SEO Case Study: Content is NOT King

content is not king

The prospect wanted to go after the key phrase “corporate wellness Michigan”.

They had their heart set on this term. Now, this was not really based in any kind of keyword research they had done. They were in the corporate wellness business and, by golly, they wanted to dominate the search results for corporate wellness in Michigan. Their logic was sound.

They said they had been trying to rank for this term for about 6-7 months, and they were stuck at page 3. They had all sorts of content in their website. The term “corporate wellness” was woven throughout. Yet for some reason they just were not able to get pass the top of page 3.

So we conducted a little experiment!

The prospect contacted us on a Thursday and by Friday we had decided we were going to try this experiment, so we bought a domain. The domain we purchased was not even an exact match domain (EMD). We went with “corporate wellness”, then put the little “MI” in front of it so it read “micorporatewellness.com”.

Next, we stood a few things on the page. Not a lot of content, mind you; a page title, a sentence or two, an image and a link.  “Corporate Wellness Michigan” is the title for this particular page. We placed it in the title and meta tags. We were even bold enough here in this case to say, “Dear Prospect, you want to rank for this? Please click here.” After that, we pointed a couple links (literally, two) back at this very fresh domain.

Ranking Corporate Wellness Michigan

Turns out, we were able to rank this site by day six.

corporate wellness michigan day 6

All we did is buy a domain, stand up a barebones site, put a couple backlinks facing it, and by day six we had this brand new website on the first page of Google. Not too shabby.

And two weeks later? We were at the top of the search results!

corporate wellness michigan week 2

Keep in mind, nothing changed at this page since the day we built it. We never added any more links going back to it. Yet there it was, on the top of the rankings for those statewide state results. The same search this prospect could not attain on their own, even after six months of trying.

Want to see the page? (You probably want to see the page.) Here it is.

corporate wellness michigan page

This single page is the whole site. That’s it.

So, you know the whole notion that content is king? And how, in order to build up an authority site, you must produce reams and reams of blog posts, each thousands of words long, and they have to be so captivating that people will link to you naturally and (blah, blah, blah)—all the junk we been hearing ever since the Panda and Penguin updates from back in 2012?

It’s junk.

Content is NOT king, folks.

Content helps, especially on the long game (this experiment was a very short game we played) where it’s important to keep people at your site. You eventually want to show that people are staying on your page. Google likes pages that are sticky. With good content, people tend to stay at a website longer and when they linger longer, your bounce rate decreases and your page views increase. Google uses these metrics as social proof by which to weigh the value of your website, so—at some point—you’ll want high quality content on your website.

Again, if we wanted to keep this domain and really turn it into authority-ranked site, we would want to do something more to the site to build it out, but this was just an experiment. Do we have any desire to keep it and build it into authority-ranked site? No, not really. Not unless something happens along the way; maybe the prospect wants to buy this?  For now, it’s just an experiment to boast about and to use as a lesson.

Note: In this case, in this niche, competition was not terribly strong.  We saw things like indeed.com showing on the top of this search results. Usually when you see job sites coming up at the top for search results (when you weren’t searching for jobs,) what you’re seeing is Google not knowing what else to put up there, so it begins filling in the blanks.

P.S.- “Corporate wellness Michigan” was not a well-loved search term to begin with, so the notion that the prospect could not rank for this within six months? They simply did not know what to do. This is why they came to us.

So you there you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed this presentation! Have questions? Leave them in the comments.

Want more leads through your website? Fill out our SEO questionnaire.

How To Work Keywords Into Your Website

marketing ideas how to add keywords

One of the most important things you can do to improve your rankings in the search engines and directories (Google, Yahoo, Bing, DMOZ, et cetera) is to ensure your website is optimized in accordance with the keywords and key phrases you are looking to target.

To “optimize” a website for search engine relevancy means going over it with a fine-tooth comb and seeking out ways to make the website more targeted toward the topic it incites. There are a number of ways to do this.

Domain Name

Does your domain name carry with it “maximum information per square inch?” As in, is your product or service in your name? While this can help your rankings, it is not the end all, be all. After all, do a search in Google on “fast food” and you will notice McDonald’s and Wendy’s sites come up to the top and their domain names are not mcdonaldsfastfood.com or wendysfastfood.com.

