Filter bubbles; what they are and how to create them

A few years ago, Eli Pariser did a now famous TED talk on the concept of filter bubbles. Here it is in case you haven’t seen it yet:

Now as a consumer of information this concerns me on some levels but as an internet marketer, it gives me all kinds of reasons to love any tool that allows me to create my own filter bubbles for myself or my clients and to use this to my/our advantage. I have come to believe that the best tool for creating these bubbles is Google+. Here’s Rand Fishkin of Moz talking about how it works:

Here are some of the world’s greatest Google+ practitioners [and Hulk Hogan] discussing how to put Rand’s insights into practice:

Does it work? It’s scary how well it does! If you agree with me that the number one benefit of using the internet for thought leadership is to get found when people are looking for you or what you do, Google+ is now the most important tool for you to understand and leverage. It’s all happening here…

Why do you need a website?

Have you ever asked yourself the question why do you need a website? Many site owners enter into the process with unrealistic expectations fueled by media fantasies like this old Super Bowl ad from UPS:

Why do you need a website?

In my experience, there are two types of people on the internet — people who are posting and looking for pictures of ‘kittens and bacon’ and people who are seriously looking to find or get found. If you’re in the first group, create a simple Tumblr site, post lots of great pictures of kittens and bacon and voila — soon you’ll be swimming in likes and reposts. If you’re in the second group, however, there are some hard realities you need to face if you hope to get found in search and use your website to generate leads for your business. The internet is not a ‘field of dreams‘ — if you build a website, they will not come unless you engage in some form of search engine marketing [SEM].

At the low end; it’s cheaper than brochures

At a very basic level, a website can be a place to inexpensively post the same kind of content you’d put in a brochure at a fraction of the cost. You can write as much as you want and include images and videos at no extra cost. If that is all you want to do, then there are a wide variety of inexpensive options like Wix and Weebly that will do the job quite nicely and you may even be able to do most of the work yourself. Peter Visser says:

Companies spend millions creating brochures and distributing them. By having a website you can skip that entirely. Your potential customers can find out about you and any of your products online. If you get most of your business through networking and personal connections, then they will want to check out your website.” Go to the source: Why Do I Need a Website? Here are 21 Reasons

If you want your site to be more than just ‘brochureware’ and to actually generate leads for you, read on…

At the high end; engage in search engine marketing

Search engine marketing is a lot more involved than simply creating a brochureware website and using it to promote your business. There are two types of search engine marketing; pay per click [PPC] which as the name implies is not free and search engine optimization [SEO] which is organic and free. As with most strategies, there are pros and cons to both. Each of these strategies involve anticipating what your target audience may be looking for in search, organizing your thoughts around keywords related to those goals and publishing valuable information about those keywords.

PPC

Pay per click most often involves using Google AdWords [or Bing] to bid on keywords that are relevant to your target market. When someone searches for a keyword that you have ‘purchased’, you may show up in the ad space either on the top or the side of the search engine ranking page. Contrary to what most people believe, purchasing the keyword is no guarantee that you’ll show up — Google must still determine that the content to which you are pointing people is relevant to your keyword.  Also, there seems to be a natural bias against clicking on these paid ads and the bias becomes more profound as the age of the searcher gets younger. Searchers seem to favor the kind of organic results that come from an SEO campaign.

SEO

Search engine optimization has no upfront cost like PPC but it requires many of the same skills in terms of determining a keyword strategy and it requires that the content publisher be mindful of concepts like technical seo, on-page optimization and off-page optimization.

While PPC is paid and SEO is ‘free’, SEO still involves a lot of time and effort [and everyone knows time is money] so regardless of which strategy you choose, you should have the resources necessary to stick with a campaign for the long haul and by that I mean that it may take between 3-6 months before you see a return on your effort.

Warning! Content shock ahead

Both aspects of search engine marketing require having great content on your site for those who actually find you. Be aware that if you’re looking to get found in search, you’ll need to work hard. Free high-quality content abounds on the internet and you’ll need to create incredible content if you’re hoping to get found. One of my trusted sources Brian Dean of Backlinko recently said this: “If you’re not a good storyteller, learn the skill or hire someone that does. If you don’t, you’re going to have a tough time getting anyone’s attention in 2016.”

