Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page

21 Off-Page SEO Strategies to Build Your Online Reputation

This is an excellent article from SEOmoz.org that sums up techniques available that are used beyond the fence line of your website to increase your search engine credibility and push more traffic to your site:

21 Off-Page SEO Strategies to Build Your Online Reputation

Drinking the SEO Kool-Aid – An Interview with SEO Consultant Ed Cehi

I am fortunate to work with a talented team of experts at NetSource Technologies.  One of these experts is Ed Cehi, our search engine consultant.  Ed gave me a few minutes of his valuable time to answer some common questions clients ask me.

Brent: What is the first thing a site owner can do to increase SEO visibility?

Ed: There’s not really one singular thing that a site owner can do to improve their SEO visibility as there is a multitude of different things.  But if there was one thing that I would do I would say to optimize the site for the end user and not the search engines.  Because when you do that it helps the search engines.  When you optimize the site with content, especially relative content towards the keywords you’re trying to target, that helps the search engines get an idea of exactly what it is that you’re trying to provide to the user.

Brent: Some people might look to their competitor’s websites for keywords, what do you think about that concept of grabbing keywords from competitor’s websites?

Ed: Well, you’re putting a lot of trust in what your competitors are doing, which isn’t always necessarily the best thing to do.  It’s always a great starting point as of course you should go and research your competitor’s keywords to see exactly what they are targeting, but from that point on you still need to do your own keyword research.  When you optimize a site with content and add a bunch of competitor keywords just for the sake that they are using those keywords, you don’t want keyword stuffing.  If by adding competitor keywords you now have 20 or 30 keywords it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to search engines, because what you’re doing is diluting what your target keywords are.

It’s like making a jug of Kool-Aid – you start off with a little bit of sugar and a little powder, and then you add water.  In this case the water being words on the site, the Kool-Aid being your targeted keyword, the more water you add to that the more you’re diluting it and drawing attention away from it.  You add enough water to it and you’re not going to be able to see the Kool-Aid, you’re not going to be able to taste it.  It works the same way with SEO – you don’t want to dilute your keywords, especially your targeted themed keywords so much with an overabundance of what they call “happy text” that doesn’t relate to your message.  If you over dilute your targeted keywords the way we would add too much water to Kool-Aid, if search engines are trying to drink it, how are they supposed to know what it’s supposed to taste like.  If you keep everything balanced and have a high density ratio for that targeted keyword on any one singular page, then when those search engines drink your Kool-Aid, there’s no question what it is they are tasting – there’s no question what it is your keyword is.  That may be a weird analogy, but…

Brent: It is definitely memorable!

What if you have a competitor’s website that is ranking very well and their content is very similar and what they are selling is very similar to you, how much does checking out their website and seeing what ideas you can get from them… how does that play into things?

Ed: Well, number one, you don’t want to teeter on the line of duplicate content.  When you start talking about grabbing stuff from other people’s sites…

Brent: Not ripping them off, just getting ideas for keywords?

Ed: It’s a great starting point, but I would never ever go to a competitor’s site and say “Ok I like their keywords, let’s use them” – I’d go and I’d research those keywords myself to see how it applies to the site I’m optimizing.

Brent: What about singular words vs. plural words?  Should you optimize separately for those or does the search engines automatically know that if you have that word singularly, that it’s going to look for it plural too?

Ed: That’s a highly debated topic.  Me personally, I know for a fact Google doesn’t really care from my experiences.  I don’t like it when people go around and say “Google does this and Google does that”.  Well, nobody knows what Google does, but we have our own little idea as…

Brent: We’ve all done our own testing and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Ed: Exactly.  We’ve all done our own testing to develop our own ideas and I feel confident in saying that yes Google doesn’t really care, because when you go and do a search in Google, you’ll find that when the results come up your keywords that you typed in will all be bolded.  You try that with a singular, you try that with a plural and you’ll notice that it doesn’t matter.  However, a plural ending with an “ies” is a different story.

Brent: Good point.  So if you have a flower shop with a website, should you focus on optimizing for the keyword of “flower” or “flowers” or both?

Ed: Singular is fine.

Look for continued follow up interviews with Ed as well as other experts in the SEO and web development fields.

Google Turns 10

Google Turns 10 Today!

