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8 Freshest SEO Tips From Industry Experts
Brought to you from SMX West 2015 Conference

Wonder what's trending in SEO in 2015? We've got your back.

Here're the practical SEO tips and advice from industry experts that the SEO PowerSuite team brought back from Search Marketing Expo 2015 in San Jose — one of the biggest industry conferences out there.
Latest news directly from Google and Bing

Know-hows on fighting Penguin, Panda — from most trusted SEO experts

Best SEO practices that really work in 2015
Search Marketing Expo is where professional SEOs and Internet marketers like you go for the latest tactics for increasing visibility, traffic, conversions and sales. And if you didn't make it to San Jose for the event, we are happy to share the most important SEO takeaways that are sure to help rev up your SEO.
1 Keyword Research: customer profiling and search intent

Does your keyword research still boil down to digging AdWords Keyword Planner for niche keywords, search volume and competition?

Then it's just the time for you to introduce customer profiling into your keyword research workflow. Next time you revise your keyword list, try to understand your target audience.

Understand your customer's social and demographic profile

Mindy Weinstein

Director of Training at Bruce Clay, Inc., @mindydweinstein

"What should you do before using keyword research tools? Get into the minds of your target audience"

If you understand who your customers are, then you'll know their questions and needs, and you can craft compelling content for that.

Say, in some cases women use different keywords in queries than men. The same might apply to different age groups or people with different educational backgrounds. And if you wish to attract a certain audience, your site's copy should speak their specific language.

The only drawback here is that there's no demographic keyword data available to you off the shelf. Here are a few options Mindy suggested:

  • Get the firsthand account of how your customers describe their situations — from customer service representatives, receptionists, your sales people.
  • Find out how people talk about their desires, wants and needs simply by watching how they interact on social media.
  • Interview a sample of prospects and customers — pay attention to the words they use when explaining your brand, product service or their needs.

Target your customers on different stages of their buying cycle

The buying cycle profiling is easier to deal with. On different stages of the buying cycle, your customers tend to use different modifiers in search queries. For example:

1. "best seo tools", "compare seo tools"
stage: evaluating options
what they want: research more information

2. "download SEO PowerSuite", "buy SEO PowerSuite"
stage: decision is made
what they want: get product

3. "how to do keyword research with Rank Tracker", "SEO PowerSuite tutorials"
stage: implementation
what they want: learn how to use

Think about the queries your prospects use. When they use this particular phrase, what's their objective? Based on the goal, what would they expect on that page? Based on the buying cycle, what is the expected next step for this searcher?

Once you've understood what your searches' intentions are, you can give them exactly the content they want.


Match your website copy to the searcher's intent

Kate Morris

Director of Client Strategies, Outspoken Media @katemorris

"Search engines are moving from relying on just the query to using a number of data points to determine the best results."

In most cases, the keyword itself is not enough to tell search engines what the searcher was looking for. Say, what's the search intent behind the query "au pair in Georgia"? It may well stand for:

  • "Find an au pair from the country Georgia";
  • "Family in Georgia, USA looking for an au pair";
  • "An au pair looking for a job in Georgia, USA"
  • "Family in Georgia, USA looking for an au pair already in Georgia, USA".

That is why apart from keywords, search engines are currently using other signals, like user location and search history to determine the intention behind a query and serve the results the searcher needs.

So remember to pay close attention to the intention your keywords reflect in a particular situation, and make sure your landing page copy matches the intention and not the bare keyword.

Need a keyword research tool? Try Rank Tracker.
With 17 keyword research methods, SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker is one of the best tools available to help you revamp your keyword lists.
2 Panda: mind the technical side
Ehren Reilly

Director of Product for Growth, Glassdoor, @ehrenreilly

"Panda isn't just about content — it's about your site's architecture"

Google's Panda algorithm has been around for about four years. And while most SEOs have already understood that it deals with content value and quality, they often overlook technical issues that might cause a decrease in rankings.

Ehren named these typical cases to watch out for:


URL based duplication

URL based duplication is typical of ecommerce websites, when the same piece of content, most often a product listing, might be reached via different URLs.

Let's take an online electronics store for example. The very same 37" Samsung TV page is accessible via these URLs:

  • /lcd-tv-37-inch;
  • /lcd-tv-samsung;
  • /lcd-tv-samsung-37-inch;

The URL changes depending on the taxonomy path you take to get to the product listing.


Duplicate "No results" pages

"No results" pages typically appear when a product is either out of stock or discontinued, and instead of showing an "out of stock" notice for the listing or turning the page to 404, the CMS returns a "No results" page. In some time, the website may end up with thousands of duplicated "No results" pages.

To fix issues in your site's architecture, try WebSite Auditor.
SEO PowerSuite's WebSite Auditor reports on all technical issues in your site structure — duplicate content, broken links, improper redirects, and more.
3 HTTPS everywhere: check the validity of your certificate

On August 06, 2014, Google announced HTTPS to be another ranking signal. The news sparked off lots of debate in the webmaster community. And at SMX West 2015, Google representative Gary Illyes shed some light on the problem.

Garry Illyes

Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google, @method

"The notion that HTTPS slows down a site is simply false."

Google wants the web to be 100% secure and encrypted. It means even if your website doesn't collect any information from users, e.g. there are no login or payment forms, you have to implement HTTPS just for the sake of "integrity", Gary said.

According to Google, SSL encryption does not slow down websites, so there should be no worries here.

It is crucial for a site to have valid security certificates. In the nearest future, websites with broken certificates will probably be treated as unsafe.

