Eleven Steps to SEO Heaven – Part 2


One piece of ‘new media jargon’ that has got the vast majority of business leaders confused is SEO (search engine optimization). Too many people have been charged too much for either inappropriate or ineffective SEO services, often because the supplier does not really understand it either. This two part article is for people who are not experienced or very knowledgeable when it comes to SEO – defining what it is and what it can do.

The introduction and first five steps to SEO heaven discussed how to get a website ready for an SEO campaign. In part two (steps 6 to 11), we’ll explore the continuous and competitive process of earning a high search engine ranking for a SEO prepared website.

Step 6 to SEO Heaven – Web Analytics

As with any marketing, but particularly for online marketing, where the tools and results are so effective, it is essential to measure and track results. Market behaviour is very predictable. Accordingly, the effectiveness of each part of your campaign can be compared and optimized. The options for web analytics vary from free services to very expensive and customizable packages.

Whichever you choose, don’t put it off. Measure your results from day one and use them to improve your site and your marketing campaigns. That old statement ‘I know half my advertising does not work, if I only knew which half was not working I’d stop spending it’ is not true on the internet. You can and must know.

Step 7 to SEO Heaven – Content Building

Part of being ‘the best and most relevant’ result is having the freshest content, and the search engines look for that by regular visits to your site and reviewing your site’s progress. They use a formula, not usually a human being, unless they detect potential fraud.

Actually, good SEO means a website isn’t ever done, and the fact that it has to change and grow over time gives your customers a better experience. Search engines reward a ‘natural process’ that adjusts to changes in the market and your normal business growth.

Providing good quality content that is related to what you do, but not necessarily aimed at selling something directly, is a powerful, perhaps the the best, option to improve the traffic to your website and the exposure of your business. Most people do not link to pages that only serve the purpose of making a sale.

This leads to the next step in this 11 step process of successful search engine optimization for your website.

Step 8 to SEO Heaven – Link Building

The internet works through links, it would not be a “net” without links. A collection of independent pages that are not connected to each other cannot be found and, for the most part, that defeats their purpose. People seeing and clicking on links to your site make effective inbound links that search engines like to reward with a higher ranking for your website. They are also vital for SEO.

Inbound links play an important role in virtually every search engine when it comes to ranking pages in their search results. In the normal course of business links are added, and sometimes removed, all the time. This neverending organic process is monitored and measured by the search engines as an indicator of importance and relevance – so it is advisable to be pro-active in acquiring good inbound links. There are plenty of sites out there that should link to you, but don’t know you and your content. Help them to find your content and encourage linking to it.

Step 9 to SEO Heaven – Engagement, Trust and Community Building

Like it or not social media is a reality whole sections of society participate in for hours daily and is a fundamental indicator of relevance and popularity. Don’t allow your website to exist in an isolated bubble. Talk to people and allow them to respond and to interact with you.

People will talk about you with or without your permission. Much better to seize the initiative and become part of the discussion. Use it to build trust and deeper relationships with your customers or potential customers. Use it like research. Listen to what they say and learn about their wants and their needs. Listen and take note of comments, especially criticisms, and use them to improve. You can save the money you might have spent on focus groups and get feedback free of charge on the internet.

In relation to SEO, social media provides a huge opportuníty to expand your link building. For your business it increases your brand exposure for a fraction of the cost of traditional, more intrusive advertising campaigns that are usually less effective.

Step 10 to SEO Heaven – Ranking and Traffic Analysis

When you begin, or if you have already started, check where you are today to be able to track and compare with data in the future. Look for trends and evaluate the progress towards your goals. You know those goals which we set in the first paragraph before we began the campaign. The ones you should specify before you engage in any type of marketing campaign. Those goals were measurable I hope? If you view improving your SEO ranking as a measure of your business success rather than an essential step to achieving business success, you will maintain a high SEO ranking for the long term. Why, because the high traffic that comes with it will drive your business.

Does the change in ranking yield the traffic you expected? Does this traffic actually convert? Which leads us neatly to step 11 of SEO heaven.

Step 11 to SEO Heaven – Conversion Analysis

All of this effort matters not one jot unless you make your profit number (or the equivalent in not for profit organizations). It all comes down to one critical factor – what is your bottom line? Did you make profit or did you lose money. Web Analytics is part of the process of making this determination. Focus on the things that work and help your bottom line and stop doing the things that don’t. Work on the details to improve visitor conversion to sales. This requires testing. Don’t try anything upfront without testing it first. The things that work for others might not work for you and the same is true the other way around.

Many with experience in the SEO game will tell you that there is another, more important step that would make this article 12 steps to SEO heaven. That step is to be sure only to work with people who can really explain SEO in plain English. To be blunt, small, independent and one-man-band web designers rarely get SEO fully and their usually well meaning efforts end up costing you more than they deliver. They do get part of the story, but they fail you by wasting both your money and your time.

About The Author
Tim Meadows-Smith is an experienced non-executive chairman, director and business advisor from a classical sales and marketing background gained with famous global FMCG brand owners. He has worked with businesses globally in the FMCG, logistics, service and technology sectors. He may be reached by email at Tim@Meadows-Smith.com. Find further articles at: www.timmeadows-smith.co.uk/blogarticles.php

If you missed Steps 1 – 5, go here …

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Eleven Steps to SEO Heaven – Part 1


Are you fed up with feeling baffled by search engine optimization (SEO) because of jargon and poor practitioners? Do you feel you have been charged too much for less than you were promised? This two part article sets out to explain the process and put you back in control.

