Archive for July, 2010

JavaScript and SEO

July 28th, 2010 by Lisa Rosenkrantz

While JavaScript brings some smooth, beautifying features and functions to a website that enhance the total user experience, it’s not really beneficial for improving your visibility or elevating your rankings in Google.  It doesn’t necessarily ruin your SEO efforts, but you need to decide if taking the time to create the code is worth it for you.

What JavaScript Does

  • Attracts attention
  • Makes a site less boring and vanilla
  • Adds pop-ups, images and animations
  • Takes you to another page for further info
  • Enables web developers to manage/ maintain website

What JavaScript Doesn’t

  • Help rankings in search engines
  • Get picked up by Web crawlers

Impact of JavaScript on SEO

JavaScript alone isn’t necessarily good or bad for SEO, as the search engines pretty much ignore it. You could argue, however, that while it can help make a website more pleasant to visit, the difficulty spiders have following JavaScript has a negative impact on your rankings. Thus, the basic thing you need to remember is that the search engine spiders don’t crawl JavaScript, so at the very least you should avoid using it as the only location for your keywords. Site Search isn’t able to index content,

Also, comments in HTML are ignored by the search engines – and navigational links and content offered via JavaScript are ignored, too.  This can impact your SEO because your links and content are top level factors for ranking and trustworthiness. Make sure you have normal HTML navigational links on the page and remove navigation from JavaScript so you don’t inadvertently lock search engines out of important areas of your site.

Another important SEO consideration is that JavaScript tends to slow down page loading time, which might have an impact on your rankings. Luckily, you can get around this by externalizing this function calling on it only when required by the client.

Think about this, too – an issue that Google in particular has with JavaScript is that it tends to assume that the site is serving up different content and navigation to the user than to the search engines.  This is a tactic commonly used by adult and gambling sites, so it’s not always great for a site’s reputation.

Using JavaScript

Search engines are getting better at reading JavaScript, but you should never substitute it for regular link navigation. It’s certainly fine to use JavaScript, but the trick is in finding the right balance – between solid SEO practices such as well-written content and keyword rich meta titles, H1 tags, strong backlinks, etc. and fun extras that come in the form of JavaScript and other components of Web page design. And, while Web crawlers can’t see images or videos, you could try using alt tags to describe them – just remember they don’t have the same value as good, old-fashioned links.

There are some sites that are naturals for using JavaScript well; for example, e-commerce sites that require lots of images, but static content has the greatest chance of being indexed by search engines.

Social Media Marketing Tips

July 26th, 2010 by Jessica Runberg

Whether you’re a Facebook and Twitter guru or are new to the social media scene, there’s always something to learn. Social media is one of the fastest growing marketing segments and if your business doesn’t already have Facebook and Twitter accounts, you should create them ASAP.

Social media is a powerful way to connect with your customers and can significantly increase your bottom line. Whether you use it to reach out to new customers or increase revenue from your existing client base, social media can be a powerful tool to increase sales and profits, and build customer loyalty.

The best part? Social media is an affordable and accessible way for any business to make waves on the Web. From mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, here are a few of our top tips for social media marketing.

Use Multiple Platforms. Although you hear a lot about Facebook and Twitter, they’re certainly not the only games in town. Social media works best when you utilize a variety of platforms and proactively get your branded message out there. While we definitely recommend using the “biggies,” it’s important not to overlook the other fish in the sea. Consider Foursquare, Yelp, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr and others. Be sure to sync up any similar accounts for maximum exposure. For example, LinkedIn will let you display a synopsis from your latest WordPress blog, and you can set up Twitter to automatically send updates to your Facebook account.

Be Consistent. While consistency has always been a pillar of branding, it’s especially important online. All of your e-communications should have a similar look and feel, as well as a consistent “voice.” Make sure everything sounds like your company and that your company logo, color scheme and taglines appear in branded social media pages whenever possible. While each social media platform has its subtle – and not so subtle – differences, don’t use it as an excuse to take a piecemeal approach to social media. Make sure your social media efforts complement one another!

Join the Conversation. Whether you participate in the conversation or not, people are going to be talking about your company online. Actively following and, more importantly, participating in these conversations is simply an opportunity you can’t afford to miss. This is your chance to create some buzz about your business and proactively respond to any customer complaints in a manner that can not only save you the customer – but may also save your online reputation. Set up a Google Alert for your company name and don’t be afraid to chime in whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

Measure Your Results. While tweeting about your business and making YouTube videos beats “real work,” don’t forget that it’s not all fun and games. The ultimate goal of social media is to grow your business, and if it’s not working, it’s not worth your time. Be sure that you’re getting a good ROI from the time and dollars spent marketing your business in the social-media realm. How do you know if it’s working? As with SEO, Google Analytics will be instrumental in identifying trends and traffic sources. Be sure to also check out my post on social media ROI for a few of the ways you can monitor your economics.

