Google. Ever heard of ’em? This Search Engine giant, everybody knows. We will look at the search engine and how we, as SEO’s, interact with it, how the average Joe can use it and much more.

Posts

I recently wrote an article for the company I work for, entitled “5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website” and it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Even if you are not in the Vacation Rental industry, these SEO or Search Engine Optimization methods and logic, that I go into great detail about in the article, are extremely beneficial to most industries.

My boss even gave me accolades in our meetings – it’s gotten the most re-Tweets, the most shares, the most likes and so on, compared to any other one thus far on the site, so please go read it. 🙂

5 Tactics to Boost Local Traffic to your Vacation Rental Website

It’s Friday night and I thought I’d drop this little Online Marketing Article Roundup into the mix…

One morning this past week, like most mornings, my Inbox was busting at the seams with Online Marketing newsletters, articles, tips, guides and so on.

It’s rare that I have the time to read them, letting my Outlook Filters, Rules and Alerts do their organizing tricks. Of course, with the intention of visiting them at some point in the near future.

But last night, after I finished teaching my Kung Fu class, I opened a few of them and found some interesting reads.

21 Online Marketing Articles to Read Today

We’ve got 6 SEO Articles, 4 Google Articles, 6 Social Media Articles, 3 User Experience (UX) Articles, and 2 WordPress Articles. There may even a Bonus Article at the bottom!

SEO

Google

Google

Social Media

Social Media

User Experience

User Experience

WordPress

WordPress

Bonus

Bonus

Google Search Tricks

It’s no new revelation that Google is the King of Search Engines. And some of you may know that Google has tons of other products as well. But even within their Search functionality lay hidden some really cool gems. Google Search Tricks.

Check out these Google Goodies!

Cool Google Search Tricks

Just type in these search phrases without the quotes and experience the helpful, the fun or the silly.

  • Type in "Do a barrel roll”" ()
  • Type in "tilt" or "askew" (without the quotes)
  • Type in "recursion"
  • Type in "define anagram"
  • Type in "anagram"
  • Type in "zerg rush"
  • Type in "calculate tip" or "tip calculator"
  • Type in the name of a Holiday, like "Chinese New Year", "Thanksgiving" or "Presidents Day", etc.
  • Type in "books by" or "movies by" or "songs by" or "albums by" and then put someone’s name in, for example "Stephen King"
  • Type in "graph for" and then a math function, for example "sin(x)+cos(x)"
  • Type in "solve" and a geometric shape, for example "circle" or "hexagon"
  • Type in "what time is it"
  • Type in "google in 1998"
  • Type in a number then a currency "in" and then a different currency, for example "100 usd in inr" or "100 dollars in rupees"
  • Type in "the answer to life the universe and everything"
  • Type in "define" and then any word
  • Type in "synonym" and then any word
  • Type in "word origin" and then any word
  • Type in "translate"
  • Type in "distance" a geographic location "to" and another geographic location, for example "distance atlanta to new york"
  • Type in "set timer" and then a number, for example "set timer 1:00"
  • Type in "atari breakout" then select images
  • Type in "pacman"
  • Type in a city name, another city name and "flights", for example "atlanta tokyo flights"
  • Type in "flip a coin"
  • Type in "i love you"
  • Type in a food "vs" another food, for example try "cheeseburger vs spaghetti"
  • Type in "sunrise in" or "sunset in" and a city name, for example "sunrise in atlanta"
  • Type in "weather" and a city name
  • Type in "forecast" and a city name
  • Type in "movies"
  • Type in the name of a Television show and the word "episodes", for example "breaking bad episodes"
  • Type in a movie title and the words "release date", for example "E.T. release date"
  • Type in a movie or TV show title and the word "cast", for example "breaking bad cast"
  • Type in the name of a company and the words "stock price", for example "google stock price"
  • Type in "founder" and the name of a company, for example "founder Cisco"
  • Type in "metric conversion"
  • Type in "time" and city name"
  • Type in "ip address"
  • Type in a stock symbol, for example "hlf"
  • Type in a sports team name, for example "new orleans saints"
  • Type in "bacon number" and a celebrity name, like "bacon number tom cruise"
  • Type "roll die"
Pagination Duplicate Content and SEO

Pagination and Duplicate Content in SEO

Pagination creating Duplicate Content is a very real issue within SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Pagination is basically breaking up long "stuff" into shorter chunks, with a navigation system to move on to the next or previous piece.

