Learning SEO Basics
Friday, June 27th, 2008
Though you want to have a good ranking for your homepage, optimizing internal pages is of paramount importance. Take a look at some of the comments on this here blog. Commenters will leave different web addresses each time through. So each comment will link to a different page within the site – increasing the page rank (and traffic) for individual pages, which can help the PR overall. It’s good trick and I recommend it. One of the great advantages of blogging is it increases the likelihood for linking to internal pages, rather than just the homepage.
One of the ways to avoid problems with Google is to optimize different pages at the same time. For example, Google doesn’t like when you get a barrage of links all at once. It could be tagged as a spam site or link farm. However, if you mix it up by adding your homepage to site directories and link to internal pages via comments, forums, email marketing campaigns, and other media, this will appear as a more organic linking system.
Landing Pages and Lead Generation
On that front, you should most definitely link to internal landing pages in email marketing and newsletter campaigns. One of the reasons for creating a lead generation system is to obtain email addresses of potential customers – if not customers, then at least linking partners. This is yet another great reason for starting a blog. Every time a person comments, he or she will need to enter an email address. That’s how it works on the SEOHosting blog. This, in turn, is a lead that can be contacted later. You should also provide a sign-up form for a newsletter or possible discounts (highly recommended to reel them in).
No, that’s not going to provide thousands of leads all at once, but it’s a start. You may need to pay for a lead generation service as well. OK, back to landing pages. When you’re contacting those leads via email or a newsletter, you should link to internal pages, rather than just the main page of the site. This will increase click-throughs, as people will be more likely to click to the homepage. The more time a person spends on the site, the more likely he or she will make a purchase. In addition, this creates a potential linking opportunity if that lead is also a site owner who will then link to your internal content.
Most often, a newsletter will be housed on the site itself, with a note in an email stating, “Click here to read the rest,” or some such, which will then take people to the rest of the article – which means that your first paragraph must be pretty gripping. Rather than having that content lost to the winds of un-optimizable email, you should house that content on the site.
Branding a Landing Page
Whenever a person comes to an internal page, the surfer should understand exactly the purpose of the page. Too often, search engine optimization revolves around how to get a high listing in Google, rather than optimizing for actual human visitors. An internal landing page could run the risk of being confusing if it is not well-branded. There should be a large headline showing what the page covers. A simple and visible link to a sign-up form or shopping cart should always be present. One of the uses of email marketing campaign is testing out which landing page layout leads to the most conversions. No one should have to search for a buy-now button, or even info on the site’s core purpose. It should go without saying also that your internal landing page follows that same basic graphic framework as the homepage.
Optimizing the Homepage
Because you’re going to be housing other content within the many pages of the site, there’s no reason to over-optimize the homepage. While it’s important to include the most important keyphrases on your homepage, you don’t want to run into the territory of keyword-jamming. This could have the result of causing your many internal landing pages to rank lower. Really, though it’s called a homepage and it’s a central hub, it’s very likely that people will come to the site via an internal page. I mean, that’s the idea: to be ranking high throughout the site, not just the homepage. So don’t put all your optimization emphasis on the homepage. Of course, your homepage should be strong, because a lot of links will come here directly, but don’t concentrate on the homepage at the exclusion of improving content and branding on internal pages.
Needless to say, however, your homepage needs to be well-organized. All that content you have housed within the site needs to be easily accessible, inspiring a whole lotta click-throughs. If people do land on the index page, they need to know immediately how they can use the site. By grouping article pages together, you can then use the headings to pinpoint the most important keyphrases. So, for example, a credit card site could have a site heading called “Credit Card Deals” with a list of articles beneath about cheap credit cards. That’s something you’ll have to play around with – determining the most important keyphrases and then using those to organize and optimize your homepage.
What it comes down to is this: every page on the site is a landing page so every page should be optimized separately. Don’t optimize a homepage at the exclusion of everything else on the site.
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
There’s so much fretful emphasis put on search engine optimization that some website owners might think about going straight for pay-per-click – i.e. buying their way into optimization. After all, search engine optimization costs money. A professional search engine marketer is going to charge for the service. If you control SEM yourself, this is going to cost you time that could be devoted to other profitable pursuits.
