Building a Website & Getting it Found Online is Not a “Once & Done” Tactic

I just read a great article about what business leaders must understand about SEO and Online Marketing. Here are a few of the things that the author discussed:

  • Offline and online marketing go hand in hand
  • Small changes to your site can have a big ripple effect.
  • Mobile is more than just making your site look good on mobile devices, it’s also about the user experience

But the quote below really hit home. This is the area where I spend most of my time educating clients and potential clients.

SEO isn’t just a one-time implementation of website changes. It’s a strategic initiative with many moving parts. Fixing things locally isn’t enough. Google looks at things like social signals, authority back links and user trust to rank websites. These can’t be easily manipulated or fixed through shortcuts.

Building a website and getting it found online is not a once and walk away tactic. There are many factors that go into keep your site at the top of search results: Search engines change their algorithms, competitors change their tactics, people change their behavior… Just to name a few. Building a site and letting it sit for several years, even several months can quickly ruin any success that you’ve seen.

seo management

Online Marketing, and in particular SEO, is like any other part of your business. You need to manage it to be successful. After all you wouldn’t let your accounts receivable go for months or years without looking at it would you???

So how do you manage your SEO? Here are few suggestions:

  • Implement a reporting plan. Make sure you are running some sort of website analytics on your site. Run regular reports and then study the data.
  • Monitor the keywords that are important to you and how you rank for them.
  • Carefully plan how to improve your ranking using tactics such as, onsite changes, blogging and content marketing, social media promotion, paid search, etc.

Is your head swimming? Not sure what to do first? Start with a Website Audit!

Read the full article: 7 SEO Truths Every Business Leader Must Understand

Do You Know What Keywords Your Target Audience REALLY Uses for Search?

I often have this conversation with clients and potential clients.

The client will usually say something like, ” We don’t want to target (insert keyword here), because that’s not what people in our industry use when they search.”

There are many reason’s why this person might say this. Sometimes it’s because they’re too close to their work. Maybe they are only thinking of how people “in the business” talk and not how people search for products like theirs.

A great example is a recent project we were working on for a staffing firm. The company was strongly against using the word “temp” or “staffing.” as keywords. They said we could get away with using “temporary”, but definitely not “temp”.  His reason was something along the lines of people aren’t looking for staffing anymore, they are looking for employment and employees. Not temp workers because “temp” has a bad connotation.

When this discussion came up, I went to my tool set to find out the truth about search. Here’s what I found.

temp vs agency vs staffing

This graph shows you the amount of times people have searched on the five terms on the left comparatively over time. Looking at the data, you can see they were definitely right about  “employment agency.” People are definitely searching for this, but look a the trend and the two surprises: “staffing services” and “temp agency.” As “employment agency” has dropped off in the last few years “temp agency” has dropped then grown again from 2011 until now. “Staffing services” has held steady for almost the last 10 years. And look at “temporary agency.” It goes from bad to worse, well actually to the worst.

In the end we settled on using “employment agency” and “staffing services.” I wasn’t able to convince them to use “temp agency” on their home page, but we did use it on some lesser pages.

The lesson here is don’t let your preconceived idea of what you think people search for take away opportunities for keywords you can use to bring in traffic.

 

 

Onsite SEO – Best practices. What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

In our post Ready, Assess, Fire, Aim – Laying the Groundwork for Online Marketing we looked at your current online presence: Your Home Base. We asked you to answer the following questions.

  • Do you have a website?
  • Do you or your organization have full control this site?
  • Do you have access or do you have someone (this could be you, a team, department, consultant or consulting firm, etc.) that can quickly update your website?
  • Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

In this post we are assuming that you have a website where you are able to make changes.

Onsite SEO Diagram

Many times we see websites that are beautifully designed, but the designers either neglected SEO completely or they may even be doing things that go against simple best practices. We’re going to look at some basics.

Here are some general things that you need to look at for SEO best practices.

Meta tags: These are snippets that are in your website’s code that tell browsers what to display where and search engines take notice of them. It is surprising how many companies, even marketing agencies, misuse these tags.  The following is a list of the most important tags.

