Posts about search engine optimization

The Boom in Search Technology

The boom happened before the birth of the iPhone, but it leapt into astronomical figures after 2007. Mobile internet began its quest for supremacy and never looked back.  With the ascent of various tablets and further advanced devices, mobile internet devices and ISPs have increased their reach to provide customers with more access. Status updates, online purchases, cloud computing, photo sharing, streaming video, games, and other apps have increased the number of mobile users.  Searching on a mobile device now allows our society accessibility we never had and can no longer do without.

Smartphones and other mobile devices are often more readily available than laptops or desktops when it comes to internet searching; therefore the desktop is lagging behind. In today’s right-now mindset, searching via mobile is often the way to go. IPhone4s users can simply ask a voice activated search tool named “Siri” for directions, reviews, emailing, weather and more.

Many factors drive the mobile search phenomenon, such as time. Time of a day is an important factor when it comes to internet searches, whether on a desktop or mobile device. Various studies illustrate that internet searches conducted during the am hours are done on a desktop/laptop, whereas searches toward the end of the day and bedtime are conveniently on mobile devices.

Advertisers are seeing the phenomenon of mobile searching technology and its new effect on growth in business.  Advertisers with mobile-optimized sites and targeted campaigns have 11.5% higher clickthrough rates than non-mobile optimized sites. If you are a smart phone user, you know how annoying it can be to search for a site only to find out they don’t have a mobile version, and companies are definitely taking note of such problems. Mobile technology users are, with more frequency, not dealing with businesses not optimized for mobile search due to accessibility and time constraints.

Number one on the mobile search juggernaut list is, non-surprisingly, Facebook. Photos, status updates, video, file sharing, posting articles, all with the ease of a mobile device. Facebook has essentially been the forefront of PR machines because of its reach and accessibility. Not only is Facebook the most searched for, there are also nearly 2,500 variations of search queries with the word “Facebook.”  In second place is Google and third place is YouTube owned by Google.

Desktop searching is still kicking, though on its back. Desktoppers are still alive, but the transformation has taken over. There is no doubt that mobile searches will continue to boost.  Look at the infographic presented by Startapp to dig deeper into mobile search trends.

Bing Leads the Way with Disavow Links Tool

Perhaps due to the launch of Google’s Penguin update and the mounting fear of negative SEO, a tactic in which malicious competitors attempt to harm a site’s rankings through targeted spammy link building, website owners have become more and more worried about the potential harm a bad link could do to their site. Although Google representatives have stated that it is very difficult for a competitor to harm another site’s rankings, it still remains possible. Bing representatives and documentation, have also recently tried to calm webmaster worries by stating that Bing can detect a “sudden appearance of obviously spammy links pointed at your site.”  After detecting these unusual spammy links, Bing is most likely to ignore them. Nevertheless, negative SEO still remains a possibility and links that have been built to a site in the past could be hurting the site’s potential to rank in the search engines now. In the face of this building concern, Bing has responded and offered webmasters a way to distance their sites from unnatural or spammy links that are currently pointing to their domains.


In order to give webmasters more control over which links they want to distance their sites from, Bing created and released the Disavow Links Tool in July. As a part of Bing’s Webmaster Toolbox, this feature allows webmasters to signal which links to their site they don’t trust. Links that appear unnatural or spammy can now be disavowed with this easy-to-use tool. By taking a look through your backlinks using tools like Bing’s own Link Explorer, Raven’s Backlink Explorer or the Open Site Explorer, a webmaster can identify spammy or unnatural links and submit them to the Link Disavow Tool simply by plugging in the URL, choosing a link type and pressing a button. Although Google has been talking about launching a similar tool for months, Bing has beat them to the punch and offered the tool to all users who have verified their site in Bing’s Webmaster Tools.

Bing has recently expanded the set of features in its Webmaster Toolbox to include: an expanded SEO Analyzer which provides SEO suggestions tailored to your site, a keyword research tool that offers keyword statistics and suggestions and a new link explorer tool which allows users to explore links pointing to any domain. With this expanded set of features, Bing seems to have embraced the fact that website owners want to improve their SEO. By providing innovative tools that arm webmasters and search engine optimization specialists with actionable data, Bing has provided what webmasters and specialists need to make websites better. The ramifications this improved functionality could have on Bing’s search results and the web at large could be immense. Additionally, by challenging Google’s Webmaster Tools product to do more, we could see reactive and competitive improvements within their set of Webmaster Tools – all of which could benefit webmasters and the web in general greatly. The strides that Bing has made in terms of search engine algorithm transparency and webmaster assistance have been huge. The Link Disavowal Tool is just another example of how Bing is changing the landscape of search and the web in general and how in some cases Google, the supposed industry leader, is now having to play catch-up.

