20 Things You Need To Know Before Optimizing A Web Site

One of the most important aspects of a search engine optimization project is also one of the most overlooked – preparation! There are some important steps to take in advance of optimizing your site that will make sure your SEO is successful.

Before You Start

Before you start any search engine optimization campaign, whether it’s for your site or that belonging to a client, you need to answer the following questíons:

1) What is the overall motivation for optimizing this site? What do I/they hope to achieve? e.g. more sales, more subscribers, more traffíc, more publicity etc.

2) What is the time-frame for this project?

3) What is the budget for this project?

4) Who will be responsible for this project? Will it be a joint or solo effort? Will it be run entirely in-house or outsourced?

Answering these questíons will help you to build a framework for your SEO project and establish limitations for the size and scope of the campaign.

Ready: How Search Engine-Compatible is the Site Currently?

Something I find very useful before quoting on any SEO project is to produce what I call a Search Engine Compatibility Review. This is where I carry out a detailed overview and analysis of a site’s search engine compatibility in terms of HTML design, page extensions, link popularity, title and META tags, body text, target keywords, ALT IMG tags, page load time and other design elements that can impact search engine indexing.

I then provide a detailed report to potential clients with recommendations based on my findings. It just helps sort out in my mind what design elements need tweaking to make the site as search engine-friendly as possible. It also helps marketing staff prove to an often stubborn programming department (or vice versa!) that SEO is necessary. You might consider preparing something similar for your site or clients.

Steady: Requirements Gathering

Next, you need to establish the project requirements, so you can tailor the SEO campaign to you or your client’s exact needs. For those of you servicing clients, this information is often required before you are able to quote accurately.

To determine your project requirements, you need to have the following questíons answered:

1) What technology was used to build the site? (i.e. Flash, PHP, frames, Cold Fusion, JavaScrípt, Flat HTML etc)

2) What are the file extensions of the pages? (i.e. .htm, .php, .cfm etc)

3) Does the site contain database driven content? If so, will the URLs contain query strings? e.g. www.site.com/longpagename?source=123444fgge3212, (containing “?” symbols), or does the site use parameter workarounds to remove the query strings? (the latter is more search engine friendly).

4) Are there at least 250 words of text on the home page and other pages to be optimized?

5) How does the navigation work? Does it use text links or graphical links or JavaScrípt drop-down menus?

6) Approximately how many pages does the site contain? How many of these will be optimized?

7) Does the site have a site map or will it require one? Does the site have an XML sitemap submitted to Google Sitemaps ?

8) What is the current link popularity of the site?

9) What is the approximate Google PageRank of the site? Would it benefit from link building?

10) Do I have the ability to edit the source code directly? Or will I need to hand-over the optimized code to programmers for integration?

11) Do I have permission to alter the visible content of the site?

12) What are the products/services that the site promotes? (e.g. widgets, mobile phones, hire cars etc.)

13) What are the site’s geographical target markets? Are they global? Country specific? State specific? Town specific?

14) What are the site’s demographic target markets? (e.g. young urban females, working mothers, single parents etc.)

15) What are 20 search keywords or phrases that I think my/my client’s target markets will use to find the site in the search engines?

16) Who are my/my client’s major competitors online? What are their URLs? What keywords are they targeting?

17) Who are the stake-holders of this site? How will I report to them?

18) Do I have access to site traffíc logs or statistics to enable me to track visitor activity during the campaign? Specifically, what visitor activity will I be tracking?

19) How do I plan on tracking my or my client’s conversion trends and increased rankings in the search engines?

20) What are my/my client’s expectations for the optimization project? Are they realistic?

Answers to the first 10 questíons above will determine the complexity of optimization required. For example, if the site pages currently have little text on them, you know you’ll need to integrate more text to make the site compatible with search engines and include adequate target keywords. If the site currently uses frames, you will need to rebuild the pages without frames or create special No-Frames tags to make sure the site can be indexed, and so on.

This initial analysis will help you to scope the time and costs involved in advance. For those of you optimizing client sites, obtaining accurate answers to these questíons BEFORE quoting is absolutely crucial. Otherwise you can find yourself in the middle of a project that you have severely under-quoted for.

The remainder of questíons are to establish in advance the who, what, where, when, why and how of the optimization project. This will help you determine the most logical keywords and phrases to target, as well as which search engines to submit the site to.

For those of you optimizing web sites for a living, you might consider developing a questionnaire that you can give clients to complete to ensure you tailor the web site optimization to their exact needs.

Go!

So now you are clear about your motivations for optimizing the site, you know more about the target markets, you know how compatible the existing site is with search engines and how much work is involved in the search engine optimization process. You’re ready to tackle the job.

About The Author
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

The Difficulty With Grabbing Attention In Search

Those much-revered top five placements on search engines for a given set of keywords only draws the viewer’s attention for seven seconds. Gord Hotchkiss sees this short attention span as a call to brands to keep doing their market research.

