Content Creation and Curation Tips for Tumblr

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Tumblr is many things, a blogging platform as well as a social space. The problem why Tumblr is difficult to understand is that it is relatively popular only in the US, and this makes any global outreach strategy difficult to justify but to be fair, it’s all about repositioning your post to appeal to a younger and more vibrant audience.

During the US elections, Tumblr users were a targeted demographic. Why? It is the young that will shape the future of the country and their views and opinion counts.

Any global brand have to recognize the need to cultivate the interest of the grass roots before they can be harvested as customers. Building that interest doesn’t happen overnight. It takes times and there are many competing brands in the market place which are doubling down on that reach.

Another thing about Tumblr is that it is social. Fellow bloggers connect with one another and this has been a winning strategy for brands who want more exposure. Bloggers on Tumblr are accessible to both readers and brands. It’s also part Twitter, #hastags rule the roost, if you content isn’t tagged, you don’t get found of followed.

Tumblr is all about Content

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Forgets about trying to ‘convert’ or monetize. Tumblr is really for those who have content to share. Brand building, engagements with fans, and even a short blog for your company with lots of pictures and hashtags are good to go.

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Let’s not deny the fact that the Internet generation is a little short on attention span. Long form journalism isn’t a way of life for the young. They like pictures and short sentences. Got a video? That’s cool too.

Trying to push them stuff via a shopping cart isn’t going to work. Think of it as a picture catalog of content. Cast your subjects in the best light. You build anticipation and if they like what they see, they could hit the shopping cart button to buy something.

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Like Pinterest, there are more women than men on Tumblr, and from the stats above (taken from Alexa), you get the idea that they are the school going sort who spend a whopping 15 mins at a time browsing Tumblr content. There are trending topics for people to discover and since Yahoo acquired them, there has been a visible change in their content discovery strategy.

Tumblr is a fully loaded CMS platform

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WordPress CMS is the platform of choice for most companies, but Tumblr is the most popular, beating WordPress to a pulp in the process. It has all the options to set up multiple pages like a real website, and is totally social, allowing you to link your Flickr, Pinterest, Facebook and Google Plus pages and profile right into the blog. What’s more you can even link your online shop which is redirected. It may not have the muscle to process transactions but with the link embed, you can still bounce potential customers to your online store.

Multiple page navigation is a great way to start a full blown website. Think of the navigation links your company or service needs and it will be fulfilled. No need to host it on WordPress if you are on a budget. Tumblr will do fine for those who are not accustomed to writing long passages or at describing what they do. You don’t have to be corporate sounding too. Just be cool and you’re hip.

Tumblr is US centric

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There are a lot of lurkers on Tumblr. These are the folks who subscribe to Tumblr just to view content while not having anything else to share. It is a wonderful place to dust off your old pictures and post them online with the appropriate hashtag.

The problem with Tumblr is that it isn’t a global phenomena. Most of the web traffic is from the US.

Re-purposing Content for Tumblr

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Tumblr was created to showcase content in a grid space. This means your content, regardless of the material has to flow vertically or be placed in a grid like manner for every content post.

Consuming these post in bite size pieces is probably the easiest way for the majority of Tumblrs. A nice picture entices the eyes, and upon clicking on a grid, you have descriptive text.

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This also means you need to re-purpose your content. If your original content was a hard sell, you need to ante up on the graphics or pictures. Drop in a line or two that sounds cool (or not anything at all) and hashtag your post with the target in mind.

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Tumblr can exist as its own as a company blog. I know there are a lot of companies who do not like to say too many things so a picture post every now and then as a company blog is fine.

You can still host your company website on a WordPress CMS but have a redirected link to your Tumblr blog post for all the latest happenings.

Sometimes just because you don’t have anything to say doesn’t mean you should leave your blog gathering dust. This is something that is happening to many corporate sites which are either brochure-ware or catalog based. When they have something new, they would have to put their corporate spiel onto it. So stop thinking of those keywords to convert customers and engage them through the visual senses.

Even a picture post every week on the things you do is probably going to do your company blog a lot of good now that Facebook pages is officially dead when it comes to eyeballs. Facebook engagement to your followers are in the region of 0.8 to 1 percent in 2015. Boosting your post might yield 16 percent. Organic growth remains at zero for Facebook pages.

