Archive for April, 2010

Rank Checker

April 30th, 2010 by Jessica Runberg

At the core of any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaign is rankings. Everything we do for our clients is designed to increase rankings in the major search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

After primary and secondary keywords have been determined for each page, the next step is to take a snapshot of where each page is ranking for those keywords prior to any optimization. This gives us a baseline measurement to share with our clients. Then, once the work begins, we rely on a ranking checker to help us keep track of each keyword’s progress at key points during the campaign.

Although the process could be completed manually, using a keyword rank checker saves time and resources. While we use a sophisticated SEO rank checker in order to give our clients a comprehensive snapshot of how their rankings have improved over time, there are a variety of free online tools that will present you with the basics.

However you decide to monitor your rankings, the most important thing is to keep track of your keywords in the major search engines. The higher up you move in the rankings for important keyword phrases, especially within the first 10 results, the higher your traffic volume will be. In short, rankings matter!

Additionally, using an analytics tracking tool such as Google Analytics can help you dive deeper into the who/what/when/where/why of your website and provide you with valuable information that will help you increase your rankings.

Want to check your rankings? Check out the following free tools:

Web.com Search Agency:

http://www.submitawebsite.com/seo-tools/search-engine-ranking-report.html

Mike’s Marketing Tools:

http://www.mikes-marketing-tools.com/ranking-reports/

SEO Book Rank Checker For Firefox:

http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/

Naturally, there are limitations with free reports since they don’t include the requisite professional account management advice that will help your website grow from an SEO perspective. But, it’s a good starting point to see where your website is and where it’s going!

Digital Content Solutions That Work!

April 29th, 2010 by Jessica Runberg

Search engines LOVE content. If you want to rank highly in the search engines, you’ve got to have quality content on your website. Content tells the engines what the page is about and gives the reader valuable information about the company and its products or services.

Text is a form of digital content that is often overlooked by developers who are looking to make a flashy, interactive site. In the same way that files downloaded to Amazon’s Kindle become text on the screen, search engines understand your site by reading the words on your website. This is why it is always important to make sure that your site’s text content is not embedded into images or file types that aren’t easy for search engines to read.

If your website is lacking in the word count arena, here are some tips to add some valuable content to your pages:

Include at least 250 words per page. Since search engines can’t see images (not yet, anyway) they rely on the written word to tell them what the page is about. Although your site may be filled with beautiful images and graphics, it doesn’t tell the search engines a lick about your website. When it comes to search engines, a picture is not worth a thousand words!

Optimize each page for your top keywords. Every page should have a unique set of keywords that have been chosen specifically for that page. For example, let’s say you own a website that sells camping goods and have the following pages on your website: tents, hiking boots, sleeping bags, rain gear and backpacks. Each page should include at least five high-ranking keywords related to its respective keyword theme somewhere in the body content.

Keep your content fresh. One of the biggest differences between digital media content and printed marketing materials (such as brochures, catalogues and newspaper ads) is that you can update your digital materials any time you want! Search engines reward websites that update their content regularly because it allows them to deliver to their users what it considers the latest and greatest on the Web.

Of course, digital content marketing is most effective when it’s developed in conjunction with other SEO strategies such as link building, keyword targeting and the creation of meta tags. But as with any other aspect of optimizing your website for the search engines, the key is to keep the content natural. Write for people first and avoid stuffing your content with keywords – and you’ll be well on your way to SEO success!

SEO for YouTube Videos

April 28th, 2010 by Patrick Hare

SEO principles also work for things that aren’t on your website. Whether you’re doing branding, reputation management, or advertising, it pays to make your content spiderable. This is especially true for YouTube videos, which can get presented to searchers who are looking for more information on many different products and services.

Optimizing a YouTube Video is very similar to optimizing a webpage. A well crafted title makes a big difference in getting search engine results, and some savvy YouTube optimizers will make sure to do keyword research to go after the most popular terms. You want to make sure your title has your keyword, brand, and (if possible) a catchy phrase that encourages people to click. From a reputation management perspective, you may want to put the brand (or proper name) first if the aim is to occupy top search engine spots for specific name searches.

YouTube Videos also have information similar to metatags, such as a “description” which should explain the video, and “tags” which relate the video to certain categories. When in doubt, do a search on YouTube for videos about a relevant topic, or videos made by competitors, and see what tags they’re using.