If you have focused objectives and a clear online strategy then SEO will almost always be a good cost effective addition to the marketing tool set. The first thing to understand is that search engine businesses, like Google, Yahoo and Bing, have customers to satisfy too. Their customers are searching and they expect to see the ‘best and most relevant’ search results. I expect like me, you get frustrated if your searches bring irrelevant results first. No surprise then, that the methods used by the search engine operators are designed to deliver customer satisfaction. They work hard to eliminate bogus SEO services that aim to cheat.

It is possible for you to make your website ‘the best and most relevant’ for certain searches and to convince the search engine operator you are just that too. That is SEO. Each of my 11 steps to SEO heaven is necessary. I assume that you will be committed to a long term marketing strategy, and to measuring results with a view to adjusting your activity. The steps include those of preparation as well of those of continuous repeated activities. The early preparatory steps are perhaps the most important as errors here will frustrate the effectiveness of the later ones.

Armed with our clear objectives and online strategy:

Step 1 to SEO Heaven – Keyword Research

A vital first step that should not be undertaken lightly. While experienced pay-per-click advertisers will know that you can easily test and change hundreds of keywords in paid search campaigns, they should understand this not possible for organic search optimization. It is normally advisable to concentrate on one to five key phrases for the whole site around a core theme. Then, for individual pages only one to three phrases. For large sites with hundreds of pages it is hard to optimize every single page. The effort and cost of SEO to the full extent produces diminishing returns.

Step 2 to SEO Heaven – Competitive Intelligence

SEO is competitive. There is only one front page and only one top slot so it is important to know your competition and perform better. What are they doing? Where do they rank and for which keywords? Who is linking to their website and why? The less competitive your industry is online the easier it is for you to outperform your competition. This is an important determining factor in the cost and resources necessary to achieve your desired SEO outcome

Step 3 to SEO Heaven – Web Design and Development

Like trying to cable an old building for modern communications or boosting performance of an obsolete machine, fixing a bad website design is much tougher than building properly from scratch. When you create a new website, make sure to consider search engine friendly design and architecture before and during the actual development of the website. Almost all template-based websites are tough to re-engineer for SEO. A good design from the start will save you a lot of time and money. In most cases it will put you ahead of a considerable number of your competitors. In most cases a high performing design for SEO is also a user friendly design, but occasionally compromise is necessary.

Step 4 to SEO Heaven – Get Your First Inbound Links

There is no need to pay to submít your website to any search engine. Just as soon as you create inbound links from other websites to yours the search engines will find your website.

There are plenty of scam products and services. Avoid them. They are a waste of your money. No one can guarantee you a number 1 ranking. It must be earned and maintained by being the best and most relevant.

There are some web directories that are recognized by search engines and gaining a trade listing there will be a helpful kick-start to your SEO campaign. Then ask your customers and suppliers to place a link to your website from theirs. Most will be pleased for the favor to be returned.

Step 5 to SEO Heaven – Sitemaps

The larger search engines allow webmasters to submit a sitemap to them via a webmaster console. The search engines also provide reports and other useful information, such as technical problems with your websites you might not be aware of via their console. Even if you decide against the submission of a site map to the search engines, it is advisable to create an account and register your website with them, just for the reports and statistics they provide free of charge and which are invaluable for your internet marketing efforts.

After completion of the first 5 steps, schedule them for occasional review. The remaining tasks require regular and repetitive effort. In Eleven Steps to SEO Heaven (steps 6 to eleven) we look at taking a website that is a SEO ready site with a ready to run campaign and look at the steps and work needed to claim a high search engine ranking.

About The Author
Tim Meadows-Smith is an experienced non-executive chairman, director and business advisor from a classical sales and marketing background gained with famous global FMCG brand owners. He has worked with businesses globally in the FMCG, logistics, service and technology sectors. He may be reached by email at Tim@Meadows-Smith.com. Find further articles at: www.timmeadows-smith.co.uk/blogarticles.php

For Steps 6 – 11, continue here …

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The Death (Or Redefinition) Of SEO Discussed


Some people would have you believe that search engine optimization is a dying art, and depending on how you define SEO, that may be true. But at OMS 2010 in San Diego, Greg Jarboe, the president and cofounder of SEO-PR, explained that other definitions of SEO make it very much alive.

Here’s the thing: as Jarboe admitted, “The era of ten blue links is dead.” People also can’t expect to optimize a page by just changing keyword metatags anymore. Indeed, much of what so many SEO experts learned ten years ago has become irrelevant.

The trick is that expanded search, which can be defined as “search wherever it happens,” is now important. Facebook, eBay, and YouTube users all perform searches, after all, and their attention is valuable. So Jarboe concluded, “If you focus on those kinds of fundamentals, then SEO is alive and kicking.”

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Google’s SEO Report Card… Information Nuggets or Fool’s Gold?


While ostensibly aimed at helping Google target potential weaknesses in its own product pages, and of no direct use to SEOs, there is nonetheless more than a little gold to be found here, if one just examines the document in a little more depth. So while the post at Google’s Webmaster Central Blog is already beginning to bristle with comments lamenting the fact that this isn’t a clear treasure map to the search-ranking mother lode, it’s worth sifting through the Report Card to see what informational nuggets are hidden inside.

Subject I: Search Result Presentation

It’s easy to see why some readers simply dismissed this document out of hand, as the first section starts off being little more than a rehash of the standard “Use Page Titles, Use Meta Descriptions” advice found in any SEO-101 manual. Only by persevering to the part talking about Google Sitelink Triggering, does one begin to suspect that there may be a little more to the report card than meets the eye. Here the authors throw out a couple of crumbs about categorizing website and link-structure, and consolidating a site’s URLs to maximize its informational focus with the aim of increasing the chances of
Google generating Sitelinks.

