Archive for category SEO

Reciprocal Linking

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:

  1. Give it a good name like “Partners” or “Sites We Recommend”.  Don’t call it your backlink page.
  2. Place links on the page that really will be helpful to your website visitors.
  3. The links should be helpful to your customers, relevant to your industry, and be quality sites
  4. 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”

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Do you really need backlinks?

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.

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Website Analytics

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.

  1. Traffic level breakdown – knowing who it is coming into your site, broken down into 4 main areas.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Direct traffic. This is the traffic coming from bookmarks, or otherwise from people who already know you.
    4. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Goals achieved tells you if the website visitor is doing what you want, buying something, submitting a lead, funneling to certain information, etc.
  4. Bounce rate will show you if people are actually viewing your site, or coming to it by accident.
  5. Pages per visit will show how interested people are in your site and what you are offering.
  6. Unique visitors will tell you how many new visitors are coming into the site, instead of returning visitors.
  7. Top content will give a list of pages that are most visited on your site.
  8. Site navigation will tell you the most often traveled paths thru your site.

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I’m Number One!

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.

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Directory List

When creating a new website, the next important step is for you to get the word out that the website exists – to market the thing.  And for SEO purposes you need to get yourself some inbound links to your website (links coming from other websites back to yours).  So one of the basic SEO things to do is get your site added to some directories.  Directories are not what they once were – Google has downgraded most of them so they aren’t worth the effort.  And there are so many of them out there – which ones do you choose? As always when it comes to links, you need to base your decision on 1) relevancy, 2) quality and also 3) cost.

Relevancy – does the direc tory target your industry or did you have to search their listings to find your category?

Quality – what does Google think of the site?  Ideally you want to be listed in those website directories that Google considers important.  Its all about the Google.  And stay away from those directories that are more interested in pushing their ads than pushing your listing (just my opinion).

Cost – many are free, but I’d make a guess and say a “good deal” would be a link from a good directory for about 20 / year.

I’ve created a list of website directories that you can download, an Excel file.  I have a column in it for PR, which is for Google page rank, but do feel free to modify it any way you want.  The information like PR rank and cost is about a year old or so, so be warned not to rely on it.  What I try to do is sort them by page rank, then look at each of them for quality and cost.  And then make the ‘buy’ decision from that…

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Sitemaps for Your Website

Sitemaps are very important for larger websites. If you own a website that has many webpages, say over 50, then it becomes increasingly important to have a site map. If you create a new webpage, you don’t submit it to the search engines – you just need to add it to your sitemap.

There are basically two types of sitemap:

  1. Site maps to help your website visitors, and
  2. Site maps to help the search engines

Sitemaps for your website visitors are meant to help website visitors find stuff on your site. Usually a link is placed at the bottom of the page saying “sitemap”, and it is a HTML page that you create that basically organizes your site into categories, kinda like a Table of Contents in a book.  The HTML sitemap page shouldn’t have every page in your site listed – it should just have all the important pages, or the ones people tend to look for or that might be hard to find.

Sitemaps for search engines are meant to help a robot spider your website. The spider can just scroll down the list of pages you have made showing it every page you want indexed. The sitemap file for Google is an XML file called “sitemap.xml”, and is placed at the root directory of your site like this: www.mysite.com/sitemap.xml. There are lots of sites that will make the file for you, the best I’ve found is XML Sitemaps. This particular service, which is free, also generates a second file called “urllist.txt” which is the file that the Yahoo spider looks for.  You just run the service on your site, download the two files, then upload them to your root directory, it is that simple. (you double check the files first, of course)

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Wikipedia pages

An important part of SEO is getting good inbound links to your website. You want these links to be both relevant, and also of quality. One of the best places you can get such a link is in Wikipedia – which is probably held in higher regard than any other source by the search engines like Google and Yahoo.

