The Top Five SEO Trends to Dominate 2014

The SEO industry is dynamic. It is actually more volatile than you could imagine. It is in a state of constant flux. A single algorithm update can change everything overnight. Each new phase comes with new practices. Personally sometimes I feel like SEO is really dead.

SEO experts need to understand this volatile and ready themselves to learn, unlearn and relearn the tricks of the trade. Adaptability is vital in SEO. The trends that are dominating the industry currently may lose contextuality within a year. The industry experts should be able to adapt themselves to the changing scenario.

 

A strange pattern seems to be associated with the SEO industry; the industry is being dominated by new trends every year. Only a handful of trends continue to be in practice year over year. For example, guest posting became a trend in 2012; 2013 onward, it started to lose importance. In 2014, Google is considering excessive guest posting as spamming. Is that not strange?

In this article, I’ll discuss the top SEO trends of 2014. Even though there are many, I’ve picked five top such trends. Hope you will enjoy it.

Content Marketing

Content is never going to fade away in the near future. The hint was given by Google a year ago. The significance of content has been there since the beginning of search marketing. But these days only, it has become the real trend. Having an SEO strategy means nothing if content marketing is not included in it. As a matter of fact, it won’t be a hyperbole that content marketing has started to replace old school SEO. Many erstwhile SEO techniques are no longer in use and internet marketers have become hugely dependent on content marketing.

High quality and SEO optimized content is essential to get good ranking on Google and on other search engines. By high quality content, I mean the content must be informative, recent and original. To say the content is keyword optimized is to say the content has an appropriate density of keywords.

Mobile SEO

People from different parts of the world access internet through mobile devices. As a result of this, mobile marketing has been witnessing staggering growth. Even many fortune 500 companies are now putting ads on mobile platform. Research firm Nielsen has surveyed mobile consumers and found 48% of them who purchase online are driven by organic and paid results on SERPs. BI Intelligence came up with an astonishing finding; total of 60% of devices that are used to access internet are Smartphones or Tablets.

As mobile usage keeps increasing, so is the significance of mobile SEO. Mobile optimized sites speed up fast. they have clean design, the CSS is mobile friendly and focus on touch based and voice based search.

Organic and Paid Search Integration

The old school SEO strategies were heavily focused on organic searching. But SEO in 2014 relies on integration between organic and paid campaigns. It has been observed that organic SEO, even though underinvested, accounts for the biggest scoop of traffic and helps the site to scale up. The only reason paid search and display ad campaigns attract investment is quick result. The integration between paid and organic marketing campaigns can target high-value keywords, guarantee long-term improvement of the site and yield fast return of investment.

For example, if you run two different ad groups for a month and notice one group is performing better than the other while the ad texts and the landing pages in both groups are more or less same in quality, you could infer the non-performing ad group has keywords that are really high-paying. You may then decide to remove the non-performing ad group and use its keywords for an organic campaign. By doing this you can save money and rank your site high on Google, although you’d have to wait for few months to see the success of your campaign.

Video Testimonials

User-friendliness is what search engines value most these days. It could make a website more user-friendly. For sites that are selling some kind of product or service, video testimonials from the past and existing clients could add authenticity. Video marketing altogether is drawing huge popularity. Any site that uploads videos on homepage that show satisfied customers explaining why the company should be hired lures prospective customers easily.

Conversion Rate Optimization

A survey done on recent time shows more than 80% of search marketers will focus on CRO in 2014. After a successful organic campaign, increasing the rate of conversion is the next big thing. 2014 could be marked as the year to witness a number of paid and organic tricks being put to use. Subsequently, there will be scores of leads and the conversion rate optimization process could get a boost.

We are not through with 2014 yet and the trends discussed above are in practice everywhere. Hopefully, we’ll see these trends to dominate the fourth quarter of the year as well.

What do you think of the 5 SEO trends discussed in the article? Do you want to add new trends into the list? Express your opinion in the comment section.

