Knocking Internal Communications Strategies Out of the Park With Mobile

February 10th, 2017 No comments

If your team isn’t on the same wavelength, then you are probably having a lot of trouble getting along in everything and being productive for the company. Being on the same team often means putting aside your own interests to follow a leader for the sake of a bigger whole. However, wherever there are lapses in communication, there are potholes that will trip up your team. Here are five tips to make sure you are doing everything in your power to improve internal communication.

Pick Common Platforms

Do you have a singular cloud platform for sharing all brand-related documents and materials? What about a social platform for helping your coworkers connect outside of work? Whether you are going to create internal networks or use existing noes, you need to make sure your team is aware of where they should be posting brand content and information for their fellow employees.

Open Your Doors

There is no way you can improve if your employees don’t feel like they can honestly share about your company, policies or products – even in a negative light. Create an open door policy with an anonymous way that your employees can give honest feedback at any time. Use that information to make your brand stronger.

Offer Continual Feedback

There is a fine line between micromanagement and just good management. However, most companies falter on the side that lets employees go for long periods of time without knowing how they are measuring up to expectations. This makes evaluations especially painful and awkward for everyone. By giving your employees both praise and critique on a regular basis, you take away the air of mystery that would otherwise surround their performance review. This allows your employees to adjust their work behavior to meet your expectations. Performance reviews should never include surprise information, they should only be a review of what you’ve already talked about in passing.

Consider Internal Mobile Plans

Connecting with your employees on their phones can be an easy way to gain instant access and improve communication among your team members. However, management and HR communication can feel invasive when the personal mobile plans are not at least somewhat supported by company benefits. Consider offering employees a company phone or at last a discount on their personal plans if you want to move into regular texting habits for your employees.

Extend to Recruitment

If you are able to get your employees into the habit of using mobile technology to keep in touch with their teammates, then extending that reach to recruitment can be useful. SMS text recruiting software can help you manage and appeal to new talent in a fast and convenient way. You can even use your employees to act as mentors during the initial attraction stages. Later, you can use SMS text to help connect new hires with the employees that will be responsible for training them and helping them get acclimated.

Use mobile technology to improve your team’s internal communications and push for better productivity. SMS text messaging is just one tool that mobile technology has to offer – you will also want to consider helpful apps, cloud storage and other potential benefits that mobile can add to your internal communications strategy.

Author Biography:

Joel Lee is the SEO marketing specialist at Trumpia, a mobile content delivery service that allows users to customize their one-to-one marketing efforts by interconnecting and optimizing all digital platforms.

 

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The 10 Most Common Mistakes Web Developers Make: A Tutorial for Developers

January 10th, 2017 No comments

Since the term the World Wide Web was coined back in 1990, web application development has evolved from serving static HTML pages to completely dynamic, complex business applications.

Today we have thousands of digital and printed resources that provide step-by-step instructions about developing all kinds of different web applications. Development environments are “smart” enough to catch and fix many mistakes that early developers battled with regularly. There are even many different development platforms that easily turn simple static HTML pages into highly interactive applications.

All of these development patterns, practices, and platforms share common ground, and they are all prone to similar web development issues caused by the very nature of web applications.

The purpose of these web development tips is to shed light on some of the common mistakes made in different stages of the web development process and to help you become a better developer. I have touched on a few general topics that are common to virtually all web developers such as validation, security, scalability, and SEO. You should of course not be bound by the specific examples I’ve described in this guide, as they are listed only to give you an idea of the potential problems you might encounter.

Common mistake #1: Incomplete input validation

Validating user input on client and server side is simply a must do! We are all aware of the sage advice “do not trust user input” but, nevertheless, mistakes stemming from validation happen all too often.

One of the most common consequences of this mistake is SQL Injection which is in OWASP Top 10 year after year.

Remember that most front-end development frameworks provide out-of-the-box validation rules that are incredibly simple to use. Additionally, most major back-end development platforms use simple annotations to assure that submitted data are adhering to expected rules. Implementing validation might be time consuming, but it should be part of your standard coding practice and never set aside.

Common mistake #2: Authentication without proper Authorization

Before we proceed, let’s make sure we are aligned on these two terms. As stated in the 10 Most Common Web Security Vulnerabilities:

Authentication: Verifying that a person is (or at least appears to be) a specific user, since he/she has correctly provided their security credentials (password, answers to security questions, fingerprint scan, etc.).

Authorization: Confirming that a particular user has access to a specific resource or is granted permission to perform a particular action.

Stated another way, authentication is knowing who an entity is, while authorization is knowing what a given entity can do.

Let me demonstrate this issue with an example:

Consider that your browser holds currently logged user information in an object similar to the following:

{    username:’elvis’,    role:’singer’,    token:’123456789′}

When doing a password change, your application makes the POST:

POST /changepassword/:username/:newpassword

In your /changepassword method, you verify that user is logged and token has not expired. Then you find the user profile based on the :username parameter, and you change your user’s password.

