PPC/SEM Specialist in Austin

FramesDirect.com - Eyeglasses OnlineThe company that I do SEO for, FramesDirect.com is looking for a Pay Per Click/Shopping Site Feed Specialist to work out of their Austin office full-time. You can go to the company blog, The Eye Zone, and read the Austin job opening there.

Let me explain a bit about the position. It is 100% PPC. There is absolutely no SEO involved other than collaborating with the SEO (me) to do paid marketing in areas where we are weak on the organic side of the aisle. The eyeglasses superstore is rapidly expanding into a lot of shopping sites, PPC advertising and e-mail marketing venues and needs someone who is experienced and can give total focus to optimizing product feeds and ads.

This means that if you are with a PPC/SEM firm or an SEO who dabbles in PPC, do not bother. This is an in-house position with no SEO involved. The company wants someone who can work side by side with their web designer to create and test landing pages out of their Austin office.

Pitches and resumes from firms and SEOs will be discarded. And, since I am screening the resumes for the company before I send them to the CEO, I am the one they go through first.

Just wanted to point this out. Again, this is NOT an SEO position. I have been splitting my time doing SEO, PPC and working on feeds. The company is growing to the point that someone who can handle the paid end of things full-time is needed so that I can concentrate on organic SEO, the blog and press relations.


SEO Tools & Tips

SEO toolboxIn my day to day SEO for my clients and for myself, I’ve come across a number of tools of the trade, some really good, some, well, not so good. Here are a few items in my geek toobox that I use daily and highly recommend.

1. Keyword Tool – I have tried them all and this is the one I always go back to for my keyword research. Not only does it give you variations on the keyword phrase you are searching for, but also provides the WordTracker count and daily estimated searches on Google, Yahoo and MSN along with shortcuts to various tools like Google Trends, Keyword Discovery and several other online tools. And, you can export the thing as a CSV file. Way to go Aaron!

2. Check Server Headers ToolQuick and easy way to check on whether your URL is being seen and followed properly by the spiders. For instance, I recently installed a WordPress plugin which appeared to work fine in a browser, but when I checked the page URLs that it produced here, I found that those pages were producing 404 errors, meaning the web surfer could see the pages, but the spiders couldn’t. Naturally, I ditched the plugin. The site also includes a batch URL processing capability (up to 25 URLs at once).

3. Web Page Analyzer – This online tool checks the speed of your site and lets you know what the download time would be at various connection speeds. Granted, most folks have broadband these days but you still don’t want a page to take several minutes to load on a 56k dial up connection. The test gives you suggestions on ways to speed up your site for visitors and spiders. Both will go away if your site is too slow.

4. Yahoo Site ExplorerYes, Google gives you some information on sites that link to you, but not like Yahoo’s Site Explorer, which is easy to use and just requires a Yahoo login. You can filter inbound links to see internal or external linking, number of pages Yahoo sees and more.

5. Spider Simulator – Just one of many free online tools offered by this site, I jump here when I need a quick look at what the spiders are seeing. A more comprehensive spider simulator report is available in the iBusinessPromoter client software on my PC, but this online utility serves my purpose most of the time.

6. Tweetscan These days keeping up with what is said about you and your clients is a must. I use Tweetscan to search for references to me or my clients in Twitter for reputation management, goodwill and networking opportunities.

7. SearchStatus This is a Firefox plugin that, among other things, allows you to highlight and see nofollow links. This comes in real handy when checking backlinks or sculpting the links on your own site. The plugin includes utilities to check backlinks, Alexa rankings and so forth, but I primarily use the nofollow highlight feature.

8. MyBlogLog Although the community aspects of the social site are free, I do use one paid service that this Yahoo owned site offers – statistics. For about $25 per year, I can get almost real time traffic stats coming off of web sites. I can see my site traffic nearly as it happens, where surfers are coming from and where they are going. From this, I can see if there is a trend or if something is wrong on a site now, not tomorrow when my Google Analytics stats are refreshed. I mentioned this service in my post on Web Analytics. This is the only non-free tool I mention in this list, but it’s such a bargain, I had to include it.