Page Titles

Each web page on your site should have its own distinct title. A web page title should tell the user and the search engines what the page is about and you want to make sure to work in a couple keywords relevant to your website and specific to that page. Recommendation: Resist the temptation to place your company name first in the title—your keywords are more important to both humans and bots, so they go first.

Metadata

Add keywords and key phrases into your website’s metadata. Every web page has the capacity to have within it a hidden description and set of keywords. Whether web designers make use of this feature is another matter. Besides your domain name and page titles, this is one of the first things the search engines use to determine where in their indexes your site should be placed. While the importance for metadata has been greatly reduced over the years, it is still something you want to address as it’s the meta description that shows up in the search results.

Copy

Your copy (the text you write,) your links and the images you choose can all be constructed to give the search engines a greater idea about your website’s singular reason for being.

When you seek to “keyword optimize” your website, you begin by knowing the keywords you want to target. Once you have a list of 20 to 30 keywords or key phrases, you may then begin to craft your message to your public, sprinkling in those important words along the way. A good rule of thumb here is to focus on a few keywords per page, rather than trying to stuff them all onto every page.

Tip: Write for humans, but optimize for search engines. Do not pack your site with your keywords. The top search engines have algorithms in place that will penalize for “keyword stuffing.” (Keyword stuffing is considered to be a “black hat” search engine optimization technique and is wonderful way to get your website banned from the search engines. Not recommended.)

Links

Descriptive links are another great way to tell the search engines what your site is about and they carry a good amount of weight and should be used wisely. If you are merely stating “click here” or “read more” you are missing an opportunity. Instead of stopping at “read more”, build a little more information into the link by saying “read more about online marketing” (or whatever your topic.) Assuming “online marketing” was one of our key phrases, we just gave that search engine a little more reason to promote our site when someone searches on online marketing.

Images

Even the images you use can build relevancy for your website. For example, if you have a dog grooming company, abstain from putting up pictures of your clients that still carry the same filename as the day they were pulled off the digital camera. “DC3459.jpg” tells the search engines nothing about the subject of that image. Since search engines cannot actually see the image to interpret it (yet,) they can only rely upon the filename you give your image (and an “alt” tag, which we will discuss later,) balanced against the rest of the page on which it resides. A better filename might be “dog-grooming-service.jpg” or “pet-grooming.jpg.” This same principle holds true for every filename you use on your site (.doc, .pdf, .gif, .htm, .php, etc.,) including even the pages of your website.

Does it sound like we are catering to the search engines? We are. Search engines and directories are large conduits into your website. Without them, there would be considerably less traffic on your site, so you want to make it clear to them you are 1) an authority in your field, and 2) your website contains great value to those who will find it.

Marketing Mastery Series: 5 Steps to Powerful Article Marketing

Marketing Ideas Article Marketing

Today, article marketing is probably one of the most powerful and inexpensive forms of online marketing available to small business owners and non-profits. For those not savvy with the term “article marketing”, here is a quick definition:

In exchange for a little sweat and focus, an article author (you) shares their wisdom and experience with the world by posting their short article of advice or insight to blogs, social media and article publication sites. Within those articles are one-way links leading back into the author’s own website, raising their website’s “authority” karma with the search engines and increasing their qualified web traffic.

You Are the Expert

Here is a little mental preparation for you. I want to make sure you are looking at article marketing—and yourself—through the proper lens.

When you produce articles, it is your goal to encapsulate gems of experience-hardened wisdom and share them with the online community. In doing so, you:

  1. Help to advise those who are seeking that knowledge, and you
  2. Position yourself as an expert on the topic. (Important!)

Warning: Don’t get caught on the term “expert.” Many humble folks who are vastly knowledgeable about their industry wouldn’t refer to themselves as experts because they are also aware there is much they don’t know. You don’t have to know it all. You just need to know more than your customers and then know where to find the answers when you are stumped.

Your Mission: Inspire, Inform, Entertain

Your primary goal in business is to help, right? Businesses and non-profit organizations provide products and services with the intent of helping people. (Naïve? Maybe. Choosing to see the best? Definitely.) That might mean helping to:

  1. Provide a solution to a problem,
  2. Offer inspiration, motivation or elevation,
  3. Foster greater awareness to a social concern, or even to
  4. Entertain and enthrall.

The best place to start? Begin with what you know. Offer advice. Offer your life experience. Offer sagacious words of wisdom. Expound and elucidate. Maybe even do a little research. Article marketing is your vehicle for taking your wisdom to your audience, answering their questions before their questions have bubbled up.

