Browsing "search engine optimization"
It seems to be a consistent trend when a new client meets with us, telling us about their incredible website which they’ve paid (sometimes) thousands of dollars to have it built for them, only for us to turn around and tell them plainly “I’m sorry, but this is terrible to work with”.
Having a flair for style is a great thing when it comes to being a designer, but there are some key points which designers should always bear in mind when constructing a new website, whether for themselves, or for a client. It’s time, I think, to cover just the bear minimum of basics for all of you web designers out there.
1. Title and Meta tags
Important to your site, as a note, don’t try and wedge all of your keywords into these places, it can just get you a mark for trying to be overly spammy. Too many marks, and your website can actually start working against you.
2. Avoid frames, keep flash and java to a minimum
Frames are a no-no code wise for a great long time now, it’s sloppy, looks terribly unprofessional, and best to be avoided completetly.
Flash and Java, while they can add some neat tricks or interesting effects to your site, don’t make a lick of sense to Google.
3. Alt attributes
It’s simple, as with Flash and (some) Java : spiders can’t see pictures. the “alt” tag is there for you tell the spiders what it’s looking at.
4. Use clean, valid mark up.
Make your HTML clean and simple – don’t use tables or use lots of unnecessary DIVs. This will improve your load time which is great for visitors and also make it easier for search engines to crawl and find your page’s content.
5. Make use of header tags
Think of header tags like chapter titles within a book, makes it easy to navigate the index of pages contained within.
6. Try descriptive link text
Linking your website together just makes the navigation better, period, for both bots/spiders and a user experience. Try to avoid things like “click here” and the like.
7. Help bots crawl your site
Bots/spiders are pretty good at navigating your site, but just like having an index or table of contents to a book, it’s helpful to have the same in place for your website. A well formed footer, or sitemap only helps our job as SEO’s when you come to us to assist your rankings online.
All of the above tips, are very basic tips that all web designers should already know and bear in mind when constructing a website. But it is always a good idea to brush up on the fundamentals. Because often times, designers can’t see a forest for the trees.
There are many schools of thought dealing with online marketing, how to do it, how not to do it. Who to talk to, who you should avoid. A post or two ago I mentioned how strange it was that since Fresh has moved into Winnipeg, that SEO companies all of a sudden appeared out of the woodwork. The idea of this writing, is to just share some basics of what you should consider when looking at your online marketing strategy.
1. Optimization Experts – These are the individuals and firms that have been around for quite a while, come with years of experience, and clearly offer a healthy organic approach to search engine optimization and marketing. They know how to market themselves. These are the individuals and companies that stand out and very well should from the other type of SEO’s. Have you seen them in multiple areas online? Are the search results for their name filled with nice juicy related content?
2. Web Designers – Web design and SEO are two very different things. Many web designers try to offer SEO on their websites but that doesn’t mean they know search engine optimization. That is not to say that every web designer out there is not capable of properly executing search engine marketing efforts but horses for their courses. A web design company which builds an SEO page during slow economic times should not be a choice.
3. Fly by Night SEO – It doesn’t take much to get a website up and running, don’t let some trust badge or Google logo on their website fool you. Many are taking one day training courses, maybe a webinar and all of a sudden they are an expert. Search for their name and see what you find online.
4. Offshore Optimization – It is ok to work with an offshore company, if your website is targeting the audience where that company is based. Why would you risk hiring someone to conduct SEO in a foreign country, if they don’t natively speak the language of your target audience? The inexpensive prices of going with someone oversees can be very appealing but you will pay for it in the long run.
5. Optimization Software – Software can not grow a business. A very large portion of SEO requires a human mind or touch. You need to be able to put yourself into the shoes of your audience, and software can not do that. There is no magic pill or easy way out with SEO. It takes time and patience, and proper monitoring and execution of all efforts.
This is all very simple, basic information that should be in the forefront of your mind when you consider your online marketing strategy. Search engine optimization is not a step to be taken casually, it needs to be taken with confidence in the experts you’ve hired to help push you to the top of the engines.
Breaking ground to make a new flower garden, you can get some unpleasant issues from time to time. Grass creeping into your garden, weeds, bugs, animals rooting around, all matters which just need to be handled as you tend to your garden. The majority of the issues can be taken care of with simple due diligence, but one problem in particular, weeds, can pose additional risk to those who don’t know what they’re looking for.
