Yesterday's Webinar with PRWeb and Vocus was a ton of fun. Based on the sheer volume of questions, I think it was received well. One question in particular kept coming up over and over again, I think prompted by one of my comments. I said, "The most ...
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"SEM Traveler" - 5 new articles

  1. Most Common Web Site Mistake
  2. There's No Such Thing as Advanced SEO
  3. New Search Marketing Consultancy
  4. Google is a Republican
  5. SEO Project
  6. More Recent Articles

Most Common Web Site Mistake

Yesterday's Webinar with PRWeb and Vocus was a ton of fun. Based on the sheer volume of questions, I think it was received well. One question in particular kept coming up over and over again, I think prompted by one of my comments. I said, "The most common mistake I see when evaluating a web site is that the title tags for each page are things like, "Home" "About Us" "Contact Us" and similar.

 
This is a problem because search engines give the title tag more emphasis than many other on-page elements in determining what the page is about. So, how is the engine supposed to determine what the page is about when it is titled simply, "About Us"? Well, about who? Or What?

A properly constructed title tag should be relevant to the content on the page - specifically relevant (at the risk of sounding redundant). Here's what I mean...

If you are a landscaping service in Fairfax, VA, what would tell a search engine more about your home page - the title "Home" or the title "Landscaping Service in Fairfax, VA - Frank's Landscaping"? Which do you think is more descriptive?

Follow this line of reasoning for each page of your web site. But take it to the next step: don't just use a key phrase in your title you think makes sense - pick a key phrase that yo specifically want to target. To pick a key phrase, pick one that has higher traffic (number of searches per month) and lower competition (the number of pages containing the same phrase). To do this, use any one of many keyword tools out there like the Google keyword tool, Keyworddiscovery.com or the like.

Keyword research is a large topic to be covered by itself, here I just want to impress upon you that every page of your site should have a unique title that is specifically representative of the content on the page...like this:

Instead of About Us, use: "About Architecture Services in Arlington, VA - Frank's Architecture"
Instead of Contact Us, use: "Contact Frank's Landscaping Service in Fairfax, VA"
Instead of Services, use: "Information on Search Marketing Services - Search First, Gainesville, VA"

Lastly, the title tag should be kept relatively short - aim for around 60 characters with spaces, or fewer.

Really lastly, if your pages are ranking for your target keywords even though you don't have textbook optimized titles, you may not want to change them. My rule of thumb is this: If you are ranked in position 30 or above for your target key phrase, don't change your title! This may be counter productive. If you are worse than 30th position for your target keyphrase, changining your title won't hurt anything, since nobody sees your page anyway. :)

Hope this helps!
    

There's No Such Thing as Advanced SEO

I've been doing this SEO thing for a long time. My thoughts and ideas about SEO have changed a lot over time. After attending SES NYC a couple months ago, and in the context of working on lots of different SEO projects, I have come to a conclusion... There's no such thing as advanced SEO.

 

Last summer, I even authored and delivered an "Advanced SEO" class. Hummpphh. No such thing.

Three years ago, I'd have made a big deal about SEO and how experts were hard to come by. How complex it is and how it would take a deep understanding of how robots work and all kinds of technical issues: canonical perfection, site theme or silos, funneling page rank, server configuration, directory structures, keyword density analysis and on and on and on.

Alright - before you get all nuts, I get it - these things are important. But it's a matter of degree and resource. What I find in 99% of cases, these things don't matter so much and so don't warrant any resources (time or money).

Here's what I mean: Let's say you're a small accounting firm. You have 3 accountants you work with and bill $700,000.00 per year. You have a 12 page Web site that contains all the standard "here's who we are and here's what we do" information on it. They are static html pages. In this case, none of the advanced mumbo-jumbo (that I spent years learning) applies at all. None of it. Sure, they should log into their hosting account and make sure that http://somedomain.com is 301'd to http://www.somedomain.com. Even that canonical resolution is usually done automatically by most hosts. What else is there?

Nothing advanced, that's for sure.

I've consulted with literally thousands of businesses all over the country. The vast majority of them fit the description above - not accountants, but have simple, brochure Web sites and need no big changes in order to rank just fine.

So if not advanced, what should people do?

Well, let me put it like this: If you were thinking about dropping a few thousand bucks on SEMPO training, Bruce Clay training or the like, save your cash. Here's what you should do...

  1. Identify a good set of targeted keywords. Download Market Samurai for free and use it to find high traffic, low competition keywords - say 3 to 10 keyphrases.
  2. For each keyword, craft a new Web page inserting the keyword in each on-page element: title, meta description, meta keyword, header, first sentence of body copy.
  3. Add 200-300 words of body copy making sure to use various permutations of your target phrase.
  4. Submit your site manually to Google, Yahoo! and MSN along with an XML sitemap.
  5. Start backlinking - forums, blogs, social bookmarks, articles, directories, chambers, business partners - wherever you can find them.