So why not just spend the money on pay per click? The answer is pretty simple: search engine optimization is generally cheaper than a high-quality PPC campaign. High-value keywords are most likely out of the price range of your average website owner, but you can write content and metatags to your heart’s content using the most high-valued keywords in your industry.
Combining PPC and SEO
Basically, you need to combine both PPC and search engine optimization, as each tactic has different uses and can attract a different customer base. One method for using PPC is to engineer a PPC campaign first and see what sort of traction certain keywords get in search engines. You can then design your search engine optimization campaign around the most successful keywords in a PPC campaign. You’ll get some sense of the most vital keywords doing basic keyword research, but until you match those keywords against your own site’s content, you won’t have a full estimation of how those keywords will perform.
What this means is that you need to test out-clicks as much as you need to test in-clicks. New marketers make the mistake of only testing how a site performs in a search engine, without fully testing how a keyphrase performs once a surfer is on the website. This is why just researching popular keyphrases is only half the battle, if that. You need to see how and why people are staying on the site.
Writing quality content is an important part of this equation. While pay per click can guarantee high placement in search engines, it can’t guarantee how that traffic will perform. Good web content, then, has two uses: to help natural ranking and to further solidify a website’s authority on a given topic. If someone clicks on a PPC link and comes to a site devoid of information, he or she is not going to take the site seriously. Conversions will not follow.
Monitoring PPC and SEO
Consider PPC as a form of market research – one that will continue well after the first day that you initiate a campaign. If you’re not (obsessively) checking your analytics to see how both PPC and SEO campaigns are performing, you’re plainly not a very good businessperson. If you’re spending excessively on a PPC campaign that is not converting, don’t be surprised if your first quarter earnings are nil.
But the first quarter is what you should be looking at – I mean the very first quarter. PPC is especially effective for start-up businesses. Though I recommend starting an SEO campaign from day one, it can take time to build link exchanges and rank naturally with your content. A PPC campaign can get you off the ground. It can be a significant investment, however, so be prepared for it. People can pay thousands of dollars a month without necessarily bringing in thousands of dollars of profit. But you need some way to provide visibility that will increase profits, which will then allow you to be more aggressive with your PPC campaign and possibly outsource a comprehensive SEM campaign. It takes money to make money.
Keep in mind too that if you have a high-energy PPC campaign this can help you with a core part of search engine optimization: getting backlinks. If you’re site is highly visible, you’ll have a better chance not only to bring in new customers, but new link partners. An aggressive PPC campaign is a selling point to anyone who is running a high PR site. A one-tier SEO campaign is not enough because veteran site owners know that it’s difficult to get a site to rank high very quickly – unless you’re selling within a very niche market.
Increasing Site Visibility
Meanwhile, you should be doing all you can to get your site into high PR directories, such as DMOZ, which is free, or Yahoo, which costs a fee. As I’ve mentioned before, you should only link back to sites with a similar purpose or demographic, or else this could risk your site getting labeled a link farm. You should also be preparing content on dozens, if not hundreds, of possible keyphrases – both enhancing a current PPC campaign as well as writing content that does not have, or need, a for-pay listing campaign.
What it comes down to is the need to diversify. PPC, if used incorrectly, is the lazy web-owner’s route. If I was going to rely on one or the other, I’d go with SEO over PPC. Why? Because SEO is generally cheaper than PPC and it will expand the quality of the website overall, rather than just where a website ranks. Overall, though, a smart web owner will do both and measure how each campaign is performing against the other.
Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
I’ve talked here about the importance of creating organic content. It has two-fold uses. One, it increases the visibility of your site in search engines via keyword-targeted content. Two, it helps make your site informative and useful to web surfers – as well as to search engine spiders. The more content you have, the more power your links will have as well.
Let me explain. Search engine spiders hate link farms – a collection of links and not much else. You can look at a link farm in the same way that you look at keyword-stuffed content: an outdated method for creating a website that can now get you banned from search engines. Even if those links are reciprocal, search engine spiders do not respond well to a site with 1000 links and limited content.