Google Turns 10 Today!

Google, the rulers of planet earth, turns 10 today.  It is amazing that such a young company has risen so far in so little time.  It wasn’t that long ago when it was just one of many search engines that you had to focus SEO efferts on.  Now, it demands the bulk of our time.

In addition to search, they have also developed quite a stable of useful and fun tools as well.  Do the following names ring a bell: GMail, Blogger, Picasa, Adwords?  All Google.  How about Google Earth, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Desktop, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Checkout?  Well, ok, the word “Google” in the names gives those away…  And now, just in the last month we have Google Chrome, the new Google browser and Google Android, the new Google mobile phone platform.

It will be very interesting to see what the next 10 years will bring.

Economy Fight Back

With the current market instability over the Big Fannie-Mac Attack, I have been scanning the marketing and business blogs for some relevant and useful information to share.  There is always an opportunity for those who seek it out, so here is an article that may offer some new ideas if you’re feeling a less than pleasant pinch in your bottom line.

It is an article by John Jangtsch with Duct Tape Marketing called “7 Time-tested Ways to Dig out of a Recession”.

Scan the headlines each day and you won’t have to get very far to stumble upon the word recession or its more palatable cousin “economic downturn.”

It’s times like these that send many small business owners on a quest for the magic recession fighting marketing tip. Today I would like to share my top seven quick fix marketing strategies with the caveat that you understand nothing beats building a marketing system based on a narrowly defined ideal customer and core message of differentiation.

Being the practical guy I am though, I also know that sometimes you need to hear about ways to start getting out of a hole before you can really listen to the message of long term fix. The good news is that these seven strategies, applied effectively, can help you make your business recession proof and unswayed by the various and inevitable cycles in the economy.

Take these seven tips and re-energize your marketing today!

1) Partner with other businesses – Proactively creating strategic partnerships is a great way to generate new leads and build long-term momentum. The trick is to do it ways that are win-win and simple for all parties. Number one rule, only seek marketing partnerships with organizations that you would have no problem referring your best customer too. Adhering to that logical rule alone will make this strategy more effective. Creating motivated strategic partners is simple if you can find a way to tap their self-interest. Take them an effective white paper or seminar idea and let them co-brand and co-sponsor it. That way they have a ready made and logical way to partner with you and you’ve done all the work.

2) Reactivate past customers – Where did I put that customer anyway, I know they are around here somewhere. Sad but true, sometimes we don’t bother to communicate with current customers unless they call with an order. By the time they have decided someone else appreciates their business more, it’s too late. Reach out to lapsed customers and make them an apology, promise to never ignore them again, and make them a smoking hot deal to come back.

3) Get out from behind the computer – Building personal relationships is always in style. It’s very tempting to sit and write blog posts and participate on social networking sites, and while these aren’t always bad things – sometimes you need to go out and shake some hands. Make it a point to go to several industry conferences every year. Join an industry or chamber type group and go to events where you can make connections with prospects and partners. Join a referral group such as BNI and participate. Go visit your customers and ask for referrals.

4) Speak at events, hold workshops – Marketing is essentially a trust building game. Few things build trust more efficiently than getting in front of a group of potential customers and sharing your expertise in an educational setting. Go propose to conduct a hot sounding workshop for your bank, accounting firm, law firm and insurance firm. Check local libraries, chambers, and associations for opportunities. Look in your local business papers and see what groups have speakers listed in calendars of events. Get two of your best customers to help conduct peer2peer webinars to discuss best practices and issues with peers you invite.

5) Fix your follow-up – lead generation and conversion is not a one shot deal. By automating your multiple follow-up messages, scheduling routine marketing touches and sending the occasional thank you, hand written note, you can stay top of mind when the buying and referral decisions are made. The longer the sales cycle for your industry or service the better your follow-up needs to be. There is so much that technology can do for you here, let it!

6) Repackage your products and services with offers to act – This goes along with differentiating really, but sometimes you’ve got to give that tired old dog a new look. Find simple ways to relaunch yourself, your people, your products, your services, your packaging, to give yourself a new start in your market. You don’t need to start from scratch, look for innovative ways to repackage, reprice, redeliver, reguarantee and recommunicate about what you do. Make them an offer they can’t refuse, make it so bold they must rehear you.

