Archive for category SEO
The question that inevitably comes up is how to increase the number of website visitors you have coming into your website. Especially now with this struggling economy. So what can you do about it? First understand that all website traffic can be placed in one of four categories;
- Search traffic – otherwise known as SEO traffic. This is the free traffic coming from the search engines (Google) and what is most sought after by people. If you don’t already have a SEO plan, then this is the first place you probably should look to fix.
- Direct traffic – this is traffic coming from book marks, or they are typing your web address into the browser. They probably know you already, or maybe they found your web address in the newspaper or a flyer, etc.
- Referral traffic – this is website traffic coming from another website. This could sometimes be more SEO traffic, since it is traffic coming from the backlinks you have been getting.
- Paid traffic – this is traffic that you get from pay-per-click advertising, from banner ads you purchased, from email campaigns you ran, etc.
Here is what you should do:
This is a list of things I have found to be effective in increasing website traffic that results in sales. Read further down for methods that will increase traffic WITHOUT sales.
- Set up an account with Google Adwords (paid traffic). If you need traffic now, this is one of the more attractive options because it is so immediate. If you are selling doohickeys, then Google can place your ad in front of people searching for them.
- Optimize your website for SEO (search traffic). Everyone should already be doing this, because it is for free website traffic. This is a long-term option, because it takes time to build up.
- Get other websites to link to you (referral traffic, or search traffic). This is easier said than done, unless you are paying someone. Not only will it bring you website traffic, but it can also help you with your SEO (backlinks).
- Email campaigns (direct traffic). You can send emails to potential customers if you have an email list. If you don’t have a list, you can sometimes purchase them.
Here is what you should avoid:
- Social media (referral traffic). Social media is such a crock when it comes to selling stuff for your business, I recommend against wasting your time. If you don’t care about selling anything, it works great though! You can get Facebook pay-per-click ads and get lots of traffic that won’t sell product.
- Links in directories (referral traffic). There are some directories you want to be included in, but that is for their SEO value. Basically, no one looks in a directory, and I am not aware of a single one that is worth the time, effort, or money.
If I can think of others, I’ll add to the list later…
Once you create a website, one of the most important things you can do to market your site is to get some backlinks (someone linking to your website, from their website). Why? Because Google cares, that is why. Google uses the number of backlinks that you have (among others) as a method of measuring your ranking. And the higher you are ranked, the more web traffic you should get.
But getting backlinks can be difficult if you don’t have a strategy. So with that in mind, I recommend you get out pen and paper and read The Complete List of Link Building Strategies that was created by Point Blank SEO. And remember, getting one good backlink will outweigh a hundred lousy ones – so think ‘quality’ and ‘relevancy’.
The importance of optimizing your website for long tail keywords cannot be overestimated. Because while the top searched keyword might individually get you the most traffic, it is the sum of all the long tails that gets you the big traffic levels. You can see this to be true just by looking at your website traffic statistics, where you maybe get 50 visitors from your top keyword – but you get a thousand from the sum of all the others.
How do you pursue a strategy to get more long tail keywords to your site? It is easy – you make sure you use keyword ‘themes’ when you optimize your page. Don’t get hung up on just a single keyword, too narrowly defined. Don’t just use the one keyword, you use it plus all the other similar meaning keywords. You group your keywords into ‘themes’ and then you use lots of them in the content, tags, and links.
I read a nice article on the subject that explains well – it is recommended reading.
So maybe you have been trying to improve the SEO values of your website, and you now want to check to see if you are being effective. Or even better maybe you are paying someone else to do your SEO for you, and you want to get an unbiased status of how they are doing. What to do?
Some people simply open Google and do a search using their main keywords, to get a feel for how they are doing. But this is a bad idea since Google is giving you skewed results because your setting say you are living in Idaho. Doh! So you turn the location setting off, and now you get better search results, but then you can’t remember what your ranking was last time you checked.
So what you really need is a tool that will 1) check the keyword ranking for all the search keywords you need, and 2) keep a history of it all over time, showing you the trend lines.
But wait, there’s more! You also need to know something about your backlinks coming into your site. 1) How many do you have, 2) what are they, and 3) are the backlinks any good.
Anyways, the point I wanted to make is that you need a good SEO ranking tool – and I just happen to have one. The service is online so you can check your keywords any time of the day. And here is the price list for the service, click to get more information:
So which is better SEO for your website; getting more backlinks, or improving your page content? This is an issue I’ve been dealing with for some time now, and I think the evidence clearly shows that it is your page content that is most important. Google is increasingly downgrading the worth of backlinks, and I recently had another example that proves it.
Specifically, I moved a large website (with over 500 web pages) into a content management system. I moved all the actual page content over from the old site to the new one – with the one big exception being that the number of pages was drastically reduced, down to about 125 web pages. There was a new marketing director who thought if we made fewer pages, the site might be easier to navigate for the user – which is a valid point.
But how did this effect the website’s SEO values? Why, for many of the keywords they dropped drastically, of course. Some of the main product pages remain strong, but many of the long tail keywords have fallen off the map. Without losing a single backlink to the site!
So this story reinforces my belief that it is your page content that needs to be addressed first when working on your site SEO. Because unless your site is optimized for a set of keywords – how can a search engine ever rank it well?
And no, I’m not saying backlinks are worthless – I’m just saying you need to ignore the whole backlink mantra until you get your house in order.
I still see lots of URLs having underscores, so thought I’d discuss that a little. Who cares, right? Well, Google cares, for one. If you use an underscore in your URL like this: www.mysite.com/my_best_post.html – then what Google will do is join the words together when it gets indexed “mybestpost”. On the other hand when you use dashes: www.mysite.com/my-best-post.html – then Google will consider the words separate and index them that way.
