How to Vote Re: Will’s post : Politicians don’t get it!

Will Critchlow’s post on Distilled’s blog yesterday piqued our interest and got some of us at Evolve thinking. Entitled “Black hat politics: online dirty tricks,” it covers a list of ways political candidates manipulate the campaign process. Politics leave a poor taste in the mouth of the general public, and for good reason. Reading Will’s presentation made it clear that the cheap shots are only amplified with the new digital resources available. You thought elections were messy before? This age, as Will described, provides opportunity for candidates to tactically attack opponents via social media impersonation, the viral spread of rumors, and retargeted ads. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if politicians took a different approach and found a way to spread awareness without succumbing to typical dirty tricks? Derek took some screen shots of the SERP for the query “how to vote.” In the image below, do you notice anything interesting about the results? Look closely.

Screen shot of query

There are no political candidates showing up for this term. Not a single one. Some people might rationalize that it’s not a politician’s job to respond to this question, especially when there are sites like Rock the Vote. As SEOs, though, we understand that the sales funnel is wide open at the top. While answering questions like “how can I register to vote?” may not be on a particular candidate’s specific agenda, it’s still an opportunity for them to respond and deliver a solution, thus gaining some traction. And considering that votes are pretty critical to a politician’s future, perhaps candidates should find a way to squeeze it onto their star-spangled agendas. What’s even more interesting is the competition for these keywords. It’s very low, and these terms are starting to get some some heavy activity.

Keyword traffic screenshot

Screenshot of keyword traffic

My guess is that the numbers of searches is going to rocket in the upcoming months, but what do I know? Actually, looking at the surge in numbers during the ‘04 and ‘08 elections, I think we can safely bet that these terms are going to be extremely valuable.

Screen shot of trends

Screen shot of google trends

Running for office is a full time job, and much like businesses, politicians have to rope in the conversions. That said, we just think politicians would be better off shifting their skills a bit. What greater way to prove you’re qualified to run a country than to make yourself useful for its citizens? Shed some clarity on these subjects:

  • Immigrants and voting
  • Places to vote
  • Voting procedure
  • Conservative vs. liberal beliefs

Politicians should be discussing these keywords to build loyalty among the population; how else are they going to win this thing in November (which, by the way, is a mere six months away)? We made a flow chart last week about this very topic a about how good SEO is directly related to building brand loyalty. Maybe America’s politicians should check it out and rethink their tactics.

Conduct a site audit in an afternoon

Even without access or knowledge of the traditional tools that are commonly used to perform site audits, there are still plenty of tricks that you can perform that will give you a sense of how well your website is performing. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to get into the habit of breezing through these steps every week or so. You’ll be surprised to find out how much you can uncover about your site in an afternoon.

Screen shot of SERP

Do a site search.  This tactic is useful for a few reason. First, it is a simple way to discover how many pages of your website Google has indexed. Simply search “site:” followed by (no space) “yourwebsite.com.” It will look like what is shown in the image below. Of course, I’m not sure how many pages are actually in Mr. Ross’s website, but as the webmaster of your own site, you should be aware of that information. Searching for your own site can also give you an idea of what people see when they type in particular keywords. Ask yourself, “Would I click this?” Title Tags and Meta Descriptions that are irrelevant, misleading, or vague aren’t likely to attract clicks. The reports we run on SEOmoz tell us which pages are missing these components. You can also search similar keywords and check out what the competition is doing.

   

Bob Ross Duplicate content

Finally, a site search is an easy way to look for duplicate content within your site. You can also do this sans “site:” to see if any of your content exists elsewhere on the WWW. If it does, maybe you should consider updating your content!

View your site as a visitor. The data-driven parts of SEO Audits, which we find through tools like site search, SEOmoz, Google Analytics, and Raven Tools, are easy to deal with because they are factual. It gets trickier when you have to deal with subjective components like content and layout. We urge you to strip your mind of all biases and examine your website from a visitor’s perspective. Can you easily navigate through the sales funnel? Is there an abundance of information that proves the brand’s know-how and interest in customer relations?

