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SEO Is What?

Sure, we could have titled our blog post, “what is SEO?” (and we do answer that question in the explanation about our Boston SEO Company’s SEO services), but where’s the fun in that when we’re using an SEO tool, which we regularly recommend others use, to identify what questions are asked most often about SEO (search engine optimization). “SEO Is What?” is one of the most-asked question about SEO. So, in keeping with what we advised our readers to do to prepare for and capitalize on Google SGE, we’re going to answer that great question below.

SEO What Is It?

And, while we’re at it, we’re going to answer another very similar high-volume search question. The one in our header above. Because succeeding at “search” is all about making content understandable, we’re going to keep this really simple. SEO means employing tactics, activities, and best practices that support and lead to both your organization’s website and other digital properties, such as your Google My Business profile, or your social media presences, ranking well in Google for relevant searches.

So, what’s a relevant search? A relevant search is when individuals (likely target audience members for your product or service) enter terms into a search engine, like Google, that are relevant to the products and services your organization offers and the geography in which you offer them. These relevant search terms are known as “keywords.”

What Are SEO Tactics?

Some SEO experts break down SEO tactics into these different categories. And, quite honestly, some use the category terms differently, but this should still give you a good idea of what SEO is all about. Note that on-page and off-page SEO tactics also fall into either the “organic” SEO category or the “technical” SEO category.

What Is On-Page SEO?

This category of SEO tactics includes tactics you implement on your website pages and posts, such as incorporating high-volume, relevant search terms (keywords) in your website content, like we are doing with this blog post. And, making sure behind-the-scenes tagging capabilities, known as meta tags (available with all website platforms), are used appropriately to provide Google and other search engines with essential information about your website — and ultimately the products and service you offer, and the people you serve.

What Is Off-Page SEO?

These are SEO tactics that happen “off” your website, but impact SEO results and being found on Google. A great example of off-page SEO is soliciting backlinks (links on other external sites back to your site) from organizations with whom you partner, collaborate, are a member of, etc. Another great example is making sure you establish and maintain an effective Google My Business Profile.

What Is Organic SEO?

Tactics that fall in this SEO category are tactics that focus on making sure your content is helpful and addresses target audiences’ needs and questions, and tactics that ensure Google and other search engines can easily crawl your site and know what your content is about (via the meta tags we talked about above), your location, and the location you serve.

What Is Technical SEO?

This last category of SEO tactics is often overseen by a web developer or requires a web developer’s help. It’s all about making sure your website is mobile-friendly, and can, therefore, be read by mobile devices like cell phones and tablets that access it. And, that your site loads quickly.

What Is Paid SEO?

Paid SEO means buying advertising from search engines like Google to support an ad with a link to your website appearing at the top of search engine results for desirable keywords for the geography you serve. Since Google is still used by 92% of internet searchers conducting an online search, we equate Paid SEO to Google Ads.

Need Help Ensuring Your Site Is Optimized For Search In 2024?

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How To Plan & Prepare Now For Google SGE Impact: Be Ready & Willing To Rock The Boat!

Yesterday, I attended a webinar about “Search Generative Experience (SGE)” lead by a team of experts in paid SEO (think Google Ads) and organic SEO (think your website and Google My Business Profile ranking well in Google without the help of paid advertising, i.e., organically). And, today, I googled the aforementioned “quoted” term to get an idea of how to best explain it to my readers. Of course, because I’m testing out the SGE experience, an SGE listing was served up to me, in the form of the content shown in the image below.

What Is SGE?

So, the above image of AI-generated content should provide you with an idea of what SGE is. It basically is a search capability that Google offers where it employs artificial intelligence (AI) to spit back answers to questions that searchers enter into Google, regardless of the complexity of those questions. Answers to questions usually are presented in conversational format and may include text, images, videos, or other multimedia content. The driver behind Google offering SGE capabilities was its desire to provide more natural-sounding answers than its algorithms spit out in the past to more-detailed/complex questions that its search engine users were posing.

In our SEO blog post about why any website owner should ensure they are writing and posting “helpful content” for their target audiences, we emphasized how Google rewards websites that offer what it considers to be helpful content by serving up their site higher up in its search results for relevant search terms. It makes great sense that Google wants to be more helpful too regarding the listings and information it serves up to users of its search engine tool.

