Hubspot Answers Your Top 7 Questions About the State of SEO In 2012

Posted by Rebecca Churt
Thu, Aug 23, 2012 @ 11:30 AM


We recently co-hosted a smash-hit webinar with SEOmoz, The State of SEO. SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin and HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah held a captive audience (and cracked a few jokes) talking about the SEO industry in 2012 — and boy has it come a long way. During the webinar, attendees asked tons of fantastic questions, and unfortunately we couldn’t get to all of them. So we figured a blog post was in order to address the SEO questions that were more frequently asked by attendees. Here are answers to your top 7 questions about SEO, and if you missed the webinar, download it for free here and listen at your leisure!

1) If I’m just getting started in SEO, where do I begin?

If you’re just getting started with SEO, you’re probably going to want some quick wins. And the easiest way to get those quick wins is to target long-tail keywords — typically classified as phrases that are three or more words in length. Long-tail keywords typically have less search volume than head terms, but they are also less competitive. Think about it … it’s probably harder to rank for “lawyers” than for “reliable family lawyers in boston,” right? Here, take a look at this image to understand the value of long-tail search a little more:

long tail seo strategy resized 600

See that callout in the chart above that says long-tail search yields an average 36% conversion rate? That’s the other benefit of targeting long-tail keywords — because they’re more specific in nature, the traffic you’re driving by ranking for them is more targeted. And more targeted traffic means higher conversions! Piggy-backing off of our lawyer example, there are millions of people that could be looking for a lawyer; that doesn’t help the family lawyers in Boston looking for new clients. So even if they drove traffic to their website for the term “lawyer,” chances are, most of that traffic isn’t going to turn into a new client … hence the benefit of targeting long-tail keywords, instead! Less competition. Quick wins. Higher conversions. Good stuff.

2) What’s the deal with rel=Author? What does it mean?

When you see rel=Author, it simply denotes the author of a page — think of it as a way to connect authors with their content on the web. Google is using it to help surface content from great authors in the SERPs. They know that the best content comes from awesome authors, and Google obviously wants to return the highest quality content possible in their search results. They hope this tag will highlight those authors, and help their content rank in search results without having to rely so heavily on inbound links to achieve high rankings.
rel author use for seo

When this markup language is employed, it also links to your Google+ profile and through that, pulls in your profile image. This should help make that content more engaging in the SERPs, improving click through rates, showing a new focus on not just ranking in SEO, but actual engagement. To start taking advantage of rel=Author, just follow these steps:

1) Have a Google+ account with a full profile. Make sure the email address for the profile matches the author email and name.

2) Use this link to connect your website to your profile:

3) Wait for the content to be indexed — this may take up to a week or longer.

Follow the guidance from Google Webmaster Tools for additional best practices.

3) What kind of content should marketers create for optimal SEO results?

Search engines are built to mimic human behavior. What’s good for your audience is good for them. If people like your content because they find it helpful or enjoyable, they’ll read it, bookmark it, and share it. That makes search engines happy.

That means the content you’re creating should make readers happy first. And you can do that by making your content specialized and focused. You know, written with your target audience in mind. When you’re creating content with passion and the intent to help someone, you’ll naturally be creating great SEO content. So be thorough, think of topics that your audience wants to read, and offer it up in a palatable way — well written, well formatted, and sometimes even in visual formats. If you do this, you won’t have to un-naturally force a certain number of keywords into your content just to try to rank in the SERPs. In fact, doing that will make the crawlers and your readers really, really unhappy.

4) Do you have any tips on local SEO?

Why yes, I do. Before I get into some nitty gritty tips, let’s get one more general best practice out of the way.

Google has been consistently supplementing search results with immediate answers when conducting local searches. It’s their attempt to get you answers more quickly and improve your experience. As a local business, you need to leverage your knowledge and expertise to appear in these supplementary results. To do that, offer much more depth of content, and cover topics that Google may never offer up content on (simply because they don’t know). Be as specific and detailed as possible, showing a depth of knowledge that cannot be replaced by a machine.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some golden nuggets for great local SEO:

  • Add yourself to local directories like your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Write about local events, history, and the people who work at your company, if possible.
  • Get reviews from sites like Yelp!.
  • Have a Google Places Account — which is now managed through Google+. Bing and Yahoo offer their own versions, too.
  • Have a Facebook Account so people can perform local check-ins.
  • Have a true “Contact Us” page with a working phone number, physical address, and map.
  • Exercise superior customer service. What people experience in the real world, they talk about online.

5) It seems like larger websites need a slightly different approach to SEO. Do you have any enterprise SEO tips?

Enterprise SEO doesn’t need to be radically different, it’s just that enterprise businesses typically have more resources. So use them! Here are some tips on how you can leverage your resources for better SEO:

  • Vary your content. In other words, think of content outside of the realm of just text-based content. Make use of videos, surveys, visual content, and industry trends backed up by data.
  • Segment your content. Google really likes segmentation. It drives better search results if you segment content by, say, industry, because it lets them deliver more specific results.
  • Leverage multiple contributors and authors, especially when those contributors may have segment specialization and want to build thought leadership online.
  • Continue improving your overall website speed and uptime. Nothing is worse — for users and search engines — than a slow site, dead ends (404s), or worse, a site that’s frequently down.

