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5-Step Checklist for Revamping Your Small Business Online Presence

According to Adweek, 81% of consumers conduct research online before buying something. You almost certainly already know this and pivoted your business storefront online years ago, but unless you are remarkably vigilant of the latest trends, your online presence could probably use an upgrade.

Changes continuously sweep across the internet, social media, Google, and the content marketing world. Your online business presence must change too, or you risk receding into obscurity, stagnating with an out-of-touch website or, god forbid, a MySpace page. Most small businesses aren’t maximizing their online presence. Less than half of small businesses advertise online, pay attention to Search Engine Optimization, or have a social media presence, and a quarter of small businesses don’t have a website at all.

For those who wish to gain a competitive advantage, consider this 5-step checklist for revamping your online presence before 2017:

  1. Re-assess and Segment Your Target Market

Before you make any actual changes to your online presence, it’s important reconsider your target market. Identify the common characteristics of your target market. Then segment that market into specific groups of people. Without segments to focus on, you will never have a highly-focused and effective campaign.

For example, an online clothing store has segmented their market – men’s and women’s – to push customers down the sales funnel toward their desired destination. Customers are looking for something specific from you – so direct them to that segmented goal.

  1. Listen to and Engage with Your Audience

Now that you have your target market segments, engage with them and conduct some experiments. Find the best channels to interact with your potential clients. Social media platforms often break down along demographic lines. Do you have a professional, career-oriented customer base? Try LinkedIn. Focused more on female creatives? Try Pinterest. Once you’ve zeroed in, engage with your audience, track their online activity, and set up Google Alerts to figure out how to best design your online presence to match your audience’s tendencies.

  1. Optimize Your Landing Pages for Conversions

The main goal of improving your online presence is to maximize conversions, turning a casual visitor to your website into a customer. Your landing page is therefore mission critical. Most site visitors spend only up to 8 seconds before leaving your landing page. This means that you must use the most effective design tactics possible to keep your visitor’s attention and readily satisfy their needs. Also remember that every page on your site is a possible landing page – not everyone will enter your site through the front door.

  1. Don’t Forget About Mobile

There are still many small business websites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices. This should be a major concern. To make the most of your online presence, make sure you hire a web designer who works in responsive design, who can create a flexible website for both desktop and mobile.

  1. Take Advantage of Google

Your business may not show up on Google Maps unless you’ve claimed your Google My Business. If you haven’t done this yet, do this immediately. Google accounts for more than 70% of all desktop searches. If you’re not maximizing your use of everything that Google has to offer, you are invisible to many potential customers.

SEO Myths That Don’t Work in 2016

SEO – search engine optimization – has changed so much in the past couple of years that many marketers don’t know what’s outdated, what’s still important, what will actually have a positive impact, and what’s just wasted energy.

This post will point out common myths and assumptions about how SEO – search engine optimization – works in 2016, so you can use your energy and time wisely and productively.

Myth #1 – I must submit my website to Google.

The idea that you have to submit your website to Google directly is nonsense. While a brand new site can submit its URL to Google directly, a search engine like Google will still find your site without you submitting it. Whatever you do, don’t pay someone to do this for you.

Myth #2 – More links are better than more content.

In the past, SEO – search engine optimization – worked by building as many links to your site without analyzing the linking domain. It didn’t matter whether the site linked to your site had anything to do with your site content. Links are still a very important part of SEO, but how you build links is more important than the overall number of links. And if there is a choice between creating good content and building links, then you should spend your time and money creating good content. Why? Because people will naturally link to good content. When you invest in content, that content can be used for web pages, blog posts, lead generation offers, and guest posts on other sites – all content types that will bring more links with them over time.

Myth #3 – Having a secure (HTTPS encrypted) site isn’t important for SEO.

Some URLs start with “http://” and others start with “https://”? Maybe you have noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online. Put simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms, which means if your website still relies on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result. For now, however, HTTPS remains a small signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (according to Google). So while it’s clear that Google wants everyone to move over to the more secure HTTPS protocol, don’t worry if you haven’t done it yet. Connect4 Consulting can help you transition to a HTTPS site. Contact us if you want to learn more.

Myth #4 – SEO – Search Engine Optimization – is all about ranking.

