What is Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO)?

People are obsessed over how virtual reality and augmented reality will disrupt the marketing sector. Unsurprisingly, with hype comes buzzwords. And the latest phrase that seems to be on everyone’s lips? 

Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO). It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Just as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves tweaking your website’s performance and content to appeal to search algorithms, VEO represents all the proposed tactics, strategies, and technical adjustments required to market to users in virtual reality. 

But is this actually a trend we should all prepare for, or is it like the metaverse—an overdone buzzword referencing technologies that have already existed for decades? 

questions marks spread across black surface

Honestly, at this point, the jury is still out. While it’s true that all the talk of a completely immersive, completely interconnected virtual world is largely bunk, it’s also true that we’ve already seen some very exciting applications of VR and its less advanced cousin, augmented reality. For evidence of this, we need look no further than online apparel and home goods retailers. 

Seeking a means of replicating in-person retail during lockdown, many of these eCommerce brands turned to augmented reality. Users could visualize how a particular type of furniture would look in their space or how a ring would look on their finger using their smartphone. They could compare the sizes of different types of products, browse dynamically-generated lifestyle photography, and generally enjoy a shopping experience that was the next best thing to actually being there.   

Of course, that alone doesn’t mean we’re on the verge of a deep dive into full immersion. There are still far too many roadblocks for the technology to reach its full potential. If you recall the shape of the smartphone market prior to the early 2000s, it’s a very familiar picture:

  • Current VR headsets are far too expensive for the general public and are held back further by issues with availability. 
  • VR technology is either too bulky or too uncomfortable to be worn for an extended period of time. 
  • Immersion-breaking technical and performance glitches are still far too common. 

It’s important to note here that we’re not saying VR will never be a reality, nor are we denying the notion that someday, VEO will be every bit as important as SEO. But the simple fact is that we’re just not there yet. For now, marketing through virtual reality is a niche pursuit at best, and at worst little more than a pipe dream. 

Learn about it if you so choose. But don’t expect to see practical applications for that knowledge for at least a few years. And for the love of everything sacred about SEO, please stop talking about the metaverse—it’s not going to happen.

Not in the way people who promote the concept believe it will happen, anyway. Interested in more SEO content? Check out our monthly blog, and posts on topics such as Three Potential Reasons You’re Not Ranking on Google!

Is it Possible to Predict the Outcome of an Algorithm Update?

Google’s algorithm remains one of the most enduring mysteries in search engine optimization. Although we know the general rules, no one is entirely clear about how they’re enforced. Similarly, there’s rarely a clear consensus on the nature of upcoming releases—every expert tends to have their own take on what’s coming.

Given how arcane Google’s algorithm is and will likely remain, it should follow that it’s impossible to predict algorithm changes and their impact with any degree of accuracy, right? 

Not exactly. While figuring out what Google intends to do next is largely a guessing game—only their engineers know for certain—it is possible to determine how an update will impact your position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). As with so many other things, the answer lies with artificial intelligence. 

Scrabble tiles spell out SEO

As noted by Search Engine Journal, through a combination of machine learning, real-time data, and historical data, AI-driven solutions can

  • Test how website changes will impact your PageRank. 
  • Display how an algorithm update will impact your website. 
  • Identify weaknesses and bottlenecks that may be lowering your PageRank. 
  • Understand why competitors outrank you.
  • Anticipate how your SEO efforts will impact your site’s long-term growth. 

Granted, these tools don’t offer a direct window to the inner workings of Google’s algorithms. No tool can truly claim to accomplish that—not without drawing the ire of the search giant, anyway. What they do provide is the next best thing, getting you as close to fully accurate predictions as possible. 

One might say it’s something of a moot point, anyway. Thanks to pending regulations in the European Union, we might have that insight within the next few years. Should this legislation pass, both Meta and Google would be required by law to: 

  • Reveal to the public how their content algorithms work
  • Establish a clear process for users to contest content moderation decisions
  • Define mechanisms to be adopted during public security or public health emergencies. 
  • Pledge to stop allowing targeted ads based on sexuality, religion, or ethnicity.
  • Pledge to stop allowing targeted ads directed at minors. 

