Tag Archives: internet optimization

Glamorless SEO

One of the worst things about the internet is actually it’s greatest strength, how quickly and easily it can be to find information. It really only becomes a negative when you have your industry is full of people who know everything about it, usually because they read a few blogs, took an online test or quiz and received a virtual diploma or certificate. The reality though, especially where search engine optimization is concerned, is you can’t just pick it up and list a site with no skill set. Being able to properly build a site, tweak the on page so it works in conjunction with your off page optimization and then to keep on top the news, isn’t a three day course in a convention room.

seoThe problems have arisen even more frequently lately, as more and more myths and misconception about the industry is being passed around the web. And while some are much more worse than others, even the smallest one does harm to the industry. One of the points which still makes me curious as to what it actually means, is when you come across an SEO detailing how they’re going to help a website list by submitting it’s url to search engines and domain directories. Now right off the hop our first reply when someone has asked that question of us, is you don’t need to submit your site to anything, the search engines are big enough, and smart enough to find your website. The only other thing I can think of when someone tells us that their previous SEO submitted their site to directories, is they did some shady link building and possibly got your site red flagged at best, kicked from the results at worst.

I think that the largest stain on the search industry, is the trend of writers and bloggers out there, typically in the main stream media like newspapers, television and radio, who bring up SEO as spam and manipulating the search engines. Just like there are more than 2 colors in the rainbow, there are a seemingly unending list of methods you can use to help your websites visibility, so it is understandable that some of them can be seen as spam or tricks. Proper white hat search engine optimization is a process which you can use to tell the search engines what your website is about, no more, no less. There’s no magic, no underhanded methods, and no sending checks to Google or Bing to magically push your website to the top of the results page. If your website is better than the other guys, you’ll rank above them, it’s survival of the fittest on the results pages.

Constructing Your Online Profile

The steps to be able to rank your website effectively online are relatively simple, and can be broken down into a few very broad basics to follow. If you have a simple website, say a few pages detailing a local business for example, as long as you have a good title, strong content, and some kind of a social presence then you have most of the puzzle sorted out. The big time sink though, and usually the most difficult step to work out, is building up that backlink profile.

link-buildingBuilding a proper backlink profile seems to have a lot of mystique surrounding it when you start reading online. Wading your way through the myths, theories, and hyperbole may seem like a daunting task, but the rules are simple to follow. It’s only time intensive because you actually need to work at building your profile properly, because just like when you build anything, if you make a mess of the foundation the structure will come tumbling down. When you’re taking the time to build up backlinks there are some basic questions you need to ask yourself, and once you’re satisfied with your answers you can decide if you’re going to approach a site owner to work out a link exchange. First item on the checklist, is their site (the one you’re going to approach for a backlink) relevant to my website/business. A bad idea is running around online just building as many backlinks as possible with other site owners just to have them, if they’re not relevant to what you do then at best you don’t get any help from them, at worst you could be penalized. Once you’ve decided if they’re relevant or not, start browsing their website, keep in mind good website practices as you do so. Do they have a lot of popups or funny activity on some pages? Just like you want your customers to have a great online experience, you want your link coming from a reliable source, because the web works in strange ways at times.

And that is really the bare minimums when you’re looking for a link exchange or a backlink to your site that you need to follow, are the relevant, and are they staying within the rules of the game. If you’re satisfied with your answers then you move ahead to try and work out a link with the site owner, and that would be one link down. This process could take as little as a day, to as long as a week or so, depending on the time you have to put into it and the size of the prospect you’re looking at.

The basics of building backlinks and what to look for are just as important as what you should be staying away from. For every positive and authoritative backlink you could build for yourself, you need to stay away from the places and pages which could sink you. Directory listings as an example, aren’t innately bad for your link profile, but since Penguin last year and how so many were removed from the index they’re not nearly as useful as they once were. A good link should not be the subject of an internal debate with yourself. When you see a good link you know it right away and once you start debating whether it could be considered a good link or not, it just isn’t. And last but certainly not least, does the link enhance your brand to your customers, because ultimately that’s who you’re trying to reach.

