We all know that Google loves new content and a blog can be a great way to continually create fresh content. Many companies find that a blog becomes an integral part of their overall SEO strategy to drive more search engine traffic and increase Page Rank. However, writing a blog post several times a month can get old over time.
Writer’s block? You betcha! The answer? Convince other people to get into the fun of content creation!
Sometimes employees are excited about this prospect, sometimes they need more motivation. So how can you motivate employees to write blog posts? Well, there are a variety of ways limited only by your imagination. One such way is to offer a contest where for a period of time you accept entries for best blog submission. Ideally, you should be able to collect enough entries from one contest to have blog material for several posts. You can offer a prize for the best submission, or perhaps the best submission in each category if you receive a large number of entries. Make sure to set criteria, it helps produce quality posts.
What criteria should you use to ensure good content? You might have to spend some time thinking about your goals setting a clear blog strategy to develop criteria that make sense for you. We’ll cover that in a follow-up blog post next week.
Prizes. Make the reward enough to be a true incentive, but not so much that it breaks the bank. Keep in mind that companies are spending big bucks on Search Engine Optimization and the SEO value of a current and quality blog is worth a lot more than a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks!
The prize can simply be cash or a gift card
A prized toy or fun item that can be used or displayed around the office. Rock’em Sock’em Robots or a quality motion-sensitive fart machine are classics and are always appreciated by your more sophisticated and mature co-workers! ;o)
A cheesy trophy can be fun.
Lunch with the CEO or a member of the senior staff to bestow a little recognition and thank you for your contribution. If you’ve been looking for the right time to chat them up about that raise or promotion you’ve been wanting, now’s your chance!
A free paid day off.
Hold a department versus department challenge to see which group can write the best blog post. Winner gets bragging rights plus a group celebration/reward.
Do a monthly contest for the best blog submission and record the winners each month. At the end of 6-12 months do a drawing from among those winners and they get a weekend vacation for two.
You can even use analytics to track how much traffic each blog post drives to deeper pages on your site and hold a contest around that!
As I said, the possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. In the end, you should have enough quality blog posts that you will rarely have to worry about a languishing blog or lacking enough content to make your site interesting to search engines. Not bad for a bit of blog navel-gazing and some money for prizes.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company providing “facial-firming procedures,” will pay $300,000 in penalties and costs for publishing false reviews of the company and its procedures on the Internet. The company must also cease posting fake reviews and testimonials online and clearly disclose Internet content for which they are responsible.
Lifestyle Lift felt that negative online feedback had hurt its reputation, so the company launched an aggressive in-house brand management campaign. Employees were instructed to pose as satisfied customers on message boards and forums and to criticize or attempt to remove posts that were critical of Lifestyle Lift. The company also created several blogs and websites on which employees posted positive reviews. The sites did not disclose that they were run by Lifestyle Lift. (Examples of the reviews can be downloaded at http://www.oag.state.ny.us/bureaus/internet_bureau/pdfs/LifestyleLiftStories.pdf.)
The Lifestyle Lift settlement is the first case in the United States to address the issue of companies posing as consumers and posting false reviews of products or services, also known as “astroturfing.” This practice is an extreme tactic avoided by Apogee Search and (I hope) other reputable search marketers, but the Lifestyle Lift case has important implications for less aggressive brand management and search engine optimization campaigns.
Don’t forget advertising laws and regulations. Search marketing campaigns gone wrong can have consequences more dire and expensive than search engine penalties. Most companies are very aware that they must keep Federal Trade Commission, state, and local regulations in mind when advertising through traditional media, but some forget that advertising online is no different. Keep regulations in mind and be aware of what you can and cannot say when creating campaigns and messaging, particularly if your company does not have a legal department to review marketing materials.For more information, see “FTC Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and general information on “truth-in-advertising laws” at http://www.business.gov/business-law/advertising-law/truth-in-advertising/. Certain products and services, especially those related to health and medicine, may also be subject to additional regulations.
Be transparent. Concealing your affiliation with a company during online marketing efforts can lead to a damaged reputation, embarrassment, and legal penalties in extreme cases like the Lifestyle Lift settlement. Some websites, particularly Q&A sites like Yahoo! Answers, may also ban you and/or your IP address if you frequently endorse a product or service without disclosure.Always mention that you represent the company that you are endorsing when requesting links, commenting on blog posts, or posting in forums. This disclosure may cause some of your posts or comments to be taken down, but in the end, you will avoid potential fraud allegations and resentment from visitors who learn of the dishonesty. Disclosure is especially important on microsites and blogs; make it obvious that your company has a hand in the website.
