Recapping the 2012 Lancaster SEO Panel and Live Audit: SEO, Overcoming Penguin, and More

SEO meetups happen all across the country, and for good reason.  Just as in every industry, internet marketing has conferences, roundtables, and meetups where professionals and consumers interested in the industry can meet, learn, discuss, and network.  Every couple of months, the Lancaster Online Marketing Group holds a meetup.  The most recent, named the 2012 Lancaster SEO Panel and Live Audit, occurred on October 24th, 2012.  Oliver Feakins and Mike Canarelli, CEO and COO, respectively, of Web Talent Marketing were kind enough to provide a venue and some of their own professionals for the panel.  There were 4 seasoned pros on the panel this time around:

  • Lorianna Sprague – Director of Search Marketing, Web Talent Marketing
  • Jonathan Bentz – Director of Client Marketing, ProspectMX
  • Ray Carboni – Senior SEM Specialist, Web Talent Marketing
  • Ganesh Harinath – Owner, The Dilatorg Group

Matt Self, the Vice President of Web Talent, acted as moderator.

Topics covered ranged from the buzz question, “is SEO dead?”, to the effects of social, to Panda and Penguin, and beyond.  It was a truly helpful, beneficial panel for beginners in SEO to advanced professionals.

Is SEO dead?

There was recently an article on Forbes with the title “SEO is Dead.”  It caused a flurry of activity and what could be considered a maelstrom of activity in the internet marketing world and on social media platforms.  Although much of the hubbub has died down, it’s still a question a lot of people haven’t answered yet.  Lorianna was the first on the panel to tackle the question and summed up the sentiments of the rest of the panel.  She explained that SEO has been defined and redefined over and over again.  One version “dies” and another one comes up.  It’s not so much that SEO is dead – it’s just evolving again.

How is social media affecting SEO and how do we know?

Bentz explained that it was easily manipulated and easy to see when the Google+ button was right next to the search results.  Once that disappeared from the SERPs, the focus shifted even more towards content.  If you have a piece that can go viral, social media platforms make it possible and shift the focus to making good content, something engaging, something that will convert, something that people will want to share and pass on.  Lorianna mentioned these are social metric validation factors.  Google, in particular, no longer ranks specific tweets in the SERPs, instead it ranks user profiles and content that has a lot of tweets.  The more social attention a piece of content gets the more it is validated as good content.

Ray added that it’s important to get involved through social media and post about what’s going on in your business.  Ganesh mentioned, in regard specifically to Google+, that since Google has the “keys to the henhouse,” of course they’re going to use that information to show more relevant search results.  Citing a recent article, if you’re using it for free, you’re the product.  Lorianna and Ganesh both mentioned that social is a great tool for getting bodies to your site and improving rankings, but Ganesh warned that Google will index personal profiles, not tweets, so if you’re using Twitter for rankings, you should probably change your strategy as you cannot rely on it alone.

Panda vs. Penguin

Two of Google’s largest algorithm updates have been named after cute animals starting with the letter “p”.  Possibly to soften the blow?  We’ll probably never know.  A lot of people are still confused on what exactly these two changes did and how to handle things moving forward.  Ray pointed out that Panda was released to target the content farmers.  Bentz added that Penguin was related to stuff happening off-site, specifically targeting backlink profiles and those links coming into your site that were obviously placed there just to improve rankings.  Lorianna continued, saying that the most recent Penguin updates targeted older sites who had gamed the system in the past.  Those who changed content benefitted from this update, but those who didn’t were penalized as they showed a declining backlink profile and just a few indexed pages without new, fresh content.

As far as what to do about it, Ganesh warned that though we should care, we shouldn’t change everything to change things tomorrow – it’s like chasing a moving target.  At the end of the day, Google is making search more relevant to make more money.  It’s a for-profit industry, so the best thing to do is print out those 23 questions to ask yourself for content and keep it in front of you.  Lorianna adds that it’s essential to stay on top of what is changing and why it is changing and employ those tactics.  Looking at updated webmaster forums, webmastering101, and those 23 questions are a good frame when starting out with SEO.

Other tips and tidbits

  • Anchor Text Diversification Post-Penguin:

Lorianna stated it simply - think about what you’re doing.  The goal is to make a natural-looking backlink profile.  When you do keyword research, keep relevant long-tails.  Use brand names where it makes sense to use a brand names, add a keyword if you really want, but don’t be afraid to use the brand if it makes sense.  Utilize naked URLs and No Follow links.  Bentz continued, adding to comment on blogs, without links, but to remember one thing with backlinks and blogs for comments - you better have something useful to share.  If you have something good and helpful, you can link to that in comments, not to your product pages.