Weeds can look deceptively similar to flowers which you have planted in your garden, blending in with your desired product, choking them out and hiding their true worth. Only by taking the time, being fully aware of what you have, and what you need to remove from your field of view, can you seperate the weeds, and appreciate your hard earned effort.
Flower gardens and SEO? What do they have in common? Nothing. Neither do house hold do it yourself repairs have with optimization, baking, painting, or anything else for that matter (but all of the aformentioned sites, I have read blogs posted by them on the topic of SEO); search engine optimization is relevant to search engine optimization.
So why the analogy? Well, since Freshtraffic has opened up in Winnipeg, there were only one or two other businesses in town offering services which barely begin to resemble SEO services for clients. The realm of search engine optimization, was firmly in the hands of the Freshtraffic team; yet here we are, 2 years later and there are dozens of companies offering SEO services in Winnipeg. Strange how Fresh breaks new ground in Winnipeg, and all of a sudden there’s a wealth of “experts” in the field in town.
Take some time, do your due diligence when taking your companies first steps into having your website optimized. It would be a shame to have all the work of building your businesses website all for nothing, by not having the best work for you.
Newspapers and other print mediums, even TV are losing a huge portion of their advertising revenue share to the web, most of these now own an online property where they are trying to make up revenue losses, is this too little too late?
There are many reasons that have made it hard for the traditional media company to compete with its own online web property and here are just a few of them:
1. The web has more competition:
Offline they are competing with only a few other newspapers/stations, but on the web they are competing with millions, the web has given everybody a voice for free!! Not everyone can establish a print newspaper or a TV station, but everyone can easily own a Blog FOR FREE, and if you happened to be a really good ad writer in a specific niche, you could well start to get your own audience.
2. The web is fast paced compared to traditional media:A few months in the web world is a very long time, so while those guys are strategizing for the next 5 years, a young 20 year old could come up with another Facebook or Digg, or may be another Google.
3. Should you care less about brand/reputation:
When it comes to the web medium, it is an open environment, expect criticism, spam and all kinds of other attacks, fear will get you know where, get rid of these fears and go online.
4. The low cost of getting traffic on the web:Thanks to paid search and search engine optimization; you can get instant traffic online once you have finished your website, you can also control the amount of traffic/money you want to spend every day.
5. The web has a huge user base:
Before the web there were millions of people who were unreachable by any media, the popularity of the web has created a huge user base where small ideas can find people interested them.
Is traditional media going to die soon?
It will not die, but traditional media should expect to lose more of it is advertisement revenue year by year, they have a solution, which is to convert more resources towards their web departments and try to hire some creative minds AND online marketing experts in order to;
- Drive more traffic to their online properties
- Enhance their brand
- Make it harder for smaller players to penetrate the market by continually growing your own online presence to catch any new opportunities.
Being the start of the year, it’s always a good idea to remember what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s also a good idea to remember and brush up on the basics, because if your foundation has no strength, what ever you build upon it will fall.
Search engine optimization, an industry born from neccesity, is as much an art, as it is a mathematical science. But just because you get the perfect ratio of keyword to text and what not, it doesn’t mean you’ll rank well in the SERPs. Google, the king of the multi-billion dollar mountain of search, basically birthed SEO and has brought it’s evolution to it’s current state. So who better to review the basics with?
We’ll go over the basics very briefly initially, and pay closer attention to some of the key points as they merit.
1) Create unique, accurate page titles
“A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is.”
2) Make use of the “description” meta tag
“A page’s description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about.”
3) Improve the structure of your URLs – Basically make your URLs easy to read.
“This can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines. Also, it can create easier, “friendlier” URLs for those that want to link to your content.”
Try your best when designing your site, to avoid URL structure like www.testsite.com/72a00065a.htm It’s non-descriptive, makes no sense to a visitor who may choose to link to your content, and can make it difficult to keep your site and pages organized.
4) Make your site easier to navigate
“The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want. It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.”
5) Offer quality content and services – this is really in their guide, it surprised me honestly.
“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here.”
6) Write better anchor text – Avoid using anchor text like click here and the like
“Anchor text is the clickable text that users will see as a result of a link, and is placed within the anchor tag. This text tells users and Google something about the page you’re linking to.”
7) Use heading tags appropriately – Six types, ranging from H1 to H6, H1 being the most important.