According to a October 2023 pdf about SGE offered by Google, “When appropriate, SGE will show an AI-powered snapshot to help people quickly get an overview on a topic, with factors to consider and helpful information. These snapshots serve as a jumping-off point from which people can explore a wide range of content and perspectives on the web. SGE will show links to resources that support the information in the snapshot, so people can check the information themselves and explore further. This allows people to dig deeper and discover a diverse range of content, from publishers, creators, retailers, businesses, and more, and use the information they find to advance their tasks.”

When Did SGE Go Into Effect?

SGE went into effect in May 2023. Currently, if people do not “opt in” to pilot/test/experience Google SGE, they will not be served up AI-generated snapshots like the one shown at the top of our blog post. However, it is expected that Google SGE might be rolled out to all users/become Google’s search-engine default in 2024. Given the aforementioned, our thoughts as SEO experts are as follows:

  • Many individuals have already opted in to have AI-generated snapshots served up to them in search results, so why not take measures to have your website content or other assets like videos and images served up to them?
  • The day is coming very soon when AI-generated snapshots will be presented to each & every user of Google’s search engine. Don’t you want to see your organization featured in appropriate snapshots?

So, if you aren’t already taking the steps we’ve outlined below to respond to and capitalize on SGE, it’s time to start taking them!

Google SGE SEO Tactics

So, what are some tactics we recommend to capitalize on and/or defend against the Google rankings impact of Google SGE?

  • Be Willing to Share A Different Point Of View. As we called out in the title of our blog post, be willing to rock the boat, as we did a bit in our recent blog post entitled “Is Social Media Worth It?” Don’t jump tow the party line or jump on the same bandwagon everyone else is on related to a particular topic. If you’ve got different, unique ideas about something, share that — as long as you are not abusive to or attacking anyone. With so many other’s in your particular industry/space sharing the same ideas and content related to a topic of importance to your target audience(s), you’ll stand out to Google and likely have your content served up more if you’re willing to take and share a different approach to the topic in-question.
  • Share Data That Others Want and Need. Google SGE is most likely to share information from individuals and organizations it believes are experienced and credible. As long as you’re not giving out anyone else’s confidential information, share data you’ve collected and analyzed on a particular topic. Leverage propriety data that no-one else has, and if you want to rank locally, share regional data that’s important to the geography you serve.
  • Inform Google You’re Credible. Keep adding testimonials to your website or other content that demonstrates you are a trusted SME (subject matter expert) such as updates to staff/team bios. Give thought to what other information you could add to your site that would make an outsider trust you. Maybe it’s adding badges for certifications or accreditations you hold, or from organizations you belong to such as local Chambers of Commerce or Industry/Trade associations. And, of course, favorable publicity that you post on your site and/or from which you receive backlinks to your site is always helpful in establishing credibility.
  • Provide Non-content Assets to Google SGE To Share With Searchers. Create more video content for Google SGE to share with users of its AI capabilities and be creative about how you visually present data/info.
  • Continue To Include The Three Types Of Links We Discussed In Our Blog Post About Links That Support SEO. These are in keeping with the second bullet above — they reinforce your credibility.
  • Think Like A Cook or Baker, Plus Recipe Sharer. Make sure your content is both detailed enough for readers to apply learnings from it/take action, and digestible by a lay person. This is in keeping with Google SGE’s desire to answer people’s detailed questions and support what’s known as “long-tail keyword (descriptive)” search-engine searches. We’ve talked about this in several other blog posts, including “Give The People What They Want,” but make sure you cover a topic thoroughly by understanding and answering your reader’s questions. View yourself as having a conversation with your target audiences and try to walk in their shoes. What questions might they have, and how can you provide answers that are both thorough and understandable?

Need Help Planning For Google SGE?

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Is Social Media Worth It?

On average, 110 individuals a month enter the question posed in our blog post title into Google. That’s over 1,300 individuals a year wondering whether they should be investing their time, energy, and money in social media.

Obviously, our Boston digital marketing agency and SEO company doesn’t know the intent behind the posing of this question. Are the searchers posing this question related to their personal use of social media or use of social media for their business? We’re guessing it’s a combination of both. That said, the purpose of this blog post is not to answer the question of how much time you should spend on social media related to your personal life, but rather, with a new year about to get underway, whether you should continue to invest time, energy, and money related to posting on social media and how much.