I can personally attest to the value of Wikipedia and have successfully made entries for some of my clients. Alternatively I’ve also heard from people how they have tried making a Wiki entry for themselves, and then seen it be unceremoniously deleted by one of the Wikipedia editors – who at times can seem like Nazis! So here are some guidelines you can follow to increase your success rate:

  1. First and foremost, you need to get rid of any thoughts of “marketing” your website. Sure I know, that is why you are taking the trouble to do it in the first place, but you need to create a wikipedia page that isn’t marketing oriented. You are not there to sell anything other than the name of the company or person you are entering – not the products. The whole point is just to get the page entry – an inbound link to your website from Wikipedia.
  2. Not every website or company is fit to be in Wikipedia. It is a hard truth to accept sometimes, but there it is.  If you are trying to put lipstick on a pig – you need to be aware of it and press harder with the lipstick (smile). But still Wikipedia may just delete your work anyways.
  3. Put on your best journalist hat and try to write something that gives the Who, What, When, Where, and How for the subject matter. Write it like it would look in a encyclopedia even. Write it up in your favorite word editor first. You will also need to have links in your page that will validate it – so hopefully your subject matter is written about somewhere else so it can be shown to be “worthy” of the wiki entry.
  4. Now go to the Wikipedia website and sign up for an account – you have to login to edit any pages.
  5. Take a look around at similar pages to those you want to create. Maybe you want to make a page on a song writer, so take a look at other song writer pages.  Find one you like the looks of.
  6. Now click the Edit button at the top of the page, as if you were going to change something on it. Don’t change anything – just copy all the code that is there – paste it into Notebook.
  7. Do a search for the term you wish to use – for instance if I was making a wiki page for website-help-blog.com – I would type that in and search for it.  You should get a page that says the term is not in the Wiki – and this is what you want to see. There is a link there that you click to create a page with that name – click it.
  8. Now take the code from the page you liked in step 6, and paste it into the new page. Then edit the code using the text you wrote in step 3. The wiki uses special code, and there is a tutorial there you can check if you get stuck doing something. Good luck with that though – I’ve always found it much easier to just find something on another page and copy it from there.
  9. Preview the results of what you have done before you save it. Make sure it is what you want – so you don’t get deleted needlessly.
  10. Now go into Wikipedia to some other pages and link to your page – for instance maybe there is an existing list of song writers you can add your page to. Find as many of these as you can, and link back to your newly created wiki page.

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Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines

A fair amount of my time is spent dealing with SEO issues, so I thought it would be a good idea to give some details on what you can do to quickly “SEO” your website – to make it search engine friendly.  Listed below are what I consider to be the most important aspect of your on-site SEO efforts. (not to confuse with the off-site tasks needing done) I’ve listed them in order of importance – and yes, they are all important.  I’m assuming you already know what your most important keywords are.

  1. Title meta tag – this is in the source code for your web page, also visible at the very top of your browser window. Each page should have a unique title tag, and it should clearly state what the page is about.  If your web page is about the instructions for using a doohickey, then it should say something like “Doohickey Instructions”.
  2. H1 tag – this is the main tag (or should be) on your website, that usually displays at the top of the page. It should reinforce the main Keyword for the page, maybe even introduce some secondary ones. Like “How to Use and Operate Your Doohickey”
  3. Description meta tag – also in the source code, this is what the search engine is likely to display, if you are lucky enough to get listed in their search results. Keep it short, clear and concise so that people looking at the search results page know to click on your link or not. “Instructions for using a Doohickey – everything you ever might need to know.”
  4. Navigation text – this is the clickable text you use to navigate between the pages of your website. All other pages of your site should have link text saying something like “Doohickey Instructions”.  You don’t want the link to be “click here”.
  5. Link text – similar to the navigation text, this is just all the other links on your site that navigate people around.
  6. Text content – lastly you want the content of your website to be “keyword rich” in that it reinforces the main keywords of the page. Don’t just repeat the same main keyword over and over – you want to create a keyword ‘theme’. Like this; Doohickey instructions, how to use a doohickey, operation of a doohickey, doohickey dos and donts, hints on using a doohickey, etc, etc.

If you do each of the above – you’ve just tackled maybe 90% of what is needed done on a new website.