Do some keyword research: Find out which terms you should be striving to rank for organically. For new or struggling brands, it’s best to start with “long tail” keywords as opposed to highly competitive terms. For example, continuing with the Bob Ross theme,  “acrylic paints” is a term that will take a long time to rank for, while “acrylic paint lessons in Milwaukee” would be more attainable. Open Google’s Traffic Estimator to get a grasp of what kind of terms are circulating your industry and expertise, then start strategically optimizing your website for those terms. Keywords are as valuable as magic fairy dust; they illuminate how your potential users are searching for you, providing you with the opportunity to answer questions. Examine site architecture: URL structure can make a huge impact on how a search engine perceives your site. Keywords should be incorporated into the URLs (as close as possible to the root) so the search engines understand that certain pages apply to certain topics. Because engines are perpetually tweaking their algorithms, they are starting to see websites as humans do. In other words, if certain aspects of a site attract or repel users, then search engines are likely to react the same way. There used to be a distinct difference between optimizing for search engines and optimizing for humans; now those two worlds are merging, and “white hat” SEOs like us at Evolve are happily toasting this long-awaited union. After all, it makes sense that the most useful and relevant sites should have the best rankings. Referring to various search engine webmaster tools (Google, Bing, Yahoo) or paying for software subscriptions to sites like SEOmoz and Raven Tools will provide a great deal of insight as to those particular search engines crawl your site. Some of the information you will find is:

  • Crawl errors: what’s keeping Google and the other engines from creeping every inch of your site?
  • 404 errors: are visitors trying to access pages that don’t exist?
  • Site performance: is it loading too slowly? This is a huge indicator of whether or not your site will retain visitors.
  • Bounce rate: are visitors leaving a split second after landing on your home page?

Stay tuned for more posts that dig way deeper into what you can use those tools for. The benefit of doing business online is that you have the potential to uncover so much information about your website’s success. Don’t miss out on this critical insight! If you haven’t checked out our SEO Guide for Beginners, make sure to do so; there is a lot of helpful information that can assist you in conducting your own site audit.

Introducing Locke George

A few weeks ago we welcomed Locke George to the Evolve team. As Search Marketing Manager, Locke’s main role at Evolve will be to develop, implement, and manage the Paid Search accounts of our growing list of clients (including Intelispend, Charter Business, and Maritz). Additionally, it will be Locke’s job as “the new guy” to make sure our fridge is perpetually stocked with craft beer, preferably Schlafly IPA. Read more

No, you don't get it. Good SEO IS building a stronger brand.

In this article on Forbes.com, Erik Kain wrote that brands should focus less on SEO efforts, or as he put it, “the whims of SEO,“ and more on building brand loyalty via social media. To the average person, this probably sounds like a remarkable revelation. “But of course!” you exclaim. “SEO is for chumps. This is the era of social media, and I’m going to embrace that.” Well, before you shut down your Google Analytics account or recycle our SEO Guide for Beginners, we want to blow your mind one more time. If you can handle it. The way Evolve sees it, SEO is building brand loyalty. It’s a simple concept, really: generate quality content that serves a purpose and helps people a and reap the benefits via increases in domain authority and rankings. Unfortunately SEO can be perceived as content or link farming, and we admit that About.comas model isn’t one we would recommend. For the most part, that site is a library of mediocre articles written by college kids who couldn’t find a summer job. The average brand, however, doesn’t have to cover such a wide range of topics. Stick to what you know and commit to generating share worthy, link worthy content. This post isn’t so much a blatant argument against Erik Kain as it is a challenge to perceive SEO as more than publishing keyword-saturated copy. If you consistently focus on solving problems for your customers or readers, success will follow. Success in the form of links, better rankings, higher domain authority, and conversions. Google isn’t subtly hinting at you to bring your A Game; it’s demanding that you do. Let us also point out that using keywords properly isn’t cheating. Keywords help us understand what kinds of questions to answer. To ignore that insight and simply dabble on Twitter seems like a wasted opportunity. We’ll continue riding on the “whims of SEO,” which is the kind of poetic phrase I would admire if it weren’t so condescending. Speaking of condescending, we’ve thrown together a nice flow chart, which you can download below. It’s more for our humor than to be used as a literal guide, but we think it gets our point across.

