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Differentiating Between Site Popularity and Authority

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Webmasters should beware of what could soon be a major Google algorithmic change. Google Webspam guru and algorithmic master Matt Cutts may soon initiate changes that will further the divide between mere site popularity and topical authority; one that will place more emphasis on market authority and reward those sites that consistently display more aptitude toward or anchoring in topical expertise.

Though many in the online community already struggle to adapt their sites to the constantly changing Google landscape, this new change could have far reaching potential for those that rely on their site’s links to popular, rather than authoritative content. Matt Cutts has recently hinted at algorithmic changes that reward sites for consistently displayed evidence of topic authority. Google, says Cutts, is looking into ways to determine how well sites actually meet topical expertise requirements, and to then reward these sites with higher rankings.

Niche queries, such as those pertaining to the medical, legal or travel fields, may soon produce ranking pages that better meet the topical requirements. A medical query, for example, may soon produce pages that include sites that are better overall matches to the query. Once put into effect, this change could serve to deemphasize sites considered popularly relevant, and boost visibility of those that are actually relevant.

“We actually have some algorithmic changes that try to figure out ‘hey, this site is better for something like a medical query,’” said Cutts. “You don’t just say oh, this is a well-known site, therefore (it) should match the query. It’s…this is a site that actually has some evidence that it should rank for something related to medical queries.”

Google already places an importance on site authority, rewarding sites that establish authority on a given subject or in a certain market-area. The up-and-coming algorithm change, however, promises to place more emphasis on authoritative scrutinization. Though he hinted at the future change, Cutts didn’t reveal when the change would take place.


Filed under SEO

New changes with Google or Google’s algorithm

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Every time you use Google to search for something on the Internet, computer processes called an algorithms use your search words to find the information you’re looking for. It’s an invisible process most users take for granted, but the Google Corporation is constantly working to improve its algorithms.

Google changes its search algorithms as many as six hundred times a year, according to, a search engine optimization (SEO) consulting company. Most of these changes are minor, but many of these algorithm changes involve new innovations like Google Instant, a feature that suggests likely “hits” even as the user is typing.

Google unveiled its most recent algorithm change on February 6, 2014. Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, tweeted that Google had released an update of its Page Layout Algorithm. The update, known as the “Top Heavy algorithm” is meant to lower the ranking of a search hit with too many ads at the top its page, or if the ads are considered too distracting for users. “We’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience,” a Google spokesman said. “Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away.”

Analysts borrow the newspaper term “above the fold” in describing the look of websites that are top-heavy with advertisements. So, sites that lower content to below the fold are likely to be affected by the new algorithm change.

Google Introduces Powerful New Algorithm

Google has introduced a new algorithm that could improve the search engine experience for millions of computer users.

Google announced its “Top Heavy algorithm” in a tweet on February 6, 2014. Matt Cutts, who heads up Google’s Webspam team, said the search engine corporation had just released an update to its Page Layout Algorithm. The “Top Heavy algorithm” is meant to lower the ranking of websites that have too many advertisements near the top of its page, or “above the fold,” as some analysts call it.

Algorithms are sets of processes and formulas that transform Google user questions, or keywords, into answers, or webpage “hits.” Most users are unaware it even happens, but algorithms are at the very heart of every Google search, and millions of Internet users experience them every day.

The Google Corporation is constantly refining its search algorithms, according to a consulting company called There are up to six hundred algorithm updates every year. Most are very minor, but others involve major innovations such as the Knowledge Graph, introduced by Google to enhance search engine results by trying to understand the intent and context of a user’s search keywords.

Google introduced the Top Heavy algorithm in response to user complaints that too many search results were top heavy with advertising that made it hard to find the content they sought. This resulted in a compromised user experience. “Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away,” a company spokesman said.

The Top Heavy algorithm updates Google’s Page Layout Algorithm.

Filed under SEO

Are You #1? Does It Matter?

Comments Off recently published a short e-book called 17 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2014.

Myth #2 was: “SEO is all about ranking.” Apparently being in the Top 3 results on Google’s SERPs page isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Studies of clickthough rates and user behavior have shown that searchers favor the top search results–particularly the top three listings. However, it’s also been shown that on subsequent pages, being listed toward the top of the page shows similar click behavior. And with search results now being appended with rich text/snippets and author tags, results that appear below the top-three search results are getting much higher clickthrough rates.

