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Links in Press Releases Can Help Your SEO

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When it comes to SEO and links, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. You obviously don’t want your links on a spam-filled site, but some directory sites also aren’t the greatest, and sometimes links in the comments aren’t really necessary or acceptable. It can get confusing, and links in press releases are no different. This is one of those SEO gray areas that Google likes to create so much. In some ways it seems like it might work, but then other times it seems like such a non-issue that it just isn’t worth your time. So what’s the answer? (Hint: look at the title).

Evidence Regarding Why Links in Press Releases Can Help Your SEO

It first helps to understand why people question this practice in the first place. In the past, it would only make sense that a link in a press release would show results. Why wouldn’t it? The reason so many people have begun to doubt the tactic is because of (of course) Matt Cutts and his love of tweeting. Cutts sent out this tweet on Christmas Day:

Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.

Once this tweet came out, SEOs everywhere spent time trying to decipher its meaning and discover whether or not it was true, or just another vague announcement that is easily misunderstood. SEO Consult conducted an experiment using the word “sreppleasers” in a press release and linked it to Cutts’ blog to see if it would rank. Some of the finds are as follows:

  • First, the anchor text “sreppleasers” was passed to the target URL, so it ranked for that made up word. This proves that the links are noticed by the bots.
  • Second, SEO Consult commented that the press release should not have even been sent out in the first place because it was irrelevant. This proves that links do have a serious SEO benefit.
  • Third, you could Google anything from the press release and it was found on 43 different pages across the web. This proves that the release didn’t take long to get around the web.

While the findings were pretty solid, it is important to make note that using press releases to simply gain an SEO benefit is not a good idea (just as submitting poor content isn’t a good idea). Still, it’s something to consider if you have a great press release that can warrant a link.

So is Cutts making up information? If you really think about his tweet deeply, he never technically says it can’t happen, he just says he wouldn’t expect it. Tricky.

Other Reasons Press Releases Are Important

If you don’t feel like dealing with the maybe-maybe-not discussion about links in press releases, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still benefit from writing one. Press releases are a great way to let the press know of something important happening in your company as well as gain exposure for your brand. They are usually incredibly easy to write and easy to distribute with a good PR team, so 2013 shouldn’t be the year they get pushed to the backburner.

Do you have any opinions about links within a press release? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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What are Rich Snippets and How Can They Be Used?

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When it comes to SEO and social media, there always seems to be a few lessons that just slip through the cracks. For many, that was rich snippets in 2012. It’s a word that many have heard, but it just isn’t something that gained a lot of publicity. Last year was very much so about Google+ and the importance of connections and guest posting, but this year is likely going to focus less on how to get your site on a SERP and more on how results are shown on that SERP. Fortunately, getting started with rich snippets is easy and a strategy can be put in place right away.

What are Rich Snippets?

A rich snippet is essentially just a small summary of the data that a user can expect to see on a page. They can come in many different forms, but all serve the purpose of providing basic information quickly so a user does not have to click the webpage and go through the process of loading. In other words, people are more likely to click on a result with a rich snippet than a site without. They really draw the attention of readers, and they can help reduce your bounce rate because people will know they are interested in your site before they click.

Rich snippets can be presented to users in several different forms. Below are a few different examples of what different types of rich snippets can look like for a result:

Video. Users can see a small snippet of a video before clicking.

 Authors. Probably the most popular way to use a rich snippet is through Author snippets. This is a feature that Google added that allows users to see a photo of the author next to the article as well as some basic information about that author and other work that the author has written. Below is an example of what this type o rich snippet looks like, and I encourage you to read more about how these specific types work through one of our past articles here:

 Music. This is one of the best opportunities for rich snippets. People want to sample a song before they buy just to make sure it’s the right one. A rich snippet can make this easy.

 Ratings. This is one of the most popular snippets. They are usually a bit less noticeable than the types discussed above, but if your company has a rating (hopefully a good one), why not add it in as a part of your search result? As you can see in the example below, this snippet shows a numerical rating, how many people voted, and even the price of the product.

 Other types of content that can benefit from rich snippets include pictures and prices of a product, and event location and time, or a recipe rating or photo. It’s really up to a company to get creative and decide what will draw in possible readers.

So if rich snippets are markups and not Metadata, how do they help SEO?

It’s important to understand that rich snippets don’t have a direct correlation to benefitting your SEO efforts. The reason that rich snippets help your website is because they will help draw in more people and reduce your bounce rate, as discussed above. It’s as simple as that.

