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.

Increase Web Traffic: Part 2 of 4

With an understanding of where your site garners traffic from, I’d like to expand on the three principle areas of traffic origination: direct, search engines, and links.

Our first in-depth focus is on direct traffic.

To reiterate, direct traffic is qualified by someone who either types your site’s URL into the address bar or completes a search query using a branding term. Ultimately, direct traffic is all about your brand, with positive increases in the bottom line reverberating both on and offline.

Once you’ve captured its attention, direct traffic is the most dependable kind of traffic, though it is probably the most difficult traffic to harness, as well. The time and energy invested, however, mean you need not put all of your eggs in one basket, with your company’s success hanging on the balance of first place Google listings.

While our intents and purposes with direct traffic are primarily handled online, there are a few offline brand building techniques you may consider to supplement your online endeavors, including direct mail, TV, radio advertising, print advertising, et cetera. These media outlets may push offline traffic to your online promotions.

direct-traffic

How to do you increase direct traffic to your site?

ADVERTISE in content networks or a specific vertical, preferably using image- or rich-media.
MAINTAIN a well-designed site with frequent content updates, luring repeat visits.
SIMPLIFY a lengthy domain name to one that is easy to remember.
INGRAIN yourself in the social media space. Blog, comment, and reach out to not only your clientele but also colleagues in your industry.

Direct traffic fundamentals are rooted in the basics, which are somehow the easiest marketing tools we forget. Incorporate branding in your online mix and you’ll start to see more traffic, but just not any traffic, this is loyal, trusted traffic; the kind of traffic that converts to clients.

What techniques have you tried in the past that have been successful for your website?

Increase Web Traffic: Part 1 of 4

Whoa, buddy. Before we discuss how to increase web traffic, we need to back track a bit and understand where this traffic originates. Part One of this four-part series goes into the sources behind web traffic, with parts two through four bringing focus on how to increase web traffic.

To start, don’t give me that “Well-it-has-to-be-quality-traffic” shpeal. There’s nothing wrong with traffic; when did just good old, eager-to-please traffic become a bad thing? I know the argument for “quality” traffic, but this series might just change your view. You give me traffic and I’ll show you how to get something out of it, but maybe that’s the sales guy talking.

To what I’m sure is your stunned amazement, I’ll tell you that traffic does not hail from fairies or magical genies (unless you’re really, really lucky), but instead from three, yes only three, places.

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The first is direct traffic, which is when visitors directly type your URL in the address bar. I would also classify when someone types your brand name in the engines as part of the direct category — we don’t want to give the engines all the credit (greedy little engines). Like I mentioned, we’ll get into more ways of increasing traffic in parts two through four, so briefly, you can increase direct traffic both online and offline, basically it comes down to branding and referrals.

The second (these are not in order of importance) is from the search engines. There are two ways to get this sought after traffic: 1) optimize your site to show up in the SERP, or 2) pay for it.

And my personal favorite: links. Search engine spiders follow links, and so do people. Essentially, you can capture wide audiences via the linking medium. Keep in mind, too, that not all links are created equal; and how you link is just as important as to where you link. Some links are tough to get, but I’ll show you why it’s worth it and how to get them.

Don’t know which of these you like best? Well, I’ve got great news because you don’t have to choose just one; you can implement strategies for all three. So, stay tuned for upcoming posts on how to increase web traffic.

You Can Find SEO at the Top of the Mountain if You Bring the SEO with You.

I have seen a bit of an increase in the amount of leads in my inbox recently.  At first I wanted to take all the credit, but I think the economy deserves most of it.

The economy.  The skittish, peckish, fickle economy.  Businesses realize that during a down economy, they need to focus on not only what works, but also on what they can hold accountable.

Company in need of tracking ROI efficiently, meet Internet marketing.  Internet Marketing, this guy needs help.

The emails I have been receiving usually say, “We want some SEO.”  Well, not that exactly, but you get the idea.  With this influx of leads (I’m not complaining), I wanted to share 3 tips when you contact an SEO:

#1.  Give some phrases for which you’d like to rank in the search engines.

This will give us a head start to begin research before we follow up with you.  By having this research, we can provide more value during the meeting or phone call.  It just takes a few phrases to get us rolling on cranking out in-depth info.  We’ll be able to share with you the competitiveness of a phrase and how difficult it might be to rank well.  On the flip side, we can also show you the opportunity that exists and what it will “feel” like to be on the first page of Google.

Also, go ahead and throw in a couple competitors; we can reverse-engineer their sites and show what they are doing right and wrong.

#2.  What results you may expect if you invest in SEO.

Most of the time companies are looking for higher rankings because they know that translates into more clicks.  Some SEOs, however (SageRock included), offer usability testing which can increase the overall conversion on your site.  It’s usually not the quantity of visitors you get, but instead the quality of visitors and what they ultimately do on your site.

#3.  Provide insight on past online marketing endeavors and whether or not these were successful.

Also, be sure to add the reason for your inquiry.  Was it because the owner of the company can’t stand seeing a competitor higher than them in the SERPs?  Or maybe you’re not really sure: you’re just checking to see how an SEO might help you accomplish goals.

Bonus Tip: Try to give them an idea about your budget; it can be ball park.

I know I’m only adding this to make my job easier, but most SEOs have a wide range of services, with costs determined by level of aggression.  With a budget in mind, it makes it a bit easier and better for you when we design your campaign.

SEOs want to provide value to our clients.  The concept of SEO may be rather new to you and your company, so when you inquire, keeping these simple tips in mind will help us start off the relationship with a bang.  And you’ll receive a lot of valuable information right from the start.

Finally, are you interested in hearing about other opportunities in online marketing, such as paid search advertising or email marketing?  They offer a complete set of benefits beyond those afforded by SEO.