Top Five Social Media Marketing Tips for 2014

Social media is no longer used for pastime activities, at least not by companies that are conscious about branding. They know they can harness the power of social media and reach out to a massive number of consumers. Quantity matters! Access to more number of potential consumers means better prospect for sales. The marketing department of every company these days, be it online or offline, are aware of this and doing their best to build a presence on social media.

It’s 2014 now and we need new techniques for this year. The erstwhile techniques have already been tried and tested. As their effectiveness has shrunk, we need new and more effective ones this time. In this article, we’ll discuss some of those techniques.

Choosing the apt platform

Selecting the right platform is of paramount importance for the success of a social media campaign. Not all networks are suitable for all types of websites. LinkedIn for example is a cross between a conventional job portal and a social network where people could communicate with each other. It is an ideal platform to promote a staffing agency but not at all suitable to market a video hosting site. The latter can be best advertised on YouTube. The right platform therefore must be identified before the social media marketer makes an advance.

Personal branding

Social media marketing these days calls for personal branding. On social networks everything is visual, everything is audible and everything is communicable. You have a good chance of getting lost in the overwhelming crowd. To stand tall you need to personalize your branding. Building personal branding is not easy. You need to post in a timely manner, use images and videos and above all build a relationship with audiences. The audience should identify you not as a company but as a person. They should interact with you the same way they interact with others. Unless you take user engagement to this level, your brand building won’t be a success.

Offline marketing

Companies have become so engrossed in online marketing activities that they literally forgot the importance of offline marketing. An effective marketing campaign is actually a combo of online and offline marketing strategies. The main reason marketers have turned their faces away from offline promotion is cost. Offline marketing is a costly affair. You may have to put ads on newspapers and buy slots on radio and television which come with heavy expenses.

Social media however allows you to go offline and at the same time take up the reins of expenses. You can host an event at a particular place, on a particular day and inform users on social media about the event. Sites like Facebook let you promote your page to a fixed number of users for a certain amount of money. A number of informed users attending the event means you’d get the chance to approach them about your product/service directly.

Avoid trolls

Trolling is a concern for online marketers. Trolls love to be on social networks and intentionally comment on every status updates and tweets. Of two types of trolls, one is pissed customers who know the reputation of the company cannot be spoiled otherwise and the other is paid agents of your rival companies.

You have to handle trolls carefully. Inept handling could put your company’s reputation at stake. First formulate a strategy to identify trolls. Keep close watch on the profiles that are commenting on every single post and whose comments are not in your favor. Answer decently to the questions asked by them. If they show anger, lessen them. But don’t argue with them or send them private messages. If they exasperate, remove them from the page.

Mobile app marketing

Handheld devices are heavily used for app download. You can take advantage of that. You can develop apps by hiring professional developers and advertise your company on the download page. You can also put ads on existing apps. Many apps are on social media, which is an added advantage for you. A survey done by Pew Research shows 58% Americans own Smartphone and the speed of mobile web adaptation is 8 times faster than the speed of desktop web adaptation during the late 90s and early 2000s.

The success of a social media marketing campaign depends on the techniques being used. So only apply a strategy when you are fully sure it will fetch you a handsome ROI. If you realize a technique has become outdated, replace it with a new one. Remember social media marketing constantly requires new ideas and their implementation. So you should creativity is needed.

What is your opinion on social media marketing in 2014? Tell us in the comment section.

How WordPress Sites Get Hacked?

I believe many bloggers are as ignorant as I was of what to do when I got my WordPress blog hacked. Fortunately I got everything back to normal as the penetration was mild. Otherwise I would’ve been doomed. So I thought I’d share what happened to me and how I did overcome the hack.

It was yesterday, when I was back from a 3 days vacation and I find that one my website has been hacked. It had never happened to me before. Literally I had a heart attack. My whole body broke into a cold sweat. My lungs refused to breath. I just fall apart and was wondering WHAT NOW?

When I got conscious, my first thoughts were, “what the fuuuuu–ukkkkk.”

I knew, due to the recent promotion of my website, it had a lot more traffic than usual. In fact the traffic was almost triple. But to make matters worse, I was suppose to show the blog to a potential client who was interested in an advertisement offer and hire my content writing service.