Respond to negative feedback. Lifestyle Lift dealt with negative online feedback by trying to squash it. Instead, use negative feedback as an opportunity to communicate with your customers. Respond to negative posts on forums or blogs with apologies and attempts to rectify the situation (perhaps offer a gift card or advice for fixing a product). If these negative comments show up in search results, visitors will also see that your company cares enough to respond to dissatisfied customers. If your company has experienced a public relations nightmare and the Internet is flooded with negative comments, consider creating a microsite dedicated to telling your company’s side of the story (but remember to disclose that your company created the site!).Many companies are also using social media as an avenue for responding to negative feedback. Search Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets for negative comments about your company and respond directly to the posters with advice and/or offers of recompensation. Some companies have also setup Twitter accounts specifically for customer support questions. For examples of how some businesses are using Twitter to communicate with customers, see http://www.searchenginejournal.com/16-examples-of-huge-brands-using-twitter-for-business/7792/.
Create listings but not reviews on review sites. Listings on sites that allow users to leave reviews can generate traffic and word-of-mouth about your business. These sites are most effective for B2C establishments with physical locations. Some of the most popular review sites are Yelp, Yahoo! Local, Google Local, and Citysearch.It is perfectly acceptable to list your business locations on these sites, but leave the reviews to the users. These websites can use IP addresses to determine if your company is reviewing itself, and this can lead to you being banned from the site. Also, if users realize that your employees are reviewing the company, this can lead to more damaging press than a negative review.
Ensure that everyone knows what can and cannot be said. Make sure that employees who might post online about the company know the rules of your marketing message. Reinforce that everyone should disclose their affiliation with the company when posting comments online. Employees may even want to refrain from leaving comments on review sites to avoid potential problems.
In this week’s edition of SEO Odds & Ends, I’m shifting gears into the nonprofit SEO space. I came across Liberty Hill Foundation’s website and found their slogan to be impressive–”30 Years of Change, Not Charity.” As a fan of participating in change instead of throwing money at problems, this spoke to me and I thought I’d help out.
First off, there is a great resource online for any nonprofit out there–a charity version of SEO Book. With 25 chapters, I must admit I haven’t combed through it all, but if you have the time, it gives a lot of great SEO information tailored to nonprofits.
As with many nonprofits, marketing in general gets put on the back burner, because money could be better spent on making things happen rather than getting a shiny website, right? That seems to be the case with Liberty Hill, as well. Here are the top tips I’d start with for their site:
1. Create a specific page for each of the organization’s issues.
Even if it seems that the issues cross over a lot, create each page to be as different as possible, and then link between similar pages. A well-optimized site involves giving the search engines a single page for each idea your organization (and website) represents.
For Liberty Hill, initiatives related to developing a green economy and promoting environmental justice are extremely important. There are multiple pages about this, including the 2009 Environmental Agenda “Turn Green to Gold”, a donor page explaining what Environmental Justice is, and finally, a grant seekers page describes the funds available.
To organize the site a bit more from a search engine perspective, first, organize the group’s initiatives into a category such as “Liberty Hill Issues,” then add specific pages with descriptive content for Environmental Justice, Gay/Lesbian Rights, etc., third, add links on the Environmental Justice page to the Donors, Grant Seekers, and Media/Press pages devoted to this topic.
Pick keywords for each issue your organization represents, and optimize your tags for those terms.
For the Environmental Justice issue, there isn’t much search volume for many terms beyond “California Environmental Justice” and “Los Angeles Environmental Justice.” Therefore, creating a title tag using this code would probably be be the best option:
<title>Environmental Justice | Los
| Liberty Hill Foundation</title>
On the Liberty Hill Blog, there are several stories about undocumented students and the hardships they face–keywords such as “Scholarships For Undocumented Students” and “Undocumented Students in California” would be good options to target on the primary site.
Use variations of your keywords within the content on each page of your site.
Often adding a city name plus the primary keywords for a page is a good start.
Within the content of the page, use variations of this broad term by starting with “Environmental Justice” and adding the following words: “solution(s),” “project(s),” “action,” “group.” Always focus on making the content readable and relevant to your readers, optimization is a second priority.