So, you validated that your user is properly logged-in, and then you executed his request thus changing his password. Process seems OK, right? Unfortunately, the answer is NO!

At this point it is important to verify that the user executing the action and the user whose password is changed are the same. Any information stored on the browser can be tampered with, and any advanced user could easily update username:’elvis’ to username:’Administrator’ without using anything else but built-in browser tools.

So in this case, we just took care of Authentication making sure that the user provided security credentials. We can even add validation that /changepassword method can only be executed by Authenticated users. However, this is still not enough to protect your users from malicious attempts.

You need to make sure that you verify actual requestor and content of request within your /changepassword method and implement proper Authorization of the request making sure that user can change only her data.

Authentication and Authorization are two sides of the same coin. Never treat them separately.

Common mistake #3: Not ready to scale

In today’s world of high speed development, startup accelerators, and instant global reach of great ideas, having your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) out in the market as soon as possible is a common goal for many companies.

However, this constant time pressure is causing even good web development teams to often overlook certain issues. Scaling is often one of those things teams take for granted. The MVP concept is great, but push it too far, and you’ll have serious problems. Unfortunately, selecting a scalable database and web server and separating all application layers on independent scalable servers is not enough. There are many details you need to think about if you wish to avoid rewriting significant parts of your application later – which becomes a major web development problem.

For example, say that you choose to store uploaded profile pictures of your users directly on a web server. This is a perfectly valid solution–files are quickly accessible to the application, file handling methods are available in every development platform, and you can even serve these images as static content, which means minimum load on your application.

But what happens when your application grows, and you need to use two or more web servers behind a load balancer? Even though you nicely scaled your database storage, session state servers, and web servers, your application scalability fails because of a simple thing like profile images. Thus, you need to implement some kind of file synchronization service (that will have a delay and will cause temporary 404 errors) or another workaround to assure that files are spread across your web servers.

What you needed to do to avoid the problem in the first place was just use shared file storage location, database, or any other remote storage solution. It would have probably cost few extra hours of work to have it all implemented, but it would have been worth the trouble.

Common mistake #4: Wrong or missing SEO

The root cause of incorrect or missing SEO best practices on web sites is misinformed “SEO specialists”. Many web developers believe that they know enough about SEO and that it is not especially complex, but that’s just not true. SEO mastery requires significant time spent researching best practices and the ever-changing rules about how Google, Bing, and Yahoo index the web. Unless you constantly experiment and have accurate tracking + analysis, you are not a SEO specialist, and you should not claim to be one.

Furthermore, SEO is too often postponed as some activity that is done at the end. This comes at a high price of web development issues. SEO is not just related to setting good content, tags, keywords, meta-data, image alt tags, site map, etc. It also includes eliminating duplicate content, having crawlable site architecture, efficient load times, intelligent back linking, etc.

Like with scalability, you should think about SEO from the moment you start building your web application, or you might find that completing your SEO implementation project means rewriting your whole system.

Common mistake #5: Time or processor consuming actions in request handlers

One of the best examples of this mistake is sending email based on a user action. Too often developers think that making a SMTP call and sending a message directly from user request handler is the solution.

Let’s say you created an online book store, and you expect to start with a few hundred orders daily. As part of your order intake process, you send confirmation emails each time a user posts an order. This will work without problem at first, but what happens when you scale your system, and you suddenly get thousands of requests sending confirmation emails? You either get SMTP connection timeouts, quota exceeded, or your application response time degrades significantly as it is now handling emails instead of users.

Any time or processor consuming action should be handled by an external process while you release your HTTP requests as soon as possible. In this case, you should have an external mailing service that is picking up orders and sending notifications.

Common mistake #6: Not optimizing bandwidth usage

Most development and testing takes place in a local network environment. So when you are downloading 5 background images each being 3MB or more, you might not identify an issue with 1Gbit connection speed in your development environment. But when your users start loading a 15MB home page over 3G connections on their smartphones, you should prepare yourself for a list of complaintsand problems.

Optimizing your bandwidth usage could give you a great performance boost, and to gain this boost you probably only need a couple of tricks. There are few things that many good web deveopers do by default, including:

  1. Minification of all JavaScript
  2. Minification of all CSS
  3. Server side HTTP compression
  4. Optimization of image size and resolution

Common mistake #7: Not developing for different screen sizes

Responsive design has been a big topic in the past few years. Expansion of smartphones with different screen resolutions has brought many new ways of accessing online content, which also comes with a host of web development issues. The number of website visits that come from smartphones and tablets grows every day, and this trend is accelerating.

In order to ensure seamless navigation and access to website content, you must enable users to access it from all types of devices.

