Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Group Brainstorming Session

Somewhere in an office right now, an employee is guarding his computer like a hawk. He’s trying to protect his latest great idea to prevent a fellow employee from stealing the idea, or taking the credit – and the spotlight.

That office is not SEOhaus. You see, as I have learned quickly at SEOhaus, we appreciate the power of a good group brainstorm session, and feeding off of each other to get the job done. Our clients thank us for that for one reason: it gets results.

We recently had a client who wanted to switch gears on his campaign to promote a more humorous, light-hearted undertone. It being a unique niche, it wasn’t easy to get the thought process flowing so a co-worker put the idea out on the floor. Within 6 minutes we had more than a dozen ideas – many worthy of reporting back to the client.

And that was just the beginning of things going well for the account. The results of our brainstorm – and the social campaign that followed – yielded huge results for the client. We’re talking a 98% increase over their average social shares. It also led to 60% more social referrals than their previously best-performing post.

Skeptical that a brainstorm alone can yield these results? Check out why we think it’s so great, and how you can incorporate it into your work life.

So What’s So Great about Group Brainstorming?


A Diverse Point of View
No matter what industry you’re in, chances are that your clients each have very diverse customer bases. And unless you change personalities as often as a teenager girl changes outfits, you’re not going to be able to put yourself in those customers’ shoes to truly understand their needs and wants, or the best channels to reach them. When you brainstorm as a group, however, you’re diversifying the mindset. Each person involved has unique experience that will shape the way they respond to the task, or issue at hand. Let this work to your benefit. This can give you many different angles that you previously may not have considered on your own. Sure, you could spend tons of time and even money on market research (and for some clients you’ll have to), but you’d be surprised what a nice sample your very own office can provide.

In this case, our goal was to expose our client’s website to new audiences and ultimately increase their client base. By gathering ideas from the group, we were able to appeal to the humor of a diverse group of people. When we reported these ideas back to the client, they were impressed with the creative and broad-appeal topics we came up with in such a short period of time. And ultimately, this approach helped us attract the likes and shares we were looking for.

It Can Get the Ball Rolling
We’ve all been there before, staring at a project for what seems like forever – and getting nowhere. Sometimes all you need is a little push in the right direction. Opening the floor for discussion can be that bit of help that gets your own mind churning and the ideas flowing. And that effect is magnified amongst all the participants of the brainstorm. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly employees can build upon each other ideas to arrive at a great final product.

With this example, it took a few minutes to get the first idea on the table, but once it was there, everyone was able to build off of each idea and make improvements, until we reached the final ideas to present.

Creates a Better Working Environment
Just as a supportive, collaborative working environment is needed to even allow brainstorming to begin, brainstorming can in-turn nurture that working environment. It’s a symbiotic relationship of sorts. Think about it: would you rather be the guy huddled at your desk by yourself or have an open, supportive relationship with your co-workers?

We must warn though, doing this consistently can lead people to get REALLY open. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say it’s a good thing HR was on lunch during this particular brainstorm. But as long as you’re okay with knowing just a bit more about your co-workers than most would – go for it! Trust us, the benefits are usually well worth a few awkward stares.

Brainstorming Image

Make It Happen

You will hear a lot of businesses talk about teamwork and collaboration, but it takes a conscious effort to actually walk the walk. If you think your office collaboration could use a bit of work to really foster solid brainstorming and teamwork, here are some ideas to get started.

  1. Chat It Up
    Having an employee chat room can serve as an open forum throughout the day – a place to bounce ideas off of each other, ask questions about common clients, or get feedback on work. Of course, you’ll want to set guidelines to prevent misuse of the software, but in most cases employees will use the tool for good, not evil.
  2. Open Spaces
    Some offices lend themselves to an open floor plan, but for others it will take a bit more work. Either way, having an open office environment, or even a common room employees can retreat to (that’s not the water cooler) can open the doors of communication. Individuals are much more likely to collaborate if they’re physically interacting with each other, not just email addresses.
  3. Create a No-Judgment Zone
    If employees have any inkling that their ideas will be balked at, demeaned or otherwise not valued, they’re not going to go all-in during the brainstorm session. Don’t allow negativity during group brainstorms. For brainstorming to work well, all those involved, particularly the decision makers need to “think gray.” Thinking gray can apply to most business decisions, and essentially means hold off on forming opinions until you’ve heard all sides. You’d be surprised what emerges as the clear winner after everything is laid out on the table.