If the EU is successful in this, the implications would be enormous. SEO and marketing professionals would finally get what we’ve wanted for decades—a genuine peek behind the curtain. As for the AI-driven SEO solutions currently gaining popularity? 

With a thorough understanding of Google’s backend, they’ll only become more effective, efficient, and formidable. 

But we’re getting off track. Our initial question was whether or not it’s possible to predict the results of an algorithm update. As you’ve seen, the answer is yes, albeit with a few notable caveats. 

At the end of the day, all this pontification is ultimately a moot point, anyway. The one common thread in all of Google’s recent algorithm updates is an effort to promote better, more relevant, and more valuable content. What that means is that if you focus exclusively on your audience, and on providing them with what they’re searching for, the rest will eventually fall into place. 

For more info about all the latest developments in SEO, check out our blog!

Struggling with a Search Engine Optimization Skill Gap? Here’s What You Can Do

Given that it’s been plaguing the IT sector for years, it was inevitable that the ongoing digital talent shortage would eventually sink its talents into marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). As noted by MarketingWeek, upskilling has become crucial for specialized agencies and ordinary businesses alike. An annual survey from online marketing agency Verbli, meanwhile, found that SEO expertise is one of the most desirable skills in marketing.  

It follows that, if you currently lack that expertise internally, you need to start looking for ways to bridge that gap. We’ll walk you through how to accomplish that.

Start With a Decent Tool

Tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and Semrush can seem incredibly overwhelming at first glance.  But they also provide an excellent—albeit temporary—solution to a lack of internal SEO knowledge. All three tools are relatively simple to use once you get past the initial growing pains, and all three organizations maintain comprehensive knowledge bases to help you and your employees learn the basics of SEO.

In some cases, this might even be enough. These tools could serve as the foundation from which your business builds up skills in everything from content marketing to PPC advertising. On the other hand, you might find that you simply aren’t getting your money’s worth. 

At this point, you have three options—though there’s no rule saying you can’t attempt all three:

  • Initiate a hiring push to bring in the necessary expertise
  • Hire an agency to manage marketing and SEO for your business
  • Implement training and reskilling programs to develop SEO professionals internally 

Handling Things Yourself

If you’ve decided to take the talent acquisition route, start by looking at a few job listings for similar roles in your industry. This will give you an idea of what constitutes a competitive offer, as well as what to look for in a candidate. Ideally, you’ll want to hire someone with a proven track record—but failing that, they should at least be able to demonstrate a baseline knowledge of SEO. 

If instead you choose to develop SEO skills within your existing staff, start by looking at materials like Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. Consider how you might translate that into hands-on, self-directed training courses—if possible, allow anyone interested in this training to engage with it while on the clock. 

Bringing In an Agency

group of people sitting in front of computers

Believe it or not, hiring an agency has a great deal in common with hiring someone internally. Here as there, you’re looking for someone with a proven track record, an established client base, and clear expertise. A prospective agency should be willing to sit down with you in a discovery call to hash out your requirements, expectations, and budget. 

Be wary of anyone who over-promises. We’d also advise establishing at least a baseline understanding of SEO so you’re able to spot the scammers. Their knowledge is often only surface-level, and they rely on their targets knowing even less than they do. Want to learn more about how to avoid missing out on opportunities to increase traffic with SEO? Check out our blog where we cover SEO-related topics monthly!

Why You Should Include Sentiment Research With Your Keyword Research

Like most content creators with a mind for search engine optimization, you understand the importance of thorough keyword research. It’s at the heart of developing an effective inbound marketing strategy. And for any given piece of content, it’s crucial in determining which keywords you should focus on when it actually comes time to write. 

