Content as SEO

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 9:00 AM on April 4, 2012:

A guest post for Handshake 2.0 by Chris Tallman
 
Search engine optimization: What does it mean? Those not extremely close to the subject of SEO can get quickly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there, not to mention the ever-evolving tips, tricks, and tactics put forth by industry pioneers. Many insights can be gleaned from Google’s constant communication and innovation, but, without a doubt, one central concept will never change: content is at the center of all optimization. Perhaps you’ve heard the term “content as SEO."  I’ll attempt to elaborate and enlighten on this concept, and hopefully arm you with some tactics that actually mean something.

Let’s take a minute to reflect on some happenings in Google’s world.

Content as SEO by Chris Tallman

Schema.org

Last summer, in 2011, Google, Bing, and Yahoo collaboratively introduced a vocabulary for marking up data on web pages.  With schema.org markup, webmasters and developers now have the ability to describe to the search engine (and in turn, to the user) just about ANY property of any item. As a high level example, a video item could be marked up such that everything from the file size to the actors are attributed as properties of that video. Pretty cool, huh? It gets much cooler.

Authorship Support

Shortly after schema.org was introduced, Google announced support for HTML5 authorship markup in their algorithm. Essentially, this adds a new ranking and curating factor: you! In supporting the rel=author tag, Google is able to map content to its original author(s), which accomplishes two things:

  1. it adds a level of relevance for searchers to see content created by familiar or authoritative people, and
  2. it helps great, original content sources to keep the integrity of their rankings, preventing scraped or shared content from cannibalizing (outranking) the original post. A firm “to those who create content, we salute you.”

Fast forward to 2012, and the news continue to flow:

Top-Heavy Penalty

In January 2012, Google announced an update to their ranking algorithm that looks at ad content on pages, and penalizes sites deemed too “top-heavy” with ads. In other words, if too much of the top portion of a page is filled with ads, the user has to work too hard to get to the actual content of the page. The ability of the user to get quality content, and in a timely manner, is something that Google takes very seriously.

Entity-based Search

As Justin Briggs eloquently puts it, entities are “nothing new in SEO, but over the last year...moving into entities should fundamentally be changing the way most of us are thinking about SEO.”

Entity-based search refers to search based on people, places, things, and ideas. When relevant attributes or properties of a specific item are searched for (like a specific actor in a movie, for example), Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) will display relevant, related content based on what they believe the user is looking for. I won’t go too into detail, as this wasn’t necessarily a particular bit of news or an algorithm update of any sort, but it’s important to understand.

Over-SEO Penalty

Announced at SXSW 2012, Matt Cutts discussed an algorithm update that would penalize sites that over-aggressively optimized content. The idea behind this update was to make the Google bot smarter overall, and to be able to uncover truly great content that may or may not have been touched or overly manipulated by an SEO specialist.

Semantic Search

It’s really my firm belief that the announcement of semantic search is less of an actual update or change by Google, and more of a recap, or reiteration of what’s happened in search over the last year. We’ve seen minor updates and pushes along the way, but now (and especially now with words like “turned on” being thrown around) we’re simply getting insight into the big picture from Google themselves.

Google’s Knowledge Graph refers to their ability to answer questions typed directly into a search bar. While the subject is a deeply involved one, Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and Senior Vice President, has explained that his vision for Google’s future is one in which questions can easily be answered by Google, based on a living repository of connected and inter-related data of many different types (entities, anyone?)

The underlying principle at work behind this new concept is pretty simple: to understand the world the way humans do, to better interpret the questions searchers are asking, and to deliver precisely the content they’re looking for.

The Point

We’ve been given the tools to optimize and identify our content. We’ve been told that content is central to search countless times, and now are reminded so with the threat of over-advertising and over-optimizing penalties. We’ve been told that entities are important to search, and the better the data attached to them, the better the likelihood of the searcher finding them. Now we’ve been told that some huge update centered around semantic search is about to be unleashed. What does this all mean?