Even before all of that was applied, rankings did not guarantee success. Theoretically, you could rank quite well for a term, get tons of traffic, and not make a dime from it. Is that what you really want? I don’t think so.”

This assertion rang true for me because it matched quite a few of my own experiences, not with ranking, but with search.

Sometimes the top three results don’t get the job done.

I’ve noticed the “top three results” are not always the sites I am looking for. Sometimes I have to scroll down to find what I need, and sometimes I really do have to go a few pages in. I always thought that I was, perhaps, just a bit atypical in that regard, and believed the wisdom that said most people would never bother to do that. However, this comment by Hubspot makes me think that maybe I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.

After all, it took Google a long time to really refine its algorithm. That means those top spot results have been a disappointment a time or two in the past. Even now, after so many updates and adjustments, there are results at the top that don’t always seem to be the best choice for my search term. Maybe you’ve experienced the same thing.

That’s not to say you should ignore SEO, or that you shouldn’t aspire to good rankings. It does tell you that “rankings and traffic are not the same thing,” any more than traffic or conversions are the same thing.

Are there some actionable lessons in this insight?

Be everywhere you can be.

Believe it or not, obsessing about rankings can become a way for you to sit on your laurels.

After all, why spend money on marketing or do the hard work of building relationships if tweaking your keyword strategy one more time can get you all the customers you’ve ever needed or wanted?

SEO is just one tool in your toolbox. Do it to the best of your ability. Do it well. Pull out all the stops. But then stop obsessing. There are plenty of other marketing methods that need your attention. Your overall strategy should be rich, varied, and nuanced. SEO matters, but so does writing up great comments on LinkedIn Groups, or hosting a lively Facebook page, attending conferences and sending direct mail.

Be the best you can be.

Getting people to your website is only half the battle. You also have to keep them there. You have to build their trust and you have to offer a product or a service worth purchasing. You also are going to continue to offer content that’s worth sharing, leveraging the power of extended networks of followers and friends.

There’s no quick way to do this. It can be a long, slow, arduous process. But the longer you stay in the game and the more that you offer to your visitors the less arduous it becomes. And it will certainly be less arduous if you put more work and time into really digging in to what people just like your target customer want, think about, and do on a day to day basis.

You can never stop adding value. You have to think of your site as an ongoing, evolving project, and every part of it needs to either provide information or make your customer’s life easier in some fundamental way. In other words, you’re going to take the fundamental final step to focus on conversion, not just on rankings, and not just on traffic.

After all, this is a business, and you have to attend to all of its moving parts.

If you don’t, you can be #1 all day long. But it just won’t matter.

Filed under SEO

SEO is No Longer the Purpose of a Guest Post

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Matt Cutts came right out and said it in his January 20th blog post.

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out in really bad company.”

This is a good-news, bad-news scenario.

First, let’s talk about the bad news.

It’s bad news because you may be thinking: What the heck am I supposed to do for linkbuilding now? Google seems to have closed down every available avenue for proactively taking charge of your own search rankings. There is just no easy way to “build” links any more. Great for Google, because they always intended backlinks to be something organic, a vote that someone else has given you because they liked what they saw. To them, link building is sort of like voting for yourself, again and again and again.

Not so great for you, because it strips away a lot of your control. All you can do is follow best practices, put out great content, and hope for the best.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take charge of your own traffic, which is a totally different animal than SEO, even though just about everyone gets it confused.

But let’s back up a second. How could the death of guest blogging for SEO possibly be good news?

This is the silver lining.

Guest blogging for SEO really required a lot out of anyone who was trying to promote a website. It was no longer enough to craft and produce great content for your own blog. Now you had to go do it for lots of other people’s blogs, too. It was a process that was only partially in your control: you could pitch, relationship build, submit, and place all day long, but none of that guaranteed that you’d get links.

In addition, for the most part there was a focus on the wrong things: the page rank of the blog over that blog’s audience, for example.