9. Google Chrome Though not technically a tool, Google’s first attempt at a web browser has one feature that keeps it open on one of my monitors all day – the ability to log into different Google accounts in different tabs. I keep my domain e-mail, which is hosted through Google Apps, in one tab and Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics for my work accounts in other tabs. Now, if Chrome would just pick up some cool plugins!

10. Google Webmaster Tools For something that I paid little attention to when first released, Google Webmaster Tools is now also open on one of my monitors all day. It just keeps getting better. From tracking down dead URLs on my sites to testing a robots.txt file, I can locate site issues that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. Though far from perfect, it’s just about the most valuable online tool I use these days.


SEO Resource Directory

SEO Resource DirectoryI’ve updated the S E O Resource Directory that I’ve had on The Web Optimist blog. Turns out the WordPress plugin I was using was generating 404 errors for the pages, so I had to ditch it and will be handling the directory by hand for the moment.

It’s a moderated directory that, at least in the beginning, will be reciprocal link based. You can submit a resource for free, but the back links will be checked and sites that remove their link back to The Web Optimist will be removed from the directory.

And, yes, I am the moderator. 😉

To start with, I’ll include the following general categories:

1. Blogs: Blogs about search engine optimization, pay per click and related subjects.
2. News Sites: Strictly SEO news and information. No blogs, please.
3. Forums: Links to forums and discussion groups related to SEO and PPC topics.
4. Palm Springs Web Community: Links to web development and search marketing sites in the Palm Springs, CA desert area.
5. Search Friendly Directories: There are still some general directory sites out there that are search friendly and are invited to submit their links here.
6. Jobs & Recruiters: Sources for employment in the search and Internet marketing fields.

I’m open to suggestions for additional SEO and SEM related categories.

So, feel free to submit your link to the S E O Resource Directory.

Of course, if you want to be on the front page of The Web Optimist, you could always use the Tip Me link in the upper right side of almost every page on the blog.


Reviews, SEO

Robots.txt: Powerful but Picky!

The Robots.txt file is powerful but picky!I suspect most of us set up our robots.txt file as basically a one-size-fits-all for the spiders. We’ll instruct all spiders to crawl or not to crawl the same files. For instance, a simple robots.txt file covering all spiders would look something like this:

Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /ar/
Disallow: /el/
Disallow: /ja/
SITEMAP: http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

This tells all bots (that’s the * after User-agent) to stay away from four directories and also provides the location for the domain sitemap.

But, what if you want to give Google special instructions? You’d think it would be a simple matter of telling Google to do something since you’ve used the * wild card to tell all spiders to avoid certain files or directories. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Let’s say you add these lines to your robots.txt file to keep ONLY Google out of your /info-pages/ directory:

User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /info_pages/

Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /ar/
Disallow: /el/
Disallow: /ja/
SITEMAP: http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

You would think that Google would understand that it should stay out of the /info-pages/ directory and then since the * was used in the next User-agent statement, it would also avoid those designated directories just like all of the other bots.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. In this case, Google will avoid the /info-pages/ directory as instructed in its specific category in the robots.txt file and ignore all other instructions found in the file. It would still crawl all of those other directories. If you want to give Google (or any other bot) special instructions, they have to be complete. In this case, you would need to add all of the other directories to the Google section to keep that bot out of the /info-pages/ directory AND the other four directories along with pointing out where the domain’s sitemap is located. This is what the complete robots.txt file would look like:

User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: /info_pages/
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /ar/
Disallow: /el/
Disallow: /ja/
SITEMAP: http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /ar/
Disallow: /el/
Disallow: /ja/
SITEMAP: http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

Quick robots.txt lesson: The robots.txt file has to be very specific. If you set up a category for a certain bot, it ONLY pays attention to the instructions for it in THAT category. All others are ignored.