It was scary. I mean a really horrible situation. When traffic is at its apex and potential client is looking into my professionalism, I HAD LITERALY LEFT WITH NO WEBSITE.

Now, my home page was a plain white page and in the middle there was a terrifyingly BIG HUMAN SKULL with red burning eyes.

Finding something you have put so much emotion, effort and money into has been completely tore apart; at the worst possible time. SHHH…

So let’s begin by looking security vulnerabilities in WordPress and how to Harden WordPress.

wordpress-hack

Hack through Local Computer

Most of the web owners do not keep their system clean and virus free. So often the malware and other malicious scripts residing in the local system infect the server through the ftp client software. So you need to install a good antivirus to your local system and run regular malware/virus scans.

I was sure; I had never any issue with the local system as I always use antivirus and my windows 7 was up-to-date.

Hack through your Shared Hosting Provider:

When it comes to hosting provider, a security breach to a shared hosting server affects multiple sites within the server. That means when a hacker hacks a website in a shared hosted server, he can hack all the sites in the shared server through auto running scripts that change the wp-confing.php files with the WordPress in minutes.

For me, it was my shared host that had been actually compromised. The hacker got the control over my admin access and changed my wp-config.php to the above described message on my home page and all other inner pages too. But fortunately the effect was not intense and I was able to fix that. All I did to remove all the changes made to my config file. But I did a complete removal of the files and installed my backup.

Hack within WordPress

WordPress no doubt is the greatest CMS for website and blogging. As an open source platform, it is just too OPEN for hackers to attack in various ways. I have the 4 loopholes discussed here.

  • Weak usernames/passwords

Weak and generic Usernames/Passwords are one of the most vulnerable parts of WordPress sites. However it got tightened now. As of WordPress 3.8, there is “password strength detector” to force you to create extremely strong password. Still you need to set an unpredictable password. The mixing of letters, numbers and special characters makes the password strongest.

Many of the novice users always set their username as default i.e “admin”, which is well known to all the bad guys. You must go for a more difficult one as possible.

  • Cheap and Shoddy Themes

The most common way of hacking a WordPress site is through the themes. Mainly hackers distribute infected free themes for people to download. Once you install these themes to your website, they get the control of your website in no time. Even in some cases the premium themes have unexpected security issues. To avoid security flaws, theme owners release updated version of the themes time-to-time. So keep your theme always update.

Always download theme from a secured source or official website.

  • Unsecured Plugins:

Likewise the themes, hackers also distribute free plugins with malicious codes and hack websites through it. So a lot of headache can be avoided, by reading the online review for the plugins that you want to install. Download the plugins from the official websites only. Choosing only the 4-5 star ones would be a wise decision as they are tested by other users. Also avoid using cheap plugin which lacks the strong security layers.

  • Not Updated WordPress Core

Up-to-date WordPress core is the very vital part of the security as it comes with updated security patches. You may find your themes and plugins are sometimes incompatible to the new release of WordPress. However the high quality and reliable plugins have the compatible version released within the days or even hours of the WordPress core release. So you must update your core within the days of its release. You can find more details on hardening your WordPress site here.

Conclusion

Getting your website hacked is obviously a headache. But you have to recover that anyway. So stay calm and ask for support if you are unable to fix it yourself. At the same time choose a webhost who can provide you auto back up facility for your website and can fix your issues for free.

If you have a similar story, please feel free to share in the comment.

The Importance of Keyword Research in Search Engine Optimization

Your strategy for an effective online marketing campaign lies exactly what your customers really search in the web to reach your service or product. Though this Google centric digital marketing world has seen a lot of changes (humming bird, penguin, panda, EMD) in the last couple of years, but the core concept is still the same. Search Terms are still the keystone for any search campaign which can make or break your web business.

So it is very essential for you to brainstorm what words or phrases your customers exactly use in the internet to reach you. Finding the right keywords for your website is like 50% of your SEO job is done. You can easily cover the mass chunk of your potential customers online through the right keyword research.

This article will help you understand the importance of the keyword research and how to find the best keywords for your website….

keyword research

What is a keyword?

