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House for Sale in Hopkinton, MA

Test listing for House for sale Hopkinton MaWhat am I doing blogging about a House for Sale in Hopkinton, Ma? I’m not a real estate agent and I don’t have any houses for sale in Hopkinton, Ma.  However, I am a local search consultant and every now and then I have to get in the trenches and test my theories.

House for Sale Hopkinton, Ma

Today, I’m testing the proper use of certain word to achieve higher ranking.  It is my belief that many real estate agents could improve their rankings immensely by simply using the right words.

A very common search query when looking for a home in Hopkinton, Ma, would be “house for sale in Hopkinton, Ma.  So it might be a beneficial for an agent that wants to compete with Trulia or Zillow, and get on the first page of the search listings to actually use the words that people are searching for, which in this case would be, “House for Sale Hopkinton, Ma.

As a result, I’ve created this post focused on these words.

Working for me is a is the generous use of words relating to homes for sale.  Working against me is the fact that I have very little authority for this subject matter. Also, this will be a shorter post than I usually write for top rankings.  However, I do have Google authorship and feel that Google trusts my content based on previous social signals.

So we shall see.  If you want to participate in this home grown science experiment conduct your own search for, “House for Sale Hopkinton, Ma and see if you can see this post in the results.  It may not be there immediately.  Sometimes it takes a day or two, or three.

On Oct 14th this test was expanded to include Detached Garage. 

Video Message – G+ or Skype

Video messaging with SkypeSkype has just announced that it has implemented free video voice message and pundits are declaring that this will redefine visual voice mail.  What’s interesting it that Google Plus has had a form of visual voice mail since day one.  However, Google’s “video voice mail” is rarely talked about and used even less.

Skype’s Free Video Messaging

After considerable time in beta, Skype’s video messaging has just been released.  Users can use Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry to record video messages which can be reviewed later by recipients.  If you and your contacts have Skype this could be a useful feature.

My wife stumbled onto Skype’s video messaging just last night.  She planned to Skype with her dad for father’s day but when she called he wasn’t available.  Skype then gave her the option of leaving a video message.  She left a message and sent it.  But then began to think the video message wasn’t clear and wished she could delete it and start over.  However, it was too late, the message was already sent.

I mentioned she should have  used Google Plus’s “Video Messaging”.  She could have deleted her video message and recorded a new one.

Google Plus Video Messaging

Google Plus has had the capabilities to send a video message since it first rolled out, but the feature was hidden away.

To access G+ Video messaging:

  • Click the red Video icon in the regular dialogue box for creating a message.


    Google Plus video messaging

  • On the next screen select Record video.
    option to record video
  • Then follow the easy instructions to record a video.

You can send the recorded video to one person, one or more circles or the public.  Since this is a regular G+ message you have the option of locking the post so that your video recipients can’t send the message to other people.

You could also use this same feature for Video blogging.





SEO for Semantic Search

SEO for Semantic SearchSemantic Search is a hot topic right now and, of course, SEO is just as important to the person who want top ranking in the search results.  So it is only natural that some Internet marketers promote SEO for semantic search.  However, I don’t think semantic search will necessarily impact the best practices for SEO that most SEO consultants have been employing over the last 6 months.  Let me explain.


Semantic Seach

Before we begin, we should take a closer look at semantic search.  Mashable defines semantic search:

Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results.

Semantic search focuses on the person doing the search.  Google and other search engines would like to know as much as possible about the person searching so that they can deliver the best possible search results.

For example if I have been search for baseball scores and I then search for “Twins” I will get information on the major baseball league Minnesota Twins.  However, if I have been searching for baby names and parenting advice I’m more likely to get info on babies born at the same time.

Semantic search is designed to give people the exact information that they are looking for based on the history of the person searching and the context of the search.

The impact on search is that it will drive more accurate traffic to content. As a result, the actual use of semantic search by search engines shouldn’t really change one’s approach to SEO.

SEO in the ERA of Semantic Search

However, it is true that ranking signals for top search results are changing, not because of semantic search but rather Google’s desire for more accurate indicators.  Google previously put a great deal of weight on the credibility of a website as an indicator in the search algorithm.  But, now they are also factoring social signals.  Many people working in SEO will be able to tell you about G+ having a positive impact on search results.

Two factors seem to be at work.

  • Google Authorship
  • Sharing content or links to content on G+ that get positive social signals -
    +1′s, comments, and shares

It’s becoming very apparent that prolific authors of content that gets positive social signals tend to rank higher in the search results.  As the author’s reputation for credible responsible content grows, their content begins to immediately rank high in the search results without social signals, but rather based on the author’s history.

