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CATEGORY: Content Strategy

9 Pro Tips of a Professional Blogger – Court Tuttle

How to Start a BlogAt the time of this writing, blogging has grown in popularity among individuals and businesses. People use it as a form of self-expression or personal promotion. Businesses use it to become thought leaders and convert visitors into customers. “Blog” seems to be the catchphrase of the decade. People use them to talk about their dogs, their employment problems and their back pain. A seemingly endless parade of information on any topic you can dream of is constantly spouted onto the web through blogs. Thinking of starting a blog yourself? Maybe you have one and it sucks. Whatever the case may be, you’re in for a treat. Recently, I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Court Tuttle, a professional blogger and founder of the Court has been heavily involved in the world of blogging, Internet marketing and SEO for several years, and he has built some extremely profitable websites. He was kind enough to take the time to share his expertise on effective ways to compose and use blog posts. Court also has a very comprehensive starting a blog guide if you are looking for an in-depth walk-through of how to set up a blog.

Q: I read about people interested in starting a blog for a variety of reasons. What is the best strategy to learn what you should be writing about?

A: That’s a great question. I actually use more than one method to figure out what to write about.

1. Keyword Searches in Google: I want to write about topics that people are already searching Google for. By using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, I can gauge potential interest before I write a post.
2. Questions in Forums: Almost every niche has forums where people talk about the same subjects that people blog about. I like to go to those forums to look at the questions people are asking. If I can answer them, I do so via my blog. Not only does it give me great ideas for posts, it can also give me traffic from the forum.
3. Testing and Experimentation: My best blog posts come from personal experimentation. Once you get to know a topic really well, you will start to notice things that might be useful, that aren’t talked about yet. It takes a while to get a feel for this in each industry, so this method requires patience. Bide your time and use the other two methods until you start to identify these opportunities.

Q: Should a blog post always contain citations to outside sources?

A: No, I actually don’t think that they should. In fact, some of my most effective posts haven’t cited outside sources. Let’s do an example to illustrate:
Let’s say you decide to write a post about ‘Losing 10 Pounds By Eating Only Vegetables.’ The absolute best thing to do would be to eat only vegetables until you’ve lost 10 pounds. That way, you can report on what happened, exactly as it happened. You can tell people that you felt horrible (or great), you can tell them how long it took and what the side effects for you were, etc.

In this example, I don’t really think there would really be anyone to cite, unless you could find a study that evaluated this exact thing. I think that the post would still be very effective without citing an outside source because of the originality and experimentation.

*Side Note: Court touches on something very important here, which is primary research. It is typically far more powerful to go out and discover something for yourself based on your own experiences or testing than to write about a subject standing on the shoulders of others.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that people who fail at blogging do so because they either have no plan (most people), have a bad plan, or don’t follow through on a good plan.Q: Should I be using my blog posts to target more keywords? If so, how many words should I target in each post?

A: I don’t think that every post should necessarily target keywords, but some of your posts definitely should. When I do a keyword-targeted post, it focuses on one primary keyword. But I also like to be aware of closely related keywords so that I can try to get them into the post, if it’s natural to do so.

Q: One of the best parts about blogging is generating a conversation among a community of people. What are the most effective ways to go about engaging people with my blog post?

A: There are a lot of ways to engage people. The most effective way that I’ve seen is through controversy. Since controversy doesn’t fit well with my personality, I choose to engage people through original instruction. I cut my own path and tell people about it. Some of the things I try work and others don’t. I think that people appreciate that I’m willing to do the experimentation so that they don’t have to.

Q: How long should my post be?

A: To be 100% honest, I believe that this is a question that you shouldn’t even ask yourself. I’ve seen effective posts that are 100 words and I’ve seen other effective posts that are massive. Right now I’m working on a post that should end up having over 5,000 words plus four hours of video. For it to be the best post out there on that subject, I think that’s what it’s going to take.

Should every post be like that one? Definitely not! I do other posts that are just audio interviews with a really short write up.

I think that your focus should be 100% on making each post as good as you possibly can. Length isn’t always a factor in that.

Q: How do I make my post interesting?

A: I think that my posts are interesting because they are useful. I like to give people takeaways – things that they can implement right after they read the post. If I gave people things that didn’t work, my posts wouldn’t be that interesting. So, I give people ideas that work.

To be the most effective, you kind of have to stop seeing yourself as a blogger that ‘writes’. You instead need to see yourself as a leader that tests, studies and reveals.

An Infographic by Court Tuttle

Click on the infographic to see a larger version at


Q: It seems like even though I read my posts a few times, I still manage to miss basic grammatical and/or spelling errors, is there a foolproof method for making sure this doesn’t happen?

A: I do my editing separately from my writing, with a nice period of time in between these tasks. Most of the time, I edit posts at least a day after I write them. When I come back to the post, I have my editor hat on — I’m super critical of my writing. I’ve never been able to get the same results if I edit right after I write. At that point, I’m too familiar with what I wrote and it makes sense in my mind even if it wouldn’t make sense to others.

If that doesn’t do the trick for you, you need to find a friend who can edit for you. I traded editing with a friend when I wrote my last book. She edited mine and I later edited hers.

Q: What is the best way to structure a post? For example, should I have headers over my paragraphs? Bullets? Numbered lists where relevant? Images? Videos?

A: Headings are REALLY important. I won’t even read a blog post that doesn’t have headings and when I get to a new blog post, I scan the headings before I decide to read it.

Images are really effective at pulling people in. And they make a huge difference in the amount of sharing you’re able to get. You won’t get a lot of action on Facebook or Pinterest if you don’t have at least one image that can be used to share your post.

I use bullets and numbered lists in most of my posts.

Q: Is getting information and/or input from outside authority sources a good idea?

A: Yes – it’s a great idea but I would recommend taking it farther than that. Instead of just gathering available information, go directly to the source – the person responsible for the information. By interviewing that person, you will have a much more valuable piece of content. Most people are really lazy in this regard. They want to create a blog post in a half hour so they just look up what’s available in Google, link to some stuff, and post their post. It’s hard to get traction that way because you end up being the same as everyone else.
If you could get in touch with an authority and interview them, then you could really have something. In the least, you’ll have something original and the authority might tell his followers about the interview.


If you were a little lost on how to write a blog post or what to do with it, you now have some great answers from someone who has made a living doing it. If I’ve learned anything in my short time with web marketing, it is that writing good content is hard. It isn’t always clear what your target audience will find valuable. The most important thing you can do is find a topic that you are passionate about, and do your best to provide content that is helpful to your audience.