What you may not realize, however, is that keyword research is only part of the equation. It’s not enough to devise a list of potential topics without context. You also need to know what people are saying about those topics and how they feel about them.

This is especially important with topics where there may be some degree of controversy. And if you don’t know what side of an issue your audience falls on prior to writing? There’s a very good chance you’ll end up leaving a significant portion of your audience feeling alienated. 

Let’s say, for instance, that you decide to write about non-fungible tokens (NFTs). If your audience is against them and you attempt to cast them in a positive light, you can and will lose their interest and likely their trust. Similarly, if your audience is involved in cryptocurrency and you try to claim NFTs are the same as Bitcoin, most people probably won’t appreciate the comparison. 

As for where you can conduct this kind of research? That’s the good news. You have a nearly limited well of information upon which you can draw, including: 

  • Social media. Figure out the social networks on which both your audience and your competitors are most accurate, and pay careful attention to comments, shares, mentions, and hashtags. This will not only allow you to gauge sentiment around a broad range of topics, but also regarding your brand as a whole. For ‘trendy’ news, Twitter will typically be the best bet.
  • Ratings and reviews. Although generally more useful for determining direct sentiment around your brand, customer reviews also have the potential to provide unexpected inspiration for both possible topics and the approach you should take with them. 
  • Customer surveys. Provided you can properly incentivize your audience to take them, surveys are easily the best way to gauge sentiment on virtually any topic. These could be offered via email, on your website, or even through your existing social channels. 
Facebook home page

Ultimately, sentiment analysis is about more than simply figuring out tone and angle. That’s really only part of it. What’s more important is that it helps you understand who your audience is and how they think. 

And from that understanding, you can brainstorm more compelling topics and express them in a way that’s much more likely to resonate.

Word Count is Not A Ranking Factor, But it Does Matter

If you’re like many people, you probably believe in the unimpeachable word count. The notion is that the longer you make a piece, the better it will perform on the search engine results page. The idea is that there’s some sort of magic ‘sweet spot’ for content length that will land you on the first page of Google.

It’s somewhat unclear how these became such common beliefs in the search engine optimization space.  Because the truth is that content length has no direct bearing on PageRank. It never has. 

This isn’t just us saying this, either. As noted by Search Engine Journal, Google has stated as much on more than one occasion. More specifically, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, who’s posed the question on a regular basis. 

“Word count is not a ranking factor,” wrote Mueller on Reddit. “Save yourself the trouble.” 

“Word count is not indicative of quality,” Mueller explained, this time on Twitter. “Some pages have a lot of words that say nothing. Some pages have very few words that are very important & relevant to queries. You know your content best (hopefully) and can decide whether it needs the details.”

Search Engine Journal noted in another piece that Mueller has also stated that word count is a quality factor rather than a ranking factor. Adding more text without good reason will do nothing to improve your content. In short, there is no arbitrary ‘perfect’ word count. 

Content should be exactly as long as it needs to be in order to convey its message. A piece with 1000 words is no more likely to be relevant than a piece with 100 lacks relevance—in actuality, longer content could potentially perform even worse than short form, depending on device and audience. 

Therefore, the best advice we can give you is to stop stressing about length. Just focus on creating high-quality, compelling content, and everything else will fall into place. And remember that there are many elements that are significantly more important than meeting some milestone that doesn’t actually exist:

  • Page speed
  • Performance
  • Ease of use
  • Bounce rate
  • Domain age, history, authority, and registration length
  • Keywords—primarily whether or not they appear in your title tag, header tag, and copy 
  • Backlinks
  • Optimization

If you’re looking for affordable web hosting that is built around SEO development, check out our services! In an era of microblogging and mobile Internet, length is functionally irrelevant. What matters isn’t how much space something takes up on a page. What matters is that it fulfills your audience’s search queries. What matters is that it provides people with genuine value.

Beyond that, everything else is ultimately secondary. 

