Google for Educators

It’s no secret that Google has transformed the search engine industry in its short sixteen years of existence. What you may not know, is that Google is involved in hundreds of side projects, including home automation projects, robots, and even a driverless car! While Google invests over $2 billion a year on research and development projects, some products are just better than others. Some need tweaking, customer surveys and feedback, while other projects are abandoned in their early stages. One project that Google continues to improve is its’ Google for Educators program, which compiles hundreds of great instructor resources all in one place, offers training and education for instructors, and competitions for students K-12. Here is a brief rundown of what Google has to offer:

Google Teacher Academy – A free professional development program for both primary and secondary educators from around the globe. The Academies are an intensive, two-day event where educators are given a hands-on experience with all of Google’s free products and applications. Participants can network with the 50 other professionals that have been hand selected based on their merits, dedication to teaching and passion for learning.

Google Apps for Education – Google’s Apps for Education are very similar to the apps they provide for companies and individuals. They offer Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Maps. Another application they have is geared towards education and is their “Google Book Search,” which is a virtual library for students to find books, magazines, and encyclopedias. Finally, the Google Drive application pulls the applications all together in a clean and easy to use dashboard.

Google+ for Universities – Google+ for Universities is a great tool for connecting students with their professors and teaching assistants. Both students and teachers can organize their demanding lives with online social and academic circles. Each campus organization can have their own circle, which integrates with the other applications, keeping everything in one place.

Google for Students – As if Google didn’t already offer students and educators enough tools to succeed, they also offer competitions and awards for students interested in higher learning. They offer competitions for web developers, called Google Code Jam, for ages 13+, Google Science Fair for Middle and High Schoolers and a Doodle 4 Google competition for K-12. For awards, Google likes to recognize students for excellence in math, computer science and programming.

For more information on Google, search engine techniques, and how your search engine optimization company should be optimizing your site, check us out at ArteWorks.com.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Promoting your Small Business with Google

Search Engine Optimization has become one of the best ways to get your website the kind of visibility and traffic necessary to keep your business thriving. Many smaller companies, however, may have never considered an SEO campaign, mostly because they feel that local and specialized businesses work different in search engine rankings than the larger, more competitive businesses do.

While Google admits that small businesses need to take a different approach to SEO than larger businesses would, it’s beginning to focus more on how small businesses can optimize their sites. Google has never intentionally overlooked small businesses; however they are definitely trying to focus on these businesses more and tap into the billions of dollars of revenue they’ve been missing out on. “Small businesses” are those with 99 or less employees, which make up more than 95% of U.S. businesses.

A recent Wall Street Journal article helped outline how Google plans to change its interactions with these small businesses. Google has been trying to push Google+ and may be able to push small businesses towards experimenting with this social media tool, as a way to not only promote Google+, but to find almost a niche market to advertise in for these smaller businesses.

Another way Google is trying to attract small businesses is with a more unified dashboard that makes interacting with all Google products easier and more user friendly. Since the majority of small businesses are actually sized more in the one to ten employee category, it’s very realistic to assume that some business are not advertising online because they have no one skilled enough to handle the undertaking.

Here are a couple more suggestions from Google for small businesses looking to work on their search engine position:

  • Keyword Research
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Google+ Local Page Optimization
  • Google Analytics tracking and reporting
  • Fresh, Relevant Content
  • Link Building

Luckily for many smaller businesses, if any of that looks like jibberish to you, you can always hire an experienced SEO company to create an integrated campaign for you. A company experienced in SEO in Austin will be able to evaluate your current standing, how to surpass your competition and how to keep you organically ranked. Even if you don’t have a huge budget for advertising, many SEO companies are willing to work with you on creating a smaller, and more focused campaign. The reality is that your competitors will probably be in the same position (budget-wise), so even a small budget can make a big difference, especially if your competition isn’t doing any optimizing themselves.

About the Author: Allison Schnur is the Marketing Manager of ArteWorks SEO, a full service Austin SEO firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about our top rated search engine optimization company please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Tricking Google is a No No

black hat seo

Black Hat SEO

While some have tried to figure out or manipulate Google’s search algorithm, others have referenced Google itself and have used the many tools available to optimize and enhance their sites. Free tools such as Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools are invaluable and should not be looked down on because they are F-R-to the double E.

People think they have SEO figured out because they took a one hour webinar or read an article about how to become an SEO guru. I’m sorry friends, but you just don’t have it. There is more to it than listening to a guru. Do your research, practice, live and breathe SEO. But always refer back to the search engine itself. Google tells us what it is looking for and what it frowns upon. Don’t waste your time trying to pull one over on Google because it is just too smart for that. Tricking Google is a no no and it’s time you’ve learned a lesson.