Migrating to HTTPS will send an important quality signal to Google and can have a positive effect on your rankings, so taking a few hours to go HTTPS is probably worth it.
4 404 Pages: an officially good removal practice

Once in a while, website content gets obsolete and you have to remove it. Some webmasters still have a fear for 404 response code, but both Google and Bing representatives noted that 404 is a good page removal practice that won't hurt your rankings.

Remember that search engines don't remove 404 pages from their indices instantly, because very often pages get 404 by mistake or due to server errors. If you want to send a strong signal to search engines that the 404 response is fully justified, remove the page from the XML sitemap as well.

You may use the URL removal tool in Google Webmasters Tools to deindex pages, but Gary Illyes clearly stated that it is intended for emergency cases. I.e. you might use it when some sensitive information leaked out to the index and you want to remove it urgently.
5 Sitemaps: still a strong signal

In the Q&A session, Google and Bing officials confirmed once again that the XML sitemap is important for crawling websites. You should keep it clean from pages that are not supposed to be indexed. It's also vital to update the sitemap regularly, because it's a strong signal that something about your site has changed, and it needs to be crawled.

You can use WebSite Auditor's in-built sitemap generator to automatically update and upload your sitemap to the server.

6 Mobile: it's not an option anymore
Duane Forrester

Sr. Product Manager, Bing, @DuaneForrester

"Mobile is not an option anymore."

As announced on April 21, 2015, "mobile-friendliness" will be fully used by Google as a ranking signal.

From now on, mobile friendly websites will get a ranking boost over non-mobile friendly websites in mobile search.

You should be aware of a few important facts about the new algorithm:

  • It works on a page-by-page basis. In other words, if necessary, only part of your website may be mobile-friendly.
  • The algorithm is binary, i.e. the page is either mobile friendly or not. There are no grades of mobile-friendliness.
Go ahead and take the mobile-friendly test to make sure you are ready for the update, and stay tuned - we'll be soon updating SEO PowerSuite for mobile (letting you easily track mobile website rankings and more).
7 User Behavior: sending fake users is future SEO?

Duane Forrester subtly stated that Bing relies on user behavior as a ranking signal. Duane said that if a user clicks on a website snippet in SERPs and then immediately hits the Back button in their browser, they send a quality signal to the search engine. In other words, CTR in SERPs and bounce rate are likely to affect your rankings.

For us SEOs it means that in order to leverage this ranking signal your landing page should answer to the user intention and provide value, so that they don't bounce back to the SERP.

But chances are that the black-hat community will react in its own way. For instance, Yandex (a major Russian search engine) is known to rely on user behavior as a strong ranking signal. And as a result, the Russian SEO market has already gone through a boom of services that offer to improve behavioral factors by sending fake users to your website. Thus, user behavior emulation services tailored for Google and Bing may also debut in the nearest future.
8 Link Penalties: read the checklist before taking action

Rae Hoffman, Marie Haynes, and Sha Menz presented a Penguin penalty preventing session and shared their experience.


Diagnose a Penguin penalty

Marie Haynes

Owner, HIS Web Marketing, @marie_haynes

"If you haven't been cheating… It's probably not Penguin."

Google's Penguin algorithm is designed to combat spam links. So, first of all, as Marie Haynes tells us, if you're sure you weren't involved in unnatural link building, most probably Penguin is not your problem.

If you were involved in link-building practices that clearly violate Google quality guidelines and your website experienced a sharp drop in traffic, it might be Penguin. But before you take any further steps, Marie Haynes advises to confirm that it was Penguin indeed.

  • Make sure it was not a manual penalty (check out Manual Actions section in Google Webmaster Tools).
  • Log in to Google Analytics account and see if only organic traffic from Google dropped.
  • Try to align the traffic drop with the major Penguin update dates. If the dates match, it's strong evidence that you have been hit by Penguin.

Anti-Penguin link clean-up

Rae Hoffman

CEO, PushFire, @sugarrae

"Manual penalties need to use a "machete", algorithmic penalties may take more of a "scalpel" approach."

Rae Hoffman stresses the difference between removing a manual and an algorithmic link penalty.

In case of a manual penalty, link clean-up must be thorough. If you have a slightest doubt about a link — remove it. On the other hand, if you are dealing with Penguin, you should think proportionally and consider the ratio of bad links to good links.

So if you're dealing with Penguin, first you need to evaluate the link profiles of other websites in your niche that rank well. Use a backlink research tool to get the percentages of:

  • Anchor links;
  • Anchor texts used;
  • Dofollow links;
  • Nofollow links;
  • Links from blogs and forums;
  • Links from various TLDs or countries, and;
  • Low quality links.

Once you've analyzed your niche, try to bring the percentages of your website at least in accordance with the niche averages. Your aim is to reduce the ratio of bad links to good links.


Preparing your disavow file

Sha Menz

Lead Software Architect / Link Removal Specialist, rmoov.com, @ShahMenz

"Keep your comments minimal — Webspam Team doesn't see them."

Sha Menz touched upon the best practices and the common pitfalls regarding the disavow tool:

  • Mind your file's format. It should be a .txt file in UTF-8 or &-bit ASCII;
  • Don't overdo with the comments, as your file is limited to 2MB only;
  • Add new disavow data to your older disavow file, as your new file submission is a rewrite and not an update;
  • Disavow entire domains (separate links can be left only to protect future referral from coveted domains).
Need a backlink audit tool? Try SEO SpyGlass.
SEO PowerSuite's SEO SpyGlass will check your site's backlinks against a number of quality factors and highlight all the suspicious links that may cause a link penalty.

There is a lot more to share about the SMX conference, but we'll have to get far beyond a single-page recap. If you want to get up to date with the latest Internet marketing trends, consider visiting one of the upcoming SMX events in your area.

And please join the comments below to share your thoughts on the mentioned issues!