Announcement: Welcome to Global Reach SEO Consulting

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Effective, efficient communication — it’s your competitive advantage in today’s global economy. Global Reach Consulting gives you the tools and resources you need to get ahead in the global marketplace. We offer custom solutions for companies and individuals by helping you create engaging content and connect with more customers, clients and everyone else who might be interested in your products or services. Our core areas of expertise are:

  • corporate communications (including web content editing, proof reading and blog management)
  • search engine optimization or SEO
  • social network building and management
  • web design
  • reputation management and customer engagement (Yelp, Citysearch, etc.)
  • online language learning programs
  • ghost writing (scripts, articles, etc.)
  • business plans, proposals and grant writing
  • international market research

To get a quick overview of just some of the options you’ll have to improve your online presence, please visit our about us and services pages, but be sure to come back and read on!

SEO Tips: Google Analytics for Newbies (we hate the term “Dummies”!)

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If you’ve been approached by an SEO consultant, it’s pretty certain that they’ve brought up the benefits of using Google Analytics to measure the health of your business’s online presence.  It is also very likely that (unless you too are an fascinated by online geekery) your eyes rolled back into your head and you looked back fondly on your algebra classes, because they now seem easy.   Of course, as with any business, you will have to pay people with particular expertise to handle certain things, so that you can focus on your core business.  However, you should have a basic understanding of what your employees or contractors are doing to be sure that you are getting the ROI to justify the expense.  In the case of SEO and Google Analytics, we believe that a good starting point for understanding how your marketing program is working is knowing the three most basic criteria of any analytics reports: visitors,  bounce rate and time on site.

Visitors: 

This one seems obvious to most people.  You want more people to come to your website, which in turn should hopefully lead to more sales.  However, just having a ton of new or returning visitors is not a guarantee that your SEO is succeeding.  For one thing, if you are an online retailer like Amazon, you should be striving to get new visitors and keep current customers coming back. But, if you are a service provider like a real estate agent or  legal recruiter, then you should not be overly concerned that you don’t have a lot of returning visitors.  This is because, when you sell them a house or find them a job, they really don’t have much reason to come back to your website, at least not for a couple years or so.  However, having an insightful blog linked to your main site may keep a few of them coming back, just to keep up to date on what’s going on in the market and to browse what’s out there.

Bounce Rate:

Bounce rate is quite simple.  It is the percentage of visitors who come to a page on your site and leave without visiting any other pages.  For example, if you’ve been approached by an SEO company that promises to get you 1,000 new visitors next week, odds are, they can do it…using black hat techniques.  These new visitors, from wherever they find you, are of no use if your bounce rate goes from 50% to 90%.  This means that they are being driven to your site, but that your site is actually not relevant to what they are looking for.  Google and other search engines will notice this and penalize your site (via lowered search rankings) accordingly.  You’ve seen them, the sites with no “there” there, just lots of links to keep clicking or one page with almost no content.  Don’t be them.  Ten new visitors from older, established links, who explore your site, are worth 1,000 visitors who drive up your bounce rate.

Time on Site:

Time on site is related to bounce rate, in that is measures how engaging and relevant your site is to visitors.  1,000 new visitors who spend less than a minute on your site, are worth far less than 10 visitors who spend 3-5-10 minutes exploring.  Again, search engines will notice that people are coming to your site and leaving quickly, and then they will penalize you.  A retailer should have a higher time on site than, say, a car repair shop.  But over time, you be able to determine what is a good ballpark range for time spent on your site.  Also, keep in mind that a full website should have a higher time on site than a blog.  This is because visitors are more likely to explore an online store for a while, but in the case of a blog, long time readers are likely to simply look at the latest blog post, which may only take a minute to read, so your main page may have a 4 minute time on site, while your blog may only have a time on site of a minute or less, and this is perfectly fine.

Got it?  Good!  Hopefully this gives you a little direction, but feel free to contact us with questions or comments.

SEO Tips: Is Google Maps Steering You Wrong?

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Why could Google Maps be hurting your business?  Well, living in the Hermosa Beach/Manhattan Beach corridor, it’s very likely that you’ve had the same experience that I had when I first moved here in 2004 and have encountered yet again now that I have just returned.  What’s the problem?  Bad driving directions from your GPS or online maps.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Hello, you’re almost to my apartment?  Okay, I’m on the terrace but I don’t see you.”