Step 1: Target Your Topic

What do you specialize in? What do you know a lot about? What is the point to your website? After all, the goal of any article marketing campaign is to place articles of value out into the world and grow your number of back links (links that point back to your website from another website.) Google and other popular search engines/directories see these links leading into your website as proof you must be something of an authority.

Translation: On the Internet, you are somebody important if other people say you are. It’s like high school all over again! Yeah!

Step 2: Write the Article

To begin marketing with articles, you must write the articles. No kidding. Sure, there is some work involved here, but the rewards can be great as qualified traffic to your website increases. Yes, I’m aware there are certain sources for pre-written articles on a myriad of topics, however I would recommend against putting your name on other people’s work. Call me paranoid, but here are some possible dangers with this:

  1. Loss of credibility and damage to your reputation when it’s discovered you’re not writing your own material,
  2. Being called upon to discuss a topic you barely considered to begin with, and
  3. Being accountable for someone else’s errors if they pop up.

Remember: One of the greatest things about writing is the fact you’re building an asset when you write. You are building a body of reproducible and shareable knowledge. This is what “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author, Rob Kiyosaki, refers to as “doing it once and replicating it over and over.”

To write an article, you don’t have to be a Harvard literature graduate, but you should know how to complete a thought, hold a one-way conversation with a friend, and use spellcheck.

  • First, know what your goal is for your article. What is your point? Being clear on this will help keep you on track as craft your introduction, body and conclusion.
  • Next, pretend you are relaying this information to a friend. What would you say? How would you counsel this friend if they came to you seeking this advice?
  • Finally, use spellcheck. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Read the article aloud to test for smooth flow and phrasing. Ferret out all typos, grammatical errors and punctuation gaffs. If missed, these mistakes can detract from your writing and credibility.

The Resource Box

The last detail you’ll consider for your article will be your resource box. Your resource box is the little paragraph at the end of your article that tells the reader a little about you and how to contact you. It should always include a link to your website. Always. You want your readers to be able to find you if they desire more information and you want the search engines to see you as an authority through that back link, remember?

Key point: In your resource box, you don’t always have to use the same link back to your website’s homepage. In fact, you will likely have greater success by linking to the page on your site most closely related to your article’s topic. This moves visitors from the article directly to their topic of interest. (For example, if a web design company also offers web hosting, their article “How to pick the best web host” should link back to the page on their website that describes their web hosting services.)

Step 3: Launch!

There! You have produced a shiny little gem of literary brilliance. Now it is time to set it free.

  • Place it on your blog (if you have one and if it fits appropriately.)
  • Share it with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and your other social media outlets. You can post it over and over by hand or use tools like PingFM to automate this process.
  • Submit your article to free article directories! Here are the top 10 most popular article directories, according to list of the top 50, found at http://www.vretoolbar.com/articles/directories.php:
  1. seekingalpha.com
  2. ehow.com
  3. hubpages.com
  4. biggerpockets.com/articles
  5. ezinearticles.com
  6. brighthub.com
  7. buzzle.com
  8. textbroker.com
  9. selfgrowth.com
  10. knoji.com/articles/
  • Use an article submission software or service to shorten this process. One good example is isnare.com.
  • Feeling brave? Record your article as you read it into a microphone and post it to iTunes.
  • Braver still? Use your digital video camera and post your work to YouTube, Vimeo and the like.

Step 4: Track Your Results

Just because you’ve accomplished the first three steps of deciding, drafting and delivering your article, don’t think you’re done! You should be watching to see how this article affects your traffic. Did you see an increase? Did your website’s conversion rate (the number of calls, emails, sign-ups, sales, etc.) edge up? If not, did your article compel people to want to know more? Did it provide enough value? Was it placed properly?

Marketing Tip: Use the powerful and free traffic-tracking tool, Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics). Design your Analytics reports and schedule them to automatically arrive in your inbox as frequently as you like.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Now do it again. Find different-but-related categories to place your articles under so they don’t compete with each other. Discuss different aspects of products and services you offer. Determine how often you will produce and post your articles. This depends on how intensely you will run your article marketing campaign. You’ll need to weigh your priorities against your normal day-to-day workload, your goals and the competitiveness of your industry.

If you’re just starting out, aim to write weekly or bi-weekly articles using the promotional campaign in Step 3 as a model. If you are an ambitious writer or blogger, step up your efforts to daily and spread your articles across the media outlets.

