Articles for October 2011

7 New Ways to Improve Your Google Rankings

by Robert McMurray

Blog Writer
October 31st, 2011

Wondering how to respond to Google’s recent algorithm changes (known as Panda)?

Keep reading to find out.

A bit of history

In an interview with Wired MagazineUdi Manber, Google’s head of search, said that Google will make as many as 550 changes to its search algorithm this year. One of the bigger changes happened this past winter in what has been called the Panda or Farmer update.

According to a report by Sistrix.com, within days of the update, a number of very large websites saw their Google rankings take a drastic drop. Sites such asEzinearticles.com and Suite101.com lost 90% or more of their visibility on Google. 

sistrix chart

This Sistrix table shows the domain and the percentage loss since Google's change.

Although a 90% drop in visibility may seem extreme, it was a direct result of Google’s attempts to weed out content farms (websites with high-volume, low-quality content) and those trying to game the system. In the process, a number of unsuspecting websites got caught in the fray.

For the average small business owner, stories like this can be concerning. It’s hard enough to move to the top of the Google search rankings, let alone keep up with the constantly evolving magic that makes Google work.

However, for those looking to build quality websites that achieve high Google search results, nothing has really changed. As always, the key is to focus on publishing high-quality content that readers will want to share.

Here are 7 tips to help your business move to the top of the Google search rankings.

#1: It’s all about the user

It’s important to remember that the reason for the continually changing algorithms and updates is that Google has one objective—to provide the highest quality, most relevant search results possible. If they fail to do so, competitors such as Bing and Facebook are nipping at their heels ready to take up the slack.

Google is not out to penalize websites or hurt website owners. They want to ensure that users find the information they seek on the first try.

When it comes to search engine rankings and improving SEO, start by looking at the site from the perspective of the user searching Google. Does your site provide the best, most relevant information for a given search term and if not, what can you do to fix it?

Google’s Amit Singhal, head of Google’s core ranking team, provided 23 questions to consider when evaluating web content. These are some of the same questions that Google is using to test algorithms and evaluate websites using third-party beta testers. The questions provide an excellent insight into Google’s perspective and a tool to analyze your website from the user’s point of view.

#2: Content: Focus on quality over quantity

In an earlier post I wrote on how to increase your Google ranking, I talked about using blogs to increase the number of pages indexed in Google. And while it still holds true that more pages indexed for a given search term gives you a better chance of achieving a high Google rank, it isn’t enough just to publish text optimized for keywords. The quality of the content is now a factor.

words

Using the list of 23 questions will help you assess the quality of your content.

Since the Panda update, Google has attempted to screen out those publishing high-volume, low-quality content. Now, in the eyes of Google, it’s better to have fewer high-quality pages then lots of low-quality pages.

Blogging is still one of the best ways to move up the search engine rankings as it is a good way to add high-quality information to a website. However, web pages or blog posts offering little of value can now negatively impact a website. Removing these pages might actually help a website move up the rankings or recover from a drop in ranking.

#3: Links: Focus on quality over quantity

Incoming links have always looked good in the eyes of Google. As a result, one way to move a site up the search engine rankings was to generate a high number of incoming links all pointing to a given web page.

As Google places higher and higher value on the quality of the content, this tactic is not as effective, and can even harm a website’s ranking if overdone.

For the small business website owner, this should come as good news. Instead of generating 50 articles with subpar content, website owners can now focus on creating fewer high-quality articles or incoming links, as Google is no longer placing much value in links from article distribution sites such as Ezine.com.

In another article on ways to improve your blog SEO with inbound links, I suggested that press releases were a good way to generate incoming links because distribution services often generated back-links as articles were placed on various press release syndication websites. This link-building strategy has also changed post-Panda update, as these links are not as highly valued as they once were. However, a well-written press release can still be very effective when picked up and reported by a journalist or major publication.

Focus on getting high-quality links from high-quality websites. Guest posting is still an excellent way to generate high-quality incoming links. If possible, try to wrap links in important keywords. For example, as a content marketing copywriter, a link around “content marketing copywriter” would be more effective than a link wrapped around my name.

#4: Make the most of social media, social sharing and social search

It’s hard to tell exactly how much impact Twitter and Facebook have on Google search results, but at the very least we know that Google is providing real-time social sharing in the search results.