Give It a Shot

Though sometimes it can seem easier to stay organized and complete tasks by making them your sole responsibility, asking for a little help from the group can yield impressive results for your clients – and when they win, everybody wins. So next time you’re feeling stuck on an idea or need a bit of creative juice, open it up to the floor and trust the process. And in case you still need help brainstorming more brainstorming ideas, check out some of these tips, from Inc.com and Open Ideo.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

7 Tips for Building Links Without Creating Content

Google’s love affair with informative and useful content is well documented. In order to build a strong backlink profile, creating great content is reportedly the only method that works. While original and useful content should never be ignored, when time is short or topics are scarce, you can fall back on these 7 link building strategies.

1. Testimonials

If you’re using a product that you like, consider writing a testimonial on your site about the product. When you’ve created the testimonial, contact the company and let them know that they can put the testimonial on their site. Most companies like to show that real people are using their products and will link back to the testimonial on your site.

2. Event Link Building

Event link building is perfect for a company that is planning on hosting a local event for its customers and the general public. The idea behind this is that you reach out to newspapers, local travel sites, and event magazines and let them know that your company is planning to host an event for the public. You provide the location, date, time, name of the company, and a link back to your site. This is a great way to publicize the event you’re hosting, establish a new relationship with a valued online site, and receive an authoritative link.

3. Expired or Moved Sites

Hundreds of sites either shut down or get moved daily, which means that these sites’ backlink profiles make a great target list for outreach. The most difficult part of this process is identifying the sites that have shut down or moved. A list of appropriate sites can be found by using search strings like:

  • “target keyword” + rebranding
  • “target keyword” + out of business

Once you have your list of sites, you select one and plug in the URL into a tool like Majestic SEO or Ahrefs. These tools give you a comprehensive backlink profile for that moved domain. The next step would be to go to these links and identify the sites that make sense to get links from. Once the sites are identified, send an outreach email to the admin of those sites letting them know that they are linking to an outdated, non-existent site and that you would love to offer your site as a replacement.

4. Blog Aggregators

Blog aggregators are sites that aggregate blogs from different industries to make them easier to access for the user. In order to have your site appear on an aggregator, like AllTop, you are required to:

  • Submit your site.
  • Add special HTML code to your site to confirm that you’re the owner.
  • Wait for someone from the aggregator to stop by and take a look at your site.

Once your site is approved, you will have your own section in the aggregator with a dofollow link. Great return for very little work.

5. Broken Link Building

Broken link building is as old as the Internet itself. It’s simple to implement as well. By using search strings like:

  • “target keyword” + “resources page”
  • “target keyword” + “recommended sites”

You can identify the resources pages within your niche. By using Chrome’s Check My Links plugin, you can quickly find any broken links that a page has. Once you have your list of broken links, send an email with the list to the site admin and mention that your site would be a great replacement for one of those broken links. The site owner should be happy to include your link within his or her site.

6. Donations

Contributing to a donation not only makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, but also gives you the opportunity to get a link from that charity. First, identify which charities list their donors on their sites (usually in the resources page). Once you have your list of charities, pick a few that you would like to donate to and ask for a link back to your site. You’re not only doing a good deed, but also helping yourself.

7. Google +

Google+ allows contextual dofollow links on your profile. In order to actually see the link as dofollow, you must be signed out of your Google+ account. With enough interaction within Google+ and direct linking to your profile, you can realistically make it a powerful link.

Do you have any suggestions for building links without content? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Link Building | Leave a comment

The Importance of Social Media in Marketing

Whether you’re a business or an online community, you know the importance of standing out from the crowd and creating your own voice. The question is, how is this done effectively today? As the competition becomes tougher, and the market more saturated, new ways to market yourself have become widely used among businesses to achieve growth. Though there may be several new effective ways to do this, Social Media is one of the most effective of these methods.

For years now, businesses have had real success with marketing on social media platforms. Now with almost 2 billion people using social media, there are more opportunities than ever to attract new customers and build a solid online community for your business. Here’s a look at just some of the ways social media can improve your business.