Want more tips? Give us a call at 1-877-Rank-321 and ask to speak to one of our social media specialists!

Geotagging And Location Based Search

July 22nd, 2010 by Patrick Hare

Most people haven’t integrated geotagging information into their websites, but in the future it may make sense to add location-based information to a variety of online materials. For example, if you have different geographic locations for store branches, or want to help people find things with fixed locations (like ATMs) then geotagging may make more sense in the long term.

Frequent users of search engines will have noticed the evolution of search results from a set of links to images, maps, and video data. As search engines become better at understanding your exact location (especially for mobile web devices) then geotagged sites and pages are going to become much more relevant for presenting information. Using the ATM example, imagine that someone with a smartphone does a location-based search for an automated teller machine. If one bank’s machines have pages that are geotagged, then they are going to be visible on the device while others are not. Likewise, restaurants, dry cleaners, and specialty shops that may not be visible from the street would benefit from geotagging.

As a next step, geotagging also may feed into augmented reality searches. In one example, pages that are geotagged may show up in visual searches of streets and landmarks using a smartphone camera. In another, geotagged images could be referenced by augmented reality searches, so people could see pictures that are historic or promotional that deal with a given building or landmark.

Should you geotag your web pages? Obviously, it depends on your sales objective. An online store that ships nationwide probably would not geotag its pages or images. A contractor with a limited service area may get better results, especially as local search gets smarter and understands the radius in which your company operates.

How do you geotag? There are a couple of metatas you can add to your site which will associate you with GPS coordinates, and there are ways of tagging images with GPS information as well.  

The following geotags (as seen on this Wikipedia page) show how to add geographic coordinates into web pages and other media like vCards.

(click on images to magnify)

These tags use latitude and longitude information, or regions, in order to help nail down the location of the content.

Geotagging JPEG images involves altering the metadata of the image itself. Depending on the application, you may need to use software to add geotags to images. Applications like Picasa will even help you do it by using a map in case you don’t have a GPS receiver handy.

From a competitive standpoint, it makes sense to upgrade your site with as much information as you can. When you consider that search engines are getting smarter every year, and are creating mobile apps that reach beyond what people normally think of in search technology, you owe it to yourself to capture as many potential customers as possible. The person who finds your store or restaurant through search can provide just as much “word of mouth” value as the people who come to your shop by way of standard advertising. Better yet, location based search and geotagging is ideal for getting people in your door when they’re already in the neighborhood. If you can get in on the ground floor of location based search technology, you can be building a presence that less technologically savvy customers are unwittingly passing up.

DMCA Request – Remove Pages From Google (If They’re Plagiarizing You)

July 21st, 2010 by Patrick Hare

One of the requests we occasionally get at Web.com Search Agency involves removing other people’s pages from a search engine listing. Normally, this is impossible, even if the pages themselves are full off inaccurate or misleading information about a person or company. If someone else is copying your work, however, you can remove pages from Google and other search engines by using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (of DMCA) which is your protection against plagiarism or content theft.

How do you make a DMCA request? Basically what you would do is provide written notice to a search engine (in this case Google) including links to pages that copy your content and links to your pages which are being copied. Details can be found here. Basically you are alleging copyright infringement, and it is important to provide as much information as possible to document your claim.

What are the downsides to filing a DMCA request? For one, your complaint is a matter of public record, as it will be posted to sites like chillingeffects.org. If further exposure of the material (especially proprietary information) would create embarrassment, then you may want to try and go through other channels to get the copied information removed. Additionally, you need to be certain that you own the rights to the content, and have the right to request its removal, since you can be held legally accountable if you are making a false claim. One company had to pay over $100,000 for making a claim that was judged to be false.

Knowing how to request a DMCA takedown can be important if you have a site that is frequently copied of plagiarized. For example, you may have a valuable site that gets copied and somehow finds its way into the search engines in spite of duplicate content filters. Sometimes we see copied content that ranks higher than what is on the original site. Normally the first step in getting the content removed should involve contacting the site owner or webmaster, and the second step may involve communication from your attorney. A DMCA request will take time to process, judge, and execute, so you may get better results by avoiding this kind of sanction.