Horizontal Content vs. Vertical Content

If there’s one thing about any industry that always holds true, it’s that people love their buzzwords. And while such industry parlance can make things easier for someone who’s been around for a while, it can be downright overwhelming for newcomers to the field. That’s why we intend to keep doing our part to clear the air—to walk people through all the definitions bandied about by marketing professionals.

To that end, today we’re going to discuss the difference between horizontal content and vertical content. As you’ve probably guessed, these two phrases have a lot in common with business markets, at least in that they define scope in a very similar manner. 

man writing on macbook

What Is Vertical Content? 

The clue is in the name—vertical content is, quite fittingly, a catch-all term for any piece of content targeted at a specific industry, market, or niche. Typically, when someone discusses vertical content, they’re specifically focused on business to business marketing. However, this need not always be the case.

A vertical is any specialized niche with a highly-defined audience. A healthcare cybersecurity publication and a Portland-based craft brewing business will both publish vertical content as part of their inbound marketing efforts. The thing that defines vertical content is specificity.

Its audience is incredibly well-defined, and it’s incredibly unlikely that anyone outside of that demographic will have any interest in a vertical-focused business or its content. 

What Is Horizontal Content?

While vertical content is highly specific, horizontal content is a little more generalized. Rather than targeting an exclusive market or sector, horizontal content focuses on broader problems or needs. Again, although horizontal content is frequently targeted at the consumer sector, there are plenty of business audiences for which this content is beneficial, as well.

With that said, since horizontal content is by its nature a bit more nebulous than vertical content, we’ll offer up a few examples of topics that might typically have a horizontal focus:

  • General cybersecurity.
  • Consumer electronics.
  • Grocery. 
  • Renovations.
  • Home decor. 
  • Health and wellness. 
  • Productivity. 

Choose the Best Content for Your Needs

It’s important to understand that neither of these content types is superior to the other. Some businesses are far better suited for horizontal content, while others, by their nature, will see the most success with vertical content. It’s also worth noting that in most cases, you can take a horizontal topic and narrow it down to a particular vertical and vice-versa. 

The best advice we can give you here is to first define your customer base and their needs. Once you understand who you’re marketing to and what their interests are, it will be a far simpler matter to figure out what time of content to publish. Just remember that at the end of the day, what truly matters is that you provide value to your audience—everything else is secondary to that. 

Understanding the Different Types of Keywords

Keywords used to be simple. You’d enter your search terms, and you’d be presented with a list of results containing your keyword or phrase. Pages with more instances of that phrase ranked higher on this list. 

As you might expect, this system was incredibly easy to abuse. That’s why since then, both keywords and the algorithms that analyze them have grown considerably more complex. These days, there are a ton of different classes of keywords—and it’s in your best interest to understand them all. 

Specificity

Let’s start with the different matching options you can choose during keyword research and ad targeting. Once you’ve defined your initial topic, focus, or core keyword, you can find variants of it in a few different ways. 

Broad Match

Although search engine optimization research tools still allow broad match searches, broad match keywords have been retired by Google as of July 2021. Originally, they used to match any result containing your core keywords. They accounted for any permutation or variation of those words, and also included similar words. 

This functionality has largely been wrapped into phrase match keywords. 

Phrase Match

Phrase match keyword searches contain your core keywords in the order you typed them. When it retired broad match keywords last year, Google also tweaked phrase match keywords. Phrase match searches now apply road match criteria while still preserving the original meaning of the search. 

Exact Match

An exact match keyword is exactly what it sounds like. The exact permutation of each word in the exact order you typed them. With that said, exact match targeting will also typically include reordered or rephrased close variants if Google determines that they retain the original meaning. 

Intent

Arguably the most important characteristic of a keyword is its intent—what the searcher is looking to do.

Commercial

Someone searching with commercial intent fully intends to make a purchase as soon as possible. They’re effectively right at the end of the sales funnel, ready to convert when they find what they’re looking for. 