This is why you should post to Tumblr, and have that same post carried on Facebook just for SEO purposes. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.

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Chasing Google SEO: Mobile requirements Updated

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There was a recent update announcement to the Google algorithm and will go live in April and it has to do with being Mobile friendly. Let’s be fair, we were all expecting it to happen as Google has been kinda slow to implement and recognize the value in mobile web traffic. Best of all all, this update has  no secret name or handle for this new update, and you can view it here. The point of this update or revision is concerned with making your site responsive to mobile devices.

How your serve up content to mobile customers is the key to this revised algorithm. Looking at the prerequisites, it doesn’t seem to be much. But it will be a huge jump for those who have traditionally created only desktop type websites for their products and services.

This revised algorithm does not change what is already implemented in Google Hummingbird but builds upon it. So you will have points deducted once it recrawls your site to see if you are mobile friendly.

How Google Tweaks its Algorithms

The general public thinks that Google only tweaks the algorithm on a quarterly basis but in reality, only major changes are updated that way. Every month, the Google team takes a piece of code and takes it apart to better reflect its goal. Sometimes it works and other times it is very turbulent.

You can view the turbulence chart here at MozCast which is calculated on a monthly basis. For this, search engine results (SERPs) are monitored for changes and that’s how the chart comes about.

To be on top of the list, there are a few factors in which you are awarded page rank points. The rest is fair game. The mobile friendly requirement however seems to be more critical, as it will change the page rank of your site if found to be mobile un-responsive.

Responsive Web Design

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Google is going out to woo mobile users. Web traffic for mobile site have increased dramatically over the years and the challenge is to pare down the desktop friendly site so it becomes usable without being a data bandwidth hog. These days, an average website landing page is definitely more than 1MB, this can be even up to 10MB at times and more for those with high graphic demands. Having a RWD site means the server CMS will scale down the data usage to meet mobile standards.

Responsive Web Design is more UX based, but Google has injected it’s own regulations to ensure your site is crawlable. To know if they think your site meets their approval, Google has its own crawlable test, which you can take here.

Mobile SEO Explained

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One of the most pertinent issues are addressed in the new SEO update. The lesser ones, that concernslayout and single page dynamic content is not addressed. Part of the problem is that Google’s own engine isn’t that complex and much of what it does relies on content identification, URLs and linking. There are Schema requirements too, and this sort of optimization requires you to fire up your text editor and to add and tinker with code within the Theme of a CMS.

Much of Google’s new requirement fall into the following criteria:-

  • Speed of loading
  • Dynamic Serving of Pages
  • Keep Resources Crawlable by avoiding robot.txt usage
  • Deep Linking for App-only Accessible Content

Like it or not, if you don’t have any HTML knowledge, you better let someone else do it for you. A CSS sheet, with HTML code is a massive page of text which only the geek in us can decipher. Knowing where to enter the schema friendly code takes some knowledge and please don’t do it unless you know what you are doing. Simple mistakes like using an opening <center> and not closing it with a </center> tag can throw up rendering errors for your theme or page.

This makes things difficult as bug hunting can take hours or days depending on how you approach the problem.

Ranking and the new Mobile SEO

Design wise, Google offers no clues. Should your mobile site conform with page layout requirements like in a desktop websites? I have no idea but this is probably a gray area that Google has not been addressing.

Content has to be crawled. This means that for every link you put up that links to some kind of content, it has to be mobile friendly or else you will get booted off the rankings. Faulty links will be penalized so you have to pay attention to how your site responds to mobile users.

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Should I be Chasing the Page Rank or just make it Mobile SEO friendly?

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When you look at the turbulent state of Google’s Algorithm each time they tweak it, found on Mozcast, you’d realize that the finer points of Page ranks is often fought with a team of full time army of people which many of your have no access to. Every month, Google engineers will implement new tweaks and in the process affect your placing on SERPs. As long as you follow the fundamental requirements, your only other hope is to have a unique branding of content, socially active on social media and refined your site with RWD.

You must not forget that since Hummingbird came into play, the new algorithm is tuned to look out for content that is shared and provide useful information for its users. RWD is there to help your site when Google detects its searches made through a mobile browser and will offer to serve up only RWD sites first.