Liberty Hill is pleased to announce our new grantmaking program, the Fund for Change…Liberty Hill will hold two webinars and four community workshops across Los Angeles to introduce our new grantmaking program.
An optimized phrase from an SEO perspective would be:
Liberty Hill is pleased to announce our new Environmental Justice project, the Fund for Change…Liberty Hill will hold two webinars and four community workshops in conjunction with various Los Angeles Environmental Justice groups to announce our new grantmaking program.
Ask for links from your donors and grant recipients!
The single most valuable thing for a website to have in order to have better visibility in the search engines is links! Get more links! This, of course, can be an extremely time consuming process, hence its inclusion at the bottom of this list.
When donors inquire about giving money or resources, mention to them that simply adding a link to the Liberty Hill Foundation from a donor company’s website, the donor’s personal blog, or even their Facebook page would help you out. Ask them to link to the particular issue on Liberty Hill’s website that is of interest to them, as oppposed to the homepage.
Require that recipients of grants mention the Liberty Hill Foundation website through a post or a link of some sort! If they’ve received $20,000, a link from their site to the grant site shouldn’t be a major effort for them.
SEO is an ongoing process–do what you can when redesigning a website or when there are specks of free time, but don’t ignore it entirely! A little bit of effort each week (or month!) is better than none.
If you have specific questions for your nonprofit, please ask them in the comments below.
Love: myth busters. Google covers a couple important myths here: duplicate content and affiliate programs causing traffic drops. From my experience, duplicate content seems to be one of those issues that is brought up frequently by both clients and potential clients. I think it’s one of those issues that is easy to latch onto since it’s a simple concept to grasp upfront, unlike, say, tossing out the words canonical, static and dynamic. One area where duplicate content can easily reek havoc, though, is in title tags–if you target the same keywords across mulitple title tags (everything else being equal), you will likely see your site drifting in and out of prime ranking real estate.
Love: myth busters, again (I’m doing my best Joseph Campbell impersonation). Also, getting into the nitty-gritty, academic side of search. Search is information retrieval and infromation extraction. It’s, “let’s crawl the Internet’s billions of documents” and, “let’s rudimentarlity extract information (I know you have to refine your searches still, I see you) from these documents and provide relevant results.” And, like the article says, search is linguistics, cognitive psychology, information architecture, statistics and more. Motto: Something academic nearly always undergirds what’s happening in front of the masses–go be academic, read the “boring” stuff, find out where your field is heading and how you can help yourself and clients get there first. Or, more simply, “there are smarter people than me behind this, what do they have to say about it?”
Love:OpenID and the ability to skip out on registering for another website. As we have covered previously on this blog, people don’t like having to register and constantly log in to website after website after website. Well, the big boys are finally starting to get it and are slowly adopting the OpenID platform, or some type of single sign-in protocol, with Kmart and Sears the latest mainstream companies to join the OpenID party.
Love: openness; as in, “Facebook, tear down this wall!” Your social media platform may be an island, but this user isn’t! </rant> Currently, most of the information contained in social media sites is walled off from the rest of the World Wide Web. As the article states, Facebook Connect does allow users to connect and share their information with other sites, but it’s only a fraction of the Internet. Will users continue to silo their information?
Love: free? How do you survive as a business that creates content, whether video, text, images, et cetera, in the age of the Internet where free is very easy to find? Check out the conversation between Chris Anderson, Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin on how free plays and will play a role in business. I tend to agree with Seth Godin–free is already here and businesses need to figure out how to provide enough free content to entice users to pay for the rest.
Love: leverage what you’ve already got for SEO benefit–that goes for anything, take all of that offline information and put it online in the form of a blog, how-to articles, videos, answers on Q&A sites, images and more. It can all be spun. In this case, use the PageRank your website already has to provide valuable internal links. Don’t insert that keyword into the content all willy-nilly–make sure it’s relevant and appropriate. Also, an important principle to take away from this article is that it’s okay, not to mention extremely beneficial, to make edits to the content of your site. Updated content informs the search engines that you’re likely providing even more relevant information about your industry.
Love: optimizing your universal search presence. The natural search results aren’t the only results that deserve optimization attention. Universal search requires a holistic approach to SEO where you need to also focus on optimizing for local, blogs, videos, images, and if you have an e-commerce website, product search which makes an appearance in the search results as shopping results. Check out the Product Search for Webmasters video from Google on how you can go about optimizing for shopping results. Also, you’ll need a Google Base account in order to get started with the optimization.