Within the SEO department here at Leverage Marketing Agency, we monitor both Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools for our clients and leverage the data contained therein to improve our clients’ SEO. I would recommend that all webmasters consider verifying their sites in Bing Webmaster Tools, if they haven’t already, in order to use and leverage the free tools offered within the extensive toolbox. Also, stay tuned for a follow-up post explaining how and when to use the Link Disavow Tool and how to identify a negative SEO attack coming soon from the SEO team.

Back To Basics – SEO Content Writing

Say farewell to the days of keyword stuffing and to text that reads poorly.  2012 has been a year of cleaning up for Google.  In the wake of these updates, we find ourselves revisiting our SEO campaigns to make sure that our SEO content writing strategies we have in place for our clients don’t cause rankings to drop thus hurting opportunities for conversions.  Writing for SEO has become more about delivering a better user experience.

What keeps your visitors interested in you?  What keeps your visitors interested in your products? What keeps your visitors ON your website?

As most of my colleagues know, my writing for SEO was based on a love/hate relationship. I’ve had to make several adjustments that have taken many lessons and lots of practice.  With my new lessons and techniques in hand, I would like to share with you what new lessons I have learned throughout my time at Leverage Marketing.

For my writing to be successful, I have followed several tips. Most of these tips are basic SEO content techniques, but some are SEO content writing techniques that have been taken up a notch.

An Interested Reader – Doesn’t Read the Entire Page Content *GASP*

It’s the truth.  When writing for SEO, remember that your readers are only going to consume a short amount of information. When you land on a website that ranks well for the information you searched for, what is the first thing that grabs your attention? The content on the page or a call to action?  When you read the content, most of the time unless you are reading a book, you stop before you come to the middle of your screen.  If you don’t find what you are looking for above the fold, you have lost interest and have moved on to the next page or site in search for your 411. As a SEO content writer, your best and most important work should be above the fold. It is vital to your website and conversions that you get your point across quickly and efficiently.

Headings that Convert

Every company has unique selling points and benefits that differentiate themselves from the competition. Keeping a balance of your differences and benefits with focused keywords is key to capturing your audience’s eye with headings. I have learned that a general rule of thumb to follow is to include a major selling point or call to action in your H1, second major H2 and so on. Remember, your job as a SEO writer is to keep the visitor interested, and help them find what they need and get them to convert.

Call To Action

Make sure you remind the reader why they came to your page. Place call to actions more than once on your page, but make sure your call to actions are in alignment. We don’t want to confuse the audience by sending them mixed messages.

I haven’t the chance to use this technique in my own SEO writing, but I have read positive stories about the use of:

Bullet Points

I was thinking the same thing…how can bullet points help my SEO content writing be interesting and informative?  But after reading some of the benefits that bullet points bring to the table, it’s definitely worth a try.

Dylan Thomas of Search Engine Journal tells us “Like headings, bullet points offer dual incentives for your SEO. They break up the page and stand out from the rest of the text, which means they’ve got a better chance of being read.” He also goes on to say that the information listed in the bullet points can be prominently linked to relevant internal pages.

Each SEO campaign has different goals. But within these goals, still lies the goal to rank well, to increase traffic and to make a sale of some sort. If you use some of the SEO tips that I have provided, your goals can see improvements. If you use your keywords in interesting copy intended for the audience and not the search engines, you will see a difference in your websites results.


Video Optimizing 101

With millions of users and viewers on YouTube DAILY, it’s no wonder why SEOs have increased their video optimization efforts. When video optimization was a “new” SEO tactic, it was very basic. Optimize the title, description and tags and you’re done. Now, it can be a lengthy process with a large focus on the content and how the videos interact and engage with viewers.