There are numerous patterns and practices for building responsive web applications. Each development platform has its own tips and tricks, but there are some frameworks that are platform independent. The most popular is probably Twitter Bootstrap. It is an open-source and free HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework that has been adopted by every major development platform. Just adhere to Bootstrap patterns and practices when building your application, and you will get responsive web application with no trouble at all.

Common mistake #8: Cross browser incompatibility

The development process is, in most cases, under a heavy time pressure. Every application needs to be released as soon as possible and even good web developers are often focused on delivering functionality over design. Regardless of the fact that most developers have Chrome, Firefox, IE installed, they are using only one of these 90% of the time. It is common practice to use one browser during development and just as the application nears completion will you start testing it in other browsers. This is perfectly reasonable–assuming you have a lot of time to test and fix issues that show up at this stage.

However, there are some web development tips that can save you significant time when your application reaches the cross-browser testing phase:

  1. You don’t need to test in all browsers during development; it is time consuming and ineffective. However, that does not mean that you cannot switch browsers frequently. Use a different browser every couple of days, and you will at least recognize major problems early in development phase.
  2. Be careful of using statistics to justify not supporting a browser. There are many organizations that are slow in adopting new software or upgrading. Thousands of users working there might still need access to your application, and they cannot install the latest free browser due to internal security and business policies.
  3. Avoid browser specific code. In most cases there is an elegant solution that is cross-browser compatible.

Common mistake #9: Not planning for portability

Assumption is the mother of all problems! When it comes to portability, this saying is more true than ever. How many times have you seen issues in web development like hard coded file paths, database connection strings, or assumptions that a certain library will be available on the server? Assuming that the production environment will match your local development computer is simply wrong.

Ideal application setup should be maintenance-free:

  1. Make sure that your application can scale and run on a load-balanced multiple server environment.
  2. Allow simple and clear configuration–possibly in a single configuration file.
  3. Handle exceptions when web server configuration is not as expected.

Common mistake #10: RESTful anti patterns

RESTful API’s have taken their place in web development and are here to stay. Almost every web application has implemented some kind of REST services, whether for internal use or integrating with external system. But we still see broken RESTful patterns and services that do not adhere to expected practices.

Two of the most common mistakes made when writing a RESTful API are:

  1. Using wrong HTTP verbs. For example using GET for writing data. HTTP GET has been designed to be idempotent and safe, meaning that no matter how many times you call GET on the same resource, the response should always be the same and no change in application state should occur.
  2. Not sending correct HTTP status codes. The best example of this mistake is sending error messages with response code 200.

3.   HTTP 200 OK4.   {5.       message:’there was an error’6.   }

You should only send HTTP 200 OK when the request has not generated an error. In the case of an error, you should send 400, 401, 500 or any other status code that is appropriate for the error that has occurred.

A detailed overview of standard HTTP status codes can be found here.

Wrap up

Web development is an extremely broad term that can legitimately encompass development of a website, web service, or complex web application.

The main takeaway of this web development guide is the reminder that you should always be careful about authentication and authorization, plan for scalability, and never hastily assume anything – or be ready to deal with a long list of web development problems!

This article originally appeared on Toptal.

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7 Reasons Your Business Needs Its Own App

September 2nd, 2015 No comments

Peer pressure has nothing on smart phones.

Everybody — and we mean evvverybody — now possesses these handheld devices that do so much more than phone calls. Interestingly, to some phone owners, a voice-to-voice conversation may now be less appealing than texting, photos, streaming or other popular online activities.

This is also true in the business world – the norm is to have a smartphone, and if you don’t, you potentially could be judged negatively as someone who’s not entirely focused on success.

Since smart business people try to stay ahead of, or at least keep pace with, their competitors, modern executives shouldn’t just have smartphones, but companies should make sure their site looks and works well when viewed on a mobile device.

Their online presence can go beyond being mobile-friendly/responsive design. More companies are also developing their own apps as a good tool to reach customers. Here’s why creating your own app makes sense:

  1. Increased visibility. Not only will your business show up in standard searches, but will also appear in the libraries of the different app shops, provided your team creates versions for Android, iOS and Windows phones.
  2. No compatibility problems. Sites may look slightly different when visited on different browsers. But when someone orders an app, they can indicate what browser they want it to be seen on, so it will always look as it was intended and not have any plug-in problems.
  3. Ease of use. Apps can be very intuitive, offering an easy roadmap for learning the key points about a business, rather than poking around an extensive site to find the answers. Anthony Wing Kosner, a Forbes columnist, said as early as 2014 that apps offer information and also could lead to more sales.
  4. Better branding. “We have an app” sounds more progressive than “that might be on our site.” Kosner said apps seem to offer a perception of “digital engagement” and a place to find solutions, rather than simply providing product information like a site can offer. It can be an excellent draw to text your customers about – “Have you checked out our cool app? Get it here” with an easy link.
  5. An app ties in well to other products. An app can be a hub to all of your online activity. Users can send emails to people at your company, visit and post to your company’s social media channels.
  6. Increased engagement. An app can offer a good overview to a company, and can be even more of an asset for someone who is already familiar with a company’s products, services, philosophy and style. They’ll know right where to go when it’s time to make a purchase or take action.
  7. Better indexing. In February 2015, Google modified its parameters for indexing to give higher search prominence for mobile-friendly sites – and for apps. This means that your app can show up sooner in a search for your product, making you, and your potential customers, quite happy.

