Mobile SEO for Flawless User Experience

I was recently having an issue that required the assistance of professional services so I grabbed my Samsung to search local businesses. I used my mobile device to do a quick Google search using key terms that concisely described my needs. After scrolling through the page 1 results I clicked one of the top three search results whose title and description seemed to best address my inquiry. But I was directed to a desktop version of the business’s website which loaded slowly and was unresponsive. Not user friendly at all and once I got to the site, because I couldn’t see any of the images or text I was unsure as to whether or not this business could in fact serve my needs. So I hit the back button to browse alternative options.

Over half of local searches are performed using a mobile device and if your small business or organization does not provide maximum user experience, they will move on to the next best option. This is business that is at your doorstep but will move on (likely to a direct competitor) if their needs are not immediately met. The attention span of today’s online user is laughingly limited and it requires a fresh website that not only satisfies the user’s needs/wants, but also loads quickly, has efficient navigation and has content that can be understood.

By optimizing a website’s mobile presence small business owners achieve a significant competitive advantage. No matter what your industry or market, having a mobile friendly site greatly increases your chances of capturing a consumer when they’re on the go and in need of your services. By addressing user needs immediately and effectively with a mobile optimized website and high quality online presence you are setting your business up for visibility, clicks to contact and success.

Final Thought: As reiterated by Mr. Cutts, providing a high quality user experience plays a key role when it comes to ranking well in the search engines. So having a mobile friendly version of a website as part of a high quality online presence certainly contributes to SEO.

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Unique Meta Descriptions for SEO

It’s safe to assume that Google’s crusade against low-quality search results won’t let up come 2014 (or ever), so it’s important to regularly evaluate and reevaluate your digital marketing strategy in general and search engine optimization initiatives in particular.

Armageddon among SEOers nearly ensued following the Panda and Penguin updates a few years back, and even still these cute little tweeks (for which I’ve previously displayed my affection) have been eclipsed by the most recent Hummingbird algorithm update. This coupled with the shocking revelation that we had been stripped of our keyword data has really forced our SEO strategy, not to mention our heads, to do a number of exhausting 180’s. Though frustrated as the next digital marketer, I also find myself enthusiastic and even motivated by the challenge. Not only do these updates rid the SERPs of irrelevancy, black hat bull shit, scammers and spammers, but they are also highly focused on a style of marketing I have appreciated even during the days of yesterfar, when keyword stuffing yielded page 1 search results. This area of focus is the development of useful, high-quality content created for a specific audience and purpose.

I could talk for days about the importance of high-quality content, but in this post I wanted to address SEO that involves a classic tactic as well as modern strategy: Meta Descriptions.

Website meta tags are nothing new and each serves its own purpose. As we all know, <meta name="keywords" is useless as far as SEO is concerned, but <meta name="description" has always remained relevant, most effectively used to give descriptive snippets of info displayed on search results pages to give the user an idea of what the website is all about. But historically this attribute has also been used as a tool for SEO in that it helped the search engines determine for which keywords the site should rank.

It's no secret that in today's SEO world meta descriptions don't carry nearly as much clout as they once did, and it's uncertain as to whether or not the search engines are even using its data as a piece of the algorithmic equation that determines rankings. But it need not be neglected that providing the user with a relevant, high quality search experience, i.e. having a clean, informative, useful summary attached to a website's position on the SERPs, earns brownie points as far as Google is concerned. So regardless of whether or not keyword optimization can still be accomplished via meta descriptions, it's certain that the robots know what the attribute contains as well as the data it's attempting to process.

To help advance this point I'll cite the Search Engine Journal‘s report on Matt Cutt’s recent observation on the quality of having unique meta descriptions on webpages. It was observed that having multiple identical attribute content is a no, no and that it’s best to “either have unique metatag descriptions, or…choose not to put any metatag description at all.” Mr. Cutts certainly promotes the importance (and effectiveness in terms of SEO) of having unique, high-quality meta description content on each web page of a site. Check out the full post HERE and Mr. Cutts video take on the issue.

Check out Moz.com to find Meta Description Best Practices.

Social Media and Small Business

The twenty-first century will go down in history as the dawning of the age of social media. What began as a way to connect with others and communicate online has spawned a marketing strategy that is essential for the success of small business today. In addition to user generated content such as photos, video, recordings, blogs, etc., social media involves the interactions and conversations that take place throughout the social platforms where this content is being shared.

A high-quality online reputation and an active presence among these social platforms is crucial for small businesses that want to remain relevant, and social media can be used to establish authority in an organization’s industry. And unlike traditional media outlets, social media is essentially free when one can build a positive, organic social presence online. Organizations are able to interact with customers in a friendly environment while at the same time marketing its brand.