If you or your client has videos, don’t overlook optimization as not worth your time. Videos are a great way to drive traffic to your website and a great way to engage with people to build brand awareness. Videos are very popular and it’s for the same reason why a lot of people have watched a movie-version of a book.

So there are two things that come to mind when I think about video optimization:

  1. Ranking in natural search results

    Video rankings in natural search results

    Search Results in Google

  2. Ranking in YouTube

    Video search results in YouTube

    Search results in YouTube

Optimizing Videos to Appear in Natural Search Results:

In my experience, I have found this to be tricky to accomplish. I haven’t been able to discover an exact method to have videos appear in natural search results. However, here are a few tips that I’ve noticed help videos appear in search results:

  • Have a channel that is well established and engaging
    • This includes large number of views, followers, thumbs up or down, multiple videos (This is explained further down)
    • Long-tail keyword phrases in titles and description
      • I think this is key for videos to appear in search results. Videos that utilize very specific long-tail keyword phrases seem to appear much more easily than general searches (even for brand names)

Let’s take a look at a search for “Gabby Douglas” for example:Search for Gabby Douglas in Google

For a general search of “Gabby Douglas,” no video or video links appear.  Despite having several videos of her on YouTube, and especially with the Olympics going on right now, you expect that many videos of her gymnastics are being watched. So, I’d imagine videos on Gabby Douglas are engaging and popular, yet none show up in a general search.

However, once you search for “Gabby Douglas Floor Routine”… Voila! several videos appear. Once you search for a very specific phrase, more videos appear in the search results. Based on that, I can speculate that in order for your video to show up in search results (more easily), not only do you need a well-established and engaging channel; you need to be very strategic in how you title your videos.

Ranking in YouTube:

Recently, SEOmoz released a Whiteboard Friday on YouTube ranking factors. While his suggestions are almost synonymous to best SEO practices, there are a few ranking factors that are specific to YouTube. I also believe that Jeff McRitchie’s suggestions are overall good tips for video optimization to rank in both search results and YouTube. The take away from his Whiteboard is that your video needs great and creative content and it needs to be engaging. How many times have we heard this? Well, whether it applies to a web site, infographic, copy, and now videos, GREAT content and ENGAGING content is absolutely relevant for just about everything.

So let’s say you have the video, and its very interesting content and it could be a viral success, what now?

I’m going to break it down into two parts: 1) On-site video optimization and 2) Off-site video optimization.

Well as mentioned above, you have to be strategic in what keywords you use for the title, description, and video tags.

On-site Video Optimization:


Just like the title of a page, you don’t want to name your video “KEYWORD KEYWORD KEYWORD.” You want to be able to come up with a creative and relevant title that incorporates a keyword or two. I don’t know how many times I’ve stumbled upon a video that had an interesting title, but the video wasn’t great or relevant. (Or I get Rick Roll’d) Don’t make this mistake! It seems like this will affect how your video ranks. If viewers are only a few seconds into your video and exits, this could hurt your video and make it lose its visibility in the search results.


I’ve been guilty and have committed a SEO faux-pas, I’ve inserted a link back to the web site and that was it. I know, shame, but I happily report that I no longer am guilty of such a crime. However, do I think you should eliminate adding a link back to your web site all together? Absolutely not, but on the flip side, I do think it is important to actually accurately describe the video. Viewers will always appreciate descriptions (especially short ones) and if your video is engaging, they will be more likely to click-through to your website.

Now, Mr. McRitchie mentions of adding your own transcript, and if you have the time, I say do it. It certainly wouldn’t hurt and also viewers could “skim” through the video more quickly if they’re searching for something specific.

You’re able to add your own captions or transcript by going to your video manager, click on the specific video, edit, and then captions will appear at the top next to annotation.

Here’s what it should look like:Upload captions in YouTube video


It also looks like in YouTube, you have to be exact when it comes to what keywords you use or it doesn’t rank in YouTube search results. So, be exact and use keywords that are relevant to your video.

Off-site Video Optimization:

When I say “off-site video optimization,” I’m referring to what you should do after you have optimized the title, description and tags. Optimization shouldn’t stop there. With any great content, you have to share with the community and engage with your audience.


Ultimately, for your video to rank well, you have to a “good” video. What indicates to YouTube and the search engines that you have a “good” video? User engagement metrics such as the number of views, how long someone watches your video, thumbs up or thumbs down, commenting, sharing, etc. You want your video to be able to achieve all of those.