How to Get Started with Rich Snippets for Your Website Content

As usual, Google Webmaster Tools put out a detailed article that explains how companies can get started with rich snippets. As discussed above, it is the job of the company to get creative with rich snippets. Google makes this easy by incorporating rich snippets at the website level, putting Webmaster in complete control.

In general, the guidelines emphasized three aspects: technical, design, and quality. When it comes time to get started, you usually go through the three steps in that order:

  1. 1.    For the technical aspect, you must pick your markup format:

This is how you make sure your site is eligible for rich snippets. There are three types of markup formats you can use: Microdata, Microformats, and RDFa. The vast majority of companies use Microdata because this is what Google prefers, so if you don’t know much about the different types, Microdata is definitely your answer.

  1. 2.    Fill in the content tags that you want to use for your rich snippets.

This is called “marking up” your data, and you will be altering your current HTML. Google suggests that you use HTML markup if you want to be more in control and expect to change your snippets frequently. However, you can use the alternate method, the Data Highlighter, to simply tag the data fields on your site with a click of your mouse. This is usually the better alternative for beginners.

  1. 3.    Use a tool to test and make sure your rich snippets are working.

You can then test the content that you have marked up by using the structured data-testing tool. Rich snippets should then appear in this tool to show you that you’ve done everything correctly.

If you still just can’t seem to get it right, consider using the plugin Schema or Microdata for WordPress—a tool to make things a bit faster and easier for beginners. There is also a tool called Easyrecipe that has high ratings for those looking to include a recipe snippet.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Title Tags for SEO

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A title tag is an important part of a webpage because this is what shows up on a Google SERP. When users skim down a Google SERP and look at the titles of all of the different articles and webpages, they are actually look at the title tags. These not only affect whether or not a user finds you interesting enough to click, but also it affects the way that Google looks at your webpage. Google bots can’t problem solve or make decisions; so it’s the job of the title tag (as well as a few other factors, which we will discuss later) to let the bots know what your article is about. This will help them index and rank your article correctly so that the most relevant users are seeing your webpage; thus giving you a better chance of a click.

Title Tag Basics

For those who are unfamiliar, a title tag is part of the Meta tag, which is part of the HTML code of your website. It’s as simple as that. Many people fill in Meta data without even realizing what the Meta data is actually used for, so it’s important to understand just why it’s so crucial to your business. The data is placed as what we call “tags.” There are three different things that are incorporated in Meta data: The title tag, the description, and keywords.

The title tag would appear inside the <head> area. For example, let’s say you were writing an article titled “The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Title Tags for SEO.” If you were looking at the HTML version of your site, or looking in the back end of your site at the code, you would see:

<title>The Dos and Don’ts of Writing Title Tags for SEO</title>

Now one thing that many people don’t realize about title tags is that Google has the power to change them. If Google thinks your title tag isn’t helpful to users, it can change it without your consent (and in most cases you probably won’t like it quite as much). The best thing you can do, however, is try to optimize your title tag so that Google won’t feel the need to change it. There is no guarantee, but it’s worth a try. The moral of the story: The content of a title tag is incredibly important to a reader, but it can’t hurt to make sure you’re formatting the tag for Google.

How to Make Sure Your Title Tag Delivers

  1. Do make sure it is a maximum of 65 characters, including spaces. This is pretty self-explanatory. If you write a title tag that’s too long, it will likely get cut off on a Google SERP and do you no good.
  2. Do consider using a title tag editor plugin. A plugin will help make sure that you’re following best title tag writing practices. I recommend SEO Yoast, but the All-In-One SEO Pack is also quite good. By utilizing an SEO plugin, you can type in a potential title tag, and then the plugin will remind you if you’re missing any optimization techniques (putting your keyword at the front, length, etc.).
  3. Do research keywords that are actually relevant. This should go without saying, but just as with content, many companies are still creating odd wordings in order to rank for an unrelated keyword. Google is getting better and better and detecting this, so just make sure you’re staying on point.
  4. Do put your exact keyword in your title, and put it at the beginning. Google likes to see the most important keywords at the very front of the title tag. With a little bit of creativity, this usually isn’t a very tall order.