Even so, it’s nothing most professionals haven’t heard before, and I suspect that by this time a lot of readers had given up, thinking that nothing interesting was in store.

Subject II: URLs and Redirects

This is where we see a little glitter among the rubble, as the section starts off with the statement that: “Google products’ URLs take many different forms. Most larger products use a subdomain, while smaller ones usually use a directory form…”

In itself this is not an exceptional statement, and the chapter continues to give handy, but hardly unique, information about canonicalization, URL structure, and redirects until Page 10, where we find the following declaration:

“Subdomains require an extra DNS lookup, slightly affecting latency, which is very important at Google.”

Page load-speeds are an important factor to Google. There’s been talk and speculation about this ever since Matt Cutts dropped the first hints last year, and these days most SEOs are busily proclaiming that slow websites are now a handicap.

Haven’t they always been?

Be that as it may, this fact is not common knowledge with the average webmaster, as demonstrated by a question I’m regularly confronted with over at the Google Webmaster Help Forum:

“Which is a better way to categorize my site, subdomains or folders?”

The standard answer to this question used to be “Whichever you prefer” before load-times became an issue. Now, however, we find a clear indicator that a folder-based approach is much-preferable unless a category actually contains enough information to merit its own site, which is effectively what a subdomain turns it into.

Subject III: On-Page Optimizations

While at first glance this chapter is more standard SEO-101 fodder, it’s where we find a sizable nugget, as the report talks about semantic markup, and how Google uses it to gauge a page’s content.

“Nothing new here; we all use H1 tags.” you might say, but you’d only be partially right, because this issue not only runs much deeper than H1 headings, it runs beyond Heading tags altogether, as I’ll explain shortly. For the moment, however, let’s stay with them.

In the past few years, a great many Optimizers have reached the conclusion that only H1, and, to a degree, H2 are of any promotional value, and that lesser headings (H3 – H6) carry practically no weight at all. But let’s take a look at the following statement, taken from Page 38 of the Report:

“Most product main pages have an opportunity to use one <h1> tag, like the example above, but they’re currently only using other heading tags (<h3> in this case) or larger font styling. While styling your text so it appears larger might achieve the same visual presentation, it does not provide the same semantic meaning to the search engine that an <h1> tag does.”

For starters it’s obvious that the lesser headings are alive and well, and being used by Google. We’re also told that Google does not, or cannot, judge the visual-context meaning of CSS styled text. The conclusion is to use more heading tags instead of CSS styles wherever your content calls for it. However, there’s more to it still. Let’s take another look at part of that statement:

“…but they’re currently only using other heading tags…”

It would appear that Google still places greater value on other semantic markup tags (em, strong, blockquote, etc.) than many professionals give them credit for these days. Otherwise why would the author specifically note the fact that Google only uses headings and font styles?

I personally know quite a few professionals who have long-since abandoned most semantic markup tags in favour of CSS style, since the prevailing attitude of designers and SEOs has been that making text bold or italic no longer carries much promotional weight, following widespread abuses in the mid-2000s and Google’s consequent algorithm updates.

And although the above statement may be a tentative one, it might just point the way back to a more HTML-based approach to web design. Indeed, if it can be taken at face-value, it’s entirely possible that those SEOs and designers advocating CSS-based, table-less design as the way forward are barking up the wrong tree. Whatever the case may be, there is undoubtedly more to the SEO Report Card than first meets the eye, and at the very least, there is a little gold to be extracted from the mass of standard information. Only by reading the full document will you be able to make an assessment yourself.

What should also be remembered is that the SEO Report Card is not aimed at high-flying SEOs or E-lebrity industry pundits, but at the intermediate webmaster for whom even the report’s basic information is of immense value, if read alongside Google’s SEO Starter Guide.

About The Author
Sasch Mayer is a writer and consultant with a career spanning well over a decade and a half. Over the years, his web design and promotion advice and Professional Keyword Research have helped countless clients diagnose and solve problems with a wide range of site issues.

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SEO and Social Media Matter for Press Coverage


When businesses think about search and social media, a great deal of the time, they are thinking about traffic, customer engagement, and brand awareness. While these are all good things to consider, there may be more to that last one that you have spent much time thinking about.

Brand awareness goes beyond just having a random customer find your site in a set of search results or through a link from their Facebook news feed. Have you considered how channels like search and social media are used by media outlets and journalists? The fact of the matter is that journalists and bloggers alike utilize both to a great extent while covering their beats.

Do you take press coverage into consideration? Comment on this at WebProNews here.

Search and social both play significant roles in PR. This is a topic that WebProNews recently discussed with TopRank Online Marketing CEO Lee Odden. Odden calls journalists customers, and in many ways they should be treated as such when it comes to getting your product or site in front of their eyeballs.

Odden says to look at what it is you can do as a marketer to make it easier for the journalist to do their job. Optimize your content for what a journalist is looking for. This is one way you can potentially increase your media coverage, which can obviously increase brand awareness.

Odden makes a great point online journalists often having tighter deadlines, and turning to blogs and social networks for sources and quotes. For example, the real-time nature of a Twitter search might be just what a journalist or blogger need to find someone who’s talking about the subject they’re writing about, at nearly the moment they’re looking for it.