While there’s a strong correlation between search results placement and clickthrough rates, ranking is not the supreme end goal that it used to be. There is a big misconception — that higher rankings mean more search traffic. It is true that people will see your listing, but it does not mean you will get more click-throughs. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. You do not have the correct keyword strategy because you are trying to rank for keywords that are unrelated to your field.
  2. Your meta descriptions are not appealing and inviting for the user.

To solve these problems, try using Google Adwords to create a great keyword advertising strategy relating to your business, and be sure to use enticing meta descriptions to get people to the site. It is a good rule of thumb to think about what would entice you to click a link.

Myth #5 – Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings.

Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that concisely explain the contents of webpages. Google announced, all the way back in 2009, that meta descriptions (and meta keywords) have no bearing on search rankings. That’s not to say, however, that these descriptions aren’t important for SEO. On the contrary: Meta descriptions present a major opportunity to separate yourself from the riff-raff and convince searchers that your page is worth navigating to. So – meta descriptions are critical for clickthrough rates but they don’t impact search ranking.

Myth #6 – Keyword optimization is THE FOUNDATION of Search Engine Optimization.

It used to be important that you write your content with the keyword incorporated exact match, but Google now uses something called latent semantic indexing (LSI), which was conceived in 2004. With this type of indexing, webpage contents are crawled by the search engine and the most common words or phrases are combined and identified as the keywords of that page. Latent Semantic Indexing also looks for synonyms that related to your target keywords.

Today, it’s important to optimize your page entirely for user experience; this means that you do not have to place your keywords word-for-word in the content. Write the content for the user. By using synonyms and related terms, the search engines will still understand what your goal is. It’s important to realize that Google has moved beyond keywords. Google is trying to understand the intent behind the keywords so it can match intent with relevant, authoritative content.

Myth #7 – Keywords need to be an exact match.

Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content. In a headline, in particular, you only want to use a keyword (or keywords) in a way that makes the most sense to your audience. The goal should be to write a great headline (somewhere between 4-9 words) that clearly explains what a piece of content is about.

Myth #8 – The H1 is the most important element on the page.

It really doesn’t matter what header tag you use, as long as you present your most important concepts upfront and closer to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your page for users first and foremost, which means that you want to tell them ASAP what your page is about through a clear headline.

Myth #9 – My homepage needs a lot of content.

Think of your home page as the gateway to your business. It’s your chance to make a first impression on visitors and tell them what you are all about. Your home page content should be long enough to clarify who you are and what you do, where you’re located, what your value proposition is, and what visitors should do next.

Myth #10 – I need many pages of content.

Some people think that the more pages a site has, the more visitors they will get. Just like link building, creating content for content’s sake won’t get you anywhere. Make sure you focus on content quality and not quantity.

Myth #11 – Good user experience is not a requirement.

If Google sends you to a web page, they want to make sure you have a good experience on that page. They are after all a business too, and thus they want to delight their users. Think about it from the search engine’s point of view: they didn’t create the webpage themselves, but they are endorsing it. They need to ensure that users have a good experience on that page to keep people coming back to Google.

To improve user experience, you will want to focus on:

  • page load time
  • bounce rate
  • time on page
  • page views per visit
  • how far a person scrolls down a page

Myth #12 – Local Search Engine Optimization doesn’t matter anymore.

If you’re a local business, optimizing for local search won’t only help you get found, but it will help you get found by people who are nearby and more likely to buy from you. The bottom line is that local SEO matters more now than it ever has before.

Myth #13 – Google will never know if I have bad sites linking to me.

Google knows everything. Don’t try to fool them or you will be penalized.

Myth #14 – Images don’t require optimization.

For many years, it was okay to neglect the images on your site and still rank without using alt text and image file names to boost your page relevance. However, on-page SEO is more important than ever, so excluding images will prevent your website’s SEO from being the best it can be.

Search engines cannot see images on websites, so it is important to give the image an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google knows what the image is about. If you don’t create this text, you lose a huge opportunity to be as visible as possible online.

It also helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image, too, so always try to reference your images in your text, close to where it lives on the page, using keywords similar to the alt text/filename of the image.

Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant. Name your image files something that is indicative of what the image is itself, rather than something like IMG2394870.jpg. Yes, keywords matter here!

Myth #15 – I don’t need to optimize for a mobile users.

In the spring of 2015, Google had a algorithm update called “Mobilegeddon,” which expanded Google’s use of mobilefriendliness as a ranking signal. The update rewards mobile-friendly websites and penalizes those that aren’t fully optimized for mobile in mobile search results.

