Training

SEO 101: Need an SEO Friendly Site? Think Blog!

When I started out in web development as a website developer and coder way back in the dark ages (1998), I was doing web design for an in-house agency. Primarily, we did sites for the publications that the parent publishing company produced, but we also took on local Palm Springs area clients and built web sites for them.

It went something like this. For a certain amount of money, like $500, we’d build a ten page static web site. We’d do the design work, but the client provided images and text. We’d do the SEO as it existed in those days (title, meta tags, submit to the search engines/directories) and then there would be a monthly hosting/maintenance fee (about $50). Quarterly changes (pictures and text) were part of the fee, anything else cost extra.

Of course, the client was sort of at our mercy as they had no way to make changes themselves. They had to go through us. This could get frustrating for clients who needed frequent changes to their sites, like real estate agents or those with products that needed changing constantly.

Fast forward to today. Yes, if you really need a complicated site with a web designer, programmer and so forth, that option is definitely available more than ever. But, if what you want is a smaller site that you have complete control over and won’t cost a fortune, it can be had quickly and inexpensively. Continue reading

Standard
SEO

The Best of The Web Optimist 2008

Richard V. Burckhardt, aka The Web OptimistThe year has passed so rapidly that I can’t believe we’re already at the end of 2008! The Web Optimist blog is an outlet for me to pass on things that I learn in my real job as an SEO (as I have the time) and I’ve published a total of 90 posts this past year, some in-depth articles and some just quicky “did-you-know-this?” items.

Here’s what I consider the best of The Web Optimist over the past year (in no particular order). You might not agree, but hey, it’s my blog. 😉

1. S E O Tools & Tips Want a look at what I consider essential tools for my day job as an SEO? Here’s what I use in my personal arsenal.

2. Robots.txt: Powerful but Picky! – The robots.txt file is a powerful tool, but you’ve got to be extremely careful with it. This post discusses one of it’s little idiosyncrasies that could easily trip you up. That’s my Lost in Space toy robot in my back yard in the photo. Yep, I wanted to be Will Robinson growing up! Such a geek!

3. Shopping Site Essentials Got an ecommerce site and think you can do it on your own without product listings on shopping search sites? If so, you are missing out on a MAJOR opportunity to expand your product and brand exposure around the globe. Yes, it costs money to be in most of them, but you can strike gold if you know what you are doing. This post gives you some tips to get you started.

4. Beginning Viral Marketing Want to get a campaign started that will spread like a virus but don’t have a clue how to start? Videos? Social sites? Freebies? Here are 14 clues to help you get going.

5. Grabbing the Longtail – No, I’m not talking about a cat, here. In this article I point you in the direction of ranking for multi-word search phrases, getting cheaper PPC traffic and increasing your site visits without a lot of work.

6. User Content GenerationUser generated content basically turns your customers and site visitors into SEOs for you while generating fresh keyword rich content for the spiders to devour. You just need to know how to get them to contribute and this post provides some great pointers to encourage the process.

7. Online Retail Optimization: Will It Blend? You can’t just post your product pages on the web and expect them to rank as well as they did in the days of ten blue links on the search results pages. There’s a lot more competition now that Blended Search (another term for Universal Search) has become the norm. To compete, you’ll need to optimize images, videos, feeds and more.

8. Google Personalized SearchThe search giant has put a new spin on rankings by personalizing search results when you are logged into your Google account. To rank well for users who are signed in, you’ve got to get sticky and this post shows you how.

9. Annoying Speed Bumps on the Information SuperhighwayC’mon, folks. Using the Internet should be easy. So why do hotels, software, hardware, web sites and even the search engines make things so hard? This is one of my rants on things that should be simple but aren’t.

10. Brand With Your Head, Not Your GutUsing past experience with the local tourism bureau, I discuss online branding and how politics and misguided reliance on a name rather than a brand can trip up a campaign.

11. Will Trust Kill the Algorithm?I’ve heard a lot of comments about whether Google is going social lately. The answer is a resounding yes and I blogged about it a year ago.

12. Is Universal Search Harder?Despite the big push towards including everything AND the kitchen sink in search results, Universal Search can actually make finding what you are looking for more difficult. Sure would be nice to have an off switch!

