How much branding is too much?
Every time we meet with a client whether they are new or old, we always discuss their keyword targets and their online branding as it exists. The error that seems to consistently crop up is when you try and be to precise with your targets. Branding is a great marketing tool and to be easily and quickly recognizable is great, but there is such a thing as going too far. I’m going to use a tire shop as an example of how branding, while great, can quickly go bad as well.
As the shop owner of ABC Tires you need customers to keep your doors open and you need to market yourself to get those customers. You could go with print, radio, television or online, but you need to pick one. Having the specialty line 123-Z, is a great way to help pull in organic traffic online, as you can build pages and content and optimize them so that they can climb the results pages until you’re at the top. When you start to see that increased attention from a brand, and you push all of your focus into it is where you’ll actually find your shop starting to flounder in it’s use. At the core you are not a 123-Z sales outlet, you’re a tire shop and that is the marketing and branding image that needs to be stressed, not a single inventory item.
We have had clients see growth and traction on a specific set of keywords, and have tried to push hard into marketing onto those specific terms. Having a target to aim for is great for our use, because it allows us to tailor your online marketing campaign for your goals. But it can quickly get out of hand if all of the content and design starts to reflect only a single term. Diversity in your keyterms and in your marketing is vastly important, as you can actually lose traffic and conversions by being to exacting. You can’t see the forest through the trees if you focus only on your branded terms because they get the most conversions. While you want to be the first site that shows up for your company’s names in Google SERPs, you also want to be present for other search queries. Don’t be afraid to diversify your keyword strategy – you might find that with a few tweaks to your keyword strategy that a whole new world of customers lies just beyond the search engines, looking for you and what you have to offer.
There are a lot of tips out there online about search engine optimization and the methods you can put to use to rank higher in the Google/Bing/Yahoo SERPs. You can find some of the same type of posts on our blog here as well. You’ll find discussion of white hat techniques, black hat techniques, the common steps known as well as some of the not so obvious ones.
What you don’t find very often however, are posts about what not to do, or what to look out for when you’re looking at contracting a company to perform SEO on your website. While the search engines are somewhat flexible in what you’re allowed to do, there are most definately some tricks which can get you black marked, all the way to completely kicked from the SERPs.
So, when you’re looking for a company to perform optimization on your site, keep your ears open for any of the below terms. If there is mention of using any of these practices, it’s time to run for the hills.
Using Cloaked content
This is one of the most common, and most likely to get your company banned, practices out there. For the most part, when you create content for your site you’re telling the search engines what your site is for. Google/Bing/Yahoo then lists the website under the titles and keywords that is found in that content. Cloaking content is when a company shows Google content, and then shows viewers different content such as ads or links to malware infected sites. This is what is cloaking and will get a site removed from Google in very short order.
A lot of blogs talk about how the meta data for keywords and description are defunct, but Google often looks to these as indicators of keywords that make up a site. For example a site about water softeners will often contain content relevant to that industry. Some companies, however, try to gain new content by what is known as “keyword stuffing”. Mainly this involves hiding keywords with single pixel sized font or camouflaging text the same as the background color to try and get listed more often, for more terms. It may seem to work short term, but it will get a site removed from the SERPs.
Duplicate content Websites
Some novice SEOs and SEO companies try to increase rankings by putting the exact same content on different pages on multiple sites. Typically they also use a scraper tool to gather quality content from websites for their own. Search engines have gotten adept at catching this and will happily penalize, a website that has too much duplicate content.
Auto Generating Content
Another poor technique is to use a program to write content for your website. This is exactly as it sounds, taking one article and then having a program rewrite the article by changing a few sentences and keywords over and over again.
Those are only a few of the terms you need to be aware of when speaking with an SEO company. Absolutely stressing the point that if any of the above techniques are mentioned as a tool they use, avoid them at all costs. There is no shortcut to success in online marketing, real SEO takes time and the more time and effort you can put into it, the bigger return on investment you can expect.
There are a long list of dos and do nots to be found online. A well coded website, decent content well written and relevant to your visitors needs and maybe a picture or two to liven the look of your website up.
An unexpected issue however, pops its head up from time to time when working on our clients sites. Even though everyone who knows everything talks about how keywords and description don’t mean anything in your SEO campaign, think of them instead as a gauge to begin your efforts. Your description is the snippet of information displayed in the SERPs when you show up as a result. As an example, a very popular content management system out there is Joomla! and more often than not when we have a client needing an overhaul, their keywords and description tags are full of joomla, joomla, joomla.
You might be saying to yourself now “So what, that SEO blog I read says description and keywords don’t matter”. Would you visit a website when their snippet for their website consists of “Joomla! – the dynamic portal engine”? It’s sloppy coding, poor diligence on the part of the designer and owner of the site and is reflective of their quality as a service vendor.