Um, that's it. How is that advanced? It's not. You're welcome, I just saved you the $3500 you were going to spend on advanced training.

The real problem is that most businesses just don't have the necessary time to put into SEO, or managing their pay-per-click campaigns, for that matter. It is not that SEO is so hard, it's just that it takes time.

I went to every session I could get into at Search Engine Strategies. Some were billed as more advanced than others. Sure I learned a couple of new resources or little tricks. But nothing new. When I cut through all the fluff, I realized that underneath was something very simple: Get some content on a page and link to it. Done.

It is not advanced to set up user profiles on relevant blogs and forums and use them to get backlinks.

It is not advanced to get social bookmarks.

It is not advanced to write ezine articles and get them posted.

It is not advanced to create and launch SEO press releases.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am...with few exceptions, most SEO is simple, straight-forward and easy to implement, albeit time consuming.

Maybe an argument could be made that knowing where to go to get backlinks is where the expertness comes into play? I suppose so. But a single afternoon on
SEOMoz or SearchEngineWatch.com will teach you all that.

Yep, I'm an expert SEO. But I'm thinking that doesn't mean as much as it used to, or even should. I'm convinced: There's no such thing as advanced SEO.

    

New Search Marketing Consultancy

Search First Internet Marketing is live! Back in early 2008, I set up a business to provide SEO consulting services. I didn't do much with the business what with traveling to one or two cities a week for Network Solutions and with my workload there. However, some fortunate circumstances have freed up my time to grow Search First.

 
Too many SEO providers focus on keyword rankings and traffic. Rankings are great and so is traffic - IF it means more customers. The thing is...search marketing is way past optimizing a Web page for a keyword and getting that page to rank. Today, rankings alone won't work - you need exposure. That's what Search First is all about - giving clients exposure to their target market on the Web. The right exposure, be it through organic search, local listings, Google Base, social media outlets, video, or any other online medium, will deliver new customers.

With this philosophy in mind, Search First will focus on exposure and conversions. We tell our customers "Get more customers and grow your business."

Our expert search exposure optimization and pay per click management will help customers grow - even in a down market.
Stay tuned for more frequent posts as Search First takes off. Hold on for the ride!
    

Google is a Republican

Okay, I get it, Google is not an individual. But Google is treated like one all the time. How many times have you heard someone say, “Google says that you should design Web pages to be fresh, relevant and unique,” or some such thing? Since Google is often referred to in the third person (operative word being person) I thought it would be good to dive into the political leanings of Google, since we’re so close to the election. It didn’t take long for me to come to a conclusion: Google is a Republican.

Not only is Google a Republican, but Google is a conservative Republican. Let’s look at the overwhelming evidence to back this up, shall we?

First, Google rewards achievement, which is a central tenant to conservatism and Democrats and liberals punish achievement. We can look to the current tax code and Barack Obama’s tax plan for evidence. In our current tax code, the more money you make, the higher the percentage of your income you must pay to the government, clearly punishing success.

Barack Obama takes this one step further in that his plan will provide tax breaks to “95 percent of American workers” while increasing taxes on those making over $250,000.00. The problem is that this is a mathematical impossibility. I hate to get Socratic here, but in order to grant a tax cut, what must first be present? Taxes! If some 40% of income earners don’t pay income taxes, how then can they be granted a tax cut? By giving tax credits (payments) to non-income tax paying citizens, they have received not a tax cut, but welfare. This is a central tenant of Marxism, perhaps best expressed by the Popular Marx quote, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

Google rejects this line of thinking. Google will reward well written ads by charging them less for each click. If two ads compete for the top ad position and are both willing to pay the same amount for the position, then Google will reward the more successful ad the top position. It does this by examining the click-through-rate of the ads. Whichever ad has the better click through performance wins. This provides incentive both to the winning ad manager to continue top performance and to the loser to do a better job in hope of reducing click costs. This represents the core of conservative thought: rewarding achievement provides incentive to all involved in the marketplace to either maintain high performance, strive for higher performance, or both.

Second, Google embraces limited governance. Conservative Republicans favor a limited role of government while liberal Democrats strive for greater government control and involvement in all aspects of human endeavor. Examples of the liberal proclivity for large government abound.

Barack Obama has proposed $990 Billion in new spending according to the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Almost a trillion dollars! The trillion dollars is spread across dozens and dozens of new government programs, not the least of which are nationalized heath care and making tax credit payments to people who don’t pay income taxes (welfare). The increase in the size of government for his health care plan alone would be immense. When we consider the hundreds of billions spent on other new programs, the growth of government can be nothing short of rampant.