(Want to see the “source code” for your web page?  Just right click on the page, click ‘View Source’ or ‘View Page Source’)

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Keyword Research

Keyword research is one of those things that few people pursue, even though it will pay big dividends later. How come?  Because the point is to find out what people are searching for on the internet.  Why is that important? Because you want some of that search traffic to come to your website. If everyone on the internet is searching for “widgets”, but you are optimizing your website for “doohickeys” then maybe no one ever visits your website.

Basic Steps:

  • Make an initial list of keywords for your website.
  • Go to Keyword Map and get some more ideas. The Keyword Map is a good place to ‘spitball’ ideas, since it shows relationships between keywords that you might not think of.
  • Then go to Google and find out which ones are being actively searched, which ones are not. Google is responsible for up to 75% of all search traffic on the web – and they are the “go to” source. 
    • Google Keyword Tool (made for PPC campaigns) – will give you a large list of keywords and how much competition there is for it.
    • Google Insights for Search – shows you what words are being searched most, as well as other ones that are ‘up and coming’.
    • Google Search-based Keyword Tool – this is a tool that will recommend search keywords after evaluating your website.
    • Google Trends – this tool will show you the history of any particular keyword – its trend over time. It will show you yearly cycles, which is helpful, or you can search a keyword like ‘twitter’ and watch how that keyword took off and when – or others that have petered out.
  • Now take these keywords and sprinkle them liberally all over your website. If possible, include the biggest one in your URL.

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SEO Heretic

Search engine optimization is an important aspect for every website to consider and implement because, lets face it, for most websites search engine traffic is where the traffic comes from. And what is not to like? SEO traffic is free, it is plentiful, and it can be easy to get sometimes. But if you are responsible for a website’s performance, SEO needs to be understood in the context of how it impacts the sites performance. Amateurs usually think high performance can be determined simply by looking at a websites traffic volume – but that is a huge mistake. That is exactly the mistake all those dot com companies made back when the tech bubble burst, and they all went bankrupt. When I refer to performance, it means how well the site helps the organization accomplish its goals (to make the company money, to produce sales leads, etc.)

And so I’m going to say something that might strike some as being heretical;

SEO is not all it is cracked up to be.

How come? One of the biggest reasons is that of all the referral sources coming into your website, SEO traffic is the worst when it comes to conversion rates. The best thing about SEO traffic – the traffic coming from search engines – is that it is free traffic.  You sit back and just watch the people flock into your website.  Excellent!  If you are one of the lucky ones, the web traffic to your site grows exponentially and you – the guy responsible for setting it up is hailed as a hero. This is when you need to ask for a raise in your pay and benefits, for sure. I say it is time to ask for a raise because at some point in the future, things will change – Google will alter their search algorithm and traffic that was taken for granted will drop to a trickle. Management then looks at you – the guy responsible for the earlier success – and will expect you to pull a rabbit out of your hat. And hey – maybe you do manage to do it, but then maybe not. 

The point I’m making here is that just looking to SEO can be a mistake, because a high performance website does not always correlate with high SEO traffic. Consider these facts:

  • High “performance” of a website is not tied to the level of traffic to the site – another heretical statement for sure – it refers instead to how high your conversion rate is. What percent of your visitors convert into a sale, or a lead, etc.
  • Bookmark Traffic is the best, of course, since they are the people who know you and have marked your website to be able to return. The previously made a purchase and are coming back for more.
  • Next best is Referral Traffic which comes in a close second. This is the traffic coming from other websites, because the person trusts the referral website and that trust transfers over to your site. They may still be researching different products, but they are serious about it.
  • Paid traffic is in third place, which is somewhat surprising. Before seeing the statistics I would have thought it would be a close second to Bookmark traffic, but it isn’t even close to Refferal Traffic in regards to conversions. Paid traffic is an important source of web traffic for many companies – but it is important to know that the conversion rate from that source is not very high.
  • And in last place for referral source traffic is SEO traffic – the traffic coming from the search engines.  Wow, who would have thought that?  Doesn’t Google tell us that the people clicking on your ads are targeted and motivated buyers?  Yes they do – but then they are trying to sell you the ads, remember?

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