Transactional

Transactional intent is similar to commercial. Searchers do intend to make a purchase at some point in the future, but they’re still doing research. 

Informational

Someone searching with informational intent simply wants to learn. They might be looking for a how-to, developing their own content, or performing academic research. Though they may be convinced to convert, they typically aren’t looking to purchase. 

Navigational

A person searching with navigational intent is looking for a specific website or brand. They know exactly what they’re looking for, and why. Your job is to ensure your site provides this to them. 

Length

Lastly, keywords can be categorized in terms of length. 

Short-Tail

A short-tail keyword tends to be much more general and consists of only one or two words. Generally speaking, a short-tail keyword acts as a starting point. Users don’t typically only type one or two words into Google, instead resorting to more generally conversational searches. 

Long-Tail

Long-tail keywords consist of three or more words. Particularly with the growing prominence of semantic search, long-tail is generally the way to go. 

Link Building 101: Laying the Foundations for Outreach

It’s a bit of an oversimplified explanation, but the more high-quality pages that link to one of your pages, the greater that page’s authority. The greater that page’s authority, the better it’s likely to rank on Google. The higher your PageRank, the more traffic you get through organic search.

When it comes to building up your website and creating brand awareness, link building is arguably one of the best strategies at your disposal—but you must first understand how it works. 

What is Link Building? 

Link building is the process of generating more inbound links to your website. Said links must be from websites that themselves have a reasonably high E-A-T score—Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. In simple terms, what this means is that they have an established reputation for publishing authentic, informative, high-quality content. 

How Do You Start Link Building?

As with any marketing or growth strategy, the first step in any link building campaign is to define what you want to accomplish with it. 

Are you trying to establish yourself as an authority in your sector? Are you looking to generate conversions and inspire more people to purchase your products or services? Or do you simply want to generate traffic and increase awareness of your brand? 

What Are Some Common Link Building Strategies? 

Modern link building is generally predicated on a very simple idea—if you create excellent content, people will link to that content. Informative, entertaining, and well-researched blog posts can easily generate a ton of passive inbound links to your website, particularly if they rank well on the search engine results page. Similarly, highly shareable content can draw considerable traffic from social media. 

However, if you want to take a more active role in your link building efforts, you generally have three options. 

  • Guest blogging. Find a well-established site in either your niche or a related one, and create guest content that can be published on that site with a link redirecting back to you. Typically, it’s advisable to focus on sites with guest editorial programs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out if you find a promising prospect—but do not, under any circumstances, use a generic email template. 
  • Seek out broken links. Basically, this involves looking at high-quality sites and searching for broken or outdated links. When you find one, contact the webmaster and offer to replace the link with similar content on your own site. 
  • Syndicated content. Somewhat similar to guest blogging, this involves creating high-quality content such as an infographic, then submitting it to user-driven directories and content sites. 

What Link Building Tactics Should I Avoid? 

Let’s wrap things up with a quick list of link building tactics that are not only doomed to fail, but likely to get your site penalized in the process: 

  • Buying your inbound links.
  • Using a link farm or content mill.
  • Paid content disguised as organic content.
  • Purchasing/creating and interlinking multiple websites.
  • Spamming links in comments, forums, etc. 

Three Ways Augmented Reality Will Reshape SEO in the Coming Decade

One not entirely unexpected side effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been a technological renaissance for augmented reality. Amidst quarantine measures and distributed work, multiple businesses—especially those in the ecommerce sector—began exploring ways to simulate an in-person experience online. Augmented reality technology offered exactly that. 

Many in the marketing sector further recognized that the potential of AR extends far beyond interactive product pages. AR has the potential to completely revolutionize multiple segments of marketing, including search engine optimization (SEO). Potential which, we expect, will be realized within the next decade.

Here are three of the most compelling innovations we’re likely to see from this. 

Visual Search Gains Ground

Imagine the following scenario.

