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Thursday, July 20, 2017 6:51:36 AM

by Jayson DeMers

Most search optimizers end up getting tunnel vision--understandably. Google still gets the vast majority of all search queries, so most optimizers focus exclusively on Google rankings, and if most of your customers are in the United States, you're also likely focusing on domestic results.

But have you ever thought about spending effort optimizing your website for another country?

Advantages of International SEO

The idea is simple: get your business listed in search engines beyond the ones in your home country. For example, you might optimize your site to show up in searches in Singapore, in addition to the United States. Why would you want to do this?

  • Broaden your demographics. If your product or service has a broad appeal, optimizing for search engines in other countries could instantly make it visible and available to thousands, or even millions of new people.
  • Leverage inexpensive opportunities. Prices in other countries--especially developing countries--are much lower than in the United States. Google AdWords ads in the United States have increased in price steadily over time; they're still not expensive, by most definitions, but prices for marketing efforts in other countries could be substantially lower.
  • Focus on a new target audience. You may also want to target another country as a way to target an entirely new demographic. Rather than simply casting a wider net, as you would if you were only interested in expanding your existing audience, you'll be creating entirely new products, services, and/or marketing materials for a new market segment.
Strategies to Make Your Site Internationally Friendly

As you might imagine, you won't have to radically overhaul your SEO strategy to rank high in other countries' search engines. As usual, your main points of development will include things like technical optimization, ongoing content creation, and backlink building.
 
Beyond that, you can optimize for other countries using the following strategies:

  • Revise your URL structures. First, you'll need to update the URL structures of your website. If you're going to have a United States version and various international versions (as you should), there are a few options available to you. You could host each version of your site on a different domain, or use a different domain extension (like .us) to distinguish between your versions. You could also use different subdomains (like us.examplesite.com) or offer different national versions as subdirectories, which come at the end of the URL. Going even further, you could use a generic top-level domain (gTLD) with extra language parameters to specify which language is displayed.
  • Update your language tags. If the country you're optimizing for has a language other than English, make sure to update the language tags of your site to reflect that new language. This will allow search engines to detect what language you're using in what sections of your site, and index your site accordingly.
  • Understand your new population. Remember, much of search engine optimization depends on how you write for the people reading your content, rather than the machines scanning it. When you adopt an international component to your SEO strategy, you'll need to perform some new market and background research to target your content appropriately. The better you know your readers, the more likely you'll be to succeed, so don't just blindly translate work you've already done.
  • Create regular content in the new language or culture. Again, just blindly translating the work you're doing for United States residents isn't going to cut it. If you want to see any measurable long-term results, you'll need to produce an ongoing stream of content that reflects the language and/or culture of your intended readers.
Overall, updating your site to be featured across multiple countries doesn't take a lot of effort. You'll need to maintain a new branch of your site, and potentially produce new or translated content to target your new demographics, but your domain authority and current content will still help you in your pursuit of high rankings.

International SEO isn't for everybody--just the people specifically trying to target international audiences--but it's still worth knowing the tactic exists, and how to pull it off if you need it.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017 7:05:24 PM

by Jayson DeMers

Nonprofit organizations need to raise awareness of their brands just like ordinary corporations, but they face unique challenges in the marketing world. For example, nonprofits rely on donations to keep their organizations alive, and that often creates a catch-22: relying on donations limits the budget, which means you'll have less available to fund your marketing strategies, but without marketing strategies in place, you'll have a harder time getting those donations.

It may also be difficult to recruit volunteers, or put together a cohesive brand "voice" that summarizes the mission of the organization while characterizing it for the purposes of raising brand awareness.

How Nonprofits Can Take Advantage of SEO

Fortunately, SEO is a good fit for nonprofits as a cost-efficient, scalable way to reach almost any target audience. If you're working for a nonprofit and you're trying to build a search presence, use these tips and strategies to get an edge:

1. Recruit volunteers to write content for your site.

Arguably, the most important ingredient in any SEO campaign is a wealth of high-quality, diversified content. But you're so busy and short-staffed, it's nearly impossible to find time to write all the posts you want. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, rely on volunteer authors to populate your blog on your behalf. Recruiting guest authors is easier than most people think--even for for-profit industries--so it shouldn't be hard to find a handful of people passionate about your cause who also want to establish themselves as online authorities.

2. Reach out to companies for linking opportunities.

Companies usually like the idea of associating themselves with nonprofits. It's a way to give back to the community and engage in corporate social responsibility, and it also makes them look good to their customers. Reach out to businesses in your area, and ask if they'd be interested in partnering with you; you could ask for donations of money, supplies, or even just visibility opportunities. In any case, the partnership, no matter how small, will serve as an excuse for your sites to link to each other. You should be able to generate significant authority by attracting these links.

3. Boost blog posts through social syndication.


Your blog posts aren't going to generate attention all on their own; you need some kind of catalyzing action to attract more eyes to your work. The best way for nonprofits to do this is through social syndication, and potentially boosted social media posts. Connect with as many people as you can, and distribute your work regularly to make sure it gets in front of as many people as possible.