How Much Time & Energy Should My Organization Spend On Social Media?

The answer to the above is it all depends on the nature of your organization and the products and services you offer, plus the social media results you’ve seen to-date. I remember when organizations first started using social media to promote their businesses — I recall that happening in the early 2010’s. Both for-profit and non-profit organizations felt that if they didn’t jump on the social media bandwagon, they’d be left behind, have a huge competitive disadvantage, and maybe suffer great financial consequences. At the time I was in a marketing role at a health care organization, and quite honestly, I did champion the use of social media to create awareness of my organization’s services, but I don’t think I ever believed that social media was going to have an immediate, large impact on sales results. In many cases, as discussed below, social media has a less immediate impact and is more about creating awareness.

As a marketer, while I’ve often felt hesitant to voice the above and related thoughts about social media to other marketers, I’ve always been nervous and apprehensive about organizations moving too much of their marketing team’s or agency’s time and/or budget away from other traditional and digital marketing activities, and into organic social media activities vs. paid social media ones and/or investing too heavily in organic social media. Why? Because I just wasn’t seeing organic social media vs. social media ads moving the “conversion” needle, i.e., causing desired actions by target audiences, particularly when they visited an organization’s website.

Website Data Doesn’t Lie

For years now, I’ve been able to use various forms of Google Analytics to track either my employer’s or my clients’ website visitors — how they arrived on the site and what actions they took there. In many cases, very regular social media posting was driving very little traffic to their websites, and the traffic that was visiting their sites (due to clicking on a link to their website shared via a social media post or profile) wasn’t taking a desired action like completing a lead or inquiry form, or buying a product or service.

2024 Recommended Social Media Use By Businesses

So, what does that mean for organizations and their use of social media in the new year?

  • Consider how much time and money you have to spend on all forms of marketing, not just organic social media posting. Whether it be internal staff or an outside marketing consultant or agency that does the work, how many hours and what marketing $ budget will you have to spend in the new year for all forms of marketing?
  • Based on 2023’s time and $$ spend on social media (fees to agencies and/or consultants for their organic social media post work vs. social media advertising work and/or advertising buy), how much of your 2024 marketing budget and time would be spent on organic social media posting vs. social media advertising, and does it warrant that percentage of your overall marketing budget and time being spent on it? So, how will you know if it’s warranted? Ask yourself the following:
    • Do any sales or leads tracking systems, including Google Analytics (GA4) indicate that you are getting a sufficient number of inquiries or sales to justify the time and $$ associated with organic social media posting?
    • Do you often learn anecdotally from new and prospective clients that they learned about you on social media due to your posts or profile?
    • Does the product or service that you offer have a long lead time, i.e., do target audiences often take a long time and do a lot of research about your products and services before they make a decision, and therefore, is awareness creation among target audiences an important first step in the sales process?
    • Is your product or service one that target audiences tend to investigate on social media such as a consumer goods or consumer service one, like jewelry, clothing, a hairdresser, or a restaurant?

If you can answer “yes” to any of the questions above, then it’s likely you still want to have a fairly robust presence on social media in 2024 and, therefore, do want to continue to put out a steady stream of social media posts on the various platforms in which you participate. Keep in mind that daily posting is likely unnecessary and may actually be considered by target audiences as annoying. 3-5 posts a week is likely the ideal cadence for most organizations posting on social media.

Do I Need To Have A Social Media Profile On All Social Media Platforms?

The answer to the above is “no,” and if you do, it’s likely because you haven’t taken the time to really understand your particular target audiences and their social media preferences. Which profiles are they most likely to hang out on based on their age and interests — and are they personal platforms vs. professional ones like LinkedIn? Are there particular platforms like “X,” (formerly Twitter) or TikTok that your target audiences won’t/don’t visit and on which your organization wouldn’t want to have a profile simply because of all the negative press and sentiment associated with those platforms?

Add “first user source/medium” as a second dimension to your Google Analytics traffic acquisition report to determine which forms of social media are driving the most traffic to your website and/or your Google Analytics conversions/events reports (and add same “first user source/medium” dimension) to see which site visitors coming from social media are taking desired actions on your site. That will help you determine which platforms you should continue to post to most regularly, if at all (although don’t completely vacate a platform without encouraging visitors to follow you on another social media platform).