Both ways will work, as proven by so many old sites still using the underscores. But the dashes are definitely better for your SEO health, and every little bit helps.
I’ve said for years now that the goal of Google is to put SEO people out of business, and that may have been a little harsh.
What might be more accurate is to say Google is redefining what it means to SEO a website. As SEO tactics were adopted, Google would implement counter-measures to negate them. From loading up a site with keywords, to getting lots of bogus backlinks – each SEO tactic was incorporated into the Google algorithm and new tactics would be searched for.
So now Google has come out with the Panda update, and with it comes a need for SEO people to ‘reset’ their best-practices again. The panda update focuses more than ever on the site quality, which makes sense if you remember site quality is what Google wants to have in their search results. What does this mean for you? Here is what Search Engine Land has to say about it:
The SEO model has changed with Panda in that, rather than getting as many URLs as you can indexed, you now want only your highest-quality, most important URLs indexed. Consistent signals should be sent as to which pages are most important:
- Decide which URLs are canonical and create strong signals (rel canonical, robot exclusion, internal link profile, XML sitemaps)
- Decide which URLs are your most valuable and ensure they are indexed and well optimized
- Remove any extraneous, overhead, duplicate, low value and unnecessary URLs from the index
- Build internal links to canonical, high-value URLs from authority pages (strong mozRank, unique referring domains, total links, are example metrics)
- Build high-quality external links via social media efforts
SEOmoz also has some good info, if you are interested in the subject.
You can use your site navigation to “help” Google assign SEO values to your pages. The concept is an old one, but I don’t think is understood by many people. So let me break this down a little as to how it works.
Obviously the first purpose of the site navigation is to make it easy for your site visitors to move around you site and find what they need. But the other purpose often neglected is its importance to your SEO value. This is especially true for large websites having many pages to it. Google evaluates your site structure and how it is linked together to help decide which pages are important, which ones are not.
To visualize how to organize your website navigation, think of a triangle. At the top of the triangle is your homepage – the most important page on your site. Then arranged across the bottom of the triangle is all your main category pages; for instance for a animal website it might be Dogs, Cats, and Birds, etc. All of these lesser pages are linked back to the top homepage giving it the top spot in importance – and so far I’m probably explaining stuff you have already figured out but stick with me here.
The important part is the next levels you set up, for instance the one for your Dogs page. It too is within its own triangle, where that page is at the top and across the bottom is all the different Dog pages you have. All of the individual Dog pages must link back up to the main Dog page, thus forming a triangle, telling Google that it is the main Dog page. The way you do this is via a second level of navigation. So at the top of your page you have your main navigation, but then you also have a lower level of navigation on the inner pages as well, maybe in the margin of the page. So this second navigation will have at its head “Dogs”, and under that list all the different Dog categories. All of these second level pages will have this second navigation on it.
Then you follow the same idea for your other pages, only on those pages you have a different set of links on it relevant to Cats. And so on, and so on. Your top three levels may be on your main navigation, with the ‘Product 1′ being in a drop down menu. Important points to remember:
- For SEO value you want to name lower pages for the main keywords, so Google will find them. So for instance, name the page Labradors under the Hunting Dogs category, and have the navigation link to the page also called ‘Labradors’.
- You don’t want every page of your website linking to every other page (for sites having more than 15 or 20 pages). The top main navigation links to the main category pages, then the second level of navigation links the others.
- You don’t want any page of the site to be more than three clicks away – better if it is only two. The first click gets the person to the “Hunting Dogs” page, then the sub menu on that page gets them to the Labrador page.
- By focusing the lower pages to the one above it, you concentrate the SEO value to that particular page. Google then understands the site hierarchy and will assign SEO values appropriately, and you can have some control over how it is done.
Is reciprocal linking bad? This is the practice where you place a link on your site, in exchange for someone else doing the same back to you from theirs. I think the answer to this question depends on your site, how well known it is already. Because if you have a new website with few or no backlinks coming to it, then getting reciprocal links can help you to get started, to help you create your ‘web presence’.
On the other hand if you have an older established website that is already decently ranked by the search engines, then reciprocal linking can be bad. By linking to other sites, you lend your good credibility to them and can thus dilute what you have. So as your site moves up the ranking ladder, you don’t want to be linking to sites of lesser or questionable value.
And if you do create a link page on your site, here are a few rules to follow:
- Give it a good name like “Partners” or “Sites We Recommend”. Don’t call it your backlink page.
- Place links on the page that really will be helpful to your website visitors.
- The links should be helpful to your customers, relevant to your industry, and be quality sites
- Include not only sites that are linking to you – also link to sites that don’t. Magazine sites about your industry, trade groups, and any other sites people might consider ‘helpful’ to them.
Having nothing but a bunch of links to bogus sites is bad, it identifies your site as nothing but a spammer site engaged in a linking scheme. Google says this about it:
“some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites… and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results”
I’ve worked SEO for some years now, and remember fondly (not) how I would put my websites into various directories, lists, blogs and phone books. Spent quite a bit of time doing it, and today find that it means next to nothing.
So I saw the image below recently on Wikipedia, under Page Rank, which clearly shows that 1 good backlink will trump a hundred lesser backlinks every time, (the orange website C). Even though website B (red) has lots more backlinks, website C is almost as high with just the single link coming into its site from a highly ranked site.
So the point I would make here is this: stop wasting your time on getting lots of poor back links. Instead concentrate on getting authority backlinks – backlinks that are from “quality” websites relevant to your own. I’ll write a another post on this, because it is important enough to deserve its own space.
And to be clear on one point. For a new website just starting out, the lesser known backlinks can and do help to get your site discovered around the web.