Every year there’s a special gathering of SEO experts to discuss the latest and greatest in optimization techniques. The most recent one was in June titled “SMX Advanced 2013” and this year the keynote speaker was Google’s search expert Matt Cutts gave some interesting insight into what Google looks for in a website so that it will rank better in its search engine.

During past public appearances at SEO events, Cutts’s usual advice for webmasters looking to rank better in Google always was saying: provide compelling content and design your site for your visitors, not the search engines. However, when questioned further about what makes a great website, Cutts made three interesting recommendations;

  1. Make a great site.
    To this first and second points above, a great site is one that’s been optimized for the user experience. It’s fast; it’s got a good mobile version, it has useful info, it’s conversion optimized and easy to use. These were the themes repeated over and over again throughout the conference, and it’s the topic covered in detail in this month’s Back to Basics article SMX Advanced Non-Negotiables: Social Signals, Mobile Search and User Experience.
  2. Don’t take shortcuts.
    Google continues to test and roll out new algorithm signals to detect spam. One example, the “pay day loans” query space in the UK got a jolt the day of Cutts’s keynote as the Google web spam team deployed a means of detecting and demoting spam from pay day loan businesses in search results. Penguin (link spam) and Panda (low-quality content) updates continue to roll out, but don’t expect announcements of refreshes. It’s worth pointing out that Google doesn’t feel it necessary to announce every update to its algorithm anymore, or name updates, for that matter. During the keynote, Cutts said he wanted to avoid “update name inflation.” When updates and refreshes work toward the goal of elevating relevant, quality results and devaluing manipulative, low-quality results, does it really matter what algorithm tweaks are called?
  3. Pay attention to what Google tells you?
    During the keynote Cutts announced that Google now gives example URLs to webmasters notified of a manual action in Google Webmaster Tools. For several years now, Cutts has said that Google was making open communication a priority. In this case, those website owners that have had a manual action, those who have been hand-flagged for acts against Google guidelines, will be given a few examples of the bad behavior Google sees. In a Webmaster Help video, Updated messages for manual webspam actions, Cutts’s example suggests a page that has been hacked, perhaps with something like a link injection.
  4. Tell everyone
    Once you have a great site is one that users love, bookmark, tell their friends about, come to over and over again ? all the things that make a site compelling (Cutts’s favorite word for describing great content).

If you promote your business or personal website via the search engines, your most immediate marketing goal should be to work hard for your website users as a way to create compelling Web content. If you do this, then expect Google to be your ally in the pursuit of that goal by working hard alongside you to show your high-quality content to users.

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“Good SEO is usually just good usability “
I recently read this sentence on a blog – and yeah, it holds a lot of truth!
I have seen websites stuffed with keywords and with lots of sneaky stuff. Besides the fact that most of the attempts to fool google just don’t work any more, you must not forget that your site is for real human beings, not for search engines. Your visitor have to like your site! If they love it, they’ll link to it! Don’t make usability sacrifices for SEO, usability and SEO go hand in hand. Following basic accessibility standards ensures that your site can be crawled and indexed by search engines, but as we know – that isn’t enough. Taking usability principles, such as good page markup, use of headers, titles and information architecture can give you a boost in search visibility.In fact, when it comes down to a lot of the things search engines look for, even off-site, you can relate them to end user needs. Lets take another example:Let’s say there are two sites both with the same keywords and the same number of inlinks, which will rank higher? Chances are good that the page that loads faster will be preferred. Use tools like Yahoo! Yslow or Google Page Speed to check whether you could optimzie the page loading speed.

And last but not least validate your site’s HTML or XHTML. Browsers can render pages with errors and a normal visitor might not even notice anything, perhaps the page loads a little bit slower than others. But for search engine bots some validation errors can cause the bot to “see” only half the page and missing out in the rest of the content.So use the w3.org Validator and improve your SEO Usability.

Most home business entrepreneurs do all the writing for their business which includes their website, correspondence, e-mails, etc. Unfortunately, most of us make common mistakes when writing and unless someone calls us on the carpet for said mistakes, we usually just keep on making them and it reflects on our business.

However, grammar mistakes are often made in association with word usage which is frequently not something that can always be remedied with a spell checker. That’s what I thought it would be good way to start off 2013 with a listing of the most common word usage mistakes and rules to remember so as to avoid them.

Here is a list of ten common word usage mistakes with explanations and examples of proper use:

1. THERE vs. THEIR vs. THEY’RE

THERE is an indication of location. Example: I want to see that book over there.
THEIR is a possessive version of they. Example: They took their dog to the groomer.
THEY’RE is a contraction, short for they are. Example: They’re going to the theatre tonight.

2. A LOT vs. ALLOT vs. ALOT

A LOT is an indication of amount. Example: I have a lot of laundry to do.
ALLOT means to distribute. Example: I will allot you two cookies.
ALOT is not a word.

3. I.E. vs. E.G.

I.E. means “in other words.” Example: Writing more articles increases your website traffic. I.E., it will bring you more exposure.
E.G. means “for example.” Example: I have a lot of chores to do. E.G., laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dusting, etc.

4. TO vs. TOO vs. TWO

TO is a function word to indicate relative position. Example: We took the dog to the vet.
TOO can indicate excessiveness or in addition to. Example: The chili was too spicy ; I would like to go too.
TWO is the number 2. Example: I want two cookies.

5. ITS vs. IT’S

ITS is the possessive version of it. Example: Its door came off the hinges.
IT’S is a contraction, short for “it is.” Example: It’s a beautiful day.

6. YOU’RE vs. YOUR

YOU’RE is a contraction, short for “you are.” Example: You’re the nicest person I’ve ever met.
YOUR describes the possessor as someone else. Example: Your shirt is very wrinkled.

7. LOOSE vs. LOSE

LOOSE is an adjective, the opposite of tight or contained. Example: I have loose change in my pocket.
LOSE is a verb that means “to suffer the loss of.” Example: I hope I don’t lose my car keys.

8. CHOOSE vs. CHOSE

CHOOSE is a present tense verb meaning “to select.” Example: I choose to eat healthy foods.
CHOSE is a past tense verb meaning “to select.” Example: I chose to eat healthy foods.

9. EFFECT vs. AFFECT

EFFECT is usually a noun meaning “result.” Example: The effect of increased traffic to your website is directly related to the number of articles you produce for syndication.
AFFECT is usually a verb meaning “to influence.” Example: I hope this training series will affect you in a positive way.

10. KNOW vs. NO vs. NOW

KNOW is usually a verb meaning “to understand.” Example: I know you are not coming to the movie.
NO is a negative reply, refusal or disagreement. Example: There is no problem with the car.
NOW is usually an adverb meaning “at the present time or moment.” Example: Now I can easily write and market my articles.

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If you know of other grammatical errors that spell checkers frequently miss, please share them with us in the comments section.

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