Google’s main aim is to allow Google Voice Search to do the searching for you in mobile, and as long as you have very thin written content, that in itself will affect your ranking. So if your content consist of mainly graphics, images or video, the only hope for you to reach the top SERP rankings is boost it through social sharing and usage.

No website will completely meet the requirements of Google’s Hummingbird and constant algorithm changes, what you lack, you can make up for it in other areas and chasing the elusive prime spot on SERPS for your product or service category can be better achieved with the use of Google ads. Cheaper too if that is what you are after.

SEO: Why ccTLD Domains Matter in SERP

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There has been a lot of discussions on TLD (top level domains)  and ccTLD (country code top level domains) and this was one of the least recognized SEO trick in the book. TLD are domains ending with just .com,.biz,.org,.net….etc. These are generic TLDs and highlights the use of such domain signatures to indicate the sort of business you are in. This unfortunately no longer applies as even porn sites have .org.

The next thing to come out of the SEO equation is ccTLDs. Americans in general have problems understand this and there has been much critical press about the validity of this. Unfortunately, the bible for SEO has already been written by Google on the matter. The except of which is quoted below.

Multi-regional and multilingual sites

A multilingual website is any website that offers content in more than one language. Examples of multilingual websites might include a Canadian business with an English and a French version of its site, or a blog on Latin American soccer available in both Spanish and Portuguese.

A multi-regional website is one that explicitly targets users in different countries. Some sites are both multi-regional and multilingual (for example, a site might have different versions for the USA and for Canada, and both French and English versions of the Canadian content).

Expanding a website to cover multiple countries and/or languages can be challenging. Because you have multiple versions of your site, any issues will be multiplied, so make sure you test your original site as thoroughly as possible and make sure you have the appropriate infrastructure to handle these sites. Following are some guidelines and best practices for creating multilingual and/or multi-regional sites.

And there is another clue here that people seem to forget. Your ccTLD should be hosted in the country of origin, even though the SERP will not reflect this if you are using a CDN, countries with established Internet hosting infrastructure should not skirt this.

Server location (through the IP address of the server). The server location is often physically near your users and can be a signal about your site’s intended audience. Some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so it is not a definitive signal. Other sources of clues as to the intended audience of your site can include local addresses and phone numbers on the pages, the use of local language and currency, links from other local sites, and/or the use of Google My Business (where available).

 

How Does this All Work?

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Good question. It is not for people browsing the web for general SERP but for users from that country looking for information provided within their national boundaries. This means if a person is doing a search in Spain for spanish related content or key phrases, then Google search will serve up .es pages which are hosted on Spanish servers (through IP detection) in preference to .com results. Through the use of Webmaster tools, you can also make your site appear on a top page of a SERP by targeting ONE specific country, as quoted here from Google.

You can use the Country targeting tool in Webmaster Tools to indicate to Google that your site is targeted at a specific country. Do this only if your site has a generic top-level domain name. However, don’t use this tool if your site targets more than a single country. For example, it would make sense to set a target of Canada for a site about restaurants in Montreal; but it would not make sense to set the same target for a site that targets French speakers in France, Canada, and Mali.
Note: Because regional top-level domains such as .eu or .asia are not specific to a single country, Google treats them as generic top-level domains.

This means, you can be top dog for SERP in one particular country as long as your business is targeted for it.

Why  use ccTLDs?

People generally like .com addresses for one simple reason. It was the first to come out and the most recognizable. In many countries, it is an absolute PAIN to register a ccTLD.

Many ccTLDs are controlled national domain registries in that country. This means it becomes harder for people to register a ccTLD if they do not meet the criteria. There are normally 2 criteria for registration of a ccTLD.

  • A company or business entity with a local set up in that country.
  • A person who is not a foreigner in that country.

It also cost more to register a ccTLD, and in some countries, up to US$130 bucks a year. However if your intention to get a good ranking in a country specific SERP, then it makes perfect sense.

Who should use ccTLD?

Simple as pie. As a local business operating within a specific country, searches originating from your country will be better served. Even for online businesses like Amazon, we have seen these giants operate from ccTLD. By serving up pages of content in the local lingo, you have validated your intentions and this goes without say, having to pay to get to the top of the page. Sure, things get more difficult if your business is generic, like the hotel business, but it will serve up better if you include the local address with a local contact number.