The humorous Short Attention Span Theater of Comedy Central’s earlier days condensed comedy bits into brief pieces slightly longer than a commercial break. Fifteen years ago it was just a funny idea. These days the short amount of time needed to watch them would be a huge obstacle to the typical Internet surfer.

Hotchkiss has been discussing market research, particularly with regards to the studies his firm, Enquiro conducted, like their eye-tracking panels. When it comes to search, online entrepreneurs with solid organic search results, or top placement of paid search ads, may be surprised at how little attention those receive.

(T)he famous golden triangle study we did with Eyetools and Did It, and subsequent ones conducted by Enquiro, have shown over and over how quickly we interact with a search engine and how much of our scanning activity is ‘top loaded’.

Also, we don’t really skip over sponsored listings, but in some circumstances (research based activity) we’re less likely to click on them. We’ve used this body of research to come up with a fairly consistent model of how people interact with search results.

The results belie what people indicated in our very first survey. Well over 60% of the clicks happened in the first 4 or 5 listings, including the top sponsored ones.

People generally spent just a few seconds on the page (around 10 to 12 seems to be the average) in which they scan (not read) 4 to 5 listings. There was almost no deliberation. People click quickly, and if they don’t like what they see, they click back.

There were no faults with the market research, Hotchkiss noted. People were just being people, and their subconscious spurred these quick decisions.

“As Malcolm Gladwell shows in Blink, often these decisions prove to be better than the ones that we endlessly deliberate over. Our brains, especially the 95% that remains under the surface, are amazingly adept at making good decisions,” said Hotchkiss.

Overcoming this instinctive behavior may look like a call for more research. Hotchkiss said, “campaign optimization, A/B and multivariate testing are all best practices and should be done religiously.” They all suffer from the same problem, that being their state as a lagging indicator of customer behavior.

What he suggested means looking at people as more than a series of data in a spreadsheet. “You have to try to get into that subconscious mind. And that’s not easy,” Hotchkiss said.

Rather than curling up with the Jets-Cowboys game at 4:15 pm ET on Thanksgiving, the determined marketer may want to spend time within the pages of The Culture Code, or How Customers Think, or even the work of the late CMU professor, Herbert Simon.

Besides, Dallas is favored by 14 points, Jets beating Pittsburgh recently notwithstanding. It may not be enough time to implement such new information into a campaign this holiday season, but there will be another one next year. That gives readers a year to dig into cognitive psychology and consumer behavior. This could be worth its weight in conversions someday.

About the Author:
David A. Utter is a WebProNews editor and writer covering business and technology.

WNW Design Launches Downers Dish Hire

WNW Design is proud to announce the launch of Downers Dish Hire’s new website, offering hire of catering supplies for all kinds of events and parties.

Downers Dish Hire offer a wide range of services from cutlery, dishes and crockery, beverages, buffets and service, plus an after-event washing up service. The company’s new website offers the chance to add items to a Wishlist and then submit this for a quote and approval of availability. You can see their new website here: http://www.downersdishhire.co.uk

Having Trouble Improving Your Google Ranking?

Google is by far the most important search engine on the net. To rise to the top of their search engine, you need to improve your link popularity and you need to understand how they measure your link popularity (over 50% of all search engine traffic comes from Google, and if you can rise to the top, you will likely rise to the top of all the other search engines as well).

Link popularity is defined as the number of sites that are linking to your site. Some websites have thousands or even millions of sites linking to them, while others might have only a few. The search engines use the number of inbound links your site has as a measure of how important your site is, which translates into your search engine ranking.

The actual number of links to your site is not the only variable used to calculate your link popularity. The search engines also examine the relevance of the links to the subject matter of your site. For example, if a website that sells vitamins has 4,000 inbound links, but the source of most of the links are websites that have nothing to do with vitamins, then the algorithm that search engines use to determine link popularity will take that into account, and the link popularity score will not be very good.

It is possible for a website with a relatively small number of quality inbound links to be ranked higher than a site with a bunch of irrelevant or insignificant links. If I have a website that offers quotes for auto insurance, and I have 800 quality inbound links, then I might receive a much higher search engine ranking than another mortgage site that has 3,000 links that stem from link farms or Free For All (FFA) pages.

If you try to acquire inbound by using link farms or FFA pages, not only will it hurt your search engine ranking, but you might get permanently removed from the search engine listings. Links farms are sites where you can instantly exchange links with all the sites listed in that directory. FFA pages are pointless link directories. The search engines usually discount any links that come from either of these sources.

Now that we understand what link popularity is and how it works, we need to look specifically at how Google measures it. They use a number of variables in their algorithm to calculate your overall link score. The higher your score, the higher you will be ranked in the search listings.

