Ranking for Other Keywords…

question markKeyword advertising. Does it only apply to the phrases on your site?

Believe it or not, it’s possible to rank (and rank well) for keyword phrases that aren’t on your site! This has nothing to do for black hat methods or other so-called spam SEO tactics. The reason that some businesses or entities are able to rank for these keywords is that many people are using the phrases to search for them.

As Matt Cutts explains, if you search for “Cal”, UC Berkeley is likely to show up because many people associate the term with the college. Even though this word isn’t used predominately, or it might not be used at all on the main page, it can still rank well for the Cal term because so many relevant searches are pointing it from there.

How does this relate to organic optimization for your site? If your competitor is outranking your site and showing up for a term that’s not even on their page, it means that they have quality content that other people are finding useful. The best way to go about this is not to obsess over just one ranking. SERPs fluctuate all the time and this concentrated effort in outdoing a competitor can cause you to lose site of your overall SEO goals.

So, what exactly can you do? If you’ve ever heard the saying, “Success is the best revenge”, now is the time to apply it. This is a learning opportunity for your small business and you can expand your online goals by not copying your competitor’s strategy but by doing better. This means diversifying your link building strategies and gaining social momentum through Likes, +1’s and even press releases. Using these other methods of online marketing will amplify your content and make it more visible to your potential customers.

Why is an SEO Analysis Important?

seo analysis Search engine optimization is a great tool for small business. But what good is it if you don’t undergo a proper SEO analysis?

Before you dedicate your resources to executing search campaigns or other online marketing services, an SEO analysis will help you understand the areas of your website that you need to work on as it relates to your competitors.

No matter how well-optimized your website is, it doesn’t exist as a singular entity. Depending on the competitiveness for your desired keywords, your rankings will constantly change unless you put in a consistent amount of work to maintain your position.

Although SEO analyses are usually done when a site is first built, it doesn’t hurt to do a regular analysis. Usually, it’s helpful to do this at least every couple of months. This will give you time as search engines crawl new content and adjust your rankings. You can even analyze organic traffic on a month to month basis and tie those into keywords that you want to be associated with. It helps to keep a regular list of keywords that you want to rank for and keep track of them to see the progress you’ve made.

When new updates are made or fresh content is added, links and pictures may get broken. You can thoroughly test the usability of your website across different browsers to ensure that everything is working as it should. There are also free tools, like Link Sleuth and Google Analytics that can help you identify problem areas on your site.

Now that we’ve seen the importance of a competitive SEO analysis, make sure to get your free site analysis today!

5 Common SEO Myths

seo mythsOld SEO myths never seem to really die and it doesn’t help that new ones are being created. Let’s take a look at 5 common myths about search engine optimization:

1) SEO is a set it and forget it processAre we done yet? Many online marketing services have a completion end date or end goal – web design project, PPC campaigns etc. But what about SEO? An effective SEO campaign is an on going process that never really ends. It helps to think of web copywriting and content creation as a regular process, like a more traditional marketing campaign that changes with the seasons and consumer trends.

2) More keywords will get you a higher ranking – More is NOT always better and this is exactly the case when it comes to optimizing content. You can’t just throw in random keywords because you want to cover as many areas related to your business as possible. Keyword stuffing isn’t going to impress people or search engines – not to mention that it’s a dead giveaway that your site is spammy page that’s not helpful.

3) Search engine rankings can be guaranteed – Have you ever had an SEO company guarantee you #1 positions? Talk about shady… As frustrating as it may be, there’s no such thing as a 100% guarantee when it comes to SEO. Rather than focusing on the top spot, a reputable SEO company will give you a detailed plan about how to achieve top rankings within a realistic time frame using white hat methods.

4) Once you reach the top, you’ll stay there – Search engine algorithms are changing all the time and you can bet that your other businesses are making changes to keep up. Success is possible but staying in the top ranks is a constant and time consuming process. Related to Myth #1, we recommend a consistent SEO plan so that you can stay in the top rankings once you’re there. If you stop your efforts after reaching the top, it will be a waste because your rankings could easily slide and your competitors will surely be thankful!

5) Linking Out to Other Sites Will Help Your Rankings: I’ve heard this more than a handful of times so it must be a common misconception! Some people believe that linking out to well-known sites and brands will help their rankings. Not sure where this idea came from but it’s definitely not true. Incoming links from relevant and trustworthy sites will give your site the link juice that you’re looking for, not the other way around.

Do you have any other myths about organic optimization that you’d like to share or debunk?

Are You Using Link Bait to Attract Readers?

Sometimes, I think the term link bait has a connotation because you’re using it to “trick” others to link to your article. With that said, there are legitimate ways to link bait properly, especially if you have useful content to back it up. Link baiting is a great way to attract readers and bloggers who are willing to share your content. Here are some techniques you can apply to different content (blogs, articles, on site content and even social media posts)

The Shock Factor – Remember all those crazy Jerry Springer episodes? ” Something ridiculous like I Married a Horse” comes to mind. Having a shock factor can come from many ways: rants, critical reviews and debates are many ways you could bring people to your post. But remember, these extreme techniques can threaten your online reputation, so use with caution! There are also ways to use the shock factor without being over the top, such as building on surprising factor of interesting statistics that others can relate to.