Brand Authority/Loyalty

Having a clear and consistent image of your brand gives you the power to influence millions of people.  As a powerful voice online, you have the ability to attract new audiences and make your brand grow further than what you might have expected. Brand loyalty is positively affected when a company posts consistent, quality content that is relevant and up-to-date, and is shared consistently across all other social platforms. Make sure you have what it takes to be consistent with your social media channels. You might think, what does it mean to be consistent online? There is nothing worse than developing your brand offline, and have nothing to show for your fans. Remember these key things:

  • Create an editorial and campaign calendar for content and schedule social posts to go out using social media management systems like Hootsuite or Buffer.
  • Build a strategy that defines who you are as a brand and what type of message you want to send out. Are you a lifestyle brand catered to outdoorsy men? Are you a luxury brand providing services to young, successful professionals? Understanding who you are will enable you to find a direction for your online presence.
  • Identify your audience using tools like Facebook Insights, Followerwonk, and Google Analytics. That way, you can provide them with content that is relative to your brand but also taps into their interests and demographics.
  • Engage! Write your posts in a manner that is fun and interesting to your readers. The whole point of social media is to share and communicate. Treat your audience as your close friends by connecting with them in a way that they value.

Relationship Building

Brands that are established on social media have proven to have a positive influence on company to customer trust. Developing a well-focused marketing strategy, rather than a broad strategy, will attract the right audience for your brand.  Make the message loud and clear to your target audience. Once you build your message with consistency and truth that holds to your brand’s values and culture, the more trust you will gain from your follower base. However, trust can’t be built overnight.  Success with your customers requires more listening than talking. Things to consider:

  • Experiment with content to see what works and what doesn’t work, and strategize based on that.
  • Get to know your online audience. See what they react to, what they engage with, and research who they are using web-based tools. Knowing is understanding.
  • Be specific and focused with your content. Users want that credibility from you and want to feel that you are taking the time to acknowledge them and developing a community they can feel a part of.

Better Search Engine Rankings

Search Engine Optimization is the best way to catch traffic from search engines, but thanks to Google, the requirements are always changing. Being social is the fastest way to multiply your online presence. That’s what social media is all about– being social! (Crazy, right?) Being active on social media acts as a “brand signal” to search engines that your brand is legitimate, has authority, and is credible and trustworthy. While social media sends important signals that make their way back to Google, it can’t consistently crawl platforms like Facebook and Twitter, just portions of those pages, so likes and shares aren’t really a ranking factor. However, a strong social presence can positively influence your rankings.

Another Window to Increase Conversions

Every post you make on social media is an opportunity for an individual to become a customer. Every photo, video, like, or comment you post equates to brand exposure, which could lead to a site visit and potentially a conversion. Not every status update or tweet results in a conversion. However, positive interaction with your audience creates a humanization element behind your brand. People like doing business with other people, not companies. Your customers want to know that there are people, just like them, hard at work to meet their needs.

It’s no secret that social media will continue to have a significant impact on business owners and marketers in 2014 and beyond. We now have the ability to reach out and communicate with our target audience on a day-to-day basis. This is a game changer for businesses; an approach that has never been done with traditional marketing. Social media, when done right, can lead to more traffic, more customers, and more conversions. What are you waiting for?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Starting from square one: the 5 best online SEO resources

Like quite a few people I’ve met, I really fell into SEO headfirst. It wasn’t what I went to school for, and I knew of it only in a peripheral sense. A couple years ago, I was working in-house for a private company’s marketing department, when I was asked to “take care of the SEO” — which I discovered soon after meant making tweaks and changes to the internal Yoast plugin.

I knew it had to be more than some simple plugin or else everyone would be doing it. I had to start from square one, so I started doing research — a lot of research. During this back-to-the-basics process, I learned that there are hundreds upon hundreds of how-to SEO resources. Despite the plethora of sites that claimed to know what they were talking about, I kept circling back to a select few.

So here is a list of my favorite search engine optimization resources; these are my 5 “square ones”:

Moz.com

The brain child of the one and only, Rand Fishkin, SEO guru and one of the biggest names in the industry. Moz.com became somewhat of a marketing bible for me. Their Beginner’s Guides where nearly unmatched in their level of knowledge and detail in addition to the exercises at the end of each chapter which we clear and easy to understand the concepts being portrayed.

In addition, as if the Beginner’s Guiders weren’t enough to turn your n00b SEO brain into mush, Moz supplemented their guides with pages upon pages on top of more pages of resources, blogs, tips and tricks, and the very popular, White Board Fridays.

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land can be daunting at first. Above the fold, the homepage is essentially a collage of images with big headlines on them. However, once you dive into one of the topic sections from the tool bar it becomes more manageable. Search Engine Land is essentially an article site, with tons of articles about random SEO based topics, but it’s the “What is SEO?” page that puts Search Engine Land on this list.

They start your off with a video explanation of what SEO is, followed by what is one of my favorite pieces of SEO knowledge, The Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. This table breaks the influence every factor of SEO has both positively and negatively based on 7 factors: Content, HTML, Architecture, Links, Trust, Social, and Personal. Each one of these is further explained in the chapters following in the guide.

