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Since we covered the very basics of how web developers, designers, business owners and SEOs could work together a little better yesterday, lets get into a tad more detail. Taking it a little slower, we’ll just discuss a handful of some of the terms you’re going to run into when working with a search engine optimization firm.
Once we’ve had the chance to take a good hard look at your website, one of the first few things you’ll find us talking about is about conducting keyword research. Basically all this means to you as a website owner, is we need to know what terms you’re interested in ranking with, and we’ll break down your content to see if those keywords exist in a workable combination. It’s also a step taken when we search for your current listings, and breaking down how you stack up versus your competitors. It’s a simple step, one which gets abused at times unfortunately when some believe that spamming their keyword as many times as possible is a good thing. Also tieing into your website and it’s current performance, is Page Rank. It’s actually not as huge a metric as it once was, but it’s a ranking system created by Google’s Larry Page which gives your site a number based on a number of factors. Authority of incoming links, the quality of your content and website, and this rank is passed on through out your site. It used to seem that the higher your page rank, the higher you sit in the SERPs, but Google hasn’t been as diligent in up keeping their system, with Panda and Penguin being introduced in the last couple of years.
Once we’ve determined what you want to rank for, how you stack up currently in your niche market and where to focus our efforts, you’re going to start hearing terms like geo-targeting, and click through rate a whole lot. Geo-targeting is the process of constructing your website and it’s pages, to be specifically relevant to certain areas. You can easily work in city geo-targeting into your site with adjustments to content, and you can even drill down into neighborhoods if you begin to use tools like AdWords etc. With targeting your website, you ensure that you’re working at capturing your target market, and increasing your over all click through rate. Click through rate, loosely defined, is the percentage of searchers who click on your link after performing a search. It’s a great metric to keep measurement of, as it can fairly quickly outline for you if a new campaign, or advertising strategy has had a positive or negative effect on your brand and business.
There is a huge amount of information and due diligence that needs to be done when you’re working on your companies website. You need to consider the technical, and aesthetic aspects of your site. Is it appealing to look at, or is it full of uncoordinated colors and themes. On the technical side of your site, does it load quickly, or have you filled it with pictures, videos, and sounds and it takes more than a few seconds to load? The internet doesn’t work around minutes, if you do not capture your audience in the first 3-5 seconds of being on your site that impression is lost. Take a good hard look at your navigation, your menu structure on your site. Is it written with clean code, easily crawlable and indexible or have you built it with scripts and images which have no relevance with search engines.
Have someone outside your business take a read of the content on your website, are they able to work out what it is that you do with just a quick glance? Often times, when a company is building a new site for themselves they can get carried away with their content, and they begin to create content which is too niche specific, resulting in lost visitors and relevance. Once you’ve gotten all of your content squared away, you can create proper links to your other web pages you’ve built, to try and help the bots to get at all of your available content and help push you that much further up the ranks. Think of your website like a sail boat, and your additional pages and content as added sails. The better job you do building them, the more power you’ll have behind you.
We’ve always maintained that those with certain skill sets should do certain jobs and stick to those jobs. Web designers should design, coders stick to coding, SEO’s stick to SEO and so on and so forth. There is however, one book that everyone should read and keep handy when building, repairing, or working on a website. Go hit up the Google Webmaster Guidelines for best practices for websites. It’s the best stepping stone you can use to begin to have a chance online, and while it won’t help you rank #1 for all of your niche terms, it will keep you from being targetted by their biggest updates; ala Panda and Penguin.
The goals of SEO are relatively simple, to make your site rank as highly as possible within the search pages for your niche. Whether you build houses, write stories, or draw pictures, search engine optimization is applicable for any website online. What a lot of smaller business owners can also use SEO for, is to knock the big players down a peg or two.
It’s an important step for all parties to consider SEO as a great equalizer online, you do however have to remember to stay within the rules. There are billions of web pages online, and yet with that daunting number in mind it’s still a relatively simple process to stay within the sights of the search engines. All you really need to keep in mind are the basics, even just following the best practices guidelines gives your website a shot at being picked up and indexed. But you need to also remember, the internet isn’t exactly a friendly place yet, a great deal of the web is free and wild. As a small example, you can’t control what websites choose to link to you if they choose too. This can be a difficult hurdle to overcome as well, as irrelevant, or inappropriate back links leading to your website can seriously hamper any SEO efforts you may have in place. This is only a single element of what’s known as negative SEO.
