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Another day, another Matt Cutts Google Webmaster Help video to talk about. This recent one deals with how SEO professionals pay close attention to any new Google patent that is remotely related to Search or Search Quality terms, and then speculate until some believe some very incorrect ideas about how Google is operating.

Cutts was asked what the latest SEO misconception he would “like to put to rest” and you could almost see the relief in his eyes as Cutts began explaining that patents aren’t necessarily put into practice.

“Just because a patent issues that has somebody’s name on it or someone who works at search quality or someone who works at Google, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are using that patent at that moment,” Cutts explained. “Sometimes you will see speculation Google had a patent where they mentioned using the length of time that a domain was registered. That doesn’t mean that we are necessarily doing that, it just means that mechanism is patented.”

Basically, there is a practice of SEO professionals, especially bloggers and writers, to speculate based on patents they see have been filed, and this can grow to offering tips and suggestions about how to run your website based on speculation stemming from a patent that isn’t in use, which all comes together to create some widespread misinformation.

For example, consider the speculation that comes every time Apple files patents for future phones. While they’ve recently had trouble with leaking physical prototypes in various ways, in the past, Apple kept their secrets well guarded, and the speculation based on their patents were often outlandish, and at best completely wrong.

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn and make predictions based on patents, especially if you see indicators that it has been implemented, but it is important to take every patent with a grain of salt. While Google has created the mechanisms for these patents, unless you see evidence, they probably aren’t worth getting worked up over.

While quality SEO is a complex, time-consuming job, there are many types of SEO that any site owner can do. There are also a lot of basic mistakes that site owners regularly make while trying to optimize their own page.

To help prevent these easily corrected mistakes, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of their Webspam team, devoted one of his recent YouTube videos (which you can watch below) to identifying the five most basic SEO mistakes anyone can make.

1) Not Making Your Site Crawlable – According to Cutts, the most common mistake “by volume” is simply not making Google able to crawl your site, or not even having a domain to begin with.

The way Google learns about sites is through web “crawlers” that index pages by following links. If you don’t provide links allowing Google’s bots to find your site, it won’t know what is there. If you can’t reach content by clicking normal links on the page in a text browser, it might as well not exist to Google.

2) Not Using Words People Are Searching For – Google also tries to connect people with the most relevant information for the exact search they used. If someone searches “how high is Mount Everest,” they will be connected with a site using those exact words on a page before they will be suggested a page using just “Mount Everest elevation.”

My favorite example Cutts uses of this is a restaurant’s website, mainly because it seems many restaurants have very minimal websites that are insanely in need of optimization and a bit of a design overhaul. When people look for a restaurant to eat, they search for a couple of things, mainly the location, menu, and hours. If the page has those listed in plain text, Google will index that information and direct more people to the site, than those with PDF menus or no information at all.

3) Focusing On Link Building – One of the biggest buzzwords in SEO is link building. It is one of the oldest strategies, and it is constantly tweaked by Google’s algorithms to keep it in the news regularly, but it may actually be dragging you down.

When people think link building, they cut off many other ideas and marketing options which will equally boost your site. Cutts suggests instead to focus on general marketing. If you make your website more well-known and respected within your community, you will attract real people, which will bring organic links which are much more respected by the search engines.

4) Bad Titles and Descriptions – Many people neglect their titles and descriptions assuming they will either be automatically filled in, or won’t matter in the long run. If your website says “untitled” in the title bar, it will also say “untitled” in a bookmarks folder as well as actual search results. Now ask yourself, would you click on a website without a title?

Similarly, the descriptions for webpages are often blank or copy and pasted straight from the page with no context. Your description should be enticing people to want to click on your page, as well as showing that you have the answer to the question they are searching for. If people can build entire followings around 140 character tweets, you should be able to make someone want to click your page with a 160 character description.

5) Not Using Webmaster Resources – This problem can only be born out of ignorance or laziness. There are countless SEO resources available out there, and most of them are free. The best resources anyone can turn too are the Webmaster Tools and Guidelines that Google offers, but you shouldn’t just stick to those either. There are blogs, webinars, videos, and forums all happy to teach you SEO, you just have to use them. If you’re reading this however, you probably don’t have this problem.

Conclusion

The most common SEO problems, according to Cutts, are also the most simple problems imaginable. There are resources available that will help you fix all your basic SEO problems, and you’ll learn more and get better through finding them and practicing. If you’re currently dealing with trying to learn how to make your site crawlable, you have a long way to go, but if you just keep working at it, you’ll be an SEO pro eventually.

Any time Google’s Penguin or Panda updates are mentioned, site owners and bloggers alike work themselves into a mini frenzy about the possibility that their totally legitimate website might have been penalized. It’s warranted, in a way, because a few innocent bystanders have been affected, but largely Google is policing those breaking the rules.

Meanwhile, bloggers have tended to downplay just how much rule breaking there is. Black hat SEO is treated as a fringe issue when in reality it is a huge issue. Writers tend to focus on a small aspect of black hat SEO in which competitors use shady links and other SEO tactics to bring your site down, and that is incredibly rare. Google considers all explicit spam to be black hat, and with that definition, black hat SEO is the most pervasive type of SEO around.

It is also the type of spam Google spends most of their time fighting. Matt Cutts, Google’s webspam team leader, took to YouTube recently to answer a question about how many notifications Google sends out to website owners, and 90% of Google’s manual penalties are still spent on blatant spam pages.

Google sends out hundreds of thousands of notifications each month, but the chances of your common SEO or website owner seeing one are rare. There is a chance though. The other 10% of notifications focus on problems that SEOs who have fallen out of the loop or novices may have gotten sucked up into such as link buying, link selling, or even hacking notifications.