Even if those links are relevant to your site, it is still going to cause you problems. Take this site, for example, SEOHosting could have a page of links linking to every SEO-related web page online and even receive links back from those places. But if the site doesn’t have relevant content to match those links then the site is going to just get tagged a link farm and be penalized. However, if the site also has a lot of relevant, on-target content (such as the blog entry you’re reading) then search engines will be much friendlier to the site overall.
As they say about a stock portfolio: you’ve got to diversify. Same goes for SEO. You need a healthy mix of content and links – a major reason why content is king, beyond the chance that someone will type in a keyphrase written into one of your articles. At the same time, the work doesn’t stop there. Even if you provide pages of relevant content, the quality of links you’re linking to can pose problems. Put another way: the poor quality of someone else’s site can have a negative impact on your own.
Bad Links = Bad Mojo
So you’ve got a lot of relevant content written and posted. You’ve done a bunch of link trades with site owners in similar fields. Are they putting in the same amount of work as you are? If you are a link partner with a low-quality link farm this can have a bad reflection on your site as well. Not only should content never be static, but your links shouldn’t be static either. What I mean by that is that you’ve got to check your links periodically to make sure they’re up to snuff. Sites go down, get replaced with dummy spam sites. Maybe a site becomes a link farm itself. Fact is, you can’t control how other web owners run their sites, but you can control what sites you link to.
After every major Google update it makes sense to check the Google status of all your links partners just to make sure they’re all on the up and up. Has their PR suddenly tanked? Does their website no longer exist? Every so often you need to go through a spring cleaning and clean house, in addition to looking for new quality link partnerships.
Creating Dummy Sites
Another fairly outdated practice is creating dummy sites of your own. Now, this isn’t as detrimental as a link farm and can still work to your advantage if done correctly, but you still need to tread carefully. Recent Google updates have penalized sites that are part of an interlinking network. Site owners create a series of sites all about a similar topic, with unique content aimed at linking to the main website. The early thinking was that this would automatically create a link partnership and clog up Google with more of that site’s network ending up in search results.
It makes perfect sense. Take a look at Oreos. There used to be two kinds: regular Oreos and Double Stuff. Now Oreos have gone hog wild and there are 75 different types of Oreos. The basic marketing maxim is that the more items there are on a supermarket shelf, the more likely it is that a shopper will choose some type of Oreo. That was the same type of thinking about creating a stable of sites all with the purchase of selling one major brand. In short, it was a way to fool Google.
Google does not like to be fooled. They’re pretty vindictive, really. But let’s go back to the concept of diversification: if you’ve got ample content and strong, relevant links, you could get away with creating separate sites that act as an affiliate site to your own business. The problem arises when sites rely too heavily on these link networks. Some sites used to make a habit of only linking on a centralized network. New Google algorithms were meant specifically to keep site owners from gaming the system in this manner.
All told, some of this should be common sense: don’t link to a site with horrible content and bad linking strategies. Always be updating your site to make sure that you are not crossing the boundary of what Google spiders deem acceptable. And trying to fool Google will more than likely make a fool out of you.
Sunday, June 15th, 2008
Developing a highly visited website, a “traffic worthy site”, is essential for your web site’s success. While developing the site, however, you need to keep in mind that not only is your site going to be seen by the human eye, but also by the nonhuman eye. How is that? Well, search engines along with their spiders and crawlers, will also be viewing your website. Having a sound web design, therefore, is crucial for bringing traffic to your site. How is this done?
First, you need to know what your company’s keywords are. What words come to your mind when describing your business or interest? These may be your keywords. Do online research to find out how popular they are. There are a variety of keyword selector tools that you can use for no charge. Yahoo’s Overture is a good one, another is Word Tracker. Once you have access to these keyword selector tools, simply type in what words are important to you and results will be displayed regarding their popularity. The results can also help you decide which words are most important and will bring the most visitors to your site.
Secondly, you need to know how to optimize your keywords to your advantage. This is known as keyword optimization. Your website must have good keyword optimization if it is to perform to its best advantage and bring you success from it. Keyword optimization is part of search engine optimization (SEO). You want, and need, to know how the search engines will notice your website. Also, each time a person searches for something online (search utilization) they type in the words that are important to them. Hence, they type in their keywords. Sites will pop up containing those keywords and offer the viewer a chance to visit the site which matches their needs. It is important to note that about 85% of humans arrive at websites via search engines. That is a large amount. See the importance of both knowing what your keywords are and how to optimize them to get the most success from the search engines? Search engine optimization is highly important to the success of your website.
