Hey Sharon, great post! Re. dwell time – I’ve read conflicting opinions, some saying that Google DOES consider it an ‘important’ ranking signal, and others saying that it doesn’t, because dwell time can sometimes be a misleading indicator of content quality. For example when a user searches for something specific and finds the answer immediately in the recommended page (meaning that the content on the page is actually spot on) so he returns to the SERPs very quickly. I have been unable to locate any definitive statements (written/spoken) from anyone at Google that suggest that dwell time IS still a factor in ranking considerations, but it makes sense (to me, anyway) that it should be. Do you have any ‘proof’ one way or the other re. whether Google definitely considers dwell time or not?
One thing Google has indicated it likes to do is penalize sites or stores or companies that consistently have poor reviews, so if you have many poor reviews, in time Google is going to figure out not to show your site in their rankings because Google doesn’t want to show those sites to their searchers. So prove to Google’s algorithm that you are trustworthy. Get other highly authoritative websites to link to you. Get newspaper articles, get industry links, get other trusted sites to link to you: partners, vendors, happy customers—get them to link to your website to show that you are highly credible and trustworthy.
This was just brilliant. I love that it was timely and concise. It was a great reminder of what is really important. It would be awesome if you could do a whiteboard Friday about Sitemaps - Submitted vs Indexed - and steps to take when they have a big discrepancy. Also include the Google index status in the mix as well. Keep it up Rand - your articles offer so much value to this industry.
Today, however, SEM is used to refer exclusively to paid search. According to Search Engine Land, Search Engine Marketing is “the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines.” Search Engine Optimization, on the other hand, is defined as “the process of getting traffic from free, organic, editorial or natural search results.”
For instance, before launching a new product or service, a business can create a simple landing page to gather feedback from the target audience. Or it can run a survey asking a bunch of targeted questions. Or it can even go a step further and create a minimum viable product to see how the target users are interacting with it. With a bit of creativity, PPC ads can help gather real-time feedback that can be used to improve the end product, or idea.
There are many ways to determine which efforts are producing results and which ones aren't. For example, you can study your website's analytics through your web host or by using Google Analytics. Most social media sites provide analytics as well, or you can use tools such as Hootsuite to get social media analytics. Your email service should also provide you with information on the open rates and engagement rates for your emails.
Give people information, or even be more creative. Get people to share pictures of themselves wearing the t-shirt. Create a community of people who are interested in your product. Get a famous person to wear it and share that picture online. Do something different, do something unique. Show Google that you are different and better than the other search results.
All too often, people dramatically overthink the most basic keyword research concepts; keyword generation should start simply with answering the question of "What products or services do you sell?" If you sell dog food online,  the root words dog and food alone would be very poor keywords because on their own, neither dog nor food do a remotely good job at describing what you sell. Though this example makes it obvious, many times we have to fight through our urge to include those bigger, broader root keywords.

In theory Google doesn't take note of descriptions. [And yet Google highlights keywords in descriptions.] But the greatest effect of a good description is click through rate, which is a ranking factor. So if your description is a good call to action and people click on it then Google will notice and (assuming people don't bounce from the site because the content is no good) your ranking should increase.
SEM is a broader term than SEO, and is used to encompass different options available to use a search engine’s technology, including paid ads. SEM is often used to describe acts associated with researching, submitting and positioning a website within search engines.  It includes things such as search engine optimization, paid listings and other search-engine related services and functions that will increase exposure and traffic to your Web site. 
When you have that great answer, I mean a specific list of people and SEO publications who are going to help you amplify it, you've got to execute to earn solid links and mentions and word of mouth across the web and across social media so that your content can be seen by Google's crawlers and by human beings, by people as highly relevant and high quality.
SEM results show to a select target audience. SEO results do not. While successful SEO and SEM strategies are driven by a plan to connect with a select audience, you can only specify that target audience through SEM. Through SEM, you can (depending on the publisher) select what audiences you want to see the search results by assigning filters based on age, location, income, habits, and more. Through SEO, you cannot specifically choose who will see your search results.
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