Marketing Tip: Since you’re writing these articles anyways, you may as well post them to your website to keep your site’s content fresh. Then place them in your online newsletter and send them to your mailing list.

Afterglow

At this point, you have enough of a blueprint to successfully manage your own article marketing campaign. Writing articles can be a fun way to promote your website and your effort, but it can also be a great way to collect your thoughts and bring greater clarity to challenges you and your audience may be facing. Use articles to entertain, educate and inspire!

In support of your efforts,
M

Google Authorship: How to Get Your Picture into Google Search Results

Marketing Ideas Google Authorship

You may have noticed a trend emerging when you perform a search in Google. Every so often, you’ll notice someone’s face comes up next to their post. At first, you may think, “Wow, they must be an authority. Google is even publishing their face!” Once the star-struck awe wears off, you may then wonder, “How did they do that? Can I do that?”

For authors, bloggers, podcasters, video personalities and content producers, the answer is, “Yes, you can!”

Google—in their tireless effort to serve and encourage rich Internet content—has produced something called “rich snippets,” which offers content producers and marketers an opportunity to stand out using “Google Authorship” markup code.

The Google Authorship process, however, wasn’t terribly clear for me. I ended up needing about five different resources to successfully navigate the Google Authorship process. Therefore, I’ve taken the time to reproduce a step-by-step process for getting that pretty mug of yours into the Google SERPs.

Step 1: Set Up Your Google+ Profile

If you don’t already have a Google+ profile, go to Google.com and select You+ from the navigation bar at the top. As you move through setting up your profile, pay close attention to adding content for the following fields:

  • Introduction
    • Keep this short and sweet; one to four sentences. A little about you and where visitors and followers can find you.
  • Profile photo
    • Use a clear headshot. This will be reproduced as a small thumbnail if it’s placed into the Google search results. (Google is sure to repeat “if” and “no guarantee” numerous times on your Authorship journey. Be prepared: Your face may not show up in the SERPs for months, if ever.)[image of intro and photo]
  • Work Email
    • Preferred: Select an email address with the same domain name as the one you will be linking from (i.e. your email address is yourname@yourdomain.com and your website is yourdomain.com.) If you can’t do that, any email address you control will do.[image]
  • Contributor to
    • This is where you tell Google what sites you post to, or—in cases where you have been a guest author on someone else’s site or blog—what articles you’ve had published. If a guest post, link directly to your post on the other site; not the main homepage.

Marketing Ideas Google Plus Profile

Step 2: Link to Your Google+ Account from Your Posts

There are a couple different ways to add Google Authorship markup code to your site, but I’m going to focus on my favorite: the rel=author parameter. Why is this my favorite method? I feel the rel=me parameter you would add to your blog’s “about me” page is too broad to be targeted, whereas the rel=author parameter you add to specific links, giving you much more control. You may say, “Matt, that seems like more work!” but I would say, “Not if you do it the way I’m about to teach you!”

Your goal now is to add the code to one place: the bottom of your posts. If you don’t already have one, begin by writing your “about the author” blurb. Here is mine:

Marketing Ideas Author Matt SchoenherrWritten by Matt Schoenherr
Matt is a husband, father of four, marketing consultant and founder of Marketing Ideas 101. As a student, teacher and published author, Matt supports the worthy goals of service and commerce in the small business and nonprofit communities. You may find him on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Creative marketing ideas and marketing strategies may be found at MarketingIdeas101.com

As you can see, I’ve included links to some of the other social media channels I use, the same headshot I used for my Google+ profile (this could be any picture; I’m just being consistent) and a little about myself.

Pay close attention to the Google+ link here. This is the format you want to use:

<a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/111111111111111111111?rel=author“>My link to Google+</a>

Change the 1’s to your Google+ profile ID. To find your profile ID, make sure you’re logged out of Google+ and

  1. do a search for your profile from the Google+ landing page (Google.com, then select You+.) You may see your profile posts come up on the left and believe you just found your profile.
  2. Don’t be fooled! This is not the right address!
  3. You still want to select your profile from the list that appears on the right.