  • Press Releases:

Ganesh and Ray mentioned, and the panel agreed; press releases are still a viable strategy; they’re a part of any successful marketing strategy and should be a part of any successful digital marketing strategy.  As long as press releases are not over-optimized and victims of keyword stuffing, they can be a great tool for engaging with your audience, raising brand awareness, and even getting some of those authoritative links coming back to your site.

  • Free Tools:

Ray offered that Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer can give a good preview of what’s going on behind the scenes of a website, but he acknowledged you would have to pay for the full scope from both services.  Bentz added that SEO Book has something like that and for registering on the site, you can access a whole suite of free tools for checking rankings and other stuff, especially if you use Firefox.

  • Bing It On!  Or Not?

Bentz mentioned that based on Analytics, Bing is not much of a contender right now, but if you want to decrease spend in AdWords, PPC in Bing can be a little bit of a lower cost with a little higher conversion rate.  Also, exact match domains tend to rank better in Yahoo and Bing than in Google.  Ganesh agreed that Bing may not be a huge contender today, but he’s not taking them off his radar just yet.  He asked us to take the wayback machine to the 90s when Google wasn’t a contender – look at it now.  Bentz added that the optimization we usually do for Google, normally works well for Bing too.

After the live site audit, Oliver jumped in to say that if you’re learning SEO, get a foundation before you get distracted by all the toolbars.  Page Rank is a good example.  It’s a number and, if you don’t understand the methodology behind the number, you can’t properly analyze it.  Read first.

In closing, stay educated, stay on top of what’s changing and why, employ the right tactics, and above all, create good, helpful content.



10 Creative Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is coming up fast – it’s almost here.  Every once in awhile, life gets crazy and it gets a little bit difficult to come up with something creative on the fly.  If you barely have time to breathe, let alone plan or create a memorable gift, or are just drawing a blank, we’ve created a quick list to help you out.  Even if you don’t use one of these ideas, they’re great starting points for a quick brainstorming session.  Sometimes you just need a new take on the old standard.  Not to mention some of them can be executed in little to no time at all – the only time you need to set aside is the time you’re actually spending with your mom.  Check them out!


Our list of 10 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas:


  • Poems
    • If you have a talent for written word, you can write your own.  If not, you can always use the search engines, “mother’s day poems” gets a decent amount of search volume.  To add an original flair, you can always add a funky presentation – a cool frame, something hand-painted, whatever works for you and your mom.
  • Cards
    • They’re easy to buy, but more heartfelt if they’re made or bought and then decorated by hand.  It may seem a little childish to some, but most moms will find it endearing.
  • Flowers
    • Standard, easy, beautiful – as long as your mom doesn’t have allergies.  Here’s a new take on an old standard – create a bouquet using origami, wooden, feather, or metal flowers.  They’re gorgeous, usually allergy-free, and last far longer than live flowers.  If you’re desperate for a scent, well, they have sprays to handle that with the added bonus of acting like an air/room freshener.
  • Scrapbook
    • This could be created around a moment, a timeline, her favorite hobbies or places, anything.  The opportunities for themes are endless.  This is something your mom can hang onto and show off as an awesome keepsake.
  • Photo Album
    • Not everyone is skilled with scrapbooking, so a photo album suffices.  As with the scrapbook, this could be centered around a fun moment you had together, a certain theme, her favorite animal, or maybe even her bucket list.
  • Spa Day
    • Some moms enjoy a good pampering every once in awhile.  So why not spend a day at the spa together?  There are some great combination packages available for manicures, pedicures, massages, aromatherapy, and more.  You can easily find something that works for you and your mom.
  • Dinner
    • Quick and easy.  Treat her to dinner at her favorite restaurant.  No cooking or dishes necessary!
  • Coupon Book
    • Is your mom stuck cleaning up a lot?  Doing other random stuff?  Give her a personalized coupon book that she can redeem for help cleaning, you taking care of her laundry, a few days of washing the dishes, cooking for her, perhaps a free dinner out.  Whatever fits her personality and gives back to her.
  • A day in their Favorite City/Place
    • Everyone has a place they have always wanted to go or love going to.  Gift your mom with a special day in that place for her.  Maybe for her it’s lunch and a play in New York or a walk down the boardwalk in the coastal city of her choice.
  • Tickets
    • Plays, movies, concerts, amusement parks.  Whatever event brings a bit of joy to your momma, give her tickets to it – even better, go with her to it.

This list is by no means comprehensive.  Gift ideas and opportunities abound.  It’s just a matter of choosing a theme and personalizing it for your mom and your relationship.

With that said, good luck and happy Mother’s Day!


8 Uncommon Common-Sense Business Tips

Professionalism. Business Etiquette. Manners. Common Sense.