6) What best practices do you have for pay-it-forward link building?

Link building is like relationship building. Come at it with a long-term, mutually beneficial approach. Think about it … if you were looking to foster a good relationship with a new co-worker, what would you do? Probably slowly get to know them on a more personal level, try to be helpful with projects, do nice things for them periodically, and do things to make them more successful at work. You know, just general, good-person things.

That’s what link building is like. Give websites links to their content because it’s awesome, and you think they deserve the credit and boost in the SERPs. Connect with them non-aggressively, like on social media. When they post a fantastic blog post, or you share a snippet of their content in your own, tweet at them to let them know you think they rock. As time goes on (and you continute to create excellent content, of course), you’ll appear on people’s radar naturally. You’ll have built a relationship with high quality webmasters, and you’ll be one yourself. Birds of a feather flock together!

7) What are considered to be “sketchy” SEO tactics?

A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t help the searcher’s experience, it’s probably considered sketchy by Google’s crawlers. Here are a few more concrete things not to employ, though:

  • Keyword stuffing in your content and URLs
  • Overuse of tags on your blog
  • Buying links
  • Aggressively adding yourself to directories
  • Pumping out extreme amounts of low quality content
  • White on white text — for the purpose of keyword stuffing or receiving inbound links

The list could go on and on. The reality is that if it seems shady or is being practiced with the intent of just beating the algorithm — not helping readers — then chances are you shouldn’t do it. Here is a guide on how to build links using social media that is a more holistic approach to gaining traction online.

What other questions or tips do you have about SEO? Share them in the comments!

Image credit: seoz87

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Reality Video Idea For Moving People: Holmes On Holmes Meets Bath Crashers

If you’ve ever had to pack up, move, and hit the ground running you’ll have some appreciation for this video pitch for a reality show based on having a rewarding experience from moving instead of the usual stress filled affair it can be.
If you don’t have access to General George Patton’s 3rd Army, an outfit famous for taking on tough challenges, a show like this could be the start of a new shift toward showing how life’s challenges can be enjoyable, workable, and profitable.
By Larry Dobrow Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012

“Busted Move”: A Video I’d Like To See Created

There are legends and there are heroes, and then there are people who have picked up the phone when destiny called, listened intently, and replied with a steely, “Yes, I am the champion of virtue that you seek, and I accept most major credit cards.” My preparation, selflessness and resolve in the days leading up to our move to the ‘burbs qualifies me for that latter group.

While The Missus has been tending to mundanities like packing, hiring the movers, setting up utilities, cooking and cleaning, helping me find my shirt and raising our child, I have fearlessly charged through 26 hours of TV shows frozen for eternity on our soon-to-be-returned DVR. As a result, I was barely able to make it through my usual ration of three newspapers last Sunday. Is the proper recognition for such brave comportment a street named in my honor, or are we in presidential-citation territory here?

Either way, I was hoping to complement my moving musings with a survey of what I imagined would be myriad branded video series chronicling the process. I expected to find a solid 15-20 clips/series in which an overburdened family – two working parents, three drooling children, and an incontinent pet – were rescued from moving chaos by a zenboy/spiritgirl who just happened to be brand-affiliated. He/she would walk the family through the four major stages of moving evolution (purging, preparing, packing, dropping box on pinkie toe) and neutralize anyone who wasn’t with the program. At clip’s end, we’d see the family happy and established in its new home, a domestic scene that could be my own before the decade is out, and the brand all prominent and whatnot.

Yet there isn’t a single clip out there that approaches this description. We have 8,200 branded series set in workplaces populated by comely white 20-somethings, 8,199 of which ape the Office mockumentary model, but not a one that dramatizes the disruptive life trauma that is a move from one domicile to the next? Videos posted to YouTube by blissfully self-involved oversharers don’t count. This is the worst instance of omissive marketing since the stealth rollout of Jalapeno Cheddar Tortilla Combos (“made with stone ground corn”).

Any number of brands across a range of product and service categories could benefit from affiliation with such a project. Moving companies themselves are the obvious candidates, as their primary marketing tools appear to be self-submitted Yelp reviews (“on time very polite A++++”) and begging random passersby to shower them with Facebook affection. But how about the major-league brands that play a role, sooner or later, in every homeowner’s existence? Samsung is so eager to network my house with its audio and video components that I might have to apply for a restraining order. And I’ve spent so much time in Lowe’s over the last few weeks that I’ve met four of the flooring guy’s five kids (such scamps!).

With the caveats that I know less than nothing about marketing or content creation and that my primary focus of study in college was gerunds, here’s how “Busted Move” – that’s the working title, because you can never go wrong with a slightly negative-sounding moniker that plays off the title of a 1980s hit – might go down. We’d open on a family house in a state of major disarray – boxes everywhere, brush fires in the kitchen, screaming kids smeared with war paint, dad cowering in the corner, mom trying to stop her hands from shaking long enough to down her Chardonnay, etc. Then we’d go back to the start: the picture-perfect family meeting with a moving consultant (or Lowe’s new-home-fixer-upper guy, or whoever). From there, we’d be treated to scenes from both the actual universe (an attentive, orderly moving process, guided by our serene brand ambassadors) and the alternate one (overexaggerated filth, wanton property destruction and inward-directed fury).