But how do people find your video if it’s brand new and has zero user engagement metrics? It’s up to you to share it. Put it on all your social networks, your blog, websites, share it with people you think will find your video interesting and helpful. If it’s a viral success, you’re almost guaranteed that your video will rank well.


A great way to build relationships with viewers is comments. It’s a very similar process in how you manage facebook comments, tweets, and Google+ comments. If there’s a question lingering or any sort of feedback, it’s always a great idea to respond. That’s an easy way of building a follower base is if you engage with your viewers and actually interact with them. It potentially could lead to a domino effect where one person shares your channel and video, and then share it with their friends, and so on and so forth.


Something that isn’t completely new but I think people overlook is the access to analytics for their videos. It’s the perfect way to see whether or not viewers are responding well to your videos; or if your videos are able to retain their attention.

You have access to a multitude of data to assist you. Probably one of the most useful reports is “audience retention.” You’re able to see at what point for each video a user exits. This is handy and will help you understand where you need to edit and how to not make the same mistakes in the future. All other reports are fairly self-explanatory.

So if you’re working on a campaign and have access to videos, don’t overlook video optimization as a tactic. And don’t forget these key tips:

  • Create a video that has great content, is creative, and interesting
  • Be very strategic for the title, description, and tags
  • If you have the time, add a transcript to your video
  • Don’t be shy, share your video with the whole world if you can
  • Engage and communicate with your viewers

If you have any questions about video optimization, feel free to comment below.

Taking Advantage of Google’s Website Optimizer

As an SEO, one of the main objectives of my job is to drive traffic to websites.  Content, linkbuilding, and traditional SEO are all among the techniques you can use to help you increase traffic and sales.  At the same time, you can also use conversion rate optimization to help you increase each visitor’s value and get the most bang for your buck.

Conversion rate optimization focuses on making your website more effective at getting visitors to perform desired actions.  Whether you want a visitor to download an eBook, sign up for a newsletter, purchase a product, or just move on to another page, conversion rate optimization puts buttons, text, and images in the right place, at the right size, and in the right color to induce a greater number of conversions.

While there are some fairly reliable rules for conversion rate optimization (use white space wisely, make your button contrast with the rest of your website colors and jump out) what exactly works for your site will vary.  After all, each site has its own layout and objectives.  Fortunately, you can figure out what works by testing your tweaks and layouts against one another as part of A/B or multivariate testing.  Google’s recent incorporation of their free testing product, Google Website Optimizer, into Google Analytics has made this easier than ever.

To use Website Optimizer (now called Content Experiments) log in to Analytics and make sure you are on the Standard Reporting dashboard.  Click on Content and you’ll notice a new tab for Experiments.

This is where you find Google's Content Experiments in Analytics

To set up your Experiment, you’ll have to create Goals in Analytics (or use existing ones).  If you want to increase the number of visitors who submit a Contact form, for example, you will need a Goal that tracks how many visitors get to the Thank You page that appears when you submit your Contact form.  If this is already set up, you can move on, if not, establish your Goal (visit here for official instructions from Google on Goal setup).

Now let’s say you want to figure out if a layout of your homepage with a different “Contact Us” button performs better than your current homepage.  Testing this out with Content Experiments is easy.

First, create a page on your website with the new layout that you would like to test and name it (let’s call it  Once you have the URL, you plug it and the control page (the version of the homepage that is currently live on your site) into Content Experiments.Choose experiment type in Website Optimizer

As you can see, if you have other variations you’d like to test, you can.  Plug in up to 5 variations of the page you are testing against.

Once this is done, you select the Goal you are using for the experiment (in this example, how many people get to a contact form’s Thank You page), and how many of your Visitors you want included (50%, 100%, etc.).  At this point, depending on your familiarity with coding, you may need to contact your developer, hosting company, or SEO company (hi!) to install some tracking code on your site.  With new Content Experiments, the amount of code required for installation is extremely small, and Google will auto-generate it for you.