Once your business has an app, it can potentially open doors for other ways to market to your mobile-based customers.

About The Author
Sophorn Chhay
Sophorn is an Inbound Marketer specializing in attracting targeted visitors and generated sales qualified leads. Engage your subscribers with SMS marketing tools, then track your results. Trumpia is offering a free Mobile Marketing Success Kit so don’t forget to grab your free copy.

One Last Blue Ocean in Content Marketing: SEO for Industrial Companies

May 5th, 2015 No comments

Sure, SEO is old hat (and it’s all very white-hat now) and digital marketing these days is focused on mobile adaptation, social media and maybe even the impending Internet of things.* But there are some of us who still love creating informative content that challenges our creativity and imagination I still point out to people, once in a long time, that I once wrote a page about tweezers (just checked that page to see if it’s still alive. It is… sort of.)  It’s still possible to write web content with substance that goes beyond 140 characters and how many likes you get on your latest status update or how many Pins you can get. You can do that if you are an expert in your area, and Google will love you. And you can do that if you are willing to write about things that no one else is willing to write about, writing straight-talking web content with substance and value, in a big money business sphere. That sphere is industry.

Remember those days when no-one else was doing SEO?

Ah, the days when hardly anyone else was doing SEO.

Industrial products are as boring and dull as it comes. Not many budding writers dream of writing about lathes… or collets…  or tool presetters. No one wants to write about crossover tool boxes or total stations. What even are these things? Well, for one thing, they’re just a few of thousands upon thousands of industrial tools, parts, and equipment that people are looking for online and that –often – have very large profit margins.  For the record, a tool presetter is important in the tool and die industry and can fetch anywhere from $3K to $4500 depending on the specifications. A collet is a holding device for a lathes, and costs in the range of $25 but these regularly break down and need to be stocked.  Total stations are construction and grading lasers that reduce workload of a regular construction laser and also cost in the range of several thousand dollars. These are just a few of the big ticket items that are bought and sold online. And very few of these products is well-competed for in terms of SEO and digital marketing, as opposed to, say, phones or other tech gear or <insert your red ocean product>.**

This is still some pretty low hanging fruit that doesn’t require a big team of link builders, exceptional creativity or guerilla tactics. For those in the SEO content marketing industry, the creative block you have to overcome is actually creating a page full of content.

Leaders like Neil Patel and Moz on SEO for industrial companies and such

Some great articles closely related to this idea have been written lately; these are worth revisiting.

Neil Patel wrote some ideas about this in 2013 in a post called “How to Use Content Marketing For a ‘Boring’ Industry.” His first point, like mine, is that “you don’t see too many people in those [boring] spaces using content marketing.” Some of his advice includes fairly standard stuff, such as guest blogging, infographics and the importance of relevance over volume in links, but he makes one really great point worth repeating: solve your customers’ problems. In any industry, your customers have a bevy of day-to-day problems and they ought to always be willing to listen to advice. Know what they are and tell them some solutions. At the very least you will establish fellow-feeling and understanding of your clients and they will remember it: solve the problems of the actual purchaser.

A second excellent post comes from the geniuses over at moz.com. Ronell Smith does a superb job throughout this article (and in the comment replies) of dealing with the issues. Again, a subtext of the article and comments is that there are very few examples of boring-industry content done really well. It’s a challenge few people rise to. His argument is summarised as saying: set goals, be clear and work on amplification.

This last point means getting people to market for you: reimagine who you are writing for. It’s the title of the post: create content that important influencers will share. It’s important to think of a variety of important influencers, including everything from influential experts in the industry to newspapers and magazines looking for a soundbite or filler.

And another obstacle you might face is apathy from people who (really!) still think that the web is “not really the way we work” or something like that.

So what? Anticipate that and other objections, as follows when approaching clients.

Get to Know Your Industry… and Know Industry

Go to trade shows and pass out your card. Introduce yourself as an expert in your industry just as they are experts in their industry.

Contact the sites directly. Let them know that there is still time for them to get ahead of their competition.

Finally, a word of advice: If you get clients, be aware that people in industries like construction and industry and trades live in world where results are seen. These are people who want to see progress. When a building is going up you can see it progressing from the foundation upward, even if it’s behind schedule. You can’t always see immediate results in website development or online marketing. It’s a different world from the one they are working in.