TrustRank is Sort of Like a Background Check for Websites

July 21st, 2010 by Lisa Rosenkrantz

TrustRank is a measurement used to determine which websites are spam and which ones can be trusted.  It’s sort of like sizing up a potential boyfriend – does he have the qualities you’re looking for in a mate?  Can you bring him home to meet the parents?

What kinds of things does TrustRank check to make sure you’re on the up-and-up?

  1. Are you committed? The search engines want to feel like you’re in it for the long-haul, so register your domain for a longer period of time.  Plus, the older your domain, the more trust it’s awarded.
  2. Do you kiss and tell? The search engines would prefer that you keep things private and publish a privacy policy that spells out what you do with any information you collect from visitors.
  3. Do you have a real address? You can’t entertain guests in a P.O. box, nor can you conduct business there.  A physical address is essential.
  4. Are you totally available? How can you be trusted if you don’t supply your phone and fax numbers, and email address…and, oh yeah, your name??  Make sure that’s disclosed right off the bat.
  5. Are you good with money? Reassure your visitors by subscribing to Hacker Safe services and by buying an SSL certificate for an extended period of time.  In fact, prove it by publishing the icons on your site where everyone can see them.
  6. Are you a good conversationalist? Keep your content on track – when you go off on a tangent, it makes you look like a bumbling spammer.
  7. Do you talk about off-color topics? Use your head and stay away from running sites supporting porn, gambling, alcohol, illegal activities or hate topics.  No one wants to hear it.
  8. Do you say the same thing to all the ladies? Duplicate content, templates and meta tags prove you don’t think we’re special.  Focus on one at a time.

The basic tenets of TrustRank include these concepts:

  • Good pages seldom link to bad ones, while bad pages will try to link to good ones. The search engines are on to them.
  • Smart, trustworthy linkbuilding is related to the number of links on a page.
  • TrustRank weakens as it passes from site to site.

Is there any correlation to PageRank?

It is a different algorithm than Google PageRank, but they sort of complement each other – like flowers and a box of chocolates.  A high PageRank is desirable, but you won’t get it unless you have trust built into your site.  Is there a pretty sure-fire way to build it?  In addition to the tips above, get links from established sites, especially valuable directories like Yahoo Directory and BOTW.  This elevates your trust, which in turn contributes to the likelihood you’ll have a good PageRank.

Make Your Website Content “Sticky”

July 21st, 2010 by Jessica Runberg

Quick! Your website has 3.5 seconds to make a good first impression before the person who clicked though to your homepage moves on to the next search result.

Writing for the Web is different than writing for print. Online readers tend to have a shorter attention span and are quick to make judgments. If they don’t like what they see, they’re going to move on – and they’re going to do it in a hurry.

If you want visitors to stick around – and ultimately become customers – you’re going to have to make your content sticky!

Here’s how to write for the Web:

Keep It Short. While search engines like to see content optimized with important keyword phrases, it’s best not to overdo it. Keep your content short and sweet by giving visitors the information they need – no more, no less.

Make It Visual. It’s important to break up your copy to make it easy for visitors to scan your Web page. Use bullets, punchy headlines, sidebars, subheads, pictures and other copy-breakers liberally to make your content quick and easy to read.

Include Links. When appropriate, link to other pages on your site. This will encourage visitors to dig deeper into your site’s navigation, and ultimately become customers. This could include a link to related products on your site, a request for more information, a link to your blog, etc. Be selective and only include a link when it adds value.

All it takes is a few simple tricks to get – and keep – an online reader’s attention.

What can text links do for you?

July 15th, 2010 by Lisa Rosenkrantz

Search engines reward websites that have links coming in from websites with high PageRank and that are relevant to your industry and credible in their own right. Sometimes those links come naturally, but sometimes you have to proactively work at acquiring them. If you go about it the right way, you can uncover some buried link treasure. High quality text links can be an all-around boost to your SEO campaign.

To find the best link partners for your site, we recommend a rigorous but highly effective process:

  • Research keywords related to your market.
  • Browse through each individual ranking website.
  • Research your competitors’ backlinks.
  • Run critical analysis to obtain website statistics.
  • Personally contact each site and request an html text link.
  • Negotiate an appropriate fee according to link evaluator tools.
  • Constantly track the standing of the backlink to ensure quality.

Locking in these types of links will be a win-win for all involved. You build up your link portfolio with quality links that’ll improve your presence in the search engines – and the advertiser brings in welcome revenue.

Keep in mind that securing text links isn’t easy and it’s very time-consuming.  You should have more than a base knowledge of SEO before trying it on your own.  This is one of those areas where it’s actually more cost-effective to hire pros to do the work for you so you can focus on running the other aspects of your business.  Seasoned link service providers know the tools, techniques and categories to target, and will do the negotiating, paying and tracking for you as well.

