Your exposure in the search engines plays a critical role in any online marketing campaign, and search engine optimization is still one of the number one ways to draw in more potential clients to your website. Google is still by far the most visited website in the world, and other popular search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo, have also become very important. What online marketers need to understand is that the vast majority of people do not regularly go beyond the first page of the search engine results, and even being second place in the results when someone enters a relevant query means that you will lose out on a lot more traffic than you would if you were at the very top. To ensure that your website meets current SEO standards and requirements, you should carry out a thorough audit at least once a year, and the tips in this article will explain how to perform SEO audit in thirty minutes or less.

Expose Crawling Issues

In your Web browser, disable JavaScript, cookies and any plug-ins you might have which might alter the way your website functions. Open up your website and browse it as you normally would to see if any issues arise. Websites should not rely on features such as Flash or JavaScript for navigation and functionality, since the search engine crawlers will end up being unable to reach and index much of your content. You can also expose most crawling issues by using a free Web-based program which allows you to view your website in exactly the same way as the search engine crawlers do.

Scan Your Homepage

First impressions are among the most important, and your homepage will usually be the very first page that people see when visiting your website. Make a list of any potential problems with your homepage and address them as necessary. Put yourself in the shoes of your visitors to help determine your website’s performance, usability and the value that it offers to visitors. Make sure that your website does not have any of the common canonical issues, such as separate WWW and non-WWW versions or URLs which automatically redirect visitors to another website. The latter is particularly important, since redirects are often used in black hat SEO.

Test Navigation Features

Find out if your website has a complete and up-to-date XML Sitemap. If it doesn’t then you should build one right away, since Sitemaps can be enormously helpful for the search engine crawlers to properly navigate your content. Creating a Sitemap may be done with a third-party tool – there’s rarely any need to write one manually. Inspect your website’s navigational features as well, and be sure to expose any broken links. Review any external links on your website to make sure that they link to relevant webpages which are still active.

Check Your Content Hierarchy

A website with a proper content hierarchy, particularly if it is a dynamic one such as a blog or news site, is far easier to navigate both for the search engines and for your visitors. Ensure that all of your categories and subcategories have a purpose backed up by the presence of quality content offering value to your audience. At the same time, ensure that your categories are clearly labelled and that any links to them are working correctly. Avoid internal linking to irrelevant pages, and particularly since the Google Penguin 2.0 update, be sure to expose and get rid of any over-optimized anchor text.

Look for Optimized Content

Determine the current status of your content with regards to optimization by making sure that the following features have been optimized with careful keyword usage and information which is useful to your visitors:

– Title and header (H1 and H2) tags.
– Meta descriptions
– Alt text for images
– URLs

Review SEO Metrics

Review the current performance of your website by tracking important metrics to determine where your visitors are coming from, which queries they are entering into the search engines and which areas of your online marketing campaign are offering you the best return for your money and/or time. You can use this invaluable information to get a deeper insight into your target audience, boost conversions and find the areas of your website and marketing campaign need some improvement.

As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate. That is a given. When you first begin to market your business online, it can seem like you’re adding even more to you your huge to-do list. You have to update your website, monitor your search engine rankings on Google and the other search engines, and keep your brand visible online in ways your competitors are not – all of this on top of the day to day tasks of running a business. It will seem overwhelming at first, but once you have the process in place, the daily maintenance of your online marketing campaign will become simpler and simpler.

A big part of your SEO strategy should be investing your time in the company blog. This can do a great deal of the heavy lifting on any search engine optimization campaign. A great blog can attract new visitors to your website, build domain authority for your website, and make you leaps and bounds more competitive than the businesses you’re competing with for search engine rankings.

I Have a Blog. What Do I Write About?

Blog content can really be about anything, but it’s going to take your time and/or monetary resources to produce it, so it should be created with purpose. It doesn’t make much sense to sink your money or time into blog content that people will ignore, and that won’t benefit your SEO efforts.

Here are four simple ways to generate ideas for content that will boost your SEO efforts and engage your blog audience and website visitors:

1. Use the FAQs – Your website should have a FAQ section on it. You can periodically update this page with new questions your web visitors and customers are asking. Doing so will boost your SEO efforts and give you the opportunity to capture new ideas for blog posts. On this page, try creating a feature that allows your users to type in their questions if they aren’t answered by the FAQs. You can create new FAQs with the questions from this field that are asked in higher volume, but for the outliers, try answering these questions with an informative blog post. You never know, your post might just reach the right person at that magical time when they need what you offer the most.

