1. Under-monetize to buy mindshare. (almost every category Google is in)
2. Offer a free version to make sure everyone who may want to has a chance to experience your product and/or service. (almost every category Google is in)
3. Offer something that forces people to keep coming back to your website. Alternatively, bundle your stuff into the browser. (the Google Toolbar is huge.)
4. Invest heavily in distribution deals and public relations. Keep making small changes and talking about how important they are so you stay in the media. Maintain that your success is because superior products even while you are buying marketshare.
5. If a business model competes with your model, try to guide the conversation and get market participants to attack each other to your own benefit (this, above all other reasons, is why it is not smart for “professional” SEOs to publicly endorse outing each other…nobody wins but Google).
6. Offer free or low cost versions of cash cows of competing services to distract them and/or force change upon them. (Google Docs)
7. Even when you have a market leading position, keep investing heavily in complimentary markets to reinforce your position as the default. Become ubiquitous. Become a verb. (mobile operating system)
8. When you tap out the potential of your product or service look for ways to make it deeper is select high value verticals. (onebox, universal search, site search)
9. When you have enough leverage and a large enough lead, change the market to put yourself at the center of it. (the Omnibox in Google Chrome)
So, the time has come for you to consider, or more likely than not, to reconsider your SEO strategy. Perhaps you’re new to the game, and don’t even know what SEO is. Don’t worry, we’ll explain it. We’ll also explain some tactics that seem at first glance to be good ideas, but really aren’t. Best of all, we’ll show you how to spot these bad ideas so your site doesn’t pay the consequences.
For those of you who have been living on an isolated tropical island paradise, or have been in prison, for the last few years and do not know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This term is a kind of a rubric, that rather than referring to one or two things that you can do to improve your listing, covers a wide range of possible actions and behaviors that can help you to grow your site in popularity and make you untold amounts of money. Essentially these are the actions that a site takes to cater to the searching algorithms that search engines use to determine which sites get a high ranking, and which ones land on the bottom of page 17 in the listings.
These tools can be a great thing. They can help you get your site straight to the top and bring you scores of readers, and if they are done well you can get the site to the top of the search engine results pages for several sets of related keywords, and not just one set. The name of the game here is popularity, and despite the fact that we had all hoped to get away from that when the senior prom was over, being popular still matters when you are online. The bottom line is popularity means ad revenues and that means power.
Since the world of search engines depends on algorithms, some of which, despite sounding very vague, are actually quite advanced, you have to be very careful what you do when you play with SEO tricks. Sure, some of them can raise your site up to the top spot, but others can drag you down without so much as a second thought. Choosing not just the right principles, but the right way to execute them, becomes the chief task of those people who choose to practice SEO.
That is right, you understood me just fine. You can use the right principles and still find yourself with a bad idea on your hands. This, in addition to being quite maddening if you think about it for too long, also means that you have to be extremely careful when you screen your ideas. Something that sounds like a great idea to begin with and is even based on a sound principle, can be a big no-no if you want to keep your site’s rankings up. That careful consideration is, of course, a sound practice in most areas of your life, but you should be sure that you don’t get suckered in.
That is not to say that I expect you to become an expert in the field overnight; even a seasoned professional would have to take a look at the details of the execution before deciding if this is a good plan or a bad plan. To help you get some judgment under your belt, we will talk about some of the techniques that have already been identified as a bad idea, despite the good principles that are behind them. Then we will talk a little about how to identify a bad idea on your own, because the bad ideas will always pop up in new forms now and again. So you will have to be ever vigilant before you try out anything new.
Link Building Via Service
When done in a genuine way, building links between sites is a great way to raise your listings. When you hire a service to do it, you have a problem, because you lose control. Unless the service that you use is extremely professional, very discrete and amazingly well connected, it is an absolute certainty that you should pass it by without a second glance.
When you give up control, especially to a service, you run the very serious risk of finding yourself linked with a site that is considered to be in a “Bad Neighborhood,” which means that being linked to them will actually lower your rankings seriously. If you want to build links, you should do so in a controlled environment, and with sites that are relevant to your site’s content. Don’t go crazy and don’t get lazy.