In his post Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy, author Mark Schaefer warns about the supply and demand reality of content marketing…

content shock

In the post I referenced, Mark says:

According to Nielsen and other sources, the amount of content we consume on a daily basis has grown from two hours a day in the 1920s to nearly 11 hours per day today. Propelled by mobile devices, the average amount of content we consume on a daily basis has gone up by two hours a day just in the last three years!

How much higher can this go? 12 hours a day? 13? Who knows. But there is some limit.

On the supply side of the equation, the amount of information on the web is expected to increase by 500 percent (conservatively) in the next five years. If you can imagine how big the Internet is, in the next five years, we are going to have five of those.

Do you think it is going to be a little more difficult to be successful in content marketing?

Thought leaders of the future hoping to get found in search will not only need to create amazing content but they will also need to use platforms that are hyper-optimized for search. It’s no longer enough to just produce amazing content — EVERY aspect of your online presence will need to be amazing if you’re hoping to get found.

If you’re not certain that your website is sound from a technical perspective, I encourage you to take advantage of my free seo audit — it can either give you the peace of mind that you’re good to go or let you know what you’ll have to fix before you are. Then, and only then, will you be able to proceed with your search engine marketing or content marketing campaign knowing that you’re making a good investment.

If you want to get found you must do the work

The Field of Dreams

There is only one ‘site’ in the world that magically attracts visitors with no marketing. It’s called the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, IA. 😀 “If you build it they will come” only works here — it does not work with websites.

At the risk of bursting your bubble, if YOU want to get found YOU must do the work or find someone to do it for you! In my work as a web developer, content marketer and search engine optimizer, I find that there are three essential things that every website must cover to increase the chances of getting found in search. They are:

If you want to get found you must do the work

3 essentials you must cover if you want to get found

  1. Search Engine Optimization [SEO]
  2. Content marketing
  3. Social media

SEO

Search engine optimization actually has 3 subsections. They are:

  1. Technical SEO
  2. On page SEO
  3. Off page SEO

Breaking things down a little further, you can find all the elements of these three SEO issues in this periodic table of SEO elements from Search Engine Land.

The periodic table of seo success factors

Technical SEO tactics include but are not limited to the following

  • Adding a site to the Google Search Console
  • ‘Forcing’ Google to crawl the site and eliminating Google crawl errors
  • Adding a sitemap to the Google Search Console
  • Adding structured data to the Google Search Console
  • Eliminating 404 errors
  • Using 301/302 redirects
  • Eliminating duplicate content and canonical issues
  • Website speed
  • Mobile-friendly status

And that is just the start! However, if you want to be sure that Google can clearly understand your site, either you or someone acting on your behalf must address these issues. Once your site is cleared for technical SEO, you can proceed to creating content or blogging with on page SEO in mind. For on page SEO, I rely heavily on one plugin from Yoast called the Yoast SEO plugin. In the following two screenshots, you can get a feel for how Yoast ‘coaches’ me through the writing process by making sure I use on page SEO in my posts. You can click the images to enlarge.

yoast seo panel 1

yoast seo panel 2

Here is a partial list of some of the on page SEO issues you need to track whether or not you use Yoast:

  • Meta title
  • Meta description
  • Schema markup tags
  • Open Graph Tags
  • Sitemaps
  • Htags

Perhaps now you understand why I let Yoast coach me through the process! Finally, we come to off page SEO. Off page SEO is a ‘simple, but not easy’ process of getting links with more authority than your site to link to you. There are legitimate and illegitimate ways to do this. Do list your site in online directories, establish Google publishership, etc. but don’t hire someone who promises you 5,000 high quality inbound links on Twitter. Google doesn’t like those kind of things and you may be penalized because of it. Instead, consider these insights by Andy Crestodina and Brian Dean who offers the ‘Definitive Guide to Linkbuilding‘ and then chart your course carefully!

What are the consequences of not doing the work?