“Heading tags are used to present structure on the page to users.”
8) Optimize your use of images – Search engine spiders can’t see pictures the same way we do
“Images may seem like a straightforward component of your site, but you can optimize your use of them. All images can have a distinct filename and “alt” attribute, both of which you should take advantage of.”
9) Make effective use of robots.txt – Note: You need to exercise care with your robots file. You could accidentally prevent your site from being indexed properly if you’re unsure of how to configure it.
“A “robots.txt” file tells search engines whether they can access and therefore crawl parts of your site.”
10) Be aware of rel=”nofollow” for links – Note: As with the robots file, if you’re unsure as to proper use of nofollow, use caution.
“Setting the value of the “rel” attribute of a link to “nofollow” will tell Google that certain links on your site shouldn’t be followed or pass your page’s reputation to the pages linked to.”
All of the above are essentially the good, solid practices that any SEO should be following. Additionally, every one of the points I’ve touched upon, is found in Google’s own search engine optimization handbook; their “starter guide”. If you happen to catch, or notice, an SEO Expert, not following one or more of the above, then how much of an expert could he really be if he can’t even follow the beginners rules?
A post or two back was a bit about why social media isn’t going to be surpassing search engine optimization as the “golden egg” in advertising as it were. Interestingly enough, there is even factual evidence to add to the mix.
Tracking the numbers, traffic and uptime firm Pingdom, has proven that Facebook is demolishing all comers in the social media arena with 260 billion page views. When it came to monthly page views, Facebook was front runner by more than 10 times the views that MySpace had. There were nearly 60 times more page views for Facebook than Twitter, which ranked 4th in the study. It’s not a huge surprise that Facebook is the dominant entity in social media, but as little as 18 months ago (June 2008) MySpace was still larger worldwide, and kept a hold on that title for a few more months in the states.
Are these the only factors which contributed to Facebooks overwhelming success? Of course not, but, when social media, embraces SEO fundamentals as a built in function of their website, it’s obvious they know where the merits of the internet are. Because after all, what good is it to sell advertising on a social media site, if it can’t be searched? And the best way to be found?
Follow SEO basics and fundamentals.
A portion of the SEO industry seems to be focused on this topic as of late, and while I can see why the idea that social media over taking search engine optimization may be seen as a very scary prospect, it really won’t be that bad. Let me tell you what I see happening.
Jon (fictional of course) cranks up the internet, goes on over to Google and decides to check out “deals on netbooks” for example. Upon hitting enter, and getting their search results, lets pause for a moment to see what it is that actually comes up for Jon to peruse. There’s the option of the sponsored listings off to the side of the page of course, as well as the organic search results which populate the center of the page.
Almost all users understand the sponsored links are on the edge of the page, and don’t use them, but there is a certain number of users who still use them, so that’s a positive. The center column, with all of the organic results, are where your organic SEO skills come into play. With a quality website, well written and properly optimized content, you will be viewable within those organic rankings. Now there’s a new twist however, using the more options tab, you can include real time posts into your search as well. Blog posts, twitters and the like can be intermixed with your results for a very well rounded opinion on the search Jon has made. A true SEO Expert will advise, and assist, their clients in the initiation and use of a blog as well as how to continually update their entries with relevant, quality posts.
The internet is an incredibly huge arena to have a presence in, and having a presence of authority isn’t just expensive, it’s priceless. And with the proper tending, skills, and time invested, it would be entirely possible for a company to rank exceedingly well in all 3 areas, practically ensuring the highest possible ROI on the SEO performed for their company.
Is Social Media going to overtake, and run past Search Engine Optimization as a more powerful form of marketing? No, but if you have the real SEO Experts working for you, they won’t try and feed you that mis-information either. True SEO experts will advise you, and assist you, on ranking highly in all areas of online marketing.
SEO Experts unite? It seems everywhere online there’s courses, quizzes, training webinars, downloadable ebooks, the list is extensive. Things, are getting out of hand. Search engine optimization isn’t even remotely a light read over lunch, or a 2 day training course, or a handful of quizzes which magically “certify” you as an expert.
Now I’m not saying that all of the aforementioned methods are just snake oil in a jar, designed to take your money and run. For the most part, they will teach you best practices when you build a website and add to it, but if your plan was building a new site, why wouldn’t you already have an idea of what you wanted and how to implement it? And if you had no idea how to implement, there are web design shops out there which can help direct you as to what needs to be done, based on your needs.