Another set of factors that go into YouTube popularity involve the popularity of the video, its age, how many times it is shared, commented on, flagged, or added to playlists. When you optimize a YouTube video, you want to get results on internal YouTube searches as well as external search engine. Older videos with more views and comments tend to move up on the YouTube search results, so if you want to do some “optimizing” of your own you should encourage people to comment on the video. If you know people with active YouTube accounts, you can ask them to add the video to the playlist, but if your video has a broad appeal among a specific group of people, you could seek out similar videos on YouTube and contact the producer asking for an opinion or review. It also helps if you are an active account user who provides reviews on other videos.

There are even off-site factors that can contribute to a video’s success. Embedding, links and references to videos on other sites will make a big contribution to the video’s success. YouTube also pays attention to the number of times a video is viewed, so if you have something worth sharing, you should tell everyone in your network of friends. For instance, if you email a newsletter out to employees, customers, or prospects, put the video link in the email. Since YouTube videos reside on their own permanent pages, links to these videos have an effect in the SEO world.

Finally, YouTube optimization implies that you are allowing your videos to be shared and embedded on other sites. On occasion, people who create YouTube videos become concerned when the videos are embedded at various locations around the internet. However, this kind of re-publishing is not harmful to you and can get the ball rolling on a “viral” campaign. If you have made sure to put your website/company information into the video itself, you can leverage these channels to generate more traffic to your own site. No matter how you choose to optimize YouTube videos for your business goals, YouTube definitely represents an opportunity for building a online presence outside your own website.

Convert Customers Even When They Think They’re Done!

April 27th, 2010 by Lisa Rosenkrantz

I came across a blog post from last year about optimizing the Thank You web page that makes so much sense.  Not only is it a good business practice to deliver that confirmation page after the customer has made contact with you or purchased something, it’s such a great opportunity to redirect them back into the fold, whether you offer to show them how to track their order, give them a coupon for next time or suggest related products. Since you already have their attention (and their confidence), you might as well create a chance keep them enchanted for a little while longer.

The last year or so has seen the explosion of the use of social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. have gone from central locations where you keep up with friends and business associates to must-have networking and marketing channels. If you have a business, it’s become essential that you also have a Facebook page and a Twitter profile so you can gain followers, fans and hot leads and market to them directly.

Your website Thank You page is a perfect place for you to let your customers know you’re connected and there’s plenty of room for them in your network. Invite them to join you and encourage them to bookmark you or write a review of their experience doing business with you. Such calls to action can not only increase your following in general, but can lead to otherwise untapped conversions. After all, these are pre-qualified visitors – the best kind. (Of course this all depends on how you use your social networking opportunities.)

A great way to use the Thank You page is as an advertising spot for your affiliates and for links to other related companies. Your customers won’t feel overwhelmed or overmarketed if those links are totally relevant. Additional ways to use this page include referring friends, requesting surveys, providing links to FAQs, posting your contact information or offering a printable version of the confirmation. Using the Thank You web confirmation page creates goodwill between you and your customer, which puts them in the frame of mind to respond to your additional marketing efforts.

Transition from Blogger to WordPress

April 27th, 2010 by Patrick Hare

This blog entry marks our first posting on the WordPress blog platform that we migrated from Blogger. Recently, Blogger announced that it was discontinuing FTP support for its blogs. Since we had been using a customized template that Blogger published directly onto our website, this meant that we had to go shopping for an alternative. We hope to use some of the lessons learned so far (and in the coming months) as a basis for presenting more information about the transition and the WordPress platform in general. Additionally, we are looking to see which plug-ins and widgets we can use to make the blog even more successful from an SEO standpoint.

For customers undertaking a similar migration from Blogger to WordPress publishing, there are a few resources out on the web that will help from an SEO perspective. For instance, you will want to try and preserve the URL structure of your original Blogger posts if they have gotten any links. To make the change as seamless as possible, there is information at MamaBlogga and Techknowl that will tell you how to download your Blogger blog into a file that can be uploaded to other platforms.

Since we have been publishing blog entries on our own site since 2006, we had a lot of content to migrate over onto the new site. We had to make sure that the file structure was as similar as possible to help Google, Bing, and Yahoo continue to find and index each page. On our side, we have several blog entries that send a significant amount of traffic to our site overall. As an aside, if your own blog transition does not make it possible to preserve your URL structure, you want to make sure that you use 301 redirects to the new pages in order to prevent duplicate content issues and let the search engines channel PageRank and link popularity to the site as a whole.

Special Thanks to the team at Web.com for making the blog transition go so smoothly.