For that matter, Google’s real-time search can help for the same reason, and most journalists and bloggers frequently use Google to search for what they’re looking for. If what they’re looking for happens to be related to a newsy topic, they just might see Google’s real-time results literally before anything else. If that topic happens to be related to something you’re talking about, you just might end up in those results too. Google is also indexing updates from Facebook Pages here now, by the way.

The point is, if you are looking for increased media coverage, there are ways to increase your chances of getting in front of the right people, and it is certainly not limited to real-time search. Sometimes journalists/bloggers will simply tap their contacts within their social networks (or email of course) to find sources. This is as good a reason as any to engage in social media on a regular basis and network with lots of relevant people.

If attracting media attention is what you’re after, consider these five tips I offered in a SmallBusinessNewz article last year:

1. Do something that’s different – Simply do something that makes you stand out: something that gets people talking. If it creates enough buzz, the media coverage will likely follow.

2. Look for niche publications – the more niche the publication, the more likely they probably are to cover you.

3. Personalize your message – When you’re writing an email to a publication to talk about your business, for example, personalize the message for the specific person you’re contacting, so they know it’s not just a manufactured piece that you’re sending all over the web. Journalists like exclusivity.

4. Find multiple contacts – If you can find more than one contact for a particular publication, it may be wise to send your story pitch to them. This will increase the potential visibility among the publication’s staff.

5. Provide plenty of details – When sending such a pitch, it’s a good idea to include as many details about the product/story as possible. The more details available, the less research is required, and time is more valuable than ever, especially for a journalist.

Another piece of advice I would give is to not let your press center hold back your marketing opportunities. I’ve seen a lot of companies fail to keep their own press centers up to date with the latest news, even as big announcements are made, and even if they have issued press releases. Often times, these releases won’t even be available on the site until later. If you want to increase your chances of more media coverage, you should always have your latest news readily available in your press center, or via your blog – wherever you make announcements. And always provide contact info.

About the author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow WebProNews on Facebook or Twitter. Twitter: @CCrum237

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39 Free/Low-Cost Tools for Marketing Your Small Business Online


Thousands of free online marketing tools clamor for attention, with new ones popping up every week it seems. You know you should be doing more to reach out to your customers, but just researching which tools to use can be a vast time investment, even if they don’t require a big financial outlay.

Below is a compiled a list of the most popular (or most useful) low-cost or free small business marketing tools. You might be using some of them already, but you’re sure to find a couple that will round out your small business marketing toolkit nicely. And, if you’re just starting out marketing a new business online, this list may help point you in the right direction.

Directories

The Open Directory A staple of the SEO crowd, this directory can be tricky to get into but well worth it for the link juice it passes along to your site.

Yahoo! Directory – It’s not free – this directory will set you back a couple hundred bucks a year – but it’s well worth it for inclusion.

Best of the Web Directory – This directory has been around a while and can pass along some good PageRank to your site.

Niche Directories

Find the directories in your industry that pass along good link building opportunities. Some examples to get you started: SBDGraphics.com for ad agencies, web developers, printers and other graphics professionals; sbdpro.com for small businesses and businesses that serve them; Cpapro.com for the accounting industry; SEOAlpaca.org for alpaca breeders, and so on.

Press Release Distribution Services

Marketwire – The most bang for your buck from an actual wire service, Marketwire’s prices are lower than PR Newswire and Businesswire. This newer service is built for powerful online exposure, and you’ll enjoy the full online distribution with any geographical AP wire distribution. (Sometimes you can get statewide wire distribution for nearly the same cost as only your local metropolitan area.) It’s great for building inbound links – just choose the SEO Enhanced option.

PRLog – A good-performing free press release distribution outlet, PRLog press releases rank really well and for a really long time if they are written with SEO copywriting best practices. Press releases include three links, though they are URL based (starting with http) rather than text anchor. PRLog also lets you create your own newsroom where all your press releases reside, as well as an “about us” page and product showcase area.

PitchEngine – A relatively new PR-for-social-media site that promises to let you create and share press releases easily and for free and syndicate content to Google News. Lets you include HTML in your press release, so you can use keyword text anchor links. The site is marketing itself quite aggressively and will likely build a big presence quickly. The only catch is your release will disappear off the site after 30 days if you aren’t a paid member ($50/month for your own press room).

Email Marketing

AWeber – AWeber makes it easy to start building your email marketing list, if you haven’t already. For less than $20/month, you can build unlimited newsletter lists, send unlimited email blasts, and email unlimited autorespond messages to up to 500 subscribers/list. (Then it’s $29/month up to 2500 subscribers.) Also offers a recurring 30% commission – a pretty good affiliate program for a service you’ll appreciate enough to recommend to others. (Disclosure note: the link above is our affiliate link. We’ve been using the service for 3 years now, after trying out Constant Contact and researching about 20 other providers! Most either do autoresponders or email blasts/newsletters – not both.)

Content Sharing Websites

Squidoo – Create a lens around your business area. A good one with lots of information will even rank in the search engines and can bring traffic to your web site.

Scribd – Share your expert content like white papers and articles. You can make them available for free or sell them. You can submit documents in PowerPoint, Word, PDF and many other file formats.

SlideShare – Post your presentations and documents online for others to view and share. This is a great way to get exponential exposure for your sales or marketing materials – or share documents privately. See some tips for getting more visibility with SlideShare: http://bit.ly/aNXmS2

Flikr – Does your product or service translate well visually? Use this popular photo sharing site to get more eyeballs.

Blip.tv – A video-sharing alternative to YouTube, blip.tv lets you embed links in your descriptions and create a TV station showing all your videos in one spot.