“Build brand loyalty with SEO” flow chart

Landing pages lowdown

What makes a good landing page?

This is a question we hear a lot. The term “landing page” has different meanings to different people, but Evolve has a simple understanding of this specific on-site feature.A landing page is the part of your website that a searcher is directed to from the search engine results page. We typically refer to landing pages when we create PPC campaigns because those ads are triggered by very specific keywords, thus condensing the audience of searchers to those who will be likely to click through.

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Derek Takes Webster University

Students enrolled in Webster University’s Management 3500 course will be in for a treat today because Derek will be dishing out his SEO expertise. Derek will be covering three main points:

1). Intro to SEO

2). How companies use SEO

3). Career opportunities in SEO

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Takeaways from #LinkLove in Boston

I spent last Monday in Boston for Distilled’s exceptionally thorough Link Love conference. My intention was to live blog throughout the day, but I unfortunately failed to fully charge my laptop and was dismayed to discover that the amphitheater where we met had no outlets. #Fail Late is better than never, as they say, which is why I am thankful to have scratched notes all over my Link Love booklet. I’ll do my best to decipher my awful handwriting and possibly pass on some of the insight to you. I’ll be honest, my head is just starting to stop whirring. A lot of the talks were outside my comfort zone, and it wasn’t very easy to relate to what was being said. Still, I now have access to fantastic tips, tools, and tactics that I didn’t before. Over time I’ll digest everything and be much more rounded for it. I’m already starting to feel a tingle of SEO confidence. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz kicked off the presentations with an unexpected twist. His segment, boldly entitled “F#$%! Link Building. Content Marketing FTW” quickly dived in to the reality that SEOs are sort of controlling the linking system. It used to be a small fraction of these “linkinati” members that knew how to manipulate the algorithms, but that number has grown to an enormous number of marketers. The problem is that marketers are the only ones doing it, thus throwing off the effectiveness of link building. At least that’s how Google is starting to see it. Link signals, Rand said, are starting to subtly shrink in potency, and new sharing styles, such as social signals, are influencing the search engine results. My main takeaway from Rand’s presentation is that content is still king (no surprise there; I’ve been preaching those words myself). Still, it was refreshing to hear it from the mouth of an industry pioneer. Content goes beyond blog posts and the exact products or services that a brand offers. The last thing a brand should do is limit itself to writing about what it does. Content is essentially storytelling, and storytelling strengthens brands and transfers trust. Infographics, clever tools, even freebies can set your brand apart from others. It requires thinking of relative, but unique, ideas for content creation. Honestly, I agreed with Rand 100%. But the real issue, at least in my experience, is figuring out how to convey this conviction to clients who might be somewhat skeptical. The easiest way to accomplish that is to build a few success stories, and you know what? Challenge accepted. The second speaker I saw was an unfamiliar (to me) bloke by the name of Justin Briggs. It didn’t take me long to realize that Justin is a very intelligent guy, and while much of his presentation was stressful (because I didn’t have the materials to adequately document it, nor the mental capacity to actually retain the nitty-gritty), I left with an outstanding revelation about link building: outcome reporting trumps operational reporting. In other words, if you’re focusing solely on the acquisition of links, how do you even know if it’s worth the time and effort? Justin helped me realize that link building is a waste if the links aren’t increasing ROI. The value of a link shouldn’t be based on the cost it took to acquire it. So what is operational reporting? 

  • PageRank
  • Anchor text
  • Domain authority
  • Page authority
  • mozRank

What is outcome reporting? 