2. Talk to your front office – It may sound counter intuitive that one of the best places you can go to generate online content ideas is to the very real people, offline, facilitating your front-line communication efforts. These people speak with your customers every day and can help you identify trends you can address with your blog. Figure out what questions your staff are routinely getting from your customers and write a post about it. Talk to your sales staff, your secretary, and your delivery personnel. These people are tapped into some of the most important information you may be overlooking and can help you generate wonderful blog post ideas to solve your customer’s problems.

3. Share the news – Chances are, you get a magazine or two delivered to your office that is specific to your industry. Don’t you think there is important news in there you should be sharing so your customers better understand how your industry fulfils their needs, or produces a product that solves one of their problems? Do you follow your industry leaders on Twitter and keep your ear to the ground for the latest trending topics online? Are there important industry happenings being discussed on other blogs you follow? Engage your customers and web visitors with important news from your industry and help them understand why what you offer is valuable to them. Share your news from your angle and how it relates to your expertise and establish yourself as an authority.

4. Don’t forget to have fun – Blogging doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Don’t forget to share what’s going on around you. This can be something as simple as posting photos of the company potluck, or introducing your new hires on the blog and letting them share their bio and experience with your customers. Pictures can often say more than words and creating a blog post for the week can be as simple as sharing some of the fun in your office through photographs.

Once you learn several effective strategies for coming up with blog post ideas, maintaining a blog as part of your SEO strategy is easy. Managing a blog can be fairly simple too, depending on what platform you use for blogging. Use a blog to regularly update your site content with keyword-rich posts that keep bringing your website new visitors.

It has been nearly 2 years since the initial release of Google Penguin, and SEOs and webmasters still try to buy links with the hopes they won’t get caught. Google’s Penguin algorithm scours the web for links, evaluates those links against an unknown algorithm and penalizes webmasters thought to have participated in link schemes. Google is infamous for penalizing even big companies. The latest penalized company is RapGenius, an online music lyrics site.

RapGenius’ Link Scheme

RapGenius is in an extremely competitive market (song lyrics) and attempted to acquire links through an apparent affiliate network. The company announced it through Facebook, but when users inquired about the opportunity, they were given a list of links to post to their site in exchange for promotion through RapGenius’ Twitter account. This type of link exchange is against Google’s guidelines.

Because RapGenius didn’t bother to create any type of variance between links and anchor text, SEO news outlets quickly picked up on the link scheme. Unfortunately, targeting a specific set of keyword phrases and anchor text is easily detectable by Google, and it wasn’t long before Google slapped a penalty on the lyrics site.

Finding Link Spammers

RapGenius’ mistake was that they targeted the same anchor text on all sites and pointed all links to the same internal pages. The tactic creates an obvious link pattern, and Google took action on the site on Christmas Day. The end result was a tremendous loss of traffic. Even queries for the term “rap genius” didn’t turn up links for the company website.

Some SEO providers perform link spam campaigns in an effort to rank a site, and it’s up to the site owner to find and address the issue. The best way to find link spam is using tools such as MajesticSEO or Ahrefs. If you drill down into RapGenius backlink anchor text, you’ll notice the same text across several sites. If you’re ever unsure of your SEO’s tactics or want to check up on your own backlinks, you can use these tools to find poor quality backlinks pointing to your site.

Site Explorer Results Summary Majestic SEO

The Effect of Google’s Demotion

Most people hear stories of traffic loss after a Google penalty, but RapGenius gave watchers the ability to view statistics for a popular site that receives manual penalties. RapGenius is verified with Quantcast, so users could search for the RapGenius domain on Quantcast and view traffic statistics. Looking at Quantcast’s graph, you can see that the company lost over half its visitors after the official penalty was applied.

For small businesses, a Google penalty can be the end of online revenue. For this reason, small business owners should take note of the devastating loss in traffic when links are purchased. Buying links in an effort to manipulate Google’s ranking algorithms can have a tremendous effect on online revenue, so avoid shady link schemes or artificial PageRank (PR) tactics.

To avoid a manual penalty on your site, don’t participate in link schemes including article marketing, link wheels, automated blog comments and forum profiles. While some of these tactics were commonly used before Penguin, they can have a huge impact on your search traffic if your site is picked up by algorithm filters.

Google’s guidelines tell you to naturally earn links through great content and good user interaction. Avoid getting caught up with all the poor SEO advice and focus your efforts on content and building your own site’s quality. The results are better than short-term effects generated by search engine spam.

Google recently announced an improvement to its URL removal tool. This tool was helpful for webmasters or users who needed to have content removed from the search engine results. The original tool was a bit confusing for some users, but the improvement helps walk users through the removal process and gives feedback on the process in case mistakes are made.

What is the URL Removal Tool?

The removal tool is available for webmasters and searchers. For webmasters, they can request removal of pages on their site that they need removed from Google’s search engine quickly. For end-users, the removal tool removes deleted pages and content that still shows up in Google’s cached results when the live pages are no longer active.