Social Networks

Facebook – Create a page for your business. Feed your blog in. Start a group. Get fans. Advertise to targeted users if your products appeal to the Facebook crowd (which is basically everyone nowadays). See using the new Facebook business page layout to learn more. Stop by our page and become a fan, too!

MySpace – Take a second look at this medium for social networking. According to MarketingProfs, more than half of MySpace.com users are 35 or older. Explore using MySpace for your business.

LinkedIn – Like a virtual Rolodex. Build your professional profile, link up with other professionals, join groups or even start a group. Participating in Q&A’s related to your profession is a great way to build credibility and visibility.

Ning – Build your own social network around your business. You may even get your network into the search engine results pages. Learn more about using Ning for business. (http://bit.ly/amLKcE)

Read “Utlize Social Media to Gain Additional Exposure for Your Site” (http://bit.ly/bcoWEQ) for more information about social networks and how they can drive targeted traffic to your site.

Social Bookmarking

Digg – Getting your content on the home page of Digg is one way to bump up your web site’s traffic by thousands within minutes. This can result in valuable links to your site. Start with this beginner’s guide to Digg.

StumbleUpon – Build friends and send them your articles to rate. More thumbs up will get your article shown to more people outside your network and can result in thousands of visitors every day. Tips for using StumbleUpon.

Reddit – Even if your content gets buried on Digg, it can flourish on Reddit – which can be a catalyst for jumping to the home page of other social bookmarking sites. Learn more about the types of topics that do well on Reddit.

Blogs

Your own blog -

Write great content relevant to your business area that people will find useful. Use it to link to deep pages on your site to help them get indexed in the search engines. Build your thought leadership and let your customers get to know your business better. Try WordPress for an easy-to-use platform that’s also search engine friendly.

Others’ blogs -

Read and comment on other blogs in your industry. Use your comment signature to link back to your blog or web site. Build relationships online and spread the link love from your own blog to others’.

Twitter

Micro-blogging. Update your status daily or a couple times a week. Use keywords in your posts and profile to help gain followers on Twitter quickly. Link to your unique content in your updates and take advantage of the multitude of new applications created to help you manage your Twitter experience.

Affiliate Marketing

Post Affiliate Pro

Traditionally links generated through affiliate marketing have not been helpful for search engine optimization – until Post Affiliate Pro, that is. This easy-to-use affiliate program lets you set up a referral program in minutes and keeps your links simple and search engine friendly.

Technorati

Claim your blog at Technorati to make sure it’s indexed in the blog search engines and have your updates broadcast across the network.

Your Own Web Properties

Create A Knowledge Center

Build a content area on your site where you can add articles regularly. This can be as formal as white papers or case studies, but it can also work with less formal articles, as long as they further your company’s thought leadership position and credibility. They will also boost your search engine rankings if you contribute regularly and ensure your site architecture is optimized. See how we’re doing this with SEO Advantage’s new knowledge center.

PowerReviews

People are going to look up user reviews whether on your site or elsewhere – might as well take advantage of the user-generated content for additional search engine visibility. You’ll also rank higher in trust with your efforts at transparency.

SurveyMonkey

Voting/polling/surveys. A tool of engagement that lets you gauge interest, measure customer satisfaction or just provide some fun. (People love to give their opinions.)

Awards and Contests

Enter them and host them. Winning an industry award can add to your credibility, and giving them out can get you lots of press coverage and links. Get creative.

Search Engine Optimization

Make sure your site architecture is optimized for maximum exposure in the search engines. Create link-building campaigns. Add to your content regularly. Enlist the services of a search engine optimization company to guide your efforts or handle implementation completely.

Research

Google

Designate the keywords you’d like to keep track of, and Google will send you alerts of news and pages indexed on those topics “as it happens” with Google News Alerts. You can also enter multiple terms at Google Trends to compare the general level of buzz around those terms.

AllTop

An “online magazine rack”, this site aggregates content and organizes it. Select your topics and have the latest content delivered to you, or just browse the site when you’re in research mode. Also, be sure to submit your site so it shows among the related content.

WordTracker

Find keywords with a more comprehensive tool than free pay-per-click research tools, which may skew results. A free trial will give you an idea of how it works.

Yahoo! Pipes

See who’s talking about your company or brand by pulling together RSS feeds from different sources around the Web using the beta Yahoo! Pipes. This handy video shows you how.

Analytics

You need to measure all your online marketing efforts. If you’re looking for a free analytics package, try Google Analytics or Yahoo! IndexTools. (Which is better?) However, you’ll probably want some help implementing and interpreting your analytics package to get the most from it – ask your SEO company if they offer this.

About The Author
Stone Reuning is president of SEO Advantage, a search engine optimization company that helps businesses harness the revenue generation potential of their websites. Referenced in books such as “Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale” and the BusinessWeek bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”, http://www.seo-advantage.com/ offers information to help small businesses compete online.

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Who’s Linking to Your Web Site and What Does That Say About You to Google?


Linking is the mechanism that connects all the pages on the Internet. You’ve got links throughout your web site to let people navigate their way around. You may have links going out to other web sites that you think will be useful for your visitors. And hopefully you have links coming into your web site from independent sources.

All types of links can impact your search engine optimization results, helping determine where your web site shows up online. Though the hardest to control, inbound links pointing to your site can make the biggest impact.

At its most basic, the concept is that if several high-quality sites are linking to your web site, then Google and other search engines figure your site must be a popular, valuable resource – and they will be more likely to show it higher in their search results. In effect, your site receives “link juice” from other web pages that link to it.

