SEO and Web Design – Plan for a Ongoing Updates

I’ve written about this before (read Building a Website & Getting it Found Online is Not a “Once & Done” Tactic), but unfortunately many people still believe if they build and optimize a website once their site will be #1 in Search. Sadly this is rarely if ever the case with SEO and Web Design.

website optimization servicesYou could look at it like buying a bike. When you buy it and take it home from the bike dealer it is shiny and new.  Everything works great. Gears shift smoothly and you can stop on a dime with the brand new breaks. You know what it’s like, it’s exciting!

To keep your wonderful new bike in top shape you need to do some small regular maintenance.  You need to oil the chain to make sure it doesn’t start to wear out and maybe eventually break.  If you ride it in the rain, wiping it down afterward is good practice to keep it from corroding, rusting or so pieces of dirt or rock don’t damage the rims when breaking. The brakes may need adjusting or the pads may need replacing. It’s the same with websites.

This is why many SEO experts charge a monthly or quarterly fee.  As you add blog posts, pages or other content, even when you remove content, you need to think about how it affects the optimization of the site.

Create a Procedure for Updating and Optimizing Your Website

One of the best things you can do is create a process for website updates and optimization. If you have a system in place for adding and removing content as well as optimization, you’ll have a concise process that leads to the best SEO results. This will ensure that everyone in your organization is on the same page and your site stays uniform.

Here are a few examples:

  • New pages and posts: Each time you add a new post or page you should take into account a few aspects. What is the purpose or intent of the page/post? What keywords are you targeting? What part of your business does the post or page support? Each post or page should be designed with these factors in mind.
  • Moving content and redirects: This is critical when developing a new site as well as maintaining a website. Maybe you have a page that is no longer relevant and you want to remove it. If the page received any traffic you need to create a 301 redirects (permanent redirect) to let the search engines know where the visitors show go now.
  • File naming: With the invention of Universal Search, it is now possible to rank for multiple types of media. So you can be found in search via many different types of media. By making sure that your files are name correctly, i.e. clearly describe the content or media and include relevant keywords, you have a better chance of ranking in multiple ways. You can also add descriptions for images and other content.
  • Linking – Internal and Inbound Links: Both are very important. For inbound links you should create a standard for linking before you start acquiring links. This means the anchor text should be established as well as what type of links you want to acquire.  Internally this also means making sure links are up to date and not pointing to pages that have been removed.

Having a process in place will definitely help keep your website uniform and help maximize your SEO efforts.  So if you don’t have one, get your process plan in place today!

Need help with your process? Contact us to see how we can improve and maintain your website and digital marketing. 

 

“Don’t forget About the Body” When it Comes to Website Optimization

Straight from the disembodied head of Matt Cutts… “Don’t forget the body” when you optimize your website.

Each page of a website is made of at least 3 main parts.

  • The Head: This is where links for style information, scripts and meta tags (Title, Description) are found.  The code in the Head is not directly visible when someone visits your page.
  • The Body:  This is where the main visible portion of your page is. So, what visitors see when the view your site. The main body copy, images, etc.
  • The Footer: This also has contains elements that are visible to visitors, but it can also contain scripts and other code.

When it comes to website optimization, one aspect of optimizing is to make sure that the Title and Description meta tags are unique and include keywords relevant to what the page is about (pay no attention to the “Keywords:” meta tag. The search engines don’t, so why should you?). Many people get caught up in thinking this is all that matters and think if the put a bunch of keywords in the Head and meta tags, they will rank high for those keywords. Sadly though if the body content does not include the keywords, they likely will never rank well!

Google continues to improve and is trying to make their search results better. They are looking at the content on websites and what the site is about. Without keywords and content in the body of your pages it will be very difficult for Google to understand what your site is about.

So, listen to Matt’s head, and don’t forget about the body.

 

3 Tips for Creating the Ultimate Landing Page Experience

Landing Page Tips with a bullseyeA key element of with internet marketing is landing pages. We follow the concept your website is the center of your online universe, so your online marketing should be driving traffic to where you do business online: Your website!

You don’t want to just send qualified traffic to a random page or just to your homepage. You may be asking yourself, “Why does it matter?” Let me give you an example.