10 Books That Will Make You a Better Content Marketer

Do a basic search for books about content marketing, and you will find dozens upon dozens of titles on the topic. It’s hard to find a bad title in this genre, and there are several books that can help, regardless of where you fall on the Internet marketing spectrum.

Content Rich

This title is excellent for those starting out in the Internet marketing game, or for small business owners wanting to go it alone. It gives a pretty comprehensive overview of copywriting and how it relates to search engine optimization. A helpful feature of the book is the presence of case studies, which are sprinkled throughout its pages. These case studies give writers a clear picture on how search and content marketing can convert to sales in their everyday business.

Who is this book good for? Students of Internet marketing and/or small business owners with a strong interest in learning the basics of content marketing and SEO. This title would not be ideal for experienced content marketers or those already heavily immersed in SEO.

World Wide Rave

This book offers a unique view (and name) for the viral phenomenon that happens to online content when it strikes a chord with users. It focuses on creating content that is sharable and ideas on how to get it to spread organically over the Internet using one’s own network. Even if you have already been able to do this consistently, you may still find the ideas in the book to be useful. Readers get step-by-step instructions on how to create content that is highly sharable. One notable element is a discussion of triggers, or the things that make people want to share content online.

Who is the book good for? Those interested in learning more about creating viral content. The book is ok for intermediate marketers or for those not experienced with sharing organic content as a means of generating exposure.

Content Strategy at Work

This book is one of my personal favorites because it speaks to a strategy that all businesses should adopt in part or as a whole if they are interested in marketing online. One of the reasons the Internet has become so popular is because of easy access to free information in abundance. “Content Strategy at Work” taps into this idea, and it goes much further. It hammers home the idea that companies, individuals and anyone putting any kind of content online is really a publisher and, as such, needs to do it well in order to succeed. The book goes in depth into the many facets of content curation, management, aggregation and marketing.

Who is this book for? Writers and those already well-versed in the Internet marketing and/or SEO fields.

Managing Content Marketing

The title says it all. This book gives readers practical advice on organizing and managing a content marketing program, whether it’s in a large corporation or a small business. It offers advice on identifying internal clients and contributors who may be able to help the effort. The text also posits tough questions about outlining budgets, deliverables, players, challenges and goals for content marketing, in general. Essentially, the book helps professionals further hone their skills and place content-marketing activities into a framework that can be followed like a process.

Who is this book for? Experienced Internet and content marketers who are looking to organize their activities and become more effective at what they do.

Content Marketing for Dummies

Yes, they write all sorts of books for dummies. Why should content marketing be any different? If you have ever read a book for “Dummies,” you know that the series breaks subjects down into easy-to-understand sections combined with casual and practical language. This title doesn’t get too deep into the organization dynamics of a content marketing strategy or complex concepts about how consumers read content online, but it does take a common sense, no-nonsense approach to explaining the basics. It covers popular channels for content marketing as well as tools that can help people succeed with content initiatives.

Who is this book for? Those who are starting out in online or content marketing that want to know all the basics before going any further.

Content is Currency

If you are looking for a comprehensive and modern take on SEO and content marketing, this book has it. It covers things like keyword research, developing content for people and for search, page ranking factors, lead generation using content and how to develop a sound content marketing strategy. Social media and press release distribution are also topics of interest in the book. There is even a whole chapter devoted to developing content for social media networks and how to optimize these types of accounts.

The Pomodoro Technique

This isn’t directly a content marketing book, but I feel it highlights a lot of concepts that people need to be successful at it. If you are hiring someone else to do your writing for you, this title probably won’t be of much use. If you are doing it all yourself, time management can often be an issue. It’s very easy to get distracted or allow mental habits to keep you from generating good content. “The Pomodoro Technique” offers strategies on time management for writers.

Who is this book for? Anyone who wants help with time management, but especially those producing content on a daily basis.


This book is another one that gives a good overall view on web and content marketing. The theme, however, goes a little further into questioning all the old tactics used when testing a conversion funnel and how simple tweaks or tricks may not be enough to boost conversions. The title proposes a host of new solutions and ways of thinking about selling online and how content can help websites everywhere get more sales without deception or trickery.

Who is this book for? Experienced web marketers who are looking for a fresh perspective.

Conversion Optimization

I know — this book has little to do with actual content marketing, but it does have a lot to do with selling online. Ultimately, the goal of any business that operates online is to sell more products and/or services to customers. “Conversion Optimization” gives detailed information on how to persuade visitors to make buying decisions. It also gives marketers ideas on the poor design choices that cause visitors to leave a website. The author highlights the difficulties of selling online and how to increase conversions through a variety of different techniques.

Who is this book for? Intermediate web marketers or, perhaps, beginners with a lot of passion.

Get Content. Get Customers

The proliferation of the Internet has caused the buying habits of consumers to change radically. Now people go online to look for authoritative information on the products or services they are looking for. The authors of “Get Content. Get Customers” highlight this phenomenon and provide numerous case studies from large organizations on how content marketing has helped shape their success in selling online. The unique part about this title is that the authors offer ways to combine old and new methods of marketing to make a large impact on overall marketing initiatives.

Who is this book for? Experienced Internet marketers looking for a fresh perspective.


Sometimes getting a fresh perspective from an authority in the field can help enhance your content marketing efforts. Even books that may not speak directly to your everyday tasks can help you become a better marketer, overall. Are there any books that have made an impact in your professional life that aren’t listed here? Would you recommend them to others?

11 Smart Strategies for Email Marketing

We’ve mentioned before in previous posts that despite its age in terms of the Internet, email is still one of the most widely used forms of online communication. Email marketing also remains an effective means of putting your message out to prospects. It’s also really easy to do it wrong, so check out these tips for developing a solid email marketing strategy.

Email List Building

Crafting an email marketing campaign is very time-consuming, and you don’t want that time wasted on people who don’t care about your message, or who didn’t even want to receive it in the first place. Does anyone like email solicitations? Most of the time, no. You can, however, ensure that those receiving emails from you or your company are at peace with the fact that they are receiving correspondence from you. When you collect emails to build a list, do it in an honest way. No matter how you go about collecting information, make sure people know that they could potentially receive other unrelated emails from you in the future. There is nothing more aggravating than receiving an email from a company, knowing that they acquired your address an unethical manner. It won’t matter how well-constructed the message is if someone doesn’t want it in the first place.

Email Tracking Systems

Most online and offline marketing tasks are iterative by nature. You build, implement, analyze and tweak until you get a satisfactory result. The bonus with online marketing is that metrics are much more measurable. If you are going it alone without third party email software, make sure you use tracking software to measure your effectiveness. Google Analytics is a great alternative. You can use the URL builder to place custom URLs into your messages and see which recipients clicked on a link in your email. If you have a specific landing page, you can create goals in analytics to measure how many people clicked through to your page and did what you wanted them to do. Even if you don’t have access to sophisticated tracking, make sure you have at least something in place to measure your activities.