Brian Moran, who is a small business advocate with an extensive background working with some of the nation’s most prestigious publications, discussed social media trends for small business in a recent interview by Britt Michaelian. Moran emphasized the importance of an online presence and he observed that social media is “not a trend but a catalyst in the changing way that the world chooses to communicate. Small business owners need to take the necessary time to set a proper foundation for the role that social media will play in their company moving forward.”

With the increased availability of mobile devices and tablets, communications are transmitted and received more rapidly than ever. A recent study conducted by IDG Research found that nearly three quarters of consumers turn to their smartphone for information such as product reviews, while over ninety percent of tablet users use their device for similar purposes. Feedback is instantaneous and social media has evolved into one of the most effective brand marketing tools for small business and corporations worldwide; when exercised appropriately. In addition, it’s absolutely necessary that small businesses have a high-quality online presence, so a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign is essential; the value of social media is immeasurable in regards to organic SEO.

It won’t be long before 100% of consumers turn to social media outlets as a primary resource for organizational information, reviews, relevance etc., so a high-quality social media presence is essential for the success and value of today’s SMB’s.

Consumer Usage of Social Media

Whether you regularly interact on social networks or choose to avoid the chatter of status updates and tweets, you have certainly not been oblivious to the ever-expanding online community which acts as the driving force behind the extensive expansion and spread of social media. But social media involves more than just status updates and the sharing of vacation photos. In addition to user generated content such as images, blogs and recordings, social media is a phenomenon that includes the interaction and conversation that takes place after said content is shared, i.e. made public online. Its impact on popular culture has been so influential that many studies have been conducted seeking insight into the effects of social media on commerce in general and consumer behavior in particular.

One such study observed consumer usage of social media in the United States & Canada, conducted by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel, an authoritative voice on economic indicators involving consumer behavior. Empathica is involved with the global economy’s most recognizable brands, and this particular research gathered data from over fifteen thousand U.S. and Canadian consumers, surveying their online habits and social media usage. The intriguing finds highlighted in this survey proved to be extremely insightful in terms of online consumer trends, and the study found that at least 60% of consumers use social media outlets to keep up with their favorite brands. Check out Empathica’s Latest Consumer Use of Social Media Report for further insight.

There are many studies conducted annually by the world’s top consumer research groups, and trends suggest that consumers are becoming more focused on obtaining content from trusted sources discussing their favorite brands instead of communicating with others in terms of social media activity. For many consumers, the primary reason they connect with brands via social networks like Facebook and Twitter is for the coupons, deals, giveaways, freebies and specials that can be acquired. Consumers are also becoming more influenced by product videos, e.g. how-to video, cool ad, etc., as many are more inclined to make a purchase after they’ve seen a product or service in action.

There are a variety of social media opportunities and techniques that encourage consumer engagement, but what much of the latest research has indicated most is that consumers prefer useful social media updates from companies. Updates such as the sharing of product details, product reviews, resolving customer service issues and being active when it comes to customer product feedback. Most of all consumers just want to be taken care of, and in the friendly environment of social media, organizations need to do more than just market their brand.

What we can ascertain at this point is that the Web has increased dramatically in terms of socialization and globalization, and it continues to evolve at an unstoppable pace. In the twenty-first century small business owners should have an actively operable and adaptable social media campaign in place as a major marketing strategy.

Company Blog: The Key to Social Media Success for SMB’s

Love it or hate it, the status-quo has buckled under the influence of social media, and now more than ever it’s crucial for businesses to develop a strong social presence online. What began as a way to simply stay connected with acquaintances and share content, has evolved into an essential marketing tool that today’s small business must accept and adapt to. Because online users visit social networks more than any other type of site, social media provides organizations with the perfect opportunity to connect directly with customers and market their brand more rapidly than ever; with instant feedback.

But many small businesses might not know where to begin when it comes to connecting with and engaging an online community; especially those that may not be as tech-savvy as the rapidly advancing world around them. A terrific starting point is launching a company blog. A blog is nothing more than an online publication that focuses on a particular subject or theme, but its effectiveness as a useful social media outlet is tremendous.

The initial stages of starting a blog simply require the generation of unique, high-quality content that explains, observes and discusses your organization’s niche. What are its objectives? What product or service does it offer? What is the extent of your company’s expertise? What’s the latest news involving its industry or niche? Many organizations will hire a copywriter or outsource the job to a service provider for a company blog. There are also many social media sites that enable users to create free personal blogs; sites such as WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal and Tumblr are a few of the best examples.