Duplicate Content means pretty much what you’d expect it to mean, however…

Let’s look at what these things are, how they interact, what they have to do with SEO and what best practice to put into place.


Pagination

Wikipedia defines it this way:

Pagination as the process of dividing (content) into discrete pages, either electronic pages or printed pages.


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Paginated content exists all across the internet. Websites paginate in different ways. For example:

  • Long articles divided into several shorter pages
  • eCommerce sites might divide a list of products in a large category into pages
  • Forums often divide threads into URLs of a sequence

Duplicate Content

Wikipedia defines it this way:

Duplicate Content as a term used in the field of search engine optimization to describe content that appears on more than one web page. The duplicate content can be substantial parts of the content within or across domains and can be either exactly duplicate or closely similar. When multiple pages within a web site contain essentially the same content, search engines such as Google can penalise or cease displaying that site in any relevant search results.


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Interaction and SEO Effects

When you take a look at your average SERP, you’re looking at a list of (hopefully relevant) pages. That word, pages is key here. It’s what we optimize in SEO – pages.

Each page should have unique titles, descriptions, and most importantly, content.

So if you break up a long article across several pages, won’t each and every one of those pages have the exact same title, description, etc.? And that, my friends, is the rub.

What Google Says

In short, there are three things that Google says you can do in order to use Paginated Content and still whoop tail at SEO:

  1. Specify a View All page
  2. Use rel="next" and rel="prev" links
  3. Do Nothing

Specify a View All Page

Google attempts to detect the View All version of our content and, if available, its associated component pages. However, to make it more explicit, you can include rel="canonical" from your component pages to your view-all page to increase the chances that your series of pages are found.

Use rel="next" and rel="prev" links

Google’s default is to search for a View All page. However, if you’d like to override this, or if you don’t have a View All page, then using the rel="next" and rel="prev" links would be your best bet.

Let’s look at an implementation example. On the site, www.example.com, there could be an article titled abc and is broken down into three pages.

On the second page, http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=2, in the <head> section, you would put:

<link rel="prev" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=1" />
<link rel="next" href="http://www.example.com/article?story=abc&page=3" />

Do Nothing

Um… What?

That’s right. Doing nothing is actually a viable alternative in the eyes of Google.

The reason? Paginated content is extremely common, and Google will still attempt to return the most relevant results, regardless of content’s pagination or lack thereof.

My Take

So out of these three options, what would I do?

Sorry but I’m not opting for doing nothing.

I’d honestly suggest doing both of options one and two. Create a View All page for your users; I imagine this may come in handy in other ways as well.

And also use rel="next" and rel="prev" links. This overrides the Google View All default, giving you complete control over Duplicate Content issues, but allows your creation of the View All page to help your users.

Keep in mind, however, that when using the rel="next" and rel="prev" links, they need to be complete and correct; one mis-step and Google will pop back into its default search for the View All page.

And here’s a handy little video from Google putting all this into perspective.

Google with Style

Style

Google recently released their new HTML/CSS Style Guides for Webmasters; to help create better websites, as well as the nudge-nod-wink to enhanced SEO.

While some of the suggestions seem fairly obvious, some are a bit surprising. Let’s take a look at a few.


Google’s Suggestions

General

Protocol

  • Leave out protocols (http:, https:) from URLs pointing to various files unless they aren’t available for both protocols.

Indentation

  • Google says to Indent by 2 Spaces in code; don’t use Tabs.