The death of guest blogging for SEO means that you don’t have to put out 40, 60, or 100 pieces of content every month anymore. And let’s face it, in most niches trying to put out that kind of volume had a detrimental impact on the type and quality of the content that we were all putting out. You can only talk so much about a subject, only treat it so many different ways.

So now you can put most of that effort into your own site, and into making it the best resource that it can be for whomever happens to visit it. That’s good news for your site and that’s good news for your readers.

It also means you can spend less time vetting guest post pitches, if you happened to receive them. As the strategy dries up fewer spammers are going to fill up your inbox each week, forcing you to separate guest wheat from guest chaff.

Generating Traffic vs. Improving Search Ranking

Now let’s swing back to the difference between improving your search engine results rankings, which is the major function of SEO, and actually generating traffic.

People get them confused because SEO is such an important tool for bringing visitors to one’s website. Thus, these two activites are often spoken of interchangably, as if they are one in the same. But they are not.

You can get traffic all kinds of different ways. People can click on your link from a social media post. They can decide your latest blog post title looks really interesting and click on it because you made an insightful blog comment on a Comment Luv blog. You can use PPC. You can grow your e-mail list, and continue to get clicks and website traffic as you send blog post snippets through e-mail.

SEO is about algorithm. Traffic is about people, and about getting in front of people who care as much about your niche as you do.

Now, on to the true purpose of guest posting.

Guest posting should still be part of your marketing strategy. You’re just going to do a lot less of it, and for different reasons. And it won’t matter if there’s some “no follow” code in your links, either.

Instead, you’re going to guest post to speak directly to another blogger’s audience. You’re going to carefully select blogs who cater to the exact audiences that you need to speak to, and you’re going to offer the post in the hopes of capturing some of their attention. You still want a link, but you are hoping human beings click on it, and you don’t really care what the spiders do.

That means you will need to spend a lot more time crafting very careful, very useful posts, just as you would for your own website. And it means that you might focus on becoming a regular columnist on 1-3 blogs instead of trying to place individual articles on 25 to 50 blogs.

It’s a different paradigm, but it’s one that will get you traffic. It will work for you. And as your traffic grows and your on-site content grows, something marvelous will happen. Your search engine results page placement? That’ll still improve too. Long live the guest post.

Filed under SEO

The Intersect Between SEO and Sales

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For the longest time every company that you could name was about solutions selling or consultative selling. But there is evidence to indicate that this approach is not quite what it once was.

The reason is pretty simple. The Internet gives prospects the power to educate themselves. They already know most of what a “consultative salesperson” would have shared with them when the solutions sales craze was at its heyday. Per the article above, 60% of the buyer’s journey is already complete before they ever get to you.

Not that the consultative selling approach was a bad one for its time. Indeed, it marked the beginning of a larger wave that we’re still riding: the shift away from manipulative, in-your-face sales tactics and towards focusing on the customer’s needs, desires, and problems.

And in fact, consultative selling isn’t “dead.” It’s simply moved.

The consultative part is happening on your website. You’re providing those answers and offering an understanding of those problems in the content that you write instead of bringing that understanding to the sales table.

Of course, there is one disadvantage to this shift. In the heyday of the consultative selling period there was a great deal of focus on asking the right questions so that you could, like any good physician, diagnose the problem before offering the right product as a solution.

How do you diagnose a problem befor you see a patient?

After all, that is a trick you will have to master. If you don’t diagnose the problem before you write the content you won’t get that vital foot in the door, and your prospects will move on before ever giving you the opportunity to earn their business.

This is where SEO becomes so much more than a form of internet wizardry meant to entice search engines to give you good rankings. It is, in fact, the art of diagnosing thousands of similar “patients” at once.

You see, prospects are still talking about their problems. They’re just not telling you about them. They are telling search engines, instead.

And you can still ask the questions. You just don’t get to ask an individual customer directly.

Instead, you turn to keyword research, which will tell you exactly what your customer needs, wants, and is concerned about.

Now SEO becomes a very different game than the “insert keywords, pull out rankings” exercise that many business owners still believe it to be. You start teaching yourself how to give Google what it wanted all along…useful content that was written for human beings.

