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What do you think when you hear the acronym, “SEO”?

Do you think something like “rank higher in Google”? Or maybe you’re one of those industry people who thinks, “inbound marketing strategy.” I am fully aware that there are still people out there who have no clue what SEO means, as I constantly have to give the “SEO spiel” to my friends and family.

Let’s hope that you at least have gotten past the point of thinking SEO is spam. There are still a few companies out there that game the search engines to increase search engine traffic. They do so in way that puts websites at risk for being banned or penalized. Let it be known, that is NOT SEO, that’s spam.

True SEO is a culmination of online marketing strategies that send signals to the search engines and let them know you’re relevant, interesting and are worthy of being ranked. In part 1 of this series, experts weighed in on content marketing, conversion optimization and Author Rank. In part 3 of the series, experts weigh in on link-building, web development, e-mail marketing and digitial media.

In this post, SEO experts (including myself :)) will be weighing in on social media, on-page SEO, local SEO and mobile SEO. All of these puzzle pieces fit together to create a picture of SEO’s future:

Rebecca Babicz, Social Media Manager, on the state of social media:

Rebecca Babicz state of social media and seo

Social media directly and indirectly affects your search rankings. Things like number of Facebook fans, Google +1s and number of tweets directly impact your SEO. But the indirect benefits that social media has on your SEO are even more important. Google wants to rank brands, not websites. Social media is what will make your brand the complete online package; not just a website. The stronger social media presence your company has, the more customers will return to your website and the more loyal they become. This all means more leads, sales, social shares and guess what else? Inbound links! Which by the way, is still a major ranking factor for Google and Bing.

Here are some social media tips for business to consider looking forward:

  1. Get on Google+ now.
  2. Make every single page on your site shareable on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
  3. If you run an eCommerce site, consider making every single one of your products “pinnable,” for Pinterest.
  4. Create content that answers your potential customer’s questions and share that content through the appropriate social outlets. Not every piece of content you create is appropriate for all of your outlets.
  5. Create fun content that’s shareable. Sometimes people just want a good laugh.
  6. Written blog content is great, but don’t forget about visual content. As platforms like Pinterest and Instagram take off, don’t underestimate the power of images to drive traffic and sales.
  7. Look at social media as an extension of your customer service department. Don’t just delete comments because you think they make you look bad. Deleting them and ignoring the issue will make you look worse.
  8. Social media is a great way to attract new customers but it also should be used to promote and engage your employees. Your employees are key to the success of your overall social media strategy.

TJ Welsh, Director of SEO, on the state of on-page optimization:

TJ Welsh state of on page seo optimization

On-page SEO has changed a considerable amount over the last couple of years due to major algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin. These updates are targeting sites with duplicate or thin content along with sites that are over-optimized. Prior to the updates it was common to find sites that would “stuff” keywords in the title tag, description, H1/H2/H3 tags, throughout the content and anywhere else they could get keywords on the page. While you still see those sites from time to time in search results, it is becoming a lot less prevalent. Here’s a look at some new on-page SEO best practices:

  • Title tags: This is a basic example but the point is to sound natural and entice a user to want to learn more; OLD Way: Snowboards, Snowboard Bindings and Snowboard Accessories | Brand Name. New Way: Great Deals on Snowboard Accessories, Bindings and More | Brand Name. TIP: Don’t focus on getting the keywords in the title 2-3 times but focus on user engagement. Follow this same pattern for other page elements like, description tags, H1, H2 and H3 tags.
  • Alt Attributes and Images: If the image does not match up with the page information don’t force keywords into the alt attribute. Instead, find another image that makes sense.For example, when doing an image search for employee success related terms I came across an image of cherries. Not what I would expect to see and not relevant to the content. Use images that help tell your story and create an association between keywords and your brand.
  • Other on-page elements: The phrase “content is king” is thrown around a lot in the SEO world but there is a reason for that. Google has always liked fresh, unique content but these algorithm updates have shown just how much Google cares about high quality content. Having great content on your website that matches the user’s intent will have a tremendous affect on your on-page SEO. Social sharing is becoming an even bigger ranking factor so it is important to encourage social activity on your site. Encouraging users to share articles, blogs and other resources on your site (through social sharing plugins) can have major ranking benefits from the search engines. For blog posts, it’s also important to focus on Author Rank, something my colleague covered in the first part of this series.

Although in the future the best practices for on-page SEO will change, the two things that will remain constant are giving your user’s the best experience possible while sending the proper signals to the search engines that tells them your website is worthy of ranking.

Tyson Hymas, Director of Local SEO, on the state of Local SEO:

Tyson Hyman state of local seo

Last year Google rolled out the Venice update and we started to see the integration of local results in our organic SERPs. With that, and with about 43% of searches including some sort of mention to local, it is very important for local and small businesses to start with the basics. By the basics, I mean:

  • Keyword Research
  • Siloing Content/Keyword Themes
  • Site Optimization
  • Google Places Optimization
  • Link Building
  • Social Networking and Content Promotion

Going forward, I think that every business owner needs to be actively engaged in social networking. It is important to understand where your customers are, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp!, G+ or MySpace (Thank you Justin Timberlake!). Knowing this and strategically utilizing the free services, you can create an army of free marketers that will promote your product and content.

Greg Bay, Search Marketing Engineer, on the state of Mobile SEO:

Greg Bay state of local seo

Mobile SEO and local SEO are quickly approaching synonymous status and are becoming one of the most important yet overlooked parts of a local online marketing strategy. With smartphone adoption at more than 50% and rapidly climbing, mobile SEO is going to be the make or break for many local targeted companies like dry-cleaners self-storage, restaurants and other product or service companies that serves a geographic market. Local mobile SEO is where we’ll see massive activity and growth. One of the easiest things that can be done early on is to make sure that your business is accurately listed. Claim your listings in Google Places, Bing Business Portal, and Yahoo Local.

What are your thoughts about the state of social media, on-page optimization, local SEO, mobile SEO?