One factor that Google uses in their algorithm, obviously, is the total number of sites linking to you. The more links you have, the higher your score will be. However, their algorithm is a little more complicated than that, and it is possible for a website with fewer links to be ranked higher than a website that has more links.

The reason for this is because Google also measures the quality of your links. If your website is about vitamins, and the site linking to you is a video game site, then that is not considered a quality link. The link still helps your score, but the link would help your score much more if it were from a website whose subject matter is the same as yours.

Also, Google gives a higher score to a link if it comes from a page that has actual content that relates to your keywords. For example, if your site is about jewelry, and another jewelry website has posted a link to your site on their links page, that link is not as valuable as a link to your site coming from a blog or a message board where a lot of information about jewelry is being written or discussed.

Also, they give an even higher score to a link if it contains anchor text that matches one of the keywords that describes your site. For example, if I have a site that sells lawnmowers, and a blog about lawnmowers has posted a link to my site, it helps my score even more if the link text (also known as anchor text) is LAWNMOWERS. To learn more about anchor text, go to a search engine and look up ANCHOR TEXT and you will be able to learn about it.

Another factor used by Google to score your link popularity is the diversity of keywords contained on sites linking to you. For example, if you have a site that sells handbags, and all the links to your site are from other sites that contain nothing but the keyword HANDBAGS, Google considers that to be abnormal. To get a higher score, you need to have links coming from sites that contain a variety of keywords related to handbags, such as BUY HANDBAGS, LEATHER HANDBAGS, etc.

It is difficult to increase your link popularity, but now that you understand how your score is calculated, you can devise a plan to improve your score. You might want to consider posting to forums and blogs that contain information that is related to your site, and when you post, include a link to your site.

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About the Author: Jim Pretin is the owner of http://www.forms4free.com, a service that helps programmers make an HTML form.

Use Paid Search Results To Guide Your Site Optimization Plan

Use Your Paid Search for Optimization Hints

Google, MSN and Yahoo are all in the advertising business. Make no mistake. They generate BILLIONS in annual profíts from the sale of advertising on their search engines. The pay-per-click marketplace is huge and growing almost daily.

Each month companies large and small use pay-per-click advertising to generate traffíc to their site. All those little clicks add up to be huge revenue for the search engines and can be a huge line item on a company’s Profit and Loss Statement.

Therefore, it certainly makes sense to get the most out of the information gained from all those clicks that you have to pay for. I am not just talking about the targeted traffíc that they bring to your site. I am also talking about the valuable data you gain with every click.

Using Analytics and Reporting to Your Advantage

Each of the three major pay-per-click companies mentioned above have very good reporting tools included with your account. Therefore, you are going to know the most popular keywords that are being searched for by your visitors. This information is vital to your search engine optimization plans.

Also, your site analytics program should also keep track of the keywords being used to find your site. We use Google Analytics for all of our sites. This program is very detailed with regard to the keywords being used to find our site, both for organic and paid search.

>From these reports we are able to clearly see which keyword phrases are the most popular and where we need to pay close attention to our optimization efforts.

Don’t forget to look for combination of keywords phrases. What we are looking for here are groups of similar keywords that we can then use to create an optimization plan to move your site higher in the organic search results for these most popular keyword phrases that you are currently paying for.

Create Your Site Optimization Plan

You should not want to use pay-per-click advertising for keyword search phrases that you can rank highly for through organic search results. It just makes more sense to use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for start-up websites and, once your site is established, to move your PPC keyword search phrases to phrases where you don’t yet rank well. Certainly, you do not want to continue to use PPC money to attract visitors that could otherwise be drawn to your site through proper site optimization.

Create your site optimization plan starting with the most popular keyword phrases that you are currently paying for. I take the most popular phrase and then work my way down the líst. Once you have your líst you want to then create your landing page.

Use Landing Pages to Optimize Your Website

Landing pages are a simple and easy way to optimize a site for a specific keyword phrase. Landing pages can be a single page, or a series of pages that help create the image of your site as an authority on the keyword phrase.

Let’s say that you are going to create a landing page to optimize the keyword phrase “Mickey Mouse watches”. You would start with the page title to make sure that the very first part of the title contains “Mickey Mouse Watches”. The description and keyword tags should also contain your phrase.

You should use h1 tags as the first part of your content and this tag should contain your keyword phrase. In this case a suggestion might be, “Mickey Mouse Watches for all Ages”.

The content that follows should contain a good number of mentions of the keyword phrase, but resist the temptation to load the page with too many references. Don’t let this confuse you. A good way to tell if you have too many uses of your keyword phrase is to read the content. If it sounds good to read, then you are probably good with the number of times the keyword is used. If you want to be more precise, there are software packages available that will count the number of times a keyword phrase is used and calculate a ratio like a search engine would.

More Content Options to Optimize Your Landing Page

One of the best tools that I have found to add quality content to my landing pages are article directories. There are any number of good article directories on the Internet. Use your favorite search engine to locate several to utilize for content.