Email Scheduling

Email marketing isn’t a one-shot deal. To be successful at selling things through email, you have to keep tapping your contact list over a long period of time. There are a few keys to making this work, one of which is consistency. You should study your target market and decide on a time that is most effective to send email messages. Then, create an editorial calendar of when you will send your messages over the next month, the next couple of months or even throughout the year. It’s best to have your messages constructed beforehand. At the very least, you should construct the themes of each message. Scrambling at the last minute to get things out the door is stressful, and it creates a greater chance for error.

Create a Compelling Subject Line

Assuming your message makes it past the mine field of spam filters and the barbed-wire fence of a prospect’s personal account filters, you only have so many characters to entice them to open your message. This is the subject line of your email, and a few factors affect its success.

  • Length:  Obviously, this needs to be short; however, there is debate as to how short it should be. It has long been thought that a subject line of 50 characters or less (about five words) is optimal. Other studies have shown that shorter subject lines have higher open rates, but longer ones (70 to 100 characters) have better conversion rates. So what do you do? Continue to keep your subject short, and if the text you want to use in the subject is essential for getting recipients to open the message, you can feel comfortable about using more. If you are sending emails to a highly targeted audience, longer subject lines lend themselves well here. Otherwise, stick to the 50-characters-or-less rule.
  • Message:  Your  message must be tailored to your audience, and it must give a hint as to the value proposition contained within. Avoid using spammy words and phrases like “free,” “apply now,” “save,” “mortgage rates,” “dear friend” or “word from home.” Some of these words are also known as “red flag” words that are commonly used by spammers. Undoubtedly, there are many reputable people out there selling similar products and services that are really trying to connect with their prospects. Here is a pretty comprehensive list of phrases that will send your message straight to the spam folder.
  • Be Clear:  The subject line is sort of like an ad for the main content of your email. It must reflect the content contained within the email and be sort of a summary or teaser to the body of the email. The subject is also only the first step in getting someone’s attention, and if you do not deliver on what was hinted at in the subject, you will lose the person. Make sure these two elements (subject and body) are consistent.

The Body of your Email

Now we are on to the meat of the whole thing. You sent 3,000 emails. 90% of your recipients actually received the message in their inboxes. Another 20% actually opened it. This is the moment you have been waiting for, but several things can kill your dream of getting your message across to the recipient.

  • Long emails:  Unless you are a publisher and your strategy is to send samples of new titles to prospects, don’t make a long email. It’s painfully clear these days that people are busy. They have a gazillion things going on, and the fact that they actually opened your email means two things — they are interested in what you have to say, and they have a couple seconds to spare. Whether your email has one paragraph or blocks and blocks of text, they are only reading the first sentence to decide if this is something they really want to commit to. A shorter email increases the chance that they will read the whole thing, and might actually do what you want them to do. Even if they are only marginally interested after the first one or two sentences, if they see that the whole thing isn’t that long, they will continue. By contrast, if the whole email is a page long, they quickly realize that they only had a second of spare time to begin with, and you have lost them.
  • Actions:  Most emails sent by marketers these days have some sort of link that they want you to follow. Many of the same principles that apply to landing pages also apply to email messages. The action that you want recipients to perform should be the most obvious thing in the email. It should also be easy, and you should let them know it’s easy. Don’t bury your action under mounds of text or put it at the end of an email. Don’t make it too small or drown it out with tons of graphics and design work. Make the layout simple, and offer your recipients one choice, which is the action you want them to perform.
  • Bad copy:  People lose faith in a web page that has poorly written content, and the same is true for emails. If your copy is filled with grammar and spelling errors, people subconsciously start thinking, “what else does this person screw up?” Poorly written copy screams carelessness and/or incompetence; two things you do not want a prospect to think of you. Yes, everyone makes mistakes (I am guilty of this, as well), but there are tactics you can use to prevent it from happening. Have a colleague, friend, employee or some other set of eyes read your message before it goes out to the masses. It’s very easy for the best writers to miss mistakes that are right in front of them simply because they have been looking at the copy for too long.
  • Call to action:  Every email should have a call to action. Like the action you want recipients to perform, this text should be highly visible. Use a command verb that relates to what you are offering as a start. This could be “download,” “sign up,” “buy,” “order,” “start,” “compare,” or “subscribe.” You should also provide a reason why your recipient should take the call to action. Tell them what’s in it for them. Adding a sense of urgency is also effective; however, you shouldn’t be too overbearing. If your call to action is weak or nonexistent, readers may not feel enticed to take the next step.

Here are some examples of companies that are constructing their emails effectively:

Jetsetter does a nice job of simply using images to entice recipients to click on their offers. The action is very obvious, and it is contrasted against other elements of the message (the big, orange button under each image).



While I can’t speak highly of the frequency practices of Groupon, they do have a very appealing layout to their emails. There isn’t a lot of clutter, and it’s very clear about how to take advantage of the offers contained within.

groupon email

Use Images Sparingly

This is one of the most challenging parts of email marketing. One of the best ways to make your message visually appealing is with images. Most web- and desktop-based email clients, however, do not support automatic download of images for security reasons. Even trusted senders identified by some of the most widely used email applications still have images blocked by default. If you use a third-party email provider, take advantage of templates that utilize HTML and CSS for construction and styling of your emails. If you are designing your own emails, use programming languages as opposed to images. Ultimately, the use of images is unavoidable, but you should try to use programming for style wherever possible. Just realize that there is a greater chance that fewer people will see your message as it was meant to be seen if you have crucial elements as images instead of text or programming. You should never make the content (i.e. body of your  email) an image. Also, if you have an image made into a link in your email, be sure to place alternate text that is descriptive enough for someone to follow should the image not appear.

What’s in it for Recipients?

Whatever the reason for your email  to prospects, make sure it is worth the while to open and read. Provide value in some way, whether it’s a free download or an offer of some kind like a discount. Don’t just send emails promoting yourself and your business — no one will care.  Unless they are sitting at their computer thinking, “wow I really wish someone would send me an email about how they are the best office-supplies retailer in the Midwest,” your message will not be well-received. There needs to be something in it for the recipient. Examples include a free download, important or compelling news, special offers and other things of that nature.