Friend: “I’m your street, at 10th street.”

Me: Okay, just turn around and head north a few blocks and you will see me.

Friend: “Okay, I’ll call you when I am there.”

5 minutes pass.  Friend calls back.

Friend: “I don’t see you.”
Me: “You CAN’T miss me.  What do you see?”

Friend:  ”I just passed Manhattan Beach Blvd.”

Me: “Doh.  You’re in Manhattan Beach, and going the wrong way.  NOW turn around and keep going south until you get to my street.”

Sound familiar?  If you know how screwey the street numbering is around here, then this may sound like a familiar conversation.

“So, it can be tricky, but no big deal.”, you say.

Wrong, read on… 

The problem with Google maps, other maps, and many GPS devices is that they have always had a problem treating the border between Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach as even existing.  We’re all one big happy family!   But that’s  bad for your business, because even if your map location is correct, the driving diretions could be completely off and sending potential customers to the wrong place, and worse, annoying them!  This is precisely what happened to a local business owner friend of mine thaks to an error in Google Maps.  Luckily, it’s been fixed, but the moral of the story is that you need to stay on top of your web presence in maps, google places, Facebook and anywhere that has your location.  And if you can’t, someone else should.

Here’s the link to trouble shoot and submit problems to Google Maps.  And don’t think this is just a local problem, this has been going on for years and all over the world, with much more troublesome results than simply ending up at the wrong Trader Joe’s..

Check this out:

“Before leaving Barcelona yesterday morning, I checked Google maps to get driving directions from San Francisco International airport (SFO) to a friend’s place in Oakland.

Google got it way wrong. Imagine trying to follow these instructions if you didn’t know they were so wrong. Click on the image to see the full sized map. Google maps is working again now.”

Well, it is working, mostly, but if you are focusing on SEO for your small business, you can’t let the little things like map errors slip through the cracks!

Please contact us if you need help with maps, social networking, SEO, content writing/editing or web design.

 Read more SEO tips here…

SEO Tips: Should Your Business Have Interest in Pinterest?

Pinterest, which is essentially an enormous bulletin board, has been growing faster than any other stand alone site in the history of the Internet.  This of course has led web savvy business people to wonder how they can use Pinterest to boost their web traffic and bottom line.   So, who should use it?  Well, if your business skews heavily male or is a business like a legal recruiter or tire company, you should probably not put any eggs in the Pinterest basket.  But does your business cater more to women, like a wedding planner or even a real estate agency?  Then here’s what you need to know.  From boston.com:

“How a small business can capitalize

Pinterest has learned from Twitter and Facebook by incorporating an easy way for businesses to drive images and traffic to its site. A very simple to install “Pin it” buttonmakes it easy for someone browsing your website to quickly add something to their Pinterest page. For example, if you’re a wedding dress maker and a bride to be likes what she sees on your site, she can easily pin an image that goes back to her page and gets filed under a certain category, such as “gifts” or “things I like.” From there, everyone else can see it, and the chances of it getting shared increase. People can also click on it and be directed back to your site.

Why it won’t work for all small businesses

Like every other social network, there is a tremendous amount of clutter being shared. The trick is getting content to be shared quickly and frequently, thus increasing the chances of someone acting on it. The first step is assessing whether or not you have the type of website that can handle e-commerce. If you can’t immediately convert sales on a website, then it probably doesn’t make sense to bother with Pinterest.”

So, there’s the broad stroke of whether a business should spend any time at all on Pinterest.  But, what if you are one of the group that may be able to boost your online visibility with Pinterest?  Unfortunately, there are also some legal issues that the young company is running into.  From pcworld:

“Content-sharing site Pinterest has been surging in popularity. The bigger it gets, the more responsibility it has to ensure that copyrighted content doesn’t show up on its site.

Less than a week after Pinterest offered an opt-out code for websites seeking to protect their content, Flickr is adopting that code to help users protect copyrighted images on its photo-sharing network.

If you’re fitting Pinterest into your company’s marketing plans, or seeking to protect your content from eager Pinterest users, what should you do?

How is sharing a picture on Pinterest any different than on other social networks? Both Twitter and Facebook encourage sharing personal experiences and photos rather than content created by someone else, says Deborah Sweeney, intellectual property lawyer and and CEO of MyCorporation. While Facebook users repurpose others’ content regularly, Facebook asks each time you upload a photo if you have the permission to use it. The legal burden lies with the original person who posted the photo rather than those who share links to it.