Creating and maintaining a company blog with unique, up-to-date content not only gives a small business the opportunity to display its knowledge and authority, but it also creates high quality content that is perfect for the organization’s social media efforts. It’s the type of content that is relevant to your community, i.e. your customer, and the kind that is truly worthy of a share, mention, like or re-tweet. Consumers and social communities dislike spam and irrelevant advertisements, but a company blog provides customers with interesting information which at the same time markets an organization’s brand. Finally, a company blog is also essential for any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign, which is a necessary component for any small business social media initiatives.

Intro to Social Media

The presence of social media in the twenty-first century is unavoidable, and even if you tune out the chirping and chatter of social network status updates, at some point throughout the day you no doubt turn to an online resource to communicate or obtain information.

In a 2012 Social Media Report from a leading global information and measurement company, Nielsen suggests that today’s tech-savvy generation is spending more time visiting online social media outlets than any other type of website. But what is social media? The term stems from a trend that has been so rapidly incorporated into our everyday lives, that few pause to observe its meaning or appreciate its value.

According to Merriam-Webster, social media is defined as any form of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and content such as pictures or recordings. In other words, it’s the sharing of stuff via an online network. The availability of social media relies on mobile and web-based technologies that can be used to develop interactive platforms where online users and communities share, discuss and modify user-generated content. It’s a media phenomenon that has significantly altered the availability of information and forever changed the way organizations, communities and individuals communicate.

Social network pioneers like SixDegrees, Friendster and MySpace popularized the idea of communal online environments where connecting with friends and sharing content was easy and fun. But the world of online social networking today is much grander than the creators of these sites could have ever imagined, and from their revolutionary ideas spawned a whole new world of communication.

Social media is much more than status updates and tweets, spanning every niche and encompassing a variety of content which is created and shared via hundreds of different websites by millions of users. In addition to social networks like Facebook and Twitter, social media is generated via blogs and sites such as WordPress, YouTube videos, music sharing sites like ReverbNation, and online pinup boards like Pinterest. In addition, social media has become an essential marketing tool for corporations and small businesses around the world.

Brief History of Social Media

Whether you love it or hate it chances are you have buckled under the influence of social media, and you have certainly not been oblivious to this trend which edges nearer to a lifestyle. Even more than a lifestyle, what started as a way to simply stay connected with acquaintances has become a part of everyday communication that has redefined what it means to go viral.

What is social media? Social media is a term used to describe online interactions where user generated content is shared or the exchange of information takes place. In other words, it’s the sharing of information through an online network.

Since the Web was in its infancy users have harnessed the Internet as a tool for communicating in ways that were never before possible. Email was amazing for instant delivery of a message no matter where it was headed; chat rooms were perfect for meeting new people that might be hundreds of miles away; AIM and ICQ buddy lists enabled users to stay connected with friends and personal acquaintances.

But it was in 1997 that the idea of a “Social Network Site” was introduced with the launch of SixDegrees.com (playing off six degrees of separation). The site was created to help people connect with others, allowing users to build a friend list, view people’s profiles and send messages directly. At the time there were a variety of individual options for online communication, e.g. email, chat, profiles, dating sites etc., but what SixDegrees did was combine all these features and tools to create a social environment where connecting with others was easy and fun. Though this online pioneer is no longer an industry leader, it once welcomed millions of users and it cannot be overlooked that SixDegrees.com played a hand in the evolution of social media.

Launched in 2001, Ryze.com was one of the first social network sites focused primarily on helping tech professionals and entrepreneurs connect with business networks. Ryze not only helped introduce online social media to the world of small business, but also acted as somewhat of a breeding ground for future sites. (Ryze creators and many initial members of the site, such as the creators of LinkedIn and Friendster, were well acquainted personally and professionally).

As the tech-savvy generations came up and the number of Internet users increased so too did the presence of social network sites, and it was a few years into the new millennium when social media became a trendy sensation thanks to the launch of sites like MySpace and Tribe.net. SixDegrees and Ryze may have been ahead of their time, but both are good examples of sites that paved the way for today’s most popular social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress and LinkedIn. There is also a growing presence of specialized niche sites which welcome a community of users with similar interests.

Nowadays it is nearly impossible to avoid encountering some type of social media, whether it be online forums, blogs, social blogs, wikis, social networks, podcasts, photos, video, or social bookmarking.

A scholarly examination of social network sites was conducted in 2007 by researchers at the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, which is a web-based, peer-reviewed scholarly journal. By utilizing a variety of methodical techniques, theoretical traditions and analytic approaches the intriguing study draws upon a unique collection of articles focused on analyzing a broad spectrum of social network sites. It helps display the value of social media today by taking a look into its history.