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All of the articles contained in this category are about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the practice of helping websites appear more prominently in search engines such as Google and Bing. Most of these articles are around the more technical parts of SEO, especially SEO for Wordpress, but you will also find articles about linkbuilding, social media for SEO, and Microsoft Excel for SEOs.

Marketers produce content. We produce a metric ton of content every day, actually. We’re told to create great content and to keep producing great content.

*cue the parody “Great content is killing me”*

Not only do we produce content on our own sites, we also produce content and put it on other sites (which some deem pretty insane). Let me get this straight – We’re creating high-quality content, that takes up our own creative energy and time, so that someone else can put it on their site. And we’re doing it for a freaking link??

If you’re just doing content for the sake of a link, let me say that you’re doing it wrong. Yes, I’ve worked in SEO for a while now. Yes, I know the value of a link. Yes, I can put the monetary value on a link, and I have. Yes, I still think about links first when I scan a piece of content.

BUT. What if I told you that you can still get all of this and more? Continue Reading…

I don’t often write blog posts blasting Google, nor do I often reference local SEO, but I am going to do both in this post. In fact, I’ve been blogging a lot less this year (for many different reasons), but I felt compelled to write this post. In my work at Distilled, I am lucky to work with thought leaders and brands in their spaces. Because of this, we’re able to target competitive terms.

The reality of the situation, though, is that Google has slowly, for the past 6-9 months especially, been slowly making changes to their SERP layout that are effectively (very effectively, mind you) stealing non-branded searches (which as we all know have a higher cost per click, or CPC, than branded searches) from everyone, small businesses and big brands alike.

What I want to do is lay out the landscape for you, specifically in the travel niche, of what we are seeing and then make some recommendations for how specifically to target organic traffic for your website, both small business and large brand.

The Situation

First, let’s take a look at what you can really see on a 15″ laptop screen, which for now is a relatively normal screen size (I use a Samsung Series 7 15″ screen), though according to this:

High resolution 21 to 24-inch widescreen monitors are now both commonplace and relatively cheap to pick up. Laptop displays range from 10 to 17-inches, and tablets 7 to 10-inches for the most part.

london-hotels-nonbranded-search

Other than an OLED TV, LCD TV, and Desktop monitor, a laptop is a typical size that most people use, with over 60% using a laptop or PC at home:

npd-display-search-display-size

As you can see (I’ve highlighted in pink what is Google and in yellow what is organic), everything about the fold is links to Google or a click that makes Google money on my laptop:

london-hotels-nonbranded-search-google

When I click on the Premier Inn link, it takes me to a branded search for Premier Inn that has 1 (count them), 1 organic link above the fold (which is PremierInn.com, luckily for them):

premier-inn-branded-london-search

With the pink and yellow again, we see this:

premier-inn-branded-london-search-google

Even without the organic listings being above the fold, this study recently came out with a CTR study on the local carousel showing where people are clicking, which is predominately on the local carousel and the map:

Screen-Shot-2013-06-25-at-9.53.57-AM-580x619

Of course, this isn’t a surprise since a study that came out recently (thanks Dennis)says that the first position gets 33% of clicks, while the Slingshot study from 2011 said 18%. So we can imagine that if Google puts a box up higher on the page, it’s going to be clicked more (and hence they’ll make more money).

And finally, AutoRevo came out with a post yesterday showing that the local carousel is actually further obfuscating non-branded search traffic, and essentially that sites in niches where the carousel is showing need to kiss a lot of their non-branded organic traffic goodbye:

impression-data

What’s A Company To Do?

Hopefully you are seeing now that this is a big deal for sites in niches where the carousel appears (mostly travel and restaurants right now). In fact, Conductor came out with a study recently (at the time of writing this post) that shows that while organic traffic accounts for anywhere between 53-56% of total visits, for travel it’s only 31% of total traffic (and that’s going to tank soon):

web-visit-channel-distribution-2

So what do you do? Google’s taking away non-branded organic traffic and making you pay for more traffic to make up for the difference (at a higher CPC than needed), so what can you do to gain back some traffic?