The Social Media Platform You Should Always Be Posting To

Being the SEO geeks and SEO experts that we are, we always say to our existing and prospective clients, “always think of your Google My Business Profile as another form of social media.” As we explain in our blog post about ranking locally, when Google decides to serve up your website in search engine results for relevant terms, depending on whether or not a geographic (city, town) or “near me” term was included in the search phrase, Google might serve up your website or it might serve up your Google My Business Profile.

To keep your Google My Business Profile ranking as well as possible in search results, be sure to keep it fresh/current, as Google rewards such profiles the way it does websites.

Need Help Related to 2024 Strategic Marketing Planning?

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When It Comes To SEO, It’s Healthy To Draw Comparisons

Many a friend and family member has heard me share this old adage, “comparison is the thief of the joy.” In general, drawing comparisons between your personal or professional life with others just leads to heartache and disappointment. And, as I’m also prone to share, no two people’s lives take the same path, and in keeping with different paths, different outcomes follow. But, most importantly, we all need to forever keep the following in mind. People don’t tend to share the tough stuff that’s going on with their career, job, or personal life on social media. So, drawing comparisons with others, based on what you see or read on social media, again, is pretty pointless and just a recipe for unhappiness.

Okay, coming down from my soap box now about making comparisons between yourself and others, to address the title of this post. While it’s not mentally healthy to draw comparisons with others, when it comes to the products and services your organizations offers, it can be quite fruitful from an SEO standpoint to draw comparisons, and therefore, be “business-healthy.”

In our “Give The People What They Want” blog post about the SEO benefits of answering popular questions people have about the products or services you offer, we called out an SEO tool called “Answer The Public.” Using the tool to create a list of questions that individuals are searching on related to a particular product or service has repeatedly demonstrated to me that many people are either asking Google questions like, “how does abc compare to xyz? and “what’s the difference between abc and xyz?” Or, they are entering into Google statements vs. questions that ultimately still indicate they need answers. An example of the latter is simply “abc vs. xyz.”

Image of The Acronym SEO Which Stands For Search Optimization With A Bright Gold Upward Pointing Arrow Going Through It To Indicate Improving How You Rank In Google

The SEO Win Of Addressing Client Confusion

Given the number of people regularly entering comparison questions or statements into Google, why not make sure your website is found for those questions and statements (and, their answers, of course) by addressing them in an FAQ (frequently asked questions) and/or other sections of your website? Here’s a few examples from our own business:

  • Q: What’s the difference between organic search/organic SEO and paid SEO/paid search? A: Paid search or paid SEO is the practice of purchasing advertising from Google or other search engines so that an ad that links to your website will be served up at the top of search engine results for search terms relevant to the products and services you offer.
  • Q: When to use paid SEO/paid search tactics vs. organic search/organic SEO services? A: As we shared in our “SEM and SEO: Understanding the Difference and When to Employ Each Digital Marketing Tactic” blog post, three key reasons for employing paid SEO tactics vs. organic SEO tactics include: you need your site to rank well immediately on Google and can’t wait for organic tactics to gradually move the SEO needle; your organization is in an extremely competitive environment and no amount of organic SEO tactics is going to get your site ranking above more-established/-entrenched competitors; Google is serving up a particular page of your site for various search terms vs. the page of your site you want it to serve up for those search terms.

Let Us Help You Draw Business-Healthy Comparisons

Need help figuring out what comparison-related content to include on your website, and where to include it? Reach out today to schedule a complimentary SEO discussion.

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Dance To What Is – Part II

It’s been quite some time since I posted my original “Dance To What Is,” blog post. Results Communications & Research is almost 10 years older than it was at that time. Impossible to believe! But, it is very believable to me that I’m still using the phrases “dancing to what is,” and “dance to what is,” because those phrases describe how I always try to live my life, no matter how much time passes.

I often say the “Cobblers’ Kids Have No Shoes,” which means, sometimes, our Boston digital marketing agency/SEO company is so busy helping organizations of all shapes and sizes with their marketing, we are forced to neglect our own a bit. But, I witnessed something so powerful during a subway ride home to the South Shore from Boston this week, that I just had to make the time to write about it while the experience was still very fresh in my mind.

