. It also has the ability to bundle geographic regions together.

SEO professionals and marketers are also able to upload up to 10,000 keywords from their own list to get performance data. The planner displays search volume by ad group, landing page, and any other categorization established by the user.

Negatives

The most common gripe I have heard about the Keyword Planner is that, unlike the Keyword Tool, the planner required users to be logged into AdWords before being able to use the tool. However, there are some functions removed from the Keyword Tool which will have a larger impact on how you view and understand the data.

The Keyword Planner does not feature match type data for search volume, device targeting, and doesn’t include global vs. local monthly searches. The ability to filter by closely related search terms is also missing, though Google has stated it will be back within the coming weeks. They explained the missing match types and device differentiation in a statement, which read:

In general, you’ll notice that the average search volume data is higher in Keyword Planner as compared to the exact match search volume data you got with the Keyword Tool. That’s because we’ll show you the average number of searches for a keyword idea on all devices (desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones). With Keyword Tool, we showed the average search volume for desktop and laptop computers by default.

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.

By now, the hacker craze of the 90’s and early 2000’s has died down quite a bit. Most people don’t worry about hackers all that much, so long as you use some solid anti-virus and keep your router protected. Big businesses may have to worry about Anonymous’ hi jinks, but the common person don’t tend to concern themselves with the issue. Hacking especially doesn’t seem like that big of an issue for SEO, at first.

But, hackers can actually do your site some damage, and can even get your site entirely dropped from the Google search index. Sites get blacklisted when hackers inject malicious code onto servers, as Google seeks to protects searchers’ computers from any sort of compromising.

While Google doesn’t immediately drop sites from their index, being blacklisted leads to a complete drop in organic traffic and can be a crisis for SEO. Blacklisting starts as a warning to searchers that a site may be compromised, and few will continue past that alarm.

This has become a rather significant problem for Google. To help provide wide support for the increasing number of webmasters dealing with compromised servers, Google has launched the ‘Webmasters Help for Hacked Sites‘ support center. They give detailed information on how to clean and repair your server and prevent your site from getting entirely dropped from the Google index.

If you think this sort of hacking isn’t a big deal, check out the charts below. They show just how frequent this type of malicious activity has become. It isn’t just banks and large corporations dealing with it. Small businesses are just as at risk as international franchises. The most common form of attack is an automated set of processes that indiscriminately discover and exploit vulnerabilities on servers, which are often left completely unprotected.

Search Engine Journal recently explored the issue more in depth, unpacking why the issue is such a large concern to Google and webmasters alike. Compromised sites can destroy a search engine’s credibility just as your own, so the problem has to be taken very seriously.

It has become pretty obvious that traffic potential increases quite a bit when a YouTube video or tweet is embedded into posts. Most people consider videos as more valuable content than regular blog posts, and the appreciate posts that condense relevant tons of tweets on a topic so that they don’t have to dig through all the spam, “trolling”, or other nonsense. Now, as Search Engine Journal reports, Facebook has made it possible for you to embed posts from their site as well.

A Facebook post from Venus Williams

The social media platform shared the above image as an illustration of the concept, which shows that you’ll be able to click on the ‘Embed Post’ button and be given a simple code that can be placed into an article. It’s pretty simple, though it hasn’t been widely released yet. Only a small group of organizations and businesses have already been given the ability. Instead, the embedded post ability will be rolled out with the new hashtag capability.

The new announcement also means that your Facebook posts can get additional exposure and sharing, as well as opening another way for advertisers to connect with people.

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.

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.

Image Courtesy of Martin Pettitt

Image Courtesy of Martin Pettitt

Despite telling us that Google would no longer confirm when new Panda updates occur, they announced today that they were rolling out a new update that is “more finely targeted” than the original release of Penguin 2.0.

Unlike many Penguin updates, most webmasters actually seem happy to see the new version, as they are already claiming recovery from the original algorithm.

Google has said that their plan is to release Panda algorithm updates monthly over a ten day period, but Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, implied there way a delay for this refresh because they wanted to ensure the signals would be loosened up a little from the last release.

The official statement from Google simply says, “In the last few days we’ve been pushing out a new Panda update that incorporates new signals so it can be more finely targeted.”

Search Engine Journal says the update has resulted in

  • Increase in impressions but same amount of CTR’s (viewable when logged into Google’s Webmaster Tools)
  • Informational sites such as Wikipedia and About.com have seen big impacts in their rankings
  • Authority sites are more prominent in SERPs.
  • Sites using Google+ are getting better rankings

Their suggestions for the future? It’s reaching the point where not using Google+ can hurt your site, and it is time to enable Google Authorship.

rsz_1377498_16940838Google has made it very clear that mobile SEO is going to play a big part in their plan moving forward. Last month, Google’s webspam team leader Matt Cutts stated as such during the SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle and Google’s own Webmaster Central Blog confirmed the changes will be here very soon. A recent update told webmasters, “We plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”

It isn’t like these changes are coming out of nowhere. Analysts have been encouraging site owners and SEO professionals to pay attention to their mobile sites for years and mobile traffic increases show no signs of slowing down. So, you would think most companies with a fair amount of resources would already be ahead of the curve, but a recent assessment run by mobile marketing agency Pure Oxygen Labs shows that the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list are actually in danger of Google penalties in the near future.

Pure Oxygen Labs used their proprietary diagnostic tools to evaluate sites against Google’s best-practice criteria, according to Search Engine Land. They hoped to see how many sites redirected smartphone users to mobile pages, how these redirects are configured, and how widely responsive design was actually being used to reach mobile users.

Only six of the 100 Fortune 500 companies had sites that properly follow Google’s best-practices. The report stated that 11 percent of the sites use responsive design techniques, while only 56 percent of the sites served any sort of content formatted for their mobile users. That means 44 percent had absolutely nothing in the way of mobile optimized sites or content.

The six that actually completely complied with Google’s policies included Google, so it should be noted that means only five outside companies were safe from future penalties at the moment.

There were multiple reasons sites were ill-equipped, but the most common problems were faulty redirects and lack of responsive design, both issues Google has singled out recently as their primary targets for future attacks on poorly configured mobile sites.