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Most of the websites we create include blogs. We consider them a critical component of most websites and most successful SEO strategies.

However, blogging usually represents foreign territory for our clients. They’re unsure why it’s important or what they should write about. And if they’re not IT people, the whole process can seem intimidating.

For those just venturing into business blogging, here’s a basic explanation of why it’s is so darn important — and some quick tips on what to write about.

Why blog at all?

First off, there are too many websites for search engines to monitor in real time. Therefore, how often they crawl a given website depends in large part on how often new content is added.

For example, Google might crawl your website after an absence of three weeks. If new content has been added since then, Google will be more likely to return after only two weeks. And if there’s always new content, that’s a sure sign to Google that someone cares about this website. They’ll start crawling even more frequently.

Conversely, if Google never finds any new content on your site, their spiders might not return for a month or even longer. That means your site is going to do poorly in search results.

So adding new content to your site is a critical way of promoting your search rankings. And what’s the easiest place on a website to add new content? Your blog.

What in the world should I write about?

Once our clients get the importance of new content, they’re willing to start blogging. The next stumbling block? Figuring out what to write about.

Here are some fail-safe suggests.

  • Client problems and the solutions you provided
  • New developments within the company — new employees, a new office
  • Developments within the industry — Is there a new product available? What technology is pushing your industry to change?
  • Fun topics — company parties, company pets, a particularly interesting project
  • Writing specifically for keyword phrases. For example, a client of ours specializes in exterior home improvements and is interested in acquiring roofing leads. He and I created an article on energy-efficient roofing solutions, frequently linking from the article to his roofing page.

 

How do I do it?

I’m not going to belabor this point. Suffice it to say that once I sit down with a new blogger and show them the incredibly easy GUI that modern blogging platforms provide, they’re sold. They can see the parallels between Word and WordPress, and see how easy it is to make the leap.

A final suggestion

So this is the basic information I give to our clients about getting started with blogging. One final suggestion: In terms of content, don’t limit yourself —remember that nearly any content is helpful.

After all, Google learned what you’re selling the first time it crawled your site. It also probably knows 500 other websites selling the same thing. Start blogging and differentiate yourself by out-content-ing your competitors.

Optimizing your website for search is a critical way of bringing visitors to your site. And you do that, in part, by matching the keywords in your site with the words that users type into their search engines. Sounds straightforward enough.

But finding just the right keywords? That’s another matter.

Tools like Google Adwords can be helpful in developing an initial list of targeted keywords and phrases. But there’s no way to predict exactly what phrases web users are going to search to find your site. And it’s difficult to predict what phrases Google will associate with your site.

The answer? Google Analytics.

After your site has been initially optimized and is up and running, you can use Google Analytics to learn exactly what phrases were typed into search engines to find your site. By regularly checking what phrases are attracting visitors, you’ll get a better idea of what phrases should be dominant on your website, and which to target. Often, Google Analytics will turn up phrases that would never have occurred to you on your own.

Here’s an example.

Say you’re a beanbag importer and you’ve optimized a page on your site for “Beanbag Chairs. ” But when you check Google Analytics, you discover that “Children’s Furniture” is unexpectedly attracting lots of web users to your site.

Now you have real-world data on how real users are getting to your site. Here’s what you do in response.

  • Search. The first step is Googling “Children’s Furniture” and locating the first page of your website that appears on Google. You’ll want to make this page your landing page for “Children’s Furniture.”
  • Adjust. Once you’ve identified that page, you can adjust the page’s meta data, content, headlines, images, and image alt tags to increase number of times this new phrase appears.
  • Observe. Over time, these adjustments should improve the Google positioning of your site when “Children’s Furniture” is searched, thus increasing the number of visits to your site.
  • Repeat. Monthly or quarterly, you should repeat this process, discovering what new phrases are taking hold and bringing visitors to your site. And you would adjust your landing pages and content accordingly.

This process is time-consuming and can be tedious, but it’s a critical part of a complete SEO process. Doing it religiously is the only way to ensure that your site stays aligned with what real users are searching for online.

By now, many of you many have heard about J.C. Penney’s epic fail: their recent attempt to trick Google and claim search superiority on a number of phrases you wouldn’t normally associate with Penney’s — phrases like area rugs and skinny jeans.

The story goes like this. Over the course of several months, at the end of 2010 and moving into 2011, Penney’s started appearing at or near the top of searches for a variety of terms: everything from dresses to home décor. The trend was spotted by the New York Times, who asked online search expert Doug Pierce to investigate.

What Pierce uncovered was what’s called “black hat optimization”; in other words, cheating.