Pinterest does not ask users to consider permissions before each “pin,” aiming to make the user experience seamless. While having your content shared arguably helps popularize it, many artists and photographers may want to be asked or paid first.

Sweeney says Pinterest’s business model is the issue, since its “very nature is to encourage the repinning of photos, which encourages users to use them as they like.” She argues that it isn’t a far leap for users to think it’s fine to use a picture from one of their Pinterest boards on a website or blog, although this is expressly against Pinterest’s Terms of Service.

As an example, here’s a pin I made of a 1980s advertisement for General Foods International coffee. If either General Foods International or Kraft (its parent company) took exception to my use of its copyright, it could ask Pinterest to take down the offending advertisement by following Pinterest’s directions here. According to Pinterest’s Terms of Use, however, it’s my responsibility to get General Foods International’s permission prior to posting anything involving its trademark.

Pinterest offloads legal responsibility onto users, but takes action on copyright infringement itself. Why not let the artists deal with the infringing users directly? Pinterest can remove an infringing item faster than a user can, and it has that right under its Terms of Use.

Pinterest Places Copyright Responsibility on Users

Pinterest does have a stringent policy that the user is not to use third-party content for anything but a personal content collection on the site. But it falls down in its Terms of Use: “You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services.”

The inherent flaw in the legal logic, as Sweeney puts it, is that the images remain on Pinterest’s site, even if a user has curated them into a personal collection. “Pinterest would have a hard time defending itself by forcing the liability onto a user. A court could possibly find it liable for a contributory infringement.” Chilling Effects, a site that collects and analyzes legal complaints about online activity, seems to agree:”Providing a forum for uploading or downloading any copyrighted file or cracker utility may also be contributory infringement”.

If, however, your business hopes for its content to be “pinned” to Pinterest, first check with your product photographer that you own all rights to the images and that repinning would be an accepted use, since you may have only paid for the images to be used on your own website.”

Read the full article here…

Oh, and here’s one more bit of amusing/problematic news.  Pinterest’s CEO, Ben Silbermann, is (as of this writing) also in charge of copyright compliance.  Given the above, and the fact that the kinds of violations Pinterest is likely to run into generally carry fines ranging from $2,000-$5,000, it seems pretty clear that a compliance team is what’s needed, not the CEO trying to keep on top of every potential law suit.  Case in point, Silbermann’s own profile page on Pinterest’s team page generates a “404: page not found” error.  If they can’t even keep on top of a broken page for their CEO, well, not a great sign for their ability to defend a raft of lawsuits.

Thoughts?

Social Networking Tips: Get Ready for Armageddon (aka Facebook Timeline)

As some of you know, but a LOT of you don’t seem to know, is that Facebook is in the midst of rolling out a new “improvement” called Timeline. What is Timeline?  In short, Timeline will replace the profile and wall pages and merges them.  It will display your Facebook life in  reverse chronological order.   So, “Why do I really need to care?” you may ask.  Well, let’s let Techcrunch give you a quick summary:

“For the majority of users, things will be fine, and they’ll love Timeline. Facebook did a great job designing it. Maybe too great, such that people publish it too fast. Over the last 6 years, the definition of a Facebook friend has expanded to include people outside one’s peers. Timeline doesn’t change your privacy settings, but it does make it easier for others to find things you posted before you ever friended them.

I’ve heard Facebook is planning more ways to educate users about the importance of curating your Timeline. There are already a few alerts in the tour, intro, and blog post, but they’re not very strongly worded. That needs to change, and Facebook may need to provide tools to make reviewing the masses of content easier.

Once users have already opted in to publishing their Timeline, it will be harder to get them to go back and review. And with today’s global rollout, the time bombs start ticking. Two weeks, a month, a year later, they get a call from their boss about a sexist or racist joke they posted in 2009. They get a call from their mom asking if they have a drinking problem. They get a call from their little brother about whether getting high is fun like they said in that post 3 years ago.”

Read the full post here…

Again, not a big deal to some people, but what if you happen to work for a rather conservative company, or worse, are applying for a job at one (or really, anywhere)? For those of you concerned about that old picture of you passed out at your fraternity house reaching the eyes of a potential employer/client/your mother, you should do a few things right off the bat.

From socialsavvydivas.com:

“What does this mean for you?