The larger, more established and authoritative sites such as Amazon are somewhat safer in this regards, however no one is completely immune to negative SEO. Negative search engine optimization can be defined as spammy links, blatant keyword stuffing, duplicate content or anything that isn’t considered white hat SEO by the search engines. Smaller, newer sites unfortunately are more susceptible to negative optimization problems. In the beginnings of a sites growth, it may not have much content or links pointing to it. If you’re not careful with how you craft your content or structure your links and navigation, you may even get dinged as having duplicate or irrelevant content in your niche. The number one point however that you need to keep in the forefront of your mind though, because the internet is still wildly untamed, the playing field is actually relatively plain and simple. Follow the rules, manage your website and monitor your content to make sure it doesn’t get scraped or that it has been copied from another resource. Even the big hitters can be taken down online, no target is too big or too relevant on the web.
So the large update that Google pushed out late last week, which has a name you can now curse – Penguin, has had it’s share of folks caught in the crossfire and been down ranked. In case you were wondering what the update was about, the short version of the update is it was targetted at directly reducing webspam, and sites which use “aggressive spam” tactics.
As always, Matt Cutts came out on his white horse maintaining that so long as you create quality, original content, and stick to the best practices, that you should be alright with this new update. What has been discovered over the weekend however, and something that site owners couldn’t entirely be prepared for, was the effect that would be felt by targetting spammy sites. While as a site owner and web admin you can control what content is contained within your site, you unfortunately, have very little control as to who, or what, links to your site.
Larger online brands have felt little change at the moment with the update, but that doesn’t help any of the smaller sites out on the web. While Google mentioned that only 3% of the search results would be effected, it seems as the week gets underway that number will be a tad higher. The notable sites which have been cropping up in discussions tend to be smaller e-stores which are using shared, or affiliate information. In an affiliate layout, already not one of search engines favourites, if any one site in the chain adopts bad practices, then the down ranking factors will eventually get to your site as well.
Amid all of the uproar of sites being downed in the rankings or even in some cases, completely lost, there have been some valid suggestions. One of the most basic, and most helpful would likely be that instead of Google hurting anyone for being linked in a bad chain, simply remove any ranking or relevancy of the original, infringing domain. At least then that way not every site down the line gets kicked, and site owners won’t immediately go into panic mode.
It’s somewhat common knowledge that when someone performs a search, there will be a box of “Sponsored results” to the left, above, and sometimes even below the organic results. Bing has a paid service, as does Yahoo and Google has their AdWords which proved a business in search can be profitable. There’s a discussion lately surrounding paid search advertising and the big 3 search engines, and if you’re not careful with how you read it, you may walk away with the wrong idea.
Compared to this time last year, the CPC for Google has fallen again, for the second quarter in a row while Bing and Yahoo’s CPC have continued to climb. On the surface it’s a statement which can make it sound like Bing and Yahoo have been managing to grab ad space from Google. The point closer to the truth however is more to the tune that Google has become an even better choice to advertise with, as opposed to Bing and Yahoo. Search engine marketing via the AdWords platform or one like it, has to be measured differently than the organic results, you can’t take positioning as the end goal.
When you begin to break down the numbers involved in SEM and SEO, there are some key differences that you need to understand. They both depend on conversion rates, because without converting your traffic, you’re wasting time and money. One of the largest, and most important difference however is the click through rate of your positioning. You could be ranked at the very top of the AdWords results, but if you have a poorly written ad, or a poorly built website, chances are your conversions will be limited.
Another major point you need to keep in mind is cost per click, or CPC as was being discussed earlier. Where paid advertising is concerned, CPC is a literal interpretation of how much it is costing you to have someone click on your listing. Organic SEO is more difficult to define, as you’re not paying each time someone clicks your organic listing, but after a few months you can more easily break it down. A high cost per click for your search term can mean that there are many people in the same space, or, it can mean that one of your competitors is driving up the bid on the keyword to try and gain dominance. A declining average cost per click isn’t necessarily a bad omen, it can point to reduced competition, it can also mean an improved conversion rate.