Kiss Metrics Blog

My favorite thing about this blog is that Kiss Metrics doesn’t just stick with traditional topics for their tutorials. Yeah, they have introduction courses about SEO and PPC, but the fun part about Kiss Metrics is the topics that you might not think about at first, for example, “How Colors Affect Conversion” or “The 7 Deadly Sins of Landing Page Design”. Their topics are unique and innovative and come in infographic, text, or webinar form. Kiss Metrics is great for once you have a little bit of knowledge under your belt and want to start drilling down into more specific topics.

Search Engine Journal

SearchEngineJournal (SEJ) is similar to its other counterpart SearchEngineLand and that is by no means a bad thing. Overall layout and design resemble each other so if you’re familiar with one you can navigate the other with ease.

The thing that made SEJ stand out for me was “SEJ’s Guide to SEO”. Now I know there are plenty of other guides out there, but the appeal for me about this one is how straight forward it is. There aren’t loads of images or arrows with small text or other forms of clipart. It is straight text and packed full of useful up-to-date information.

Quick Sprout

Video tutorials about SEO are easy to come by, just go to YouTube, type in SEO, pick a video and hope the person who made it knows what they are talking about…assuming you can understand them through horrible audio quality or thick accents from wherever they are from. Or, you can go to QuickSprout’s University. The University offers short video tutorials that are easy to understand, descriptive, and most importantly skill based. Each topic is broken down into a beginner, intermediate, and advanced knowledge level so that your bright eyed and bushy tailed brain doesn’t get overloaded and discouraged by topics that are way above your level of understanding.

Posted in Marketing Tips, SEO Advice, SEO tips, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

SEO for local stores with national ecommerce websites

Why sell to just one city when you can sell to the whole country? Foot traffic is still a great way to offer services and sell products, but many local stores have gotten into the national market and want national results without hurting their local search rank.

Does optimizing for my local store negatively impact my national search rank?

No, but it is important to have dedicated pages for your local stores. If you have multiple stores, include a location finder with a page dedicated to each location. Share as much information that is relevant to this specific location, like it’s hours, local coupons, contact info and directions.  Additionally, don’t neglect your product or service on these local pages.  Andy’s Pizza Place, is inline with likely search terms, but if your name it Andy’s Place, emphasis Pizza in the local pages in addition to the physical location.

Should I include my in store inventory online?

Ideally, users would have the ability to identify the physical store location where a product is available in addition to online purchasing options.   You don’t want to hurt local sales at the expense of online sales. Provide the buyer with the best information and let them choose how they prefer to purchase.  A product you offer may potentially be available on 100+ online stores, but buying options in your local market are certainly more limited.  “Available for pickup today”, can be a compelling marketing tool that gives you a heads-up on the Amazons of the ecommerce marketplace.

My location is in the metro area but outside of the city proper

Google does include distance in it’s ranking factors, but they also allow you to designate your service area in Google+.  Using a fake address, changing the location of the pin in Google maps, or using a PO Box, will result in a penalty.  You can add another legitimate address within the city, where you meet clients or conduct business, even though it isn’t your headquarters.

Here are a few tips for your local page:

  • Add a few direction from local land marks or populated areas
  • Add geo tagged photos of you store location
  • Remove address and Google+ from product pages and focus on a single local landing page (per location)
  • Get quality links from authoritative local domains to your local landing page

Do reviews help national or local SEO?

You want to encourage reviews for your store location and your ecommerce products.  Positive reviews should be encouraged on any user generated review site, i.e., Yelp, Yahoo, Zagat, etc., but keep in mind that, although these reviews may impact your search rank, they will not be visible in good search results, these are now exclusively Google+ reviews. Encourage real reviews from real customers.  Google will filter spammy reviews and could potential penalize you for fake reviews.

Implementing the proper schema makeup on your products pages allow search engines to identify the product name, description and rating, and can then pull that data into search engine results.

My local rank dropped after a Penguin update

After the Penguin 2.0, many local businesses with low quality links from directors were penalized.  Make sure your links and directory listing are coming from industry relevant sources.

You should identify and delete the low quality and irrelevant links and focus on sites that are related to your business and sites which see user generated reviews and content.

Summary

Organically ranking locally is much different than ranking nationally, but your efforts for both depended on quality, unique content onsite and real user generated content offsite.  Massive unrelated links and fake reviews that used to work now cause penalties.