So to recap, as much as your description and keywords don’t matter to SEO, they matter as an impression to those who may be searching for your services. You need to bear in mind both as a website/business owner and as an SEO with a list of clients, that neglecting even the smallest detail can have a large impact on your visibility and marketability. One last small tidbit of information to help you along, don’t try and be too clever when creating your description and keywords. That’s all I’ll say about that point.. for now.
With how compact, powerful and convenient todays smartphones are becoming. The rise of the netbook and tablet pc, it’s not a surprise at all that mobile search, search using the aforementioned techonologies, is growing in leaps and bounds. A very general breakdown of Googles numbers were posted in their blog this past week:
Over the past two years, Google’s mobile searches have grown by more than five times. Furthermore, in the third quarter of 2010, Google mobile searches jumped 130% year over year.
Percentages are amazing to look at and all, but they should also be taken with a some thought; they can make the actual results seem much larger than they are. But onto mobile search! Google, like Bing and other search companies, have their own keyword search tool. They have however, recently added the ability to check which terms are being used in mobile searches.
The Keyword Tool now helps you build a better keyword list to target mobile users. Under “Advanced options,” you can now search for keywords for devices with mobile WAP browsers, mobile devices with full Internet browsers (think iPhone and Android phones), or all mobile devices.
So your site, which by now is hopefully mobile friendly (it is 2011 after all), can be optimized with the mobile market in mind. With the billions of dollars in revenue this past holiday season which were made via mobile techonology, it’s well worth the investment.
Content is an incredibly powerful optimization metric on your website. It’s your effective communication to the search engines of the value of your website. Stuffing your page full of pictures, and not describing them in any way is almost a guaranteed way to get yourself lost online with little to no viewers via search. Now the flip side is also true, you can’t cram a thousand lines of text on a page and expect to rank on page 1 for your niche without using a degree of care.
The simplest way to describe it, you want to sculpt the language on your site, to appeal not only to the search engines, but to your visitors; current, and future of course. No one knows your business like you do, but a key point you need to be aware of as a business owner, is that your clients don’t know your business like you do. So don’t clutter your text with technical terms, or vague descriptions around products or processes. Making the assumption that your customers and clients know you as well as you or your salesmen do, can be a detrimental step in the structure of your content.
The number one rule when it comes to content generation?
On the social front of your site or experience, there’s been a mashup of the trendiest, retweetable terms determined. It seems that while there’s no sure fire way to have your news or posts immediately rebroadcasted, there are ways to help increase your chances. The most popular terms for titles would have to be “How to”, “Increase”, and “Social Media”. In theory, a surefire way to have your post picked up and passed around would be to use that text as your title, and craft an article around it. Apparently however, “Trust”, “Talk” and “Sentiment” seem to be very undesireable text tweets. Food for thought.
If SEO copywriting isn’t about the percentage of keywords within the copy, then what is it about? Balance. You have two audiences with SEO copywriting: the search engines and your site visitors. But surprisingly, the balance doesn’t come with serving both masters well. The balance comes in how much you cater to the engines. You see, your site visitors always come first.
However, if you write with too little focus on the engines, you won’t see good rankings. If you put too much focus on the engines, you’ll start to lose your target audience. Balance… always balance.
One of the discussions that new content writers like to engage in is the keyword density discussion.
Somewhere along the line someone told them to make sure their keyword density was at least 1% and not more than 7%, or something like that. Is there any truth to it?
Not really. What’s really important to getting rankings in the search engines is not how many times you use a keyword in your content, but where you use your keyword and how you use your keyword.
In terms of search engine optimization, one keyword placed in the title of your content – an h1 tag at the top of the page – is worth about half a dozen of the same keyword filtered throughout your content. That’s pretty powerful. By the same token, one keyword placed inside an anchor text link is equal in value to about three or four of the same keyword repeated in your content.
Again, that’s fairly significant.
Keyword density may have been important at one time, but it’s not important today. You’d be much better off learning what the search engines are looking for overall and forgetting about keyword density.
One of the greatest advantages of the Internet and search engines like Google is that you can find almost anything about almost anything or anyone. This is particularly true following the advent of web 2.0 technologies and increasingly sophisticated websites indexing everything from video to audio – we’ve come a long way from text rich sites with just an image or two to mix things up.
Of course, this information superhighway is also incredibly bad news if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself or your company on the wrong end of some bad press. Unlike the newspapers of yesteryear that were discarded after reading, online publications are indexed indefinitely, giving bad press an infinite shelf life
If your company is poorly represented on a site with a good PageRank, a respectable number of links and good rankings, chances are it will turn up near the top of the SERPs for searches on that company name. Not only does this mean the story will live on long after the facts may have changed, it’s also galling to discover that the old mantra of bad news selling translates equally aptly online. Say the bad press takes the form of a harsh critique of your restaurant. Upon seeing the piece, you take action and work solidly for six months to turn your eatery around. You change the menu, source new suppliers, opt for a complete revamp of the décor and hire a new head chef and sous chef. After all your hard work, you log back on and discover the bad review is still prominently positioned in a search for your business name. All because the review ran in an influential food mag or national newspaper.