The whole idea behind searching is to find things from a local perspective. If your search phrase is more generic…like “how to use a toothbrush” then it won’t matter what comes up. However if people are searching for “Spa in Iceland” you are better off having an Icelandic ccTLD.

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Responsive Web Design for Mobile

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I want a website! I don’t want one that SUCK! What Should I do?

In the old days, at least during my time, the only option to show off your website was to create one on a web host with code. Then came desktop programs like Pagemill from Adobe that sort of help iron out the rough edges but that was no guarantee it would not suck! The problem back then was browser compatibility (it is still the problem now but to a lesser extent). The only way to bypass that was to use Adobe Flash (hence its popularity).

Since Adobe has scaled back on its support for Flash, it has become a veritable nightmare for browsers as a new breed of surfers emerge to take its place. These new breed of web surfers are now referred to as mobile web traffic.

Mobile Web took off in a big way in the 21st century. Data has to be transmitted and understood by devices with a peculiar set of protocols. In its day, WAP and Docomo’s i-Mode were highly popular and due to limited bandwidth on mobile, TCP/IP standard didn’t enter mainstream until much later in the late 90s thanks in part to EDGE/3G services giving you much faster data access.  I won’t bore you with the details but responsive web design in the old days meant that you had to put up a WAP site along with your standard website. I-mode in  was only happening in a handful of countries before it died prematurely in the hands of the iPhone. The iPhone in particular spearheaded the rapid demise of all other mobile protocols.

Now, why would you want to put up a website to meet the demands of both desktop web surfers as well as mobile surfers? Good question. According to Gartner and Cisco’s report, the dominant traffic of the Internet future will be from mobile devices!

  • The Gartner Institute is projecting over one billion smartphones and media tablets will be sold globally by 2015
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012
  • In 2012, mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012
  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012
Gartner statistics on mobiles and tablets

Responsive Web Design

It sounds like a big term that only geeks can understand but really, it  just means you gotta have a website that scales to size to meet the needs of a mobile experience.

Using Adobe Flash isn’t kosher anymore, largely thanks to Adobe abandoning its support for the mobile platform by saying it can’t be done. So let’s not go there.
There are ways to create a mobile/desktop site without much worry if you care to spend some money. Or if you prefer, use a CMS/blog platform such as WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr and a host of other CMS platforms like Weebly and Squarespace. There are just too many to mention. You can create blog sites, corporate sites and even e-commerce sites that are responsive to all devices using these platforms. Some are more user friendly than others so you gotta know what you want before you begin.
For example, not all CMS platforms support e-commerce engines. This is pretty tricky and hosting as to be secure enough for you to use. All e-commerce sites will be targeted for hacking at some stage so choose well.
Developing your own RWD Site without CMS
 
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This is the golden question everyone is asking. Can I not use a CMS host and create my own site? Of course you can. If you care to ante up on one of those web tools, I suppose you can do anything. Some takes more work than others and this is probably the only leg work you need to do. You can use something like TOweb, a site creation program that basically allows you create everything you need for a website but it doesn’t support blogging. Download it, install it and run it. It’s not very intuitive but if you want complete control, you have to learn the ropes. Move a ahead a bit more and you’ll have HTML5 compliant building tools such as Tumult Hype.
This is a drag and drop experience and with all the content ready at your disposal, it should be quite easy to build a site up within a day. However, the e-commerce part might be a bit more tricky so keep your eyes peeled for things you don’t understand. Whereas Tumult Hype is not for the uninitiated, it has many powerful features to create everything from interactive elements to multi-touch support but to fully utilize its power, you need to know how to code.
From Website to Mobile App
Yes, this can be done too if you are wondering why no one seem to mention about it. That’s because it takes a bit of tinkering. First, there are several Mobile App Builder platforms available online, just Google the reviews up and you’d get an idea on what I mean. Those which are free to use are pretty basic, and you need to also pay for the App to go live on a store. So far, only Blackberry doesn’t charge anything for listing a mobile app. It cost US$19 for the Windows store to US$99 for the Apple store. So please remember that the freebies are not free when you decide to list your app.
responsive-design-mobile-web-mobile-apps-you-pick-the-strategyHow does the Mobile App Maker Work?
First, your content is your key. If you already have a standalone website that is not hosted on a CMS platform, you need to find out if the App Builder of your choice is able to support it. If not, you could choose an App builder that takes your feed manually with RSS.
All app builders are made to have some form of intelligence. They might not be able to play a game of chess with you but they sure as hell know what is a content feed when they see one. From here, you can add maps with bells and whistles like video and flickr photo feeds.
Paying to use a platform is normal, if you don’t pay, expect an advertising banner to be displayed on your mobile app. This is not a good way to start if you are running your own business.