For example, a quick tour of Google keyword planner for the term “SEO” tells me that most customers still need and want to know the following things:

  • What it accomplishes.
  • How to do it.
  • How to find the best company to do it.
  • Other ways to market or promote their business online.

Now, I can just write content based on those four thoughts alone. But I also want to think a bit about what the conversation would look like if we were still practicing face-to-face solution selling.

The conversation might have sounded something like this:

“So, tell me about your biggest marketing challenge right now.”

“Well, I have this website but I’m not sure it’s really bringing me any leads.”

I suspect, were I selling SEO and internet marketing services, that a blog post with the title, “What to do if your business website isn’t generating any leads” would ultimately bring me more customers than a post called “Fourteen SEO Tips” because it speaks to the customer’s actual problem. After all, the customer’s problem is getting leads. SEO is just a means to that end.

As it happens, many business owners are still confused about SEO, and may not even know they need SEO services. The diagnosis is that they are having a hard time marketing their business online. The prescription becomes your marketing company’s services.

Put another way, patients don’t go to Web MD and type atrial fibrillation unless they’ve already been diagnosed. They go when they’re not feeling good and they type: “weird chest pains.” You have to educate them enough to help them understand what they’re actually dealing with and what they need to do about it.

That’s not to say that there aren’t more sophisticated customers out there. A good website will speak to both types of customers, ensuring that all of them get the information that they really need and want and continuing to educate them on what your products and services can do to alleviate the problem.

And, in fact, your sales representatives will still play a role in the process. They just have better tools than they did before.

After all, if they know a prospect is facing a particular problem they can get on LinkedIn with one of your company’s articles and simply forward the article with a quick, “Thought this might prove useful to you.” (They can do this with other, similar industry articles from other websites, too).

Sort of like the doctor, who has magazines full of health tips in his waiting room.

In fact, the only thing that has really changed is the name of the game (content marketing/SEO vs consultative selling). The nature of the game has remained exactly the same: take a deep interest in the people you want to serve, find out what they want, and show them how they can get it.

Filed under SEO

Hiring Mistakes that Start-Ups Make

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It’s exciting to hire your first team. It’s the moment that you transition into running an actual business instead of a one-man show.

Do it right, and it’s the moment that you’ll start to make real money, because you can do more with other talented people on your side than you can do on your own. Do it wrong, and you’ll cause yourself problems and headaches that put your business at risk.

Sadly, hiring mistakes are pretty common.

1. Failing to understand exactly what this person was hired to do.

Some companies have ditched job titles, even highly regarded and well-known companies like Zappos. You might like the idea of adopting this structure, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know exactly what you’re hiring for when you’re hiring for it.

This is as much for you as it is for the employee. Don’t hire someone to say, take over your accounting if you’re constantly going to try to take back the accounting. It’s counterproductive, and it’s a waste of money.

The Entrepreneur’s Organization Network suggests hiring specialists over generalists.

“Conventional wisdom among entrepreneurs says hire the generalist who can adapt to whatever situation you have. In fact, very few people are truly good at many things. Most people are only good at a few things. Hire for those things. Alec Gores, the billionaire founder of Gores Group, told us, “I look at our team almost like a football team. If I am hiring for a position, I ask myself, what is this person going to be doing? Are they a quarterback? A center? I don’t try to get the quarterback to operate like a center or a linebacker.”

You’re not hiring someone “just to help out.” You’re hiring them to fill a very specific role and need in your organization. When you do this, you’ll get more value out of them and they’ll be happier.

2. Failing to consult your network.

Many entrepreneurs go straight to posting job ads simply because that is the way that they have seen other companies do their hiring. But you should start with your own network before you advertise. Crack open your LinkedIn account and start asking around. You’re more likely to get someone with proven competencies.

Don’t hire family and friends, however. You’re not going to be effective at managing them.

You can also used LinkedIn to simply go searching for the kind of person that you have in mind. If they’re not open to a conversation they may be able to point you in the direction of a similar colleague who is.

After that, use your social media channels and your own website. Look for people who fit the bill. Approaching them is a lot less of a time waster than going through thousands of resumes and applications. It’s a lot less frustrating. And it’s a lot more likely to net you an A-player. By flooding yourself with applications you risk opening yourself up to the temptation to hire someone just to get it over with.