A Great Example Of Making The Most Of Whatever Situation You Find Yourself In

I had the great pleasure of witnessing someone “dance to what is,” both literally and figuratively. I’m tearing up as I type this because the “dancer” gave me a HUGE gift, and I hope somehow, some way this blog post finds its way to her and that I can do justice to the beautiful energy which emanates from her. But we’ll get to her story in a little bit…

I had headed into Boston from Braintree yesterday afternoon to meet some friends for a dinner to celebrate both my birthday (a birthday that occurred earlier in the month) and another friend in our group’s birthday. In order to meet my friends, I had to take two trains — the Red Line from Braintree to Boston, and then, the Green Line from Boston to Chestnut Hill (Brookline/Newton area). Unbeknownst to me, the Green Line trains were not running and they were bussing people instead to the many locations served by the MBTA’s (Boston’s subway system’s) Green Line. I couldn’t catch a bus or a Lyft in time to get out to Chestnut Hill to meet my friends. The traffic in Boston’s Copley Place area was just so congested because of the bussing, and particularly so, because it was rush hour, and everyone who didn’t want to be bussed had probably snatched up all the available Lyft rides.

Making Lemonade From Lemons

Instead of feeling angry and upset, I decided to stay upbeat, i.e., to “dance to what is.” To just focus on my having the opportunity to walk around the City on a nice late-fall night, take advantage of viewing holiday lights, window displays, and decorations, do a little shopping, and treat myself to a nice dinner at “Back Deck” on West Street, which by the way was quite yummy and has a great atmosphere!

I was proud of my ability to “dance to what is” and make the best of the situation I found myself in. It would have been so easy to get really cranky about all the transportation glitches and my missing out on seeing great, life-long friends.

But, my ability to dance to what is pales in comparison to the “dancing to what is” superstar I teased you about above and whom I’m about to describe. After my dinner and shopping, I jumped on the Red Line at Boston’s Downtown Crossing station to head back to Braintree. Note that you can grab a Red Line train from that station that goes to Braintree, or you can grab one that goes to the Ashmont neighborhood in Dorchester. If you’re overtired and don’t check the signage on trains coming thru, you can end up on the wrong train. Believe me, I’ve done it several times, for the aforementioned reason.

The train car in which I found myself was only moderately crowded and I ended up sitting across from a beautiful young woman with exotic features. I don’t know exactly how old she was. I’m guessing late teens or early 20’s. A woman whom I believed to be her grandmother eventually came to sit next to her, but originally, this young woman was sitting by herself. She was wearing headphones, and it was obvious that she was very engaged with whatever she was listening to on her device. Every once in a while, she would shout out with joy. There is no other way to describe her affect than to say she was “sparkly/sparkling.” Her eyes just expressed so much happiness and excitement. Every once in a while, she would startle me with her squeals of joy about something. Her grandmother reminded her to quiet down because she saw that initially her granddaughter’s unexpected outbursts were startling me, but I told her grandmother, not to worry. That it was great to see someone so “happy.”

Dancing To Your Own Beat

Eventually, the girl got up from her seat and started dancing to the music she was listening to. She didn’t care what anyone thought about her dancing in the middle of a subway car, and just continued to show great joy via her eyes and her smile. Of course, I smiled back. In response to my sharing with her grandmother that it was great to see someone so “happy,” the young woman shared with me that she is always “very positive.”

When I was getting off the train in Braintree (the last stop on the Braintree line, of course), I saw they were not getting off. I asked something like “are you heading back in the other direction?” and they just responded “yes,” but as I headed off the train, the young woman with great energy repeated to me numerous times “stay warm,” and kept flashing her beautiful smiles and eyes at me. I don’t know why these two fellow “T” riders didn’t get off the train at the last stop, but I’m guessing they erroneously got on the Braintree vs. Ashmont line, and had to head back into Boston to transfer over to that other line. Other people who had made such a mistake would have ranted and raved while on the wrong line, and then, ranted and raved if asked if they had to reverse their commute. But, there was none of that negative thinking or talk from these two women. They just continued to “dance to what is.”

I will forever remember how this young woman literally and figuratively danced to what is on a cold November night on the Red Line!

I’d love to hear stories from my readers about how you danced to what is, or about “dancing to what is” superstars you’ve had the pleasure to meet or know!