There’s a kaleidoscope of steps, styles, methods and opinions about the right way to implement search engine optimization (SEO) for your site. But, there are a few points which are generally accepted. Points such as:
- Quality content is extremely important
- Working actively to accrue quality links and backlinks is also paramount
- Apply K.I.S.S. to your site
One of the most overlooked steps, which should be mentioned more often is having an accurate, up to date sitemap for your website. You can think of a sitemap as the formal written index of your web pages. Up until recently, multiple sitemaps were needed if you desired to have all of your content listed easily. Be it images, text, videos, your geo location, and a news section. An individual sitemap for each was required to speed up the indexing process of those assets. Google introduced the XML sitemap 5 years ago, and have just recently changed the game a little.
Instead of multiple sitemaps, webmasters can now submit one XML sitemap to include all of your websites features. From Google:
The idea of the inclusion for multiple content types within one sitemap was to streamline the entire process for webmasters and their clients.
Google, the king of the web, the go to guys in the realm of search, and the players holding all the cards, was put to their own test. Just some of the self imposed questions for Google:
How many of Google’s web pages use a descriptive title tag? Do we use description meta tags? Heading tags? While we always try to focus on the user, could our products use an SEO tune up?
So how did they do? The report was published on their own webmaster blog, but it will be just a couple of the more interesting points we’ll touch on. Google always works for the user, to improve the users experience. They don’t work for their own ends, on how to rank or be found online, Googling is a verb now, so it’s not hard to find them. Some of their fixes they found which were needed included 404s, broken links, URLs were confusing in some places, and better titles and description tags for their pages.
As described in their own SEO report card :
Google’s SEO Report Card aims to identify potential areas for improvement in Google’s product pages. If
implemented, these improvements could:
• help users find our pages more easily in search engines
• fix bugs that annoy visitors and hurt our pages’ performance in search engines
• serve as a good model for outside webmasters and companies
They took 100 pages of different Google products, and ranked them following common SEO strategies. They found interesting numbers such as, 33% of their products had descriptive meta tags. Only 1/3 of their pages had proper snippet text, terribly low number for the company who relies on that tag, in order to pass on the summary of a page to a user.
They found that only 10% of their pages had proper titles, in length and format. They have some confusing URLs which could be redirected for ease of use, and that nearly half of their images alt text needed improvement. 301s, 404,s and proper tags missing oh my!
The entire report is an insightful read, and it’s plain to see that even when you’re the king of search, you can still make mistakes from time to time.
You can read the report for yourself here I recommend the read.
M – “I started dating this girl, and I want to Google her because she said she’s done some modelling, what do you think?”
W – “You could check Facebook first and see if she’s on there, and what her friends are like.”
M – “Yeah, that’s a good idea I guess. My boss was asking me today if we should try search engine optimization on our site.”
W – “We’ve been looking at it too, the web guys are trying to decide who we should talk to about it, or just do it ourselves.”
A very generic, not so surprising conversation today, but what if you heard it 6+ years ago? You’d have thought they were nuts, and using language and words that had no meaning or bearing on the world today. Google. Facebook, search engine optimization, all everyday terms in normal conversation between two people buying coffee in the morning.
The internet has become so entwined in our everyday lives, that it would be completely strange, to not talk about using it in some way or another in our day to day. In the conversation above, two references to online marketing were used within the span of a few seconds of conversation. Don’t see it? Googling a persons name just to see if they come up, and a brief conversation about how their business is contemplating the use of search engine optimization for their website.
Social media, Google, SEO.. they’re not passing trends. They’re not fly by night, and they’re not going to disappear or magically stop working. They are topics which get discussed over the morning coffee run by the interns. The choice you need to make as a user, or business, will you have the tools work for you, or against you.
In late March 2010, rumors were swirling that search engine giant Google, Inc. was preparing to launch its own SEO (search engine optimization) firm. In early April, Google put an end to the rumors and unveiled a plan to open the SEO agency as early as May. Apparently, this project had been in the pipeline for quite some time and Google had done an excellent job of keeping it secret. In light of that, it is easy to believe that those March rumors were in fact Google manipulations, at least an attempt to test the waters before a formal announcement.
Now, Google is assembling a Google SEO team of approximately 100 employees. The company professes that their intentions are noble. Google wants to set the standard for an industry that outsiders so often criticize. Google SEO promises to use only the most ethical practices to increase a client’s PageRank™, and they promise to do it without adding to the spam glut that currently exists on the Internet. However, the fact remains that Google SEO will be the only SEO agency in the world that can guarantee first page rankings because they are the only company that will have access to the algorithm that dictates it.