Use Real Senders

Along with your subject line, you also have the opportunity to customize the sender that appears for the recipient. Whether you are a large corporation or a small business, the temptation to look professional is the same. People often want to input some arbitrary email handle like “[email protected]” or the company name. This may seem like a good idea, but in reality, people automatically avoid messages from senders that are not a person, but an entity. Who wants to talk to a business? People want to hear from real people, and personalizing your sender with a real name is much more enticing to people. When you see a personal name in your inbox, you might think it’s from someone you know. Once you realize it’s not someone you know, you may still be intrigued as to why this person you don’t know is emailing you. When we see company names, we automatically equate that with selling.

Don’t Overwhelm your List

It’s tempting to blast a list of contacts with emails all throughout the week. Some marketers even do it a couple times a day. Unless you have clear data that your target audience wants to hear from you this much, this is a sure-fire way to receive a ton of opt-outs and maybe even angry phone calls. The frequency for communication is different for every niche and once you have a good idea of what that is, stick to it. People don’t mind receiving email correspondence from companies that have permission to do so as long as the correspondence is not annoying. Sending messages that are poorly written and offer nothing to the recipient are irritating enough. Sending even the most well-designed emails too frequently will destroy your email list.

Optimize your Conversion Funnel

This strategy has less to do with your email and more to do with what happens once someone takes the next step past your email correspondence. Having a well-constructed and written email message is only the first step in the process to convert someone to a customer or sell more things to current customers. You have to make sure your conversion funnel (whether that be a video, an opt-in form, a product page or some other landing page) also needs to be well-built. It needs to be clear and easy to complete. There must be as few steps as possible, and messaging must be consistent with your email.

Use Third-Party Software

If you are serious about email marketing, the use of third-party vendors who do it well is recommended highly. Companies like iContact, Constanct Contact or Mail Chimp offer easy-to-use interfaces and great tracking features. Marketers are able to see open rates, click through rates, and other metrics. Most mainstream programs allow you to easily manage opt-outs and other elements of contact lists. They also have tons of templates that make inserting and organizing images, links and text a snap. In general, they make the entire process of managing email campaigns and the caveats associated with them all that much easier. Of course, many of these programs are paid, but the prices are reasonable compared with the lost opportunity costs of designing your own email templates, managing contact lists in clunky spreadsheets and, in general, making a poor impression on prospects if your process is not professional.


Hopefully, these tips can point you in the direction of having a successful email marketing campaign. What strategies have you used for marketing through email?  Do you like using third-party services or doing things on your own?

Unique Ways to Generate Leads and Boost Conversions

Conversion FunnelIn the early years of the internet, websites were little more than expensive brochures. It may have been considered icing on the cake for a company to have a website, but certainly not something essential to doing business. Fast forward to 2013 and online conversion funnels have become an effective way for companies to generate leads, no matter what kind of services they offer. Here are some tips to help you increase the leads you get from your website.


Landing Page Optimization


The landing page (a page visitors see after they have clicked on an ad, link or other element) is one of the most important elements of the whole conversion funnel. Your landing page may be laid out in a specific way, whether you are using Google Adwords or some other method to drive traffic, but there are some general rules that should always be followed. The landing page is the point where visitors decide whether or not they made it to the right place, if the desired value proposition is delivered or, in general, if they want to proceed. The following are some common mistakes that will make your conversion numbers tank.

  • Irrelevant page:  In most instances where landing pages are used, people reached them by clicking on an ad or a link where there were also keywords and a value proposition involved. There was a reason they clicked on it, and they expect to receive what they are looking for when they arrive. Make sure any keywords that you used in your ads — as well as the value proposition — are prominent on the page. They need to be the header above any copy and also be above the fold of the page.
  • Ambiguous actions:  In order to generate a lead, a visitor typically has to enter some information and fill out a form. If this action is difficult to accomplish, they won’t do it. You would be surprised how much people will muddle through something when they really want the result. However, users can only take so much. Only ask for information that is absolutely necessary. Avoid long forms or actions that require special processes to take place in order to work. Opening a default email client with a link comes to mind. If you make it too hard to interact with an online form or drown out the action with other elements on the page, you won’t get the lead.
  • Reduce competing elements:  As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’s a mistake to put so much stuff on the page that it’s hard for users to know what to do. If you want a user to fill out a form, it needs to be the most obvious thing on the page. They should have no doubt that this is what they should be doing on the page. You don’t have to go crazy by removing all of your standard navigation or logos, but you definitely want your action to be the most prominent thing on the page. Use contrasting colors for elements like submit buttons, forms, calls to action or whatever else composes your lead generation action. This can help them stand out against the background of your site.
  • Make text easy to scan:  When people are hastily looking for something online, they don’t read text — they scan it. They skim over it until they see words, images or phrases that pique their interest. A good way to make it easy is to use the key terms that may have brought a visitor to the page in the first place while ensuring concise copy. Add only as much detail as someone might need to proceed and nothing more.

Clarity in Lead Generation


If you are offering something in exchange for a visitor’s contact information, you need to be very clear about what they are getting as well as what they need to do to get it. If it will take three steps to download a whitepaper after just providing a name, email and phone number, let them know that. If you tell your visitor one thing and something else happens, they are likely to abandon the funnel.


Lead Generation Online is Iterative


When it comes to different kinds of marketing online, you plan, you implement, you analyze and then you re-work your tactics. Lead generation campaigns are no different. It is very important to have a method to test how your lead generation funnels are working, as well as one to measure them. Google Analytics is a great, free tool that allows you to set up goal URL’s to accurately track progress. You can also set up Google experiments like A/B/n testing. Try changing between different calls to action, the placement and size of contact forms, or the configuration of keyword phrases on a page. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference in the amount of leads you bring in.

There are a lot of valuable resources available that can help you  increase conversions on your website. Many tactics can be applied effectively to lead generation. For example, the book Conversion Optimization offers a variety of great tips for increasing conversions. Another good book is Don’ Make Me Think, which is a quick read and gives sound advice on how people interact with web pages and the elements that cause them pain in the process.


What unique things have you tried to bring in more leads? Have you found one method to be most effective for your particular industry?

Why Storytelling is So Important for Business

If marketers learn nothing else from the growth of online media and communications, they should, at the very least, take away the fact that people are engaged more deeply with the content they interact with online than they are with traditional, mainstream media. Millions of people go about their days interacting on social media, reading blogs or websites, uploading and watching video, commenting and interacting on forums and doing tons of other activities on the web with a passion not seen (and probably not possible) with traditional forms of media. As such, it is important for businesses to harness this phenomenon and learn how to let storytelling drive their marketing messages. Storytelling can help elicit a level of engagement from consumers that will open new doors for businesses and allow them to close more deals.