Marketing Ideas Google Plus Profile ID

Now you will see your actual profile and will be able to capture the URL address properly:

https://plus.google.com/106370176252356730363/posts

Strip off “posts” and now your URL should look like:

https://plus.google.com/106370176252356730363/

Once you have your “about the author” description created, you will add it to the bottom of your posts. If your website is built on a content management system, this may be easy. With Joomla, you may simply add a custom HTML module to the bottom of those pages. In WordPress, you may use a wonderful plugin called “Post Footer” and drop your “about the author” blurb in. If you need help with this, ask your web guru. Here is what my code looks like:

<img src=”https://marketingideas101.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/marketing-ideas-author-200-150×150.jpg” alt=”Marketing Ideas Author Matt Schoenherr” title=”Marketing Ideas Author Matt Schoenherr” width=”150″ height=”150″ class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-1465″ /><strong>Written by Matt Schoenherr</strong><br />
Matt is a husband, father of four, marketing consultant and founder of Marketing Ideas 101. As a student, teacher and published author, Matt supports the worthy goals of service and commerce in the small business and nonprofit communities. You may find him on <a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/106370176252356730363?rel=author” title=”marketing ideas” target=”_blank”>Google+</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/#!/mattschoenherr” target=”_blank”>Twitter</a> and <a href=”http://www.facebook.com/marketingideas101″ title=”marketing ideas” target=”_blank”>Facebook</a>. Creative <a href=”https://marketingideas101.com/category/marketing-ideas/”>marketing ideas</a> and marketing strategies may be found at MarketingIdeas101.com.

Step 3: It’s Alive!

Google has provided a slick little tool that tells you whether you’re on the right path. It’s called the Rich Snippets Testing Tool and you can find it here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

To determine if things are working properly, place the URL address for one of your posts carrying the Google+ link into the top box and select the Preview button.

Marketing Ideas Google Authorship Testing Tool

An example of what your post will look like in the search results will appear. If you see your picture, great news! You’re done! If not, the Rich Snippets Testing Tool will tell you what errors it found. For me, I was told I hadn’t verified my email address, so once I added the work email address to my Google+ profile and verified it, my “Extracted Author/Publisher for this page” section looked like this:

Marketing Ideas Google Authorship Verified

Afterglow

Per the search engine marketing agency, CatalystOnline:

“The results over a few weeks proved the quintessential SEO theory that Rich Snippets do increase CTR and as a result greater traffic. According to Google Webmaster Tools, clicks to the site dramatically increased by +150% and this improvement resulted in an increase of visits and page views (see chart below).” (Emmanuel, 2012.)

Marketing Ideas Rich Snippet Results

True, it may take a little time to get Google Authorship markup installed and functioning. Still, if your posts begin displaying your profile picture in the Google search results, you stand to gain considerable advantage over other content authors whom have not made this effort. As of today, I will begin watching to see when (if) my profile picture begins appearing alongside my posts. When (if) I see this occur, I will come back here and post an update to let you know how long it took.

In the meantime, if you work through these directions and you discover something was unclear or missing, please offer some clarification in the comments below and I’ll update this post.

In support of your efforts,

Matt

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Update, Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Well, it seems Google caught my Authorship submission today!  Fairly quick turn-around at exactly a week. Nice. So, what did we learn? It’s possible and it can happen quickly. We also learned your photo won’t show up next to everything you’ve written. See below.

Marketing Ideas Google Authorship Results

As you can see, a search for “marketing ideas 101” shows four listings (page 1, positions 1-4) for the Marketing Ideas 101 site but only one entry in the search results shows my Google Authorship image. Still, every little bit helps. In the meantime, I see I need to address the meta keywords and description for my pages, as my resource box content is being displayed instead of the page description. Ah, good times.

If I notice any other updates, I’ll post them here!

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References

Crestodina, A. Google Authorship Markup: How to get your picture in search results. Retrieved from http://blog.kissmetrics.com/google-authorship/.

Emmanuel.E. January 19, 2012. CatalystOnline. How Rich Snippets Can Improve Your CTR. Retrieved from http://www.catalystsearchmarketing.com/2012/01/how-rich-snippets-can-improve-your-ctr/.

Google. Author information in the search results. Retrieved from http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1408986&expand=option2.

Google. Rich snippets not appearing. Retrieved from http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1093493.

Google. Rich Snippets Testing Tool. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets.

Jamieson, E. How Long Will It Take For My Face/Logo To Show Up In The Search Results? Retrieved from http://www.authorsure.com/514/how-long-will-it-take-for-my-facelogo-to-show-up-in-the-search-results.