Here are some of the quality guidelines and things that you should not do that Google has specifically outlined for you to improve your sites’ ranking on its search engine. For more detailed information from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines please go here http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769#3.

Here is a condensed version:

The first basic principle that has been said over and over is to make your site for your users and not the search engines. “Cloaking” or presenting information to your users that is different from what the search engines see is frowned upon. If your users can interpret and easily navigate your pages, so will the search engines. Keep in mind that you will need to fully optimize title tags and meta descriptions as well as other basic search engine optimization “onpage” elements for the search engines to see.

The second basic principle is to not trick Google. Trust me, it is a matter of time before you will get caught and you will pay for your trickery. Some tricks that people actually think help them are: creating domains with duplicate content, using hidden or invisible text, using hidden links, and/or throwing up a bunch of keywords that have no relevancy to your site. These tricks won’t cut it.

This should go without saying, but too many people just don’t want to listen…do not participate in link schemes! Link exchange programs or link farming is not respected by Google and it is not what it wants to see. Links should be built naturally and you shouldn’t have to build or obtain links by doing something sneaky. If you are participating in a link scheme you will likely be linking to bad neighborhoods that will hurt your position on the SERPs. If you have good content on your site and/or blog posts, people will link to you. The links will come!

Finally, do not fall for the myth that SEO is a one-time thing. Making “onpage” changes or modifications should only happen once. However, the ongoing blogging and social media optimization is what is of most importance in the long run.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

6 Signs of SEO Snake Oil, Watch Out!

Colleagues in the search engine optimization industry are often given a bad rap from consumers. We are known as “gaming the system” or figuring out what Google’s algorithm is. This is true; we do have to figure out on our own, with a little help from the search engines, how to rank on them. Which strategies work? What shows results? What is the most ethical strategy we can develop? Unfortunately snake oil companies can ruin the reputation of highly reputable firms, steal money from their clients, and never produce results either ethically or not. Here are 6 signs that an SEO company may be a snake oil firm.

Prices so low they seem too good to be true
This is a tell all sign you may be hiring a snake oil SEO firm. “I can get you number one on Google for only $50 a month!” If something seems too good to be true, it likely is. It seems taboo to say it, but you have to invest to rank well on the search engines. It is not cheap. If a company wants to make a million dollars off the Internet in the travel industry for example, they should be willing to spend a minimum of $1,000 a month. And that is on the low end.

Promises to be number one on the search engines
We all know that firms in the industry do not work with the search engines, nor do they work with us. How can a reputable firm speak on behalf of Google and promise a client they will be ranked number one on that search engine? We never know how the search engines will rank our clients, but we have enough understanding of what the search engines want to obtain a page or position one listing. If you are guaranteed a position, you should know that you may be hiring a snake oil SEO.

Secret strategies without monthly reporting
SEO firms should open, honest, and most of all transparent. A reputable firm will inform the client of the custom developed strategy. Often an SEO firm will present all content to the client before it is uploaded to a blog or website. Snake oil firms are usually very secretive and do not offer any type of monthly reporting. The only way to track and show your clients progress is to accurately report your strategy, site traffic, and web position movement.

No third party references available
References are important, especially when you are charging thousands of dollars each month to your clients. A lot of SEO firms have virtual offices and conduct all work via the Internet. References will vouch for the honesty and successes of your firm. Third party references are invaluable. Client references mean nothing to me. SEO firms often have NDAs with their clients because they respect the privacy and protection of their clients, especially reputation management clients. An SEO firm can have made up clients and references, but if they come from third party sites they cannot be denied. Topseos.com, promotionworld.com, and seomoz provide accurate and nonbiased references. I read an article recently that said if a company doesn’t have client references you shouldn’t waste your time. This outraged me. We receive a high number of leads per day and cannot expect our clients to interrupt their busy day to screen calls from our prospective clients. A lot of companies do not want their competition to know they are doing SEO or reputation management and demand an NDA at the start of a project.

Strategies strictly based on number of links and/or directory submissions
This strategy for SEO is so outdated. I hardly think anyone wants to relive the 90s. Snake oil firms usually rely on pretty graphs and numbers to woo their clients. There is more to SEO and we cannot deny the power of social media among other things. An SEO strategy should be well rounded and focus on more than one of the more than 250 factors the search engines evaluate when ranking a website.