The best part of keyword and search engine optimization is the fact that the results will send you targeted potential, prequalified customers. This is due to the fact that the person performing the search is specifically looking for what you offer. They are using your keywords.
Also remember that when developing your website, do not use a word processor. Word processing software is well known for containing a variety of sloppy, hidden codes which are not search engine friendly.
These are just a few things to take into consideration while developing a website that receives a high traffic volume. Use them and you can only benefit.
Friday, June 13th, 2008
Should you choose a blog or static content? Easy answer: Yes. Both of these things should be on your radar, and the answer should never be, “Either.” If you’re not using both mediums then you’re not effectively marketing your website.
At the same time, you shouldn’t become too blog-centered either. Some business owners become so enamored with blogs and their capabilities (and their cost) that new business owners pay less attention to a static website. It can be more difficult to brand a blog than it is to brand a static website, and a blog contains more informal information. So you need a healthy mix of a well-branded static site and regularly updated blog. Your blog should be a reflection of the website: using the same color scheme and logo. I know this is blog is about SEO, not design, but even if you have a top ten listed site, this will not be as effective if your site is a mess.
Websites Incorporating a Blog Structure
These days, blogs have become so much a part of web marketing that static websites are employing blog characteristics. Take a look at some popular websites: they include an RSS feed for the main content, as well as the ability to comment on individual articles. Is this a blog? Not really, because these web pages don’t all exist on the same page with archives/links/recent posts, etc. like your typical blog.
But there’s every reason to employ these tactics on a “static” website. Take comments: consider this free web content. You could even write some fake anonymous comments yourself to get the ball rolling. One of the advantages of comments is that you can use misspellings of keywords and phrases and get away with it. I know that people like to work common misspellings of keywords into an article, but you really can’t overuse this tactic. It can come off as tacky and unprofessional. Comments, on the other hand, are a different ballgame, and they’ll be indexed just like the main content.
Having a site RSS feed for a static (but updated) website also opens up marketing opportunities. There’s a long list of RSS-only site directories, which can increase site ranking and visibility. Having a separate blog means having a totally separate RSS feed, meaning the blog can be added to different directories and talked about on different types of forums. This is as important as having fresh, spider-able content.
Finally, you can add a static website to site directories. Some sites that run on a blog platform will be eligible for general site directories as well. For example, a number of websites use WordPress as the CMS to upload new content. Though WordPress is a blog platform, it can be used for general CSS sites.
Blogs and Link Partnerships
Blogging also opens up the capacity for link partnerships. Your everyday consumer or blog writer probably isn’t going to link to your static website, unless your company offers something really noteworthy. Even if a blogger does link to a static site, it will probably be in one post – a brief mention. However, if you run a successful and entertaining blog, you’ll be able to gain static links: permanent links in the sidebar that will be part of every page within that blog. Obviously this is far better for SEO.
While it’s possible to have a page on your static website for link partnerships, this type of link strategy is not as effective as links from a series of blogs. Link farm pages can actually work against you. Search spiders not only like updated content, but updated links – i.e. links that are attached to updated content. So if your link is on the sidebar of a frequently updated blog, it’s a better SEO strategy than some link farm page gathering dust.
In addition, by creating a blog, you already have an instant link partnership with your static website. However, I don’t entirely recommend making your blog too company-specific. It’s just not as interesting (and this harder to use as linkbait) as a blog that covers a wider range of topics. Still though, you can create a sidebar link and throw links into posts without making it too obvious that you’re basically acting as an affiliate marketer of your own company’s website.
Conclusion: in this day and age of blogs and social networking a static website is becoming an almost outdated concept. Certainly you need a static website to act as a kind of brochure for your business, but the term “static” does not mean what it once did. You should always be updating new content, via articles and other media, to keep your site climbing up the ranks in search engines. In this day and age, to only have a static website that never changes its content is basically like having a grocery store that only sells outdated food.