If your web presence screams 2009, you should be thinking about a comprehensive strategy to modernize your site and bring it in line with consumer expectations. The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapt to the visitor and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately so it’s easy to read on whatever device he or she is using.

Conclusion – Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher.

If you can take one thing away from this blog post, it’s this: More than anything else, Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query.

Google will Begin Ranking Mobile Sites Higher Starting April 21

Google Search

Google is making a significant change to its search algorithm. Beginning April 21st, Google will increase the ranking of websites that are mobile-friendly.

The company says that the change will have “a significant impact” on all mobile searches in all languages worldwide, but as a result Google says that mobile users will find higher quality search results.

Google will also start to use more information from indexed apps as a factor when ranking search results for users that are signed in and have apps installed.

These changes are great for mobile users as it should help motivate those websites that still aren’t responsive to actually make changes as soon as possible. Google actually started highlighting good mobile sites in mobile search results earlier this year.

Finding more mobile-friendly search results [Google Webmaster Blog]

How Google Indexes Web Pages

Have you ever wondered how Google crawls and indexes web pages? If you haven’t and don’t know, you should. Why? Because knowing how Google indexes web pages will help you understand how to rank better on Google.

First you’ll need some facts.

Google has had a search engine since 1998 and it has the largest database of indexed websites. Google’s database is twice as large as Yahoo or Bing. When you search for something on Google, you’re not actually searching the entire Internet, you’re just accessing Google’s database of indexed websites.

What is Google’s Index?

The Google Index is the list of all the pages and sites that Google has crawled and cached or stored on its servers. When someone performs a search, Google pulls out pages from this data. More than 40 billion web pages are indexed by Google.

Less than 10% of the entire Internet is indexed. That means there are more than 450 billion web pages that are not indexed by Google.

Google uses programs called “Spiders” to index your site.

Spiders have the following characteristics:

  • they browse the web just like people browse the web
  • they move from page to page and link to link
  • they try to find and index every page on the web

This process is called crawling.

Crawls can happen several times a day or once every few months.

Update or change your content regularly and Google will crawl your site more often.

Fun Fact: Google needs more than 1 million servers to crawl the web and deliver search results.

  • Facebook only has 181,000
  • Intel has only 75,000
  • eBay has only 54,000

7 most common reasons Google can’t crawl your pages:

  1. No or incorrectly configured robots.txt file
  2. A badly configured .htaccess file
  3. Badly written title, meta, and author tags
  4. Incorrectly configuring url parameters
  5. Low pagerank
  6. Connectivity or DNS issues
  7. Domains with bad history

How to help Google crawl more pages:

  1. Check out crawl errors and address them
  2. Be careful with Ajax applications
  3. Add a robots.txt file and make sure it’s working
  4. Add a sitemap to your site

We can help you address these four critical steps to make sure you are doing everything you can do to help Google crawl your pages.

Contact us today by emailing gabe@connect4consulting.com or calling 202-236-2968 for more information.

You can now ask Google to remove links about you.

Right To Be Forgotten

Thanks to an EU ruling on the “right to be forgotten”, you can now ask Google to pretend the item doesn’t exist.

Google has created an online form you can use to ask for links to personal data or posts about you to be removed from Google search results. This new form is in response to last week’s EU ruling on your “right to be forgotten“. Essentially the EU ruled that you have a right to ask Google to stop linking to anything that’s “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed.”

To ask for links to be removed, you have to supply the URL and explain how the links in question relate to you. To finalize a request, you have to give your name, contact email address, and a photo ID.

The form also allows you to make a request on behalf of someone else, allowing spouses, lawyers and other associates to ask for links about someone else to be removed.

If Google approves your request and removes the links in question, they will disappear from results in Google sites across the EU. However, in a statement to CNET, Google’s lawyers argue that applying the EU ruling to US publications in Google’s US search results would be “absurd.”

For more information, read:

 

Smartphones of the Future – The Future May Be As Soon as 2015

2015 could be the beginning of a significant shift in the smartphone landscape. Imagine a modular smartphone that you could assemble and customize yourself. Need three cameras? Need an extra battery? Project Ara may bring us the smartphones of the future and the future is near.