A recent study from Raven Tools indicated that the average site has approximately 4,500 errors. I asked Jon Henshaw, co-founder of Raven what is the consequence of not fixing technical and on-page SEO errors. Here’s his response:

Many people start their SEO process with content and link building, but they should really start their optimization with their site first. The real life consequences of not fixing on-page SEO issues first is that their site probably won’t rank as well as it could.
It’s okay if there are some things you can’t fix on your site. In fact, that’s a reality for most webmasters. But fixing as many issues as possible could mean the difference between showing up on page one versus page two, or showing up above or below a competitor. If you can address all or most of the essential on-page SEO items I listed in this presentation, then you should be good to go.
The Site Auditor study we released is meant to be a wake up call for SEOs and webmasters. They have a lot of issues with their sites, and if they don’t fix most or all of them, then they’re ultimately leaving money on the table for themselves and for their clients.”
Ponder this for awhile – “fixing as many issues as possible could mean the difference between showing up on page one versus page two, or showing up above or below a competitor” – and you’ll understand why I’m so passionate about helping clients fix the technical issues with their sites!

 

Content Marketing

When — and only when — you have addressed SEO should you begin your content marketing campaign. Until you are certain that your site is being crawled by Google and that you have done everything you can to remove barriers to communication should you engage in content marketing — unless you do, your site will have all the impact of a billboard in the desert.

Is your website a billboard in the desert?

Unfortunately, implementing all the articles about X number of things you can do to improve your content marketing are somewhat of an exercise in futility until clear communication with Google is established and verified and all your effort will have the impact of one hand clapping. Do the work so you know that your efforts will have a return on investment.

Social Media

Although recently Google has made it clear that it really doesn’t include signals from social media in search, social media still plays a vital role in getting your content in front of people who may not see it otherwise. Personally, my favorite social network is Google+ [although I may be in the minority on that one] followed by Twitter. I tend to favorite these two because they are the only ones that Google’s search engine can fully index so whatever I post there may also show up in search. I also use a Facebook Page and LinkedIn page as well. I normally post social media content to my Google+ Page using Buffer and then let another utility called Friendsplus.me automatically post to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter automagically.

What are the next steps?

As part of my practice, I offer a free SEO audit that will tell you how your site stacks up including information on the type and number of technical errors you have, the authority of your domain — even information as to how your competition is doing. Follow this link to read more about the offering — then you’ll have the knowledge you need to either fix the technical issues or proceed with your content marketing and social media campaigns with peace of mind knowing your efforts will be rewarded by Google. At the end of the day, your site and content must be in alignment with the Google Webmaster Guidelines; whatever you offer that Google doesn’t rank is lost margin. Whatever you don’t offer that Google does rank is an opportunity for someone who may be producing content that’s not as good as yours but does Google better. Don’t be that guy!

How to get found online in search

Todd Lohenry SEOHow to get found online is a critical question for anyone who has drunk the Kool-Aid around content marketing. Every day 200,000 new websites are launched and 2.1 million blog posts are written. How will you get found online?

In his article 6 Things Your Website Still Must Have To Get Found Online author Douglass Burdett lists six must-have features:

  • Page Titles
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Headings
  • Images
  • URL Structure
  • Mobile

Seriously? That’s all? How did this post get to the top of the search engine ranking page for the query ‘how to get found online’? While this is a good start, it’s only a small part of the overall picture as it really only discusses some aspects of on-page optimization and leaves out technical optimization and off-page optimization.

Technical Optimization

Technical optimization means that your site is fully optimized and open to Google’s indexing. At the very least it means that you’ve done the following:

  • Created a website on a content management system like self-hosted WordPress that is known for search engine optimization
  • Installed and fully configured the Yoast SEO plugin
  • Entered the site into the Google Search Console
  • Added a XML feed to the Google Search Console
  • ‘Forced’ Google to crawl the site manually to jumpstart the process
  • Used the data highlighter to make sure Google really understands your content
  • Tested for structured data, mobile friendly and Page Speed

Yesterday for example, I was working with a client in this area. He has a clean, minimalist WordPress website that was loading very slowly and by testing page speed, we were able to determine that the developer had used a background image that was over 8 megabytes. The site looked fine but without a technical assessment that included page speed, the client could have been penalized by Google even thought he personally had not done anything wrong. Implementing every idea in a great post like “Forty Things You Wish You Knew Before You Started Your Blog” won’t do you any good unless your technical foundation is sound! You must be sure that your site is fully understood by Google before creating the evergreen content that search engines crave…

Here’s the Yoast SEO plugin in action. See how it helps you get found?