Once you have located an article directory you then use their search tool to locate articles that relate to your keyword phrase. Read the articles that are returned in your search and pick 3 or 4 good articles to help build your landing page.

I use the technique of using the title, author link and the first couple of paragraphs of the article to fill the body of my landing page. I then create a totally separate page with the entire article along with the required links to the author’s bio and possibly their site. Below each article introductory section I place a link to the entire article page.

Repeating this technique 3 or 4 times allows me to have some very high quality content that is filled with the keyword phrase that I am optimizing for on my landing page. The links to the entire article allow me then to have multiple pages on our site that focus attention on my keyword phrase.

If I have 4 articles that are introduced on my landing page, I then have a total of 5 pages on my site that all discuss in detail the single keyword phrase that I am optimizing. I am on my way to having my site become an “authority” on my keyword phrase.

Keep Your Landing Page Content Fresh

Once you have built your landing page you still must keep it fresh with new content. A stagnant page is very bad and not looked upon favorably by a search engine. You need to keep the content fresh by adding to it on a regular basis. In most cases monthly updates will be enough but, if you can find a quality RSS feed for your keyword phrase, be sure to use this valuable tool to keep fresh content.

Expanding This Concept

Now take the next keyword phrase in your reporting and create similar landing pages for it. As you move through your PPC reports you will soon find that your organic search results will climb to a point where you can either reduce your PPC budget or better yet, move your PPC dollars to other search phrases that you want to íncrease.

This combination of optimized landing pages and pay-per-click links will drive tremendous amounts of targeted traffíc to your site. And isn’t this what every website owner wants?

About The Author
Nathan Lewis is the Marketing Director for CJ Gift Baskets and uses landing pages to raise organic search results. Mr. Lewis also uses this technique at CJ Picnic Baskets and CJ Outdoor World.

Why Keywords Are Vital To An Seo Campaign?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the optimization of a web page in order that it ranks higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) for specific keywords or keyword phrases. The pages that rank higher typically gain the greater amount of search engine traffic compared to pages ranked lower for the same keyword.

The majority of web users click on one of the top 5 results on the first page when they complete a search. As such, the ultimate goal of any SEO (Search Engine Optimizer) is to gain one of these coveted top spots, with the number one ranking being the primary objective.

Targeting Keywords

However, a top position for any keyword won’t suffice. In order to increase your ROI, it is vital to ensure that you target the most appropriate keywords for your pages, and for your business. While generic, or very general topic keywords, may have the highest number of searches conducted in a month they are also the most competitive and typically least productive.

Competitive Keywords

The more competitive a keyword the more pages that you need to compete with in order to benefit from an SEO campaign. Many of the pages that appear at the top of the list will also be well optimized and have a powerful link profile, making it difficult to rank highly.

Improved Conversions With Targeted Keywords

General topic based keywords have also proven to have lower conversion rates compared to more specific keywords. Targeted keywords generate targeted visitors, and targeted visitors are much more likely to be active while on the pages of your website.

How Keyword Research Helps

Keyword research helps you to identify keywords that are relevant, targeted, and preferably less competitive. By finding the right blend of these factors you can minimize the time it takes to rank well, actually increase the number of visitors, and improve your conversion rates. Targeted keyword research leads to better profit opportunities and improved ROI.

Tailoring Your Keyword Research To Your Needs

Every page of a website needs to be treated as an individual project, especially in terms of marketing. Each page will usually attract different visitors in different stages of the purchasing process. Deep product pages will often catch visitors while they are at their most profitable – when they’re ready to buy. General pages and even product category pages can be used to attract more general terms, but they should still be properly researched and targeted very precisely to your target market.

Niche Keywords

Niche keywords are often talked about as being the ideal variety of keywords for a page. A niche keyword is a highly targeted, very specific keyword. It is geared towards a corner of the market in which you operate and typically has very few competing pages. Niche keywords don’t usually create much in the way of traffic but the traffic that they do create is highly targeted and very active. It attracts excellent conversion rates ensuring that you get a good return on your marketing investment.

Long Tail Keywords

Many web pages will gain visitors from natural keywords within the text. These long tail search terms again produce highly targeted visitors and while each individual term will not produce more than one or possibly two visitors over the space of the month, they do all add up. It is virtually impossible to research long tail keywords because of their infrequency, but by using popular keywords you heighten the chances of seeing more on your website.

Why Keyword Research Is Important

Keyword research is an important aspect of SEO because it helps to identify the terms that surfers use to access sites similar to yours. This, in turn, enables you to optimize the pages of your site and your link profile in order to attract those visitors. By doing so, you may also improve the number of long tail searches that lead to your site, and these product highly targeted visitors for little optimization effort.