  • Title Tag: This is what you see along the top of your browser. Many of the new browsers cut this off because of the way they use tabs, but if you hover of the tab you can see the full title. It also shows up as the first line in the search results page.
    • You should create an informative title that includes keywords.
    • Avoid duplicate page titles, so each page should have a unique title.
    • The character limit for title tag is 70 characters as this is the number of characters shown on the search results page.
    • Example: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword |Brand Name
      SEO Services – Search Engine Optimization | Blackbird e-Solutions
    • Example: Brand Name | Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword
      Blackbird e-Solutions | SEO Services – Search Engine Optimization
  • Meta Description Tag: This is the description of the page that shows up in SERPS and should entice people to click on your link.
    • It should be between 150 and 160 characters. Search engines will truncate anything longer and if it is too long you could be docked by the search engines as well.
    • Concentrate on one to three keywords in this tag. Many people try to dump as many keywords in as possible, but Google and company look at this as keyword stuffing.
    • Let me stress again it should entice people to click on your link in search results.
    • Avoid duplicate descriptions:  I.e. each page should have a unique relevant description.

meta-description and meta-title

  • H1 Tag. This is the main header that you see on the page. It should include your keyword and main subject of the site. There is no limit on this, but dumping in a bunch of keywords will get you in trouble.

You might notice that I did not mention the Keyword Meta Tag, that’s because it is essentially irrelevant now. Historically people have used this tag to try to game the search engines, so the major engines ignore it. Below is a video from Matt Cutts, Google’s authority on web spam, talking about meta tags.

Now that you know that basic meta tags you should look at, next time we’ll look at some tools to evaluate this and many other parts of your website.

Want to the whole series to be delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free series Killer Online Marketing for 2013!

SEO is Not Dead, It’s Evolving

I came across a LinkedIn discussion today about SEO and if it is dying. Oddly enough I actually just had a discussion about this earlier today.

I’ve paraphrased my comment below, but you view the full discussion over on LinkedIn.

The thing is People have been predicting that SEO is dead for years, but just as before, good SEO’s will continue to follow SEO best practices and adapt to the new changes.

The recent changes are part of an evolution not the death of SEO. As the way people use the internet changes, the search engines need to adapt too. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates are an extension of an ongoing process to provide the most relevant search results.

Some of the major things they are fighting are the tactics that people use in order to “game” the search engines; Such as the link farms or creating fake posts on a hundred sites to point to one piece of real content, as well as copying from a reputable site and pasting it into another with the hopes to gain a better ranking.

As search and social are becoming more and more intertwined, neither can live in a vacuum. For example: Your social strategy should include your keywords, your search strategy should include social indicators and so on..

A good SEO professional will study the following:

  • Keyword research (how people are really searching to find products or services like yours)
  • Historical data (website analytics – how people arrived at your site and what they did there)
  • Social indicators (how people are engaging with your site)

Then combine  great content and SEO best practices (i.e. site structure, unique tags, etc.) using the data from the above areas and create a strategy that produces great content in a the best format as well as encourages engagement.

The bottom line though is content is, was and most likely always will be king. If you don’t have great unique content that is properly implemented, you will struggle to have success with search and social.

Those that look for ways around this or a quick fix by using questionable tactics are the ones that are dying, not SEO.

 

Is “Social Media” More Important Than “SEO”?

Today another local marketing firm post an interesting statistic on Facebook. It was about the graph below where Google Trends shows how “social media” is now search on more than SEO and they implied that because of this, we should be spending our money on social media instead of SEO.

Although this is an interesting phenomena, I’m not sure it is directly related to where people should spend their marketing dollars. Although I do believe social media is becoming ever more important, it’s a fallacy to think SEO is becoming less important. In fact I believe one can’t live without the other. A better way to judge this would be a comparison of the traffic to search engines and/or number of search queries in general, compared to the traffic and other usage metrics related to social media.

Don’t get me wrong social media is definitely a powerful tool, and if you’re company is not involved in it already.. it probably should get started. However, social media in itself does not eliminate the need to have a properly configured website that follows SEO best practices.