Off Page Optimization

SEO consulting firm Reliablesoft defines off-page SEO like this:

“Off page SEO refers to techniques that can be used to improve the position of a web site in the search engine results page (SERPs). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building but it is not only that. In general, off page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design – for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results.” Source: What is off page SEO?

There are many different ways to do off-page SEO and this article from Moz lists over 21 that will give you some good ideas to put into practice.

How to get found online

As you can see, this is a much bigger topic than Douglass Burdett would like us to believe and includes not only the on-page optimization tips in his original article but also technical SEO and off-page SEO as well and you need to keep all this in mind when engaging in a content marketing strategy. If you’d like to be sure that your website is not hindering your efforts to get found online, I have an audit and analysis service that will give you the assurance you need to communicate confidently online. Use the form below to establish contact…

How to focus on the online activities that get results

How to focus on the activities that get results is one of the most important issues facing entrepreneurs today. When you decide to go it alone or with a small group of people, all the things that have been done FOR you now need to be done BY you.

Take my friend Michael Rohrer for example. Michael is a writer and ‘bon vivant’ who has his own blog and frequently writes for the Huffington Post. When Michael writes for HuffPo, issues like platform, hosting, SEO and social media are all covered for him by one of the most effective organizations in the online publishing world. On his own blog, however, he has to make all these decisions for himself. So it is with the entrepreneur and it’s even more difficult when you don’t already have a platform like HuffPo to provide some lift.

Yesterday I listened to this podcast by Pam Moore of Social Zoom Factor and it got me thinking:

The takeaway? Pam said she was too busy ‘doing the work’ to explore Blab and that and I’m thinking deeply today about what she said and how to bring it back to my recurring theme of making things as simple as possible!

Anyone reading this or doing this [blogging] needs to think about this: what is the 20% of my work that will get me 80% of my results. This is not an original thought, it’s called the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule [you can read more about it here]. Every entrepreneur must consider this! Watch this and get inspired before you move on…

Now, understand you can’t be one of these people [a world changing entrepreneur] if you are continually getting caught up in the ‘thick of thin things’. I can’t help you with the 20% that will get you the 80% in your business but I can help you with the 20% that will get you 80% of your results online, especially if your objective is to build an online reputation and get found.

Two things you need to do to get found

If you want to get found, here are the two things you must do on a regular basis:

  1. Regularly publish 1-2,000 word essays on a content management system that is well-designed and fully indexed by Google
  2. Regularly find and share great content that is relevant to your online brand on a social networking site that is fully indexed by Google and linked by Google to your domain

[ctt title=”You can always do more, but in the beginning you must focus on WordPress and Google+ if you want to get found.” tweet=”You can always do more, but in the beginning you must focus on WordPress and Google+ if you want to get found. #dothework” coverup=”I9Av3″]
Now, let’s unpack these two activities and understand what they really mean…

Let’s talk about a content management system that is well-designed and fully indexed by Google

‘Content management system’ means a self-hosted WordPress website with a blog. WordPress currently powers about 23% of the world’s websites and for that reason and for its search engine optimization capabilities, it is the obvious choice. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a WordPress resource on the internet and when you consider WordPress itself is free, hosting is inexpensive and resources are widely available, it meets the ‘good, fast and cheap’ test as well.

Well designed? I frequently say that WordPress is just a database with lipstick and rouge. Technically, it is a MySQL database combined with a set of PHP, HTML and CSS files that make it look more appealing. These sets of files are called themes and you can either use a free one, buy one designed by a professional or hire a custom designer.

If you can afford to work with a talented designer like Rachael Albers of RKA Ink do it. If you need a website before that, let Ryan Rhoten’s site DIY Website Guy guide you; either way pick a WordPress theme that is eye-appealing and responsive — personally, I prefer the themes from Studiopress but anything that is a Genesis child-theme will probably work for you. Make sure it’s also appealing to Google from a technical standpoint. Test the theme with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool and the ‘Mobile Friendly‘ test. Later on, don’t forget to use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to make sure your site loads fast as well! These are just a few of the considerations you need to cover on your own or with a web designer and a search engine optimizer.