Capitalization

  • Use only lowercase in code, including element names, attributes, attribute values, selectors, properties, and property values (except strings)

Encoding

  • Use UTF-8

Action Items

  • This is a new one on me – Mark "To Do" and action items with the keyword TODO in code, along with the contact name of person involved. Examples given are:

    {# TODO(john.doe): revisit centering #}
    <center>Test</center>

HTML Styles

Document Type

  • Google suggests using HTML5 instead of XHTML. <!DOCTYPE html>

Validity

  • Use Valid HTML where possible. Test with the W3C HTML Validator

Semantics

  • Use Elements / Tags according to their original intent and purpose.

Multimedia Fallback

  • Google would like for you to provide alternatives for media. Always include Alt attributes; alt="" if necessary.

Separation

  • Separate structure from presentation from behavior.

Format Block Level Elements in Code

  • Start each new block-level element on a new line in your code.

Quotation Marks

  • Use double Quotation marks ("") for attribute values.

CSS Styles

Validity

  • Use the W3C CSS Validator to validate your CSS whenever possible.

ID and Class Names

  • Use meaningful class and ID names, based on the element’s purpose; make names short as possible but as long as necessary.
  • Avoid qualifying ID and class names with type selectors. Instead of ul#example {}, use #example {}.

Shorthand

  • Google says, in short, use the shorthand when possible.

Zeroes

  • Don’t specify units after a 0 value but instead like margin: 0;
  • Don’t lead with a 0 value, but instead like font-size: .8em;

Hexadecimals

  • Use 3 digit declaration when possible. For example, instead of color: #eebbcc;, use color: #ebc;.

Declaration Order

  • Alphabatezie declarations.

Stops

  • Use a semicolon after every declaration, including the last one.
  • Use a space after the property name’s colon.

Declarations

  • Start a new line for each selector, declaration and rule.

Quotation Marks

  • Use single quotation marks for selectors & property values (”).
  • Do not use quotation marks in URI values (url()).

And that’s about it. Good luck with your implementation!

Canonical

NOT rel=canonical

Canon:
A general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged.
A member of the clergy on the staff of a cathedral, esp. a member of the chapter.
Canonical:
According to or ordered by canon law: "the canonical rites of the Roman Church".
As a Noun: The prescribed official dress of the clergy.

And what do either of these definitions have to do with SEO or even rel="Canonical", for that matter?

Nothing. Except, perhaps, for the idea of a general law, principle etc. We’ll see how in just a moment.

So when asked in a Job Interview, anything referring to the Catholic church or Catholicism is not really the correct answer; unless of course your job happens to be in that area.

So what does rel="Canonical" mean, why should you care, and how should you make the magic happen?

rel= "Canonical" – Why, What and How

Why should you care about rel="Canonical"?

Have you ever heard of duplicate content and the penalties that come along with it?

I’m sure you have. In short, Google is not a big fan of duplicate content and it could seriously hurt your rankings! Whether you have or haven’t, here’s a real-world example to give it some context:

Let’s say you’re running a site selling products (or services). And oftentimes these product pages can have exactly the same, if not similar content, but a slightly different URL. For example:


http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=alpha&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd
http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=price&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd

As you can see, there are two different values of variables in the URL – sort=alpha and sort=price. Regardless of how they’re sorted though, you’re still looking at the same list of swedish-fish.

And they will have the same, if not similar, content. So what do we do?

We implement the rel="canonical" attribute or tag.

You need to decide which actual page has the most complete, accurate and best content for this subject, topic or page. Once you’ve done that, you need to go to all of the other possible URL pages and put in the directive to tell Google "Hey! I know this looks alot like this other page over there, but I want you just to pay attention to this one page for the content, instead of all the possible ways you could find it."