Would you honestly trust your optimization efforts, to the SEO expert who actually writes a home improvement blog (yes they exist)? SEO is as old as Google, from when they first started building their index with the first pages. It’s not fly by night, it’s not short term, it’s not quick fix, and it’s not something everyone can do.
A new year, a new decade. Welcome to 2010, do you have your resolutions handy to go over them? Good! Lets begin..
Resolution #1: I will not try to perform my own SEO. This is a great start for the new year for you! Yes, you do indeed know your business better than anyone else, however, your expertise is not in SEO, it’s in your industry. SEO is our world, let Freshtraffic take care of that for you.
Resolution #2: I will communicate better with my SEO. Another great idea for 2010. Again, you know the best when it comes to your business, we at Fresh however know SEO. For us to serve you to the absolute best of our abilities we need you to remain in contact with us about any changes to your services or features so that we may change and update your pages properly. If we’ve helped you to setup a blogging service, please be sure to use the service regularly so to help firmly place yourself as the authority within your industry.
Resolution #3: I will work harder to understand “You get what you pay for”. In every situation, you get what you put in. If you receive promises of quick, high rankings for a low investment, expect to have very mixed results, worst case scenario, your website being kicked from Google’s index. Fresh has been in the search engine optimization business, since before SEO was a buzz word being tossed around marketing tables.
Resolution #4: I will understand that SEO is not SEM. Going straight to Wikipedia:
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results
SEM = sponsored links (top or right side) SEO = organic ranking (center of the page)
Resolution #5: I will not meddle after having my site optimized. We couldn’t have hoped for a more important resolution than this one. Search engine optimization isn’t an exact science to be sure, however, there are steps which need to be taken to ensure compliance within the industry, and that’s our job to know those lines and to not step over them. Something as simple as deciding to add a picture, or reword a page, without consulting first, could completely undo any and all work been done on your entire site.
Well then, it looks like you’ve compiled some great resolutions for moving forward in the New Year! We’ll have to check back in a few months, just to see how you’ve been doing at keeping to your resolutions. Happy New Year, may your year bring you highly placed organic rankings, limited to no paid inclusions, and exponential growth in unique visitors to your site.
In continuation from yesterdays post about prepping for the new year, and being ready to take the bull by the horns online, below you’ll find a couple of tips to be aware of in regards to getting ready. An insight or two, as well as some advice to bear in mind as your advertising year starts anew.
An easily forgotten fact, is that web crawlers from the search engines treat each individual page of a website as it’s own entity. This means that rather than regarding the optimization of your website as a whole, it can be more productive to think of it as the optimization of each page. Using this approach is much more involved and meticulous care needs to be taken, but, once all of your pages have been optimized, your entire site will be search engine friendly, and loaded with relevant content.
An important SEO fact every business owner should know is that true, organic SEO, requires a multitude techniques, and time for those techniques to work if an SEO campaign is really going to be successful. Using a single SEO method may help improve your results a little; but if you want your business to be ranked highly by the search engines for a long time and to increase the amount of traffic that visits your site then proper identification and implementation of acceptable SEO techniques will be required. It is also important to note, that rankings can, and do, fluctuate day to day within the search results page. It’s impossible to guarantee the number 1 spot in the results, but when Fresh works your site, with our proven organic optimization techniques, you will climb the results in ranking.
The third basic fact in search engine optimization that you should always have in mind, is that SEO is a continuous process. It does not stop, because there’s always another website, another business, and/or another competitor knocking on your door online; trying to take your place. Once high rankings have been achieved through an efficiently run SEO campaign, if this optimization is suddenly halted then it is likely that the rankings achieved will drop too. You could liken the effect much the same as watering a flower garden properly and with care, to suddenly stopping. All of your efforts in raising that product, will be for nothing. Google, Yahoo, and Bing are constantly changing and developing their technology and new techniques to help be ranked are also constantly being developed. If you want to remain on top, then you must remain updated on all developments and make the necessary changes to your SEO campaign.
At Freshtraffic, we’re constantly monitoring our clients sites, and if a slip in ratings is found consistently, and not a momentary lapse in a reindexing, we will retool the site to return to, and retain the previously held high ranking.