Letting Customers Tell Your Story


The old mantra for business referrals was that treating your customers right meant they might tell one person about you, while treating them wrong meant they’d tell ten. The new mantra states that thousands of people could potentially learn about your treatment of customers, regardless of whether you treat them well or handle them poorly. Social media outlets and other sites that are almost purely made up of user-generated content provide platforms for devoted customers to tell the stories of businesses they love. This environment is also ripe for businesses to tell their stories and offer helpful, useful and informative content for their current and potential customers. A notable company that is excelling in this area is Target. Jeff Jones, Target’s Chief Marketing Officer, understands how consumers are interacting with businesses in different ways as a result of the internet and the phenomenon surrounding it.

Part of what makes Target’s strategy so successful is that they are telling their story with such clarity. They are forming deep connections with consumers and, in a way, becoming a part of their everyday lives. This is a part of what makes great content and what makes great content go viral.


If we can create content and share content and allow our guests to speak on our behalf, we think that’s really beneficial for them to deepen their engagement and it helps us to amplify our message as well.


Through its content strategy, Target encourages customers to tell their stories. This not only strengthens their connection with the brand, but it creates a much more powerful message for those who may not know it so well.


Let People Learn About Who You Are


Marketing in any fashion is really about telling a story. It’s about letting consumers know who you are as a business and why you should matter to them. This doesn’t mean paying tons of money for exposure or coming up with gimmicky slogans. It means being transparent and conveying your company values to customers. Too often, businesses can appear cold and lifeless. When you think about it, a good business is a group of people with a common mission, and like most groups of people, there are interesting stories to tell. What’s more, the group shares a history of where the business started and where it plans to go in the future. By conveying that message to consumers, companies can stand out from all the rest, while allowing their images to metastasize themselves in the minds of consumers and become something more.


One company that continues to make an impact in this area is Zappos. The online retailer does a fantastic job of carrying out its company values in its everyday business. Customer service is at the forefront of the company’s mission. Zappos seeks to exceed people’s expectations, and the company spends a lot of time and energy letting people know this about them. Zappos says, “We are not an average company; our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average.”



Beneath the company’s mantra (Powered by Service) and quirky work environment are people who have a real stake in the business. Everyone who works there has been well-vetted to ensure they really care about the experience customers have with the business. By telling that story to the world, Zappos opens up and shows people who they really are, which goes a long way with consumers.


Having a great service or product, being useful and, in general, making great content are all good steps, but companies must also learn to be transparent with their values. They have to tell a story about who they are in order to form more meaningful connections with consumers. With the rise of a global economy and few borders left for trade, it is more important now than ever for businesses to form strong bonds with their customers and their prospects.


Recovering from Google Updates

Google released a barrage of algorithm updates in 2012.  In fact, the company rolls out updates almost every single day.  Sometimes they affect many websites, sometimes they don’t.  One thing is for sure, if you have ever made a living with your website and were affected negatively by a Google Algorithm update, you were probably desperate for answers on how to fix it.  Offering advice on recovering from any given update that may have affected a website is a daunting task however many fixes follow the same line of thought; creating good content and designing for users.


Recovering from the Google EMD Update


One of Google’s moves that caused a lot of buzz in the online community was when they altered their algorithm to go after spammy EMD (exact match domain) websites.  It is important to note the use of the word “spammy”.  The search giant did not go after sites that were simply using an EMD but rather it was a case of most sites that had an EMD also happened to be low quality websites.  The following will state why a website may have been affected as well as what to do to fix the issue.


Reason 1:  Low Quality Content

Fix:  Naturally, Google does not divulge the signals it uses to qualify a website as having quality content however they do offer tips on how consumers (i.e. the people that use their search results); can find quality content.  For example is the content on your site composed by a professional in the niche or is the content very shallow in nature?  Are there duplicate articles or posts on the website?  Would a user feel comfortable submitting sensitive or personal information to the website?  A dead giveaway for Google are sites that have frequent structural, grammar or spelling errors.  Are the posts on the site short or lacking in value?  If you are starting to answer yes to a lot of these questions, you probably have low quality content.  Start by either becoming an authority on the topics your site is about or finding someone who is to write for you.  Make useful content that people would find helpful.  Make your site an authority in its niche.  Make it look trustworthy, professional, and easy to navigate.


Reason 2:  Spammy inbound links


Fix:  Unless you are very talented at sniffing out bad links or you know of some behavior in regards to link building that you should not have been doing, it would be a good idea to have a link audit performed of your inbound link profile.  There are a variety of companies on the web that will perform this service for you.  If you decide to go it alone, you can use one of the many tools available for checking backlinks.

Google’s Disavow Links Tool: If you have identified links that you know are causing your website to fall in the SERP’s, you can use Google’s new disavow links tool.  You must first download a list of the links from your website and create a file from it to upload to Google.  Be sure that only links you want Google to ignore are contained in the list.  It does take some time for the information to be processed by Google and it is also incorporated into their index.


Examples include:

SEMoz Open Site Explorer

Ahrefs site explorer

Majestic site explorer


Once you have identified bad backlinks, stop at nothing to get them taken down.  This is a primary reason that EMD’s were suffering after the update.  Backlinks are still a strong factor in the formula used to rank websites.


There are also other things you should be doing to recover your site.  Once you have the above tasks squared away, engage in an aggressive (and white hat) link building campaign.  Add new content on a regular basis such as once or twice a week.  A blog is a great way to do this.  Become active in social media if you have not already.  Put sharing buttons on your blog post or on your web pages.  Get visitors to share your content by making it useful and informative.  Overall, the primary goal in recovering from the EMD update is to make a website that is designed for users.  Think about what people will find useful and do that.  Avoid designing and generating content for web crawlers.


Recovering from the Penguin Update


The web spam update (code named Penguin) was released on April 24th 2012.  This highly anticipated update was targeted at web spam and websites that the company felt was violating its quality guidelines.  Examples included keyword stuffing, link spam, and the spinning of content.


Reason 1:  Spun Content


Fix:  Problems with poorly produced content are among the easiest (although the most tedious) to fix.  If the content on your website has been spun using one of the many article spinners out there, delete it and start from scratch.  Write original content or have someone else write it.  Make sure it is grammatically correct, free from spelling errors, and above all else, make sure it is actually useful to the audience it is intended for.


Reason 2:  Keyword stuffing


Fix:  It is amazing to still see website owners doing this because it is one of the most easily recognized tactics for manipulating search results.  If you have tons of irrelevant keywords placed in meta tags, title tags or even in web page copy, take them out.  Google does not even use the meta keywords tag in its ranking algorithm (although other engines may).  Use only the keywords that are relevant to the content on the page.