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About the Author: Omaro Ailoch is a senior software engineer, an entrepreneur and the founder of OC IT Services a highly skilled California based web development, design, and search engine optimization firm.

10 Search Engine Marketing Myths Debunked

In this article, I’m going to try and debunk a few myths floating around the Internet about what’s required to get your site visible in search engines. Here goes:

Myth 1 – You need to buy a domain with keywords in it

I’m sure you’ve seen them, domains like: www.paris-hilton-pink-diamond-dog-collars.com. For some weird reason, webmasters seem to think that they need to have a keyword-stuffed domain to do well in the search engines, the more hyphens the better. Well it just isn’t true.

In fact, Google sp@m evangelist Matt Cutts is known for warning against using over-stuffed keyword domains. If you have a look at one of the last sentences of this post of his he talks about possibly attracting Google’s attention with keyword-filled domains and gives an (excessive) example. Could he be hinting that using ultra-keyworded domains may trip a filter of some kind? I think so.

Myth 2 – You need to submit your site to 1000 search engines and directories

Ok, I don’t know who started this silly rumor but it’s nevër been true. Latest figures from Nielsen/NetRatings show that over 95% of the search market share is dominated by the top 5 search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN/Live Search, AOL and Ask. As long as your site is found in these engines, you can rest assured you’ve covered the main bases. Despite this, I still get emails offering to submit my sites to the “most popular” 1000 search engines.

Myth 3 – You need to stuff keywords into as many areas of your site as possible

I like to think this rumor was started by the same idiot who started 1). It’s correct that search engines actively seek to match your site content with search queries, but stuffing the same keywords over and over into your site code via visible or invisible text DOES NOT automatically make your site relevant for searches containing those keywords. It’s more likely to trip sp@m filters and earn your site a ranking suppression. In fact, you might as well hold up a big red flag to Googlebot that says “COME AND GET ME”.

Myth 4 – Your site has to be flat HTML

Wrong again. A few years ago, search engines had difficulty indexing sites that were built using dynamically-generated pages or pages with multiple parameters in their URLs. So the recommendatíon by SEO experts at the time was to use flat HTML pages or convert existing pages into HTML and/or use mod_rewrite to convert dynamic URLs into flat ones. However the search engines have all become better at indexing dynamic site content now and also provide a universal sitemap protocol to enable webmasters to ensure all their pages are submitted and indexed.

Myth 5 – You have to swap links with as many sites as possible

I’d like to strap whoever started this story to a couch and make them watch re-runs of The Golden Girls for a whole year. Because this is probably the most persistent and frustrating myth there is about search engine marketing and it’s one of my pet peeves. I am bombarded daily with emails from webmasters who tell me it’s “…extremely valuable to swap links to boost your Google PageRank” or who tell me I should form 3 way reciprocal link partnerships because it “…will help boost the link popularity of our sites in a way that is undetectable to Google”. Excuse my French, but that’s Bollocks!

Reciprocal links are pretty much worthless for search engine value these days. In-bound one way links from high quality sites are much more valuable from a search engine relevancy perspective. If you are going to seek out reciprocal links, for heaven’s sake, swap links with sites that provide related or complementary content to yours! What’s the point offering your site visitors a link if it doesn’t relate to what they are seeking on your own site? Don’t seek out links based on perceived search engine value. Swap links because they provide traffíc to your site or valuable resources to visitors of your own site. If you base your linking strategy on search engines alone, you’ll end up with a Free For All link farm that search engine staff will mock as they slap a ranking penalty on it.

Myth 6 – You have to buy an existing domain to be successful

This myth started shortly after Google began “sandboxing” new sites for a period of time before releasing them into the main index. The phenomenon became known as the aging delay. Webmasters were stumped when they couldn’t find their pages listed for any keywords in Google for months at a time and when learning of the sandbox effect, some decided that purchasing an existing domain could help them avoid the sandbox altogether.

A similar rumor suggested that purchasing a domain with a high Google PageRank would automatically transfer the PageRank and traffíc to any new site built on the existing domain. Neither of these assumptions is true. Hindsight has shown us that the sandbox does not actually exist, merely that Google has become a little more picky about which sites to feature in their main index versus the supplemental index and older, better linked sites have a better chance than brand new ones with no link reputation.

As for purchasing existing domains, this can actually backfire on webmasters because Google’s latest algorithm looks closely at domain registration details and if a domain has changed hands too many times or has had dodgy content in the past, it could attract suppression filters until the newest version of the site has built up some trust-rank.

Myth 7 – You only need to optimize your META Tags

Back in 1996 when I first began optimizing web sites, no one knew anything about SEO and so even slight changes to a web site meant you could outrank your competitors. Simply optimizing the title tag of a page could bring on a Top 5 position in the SERPS. Adding keyword-rich META Description and META Keywords tags too pretty much guaranteed you a top spot. Now it’s a completely different story. Most search engines don’t even support the META Keywords Tag anymore and Danny Sullivan recently determined that Google’s hasn’t ever supported it.