3. Moving too quickly.

You don’t wan to spend six months on one position, but you don’t want to hire on impulse, either. It’s not easy to get rid of a bad hire once you’ve made the choice, and a bad hire can be expensive. It’s important to do your due dilligence.

That means reaching beyond the interview and the resume. Dig into the potential hire’s online presence. Are they actively contributing to their industry or field? What do their social profiles look like? Is there anything in their online presence that contradicts anything that they’ve said during the hiring process? Is there information which shows a lack of judgment or professionalism?

Call references, and ask good, probing questions. For example, don’t ask, “Was he a good sales representative?” Ask, “What was his approach to finding new accounts? What stood out about the way that he handled customers over the phone?” The questions should be specific to the role that you are hiring for. Some references won’t want to answer, but others will. And you’ll learn a great deal about whether or not the candidate is really as strong as he or she appears to be.

Finally, you can always wrap up this due dilligence with a 30 day probation period if everything seems to check out. Make your expectations clear, then see how they do with your culture, with your vision, and with your customers. If it doesn’t work out you haven’t lost anything, and you haven’t opened yourself to legal trouble. If it does, you can have the confidence that comes from having a great team member on your side.

Filed under Business

What is “Fair” Compensation?

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Waves of recent strikes by fast food workers protesting minimum wages has ignited a fierce debate in this country about the meaning of fair, just compensation.

There’s no doubt that payroll is always going to be one of your biggest expenses and stresses. And it’s the key to many things: your company’s bottom line and efficiency, your ability to recruit and retain A-player employees, and your reputation. Pay too much and you might go out of business. Pay too little and you open yourself up to a whole host of problems.

After all, chances are that you are not a McDonalds or a WalMart, large enough to pretty much go right on doing whatever you want regardless of what anyone has to say about it, and large enough to absorb the very real cost burden associated with high turnover and low morale.

Employees will tell you, however, that fairness is incredibly important to them. Compensation and notions about what makes it fair are somewhat subjective exercises. However, there are guiding principles that you can use to steer your company in the right direction.

Fair compensation considers the market rate for each position.

The market rate isn’t really a bad guide for most positions. And most employees are well-informed about market rates because they’ve taken the time to look them up.

You don’t necessarily want to pay right at the bottom of the scale. For example, according to a retail sales clerk is likely to make anywhere from $7.25 an hour to $13.96 per hour. Sure, you could get away with paying the minimum, but you’re not likely to produce an employee who feels they are being paid fairly. Instead, edge closer to the middle. Costco is often lauded for paying their employees a starting wage of $11.50 per hour. Notice that they didn’t need to swing all the way to the top of the market rate payment scale to reap the benefits of employee loyalty, not to mention a great deal of positive PR.

Fair compensation is livable.

Employees are giving you the best part of their time when they give you forty hours a week. Nobody is asking you to support a caviar habit. However, an employee can’t be faulted for expecting that he or she should at least be able to afford to feed, clothe, and shelter a family in return for that time. They may only be able to afford basics on low level jobs, but if you want to offer fair compensation then make sure those basics are affordable. The living wage calculator can help you make these decisions.

Again I’d have to point to Costco: their wages are considered liveable. However, they’re only paying their employees $4.25 over the bare minimum. You don’t really have to break the bank to make this happen.

Again, you can take a “why should I worry about this, it’s their problem” mentality if you want to. But you’re never going to earn loyalty that way. It’s also a short-sighted attitude. You pay far more whenever an employee leaves. For example, the Center for Economic and Policy Research turnover calculator estimates the cost to replace one minimum wage worker at $15,745.00.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you lose 3 unhappy employees in a month. You’ve just cost yourself $47,245 in turnover costs for one month. In contrast, the employee who makes $11.50 an hour only costs you $1,840 per month, plus tax. Paying $47,245 per month to save $680 a month is the epitome of being “penny wise and pound foolish.”

And in many cases, the cost of setting fair employee wages barely impacts profits at all. WalMart could afford to pay its workers $14.96 per hour without raising prices even one cent. Arguably, they’d make more profit, as many of their workers would turn right back around to do their shopping at WalMart and could afford to buy more.