Project Ara is part of the Advanced Technology and Projects Group. The group is what Google retained in its sale of Motorola Mobility to Lenovo. Project Ara is an innovative plan to build an open-source smartphone hardware platform. Users would start with a base piece of hardware known as the Endo. Features – like extra batteries, cameras, GPS, etc. – would be added to the Endo as modules.

The hot-swappable modules give users the ability to truly customize a smartphone that works exactly how they want it to work. Power users could easily add a second battery. If your cell phone is your main camera, users could add the highest quality camera module.

Smart Phones of the Future:

Availability: An introductory phone is expected some time in 2015.

Cost: Google is planning on releasing two versions – a low-cost and upscale model. Production cost will range from $50 to $500.

Size: The size is in line with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone.

Modules: The feature tiles known as modules will connect to the phone’s skeleton, known as the Endo via electropermanent magnets. When the magnets are hit with an “On” electrical pulse they will create a solid bond between the Endo and module. When they are hit with an “Off” pulse, the magnets will release the bond and you can replace the module.  The magnets don’t need a constant charge to keep a bond. These modules will be created by various developers using the open source MDK that was released today. Cameras, antennas, batteries, processors, and anything that can be fit into a module shell will be available. The shells of those modules will be 3D printed to a user’s specified design.

Buying Modules: Google will have an e-commerce site that will work alongside the Google Play store. You will be able to purchase modules online much the same way you now purchase apps online.

Updating Android: Currently, Android doesn’t support a modular system, but the operating system is being updated to support it, with an expected release date of early 2015.

Prototype: A pre-production prototype will be shown off in September of this year. The current prototype shown off at the Project ARA event doesn’t have the electropermanent magnet system. It uses clips to keep the modules in place. The power bus is also still being worked on.

Modules Can Have Different Functions: A module can support as many features as a developer can cram into it. A rear-facing display module could also be a tiny battery to offset the power drain of the display. If it fits within the module’s physical constraints, it’s good to go.

Why You Should Care: Project Ara phones are expected to have a life of five to six years – far longer than your current smartphone. Instead of updating your phone every two years, you save up for the latest modules. The goal is that when a new processor or high-megapixel camera is introduced, it’ll be available as a module for Ara owners to purchase.

Why Developers Should Care: The modular system is a way for developers to create a device that plugs directly into a phone with having to design and build a third-party piece of hardware. It removes the much of the industrial design elements and having to deal with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi radios for connectivity.

 

Comment Spam: What Is It and How To Control It?

If you have a blog or WordPress site, chances are you have encountered comment spam. Unfortunately, the more popular your blog becomes, the more spam it is likely to get. There is nothing more frustrating than having to spend time moderating your comments to determine which ones are spam and which ones are legitimate. The good news is that this unethical approach to search engine optimization is used less and less frequently thanks to Google cracking down on the process and not rewarding fake links.

In today’s post, we are going to look at:

  • How to identify spam.
  • Settings and plugins you can use in the base WordPress comment system to help moderate spam.

Comments, Trackbacks, and Pingbacks

Before we go any further we need to define a few terms that are related to blog comments.

  • Comments – Comments are created when someone uses the comment form on your blog post to engage with your content.
  • Pingbacks – Pingbacks are automatically created when someone links to your blog post from one of their blog posts.
  • Trackbacks – Trackbacks are manual notifications by one blogger that they have linked to your blog post within theirs. Pingbacks were created to automate this process.

WordPress refers to Trackbacks and Pingbacks as Pings when you attempt to filter your comments.

 

You can recognize the difference between the two visually like this. Comments will have the comment author’s name, email address, optional website link, and IP address listed along with their comment.

 

Trackbacks and pingbacks (Pings) will only have the title of a blog post, a link, and an excerpt from the external blog post as the comment.

 

Unfortunately, comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks are all used frequently as spam. There are ways to even automate the spamming process which adds to the problem. So let’s look at some ways to identify spam.

Why Comment Spam Is Harmful

Some people, in an attempt to inflate their number of comments, will approve comments that they know are not legitimate. Why is this bad? Consider these things:

  • Google is cracking down on bad links. This doesn’t just include sites that buy bad links, it also includes sites that allow bad links. The last thing you want is Google to think that you are allowing bad links on your website, even if they are just in your comments.
  • Comment spam shows lack of moderation. Imagine that you’re buying a home and you drive through a neighborhood and there’s a house that’s unkempt at totally overgrown in weeds. That’s the impression you are giving to your visitors if your blog posts are littered with comment spam – that no one is actively taking care of it.
  • Your readers might lose faith in you. What if one of your readers clicks on a comment link and is taken to a site they don’t want to be. If you wouldn’t link to a viagra website in your own website, you shouldn’t let a commenter link to one either.