When you ad a keyword to your site, whether it be in the META tags or, if you own a blog, in the visible tags, then those tags should always be relevant to your content, and never be just a random listing of words that you think will send search engines to your site. To be honest, you always want to keep these words short, sweet and non-repetitive; while many of the search engines have stopped using these words to place sites into the top section of the results, they have not stopped using them to rule sites out.
If your site’s META tag list seems like it came from the dictionary, then you will find your brilliant strategy to increase your rankings has lowered them instead. A similar trick is done with titles on a site. This technique, more commonly known as “Title Stacking,” is another way of adding more keywords for the search engines to index, and they have caught on. Avoid both of these like the black plague.
This one sounds like it may be a good idea. You can make a lot of sub pages that direct to the information that your user wants to know, they get the information, and you get a lot of pages that can help to increase your rankings on a multitude of sets of key words. But this technique just makes most search engines upset, because these gateway sites have very little content on them, and their primary goal is to re-direct. I would suggest that you avoid this at all costs.
If you own content from another, similar site, or you are just getting content for the site from an article bank, you can run into these serious problems. Sites that are deemed to be using nothing but copy and paste content will run into problems with the engines right away, so if you are going to re-use content it should only be a small percentage of your site, and never on the main page. Also, as a side note, if you steal someone else’s content, you can end up getting your site removed wholesale. You also run the risk of getting sued.
Now that you have an inkling of some of the bad ideas, founded on good principles, it is time to talk about how you are going to learn to spot these ideas as they come up in the world of online content promotions.
To do this, you need to open up the hood and poke around at the idea’s mechanics to see if everything is in order, by asking some questions.
Question 1. Does this topic sound like any known bad practices?
Remember how I introduced title stacking as a sub-set of META tag abuse? That is because they have a set of similarities which make them sibling ideas. If you run across a sibling idea to one of the ones that you already know is a bad plan, then you should pass it by. No hesitation and no further questions needed.
Question 2. How does this serve the readers or the searchers?
If the only benefit is to the site, then the odds are that it will get you lowered. Search engines and sites are supposed to exist for end users. If the tactic causes an impairment to their finding what they want, then it will be used as a reason to knock you down. Search engines know where their money comes from, and it is not from you.
Question 3. Does this seem like spam?
If it is the kind of tactic that you would be annoyed to encounter, either while searching or in an e-mail, then you should probably skip it. No one likes a spammer, and the search engines are no exception to that statement. So if you have the distinct odor of spam in your nostrils, you should pass up this idea and go on to the next one.
Question 4. Does it just feel wrong?
Even if you can’t quantify the why of it, if an idea feels wrong for your site or for your conscience, then you should not use it, wither or not it will be treated negatively by
the search engines. You have to trust you instincts and err on the side of caution.
Now that you know, you can be vigilant to keep your site from having its rankings lowered by an honest mistake that makes you seem like you are trying to do something that is evil — even though we both know that you would never, ever do a thing like that.
The central focus of many SEO efforts is reaching the right people with the right information at the right time. Third-party search engine marketing firms, many of whom work tirelessly helping clients consume information in the highly dynamic world of SEO, face many challenges.
Third-party vendors or agencies are often forced into difficult situations in helping disjointed entities, such as design and programming departments, communicate effectively and achieve compromise to procreate sound discipline and ultimately achieve victory over hypocrisy.
What if you were the one on the inside, making the moves? I talked to in-house SEO folks about their daily frustrations in order to come up with a few best practices and identify problematic personalities. Here’s a discussion mash of that dialogue.
Megalomaniac Entitlement Syndrome (MES)
The MES (pronounced “mess”) brand of evil is easily identified as the “noob” with a passion for screwing up otherwise well-intentioned plans. The “noob” is not to be confused with the other form of new player, “newb,” in a particular arena who actually has intentions of getting better in a particular discipline.
A “noob” is just in the game to create chaos for the sake of his or her ego. The megalomaniac usually carries a senior management title (hence the entitlement) and can be identified by making unusually arrogant requests of the in-house search specialist.
Such requests can be identified very easily and will include irrational, ego-driven demands. For example, having just received one’s massage license, MES afflicted will demand to be number one in search results for said term and feel entitled to that position. The problem here: someone may actually promise the MES afflicted said position.
In-house SEO folks say the best way to counteract the effects of MES is to identify it early and treat it with a barrage of rational ideas. Sadly, many of the untreated MES afflicted end up either driving themselves or their staffs into a padded room.