For more information, see Robots Exclusion Standard.


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.


Coming Soon: Shopping Site Search, Social Media Tactics & More.

My apologies to those recent blog and Twitter followers of The Web Optimist. I’ve been swamped lately so some of the SEO articles I have planned are a little slow in coming. However, here’s a preview of what will be blogged about in future weeks.

  • Shopping Site Search
  • Organic Stategies
  • Vertical Search
  • Social Media Tactics
  • Content Development
  • Landing Page Tips

I’ve got lots of good stuff in store for the blog. Finding time to put it all together will fall into place soon, I hope!

In the meantime, feel free to download my Search Engine Optimization 101 ebook and 65 Quick S E O Tips Even Your Mother Would Love.


SEO 101: Web Analytics

Web Analytics for Beginner SEOsAs I mentioned in my post about off-page optimization factors, keeping track of site traffic and visitors is extremely important. You really need to understand where your traffic is coming from, what keywords are driving the traffic and why so that you can optimize your site. It can be complex and confusing, though, so what is a beginner SEO to do?

  • Check with your host. Most hosting companies offer at least some sort of bare bones log-based web analytics as part of your package. Many times this consists of something like AWStats or Webalizer, which are pretty standard and offer stats that are probably sufficient for very small sites. Study these and get familiar with some of the nooks and crannies, like where your traffic is coming from and what keywords are driving the traffic.
  • Go real time. If you haven’t heard of Yahoo’s MyBlogLog, it’s an online social site that’s especially targeted to blogs, but other sites are welcome. It’s big with SEOs. In addition to all of the social networking and community building opportunities, you can pay for their statistics service ($25 per year) and see real time traffic information for all of the pages to your blog/site. All you have to do is paste some tracking code within the BODY tags of your template or pages. The information is incredible – where your traffic is coming from today, what they are clicking on within your site and what outbound links they are clicking on. Reports can be run for various time periods. It’s a hidden feature that you need to check out.
  • Get a full-blown analytics package. If you’re looking for free and don’t mind Google having access to your data, sign up for Google Analytics. It’s a slick, feature-rich analytics program with most of the bells and whistles beginner SEOs could want. In fact, there is a learning curve in trying to find all of the features and figure out what they mean. Like with MyBlogLog, you have to insert tracking code on pages you want Google Analytics to follow. If you run an ecommerce site, it can even track conversions with some advanced set up.
  • Do it yourself. If you don’t like the idea of Google or anyone else having access to your stats, you could run log-based analytics software on your own. This is time-consuming and, as your site grows, can become impractical because log files can be huge. You might have to download your log files and run the software to analyze them or install analytics software on a dedicated web server. One free option is WebLog Expert Lite which also offers paid versions with more features. Running log-based web analytics software used to be the norm. I’m only offering this as an option to those who are really paranoid about their data. By the way, Google also offers a log-based solution called Urchin, but, it’s definitely not free.
  • Go commercial. There are zillions of commercial web analytics packages available with all sorts of wiz bang features. The problem with wiz bang is that many of us wind up banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out the wiz. From experience, I highly recommend spending time trying out trial versions of any analytics product you are considering. See if you understand how they work. Find out how available support will be for you. Some of these companies charge you a ton for the product, give you a few months of support and then want a contract for continued support and updates. Be absolutely sure about what you are buying into. One company I know of spent thousands on one of the top log-based analytics packages, couldn’t get it running properly for months, then couldn’t understand the interface once they got it running, had numerous tech and support issues and finally abandoned it altogether, losing several thousand dollars in the process. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Understand what you are getting.

What do most SEOs favor? An informal, very unscientific poll of my LinkedIn contacts came back with Google Analytics as the definite top choice. Again, this was a very small sample and by no means authoritative, but it does seem that Google’s freebie has its fans in the search marketing community. On the commercial side, Clicktracks and Mint were also mentioned. (Note: you’ll find people who both love and hate all of these, so test, test, test before making a final decision).