Love: focusing your efforts on more important things…I kid (sort of), the news from Google that Pagerank sculpting does not work as SEO’ers thought is important. The Google man himself Matt Cutts explains it on his blog. The basics:
Your page has a Pagerank score of 8
It has 4 outgoing links
Left as is, each link passes along 2 points of Pagerank, 8 divided by 4
Previously, if 2 of those links pointed at less important pages, “Contact Us” and “About Us” for example, some SEOs would nofollow those links
In doing so, it was believed this allowed the other 2 links to pass along 4 points of Pagerank rather than 2
Now, nofollowing those important links does not pass Pagerank points in this simple way and requires Pagerank sculpting using a number of other techniques
Here is a SEOmoz post of the topic that also provides pros and cons from the SEO perspective.
Love: simple and reliable tools that allow you to track your company and its keywords across multiple channels – blogs, microblogs (Twitter, FriendFeed), social bookmarks, comments (blog, forum or otherwise), news, video and more. It’s extremely easy to get bogged down with tools just as it is with too much data. Personally, I tend to stick with those that are simple, efficient and reliable and do not often switch unless the tools will allow me to provide even more actionable insight – Occam wins. SocialMention is simple and reliable. Not only are you provided with links to blogs, blog comments, Q&A sites, social bookmarks, and more, that mention your company or keywords, but SocialMention also provides data on sentiment (positive to negative mentions), reach (number of unique authors mentioning the entered keyword) and other metrics.
Love: making your website not only able to be found, but actually accessible to everyone. Think of the user. Remain outwardly focused (just like phenomenal non-profits). Not everyone uses the same setup for surfing the internet, so you should ensure nearly all users are able to actually find information on your site once they’ve found you on the search engines. There are a few pointers in this post that play a role in SEO:
Supply proper meta tags – small piece of the pie, but a piece of the pie nonetheless
Use accesible navigation – descriptive title and header tags provide keyword relevancy and help structure your site, which can help improve the ability of Google to provide Site InLinks
Love: when you get information about search from the mouths of the leviathans. This whiteapaper, distributed by Microsoft, details features of Bing, the layout of the search results page, the structure and details of the search results page and much more information.
For the second edition of my blog series, I came across a local Austin site that is a prime example of how marketing efforts combined with a great industry presence can achieve adequate search engine presence. The Stepping Stone School is a highly recognized preschool, established in 1979, currently with 17 locations around Austin, TX. Their partnerships, accreditations, and other marketing and community efforts have given them a good presence within search engine results pages and likely a good flow of traffic from search engines. With a few tweaks, they could probably increase their site traffic, and therefore extend their reach, by at least 20%.
These are a few steps I would recommend to optimize their site more fully:
1. Optimize title tags with relevant terms (keywords)
As always, this is my first stop when giving recommendations It’s the easiest and most important step in optimization. All of the title tags currently read “Stepping Stone School – The Smart Choice!” By being more descriptive of the pages within the title tags, this site could alert the search engines to the content of the pages.
Potential Title Tag:
Childcare Accreditation | Austin, Texas | Stepping Stone School
Up to 1,600 visitors/month.
2. Request more descriptive links from partners and other sources
If you are reading this blog, you know that (to the search engines) links to a site are more important than the content on that site. For some sites, building new links is the most important initiative; however, if you have an active marketing department or are a contributor to your community in other ways, you may want to put your efforts into tapping into the partnerships you have and improving links that exist already. Stepping Stone School is a good example of this because they have sponsored various events over the years. See the two links below for opportunities to increase their search engine benefit to Stepping Stone School.
As a sponsor of the local Austin Thundercloud Turkey Trot last year, Stepping Stone likely received a link on the event website as part of the promotion package. This is a great opportunity to use a more descriptive word in the anchor text, and usually sponsorships of this sort are flexible in what they will list, if you ask.
Potential Link Request: Replace the phrase “Stepping Stone School” with “Stepping Stone Childcare Center” or “Austin Stepping Stone Preschool” on the event page.
Stepping Stone School also is an existing sponsor of this after school organization in Central Texas, and has again received a link–this time an image link–back to the site. Both text links and image links can be optimized; image links can be optimized by altering the alt attribute of the image to include a descriptive phrase of the site the image is linking to. This text is readable to the search engines, and is also used when the image cannot be viewed. For the Stepping Stone School logo, a descriptive alt attribute could be “Austin Stepping Stone Preschool logo” or “Childcare Center, Stepping Stone Preschool logo, located in Austin, Texas”.