Well, here are some ideas:

  • Content to gain longtail traffic that converts to microtransactions that converts later;
  • Ensure that you rank for all your branded terms;
  • Drive branded searches through paid search, offline advertising, and social

At the end of the day, Google became tired of ranking crap affiliate websites for non-branded searches. It seems like now they are targeting spam from a couple of different directions:

  • Encouraging branded searches
  • Moving towards authorship
  • Ranking sites more off domain authority rather than individual page authority

In verticals like travel, especially hotels, your choice now is to go for longtail traffic or accept that your overall natural search traffic will be down. Google’s squeezing you out, so act accordingly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A fundamental shift has occurred over the past two years in the way people consume content on the Internet. Not quite six years ago, Google bought the RSS service Feedburner for $100M and integrated it with their blogging platform, Blogger, as well as allowing bloggers on other platforms like WordPress to syndicate their content through it.

According to Compete, Feedburner is on a downward trend in terms of traffic:

BuiltWith seems to corroborate this:

feedburner usage stats
Source

In fact, Google seems to think that RSS is dying because they have deprecated the Feedburner API and are even talking about shutting it down completely in 2013. That should signal something to marketers if Google does not think the product worth keeping alive, even if simply because Google is the big player on the Internet and holds the ability to shift mindsets and kill verticals if they wish.
Continue Reading…

SEO is getting harder. When I started in the industry a few years ago, it was possible to throw a bunch of exact match anchor text at a page and it would rank fairly quickly. You could spin content all day, or just replace keywords in templated content, and still rank fairly well fairly quickly.

Now things have changed, and SEOs are trying to deal with the ramifications. We’re dealing with (not provided), personalized search, location-specific search, Penguins, Pandas, and more.
Continue Reading…

Start With The First Link

John Doherty —  December 19, 2012

I work on a lot of large websites in my job at Distilled – ecommerce, publishers, other revenue-oriented websites. Often, I am working with sites who have hundreds of thousands if not millions of links pointing to them, but they’re often top-heavy (ie a lot of links to the homepage).

Continue Reading…

Do The Work

John Doherty —  December 4, 2012

SEO is not about quick wins. I get asked all the time to “give us something that we can do now that will have a noticeable effect”. People, everyone, wants to get the most bang for their buck, and this especially happens in business where there is direct pressure to produce ROI. After all, no one brings in a consultant until they are unable to solve their own problems. At this point, your problems become mine.

If you’ve been seeking quick wins and they’re not working, what the heck makes you think that me giving you quick wins is going to fix your problems? Quick wins have not been solving your issues until now, so why do you think anything is going to be different with my quick wins? Continue Reading…

SEOs are Growth Hackers

John Doherty —  November 27, 2012

Growth hacking has become a buzzterm in the past 6 months, ever since this post written back in April by Andrew Chen. There’s even a growth hacking agency in New York City (linked at the bottom of the post) and startups are starting to hire growth hackers to help them scale up their user base faster.

I’ve heard the growth hacker term thrown around a lot, and have experienced both positive and negative reactions to it from people I know.

The goal of this post is to define down what a growth hacker is, how this integrates well into online marketing, and then to give a few examples of some growth hacks I’ve either seen or heard about that have helped tech startups grow. Continue Reading…

I swore at my computer the other day (sorry Mom). You see, I had just seen a tweet that led me to this page:

That, of course, is the current Airbnb homepage, where they announced that they have built out neighborhood pages, such as my neighborhood of Boerum Hill.

I didn’t swear because they launched something that I wanted one of my clients to launch. I swore because they did it so damn well. These pages are beautiful. They have local knowledge, large photos (which is rare for travel, but makes so much sense), and they don’t talk about themselves – rather, they let people see the area and qualify themselves, with only a call to action at the end.

This marks, in my mind, the final step in a move towards the visual web – these pages are going to rank because they are so useful and beautiful (though they do need to work on SEO on these pages) and they will naturally attract links.

The web is becoming visual; SEOs need to get on board. Continue Reading…

I was just chatting with my good buddy Dave Minchala about a recent change I saw in Google Maps (tl;DR HotelFinder is now integrated into it for me). A big long tweet chain started that brought in the heavy hitters of Local Search. Dave said:

 

That got me thinking – why not build it and share it? And while I’m at it, why not do it for the blogs that I know and trust and always go to for more information?

So here are two custom search engines for you to do just that. Continue Reading…

I’ve seen an alarming trend recently in startup websites. Most want to follow this model:

It’s not uncommon to see this sort of page on a startup’s website:

It’s super simple, just a few points, and a form (and this even asks for your phone number. Talk about asking for too much on the first date). And the reality is that it’s not going to rank for anything substantial because there is simply nothing useful on the page for the search engines to index and rank.

Today let’s talk about the difference between squeeze pages (directed towards conversion) and ranking pages (that can also convert, but will do so at a lower conversion rate). Continue Reading…