Occasionally, if you’re diligent about handling your website and checking in on Webmaster Tools, you’ll get the odd warning. Most of the time they’re not major, maybe your sitemap is old, your navigation has an error or you have an erroneous line in your robots.txt file blocking crawling on your site. But for people who’ve been maybe a little, naughty with acquiring back links, maybe getting caught buying links and increasing their Page Rank, receiving notice in your WMT is only the first step of the work you need to do.
There is some great information to be found, direct from Google itself about how to handle being called out by having unnatural links pointing back at your site. When you get a warning like this, you’ll also get a notice that you’ll have the penalty attached for 6 months, but just because you have it doesn’t mean you need to grit your teeth and bear it for that long. If you’ve acted quickly, and cleaned up all of the errors that have been reported and are serious about your online positioning, you need to submit a reconsideration request as soon as possible. Sitting and waiting out the penalty doesn’t just affect your site in the short term, it will also affect your positioning, and possibly your reputation in the long run.
If you’ve been flagged as having unnatural links pointing at your site, you need to go as far back as the links go. If you’ve been working them for a year, clean up the last years links. If it’s two, five, or even ten years of links, it needs to be dealt with. That means a massive undertaking, but this is your online presence, and possibly the survival of your online business. Taking the time to clean up all of the links leading into your site is time invested into the well being of your company.
The last piece of pertinent advice was just as important as well, just because you may have received a notice today, doesn’t mean it’s only just now been noticed. Google has only recently been actively sending out reports to site owners, so just because you may have received notice that your pages aren’t crawling properly, doesn’t mean they never noticed before. The issue you’ve recently become aware of, just may be the reason you’ve never been able to hit page 1, or over take a competitor in your online market. Taking action on your report and quickly submitting for reconsideration is not only the best course of action, it should be viewed as the only course of action after receiving a notice.
There are all sorts of experts out there in the SEO world, and for all of the experts out there willing to take only a couple of hundred dollars to place your site, there is a larger road block to finding the real pros in the industry; information. Good info, bad info, just plain wrong info, if you search for seo expert, or anything along that though line, you will run into some real winners if you’re willing to dig deep enough.
The last year or so the internet search world has been buzzing with Panda, it dropped this clients site, or it ruined the results for the term which magically brought their site 20,000 visitors in a day previously. Casting aside all of the hyperbole, Panda didn’t affect the vast majority of the websites out there, the main aim of the algorithm is to search out spammy sites, sites with scraped content from other sources and even sites which use automatic posting means. Just like any of the other major algorithm shifts, if you weren’t doing anything wrong at all, you’ll have noticed very little change in your positioning, and in your visitors.
But, if you happened to be working in a back linking scheme to garner thousands of links from a seemingly active blog, and you magically dropped in the rankings, then chances are the blogger wasn’t quite doing things the proper way. Before you start reading information on search and taking it at its face value, you need to dig even deeper into the threads and posts on the site which calls itself experts. If it’s only comprised of a handful or so pages, chances are they haven’t done anything except find some decent content and copy it. If the information sounds good, check the post date on it, if it was posted even a year ago, then as great as it sounds then there are likely vast portions of it unusable. And finally, actually take the time to dig into the post, read it both silently and out loud. If something isn’t adding up as you read it, sentance structure is off, or the cadence is jerky, then there are a couple of strong contenders. The post in question was either scraped and put together in a hodge podge fashion to try and dupe the algorithms, or, the piece was written by a piece of software.
The last bit may seem a little odd, but there are programs available now which can truly write all of your blogs for you. You can feed it a topic, how many words you want, what type of emphasis, and a few minutes later you have a post. The key issue with these programs however, is just as bad as someone manually scraping the web for content, the posts are almost entirely made up of scraped content. The software is just designed to piece it together to make it fit the parameters you have set.
There is really only one rule to bear in mind when searching for an SEO, or when one approaches you: Can you find them when you search for them? Because if they can’t list their site in the top few pages, then chances are very strong they can’t do a thing for your site as well.
So Google has come out and said that late last week they pushed out a new update with Panda, and that it really only affected less than 2% of searches in the wild. Considering the millions of searches performed in a day that might seem trivial, but what do you do if you were caught up in the update and “lost” your position? Well, there’s a short, and a long answer to this predicament, we’ll start with the long one.