Once your code is setup and validated, your Experiment is ready to go!  Visitors participating in your experiment will be randomly served either your original page or one of the variations you provided.  Google will then track which of the variations is the most successful at meeting your Goal.  One of the best things about having Content Experiments incorporate into Analytics is that checking in on the Experiment and generating Reports is especially simple.  You’ll be able to see the experiment’s progress as it is running and get a sense as to which page is winning out.Example report from Google's Content Experiment

(Image taken from Google’s Content Experiment setup instructions

Once the experiment is over, you’ll be able to make a well-informed decision about which version of your homepage is the best.  The winner might surprise you; often our personal design preferences are not necessarily those of others, and in many cases a site owner can just be too close to their site to see where they are losing visitors.  It may be obvious to you how to download a newsletter or get to the Contact page, but your users may be experiencing some difficulties.  With Content Experiments you can learn a lot about your visitors and improve your site’s usability.  And now with Context Experiments integrated into Analytics, it’s never been easier to set up an Experiment or access the data.  What’s not to like?

What Makes a Quality Site According to Matt Cutts

The head of Google’s Search Spam team, Matt Cutts, was recently interviewed by Eric Enge on the subject of “What Makes a Quality Site.”  It’s a good quick read that should get you thinking about how you can improve your site and thus generate more traffic.  Written below is what I got from it.

We know that everybody with a website wants to rank higher in Google to generate additional traffic to their site.  And they want to accomplish the higher rankings as soon as possible and with the least amount of effort.  While in the past it has been quite easy to accomplish this by taking advantage of certain loopholes and ranking indicators, Google is working to make it more difficult.  And this upsets a lot of webmasters.

“Why should I have to work harder for something that was so easy in the past?”

The overarching reason for this is because Google’s search results serve up a lot of spammy, repetitive websites built to manipulate the results.  Pushing for sites to strive for quality is a way ‘to improve the quality of search results’.

What can we take away from this interview to help improve our sites?

  1. Rather than regurgitating the same content that already exists, work to bring additional value.
  2. Focus on what differentiates you.  Describe what makes you special.  This can be difficult for e-commerce sites that sell the same products as many other sites – get creative.  See number 1 above.
  3. Focus on distinguishing yourself in a niche area before going head-to-head with the big players.  If you follow the above steps, your unique content has a good chance at cracking the first page because Google values diversity in the search results.
  4. SEO isn’t really about ‘link building’.  Yes, acquiring links to your site helps achieve rankings but focus your efforts at a higher level.  Approach this at the PR/marketing level and you’ll avoid wasting time seeking out useless links.
  5. Infographics and other types of link bait might soon be devalued by Google.  This is yet another effort that has been used to garner a large quantity of links and thus used to manipulate search results.  While some/many infographics are useful and of high quality, there are, according to Google, too many that are unresearched and of low quality.
  6. Sites that have many entry pages, such as restaurants that have locations in many cities, have typically created pages for each city with virtually the same, redundant copy.  Cutts advises to cut the redundancy and replace with more unique content – even if its only 2 or 3 sentences.  Again, see number 1 above.
Creating content that will rank well will likely be less programmatic than it has been in the past.  While unique content won’t be easy for some sites, especially those with thousands of products, the sites that spend the time to be unique will likely benefit the most.

Google Penguin Update – Google+ On-Air Hangout

The Leverage Marketing SEO Team recently sat down for a round-table discussion on the topic of Google’s latest algorithm updates called Google Penguin.  Hear the team’s take on subjects such as what Google Penguin is, what constitutes over optimization of anchor text, what is considered spammy links, and learn about actions that can be taken to help your site regain rankings if you were negatively effected on or around April 24th.

The video above is the first of several videos on the subject.  All videos are listed within a playlist for easy viewing and additional videos will be added to cover additional topics and questions.

View a list of all videos on the subject of Google Penguin.

Hangout with the Leverage Marketing SEO Team!

Join us on June 12th at 1:00pm CDT for an On-Air Hangout on the subject of Google Penguin.  Our SEO team will be on hand to discuss the recent algorithm updates known as Penguin, what you should know about the updates, what you should do if the updates negatively effected your rankings, and what you should do to ensure that your site won’t be effected in the future.

Feel free to submit your questions before-hand and you may be invited to be a participant in the live hangout to ask your questions!

For anybody that can’t attend the hangout while its live, watch this space or the Leverage Marketing Google+ page as we’ll be posting an archive version of the hangout shortly after completion.