Industry News – When there’s a breaking story, it’s crucial to post it and put your take on things as soon as possible. This way, you’re establishing yourself as being a reputable source by showing that you’re aware of the changing industry. For example in the legal industry, you’ll want to keep readers informed on the latest product recalls and dangerous products. In the fitness industry, you may want to comment on the latest diet and exercise trends.

Contests – Ideally, you won’t just give away a random product in order to have people link to your site or fan page. Instead, you can build customer loyalty by having customers participate in some way – even if it’s small. It can start with taking a photo or sharing a story or build to something big like having a logo contest. Have I mentioned that Facebook has changed things up for Pages? If fans don’t engage with your Page, your posts will no longer appear in their default News Feed! But that’s a topic for another time… The more fans invest into your contest, the more interested they will be in your brand in the long run.

Guides and How to Guides – Wiki, forums and Q&A sites are so popular because people always have a problem that they’re trying to solve. Creating step by step guides on a topic that you’re well-versed in will help establish your business as an authority figure. If you’re worried about giving too much away, you can start with a popular general topic. For example, if you look up a fettuccine alfredo recipe, there are SO many ways to make the same thing. It’s important to put your special take on the topic. You can do so by also adding helpful pictures, video and other forms of media content.

Creating quality link bait that’s also effective is NOT an easy thing. Not to mention that most successful methods require a creative spin. Every once in awhile, it doesn’t hurt to break out of the cycle and create something innovative within your SEO content. What’s your take on link bait and techniques that really work?

Is Your SEO Content Hot or Not?

SEO hot or not

Summer’s finally here, even though the June gloom in Los Angeles says otherwise! Is there anything that says ‘summer’ more than hitting the beach? Take a look at the photos above: if you were to compare your website content to a beach body, would you say that it’s HOT (left) or NOT (right)? Not quite ready for the hot category? Here are 3 easy tips that will help you be more self aware of your onsite content:

Making a Commitment – Just like your health routine and physique, SEO content is something that requires care all year round. Not just when summer (or any another peak season) happens to roll around. After all, do you really expect to hit the beach after a few weeks of preparation?! I think not! It’s never too late to better your SEO efforts by having a consistent plan for maintenance, review and improvement.

Quality over Quantity – This means having a ‘less is more’ mindset. But less is definitely more when it comes to certain aspects of your online marketing efforts. Shorter, concise pages will help customers and draw their attention without leaving them bored. Having less keywords on a page is always better than keyword stuffing. If you can get your point across in 100 words, why would you do it in 1000? The truth is, your customers don’t have the time or interest to stay on your pages for that long.

Don’t Let Your Content Stand Alone – Who really wants to be alone at the beach when you can go with a good group of friends? If you publish content and think that’s it, your SEO efforts will truly suffer. Think of social media and networking like the other components that will make your beach party shine. We’ve also talked about different types of content that can be thrown into the mix, besides just standard text. Pictures, PDFs, videos and sound clips are all interesting complements to your content.

So, what do you think is on the hot or not list for SEO this summer?

Elements of Effective Meta Descriptions

meta descriptionLet’s face it, meta descriptions aren’t always a priority when it comes to SEO.
The main reason optimization of meta tags and descriptions are neglected is because it doesn’t  directly influence your search engine rankings – when it comes to Google’s search algorithm, anyways.

Optimizing your meta descriptions IS still important because it affects your clickthrough rate, not to mention it’s significance in appealing to potential customers. There’s no way you can avoid the fact that meta descriptions matter. Why else would there be a Diagnostics section of Webmaster Tools, where you can edit duplicate descriptions and tags? Google is doing you a favor by telling you, hey – you might want to take a look at these and fix it!

Here are a few things you should try to aim for when writing unique meta descriptions for the pages on your website:

  • Keep descriptions short. There is no “magic number” when it comes to the correct amount of of characters, although experts could argue endlessly about it. So, I like to keep it in the 150-160 character range. Short, sweet and to the point, please.
  • Spell check. I’ve seen and been put off by many meta descriptions with poor, incomplete sentences and even misspellings. Do you really want to lose customers this way?
  • Focus on one keyword. At most, I like to put one desired keyword with a second, slightly different variation in each meta description. There’s no use in overstuffing your description with different variations of the same word. Don’t get me started on intentional misspellings!
  • Include a call to action. “Visit our site for more information on..” “Call us to speak with..” “Follow us on Twitter @…” “Visit us at..” If you don’t know what you want your customers to do, how should they know? Do yourselves both a favor and give them a hint!

Finally, check out Google’s section and SEO Moz’s article on how to improve your meta descriptions and more.

Don’t Put All Your SEO Eggs in One Basket

We’ve all heard the idiom, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Sure, you wouldn’t put your savings all into one investment, so the same principle should apply when it comes to your SEO strategy.

When people start learning about search engine optimization for their site, it’s easy to get blindfolded (so to speak) and focus too much on what the search engines see, and not what customers want to see. Google’s search algorithm is complicated and always changing, and there’s no one right way to “beat” it, so that you can come out #1 across the board.