The old tool was confusing for end-users, because it was difficult to understand how to remove a URL and what constitutes a valid URL removal. With the new tool, Google has a process that helps walk you through the process.

How to Remove a URL

The Google URL removal tool is found at The page is more self-explanatory than the previous version. First, a list of URL removal requests is shown. You can toggle the view using the drop-down box, but it defaults to “All.” You want to use the “All” option when you need to see canceled, processing and successful removals. If you need to cancel a request, the “All” option will show you any active removals. This option is also valuable when you need to view a list of removals that other authorized users have made such as an SEO or employee.

To remove a URL, enter its address in the text box and click “Request Removal.” The request is immediately submitted, but it can take several hours for the request to complete. If you need to stop the removal process, you can also click “Cancel” to stop the process.

Webmaster Tools - My Removal Requests 2014-02-06 20-37-53

Types of URLs You Can Remove

Google obviously needs to control URLs that can be removed by third-parties. You can’t remove just any page from a website, or competitors would have the competition removed from the index.

You can only remove a “live” URL if it returns a “not found” server status, which is a 404 error code that means “temporarily unavailable.” The error code returned can also be a 410, which means the URL is permanently removed. If the web page is a live page with any other status, Google will not honor the URL removal request.

Another good reason to use the Google tool is for updates when the URL owner makes changes but these changes aren’t reflected in Google’s cache. When Google’s cache isn’t updated, the URL still shows up for a specific phrase, but it’s not found in the live page’s content. Use this tool to indicate that content has changed, but Google needs to recrawl and re-index the new content.

The URL removal tool won’t de-index any content from the search engine, but it’s perfect for users who need to have pages that are no longer active removed. It’s also beneficial to update Google’s cache. Use this tool if your name appears on a website, or critical content needs to be removed from the search engine index.

In 2014, content is going to be more than important than ever. If you don’t plan on creating top-notch content, then you can plan on sitting on the bottom of the search results.

Since the launch of the Google Hummingbird algorithm, many webmasters know that creating unique content is crucial. However, many webmasters don’t know where to turn when it comes to creating a great piece of content.

Because all content isn’t created equally, here are some content formats that work wonderful in today’s search engine environment —

1. Evergreen Content

Evergreen content, which refers to content that never expires, is the type of content that works extremely well in the search results today. The problem with news stories is that, most of the time, they’re only hot for a few days. After the story fades away, the amount of people searching for that story will be next to nothing. With that being said, your content is slowly going to fade into the black hole with minimal traffic being sent your way.

The great thing about evergreen content is that it can help draw in traffic, build your authority and develop your brand. As long as the content is unique and tweaked over time, it should continue to flourish and never fade away over time.

2. Frequently Asked Questions

Most of the time, when someone searches for something, they may need the answer to a few questions on a certain subject. By creating a niche-based FAQ page, your visitors could potentially find a lot of value in it.

For example, you could create a FAQ page that is dedicated to a specific dog breed. On this page, you could answer the top questions that people have about that particular breed. If your content is good enough, you would be surprised at the amount of natural links you can get using your FAQ page as a resource.

3. How To Guides

Since the new Hummingbird algorithm places a larger emphasis on answering questions, the how-to guides tend to work well.

When building these guides, be sure to get straight to the point and lay it out in an easy-to-read format. Also, the more pictures and videos you have, the easier it will be for your visitors to understand what to do.

Aside from the content, also make sure that your titles are straight to the point and not something lengthy that confuses the searcher. So, something as simple as “How to Build a Tree Fort” is going to be more than enough to get clicks.

4. Solution to a Problem

Aside from getting answers to a question, many people often need a solution to a problem. If you can resolve this problem, you’re going to be their savior. As long as the solution is to the point, this is a great way to get organic hits to your website.

5. Studies

A case study is a great way to take a personal experience and turn it into an article. For example, if you ran a blog and wanted to test a marketing strategy, you could create a journal showcasing your results. Oftentimes, a case study can be spread out through multiple articles, making the reader come back for more.

By creating an in-depth case study, it’s going to draw in user interactions, lots of attention and hopefully some publicity if it’s interesting.

6. Top Tips

Top tips will refer to something that you see on many popular social media and news websites. This can be referred to as “Top 10…” or “Top 5 Ways To…” These type of posts are entertaining, they are to the point and are often laid out in an easy-to-read format.

These types of formats tend to do very well with the new Google algorithm. Remember, when you’re ready to produce a piece of content, just make sure that it’s worth reading. If you’re going to rehash the same material that can be found elsewhere, you should probably reconsider your strategy.

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