So then, in each of the non-canonical pages, or each of the pages that tell part of the story with duplicate or similar content, we need to tell Google to go to this other page for classification, like


<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish"/>

Place this in the <head></head> section of these pages – all pointing to the one page that you’d prefer to be listed in the SERPs for that content.

Oh! And here’s a couple of extra pointers regarding rel="canonical":

  • It’s preferred to use absolute links instead of relative links, when specifying the canonical.
  • Do not try to "game" the system by using this to simply rank a page higher; you will get found out. And quickly!
  • If the preferred page does not actually exist – you’re at the whim and mercy of Google.
  • To an extend, Google can follow a chain of canonicals – but if you’re trying to game the system – see the second bullet point above.
  • Yes, you can use it to point to pages on another site…But again…Hopefully you get the point.

So you’ll either have to do this manually in the pages of your website, or if you’re using WordPress as a back-end CMS or blogging platform, there is a much easier way.

WordPress SEO by Yoast is an outstanding plug-in to say the least, with all of its wonderful functionality.

And one such piece of functionality is about rel="Canonical"!

After you’ve installed and activated the plug-in, go into your Page or Post that you need to get Canonical on, and scroll down past the content area into the box supplied by the plug-in.

Click on the "Advanced" tab, scroll down a wee-bit and there you have it: a form field labeled "Canonical URL". That’s where you would paste in the URL for the page that has the most complete and accurate content that you’d prefer Google to index and show on the SERPs for this topic’s search query.

Well folks, that’s it. Hopefully you’ve learned a little bit about rel="Canonical", why you should use it, and how to do so.

Oh and by the way, there is a way to use this for the whole www.website.com vs. website.com battle too.

Have you figured out how?

Google Trends

Trends

(Scroll down for the Big List.)

Trends are powerful things.

Knowing what’s hot and happening now in the world can be fun. It can also be a great source of ideas for relevant content, linkbait and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

As Wikipedia says, "SEO Trending is a technique used by webmasters to write content based on recent events on the web to get more visibility for their websites in search engine results pages."


What are Trends?

Think about this. Trends show the general direction in which something tends to move. They show a possible future, the "buzz" of tomorrow, the next hype, an evolving topic. Or…An opportunity for the SEO-inclined to push their websites up in the search engines, get more backlinks and new traffic.

Now think about this. When there’s hype around something, people will:

  • Speak about it
  • Get curious about it
  • Search for it
  • Share it

How Trend – Spotting affects SEO

What does this mean for the SEO Consultant and/or Webmaster? The trends and the hype provide a framework for a certain amount of success. Here’s some things to do during the hype:

  • People will speak about it
    • Listen to their words (keywords)
    • Join the conversation via Twitter, Social Media, etc. (real time search)
    • Create trust by allowing discussions on your site, forum, blog, etc. (user-generated content)
    • Become an authority by getting them to speak about the relevant pages on your website (backlinks)
  • People get curious about it
    • Understand intent behind the unclear questions and give answers (intent)
    • Give away more – value-added free relevant content (incentives)
    • Use all available channels to give answers (universal search)
  • People search for it
    • Don’t underestimate the rapid increase in search volume (search volume)
    • Google’s "Query deserves freshness" factor will push keywords to the top of the SERPs (SERP Promotion)
    • Create fresh content for these queries (fresh content)
  • People share it
    • Find creative ways of using the hype for Linkbait to get new links (link bait)
    • Actively use Social Media to spread content and generate new traffic (SMOSocial Media Optimization)

Tools to Identify Trends

But how do we identify them? We know they’re happening but we usually hear about them in the now or in the past.

Aside from simply listening in the proper places, there are many paid and free tools to do just that. We spoke about Hot Content Ideas from Google and The SEO of Search Trends, but what about a bigger list of Tools?

Well here you go. I’ve compiled a fairly huge list of tools for you to go out play and learn from (in no particular order):

I’ll understand if you need to take a break after that; God knows I do!

SEO Trend It and Spin It!

