SEO

Back to Basics SEO

SEO Ranking & Conversion BasicsNaturally, if you rank at the top for any given search phrase in an organic search, people assume you are an authority for that subject. The worst thing you can do is disappoint them. Not only will they leave, you’ll lose the opportunity for a conversion, whether it’s a sale or a simple e-mail subscriber.

So, here are a few back to basics tips to not only help you rank better, but also to drive some conversions and, hopefully, attain or maintain your “authority” status.

1. Content is still king. It’s been said before and it’s still true. Generating good content is circular. Great keyword-rich content attracts spiders which pulls your page up in the rankings where people find it and add to the content through comments and ratings which adds more content providing longtail traffic which brings more visitors to the page to create more user generated content and so forth. Whew! Never doubt the power of content for SEO!

2. Make site navigation easy for users and spiders. You want your site visitors to be able to find what they are looking for with as little effort as possible. You also want the link structure of your site to allow the search engine spiders easy access to all pages on your site. Hint – check your source code for any legacy or left over code that might include links that are invisible to the user, but visible to spiders. I know from experience that sometimes web developers/programmers leave invisible code on pages that not only bloat the size, but can contain links that only the spiders see. This can get you into trouble as it looks like you are hiding content whether you mean to or not. Clean up your code and offload any CSS or javascript that you can to external files (See On Page Factors).

3. Blog, blog, blog! – Yet another form of user generated content creation as mentioned above, blogging attracts readers and fresh content. Spiders love fresh content! See Advanced Tips for Optimizing Your Blog.

4. Get a keyword rich domain name – If you are just starting out with a new domain, this will give you automatic keyword rich inbound links. Let’s say your primary keyword is “widgets” and you snag widgets.com as your domain name. This means that whenever someone links to your domain, you’ve automatically got a keyword (widgets) anchor link in it.

5. Quality inbound links – Speaking of inbound links, quality is usually better than quantity, though Google has been known to still rank sites with a ton of junk inbound links well (See Reciprocal Linking for Ranking is Anything But Dead). To be totally white hat, Google tells us to get quality back links and that a few of those will do better than a ton of link-farm style links. Although reciprocal links appear to work for some sites, relying on them will probably not work forever, so look for quality first.

6. Electronic press releases – These are still great for helping you rank well. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In the old days, the archived releases provided forever links to the pages linked to from them. You’ll still got some of that link love, but even more than that, good press releases can generate links from other sites that pick them up and can even generate some separate stories about your site. For instance, when the FramesFinder Virtual Eyeglass Try On was introduced by FramesDirect.com, I wrote the press release and submitted it through PRWeb.com. We got several news stories written about the online eyewear try on software, including TV reports that are still live on the web.

If you are still sending press releases by fax and mail, join the 21st Century!

Just be sure what you submit in the way of press releases is legitimate news. Too many releases are just junk and it’s easy to get the reputation of being a trashy self promoter.

7. Make sure your database is spider friendly – The last thing you need is to spend time, money and effort developing your site only to find the database or shopping cart functionality is not search engine friendly. Test before you commit. Use online tools like S E O Chat’s spider simulator tool or client spidering tools like the one built into iBusiness Promoter (IBP) to test spidering.

8. Get visitors to take action – Include clear calls to action on the page (Buy Me, Shop Now links) and make them obvious and easy to find. Make the offer compelling with incentives (free shipping, bonus items, etc.) and make ways to contact you easy and upfront (800 number, e-mail link, address, online chat). Too many online sites make contact too difficult by hiding behind a contact form and providing no other way to be contacted. That’s not a recipe for trust from either the visitor or the search engines. And, to be an authority, you need trust.

If you’re like most SEOs, you’re wearing a lot of hats (Creative, Developer, Writer, Tech, Marketing, SEO, etc.) and trying to pull so much together from so many different directions can result in some missing pieces in the puzzle. After all, the brain can only be pulled in so many ways at once. It’s easy to lose sight of obvious optimization techniques.

But, if you’re not an authority at optimizing your site for ranking and conversions, who is?

Hopefully, getting back to basics will help you to fill those empty spaces in the puzzle. A review of these basics can help put things back into perspective with any SEO campaign.

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SEO

Content Development Basics

Good content development can help rankingsI recently was contacted by a graphics house about some SEO suggestions for their web site. I took a look and found a gorgeous site with lots of great images and graphics, which is to be expected. After all, that’s what they do.

Problem is, there was basically no text. I asked about that and was told “We used ALT attributes on all of the images. Shouldn’t that work?”

I tried to explain that there is only so much that the ALT attribute can do for optimizing a web site. A combination of good ALT descriptions and keyword rich image names might make for good results in Google image search, but probably won’t help as far as general search rankings.

Spiders still need text, so get content! The more relevant text, the happier they will be and the more opportunities a site has to rank for general and longtail searches.

So, in addition to the other obvious basic S E O suggestions (like NOT using the exact same TITLE on every page), I suggested they add some descriptive text and dropped them these content development tips.

1. Fill in the gaps – Look for keywords in tools like Adwords Keyword Tool or the S E O Book Keyword Suggestion Tool for keyphrases and gaps you need to fill. These tools will help you find keywords and phrases relevant to consumer research cycles.