Conservatives favor a limited role of government as defined in the US Constitution. Our Constitution lays out specific enumerated powers thus limiting government. That which is not specifically allowed is either delegated to the states, or prohibited altogether. What makes the Constitution so elegant is its simplicity.

Google emulates the US Constitution and the conservative adherence to it. The Google Webmaster Guidelines are a set of 31 guiding principles for Webmasters to follow. It is a simple, clear text that fully explains the function of the Webmaster as it relates to a successful Web site. The US Constitution consists of the original body and 27 Amendments. These two documents are similar in that they lay out the rules of engagement between the government and the governed – Google and the Federal government and Webmasters and US citizenry, respectively. That conservative Republicans tend to favor adherence to the Constitution, and Google provides no coercive dictate to Webmasters, they are quite similar in behavior and guiding principle.

Third, Google emphasizes Capitalism. The idea that the free market will naturally identify quality entities and push those entities into achievement is yet another core philosophy of conservatism. At every turn, Democrats seek to manipulate markets and override the natural market.

There is no better example than in the current housing market crisis. Going back some 30 years, the Democrat party laid the foundation for this crisis and did so by artificially manipulating the market place. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) sought to provide mortgages to under served areas, specifically the inner city and low income neighborhoods. There was a good reason for being under served – the people who lived in these areas could not afford mortgages! The government passed a law that forced banks to make an effort to lend in these areas, nonetheless. The CRA was strengthened under Bill Clinton, making compliance mandatory. Any bank out of compliance would be prohibited from engaging in mergers and acquisition, securities dealing, and other profitable activities. In short, the government compelled banks to provide mortgages to low income buyers. In doing so, the banks became saddled with billions of dollars worth of bad loans. Fast forward to 2008, we have a government caused meltdown in the banking industry because of regulation and a trillion dollar taxpayer financed bail out. Large government caused the problem and large government is further exacerbating the problem by disallowing the natural tendency of the market to correct the situation.

Conservative philosophy is flatly against social engineering like that found in CRA. It is not the government’s role to instruct banks who they can and cannot lend money – that is a function best served by the marketplace.

Google is wrapped in a Capitalist perspective. This is best exemplified by Google’s famed PageRank. PageRank is a measure of importance given to a Web page based on the number of other Web pages that link to it. A link from one Web page to another is considered a vote of confidence or a testimonial. There is no coercive mechanism that forces one site to link to another; rather the democratic nature of the Web itself encourages it. If there is a Web site about wrist watches, it is in its interest to link to a Web site about horology. By linking to a horology site, the watch site has provided a vote of confidence and the horology site will be rewarded with higher PageRank and thus, higher ranking in the Google search results pages. Because Google ranks pages from first place to last, by design it cannot make Web pages equal. Striving for equality is a tenant best found in liberal and socialist philosophy – here we are back at Marx.

These are but three examples of many proving that Google is a conservative Republican. Google rewards achievement, encourages hard work, provides ground rules but does not coerce, and is founded on the principle that the marketplace should determine who is best, and then be allowed to reap the fruits of being the best in market.

I’d like to see a debate between Google (the person) and Barack Obama. My money would be on Google.
    

SEO Project

We're a month in to our accountant project. We're doing A-OK. Brad is getting some phone calls and with a nice high average customer value, all he needs is one new customer per month and he'll KILL his spend.

So let's take a quick snapshot of what we've done so far...

Last month was the month his site launched, so the activities were fairly predictable.

- Manual submission to the big three search engines
- Create an XML sitemap
- Set up Google Analytics
- Verify the site through Webmaster Tools
- Check that each of the major on-page elements were represented on each page and that the main keywords were present in each (title, description tag, keyword tag, H1 tag, body copy)

Through August, we began to get some backlinking going on. We went through a couple dozen credible directories and submitted for inclusion. Brad also updated his Linked In profile with his new site url.

Lastly, in August we launched a modest PPC campaign to test some responses. We're not only looking for conversions, but also for new keyword ideas, what hots and what's not - PPC, it's not just for clicks anymore.

Next month we'll look at some conversions and take a look at Brad's ROI. Since he's not paying for any of this SEO (but is buying his own clicks - I'm not THAT nice), his is all top side. But we can assign a value to the work that's being done. We're optimizing for a handful of local/regional terms - this would probably cost around $800/month for the SEO work. We'll use that as a benchmark for our SEO ROI. Stay tuned...

I have a new hobby site about Golf Information. I'll write up how that is progressing too from an SEO perspective. It's a pet project between my bro-in-law and me - he's a great golfer. I stink.
    

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