Definitely not advocating the Black Hat "Spin" methodology here, but more of the original intent of the word. 🙂

Now that you have a huge toolbox to find out what people are searching for and talking about, be a little bit creative and original in your content creation. Make it interesting so that people who come to you as new traffic, come back and want more.

Web Directory

Directory Listings

Last month we discussed the Whys and Hows of Local SEO, including localized content ideas, such as including rates and locations. We also touched upon some ideas for link placement, like local rating sites and directory listings.

But why Directories? Perhaps you’re thinking "Directories for SEO? Directories are out-dated and just plain dead!"

Sure – they’ve been around for ages. And they don’t seem to ascribe to the whole social buzz idea. I mean, directories were THE THING at one point. Well, before Search Engines got smart… Right?

Slow down cowboy. Many people still submit to directories, including the pros. Let’s look at the Whys – The Benefits of being in Directories.

Benefits of Directories

Directories have been around since the dawn of the Internet. They’ve been a trusted way to get listed and locate listings. But in today’s world, many feel this dying breed has no benefit. There’s some merit to that idea, but it’s far from completely true. There are still benefits.

Here are some benefits, in no particular order, of having your website listed in a directory:

  1. Affordable
    Most directories are free. And of those that aren’t – most are fairly cheap. Some niche directories. And although more expensive than their counterparts, are also extremely targeted. A small warning, however: if it’s free – make sure the quality & freshness are there. Some of them never actually list your site.
  2. History
    Directories have been around a long time. They were here before Search Engines themselves! And we know that Search Engines pay attention to history. Getting listed in a long-standing directory will have more weight than a fly-by-night set up.
  3. People-based
    Although some of the el cheapo directories will post your listing immediately, some of them have actual humans behind the site. And they manually review the submissions. These are of a higher quality obviously. You’re already getting your first live human test – via submission!
  4. Getting Indexed in the Search Engines
    New website owners have learned the difficulties of getting indexed in a timely fashion. The days of using the "add URL" page of a Search Engine are long gone. Today Search Engines like Google and Yahoo find new sites through links. Directories give you links. And that gives you increased visibility to the Search Engines themselves.
  5. Timeliness
    You’ve built a website and are waiting to be found by the Search Engines Even with on-page SEO, you know how frustrating it can be to sit and wait. So why do it? Most directories, even those manually reviewed, have a fairly short waiting time for being listed. So you’re listed on the internet, especially for your niche target, perhaps Geo-Targeted as well. You have a keyword-focused listing, and an immediate quality one-way link! The Search Engines will pay attention.
  6. Increased Brand Recognition
    Using your brand in the directory listing and linkage creates another digital footprint. This immediately increases brand recognition.
  7. Traffic
    Though you’ll get a boost in traffic from being listed, it will most likely not be huge. It will, however, be more targeted, and that is, afterall, a step closer to a conversion.
  8. Contextually-Relevant and One-Way-Links
    We all love one-way SEO juice-boosting links, and directories are a great place to get them. If it’s a well-managed directory, then you’ll also get the benefit of that link being contextual (a link from a page with topically related content).
  9. SEO Targeting

    • Niche
      Directories are categorized, going from broad to specific. This is much like a folder system and breadcrumb trail. For example, in the Yahoo Directory, the Search Engine Optimization Services sub-category can be found via: Directory > Business and Economy > Business to Business > Marketing and Advertising > Internet > Promotion > Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Can you see how someone arriving to your website via a directory might be more targeted?
    • Keywords
      You get to choose what text to put into your directory listings. This is similar to the Title, Meta, etc., so why would you waste another SEO opportunity? Just look at the above-mentioned "Niche" topic. See how the breadcrumbs can be keywords? Oh and maybe keyword focused (focused, not stuffed) anchor text & descriptions?
    • Local
      Thinking of how directory listings go from broad to specific, we can see how Geo-Targetting and Local SEO can play a role here. For example, if I owned a retail outlet in Atlanta, GA – my listing could be found in the Yahoo Directory via Directory > Regional > U.S. States > Georgia > Cities > Atlanta > Business and Shopping > Shopping and Services > Retailers. At the time of this writing, there are only two listings in this sub-category and only one of them is specific to the actual area. Opportunity there?
  10. Competition
    Is there some competition on the Internet? Just a wee-bit. This makes most of our online marketing initiatives – SEO, SEM, SMO, etc. – a bit of a challenge. The great thing about directories is the very fact that they are dying out by most standards. For example, Google & Bing shut down their directories, pointing folks to DMOZ. Why is that a good thing? Because fewer and fewer people are using them and even fewer keep their listings updated. This gives us an edge. And that’s a good thing.