Lack of regularly updated content
We often receive calls from second chance clients that have been burned by snake oil SEO. The first thing I look for after hearing they’ve done SEO is whether or not there is a blog. Usually there is not a blog and the client can’t figure out why the snake oil company didn’t build links or improve their position on the search engines. Chances are if there isn’t a blog, there hasn’t been regularly updated content and the strategy relied heavily on directory submissions or link exchanges which is another sign of a snake oil SEO.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Part 2 of 2: Google SEO Starter Guide Recap

Google recently released an updated version of their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Part 1 of this 2 part series discussed important on page elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, and url structure. Below you will find more important information from Google’s SEO starter guide.

Quality content and services
While keyphrase density is a myth, there should be rich, unique text content present on the home page, and the text should be relevant to and contain at least one of your desired keyphrases. It tells the search engines what your site is about. People will be more likely to link to you if you provide interesting or informative content. As Google puts it, “organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.”

The trusted “alt” attribute
Do not miss out on opportunities to optimize images. Search engines do not read images so it is your job to tell them what they are looking at when your site is being crawled. The “alt” attribute is also useful if an image doesn’t appear on a user’s browser because the user can read what the missing image is supposed to be. The Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide shares a helpful tip: store images in a single directory and use the most common supported filetypes. This becomes especially important if you use images as links. Image “alt” attributes help you get found in blended search results and should relate to the theme of your page. They are also a good way of helping the search engines ascertain the content of your site, and relevancy to particular keyphrase searches.

Heading Tags
Heading tags, or tags, should be used to highlight keyphrases, they will catch the users’ eyes and should only be used when/where appropriate. They should be used to highlight major themes/keyphrases of each page and should be included at least once on each page.

The importance of a nofollow
Using a rel=nofollow will not bleed any of your site’s page rank. This is very useful for sites or blogs that allow user comments. Linking to bad neighborhoods or having them link to you will hurt your ranking (another reason not to be involved with link exchanges).

Keep in mind that having a fully optimized site is not enough to get you ranked on the first page of Google or other search engines. There is more to it than that. Off page work and leveraging social media is just as important for your SEO strategy. I like how Google puts it, “While most of the links to your site will be gained gradually, as people discover your content through search or other ways and link to it, Google understands that you’d like to let other know about the hard work you’ve put into your content.”

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.

Part 1 of 2: Google SEO Starter Guide Recap

Google recently released an updated version of their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. I believe that Google has released this document for the purpose of keeping people away from snake oil SEO and to keep website owners in compliance with Google’s terms of service.

While there are no surprises in this document, it is important to reiterate to those website owners who may believe in myths. Google has made it clear as to the ranking factors. They have also updated the guide to incorporate the importance of social media.

In the document, Google states that, “search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website.” SEO is not all about on page elements but the blend of on page and off page elements. The importance of on page optimization starts with a few elements of html, including title tags, meta descriptions, alt attributes and such.

To fully understand SEO you should first know how and what you are achieving. Google says it best in their starter guide, “search engine optimization affects only organic search results, not paid or ‘sponsored’ results such as Google AdWords.” A prospective client told me that he used pay per click (PPC) and thought that Google would rank him higher because he was paying them every month. That is a myth that had to be revealed. Paying Google for PPC does not affect your organic ranking.

Here are some of the on page elements that Google says will help make your site more visible on their search engine and easier to crawl.

Unique title tags
I often see that a client’s site who is just starting SEO is not optimized. One of the first problems I see is that the site has duplicate title tags or only the business name. Duplicate content is an issue in and of itself but to only have the business name is more of a problem. Most users do not search on Google for a specific business unless they are researching the business. How would anyone know that Fake Business Inc. was selling a fake product unless they searched with the keyphrase “fake product.” Search engines are smart but you have to tell them what they are looking at so they know how to rank you.

Meta descriptions

Another problem I often see is clients simply listing their keyphrases in the meta descriptions. Your meta description is like an advertisement. It is usually what appears in the search engines and draws people in. The description should use persuasive language that also contains your target keyphrases for that page. Having an optimized meta description is an opportunity to connect with your customers on the search engine results page. The same philosophy for interior page title tags applies to interior page meta descriptions.

URL structures
Google stats that you should, “provide one version of a URL to reach a document.”  We had a prospective client tell us he had bought 10-15 different URLs in hopes he would rank higher. He used a different keyword in each URL, did not use a 301 redirect, and only had a link on the site hoping people would click through to the main site. Needless to say he was nowhere to be found on the search engines for his desired keyphrase. We politely told him to stop wasting money on more urls. Some prospective clients do not think it is important to inform us if they own different domains with identical content. The problem is that there will be a split of link building which could negatively affect their position on the search engines.

About the Author: Krystle Green is the Vice President of ArteWorks SEO, a full service search engine optimization firm located in Austin, TX. For more information about SEO, SEM, or social media please visit http://www.arteworks.biz.