However, it’s not enough to secure a couple links and then sit still. The Google PageRank algorithm looks at the pattern of links to your site as they build over time.

Building the right kind of links can bring a major payoff, while a wrong turn could get you penalized – and the Google Sandbox is not easy to dig out of.

Armed with a bit of knowledge and some creativity, you can build up valuable incoming links naturally and powerfully, avoiding the traps that plague amateurs.

Spice Up Your Links With Some Variety

There are all kinds of link farming schemes to grow links, and you need to run the other way from these. This is also called reciprocal linking, where you exchange links with other web sites that will then link to you on a mass scale. Warning: Google is onto this.

While it’s perfectly advantageous to link to high-quality sites that also link to you, the key here is to cultivate a natural mix of links over time.

Is it natural to suddenly have 100 links pointing to your site, all with the same text? Of course not. When people link to you naturally, they might use your business name (SEO Advantage) or some variation on a descriptive phrase (search optimization company). If too many similar links exist, it can signal that those links were generated artificially and potentially result in penalties.

Also consider which pages on your site inbound links point to. Your home page is probably going to get the most, but it’s natural to have links pointing to specific pages inside your web site, too. Cultivate links to your services, your blog, your news pages, your articles, etc., to help those pages get indexed and build their own PageRank. Called deep links, these can help bolster your site’s overall performance.

Some links also carry a title tag, which is indicated in the source code. This is a little too technical to go into detail here, but if you can influence this you’ll want both the link text and title to vary a bit among the links pointing to your site. Once again, the key is to grow your links in a natural pattern.

Not Every Link Carries The Same Value

Links from popular, established web sites usually carry the greatest value. That’s because they have high PageRank from plenty of other people already linking to them. A link from CNN.com, for example, will carry much more weight than a link from a free press release distribution site that few people know of. Likewise, a link from www.sbdpro.com will have a greater impact than a link from a directory that uses no-follow tags.

No-follow tags are the bane of naive link builders. It’s tempting to think you can just link to pages on your site from your Twitter tweets, Facebook and other social media applications. However, many of these sites as well as online ads and also some directories employ “no follow” tags that prevent the search engines from following a link to your site. In this case, it’s as if the link doesn’t exist in the eyes of the search engines. (That doesn’t mean the links aren’t valuable to people who find you and follow the link, it’s just not helping your web site show up in Google.)

So, How Can A Business Build Incoming Links Naturally?

The mix of links created out on the web pointing back at your web site should avoid skewing toward any particular type. A good mix that you can influence may include:

• Directories – Professional organizations, online communities and forums, business directories, etc. can all potentially provide good links to your site. There are several premium directories that are staples in an SEO firm’s link building toolkit, like DMOZ.org. Keep in mind that your listing itself should be optimized in order to reap the full link juice benefits.

• Press Releases – Writing and submitting press releases online can help you get your news in front of more people and build links to your site. (Be sure to use best practices for writing and evaluate carefully your outlets for good links).

• Blogs – Link to relevant pages on your site from your blog. Build relationships online with other bloggers, too, and they may want to link back to you! Active blogs with high visibility and large followings are going to be your best bet, but you can mix it up over time targeting lesser known bloggers, too. Keep in mind that as other sites grow in PageRank, the value passed to your site will also grow.

• Create Some Link Bait – Make sure your content is so fascinating or funny that people will want to tell others about it. This is the ultimate for building naturally growing incoming links but of course hard to do.

A sample schedule could mean every month you líst your site in two good dírectories, link to interior site pages from a couple relevant posts in your blog, distribute one press release to news sites, and write one great article that other people may want to link to and then let them know about it.

A word about selecting outlets is in order, too. You’ll need to carefully assess each place you target in order to determine the link value they can pass onto you. For example, different press release submission sites and directories can offer you a wide variety in link value. This can be time-consuming to determine but worth it when your site’s PageRank starts to climb. (Find some information on how to evaluate outlets in this article on press release optimization.

See Who’s Linking To Your Web Site

You can see all the links pointing to your site via a couple handy tools online. Go to Google.com to see who Google is crediting with a link to you. Enter in the search box [link:www.yourwebaddress.com] without the brackets.

Not all your links are going to show here, though, but you can use Google’s free webmaster tools for more in-depth research if you’re inclined. You can also use the free Yahoo! Site Explorer to see what links Yahoo! shows pointing at your site.

Every month, make it a part of your link-building strategy to check for any new links and build relationships with more web properties. After all, a link is a compliment and a great way to network in addition to an important way to build value for your web site.

About The Author
Stone Reuning is president of SEO Advantage, a search engine optimization company that helps businesses harness the revenue generation potential of their websites. Referenced in books such as “Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale” and the BusinessWeek bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”, http://www.seo-advantage.com offers information to help small businesses content online.

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Ways to Get Fresh Links to Old Content for Better Search Rankings


Google Doesn’t Care if You USED to Get Links

You may have gotten some good links in the past, but don’t count on them helping you forever. Old links go stale in the eyes of Google.

Do you still get links to old content? Tell us why you think that is.

Google’s Matt Cutts responded to a user-submitted question asking if Google removes PageRank coming from links on pages that no longer exist (for example, GeoCities pages that have been shut down). The answer to this question is unsurprisingly yes, but Cutts makes a statement within his response that may not be so obvious to everybody.