It is impossible to remember every post or picture that you were tagged in since day one of joining Facebook.   Many of us would love to forget that picture we took that seemed like a good idea at the time or that day when our “evil twin” hacked our page and made some less than desirable comments.  Once you opt-in to the timeline profile, you will have seven (7) days to clean up your timeline before it goes public.  Here is your Facebook Timeline To-Do List:

  • Delete all pictures that you would not want a client to see
  • Delete all posts that you would not want a client to see
  • If you do not want to delete pictures or posts use the privacy options to decide who will see them.  You can even select “Only Me”
  • Review your activity log and set privacy options for past activity
  • Select a lovely picture that represents you or your brand.  This will be prominently displayed on your timeline page.
  • Don’t let 7 days pass without editing your timeline.  The profile will be automatically changed after 7 days.  You do not want to be caught off guard.”

DELETE. DELETE. DELETE POTENTIALLY EMBARRASSING  PHOTOS!  This is the first and easiest step in curating your Facebook profile.  Of course, you can edit your privacy settings, but once something is on the Internet (and with the way Facebook changes things) it has a tendency to get out. So, if you have something you absolutely would not want your boss to see, ditch it.  The old saying is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Well, if you’re not prepared for Timeline, it might be more appropriate to say “A picture will lose a thousand jobs!”

For an in depth FAQ on Timeline, have a look at this PC Mag article.

Black Hat SEO: Watch Out For Spam Posts On Your WordPress Blog

A few weeks ago, I was approached by a small gym owner to discuss building an online store for his gym equipment.  Imagine my surprise when I had a look at his blog and it was filled with posts that were in Polish.  I was fairly sure that he was not Polish nor fluent in the language.  I did some quick digging and came across this site http://www.fuzedbulb.com/2011/polish-spam-posts-on-wordpress/ which has the full breakdown.  In short:

“There seems to be a known security vulnerability effecting WordPress versions < 3.0.5. A user with restricted access (say a subscriber or someone who is only allowed to post comments) can acquire elevated privileges (admin or editor) and publish posts. This security vulnerability is documented on WordPress here.

Keep in mind, this security flaw is not even necessary for unauthorized users to start posting spam blog posts.  If your default setting when you set up your blog is to allow any user to be a contributor, you are in trouble.  I know this because I decided I should check out the older posts of a new client and sure enough, they have literally thousands of unauthorized users and hundreds of spam blog posts dating back years.  Further, these posts can be hidden because they will often remain in pending or draft status, making them harder to notice, but they WILL still associated with your site and cause you to take a hit from Google, Bing, Yahoo and everyone else.  An example:

“Posiadacze mieszkań albo domów, pragnąc być jak najbardziej oryginalni i zaznaczyć swoją indywidualność coraz częściej próbują eksperymentować z wystrojem i przestrzenią w swoim mieszkaniu. Jednakże mnóstwo ludzi nie posiada do tego umiejętności, dlatego często zamiast upiększać otoczenie dookoła nich, szpecą ją. Niestety, do tego rodzaju zadań potrzebna jest osoba, która ma doświadczenie, wiedzę i talent w tym zagadnieniu i która w fachowy sposób doradzi nam jak powinniśmy urządzić naszą przestrzeń. Taką osobą jest Architektura wnętrz.”

There is also a high instance of posts for Indian tours on my clients travel company blog.  While this is fixable, it is going to take a LONG time.  Secondly, this will kill your search engine rankings since Google and company will notice that this boilerplate post appears on known spam sites and will associate your site with known spam user names.

The lesson here?  Keep an eye on your blog dashboard and if you don’t have the time to do so and manage it on a regular basis, hire someone who can!

In the meantime, here are the basic fixes from fuzebulb:

  • Remove all untrusted user accounts
    • Perhaps disable any new user registration if you have that enabled
  • Remove all posts in a weird foreign language that you weren’t expecting
  • And finally, upgrade your WordPress

And most importantly, make sure that you basic settings require that users are only initially granted “subscriber” status without further approval from the blog admin.

And do contact us if you find yourself needing help in the battle against spam.

Useful Tools: Google Alerts Is A Must Have.

We tend to focus on different SEO and online marketing tools for our clients at different times and depending on the particular needs of each client, and recently we’ve been setting up their Google Alerts. So, why should you use GA?

Google Alerts allows you to set up and save searches which can be sent to your inbox or RSS reader. So, if you want to follow any mentions of you, your business or your competitors, you can set up alerts that will notify when any of the search terms you create appear on the Internet.

