Basics of Image Search Optimization

by Mark Maynem

In March 2009 Google image search was labeled as Google’s fourth hottest property by Hitwise. The report went on to show that Google image search attributed 5.79% to the company’s monthly market share of visits. With this type of data and developments in universal search the smart search marketer will leverage this area to his or her advantage.

Before undertaking image search optimization many search marketers will evaluate its value in relation to its clients. Will the value of this activity be higher than another SEO activity? This is important, as image optimization can be time consuming and lends itself to being more beneficial to some sites than others.

Image Optimization Tips

Filenames – Include the keyword you are targeting within the file name. Remember to use hyphens for spaces between the keywords.

Image Formatting – Make sure you use the correct image formats. For example save photos as JPG files etc.

Image Quality – Use good quality images, which will read well when shown in a thumbnail format. Poor quality images are unlikely to get click throughs.

Strings – Avoid using strings in image urls. Make your image urls as a readable as possible to human beings. Continue reading


Optimization for Social Media Integration: News

Optimization for Social Media Integration: News
Social news sites are about content for the reader, not self promotion.

This is part two of my series on Optimization for Social Media Integration, this time covering social media news.

The top two social media news sites today are Digg and StumbleUpon, so I’ll concentrate on these. However,,, (do-follow links) and are all worth a look.

The main thing to remember about social media sites is that the news on these sites is chosen by the users, making popular items even more so because bloggers look at this content for cool, link-worthy stuff and then re-post or write about them. The stories get great visibility and natural editorial links. In addition, the content is targeted, making it great for boosting your ranking and authority.

In brief: Digg utilizes outside voting, requires LOTS of votes for an item to go popular, generating less illegitimate content. StumbleUpon features toolbar voting, send page to a friend ability (which pretty much forces a view) and even includes the option to buy more views at a whopping 5 cents each.

Here are some general guidelines to make your social news more popular and to provide those nice surges of traffic to your blog or site. These spikes can be fantastic! Continue reading


SEO & Social Media Integration

Social Media and SEO are both about search

Take a look at the following and see what you think:

  • Create great content, including articles
  • On page optimization
  • Links from authority sites
  • Get content on industry sites, providing contextual links
  • Get noticed in Social Media
  • Get noticed in search
  • Get into niche sites

Sounds like the basics of SEO, right? Well, these apply to Social Media, too. Any SEOs out there who are still avoiding the Social Media bandwagon are, well, stuck at the bus stop without a token.

Social Media and search engine optimization have become so integrated that you can’t really separate them anymore. Social sites like Twitter, which many of us laughed at when it first came out, are pushing a revolutionary shift in how information is found on the Internet because they add interaction and community to the equation. In addition to the basics above, they throw in features like:

  • Participation
  • Voting
  • Comments
  • Friends
  • Trust

That last one, Trust, is a BIG one. Social sites are working more like search engines these days and there’s a huge difference between they way they dish out results and the way the search engines do. The social sites look at what your friends think about a subject and their results are based on that. You trust your friends, right? A perfect example is Twitter search. It’s based on tweets from folks you can check out and follow or who can follow you. And, look out Google, it’s really fast! And, it’s immediate. You can catch what is happening right now. Wanna see what the fans of Battlestar Galactica are tweeting? Check it out in real time (Or, if you’re a real Twit, check out by the hash tag #bsg).

The search engines dish out results based on the trust of folks you don’t know (PageRank, back links etc.).

Which begs the question, will trust kill the algorithm?

So, think of Social Media sites more like search engines that can help your visibility in, well, search engines.


Don’t be. It’s simple. The more social links you have, the more you’ll be noticed and linked to and crawled. It works pretty much the same way as SEO.

Next, Optimization for Social Media Integration. Look for this post soon!


Social Media Tactics

Social Media TacticsFor those of you who have read my blog in the past, you know I love to give quick tips on search engine optimization and web marketing. So as not to disappoint anyone, here’s a quick list of Dos & Don’ts for your social media campaigns (you ARE including social media in your online marketing, right? If not, find out how to get started in social media.)

1. Don’t go into it just for the links. You’ll get shot down by the community instantly. Social media is all about conversation and creating advocates for your brand, so share and engage in the conversation. Active conversations about specific topics attract passionate audiences.