You can rephrase this argument yourself when you deal with clients but you need to be aware of this and you need to know how to deal with people in industry. You also need to remember that they are often used to pushing things aggressively and live in a world where aggression and foul language are part and parcel of how to get things done and even how to conduct business. I’ve heard an electrician client openly threat his current developer. That’s a little extreme, of course, but just be aware that you may have to thicken your skin.

*Apparently KW is set to dominate the IoT.

**For the uninitiated, Blue Ocean Strategy was a best seller a few years ago that explained blue oceans as “competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate,” as red oceans, competition-saturated markets where the water is red with the blood of those who could not compete.

5 Reasons Why You Should Use Videos for Marketing

January 27th, 2014 1 comment

vid

The following is by Ness Garcia. I don’t have a lot of time to blog myself so I fill in the blanks with guest posts like this one. It keeps  things moving forward. – Jim

Why You Should Use Videos for Marketing

Video marketing has become extremely popular over the last few years. If you are considering  using videos in your marketing campaign, then you may want to understand some of the benefits that come with using them.

Here are 5 important reasons why you should start using videos.

Higher Conversion Rates

Since people would rather watch a video than read a blog post, you can easily appeal to them and convince them to buy your products or sign up with your website. Whatever your goal is, it can be easily met by using videos to convert your visitors. You just need to do some planning on what strategies would be the most effective on your target demographic. Once you have posted a few videos and see their reactions, you will get a better feel for what they are into and what they are not.

Keep People’s attention

If you have your own site, you probably know how hard it is to have people pay attention to the content we post on it. So it’s important to do everything possible to get them to pay as much attention as possible. Videos have been proven to work and will continue to be one of the best ways to appeal to your visitors and have them digest the information.

Delivering Information Much Faster

A video is able to provide much more information than a regular text post would and your audience would actually be listening to what your video is saying. Most of the time if you post something, people will just skim through it and not really try and fully comprehend your message. You won’t need to worry about that happening with videos because they are much easier to listen to and people will actually want to watch. A 2 minute video could go over all of the information a 800 word post would, but the 800 word post would take much longer to get through.

Get Your Viewers Emotional

With videos, you can get more personal with your audience, allowing you to use their emotions to help convert them. The more personally connected they feel to your videos, the more effective the videos are. You can check out plenty of examples of how other companies and people use personal stories, sad images, or comedy sketches to attract viewers and convert them.

Looks More Professional

Having videos will make your marketing efforts look much more legitimate and will be able to show your audience what you can do. Anyone can just write blog posts or make a podcast, but creating a video takes some talent. You don’t need to hire a bunch of people to act, shoot, and edit the videos, but you should try and make it as best as you can. There are also services that are available to help with marketing videos and can provide you with some basic videos that let you customize them so that you are able to send your message to the audience.

Overall, there are so many different reasons why you should start using videos to market, but these 5 should give you an idea.

About the author

Over the last 5 years, Ness has been hired by many different clients to write about subjects of all types. She previously majored in English and during her time in school, she decided to start writing about useful information for a living. She is currently a top writer for Problogger.net and has had much success with her audiences. Keeping her audiences engaged and happy is her main goal, while at the same time maintaining her credibility by always providing facts that are true. She is very experienced and fulfilled by her writing career.

Ultimate Guide to Website Migration – Tips for SEOs

September 23rd, 2013 No comments

This is a guest post by  Jo Guzman of make-a-web-site.com

seo

Migrating a website, for whatever reason, can really hurt the overall SEO efforts of your previous site. There are plenty of different ways to minimize the damage and optimize your new website for better SEO; there are just a few things to understand first. Here, we will cover the main aspects of a website migration and how to minimize the damage to your current traffic.

Plan the Migration

First and foremost, you should understand that there are many different migration reasons and techniques. For example, you might only be changing your hosting company but keeping the same domain, structure, and URLS…  or you might be changing everything. The more changes that are done, the more risk you have at losing more traffic. The important part of the migration is to understand why it is necessary and what your objectives are.

Most of the time, your SEO goals when doing a migration is to minimize traffic loss and ranking drops. No matter what, be prepared to see some stats drop right away, even though they might not be forever. Almost all migrations see drops in traffic and rankings for at least a little amount of time.

Once you understand exactly what type of migration you are doing, it is time to plan the date and time. You should try and complete the migration when there is as little traffic as possible. Usually the middle of the night is the best time, but if you are an international business, that might not be the case. In any case, the less people interacting with your site during the migration, the better.

Redirecting

If you decided to change the domain name and URLs, you are going to have to redirect all of your old pages to the new ones. This is recommended to be done manually to ensure that no errors are made, but you can also use an automated service if you have an extremely large website.