Plus, using Google search trends to determine the SEO (The process used so that one’s website is found in search) is a cyclical argument.

SEO Best Practices for Blogging

I recently had a client ask about SEO best practices for creating title tags for blog posts for their network of bloggers. Currently when the title and link to each blog post shows up in their network it shows a very generic title that gives very little indication to what the post is really about. So, below is description of SEO best practices for blogging networks.

First you need to ask a few questions.

  • What’s important for the blogs?
  • Do you want people to find them because they are part of the Blogging network, for keywords, for the person that is writing, etc?

This will determine the order of what you include in the title of each blog post.

Also are the writers aware of SEO practices. Is this a recommendation for them as well? Do they know to include the main topic of the blog post in the title? Witty or fun titles are nice, but may not do much for SEO.

Below are some examples:

  1. For example:  You have three elements: The Network, the author and the subject or title (including keywords) of the post. If the most important thing is that people find the blogs because they are part of the blogging  network, the second most important element is the subject/title of the post and finally the author is third in importance, then the structure would look like this:Network Blogs: Improving Your Health – John’s Blog
  2. If the subject/title of the post is most important, the author is 2nd and the network is 3rd:Improving Your Health: John’s Blog – Network Blogs
  3. If the author is most important, subject/title is 2nd and network is 3rd;John’s Blog: Improving Your Health – Network Blogs

Long story short, the most important element should come first followed by second and third, etc. Please see the examples below.

5 Tips to Avoid Being Harvested by Google’s Farmer Update

By now you’ve probably heard of the Farmer Update that Google released in February for it’s algorithm. The update was primarily focused on cleaning up Google’s result pages by removing content farms. Content farms are sites that simply publish large amounts of content of little value in order to gain a high ranking with the search engines.

Supposedly only about 12 percent of Google search queries in the U.S. were affected. Now, you may think your site is pristine and won’t be affected by the update, but here are five tips make sure you are right.

  1. Be Original: Make sure what you are posting is unique in some way. If you want to use something you found elsewhere on the web.  A video, a survey, a chart, etc., make sure you add value.
  2. High Quality: Avoid simple mistakes such as misspellings, old information and get the facts right.
  3. Be an Authority: Have expertise in a certain subject? Write about it. Don’t just spit out something you know nothing about.
  4. Great Presentation: Break your content in to easily consumed chunks. Make it easy to read and engaging for visitors.
  5. Be Sure to Bring Value: If you follow the first four tips you should be on the right track to adding value. Plus, this doesn’t just help in the eyes of Google, but real people too!

    5 Things you need to know about SEO for 2011

    seo search engine optimization

    2011 is sure to bring many changes to the SEO industry and the internet in general. Here are some things to get you started in the new year.

    1. SEO is not dead.
      This is maybe the most important thing to know as we head into 2011. SEO is not dead. In 2010 there were many discussions about how social media is an SEO killer. May people stated that people will go to Facebook or Twitter to find things now and not use search. Actually, year after year we see more searches performed by more searchers. Below is an interesting graph from Google trends that shows the trend for searches performed that include Facebook.
    2. facebook search index

    3. Search and social are complementary.
      This one relates to number one. If done correctly search and social media are complementary marketing tools not competing. One of the things that the search engines put heavy emphasis on when ranking pages, is their incoming links. So, links from other sites. They count each link as a vote for the quality of the site it is linking to. Guess what one of the things is that you get from social media.. yep you guessed it, links. On the flip side, many people may go to their social networks to get opinions about products, services or topics, they then use search engines to find out more information or to find places to purchase the product or service. It’s also possible, with the advent of ‘real-time’ search, to influence what keywords a site will be found under by using keywords in discussions on social platforms.
    4. Even the big guys see themselves as complementary.
      Their have recently been some changes in both the social and search industries that support this.