All of these terms, at one time, were measurements of character, standards of behavior, and guidelines for appropriate conduct in certain situations. Whether an employer, employee, colleague, or consumer, we come into contact with “business” every day, even if it’s just on that last minute run to the grocery store or gas station. Every once in awhile, it blows our minds.

Strolling into meetings 20 minutes late or blowing them off completely, being rude to customers and colleagues, using the office as a playground for juvenile games and a personal call center. Call us old-fashioned and outdated, but we’ll call it what it is – unprofessional. That’s the reality, folks, they’re not good business practices and they certainly aren’t endearing neither to clients or colleagues.

So, in the spirit of professionalism, good business, and common sense for all, we’ve come up with a list of 8 tips for good business practices that seem to be common sense, but are seemingly uncommon. Check it out!

  • Show up on Time – Being early is not a bad thing.
  • Come Prepared – One person’s lack of planning should never be another’s emergency.
  • Dress for Success – it’s better to dress for the job you want than the job you have.
  • Do Your Job to the Best of Your Abilities – Your boss might not be hovering, but always knows what’s going on.
  • Clients Come First – without them, there is no revenue to pay salaries.
  • Be Articulate in Communicating – Every word you speak or write to a client or colleague reflects on the company, so, please, make us sound smart.
  • Karma is Real – Help a colleague when they need it and they’ll be there to help you when you need it.
  • The Golden Rule Still Applies (even in business) – Treat others how you would like to be treated.

If you follow these simple rules, you will already be ahead of the pack in differentiating yourself as an invaluable asset to any team.

See you at the finish line!


Waiting To Talk Is NOT Listening: 7 Tips For More Effective Conference Call Communications

Editor’s Note: This blog post was a tag team effort by “Ash.O”, our Client Experience Manager, and “Sarah H.”, our Executive Administrator.

One word – Communication. If it seems so simple, why isn’t it?

Communication is a complicated process. You have to not only listen to what the other party is saying (as well as what they are not saying through their body language and intonation), but you also need to react to what they have said with something of your own. A statement, comment, or question indicating you have indeed heard and understood what they have said, while providing your own desired input. It can be a tricky situation, especially if you’re not communicating face-to-face.

It is estimated that most conversational and social cues come from body language, so when you’re communicating with a bodiless voice over the phone, a body of text on a computer screen, or a couple lines of text on your mobile, your cues are cut by at least half. E-mails and texting are in a completely separate category altogether compared to a conversation over the phone. On the phone, you at least have intonation from which to understand the other party. To listen effectively over the phone, you need to rely more and more on the other person’s tone, emphasis, and your own hearing and focus.

If you are merely waiting to talk, you are not listening and you’re probably missing out on the most important parts of the conversation. This is what makes conference calls so much fun! As you can imagine, the more people you add into a call, the more complicated and confusing things can get. Person A is talking to Person B, but Person C thinks Person A is talking to them, Person D is talking to Person B, and Person E is answering Person A’s question and asking one of their own, which Person D asked earlier in the conversation. See what I mean? Effective listening becomes even more important.

Active listening can solve all of your problems. This is a 3-part system designed to ensure you are listening effectively. The first part is to comprehend. This is attained by actually listening to what is being said and asking questions for clarification. The second part is retaining. This can be accomplished by remembering what the person has said or even taking notes as they speak. The third part is responding. This is when you put the first two parts to good use. When responding, you paraphrase their statement(s) and then provide your response or input. This lets the other party know that you are hearing what they are saying, helps keep both parties on the “same page,” and further engages them to continue the conversation with you while feeling more consulted and understood than ever.

Here are 7 tips for easier effective listening during conference calls:

  1. Get to a quiet place with a clear phone line and connection.
  2. Minimize distractions – trust me, Facebook can wait.
  3. When going into a conference call with a client, perhaps speak with the other parties on your side of the call prior to getting the client on the line to setup who is talking about what and when.
    1. If you know your agenda and order going in, it will be easier to keep a pace to the call while still including the client in the conversation. It will also avoid talking over each other, at least from your company’s side and provide the client with the feeling that they are communicating with a unified team.
  4. Listen to what everyone is saying, even if it’s not connected to what you want to say.
    1. Take notes, even if someone else already is, it will force you to pay attention to what people are saying and will avoid repetition.
  5. Keep an ear out for changes in tone, volume, and emphasis – in a call, those are the only conversational cues you have.
  6. While speaking, keep things clear, concise, and at a slower speed.
    1. This should reduce instances of conversational steamrolling, information overload, and repeating information already covered.
  7. Remember – what the other party has to say is just as, if not more, important than what you have to say.
    1. An attitude like this poises you to listen effectively instead of waiting to talk.

Happy Communicating!