Posted in Local SEO, SEO tips | 1 Comment

Leverage your product: How to make sure it’s worth growing

Product demand

Sit down and ask yourself. Are you answering the needs of the consumer? Will they miss you if you were not in the market place. If your answer is is less then 40% you should revise until you have an answer to market need.

One of the crazy facts about me as an entrepreneur is that I love trying out new ideas. I have a furniture site, an online flower shop, and some other eCommerce sites that I test Product/Marketing/Conversion strategies on continuously. One of the big takeaways I learned from with these tests is how important market demand is for items.

For this article I will be referencing my success with my Online Web Design Business: Creativehaus. I will also give examples of my brick and mortar company: Fox and Jane Salon.

It has now become our mission that every product we work on must answer this question: How would you feel if you could no longer have this product? — CreativeHaus really answered this question first hand. We get so many clients who literally say they couldn’t have put their business online if it wasn’t for our flexible prices and support. Our cancellation rates compared to our other services are extremely low due to the fact that we answer such a demand. We never nickel and dime the client, we found this was a retention issue with web designers who would get the client for an initial design, they would then leave and go somewhere else a year or two later.

Fox and Jane was an early adopter to this concept in the brick and mortar perspective. We slightly underpriced our high end, boutique experience. All our stylists must have 5 years minimum experience and go through an intensive training process. Finally we heard from clients that a business reflective to the community goal was important. This answers the demand of quality, affordable, services with ethical mission statement to help the local groups. Since its inception 3 years ago we have now grown to be the busiest salon in NYC area and do close to $4 million a year in business.

Give your budget a fighting chance

Whenever we first start marketing efforts we always start the uphill battle of conversion and budget.

I quickly try to learn about the emotions of the visitor so not to waste PPC budgets, this is otherwise known as A/B testing. I also meet with my sales team/office staff to figure out the exact concerns of a client as they contact us. I try to subtlety answer concerns they might have whilst on my sites. I spend time making changes and addressing the visitors to conquer conversions.

Fix leaks

Creativehaus did this after a bumpy few weeks with conversion tracking. We updated the image of a mobile device and a website on it, no contract, all inclusive. We also took away online ordering of the service, now a client fills out a form and gets to talk through the issues and design they want to have. CreativeHaus now has a close rate of 60% and a conversion of 1:10 to 1:19 depending on if I’m running Pay Per Click.

With Fox and Jane we have our prices clearly posted, reference to yelp reviews, well branded website, and the ability to book online. Our conversion is now between 1:6 to 1:8 depending on seasonality.

This has allowed us to leverage marketing spends and have a strong return on investment.

Increase ease of action

“Nothing ever comes easy” – Should not apply to a conversion on your website. You want to make the ease of purchase instant. Amazon has done this with 1 click purchasing.
I typically have a form visible for ‘fill out’ on every page of my site. I also try to reduce the process of eCommerce purchasing with fast checkout options.

Fox and Jane helps this by directing clients to a specific geo page based on their location, appointment setting, and a phone number that they would need to make an appointment. Many other location specific Salon sites lack this goal.

In all…

You have to find the best conversions for you. What might sell paper plates may not be the same conversion ideas of someone selling high end rugs. Keep this in mind and be agile in your approach to updates and changes.

Posted in Advice, Conversion Optimization, Onpage Optimization, SEO Advice | Leave a comment

Single vs. Multiple Word Queries

As Google has evolved to better understand who its users are and what they want, SEO companies are continually pushed to reevaluate their onsite optimization strategies. With the search giant zeroing in on perfecting the “answer engine,” keyword strategy is now synonymous with providing the right content for users’ questions. Provide the right answers, get the clicks, get the traffic, and get the conversions.

So how do people use Google?

For most SEO companies, the data is already within reach. Google Webmaster Tools provides specific user queries for which your website’s URLs appear in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), the number of impressions generated from these queries, and the number of user clicks per query. This can be supremely helpful for identifying new keywords and improving onsite content for higher clickthrough rates, thus resulting in more traffic to your site.

With all this available data, we decided to do a brief study of one website, a successful SaaS company. Focusing in on user search trends, we looked at the prevalence of short (aka head) vs. long tail keywords, and the success rates for each of them. We wanted to know which queries – long or short – were used most frequently, which generated the most impressions, and which resulted in clicks.

Comparing single vs. multiple word searches

Using one month of Webmaster Tools data from the SaaS company, we divided up some 2,057 queries based on the number of words in the searches, from one to ten or more. Below are the results.