2. Give your visitors a voice. Social media gives consumers some control and a voice. If your site doesn’t include a way for visitors to comment on or rate your content, you’ve got some work to do. A static web site that’s one-way (the visitor can only read it) won’t cut it anymore. Interactive sites are the norm these days, so you need to join the 21st century.

3. Join in on the top social activities. These are currently watching videos and sharing photos. In addition to posting and sharing on YouTube and Flickr, consider adding video and photo sharing to your own site, if appropriate, and create videos that can be shared (see Video Optimization). Just be careful with Flickr. They are cracking down on accounts set up by companies and deleting them. They only want personal use of their service.

4. Social media is NOT a substitute for SEO or PPC. Social media optimization must be integrated into your complete marketing plan.

5. Great customer service. This is a natural outlet to social media. Visitors can leave comments or questions on your site or on other sites like Facebook and you can respond. It is essential to monitor the various social outlets, not only to provide service, but to head off any problems or complaints before they build into something difficult to manage. Among the many tools that I use are Google Alerts and Tweetscan to send me alerts for Google and Twitter mentions.

6. Lock down branding. Combining SEO, PPC and social media can be great for this. Great rankings in the organics, advertising and social presence are a dynamite combination.

7. Grab your Twitter name. Twitter is incredibly powerful for weighting in the serps so use it! Just be sure to grab your name before someone else does!

8. Link to your profile pages. Make sure visitors can find your social site pages. Make your first weighted link to your profile pages a link from your company site.

9. Treat your YouTube videos just like HTML pages. In other words, give them a title, description, tags and make sure the very first thing in the description is the URL you want folks to land on.

10. Last but not least. If you don’t know where to start, go for videos and move on from there. In addition to YouTube, videos can be distributed and shared through, Yahoo Videos and scores of others. Heck, even Flickr has video now.

Keep in mind that many of the top traffic sites these days are social media sites and that Web 2.0 is really about empowering users, not promoting you. And, take note that social search is different than web search because in social search, it’s about sourcing information from trusted people as opposed to general information that is dished out by a search engine.

Once further tip – using cloud tags can give you an idea of what is generating conversations as well as alert you to trends. I use one on my own blog, but there are a ton of other WordPress tag cloud plugins available.

Until my next list of inspirations, good Internet marketing!


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 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.


SEO 101: Video Optimization

Video optimizationUnless you have been living under a bridge the past couple of years, you know that online video has become hot, hot, hot! Promoting your site, blog or product with online video is free, it’s mobile and social, so getting your vid to the most eyeballs should be easy, right?

Well, not really. YouTube is the biggest of the video sites and the average video posted there only gets about 100 views per year, so it’s not as easy as it looks. There is a bit of optimization that can help you on your way.

  • Use rich meta data – Video optimization, like web page optimization, is still driven by this. As with your content-rich web pages, make sure your title and meta description are keyword rich and helpful to the visitors (and spiders).
  • Build a unique page – Create a content-rich page just for the video you are promoting. Along with appropriate meta data, include some descriptive text and keyword rich links to help get you crawled by the crawler based search engines.
  • Share – The easier the video is to share, the better. For instance, YouTube’s strength is that it is a sharing site. Only a part of the video traffic comes from search itself, so be sure to build in a sharing strategy for your video.
  • Optimize for Related Videos – People watch a ton of these in YouTube and the higher your view volume, the more likely your video will show up above the fold (bottom of the screen). Study the top videos and see what they are doing that you might be able to use to your advantage.
  • Embed your video – To keep some traffic going after the initial rush of viewers, embed your video in a widget that you can not only show on your page, but share with others to post on their own sites.
  • Push out updates – This one’s pretty much a no-brainer. Be sure you push out your updates in a video RSS feed.
  • Make it viral – Quirky, offbeat, unusual and unique videos tend to have the most success lighting a fire under themselves.
  • Export videos as SWF – Please, no Active X controls. For higher quality and mobile, try .mov.
  • Build a Google video sitemap – You want to be sure Google finds your videos, so this definitely can’t hurt.
  • Be constant – Use the same title and description on all of the video sites that you post your video to like YouTube, MetaCafe, etc.
  • Customize your thumbnail – YouTube gives you a selection of three images from your video to use as your thumbnail. These are pulled from the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 marks in time in your video, so try to work it so that a scene in your video shows up in one of those points that would be appropriate for the thumbnail. Consider having your URL or telephone number show up at one of those points.
  • Localize – Having a video in your local listings can improve your traffic.
  • Submit to Blinkx – This will get you into sites like Ask and MSN, too.
  • Be descriptive – Be sure the actual name of the file and URL are clear and descriptive (, not
  • Use – Use this site to upload your video to several video sites at once. Your video could actually show up several times for a single search. See my previous post Importance of Diversity in S E O for an example. also includes YouTube stats for you and your competition.
  • Take the hint – YouTube tells you popular related phrases in the search drop down as you type. In a way, they are doing your keyword research for you. Pay attention!
  • URL first – Include your full URL as the lead to your description for your video in YouTube. This puts your link at the beginning where it will show best. You can even include tracking code if you like.
  • Don’t over tag – Tags are great, but don’t over do it. These can be just as spammy as circa 1998 keyword meta tags. Be concise and true to the content.
  • Call to action – Include one in your video with your URL. Watermarking is a good way to do this.
  • Press video – Include a video in your PRWeb press release. Yes, this will cost you money, but it is money well spent if you have something good to share with the world. If you don’t have something good to share, why are you bothering to submit a press release in the first place?
  • Respond – Look for a video that is popular and related to yours. Letter a title and description identically and submit a video response.