Reason 3:  Unusual link patterns


Fix:  If you have links on your website with anchor text that has nothing to do with the content of the article within which they have been placed, augment or remove them.  The ideal model is to place links inside of a body of text that have relevance to the content that the user is reading.


Reason 4:  Over optimization penalty


Fix:  This can take many forms however a very interesting post on SEOMoz talks about a website being penalized for over optimization of anchor text.  The site in question was very well built in terms of SEO with lots of natural backlinks, lots of social signals and original, well written content.  Once the owner went a little deeper, he realized that 10% of his backlinks were coming from an old blog he had created and the anchor text was all the same keyword phrase.  So, if you think you have been affected by the Penguin update and cannot find any logical explanation as to why, try looking closer at your backlink profile.  Specifically, look for the anchor text that is used for inbound links to your site.  If you have an abnormally large amount of anchor text that is targeting the same keyword phrase (in proportion to your entire profile), chances are this is why you are having a problem.  If you have control over these links, change the text and resubmit your site to Google to have it crawled.  If you don’t have direct control, try and get them taken down using a service or contacting webmasters yourself to try and get them removed or changed.


Reason 5:  Cloaking


Fix:  While there used to be legitimate uses for cloaking, most webmasters use it as a spamdexing technique.  If you are using this technique, simply stop doing it and resubmit your site to Google for indexing.


The Penguin update encompassed a lot of targets deemed web spam by Google.  Many of the fixes are easy and controllable by webmasters.  Some, namely inbound links, are more difficult to get rid of.  If you notice one or more of the elements above being a part of your strategy, this may be the reason your site was affected by the update.  Changing the way you do things and resubmitting your site to Google should fix the issue.  Keep in mind that even after you change things and have the site re-crawled, it may take some time (in some cases a few months) before you see any positive results from your efforts.


Recovering from the Panda Update


The Panda update was Google’s response to “shallow content” or content that is not necessarily spam but is not that good either.  After the Caffeine update, Google’s index filled up with fresh content that fell into this category.  So results were now better for users but not as good as they could be.  Sites affected were those with small amounts of content compared with advertisements on the page, duplicate content and high ad ratios.  Check out this Q & A with Google’s top engineers on the Panda Update.


Reason 1:  Shallow content


Fix:  Take a look at your web pages and evaluate the percentage of structural design elements (i.e. menus, images, ads, etc) to the amount of actual words on the page that someone might find useful.  If there are far more design elements than actual content, you should work to reduce this imbalance.  You can do this by writing more content for the page.  If you can’t come up with more content, perhaps you should think about if the page is really necessary in the first place.


Reason 2: Too many ads on page


Fix:  We all know that websites need to make money and it is fine to have some ads on a web page.  If you have way to many ads (so much so that it makes it hard to actually find the content on the page) then you should remove some of them.


Reason 3:  Duplicate content (internal)


Fix:  Sometimes duplicate content is created inadvertently.  You can use Google Webmaster Tools to identify pages that have duplicate title tags or meta descriptions.  This is not always an indication that those pages have the same content however it will get you started.  Remove duplicate content from your site.  You can also use third party tools such as Screaming Frog to crawl your site and look for these kinds of problems.  Using a canonical redirect on the page that is meant to be the one indexed can also help with these issues.


Reason 4:  Duplicate content (external)


Fix:  If you syndicate your content or simply post the same thing in multiple areas of the internet you can begin to have issues.  This can be fixed by diluting external duplicate content that may be floating around.  Create more unique content for your website and perhaps stop sharing the same thing on other web properties.


Many of the Google updates that have taken place revolve around the same central issue; content.  Google works on a daily basis to balance its own needs with those of advertisers and those that use its service for free.  Its primary concern most of the time is the everyday users and whether or not they are getting high quality content in response to their queries.  Google has released hundreds of updates over the past year and if your site has been affected at all, you should first take a look at how your content is structured.  If that seems fine, also take a look at the links leading to your site and how those are structured.  Many of the changes that Google makes are in direct response to what many people are doing to game the system.


Have you been affected by an update recently or in the past?  What steps did you take to recover from it?  Was the process quick or did it take a while?


TCA Blog Chat – Live on Google Hangout – Recovering from Google Updates

TCA is hosting a live event on Hangout – Monday January 14, 2013 from 7:00 – 8:30pm.  If you would like to attend, sign up here:

Program Agenda

  • Segment 1: What did Google Update? We’ll review the biggest, most recent Google updates and what exactly was the impact/ change.
  • Segment 2: How to Recover from Google Updates? Let’s discuss the real ways you can recover from these changes.
  • Segment 3: Q&A/ Your Site: Our guest panelists will take your questions and also look at your site live to make key recommendations.

See you at the hangout!

Register here: TCA Blog Chat: Recovering from Google Updates

5 Effects of Article Marketing On Businesses

Even though Google’s Penguin update wrecked havoc earlier this year, article marketing remains an incredibly effective and powerful form of online marketing. Although business owners who published their articles purely for the purposes of SEO had to rethink their content marketing strategies, those who used articles with a holistic approach in mind continue to do extremely well.

So, what exactly are the advantages of this practice?

Extend Your Market Reach

Article marketing allows you to tap into multiple online communities without much effort at all. By publishing content to several sites, you potentially put your brand in front of thousands of people who did not know you exist. The key is to make sure your article resonates with each audience by being engaging and relevant. To avoid duplication, you should rewrite your articles so that they are 100% unique, but convey the same message.

Also, keep in mind that you can leverage social media to publicize your content and generate additional exposure. You want to reach as many people as possible, so a quick tweet or Facebook post with a link to your article is a must. Some directories have social features built into their service, making content sharing easy and convenient.

Increase Your Brand’s Market Value and Enhance Your Online Image

Article marketing is an excellent way of building awareness, boosting your credibility, establishing your authority within your niche, and sending a consistent message. Each high quality article you publish to a directory potentially helps you shape and extend your brand. You’ll find that some the most valuable brands consistently produce and publish content linking back to their websites.

Lower Marketing Expenses

The beauty of article marketing is that it won’t kill your budget. While other methods of Internet marketing come with exorbitant price tags, article marketing is an inexpensive solution. Besides the cost of content creation, the only other expense you may have to consider is the cost of distribution. Most article directories are free to post to, but the task of submission is time-consuming and tedious. You may prefer to pay a few dollars to have a submission service do the job for you.

Create Inbound Links and Boost SEO Efforts

One of the most highly valued benefits of article marketing is the ability to drive traffic to a business’s website through backlinks. Each time you submit an article optimized with your targeted keywords, you have the opportunity to include a link your readers can follow back to your main site. In addition, Google places more importance on sites with a higher number of links. In turn, you’ll benefit from prominent search engine positioning and a higher PageRank.