RSS & Backlinks Make a Great Pair

April 15th, 2010 by Lisa Rosenkrantz

If you’re looking for creative search engine optimization ideas, here’s one that will help you build solid backlinks and increase traffic to your site – implement RSS feeds.

An RSS feed to your website is a list of the articles and any links they include. If you can distribute these feeds, you can possibly turn the links on your site to a myriad of links from different locations. An RSS feed always comes with the location from which it’s taken; therefore, anyone who wants to see the content/media in full can click through to your website.

When you submit your RSS feed to the various RSS directories, it gets syndicated to hundreds of other sites which can generate more traffic to your site, creating RSS backlinks. This will also influence your site getting indexed in the search engines. Many of the popular RSS sites have a high page rank, which benefits you in Google.

RSS feeds are distributed to readers via online services known as RSS aggregators. An RSS aggregator is a website where you go to enter your RSS feed address and your title. They, in turn, create a page on their site just to display your feed. Visitors who are interested in reading your content can subscribe to the RSS feed to keep up with your latest information.

Some RSS services will show your complete post and content while others will only show the first few lines or characters – it just depends on the setup. Either way, if you add your desired link upfront, it’ll get posted on any site that is displaying your feed.

For best results, list your feed with as many RSS feed aggregators as possible. You can do this with software or manually – and it’s sometimes built into your web design. Obviously, the more exposure you get, the more free backlinks you’ll receive. So, if your feed is listed on 50 aggregators, each time you post just one link on your website, you’ll actually be multiplying that by 50. As each feed points back to your website, you’ll have an impressive number of one-way RSS backlinks from relevant web pages.

Grow Your Business with Interactive Marketing Services!

April 15th, 2010 by Jessica Runberg

While companies have long been practicing interactive marketing, the Internet has allowed the trend to flourish. Thanks to computer programming software, it’s now possible to give online shoppers a personal shopping experience such as customizing a website with a customer’s name or recommending products that they might enjoy. Amazon.com does an especially good job at creating this type of personalized shopping experience for their shoppers by providing individual product recommendations.

Many websites, however, do not have the capability of customizing their website to this degree, nor is it necessary for them to do so. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a million ways you can interact with clients and customize their shopping experience directly on your website or through social media outlets.

Interactive marketing can enable you to make the most of your online business by getting to know your client base on a more personal level. There are many different ways to interact with your customers, but few are as good as social media. By mingling with them in their “natural online habitat,” you can become part of their online social circle. While online interactive marketing is ultimately designed to drive business, your Facebook and Twitter updates should focus on giving your friends and followers value-added content related to your industry.

Whatever method you choose, the goal is to get your audience involved. Try posting a question that you think will get people talking on your website or social media sites (people love to give their opinions) and award the person who gives the most interesting answer a gift certificate for your business. This type of direct interactive marketing is easy to do and can elicit a great response.

Has interactive media marketing worked for your company? Leave us a comment about your experience.

PPC Cost Reduction Strategies

April 15th, 2010 by Patrick Hare
Pay-Per-Click is usually the easiest target for expense reduction in the world of online marketing. While most other expenses, like hosting and SEO, are fixed, PPC expenses can be decreased or stopped with the touch of a button. Furthermore, there are some newer tools in places like Google Adwords which make it possible to prune your exposure on “junk” keywords while still maintaining exposure on terms that convert.

Google Adwords has been very good when it comes to providing tools that reduce cost and segment your customer base. For instance, the new(er) “search query reports” feature lets you actually see the keywords people are using when they get to your site. If you have a lot of campaigns running “broad match” or “phrase match,” then you can see a detailed list of terms that bring traffic to your site. By isolating words and phrases that don’t convert, or aren’t relevant, you can optimize your ad groups and preserve your exposure on the words that bring good traffic. Better yet, people with limited budgets who can’t get 100% exposure will be able to stretch the presence of “winning” keywords.

An older strategy for PPC, which still works very well, involves listing all of your keywords in order of cost (highest to lowest) and examining the conversion rate among them. You may find that you have some keywords that cost hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and got little or no return on them. One of the virtues, or curses, of Pay-Per-Click management is that you can find out more about what keywords customers associate with your business, and it may turn out that you’ve been using the wrong approach for years. Luckily, you can turn off any keywords that don’t perform, or you can see if there are any factors that keep people from converting when they type in popular words and phrases. You can also try sorting by cost per conversion, but this tactic often fails to catch the “big spend” keywords that did not get any conversions at all!