Naturally, all of the tips in the world won’t guarantee success. There are a lot of factors involved with making a video popular, including the video itself, but hopefully these suggestions will give you a starting point for your video optimization campaigns.


Advanced Tips for Optimizing Your Blog

Advanced blog optimization tipsI introduced you to blog optimization in S E O 101 – Blogs and Feed Optimization Tips.

Hopefully, you’ve got your blog up and running and chock full of great content by now. If you’re just getting started, read the post above first, then come back to this one.

In addition to providing a platform for terrific information (for humans and search engines), a blog is a natural pathway to the world of social media. Blogs are interactive, encouraging posts and information from visitors, and syndicated through RSS feeds, spreading your content (and links) across the web to be found in search engines, dedicated blog searches, news feeds, you name it.

So, here are some advanced tips to help get your blog on the road to good rankings.

1. Socialize. Interact with your visitors. Don’t just publish your posts and sit back. Answer questions, link out to their sites when they offer good content, respond to their comments in a timely, informative manner, etc.

2. Own a niche. It’s a lot easier to dominate a space if you start out with a smaller, less competitive, narrowly focused subject area. For example, you’re more likely to become a dominant player with a blog about “rechargeable outdoor power tools” than you are for simply “tools’ which is way too broad a term with a lot more competition.

3. Work your titles for both audiences – readers and searchers. Be sure you start out with the title of your post to attract readers. After the post has some history and has fallen into the archive section of your blog, go back and optimize the title for SEO.

4. Keep the post slug the same. Write this yourself, don’t let WordPress generate it. Don’t go back and change it at a later date because this is what determines how your post link is formed. Writing your own post slug allows you to create an easy to read, optimized URL.

5. Optimize for the Google indent. We’ve all seen Google search results where a page from a domain ranks with another page from the same domain just under it, but indented. Focus on getting a post ranking well using standard SEO, anchor text links, etc. Then find another, similar post to optimize. Link the ranking post to the second post to try to pull it up.

6. Re-purpose posts and pages. Let’s say you did a post on social media way back in 2005 and you want to do a similar, updated post. If the 2005 post is just way out of date and not of particular use these days, write over it with your new content. The old post has history and back links that can give you an immediate bump.

7. Use a single category. I know it’s tempting sometimes to place your posts in multiple categories, but get over it. You risk duplicate content issues with multiple categories, so make it easy for Google and concentrate on one.

8. Use a folder. Unless there is a very good reason to put your blog on a separate domain or subdomain (like your site is just a blog or you really believe a separate domain will give you more credibility), put it on your main site as a folder. This keeps link juice targeted to your main domain.

9. Got a Flash site that won’t rank? Start a blog on the domain to create the related content and links to the Flash pages. Chances are your blog pages will be what rank, but they’ll link back to and guide your visitors to your Flash pages.

10. Create your own custom footer. If you’re using WordPress, try the Feed Footer Plugin. With it you can create your own custom footer content, complete with HTML, for your posts that will show up in your RSS feed. This is great for plugging favorite posts and monetizing your feed.

One final thought to consider. Blogs are all about sharing, so if a visitor shares something really good, promote it to the front page of your blog. Do a post all about it and thank them for the great content. Your visitors will love it and come back for more.

Remember, you can turn active users into free SEOs who write content for you.