It means we’re being reminded that Google’s sole aim  (and of other engines, for that matter) in search is to provide the BEST and MOST RELEVANT experience to their users. It is this concept, afterall, that brought us to Google in the first place, at the dawn of their existence. Their ability to provide the best content was clearly a step above the rest. Why would anything be different now? I don’t know about you, but if Google ceases to meet my search expectations, it’s not very difficult for me, as a user, to type a different URL into my browser.

The Tactics

I’ve explained how the search landscape has been evolving recently, and how content is (and always will be) the center of SEO. While this will never change, our tactics and strategies must adapt.

I’m currently in the process of putting together a more detailed how-to for some of this stuff for Modea. To document the process, I’ve started a three part post about SEO Today that discusses the same tactics in more detail. As a high level overview, here’s what you can (and should) do:

Claim Ownership

Use the author and publisher markup provided by Google to your advantage. Your original content will be attributed to you and will maintain its deserved authority. A few quick resources:

Identify and Describe

Think about the different types of content you have on your site, and how each piece would be consumed by a user differently. Use the vocabulary that Google has worked with other engines to support! This can truly help to set your content apart from content that may be un-attached or "orphaned." Visit schema.org for information and a few examples. The examples there are very high level and basic, so feel free to ask me if you have any questions!

If the news is not already proof enough that we should be implementing this stuff, Google has even provided a way to check your work in Webmaster Tools. The Rich Snippets Testing Tool can also show you what your SERP result would look like if implemented.

Rich Snippets

There’s enough to talk about here to fill several more blog posts, and it’s fascinating stuff. Rich snippets refer to your content’s listing appearance in a SERP. If you’ve conducted a search on Google, you’ve interacted with a rich snippet before, whether you knew it or not. A few examples (notice how they’re each displayed with different information and with a different layout - it helps a searcher to easily identify what type of content it is).

A recipe:

Rich snippet for a recipe
A blog post (highlights author, whether person or organization):

Rich snippet for a blog post
A video, with an author attached: 

Rich snippet for a video
Click-Through Rate on Relevant Content

As I’ve explained, there are many means available to identify and describe different types of content, and each of these types of content is also displayed and presented differently to searchers. Depending on the nature of the search, users can easily recognize the type of content and whether it’s relevant to their search, and if your content is appropriately presented, it’s likely to get far more clicks!

There are countless case studies and tests run on rich snippets and their effect on click-through rates. I address this in a forthcoming part 2 of my SEO Today post in more detail. 

Conclusion

It’s easy to get swept away by the sheer amount of information out there about the state of search, new SEO developments, new tactics, etc. The key to success in SEO is and always will be to focus on great content, and optimizing that content based on your goals and what your users want.

Thanks so much for reading. As this is a constantly evolving subject, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Find me on Twitter ( @tollhous3), or visit my website (for which I apologize for now - it’s an SEO testing ground currently and I have not replaced the content!). I’m in the midst of implementing everything I’ve written above, whether professionally or on my own site, so I hope I’ve provided you with some new, useful information.

Additional Resources

Chris Tallman is an SEO Specialist with Modea.

First Bank & Trust CompaySponsored by First Bank & Trust Company, one of the top community banks in the United States, with office locations in southwest Virginia, northeast Tennessee, and the New River and Shenandoah Valleys of Virginia. You're invited to read more from First Bank & Trust Company on Handshake 2.0.

First Bank & Trust Company is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

The Benefit of The Cloud for Businesses: Pay-for-Use

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 AM on June 18, 2009:

Handshake 2.0 Takes on The Cloud For our series Handshake 2.0 Takes on The Cloud, we asked experts on cloud computing:  "From your point of view, what are - or will be - the benefits of cloud computing for small-to-medium businesses?"

David Catalano of digital services agency Modea answered:

"The traditional method of IT infrastructure planning requires businesses to make investments in anticipation of future needs. Cloud computing may allow businesses to dynamically scale key parts of their IT infrastructure as needs dictate. Cloud computing may result in the near elimination of up-front infrastructure costs and on-going fixed costs such as bandwidth allocation. The benefit is 'pay-for-use.' Businesses pay incrementally more for cloud resources only when they require it."