Are you running content match on you PPC campaigns? If you don’t know, you probably are! Many platforms automatically add you to the “content network” which places your ads near articles and online content that is relevant to your keywords. Content match can be rewarding if it is managed correctly. Usually, you want to separate your content bids so that they are a fraction of “search” bids, which show up when people actually type in queries. The conversion rate on content match is generally lower, but if you can adjust your CPC to compensate, there is a lot of opportunity for exposure. If you dig deep enough into you campaign settings, you can even choose which content channels (a channel is an external website or section of a major website) should show your ads. Google Adwords will give you click and conversion information on different channels, so after enough time you can pick and choose which ones deserve your advertising.

In many cases, PPC cost reduction initiatives make it possible to maintain or increase spend thanks to an improved conversion rate and higher profitability. One of the challenges with PPC platforms is that they evolve at a very fast rate, thanks to the competition between Google Adwords and Bing Adcenter. Therefore, understanding PPC solutions can become a full time job for the DIY PPC manager, but an agency may be able to apply Pay-Per-Click Solutions that are even more streamlined thanks to high-end platforms and automated tools that aren’t economically feasible for a small or medium sized business. Similarly, one-time PPC consulting services can pinpoint specific problems or challenges in a way that is cost effective for an in-house manager. Considering the potential for long-term cost savings on PPC accounts, a small amount of optimization today can produce a substantial decrease in click costs down the road.

Some Quick Notes about Behavioral Targeting

April 15th, 2010 by Lisa Rosenkrantz

Consumers’ online activity keeps growing every year, and online transactions keep growing as well. You should capitalize on this by studying what they’re doing, where they’re doing it and how they’re doing it.

What is behavioral targeting?
Behavioral targeting is one of the latest marketing trends, with its use expected to grow over 450 percent in the U.S. by the end of 2012. It involves analyzing past consumer behavior to model future behavior; in other words, you can actually decide what consumers will do before they do it.

What are the benefits?
Because advertisers are naturally concerned with their ROI, behavioral ad targeting technology will help them reach their goals by advertising to the correct target audience at the correct time. It enables them to display content that is more directly relevant to the interests of the visitor viewing a page, which is much more effective than random advertising. This improves the value of your advertising investment.

How is it done?
Typically, web analytics are broken down into a certain number of channels. Each channel is scrutinized and profiled in order for website operators to decide which content, layout, navigation, etc. is appropriate for each. Advertisers usually use specialized software for these purposes, with which visitors are assigned cookies and tracked throughout their Web session. This is the data – combined with demographics and purchasing history – that is used to determine which content will be served.

Is this a form of stalking?
There have been some concerns raised regarding privacy; however, the behavioral targeting advertising industry does its best to educate consumers on the non-personal nature of this type of marketing, and seeks permission from end-users where applicable. There are regulations in place in North America and Europe; however the majority of users, when surveyed, are still opposed to online behavioral targeting.

Improve Page Speed

April 15th, 2010 by Patrick Hare
Over the past year, Google has been announcing that the download speed of your web pages will factor into search engine rankings. While Matt Cutts at Google recently clarified that there are several other more important factors for rankings, it is still a good idea to make sure your site loads quickly and conserves bandwidth.

By making your website more efficient, and faster, you can enjoy benefits that go beyond search engine optimization considerations. For example, there are still quite a few people who connect to the internet by way of dial-up services, either because they choose not to upgrade to high-speed or because they are in areas that do not offer it. If your demographic includes a rural population, or older user base, then a site that loads faster will be appreciated.

What are some of the top ways to reduce load time? For one thing, consider the size of the images you are sending out. Even today, we see major websites trying to send over pictures that are 100KB or more, when they could be compressed to a fraction of that size with comparable image quality. Flash files are also a big offender when it comes to loading times, and there are usually a number of ways to streamline the file size while still presenting the same information. Javascripts and coding can also be modified or compressed for faster load times. If you have Google Webmaster Tools installed for your site, or use the “Page Speed” tool, Google will suggest compression solutions for your page components, which can save you hundreds of kilobytes on every page load.

If your site becomes an “overnight sensation” then you will have no problem understanding the value of conserved bandwidth and fast loading. Depending on your hosting company, bandwidth overage charges can be somewhat steep. If you host on your own servers, short loading times with less infrastructure may make it possible to handle heavier traffic loads during peak periods. Anyone who has had a site “slashdotted” in the past knows that a torrent of traffic can come at a moment’s notice. Since many people who seek out SEO services are working to make their sites “viral” or “popular” it makes a lot more sense to fix load-time issues today than it does when the flood gates have opened.