You have to provide search engines more than optimized title and META tags if you want your pages ranked highly for related search queries. You need to optimize the copy on your pages, reduce code bloat, provide a logical navigation structure, have good link popularity, update your site regularly, have sticky content and make sure your site code validates, amongst other things. Despite this, many webmasters assume that if they add an optimized title and META tag to every page, their job is done. Not so! You’ve got to think bígger than that.

Myth 8 – Any traffíc is good traffíc

I received an email recently from an online ad agency that had developed what they thought was a knockout SEO tool that they wanted me to review. It was basically a membership site designed to generate traffíc via a voting and points system where you earn points for visiting sites and receiving visitors from the same network. As I explained to them, the concept merely builds false traffíc and fake link popularity, which goes against practically everything in Google’s webmaster guidelines. It is also very open to manipulation and is, in my opinion, operating on flawed logic.

This mutual optimization idea has been tried before. It doesn’t work because it only attracts the most aggressive clickers and the whole thing turns into a competition between 2 or 3 lazy webmasters who think traffíc at any cost/quality is the way to run an online business. It’s not. Unqualified traffíc that’s unlikely to convert to sales or sign-ups is only wasting valuable bandwidth and hostíng resources. Visitors that disappear from your site a few seconds after they arrive skew your site metrics and send a message to search engines that your site is not worth visiting. You want traffíc from qualified leads, loyal repeat visitors and new visitors via highly targeted search queries.

Myth 9 – If you’re not found in Google, you’re screwed

I said it recently and I’ll say it again: Google is NOT the Internet. There are plenty of ways to market your web site online, so you shouldn’t become discouraged if you can’t seem to crack good results in Google. I know of plenty of sites that receive more referrals from Yahoo and MSN than Google and that’s the way they like it. Bento Yum is proof that an e-commerce site doesn’t need Google (or any of the 4 main search engines) to survive. Owner Jennifer Laycock has deliberately blocked search engine robots from the site to prove that an online business can thrive via word of mouth and social media buzz alone.

But even if you can’t live without Google referrals, you need to have back-up traffíc channels in place. Don’t rely too heavily on a single source for your traffíc. What if something happened tomorrow that stopped all your Google traffíc? Would your site survive? It should, if you’re doing your job well. Keep adding good content to your site, update and submit your sitemaps regularly, seek out high quality back links and the traffíc will come.

Myth 10 – Search Engine Marketing is expensive

Not so. You can market a web site on a shoe-string budget or no budget at all! You don’t need to spend thousands on SEO services or PPC advertising. Simply invest at least an hour per day learning how to optimize your web site for better search engine rankings, submitting it to relevant search engines and directories, adding fresh content, building up backward links and marketing it via social media networks such as Digg, Facebook, Del.icio.us etc.

Not sure where to start? Visit webmaster forums, read search marketing related blogs and sign up for related newsletters and you will soon learn everything you need to know about marketing your web site successfully.

About The Author
Article by Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, who is well known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running a daily Search Engine Advice Column, Kalena manages Search Engine College – an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

6 Steps To Improve Customer Loyalty From Site Visitors

Online shopping has quickly outstretched high street shopping for popularity and overall spend. One of the big advantages that consumers gain is the ability to comparison shop for a better deal. However, for the e-store owner or service provider, this can make it difficult to survive without offering the lowest prices and the greatest deals. Decreasing prices has an obvious effect on your revenue and profit so it is vital that you aim for the right target market and attempt to build customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty means repeat business and repeat customers offer the lowest marketing spend requirements. As such, improving customer loyalty can vastly reduce your spend and increase your ROI. Many of the methods of retaining customers for your website are developed from tried and trusted methods used by large organizations and businesses offline.

Know Your Target Markets

By really getting to know and understand your target markets you will have a much greater understanding what it is that they’re after. By learning this kind of information you will be better placed to send out relevant after-sales communication and entice your buyers to buy more.

Know Your Competitors

Knowing what your competitors are selling and for how much will help you determine the best prices for your own products. If you have a good customer retention rate it is often possible to increase the amount you pay for a new customer or reduce your prices without affecting your overall profit too much.

Customer Service

Perhaps the first aspect that many of us consider when looking at customer retention rates is customer service. You must supply a high level of customer service. If you go the extra mile for your customer, they will go the extra mile to come back to your site. Being polite in all communications is only a very small part of good customer service. Everything from your website content to complaint responses need to be well thought out and geared towards retaining customers.

Branding

The more synonymous your website becomes with the products or services you sell, the more likely that people will return to your site. Make sure that all of your web pages, emails, newsletters, invoices, and other forms of communication include your web address at the very least. Make it memorable and don’t chop and change designs and logos unless a re-branding is deemed absolutely necessary.