A customer is trying to mount a monitor, but they can’t quite figure out how to remove it from its base. They pull out their phone and take a snapshot of the device, at which point Google automatically detects the brand and model number. From there, the customer is able to quickly find a digital product manual and solve their problem. 

This is a concept known as visual search, best exemplified by Google Lens. Instead of relying solely on text or voice search, visual search creates queries based on real-world items, a sort of natural ‘next step’ from standard image search. It’s also a technology that’s been around since at least 2017. 

Renewed interest in AR will likely bring about a resurgence for visual search and its associated technologies—high-resolution product photos, accurate keywords, and optimized alt text, titles, and descriptions will quickly become more important than ever for SEO. 

A Bridge Between Digital and Physical

Once the pandemic is well and truly over, and everyone can return to a semblance of normalcy, we expect local search to undergo a period of explosive growth. AR technology will allow users to view a business’s Google My Business page, reviews, and even social posts. Again, this is an innovation we’ve already seen some leverage to a limited extent. 

In order to ready yourself for this shift, all you need to do is ensure your business follows general best practices for local SEO: 

  • Ensure your Google My Business page is up to date.
  • Submit your business’s information to all relevant directories.
  • Create a Facebook Business Page. 
  • Monitor online reviews, and take action to address negative ones. 

Immersive Web Design Will Become the Norm

We already briefly touched on how AR will make ecommerce product pages more interactive and immersive. Moving forward, we expect to see an increasing number of websites leveraging immersive design. Real-time feedback, environmental overlays, and features that leverage the visitor’s smartphone camera or webcam are just a few examples of what this will look like. 

Websites will need to account for how AR technology changes the user interface and user experience, and redesign their frontend and backend accordingly.

What Search Engine Marketing Professionals Can Learn From Facebook Ads

Facebook—or Meta, as it would rather be known— is everyone’s favorite whipping boy these days. This is hardly without reason, either.  Between October’s embarrassing outage, The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files, and the recent news that Meta’s shares have tanked through the floor, the social network/corporation has been having a rather bad time of late. 

We’re not here to talk about any of that, though. We’re here to discuss a symptom of Meta’s slow erosion. To be frank, Facebook advertising is terrible, and it’s been getting progressively worse. 

You’ve likely noticed it yourself if you still spend time on the social network. Low quality, word salad ads with nothing in the way of actual targeting. Constant stories of ads being rejected without explanation or cause, often for completely nonsensical reasons. 

And all this is tied together by a backend that can charitably be described as cumbersome. 

To be frank, it’s a disaster. But as with any disaster in the marketing world, it represents an excellent learning opportunity. Here are a few search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) insights that can be gleaned from this mess: 

  • Control your ad network.  We’ve made no secret of our belief that modern advertising is broken, perhaps beyond repair—and that the blame lies almost entirely with ad networks not properly policing their content. Facebook is a microcosm of this wider problem; its advertising algorithms clearly aren’t up to the task of maintaining quality.  
  • Targeted content is crucial.  There is one foundational rule that unites content marketing, SEO, and SEM—know your audience. The more effectively you can nail down who they are, what they’re searching for, and what they want, the better your content will perform. 
  • Technical SEO is no substitute for quality. You’ve probably seen your fair share of ads about how robots are stealing your traffic or auto-generated content is the future of marketing.  How many of those did you actually click on, though? Even though they’ve been delivered to the right audience, these error-laden, rambling ads simply don’t seal the deal.  
  • The quality of your tools matters.  Managing SEO for a smaller site is something you can usually handle on your own. However, as your web presence and business both continue to grow, you can either bring in an agency or start relying on paid SEO tools. If these tools are not simultaneously intuitive and effective, they’re likely going to do more harm than good. This is evidenced by Facebook’s Business Tools, which suffer from the same design problems noted by UX Collective.  

SEO and SEM have evolved in recent years. By contrast, Facebook has remained largely stagnant. There’s another lesson there—if your business does not evolve and adapt with the market, it will ultimately be left behind.