There are 2 main types of redirects: 301 and 302. 301 redirects are permanent and usually pass on a lot of the link juice from the old page. 302 redirects are just considered temporary and are not recommended due to search engines treating them inconsistently; 302’s pass nothing beneficial to the new page. Since this is a permanent migration, 301 should be your choice. It is important to remember to redirect every single page that you have from your old site to the new one because leaving any out might lower your new site’s authority.

Optimizing the New Site

If your migration includes a redesigned site or anything that could have changed its optimization, it is important to re-optimize it and then test the new site. Errors happen all of the time, so testing out the new site should be done right away. Check the spider’s crawl access, the sitemap URLs, fix broken links, check all of the redirects, and resolve any type of duplicate content problems. This should all be done prior to the website going live.

Once the site does go live, you should notify Google through Webmaster Tools. This will help them keep informed of exactly what’s going on, to help your SEO efforts take effect as soon as possible. Once it is live you will most likely find more errors so it is important to monitor the site for an extended amount of time and fix anything as soon as possible.

Measure Performances

As an SEO specialist, you should understand the importance of recording and reviewing statistics. At this point you will want to keep an eye on all SEO aspects and see how much traffic is coming in as well as where it is coming from. Unfortunately, you will probably not be too happy with the migration at first due to the ranking drops, but over time they should get better. By optimizing the site and keeping Google informed, your site shouldn’t take long to regain the authority again.

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Google’s EMD Update – What It Means & How To Adjust Your Strategy

November 23rd, 2012 No comments

Guest post by Nathalie Sanderson

For the past decade, SEOs and marketers have been using exact match domains (EMDs) to boost search engine rankings for specific keywords. Anyone who was fortunate enough to snag the domain name with the exact keywords they wanted to rank for enjoyed a significant advantage over other websites for that particular keyword.

From the point of view of Google’s algorithm, it’s obvious why this “EMD boost” initially made sense. If your website is TravelToTimbuktu.com, it made sense that your website would be relevant if someone searched for “Travel to Timbuktu”. However, this phenomenon was quickly used by SEOs, web developers, and marketers to gain unnatural advantages in the search engine rankings. Webmasters and marketers would use the EMD boost in order to quickly rank small, low quality spam sites above more high quality, relevant content.

The EMD Update – Sept 28, 2012

On Sept 28, 2012, Google launched an algorithm change – known as the EMD update – which virtually eliminated any rankings boost enjoyed by exact match domains. According to data released by Matt Cutts – the head of Google’s webspam team – the EMD update affected up to 0.6% of English U.S. searches.

While this may not seem like much on a grand scale, 0.6% on a scale of hundreds of millions is significant – especially in the SEO community, where the impact was profound. Sites that had been ranking at the top of the SERPS (search engine result pages) for years dropped off the map. To add to the confusion amongst those trying to decipher the EMD update, Google also launched a significant Panda update – its algorithm filter designed to filter out spam – around the same time as the EMD update. This update affected 2.6% of all English U.S. search queries.

The combination of the EMD update and Panda update caused much confusion, leading many webmasters and SEOs to conflate the EMD update – designed to reduce the SEO benefits of exact match domains – with the new Panda release – designed to filter out low quality content.

What Does The EMD Update Mean To Your Business?

As with everything related to Google’s algorithm, the best we can do is informed speculation; the “black box” nature of Google’s search ranking methods makes it impossible to draw any conclusions with 100% certainty.

What we do know however, is that the EMD update doesn’t appear to penalize EMDs, but rather it appears to devalue them. Certainly, it wouldn’t make sense for Google to penalize anyone using an Exact match domain, as that would penalize millions of perfectly legitimate websites. Looking at the numerous “White-hat” EMDs that dropped slightly in the rankings, it’s clear that they didn’t suffer anything comparable to a penalty.

On the other hand, many lower quality EMDs suffered drastic rankings dropped consistent with a penalty. Many speculated that the EMD update may have included a filter that penalizes over-optimized EMDs, meaning that any exact match domain that also has the search phrase in the title, H1, H2, H3 tags, bolded, in image ALT tags etc., when combined with low trust and authority, likely triggers a penalty. For most webmasters, this isn’t anything to worry about. However, for those who built low quality EMD websites for the sole purpose of collecting Adsense or Affiliate revenue, this aspect of the update would have significantly affected their sites.

While many search engine experts agree that there is likely an over-optimization component in the EMD update, the other possibility is that some of the EMDs that suffered penalties around Sep 28, 2012 were not penalized by the EMD update at all, but rather were affected by the major Panda update that occurred around the same time. It’s certainly possible that the Panda filter was tweaked to further crack down on over-optimized sites. This theory makes sense, since many of the EMDs that suffered penalties were also sites with low quality, spammy content. At the end of the day, with 2 major updates released at the same time, it may be awhile longer before we can accurately sort out the true ramifications of the EMD update.