Google’s addition of the Google +1 button and the ability of Google users to block sites take this a step further. Although it’s still unclear how Google is using the +1 button in their algorithms, they have stated publicly that users blocking a site can have a negative impact on returns. This again demonstrates the importance of high-quality content.

#5: Let the search engines know you’re there

Once you’ve published high-quality content, it’s important to tell Google about the content and make it easy for users to find. This means that meta titles and descriptions should closely match the content on the page.

Keyword stuffing and intentionally filling meta descriptions with keywords that don’t match the page in an attempt to deceive will only hurt your search engine results. The closer the match, the better.

It’s also important to make the most of the SERP, the short paragraph showing in the Google search returns. Use this space to provide a clear description of the content and encourage users to click through to your site.

serp

Be sure your meta description matches the post and encourages users to click through. This is what shows in the Search Engine Results Page or SERP.

#6: The truth behind duplicate content

It’s not that Google penalizes websites for duplicate content; Google just doesn’t show it in the search results. Remember what I said in the beginning about providing the best possible search returns. When it comes to duplicate content, that’s all Google is doing.

Instead of showing 20 pages with the same content, Google tries to present the most relevant and original content and omit the rest. Users can still view omitted search returns, they just need to make an effort and most won’t.

This only becomes a problem if you’re using canned content or directly publishing RSS feeds from other websites. Content of this sort might be seen as low-quality and result in lower Google returns. Hopefully the days of stolen web content and RSS scrapers will soon be a thing of the past.

#7: Don’t overdo the advertising

Too much advertising can also result in lower Google rankings. This again is a result of Google’s attempts to improve search results for the user. Google tends to equate an overabundance of advertising to lower-quality or “spam” websites.

ads

Excessive advertising can also hurt your Google returns. Note how the actual content on this site isn't even visible above the fold. This website is also "scraping" content from Social Media Examiner which can also hurt search engine ranking.

Be sure that advertising does not interfere with the content on the page. This is especially important with advertising above the fold and within the text.

Google is constantly evolving, but the fundamentals of SEO will always remain the same. High-quality content that people want to share will always do well in the eyes of Google. Search Engine Land has put together a free guide that will help you gain traffic from search engines such as Google and Bing.

periodic table of seo

"Search Engine Land has created a Periodic Table of 'SEO Ranking Factors.' Notice the importance placed on content.

 

By: Jim Lodico

Want to Create a Free Website? Think Again...

by Robert McMurray

Blog Writer
October 24th, 2011

This article may sound a little harsh to you.  It's not meant to be as I am just stating the facts from my own experiences. 

Mark my words: If you use a free host for your business you are making a huge mistake. Period.

I don't thinkmany people realize the number of disadvantages that go along with creating free websites. Hopefully this article will shed some light on the subject.

Don't make the same mistake I did. After this nightmare, I vowed to never go the "free route" again. Creating your site from scratch with its own domain name (yoursite.com) is affordable and definitely worth the small investment.

Parking your site at a free host is often like building a house on sand.  It may be quick and and it may seem easy at first, but I can almost guarantee you it won't last long.

Disadvantages of Free Web Hosts

  • Limited web page space
  • Can't add interactive features (chat rooms, message boards, games, online ordering etc.)
  • Search engines often ignore them (Your traffic will be limited)
  • Your visitors may doubt your credibility
  • May have banners and/or pop ads on your homepage and/or all of your pages
  • Long and hard-to-remember web address (instead of yourdomain.com)
  • No guarantees of site availability and longevity
  • No branded emails addresses (you@yourdomain.com)
  • Poor help and support options (if any)
  • May not be free forever

Advantages of Owning Your Own Dot Com Name

  • Easy to remember website address (yourdomain.com)
  • No banners or popups
  • Easier to get listed in search engines (Google, Yahoo etc.)
  • You have more control over the look and feel of your website.
  • Multiple branded email addresses (you@yourdomain.com)
  • Plenty of web page space for site expansion
  • Looks more professional
  • More flexibility for design and functionality

You might be tempted to create a free website because you don't want to spend any money. Trust me. I'd rather you wait until you've saved some money than start your site on a free host and then switch later.

Free Websites & Making Money Online Don't Mix

It amazes me how many people tell me that they want to start a business website but don't want to spend any money. 

I personally don't know of a single successful website owner that created their business website on a free host.