“In order to prevent things from becoming stale, we tend to use the current link graph, rather than a link graph of all of time,” he says. (Emphasis added)

Now, this isn’t exactly news, and to the seasoned search professional, probably not much of a revelation. However, to the average business owner looking to improve search engine performance (and not necessarily adapting to theever-changing ways of SEO), it could be something that really hasn’t resonated. Businesses have always been told about the power of links, but even if you got a lot of significant links a year or two ago, that doesn’t mean your content will continue to perform well based on that.  WebProNews has discussed the value of “link velocity” and Google’s need for freshness in the past:

Link velocity refers to the speed at which new links to a webpage are formed, and by this term we may gain some new and vital insight. Historically, great bursts of new links to a specific page has been considered a red flag, the quickest way to identify a spammer trying to manipulate the results by creating the appearance of user trust. This led to Google’s famous assaults on link farms and paid link directories.

But the Web has changed, become more of a live Web than a static document Web. We have the advent of social bookmarking, embedded videos, links, buttons, and badges, social networks, real-time networks like Twitter and Friendfeed. Certainly the age of a website is still an indication of success and trustworthiness, but in an environment of live, real time updating, the age of a link as well as the slowing velocity of incoming links may be indicators of stale content in a world that values freshness.

Do you think link freshness should play a role in search engine rankings? Let Chris and WebProNews know.

So how do you keep getting “fresh” links?

If you want fresh links, there are a number of things you can do. For one, keep putting out content. Write content that has staying power. You can link to your old content when appropriate. Always promote the sharing of your content. Include buttons to make it easy for people to share your content on their social network of choice. You may want to make sure your old content is presented in the same template as your new content so it has the same sharing features. People still may find their way to that old content, and they may want to share it if encouraged.

Go back over old content, and look for stuff that is still relevant. You can update stories with new posts adding a fresher take, linking to the original. Encourage readers to follow the link and read the original article, which they may then link to themselves.

Leave commenting on for ongoing discussion. This can keep an old post relevant. Just because you wrote an article a year ago, does not mean that people will still not add to it, and sometimes people will link to articles based on comments that are left.

Share old posts through social networks if they are still about relevant topics. You don’t want to just start flooding your Twitter account with tweets to all of your old content, but if you have an older article that is relevant to a current discussion, you may share it, as your take on the subject. A follower who has not seen it before, or perhaps has forgotten about it, may find it worth linking to themselves. Can you think of other ways to get more link value out of old content?

Do you get fresh links for old content? Why do you think that is? Share your thoughts with WebProNews.

Related Articles:

> Google’s Treatment of Twitter and Facebook Links
> How Press Releases Can Be Great For Search
> Link Building for Bing Rankings: Dos and Don’ts

About the author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow WebProNews on Facebook or Twitter. Twitter: @CCrum237

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The Benefits of Installing Internal Site Search


Today’s websites are more complex than ever before. Many contain a wealth of information visitors can use to answer their questions and learn what they need to know before contacting a company or making a purchase online.

But with all the information and features packed into many of today’s websites, it can also be more difficult for site visitors to first of all determine whether or not a website will contain the information they need and then find it on the website. Installing a site search box can provide several advantages to help your site visitors – and also benefit your marketing function in the process.

Site Search Satisfies the Customer’s “I Want It Now” Attitude

Installing an internal site search box can help visitors find what they need more quickly. With web users still looking to find what they need as fast as possible, confusing navigation and cluttered design are more likely than ever to prompt an “on-to-the-next-site” response.

Internal site search is undoubtedly the quickest way for someone to find what they’re looking for on a large and complex site. An internal site search helps visitors get around navigational structures that may be confusing to them. This is especially important for sites that are constantly adding new content. As the site continues to grow, many users will find the site search function to be a valuable tool in helping them find what they need.

Site Search Makes a Website More Customer Centric

Installing an internal site search also means you can transform your website from a static “one size fits all” style to a more “customer-centric” approach. More and more, websites need to simultaneously cater to different types of website users – knowledge seekers, prospects, buyers and long-term customers. Internal site search helps you do this, as it helps those seeking knowledge find and assess your resources more easily.

Site Search Appeals to the “Searcher” Type of Site Visitor

Different people prefer different types of navigation tools. For example, if someone uses a search engine like Google to arrive at your website, they are more likely to prefer the same search method for finding information within your website. It’s not uncommon for site visitors to look immediately for the site search box when they arrive at a website.

Site Search Arms Marketers With Data

Marketers can benefit tremendously from installing an internal site search function. With the right analytic tool, internal site search can provide a wealth of information about who visits your site and how they navigate around it.

Site search data can provide insight into customer desires, intent, and behavior. While a customer might tell a different story if asked for feedback in a focus group or online survey, for example, site search data can reveal exactly which pages they looked for and found, which searches intrigued them to continue reading as well as those that prompted them to leave the site. This will contribute to the conversation when analyzing conversion rate performance across content and site sections.

Site Search Provides Insight into Personas and Usability Issues

Site search can provide usability data without the expense of setting up testing facilities. When the usage data and click path from real users is saved and available for viewing and analysis anytime, a marketer can see where searchers encountered difficulty. Looking at this data across multiple users can give clues to areas of the site that require updating and expansion, for example.

Adding typical searched on phrases to flesh out descriptions of the various personas using your site can also help enrich the entire web team’s understanding of the types of people using the site. This information will be particularly helpful to any copywriters who are preparing content for selling pages and product descriptions, etc.

Site Search Brings Ideas for New Products

Users’ searches can even inspire new product offerings. If you see that many visitors are searching your site for a particular type of product or service that you don’t yet provide, it may be time to consider developing an offering to serve that underserved need. Especially if your site is already bringing traffic for those particular searches, your company may do well to act on this informal market research.