How do you fight this and regain credibility? Most bad press relates to a particular service area or product, rather than attacking the entire business model. This, while unfortunate for the product being bad mouthed, is actually good news when it comes to rectifying the situation as it gives you a very specific plan of attack.
Even in SEO, the best defense is a good offense and there are several options available to you to replace the negative with the positive. The most effective way, is to focus on how the changes have been brought about and drown out the bad with good. That means developing a groundswell of support for the keyword or keywords being black balled. When attempting this, you must apply the fundamental rules of organic optimization while embracing the usefulness and grassroots potency of social media activity and multi-media content.
Research is always the first stage so ascertain which keywords trigger the bad press. Create a list so the whole set of phrases can be included in the image overhaul. This is also a good opportunity to re-assess any existing organic activity. Ask yourself if variations of these keywords such as location specific versions are now appropriate to your optimization. If you’ve grown as a company while making some fundamental changes to the business offering, chances are you will be able to add more words to the list.
The second stage is to understand why the negative press is gaining such prominent positions. Obviously if the site is well established and a respected resource, your situation isn’t helped. However, you can take advantage of their stronghold by running link reports and then sifting through the returned results. Pick out referrers with a good PageRank, domains that are particularly relevant to your own site and make a note of any social networking sites that you haven’t yet heard of or haven’t yet had the opportunity to use. This will form a fundamental part of your positivity drive.
Having developed an initial list of sites to target for linkbacks in order to negate the advantage of the bad publicity, you need to approach each of those sites and barter for a link. The most effective way to do this is to provide unique content. For newspaper sites, specialist portals and the like, why not create a press release announcing your re-launch, outlining all of the positive differences that have been made? Consider a launch party or opening night in order to get local press involved and then send out the PR to all of those sites on the original link back list. If you’re feeling brave, you can even send the piece to the author of the bad press you’re trying to sink. Invite them to come and review your product offering again, suggest a formal meeting or collaborate on a competition, pushing any newly gained sales tools such as client testimonials. The creation of new jobs if you’ve taken on new members of staff as part of the restructuring or even a great offer on the original product can pique the interest of the newshound who first slammed your offering.
With your PR campaign launched, you need to find other ways to build links and positive opinion about your brand or company. To do this, remember that the results pages of major engines like Google or no longer simply about text based content. Video, audio and images all play their part. Creating interesting and useful multi-media content makes a great addition to any traditional SEO campaign and is a useful part of the armor when driving out bad press. Create video content that is going to be of interest to others and make sure that it is easily shared. Video sharing typically takes place around sites like YouTube so incorporate this facility to get others to link back to it.
Social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Squidoo, Sphin and Digg are all powerful tools and an extension of the content diversity you’ll need to push unfavorable listings off the front page. Any social media campaign activity should be thought of as a chance to communicate with the consumer, not sell to them. Create content specifically for this purpose, invite their feedback and provide a space for conversation and the links and client goodwill you seek will follow. This same approach can also be used for forum activity. Rather than jumping in with any excuse to link back to your site, watch first, participate second. Take time to understand the forum profile and then introduce relevant content and responses. Ask probing questions and give answers that inform and watch the links flood in. Content creation managed this way often grows organically, being picked up by blogs or industry commentators to create yet more links and more goodwill.
As with a full-on SEO campaign, attempt to turn around a poor online reputation need to be sustained if they are to succeed. If you don’t have time to dedicate yourself, consider hiring an SEO company or external consultant on a short term basis to carry out your brief
It should be friendly not only to the human eye, but also to search-engine spiders—programs that crawl the Web looking for up-to-date information.
A site’s structure can make a big difference in how easily a spider can crawl it. Web addresses that use keywords related to the content of the page generally help a search engine better correlate them with the site. For example: www.yourwebsite.com/keyword/filename.html. The closer the keyword is to your homepage in the Web address, the more relevant a search engine will consider the page to be for that keyword, and the more likely the search engine will be to give your site a better ranking.
Another consideration is where content is placed on the page. Spiders read pages starting at the top left corner of a page, so pages, keyword links to content that’s especially important for search engines to see should be moved there.
The keyword or keyword phrase you choose for a page should directly reflect the page’s content. Headlines, subheads and formatting, such as bold and italics, also should be related directly to this central subject. These indicators will signal to search-engine spiders that the keyword or keyword phrase is more prominent or prevalent than other words on the page, increasing the likelihood of a higher search ranking.