Why Website Marketing Works

July 14th, 2010 by Jessica Runberg

Whether or not you own an online business, marketing your company on the Internet is a very good idea. In North America, more than 75% of people use the Internet and the worldwide statistics are equally as impressive. It’s a digital world, folks, and the World Wide Web has created millions of new business opportunities.

Intrigued? Here are four reasons why website marketing works:

Reason #1: The Possibilities Are Endless…

Perhaps your business already has a website in addition to a brick-and-mortar store or maybe you sell your products or services exclusively online. This is a great start, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg of how you can effectively market your business on the Internet. With search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, banner advertising, blogging, mobile marketing, e-mail blasts and other Web-related communications, there’s an avenue for every organization to get their message across in a digital format.

Reason #2: It’s Highly Customizable

Website marketing services are effective because they can deliver a highly targeted message. A great example of this is Google’s new remarketing program, which can help you win back customers who abandoned your online shopping cart by displaying advertisements for your business throughout the Web. It’s pretty amazing stuff.

Reason #3: Search Engine Rankings Count!

Some paper-based advertising methods are falling by the wayside (think phonebooks) and consumers frequently turn to the Web to conduct research and ultimately purchase products and services. If you’re not ranking for your top keywords, you simply can’t be competitive. Plus, whether or not it’s earned, many people consider a high search-engine ranking as an endorsement for your website.

Reason #4: The Data is Unreal

You can keep track of all kinds of data regarding the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns. From click-through rates to website traffic stats, you’ll always know exactly how your website stacks up. Of course, finding the right online marketing mix for your business will involve plenty of research, and perhaps a bit of trial and error, but that’s what the data is for. It’s a marketer’s dream!

In short, website marketing not only works – but it’s essential to running a successful business in the Internet age.

CTR – Is There An Ideal Click Through Rate?

July 14th, 2010 by Patrick Hare

Click Through Rate, or CTR, can be a double edged sword for marketers. Basically CTR defines the percentage of people who see a link and click on it. More specifically, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) platforms measure CTR as the number of people who see your ad links (impressions) vs. the number of people who click on them. For anyone who is buying traffic, a high CTR is not always a good thing, because not all traffic is worth buying. If you are paying anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars per click, a high number of clicks needs to result in enough sales or exposure to justify the expense.

You should also keep in mind that you should not expect a huge CTR. Many people who are new to PPC believe that they should be seeing a click through rate of over 50%, based on the idea that their products are the answer to the searcher’s question. Unfortunately, the search engine user’s attention span is divided among all the visible links on the page, and that person may choose not to click any links at all. Additionally, the user has a choice between sponsored ad results and natural listings. Considering that a minimum CTR for PPC search engines is usually around one half of one percent, you shouldn’t panic as long as you are seeing at least 2% of the traffic going to your keyword. If you see a lower CTR, then you may want to adjust you bid,  refine your keywords, or see if you can make your ads more appealing and/or relevant. For example, if competitive ads show pricing or guarantees, you may be able to show a lower price or better messaging.

Your ad’s position is going to have a big impact on CTR, but that doesn’t always mean that the ad should be at the top of the page. In most cases, the highest bid holds the top spot for a keyword-based ad, and the company buying this spot may not mind losing money on a particular keyword if it generates exposure. If you’re like most PPC buyers, you probably want to hold a profitable spot among the ads, and the #4 spot may show up at the upper right hand side of the user’s screen, where it can be mistaken for the top sponsored spot. The dollar difference between a #1 and #4 spot can be significant depending on your industry, so even though you get less clicks you can still get enough to make good sales. After a few weeks, an ad with a good CTR can actually move above one with higher cost-per-click bids if the search engine believes that the ad will generate more money. For more competitive terms, lower spots can also bring in good traffic without creating a negative ROI.

CTR also changes based on the type of ads you’re buying. One of the contributing factors in the dot-com bust was the failure of banner ads, which people tended to ignore after a few weeks of online experience. Banner ads had been sold based on “impressions” but soured over time when buyers discovered that they got a tiny number of clicks for every 1,000 (or 100,000) views. The advent of PPC ads became more promising, and “content match” ads are one way of getting impressions and clicks through Google and Bing PPC platforms. If you are signed up for content match (which is usually a default setting when you create your campaign) then you may notice that content ads have a very low CTR but still can generate a lot of volume. You ad can show up in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers who may be reading articles that contain material similar to your keywords. Normally you want to set your content network bids to be a fraction of your search-match keyword bids in order to get the same (or better) ROI based on conversion rate. For content match, a CTR can be one quarter of one percent and still bring in some great traffic.