And, I left the best for last because it wasn’t originally published on The Web Optimist, rather I guest posted over at Search Engine Journal. My 55 Quick S E O Tips Even Your Mother Would Love has been reposted here as Free eBook: 65 Quick S E O Tips Even Your Mother Would Love featuring ten more tips and a downloadable PDF file. Look for that to grow to 100 tips very soon when I update Mom’s tips in 2009!

I add to the blog as I have time. Thanks to all of you who have come back as return readers, commented, e-mailed and joined as Twitter followers. We’ll see what 2009 brings!

Happy New Year, folks!

Standard
SEO

Back to Basics SEO

SEO Ranking & Conversion BasicsNaturally, if you rank at the top for any given search phrase in an organic search, people assume you are an authority for that subject. The worst thing you can do is disappoint them. Not only will they leave, you’ll lose the opportunity for a conversion, whether it’s a sale or a simple e-mail subscriber.

So, here are a few back to basics tips to not only help you rank better, but also to drive some conversions and, hopefully, attain or maintain your “authority” status.

1. Content is still king. It’s been said before and it’s still true. Generating good content is circular. Great keyword-rich content attracts spiders which pulls your page up in the rankings where people find it and add to the content through comments and ratings which adds more content providing longtail traffic which brings more visitors to the page to create more user generated content and so forth. Whew! Never doubt the power of content for SEO!

2. Make site navigation easy for users and spiders. You want your site visitors to be able to find what they are looking for with as little effort as possible. You also want the link structure of your site to allow the search engine spiders easy access to all pages on your site. Hint – check your source code for any legacy or left over code that might include links that are invisible to the user, but visible to spiders. I know from experience that sometimes web developers/programmers leave invisible code on pages that not only bloat the size, but can contain links that only the spiders see. This can get you into trouble as it looks like you are hiding content whether you mean to or not. Clean up your code and offload any CSS or javascript that you can to external files (See On Page Factors).

3. Blog, blog, blog! – Yet another form of user generated content creation as mentioned above, blogging attracts readers and fresh content. Spiders love fresh content! See Advanced Tips for Optimizing Your Blog.

4. Get a keyword rich domain name – If you are just starting out with a new domain, this will give you automatic keyword rich inbound links. Let’s say your primary keyword is “widgets” and you snag widgets.com as your domain name. This means that whenever someone links to your domain, you’ve automatically got a keyword (widgets) anchor link in it.

5. Quality inbound links – Speaking of inbound links, quality is usually better than quantity, though Google has been known to still rank sites with a ton of junk inbound links well (See Reciprocal Linking for Ranking is Anything But Dead). To be totally white hat, Google tells us to get quality back links and that a few of those will do better than a ton of link-farm style links. Although reciprocal links appear to work for some sites, relying on them will probably not work forever, so look for quality first.

6. Electronic press releases – These are still great for helping you rank well. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In the old days, the archived releases provided forever links to the pages linked to from them. You’ll still got some of that link love, but even more than that, good press releases can generate links from other sites that pick them up and can even generate some separate stories about your site. For instance, when the FramesFinder Virtual Eyeglass Try On was introduced by FramesDirect.com, I wrote the press release and submitted it through PRWeb.com. We got several news stories written about the online eyewear try on software, including TV reports that are still live on the web.

If you are still sending press releases by fax and mail, join the 21st Century!

Just be sure what you submit in the way of press releases is legitimate news. Too many releases are just junk and it’s easy to get the reputation of being a trashy self promoter.

7. Make sure your database is spider friendly – The last thing you need is to spend time, money and effort developing your site only to find the database or shopping cart functionality is not search engine friendly. Test before you commit. Use online tools like S E O Chat’s spider simulator tool or client spidering tools like the one built into iBusiness Promoter (IBP) to test spidering.

8. Get visitors to take action – Include clear calls to action on the page (Buy Me, Shop Now links) and make them obvious and easy to find. Make the offer compelling with incentives (free shipping, bonus items, etc.) and make ways to contact you easy and upfront (800 number, e-mail link, address, online chat). Too many online sites make contact too difficult by hiding behind a contact form and providing no other way to be contacted. That’s not a recipe for trust from either the visitor or the search engines. And, to be an authority, you need trust.