Potential Link Request: Add an ALT attribute to the linked logo image, with code such as this:
<img src="steppingstone.jpg" alt="Austin Stepping
Stone Preschool" />
3. Create a YouTube Channel
Finally, sites such as Stepping Stone’s can absolutely benefit from the branding as well as additional opportunity to rank in Google’s Universal Search results by further promoting their existing videos. I would recommend Stepping Stone School create a YouTube channel, and upload any promotional and informational videos available. For example, Stepping Stone School has Enrichment programs that parents may benefit from seeing before they contact the school–I would be interested in seeing a few minutes of a Computer Technology class for 3-5 year olds! Beyond text testimonials, video testimonials add credibility and another opportunity for visibility online.
Of course, any online promotion of an organization such as this would have to consider the safety of the students above all else. These are a few tips that should be applicable to a variety of sites, organizations, or companies. If you would like to submit your site for consideration for a future Odds & Ends Wednesday feature, please email me at: king at apogee-search dot com.
In a move that is pretty commonplace within the search industry, Microsoft has attempted to make a splash as a search engine yet again. This time, instead of simply adding new features into MSN or Live, they launched an entirely new brand, Bing.com at the end of May. So–What is Bing? What impact has it made? What does “Bing & decide” even mean?
Here are some quick & easy definitions, answers, thoughts, and more about Bing:
Bing is “a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition, or finding a local business.” Microsoft is attempting to diverge from the established entity we all know and love, the search engine. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, is quoted in the company’s official Bing press release as saying,
“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find.”
Hmm–I definitely need help navigating through billions of webpages, but do people really need help using information? I interpreted “Bing & decide” to mean that I search with Bing.com, and then I decide how to use the information I find. But, thanks Steve, I guess we do need help deciding what to do.
Market Share: Does Bing have a chance?
This is a great question, and one that won’t have an answer really for at least another 6 months or so. Ultimately, Microsoft needs to increase their search market share to attract advertisers and make more money. Non-search industry geeks have to actually hear about Bing, go to Bing.com, use it, like what they see, remember to go back and search from their cell phones later, etc. Bing has launched a traditional advertising campaign, to hopefully scoop up the masses. According to ComScore, in the first week of Bing’s launch, Microsoft increased its usage among American searchers by almost 2%; other sources are saying Bing has squeaked past Yahoo! worldwide. Not bad, but only time will tell if Bing & Decide will really stick.
Shake up for Analytics
Web Analytics tools have had to jump quickly to tweak their products to measure and report Bing.com data. Web Analytics companies Webtrends and Omniture have released statements and posted on their blog about how their customers can view analytics for Bing. Google Analytics first started reporting Bing as a search engine as of June 5 but sometimes is still shown as a referring site, as well.
Bing has introduced more complications for web analytics as well–similar to Google’s longer snippets launched a few months ago, Bing searchers can hover to the right of a search listing to view content on the page and potential navigation path even before clicking the listing. Since analytics code isn’t activated until a user clicks thru to a site, these new features in search results may change the way a “website visit” is defined. Some are concerned that visits will decrease if searchers can preview each listing without visiting it, but the result of this change may not be as dismal as some may have predicted, as mentioned in MediaPost, “Preliminary data suggests that bounce rates on Web sites have declined from people originating on Bing.” For the first 10 days of June, a site I track that has 30K unique visitors per month had a bounce rate that was 5% lower in Bing than in Google, which supports the notion that previews of listings can be a good thing for websites.
Although Microsoft CEO mentioned publicly that the Bing.com domain was one of the only easy domains to purchase at a decent price, there is lots of speculation about the “true” meaning of B.I.N.G. I guess we’ll never know…
To me, Bing represents an attempt at healthy competition in the uncompetitive search industry. I’m all for it–as Celine Dion said (something that is a little too perfect for Microsoft and Bing), “I’m not in competition with anybody but myself. My goal is to beat my last performance.“
Many companies come to us with experiences, good and bad, at other SEO shops. So, I decided to give one of those companies some quick feedback on their existing SEO efforts, and how I would recommend improving those efforts.