Single vs. Multiple Word Queries

The arc of the results proved two-pronged, showing the highest clickthrough rates with one-word queries (17%), then on the other end of the spectrum with eight-word queries (39%). The latter lends credence to the “answer engine” model, wherein most of the queries were phrases or interrogative (e.g. “who, what, where”) searches.

longtail clickthrough rate

We know that the length of a search query often reflects the user’s intention. They search a one- or two-word movie title if they want local movie showtimes or the name of an actor, but then turn around and compose an 8-word query if they’re trying to find that damn song from the soundtrack they just fell in love with. And while this may seem anecdotal, this phenomenon is at least backed in our study by the individual queries themselves. The single word searches are largely branded terms, while the 8, 9, and 10+ word searches are geared more toward technical specifications of the software in question.

How do we target multiple word keywords?

With this knowledge in mind, keyword strategy must align more with helping Google determine the search results that are right for each user. Instead of looking for keywords with the highest search volume or “right amount” of competition, it might be prudent to envision the questions that users are asking — and then answer them with smart content. Rather than measuring the keyword density on your main pages, try to see how many questions these pages lend advice to — whether your target market wants to know “Who provides emergency plumbing” or “What is the knowledge graph.” Less Keyword Planner, more brainstorming sessions.

While this data is from one site alone, and therefore prone to a certain margin of error, it is certainly enough to get the discussion started. We are certain that, in order to increase organic traffic and conversions on your site, a long tail (answer-based) keyword strategy will prevail. This is further backed by other industry experts’ opinions in light of the Hummingbird update which was aimed at improving results for long-tail conversational queries.

Posted in Google Webmasters Tools, Keywords, Search Engines, SEO Advice | Leave a comment

Tracking Time: Eye-Opening Insights Into Productivity

DSC00203.JPG

Here at the haus, we are always looking for ways to improve our systems internally and better improve the services that we provide to our clients. In an effort to streamline many of our internal processes and procedures, we recently conducted an internal audit of how employees were spending their time in order to identify strengths, pain points, and areas of improvement or potential bottlenecks that could be keeping us from performing at our optimum potential.

While we are still pouring over the data internally to better find out what the figures mean for us, there is still no shortage of enthusiasm about a project that proved to be simultaneously painless and incredibly eye-opening. Below, we’ll go over the methodology and data analysis for a project like this, along with some key takeaways from the project.

1.png

This all came about when managers were discussing some of the best possible ways to improve our product, additional steps to make part of our process, and the additional team members that would be necessary to accomplish our goals. While these goals were relatively flexible, we unearthed one major caveat–namely that we didn’t have enough information on how these items would actually improve efficiency, because we weren’t exactly sure how time was being used on both a macro and micro level.

In order to take a look at how team members spent most of their day, we did the following:

Start with the Job Description

We identified key areas that we found to be important components of the job description. These included things like email and phone correspondence, keyword research and competitor analysis, reporting, troubleshooting, development, content creation, and more. Our final list looked something like this:

  • Email

  • Phone

  • Reporting (SaaS)

  • Reporting (Manual)

  • Retention

  • Outreach

  • Scheduling and Assigning Content

  • Link Prospecting

  • Keyword Research

  • Competitor Research

  • Technical / Development Projects

  • Technical / Working with Developers

  • Technical / Optimization

  • Technical / Link Audits

  • Technical / Site Audits

  • Technical / Crawl Errors, 404s & Redirects, etc.

These represented key categories that could potentially illuminate how members of our SEO team could be working to serve their clientele. From email and phone correspondence, to more technical considerations like link audits, site audits, and crawl errors, there is a considerable amount of flexibility required in order to successfully complete the job.

There were several other important components of the job that we felt could have been included, but this represented a key list of core responsibilities that seemed to best encapsulate what each member of our team should be working on at a given time.

Creating A Google Form

In order to capture this kind of information, we needed to find a way to be as seamless and as least invasive as possible. A form, rather than a spreadsheet, email, document, or project management system, offers the flexibility of a push-button submission. This seemed to reduce friction in the collection process, and ensured that responses remained consistent across the entire staff–a critically important factor if you want to analyze data from a top-level perspective.

Collection Period

We collected data over the course of  period of two weeks. This allowed us to capture both the reporting side of the workload as well as the more technical and creative spaces within which we work. By limiting the data collection to two weeks, we got a significant enough response rate to notice some major trends without having to wait too long to uncover some of the results.