Bonus SEO Benefit of Directory Listings

And for you serious SEO folks out there – here’s a bonus benefit:

Directories are completely unaffected by the Panda update!

Soon I’ll be covering some of the directories out there, but in the meantime, why don’t you go and see what you can find? Go get listed!

Human-edited directories are often targeted by SEOs on the basis that links from reputable sources will improve rankings in the major search engines.

Local Search Engine Optimization - Local SEO

Local SEO

Local SEO – its concepts, strategies and tactics, has become increasingly important in the Search Engine Optimization game.

Just look at Yelp, Google My Business or Bing Places to get an idea of this.

The key is localized content. Content that is specific to users in specific geographies. Now isn’t that closer to the idea of providing what the users are really searching for?

For example, sign in to Google. Search for movie theater. Voila! It’s localized and specific, helpful content.

Now let’s get into a few ideas of how to optimize your pages for local search (local SEO).

Creating Localized Content for Local SEO

Here’s a few ideas to spurn your campaign.

  • Shipping rates
  • Sales tax differences
  • Warranty repair locations
  • Dealer locations
  • Different uses for different climates

Local SEO: Ideas

Once you have some localized content, you need to link locally as well. We know the importance of links in SEO, right?

  • Local Yahoo! versions
  • Local Business Directories
  • Local Bloggers’ business sites
  • Informational sites about specific localities
  • Local Business rating sites

And there’s much more.

There’s also Yext, which now bills itself as the "Digital Knowledge Management Platform".

Ever hear of Yelp? They claim to be "best way to find great local businesses". Let’s look at some other ideas.

Local SEO: Citation Listing Services

Be sure to read the Top 10 SEO Benefits of Directory Listings. It’ll definitely build your confidence in directories, as well as your Local SEO campaign.

Hopefully this will help boost your creative juices and your local SEO campaigns will flourish. Good luck!

newspaper

Hot Content Ideas

Fresh, new and magnetic content is good for SEO and good for conversions. Finding inspiration for this content, however, can be a chore.

Google, the search engine, is one of the main entities that we want to take notice of our content. But Google, the monster engine of intent, is one of the main entities that we can use for the inspiration we seek.

Google News and Information Services

As we learned in The SEO of Search Trends, knowing what hot topics people are actually searching for can be extremely helpful for marketing in general, and SEO in particular.

Enter Google News and Information Services.

When someone hears a buzz or reads a headline that’s interesting in a newsworthy way, they’ll usually turn to a search engine like Google to find out more about it. Why not jump on the bandwagon and be one of the search results?

These Google Search services will help point you in the right direction of hot topics, provide citeable sources, and more.

  • Google News
    News from all over the web, collected into clusters; different perspectives on hot news topics. It’s really pretty cool.
  • Google Scholar
    Search Scholarly Journals, Articles & Patents, Legal Opinions & Journals and more for your research and citing.
  • Google Finance
    Google’s One-Stop shop for market analysis, business news, personal investment portfolio tracking and much more.
  • Google’s Knol
    Basically this is Google’s version of Wikipedia; a user-centered reference site. However the site has taken some strong criticisms for not being properly monitored.

Have a Google News and Information Service you think should be added to the list? Let me know.