Fair compensation is transparent.

Out in the trenches the secrecy surrounding wages breeds suspicion and resentment. If you want people to suspect you’re not being fair, just keep it all hush hush.

It’s better to have a structured pay scale that everyone understands. Make sure the rewards and milestones are clear so that people understand what they’d have to do in order to earn more pay. Clear goals, objectives and rewards are gamification principles that have been shown to really impact and motivate employees. The Fog Creek Company has an interesting method that puts these principles into action.

As the Fog Creek CEO points out, it’s best to stop negotiating. Do you really want to pay someone more just because they’re good at talking you around? Most of the jobs you are trying to fill don’t really require shrewd negotiation skills, after all. Keep it simple by ensuring that everyone’s getting paid the same wage for the same work.

Pay special attention to how Fog Creek handles the problem of salary inversion. If you have to raise the pay for one class of employee it’s usually better to bite the bullet and raise wages all across the board. That way valuable executives aren’t getting paid less than entry-level workers simply because the market shifted a little bit.

You should also be transparent about the external factors that are leading to your pay decisions. If you’re a start-up company with very little revenue then you’ve got some decent reasons for hovering near the lower end of the market rate for each position. If you’re bringing in $425 billion in revenue, however, don’t expect your employees to believe that you’re being fair to them when you choose to pay the bare minimum.

Filed under Business

Using Gamification Principles to Motivate Employees

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The Interaction Design foundation can name quite a few games that we’re all playing, even though we might not realize it. They cite LinkedIn’s profile stats, the real-time feedback on energy consumption that a Toyota Prius offers, and Amazon customer reviews as games–by taking certain actions you earn points or instant feedback towards reaching certain objectives.

But it was studying the foundation’s comparison of games to work that helped me understand that you can reap the benefits of gamification–and thus increase employee engagement–without buying fancy software, using contests or creating XBox-style “badges”, for, say, meeting sales objectives.

You could choose to do any of those things, of course, and there would be nothing wrong with that. But your employees might be just as happy with a lighter touch.

The path of clarity.

The institute’s comparison of games to work noted that a game gives you feedback constantly, whereas work gives it to you once a year. Goals are clear, whereas at work they can be vague and contradictory. And the rules of a game are similarly clear, whereas at work they can be unspoken or unwritten, causing a vast amount of frustration when employees run afoul of them.

This means you can inject some of the benefits of games into your office simply by taking steps to increase clarity in these key areas. You can have 15 minute meetings with every minute of your team to offer feedback and to toss around ideas for improvement. You can set weekly goals and offer feedback on how to attain those goals–and you can reward team members for meeting those goals.

What about vague rules and contradictory goals? Ask your employees for some feedback, too. Identify some places where you may be asking them to achieve two objectives that don’t mesh particularly well. Make sure you aren’t creating “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenarios.

How do managers do that? Let’s say for example that you’ve told employees that customers are their highest priority. So when a customer comes in, they drop everything to talk to that customer and to meet his needs. So far so good, right?

But then you turn around and ask your employee why he didn’t finish his project that day. If he tells you that he was having an intensive meeting with a customer who needed a lot of support you have two choices.

Many managers would say, “Well, you’re also expected to be productive. Maybe you should manage your time better.” This creates contradictory goals–giving the customer your undivided attention and putting all of your attention on your projects.

If you say, “Great! Good job!” then you’ve reinforced the clear goal–giving customers your undivided attention.

Often these contradictions arise when management doesn’t understand their own priorities. Make sure that you understand yours, help your employees understand them, and reward them when they prioritize correctly.

The role of failure.

The institute points out that failure is expected and encouraged in games. However, in organizations it’s often punished. It’s something that people get fired over.

Yet failures produce some excellent innovations. And we all know that you can’t be an entrepreneur without a willingness to fail, sometimes multiple times, and to learn from those failures.

Thus, you will reap the benefits of gamification if you make it okay to fail. Celebrate failure as a sign that your employees are taking risks, trying new things, and opening up avenues of innovation. See their failures as stepping stones on the path to job mastery instead of signs of incompetence. If you did everything right during the hiring process then your faith is probably justified. Focus on helping employees succeed.