If you’re like most SEOs, you’re wearing a lot of hats (Creative, Developer, Writer, Tech, Marketing, SEO, etc.) and trying to pull so much together from so many different directions can result in some missing pieces in the puzzle. After all, the brain can only be pulled in so many ways at once. It’s easy to lose sight of obvious optimization techniques.

But, if you’re not an authority at optimizing your site for ranking and conversions, who is?

Hopefully, getting back to basics will help you to fill those empty spaces in the puzzle. A review of these basics can help put things back into perspective with any SEO campaign.

Standard
SEO

SEO Resource Directory

SEO Resource DirectoryI’ve updated the S E O Resource Directory that I’ve had on The Web Optimist blog. Turns out the WordPress plugin I was using was generating 404 errors for the pages, so I had to ditch it and will be handling the directory by hand for the moment.

It’s a moderated directory that, at least in the beginning, will be reciprocal link based. You can submit a resource for free, but the back links will be checked and sites that remove their link back to The Web Optimist will be removed from the directory.

And, yes, I am the moderator. 😉

To start with, I’ll include the following general categories:

1. Blogs: Blogs about search engine optimization, pay per click and related subjects.
2. News Sites: Strictly SEO news and information. No blogs, please.
3. Forums: Links to forums and discussion groups related to SEO and PPC topics.
4. Palm Springs Web Community: Links to web development and search marketing sites in the Palm Springs, CA desert area.
5. Search Friendly Directories: There are still some general directory sites out there that are search friendly and are invited to submit their links here.
6. Jobs & Recruiters: Sources for employment in the search and Internet marketing fields.

I’m open to suggestions for additional SEO and SEM related categories.

So, feel free to submit your link to the S E O Resource Directory.

Of course, if you want to be on the front page of The Web Optimist, you could always use the Tip Me link in the upper right side of almost every page on the blog.

🙂

Standard
Training

SEO 101: Web Analytics

Web Analytics for Beginner SEOsAs I mentioned in my post about off-page optimization factors, keeping track of site traffic and visitors is extremely important. You really need to understand where your traffic is coming from, what keywords are driving the traffic and why so that you can optimize your site. It can be complex and confusing, though, so what is a beginner SEO to do?

  • Check with your host. Most hosting companies offer at least some sort of bare bones log-based web analytics as part of your package. Many times this consists of something like AWStats or Webalizer, which are pretty standard and offer stats that are probably sufficient for very small sites. Study these and get familiar with some of the nooks and crannies, like where your traffic is coming from and what keywords are driving the traffic.
  • Go real time. If you haven’t heard of Yahoo’s MyBlogLog, it’s an online social site that’s especially targeted to blogs, but other sites are welcome. It’s big with SEOs. In addition to all of the social networking and community building opportunities, you can pay for their statistics service ($25 per year) and see real time traffic information for all of the pages to your blog/site. All you have to do is paste some tracking code within the BODY tags of your template or pages. The information is incredible – where your traffic is coming from today, what they are clicking on within your site and what outbound links they are clicking on. Reports can be run for various time periods. It’s a hidden feature that you need to check out.
  • Get a full-blown analytics package. If you’re looking for free and don’t mind Google having access to your data, sign up for Google Analytics. It’s a slick, feature-rich analytics program with most of the bells and whistles beginner SEOs could want. In fact, there is a learning curve in trying to find all of the features and figure out what they mean. Like with MyBlogLog, you have to insert tracking code on pages you want Google Analytics to follow. If you run an ecommerce site, it can even track conversions with some advanced set up.
  • Do it yourself. If you don’t like the idea of Google or anyone else having access to your stats, you could run log-based analytics software on your own. This is time-consuming and, as your site grows, can become impractical because log files can be huge. You might have to download your log files and run the software to analyze them or install analytics software on a dedicated web server. One free option is WebLog Expert Lite which also offers paid versions with more features. Running log-based web analytics software used to be the norm. I’m only offering this as an option to those who are really paranoid about their data. By the way, Google also offers a log-based solution called Urchin, but, it’s definitely not free.
  • Go commercial. There are zillions of commercial web analytics packages available with all sorts of wiz bang features. The problem with wiz bang is that many of us wind up banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out the wiz. From experience, I highly recommend spending time trying out trial versions of any analytics product you are considering. See if you understand how they work. Find out how available support will be for you. Some of these companies charge you a ton for the product, give you a few months of support and then want a contract for continued support and updates. Be absolutely sure about what you are buying into. One company I know of spent thousands on one of the top log-based analytics packages, couldn’t get it running properly for months, then couldn’t understand the interface once they got it running, had numerous tech and support issues and finally abandoned it altogether, losing several thousand dollars in the process. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Understand what you are getting.