If you were starting an offline business, you'd plan on investing some money right?  Well, doing business on the web is no different despite many beliefs.  If you don't plan to invest anything to start a business then I'd have to question your drive.

I've been making money on the Internet for over a decade and I have YET to read a success story from someone hosting their site on Blogger.com, Yola, and Weebly. It's no coincidence that successful people own their own domains.

Plus, you can't expect people to take you or your site seriously if your website address starts with something like is http://myfreesite...

And if the address doesn't tip your visitor's off, the banners and pop-ups you'll be forced to display sure will.  Also, the templates they provide are generally very basic and lacking a professional appearance.

Think about it. Wouldn't you be a little suspicious if the web address of a business was something like http://members.aol.com/users/myhomepage.html with pop-ups and banners instead of www.companyABC.com?

Web surfers are becoming much more Internet savvy and they can smell a "cheap site" a mile away.  You don't want to lose credibility and potential customers because of the unprofessional feel.

Any time someone sends me their "business" site on Blogger.com I immediately discredit the site. Sorry, but that's what most people do. Free web hosts just aren't taken seriously.

Not to mention, you can only do so much with them. So if you want to add shopping carts, order forms and additional interactive features you probably won't be able to do this because most free hosting companies don't offer that kind of functionality.

More Problems Free Website Hosters May Encounter

It is quite expensive for these companies to run a free hosting service because the company has to pay for the space and the bandwidth (traffic) to host thousands of web sites. And since they offering these sites for free, some companies find themselves losing money very quickly. 

They try to keep their service free by slapping banners on the member's pages, hoping that people will click and purchase products...but think about it...how many banners have you clicked on lately?

Exactly.

Then some may try to redeem themselves by charging a "small" fee for their service. And of course, if you aren't willing to pay for your site, you can say "bye bye" to all of your hard work. 

If you haven't read my story, here it is again.

Almost all free website providers let you know in their terms and conditions that there are NO GUARANTEES when it comes to keeping your website available.  Which means they reserve the right to remove your site at anytime, regardless of how much work you've put into it.

The Best Way to Build a Website

My recommendation is to register your own domain (dot com) name and build your site from scratch.

The registration process is very easy.  You're able to search the Internet's domain name database until you find a name that hasn't been taken.  Within seconds you can reserve it and it's yours for as long as you want.

Once you have the name you want, you'll need a place to create your web pages.  A web hosting company will provide you with the help you need in this area.  You'll be happy to know that the hosting options recommended here provide top notch support.

Just do yourself a favor and try it. If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Social Network Comments Fuel Offline Behavior

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
October 17th, 2011

Comments on social sites about brands and products are encouraging users to take action

 

Social networks are becoming a part of everyday life for many users, and their offline habits are affected by their participation.

In November 2010, the Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed US social network users for the “Social Network Sites and Our Lives” report, released in June 2011, and found that 31% of social network users are on Facebook several times a day. Additionally, 21% of respondents use the site about once a day. This is followed by Twitter, which 20% of social network users check several times a day and 13% use about once a day.

As consumers use these social sites several times a day or week, they are also commenting on posts from friends just as often. The Pew study found that 26% of female Facebook users and 17% of male Facebook users comment on Facebook posts at least once a day. Further, the study found that 57% of female Facebook users and 48% of male Facebook users comment on posts at least once a week.

 

Frequency with Which US Facebook Users Comment on Facebook Posts, by Gender, Nov 2010 (% of respondents)

 

But social network users are not just responding on social media. The April 2011 “S-Net: The Impact of Social Media” study by ROI Researchfound that 60% of US social network users were at least somewhat likely to take action when a friend posted something about a product, service, company or brand on a social media site. Only 18% were not at all likely to take action.

The study doesn’t elaborate on what exactly respondents would do, but another question asked specifically what actions US social network users would be more likely to take after following a company or product on Facebook or Twitter. On Facebook, 53% of respondents said the top activities would be purchasing the brand or company’s product and recommending the company or product. For Twitter, the top activities were talking about the company or product (61%), recommending the company or product (59%) and purchasing the brand or company’s product (58%).

 

Activities that US Social Network Users Are More Likely to Do After They Follow a Company or Products on Facebook or Twitter, April 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Fans or followers of a brand are influenced by what they see from these company accounts, but they are also influenced by what their friends say about brands or companies that they don’t necessarily follow. It’s another area for marketers to focus on—the reach they have and how their brand fans may influence their own friends and followers.