Keywords As Important As Ever in Semantic Search

But for this to happen, there is one very important critical factor that is overlooked in all the hype for semantic search and social signals being the new SEO, and that is basic SEO.

Keywords are still a very essential ingredient in search optimization.  Google has to know that your content is relevant to the search query and the easiest way for the little Google bot to do that is that if keywords in the search query are also featured in the content.

It is still helpful to Include keywords in:

  • page title
  • h1 or h2 tags
  • mentioned at least two times in the text

Bottom Line of SEO and Semantic Search

Yes, semantic search is growing.  Semantic search returns searches relevant to the searchers history and context of the search.

The best SEO techniques are the one’s you should already be using.

  • Set up Google Authorship
  • Create a body of content that demonstrates your expertise
  • Create relationships on G+ that will interact with your content
  • Create content relevant to a searchers query by using appropriate keywords
  • Share your content on G+ for many indexing and social interaction


House Call Doctor NYC

A doctor who makes house callsOne of the benefits of my job as an SEO consultant is the amazing people I get to meet.  Recently I met Dr. Pam Barton, a physician in New York City who is a doctor who makes house calls.  Up until talking to her I thought house calls were a thing of the past.  But after working with Dr. Barton I’ve discovered that physician home visits are making a come back.

House Call Doctors in New York City

With an aging population and more and more people being confined to bed and unable to travel to a doctor’s office a few doctors in New York and across the country are again making house calls.  In fact, Dr. Barton, only does house calls.

Although she treats a wide range of problems for the frail patient of any age who is unable to visit a doctor’s office, many of her patients are older and near the end of their life.  Dr. Barton lovers her work and says she provides thoughtful assessments and sensitive care to those dealing with difficult and sometimes life-limiting illness.  When a cure is no longer possible she works at simply providing comfort and increased well being. She also works closely with families in these trying times and helps guide them through the ordeal.

Dr. Barton takes the stress out of health care.  She does everything from homes visits, to managing medication, ordering medical equipment, coordinating care with nurses and other medical professionals, and if need be long term placement and end of life care. Reading her website I came to the conclusion that this is a person who can take care of everything.  If I had a loved one sick and bedridden in NYC, she would definitely be the type of doctor I would caring for her.

House Call Doctors a Growing Trend

After talking to Dr. Barton and her new approach to a bygone way of practicing medicine I did some research and discovered that there were other doctors not only in NYC but across the entire nation offering the same services, even in my small town of less than 200,000 people.  It’s like the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Bottom line, it’s good to know that if needed, doctors who make house calls are available.





Will #Hashtags Improve Your Author Rank

Will hashtags improve author rankPutting aside the debate on whether Author Rank is already here or not, there is no doubt that Google is working on identifying quality authors who are experts in their field.  Matt Cutts has alluded to this more than once in the past few weeks.  The question I want to ponder is will hashtags improve your author rank.

With the latest upgrade of Google Plus we saw hashtags promoted to a bigger row.  Now when you create a G+ post and add a hashtag, Google will feature the hashtag in the upper right corner of the post.  In fact, a total of 3 hashtags can be featured here and if you don’t supply a hashtag Google may assign a hashtag for you based on the keywords featured in your post.

The hashtags are links and allow readers of your post to click and get more information on the topic.  It is an easy way to categorize the content and allow people to find similar content.

But I think the hashtags are doing more than categorizing content.  I think they are also categorizing the writer.  In a world where Google wants to find and organize all information a hashtag associated with an author is an easy way to paint a picture of what the author is all about, his area of expertise, and assign author rank.

If the author has numerous posts with a hashtag for #authorrank and that content is well received in the social community Google can assume that the author might be an authority on Author Rank.  On the other hand, if there are numerous hashtags for #seo and only one or two for author rank, Google may rightly assume that author is more of an authority on SEO than author rank.

Now nobody knows for sure what will comprise the Google algorithm for author rank, but I suggest you help Google categorize your content and your area of expertise by using hashtags.  If Author A has a hundred posts with the hashtag #authorrank and Author B only has one post with the #authorrank hashtag, Author A is likely a bigger authority on author rank.  So identify your area of expertise and authority, start posting about it and using concise hashtags.

The Most Important Ingredient of Social SEO

Ingredients for SEOLet’s cut right to the chase and save a lot of time.  The most important ingredient of social SEO is basic SEO.  I know there are a lot of people saying that traditional SEO is dead or that the new SEO is social.  But neither of these statements are completely accurate.