What do most SEOs favor? An informal, very unscientific poll of my LinkedIn contacts came back with Google Analytics as the definite top choice. Again, this was a very small sample and by no means authoritative, but it does seem that Google’s freebie has its fans in the search marketing community. On the commercial side, Clicktracks and Mint were also mentioned. (Note: you’ll find people who both love and hate all of these, so test, test, test before making a final decision).

By the way, it’s worth mentioning that a log-based tracking system will track every action on your site – clicks, server calls, spidering, whatever. If you want to use analytics that depend on tracking code on your pages, be sure you have the code on ALL pages. Anything without the tracking code will be invisible to your analysis software or service.

Keep in mind that these suggestions are for newbie SEOs and not for you advanced folks out there. Some of these will seem simple to power users, but someone who has never studied web analytics in the past should find these recommendations easier options for starting out.

Standard
Training

SEO 101: Grabbing the Longtail

For many beginner SEOs, the idea of catching the longtail for keyword phrases is one of those mysteries of life that eludes them. After all, you target your pages for specific keywords and phrases. What’s all of this longtail stuff?

The answer is simply that when you catch the longtail, it can be more beneficial to your site. You can get traffic for keywords and phrases you never thought of, rank higher for those longer keyword phrases (three, four or more keywords), get cheaper PPC traffic and increase your site visits without a lot of work. And, because these phrases are more targeted, longtail traffic tends to have higher conversion and lower bounce rates. Compare that to a single keyword, which is way more difficult to rank for and will have much higher abandonment rates.

What is an example of catching the longtail? A perfect way to get longtail traffic is through a blog. The Eye Zone, the blog of FramesDirect.com, gets a lot of comments and questions through their blog posts, perfect spider food for catching the longtail. For instance, FramesDirect.com does not sell replacement parts for their frames and eyewear, but a lot of customers post questions related to replacement parts. So, someone searching for something like ray ban replacement parts in Google will, as I write this, find the Spotlight on Ray Ban Sunglasses post on the blog in the number one position.

Example of longtail SEO result for FramesDirect.com

This is definitely not something the company would normally target for their site since they don’t sell these parts, but the questions and answers on the page gives them a number one ranking for that longtail search phrase and exposes searchers to the site along with providing information to them that they will find of use. Some site visitors might even decide to buy new sunglasses instead of trying to repair their old ones!

How are these longtails caught? Play close attention, because I’m going to give you a list of things to do to help you get a rope around those longtail benefits.

1. Localize – For many brick & mortar sites, all relevant search is local. Think of all of the ways a search can be done for your business. For instance, if you are a plumber in my local area, come up with all of the phrases local to you. Not just “plumber” but “palm springs plumber” and go even deeper with “palm springs broken pipe plumber” and longer phrases like that. Weave these keywords into your site text in a logical, non-spammy way.

2. Ride the tail – Creating a new page for a longtail phrase? Link to it from a related ranking page to give it an immediate boost.

3. Break ’em up – When creating pages, optimize them into segments like services, products and brands. Examples: Create a page for plumbing services like pipe repair, faucet installation, fixing leaks, etc. Create a product page featuring individual products like sinks, valves, etc. Break it down further with a page featuring brands like Kohler, Moen, etc.

4. Blog, blog, blog! – As mentioned above, blogs are easy, spidered quickly and a natural for catching the longtail phrases. User comments, questions and reviews provide free content and enhance your chances of being found for longtail searches. Basically, view your site visitors as co-authors. See my post User Content Generation.

5. Enhance your image – Make sure your local business listing in Google Maps is chock full of accurate and useful information, including images, pages, videos, coupons, etc. Folks can leave reviews there, too, so do whatever you can to make them good. Read more suggestions in Local Search Optimization.