Perspiration Precipitates Performance and Other Marketing Lessons Learned

Marketing Ideas Douglas Criticism Quote

The following is a letter I received from a dear client, John Douglas, who also happens to be a talented local photographer. Over the past year, John has undergone the rigors of becoming an SEO-savvy entrepreneur. John is a model student; eager to learn, invested in his own success and quick to pick up the strategies required to build success, both online and offline.

I asked John if I could share his letter with you. I feel his experience may resonate and help normalize others who may feel as he did as they attempt to break into their local marketplace.

As I mentioned to John, it is wonderful to see yourself progress toward self-confidence as a business person and professional. Yes, it’s hard to teach such things without the frustrating mechanism of time and the roller-coaster of the success/failure continuum. Take pleasure in recognizing your inner growth. Lessons like these are learned not just intellectually, but also at a cellular level, through life discovery. This means such valuable lessons become truly yours, adding onto the wisdom you already possess. You are richer today–both in the spirit and in the material–as a result.

In support of your efforts,

Matt Schoenherr

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Hey Matt:
It’s been close to a year since we started working together. I thought I would share some observations with you. I have been seeing increasing activity and interest in my work as manifest by the number of requests I am getting now. Am I as busy as I’d like to be? Absolutely not, but I’ve learned to be patient. Some random thoughts:

  • Success is measured incrementally, and doesn’t happen according to your prescribed schedule. I have learned be comfortable with even modest gains. As you are well aware the last year has seen some frustrations on my part, largely because I was focusing on the success of others and not on my personal successes. I have learned to focus on myself and my abilities and not be concerned with the success or failure of others.
  • Don’t evaluate your success on the short term. It has taken me a while to assimilate this, and I’m sure you’ve told me this a number of times. Being an engineer, I plotted a linear regression of where I expected to be in a year with regard to web traffic. Am I going to reach my goal? I don’t know. Do I care? No.
  • “P cubed”. Perspiration precipitates performance. Gains are not achieved without some hard work and drudgery. I never imagined it would be so difficult to to get top ranking, and to hold on to decent ranking.
  • Web design is fun, but web maintenance is boring and mundane. The website design looks fantastic, and I am still happy with it today after nearly a year.
  • Word of mouth is the best advertising. I firmly believe that reputation trumps any search engine rankings or website designs. SEO is a way of getting your foot in the door and establishing yourself as a credible resource.
  • Does top ranking mean you are the best? Absolutely not. I have learned that you have to have faith in people and recognize that they will make decisions to hire me based on their criteria, and not my criteria.
  • Learn to see the difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Appreciate the constructive, ignore the destructive.
  • Has it been worth the time, effort, and money? Absolutely! I would not be seeing the interest I am seeing without decent ranking on keyword searches. Thank you for your efforts.

Lastly, thank you for being patient with me in the last year. You have been my technical advisor, mentor, and (at times) my spiritual and psychological counselor.  =)

I am very appreciative of all of your efforts and assistance in the past year.

John Douglas
Photographer

Dispelling 7 Common SEO Myths

Marketing Ideas SEO Myths
(Excerpt from Ideas Online, as seen in the Marketing Ideas Academy, Module 4, Online Marketing.)

Let us begin by dispelling a few myths about the art and science of search engine optimization (SEO).

Myth #1: If you purchase a new domain with maximum information per square inch, you’ll rank higher in the search engines.

Answer: Yes and no. Domain names are the first things a search engine looks at, so if you have the name of your product or service in your domain name, kudos to you. Google, on the other hand, uses what’s known as an “aging delay” for all new domains. This allows Google to weed out many of the fly-by-night’s and give priority to the sites that have remained staples the longest (thereby making Google a more valuable resource to those who use it.) This is just one of over a hundred metrics used by Google to ascertain where your site shows up in the search results.

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Myth #2: If you pollute your website with your targeted keywords, you’ll propel your site to the top of the search results.

Answer: Maybe. You may also be blacklisted by the search engines, causing you to plummet in rankings or disappear altogether. For months. Or years. Sound worth it?