Ill-informed Executive Decision Maker (IEDM)
Similar to the MES entry, the IEDM (pronounced “I-idiom”) is identified by making nutty decisions armed with enough information to be dangerous. For example, the IEDM may say something like, “My brother-in-law knows all about that search stuff, and I hired him to help you.”
According to many of the experts I spoke with, said brother-in-law is so poorly equipped to handle anything search related, he often causes nearly irreparable damage with his “advice,” and the in-house SEO practitioner spends more time doing damage control than achieving results.
The IEDM is a massive delegator that has yet to learn the delicate art of delegating to competence, as opposed to incompetence.
Counteracting the effects on an IEDM can be pretty simple. Many accept the nepotism or favoritism as a part of doing business and simply ignore the advice of said consultant while implementing their own strategic plan.
Screwball Consultant Meltdown (SCM)
The SCM (pronounced “scum”) is an affliction of the highest order that affects many in-house SEO folks who are either duped by consultants with a great sales pitch or have consultants forced upon them by IEDM’s.
SCM is a progressive disorder that usually can’t be treated with early detection. Those affected by the SCM often don’t see it coming. The consultants often bypass the in-house SEO practitioner and consistently attempt to undermine their efforts by abandoning contact protocols. They reach out to senior management directly and pile on unrealistic expectations, armed with misinformation.
There are few effective treatments for SCM, though the disorder has been linked to causative factors associated with the creation of IEDMs. Many have applied the IEDM treatment to SCM, though once meltdown has been realized, some never return from the abyss.
Matt Cutts Hater/Manipulator (MCHMr)
The MCHMr (pronounced M-C-hammer) spends all of his time reading Matt Cutts’ blog and attempts to counter-engineer or circumvent the efforts of Googlers everywhere. The MCHMr views everything Google does as evil, and this psychosis has bled into other areas of his or her life.
You can identify the MCHMr by intermittent but consistent negative references to either Matt Cutts or other Google representatives. They will attempt to dissuade senior management from listening to logic and reason by suggesting that Google is simply furthering its own evil agenda.
To date, the best way to counter the MCHMr is to stay on top of the information produced by the Google team, cross referencing the information with your own logical conclusions, and citing that information in each tactical execution.
And Yet, It Still Happens
The world is changing, but not as quickly as we’d like it to. Believe it or not, I still get calls from brand marketers and site owners (names withheld to protect the desperately naive) asking for advice on the best “SEO software.”
“SEO software?” Nice one. While I’m at it, I usually also pass along Batman’s phone number and contact information for the Green Lantern, just in case.
At the end of the day, whether you’re in the house or outside it, fighting the good fight is never easy. Though we don’t do it enough, hat’s off to the in-house SEO practitioners everywhere.
The Fresh Traffic Group’s Jerry Booth was recognized at a Chamber luncheon on Monday 29th as the city’s 2008th member.
He was welcomed in by the organizations president & CEO Dave Angus.
The days event was a who’s who in Winnipeg Business Circles with guest speaker Gail Asper presiding.
Jerry says the Fresh Traffic Group is hoping to get involved with all the new and exciting things happening in the city by bringing the online marketing skills required to new projects like the airport expansion, tourism and the human rights museum.
With all of the Search Engine Optimization information out on the web, there tends to be a lot of chaff needing to seperated from the wheat. Time and time again there is a key point which needs to be retold to clients it seems endlessly in the “quick-fix” world we’re in. So then, here it is, one more time for (hopefully) everyone to see!
When your SEO campaign is underway, don’t become impatient with the results! Truly organic SEO takes time, it can be as long as 3-6 months before any significant gain is noticed in your traffic. It’s like planting a garden, when all of the SEO has been finished on your pages (those are the seeds by the way), it’s then time to get to work on the linking strategy (water!). This is where the patience comes in. You wouldn’t pick corn or potatoes which haven’t fully grown, and the same needs to be said of SEO. By changing your pages, altering code, or uploading pages which haven’t been properly worked over, you tear at all of the work that’s been done (the roots).
With this simple SEO tip in mind, happy gardening!
There are several SEO myths which abound about what works and what doesn’t and these myths can be daunting as a potential client. We thought a handy guide to a few of the SEO myths would be useful, as it could help make a more informed decision.