      • Both Google and Microsoft have a stake in Facebook.
      • Bing is now using results driven by Facebook.
      • Google launched real-time search.
      • Google Universal search includes social media platforms.
      • Real-time search engines have become popular with startups.
    5. Get local to get found.
      In 2010 location apps received a lot of publicity, plus Google made it clear that they are very interested in local with the bid on Yelp (last year), then the attempt to buy Groupon and finally the launch of Places. Google is also directly contacting businesses to get them setup and using the Places. So, what can we learn from this? Getting your business listed locally can be a great way to bring traffic to your website as well as your door, or at least raise awareness of the company.
    6. SEO is more than just text.
      Google’s Universal Search has been around for some time now and Bing is also showing results from multiple types of media. Using videos and images can be a great way to show up multiple times in search results. Just make sure you use Alt tags so the search engines know what the image/video is about.

    A Story About the Catalyst Code

    I read this book sometime ago, but was reminded of it recently when talking with a client. I was reminded of it again today when the same client told me he had taken my advice and read it! He pointed to his desk and said “can’t you see all my notes?” On his desk were stacks of notes, diagrams, printouts and calculations and he I could see his renewed belief in online advertising and interactive marketing.

    My client, we’ll call him Steve (not his real name), is part owner of a staffing firm. They have a relatively simple business model. They have a range of companies as clients and they provide qualified people for these companies to hire. This could be for temporary positions, temp to hire or recruiting for permanent positions. Steve has been one of my clients for some time now, we help them with optimizing their website, some PayPerClick advertising, social media, website as well as other things.

    His company has been around for about 20 years and has had the same challenges as many companies in staffing of that age. Speaking of age Steve is in his forties and although very progressive didn’t grow up with the internet like many younger generations. So, even though Steve and I have a pretty good relationship and he respects my opinion and ability, for a long time he didn’t have the buy in to really move forward and make online marketing a priority.

    We have been monitoring and evaluating the analytics on Steve’s company website and slowly Steve saw the website producing job orders (Job order = companies requesting candidates they need to staff positions). Even without putting much effort into to the website.

    You’re probably now wondering what this has to do with the book the Catalyst Code. Well, there were a few events working together here, but let me start by explaining a bit about the book. The main theme of the book is creating a business model that is two sided. On one side you have a group that has something of value and on the other side you have a group that wants the product, service or thing of value. The idea is to position your company in the middle as the vessel or catalyst that brings the two groups together.

    There are some great examples of this in the web companies Amazon, eBay and Google. These examples are maybe some of the easiest to understand the concept and possibly the best example is eBay. Most people understand eBay’s model. On one side you have people who want to sell stuff and make a bit of money and on the other side are people who want to buy stuff at a good price. Put eBay in the middle to make it happen and you have a two sided business with eBay as the catalyst.

    “How does this apply to Steve and the staffing firm?” You ask. If your not an internet company creating a software platform how do you create a two sided business? Like I said there were a few things working here. Steve saw a sales person that they were paying X amount of dollars that was being outsold by a web presence that was costing a fraction of the cost of the sales person. Now, enter Catalyst Code.

    The book gives some good examples of companies much older than the internet itself: Diners Club, Visa/Mastercard. For example, Diners Club allowed customers to eat out now and pay for it later. Restaurants who accepted Diners Club knew they would attract those with Diners Club cards and have a guaranteed payment. I think this helps none tech companies understand they can use this model too.

    Apply the idea of two business to staffing companies. They have companies that need quality people and they don’t have the time or resources to sift through all resumes they received from posting on a job board like Monster (another catalyst by the way) on one side. Then on the other side quality applicants getting lost in the piles of resumes going to these companies. Suddenly clicks. A staffing agency is a two way business! Is your business two-sided?

    What’s the fastest and most efficient way to get to and interact with people. The internet! And in Steve’s case this was shown when comparing the sales person to the web presence. So, how do you take advantage of this? SEO, PayPerClick, Social Media Marketing

    Want to read the book? Buy it from Amazon:

    Developing a Search Friendly Site (video)

    Yesterday I posted about Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. If you learn better by reading check out the guide. If you learn better with videos check out this video to learn the basics of search friendly development beginning to end, including:

    • Using Flash and JavaScript
    • Headings and adding content
    • Using Robot.txt files and sitemaps
    • Engaging the community
    • Plus more!

    Learn the basics of Search Engine Optimization from Maile Ohye. The video is from last year but still very relevant.