After-Sales Communication

There is an art to after sales communication, and it is an art that you need to learn to master. So, your website operates online, but that doesn’t mean that the whole of your business has to. If you sell digital products that are downloaded then ensure that emails and all online communication includes your branding. If you sell physical products, then your paper invoices, and everything down to your packing labels should also be branded.

Get Your Visitors Involved

Involving your site visitors will help to bring them back to your site time and time again. Web 2.0 applications provide a plethora of ways to involve site visitors. Blogs, forums, and any interactive tool will help to make your site bookmarkable. Even for visitors that don’t take action while on your site, you will attract them back more frequently, and the more exposure a visitor has to your website, the more likely they become to make a purchase.

Why Customer Loyalty Is Important To Your Business Website

Return visitors or return customers are one of your greatest assets. You’ve already done a lot of the hard work with your preliminary marketing campaigns. Ensure that everything from your website to your email newsletter to your packing slips are effectively branded with your website details and always uphold the highest level of customer service and communication. If you can get your site visitors more involved in your site then you stand to profit even more from customer loyalty.

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About the Author: Omaro Ailoch is a senior software engineer, an entrepreneur and the founder of OC IT Services a highly skilled California based web development, design, and search engine optimization firm.

A Slippery Slope: Google Owns a Search Engine Optimization Company

If you own or work with a search engine optimization company, or even if you’re just hoping to better your search engine placement, then you are probably aware of the recent acquisition frenzy that took hold among the major search engines. Google paid $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, Microsoft paid $6 billion for Aquantive, and Yahoo paid $680 million for the 80 percent of Right Media that it did not already own and another $300 million for BlueLithium. The companies purchased are all intended to help widen the advertising range of each of the engines in question, and to take advantage of increasingly sophisticated behavioral-based ad-serving technologies that the acquired companies owned.

What many people failed to realize was that when Google purchased DoubleClick, it now was also the owner of a very large search engine optimization company called Performics, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of DoubleClick.

This fact is of course raising some eyebrows in the industry. Google has consistently maintained that there is no way that people can pay for better search engine placement in the organic index, a stance that the company still claims applies despite this recent purchase. In fact, a portion of Google’s published guidelines about SEO says, “While Google doesn’t have relationships with any SEOs and doesn’t offer recommendations…” In another portion, Google says “While Google nevër sells better ranking in our search results…” However, anyone who hires search engine optimization company Performics is of course now paying Google for better search engine placement. It seems like a pretty black and white issue, but Google would obviously prefer that it was kept delightfully blurry.

A Serious Conflict of Interest

One would think that Google, aware of the controversy that would come from the fact that it now owned a search engine optimization company, would be eager to spin Performics off quickly in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety and of selling search engine placement. Not so, says the official Google/ Doubleclick acquisition FAQ:

Q. What will Google do with Performics?
A. Performics is part of DoubleClick, and we are acquiring it as part of the transaction. We have no plans to dispose of it at this time.[1]

All right, so Google owns a search engine optimization company and seems prepared to hold onto it for a little while at least. Yes, there seems to be a huge conflict of interest. Yes, there appears to be a large double standard. Yes, Google appears to have abandoned its long-standing principles regarding organic search engine placement in the interests of profít. But surely, the search engine optimization company that it bought will quickly be forced to follow the guidelines that Google has published for companies that are looking for a search engine optimization company. Right? Well, no.

Here is a verbatim quote from the guidelines that Google provides to people thinking about hiring a search engine optimization company:

* Make sure you’re protected legally. For your öwn safety, you should insist on a full and unconditional money-back guarantëe. Don’t be afraid to request a refund if you’re unsatisfied for any reason…[2]

On the surface, this advice seems solid enough, but as an owner of a search engine optimization company, I can tell you how impractical it is. What would prevent a company that achieved fantastic search engine placement using my service from asking for its monëy back, claiming that it is unsatisfied? “For any reason” is a very slippery slope, and apparently Google agrees – Performics does not provide a guarantëe of any kind. How do I know? Simple — one of my employees called and asked. We also have it in writing from an email we received from one of their sales reps.

What Are Google’s Options?

Let’s be charitable and assume that in the heat of the acquisition Google has forgotten to update the page of advice that it has created for website owners. This leaves only four things that can happen:

1. Status Quo: Google keeps this advice up on the page and Performics continues to provide no guarantëe regarding search engine placement. We’ll call this the “hypocritical” scenario.

2. Performics gets in line: Google leaves the advice up as is and forces Performics to provide an unconditional money-back guarantëe. We’ll call this the “free SEO from Performics” scenario.

3. Guidelines change: Performics maintains zero guarantees for search engine placement but Google modifies the advice to remove the inconsistencies pointed out in this article from its advice section. We’ll call this the “shareholder’s delight moneygrubber special” scenario.