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You can learn more about Modea on Handshake 2.0.  On Twitter, you can follow @David Catalano and @Modea.

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We're compiling links to Handshake 2.0's entire cloud computing series on our introductory post.

Catherine Fong contributed to this post.

Twitter 101 from Modea

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 10:00 AM on May 29, 2009:

From Anne Clelland:

Mansi Trivedi of digital services agency Modea explains with clarity and creativity the business use of Twitter in her slide show Twitter 101.  She combines thought-provoking statistics, defintions, and how-to advice effectively and attractively for all to access on SlideShare. Mansi graciously gave me permission to post my favorite slide:

Twitter 101 from Mansi Trivedi of Modea

I just did that!

You can learn more about Mansi Trivedi in our Handshake 2.0 profile and more about Modea on Handshake 2.0.  You can follow Mansi Trivedi on Twitter, @media_reveries , and Modea, @Modea.

Modea Welcomes Mansi Trivedi

Posted by Z. Kelly Queijo at 5:00 AM on April 14, 2009:

From Z. Kelly Queijo:

For Mansi Trivedi, finding a new job was as easy as 2.0.

Mansi Trivedi, associate planner and account executive at Modea A self-proclaimed “Facebook semi-addict,” Trivedi discovered Modea, a digital services agency located in Blacksburg, Virginia, through a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) alumni group on Facebook. Intrigued by the company's work and clientèle, she contacted Modea and, on April 3, 2009,  became an official associate planner and account executive for the company.

“That's the beauty of Social Media/Web 2.0,” says Trivedi.  You don't only live in a physical zip code; we all travel longitudes of distances every day.”

A native of India, Trivedi's trek from Bombay to Blacksburg included several moves along the way.  After earning her B.A. in mass media/advertising from the University of Mumbai and a master's degree in communication strategy from the VCU Brandcenter in Richmond, Virginia, her work took her to Michigan, New Jersey and, until just recently, New York.

Along the way, her passion for writing and design led her to create many innovative blogs:

2009 in pages:  www.mansitrivedi.com

Everyday observations: www.mansitrivedi.wordpress.com

The idea of being displaced, a collective storytelling experiment: www.dsplaced.com

I'm a design geek: http://dailydoseofdesign.tumblr.com

Mansi Trivedi is also on Twitter:  @media_reveries.

“I would like to think that what I did outside of work did play a big role in helping me find a home at Modea,” she says.

She also attributes to VCU's graduate program help in shaping her growth as a writer and designer. “The VCU Brandcenter truly influenced me in what I am today. The school had a huge effect on me in terms of challenging the easy answers and not making just ads. That's the thing about advertising.  We need to embrace the idea of  'new' and immerse ourselves in popular culture to be able to develop communications that connect well with consumers.”

Before her move from New York, Trivedi wrote about what it was like to stand very still on a sidewalk in Soho and take in all the motion of the city for just one moment, sharing with her readers a small slice of  life in the Big Apple.  She wrote about being real with Modea for Advertising Age

I've warned Mansi that, except on home-football game weekends, the pace here in Blacksburg is a bit slower than city life and comes with a lot less glam and fewer limos. She's okay with it and says she's looking forward to being able to “wrap my head around the town and get to know the Blacksburgers and Hokies!”

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Z. Kelly Queijo writes about business and technology, people and their passions.  She is a frequent contributor to Handshake 2.0.  You can follow her on Twitter, @zkellyq.

The Power of Twitter - An Allstate Story

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 AM on March 9, 2009:

From Richard Hammer:

I'm a technology adopter and tend to integrate new technologies into my life easily. I guess there are advantages to being the Director of Web Application Development at Modea ( @Modea ) which make that a little easier [wink].
 
Richard Hammer of Modea When Twitter was launched, I was suspicious, as the business model was based on instant, seamless communication about the where's, what's and why's of everyday lives:  where the hottest new dance club was; what bars were having drink specials; where this movie star was last seen eating dinner; basically sharing detailed updates on some of the mundane details of life. At its heart, micro-blogging at its best.
 