What to Avoid when Writing a Title Tag for SEO

1. Do not separate words or phrases with commas, underscores, or dashes. Instead, use what we call “pipes.” For example, a title where I am trying to rank for the words “SEO Company” and “franchise.” Using pipes to separate these words would look like:

SEO Company | Franchise Services | Higher Visibility

Although this might not be the creative title you’re used to seeing on blogs, it’s a title that is incredibly optimized for Google (yet it still lets readers know what they can expect).

2. Do not keyword stuff. Once again, this is something that should go without saying. It seems that some companies think that a title tag is a loophole in the no-keyword-stuffing rule, but this isn’t the case. Google doesn’t like to see a keyword repeated over and over again, so it won’t help you to even try.

3. Do not use slang or any type of figurative language. You have to remember that Google bots cannot think the way that humans think. Using creative figures of speech will likely not get you indexed well by Google, and it likely won’t be a term that gets a lot of search volume. For example, if I had a title “How to Swim with the Big Industry Fishes,” search engines just won’t get it, and people aren’t going to search for “big industry fishes.” Therefore, it makes sense to make your title tag “Industry Leaders: How to Swim With the Big Fishes.” As you can see, I put a keyword in the front of the title that likely has more search volume and can be understood by Google.

4. Do not repeat title tags. Google hates repetition when it comes to title tags. If you’ve already written one title tag, make sure that the next one you write is unique. At the very least just think of a few synonyms and go from there.

The trickiest part of title tags is making it work for both users and bots. We all know that users should come first, but it’s hard to justify ignoring SEO when that is what brings users to your site in the first place. However, most do agree that once you understand title tags and get the hang of it, it’s easy to find that balance. It just takes practice!

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How Website Quality Can Help or Hurt Your SEO Efforts

POSTED IN Blog

Companies know that cutting corners when it comes to quality isn’t usually something you can usually get past readers. Search engine bots, on the other hand, seem to have a different reputation. Websites are constantly trying to get around the algorithm and figure out ways to manipulate content in order to rank better; however, these days are just about over. You have to ask yourself: How can I improve my quality for both users and search engine bots?

How Website Quality Affects SEO

Google is starting to put more and more emphasis on quality and making sure that quality directly affects SEO efforts. SEO is designed to be completely about quality and relevance, and while a few websites still slip through, it’s just about impossible to find yourself on page one of a SERP if you do not have a quality site.

For example, your website might have quality content, but if the design of your site is incredibly hard to navigate, Google is going to knock you. If you’re content isn’t up to par, then you are going to have a high bounce rate and Google will notice and knock you once again. In other words, the behavior of readers will affect the way that Google sees your site, so simply optimizing for search engines isn’t going to get you far.

The moral of the story: Google wants to see an all-around quality website. In fact, a website that doesn’t have all of the components of quality simply isn’t going to be look at as “quality.” Quality isn’t about the parts; it’s about the whole.

Back to the Basics: How to Get Your Website Back to Top Quality

Improving quality should be the same for search engines as well as readers. There are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your website:

  1. Engagement. You content has to be engaging, not just well written. Engagement means that your readers should want to comment and share your content. Try ending your blog posts with a question to get people to interact. If people do interact, be sure to respond to comments and keep it going. Finally, infographics can also be made interactive, so consider putting that type of content into your mix.
  2. Load Times. Your page should have an appropriate load time, which means an appropriate amount of video and other media. You will want to make sure you use a content delivery network, decrease your HTTP requests, and optimize all of your images.
  3. Navigation. It must be easy to navigate around your website. Plain and simple, you must not have too many internal links that can get someone deep into your website and get confused. A great way to improve your navigation is through breadcrumbs, creating categories and sub-categories, and make sure all of your links actually work.
  4. Cohesiveness. Everything on your website should make sense. In other words, you don’t want to have an image of a pizza on one side of your website with an article about financial planning on the other and a video about the latest news story in the middle. It might look great and all pieces might be quality separately, but put together the website doesn’t make any sense. This goes back to relevancy, and this will surely confuse your readers. It might sound obviously, but websites that try to be a one-stop-shop tend to fall into this trap more often than you’d think.
  5. Layout. The layout of your site has quite a bit to do with navigation, but more than anything it just has to be appealing. Make it look nice. There is no one way to make this happen

Creating a quality website should go back to your instincts. You know quality when you see it, so if you don’t feel your website is quality, revert back to some of the basics. Your SEO will suffer if you don’t, so your website wouldn’t be fooling anyone anyways because no one would see it, so don’t even bother.

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