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Social Proof

How Social Proof is Used for Persuasion

Today social proof is utilized in many different ways in order to influence people’s behavior, especially in the realms of business and marketing. But in real life, for example, social proof is used in the following ways:

Night clubs and bars make patrons wait in line outside. Seeing others waiting to get in increases the perceived popularity of the venue.
Comedy shows play laugh tracks to raise the comical perception of scenes and situations. People actually laugh more when they hear other others doing the same.
In one study, a restaurant increased the sales of specific dishes by 13-20% merely by highlighting them as “our most popular items.”
These social forces also apply online. Opinions and recommendations of other people on the web constantly shape and influence our actions and behavior.

What Search Engines Are Looking For

Search engines want to do their jobs as best as possible by referring users to websites and content that is the most relevant to what the user is looking for. So how is relevancy determined?

  • Content: Is determined by the theme that is being given, the text on the page, and the titles and descriptions that are given.
  • Performance: How fast is your site and does it work properly?
  • Authority: Does your site have good enough content to link to or do other authoritative sites use your website as a reference or cite the information that’s available?
  • User Experience: How does the site look? Is it easy to navigate around? Does it look safe? Does it have a high bounce rate?

Crafting Content

For Search Engine Success. Developing “great content” may be the most repeated suggestion in the SEO world. Yet, despite its clichéd status, appealing, useful content is critical to search engine optimization. Every search performed at the engines comes with an intent – to find, learn, solve, buy, fix, treat, or understand. Search engines place web pages in their results in order to satisfy that intent in the best possible way, and crafting the most fulfilling, thorough content that addresses a searcher’s needs provides an excellent chance to earn top rankings.

Quality guidelines

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). It’s not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn’t included on this page, Google approves of it. Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

Focus on Your Meta Data Too

Your content on your site should have title tags and meta descriptions.

  • Meta keywords are pretty much ignored by search engines nowadays, but if you still use them, make sure it talks specifically to that page and that it is also formatted correctly.
  • Your meta description should be unique and also speak to that specific page. Duplicate meta descriptions from page to page will not get you anywhere.

Title tags should also be unique! Think your title as a 4-8 word ad, so do your best to entice the reader so they want to click and read more.

Fulfilling these intents is up to you – Creativity, high quality writing, use of examples, images, and multimedia all help in crafting content that perfectly fits with a searcher’s goals. Your reward is satisfied searchers who demonstrate positive experience through engaged activity on your site or with links to it.

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So you have a website, what now? Get to know your site visitors, they are a vast wealth of knowledge for how well or not so well your website is performing. Really get to know your website analytics. They will give you all sorts of insight into how visitors are moving about your website as well as how they found and arrived to your site.

1. Success Requires Measurement

The digital media age has brought the benefit of everything you do online being measureable. With a relatively simple addition to website code it is possible to monitor not only how a visitor finds a site but also how they interact with it once they are on it. This is more than just understanding pages visited and how long someone spent browsing…. this is about real performance data.

Sure, this assumes that your measurement of success is somewhat related to traffic and honestly most of your goals are related to traffic. The more traffic you have generally will result in the following:

  • You will have more comments.
  • You will have more pingbacks and people referencing you.
  • You will have a greater potential to make more money.
  • You will have a better shot at ranking higher in search engine results.

Of course, all of this comes back to measuring your success, managing it well, and responding to the information presented to you via analytics. Thus, without analytics, you won’t be able to execute on these great things.

2. What you are Measuring – understand it

The key to making decisions is having an unbiased approach and expertise in understanding how people interact with the internet and more specifically your pages. Website owners have two choices here: 1) learn how to interpret data yourself or 2) go to a Google Authorized Analytics Consultant (GAAC) and use their services. As a GAAC, in our opinion there is poor cost benefit in taking the time to learn the nuances of analyzing websites… our advice is to use an expert and get on with making the decisions that affect your bottom line. The experiences that many GAAC’s have can be transferred into your own company very quickly and efficiently, saving you years time on the bell curve.