6. Opportunity knocks – Look at small and medium sites for advertising opportunities for longtail phrases. Combined, these smaller sites can offer a larger volume of traffic at a fraction of the price of the large, Tier 1 sites (you know, like Google).

7. Check crawler stats – Find the pages that aren’t getting traffic and jump on them. Optimize them for longtail keyword phrases. These pages are there to sell something, so put them to work.

8. Shorten the URL – The best case scenario is to have short URLs. They are not only friendlier to both spiders and humans, they tend to get more clicks. And, use the product name in the URL.

9. Make it unique – Put a tag cloud on each page of your site and make each one unique.

10. Utilize the space – Put as many products on a page within a 150k limit.

11. Tag it – Tagging is very powerful. Check your internal search log for hints about phrases you might be missing in external searches.

12. Check your affiliates – Got an affiliate program? Check to see what your most successful affiliates are doing. You know, the sincerest form of flattery and all that?

The nice thing about the longtail is that once you rank for phrases, you can generally leave them alone because there’s not nearly as much competition for them as for a single keyword or two word phrase.

Standard
Cool Links

Yet Another SEO WordPress Plugins Post

Yep. That’s exactly what this is. Yet another cool WordPress plugins post pointing out some of the freebie plugins used on The Web Optimist blog. Of course, most of these are used with SEO in mind. Might as well jump right in.

1. BT Active Discussions – This neat utility allows you to give your blog comments a forum-like BT Active Discussions gives your blog comments a forum-like interfaceinterface. This makes it easy for site visitors to zero in on discussions they want to check out and go right to the post to read and submit their own comment. I’ve tried a couple of actual forum plugins for WordPress in the past and never could get them to work properly. This one was a breeze. Check out my search engine optimization discussions.

2. WordPress Link Directory – Create your own directory. This plugin gives you the choice of accepting only reciprocal links or any links. You can create categories and sub-categories and even check for dropped reciprocal links. I recently installed this plugin on my blog as a fledgling resource directory.

3. Spread The Love Link Builder – This plugin tracks pages you link to in your blog and sends an e-mail to the site owner notifying them of the link and encouraging them to link back.

4. Dagon Design Sitemap Generator – Need I say more? This plugin creates a spider and user friendly index of all posts by category with the number of comments for each. You install the plugin, create a page, paste some code and you’re off and running. See it in action at The Web Optimist sitemap.

5. Link To Me Text Box – This plugin will set up a “link to me textbox” with HTML code in your blog posts. Simplicity at its best. You can find examples of this plugin in action at the bottom of any post on this blog. For instance, take a look at Free eBook: 65 Quick S E O Tips Even Your Mother Would Love and you’ll find the link box just above the “Leave A Comment” section.

6. Ask Me – I don’t know if this plugin is even supported currently, but used it for an “Ask Me about SEO” section until I switched hosting companies and couldn’t get it to work again. It basically extends the comment function into a Q&A format perfect for any question and answer oriented page.

7. Khanh’s Quick Feeds – Want to add a page of news feeds to your WordPress blog? This is your plugin and it’s AJAX powered! Take a look at my own Search Engine Optimization News Feeds page for an example. I didn’t just create this page for my users, but for me, too!

8. Random Quotes – This plugin is perfect for randomly displaying any type of text on your blog pages. I use it for my S E O Quick Tip box found on the right navigation of every page on the site. A different tip is displayed each time a page loads. The plugin has a really nice, easy to use interface.

9. Redirection – Makes page redirects simple. Easy to use interface, logging options, tracking of redirects and simple drop down redirect options made this a life saver when my former hosting company imploded and I had to recreate recent posts and redirect the old URLs to the new ones.

10. WP Sticky – Got something you want to stay at the top of your blog for a while like an announcement or notice? WP Sticky is kind of like a yellow sticky. It sticks to the top of the main blog page until you pull it off.

These are just a few of the neat plugins I am currently using. Naturally, there are a zillion out there, which is what makes WordPress so great. If you need something for your blog, chances are there’s already a plugin for it or close enough to work with.

Submit your search marketing, web development or technology site or blog to The Web Optimist’s new S E O Resource Directory.

Standard