Maximize Your Publishing Mileage

It’s understandable that you want to obtain the most out of any tactic. While you can only create so many versions of a particular ad, articles allow you to produce hundreds of versions without losing their message or effect. By spinning your articles so that each one is unique, you circumvent duplication filters, which will ensure you maximize your impact.

Things to Keep In Mind When Pursuing Article Marketing As a Strategy

  • The keyword rich articles you create should not be blatant advertisements. In fact, most article directories will reject your submission if you outright promote yourself in the body of the content. Therefore, you need to provide general, yet valuable, information in your articles to establish your expertise within your field.
  • There’s no denying that Google’s Panda update hit article marketers hard. However, article directories have responded swiftly, implementing changes to the way the submission and reviewing processes work, as well the way they display new articles.
  • The sweet spot for articles lies between 400 and 800 words, so try to maintain a good length. If you struggle to write or simply don’t have the time, an article writing service is an ideal solution.

For those of you who have been implementing article marketing tactics for years, the five advantages mentioned should serve as validation for your efforts. For those of you who are only just entering the fray, the benefits should cement the fact that you’re heading in the right direction and that there is still a lot to be said for this practice.

Is article marketing part of your content marketing strategy? Let us know your thoughts on this practice in the comments box below.

Setting Goals for SEO

Search Engine optimization is one of those things that is never really finished.  Things change with your website, with the internet and with search engine algorithms.  This puts your SEO initiatives in a constant state of evolution.  Because of this, it’s easy to get lost (or paralyzed) in the shear amount of work that needs to be done to get your website to the top of SERP’s.  Managing your SEO project and outlining goals for yourself can make you much more effective at ranking your pages in organic search.

Define Your SEO Goals

Most other work you perform in regards to SEO will be pointless unless you define why it is you are using SEO.  Is it to generate more leads for your business?  Do you want to get more exposure for a specific page on your website?  Bring awareness to a cause?  Show pictures of your cat to as many people on the web as possible?  It doesn’t matter what your goal for using SEO is but it does matter that you define it.  Everything else you do for your website in terms of optimization will depend on what your ultimate goal is.  For instance if you are trying to increase sales of a certain product, you will target specific keywords, you will build pages for that product and optimize them with your chosen keywords.  You may build specialized social media properties for that branded product.  If you are just performing optimization techniques because it’s the new thing or because you know you should be doing it, you won’t be as successful as you would by targeting a specific goal.

Practice SEO Project Management

I have a basement in my home and it is filled to the ceiling with stuff that could probably just be thrown away.  Every time I go down there I think “Oh geez, I’ll never get this organized”.  Part of the reason we think this way about big projects is because we assume that everything is dependent and the entire project must be completed at once.  In terms of SEO, optimizing all the pages of your site can seem like a monumental task, especially when your site may have hundreds or even thousands of pages.  If this is the case, you are right; you will never get it done.  Create an SEO project plan and break large projects up into smaller segments that are more manageable.  Create note cards and assign a manageable chunk of pages to each one.  Assign a notecard to each day of the week over a time period or even each week of a month over a longer time period.  This way all you have to do is focus on the pages for that specific day or week that need to be optimized for search or whatever SEO task you have in mind.  When breaking apart the overall project into tasks, make sure that the tasks you define are not dependent on other tasks.  For example it would not make sense to put the task of performing on-site SEO before the task of doing keyword research because you need keywords to be able to do most of your on-site optimization.  The idea here is to not look at your project as a whole but as steps leading up to completion of a larger goal.  There is that old saying that Rome was not built in a day and I think if the Romans were told that it had to be, they would not have even tried.

Managing Your Content Schedule

If you have even been passively paying attention to search marketing, you know that content is at the forefront of being visible in search.  New, useful and shareable content is what gets websites noticed.  Whether you are just starting out adding content to a blog or in some other fashion or even if you have been doing it for a while, you may have noticed that being consistent can be difficult.  Once you have your content strategy developed (i.e. blog content, video content, social media, etc) make an editorial calendar of topics that you can write about and the times you will post them.  It helps to pinpoint times over a 2 to 3 month period where you will post to your blog and what the content will be.  Try and write as much content as you can up front and schedule posts into the future.  WordPress , Joomla or Blogger blogs have built in features that allow you to schedule posts.  That way you aren’t scrambling to get something out at the last minute which can often mean poorly written and researched content.

Tracking Your Progress

When optimizing your website for search, you must establish a starting point so that you can measure how far you have come.  If you haven’t already, install some type of tracking software on your site.  Google Analytics is a great free tool however there are also many others.  Before you begin any SEO tasks, take note of where you are ranking with your targeted key terms, the amount of traffic your site is receiving, the amount of referral traffic you receive from search engines and the amount of new vs returning visitors.  You should also take note of your current page rank and backlink profile using one of the many free or paid services out there.  For instance you can use the free version of Rank Tracker to establish where you fall in the SERP’s for certain key terms.  You can use a free tool like SEMRush to check out your backlink profile.  If you are looking for detailed information though you may be better off with a paid version of one of these packages. These metric are just examples and you should also take note of any other metrics that you are attempting to influence with SEO before you begin a campaign.  The purpose here is to set a beginning point so that you can measure how successful your efforts are overall.  If you don’t set these markers up front, you will have (at best) a vague idea of which tasks were successful or how you are doing with SEO overall.


SEO for any type of website can be a dizzying and complex process with many different tasks that need to be completed.  Set goals for yourself and define the tasks that are needed to complete those goals.  This will make the entire process much more manageable for you and for whom ever you have working with you.


What are some other goals that you should set for your SEO initiatives?

2012 Google Algorithm Updates: Part 2

Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times in a year. Here are the rest of the updates for 2012 ending with some of the most recent changes to date.

Multiple Panda UpdatesPanda 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9

An update (Panda 3.7) was applied to the Panda change on June 8, 2012 affecting less than 1% of queries. Later that same month on the 25th, Google rolled out another refresh update (Panda 3.8 data only) but no algorithm change. On July 24, 2012, one month after the first Panda update, Google rolled out a new change (Panda 3.9) that affected about 1% of queries.


Unnatural Link Warnings
On July 19, 2012, the company sent out unnatural link warnings through web master tools in another effort to combat link spam. The company also announced that these new warnings may not represent a serious problem. Search Engine Round Table provides an overview of the update.

Massive Changes
In one of the larger releases for the year, Google posted over 80 changes to the algorithm for June/July. Notable in this batch was Google’s improvement of “when is” and “what is” queries. The change allowed for better understanding of queries that ask questions like when is Halloween? Other improvements include better understanding of queries about weather, improved display of business information for mobile, and improvements for autocomplete that gives users more accurate information based on their home country.