Tweak Your Website The Right Way

The online world is a funny place at best, a vastly confusing one at worst. There are massive amounts of information out there, about building websites, about using your social services, about how to rank your site, and so on. Over the last year especially, Google has taken some major twists and turns with the way that they rank information on the web, and it seemed to catch a great many website owners off guard. With how much things can change online, there are still some little tweaks and quirks that don’t often get discussed, so we’ll talk about a couple of nuances that you may have overlooked, or your website developer may have over looked while building your website.

websiteupgradeOne of the little quirks of the way that search engines work, has to do with how your structure your urls and web addresses. When you look at the terms ‘orange_jacket’ and ‘orange-jacket’ they read the same to a person, but they mean a world of difference to a search engine spider. In the first instance with the underscore, the spiders are going to treat it all as one single term. So ‘orange_jacket’ to a search engine becomes ‘orangejacket’. When you use a hyphen, the opposite becomes true, and ‘orange-jacket’ becomes two separate terms. When you’re building your internal website pages, and you want a page to be ranked for a specific, not wholly competitive term using underscores in your url won’t affect your chances a bunch. When you start to get into the more aggressive terms online however, the difference between a hyphen and an underscore can make or break your positioning.

One other point which bears mentioning, because we still run into a fair number of clients doing it, try to avoid using lots of image based information or using Flash and Silverlight to deliver your website content. Web designers (not developers) are actually some of the worst offenders of using them actually, and when they turn over a clients site to optimize often our first suggestion is to rebuild the website. Flash and Silverlight are great tools for adding snazzy animations or attractive, engaging content to your site, but when you get down to the tech side of it, search engines don’t agree with it. Google and Bing can, to some degree, get the information out of a Flash driven website, but they’re still shoddy at it and it’s poor website optimization practice any how.

These are only two of untold amounts of quirks and tweaks that you can employ as a website owner or developer to help your case when working online. I’ll make sure to discuss the topic further in the coming days.

How To Ruin Your Website

(Please don’t do anything from below!)

It isn’t difficult to find blogs or news posts about what steps you need to take with your website to try and improve your chances of being found online. What is a little more difficult to find, and what isn’t discussed often enough are the things that you don’t do to your website. These can vary from technical points, to filling your pages with nonsensical content which gives you no value at all.

There are a handful of technical points that can cause issues with your site, both with users and with search engines that you need to stay away from. Javascripts are handy snippets of code which can be applied to your website to change function or display, and can even be used to make your site highly interactive with your customers or clients. But some of the features which might seem amazing and you want to have on your site, are actually a problem, both for users and for search engines. One feature which has been gaining some traction as of late is setting up your website with a never ending scrolling pattern, much like how a Facebook page works. A couple of great reasons why this is a poor option for your website is it makes it taxing for your visitors to get through your content, and likely will make them want to leave. As for search engines, it just makes your pages look spammy with no real content or direction on them. One of the biggest pet peeves of my own while browsing, and I’m sure one of most users on the internet is abusing the auto play feature you can build into audio or video plugins. It’s an obnoxious feature which can lead to confusion, especially when the controls are minuscule or difficult to find and use.

badwebsitesAn older browsing tactic that is almost entirely disabled by browser plugins these days are using pop ups or pop under ads for your website to try and engage the user. In terms of search, they’re not the greatest idea either as any content you have within that pop window is typically lost to being indexed, and it can even hide your real content and intent. Because while a user can easily close a pop window, they don’t know the difference between a user, and a spider from a search engine. If a spider visits your site and is met with a pop up that disables the background, it’ll see an empty site at best, garbled nonsense at the worst. Following in much the same vein, you will always hear website optimization experts extoll the virtues of having and growing the content on your website. But you need to refrain from adding content, for contents sake. When you add extra content you run the risk of diluting your message, and mixing up the signals you send to the search engines at first, and that garbled message will eventually pass to your users.

Myths and Legends of Search

As widely varied as the information always is regarding search engines, the way they operate, and guesses and ideas about changes that may or not be happening, there is always someone out there who is making huge assumptions about their activity. The problem with speculation isn’t the nature of the act itself, but in how it can turn into the telephone game, and where the person in the front wrote a snippet of an article about funny page ranking activity, on the other end of the spectrum we have people telling you that they were banned from search for buying links or some such. The inception of search engine myths are a danger to the web, not for practiced experts in the field, but for those website owners and new comers to the space. They tend to run with the incredible ideas and notions, and forget that the simplest answer is likely the right one.

MythsEvery year we get some of the same myths making the rounds and they crop up year after year. At the outset so far it seems that the first myth to start us off is all about links and backlinking to your site. One of the largest offenders so far is that anchor link text is going to be at the very least a waste of time for you, at worst a detriment to your site. Now to start with, it’s dangerous to start spreading the misinformation that using anchor links on your site is a bad thing, as it is one of the simplest tools in the book to allow search engines to index your site quickly. The only danger that is associated with anchor text and links comes from ending up with backlinks coming from a less than squeaky clean site, but even then search engines have gotten much better at detecting and ignoring them. So the idea that anchor text and links are bad things, is a myth that needs to just finally go away, maybe 2013 will be the year that happens.

