Archive for category SEO
As you may or may not have heard, Google Analytics is no longer going to report statistics for organic search traffic. You may have seen some gnashing of teeth by the SEO community already bemoaning the development. Apparently “online privacy” is so important we are no longer supposed to know (the rumor is that Google wants to push more people into their paid traffic platform Adwords)
Anyways, thought I’d pass along a little nugget of information about what can be done about it, because there is a method to still the activity. Two ways to see the keyword data:
- Connect your Google Analytics account with Google Webmaster Tools. Once you do that go to Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries
- Or you can use GWT directly Site Dashboard > Search Traffic > Search Queries (though it doesn’t give as much control as GA does)
The query table shows which keywords are being queried in Google search that is getting your website listed in the search results. The table is great because it not only shows which keywords are triggering your website, it also shows you the number of impressions, clicks, its average position, and its click thru rate (CTR). Wow, right? Each column can be sorted, so you can see which keywords are getting the most clicks. Here is what it looks like:
Click the below image to download the latest SEO cheat sheet from MOZ. Four pages full of useful info about SEO related things; like important HTML elements, canonical meta tags, and other social media.
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:
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.
So which website statistics are most important to look at when evaluating the performance of your website? The easy answer is to say the traffic levels – and you would be dead wrong. A high traffic website can still fail if it is not converting the traffic into sales or leads.
So for someone like me who gets hired to improve the performance of a website, the website analytics are crucial to the cause. Knowing which statistics to look at, understanding what they mean, as well as making them understandable to the client is what it is all about. The first order of business is to get a good snapshot of how the site is performing right now, then second is to figure out how to make things better.
If you are selling stuff, or gathering leads from the site – a good performer is usually pretty easy to spot. With a good performer you don’t need to look at the statistics to know – you look in the cash register (smile). But wait a second, even with a so-called good performing website – don’t you want to improve it even more, make even more money? Of course you do!
And you don’t want to just look at the current statistics for the site – what is important is to know the trends. You put the statistics into a spreadsheet if you have to each week, and that way you can tell if you are improving or not. You can take an action on the site and then watch and see if it results in the desired way.
When I first work on a site, I can usually get some significant improvements made because the site is usually missing some fundamental stuff – this is the low hanging fruit. But as you continue, it gets harder and harder to improve things, and at that point you have to look for incremental improvements over time – which is only identified by using trend data.
Anyways, sorry for being so long-winded with this. But with that in mind, here is a breakdown of some stats I tend to watch close. The most important ones are #1 – #3, the others are helpful indicators for your site.
- Traffic level breakdown – knowing who it is coming into your site, broken down into 4 main areas.
- SEO traffic. Your ‘seo traffic’ is coming in from the search engines, and can be improved by implementing some SEO tactics and strategies. This traffic is highly valued because it is free, and typically represents the level of new customers you are attracting.
- Referral traffic. This is traffic coming to you from other websites. Also helps with your SEO efforts because these are the holy backlinks everyone talks about.
- Direct traffic. This is the traffic coming from bookmarks, or otherwise from people who already know you.
- SEM traffic. This is your paid traffic like PPC, banner ads, or what have you. A larger company probably has this broken down further by source.
- Keyword ranking is important because you will want to increase your SEO traffic into the site. Find a tool that will check the ranking of your desired keywords, and measure them each week.
- Goals achieved tells you if the website visitor is doing what you want, buying something, submitting a lead, funneling to certain information, etc.
- Bounce rate will show you if people are actually viewing your site, or coming to it by accident.
- Pages per visit will show how interested people are in your site and what you are offering.
- Unique visitors will tell you how many new visitors are coming into the site, instead of returning visitors.
- Top content will give a list of pages that are most visited on your site.
- Site navigation will tell you the most often traveled paths thru your site.
I shake my head over some of the promises being made to website owners regarding SEO. I get lots of spam emails myself , where some SEO company based out of India is promising to make me “number 1 in the search engines!” So let me address this a little bit, put it into perspective.
First off, the point is not just to be “number 1″ – the point is to be “number 1″ for the keyword that you want. Huge difference. Anyone can get number 1 rankings for the keyword phrase “doohickey 123″ by simply placing that prominently on their website. Since no one else is competing for that phrase – give it about 2 weeks and you will be number 1 in google for that term. That is the scam – they take advantage of the fact that people don’t really understand what SEO is about.
If you make yourself a website and have high hopes for it’s success, an important area to look at is who your competitors are, and what are they optimizing for. Obviously they will be optimized for the keywords people are using the most – so a good tactic for new website owners is to use keywords that are more “niche” than what your competition is doing. So instead of optimizing for “idaho plumber” you optimize instead for “boise plumber” – you make the keyphrase less broad. To make that even more effective, you make lots of pages optimized for lots of niche keywords.
Another thing to watch out for with some SEO companies are the ones using what is called “black hat” techniques in your name. If you hire someone to get you better SEO, and they are using techniques forbidden by Google, then Google can ban your website – and it will take you awhile to recover from that.
I’ve had some good success doing SEO for my customers, and you want to know my secret? I do what Google says I should do – and I do it very well. I admit that doesn’t sound as attractive as promising you the “number 1 position” or “10,000 backlinks” – what it is though is effective. I’m just saying.