Last on this topic? Whatever you decide to do, spend some time in the Google Webmaster Academy to make sure that Google can fully understand your site and content:

Thinking about creating a website? Great! Webmaster Academy has the information and tools to teach you how to create a site and have it found in Google Search.

Who should take Webmaster Academy?
Anyone who’s interested in creating or improving their website can take it. Whether you’re a business increasing your web presence or a photographer putting together an online portfolio, we can help you get started.

Intro to Webmaster Academy – Search Console Help

Whenever I build a site for someone or do an SEO audit, this is the second thing I check. Frequently, I find the site has not been entered into the Google Search Console and when I do that, that traffic might increase 5-10x immediately after I do. If you don’t do this, I know it’s hard to believe but Google may never find your site! There are now almost 200,000 websites launched everyday and no one really gives a damn about all the work you did to get your site online. If you don’t enter your site into the Google search console you have to wait until someone links to your site and the Google bots cross over from an indexed site to your site. Currently Google only indexes about 5% of the internet so if you don’t make sure that your site is indexed by Google your site might never be indexed. Take the time, therefore, to go through the Google Webmaster Academy and learn how to take this critical step. If you don’t you’re just wasting your time if your goal is to get found.

Now let’s talk about a social networking site that is fully indexed by Google and linked by Google to your domain

Currently there is only one and that is your Google Plus page. Google Plus pages are fully indexed by Google for semantic search AND they offer the benefit of being able to link your domain to your page to establish Google Publishership — an added benefit that signals to Google that your website and your Google Plus page are ‘one’ and acting in concert. You also get the benefit of having your page profile picture showing up in search like this which helps set you apart:

2015-09-10_10-41-10

The Google Plus page will also help you get found in private search. My page gets 60x more traffic than my website and I use it to drive people to my site. As you can see here, most of my internet referrals come from Google+:

Social traffic

Click the image to enlarge

You can start your page through the Google My Business program and there are a bazillion resources that will help you get started — Martin Shervington’s Plus Your Business page is a great place to start!

That is my advice

I’m sorry if you were expecting something more, but in my practice I am always trying to break things down to the activities that really matter and if you want to get found, the two tools you need to master are WordPress and your Google+ Page. I’ll be doing a Blab to talk further about this post tomorrow afternoon at 13:00 Central Time in the US [GMT -5] so you can either post your questions below or join me online then [subscription link].

Here’s the blab discussion from Friday 9/11…

Remember…

Things must be made as simple as possible

How much SEO is enough? More thoughts

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SEO is dead? Hardly! Unless you’re just posting pictures of kittens and bacon, SOME thought should be given as to how your amazing thoughts will get found. Just having a pretty website is not enough. All the word of mouth in the world is just not as effective as showing up in search. As someone who monitors this space every day, it seems there are two emerging schools of thought:

  • Forget about SEO
  • Think about nothing but SEO

A few weeks ago, I posted about finding a middle way between these two positions; I called it the ‘Goldilocks’ approach and since then I have been thinking about little else besides what are the basics that every solopreneur and small business person should cover if their objective is to get found in relevant search. At that time, I developed these 7 steps as the bases that should be covered:

DIY SEO

How much SEO is enough?

For those who are wondering what the next steps are, I offer the following thoughts curated from my morning reading today:

  • Embrace SEO if you want to get found
  • Understand on page optimization
  • Understand off page optimization
  • Understand how to write for Google AND your audience at the same time
  • Understand what role social media plays in helping you get found

If you want to dig deeper, here’s a suggested reading list:

How much SEO is enough? Read these six posts and you’ll have a pretty complete picture.

https://storify.com/toddlohenry/6-seo-posts-that-rocked-my-morning

If this seems to be too much effort you always have the option of hiring someone to do it for you but the objective here is really for solopreneurs and small businesses to see what is actually required and be able to make an informed decision about how much they can or should do to do on their own. For example, one decision might be to embrace the 4th bullet point “Understand how to write for Google AND your audience at the same time” while engaging an SEO-savvy web designer to set up much of the rest. By the way, each one of these articles found me this morning via Inoreader, the power tool for content marketers. I describe the process I use here.