2. Blog about it – Got great images or graphics content to promote? Blog about them. Blogging is a great way to create descriptive text that can help build up rankings for sites that are restricted to a template or, like this example, wants to keep their main site all graphics or Flash. A blog adds great flexibility for adding text and links.

3. Pay for quality – If you are outsourcing your writing, make sure you get good content, not just keyword rich spam. SEO copywriting is for persuasion, not just filling a page with keywords. It’s more than writing, so expect quality to cost some money.

4. Convince the boss – Let’s say your boss just doesn’t understand why content is important. He/she thinks the site is beautiful, so who needs it? Take baby steps. Try tweaking the TITLE on each of the pages to reflect the targeted keywords. Show progress and explain why it worked. Win the war with small battles.

5. Explain – Give a good, clear explanation about what can be done to increase rankings through content development, but don’t lecture. Sure, you might be the resident expert, but NO ONE likes a lecture.

6. Forget magic keyword density – There is no magic keyword density for a page. That’s so 1998! Make your text natural language with your primary keyword phrase included two or three times on a page, ideally above the fold. That’s it.

7. Keep an editorial calendar – As you are creating your content, keep track of what has been done and what is planned. This is a mainstay for print publications and works quite well for bloggers, too.

8. Use keywords – Some folks have dropped the keywords meta tag. Yahoo and MSN still look at that tag, though, so go ahead and use it for best practices. You’ve got to start out with keyword research anyway, so pop them into the keyword meta tag. It’s easy and can’t hurt.

9. Get help – Got writer’s block? Check out SEOCopywriting.com or Robin Nobles’ Idea Motivator for tips, hints and suggestions online.

10. Help the user – Keep in mind that above all, it’s about helping the user to find content. It’s the user, not you or Google, the user!

For related articles, see the entire S E O 101 series.

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Training

SEO 101: User Content Generation

User generated content for SEOIf you’ve read previous chapters of my S E O 101 series (download the free search engine optimization ebook), you’ve probably noticed that I keep drilling the idea of good content into your head as the backbone of top rankings (The old content is king idea).

Believe it or not, your users can be a top source for that content. Comments, testimonials, reviews and the like can be great information that catches long tail search phrases that you might never think of when deciding on keywords and phrases you target. And, since you really shouldn’t try to target a page to more than a couple anyway, user generated content can fill the void.

In addition, statistically more web site customers (for you ecommerce sites) read reviews than not. Something like 3/4 of online shoppers read reviews before they buy. That’s a lot!

Credibility is extremely important, so those reviews and testimonials not only help with your long tail optimization, but can help position your site as trusted and an authority site.

So, here are a few thoughts to help you get started with your own user generated content strategy.

1. Add Reviews, Testimonials or Comments – If you don’t have any of these on your site or blog now, get them. In particular, retail sites with reviews have a higher conversion rate and order size than sites without.

2. Make it easy – The easier it is for users to read and post, the more feedback you will receive, thus more content and long tail spider bait.

3. Put it above the fold – Reviews should be high enough on the page to be seen, preferably next to the product and with ratings, as in stars. Ratings go hand in hand with reviews, so provide a star rating as a quick look graphic. Want proof? Just take a look at what Amazon.com does with theirs:

Amazon.com puts their reviews and ratings right at the top of the page.

Amazon.com puts their reviews and ratings right at the top of the page and follows up with individual review ratings on the user review pages, which you can see at my review of Who Killed the Electric Car?

4. Give them incentives – The best thing you can do for your customers or visitors is to provide them with service, but to encourage participation and provide some good vibes, give them something special like the opportunity to win a prize, to get a “Top Contributor” badge for their web site or whatever feel good promotion you can come up with.

5. Provide suggestions – Instead of 301 redirecting the page of a defunct product to your home page (so annoying!), provide a page with alternative suggestions. Not only is this useful to the customer, but you might get some feedback, comments, testimonials, etc. out of it. More content and link bait!

6. Extend the tail – Did you know that reviews extend the long tail more than you could probably do on your own (without getting real spammy)? This is because search terms for reviews tend to be much longer. In addition to “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3” your page might be found for “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 keyword4” or “keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 keyword4 keyword5” for instance.

7. Moderate – Yep, it’s time consuming, but it just has to be done on your own site (You have less control over reviews and comments about you on third party sites). You’ve got to watch out for inappropriate comments or attempts to game you for back links. You’re acting as editor to make sure your content remains good, quality information.

8. Require registration – Some folks will click away when they have to register, but having registered users gives you some control over who posts what. Spammers and trouble makers can better be controlled and registration provides a level of credibility to the users.

9. Make them happy – People are inherently happier when they are allowed to contribute and interact. Your site and your visitors will be better for all of the comments, testimonials, suggestions and reviews you let them post.

10. Videos and images – Up until now, I’ve discussed textual content, but allowing customers and visitors to upload images and videos can be super effective and a powerful motivator for them. Just ask YouTube and Flickr! And, again, Amazon.com has jumped on the video bandwagon. I did a video review of the Linksys WRT350N router a while back and as I write this, my video review is the top listed review.

Amazon.com allows user video reviews.

The video review can also be viewed on Linksys WRT350N Customer Review page. Free content for Amazon.com!

There you go. User generated content basically turns your customers and site visitors into SEOs for you while generating fresh keyword rich content for the spiders to devour.

Also remember that customer/user feedback and interaction on your site or blog can help you with branding, stickiness and reputation management.

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