It’d be funniest if the alternate version depicted a simultaneous unraveling of the family unit – the moving process exposing schisms that nobody knew were there – but clearly any rough edges would have to be sanded smooth to get brands on board with it. So maybe there’s mild, respectful sparring over whether to chuck the circa-1997 La-Z-Boy recliner (branding!)? Something like that. I’ve clearly thought this through. And honey, I’m keeping my effin’ chair.

Since this ranks among the greatest ideas in the history of online video, I’ve taken the liberty of copyrighting it. I’d watch “Busted Move.” You’d watch “Busted Move,” assuming you recently moved, plan to do so in the indeterminate future or have too much time on your hands. It will claim awards and a place in your heart. Get on it, brand minions.

Larry Dobrow is a Contributing Writer. Reach him at

YouTube Kills Public Video Tags | YouTube Nation Episode 22

How To Design Great-Looking, High-Performing Mobile Email

Some timely tips as we get ready to tackle email campaigns:

by Zephrin Lasker, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012

It’s fair to say that smartphones have experienced explosive growth within the U.S. According to Canalys Research, there were more smartphones shipped in America last year than tablets, desktops and laptops combined.

And what are people doing on their smartphones? They are posting pictures on social networks. They are throwing eggs on pigs that have stolen eggs from birds. But one thing they are doing more than anything else is checking email. According to ExactTarget, 88% of smartphone owners check their email on their phone at least once a day.  In addition, if all U.S. mobile Internet time was condensed into an hour, email would account for as much as twenty-five minutes.

Knowing how to design great mobile email is one of the cornerstones of a great mobile advertising campaign. You could be running a mobile search campaign driving people to a landing page optimized for driving sign-ups. Or you could be running signup ads on mobile apps to capture the email addresses of people who are interested in your business. No matter what type of campaign you are running, you need to design great looking mobile email if you want to extend that first point of contact into a long-term relationship.

Using these simple tips, you’ll be able to do just that.

Design for mobile first. There are more design requirements for mobile devices than for other devices, so you should design for mobile first.

  • Avoid complex email designs, such as Flash or large blocks of text, as they have the potential to break or not render correctly on mobile phones.
  • Contrast the color scheme. Contrasting colors will be easier to read and more visible on small screens.
  • Size your text appropriately. Text should be at least 12 pixels, but Apple recommends 17-22 pixels for iPhones. Avoid blocks of text over 320 pixels wide, as anything larger will be difficult to read on iPhones.
  • Place the most important message first, even if this doesn’t mirror the HTML version. This will be one of the first things that users see on their mobile device, so be sure it’s what makes the most impact.

Design for touch. People use their fingers — not cursors — to interact with smartphone and tablet screens. When pressed against a screen, a finger can cover a 44 x 44 pixel touch area, so be sure to design accordingly.

Mobile users also scroll, tap and pinch, but they never hover or click as they would on a desktop. For this reason, you should create call-to-action links and buttons that are at least 30 x 44 pixels in size, with 10-15 pixels of padding for optimal user experience. This way, users can navigate without expanding the screen. This will also ensure that enough space will exist between clickable items so that a user doesn’t accidentally click on the wrong link.

Keep it short and simple. The same guidelines that apply to writing good signup and search ad copy apply to mobile email. Keep it short. Keep it simple. On the mobile screen, less is much, much more.

  • Some mobile inboxes truncate subject lines, so place vital information (like your call-to-action) first.
  • Make sure your subject line is clear and short — around 60 characters or less. Doing so could increase your open rates.
  • Since you’ve got limited real estate to convey your message, consider promoting your offer and call-to-action in the pre-header, along with your standard “view in browser” link.

Preview your mobile email. Before you deploy your email campaign, be sure to view it in a mobile email preview tool, and test it across different browsers and different phones. You can use tools like DeviseAnywhere, iphonetester, PreviewMyEmail or Campaign Monitor to test your email.

Your mobile ad is only your first point of contact with your consumer or prospect. By designing great mobile email, you can build a long-term relationship with consumers and keep them engaged with your business.

Zephrin Lasker is the CEO and co-founder of Pontiflex. Reach him here.

How To Boost Online Retail Sales With A Video Call To Action

From Media Post Publications, what may seem the obvious solution — tell the audience what to do — works for video as well as text. Make it big and tell them what action to take in your video. Download the whitepaper: The Online Retailer’s Guide to Video Merchandising Success

In this report, are powerful insights to provide recommendations for what retailers can do to increase the success of videos.

Key takeaways include:

1.       How video improves conversions
2.       Why size matters for video calls to action
3.       How placement of video on product pages impacts view rates
4.       The impact of actionable text for video
5.       …and much more!