One of the first things you need to verify when you think you’ve been removed or bumped down in the index is, you need to have a look at your toolset you use. Whether it’s Google’s Webmaster tools, Analytics or any other suite with which you use to monitor your site, get in there and have a look at the warnings or errors section. If a search engine has found any major faults with your site, you’ll often find a report which outlines the discovered errors and some tips about how to rectify the situation.
Another helpful step you can take to make sure nothing naughty has gone on while you weren’t looking, is run a quick backlink check on your site. You should occasionaly have a look at who it is that’s linking too you, as backlinks tell part of your story to the search engines. While the internet is a vast, wild and sometimes reckless place, you can still have some control over who is lending you relevancy. If you’re a shoe sales website you wouldn’t want to have thousands of backlinks from a forum relating to boats as your website and business have nothing to do with boats.
Another big point you need to try and bear in mind, also falls in line with the short answer to the question of what to do if you get bumped or dumped. As shocking as it can be to be dropped from the index, the number one step you can do is wait. If you have a clear conscience and are confident in the work your SEO performs for you, you need to remain calm, correct any major flaws pointed out in your webmaster tools, submit your reconsideration forms to the search engines and wait. The search engines, Google, Bing, Yahoo etc do a great job of keeping people informed and in the dark at the same time. There are hundreds of variables active in the search algorithms, and if you’re found in glaring violation of any of them you could be kicked down or dropped from the index. So remain in contact with your SEO, have a look at your site from time to time and make sure you’re still relevant to your niche, and in time your course will be corrected. The index is like having a jar of water with sand in it. When it’s left long enough, the water clears and the junk filters to the bottom, but every now and then it’s interesting to pick it up and give it a good shake. Make everything muddy for a short time, but in time it will settle out and everything will clear.
For a new business starting up, or for those looking to make their presence known online, the over whelming amount of options you have can be staggering. There’s pay per click, organic search engine optimization, social media and social media optimization, the internet is a speedway filled with potholes if you’re not careful.
Pay per click marketing, also known as AdWords, is a pretty straight forward marketing plan. It’s bidding on ad placement within relevant search results, to put it plainly. If your ad is deemed relevant, and you’ve won the bid, your ad will be displayed in a “Sponsored Listings” box on the results page. Basic optimization needs to be kept in mind, as well as the quality of your website and it’s landing pages.
Organic search engine optimization, SEO, or the holy grail of online marketing, are the results you see in the center of the page when you conduct a search. A fair amount of time, resources, knowledge and creativity are involved where organic SEO is concerned. Finding an expert in the field can be a difficult, if not troubling experience. In recent years, the field has become inundated with web designers, graphic artists and the like all proclaiming to be SEO experts. If you find your business is being contacted by parties wanting to sell you SEO services, here’s a little tip. After they tell you their business name, try searching for them. Because after all, if they can’t list their own business, how can they list yours?
Then we get into the bustling world of social media. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and now Pinterest all vie for your attention. And as an added result, your customers attention as well. It’s incredibly cost effective, if not free, to become invested with social media for your business. The majority of your investment is going to be with your time and creativity. Taking the time to leverage all of the social angles is a consuming process, but it’s well worth it as it can quickly build a positive brand image.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the terms search engine optimization became a staple on the web and it has gone through a number of changes. Both in perspectives, actual and perceived, and in usage. For the most part however the basics of proper web development, online marketing and promotion have stayed the same.
When building your website, there are only three words to keep in mind Keep It Simple. Search engines like to say they have no problems crawling imperfect code, it’s safer to assume search engines are dumb and help them in every way I can. Simple code is honest code it also makes your website easy to analyze and troubleshoot should anything break down. The more code you use on a page, the more things that can go wrong from spider access to browser compatibility.
Looking passed your coding, you need to keep in mind your overall design. It was a great example given, but when using Apple products as an example with their pure, simplistic forms. By contrast, too many websites, primarily enterprise sites, try to be all things to all people. Their administrators or managers fear they might miss out on a conversion for lack of a link.
Websites should have clean internal linking. You do not need a site-wide menu three levels deep. As long as people feel that they are progressing toward their goal or the useful information they seek, they will continue to click through your site.
Coming up next, the age old king of the web – content – will be discussed as well as how its importance has only increased over time on the web.