And I think one of the biggest myths that needs that just seems to stick around year after year along with the death of SEO, is that backlinks will no longer be the/a defining ranking signal. Anyone who has been involved in the industry for more than a couple of years will tell you, high quality, relevant backlinking isn’t going anywhere in terms of how important a factor it is where ranking is concerned. Here at Freshtraffic, we have more than 20 years of experience of working on the web and scouring the globe for high quality, relevant backlinks for our clients sites. And the number one thing we can take away with that experience is aside from upkeep on those links, is that backlinks are always important. The naysayers who are primarily calling out the death of backlinking are often marketers who are pushing fully into the social area, putting all of their eggs in a single basket. Bing has integrated social signals into their search, Facebook is coming out with their own version of a search engine, and Google has their own social angle with Google+, social is definitely here and it is here to stay. But if nearly two thirds of average online activity is done while not signed into a social account, it shows how much are those marketers losing by focusing on the social only angle.

Online optimization isn’t a one step process, the companies who will remain successful on the web will embrace all aspects of optimizing a clients website. Social, local, on page optimization and off page back link gathering and that is only the beginning of the optimization spectrum.

Retaining Your Image Through Upgrading

With the way that the internet is continuing to evolve, and will continue to evolve and grow for the foreseeable future, it is common place to want to change and update your website. And while making a change or giving your site a face lift normally isn’t too great of a concern, you can’t just start hacking away and changing the way your site has always worked. If you’re not careful with your methodology, you could end up disappearing from your online position, and virtual loss will translate into real world loss.

Web DesignSo if your site has a dated look, or you have a desire to revamp your image, don’t fret because it is possible to do, you just need to follow a few steps first. If you want to retain all of the authority that you’ve gained in your niche marketplace, it is best when you decide to build a new website to follow a few guidelines. One of the first steps you need to ensure, is that your goal, and your content remains the same. Your images, text, even if you can keep your navigation functioning the same, it doesn’t matter how strong your SEO is if you completely change your message. Sometimes even the most seemingly innocuous changes can wreak havoc on an optimization campaign. It is always wise to run any content changes passed your SEO provider to ensure it won’t throw a wrench into the works.

Once you’ve worked out that you are keeping the same content, the web development team needs to work it’s magic and try it’s best to retain the same URL structure to your new website. Really basic example would be if your product page is named products.html, that your new page on a new design is named products.html or even products. If keeping the same structure is impossible for what ever reason, then persevere to ensure that proper 301 redirects are in place so that the search engines, and users, can find their new counterparts. And when you’re ready to launch the new design, you really should not see a change in rankings or indexation by the search engines. But like with any major website design change, you need to test, test and test again to make sure you didn’t forget anything.

Taking SEO Into Your Own Hands

social-mediaNow that Facebook is entering the search arena with it’s own version of search, which still has a fair amount of work to do on a large scale, it’s a good time for you to go back through your website and make sure you’ve crossed all of your t’s and dotted your i’s. There are a handful of basic practices that you can implement as a website owner, without the assistance of an expert, but only one piece of advice: If you don’t understand what you’re doing, don’t do it.

First things first, when you’re ready to try putting together some basic SEO, you need to understand it is not a one shot deal. A change you make today, will need tweaking in a week, and every week there after. Website optimization is not impossible to take on yourself, just understand the time investment, and attention to detail required.

One of the points you need to focus upon first, is you need to examine the goal of your website. Are you trying to sell a product or service? Or are you looking to entice users to sign up for a newsletter or email? Examine your end goal, and keep that goal in mind while going through your website. There are a number of free services you can leverage to engage your customers and clients, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are free to use services that are a direct interaction with your current, and prospective customers. Where the cost is incurred, is your time. The more you are able to engage your audience, the more likely you are to grow your following.

You’ve determined your end goal, and settled on the time and attention required to attend to your SEO and social efforts, this is where you need to temper yourself. Every day there is an amazing new piece of software, or website out there that can tell you exactly what to do to become number 1 in search. They claim to have all of the answers for social and search, when in fact all they have is an untested idea. Don’t forget the basics, just to chase what might be, the fundamentals of website optimization remain the same. Clarify your message, stay away from sites and services that claim to promise number 1, and engage your audience on the social front. Adhering even to just those very basic points will help you to improve your positioning online.