How to Identify Spam

How do you know whether a comment on your blog is spam or legitimate? This is tough and it’s really up to you. Some blog owners will read every comment and consider it legit if the comment shows that the reader actually read the post. Other blog owners will dismiss a comment as spam based on the fact that the link does not match the same industry as their blog. Here are some questions you can answer when looking at a comment that will help you determine whether or not you should approve it to go live on your blog.

  • Is the author using a real name or a bunch of keywords? The use of keywords in a name in a comment field without first or last name is always the sign of an SEO spammer.
  • Would I want my blog readers to click on the comment author’s link? If the answer is no, don’t approve the comment.
  • Is the comment specific, or could it apply to any blog post? 
  • Has the same comment author been using several different email and website addresses? If John Doe comments one day linking to an outdoor store and then the next day linking to an automobile supply store, you know it’s spam.
  • Does the comment author use a legitimate email address? If you see someone commenting using an email address like email@email.com then chances are it’s spam.

Settings to Control Comment Spam

WordPress has some basic settings that you should use to control comment spam.

Moderate Comments from First Time Comment Authors

Not only will this prevent your blog from becoming a spamfest, but it will also allow people who have been approved once to be approved for future comments, leaving less to moderate. Comment authors who change the way they enter their name, email address, or website link will be placed into moderation again. This keeps someone from being approved once with a good website link from coming in and using one you would not approve of in future comments.

To hold a first time commenter author in moderation, go to your WordPress dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Under the Before a Comment Appears section, check the box for comment author must have previously approved comment. Make sure the checkbox above it for an administrator must always approve the comment is unchecked.

Turn Off Trackbacks

Trackback spam is sometimes worse than comment spam. So you have to consider whether or not having it on is even necessary. You can still find out who is linking to your blog by looking at the Incoming Links portion of your WordPress dashboard.

Turn Off Comments After 30 or 60 Days

People who comment for link building purposes (SEO spammers) typically look for blog posts with high PageRank – Google’s 1 – 10 scoring of authority. Typically, blog posts start out at a PageRank of 0 and only gain PageRank after a few months. This means that SEO spammers are going to be targeting your older blog posts.

Typically, the height of popularity for a blog post is within the first two weeks. That will also be when you get the majority of your comments (unless you don’t update your blog that often). Hence, if you close blog comments after 30 – 60 days based on your preference, you will have a lot less comments to moderate.

Plugins to Control Spam

At Connect4, our WordPress sites all come with the Akismet comment spam plugin installed. It filters all comments and acts like a junk email filter for WordPress comments. It is not perfect, however, and you still have to moderate the process and approve some comments identified by Akismet as junk, but it is far better than not having any plugin to control comment spam.

 

Google Brings Us Yet Another Useful Free Tool – Meet Oppia

Oppia helps anyone create online interactive activities that others can learn from. Called explorations, these activities can be built and contributed to by multiple people from around the world through a Web interface, without any programming required.

Here is how Google describes Oppia:

[quote style=”boxed”]Oppia does this by modeling a mentor who poses questions for the learner to answer. Based on the learner’s responses, the mentor decides what question to ask next, what feedback to give, whether to delve deeper, or whether to proceed to something new. You can think of this as a smart feedback system that tries to “teach a person to fish,” instead of simply revealing the correct answer or marking the submitted answer as wrong.[/quote]

There is also a YouTube video:

<iframe width=”641″ height=”458″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/A9OnENhRah8″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Features:

  • Learners receive personalized, customizable feedback after submitting answers
  • Explorations are embeddable in any webpage
  • An online analytics dashboard that allows explorations to be improved easily over time
  • A full online editor GUI
  • A comprehensive extension framework allowing straightforward integration of new interactions and classification rules
  • Parameters can be associated with a learner in order to create a richer interactive experience
  • Collaborative creation and editing of explorations with version control
  • (in progress) Responsive UI for mobile devices

To get a sense of what you could use this for, you can visit the demo site: https://www.oppia.org/learn

 

 

 

What is Nest and What Can it Do and Why Did Google Just Buy it for $3.2 Billion

Google completed its acquisition of Nest on February 7th. The $3.2 billion deal was one of Google’s most high profile and unexpected purchases in recent memory, obtaining the hardware company’s portfolio of home automation devices and staff.