Enabling Responsive Web Display for WordPress

This is much easier to tackle if you are running the latest WP on your site. Just do the following:-

Go to your DASHBOARD > APPEARANCE > enable MOBILE

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You can customize those options if you like and see how it goes. But beyond this, it’s not going to cost you anything else. Older versions of WordPress would take quite a fair bit of juggling with extensions, where a third party extension is used to enable mobile device viewing.

You’d be surprised how it looks in the end as the theme you use can be highly responsive to mobile displays to the point you can’t tell the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.

Multi-Touch is not Included

You are bound to arrive at this point asking, what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website if you can’t visually tell the difference? Well here are some pointers to remember :

  • Native mobile apps might display content in a similar way but on a native mobile app, multi-touch actions are supported.
  • Mobile websites do not support the fancy transitions you often see on native Mobile apps. You need to code in HTML5 and use Javascript to have that capability. This requires coding knowledge.
  • Native apps are hand coded. They do not use templates or themes, thus making them feel more unique to the end user and is totally Greek to the uninitiated who try to code one from scratch.
  • Native mobile apps support for Social Media is seamless. The app can integrates more tightly with your content and social media feeds.

Remember how to Deliver your Content

Content matters. If you have lots to share, then you should put more thought into it but first know how often you are going to update it. If you are going to have lots of updates and plenty of content to share to engage your customers or fans, then it is better to start off with a CMS system with RWD enabled for your site. A mobile app is sort of a calling card these days even though they carry the same content as your website. You need to find out if you really need a mobile app to begin with.

Your content strategy should be sound. Customers are not going to download and install your app if all you do are annual updates.

Think for a moment, if all you are producing is vintage vinegar, and you don’t have much to share, then having a mobile app would be a waste of time. Even your Twitter feed will be empty until you have a fresh batch to announce for delivery.

Content has to be original and engaging and not just brochure-ware. The term brochure-ware is just that, a company brochure that has been regurgitated into an online form—which in this case would be your mobile app.

Don’t just create another mobile app just cause you think it is cool. Have a defined content strategy in place before you do as this is a very time consuming process. Content has to be curated or developed and if you don’t have the time to do it, then you have to engage people with the right expertise to help you.

Having a budget before you proceed is very helpful. Sort of like having an advertising budget, you carve out a part of that advertising budget to support SMO and SEO activities. Failing to do that will cost you even more time and money….and customers when you take them for granted.

How to create Awesome Content to boost your Google Authorship

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Gunning for a top rank on Google search? Have you started building your content credibility with Google’s authorship program? Haven’t? Better get cracking now before it is too late.

In the past, anyone can pen some nonsense and share that to the world. This hasn’t changed of course but what is written has. According to the latest Hummingbird SEO metrics, long form content is more important than those 100 words rants you post on Facebook.

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To ensure that the long piece of text is rightly attributed to you, Google changed the Hummingbird metrics to weigh in on WHO is providing the content. This is where Google Authorship comes in to diss you down if all you ever post are rants about your mother.

This whole authorship thingy might sound really complicated but it isn’t. All you have to do is to create an active G+ profile and link that to all your blogs. That’s it!

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What makes for an active G+ profile is simple. Make sure you fill in all the information about yourself, with a picture and a list of stuff you do. Think of the G+ profile as your link-in calling card to everything you do on the web.

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

I hate to say this but what your fifth grade teacher said about being able to write well is probably more true today than ever before. Google SEO and Facebook SEO is different. For Google, it is a text type search engine whereas Facebook places more importance on sharing visual things like pictures and video.

I won’t touch on pictures and video as this requires more skill and dexterity to produce. What I will tell you is that text based content is really much easier to start with but you have to be truthful about the first thing that comes to you, that is…are you able to write something decent that can be understood by humankind.