Last week, Matt Cutts responded to a question he receives fairly regularly concerning the PageRank feature in the Google toolbar. Specifically, why haven’t they removed it? It is apparent that many believe that the PageRank feature is “widely used by link sellers as a link grading system.”

There is, of course, some truth to this. While spammers do take advantage of the PageRank system, Cutts says that it is still relevant to many others. “There are a lot of SEO’s and people in search who look at the PageRank toolbar, but there are a ton of regular users as well.” Apparently, many internet users see the PageRank feature as indicative of reputability  and Google doesn’t plan on forcing them to stop.

That doesn’t mean PageRank is here to stay forever. While Google plans to keep supporting it so long as it is relevant to their users, it is telling that Chrome does not have the PageRank feature built into Chrome. Now, IE 10 is disavowing add ons, meaning Google’s toolbar will no longer work with the browser.

Considering that Internet Explorer was the only browser supporting the Google toolbar, it is highly likely the PageRank feature, as well as the toolbar as a whole, will fade away before long. As Matt Cutts puts it, “the writing is on the wall” that the new iteration of IE could be the end of PageRank, but we will have to wait and see.

There is more than enough talk out there about negative SEO, and how to prevent it or fight back against it, but Matt Cutts says the actual number of occurrences of people trying to use negative SEO is extremely low. He explains that Google designs their algorithms to try to ensure that they can avoid penalizing innocent sites and now that Google has added the Disavow Links tool to their repertoire, it is very easy to shut down “black hat” SEO if it does happen to you.

Cutts, the head of the Google Webspam team took to YouTube to answer the huge number of questions he has received about negative SEO, and also further explain the Disavow Links tool, clearing up any misconceptions there could be. Cutts doesn’t think negative SEO should be a concern for the vast amount of website owners out there, unless you are in extremely competitive spheres. “There’s a lot of people who talk about negative SEO, but very few people who actually try it, and fewer still who actually succeed,” he said.

When we talk about mobile search engines, there are really only two names in the conversation: Google and Bing. But did you know there are quite a few other options, and you probably already have them available on your phone?

Many apps offer built-in search engines, and they may be able to direct good amounts of traffic to your site, depending on your market. For example, YouTube is actually the second most popular search engine being used. Yes, YouTube gets used for searching more than Bing.

Sherwood Stranieri analyzed these in-app search engines, and has a helpful breakdown of what less recognized mobile search engines are best for your industry.

To maximize your business’s potential, you need an online presence. But in order to be successful with your endeavors into social media, there’s a foundation that must be layed. Here are four fundamentals, or building blocks, to get you started on creating your social media presence.

1. Set Goals, Make a Plan

Without a plan and clear goals in mind, you are already doomed to fail. Afterall, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Or, more importantly, when you veer off course.

Think about how you will define success and how you plan to achieve it. Consider why you are using social media and how you’d like it to benefit your business. Also, put yourself in your desired audience’s shoes and try to discover what they’d like to see out of your profile.

The Digital Relativity blog has more on setting goals.

2. Tools

By tools, I mean the social media platform of your choosing. This goes right along with making a plan because before jumping in, you should be researching various platforms to make sure you are using the most effective one for your business.

If your target demographic doesn’t include women 18-30, maybe you can skip making a Pinterest account.

If you want to concentrate more on articles and written content, you may not need to spend time on Instagram, YouTube or Tumblr.

Not that you can’t manage more than one social media platform at once, but you’ll likely be most effective with your time if you narrow down your choice as much as possible so your message is most powerful and received by your desired audience.

3. Be a Credible Source

Once you’ve landed on the right site for you, become a source of constant, consistent, credible content. Not only should you create your own, but you can also share content from other sources. You can even share competitors content and add a little extra commentary to set yourself apart.

The idea is to send the message that your business is the expert in your field. Ideally, when people think of topics that pertain to your business, they’ll think of you.

4. Build an Audience

What good is any of this if no one is around to see what you’ve done? Certainly, being on the right social media platform is a great start. Boxcar Marketing has some tips for building an audience on specific platforms.

Having great content is also key to making sure you have users continually viewing your profile.

Once everything is in place, target influential users that boast a large following and send them your content in hopes that they’ll share it. This isn’t necessarily someone you personally think is influential, but rather someone your users will respect and likely be paying attention to already.

Also, be active on your profile and on other user’s profiles. If you receive comments on content you’ve shared, comment back and start an intelligent discussion. If you see interesting content shared by someone else, drop in your two-cents, which again helps you become a trusted expert in your field. Interaction will bring potential customers back more than sterile content.

Above all, be professional, be courteous and be relevant. Don’t stray off course from your business. This isn’t a profile where you share your views or you interests. This profile is for the users that need your service. Give them what they want.

Google announced yesterday that they’ll be changing how they track users across all of their different sites, including YouTube, Gmail, and the big G’s search engine. There is some concern from various places (including the Washington Post)  that this is tracking that can’t be opted out of, but the truth is, you still have that option. It goes live March 1st, you can see all details here.

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So I was up late and had YouTube going.  Noticed a funky little button to the bottom right.  “1911?  What’s that mean?”  So I clicked it, of course.  And it’s awesome.  I highly recommend you try it out.  Especially their review on the best viral pictures from 100 years ago.

Just a quick post to give a notice of one of Google’s fun additions to their sites.  Aside from their open position for autocompleters, of course.

It appears Google and YouTube are starting to put in something new – automated captioning.  This will help a lot for people who are unable to receive the audio for either physical or mechanical reasons.  It’s going to start with English only, but they will be using voice recognition software to turn the audio into legible captions.

There is word that this update may affect SEO, but I have my curiosities about this.  It can only truly affect SEO if the captions are somehow written into the page code.  We can only see if this is the case once this new development in YouTube goes live.  We’ll see how it turns out.