Your company is running a sale on ski boots. So you set up an campaign to promote your boots, using paid search, social media and email marketing. A bad experience for users would be to send them to a page about skis instead of boots, or to the home page where they have to click through to find where the ski boots are that are on sale.  You really should send them to a landing page that is specifically about the promotion and creates the least amount of friction for them to buy the ski boots.

Below of 3 tips for creating the ultimate landing page experience that encourages visitors to make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, download a whitepaper or whatever it is you want them to do on your website.

  1. Original and relevant content
    • The landing page should be directly relevant to the ad or social media post that brought visitors there
    • The purpose of your landing page should be clear
    • You landing page should offer something that other sites don’t
    • Add reviews that show real people that have used your product
  2. Be transparent
    • Your contact information should be easy to find
    • Be clear about what information you are collecting from visitors and how you will use it
    • Make it clear what will happen when visitors perform an action on your page
  3. Make it easy to use
    • The message on your landing page should be clear and concise
    • Keep the number of calls to action or links to a minimum (often this means just one call to action), you don’t want visitors to get confused
    • Make it easy for people to find answers if they have questions

Creating great landing pages by following these three tips will not only help win more conversions, it can help save you money with paid search campaigns too. For example: The price of your bids in Adwords can be directly affected by the quality of your landing pages.

 

google-adwords-offer-blog-ad

TriStarr Staffing Launches New Website With Blackbird e-Solutions, LLC

We are excited to announce TriStarr Staffing’s new website! www.tristarrjobs.com

TriStarr Staffing new website screenshot

TriStarr is one of our oldest and best clients. We started working with them in 2006 to help them with their SEO and Website Analytics. Over the years the relationship has grown and we are now an integral part of their online marketing efforts.

TriStarr was not satisfied with their previous site because of navigation issues, updates were difficult and the old site generally needed a refresh to catch up with other modern websites.

TriStarr Staffing old site screenshot

The first step was to bring the site into a content management system, which makes updates and changes much quicker and easier. It also allows TriStarr to make updates themselves.  After that we looked at the aspects of online marketing that needed to be included in the new design.

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Paid Search & Social Advertising
  • Website Analytics and Reporting
  • Responsive Design

The final result was a holistically designed website which combines modern design with functionality. Whether you are an employer, job seeker or current employee at TriStarr, the new site contains targeted areas for each audience as well as secure access to employee and customer accounts.  Navigation was streamlined to make it “dead simple” for visitors to find the information they need.  Plus, using responsive design the site looks great no matter what device you are using.

“We are very excited to launch this new site,” says Joan Paxton, President of TriStarr Staffing. “TriStarr Staffing has so much to offer and our goal was to provide a website that simply and quickly gets job seekers, employees and clients the information they need to make informed decisions.”

Furthermore we developed the new site with the future in mind.

“Several new web based services will be rolled out in the coming months and the improvements in this new site are integral to their success.  These tools will improve the client experience and further differentiate TriStarr as the leader in our market,” says Scott Fiore, TriStarr’s Vice President

The site officially launched September 5, 2013. We are looking forward to the reaction and feedback from TriStarr employees, job seekers and clients, as well as continuing to provide great online marketing solutions for the company.

Want more information about the new site or how we can help your company build a great online presence?
Contact Bryan Coe 717-406-3900 or via the web: Contact US

Coming Soon a New Blackbird e-Solutions Site!

Speaking of new sites…
We’re working on a site of our own!

Take a peak under the veil to see what’s coming to blackbirdesolutions.com

bbes new website header sneak peak

 

bbes new website new services menu 1

 

bbes new website new services menu 2

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.

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How to Set Up Google Analytics on Your Website

Last time we looked at your Current Online Presence and discussed some basic 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 that can quickly update your website?
  • Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

Now let’s assume that you answered yes to the first three points, but you’re not currently tracking what happens on your site. There are many different website analytics programs out there, but we recommend Google Analytics to most of our clients. It is cost effective (Who doesn’t like free?!?) and very powerful. In this post I’ll walk you through how to set it up on your website.

Let’s get started!

First thing you need to do is head over to the Google Analytics site: http://www.google.com/analytics/

If you already have a Google Account go ahead and sign in, if not, create an account.

google anaylitics homepage

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Once you’ve created an account or clicked sign in, you’ll be greeted with the following screen.

login to GA

Click on the sign up button.