This can be tricky because if you use search terms that are too broad or not formatted properly, you may get no results or get flooded with useless alerts.

This got us thinking about the fact that we had not been using GA much for ourselves!

So, we set up a few alerts that were relevant to us and within 48 hours we got a notification that someone had posted a listing on craigslist seeking help with a project. After an initial email, we realized that the request was from someone we had worked with but had not been in touch with for years. Less than an hour later, we were on the phone discussing the project and were well on our way to working together again.

Score one for Google Alerts.

Have questions? Contact us to learn about what options you have for improving your online visibility.

Marketing Tips: Affiliate Marketing: Don’t put the cart before the horse

Over the last few months, I’ve been contact by  a number of potential clients who were interested in ways to make money from their website…fast.  One common question was how does affiliate marketing work and how could I help them use it to generate revenue from their websites.  So, first off, what is affiliate marketing?  I’ll let the good people at imediaconnection answer:

“Definition and execution So, what exactly is online affiliate marketing? It is a partnership between two sides — the advertisers whose goal is to promote their products, and the publishers who are owners of online platforms (affiliates). The affiliate commits to promoting the advertiser’s product or service through a link or a banner ad placed on their website. In exchange, the merchant commits to paying a certain commission to the affiliate. The amount of the commission is dependent on the payment model that the partners have previously agreed upon. There are multiple types of compensation models for affiliate marketing. Depending on the advertiser’s goals, the relationship between them and the affiliates can be based on revenue-share, CPA (cost-per-action), CPL (cost-per-lead or online lead generation where the advertiser pays for a sign-up from a consumer who is interested in the offer), CPC (cost-per-click) and CPM (cost-per-thousand, where publisher displays the advertising on his or her website, and receives payment based impressions). Some partnerships are based solely on one payment model while others employ a mix of a few, for example CPA and CPL models can be combined. To begin an online affiliate marketing program, the advertiser needs to decide on the logistics of the execution. The advertiser can run affiliate programs in-house, wherein it has to identify potential affiliates, use a specific software to track the progress of the program, and send out the payments. This can be a very time-consuming process with each of the steps requiring significant man-hours and a dedicated team. Identification of the affiliates themselves is a very complicated process. Affiliates fall within various categories and can be anything from a personal website, to an online newsletter coupon or rebate website, to a shopping portal, and so on. There are no industry-wide standards for the categorization of the affiliates.”

Go ahead and read the full post before reading on…

Now, about those potential clients.  They were putting the cart before the horse, because the only way you will make money with affiliate marketing is if you already have a website that gets enough traffic to attract partners and generate a LOT of click through traffic.  Just think of it like  traditional advertising.  Why would someone pay you a lot of money to advertise in a newspaper that reached 30-100 people a day?   They wouldn’t, and this is same in the affiliate world.  If you’re like some of the people I have been talking to, and have a brick and mortar business but no web presence to speak of, then you need to raise your company/website’s profile before you have any hope of making money with affiliate marketing.  Of course, there are plenty of ways to speed up the process, but most of them require using somewhat suspect SEO tactics and also won’t provide long term value as a result of search engines penalizing the related sites. Here are some examples of bad affiliate marketing methods.  Go ahead and check out the links below.

  http://www.streetdirectory.com/etoday/bad-affiliate-marketing-example–uclluc.html

http://www.exchangenet.com/lifestyles/marketing/marketing-54025.html

http://www.jobmiddleeast.com/jobs-uae.html

All terrible (or maybe even non-existent depending when you are reading this), right?  There’s no “there” there, just a lot of links that will often lead you in a circle to more pages with nothing but more links.   Sure, I am positive they get a lot of traffic, but there is almost nothing of value to readers who end up on these sites and you surely wouldn’t ever go back right?  Well, “returning visitors” is one of the ways that Google, Bing, etc. measure whether a website is relevant to searchers or just a marketing scam.  No matter how many affiliate links you have on these sites, at some point the value and visibility inevitably decline as search engines adjust their rankings. So, remember, business online is fundamentally like business in the “real world”.  You need to have an actual product or service that people want and which they can find before you start trying to make money directly from your website.  So, as the old adage goes, “You have to spend money to make money.” But, if you happen to have the luxury of time, serious effort can substitute for money as long as you are aware that the results make take a long time to see.