Social SEO

It is true that Search Engine Optimization is changing.  Google is obviously using new and different signals to determine how to rank content in the search results and social signals are playing a huge part.  It has been well documented that content from other sources like blogs, videos, and websites that are shared on Google Plus and get positive feedback in the form of +1′s, comments, and shares get a boost in the search results ranking.  But if a person thought “social” was the only important element in achieving top rankings in the search results they would be badly mistaken.

The Most Important Ingredient

The most important ingredient in SEO whether it be traditional SEO or the new Social SEO is still basic SEO.

Let me explain.

When people search for information on the Internet, the only thing they have to work with is words.  They will type one or more words into the search box.  Google, or any other search engine, will then search and return the most relevant content for the keywords searched.

One of the easiest ways for Google to determine if the content is relevant to the search query is if the content has the same keywords.  As obvious as this sounds, I think many people are ignoring this.  I hear so called experts saying don’t worry about keywords.  Although it’s true that we shouldn’t obsess over keywords, nor use keywords unnaturally in our content, the absolute fact is that keywords are usually essential for top rankings in the search results.

There are best practices on using keywords.

  • Keywords in the page title
  • Keywords in Header tags
  • Keyword in content more than once
  • Keywords in page description

After the content is determined relevant by Google, the search engine then has to determine the most reliable content or said another way, the best quality content.

Social SEO as a Ranking Indicator

In the past one signal of the reliability of content was Page rank.  Google assumed that if many sites were linking to specific content that content in all probability was quality content.  Google still uses this search indicator but has also added social signals.  Google now looks at how real people respond to content.  They want to know if the content is popular.  Do people respond to it with +1′s, comments, and shares?  If the content is getting a lot of social attention Google considers this as part of the Google algorithm that determines the ranking in the search results.

However, this element will not come into play unless Google first determines the content is relevant to the search query. So it’s basic SEO first;  making your content relevant to a specific search query.

Where’s the Google Juice

G+ Tourist Searching for Google JuiceMeet the G+ Tourists.  They live over on Facebook.  That’s where they play and work with their friends and family.  That’s where they strive to grow their fan base.  But lately they’ve been hearing about the wonders of Google Plus.  And what attracts them the most is that they’ve heard there is a mysterious benefit of participating on Google Plus, a Google juice, which will help their content rank higher in the search results.

The G+ Tourist

So, almost as if on a pilgrimage, they trek over to Google to dip their toes in the mysterious powerful waters of Google Plus.  They make a few posts and eager watch their blog posts to see if they begin to rank higher in the search results.  Some people say they see a slight improvement but many are leery that this so called Google Juice even exists.  They see no improvement in their search results and nobody clicks on their promos and calls to action.  They declare Google Plus a ghost town.

The problem is they don’t understand Google Plus.  Now, I’m not faulting these tourists.  Most of us here on Google Plus started on Facebook.  It met certain social needs.  But to take advantage of what Google has to offer you have to understand it.

Google Plus can help improve the rankings of your content in the search results.  But it doesn’t just happen by visiting Google and sharing a few posts or accumulating hundreds or even thousands of followers.  Basic SEO principles are still at work.

Personal Search Results

We will start with personal search results.  Since Google introduced Search Plus Your World the search results can now include posts from G+.  But there are two very important caveats.

The first is that in most cases only the people that have you in a circle will see your Google Plus posts in the search results.  True, it is possible for everybody in the world to see your public G+ post, but you have to be a  pretty heavy hitter with a lot of clout for your personal Google Plus post to appear in the regular search results.  For most of us, only the people who circle us will see our Google Plus posts and they will be identified with a feint grey icon.

The second requirement is that the post include keywords relevant to the search terms.  It’s just like regular search.  If somebody is searching a specific word or phrase, it is important that word or phrase is at the beginning of the post.  As obvious as this seems, so many people don’t include keywords that Google can latch onto when returning search results.

Regular Organic Search Results

However, the real benefit of Google Plus is the ability to improve the rankings of our blog content.  But again, our blog content isn’t just going to start ranking higher by randomly posting about miscellaneous topics on Google Plus. To get top rankings the blog content should be optimized.  There are two elements of Google search.


The first is relevance.  For Google to return content in the search results it has to be relevant to the search query.  Again if somebody is searching a specific word or phrase, that keyword or phrase should be in your content.  Google has to know your content is the most relevant to the search string to position your content at the top of the search results.  All the Google Plus activity in the world isn’t going to change this.  Google is staking it’s reputation on returning the most relevant answer to a searchers question.


The content has to also be good.  This is where Google Plus helps. It helps measure the quality of the content.

In the past Google determined the quality of content by the quality of a website, essentially Page Rank.  One measurement was how many inbound links a website had.  Google thought that if a site had many inbound links, especially from reputable sources, the site must be good.