3. Know Your Visitors

When you track your website traffic you will be given the opportunity to know an incredible amount of information about them as individuals and your entire community as a whole. Just think of the amount of leverage you have knowing who they are, where they are coming from, what they are doing, and what they are looking for specifically!

4. Know Your Ecosystem

Website analytics can provide you with some significant sources of information that you can then use to filter out and measure against those within your niche, focus, or target audience. It’ll give you the information about your direct competition, the strength of your keywords, and how well you’re doing with your content.

It’ll also show you the sources of traffic that’s bringing you new visitors via social media and social networking platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, which are within your controllable ecosystem, as well as people who are referencing and talking about your property as well. When you get a surge of traffic from a respected source you’re going to want to mine that puppy for all it’s worth, thank the source profusely and explicitly, and then seek to replicate that model of traffic again, and again, and again.

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There is a talent war ongoing between advertisers and tech companies that compete ferociously for SEO people who have data science knowledge. That talent is scarce and comes at a premium price.

One of the reasons this talent is so rare is because the SEO world moves at a fast pace, presenting unique challenges for its practitioners. Search data is now being encrypted, for example, so keyword data is no longer available for organic clicks. This encryption was done quietly and without fanfare. Only SEOs with a deep technical understanding and a passion to follow the game as the rules change will be successful.

So, the question is: how do we find that ideal SEO candidate? Big Data, you say. OK, let’s feed the machine, let it crunch the numbers and spit out the best candidate for the job. This New York Times interview with a major search engine HR guru takes a look at a data-based approach to HR strategies.

What To Ask

Ask for a list of current and past clients

A reputable SEO consultant should be open to sharing a brief list of current and former clients and his or her contact information. These references can help you gauge how effective the candidate is, as well as verify that the person did indeed work on specific SEO campaigns.

2. Understand All Three SEO Levels

“You don’t want a one-dimensional SEO,” says Taylor Pratt, vice president of product marketing for Raven Internet Marketing Tools. “You need someone who will approach their strategy from all three angles to maximize success.”

  1. Technical (the structure of a site, which can determine how easy or difficult it is for search engines to crawl and index your content)
  2. On-page optimization (the use of such elements as keywords and HTML tags in ways that help increase search engine traffic to your site)
  3. Off-page optimization (such as link building).

3. How Do You Measure Your Success?

SEO is constantly changing. Website optimization takes time and precision. You need to know who you can trust with optimizing your website. Avoiding SEO companies that abuse and game both clients and the system is one of the first tactics you should adopt in your SEO strategy. It pays to understand what they are doing and why before you pay out any cash for SEO. Break it down for the company you want to work with, and make sure you feel comfortable with the relationship before getting started. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.

4. How will you improve my search engine rankings?

Steer clear of SEO consultants who won’t freely discuss their methods in detail. Make sure the candidate’s proposal includes an initial technical review of your website to weed out any problems that could lower your search engine ranking, including broken links and error pages. Consultants also should provide “on page” optimization, a process to make your website as search engine friendly as possible. It involves improving your website’s URL and internal linking structure, along with developing web page titles, headings and tags.

5. Do You Care About Content?

Link-building by simply dropping irrelevant links in content just isn’t okay anymore. Ask the company if they simply put links first, or if they care about the content. High-quality contributed content will work better in the long run.

6. Are you experienced at improving local search results?

If your website is optimized for what’s known as “local SEO,” it should appear when someone nearby is searching for keywords that are relevant to your business. To achieve that, a consultant should add your business’s city and state to your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, and get your site listed on Bing, Google and Yahoo’s local listings, which are online directories of businesses that cater to a specific geographical area.

Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small brick-and-mortar businesses trying to attract nearby customers, Rand says. You’ll want a consultant who has expertise in local SEO techniques.

7. What Do You Think of Google’s SEO Initiative?

Google has recently launched a new initiative to send link-building back to the stone age. They’re penalizing companies that pay for links and are overly SEO-optimized. The most important question to ask is “How do you combat Google’s new initiative to stop the SEO benefits that link-building businesses bring?”

We are entering into a new Internet age, and the best way to build your page rank is by writing quality content that organically gets read and distributed. A more effective and faster alternative is to pay for sponsored content. This will bring traffic to your site and increase awareness and page rank. Work only with respected content agencies because Google will penalize and remove any publisher that does not disclose sponsored content correctly on Google News.