I have seen in my career many failures with people often bearing college degrees, Masters and PhDs who can’t write a line interesting enough to be shared. This is no fault of yours of course, you can write a thesis like a text book and people will never read them except maybe for your college professor.

Text content only needs to fulfil two things.

  • Interesting and informative writing
  • Entertaining and witty writing

How not to be your Boring English Teacher

Remember the time when you were in school, you flipped those school text books and fell asleep reading it? They will come across as really informative but dull to read. Your teacher’s job is to make sure you learn it and he or she has to make it sound interesting enough for you to pick it up. So remember this golden rule…

Informative articles  may not be interesting, if you want to offer great content you have to make it Informative and Interesting at the same time for it to be any use to people reading it.

This is a talent that you may not have and it is best to admit it before you embark on the journey to gain world wide authorship rankings. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you decide to hire a writer to do this for you. Just make sure this is kosher with the writer as they sometimes write for many people and will reuse bits of what they have given you.

Google will not fault you on informative content, as facts are facts and there is not need to fictionalise content to meet Hummingbird metrics. How you choose your words to explain the content matters.

The Art of Making Stuff Interesting

If you are knowledgeable, then this would be pretty easy.

Give examples based on everyday facts to things that people can relate to!

People often give dimensions and measurements in numbers, this is fine but you should also give it a dimension that people can relate to, like the size of two football pitches, or the length of a candy bar.

Write about your own experiences with the subject matter!

Your own experiences to validate a point is crucial to making that yours and no one can steal this from you. Those ‘epiphany’ moments makes for great writing and this can help others relate to what you are talking about.

How to Be Entertaining as a Writer

To me, this is perhaps the most difficult thing when you’re not up to it. Everyone has their bad days so if you are asked to write something entertaining, it better be on a good day. There are some rules to follow which will be helpful:-

Ante up on that Thesaurus and increase your Vocabulary

You need words, lots of it, to throw at would be readers to keep them nimble. Language is used to communicate but sometimes we tend to have different words to describe similar situations. Having a vocabulary the size of a Blue Whale will help somewhat to conquering the authorship world.

Be Visual and Graphic about your Experiences

Your sense of observation is important when writing about first hand experiences. It’s like a painting. You fill it with color which then allows your eyes to dance with it. Color, smell, touch all give a visual account of what you are experiencing.

Exaggerate the facts to be witty

I have discovered that comedians, when using their punch lines often resort to exaggeration as means to be funny and witty. Just look up all the comedians and instead of enjoying the stand up action, analyse what they say and the words they use. Ask yourself why the punch line was so good. Once you get an idea on how to do this, sprinkle it around your writing. Bear in mind that you don’t need to be funny at every paragraph, otherwise it will read like a nonsensical feature.

Poke fun at Cliches and Social Norms

There are a lot of cliches that are cultural and you don’t have to resort to anything derogatory. Political cliches work best, racial ones only alienate your readers. Humans are creatures of habit. They take a dump every morning, have coffee and read the morning news. This in itself is a good cliche for everyday humor.

What Google Authorship Does for You

Online credibility. That’s the one thing that ties you to the SEO. If you take credit for all you have written, and people find it useful, they will start to share it.

By taking credit for what you write, you are in fact protecting your turf as a writer. No one can take that away from you even if they steal your article. Once Google has built a depositary of your work, they will rank your contributions higher on the search results. In time, you will become an authority on what you write about.

How to Protect any Written Content?

This is a trick I learnt from the folks at Google. If you want to catch someone copying your content, well first select a very unique sentence from your written content and paste that into Google Alerts. Once the search engine comes across this sentence, it will send you a notification to your Gmail account. Simple.

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Some sites will give you credit while others will steal wholesale from you. It’s up to you to file a DMCA complaint. That said, it’s never easy to get a take down as long as the offending site lies outside of the US. But to me, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Google Authorship knows that the written piece came from you and for that alone, it will thumb down the offending site in search engine results.

Expedia Gets taken down by Hummingbird!

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I am shocked that the Wallstreet Journal has published a report that Expedia.com could have been the target of Negative SEO. This is pure rubbish. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why Expedia’s SEO ranking fell off a cliff on Google searches. Just tick off what you don’t see on the home page and you’ll know how poorly designed the site is.