2.png

Once we got the data back, it was definitely a challenge to find the best ways to pick apart data from such a large number of employees in a way that effectively gave a top-level vision of how time was being used across the categories above. Some key factors to keep in mind:

Days Will Be Different

Some days will be different than others, and in this case, this was incredibly noticeable. There were several categories which many employees would not fill each individual day, as they would devote say, more time to technical concerns near the end of the week and more time to client communication and research near the beginning of the week. As a result, it was important to keep this in mind when looking at the big numbers; since certain team members simply didn’t do certain activities, it was important to keep this in mind when putting together the big report. Using Google Sheets and the COUNTBLANK function within Excel/Google Sheets, we were able to identify the amount of participants per category.

Averages

Looking at averages, to me, seemed the best way to ascertain major systemic changes that we could make. While looking at the total hours reported may provide good insights from a data sample, the idea was also to compare these against averages for each category to ensure that there were no alarming irregularities.

By looking at the total number of respondents per category in tandem with the total number of hours spent per category, we were able to obtain a better average and make adjustments to the final percentage numbers based on the number of respondents.

3.png

As stated, while we’re still getting used to what story the data tells, some facts were incredibly alarming and are already affecting change within the haus. For instance, an automated product was taking just as much time as its manual counterpart, leaving the switch back to a manually-generated, but more custom, flexible reporting interface will help.

Alternatively, we were able to realize some areas that we had initially expected to be major pain points shouldn’t be as much of a concern. For instance, while link audits always seem to take a significant amount of time, such a low number of people regularly engaged with a full-blown link audit that it was not as significant of a time drain that we once thought. Similarly, while an automated reporting system was brought in to help streamline the process, the fact that the same amount of time went in to both automated reporting and manual reporting shifted the conversation on a more automated workflow.

This was a great, eye-opening exercise! We look forward to sharing some of the results with you — but first, we need to take a closer look at actionable steps to improve work life in the Haus.

 

Posted in Advice, Marketing Tips, Productivity | Leave a comment

10 Awesome Sites with Free Stock Photos.

We had a few run in’s with Getty Images recently, man was that’s a pain!

To explain, Getty and other companies are buying the rights to images or are running scans on images all across the internet to find infringement.  Unfortunately if you are found using the photos, they skip the cease and desist and will request payment from as little as $250 up to thousand of dollars.

We have a strict guideline now at CreativeHaus to use images from iStock or other partners.

We have found a few great sites for “Creative Commons Zero” License.  This means you can use, copy, and modify the images without having permission from the original owner.

Disclaimer: Make sure to check permissions on each site to make sure you are following the permissions they set.

AND NOW….10 AWESOME SITES WITH FREE STOCK PHOTOS: (Yep)

Death to the Stock Photo

Greatisography

Designers Pic

Magdeleine

Lock and Stock Photos

Little Visuals

Life of Pix

Je Shoots

Jay Mantri

ISO Republic

Posted in Advice, CMS, Content, Facebook, Web Design | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Optimize Keywords for Google: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love LSI

Recently, a post on the Moz blog seemed to ignite a particularly intriguing debate that centered around Google’s famed list of the 200+ factors that they use to rank results. Within the post, the author posited that Google has never relied on keyword density as a ranking factor. While this ignited a fiery debate within the comments section, it also ushers in an important conversation that search marketers should keep in mind–one that touches on the merits of looking at correlation vs causation, and one that looks at the complexities of language as a looming variable in the world of search.

To answer the initial question: No, it is very unlikely that Google uses keyword density as a ranking factor. However, to say that keywords in content won’t influence your position in search is naive, at best. Descriptive keywords not only dictate the way in which bots and search engines process and index your site, but also the way in which the public at large talks about your product or service, playing a major role in search. However, the early days of search still seem to guide the strategies and tactics; exact-match keywords strategically dot a page, rampantly reinforcing the keywords for which you are attempting to rank.

Yet Google’s come a long way; from the very public introduction of the Hummingbird algorithm, to the publicly announced, but less discussed addition of Ray Kurzweil to the Google Search team, and further explorations into AI, Google is becoming more fluid, adaptive, and intrinsically intelligent with how it understands and interacts with language. Today, we wanted to take a look at three complex ways in which Google processes queries and indexes information. Term frequency, semantic distance, the evolution of Google’s understanding of pronouns, synonyms and natural variants, and co-citation and co-occurrence, all govern how Google understands language on the Web.

1.png

While many may think that this is simply another word for keyword density, Google has made numerous references over the years to term frequency and inverse document frequency in applications for patents, as well as other documents. Term frequency and inverse document frequency focus less on keywords and how often they appear on a page, and more on the proportion of keywords to other lexical items within a document.