Essentially, J.C. Penny (and its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex) engaged in a massive effort to game Google’s search algorithms. Their method of choice? Creating thousands of links to JCPenney.com across hundreds of sites across the web. Most of the referring sites were little more than “link farms”—sites set up for the sole purpose of creating outbound links to other websites.

According to the Times:

“There are links to JCPenney.com’s dresses page on sites about diseases, cameras, cars, dogs, aluminum sheets, travel, snoring, diamond drills, bathroom tiles, hotel furniture, online games, commodities, fishing, Adobe Flash, glass shower doors, jokes and dentists — and the list goes on.

Some of these sites seem all but abandoned, except for the links… When you read the enormous list of sites … the landscape of the Internet acquires a whole new topography. It starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.”

After the Times revealed its information to Google in February, the search giant went all medieval. Within a span of 10 days, Penney’s average position for 59 search terms dropped from 1.3 to 52.

When we talked about this scam internally, here at Atomic, we were surprised that such a major retailer could make such a stupid mistake. Trying to game Google might get you some short-term increases in traffic, but you’re going to pay for it in the long run. You’ll pay with a loss of customer trust, and you’ll pay big time when Google drops the axe on your search results, as it did in this case.

Zach Hensler, our SEO guy, noted that one of Penney’s goofiest moves was loading links on sites with totally random subject matter—like putting links to dresses on websites about fishing. Google’s all about content and context—a disconnect like this raises a big red flag for them. Especially when they see it multiplied hundredfold on link farms across the internet.

The big lesson here? Be attuned to Google’s SEO approach, and for goodness sake, don’t try to outfox their engineers. Focus on your customers and what they need, and fill your site with that content. If you’re providing valuable material that people want to read and share, inbound links will come naturally. And your search will improve as a result, now and into the long term. Inbound links are valuable but they should come from quality sites of similar subject matter.

Want to learn more about the right way to improve your search results? Contact Atomic.

web semantics

Have you ever wished that the web was more helpful—and less robotic?

Let’s imagine you’re traveling to Florida for Christmas.  You hop onto your search engine and query “christmas florida.” But the first eight results are about the city “Christmas, Florida” — not what you had in mind.

Wouldn’t it be cool if search engines could tell the difference between Christmas the city and Christmas the holiday?

Enter the semantic web. The semantic web is a development paradigm, part of the HTML5 proposal, that structures the content of sites so the internet can “understand” words based on context.

For example:

  • If you search for “house main character,” the semantic web would understand that you mean the TV show House, not a house where someone lives.
  • If you search for “green windows,” it would understand that you meant energy-efficient windows—not windows that were painted green.
  • If you wrote “I love Atomic Interactive – they provide excellent web development,” the semantic web would understand you mean that “Atomic provides excellent web development.”

In other words, the semantic web can understand the association between pronouns and the words they’re linked to. Wow.

How does this all work? The semantic web’s enhanced understanding of words is driven by microdata, one of many new tags in HTML5.

So if I were writing content about Christmas, Florida, I would include microdata indicating that I’m talking about a location. Conversely, if I were writing about celebrating Christmas in Florida, I would include microdata indicating that I’m talking about the location Florida, but the event Christmas.

Modern search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo take advantage of this microdata to keep your search results relevant.  In fact, Bing was built from the core up to parse microdata and associate content together. That explains why Microsoft markets Bing as a “decision engine”— supposedly, it helps you make better decisions by getting rid of superfluous search results.

The bottom line? If you have a data-heavy website or are having trouble with SEO because search engines are confused about your content, utilizing the semantic web can help. Atomic can help you take the first step in coding for this brave new web. Reach out to us anytime you want.

Quick quiz: What’s the difference between SEO and SEM? (You know, search engine optimization and search engine marketing.)

Not sure? Join the crowd.

In a nutshell, SEO and SEM are strategies used to help companies create effective websites – websites that attract qualified, prospective customers. Customers who hopefully – to put it bluntly – buy lots and lots of stuff.

The strategies take different forms.

SEO can be thought of as things you do within your website to optimize your organic search rankings. That means increasing the chance that a potential customer will find your site using a search engine like Google. It includes things like:

  • Embedding keywords in your body copy, headings, hyperlinks, and tags
  • Building a navigational structure and page structure that can be easily indexed by search engines
  • Using clean code so that search engines can “understand” your content
  • And, of course, including great content that matters to your customers

SEM can be thought of as things you do outside your website to drive web traffic, and customers, toward it. An SEM campaign might include:

The key thing to know about SEO and SEM is that they work best when they work together, with SEO “pulling” traffic to your site and SEM “pushing” it there.

That’s the point of having a website, after all – to help customers find you, learn about you, and buy your goods or services.

Want to talk with us more about the world of SEO and SEM? Contact us anytime.