All posts by Brian

SEO Fundamentals in a Social Media World?

Sometimes it’s hard to define SEO. After all, the rules are constantly changing. White can be grey, grey can become black. But whatever color hat you wear, the danger is that if you don’t keep up with what everyone else is doing, you’ll become old hat, and you’ll be out of the game.

Arguably “social media” has replaced SEO as the biggest buzzword in traffic generation on web 2.0 — another buzzword that’s here to stay. Of course creating good content that people will want to link to has always been an integral part of SEO strategy, because more links mean higher rankings. But with many people bypassing search engines altogether and relying more and more on direct recommendations from trusted friends on Facebook and Twitter, it’s definitely time for SEOs to start concentrating their efforts on producing sites that offer instant linkbait.

Does this mean that SEO is dead? Far from it. Yes, SEOs need to pay more attention to generating original content that’s as appealing to people as it is to search engine spiders indexing pages. After all, people don’t care how many H1 tags there are on any given page, but they do care about whether content is well written, easy to understand, and informative. But that doesn’t mean you can forget about the H1 tags. Far from it.

If social media and linkbait are good short term strategies, then building a strong online presence through consistent, high level search rankings should remain the number one long term strategy for growth. Good SEO should provide a bedrock of steady hits — social media tends to send visitors over in flurries, with long periods of inactivity. Good SEO should still focus on building a steady web presence through good search rankings. They just need to be aware that social media is essential to any contemporary strategy, too.

In short, SEOs need to adapt. In fact, they need to be doing what most have been doing all along — helping to produce streamlined, accessible, websites with high quality content that lures in visitors. But as social media becomes more important, SEO definitely becomes less scientific and relies more on marketing. Good SEO is important, but with social media being what it is, it might be time to dust down those old PR textbooks. Or better yet, take time to read up on the latest developments in social media. Knowledge is power, and that’s as true today as it always has been, and always will.

This week WordPress announced support for the new RSScloud system to make syndication closer to realtime — just like Twitter. Like it or not, the short term strategy of harnessing realtime social media is here to stay. Web 2.0 requires SEO 2.0. It’s a case of adapt or die. A good SEO is still a good SEO. He just needs to become a good social marketer, as well.

Increase Web Traffic: Part 4 of 4

Like we discussed in Part 1 of this series, links are great to increase search engine rankings, which in turn drive traffic; but people also follow links.  In the online space, there is a new market that your company ought to target in addition to your customers, the linkerati.

When developing your link building campaign, I recommend a three-pronged focus on awareness creation, customer generation, and getting the attention of the linkerati.

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1 Create Great, Unique Content
Search engines love to see fresh content, that is to say, content that is newly added or updated.  Partner this approach with quality link acquisition to not only help your site rank higher in the SERPs, but to additionally snag the attention of the linkerati.  The linkerati have throngs of followers who apply a constant pressure for great content; if you can provide the linkerati with the content they are looking for you’re doing them a favor, and in return, they will link to you.

Search engines give so much value to links because they are natural indicators of quality material; downside is you might have to literally ask a site to link to you if they don’t do so on their volition.  While this seems daunting, remember one great link can change your Web presence.

Creating content that your customers want to read is just as important.  When writing content, keep in mind (courtesy of CopyBlogger) the 3 C’s:  Be Clear, Concise, and Compelling.

2 Create a Site / Blog to Which People Want to Link

What about your site, which will ultimately be the virtual carrying case of your content?  If it was last redesigned in 2003, chances are your site bears the equivalent of wood paneling or avocado shag carpet.  For the love of all that is holy, upgrade.  Being on the Web and working with new clients I see my fair share of sites and if yours isn’t aesthetically strong then people are just unwilling to link to you, especially the linkerati.

3 Go Out and Get Links
Remember when I said one great link can change your site’s power?  I hope you do, because it was only two paragraphs ago.  Well that’s why you need to be proactive and ask people for links.  If you think your site has something of value to offer their visitors, suggest a link.  Want proof, I submitted Part One of this series to one of my favorite blogs and they picked it up; the resulting traffic was so significant I won a contest here at SageRock (and a $25 Amazon gift card).

Of course, we don’t want to stop at just one link.  Sure, some links are better than others, but there are hundreds of ways to get new links pointing to your site.  Going out and being active in your space can pay dividends; commenting on other blogs, for instance, will not only tally another link in your favor, but it will offer you exposure and credibility on the subject.

The “Power of One” Link

Wahoo!  $25 Amazon gift card.  I just finished reading Sage’s post so I figured I’d respond to the process I took.