The website: is focused on lead generation for a software company who specializes in large equipment rentals (party, construction, etc).
The quick tips:
1. Organize keyword optimization on the site.
Currently some pages have identical keywords in the title tags. This is confusing to the search engines and causes a site to compete against itself. Think of this like telling a really long story to your friends (which I am often guilty of)–they probably don’t get it, so cut to the chase and be descriptive!
Example: Page 1 (http://www.companyurl.com/…/AdvancedAlertOptions/PartyEvent/150/Default.aspx) and Page 2 (http://www.companyurl.com/…/Industries/PartyEvent/tabid/79/Default.aspx) have the same title tag, “Party Rental Software, Party Rental Inventory Software”
Recommended change:Every page should target up to 3 keywords that are not optimized elsewhere on the site. Determine which page, Page 1 or Page 2, is best to target for “Party Rental Software” and “Party Rental Inventory” and remove the keyword from the alternate page.
2. Build deep links to the site, not just links to the homepage.
Currently there are about 50 links to the homepage but 0 links to this “Heavy Equipment System Overview” page: http://www.companyurl.com/Industries/HeavyEquipment/tabid/78/Default.aspx
If links are built to this page specifically, it will increase its value in the search engines, and likely increase the rankings and number of visitors to the site for the keywords “Heavy Equipment Rental Software” and “Heavy Equipment Management.”
Currently some of the old pages (likely old products) are still indexed in the search engines, but are no longer available to users. It is confusing to users if they land on a nonexistent page. Would you move to a new house and not forward your snail mail with the post office?
Example: This page (http://www. _companyurl_.com/…/Implementation%20Process%205_files/themedata.thmx) is indexed in Yahoo! but gives a “cannot be found” error.
Recommended change: Determine how many pages have these errors (if your site is registered with Google Webmaster Tools, Google will tell you pages that have errors on them), and use a 301 redirect to forward them to the appropriate new page (potentially redirect traffic to a general page in that category, or a related product page).
As usual, there are many things that can be tweaked on a website, or in the links to a site, that will improve the company’s search engine performance. The key is to balance all of the efforts with their potential value, and of course–measure the results!!
Love: unraveling local search ranking factors. So you’re a small business (or a large one for that matter), and after doing some reading on SEO, you’ve gone to Google Local Business Center and claimed your business’ listing. You’ve read about PageRank and the importance of attracting high quality incoming links with your sparkling content. But what other factors go into the ranking algorithms for local search? How do you climb up that 10-pack? How do you improve your “Location Prominence” score–the equivalent of PageRank? In this post, Mike Blumenthal takes a look at a Google patent to help provide insight into the factors that explicitly help determine this Location Prominence.
Potential Factors in Ranking a Website Highly for Location Specific Searches:
Incoming links – not simply directory links, but links from other authoritative sites; sites with a high PageRank or Location Prominence score.
Reviews – I’m particularly interested in how Google uses reviews as a factor in local search rankings. There are the metrics that are already quantified–the actual number of reviews a business has received on a site like Yelp for example and rating itself, 3 stars, 4 stars or 5 stars. But how do you quantify the content of the review? How do you turn “good”, “bad”, “efficient”, “okay”, “disgusting”, “spicy” or “pusillanimous” (maybe you rented a guard dog, alright) into a number? What’s the scale for all negative words? What’s the most negative word you can give a restaurant? Does that mean that word passes along a -100 score?
Citations – it’s not merely about links, but how many times your business and its accompanying address appear on a website, not as a link.
Information about the business – search engines want information. It helps them develop a rich tapestry of search results. They’re machines, not humans. They can’t decipher meaning like you and me. Providing the search engines with little information about your business is like the difference between a picture from an inexpensive camera versus a professional camera. If you don’t participate in sites like Yelp, Google Local Business Center, comment on industry blogs, add your business to Best of the Web, then you’re taking a picture of your business with a cheap camera. Google wants you to use that Nikon D3X! What’s the business’ annual revenue? How many employees does the business have? How long has the business been in existence and how long have they been present in listings across the web?