7) Fix the marketing gaps – In every way, shape, and form that your business comes into contact with your prospects and customers it is performing a marketing function – good or bad. You must look at all of your customer touchpoints and turn them into positive, brand-building opportunities. Tear down the lead generations touches, sales touches, service touches, delivery touches, follow-up touches, transaction touches, and billing touches and make sure that every single one of them is a performing a killer marketing function for your business.

Maybe by now you’ve surmised that all of the items above are good for business, no matter the economy, it’s just that sometimes you need a fix or two to get restarted.

Just for fun.

While I want to focus on ways to help build your business online I also want to take time and smell the online roses.  While you are entering new products in your e-commerce shopping cart or checking your website statics, here is a fun site you can have open in another browser window:

http://www.pandora.com

It is an online radio that you control.  Pick a station type – either by genre or artist name – and Pandora will play matching songs.  If you like what you hear, click the thumbs up button and Pandora will try and find more songs like it to play for you.  If you don’t like what you hear, click the thumbs down button and Pandora will stop playing it and move on to the next selection.  Pandora continues to learn your likes and dislikes so it can continue to improve the song list.

Enjoy.

Don’t Let Your Emails Get Lost in the Clutter

Everyday we get tons of email.  And if you are like me, everyday you send out tons of email.  A while back I noticed that a good portion of my emails were not getting found in the cluttered in-boxs of the individuals I was sending to.  It wasn’t a matter that the emails weren’t getting delivered, it was that they were getting overlooked in the clutter.

I started paying attention to what emails I recieved that seemed to get my attention most and compared that to the emails I was sending out.  When you check your email, it all starts out with the Subject line.  The Subject that catches you’re attention first always gets reviewed.  At work, what was catching my attention was subject lines that related to me, my company or my industry.  Looking at my subject lines I was simply putting in the subject line what my email was about.  For example, if sending a proposal to a client for a website, it might look like this:

Subject: Requested Proposal

Not very eye catching.  However, if I was sending this proposal to ABC Company, I found I had better read rates by listing the subject line this way:

Subject: ABC Company – Requested Proposal – NetSource Technologies

I have first grabbed their attention with the name of their company (“Hey, that’s me”), followed that with a description of what the email is about (“Hey, there’s that proposal I wanted”), followed by the name of my company (“Hey, that’s the firm I’ve been talking to about a website”) – all with only 6 words.  I’m finding that my emails are getting responded to quicker and with less follow up effort since I started using this new naming convention.

For what it’s worth.

Useful (and fun) Online Tools – Toodledo.com

There are a lot of very useful and fun online tools out there that can help you with your business and/or personal life.  A enjoy using an online to-do list tool called Toodledo.  This is basically a very customizable to-do list that you can access from anywhere on the internet.  And if you are fortunately enough to have an iPhone, you can take it with you anywhere.

Toodledo.com Screenshot

Toodledo.com Screenshot

The basic free account lets you set up multiple to-do lists arranged by folders.  You can also customize what attributes each to-do item can have – due dates, time to complete, start dates, priority, tagging and whether it is a one-time or repeating task.  You can also set up goals and assign tasks that help you achieve these goals.

Best of all it is easy to use.  Whether I have alot of chores to do for the weekend or tasks to do at work, I find it to be an asset.

RSS Feeds – How To Guide

Are you using RSS feeds?  Do you know what RSS feeds are?

If you answer no to either of the above questions, you are not alone – actually you are part of the large majority.  While RSS feeds are continuing to gain more and more mainstream use, they still remain a bit of a mystery to most.  Wikipedia sums up the gist of it this way:

RSS is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video in a standardized format…Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content quickly and automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place. RSS feeds can be read using software called an “RSS reader,” “feed reader,” or an “aggregator,” which can be web-based or desktop-based.”

So what does this all mean to you?