In the context of search engine optimization, keywords can be defined as the particular words or phrases that describe a website best for its services, which helps search engines to map the search query with a relevant webpage.

Keywords are the center of online business. Thus the use of the right keywords on the website landing pages is very essential first step of search engine optimization.

All the search engines love quality content, but can’t send you traffic unless you optimize your content for specific terms that people are searching for.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process to find the best search terms that can be used to improve the search engine optimization (SEO) and develop a strong inbound marketing strategy for a website. Keyword Research is a very important tool for developing an effective online marketing strategy. This process is challenging and may consume time depending on your website, service industry and competition.

Keyword Research Tools

Once known as Google Adwords Keyword Tool, has drastically changed and renovated which is one of the top keyword research tools in the internet is now known as Google AdWords Keyword planner. It is free and easy tool to use for keyword analysis.

Apart from Google Keyword Planner there is available many other paid and free sources which offer interactive keyword research platform. I have listed couple of the sources as below.

A list of Keyword Research Tools

  • Google Insights for Search (free)
  • Keyword Discovery
  • Microsoft Advertising Intelligence(free)
  • Google Trends Prediction(free)
  • Wordtracker
  • Ubersuggest
  • SEOBook Keyword Generator(paid)
  • Hittail(paid)
  • Soovle(free-not exactly a typical keyword research tool)
  • Raven Tools Research Central (paid)
  • Advanced Web Ranking (paid)
  • Keyword Spy (paid)
  • SEO Book Keyword Tool (free)

How to Choose Keywords for your website?

Your keywords should be the phrases that your potential customers would search often to find your website in the internet. The first step to generate a list of keywords is to understand your audience. Again at the same time you need to understand the popularity and competitiveness of the keywords.

The best keywords for a website are phrases having 2-4 words that exactly describe your website in a common language that generally the searchers use in the internet. If you have a unique business, it is very easy to rank for your potential keywords where as the generic keywords for competitive industries takes lots of time to rank.

Let’s discuss the attributes for a Good Keyword

Competition:

Competition on a keyword can be defined as the number of other WebPages using or optimized for the same term. So more the number of WebPages target the keyword, the higher the competition is.

It is always advised to avoid such competitive keywords. The basic principle of selecting a keyword is: high search volume and low competition. But again you need to be clever on it as too generic keywords do not offer the targeted traffic and less competitive keywords are not searched often.

Your selection of the keywords should be a list of keywords that are having a higher conversion rate rather than a high search volume. In other words, you need to select a keyword that is more about the group of the core keyword itself.

Avoid Single-Word search phrases:

Single-word search terms are usually too generic and competitive to choose for any new website. Also single word keywords do not send quality traffic whereas keywords having 2-3 phrases have a higher proximity of sending the quality & relevant traffic. And at the same time long tail keywords are easy to optimize and rank.

The keywords having more than 2 words is a long-tail keyword and the different parts of the long tail keywords can be defined as HEAD, MIDDLE, and TAIL. Having targeting the right long tail keywords can go a long way for your business.

But interestingly most experts miss this because this is usually not conventional. I’ve worked with many websites targeting dozens of long-tails keywords and the result was awesome. It not only improved the quality of the visitors but also reduced the bounce rate and the overall ranking of the website. With the long tail keywords I even doubled the ROI for the client.

Keep Eyes on Trends

Often our SEO campaigns eyes for future. We start with a new site or a site with keywords that is nowhere in ranking. Then we put the on-page issues in place; build links and start getting ranking and traffic.

Here the question comes into existence; Are the keywords we are ranking going to be worthwhile over time? Is the search volume of the keywords going to increase in future? And so on…

At this given scenario, you need to pay attention about the keyword trend well ahead of time. Spotting the trend for the keywords is easier with trend spotting tools (Google Trends) which give us an insight about the future growth of the keywords.

So the takeaway point is to be extra cautious while selecting the keywords  and go for the keywords that show constant level of search volume and the emerging terms that have a rapidly growing trend.

It is your turn. If you got any suggestion please share in the comments.