You must strike the balance between optimizing your website for the search engines and optimizing your website for your target audience. Yes, construct your content with keywords and search engines in mind, but always write for your customer. What keywords are they going to use to find what you’re offering (read: What are they looking for?) The keywords your customers are using are the ones you want to target, so once you know those keywords, work them into your site. You will do this a number of ways:

  • Domain name (if the opportunity makes long-term business sense)
  • Your title (specific to every page)
  • Meta tags (description, keywords, et cetera, built into each page’s code)
  • Copy (your content about your, your services, ideas, etc.)
  • Your links (use descriptive links instead of “read more” or “click here”), and
  • Your image “alt” tags (which tell the search engines what the picture is)

While these are some important staples, there are still more items to consider. More about those later.

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Myth #3: Pick the top words for your keywords and stick with them, regardless of whether you ever see those keywords generate any traffic for you.

Answer: Continually refine your keywords. You must know what your customers are searching on. It doesn’t matter if you sell the best widget in the world. If your customers call your widget a thingamabob, they will never find you. Worse, they will find your competition who may make a very fine widget as well, but they refer to their widget as a thingamabob, which brings them up in the search engines in front of your prospective clients. To see what people are searching on, use keyword research tools such as the Google AdWords keyword tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.) Create lists of the most relevant keywords and key phrases for your website and choose different ones to embed on each page (in the meta data and content.) The more specific you are, the more qualified your visitors will be to buy from you.

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Myth #4: We can save all this keyword optimization mumbo-jumbo until the end of our web project and just add our keywords in later.

Answer: Construct (or reconstruct) your site with your keywords in mind. Once you know what your clients are looking for, now you can ensure your site offers it in the way they would like to see it presented. For instance, if we go back to our earlier widget example, you might consider that people may be looking for a particular brand of widget, type of widget, size of widget or widget genre. The more you know about how they’re searching, the better you’ll be able to set up your site to show them what they’re looking for. When applied properly, your keywords will affect what you name your images, files and folders all across your website, so settle on them as much as possible prior to breaking ground on that big website overhaul.

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Myth #5: I made my site in Adobe Flash. It’s really killer. Whoever lands there will be really impressed.

Answer: Maybe, but they have to find you first. Back to optimizing your site for the search engines. There are certain things most search engines choke on:

  • Flash
  • Frames
  • JavaScript links and menus
  • Image maps
  • Dynamic URL’s

Search engines also can’t read graphics, so without descriptive alt tags and file names, the graphics may as well be ignored.

When search engines get caught on these things, years ago they would simply stop indexing your site and not dig any deeper. Obviously, this didn’t win you any visitors. Search engines are smarter these days and most can sniff past troublesome areas. You can certainly use these technologies on your site, however you also need to ensure a search engine can find what it’s looking for. Using text links, linking images to web pages (and using appropriate alt tags), including ror.xml and robots.txt files in your website’s home directory, and using sitemaps will help search engines make sense of your website.

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Myth #6: See? I have the same keywords at the top of all my pages. This should work, right?

Answer: Only if you’re in a very small niche or your local competition is just as lazy as you are. Make every page title unique. It’s terribly easy to use the same title for every page as you’re constructing a website. Take the extra time, however, to vary the title, meta description and meta keywords for each page. Ensuring each title is different and uses the keywords used within that page will take you further than relying upon the same title, description and keywords for every page on your website. The search engines rely heavily on page titles, so use them wisely. The title will be what the search engine presents as a link to your site (providing your site appears in the results at all.)

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Myth #7: Okay! I’ve optimized my site! I’m done! Right?

Answer: Not quite. Search engine optimization and marketing is a journey; not a destination. Even if you make it to the top of the first page in the search results, you’ll have to contend with other sites jockeying for the same position. Fostering backlinks to your website is a very important strategy for achieving search term dominance and maintaining it. How do you do this? There are a number of ways.

First, ensure people want to link to your site. If you’ve worked to make your site helpful, informative or just plain cool, you may earn the links from other websites that will increase your standing with the search engines.

What if your site is lame? Well.. it’s likely your search engine ranking will be as well. Don’t be afraid to approach other webmasters with an offer of “link reciprocity”. If your websites compliment each other, a reciprocal link campaign may be just what the doctor ordered to help drive traffic and rankings. Just be sure to link to only the best and the brightest; your links are a reflection upon you and your site to your visitors and the search engines. Other ways to grow backlinks may include social bookmarking, article marketing, news release sites, and posting your link when commenting on blog sites. All these methods need to be handled responsibly and maturely, otherwise you risk rebuke by the Internet community. Strive to provide value in whatever you post and you go a long way toward keeping your reputation in good standing.