The role of obstacles.

The institute points out that game obstacles are intentional, whereas they are accidental in the workplace.

You can’t do much about the day to day fires that crop up in any workplace. There will be challenges that you can’t predict. Accidental obstacles will happen.

But you can also divorce those accidental obstacles and their outcomes from the way that performance is evaluated at work. Instead, build in a series of controlled obstacles that actually do matter to how job performance is evaluated.

You can do this in that same 15 minute meeting, the one where you’re setting some goals. The goal is for Johnson to make 18 sales this month. He’s weak on cold calling. Set him an intentional obstacle: tell him he needs to make 5 additional dials per day before he leaves the office for his appointments. That’s something that’s within his control. Give it a direct benefit–if he made those 5 calls then praise him for them in next week’s meeting. Then set him another improvement obstacle, one that offers a clear path towards mastering the job.

Subtle gamification works!

These subtle methods appeal to the competitor in all of us. It’s a way to inspire an employee to do better instead of berating him for not doing better. And it’s a powerful method for earning loyalty and increasing productivity. Try it. You get 100 points if you do.

Filed under Business

The Role of Long Tail Keywords in Today’s SEO

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Long-tail keywords have always been a part of any good SEO strategy. But with the advent of Google Hummingbird they’ve really come to take center stage.

Where once an SEO professional might have been more concerned with capturing short phrase keywords of one or two words today’s professional has to think about they kinds of queries that people are actually using. Increasingly, these are long tail queries such as, “Who makes the best pizza in downtown Denver?”

Once upon a time you’d have been worrying about focusing on “Denver pizza” and not much else. The landscape has changed.

This is actually good news. In the past, long-tail keywords generated less traffic but offered more conversions. Short keywords generated more traffic but fewer conversions.

Now this ratio has been turned on its head. You can expect to see long-tail keywords generating both the bulk of the traffic and the bulk of the conversions. In addition, you can expect to see Google rewarding good content over good keyword strategy, which was the kind of search engine they wanted in the first place.

Now, of course, as a website owner you have to figure out how to adjust. Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you might think.

Keep doing keyword research, but use it to create a content plan.

None of this should give you the notion that keyword research is no longer relevant. Indeed, it is very relevant. Keyword research will teach you where you should be focusing the bulk of your content creation efforts for the very best results.

Google Suggest is one of your best allies in this research, since it tells you a lot about what people actually type.

Your own common sense and the creativity of your team should play into this as well. Eric Enge offered an excellent method for incorporating brainstorming into your keyword research plan in his Long Tail Content for SEO — 2013 and Beyond. His method suggests really thinking about what customers might want or need from you first and then going to traditional keyword research methods and tools to generate a content creation plan.

Search Engine People offered another outstanding method for targeting good long-tail keywords.

Crack open your organic search traffic and download all of the keywords which have ever brought visitors to your page. Stick it all into a spreadsheet and filter the lot so that you are left with keywords comprising 3 or more words. Next, run a series of filters for question words: How, What, Who, When, Where, Can, Should, Could. The results that you’re left with could uncover content that your visitors want which your not supplying.

Such a method offers a scientific approach to the content creation plan, one that can be combined with the more right-brained approach to create a truly stellar website.

Avoid “what” searches.

In spite of the inclusion of “what” in the Search Engine People method I would highly suggest that you avoid “What is” long tail keywords altogether. Google Knowledge Graph is rapidly handling “what” content with its information cards, and so you’re not going to see much traffic from those sorts of keywords.

In addition, “what” content tended to be the weakest content on any site. It was a cheap way to capture short tail search traffic. It usually contributed little to the user’s actual experience.

If you want to win the hummingbird game you will create content that gets right to the heart of a matter, avoiding surface content altogether. “Where” is also a dangerous term for the same reasons.

However, “How,” “When,” “Could,” “Can,” and “Should” are all rich veins that can be plumbed for outstanding content. This is the meaty stuff that most visitors really need and want to know, and it’s the stuff that can never, ever be replaced by an Information Card. It’s the kind of content that prevents you from competing with Google and Wikipedia. And, let’s face it, those are bad competitions to be in.