Our SEO clients fared well following Google Penguin

In the wake of the Google Penguin outcry, we have found, from our monitoring tools, that our clients have largely been either unaffected or have actually seen improvements as a result of Penguin. Although improvements are difficult to specifically attribute to the recent update, for some client sites we have seen notable improvements in impressions since April 24th and some improvements in rankings. The client site below saw a recent 27% increase in impressions.

GWT reports impressions and clicks for search queries

I attribute the stability and improvement in our clients’ impressions and traffic to our adherence to White Hat SEO practices and our dedication to staying ahead of the curve. After Penguin, it appears that sites that pursued rapid link building techniques, link schemes and other tactics that Thy Ta described in her post here as well as other spammy tactics have suffered the declines. Yet, in some cases, sites that have not pursued these tactics or have not pursued these tactics in many years have been affected.

In the face of constant changes in Google’s Algorithm, today’s White Hat techniques could become tomorrow’s spammy techniques and could earn a penalty in the future. In order to prevent vulnerability to these algorithmic changes, come back in two weeks for the next edition of the Leverage Lowdown for specific tactics that will help decrease your site’s susceptibility to future updates. These tactics are not only advocated by myself, but also vetted by the Senior Product Manager of Bing’s Webmaster Program and the go-to guy for Bing search, Duane Forrester.

In addition, the SEO team at Leverage Marketing Agency invites you to join us on a Live On-Air Hangout on Google+ on June 12th at 1:00 CST.  We’ll be available to field questions and discuss Google Penguin and any other SEO questions you may have.  We’ll provide a link to view the hangout from our blog but if you’d like to be an active participant, please add us to your Google+ circle and drop us a line to let us know you’d like to chat with us live.

Part I – Google Penguin: The Effects, The Uproar and How to Adjust

Google’s recent search algorithm update, codenamed Penguin, was stated to affect only 3.1% of search queries. However, the queries that were affected by the Penguin update were very important for many small businesses across the country. Many companies rely upon Google’s organic search traffic to gain customers and to sustain their businesses. When the Penguin update rolled out on April 24th, these companies were negatively impacted and experienced dropped rankings and a large drop in traffic. In response to this rapid change, over 1000 small business owners and site webmasters have rallied together to form a petition for Google to reverse the Penguin update. I am writing a 3-part series starting with this post on how to tell if your site was hit by Penguin and will continue in future posts on how our clients were affected at Leverage Marketing and how to recover from and protect against algorithm changes in the future.

2 ways to check if your site was affected by Google Penguin

Google Penguin was rolled out very quickly across the majority of Google’s worldwide iterations on or around April 24. A question that many site owners and webmasters are asking is “Was my site affected?”

There are a few ways to tell, to a high degree of certainty, if your site was affected. The best way to determine if your site was affected is to go straight to your impression data. This data reveals how many times your site appeared in Google’s search results. Organic search impression data is available in Google Webmaster Tools. If you see that on or around April 24th your traffic declined by a significant degree, (similar to the change pictured below) your site was most likely affected by the Penguin update. This rapid decline in impressions indicates that Google is serving your website in less optimal positions for numerous search term results. This gives your site a smaller chance to attract traffic from searches.

Checking Google Webmaster Tools for effects of Google Penguin

If you do not have access to Google Webmaster Tools, the second way you can check if you were affected by the Penguin update is in your Google Analytics data (or whichever traffic tracking tool you use) to see if your Google non-paid search traffic follows a similar sharp downward trend. In some cases, the decline in impressions and visits is alarming. Some site owners have claimed to have experienced up to 90% drops in traffic and widespread drop in rankings.

In upcoming posts, I will be discussing how our clients (at Leverage Marketing) were affected and how to recoup if you were affected by the Penguin update.

Remember, Matt Cutts and the team at Google designed the Penguin update to give sites that practice honest, white hat SEO techniques a fair shot for competitive rankings. More importantly, the Penguin update aims at reducing the amount of spam to improve the user experience.

On June 12, the SEO experts at Leverage Marketing Agency (including yours truly) will be hosting a Google+ hang-out on air to discuss the Penguin update and give business owners and webmasters (and whoever else is interested) a chance to ask questions that we will immediately address. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the link to our hang-out.

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