8. Will you share with me all changes you make to my site?

Search engine optimization will most likely require a number of changes to your existing web page coding. It’s important to know exactly what adjustments the consultant plans to make and on how many web pages. If you would like the candidate to get your permission before accessing and altering your website code, be sure to say so.

9. Do you use any black hat SEO?

Avoid clients who use black hat SEO techniques like spamming comments sections with links, as these can land you a penalty from Google. Search engines’ webmaster best practices also prohibit common SEO tricks like hidden text, spam content and excessive anchor text linking.

10. How will we communicate and how often?

SEO consultants’ communication styles and customer service standards vary. You need to find someone whose approach best fits your needs. Ask if the candidate prefers to talk in person or via phone, Skype, texting or email. And find out how often will he or she reach out to you with status updates.

These are only but a few examples of what you need to be asking anyone you are considering for working on your SEO needs. By taking these tips into consideration, you will be well on your way towards bringing traffic to your webpages through SEO.

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Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. For example, when a user accesses a site on their desktop, they are getting the full view of the site. But when that same user goes to visit the site from their smartphone or tablet, the site will retract to fit on the smaller screen. In other words, the website should have the technology to automatically respond to the user’s preferences. This would eliminate the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.

Mobile Usage is Increasing.

Take a step into the outside world and you’ll definitely notice a lot of people on their mobile phones. In fact, it seems that just about everyone is attached at the hip with their smartphone. For some reason, however, there are many businesses who have not yet picked up on this trend. Maybe they could use the following stats from Smart Insights to convince them how much mobile usage has skyrocketed.

  • 58% of all US consumers already own a smartphone.
  • Over 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices.
  • No one screen size has more than 20% of the market share.
  • 60% of mobile shoppers use their smartphones while in a store, and another 50% while on their way to a store.
  • Almost half a billion tablets will ship in 2013 and 2014 alone.
  • Tablet users spend 50% more than PC users.
  • 95% of smartphone users have searched for local info.

The Language of Responsive Design

Marcotte’s article mentions a few basic terms of which we should be aware.
Fluid Grids. As a fluid alters its shape to accommodate its container, the design will continue to adapt to its environment regardless of the screen size on which it is being viewed. With a fluid grid, you have no orphaned text or awkward re-wraps, no ungainly image placement or unwanted stacking.
Layout agnostic. A layout agnostic design can function without knowing in advance on what device, resolution, or screen size it will be viewed.

Media Queries. A media query allows not only identification device classes on which a design is to be rendered but to make specific inquiries of the device’s physical characteristics. When a query detects that the user request is coming, for example, from an iPhone (480×480 pixel res), it will be able to adapt to the appropriate screen size and resolution, or, if unable to do so, ignore the link. Media queries, as Marcotte points out, are not limited to links but can be incorporated into cascading style sheets (CSS).

bg-responsive

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When seeking a candidate with the ideal SEO attributes, the ultimate fit for an SEO with potential regardless of experience and education was one with the characteristics of a grandmaster chess player.

SEO is no different. You have to be able to see the whole board all the time and keep future strategies in mind while you play the tactical game of anticipation, attack, defense and reevaluation as the other player, or in this case, the customer makes counter moves, or the search engine king changes the tactics.

The SEO expert must be creative, curious, data-driven, detail-oriented, self-starting, strategic, tactical and a team player all at the same time. He or she must be a systems thinker and keep the big picture in focus since every move impacts the outcome.

The SEO expert has to be part data scientist, or at least know their way around data so they can gain the insights necessary to understand the SEO strategy. Technology decisions will drive marketing capabilities, customer experiences, synergistic corporate integration, competitive positioning and even organizational efficiencies. The potential SEO expert has to understand technology to be able to operate in the new SEO environment.

It all starts with hiring the right people that fit into the team already in place with complementary skills and a burning desire to learn every day. The job of SEO is a constantly evolving discipline that requires a sharp mind and a creative attitude – a genius with an indomitable spirit to get the job done.