Four Crucial Technical Skills which All SEO Experts Should Have

US economy has still not reached the shores of complete recovery. Job cuts may not be as high in number as they happened to be when the economic meltdown was reaching its peak, but they are still being looked at as the only alternative to trim down operating expense. Some heavily affected sectors like real estate are yet to be healed. Internet marketing fortunately is not one of them. The internet promotion industry is employing a good number of people across US.

Job specialization however is a pressing demand of this industry. Like finance and engineering, internet marketing recruits only those who have technical expertise. If you are a John Doe with one or two years of experience as a data entry operator, SEO is not the field for you. Job specialization has always been the default criterion of industries where technicalities matter. SEO is such an industry. This article will discuss what must-have technical skills a search engine optimizer needs to have.

Knowledge in HTML

One of the basic prerequisites to become a search engine optimizer is knowledge in HTML coding. You need HTML knowledge for a variety of reasons. A site may have some troublesome codes which are making it difficult for search engines to crawl. Without HTML knowledge, you may not be able to go deep into the problem.

But is having knowledge in basic HTML enough? NO! It is necessary but not sufficient. If you restrict yourself to only basic knowledge, you won’t be able to suggest site improvements to increase search engine friendliness. HTML is not rocket science; you can learn it easily. If you use HTML editors like Adobe Dreamweaver, you don’t even have to do hard coding. There are hundreds of online tutorials where you can learn how to use HTML editors.

 Experience in hosting

A web host plays a crucial role in determining the ranking of a website. A quality web server is one that guarantees 99.9% uptime. Site downtime is the nightmare for search engine optimizers because if crawlers visit the site when it is down, they won’t record the navigation features, site content, keyword density and many other important SEO metrics. This may result in poor ranking for the site.

Speed is another important factor. A site that takes several minutes to load scores low on Google’s rank book. And the bad news is most other search engines follow Google. These days, visually appealing and easy-to-navigate sites are getting high rank because slow-to-load sites couldn’t display the CSS elements on the page properly. This puts the site down.

Some web servers offer Adwords credit to users. The credit gets redeemed when the website is marketed on Google Adwords. While this shouldn’t be the yardstick to decide on a particular hosting server, everything between two servers being equal, you should go for the one that makes Adwords marketing easier for you by giving you some credits.

Selecting a web server is important therefore and without experience, it’s difficult to select one.

Knowledge in Excel

SEO is all about data. SEO experts first collect raw data and compile them into a sheet. Then they analyze the data to find patterns. The compilation process is tedious. Manual compilation accounts for too many errors. Use of Microsoft Excel and CSV automate the compilation process and reduce errors.

This is why SEO industry requires people with high level of expertise in Excel, Google Spreadsheet and CSV. Those people apply formulas to accommodate huge chunks of data and make the Excel sheets dynamic so if one value is put into a particular cell, other corresponding cells generate other values.

It’s more than essential for wannabe SEO experts to have a decent level of knowledge in Excel. Eventually, they need to perfect their knowledge. SEO is still by and large an uncharted territory. Finding new patterns means employment of new strategies and better ROI for the clients. As the intermediate stages ask for knowledge in Excel and similar tools, it should be considered as a must have technical skill.

Programming skills

Normally SEO companies sit ample number of programmers. Those programmers are always ready to help you out. But still it’s better to have a grasp of all the know-hows instead of depending on others. Good news is you don’t need to be an expert programmer to fix SEO issues. All you need is introductory knowledge in PHP and JavaScript.

A site with too many ads may get low ranking on Google. That’s why site owners whose main source of revenue comes from ads often block Google from rendering CSS and JS scripts. But it may cause the site to get hit by Panda 4.0. Another example; you come across some bloated codes which are preventing the site from being crawled or increasing the download time. Having programming knowledge means you could solve such token problems yourself.

Conclusion

The technical skills mentioned above are not all. There are many others. However the ones we’ve discussed in this article are statutory ones. It’s essential for all SEOs to have proficiency over them. Without solid knowledge on those skills, an SEO expert cannot justifiably be called an SEO expert.