What is Nest?

Led by Tony Fadell, former Senior VP of the iPod division at Apple, Nest is a company built around home automation and reinventing forsaken hardware devices in your home – thermostats and carbon monoxide/smoke detectors.

What Can Nest Do

Nest’s reinvented thermostat is smart – kind of like the Roomba of thermostats, it will learn your home heating and cooling preferences over the course of a few weeks and then automatically adjust the temperature. You can control the thermostat with your smartphone and make adjustments remotely. It costs $249 but Nest thinks you’ll make up that expense within a year. Read More about the Nest Thermostat

Nest digital thermostat and smoke alarmThere’s also a smoke/carbon monoxide detector. If you burned the toast, Nest Protect won’t start yelling at you. Instead it turns yellow and speaks with a human voice and gives you an early warning. To silence an alarm, all you have to do is wave your hand 2 to 8 feet beneath it. If the batteries are running low, you’ll get an alert on your phone. All the smoke detectors in the house are connected even if wifi is down. If one alarm goes off, a human voice will tell you where the problem is in the house. If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, Nest Protect will automatically turn off your gas furnace – a possible source of carbon monoxide leaks. Next time you stumble out of bed at night, Nest Protect can light your way down the hallway automatically. Each Nest Protect unit costs $129. Read More about Nest Protect

Why Did Google Buy Nest for $3.2 Billion?

Google has big plans for the team behind the connected device company. Google will keep the Nest group intact inside the company. The new division will still work on hardware devices, but not necessarily thermostats or smoke detectors. In fact, Google would like Fadell to work on gadgets that make more sense for the company. Will it be a phone or a tablet? It’s unclear for now.

While Nest first became popular with its thermostats, Google didn’t buy the company for these devices. First and foremost, the company wanted to snatch the great product team.

How to Fine-Tune Your Existing Website for Better Search Engine Optimization

Search is changing. It is now more personal, more engaging, more interactive and more predictive. Search Engine Results Pages no longer just display 10 blue links — they have become more useful and more visually appealing across all device types.

Google’s Hummingbird update in August 2013 brought semantic search to the forefront of these changes. Beginning with user intent and interpretation of the query itself, semantic technology is used to refine the query, extract entities as answers, personalize search results, predict search queries and more — providing a more interactive, conversational or dialogue-based search result.

In order to leverage the benefits of semantic search on your own website, you’ll have to understand how semantic search works at a conceptual level.

1. Optimize for User Intent

semantic-searchGoogle is now using “form based” queries at scale in real time. Take a look at the image to the left. Suppose you are a travel agent. If you do a quick search for “flights from dc to”, you’ll see the most common user search queries for that structure of question in the dc area. Well, let’s say you are in the travel industry and you have offerings that would apply to someone traveling to “chicago, orlando, boston or miami”, (e.g., tourist attractions or some sort of event). You might want to make sure your page content includes that destination (entity or city or airport) as well as activities and items geared toward the interest of your target audience.

 

2. Align Your Search Engine Optimization with Social Media Campaigns

Identify your social audience and their interests. Write content that covers those interests, your offerings, and the intersection thereof. You can find a great example here, detailing how Virgin leveraged big data to create an interest graph, thereby creating a more targeted content strategy.

3. Make Sure You Leverage Google+ to Its Full Potential

Google+ is critical when it comes to how Google will view your business (and you, too, if you elect to create a profile for yourself). With regard to Google+ for business, here is a great and comprehensive resource from Simply Business.

GoogleplusguideforbizbyGoogle1

4. Ensure Your Web Pages Use Structured Data Markup

Paying special attention to HTML markup vocabulary from schema.org, as that is recognized by most major search engines at this point in time.

There are several great new tools currently available to assist with the process of adding this HTML markup to your pages, including various WordPress plugins and code snippet generators (including Google’s own Structured Data Markup Helper).

5. Use Standard SEO Techniques

The standard SEO techniques that worked previously are still important:

  • Optimize page load times,
  • Optimize sitemaps and website architecture,
  • Cross-platform optimization

The last one is more important than ever with the rise of mobile devices, especially since sites that offer a poor mobile experience may find themselves hurting in mobile rankings.