How To Adjust Your SEO Strategy Going Forward

Although the waters are always a bit murky when it comes to SEO, there are a few lessons we can take going forward. The primary lesson is that having a search phrase in your domain no longer seems to offer a significant rankings boost. That certainly doesn’t mean that EMDs are useless – they still carry significant branding power. After all, if your site is an e-commerce store named bluewidgets.com, anyone searching for blue widgets will be able to easily return to your store.

The second key takeway is that – with all the heavily keyword optimized sites that were penalized (whether by the EMD update or Panda), it seems clear that Google is doing everything in their power to reward sites that gather natural links and authority over those whose rankings are engineered by SEOs. Between Panda, Penguin, and now the EMD update, Google is slowly taking away the SEO techniques that have worked for years. While search engine optimization will continue to exist as long as search engines are still around, any efforts to boost the ranking of your site going forward needs to focus on looking as natural as possible.

What does this mean? This means that whenever you make an effort to optimize your site for the search engines, ask yourself if a site would naturally look this way. Would a site naturally have a targeted search term in its title, url, header tags, image alt tags, in bold font, and appearing frequently in the text? Would a site have 100 different links with a targeted search phrase as the anchor text? If the answer is no, then reconsider what you’re doing.

While you should avoid the more “artificial” SEO techniques, continue to put out quality content with the reader in mind. If you build links, search for links from quality sources that are selective in their linking, and opt for natural looking anchor text. Avoid links from poor quality sources that could get you flagged by Penguin – this means spam links, as well as links from sites that tend to link out to other low quality sites. As long as your link profile and on-site SEO look natural, Google will continue to reward your site.

Nathalie Sanderson is an SEO and blogger. Nat is passionate about search engine marketing and entrepreneurship.

Kitchener-Waterloo and Digital Marketing

November 2nd, 2012 1 comment

Digital marketing by Kitchener-Waterloo Companies is as, um… lacking as it is anywhere. While it’s true that an experienced digital marketer looking at any website or company can see areas where there is room for improvement, I’m a bit surprised that many websites in KW don’t have some essential aspects of SEO. KW is supposedly a technology mecca; we’re supposed to be way ahead of the game. It’s a fact, though, that most companies in the Waterloo Region are software-oriented and online marketing is all about creating meaningful content on your website and establishing worthwhile relationships with customers and potential customers, no matter if you are in B2B or B2C.

There are many examples of what I’m talking about. Some may have a reason to feel exempt, notably the most notable company in this region, Research in Motion. A company as big as RIM does not really need to worry about SEO such as being found for keywords like “smartphone” and they can easily create a vast social network through their customers. However, even Blackberry has missed opportunities such as the way a site like BBGeeks.com (run by some people I know well) filled in as a Blackberry applications support site. RIM may not have cared at one time – but at this point, it looks like they should have. By showing all along that they care about every aspect of the Blackberry world, they could have leveraged this good faith when things went sideways. They missed an opportunity and now, things like that look like complacency. And you cannot be complacent in marketing of any kind.

Digital marketing basics missed by many companies in KW

Other companies that I have looked at in this region don’t even seem to know what a title tag is for. This is the essence of marketing and branding online and you need to know what to tell people about your site though your titles. Most companies (not just in Kitchener-Waterloo… okay) are still telling people that their site is about themselves. To put it in marketing language they tell people what’s in it for me instead of telling potential customers what’s in it for them. This is classic poor marketing, whether we are talking about online presence or not.

I’m currently looking at recruitment sites in this area (consulting as I do was always only a temporary idea). Some local recruitment sites are savvy but many still miss opportunities. At least one website looks like it has not been updated in ten years or so. Kitchener-Waterloo SEO is still a very lacking thing, after all these years, for everything from FOB startups to retirement homes in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Out of the box SEO is never true SEO

Many local design companies claim to offer some SEO services.  There is a significant difference between search engine friendly website development and true digital marketing (or inbound marketing or internet marketing, whatever you call it where you are). Digital marketing, which ought to be a solid mix of search engine optimization, paid advertising and social media marketing goes well beyond an SEO design. I’ve spoken to many design companies in Kitchener-Waterloo lately and they do not do SEO. Companies in KW can see the results for themselves, though, when they launch a new site (that they probably paid thousands of dollars for) and they only get nominal search traffic.

What do you have to do to reach a broad online market? You have to have content: content provided by people who are aware of the market, aware of the latest changes at Google and aware of the best strategy that will last into the future. Content has to include heavy written content as well as graphics, video and more. You have to engage people with social media, listen to questions they have and answer them. You have to create your own online community. It’s expensive, it’s difficult to keep up, but you have to do it in today’s world. Everything is online and online is everything.