In addition, early estimates place the cost of this service in the neighborhood of $25,000 per month. Not only does Google have a monopoly on the search engine optimization, they will be fostering an environment of exclusivity. Google will cripple the thousands of small Internet business vying for your attention. That is not to say that it is currently easy for small business but at least they have the opportunity.
So consider the situation where a firm owns the audience and owns the power to give or take away visibility from a business. Now imagine that they offer you the path to greater visibility, at a cost. The nonprofessional might not know the intricacies of antitrust laws but he or she knows a racket when they see one and this is, at least potentially, a racket. Again, Google promises to do the ethical thing but it begs the question, do we want to trust a corporation to do the ethical thing or do we want to legislate law that mandates it?
Are you worried? Well I’m not, maybe knowing Google as well as I do, remember I sold my company to them, I know how rank page 1 for what we want, but it might well put paid to the cowboys out there.
A new’ish trend in search would have to be the local aspect. Building your site with the idea of attracting local clients, is getting to be a very lucrative market, namely because if people can get what they want just around the corner, why order online and wait a couple of weeks?
Now the question is; what to do to be found locally? There is a derth of information out there in what to do and what to avoid, and in all the noise there are a few gems which should be the highest on your list of “to do”
1) Google map listing : While this is a fairly straight forward process to set your listing up and be found, optimization does in fact play a part in where you will list in this area as well.
2) Local SEO onsite : On page optimization is huge in being able to generate quality content to compel visitors to link to / remain on your site. Being able to have that type of content *and* be locally optimized is a delicate touch, so as not to upset your balance. And as always, just adding a bunch of local addresses or slang to your pages doesn’t help your case, so much as damage it.
3) Social Media? : If you have a Facebook/Twitter account, and chances are you do, you can and will benefit by including as much localization to your profile as you can muster.
There is so much more than just these few tips to bear in mind as you gear your site for local dominance in the organic search results.
Most companies see SEO (search engine optimization) as a black hole. It’s full of technical terms, and they don’t easily understand it. As a result, they treat SEO as a nice-to-have rather than a necessity, and as an IT project. The executives who control the purse strings can’t easily distinguish between paid and organic/natural search. So, it’s up to marketers to help them understand, because until they do, they won’t spend the money.
Then who’s to blame for your company’s marketing failures? And who gets credit for its marketing successes? The answer should be Search Engine Optimization, along with PPC (pay per click) and every other facet of your marketing programs. It must be held accountable if it wants a seat at the table with the big boys.
Natural search is the most under-spent channel in internet marketing. Even though most site traffic comes through search, it only gets about 10 percent of the budget because natural search is difficult to put a price tag on. Companies tend to just direct their spending to paid (PPC) search.
It’s also important to put a long term plan in place. Rather than work toward a single, final goal, set up milestones which allow you to measure your progress to get you there. This will keep you on the path to success. All kinds of measures will work well – number of keywords, traffic flow, number of indexed backlinks, search engine rankings. Using an easy to follow metric to track your SEO success, and where you need to make improvements will only improve your internet marketing strategy as a whole.
So you start with some content, add a dash of keywords and images (with proper code of course). A few linked pages, some good meta data and top it off with a title and voila! SEO recipe is complete, or is it? Is it really so simple as it seems? Not really, no, and even Microsoft has admitted as much.
Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have the same fundamental goal; deliver the most relevant results to a query for a user. Google however, has that extra ingredient, that spice in the cake which you just can’t put your finger on, which threw it into top spot and has allowed it to become fully entrenched in the position. Bing and Yahoo, while not inherently inferior in their core purpose, just are in the end missing that secret ingredient.
To paraphrase Steve Ballmer :
“..there are certainly some things. I would love it if advertisers would share with us their experience on Google, and we could, if that was allowed to be shared in the right way, with the right algorithmic support, there are certainly things that we could do to help those advertisers on Bing, and we’d be happy to do, and probably offer the advertiser a better value. But there are some things that Google still holds as its proprietary data that makes that tough..”
In the same intervew, Ballmer also admitted that yes, they do want to be number one in search, because you never begin something with the idea to be number two. But that they’re focusing on their long term goals in that aspect with Yahoo.