DMCA Takedown
On August 10, 2012, Google released an update that penalized sites with repeated copyright violations.

SERP Change
In a more radical change to their user interface, Google rolled out an update that would decrease the amount of results that appear in SERP’s. On August 14, 2012, only 7 results could be seen in a Google SERP as opposed to the previous 10. The update had a much larger effect on overall searches at about 18%. This update indirectly created much more competition for the coveted first page of Google making it slightly more difficult to reach that spot. This post on 7-result SERP’s from SEOMoz gives a comprehensive overview on the subject.

20th Panda and EMD (Exact Match Domain) Update
On September 27, 2012, Google rolled out a rather large Panda update that affected about 2.4% of queries. In that same update came a lot of changes concerning exact match domains or EMD’s. A huge swath of websites that utilized EMD’s were devalued largely because of other poor ranking signals and not because the site used an EMD.

Penguin Update Number 3 and Page Layout Number 2
In October of 2012, Google introduced another Penguin update. The company reported that changes would be significant but when the time came, they rolled out a minor update that only affected less than 1% of queries. Also in October, a second page layout update was introduced but it was unclear how significant a change would happen. The original update was targeted at websites that had too many ads above the fold in the header of their pages.

Panda #21
In November of 2012, Google put out yet another update to Panda. This one officially impacted 1.1% of queries and was not seen as a significant change.

This list is essentially a summary of major and minor updates that Google has applied to its algorithm over 2012. There are hundreds of updates that go on throughout any given year that are not necessarily promoted to the public. Google makes changes to its algorithm in some form on almost a daily basis. It can also be difficult to gauge the performance of a website in search at any given time because of the way Google rolls out its updates. First the company tests changes on a subset of real users before rolling out a change across the entire user base. Therefore behavior of a website in search cannot always be predicted and sites may sometimes behave oddly.

Google is always thinking of its users when it is planning a change and it recommends to SEO’s that they do the same. Many of these updates mentioned may have little to no significance if webmasters are creating great content and designing for the people consuming that content instead of for search engines.

2012 Google Algorithm Updates: Part 1

Google had a busy year in 2012 with about 33 groups of major updates released to its proprietary search algorithm and other parts of its platform. With the flurry of updates keeping search engine marketers and SEO’s on their toes, it can be difficult to keep up on all the changes. That’s why we have compiled them all here for you to see in a 2 part post. So sit back and buckle up, the scenery changes quickly.

The Venice Update
On February 27, 2012, Google launched the Venice update which was one notable change of 40 that occurred to the algorithm in this month. The specific wording of the algorithm modification was “This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.” This means that location based signals (such as the location setting in a Google account, a user’s IP address and other signals) are playing a larger role in the results that Google delivers to its users.

The Rest of the February 2012 Updates
Along with the Venice update, there were numerous other changes to the algorithm for February. Among some of the more exciting updates were the international launch of shopping rich snippets which allowed users to more easily identify sites that have relevant product information along with featured reviews and ratings, better support for English spelling correction especially for rare queries and a Panda update that made the previous version more sensitive to changes on the internet.  SEOMoz provides some great visual examples of how the Venice Update impacted localized results.

Panda 3.3 and 3.4
PandaThe Panda update is noted as having an unusually long lifespan for an algorithm update. At the end of February (Panda 3.3) and March (Panda 3.4), Google released minor updates to the famed Panda change. What was notable about 3.4 was that the company announced its update via Twitter. Google’s Tweet below indicates the scope of searches that will be impacted. An update (Panda 3.5) made later in April was also of small significance.


March Batch of Updates
In April of 2012, Google released a batch of updates for the month of March. Among them were improvements to the handling of symbols for indexing, autocomplete improvements for equation related queries, better results for navigational type queries (searches where people are looking for a specific website), and more relevant image search results. A really cool part of this update was that when Google put out its monthly blog post featuring the latest updates, they also included an uncut video showing a search quality meeting. It gives great insight into how these decisions are made; very cool!

My Domain is NOT parked
On April 16, 2012, the search giant rolled out an update that fixed an issue with domains mistakenly being recognized as parked when they were not. When a domain is seen as parked by a search engine, it is devalued in the SERP’s because there is no real content for users to see.  Search Engine Land covers the topic here.

And Then There was a Penguin

PenguinThis is starting to sound like some strange dream. On April 24, 2012, Google rolled out the Penguin update to combat web spam. This was a highly anticipated update and one that changed the way many websites optimize their content and structure today. Google’s post was titled “Another Way to Reward High-Quality Sites” and the update targeted sites that were blatantly engaging in webspam tactics to deceive both users and Google.

A screen shot from Google’s post highlights a site that may appear legitimate at first glance but that is obviously using tactics that create a poor user experience.  Notice in the screen shot how the anchor text in the links has nothing to do with the overall theme of the article.

Example of Link Spam

There were also 52 other updates in April including an increase in the company’s “base” index and numerous updates to sitelinks. The last update that was rolled out in April was Panda 3.6 which, like the other updates to Panda, had a relatively small impact on overall searches.

The Other 52 Updates for April 2012

Some of the notable improvements made to Google’s algorithm in April of 2012 include: More domain diversity which delivered users a wider spectrum of separate websites in SERP’s, more improvements to local navigational searches, and better search query interpretation. The improved interpretation actually better predicts the intention of user queries based on their previous searches. Another important part about his batch of updates was one that increased the size of Google’s base index. The base index is the database which is used to match a user’s query. Google points out that updates to their indexes are not always mentioned in their monthly update blog posts.  Click here for the  full list of updates in April.

The Knowledge Graph

Google takes a step toward building the next generation of search with the Knowledge Graph. On May 16, 2012, the company began rolling out the project. Instead of focusing on strings of characters and words, Google began to deliver results based on objects and their relationship to other things in the world. The graph currently contains more than 500 million objects and more than 3.5 billion facts about the relationships among those objects. The knowledge graph is truly one of the most exciting and unique updates of 2012.

Penguin 1.1
On May 25, 2012 Google rolled out the first data update for Penguin.

39 Updates for May 2012
This batch of updates (posted in June), featured an updated search app for iPhone, better detection of pages that have been hacked and improved detection of link schemes. The link scheme detection is a notable improvement as this is one  of the most widely used ways of increasing the popularity of a website. It also reaffirms that this is a strong signal that Google looks at to determine the value of any particular website.

That does it for the first half of 2012. Check out the rest of the updates for the year as well as the most recent changes to Google’s algorithm in the second part of this post.