There are other things wrong here in Kitchener-Waterloo that I haven’t even touched on. A short list includes: startup companies that feel they do not need marketing (“We’ll just go viral!” Do people still say that?); sites that raise security issues due to their being client-focused (and thus marketing-deprived); small businesses that are satisified with their word of mouth business and are always in danger of suffering for their own complacency (maybe they’ve been burned by online marketing in the past. Tough, the world is still changing).

So here’s the pitch. Check out my long history of helping people succeed online.

 

Two Reasons Business Can’t Neglect SMS Marketing

October 30th, 2012 No comments

NOTE: This is a guest post, a first for this blog.  SMS Marketing is an interesting little corner of the world of inbound marketing.

By Jawad Khan

SMS (Short Messaging Service) has proven to be one of the most widely used communication and marketing media for top brands to promote new products or keep in touch with customers. You can even see SMS marketing being used by politicians to mass communicate with voters during elections. Obama used SMS Marketing for the first time in the 2008 election and this trend has gained huge popularity in 2012. Other big events also use SMS coverage, including the Olympics and American Idol. Top banks and B2B companies are using SMS Marketing for communication with customers.

SMS Marketing reaches entirely new prospects and customers with great ease. However, this does not mean that SMS Marketing is an ideal method for every campaign with any demographic in any niche. Before sending bulk SMS messages you need to analyze whether your potential customers really want to receive your message or not, and whether your message is accurate and informative or not.

Two big reasons you can’t neglect SMS Marketing:

 

1. Personal Connection with Receiver:
If you ask a group of people whether they would like to give their mobile number to some marketer most of them would ask why that message cannot be delivered using email. But ask them if they would like to receive messages about their favorite sports news and you will see a significant increase in interest.

SMS Marketing works well when you tell people beforehand that you are going to send messages on a specific topic and then keep your promise. Avoid sending them blatant advertisements. If the user knows that you are going to send marketing messages on a specified topic, and he/she agrees to give you his/her mobile number, he/she will become a loyal customer. You will see a great response rate by having a database of such loyal customers.

2. Quick Movers Advantage:
Experts stated that Obama’s text message campaign in 2008 was the most successful mobile campaign to date, a benchmark for marketers around the globe. If email had been used instead of SMS, there would be much less response. Obama’s VP Pick campaign not only grabbed the attention of the receivers but also created a buzz amongst marketers and media professionals.

Top marketers understand and appreciate the fact that only those SMS messages work that are sent on an urgent basis and require quick response from the subscribers. Campaigns with no urgency receive a mediocre response rate but those that are time sensitive and urgent in nature get a much better and quicker response.

It is correct that not all business requires SMS Marketing to promote their product or services, but all businesses should at least use SMS Marketing to increase engagement with existing customers, to increase customer loyalty and ultimately increase returning sales for your business.

Guest Author:
Jawad Khan is a Marketing Manager for multinational IT Company in Dubai, UAE. He loves to write about SMS Marketing, Web Design, SEO, SEM, Online Business, and Affiliate Marketing.

Using rel= author for Google

October 3rd, 2012 No comments

Google is pushing a bunch of things this year. (Hold the nasty comments, people.) Two of those things come into play when we talk about the rel=author tag: authority and Google Plus.

Google wants people to send notice of their authority when writing and publishing. It seems like the days of the anonymous ‘web content provider’ may indeed be numbered.

rel=authorPages with authorship noted should be seen as more “authoritative,” of course. If you have a job as a content provider it is in your own best interest to link your writing to a personal Google Plus profile. Hypothetically that profile can be created specifically for your job but if you leave that job in the future, the authorship of web pages stays with your name. And that’s only fair.

More on that later, but let’s look at how to implement this. It’s not hard at all.

Implementing rel=author for Google and GooglePlus

  1. For every web page you create you can add a rel=author tag. The tag is simple. It goes inside the head of your document and it looks like this:<link rel=”author” href=”Google_plus_profile”>

    In the href for Google_plus_profile, link your own. Mine is https://plus.google.com/u/0/115674143020053957814/posts.

  2. Next, you need to go to your Google Plus profile, edit Profile and under Contributor to, add a custom link with the name for the site and the site url.
  3. Test it using Google Webmaster Tool’s rich snippets testing tool:  http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

Why authorship?
I like this idea. I’ve written thousands of uncredited pages for the web. Now, honestly, many of these I’m happy to not take credit for. (Example? I once wrote a page on tweezers for a site called firstaid101.com.) But really, if you’ve written a page that is worth posting to the web, you should take credit for it.

Google’s authorship tag is a great way for everyone to recognize the importance of legitimately good writers working on the web. And it means increased accountability in posting pages and, in the long run, a reduction of drivelous spam.

Google is also pushing Google Plus in this, making it just a little bit more necessary to use your Google Plus account, even if they are no longer pushing it in search results.