Finding an ideal CTR can be almost impossible given the dozens of factors involved in the search process. Different keywords get different click through rates, and search volume also varies widely by keyword type. Depending on the day of the week, demand for keywords and volume may also change. High volume keywords generally have a lower CTR than low volume (“long tail”) keywords, but a long tail campaign requires hundreds or thousands of keywords to match the traffic you would get from a few short-tail terms. For anyone who is new to PPC, the best advice is to adjust your ads so they appear in competitive positions that aren’t too expensive. To increase click volume, it either pays to go after more relevant keywords or increase an ad’s position until it hits the “sweet spot” where it is generating positive revenue. If you can go after enough high-volume phrases, even a 1% CTR can represent thousands of clicks every month, and a smart campaign can make you proportionally more profitable than some of the “big guns” who are going after clicks and traffic without considering the need to convert clicks into sales.

What is a Good Conversion Rate?

July 12th, 2010 by Patrick Hare

In the world of web design, “conversion rate” is defined as the percentage of site visitors who visit a website and perform a desired action. This action can be different things to different people. In most cases, the site owner wants to make a sale or generate leads, but in most cases you will experience scores of visitors for every one that buys something, fills out a form, or makes a phone call. When it comes to website conversion rates, most people would consider an ideal rate to be one that makes the most money, or at least turns a profit.

Quite a few factors go into website conversions, and they can be very interdependent. For instance, if you have a lot of “junk” traffic coming to your site, your conversion rate could be very low regardless of the user experience. Likewise, you could have a trickle of traffic coming in and still make money if you can turn your visitors into buyers. Naturally, most people want a lot of good traffic with good conversion. On the search engine optimization side, you can afford a low conversion rate as long as enough “free” traffic comes in to justify your SEO expenses. For traffic generated by way of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) you want to watch you clicks a lot more carefully.

Most experts will tell you that an ideal ecommerce conversion rate is about 2.5%. For lead generation sites, conversion rates can be ten times higher if you’re just collecting names and phone numbers. If you’re buying ecommerce traffic with PPC, it can sometimes be difficult to justify a significant ad spend if the cost per click is too high. For example, if you are spending $1 per click, and make 1 sale for every $40 you spend (one hundred $1 clicks divided by 2.5% conversion rate), then you’d better be making more than $40 on a sale. In some cases, you can factor in lifetime customer value to make your numbers work, but in these cases it pays to have senior management on board to ensure that your numbers don’t look like a recipe for bankruptcy.

There are a lot of ways to increase your conversion rate over time. Many of these involve testing keywords and site design changes. This is because some keywords can have a 10% conversion rate or higher, though they are usually few and far between. Website design changes are often the primary way of turning clicks into buyers, and tools like Google Website Optimizer are ideal for testing different variations on landing pages to see which one works the best. Sometimes a small or seemingly subconscious change will create a trust factor in your customer’s brain that makes the sale go through.

Speaking of trust factors, it pays to make a site that looks trustworthy. Previously, webmasters could get away with shopping processes that were very different from those of other sites. Today, it pays to mimic the shopping experience that people have learned from other transactions. Credit card logos, endorsements (like the BBB logo), security seals, and streamlined shopping pages all contribute to better conversion rates.

PPC conversion rates are often the most addressed because real dollars are lost when a conversion rate is bad. Making sure to have conversion counters in place (and goal counters if you use analytics programs) is one way to understand which keywords are worth keeping. With some keywords, it is often hard to separate buyers from window shoppers, or information seekers from active purchasers. PPC programs have ways of filtering out keywords that are not sufficiently relevant, but with a pay-per-click campaign it takes time to understand how people react to your site and its content, so it pays to start slow. If you can afford to spend a lot of money on your PPC campaign, then you may be able to write off the first few weeks as an information gathering expense. Nonetheless, PPC is one part of your business where continuous improvement is critical.

Understanding how customers convert is imperative for large and small companies alike. There are too many individual factors to define a perfect conversion rate for the web, but for your own ROI the conversion rate will normally depend on your ability to convert the visitor. If you generate leads, the online conversion rate is the first step to creating a real sale through follow-up. For e-commerce sites, the conversion may well depend upon a series of visits, after which the customer makes a decision to buy. Either way, and more so with PPC than SEO, continuous tweaking of your site pages may be necessary to make sure that your users are seeing all of the things they want to see.