I’m a Tool, You’re a Tool, Wouldn’t ya like to be a…No, I guess that doesn’t quite work now, does it? Seriously, though, these articles deal with our Tools of the Trade in the Online Marketing (and others) niche industries and interests.

Posts

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

I was doing a bit of research for my Northern Shaolin Kung Fu students recently and had a fairly eye-opening revelation.

To be honest – this little enlightenment is really positive, as it opens up new sources of information and at the same time it’s also quite frustrating.

Why frustrating? Well because it opens up new sources of information and a bit of overwhelm may ensue. 😛

As we all know, Wikipedia is user-generated content – a community-built encyclopedia of sorts, with editorial guidelines, restrictions and moderation systems (somewhat) in place.

And just a quck glance of its logo tells us that it is also translated into many different languages.

However, it is NOT merely translated into different languages.

There is different information in different languages for the same entries – sometimes more, sometimes less but usually different.

Translating NASA

For example, go to the English entry for NASA ( National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Scroll down to the last paragraph just before the big "Contents" link box and look at the last link in that paragraph; the anchor text is "Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite," and it points to a page with a fair amount of information and links about this satellite, also known as "Ibuki." On this page, we also learn that Ibuki was operated and launched by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA.

Next, go to the Spanish entry for NASA and look at the last link before the "Contents" box. You will see "Agencia Japonesa de Exploración Aeroespacial." And that is a link to the Spanish entry for "JAXA."

A logical argument could be made, initially, for sentence construction; that perhaps the last sentence in both languages in this paragraph contain all of the same links to their respective language entries, but just in a different order, due to their respective language rules.

However, all it takes is a quick scan through the sentences to see that this is not, in fact, the case.

Fun with Lincoln

Let’s look at another example in a different way.

Look at the English entry for Abraham Lincoln. And then the German entry for Abraham Lincoln.

And now all you have to do is look on the right hand side of each page, at the photos and scroll down. You’ll see the difference.

But, But, But…

And before you give me all of the reasons why you think I am wrong… Try it out yourself. Search for any topic, open a window or tab for the English version and do it again. Then just change the "en" at the beginning of the URL (this specifies English, for example) to another language or region – de for Germany, es for Spain, etc. And look at what you find; run your own little experiments.

Conclusion

My point?

Different people are getting different information on topics, based on language or part of the world they are in. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but definitely different.

There are many people who are unaware of the fact that Wikipedia is content created by its users. And many more, like myself, are under the impression that the various language entries are merely translations of English.

I am not attempting to make some sort of social justice comment here. What I am saying is this: If you are researching a topic and want more – consider alternative languages. It has its benefits.

It’s paying of for me already. My topical search that gave birth to this revelation has now given me much more interesting information on the topic from merely looking up the Italian entry. Now after I search through all of this new data, I can’t help but wonder what the Spanish entry will give me. Or the French. Or South African, or…!?!

It’s exciting, if not a bit overwhelming.

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!

SEO Mastery for BING

A bit more than a Ding

As you all know, Bing is the second-most used Search Engine, behind the obvious leader Google.

But did you know that there are some very specific things to look at to improve your rankings…for Bing?


5 Tips to Boost Your Bing SEO

Take note that we’ll not be covering general SEO tactics here, as this is geared towards people who already have a grasp of the fundamentals.

  1. Webmaster Center
    Over time, Bing’s Webmaster Center has become more robust and now provides a very good look into the performance of your site and optimization efforts. Use this tool and Be Smart about it.
  2. Microformats
    The major players in the Search Engine world have all begun to support microformats. And in some cases, implementation provides extra benefits in the SERPs. Use them. The suggested protocols and implementation information surrounding them can be found at Schema.org.
  3. Geo Signals
    Bing doesn’t use TLD versions of their Search Engines, like you’ll find over at Google, but rather a variety of Geo Signals in order to determine for which country a certain page is more appropriate. Things like the physical location of the server, TLDs, incoming link locations, language, etc. And, although Google does not consider the Meta Geo tags, Bing does.
  4. Click-Through Rate
    Although Bing still allows you to get quickly indexed, whether you rise, drop or pop is heavily influenced by user interaction…So pay attention to CTR (Click-Through Rate) in your Analytics.
  5. Bounce Rate
    As mentioned above, Bing really cares about user interaction. If people are bouncing out in less than a minute, Bing takes notice, and so should you (as you should anyway).

Well folks, it’s not a lot, but it is power-packed. These very Bing-specific SEO tips could take you to the next level. Bing may not have been very important in the past, but that’s just not the case anymore.

Know of any other Bing goodies? Leave a comment and share!

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.

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.

RSS to Email

RSS to Email

The Problem with RSS

You really love your favorite RSS Reader / Feed Reader / Aggregator / etc., but it’s starting to get hairy; you’ve subscribed to so many of them that simply checking in with your reader seems to daunting a task these days.

Or perhaps you don’t use a feed reader; you prefer to sign up for Email newsletters instead. And you’re coming across cool websites that you’d like to subscribe to, but only see links for RSS.

Sound familiar? I know it does for me. Personally, I use to use Google Reader as my preferred online RSS Feed Reader, but it was discontinued back on July 1st, 2013, but they also provided a nice list of alternatives.

Aside from that, I also found myself commonly in both scenarios mentioned above.

RSS Readers: The Email Solution

Is there one? Yes indeed.

If you don’t have a feed aggregator, but are interested in learning more about them, check out this super-cool & super-detailed Compariosn of Feed Aggregators, by Wikipedia.

But if you’d simply like to Subscribe to a RSS Feed via Email, what to do? Some feeds are burned and hosted by Google’s FeedBurner, and sometimes there’s a link therein that allows you to do so. And often, there’s not.

Free RSS to Email Services

We’re talking about us – the end-user here; the ones who like to be notified of new articles or posts, etc. on our favorite websites. Not the email marketer trying to integrate RSS feeds into their newletters.

And believe it or not, there’s a few you can use for free!

Give ’em a shot!

SEO Page Speed

SEO and Page Speed Tools

Earlier I wrote that Google helps SEO via Speed, and several of you wrote to me asking if there were other tools around to help improve your SEO for speed.

Well, I’m happy to tell you all that, yes, there are several other ways to test your page speed.

As you may have guessed, Google’s web-based Page Speed Online PageSpeed Insights is not the only tool available. Here’s some other speed tools you may want to play with:

Good luck with your testing and hope ya pass! 😉 Seriously, though, people have a shorter attention span these days and it’s getting shorter by the second. They will click back and go to the next result in the search engine result pages if you aren’t quick enough.

So do yourself a favor, run the tests and work on the optimizations.