  • Visits
  • Number of keywords
  • Goal completions
  • Conversions

Justin sort of went Information Superhighway at this point, leaving me wheezing in the dust. There’s a lot of his presentation that I need to chew on slowly. What I do fully understand is that I need to start changing the way I perceive link building and what success really means. Because if I get 100 links to my site, but no increase in conversions a what in the world was the point in the time I took to get there? Ross Hudgens was the third presenter, and he spoke about “stealing” content for your website or clients. Of course, his whole spiel was actually about repurposing content, rather than actually swiping it in an unethical fashion. From Ross I learned about a fantastic source called Hacker News. This website is a hub of data-driven articles, perfectly ripe for the plucking and reworking. For people like myself who are more prone to connect with visual design, an infographic is an ideal presentation of otherwise. It can become useful and interesting to an entirely new audience. Ross continued his presentation with some other useful tips, and he did a wonderful job. Still, the Hacker News bit is what really hit home with me. Following Ross was Rhea Drysdale from Outspoken Media. She described the importance of having a link building calendar. Clients work with agencies because they want to feel good. They need the support of an outside source directing their efforts, and providing solid ideas for content marketing. Then she skipped to the process of content marketing:

  • a. Proposal
  • b. Intake
  • c. Research and discovery
  • d. Strategy approval
  • e. Implementation
  • f. Tracking

Working with clients can be difficult when they have their own separate agenda, which they typically do. The bigger brands sometimes need to follow protocol involving the signatures and approvals of several department heads before SEO efforts can scoot along. Consistent, open communication is crucial for these clients to understand that SEOs need in order to move forward. We’re big-picture people. Our plans typically cover spans of many months, and calendars keep things progressing. I haven’t quite explored the examples Rhea provided for calendar-creating, but her main point is that we as SEOs should strategically structure our link building efforts around time frames that mesh with the clients’ availability and expectations. Even beyond that, calendars push the process along by organizing different responsibilities and updates of efforts. After lunch we heard from the oh-so-engaging Wil Reynolds.  Everyone in the audience was captivated by his presentation on finding influencers and forming relationships, or as he worded it: stalking. I’m not going to explain the details of his presentation because I have neither his charm nor charismatic flair that everyone loves. Wil reminded us that the core of link building, especially when it stems from those you consider to have authority and influence, is to form relationships. It was a very humbling experience to watch this SEO guru, whom I’ve admired for months, speak about his thorough, consistent, adamant attempt to connect with one of his heros. I’ll admit that the whole Link Love conference was humbling, as it made me blatantly clear of how small of a guppy I am in this ocean of SEOs and how much I have left to learn. Still, Wil’s presentation was very enlightening, and I’ve already put a couple of his “stalker” tactics in motion. The final presenter I saw was John Doherty of Distilled. John is someone I’ve been following closely for the past couple of months or so because he is super infatuated with with various tools available for link building. And I am not. Yet. Let me also point out that he is a very sharp (and kind) fellow, and I was lucky enough to have the pleasure of meeting him during one of the breaks. John’s presentation was a lot to take in, but fortunately I have the slides to reference (all 119 of ’em!) Again, I’m not going to dish out the details because there’s simply too much to cover. John’s presentation sent me home with some very concrete challenges, because I can tell you right now that use and understanding of SEO tools, even one as common as Excel, is not my strong point. It’s my nature to hate them as much as tax season (which makes my stomach churn). After all, I joined the Evolve team as a part-time content creator back in June. I knew as much about SEO as I did the electromagnetic spectrum. I’m now to the point where I want to expand my territories and take on a few additional responsibilities. Learning these tools will increase my efficiency and spur my success, and I’m ready to start! Unfortunately, I actually left the conference early, three quarters in. Can you imagine what state my brain would have been in if I’d stayed to hear Tom Critchlow, Colby Almond, and Adam Audette? One word: mush. But I’m happy to have access to the slides, at least. Who knows, maybe I’ll even create a Pinterest account, since Colby’s topic (about which everyone raved via the #linklove hashtag) was on the impact of that very social media website. The entire Link Love experience was beyond words (although I’ve just spewed more than 1,000), and I’m lucky to work for an agency that sends its least experienced employee to a Distilled conference, as fast-paced and detailed as it was (the image to the right shows my desperate attempt to document the first two presentations sans laptop. Pretty pathetic, huh?). Thanks to everyone who shared their expertise and wisdom. I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say it was refreshing and encouraging to be reminded why we are in this industry. #SEO #FTW Written by Emily Wisely, Digital Coordinator at Evolve. Find her on Twitter (em_wisely)!