Epic Page Optimization Failure

The landing page itself is not SEO friendly. No Site Map, just pure sales links. No quality inbound or outbound links. The Page SEO is fucked. Just look at the damn page and tell me that there is useful content in there somewhere which will be of use to users? Nothing!

To make matters worst, Google Hummingbird zeroes in on content optimization and penalizes pure sales sites. I have said in an earlier post that Hummingbird is designed to take down pure sales sites and Expedia is one that was designed in the 90s with no SEO sense.

Sales, sales and more sales. That’s all the home page is screaming. No wonder they got taken down a few notches.

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Massive Content Failure

There is no content. Ok, I found a some content buried in the “Things to Do” topic but trust me, that’s not content. It is pure sales talk. The tone that it is written in is a third person, describing what you can do. It could have been written by a man with a gun held to his head. Who knows?

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Useful Content is not about giving the facts, it’s about experiences, especially in this case where travel is concerned. They could have at least featured something written by a customer or blogger. But they didn’t. Content to Expedia is a waste of time so here’s another few notches taken down for that.

Total Social Media Failure

sharingHere is something else I noticed. The lack of Social Media engagement. Sure, you have a Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and G+ button that LEADS to your sales pitches. There is no content there except that it screams Promotions! Sales and Marketing pitches. Again no content to share with fellow users. 

Social Media accounts are used to generate more sales. So here you give  Google credit for taking it down a few more notches.

Failure to Engage Users

Just look at the “Things to do” topic and you’ll also see that there is no user comments or inputs. That is pretty fucked up. The site has no qualms about asking you to put down your money but makes no attempt in getting any feedback on the promotions they have. Here Google pummels Expedia down with a right hook and sinker. The result? You get to be on the THIRD page of the search baby!

Negative SEO is over hyped

Before Hummingbird, Google will send out warning emails to site users who have very poor inbound links. That’s to stop people from exploiting a loophole in the algorithm where they suspect a site has been paying other sites just to put a link to them to boost their rankings.

In a Negative SEO scenario, a competing or rival business can put up poor links to your site to take your SEO ranking down. To me, this is totally irrational and far-fetched as the competition is better off using Black Hat techniques to BOOST their own ranking over yours in keyword SEO during the Penguin and Panda era. Unless your rival in business has got an axe to grind with you, they are better off using their money to increase their rankings than to take you down.

Negative SEO in Expedia’s could have been attributed to poor sales sites designed by incompetent Expedia staff to boost their own web traffic. No content type sites are purely to blame and for that, Expedia’s got plenty of them.

Was Negative SEO to blame for Expedia’s Failure?

Several blogs mentioned that there were some old sites set up by Expedia’s many divisions to boost their rankings and this could have resulted in a Negative SEO hit. This is plausible but these pundits fail to realize that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm is designed to take down content unfriendly sites.

This is by far the most telling result of Expedia’s failure in its SEO optimization. So what should be done to improve rankings?

Get more travel related content by tying up with travel bloggers and content providers

Each should be written in a first person narrative that provides useful travel information instead of the usual brochureware associated with it. For the money you make off booking, having a travel blog to help your travelers isn’t all that difficult. It cost Expedia loose change just to get original content. Why it hasn’t been done? Well maybe their team doesn’t know how important content is in the Hummingbird age.

Optimize the Home Page to provide Travel Content

Everywhere in the world, national tourist offices will offer you quality content on selected destinations. By integrating the content with travel information, you get to boost your SEO rankings. Bear in mind that national and government-funded tour offices do not offer sales pitches. They offer you seasonal or festive content and all you need to do is work with them to promote a destination.

Revisit Home Page Optimization 

Create quality inbound links. Tie up with travel content entities such as travel magazines and websites to create quality inbound links. Branding is important to Expedia and it should tie up with content providers and pay for these content to be featured on their site. Nothing is free in this world. Once you have content, you will have  comments, and social sharing. These engagements will definitely boost your SEO ranking.

The Cheapest Alternative for Not giving a Fuck

Expedia as a multi billion dollar business entity that can afford to pay for a top level listing on ANY Google search result. This is what Google wants Expedia to realize. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company and hope that the poor excuse for a website gets top level listing for free.