Love: the need for speed! Recently, Google announced they were open sourcing a nifty Firefox add-in, integrated with another superb tool called Firebug, called Page Speed. Page load time is a factor in quality score on the PPC side of life and there have beenrumblings about whether or not page load time plays a role or will play a role in natural search rankings for some time now. Let’s assume it doesn’t play a role in natural search rankings, though. Does that mean I should compress the images on my site, enable gzip compression or remove unused CSS from my site anyway? If you happen to have a site that takes a bit longer than usual to load, I’d vote yes. Users find pages that take too long to load annoying, which translates into users bouncing away. The thinking behind improving page load, and as a corollary the user experience, is driven by five best practices:
Optimizing caching – keeping your application’s data and logic off the network entirely
Minimizing round-trip times – reducing the number of serial request-response cycles
Minimizing request size – reducing upload size
Minimizing payload size – reducing the size of responses, downloads and cached pages
Optimizing browser rendering – improving the browser’s layout of a page
Aside: “…reducing…cached pages.” Hmm, interesting. Nofollow links to your About Us page, AND robots.txt them out?
Love: data, but don’t allow imperfect data to cause you to freeze and not act. One of my favorite lines from this post says there is no limit to the amount of data to you can collect and store on the Internet, and it’s headache-inducingly correct. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the importance of collecting data, analyzing data and then providing an interpretation of that data for insight into what action should be taken, and I of course still feel that way, but I’m not a Quant. There’s a point where granular becomes so microscopic that the difference in dataset A and dataset B will not cause your client to change his or her decision. Therefore, you need to accept imperfection and act. I know we’re big into models and science and equations, but so was Wall Street, and we saw what happened there. Certainly collect your data, but don’t allow it to bog you down into indecision, and don’t allow incomplete data to bolster that indecision. After all, it’s all incomplete (esoteric alert!).
“How do you measure the effectiveness of your magazine ad? Now compare that to the data you have from DoubleClick. How about measuring the ability of your TV ad to reach the right audience? Compare that with measuring reach through Paid Search (or Affiliate Marketing, or …). Do you think you get more useful data from Neilsen’s TV panel of between 15k – 30k US residents to represent the diversity of TV content consumption of 200 million American television viewers?”
Love: social media for something other than retweeting, posting pictures or helping you acquire links. Social media websites work because they facilitate communication and sharing amongst users (and they allow us to talk about ourselves, of course). The good ones also work on a different level–user interface. Thinking about your website in this way, and incorporating these features, can help drastically improve your conversion rate. Remember, it’s all about the user, not you!
Love: scientifically proven ways to do anything. Who doesn’t want to be persuasive? You’re a business, right? You’re trying to tell your story in order to persuade the potential client to help you write the next chapter, right? A few favorites from the post:
Too many options necessitate selection, and hence frustration…
How restaurant mints are a personalized affair
Asking people to substantiate their decision will lead to higher commitment
As an Account Manager at Apogee Search, Kate van Ravenhorst has helped various clients implement website redesigns. Through her experiences Kate has discovered a few best practices for implementing a successful website redesign, and she was kind enough to share her knowledge with me.
When a company chooses to employ a website redesign there are a variety of motivating factors, but no matter why you decide to redesign your site, it is important to consider SEOthroughout the process.
First, look at the organization of your website’s content. It is important that multiple pages within your site don’t compete for the same keywords. Kate suggests placing web pages that may cause an issue on different levels within the site’s hierarchy. Higher level pages are assigned higher value within search engines.
Maintaining site value is also important during a website redesign. It is helpful to preserve the existing URL structure from your original website. It is also useful to organize content in logical folder names and incorporate keywords into the URLs where appropriate. Additionally, redirects are crucial in maintaining a website’s value. A 301 redirect guides visitors to the appropriate page on your new site. 301 redirects are also the most search engine friendly web page redirection method because they allow the search engines to attribute the value of the old page to the new one. This will also help avoid having visitors encounter 404 errors for web pages that no longer exist if they arrived at your site through an old link or bookmark.
Ensure the search engines can find your new site by using HTML and XML site maps. AnHTML site map lets visitors navigate your site with ease, as well as allows the search engine spiders to access the entirety of your site. XML site maps are important because they are designed specifically for search engines. They allow search engines to crawl a site more thoroughly and alert search engines of new pages. Creating a Google Webmaster Tools account is also useful, because it will provide you with general diagnostic information, notify you of indexing issues, and accelerate the indexing of your site.
Finally, you must reconfigure your tracking. If you use Google Analytics, or another analytics tool, remember to preserve historical data from your old site and create a new profile to track activity on your new site.
There is likely to be some fluctuation in rankings as you implement a redesign, but these tips will help you diminish any potential negative affects.