 By:eMarketer

8 Ways Social Media Has Changed Our Lives

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
October 10th, 2011

As we head into our Social Media Day festivities, we’d like to take a look at the effect social media has had on our daily lives.

We asked you to show us how social media had changed your life through our partnership with CNN’s iReport, and received so many wonderful, honest responses. We selected a few of our favorite submissions to display here, but you can see all of them on theiReport assignment page.

Here’s a look at some of the best photo and video submissions. We encourage you to share your own social media stories in the comments below. You can also see the featured submissions selected by iReport in their post.

“Social media has not only allowed me to change careers, it has allowed me to create a new career — my dream career — that never existed. I had a dream to transition from a design engineer to someone that inspires engineers and helps them break out of their technical shells and enjoy their personal and professional lives. Social media made it all possible,” said Anthony Fasano of Ridgewood, NJ.

“During the Vancouver riots, I was at home and using social media to help people figure out what was going on. It was unbelievable and we were totally embarrassed by it,” Jon Mezzabarba of Vancouver said.

Social media really changed the life by Matt Sky, a web designer in New York City.

Nicholas Pegues works for the Shelby County Election Commission and is active in local politics in Memphis. He says Facebook has allowed him to make connections with others and with notables.

 


About Social Media Day


Social Media Day is a global celebration of the technological advancements that enable everyone to connect with real-time information, communicate from miles apart and have their voices be heard. We invite you to connect with fellow web enthusiasts by hosting aSocial Media Day Meetup in your area. There’s no better way to celebrate the revolution of media becoming a social dialogue than by socializing with your online community offline.

 By:Chelsea Stark

Lemon Grove Plaza

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
October 3rd, 2011

When in Oxnard, visit the Lemon Grove Plaza home of the largest Petsmart in the region. Lemon Grove Plaza has been in operation for over 40 years. Lemon Grove Plaza offers a variety of shopping experiences. Please stop by and enjoy, with so many store's its a great place to get it all done with one stop. The shopping center in anchored by Smart & Final, Petsmart and Burgar King.

Need a quick bite visit one of our many dining chooses: Mariscos La Sirenita mexican food, Hook Line and Sinker Seafood, Swan Korean BBQ, Yokozuna Sushi, or Jersey Mikes Subs.

Lemon Grove Plaza draws customers from all over the region with an excellent location, excellent anchors, its a busy center with plenty of parking.

Located right off highway 101 at the Oxnard Blvd. exit. Lemon Grove Plaza, with a wide range of stores and local eateries. This shopping center is a go to for your entire to do list.

Seeking restaurant and other retail, or professional services.
Can put 1,500 Sf and 1,200 SF together for 2,700 SF unit.

Location is 2001-2093 N Oxnard Blvd at Oxnard Blvd and Citrus Grove Lane north of Gonzales.

 

FEATURED MERCHANTS

 

Yankee Doodle Bakery

Airport Marina Center Shopping Center

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
October 1st, 2011

When in Oxnard, visit the Airport Marina Center with a great mix of professional services, medical and dental, retail and restaurants. Airport Marina Center adjacent to the Oxnard Airport and only one mile to the beach. Airport Marina Center offers a variety of shopping experiences. With over 20 stores, the shopping center has many choices. Local favorite eateries include Pirates Grub & Grog, CJ's BBQ. After eating hit the toning shack, Keeb Kools where you can lose 5 inches in your first five one hour sessions. Pamper yourself at Elegant Salon or Tropical Tan and pamper mans best friend at The Dapper Dog Grooming and Pet Supply Store. Located on Victoria Ave and 5th Street Airport Marina Center with a wide range of stores and local eateries. This shopping center is a go to for your entire to do list.

RETAIL and PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS CENTER Well located busy new convenience Center. Great mix of professional services, medical-dental, retail and restaurants. Plenty of on-site customer parking easy customer access with great signage including street pylon.

Fast growing Westside location adjacent to Oxnard Commuter (United Express) Airport and only a mile to the beach and marina. Located at a busy signalized intersection (Victoria Ave. and 5th Street). Great street visibility and customer identity.

 

FEATURED MERCHANTS

Keeba Kool's Toning Shack

 

The Dapper Dog