What it has become [and has the possibility of becoming] is a completely different story and I would like to share one of several experiences:
 
Like so many people out there, I have a house on the market for sale. I transplanted my family from NoVa to Blacksburg, Virginia last spring to take advantage of an amazing job opportunity. The house in NoVa is empty, but utilities are still on to make it "show" friendly.

A number of weeks ago, we had a bitter cold stretch connected to an ice storm. Needless to say, the house lost power for several days and the pipes became frozen and burst. I'm fairly handy at sweating copper pipe, so I trekked up to see what could be done. As it turns out, we had not 1 frozen pipe break, but 18, and the recently installed commercial tile floor in the basement was destroyed.
 
I posted a status update on Twitter:

"The good news is it's not a total loss; the bad news is it's more than I'm able to get done in a weekend. I'm in good hands with Allstate."
 
Not 5 minutes later ... I see an @reply ... from @Allstate.

"@FireByDragon I'm glad!"
 
I @reply, thinking this is quite a unique opportunity, given the context of my status update and my unfamiliarity with corporate entities monitoring Twitter:

"@allstate Me too!!! Happy customer since '92. History: 3 rentals, 2 homes, 7 cars, 2 trucks, 3 motorcycles and an RV. Thank you!"
 
@Allstate's response:

"@FireByDragon Thank you for the kind words! I'm glad you had a good claims experience."
 
Now I am impressed by Allstate's use of this medium. They are monitoring the Twitter stream and providing positive customer service in this brave new medium.

Two weeks later, @Allstate offered this direct message, DM, communication and me as a reference:

"@[Twitter User] Sorry, was out of office when you asked earlier about Allstate insurance. Try @FireByDragon Or. DM me for more."
 
There are those out there who might make these points:

  1. It's alarming to think someone else is monitoring your information stream.
  2. It's more alarming that they would be bold enough to interject themselves in that information stream.
  3. It's even more alarming that they would make a referral...even within a context.

Maybe my work history and experience make me unique, but I go the other way.

Here is a brand and a company that, in my opinion, gets it. Here is a visible, public social medium where people are sharing publicly their views and thoughts on anything and everything in their lives. Communities are sharing their experiences and current state of consciousness. Consumers are expressing opinions, both positive and negative, about the world around them and how they interact with it. It would be a missed opportunity for any brand to ignore this medium.  Listening and being aware of what is being said about their band, allows them to, in some cases, actually do something positive and nurturing about it.
 
Hats off to @Allstate. They are truly adopting this medium as a brand marketing tool and have a positive plan in place moving forward. They are ahead of the curve.

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Handshake 2.0 - on Twitter @handshake20 - follows Richard Hammer on Twitter @FireByDragon.

An Elevator Pitch Formula from Modea

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on September 3, 2008:

Cory Donovan, Executive Director of the NewVa Corridor Technology Council, encourages attendees of the NewVa Tech Expo 2008 to use the forum as an opportunity to practice elevator pitches.

On a previous Handshake 2.0 post, I offered an elevator pitch model from Geoffrey A. Moore.

On Inside VT KnowledgeWorks, I wrote about Concept Camp and how director Jim Flowers would only give each aspiring CEO one minute for an elevator pitch.

David Catalano of Modea left this comment:

"You give a whole minute!?!"

I e-mailed him for his advice on an under-one-minute pitch and he offered it generously.  Here's an excerpt from David Catalano's 8/31/08 e-mail to me offering another way for business leaders to craft their elevator pitches:

"Modea is a rapidly growing digital agency. We provide strategic advertising and marketing services to Fortune 1000 clients such as Newell Rubbermaid and T-Mobile. These services include online promotions, email marketing management, web development and social networking strategies. We are successful by combining our unprecedented service with tangible bottom line results."

"If you read that at a New Yorker’s pace it comes to 21 seconds. I’ve established what we do using my own terminology (digital agency), clarify it with words that my target market will understand (strategic advertising and marketing services), established credibility by mentioning Fortune 1000 clients and giving recognizable brand names. Finally I go on to list specifically what these services are and why I feel that we are different from other companies. See, it’s taken me more words to explain what I said than me saying it in the first place!"

Thanks very much, David!