Expertly covered by Cyrus Sheperd on this Moz blog, TF-IDF is a ratio that helps Google compare the importance of particular keywords based on how often they appear in contrast to other documents on the page, as well as the greater corpus of documents as a whole. Supported by Hummingbird, this allows Google to have a more complex understanding of the way in which natural language can support overarching topics from a top level. Using language in a way that’s natural, and in a way that resonates within your niche or industry may be a better use of your time than trying to ensure your document includes your keywords a set number of times!

2.png

This goes without saying, but using synonyms and natural occurring variants of your target keyword help Google to identify a natural match for the searcher. In the previously referenced Moz blog, they use the example of “dog photos.” There’s a good chance that if someone is referring to dog photos, that other words on the page might exist, including “pictures of dogs”, “dog pictures”, “puppy pics” or “canine shots”. By ensuring that synonyms of your target keyword regularly appear, Google and other search engines are able to affirm the page’s intent and align it with that of the searcher by finding words with similar meanings that could potentially answer a user’s query.

spi-1011-word-cloud.jpg

Over 70% of searches rely on synonyms. According to Shepard, “To solve this problem, search engines possess vast corpuses of synonyms and close variants for billions of phrases, which allows them to match content to queries even when searchers use different words than your text.” Again, this is more incentive for marketers and webmasters alike to create copy that departs from a minimum requirement for keyword density, and instead rewards natural language that allows users to refer to their target keyword and other potential variations.

3.png

Related to the idea of synonyms and variants are the idea of co-citation and co-occurrence. First of all, Bill Slawski, of SEO by the Sea, has stated that co-citation and co-occurrence are part and parcel of the Hummingbird algorithm, which uses co-citation to identify words that may be synonyms. The search engines rely on corpus of linguistic rules and may even replace a query for a synonym where co-citation and co-occurrence have determined a better match or a heightened probability of a better search result.

This also helps determine and parse out different search queries for words that may have multiple meanings; in the example above, “dog picture” is a very different search than “dog motion picture”. However, in a more extreme scenario, a “plant” could refer to a tree, a shrub, or a factory, while a “bank” may refer to an institution that lends money, an index of thoughts or memories, or the land that dots either side of a river. A “trunk” may refer to an article of furniture, a part of a tree, a car, or an elephant. Contextual clues within the content help parse out the inferred meaning of the content on-site and ensure that Google serves a page that’s relevant to the searcher.

However, this is also playing a significant role in off-site optimization as well. While keyword-rich anchor text is still valuable, it is noticeably declining in importance due to concerns about spam. In a different piece, Rand Fishkin noted that queries for “cell phone ratings” regularly returned results on the first page that didn’t even contain the word “ratings” within the title, and instead used “reviews” or “reports”. This is a highly competitive query, yet Google used co-occurrence from both on-site and off-site content to determine that these sites are more relevant than those that contain the keyword.

One benefit of looking at co-occurrence from the search engines’ point of view, is that it is extremely hard to manipulate. This relies on a heavily updated corpus featuring an amalgamation of sources that are talking about the keyword in such a way to support the surrounding co-occurring words or phrases. It is an incredible testament to the algorithm’s ability to understand and naturally parse out how language intrinsically sounds. While Latent Semantic Indexing has been around long before Google or search engines, co-occurrence is a part of the algorithm that works much in the same way, identifying relationships between phrases and lexical items to extract and assign meaning.

4.png

The growing ability to detect and extract meaning to seemingly unrelated pieces of text illustrates Google’s growing ability to use artificial intelligence to understand language. From leaning on a user’s personal historical searches to understand pronouns, like a recent Google patent demonstrates, Google continues to lean on the information available to make the search process a more conversational and intuitive one.

Similarly, in appointing Ray Kurzweil and their acquisition of DeepMind, Google continues to leverage some of the sharpest minds in artificial intelligence to truly understand and engage with a user’s language.

Language is an incredibly dynamic and fundamental component of society, and Google and other search engines continue to expand their indices to ensure that they provide the best experience possible. As a result, marketers need to forget about manipulating Google’s search results, and instead engage with their community in their own voice. Worry less about keyword density, and instead look at how to present something in a way that is engaging and natural. Relevant, unique, and natural content both on-site and within the online community will help influence your position as an influencer and industry-leader.

Posted in Content, Google, Google Algorithm Update, Google Hummingbird, Keywords | Leave a comment