I’ve seen many people and companies try put all their hope into ONE aspect of online marketing and being so upset when it doesn’t come out as planned. SEO is a great long term asset but there IS such a thing as going overboard in optimizing.

The same thing applies when it comes to meta descriptions and tags. Keyword research is important in helping you find and focus on the phrases that your customers are actually looking for. Instead, some people might skip this step and just throw in all the keyword and different variations that they can think of in hopes that ONE is a good one. SEO is not a random game of luck and using too many different keywords isn’t helpful.

Many think that SEO consists of two parts: one of research (science) and the other of customer appeal (art). Although search engines play a powerful part in your organic SEO rankings, you can’t forget about the human side of your businesses because customers are the ones who will ultimately make or break your success.

Your Local Search Optimization Checklist for Success

checklistWhen it comes to search engine optimization for small businesses, local search is more important than ever. If your content isn’t focused on geo-specific keywords, it’s time to follow this simple checklist that will help you succeed. Remember, this content spans across your website, blogs, and even social media profiles!

  1. Are you on Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp local listings? If not, get on that NOW! It’s free and fill out as much information as possible. Descriptions are a great place to sprinkle in some of your local keywords for that extra SEO boost.
  2. Get visual. How about some pictures of your place of business or neighborhood to spruce up your site or social profile? Adding visuals of your business and/or employees adds a personal touch to your products/services. It will also give your potential customers a chance to “meet” you.
  3. Emphasize your local loyalty. Wherever possible, be sure to include a local phone number with the area code for your location.  I’ve seen plenty of SEO and web design sites with 800 numbers, no physical address – essentially making it impossible to find out where they’re located. No thank you – next.
  4. Use the right keywords. And I can’t stress this one enough! You’ll want to be using relevant keywords to your business that have a good amount of traffic so that you can capture some of that volume. What’s the point of ranking #1 for a term that  only gets 100 or so hits a month? Another thing, be thorough when choosing your location keywords. Are we talking about Glendale, CA or Glendale, AZ?
  5. Track your results. For the more SEO-savvy, SEJ just came out with a helpful article about how to track your progress.

If you think these extra steps are time consuming, think again. Properly optimized content will be a valuable asset for your business in the long run. What are some of your favorite, easy tips for local search optimization?

What’s the Point of Your Blog?

More, please.What does successful blogging mean to you?

If you have a blog, chances are there are many reasons that motivate you. Whether you like to provide helpful information, bring more visitors to your website or just like blogging as a creative outlet, there are many ways that you can improve your blog.

One thing’s for sure, you need to approach it as if it’s more than just content for search engines. Here are some things that I try to keep in mind:

  1. Expand on what you know best. Have you ever wondered why how-to and troubleshooting articles are so popular? People link and share these posts because they appreciate specific details and even narratives.
  2. Link to your content and other blog posts. Don’t treat a blog post as if it’s just a single entity. Your posts should be interconnected and relevant. This will also be helpful for readers looking for more information and help increase the amount of time they spend on your site or blog.
  3. Practice makes perfect, so be persistent. Blogging isn’t just a one shot deal. The work doesn’t after your fingers leave the keyboard. If you feel like you haven’t quite reached the  sweet spot as a blogger, it never hurts to try again. In fact, more helpful content can only help your business.
  4. What’s the point or call to action? At the end of the day, you want to leave a lasting message whether it’s getting the reader to call, continue reading, share the post with others or just comment. Like a story, an effective blog posts needs a beginning, middle and end that brings everything together.

Blogging and even micro-blogging are becoming more important to your business and online presence. What’s the point of your blog and what do you think you need to work on?

Are You the Tortoise or the Hare in the SEO Game?

SEO and speedMany people don’t understand the power of organic SEO. Like the tortoise and the hare, you can look at SEO in two different ways:

  1. Hare: Going fast all at once
  2. Tortoise: Taking it slow and steady

If you’re looking for a quick gain with SEO, you could be tempted to churn out pages of content with keywords strewn throughout. This might give you an initial boost but competitors with a more steady approach can creep up on you.
You’ll probably also be skimping out on the quality of the content that you put out. Instead, you can use your speed with a more focused approach: after you jot down your ideas for content, have someone else edit it and schedule the content to be released throughout the month. If you expend all your energy in a short amount of time, you’ll run the risk of burning out and wasting your efforts.

If you believe in taking the slow route, you’re on your way to building a strong foundation for SEO content down the road. By doing keyword research and writing about interesting topics, you’ll attract more clicks and readers. However, it is easy for the process to get too drawn out. At first, you might set a goal of blogging once a week and that slows down to every other week and maybe, once a month if you’re lucky. Being too slow could also mean that you’re missing out blogging about recent news topics/stories that are related to your field.

Unlike Aesop’s famed fable, there really is no “right” or “wrong” speed to adapt when it comes to SEO – but more of a mentality. Consistency and quality are important for SEO content and when you keep those two things in mind, you’ll go farther than just relying on a time frame to reach your destination.