Catapult Your Online Marketing

We’ve written countless times about the basics of online marketing and that the trying to work with the search engines, not against them, is a constantly shifting landscape. Once you’ve followed the basics, gotten your site steadily climbing the results pages and are working on your back link profile there is one more key component you can add that will help your position and your site. Take a look at your site, your content, and your activity on your pages and think to yourself: Would I link to my own content?

linkfishYou need to add some link bait to your site occasionally, so instead of continually hunting for back links, others in your industry (hopefully) will be following you and decide to naturally link to you because of your content. This is usually referred to as creating link bait, and it’s one of the quickest ways that you can build up a quality link profile for your website. You can start creating your link bait content by knowing what you’re talking about, everyone has an opinion and if you’re knowledgeable about yours, there is no reason not to share it. Sharing opinions is a great way to start a dialogue with people, whether it’s your customers or others in your business space, it gets people talking, and talking about you.

Everyone has a hiccup every now and then when it comes to creating your content, especially if you’re the lone person responsible for it, so don’t be scared to talk to your co-workers. Sometimes a brief conversation can help you decide on a blog topic, a new page to create or a way that you can help drum up news or a flash sale for a product or service that you may offer. We all need inspiration sometimes, and everything becomes easier when you ask for a helping hand. Being able to write a high quality page or article is fine, but if you’re unable to grab any attention with it, or drum up some discussion with it then you won’t garner a great deal of backlinks from it, if any at all.

Latest Panda Update and Your Site

Recently Google confirmed that another Panda Update has happened. Worldwide, the update will impact only about 0.4% of queries that a regular user might notice, in the US that number reaches around 1.1%. This latest update makes the 21st confirmed Panda Update by Google and while it can leave site owners a bit leery, there are a few things that you can do to help your site.

One of the simplest things that you can do for your online position is to create a dialogue between you and your customers. Keeping them apprised of developments in your business or your product, and encouraging discussion. It can lend your site ongoing, timely stuff to encourage the Google algorithms that feature content based on freshness.

What this can do is attract your audience to interact with you. User interaction signals like a comment discussion, can help your site gain higher prominence in Google local results. Having an active blog can also develop into more subscribers and frequent visits, and generally make a site/business appear more friendly and open. Blogging enables you to rank in Blog Search results as well as assisting with regular keyword results. Ultimately your goal, is gaining more prominent positions in your local search result.

An added benefit of blogging is it provides you with your own voice, in case anyone ever tries to attack your company online. You can think of writing your own blog as a linchpin of proactive online reputation management. Because where the internet is concerned, it’s forever and once it’s out there anyone can find it. This is also your simplest route into the social media market, as you can develop your own Facebook fan page, Google+ page and a Twitter feed, and link your blog directly to it. This provides your business with a solid bedrock for developing your own, unique social media presence. Using your blog as a feed source, you can use it to actually reduce your workload by simply adding content in one place and having it show up in your various social media pages if that’s what you want.

Ever Evolving Keywords

In Search Engine Optimization, your keyword margin for error is very large. If you use a keyword in a way that just doesn’t seem to be working, you can adjust it and try again. You may even find yourself starting to rank for keywords you didn’t think about. Those are a bonus, and you can chalk them up to extra traffic and possible conversions. You’ll also want to reassess your keywords every now and then to make sure there aren’t new trends, technologies, products or ideas that weren’t popular when you first did your research.

Since organic optimization doesn’t attach a fee per keyword, you shouldn’t shy away from the high competition terms that you may not get. It doesn’t hurt to compete for those, and, it makes it easier to match up for long tail keywords. And when it comes to the users, it makes your site much cleaner, because instead of having headings like “Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hatsfor your baby”, you can stick with “Blue Bomber Hats” or the more specific but still high volume “Winnipeg Blue Bomber”. It’s important to adjust the depth of the keyword to the depth of the site, with your landing pages using broader keyword matching and leaving it to your categories to be more specific.

On the other side of the spectrum, the margin for error in PPC is small. Every time you make a mistake, it costs you money. Every time that you bid on a new keyword, it puts you in direct competition with other sites. You need to go over your keywords with a fine tooth comb, cutting out those that aren’t working, adding negatives, researching new trends, and always the cost per click in mind and the other on the Quality Score. You need to make sure you’re using themes to categorize your keywords, that your copy is performing as well as it possibly can, and that your tight ad group/keyword strategy extends to your landing page and the way keywords are used on it.