One time SEO for long term ranking
SEO is a strategy, and as any marketing strategy it has to be continuously readjusted for optimal performance. SEO begins with two basic components: the primary site optimization carried out upon signing the contract – which constitutes a large part of the work involved – and the continual website tweaks that are required due to monthly or unexpected shifts in the search engine market. The basic site optimization is the part of SEO which should be carried out only once. Unlike any other medium, the online market is the most dynamic and fast changing for a business to evolve in. That is why month to month changes in search engine algorithms require continuous attention.
Performing in house SEO is more efficient
Initially it may appear, that performing SEO in house is more cost effective. You still have to take in consideration staff training, gaining access to essential SEO industry tools and information and that requires time, effort and money. Allowing untrained staff to perform SEO can be risky as search engines hand out penalties for breaking their guidelines. However, working closely with a SEO that provides consultancy and training can prove to be a solid long-term solution. In time, your staff will be properly prepared to take over some of your optimization needs.
Search Engine Optimization is cost prohibitive
SEO is not a cost, it’s an investment and like any investment it brings a measurable return. Think in terms of ROI, not in terms of cost.
Life is full of do’s and don’ts, and SEO is no exception. Out of all of the tactics available to companies to improve your visibility in the online world, some tactics are ideal, some are highly frowned upon, and some are disputed or on the edge. The industry has applied a lable, or buzz term to these methods, referred as White Hat, Black Hat, and Grey Hat SEO techniques.
White Hat tactics are considered 100% totally safe and they are most often directly recommended by the search engine companies themselves. They are centered around the ideas of sound website building strategies, and not on the flexible nature of any given search engine.
White Hat typically includes:
* Solid, regularly updated content
* Relevant metatags
* Friendly, interactive page design
* Honest linking strategies
In terms of time investment, White Hat techniques take the longest to implement, but all are held in high regard in the search engine optimization world.
Black Hat tactics are forbidden or deeply frowned on by the search engines. These can, and most certainly will, get your site, or your clients site, banned from the index if you are found to be using any of them. The philosophy behind Black Hat SEO revolves around trying to manipulate the search engines to direct traffic instead of earning it.
Black Hat SEO is generally used by people who sell illegal or immoral content. This on it’s own should be reason enough to steer clear, because your reputation WILL be forever tarnished if you associate yourself with these unethical practices.
Black Hat tactics include (but are not limited to):
* Buying links in huge numbers, ignoring relevance, for fast inbound links
* Invisible, or hidden text on your pages; ie the text is identical to your background
* Misleading meta tags
Using any of the above methods will more than likely flag your website within the search index and get the site banned!
Grey Hat SEO tends to fall in between the cracks of the search engines rules. some experts might deem them as highly controversial, while the next may be unconcerned. There is no clear rule set about Grey hat SEO strategies, because there is no clear indication about whether they do harm to your websites presence. You must study the information, and decide for yourself, which side you think is telling the truth.
Grey Hat techniques can include:
* Owning a number of sites and cross linking them back to each other
* Purchasing links on every page of a smaller, relevant site
* Working for links on a high quality site, that may not be relevant to your site
There are a lot of Grey Hat techniques, and you’ll find that usually they are highly debated in the search engine optimization world.
In the end, the only “unknown” is the search engine algorithms (the code that helps the search engine decide what is legit and what is not), are not predictable, and they are constantly changing, so a technique that works one day may not work the next and vice versa.
In the end, the only real answer is, research all available information, and then make a decision based on how much risk you are willing to assume.
However, if you don’t have the time to put into the deluge of online resources available about SEO and the proper way to implement it, that’s where we comes in.
SEO is everywhere, and there’s millions of pages out there telling you how to meta tag this and hyperlink that, and you’ve slowly found yourself drowning a sea of technical jargon. What about SEO made easy? Take a moment, and think about how magazines are put together.
The Table Of Contents tells you story titles, often times gives a brief description, and provides the page number telling you where you can find any particular story. In relation to SEO, the table of contents could be considered the sitemap.
Now flipping over to a story page, the titles will be printed in big, bold font. Occasionally, there will be a brief synopsis about the story, in an italicized font that is a bit bigger than the rest of the story. This in relation to Search Engine Optimization could be considered the title tags.
Pictures throughout the story are found with captions that tend to further develop the story, by describing the picture. When it comes to optimization, this could be considered providing a tag for all of your pictures.