Expedia can set aside a multi million dollar budget just to advertise alone, and still see positive results without even bothering with content optimization. If Expedia doesn’t give a fuck about content, then advertising for click-thru search results is the best way to go.

Battle of the Titans

Lastly, it is unfortunate that Expedia has become Google’s target. I see this purely as a battle for business by two industry titans. Google owns the search engine space, Expedia owns the travel booking space. Google is discreetly telling Expedia that it wants its fair share of the pie by making it known that Google searches can and will affect Expedia’s stock price. If Expedia can afford to take this hit, well, good for them. If doesn’t, then its time to recognize which turf you are on.

Index your site with a Site Map

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How do Google Search works? Does it come by to my site? How do I make my site friendly enough for Google Search to drop by?

Before you get any idea of a giant robot that powers your searches, let me make it clear that the days of the mainframe and mini computer is truly dead. I should know coz I use to work for a market intelligence company that spies on what people buy to keep their IT department rolling in the hay.

Google is relatively cheap to run. It makes use of server racks (made up of lots of PCs wired together). It comes nowhere near the cost of running a mainframe or supercomputer. Google houses these ‘search’ computers in shipping containers.

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The only thing they have to worry about is the cooling. So if anyone offered the necessary fiber optic cables to carry data anywhere in the world from Greenland, Google will relocate to Nuuk. Cold is good. Dry and hot is not. Dry and hot weather give rise to static, something they can ill afford if Google minions were to come in and out without cleaning themselves with anti-static spray.

How Does the Search Engine Thingy Work?

Just like the old days, they need to come by to index your site. Awesome. Now for some reason or other, Google’s search engine does not need an invitation, at least not in the traditional sense. It checks for links that people post or link to and they will drop by unannounced. There are ways to prevent this of course. One way is to stop them dead with a password authenticator when they drop by the front door. As long as they can’t get in. They won’t spider your site for information.

Making your Site Search Friendly!

Now, I am assuming that you have a site all up and running and you want to make sure that you have a site that is totally working….and I mean this in the strictest sense. Here is something you should know about site indexing.

If you are a commercial website (i.e. a site that advertises what your company does to bring home the bacon) you need to be thorough on how the site index works.

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Make a Site Map of your Whole Site and put it on the Landing Page

This is especially important for sites that are structurally complicated. You may have sections that lead to subsections of a website or pages that are link to external Microsites. Making a Site Map basically allows the search engine to index all those pages from the Home page instead of having to click and jump through hoops to find all your content.

Don’t create sign up Links on any Content Page that needs to be found

Email harvesting. . You are bound to encounter these sites that ask you to register to get access are in fact stopping Search engines from documenting and indexing the hidden content. Google Search isn’t going to bother with this since it is to them a locked door.

As long as the information lies within a blind page, Google can’t get to it. Don’t think for one moment that Google will sign up, wait for an email confirmation and click the link within the email to find out what is behind that closed door.

If you want to harvest emails, invite them to connect with your site using Facebook, G+ or any of the social media networks of your choice. People are not keen to offer up their email if the content isn’t all that great to begin with. Much of the time these hidden PDF “how to publications” are not much help. If the content is any good, they will connect with your fan page eventually. Sell them junk and you won’t find them coming back.

Site owners must think of ’emails’ as a form of currency on the Internet. People will not give it freely thanks to the spam that is often associated with it. Instead, politely ask them to connect with you via a preferred social network and use that link to reach out not only to them but their network.

Remember to include Quality outbound Links within your content for an added boost

What is a quality outbound link? Well it’s one without the sales pitch. Google has determined that any site that has too many outbound links to generate sales should be paying for a listing so you don’t get the royal content treatment here. A good outbound link should be one to more content and not to more retail websites which either sell you porn or a used TV.

Create Original and Quality Content for your Site

Making your site Search Engine friendly is easy and doesn’t need the help of a rocket scientist. Many commercial websites are in fact…brochure-ware. If you think this is going to cut it, think again. It is so 90s. There is no reason why you can’t even add a FAQ page just for content sake. Forget the keyword spiel. You need content and you better get cracking.

Think of ways to help customers by offering tips and reviews. I have found sites that sell Absinthe that does this and it rocks. Empower people with knowledge and they will thank you for it.