4. Rely on original research.

As a nonprofit, there's likely one cause at the center of your organization; for example, you might be trying to provide resources to local families, or raise awareness and research funds for a specific disease. In any case, one of the best ways to convince new donors is by illustrating the problem you're trying to solve with numbers. Incidentally, that's also one of the best ways to create original content. Do as much original research as you can on the problem you're trying to solve, and weave your findings into your best blog posts, whitepapers, and eBooks.

5. Take images and videos of your nonprofit in action.

You can also motivate more people to follow and engage with your brand by including more images and video of your organization in action, both in your regular content and throughout your social media presence. This helps people understand what it is you do, and humanizes your brand. It also encourages the individuals in those pictures to take action by sharing it further with their social circles.

6. Take advantage of social influencers.

Finally, take advantage of the potential of social media influencers, who are already connected to tens of thousands of followers (or more). The idea here is to work with influencers on collaborative content, or through one-off engagements, and get your nonprofit exposed to an enormous new swath of followers, who can then share and link to your best content. Because influencers want to be seen as benefitting good causes, they'll be more likely to work with you.

Getting Started

With these strategies in place, even nonprofit organizations with strictly limited budgets can achieve growth in SEO. The trick is to get started with enough momentum to generate early results; SEO is a long-term strategy, and it can sometimes take months before your tactics start paying off.

Obviously, you'll need to invest in it as a long-term strategy, but early boosts from influencers and linking partners can help you get the early momentum you need to establish your web presence. Just make sure you have a strong homepage--with convincing calls-to-action--to make all that inbound traffic worth it.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017 6:36:42 PM

by Jayson DeMers

Link building has always been an important part of search engine optimization; links indicate authority, which in turn dictates how sites can rank in SERPs for relevant keyword terms. The Penguin update, which was originally released in 2012, overhauled how optimizers viewed link quality, and subsequent iterations of Penguin helped to shape the "Penguin era," demanding intelligent, relevant link building instead of link spam and forcing optimizers to reevaluate their previous strategies.

Now, we may be entering an entirely new era of link building, thanks to a major change in how the Penguin update works. This is the post-Penguin era, and your link building strategies should change with that distinction.

The Last Penguin Update

In September of 2016, Google released what became known as Penguin 4.0, an end cap to the regular, iterative Penguin updates. According to MultimediaX, the biggest takeaway here is Penguin's incorporation into the "core" Google algorithm, and the resulting process of Penguin-related data to update in real-time.

What does that mean? Previously, Penguin existed as a separate algorithm that worked in conjunction with Google's core. Data refreshes occasionally updated information in Google's index about specific sites, but those refreshes weren't exactly consistent.

You might find out that your rankings dropped due to a link you built two months ago, or fail to see your rankings recover for months after you initially made changes to your link profile. Now, those refreshes happen constantly and automatically, so any actions you take will have a nearly instant impact on your performance.

In addition, Penguin 4.0 introduced a change to how penalties work. Previously, if a formal penalty was applied, it would apply to a full domain. It still might apply to an entire domain, but in some cases, it may only apply to a specific page. However, it's still bad to get a penalty, no matter what.

How to Build Post-Penguin Links

So are links still important? Absolutely. It's almost impossible for any site to rank without first building authority--and you need inbound links for that. Let's take a look at how to build links, now that Penguin is officially part of Google's core algorithm:

  • Focus on "natural" links. Even though Penguin is now part of Google's core algorithm, the standards it set for link quality still remain. If you want to avoid getting penalized, you'll need to build "natural" links, which means the links pointing to your site shouldn't look like they're intended solely to pass authority to your domain. In practice, there's an easy rule of thumb for determining how natural the link appears: ask yourself if a user encountering this link would find the link valuable. If they do, it's probably okay. For example, if you're writing an article about the importance of getting new tires for your vehicle, a link to a site with tire reviews would be helpful to readers while a link to a bowling alley would not.
  • Use strong content as an anchor. Instead of focusing on building links, focus on writing fantastic offsite content. Your content should take priority, and your links should be secondary. Establish guest posting profiles on multiple offsite sources, and do your best to contribute material that those publishers want to see. You'll make the publishers happy and the readers happy, and whatever links you can fit into your content will look natural and add even more value to your already-valuable content. Plus, if the content's good, it will bring your brand some reputation value even without a link.
  • Check your rankings weekly (at least). The biggest change that Penguin 4.0 offered was the constant state of refresh in monitoring backlinks. That means your rankings could change within a day or two of a new link being considered as part of your backlink profile. Accordingly, you'll want to keep a close eye on your rankings, checking in on at least a weekly basis. Doing so will help you identify any problem links proactively so you can remove them before they do any more harm.
Is There a Future for Penguin?

It's unlikely that Google will revisit Penguin, now that it's joined Panda as part of Google's core. However, Google may update the way it evaluates authority in the future.

Over the past few years, Google has made moves to incorporate things like user reviews, ratings, and appearances in third-party review sites like Yelp. It's also incorporated more apps (including streaming app content) in search results. If a new authoritative score emerges in the future, it may come from one of these areas.

Until then, links remain your best way to improve your site's authority and overall rankings--as long as you comply with Penguin's standards.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.