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Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Web Site Audits Should be Free

One of the most common questions I get in sales call as my role as an SEO and web site auditor is,

“Why should I pay you just so you can tell me what is wrong with my web site and what it will cost to fix it? After all, you don’t pay your mechanic to diagnose your car and provide a quote, do you?

Web site audits should be free

A much more pleasant version of that mechanic analogy was used in an email I received recently from a prospect who I have been in a number of discussions with in regards to helping her improve site visibility and site conversions for the charity she represents. She happens to be very engaged in the car industry which explains the analogy. Since I have to reply to her anyway I thought I would spend a little time to create an article I can show to StepForth’s valued readers and future prospects.

First, Some Insight into What a Web Site Audit Should Include

I can only speak for our own services but whenever we pitch a web site audit to a prospect/client we  explain they are paying for a service that will:

  1. Examine all online and offsite factors (i.e. links to the site, and/or social media usage, and/or online reputation) that can have an impact on the web site’s search engine rankings and (optionally but preferably) its ability to convert browsers into buyers; or for the charities we support the ability to convert browsers into donors.
  2. Provide in-depth results complete with detailed appendices as applicable; some of the overly in-depth data is often placed here in case the client wishes to review it.
  3. The final report will include all of the issues found in priority of importance and we often include instructions to implement each recommendation.
  4. We include a 30 min to 1 hour (depending on size of audit) conference call to review the results with them and answer any questions.

In short, we provide the roadmap to improving their web site’s opportunities for increased rankings and we do so using clear and concise language. This service takes between 6 and 15 hours for small-to-medium sized sites between the research, analysis and writing of the final report plus the final meeting. Larger websites with long (and sometimes turbulent) histories of online marketing can take upwards of 24-30 hours to audit. Read more…

Today Google announced two powerful new ways to explore what is trending on Google within Google Trends. These tools will come in handy when you need fresh ideas for blog posts and they will lend insight into what key topics you can weave into a content idea you already have in order to ride the wave of a particular trend; not that I or Miley Cyrus would do that.

1) Trending Top Charts

Find out what is trending overall on Google in the USA (more countries on the way soon apparently) for a wide variety of categories on the new Top Charts section within Google Trends.

A screenshot of Google's new Top Charts

Miley Cyrus straddling a wrecking ballHow to Use Miley Cyrus and Trending Top Charts to Your Advantage

We can see in the current trends above that Miley Cyrus is a huge topic right now in the search stream. Based on that information perhaps you decide your next article on social media reputation management will focus on her so you can capitalize on all of the search interest she has drummed up.You can do this by making the article all about Miley’s public antics and how they have affected her online reputation. If your article is of a high quality in terms of the message it provides, the examples and the writing then those factors along with the  use of Miley Cyrus’s name will likely drum up a heck of a lot of traffic through direct visits and shares; whether this is the type of traffic you want is another question entirely (no comment).

Read more…

A screenshot of the form Google posted to request feedback on their search policiesToday Google announced the release of a form which offers you and me to provide them with our thoughts on how they should police and manage their search results. Yes, you read that right… they are listening to our feedback… if for a short time. So, head on over there and make yourself heard while you can.

The questions they are asking are:

What is the Search issue that you want to improve?

What is your proposed policy change or solution?

And you have the ability to add corresponding examples and other information in a final form field.

If you entered some suggestions we would love to hear about them in the comments. Please share! We might even raise your points on the next episode of SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM

 

 

Last week Google  finally released a more in-depth description within Google Webmaster Tools describing the reason(s) a manual web site penalty had been applied to a specific website. This news will now allow manually penalized site owners the necessary insight to correct the reasons for the penalty and apply to Google for reconsideration.

You can find this report within your Google Webmaster Tools account under “Search Traffic” > “Manual Actions”.

Here is an example Matt Cutts posted of the new penalty descriptor:

Matt Cutt's example of the response given by Google on a hypothetical penalty applied to his website

Some Background on Manual Penalties

Up until this change if you had been unfortunate enough Read more…

A graphic of the book cover

Today StepForth released a comprehensive manual on How to Setup Google Authorship which is available now for free as a web version or PDF download (right-click this link and save).

About this Free Manual

Written by Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth, this unofficial manual is for anyone who writes regularly online and website owners/administrators of a website with or without a blog. It is designed to help everyone understand what Authorship is, why it is important and how to ensure it is setup for the greatest personal and/or professional benefit. 

This manual covers implementation of the rel=author and rel=publisher tags within the following scenarios and platforms: Read more…

A few months ago website owner who has worked with us periodically in the past contacted us as a result of a ranking decline around the same time as a Penguin update, and we performed a small audit on his site.

A con man selling watches in a cheap plaid suit and sunglasses

Our investigation had revealed that his inbound link profile consisted primarily of paid links – most of which were from low quality websites with minimal or no relevance. Our recommendation at that time was to remove those paid links and work on expanding his profile with quality & relevance.

Just last week we received a notification from Google that this particular site had received a manual penalty due to unnatural linking. While the notification does not specifically state the source links of the “manual spam action” we remembered the paid link building tactics he was using which we discovered in the past audit.