4. Google spins off Performics and removes itself from the search engine optimization industry. We’ll call this the “sanity over dollars” scenario.

I’m not betting on which of these scenarios is most likely. Some time back I would have picked #4, but as I pointed out in a recent article, Google has already crossed an invisible line by offering free advice about organic search engine placement to its biggest pay-per-click spenders.

Google owning a search engine optimization company — a slippery slope, indeed. What does this mean for those hiring other companies and looking for great search engine placement? We will just have to wait and see.

References:

[1] What will Google do with Performics

[2] Google Webmaster Help Center

About The Author
Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue, which was recently named the number one search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, Organic Rankings, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Download Medium Blue’s latest exclusive whitepaper, “Adding Search to Your Marketing Mix,” for more insight.

Content is Dead. Community is King Now.

I can hardly bring myself to say the old cliche about content being… well, you know. I think it’s one of the original cliche’s in the SEO industry. And as redundant as it has become, for whatever reason we keep hearing it over and over again. And every now and then a new study pops up seemingly proving, once again, that content is… uh, good.

But much like a TV producer suggesting “video is king” or a radio advertiser demanding that “audio is king”, so goes the SEO demanding the same about content. Content has its role–and an important one at that, but it’s not the be-all, end-all of online marketing. Not even close.

But the roots of the “content is” movement are important for our industry. The mantra was first heard in the early days of the search engine optimization industry when SEOs were doing nothing more than throwing a bunch of keywords on a page and hoping they ranked well. Little or no thought or consideration was given to the readability of the web page. After all, it’s only rankings that matter, right? But those of us who learned to game search engines slowly began to learn something that those in the marketing industry have known for years. Words sell. Or turn people off, depending on what’s written and how it’s written.

So the movement to developing good content–real content–was an important one for our industry. But to get there we had to have the content mantra beat into our head over and over (and over). We got it. We know.

The King is Losing His Grip on the Kingdom

But like any worthy cause, we’ve reached a point where the mantra has been used and abused to the point where we use whatever we can find to prove once again that content is… y’know, that. Take a recent study by OPA and Nielsen/ NetRatings that shows that Internet users are spending more time than ever on content based websites.

Share of Time Spent Online

Commerce: 13.8%
Communications: 32.0%
Content: 49.6%
Search: 4.5%
That seems to confirm what many have been saying for years. Content is… uh, great for web marketing. And I’ve seen a few posts around the blogosphere and forums using this data to make that connection. The problem is, it’s not really there.

With the rise in popularity of blogs and social media sites it’s no wonder that more people spend their time reading online than anything else. While time reading and gathering information online has increased, time spent shopping has actually decreased, down over 2% from a year before. But does that tell us anything about marketing online? No, not really.

We know people like information and we know they like to communicate. We also know people like to shop and online shopping has continued to íncrease year over year. All this study suggests is what we spend most of our time doing on the web. Well, true enough, I don’t spend most of my time shopping.

Since when is it the goal of ecommerce sites to get people to spend a long time on their site? Isn’t it more important to drive shoppers to the sale and get the conversion? Step 1: Get traffíc. Step 2: Keep visitors engaged. Step 3: Close the sale. That’s not necessarily a process that necessitates long periods of time spent on a site.

In no way do I want to diminish the importance of content on ecommerce websites. Having a database of information that helps visitors make their decision, helpful tutorials, etc. can improve your visitor’s overall experience and keep them coming back to your site. But the goal of all of that is to lead people to the sale.

Community Killed Content and Stole the Throne

If I were to interpret this data I wouldn’t necessarily come away thinking content is… so very important. What I would conclude, however is that we need to build websites that meet a number of users needs. Adding more content to your ecommerce site is not the magic bullet. What is, however, is creating a great user experience and providing just the right amount of information and customer engagement that shoppers need to get to the conversion goal. That can be done through a number of means.

Many online stores are already paving the way by opening the door to ratings and reviews. Others are doing that by creating blogs to disseminate important and relevant industry information along with tips and tutorials. Still others do that by creating an information database that can visitors frequent to gain additional insights.

I might suggest that the best ecommerce websites are not those that build content around their products but build a community around the product interest. By creating a place where shoppers can come and gain information, learn more about the products and discuss or share information with others and then make purchases as well, will do more for sales than simply creating a shopping website.

By building a community you not only sell more products but you build brand recognition and customer loyalty. And both of those are worth far more than a single one-off sell. So while content may not be dead (not by a long shot, really), there is a new king in the online marketing industry. Long live community. Long live the (new) king.

About The Author
Stoney deGeyter leads a spectacular team of seasoned marketing experts at Pole Position Marketing. Stoney started PPM in 1998 by finding the brightest minds in the industry and nurturing within them an intense desire to become leaders in their respective fields. With this team of professionals, he has built a wildly successful website marketing company that succeeds through both personal and professional integrity.