Site Search Reveals New Keywords

You may end up finding new keywords you weren’t aware of, allowing you the chance to tweak your content so more users will find the information they need on your site. Perhaps some of your pages that you feel are relevant to a specific topic are missing a few of the terms people are actually searching on. In that case, you’ll have the option to add them as appropriate and further refine your content, making it even more targeted to your users.

In addition, those keywords can be added to your search marketing campaigns, perhaps offering a chance to reach a wider audience on the Internet than originally anticipated. In order for your company to remain competitive online, you need to be open to the new ways people are finding and disseminating information. Site search is an exciting utility for websites looking to evolve their websites according to user demands.

Editor’s Note: So, if you want to add search to your website, what are your options? There are a number of free and commercial solutions available on the Web but below are several of the former:

Services:
Atomz
PicoSearch
FusionBot
Google Custom Search

Scripts/Software:
Perlfect Search
WebDevelopersNotes.com – Provides 2 pages of site search solutions.
Resource Index – Numerous Perl and PHP search scripts can be found here for DIY webmasters.

About The Author
SEO Advantage is a search engine optimization company that helps businesses harness the revenue generation potential of their websites. Find us referenced in books such as Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale and the BusinessWeek bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR. Visit www.seo-advantage.com today for more information.

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A Markup That Could Have Big Implications for SEO


RDFa Could Play an Increasingly Big Role in Search

RDFa, which stands for Resource Description Framework in attributes, is a W3C recommendation, which adds a set of attribute level extensions to XHTML for embedding rich metadata within web documents. While not everyone believes that W3C standards are incredibly necessary to operate a successful site, some see a great deal of potential for search engine optimization in RDFa.

In fact, this is the topic of a current WebProWorld thread, which was started by Dave Lauretti of MoreStar, who asks, “Are you working the RDFa Framework into your SEO campaigns?” He writes, “Now under certain conditions and with certain search strings on both Google and Yahoo we can find instances where the RDFa framework integrated within a website can enhance their listing in the search results.”

Lauretti refers to an article from last summer at A List Apart, by Mark Birbeck who said that Google was beginning to process RDFa and Microformats as it indexes sites, using the parsed data to enhance the display of search results with “rich snippets”. This results in the Google results you see like this:

RDFa in play

“It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable — if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through,” Google said upon the launch of rich snippets.

Google says it is experimenting with markup for business and location data, but that it doesn’t currently display this information, unless the business or organization is part of a review (hence the results in the above example). But when review information is marked up in the body of a web page, Google can identify it and may make it available in search results. When review information is shown in search results, this can of course entice users to click through to the page (one of the many reasons to treat customers right and monitor your reputation).

Currently Google uses RDFa for reviews, but this search also displays the date of the review, the star rating, the author and the price range of an iPod, as Lauretti points out.

Best Buy’s lead web development engineer reported that by adding RDFa the company saw improved ranking for respective pages. They saw a 30% increase in traffic, and Yahoo evidently observed a 15% increase in click-through rates.(via Steven Pemberton)

Implications for SEO

I’m not going to get into the technical side of RDFa here (see resources listed later in the article), but I would like to get into some of the implications that Google’s use of RDFa could have on SEO practices. For one, rich snippets can show specific information related to products that are searched for. For example, a result for a movie search could bring up information like:

- Run time
- Release Date
- Rating
- Theaters that are showing it

“The implementation of RDFa not only gives more information about products or services but also increases the visibility of these in the latest generations of search engines, recommender systems and other applications,” Lauretti tells WebProNews. “If accuracy is an issue when it comes to search and search results then pages with RDFa will get better rankings as there would be little to question regarding the page theme.” (Source) He provides the following chart containing examples of the types of data that could potentially be displayed with RDFa:

RDFa Implications

“It is obvious that search marketers and SEOs will be utilizing this ability for themselves and their clients,” says Lauretti. Take contact information specifically. “Using RDFa in your contact information clarifies to the search engine that the text within your contact block of code is indeed contact information.” He says in this same light, “people information” can be displayed in the search results (usually social networking info). You could potentially show manufacturer information or author information.

RDFa actually has implications beyond just Google’s regular web search.
With respect to Google’s Image search, the owner of images can also use RDFa to provide license information about the images they own. Google currently allows image searchers to have images displayed based on license type, and using RDFa with your images lets the search bots know under which licenses you are making your images available (Via Mark Birbeck). There is also RDFa support for video.

Following are some resources where you can learn more about RDFa and how to implement it:

Google Introduces Rich Snippets
Introduction to RDFa
RDFa Primer
About RDFa (Google Webmaster Central)
RDFa to Provide Image License Info
RDFa Microformat Tagging For Your Website
For Businesses and Organizations
About Review Data (Google Webmaster Central)

Google’s Matt Cutts has said in the past that Google has been kind of “white listing” sites to get rich snippets, as Google feels they are appropriate, but as they grow more confident that such snippets don’t hurt the user experience, then Google will likely roll the ability out more and more broadly. This is one thing to keep an eye on as the year progresses, and is why those in the WebProWorld thread believe RDFa will become a bigger topic of discussion in 2010.

WebProNews would like to thank Dave Lauretti, who contributed some findings to this piece.

Update: As I pieced together this article, Google coincidentally announced support for rich snippets for Events.

Related Articles:

> Get Your Breadcrumbs in Google for More Links in Results
> Google Makes it Easier to Tell Where Results Originate From
> Get More Links in Your Actual Google Results

About the author:
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow WebProNews on Facebook or Twitter. Twitter: @CCrum237

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