Passing Along News of the Google Penalty
I forwarded the message from Google to the site owner letting him know what had happened. Initially I suspected that the paid linking had caught up with him. While it is possible that some of the paid links contributed to the problem, it turns out they are far from the primary issue.  A conversation with the site owner quickly revealed he had been using a cheap link building company for the past several months.  I suggested he contact them to get their input on the Google warning. He shared part of his conversation with me and I was completely shocked. Read more…

While it was available for some time on mobile devices, Google has officially launched “Carousel” for users in the US on standard desktop machines.

Carousel is yet another new way Google is experimenting with how it displays search results, now moved out of Beta and into the main stream of Google search. With Carousel, Google provides a horizontal scrolling selection of shiny photo rich results to draw the searchers attention across the top of the results. Read more…

At StepForth we do not work with websites of an adult nature, and while we turned down the request for a proposal, a recent conversation with the owner of an adult site brought to light a very interesting blacker-than-black hat ranking technique that appears to be working. I just had to take a moment to share it with you.

Remember the old “Miserable Failure” days of Google bombing? The theory that if you built enough links with the same anchor text that your site would rank well for that anchor text? It worked great for a while. Then Google essentially shut it down. Or did they?

The webmaster that contacted us wanted to rank for a specific term, but was disheartened when much of his top 10 competition consisted of several low quality nearly identical sites that literally popped up overnight. Out of curiosity I decided to investigate and what I found was rather disturbing. Read more…

UPDATE October 30th, 2014: Hello everyone. I have great news. As of a while back this tutorial is no longer necessary because Bing smartened up and now allows us Canucks to add our business and administrate the listing at BingPlaces.com. The process is very straight forward but if you do have questions please post them in the comments. If I see enough demand I will rewrite this into a tutorial for the Bing Places setup.

Also, if you represent a small business and have any interest in receiving answers to web marketing questions you might find MarketingHigh.com worthwhile looking at. You can ask UNLIMITED web marketing questions of myself and my veteran team of web marketers for the price of a fancy coffee per month. Why us? I have been web marketing successfully since 1997, my Senior SEO has 12 years of experience and we are both 100% white hat (that means ethical) web marketers; we will not give you advice that could hurt your business. For more info check out MarketingHigh.com and please pass the word to other small business owners who could use a helping hand navigating the world of web marketing. This is a mind-blowing steal considering what most consulting costs in this industry.

Cheers, Ross Dunn

The MarketingHigh.com logo

Ask unlimited web marketing questions of experts for $49/year.

 

——- Here is the original article on the old method of Bing setup for Canadians ——-

Rejoice fellow Canadians! After years of crying foul and bugging Bing engineers at search engine conferences I can finally say that Canadian business owners can submit their business to Bing Canada for free instead of relying on YellowPages listings; which were an unreliable solution at best. What follows is a little more detail on the subject and a full walkthrough of the submission process and end result. Also, if you wish to see just how much anger and frustration the previous system created please see my article “Bing’s Local Listing Center Lacks Forethought” posted in 2009: yes 4 years ago, so you can count me frustrated (politely put) with them as well.

What Made Bing Get its Sh*t Together?

Sadly it seems we have no need to thank Bing engineers (or my significant prodding) for this advance in Canuck accessibility because it was Nokia who bridged the chasm. Nokia increased its already significant maps partnership with Microsoft to allow their Nokia Maps system to update Bing’s Canadian Local data. This all started, it seems, back in January 2012 but I can’t find any indication this bromance between the two companies included Canadian business submissions that early in the game. Anyway, if you go to Bing and try to submit your business you will now be redirected to Nokia Prime Place where you can  follow their submission and address verification process which I have outlined in detail further along in this post. Read more…

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Monday, January 14th, 2013

How to Be a Great Blogger

To many business owners blogging is a task they either cannot be bothered with or do not know how to work into their schedules. As an entrepreneur myself I completely understand most concerns about maintaining a blog because I have, at one time, been in the same position. After all, we are already so busy with keeping our clients happy and running our businesses that another task seems impossible to comprehend; never mind a task which many business owners are not convinced will help the bottom line.

All of that said, blogging has a good track record for increasing the bottom line when it is done for the right reasons and with dedication. In the following clip, Gil Namur, President of the popular ezine LifeasaHuman.com explains the motivation you require to be a great blogger:

How to be a Great Blogger from StepForth on Vimeo.

Some Basic Blogging Tips

  1. If possible (and it is not always) pick a topic to write about for which you are passionate so your enthusiasm comes across in your writing.
  2. Offer something of value and remember the chief goal of your content is to help others – NOT to market to them.
  3. Proof read your content and if possible I highly recommend having someone else with a fresh pair of eyes proof read it as well.

How to Find Blog Post Ideas

I find the best story ideas come from seeing popular or trending questions or discussions in my industry. With those angles in mind, here are a few resources and tips for hunting down questions and the latest trending news/topics: Read more…