For starters using an RSS reader to subscribe to RSS feeds is a good way to keep up with news that relates to your industry.  There are many places to gather RSS feeds and much of it is quite good.  I follow about 50 feeds right now that range from work related to items of personal interest.  All this information is posted to one location where I can review it all at once.  Also, if you find yourself going to multiple news-related websites or blogs on a regular basis, if these sites offer an RSS feed you can subscribe to that regularly update your reader.  You will likely see the following icon either on the page or in your browser address bar if an RSS feed is available:

Universal Symbol for an RSS Feed

Universal Symbol for an RSS Feed

Yes, this icon appears on this blog website – this blog of mine you are reading is available as an RSS feed.  This means you can have all my blog postings delivered to you without having to come to this blog.  If you have your own blog, you can offer RSS so others can have it delivered to them as well.  The best part is you can syndicate your RSS feed via multiple syndication websites where it can be found and subscribed to by others.  You have now multipled the distribution of your content so you are reaching a larger market.

Whether expanding your market reach or expanding your informational resources – RSS is a valuable tool to look into.

Click here to view my RSS Reader Demostration Video on how to use an RSS Reader and subscribe to an RSS feed – under 5 minutes

How to Read Your Webstats – Part 5 – Search Engine Referrals

My final post in my weeklong blog on using your NetSource hosting webstats.  By now you’re probably picking up on how the webstats program works and following through with the logic flow outlined in my earlier posts.  The section of the webstats program I want to talk about today is probably the most exciting to me as this is looking at what search engines are referring visitors to your site and what keywords they typed in to find your site.

In previous postings I gave you a screenshot of the graph I was referring to, but I am not in this case as screenshots would identify a website they are associated with – this data is very specific to the website or an industry in general.  However, if you are logged into your stats program, the graphs will be located towards the bottom of the main screen.  On the “Connect to site from” graph, the first half of the graph specifically outlines how my visitors have come to your site from various search engines for the selected month.  Google, for the most part, will commonly dominate this stat, because, well, they’re Google and they dominate the world right now.  The second part of the graph is more unique from site to site as it will show you top links to your website from other websites (external links) that have chosen to link to you (or directory sites that you have submitted your website to for display).  If you have a lot of search engine and external links referring traffic to you, you probably have a site that has been live for over 6 months, have good content and your site is well optimized.  If your site is still new, note that it takes the search engines a while until they start taking your site seriously.  The simple fact is that search engines proceed with caution on new sites, but after you have been online for awhile they’ll start warming up to you.

The “Search Keyphrases (Top 10)” graph shows you the top keyword phrases someone typed into a search engine that lead them to your website.  It is interesting to see as sometimes you’ll find visitors are typing in search phrases you never thought they would use.  Using this data can be good at evaluating your keywords and finding out if re-optimization is needed.  Just make sure you have at least a few months of data that accurately reflects consistent trends.

How to Read Your Webstats – Part 4 – Most Popular Pages

Ok, now that we know how long visitors are staying on your site (see last post here) we will want to determine which pages are getting the most views. Knowing your most popular pages will help you to determine what is of most interest to your viewers as well as what is getting overlooked.

An example of the webstats of your most popular pages.

An example of the webstats of your most popular pages.

The above graph is an example of what your page view stats will look like. Most of the time your most popular page will be your home page. This is obvious, as it is always the first thing someone sees when they type in your website address. However, if most of your visitors are coming from search engines, the most popular page could be whatever page ranks the highest most often in the search engines.

Usually the page file names in the graph will follow a common naming convention. For example, your Contact Us page will be usually be called “contact.asp” or “contact_us.asp”. Your home page file name won’t be as obvious at first glance. This is because for a web hosting server to know which page on your site is determined as being the home page, it will need to be called “default.asp” or “index.asp”. If you see one of those file names, you will know that it is the home page.

All the stat graphs are initially displayed with up to 10 listings each. You will see a small link in the title of the graph that says “Full list”. Click this link to see all of the data for that graph. In this case, clicking “Full list” next to the “Pages-URL” title header will open the data for all the pages on your site (assuming you have more than 10 pages). This way you can either view all your stats as a quick summary overview or view all data for a particular section you want to know more about. Additionally, for “Pages-URL” you also have links for “Entry” and “Exit” these link to listings of the pages that were the most common entry pages on the site or the most common pages someone said “I’m outta here” and left the site.

All this data is useful to find out if visitors are going to the pages you want them to see.  If they are missing important pages you can better determine if visitors simply aren’t interested in those pages or if they need to be prompted with a stronger call-to-action to visit those pages. For example, adding a big (but tasteful) banner on the home page that says “Click here to find out more about our great deals on car insurance” or whatever you need to promote.