With no plans to attempt to acquire Twitter or Facebook, Ballmer also said that Bing is happy in it’s long term partnerships with the social media giants. Going so far as to say :
“.. great partnership, a company that is doing, I think, a very nice job, very much wants to be an independent company, so we continue to work the partnership with them (Facebook), and we’re pleased to have extended our search relationship with them a number of years into the future.”
Not happy on being number 2, can’t change it because of that secret ingredient, and unable/unwilling to make the leap via acquisition. Bing is a fine search engine, colorful, interactive and such, but it’s still (admittedly) behind it’s quicker, more efficient leader; Google.
Fun tip: In reading online, I’ve noticed every now and then that an “SEO Expert” will optimize your site for “whichever search engine you wish to be visible on” Be number one and all that jazz. It doesn’t work that way, Google, Bing, and Yahoo are similar enough to a degree, that properly optimizing, will get you listed on all of the SERPs. The only way to be found on a single search engine, is via AdWords and such. Beware advertising resellers in the guise of true SEO’s.
“Location, location, location” — William Dillard
Also known as the three most important rules in real estate, location, is everything in business. Manhattan, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and such, all infer an immediate sense of value. But what if your new business partner told you that his street address was 123 Pickles Street, Noname USA; but that they rank for all of their terms in search in Googles top 5 organically?
Location, whether it is physical, or electronic, is a key to your success in the business world. A shift however, is in motion. Physical address, is becoming less important, as search results location. There are some key differences in the two, and they all come down to cost vs worth in the end. Having a physical street address like Macy’s 151 West 34th Street, New York, sounds impressive, but at what cost? With a price tag average of around $50 per square foot (4Q 2009), and one million square feet of retail space, Macy’s in New York has a hefty price tag to just keep the doors open. Macy’s is a global brand, the name has been in the public for a great many years, but that they don’t even appear in the top 100 listings of Manhattan shopping in Google? The top 10 is populated with primarily information sources, tourism sites etc.
Macy’s, who made close to $25 billion dollars in 2009. doesn’t appear on the first page of Google for Manhattan shopping. It begs the question; why? They rely on their physical location and brand history, to pull them through. But physical location, like street address, is old business. Just like advertising with the radio, newspapers and billboards are dwindling, so will the importance of physical location begin to crumble.
So what is the cost to be in the top 10, or top 5 even on Google? Time, and tenacity and a fraction of the investment of a prominent street address. Online marketing, online branding, and organic search engine optimization needs to be the focus of business in the Information age. The 13-18 generation lives, breaths, interacts, and learns online. Attention spans are lower than ever, but retention rates for products and services deemed worthy, are higher than ever. Building your site properly, marketing it effectively, and being ready for the rush of traffic, can make your business, the newest brand online.
Page 1 is the new “Location, location, location”, what’s your location?
Sure it rolls of the tongue, just like the late night informercials selling juicers and vaccuum packing machines to help save you storage space. But can you really teach or inform a room of, safest to assume, people who’ve never heard the term before?
Doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense when you think of it as such, and anyone who is truly in the know in the industry will tell you, SEO isn’t something you learn, teach, or even give a strong idea of, over a long lunch.
Say it with me – Search engine optimization is not quick fix. It is not flash in the pan success in advertising. SEO is long term, strategic success in online marketing. It’s a long term plan, with very real, very measurable results in driving traffic to your website.
Recently, it’s seemed that an additional misunderstanding of SEO is that it doesn’t sell your products or services well enough. Optimization isn’t a salesman so to speak, SEO is more like the car the salesman used to get to your home in order to sell you the goods. It doesn’t matter if the salesman (your website) arrived in a gleaming, brand new, state of the art shuttle (SEO), if it’s poorly dressed and hard to understand it’s goals and motives.
You may be advised to have a new website built, to have it restructured, or any number of things. Traffic and exposure to the world is our business. We will bring you the people, it’s up to you to sell yourself from there on in.
Not that this is terribly long to read, but to summarize ::
SEO is NOT a get rich quick business model.
SEO is NOT to be taken lightly.
SEO is NOT a salesman, it’s a vehicle to bring you your customers.
SEO IS the best return on investment, marketing wise, that you can use for your business.
SEO IS long term.
SEO IS is becoming increasingly important, every single day.
SEO IS much, much more than Twitter, Facebook, blogging and Adsense.
Don’t be fooled into simple explanations for the artful science of search engine optimization. You do yourself, and the industry a disservice.