Next you’ll have to choose what you want to track: “Web site” or “App.”  Choose “Web Site” and fill out the form. *Make sure you choose the correct time zone or your timing will be off. This could affect your reporting later.

Since this is also a new account make sure you set up the account name. This can be the name of the web site, the name of your company or anything else you would like to use. Don’t use your name though this might cause confusion, unless of course this is the name of your company too.

Lastly choose your Data Sharing Settings. We recommend keeping these checked. This way you can link/share data with other services from Google such as Adwords as well as receive benchmark data from other websites in your industry.

Then click “Get Tracking ID” and agree to the terms and conditions.

  GA set up form

Next you’ll be put into the “Tracking Info” section of the Admin Panel. This is where you set up what type of website tracking you would like to use.

  • Subdomains
  • Multiple top-level domains
  • Display Advertiser Support
  • Custom campaign tags (we’ll discuss custom campaigns in a later post)

You can see the full descriptions in the image below.  I you are only using one top level domain (i.e blackbirdesolutions.com) you can leave this section the way it is and go on to the next step. If not chose the appropriate options. Our site uses Subdomains so I clicked on the “Subdomains of blackbirdesolutions” toggle and switched it to “On.” As you do this you’ll notice the code changes in the box under your selection. It adds the line of code:  _gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘blackbirdesolutions.com’]);

GA website tracking setup page

Once you have your code. Copy and paste it into your site. You can do this manually by adding it to the <head> section of every page right before the closing head tag: </head>

Example:

<head>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=utf-8″ />
<title>Untitled Document</title>
<script type=”text/javascript”>

var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-xxxxxxxx-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘blackbirdesolutions.com’]);
_gaq.push([‘_trackPageview’]);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-
analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
})();

</script>

</head>

In our last post I recommended using a content management system or CMS. Most of them will have a plugin or section in their setup to add Google Analytics code. Our recommendation, WordPress, uses plugins. We use a plugin called Google Analyticator, which allows you to authenticate with your Google login. So there’s no copying and pasting needed.

Once you’ve copy and pasted or linked your account to your CMS, you’re all set!

You can now track what visitors are doing on your site. Later we’ll help you with reporting and understanding the data in Google Analytics.

google analytics report overview

 

Happy tracking!

Ready, Assess, Fire, Aim – Laying the Groundwork for Online Marketing

This is the second post in our series “Killer Online Marketing for 2013

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Many of you have probably heard the popular mantra, “Ready, Fire, Aim.” This is often adopted to keep people or organizations from getting bogged down in the analysis face of making decisions and to promote action. So it can be interpreted as; Take Action, Learn from these actions and then make corrections.

Great! We all need to take action. However, we have a slightly different mantra when it comes to online marketing campaigns.

Ready, Assess, Fire, Aim

Nobody (especially your client or boss) wants to waste money. So the first part of our series is about seeing if you’re ready, by assessing your current situation and ready, assess, fire, aim laying the groundwork for online success. We see too many people that just start firing away without any idea about where they currently are or a plan for what they want to accomplish. Usually they get frustrated quickly and give up with the complaint, “online marketing just doesn’t work for me.”
We don’t want that to happen to you!

Let’s get started.

Current Online Presence

The center of your online universe is your website. Don’t let anyone convince you that you no longer need a website. Facebook, Google+ or whatever other platform may be hot at the time you read this, is not a replacement for your website. Besides a host of other problems, what’s hot now may not be in the future. Remember that thing called MySpace?

Now, we need to figure out if you have the basics to get started. The following is a checklist to help you judge this:

  • 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.)

If you answered yes to all of the above, Awesome! You’re ready for the next step. If not don’t fret. We have some recommendations.

Do you have a website?

There are many ways to tackle this one. Of course it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you we can help you with this. We’d be happy to build a custom site for you. If you would like to find out more info about this, website constructionjump over to our Web Development page.

Don’t have the money yet or you’re a do it yourselfer? There are options for this too.

For do it yourselfers that aren’t so technically minded, we love Squarespace. They offer many templates that you can customize without have to know any kind of coding, although they do also offer packages for developers as well. They’ll even help you register a domain. But I’ll let them tell you more about it. Watch the Squarespace Demo.