The power of one link; in most of my sales calls I talk about link building with clients and try and show them the value in links.  I wasn’t a “believer” in the “power of one” – I just made that up ;-) until Sage got a link from ShoeMoney a while back and skyrocketed SageRock up in the SERP’s for a specific keyword (which I think ShoeMoney still ranks for as well).

The contest idea was great, because it motivated me to get people to the site.  It was a bit easy I guess, because this design blog that gave me the exposure has a link that says “suggest a link.”  So, I suggested.

However, there are a couple key takeaways here about link building and why my post received that exposure:

  • I am a daily reader on creattica and contribute in the comments — involved in the community
  • When I suggested the link, I explained why I thought creattica readers would enjoy the post — good, unique content
  • The SageRock blog is well designed and creattica being mostly about design probably looked at it and decided it was “worthy” of a link — people are willing to link to it
  • My larger strategy is to rank high for “increase web traffic,” by optimizing my post, the link I received was “increase web traffic” — “show” people what to link to you with a.k.a. anchor text

This was just one link, so image if I can get a few more and even a few more… So, start participating in your space and ask for a link.  I am writing part 4 of this series and will post next Wednesday.  It talks about link building so be sure to check back.

Increase Web Traffic: Part 3 of 4

Now we are on a roll!  The focus of Part Three is how to increase Web traffic from the search engines.

To give you some ball park stats on search engine market share:  Google holds approximately 65%, Yahoo about 20%, MSN about 8%, Ask has about 3%, and all the others hold the remaining 1-2%.  Why is this important?  Because in a perfect world your Web site analytics should reflect these percentages.  If they don’t, then you may be missing out on part of your target market.

If you remember, Part One stated you may increase search engine traffic through natural optimization or Paid Search.  Which one is better?  Well, that’s a bit of a trick question.  On the surface, natural seems better.  It is free and all, it elicits more clicks, and, believe or not, studies show that the conversion rate is nearly equal to that of Paid Search.  It is, however, the combination or mix of both that I think works best.

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As the graph illustrates, there are really two ways for increasing this kind of traffic: pay more or become more relevant.  It might not be the best philosophy, but you can always throw money at it (think Target).  Logic follows that the more you pay, the more your ads display, the more users see the ads, the more likely they will be to click on your ads, the more you’re likely to see conversions, and on and on and on.

Strategies for increasing your relevancy are also pretty basic.  Ensure you offer what you’re selling (you would be surprised how many miss this point).  In other words, if you’re a car dealership trying to sell flip flops, and flip flops are never mentioned on your site, ta da! It’s not relevant (and Google gets less money, yeah, I went there), which lowers your quality score.  So, if you’re selling a Ford F150, then I would be sure to include “Ford 150″ on my landing page.  You’re using landing pages, right?

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Google has something like 288 parameters that comprise their algorithm, working together to determine what pages get ranked where and for what terms.  No one outside the Google bubble knows exactly what these parameters are; I don’t, nor would I want to, have a clue what they all could possibly be, but there’s a general idea of what these parameters measure and how they impact your rankings.

DOMAIN NAME is the same as your Web site address, which is the same as your URL.  I’ve personally noticed that it carries a lot of weight.  If you want to rank for a specific phrase that gets a lot of traffic (think foreclosures.com or shoes.com) then really think about your domain name.  It isn’t everything, but it is one important part.  There are many online businesses built around a powerful domain (again think shoes.com vs. zappos.com)

ON-PAGE optimization refers to title and Meta tags, clean URLs, H1 and H2 tags, content, technical structure, et cetera.  I recommend using WordPress as your optimization tool; it makes it almost impossible to mess up (with the right plug-ins).  For example, while researching to write this four-part series, I knew I wanted to target “increase Web traffic.”  If you look at this page, it’s in the title tag, URL, H1 tag, and also in the content.

GOOD CONTENT has to be unique and, for the engine’s benefit, repeat the exact phrase you are targeting (“increase Web traffic”).  While optimizing content, however, don’t think solely of the engine’s satisfaction; it’s more important that users will read and appreciate it.

LINKS come in two shapes, on the page and external.  You can control intra-site, page links; you are writing them in, after all.  In this post, I will be sure to link to increase Web traffic back to my first post.  I will also ask my co-workers to give me a link or two :-)

If you follow these simple strategies and do the right research you will start to notice an increase in your search engine rankings.  In fact, research is the foundation for all of this.  Make sure you are targeting phrases that make sense, but also that will bring in some good traffic.  I use Google Keyword Tool among others, which provide statistics on how frequently a term is searched for and how many other Web pages compete for placement under that term.  The last piece of the puzzle relates to gaining off-page (or external) links, a topic with which we’ll conclude this series next time.