Now Google is also including social signals. So the key to Google juice is to share your blog content on Google Plus so that people can vote on it in the form of +1′s, comments, and by sharing it.

When you share your blog post it is immediately indexed in Google’s search results.  The more relevant and reliable your content is the better it will rank in the search results.

How to Get Google Juice

So to give your content a Google Plus boost

  • Start with optimized content with relevant keywords
  • Create relationships in Google Plus. A network of people who will interact with the content you post.
  • Create a Google Plus Post and link to your content so people can comment on the content, give it +1′s and share it.

It may happen very quickly or take awhile, but as your content receives positive social attention it will start climibing up the rankings.

New Google Maps and Local SEO

Local SEO and Google MapsGoogle Maps are changing. The map is now the interface and the side bar with the list of 10 businesses is gone.

As a Local SEO consultant I was eager to see what impact this would have on local search. It looks good for some businesses and bad for others.

In this post I will take a closer look at the new Google Map and it’s effect on local SEO.

In the new Google Map the search bar is right on the map. You enter your search terms and instead of returning a top 10 list and locations on an adjacent map, you simply see the businesses you are searching for on a large map.  There is no visible list of businesses.  But that doesn’t mean that local search engine optimization isn’t playing a very important role.

auto insurance scottsdale

The map above is the search results for a search of “auto insurance Scottsdale”.  On the map we see several insurance companies in bold print and we also see many red dots representing other insurance businesses.

Google’s search algorithm determines whether a business appears on the map with it’s name in bold print or if that business appears only as a red dot.  Obviously, local search optimization is more important now than ever.  At least with searches like this on a PC desktop.  If you want your business to appear on the map in bold print you need to meet the SEO requirements of Google’s search algorithm.

Local Search Results Are Now Wider in Scope

Also notice, I did a search for auto insurance in Scottsdale and the map is showing me all of Phoenix and not just the small community of Scottsdale.

This is both good and bad.  The bad is it steps up the competition for local search.  In the former Google map that presented a list of the search results it narrowed the competition by narrowing the search just to the community searched.  But in this new desktop search we are seeing leading optimized businesses in a much wider geographical area.  If you are at the top of the search list in your community you will easily be seen.  But if you are less optimized you are going to fade into a red dot in the background.

Another positive aspect is that businesses who serve a much wider geographical area than their specific community can more easily be seen in the search results.  In the past this has been frustrating for many small businesses.  They could rank well in their small community but they couldn’t get good rankings in the larger metropolitan area because there weren’t located near the center of the town.  Now with good optimization techniques this might be easier.

However, it is important to point out that although this map is showing search results all across the larger metropolitan area of Phoenix the search results will vary on the specifics of the search.  For example, in this case a search of “auto insurance Glendale” or “auto insurance Phoenix” will showcase different businesses.  But if a business is really strong it will appear in bold in many different searches.

There Is a Hidden List of Top Ten Search Results

Although the new Google Maps doesn’t initially show the list of 10 businesses as the previous maps did, there is still a list.

Beneath the search box there is a link that says, “Go to list of top results”.

If you click on that link there is a nice clean list of the first top ten businesses and many more linked pages of results at the bottom.

However, at least right now, there is a slight shortcoming in this feature.  My initial search was for “auto insurance Scottsdale” but when I click on the top results list the search parameters change and I get a list of the top results for greater Phoenix.  So this could hurt the small business that is dependent on local qualifier, like Scottsdale, for search ranking.

New Maps Will Most Impact Local SEO for Mobile

The biggest impact of the new Google Maps on local SEO will be with mobile.  People looking for businesses on their mobile phones will likely use Google Maps, so it will be important for a business to be fully optimized to prominently appear on the maps.

However, people search on their desktop computer will probably most often use basic search or G+ Local rather than Google Maps.  And right now, it is not known how much the changes to Google maps will affect those tools.




How to Get On a Suggested User List

suggest user listOn April 12 many Google Plus users reported a huge increase in the number of new people circling them.  Since this happened simultaneously across a wide swath of Google Plus user it seems reasonable that Google changed something.  There is evidence that Google started adding regular people to suggested user lists for new people who join Google Plus to circle.

Suggested User List Hangout

A panel of eight Google Plus users convened on May 8th to discuss their experiences to compare Google Plus activities to see if we could uncover common common characteristics responsible for the growth in the number of people circling us.

The panel consisted of Rand Wilson, Neil Feree, Melissa Marro, David Kutcher, Yifat Cohen, Kenneth Manesse Sr., Al Remetch, and moderated by Carol Dodsley.

To be honest we couldn’t find a solid common thread that may have contributed to our increase in the number of people who circle us.