For do it yourselfers with more technical ability we recommend WordPress. This is a popular blogging platform that has grown into a full website content management system.  It is open source software that is free to download. You can host it yourself or you can sign up for an account at WordPress.com.  For just a blog using their domain (yourname.wordpress.com) it is free, but for a site and domain etc., there is a fee.

Do you or does your organization have full control of your site?

This eliminates Facebook and similar platforms as an option because they can make drastic changes to your presence without warning. Think back to all the changes Facebook has made in the last couple of years. Do you remember what company pages used to look like with tabs along the top? I can’t stress enough your website is the center of your online universe and you need to be in control of it. Below is an example flowchart for how things should be structured online.

oline marketing flowchart

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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?

This is also very important. To successfully capture leads and prospect you need to have the ability to create/remove landing pages, lead capture forms as well as other pages. (We’ll talk more about this when we get lead generation.) This also includes some form of blogging.

We hear many complaints from people where they had a developer create a site for them, but then it becomes a huge hassle and is costly to make edits or add and remove pages. The best way to alleviate this is to make sure when you build a new site, or if you already have a site, set it up on a content management system or CMS.

A content management system (CMS) is a computer program that allows publishing, editing and modifying content as well as maintenance from a central interface. Definition from Wikepedia

I already mentioned a couple of options: Squarespace and WordPress. Our first choice for web development is WordPress, but there are a few others that are worth mentioning.

  • Joomla Open source and free to download.
  • Drupal Open source and free to download.
  • Expression Engine Core version is free. There is also a pay version that offers more functionality.

Any one of these would be a good and would give you the ability to add and remove pages as well as blog.

Do you currently track what happens on your site? (i.e. Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.)

Website analytics are a key component of any campaign. Without some sort of measurement you have no idea if your campaigns are successful. Plus, how can you improve if you don’t know how you’re doing?

With website analytics you can track simple metrics such as; Visitors, Bounce Rate, Referring Sites, etc. Where it really gets exciting though is when you start looking at more complex reports like Page Efficiency Analysis, Visitor Acquisition Efficiency and Conversion Rates vs. Medium. (We’ll help you create reports like this in the “AIM” portion of our series)

Here are two of the leading website analytics tools that we recommend:

Adobe’s Omniture

This is a pay tool that is very powerful and used by many large well known organizations. It is a very complex tool that can track just about anything you want. The downside is, it can be pricey for many smaller organizations and the complexity can be a bit overwhelming.

Google Analytics

Google offers a free version as well as a pay version. The pay version, like Omniture, is costly and mainly for large organizations. However, the free version is a great tool. This is what we use for our site, and what we recommend to most of our clients. It is very intuitive and easy to configure, as well as very powerful.

Google analytics example

With this simple list you can make sure your foundation is ready.  If you didn’t answer yes to all the questions, then the next step in your action plan is to make sure you turn your “noes” into “yeses.”

Have questions or comments? Let us know in the comments.

In our next posts we’ll talk about how to put some of these tools to work as well as onsite SEO.

A Holistic Approach to Web Development, SEO, Social Media

The Protocall Group Selects Blackbird e-Solutions for website development

We are proud to announce that one of our oldest and best clients has chosen Blackbird e-Solutions for their website development as they re-brand from Protocall Staffing to The Protocall Group.

The project was initiated earlier this spring because their current website, developed in 2007, is badly in need of a refresh. Protocall first provided an RFP to more than 10 development firms. Then after the first round of screening, they narrowed the competition to a short list of three.  After each of the three firms delivered a short presentation of their capabilities and vision of how to create a phenomenal online presence for The Protocall Group, we were awarded the contract!

One of the main deciding factors was our holistic approach. With the development of the new website, we will be able to streamline Protocall’s overall online presence by better linking it with their social media properties on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. The social media properties will not simply be profiles and pages on various platforms, but extensions of their website where they can engage employment candidates as well as clients.

To complete the loop we’ll also be providing website analytics reporting in order to see how their website and other properties are performing.  As we do with every site, we’ll be developing the site with SEO best practices, as well as optimizing the content for SEO.

Here’s a list of the services we provide for The Protocall Group:

  • Social Media Consulting
  • Website Development
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • Paid Search & Social Advertising
  • Website Analytics and Reporting

We are VERY excited about the opportunity to work with the The Protocall Group to develop their new website as well as continue our existing relationship and project. The expected launch date for the new website is December 2012.

 

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.