In a longer story there will typically be subheadings, in either a larger, or italicized font. The primary body of the story will be a in regular plain text, with the occasional bolded or italicized word or phrase. Keywords!!
A person who is flipping through the pages can by analyzing the title and other large text on the page, can quickly assess the content and make the decision as to whether they want to read the full story. People are GoogleBots?
When all of the fancy words, and technical jargon are stripped away, the above pattern is a portion of what tickles Googles fancy. Sadly, the rest is that stuff I told you to forget in the first place.
You might have heard of SEO on the net, or in an email or from a business partner. Often, you hear that SEO and SEM are about getting your site in the top 10 in major search engines for a set of keywords.
SEO is partly about that, but getting your site at the top of the SERPs is the means to a goal and not an objective in itself. SEO is about getting qualified traffic to your website and converting as much of it as possible into sales.
Some SEOs only offer top rankings, this is their sales pitch. They qualify achieving that as wild success. However, your site can rank #1 for targeted keywords and fail to make a single sale. This can be a a result of poor communication with your audience or technical and usability website errors. Therefore, an accurate measurement of whether the SEO campaign was a success or a failure is necessary.
It’s best to stick to a SEO that has a good understanding of what success means and can actually measure it for you. However, it’s useful to know some things yourself to give you a chance to determine whether your investment was profitable or not.
Correlating Rankings with Traffic
The first thing to do is to correlate rankings with traffic. Monitor the positions your site holds in search engines for keywords and the corresponding traffic. Compare traffic on a week to week basis. On some keywords your web site might drop and lose traffic but it may gain positions for other keywords and compensate as a result. It’s normal in a search engine optimisation campaign to have fluctuations.
Your site can target and rank on a variety of keywords in various search engines. Your traffic will be made up of several streams from various sources. Some of the keywords will be “money keywords”, meaning keywords that people use when they’re ready to make a purchase or make an inquiry.
Another type of keywords are “information keywords”. Each of these are used by people just looking for information on a certain product or service but are not ready or informed enough to make a purchase or an inquiry. More often than not this traffic helps promote your site through viral marketing (mouth to mouth marketing) but will not bring any immediate revenue.
Another type of keywords are “incidental keywords”. These are keywords that are hardly relevant to your content, off topic or mentioned as a comparison term etc. Some of these keywords bring useless traffic. Most users will probably leave as soon as they get to your site because they realize that what they are looking for is not there. Some of these keywords, however, are an excellent chance to widen the set of keywords to target. These keywords will be used by the SEO to attract more targeted traffic.
The next step in your success assessment is to analyze traffic. This should be broken down into sources of traffic: by search engines, by keywords and by third party sites. Success at this stage means an increase in quality traffic. Targeted traffic are visitors who arrive at your website and find what they are looking for, be it information on products or making a purchase or inquiry.
You should not guide yourself purely by numbers as that might include traffic from irrelevant keywords or sources. For example clicks from ad networks may bring in a lot of traffic but if your site doesn’t provide what they are looking for, then the traffic is useless.
Traffic That Converts
In this phase you’re only interested in the traffic that converts, e.g. turns into customers or potential customers. Your SEO should be able to give you a monitoring program that allows to see how many visitors have made a purchase or an inquiry or and which keywords they’ve used to get to your site.
You’re not interested in analyzing every visitor that made a purchase but you, as well as your SEO, should know what your most profitable keywords are. The most profitable keywords bring in the best ROI and this is, after all, the best measuring tool of any SEO campaign. Judging by how ROI rises or drops you can tell if the SEO are doing their job properly or not.
To summarize, targeted traffic and ROI are the two things to analyze in your success measurement process. If targeted traffic rises, then you’ve got a successful site. Targeted traffic is made up of users that recommend your site to their friends and of users that actually make a sale. Increasing ROI means turning more visitors into customers. If your ROI drops or is not very good, then it means that your site isn’t performing as well as it could and your SEO has failed in their task to bring you extra leads and revenue
Internet Marketing and SEO Guru, Jerry Booth has made a new home right here in Winnipeg.
His company Fresh Traffic has taken offices in the prestigious Can West building in the heart of Winnipeg’s business center. The Winnipeg location is the latest additional location which compliments others located in the US & UK.