Keep creating good content.

The upshot of the Hummingbird update and the long-tail strategy is that there really is no substitute for continuing to put out great content on a regular basis. That is the only way that you can hope to capture the vast majority of the long-tail keywords that your customers might use to find your website while continuing to keep the entire site fresh enough for it to rank well. In today’s SEO, there really are no shortcuts.

Filed under SEO

4 Ways to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Search

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By next year, more people will access the Internet from their mobile phones than from PCs. And this month retailers—even major retailers—are scrambling to accommodate people who want to do all of their Christmas shopping from their smart phones—and only their smart phones.

All of this means that you can no longer afford to ignore mobile optimization. Mobile optimization is no longer a sort of SEO add-on or afterthought. If you’re not mobilizing for mobile then you’re simply no longer engaging in SEO at all. And that’s a bad position to be in.

Fortunately, if you’re already putting out great content and optimizing for long-tail, Hummingbird friendly “question” keywords then you’re already ahead of the game. Now you just need to adopt these four strategies to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to make the most of mobile.

1. Embrace responsive design.

Once upon a time setting up a mobile domain and a separate website with a re-direct was enough to make sure that you were covering your bases on mobile.

Redirects cause big problems anyway. If they aren’t set up correctly then they can actively lead to mobile SEO penalties. And most companies don’t have their re-directs set up correctly. A recent survey indicated that 97% of top U.S. retailers simply aren’t doing it right.

Meanwhile the buzz about responsive design has grown, especially since Google actively encourages webmasters to adopt a responsive design policy. Websites with a responsive design will automatically detect the type of device that the customer is using and adjust their look and feel to account for that device.

It may sound like you need a huge IT department to make that happen. In reality, responsive design is available to small business owners too. There are a variety of mobile-friendly WordPress themes, for example, that essentially perform the responsive design function. Thus, you don’t need to have a giant IT department or an expensive web designer to adopt this particular “best practice.”

2. Adjust image and video sizes.

If you’re using a word press theme to achieve responsiveness without digging too deeply into the code then you’ll want to adjust image and video presentations so that they look great on any device. (If you are digging into the code or having a web designer do it for you then responsive web design will already account for different sizes).

For images, you’ll be pretty safe keeping your images at 320×480 pixels. These will look fine on screens of just about any size.

As far as video goes you’ll want to host most of your videos on YouTube and then use iFrame embeds. Choose 560 x 315 and you’ll do fine on most mobile devices.

However, this quick and dirty method isn’t always going to be the best choice for mobile image optimization. Doing the extra work of multiple images for multiple devices gives you a lot more control. offered a nice example of this, showing images that were cropped for each device to retain meaning and impact, noting that simply scaling the same image, of, say, multiple people could end up over-crowding the image and losing its impact.

3. Keep it speedy.

Mobile customers expect their sites to load all but instantaneously. They quibble over seconds (9 seconds is the norm, 4 is the expectation). So when it comes to mobile SEO, speed really counts.

This means that you might want to tone down the “bells and whistles” that many websites offer. Java can be problematic for mobile, and Flash just doesn’t work at all. Widgets slow you down as well. The KISS principle can help you offer mobile customers a much better experience.

This article by Smashing Magazine is a nice resource for people who want to get into the deep coding behind mobile website speeds.

And you’re actually not losing much by doing this. Flash, Java, and other “bells and whistles” can be frustrating on a PC as well. Just ask any user who finds he can’t view a website because he hasn’t installed the latest version of Java yet, and who spends 30 minutes fighting his PC to acknowledge his attempts to do so.

4. Don’t slow things down with app downloads.

Search Engine Land recently covered this particular pitfall. Many companies start trying to redirect mobile users to their app instead of to a mobile-friendly website. But this just slows the whole process down and frustrates the customers. You can still offer the app on your mobile website without requiring users to click through to it.

Remember, some people who visit your website just want some fast information from it. The best way to make your website a good resource for any kind of user is to provide that information quickly, to build trust, and to make the whole experience of using the website as easy as possible.

Filed under SEO