What we did have in common is that the surge in people circling was a surprise to all of us. It was completely unexpected.  We were all going about our normal G+ activities and one day noticed that we all had a big influx in the number of people circling us.

Link to stats.

However there was a wide variant in the number of new people circling us. At the low end, some people who were previously getting less than 20 people circling them a day were now getting over a hundred people circling them. And others who were getting around 50 people a day circling them were now getting from 300 to 600 people per day circling them.  Also for this group it appeared that the more followers you had before April 12, the greater the number of new people circling you.  However, in the greater Google community we found a few exceptions.

In fact for every behavior that could have been an influencing factor there was either somebody on the panel or in the Google community that was a glaring exception to the rule.

We finally concluded that it must be a complicated algorithm that assigns people to a suggested user list.  Some factors carrying more weight than others that could also be circumvented.

We also agreed that we all knew people in the Google community that we expected to see the same surge of new circlers that we experienced and couldn’t exactly agree on why this was so.

My Observations about the Suggested User Lists

I was one of the fortunate people who experienced a big growth in people circling me.  I went from 50 to 60 people circling me a day to a high of 640 people circling me in one day.  My circle count jumped from around 8,000 people having me in a circle to over 20,000 people circling me in less than a month. The growth continues.

I don’t know exactly what placed my on a Suggested User List but I do know that I’m a list because people who have circled me told me that I was in a suggested group when they signed onto Google Plus.

I also know my own activities and have studied the stats and activities of many other users.

Be an Authority in a Specific Subject

Google has created suggested user lists based on various subjects.  In a sense Google is playing matchmaker.  They want to connect new G+ people with other quality people with similar interests.

I have noticed that the people who have seen an increase in the number of people circling them are usually very defined.  They consistently post about hangouts, G+, SEO, YouTube, or something else.  It is easy to categorize these person.  If a new person is interested in Hangouts, Google can say, we have these people over here who are industry experts in hangout.  They must be, they post about it all of the time.  And the same goes for any other subject matter.  So it’s an easy match to make.

It also appears that the people who post the most about a specific subject get the biggest numbers of people circling them.

Create Quality Content

Of course, Google surely wants to recommend people to circle who have quality content.  This can be judged by social signals.  All of the people who saw an uptick in follower growth posted abundant content with much of the content receiving positive social signals such as +1′s, comments, and sharing.  It seems that the greater the cumulative social signals in the past the larger number of new followers.

Everybody on the panel also posted a significant amount of original content.

An Anomaly

However, there is a problem.  Many people who could easily be categorized by Google and placed in a suggested user list haven’t been.  On the surface, it sometimes appears that their stats are as good or better as people who are on suggested user lists.

I, however, think there may be a few more variables.  But before I address those I also want to point out that if somebody is using stats from to be careful about comparing apples and oranges.  A high engagement rate in a small state like Iowa may not trump a lower engagement rate in a very large state like California.

But let’s look at some other possible factors.


It’s possible that a person could be posting great content but it isn’t as relevant to new G+ members as other content.  A person may be an expert in real estate or college sports, but the average new user to Google may not be that interested in real estate.  Something like college sports seems like it should be a great category, but it’s possible that in the nerdy land of G+ it isn’t as big a draw as hangouts or G+ itself.

Social Interaction

I think this is a big one.  Remember, new people to Google are presented with suggested user lists based on categories.  Of course Google wants people who create quality content but since Google has been called a Ghost town I wouldn’t be surprised if a signal to be included in the suggested user list algorithm is being social.

I’ve noticed some very high profile people who you would expect to be placed in various suggested user lists not experiencing the rapid growth of people circling them.  When I look at some of these people I see that there is no real involvement on Google Plus.  They create a post and that is it.  They don’t interact with the people who comment on their posts, they don’t give +1′s to the people commenting, and they don’t share other people’s content.  If Google wants to make newcomers feel all warm and fuzzy they may want to place people in the suggested user lists who really interact with the new members.

I also think it is advantageous to slowly circle new people who circle you.  I’m not saying add a bunch of circles, but I suggesting circling some of the new people that circle you.

In our panel some members were very selective in who they circled, however, others circled people more freely.  Interestingly, the people who circled freely seemed to have many more people circling them.


I’m sure that for every example I have presented most people will be able to find an exception.  But I think these broad guideline play a role in determining who is selected to be included in a suggested user list.

  • Quality Relevant Content that garners positive social signals
  • Authority on specific subject by creating original content and sharing existing content pertaining to that subject.
  • Social Interaction in the form of commenting on other people’s posts, giving +1′s, and sharing.  Also circling some of the new people that circle you.