By the way, it’s worth mentioning that a log-based tracking system will track every action on your site – clicks, server calls, spidering, whatever. If you want to use analytics that depend on tracking code on your pages, be sure you have the code on ALL pages. Anything without the tracking code will be invisible to your analysis software or service.

Keep in mind that these suggestions are for newbie SEOs and not for you advanced folks out there. Some of these will seem simple to power users, but someone who has never studied web analytics in the past should find these recommendations easier options for starting out.


SEO 101: Grabbing the Longtail

For many beginner SEOs, the idea of catching the longtail for keyword phrases is one of those mysteries of life that eludes them. After all, you target your pages for specific keywords and phrases. What’s all of this longtail stuff?

The answer is simply that when you catch the longtail, it can be more beneficial to your site. You can get traffic for keywords and phrases you never thought of, rank higher for those longer keyword phrases (three, four or more keywords), get cheaper PPC traffic and increase your site visits without a lot of work. And, because these phrases are more targeted, longtail traffic tends to have higher conversion and lower bounce rates. Compare that to a single keyword, which is way more difficult to rank for and will have much higher abandonment rates.

What is an example of catching the longtail? A perfect way to get longtail traffic is through a blog. The Eye Zone, the blog of FramesDirect.com, gets a lot of comments and questions through their blog posts, perfect spider food for catching the longtail. For instance, FramesDirect.com does not sell replacement parts for their frames and eyewear, but a lot of customers post questions related to replacement parts. So, someone searching for something like ray ban replacement parts in Google will, as I write this, find the Spotlight on Ray Ban Sunglasses post on the blog in the number one position.

Example of longtail SEO result for FramesDirect.com

This is definitely not something the company would normally target for their site since they don’t sell these parts, but the questions and answers on the page gives them a number one ranking for that longtail search phrase and exposes searchers to the site along with providing information to them that they will find of use. Some site visitors might even decide to buy new sunglasses instead of trying to repair their old ones!

How are these longtails caught? Play close attention, because I’m going to give you a list of things to do to help you get a rope around those longtail benefits.

1. Localize – For many brick & mortar sites, all relevant search is local. Think of all of the ways a search can be done for your business. For instance, if you are a plumber in my local area, come up with all of the phrases local to you. Not just “plumber” but “palm springs plumber” and go even deeper with “palm springs broken pipe plumber” and longer phrases like that. Weave these keywords into your site text in a logical, non-spammy way.

2. Ride the tail – Creating a new page for a longtail phrase? Link to it from a related ranking page to give it an immediate boost.

3. Break ’em up – When creating pages, optimize them into segments like services, products and brands. Examples: Create a page for plumbing services like pipe repair, faucet installation, fixing leaks, etc. Create a product page featuring individual products like sinks, valves, etc. Break it down further with a page featuring brands like Kohler, Moen, etc.

4. Blog, blog, blog! – As mentioned above, blogs are easy, spidered quickly and a natural for catching the longtail phrases. User comments, questions and reviews provide free content and enhance your chances of being found for longtail searches. Basically, view your site visitors as co-authors. See my post User Content Generation.

5. Enhance your image – Make sure your local business listing in Google Maps is chock full of accurate and useful information, including images, pages, videos, coupons, etc. Folks can leave reviews there, too, so do whatever you can to make them good. Read more suggestions in Local Search Optimization.

6. Opportunity knocks – Look at small and medium sites for advertising opportunities for longtail phrases. Combined, these smaller sites can offer a larger volume of traffic at a fraction of the price of the large, Tier 1 sites (you know, like Google).

7. Check crawler stats – Find the pages that aren’t getting traffic and jump on them. Optimize them for longtail keyword phrases. These pages are there to sell something, so put them to work.

8. Shorten the URL – The best case scenario is to have short URLs. They are not only friendlier to both spiders and humans, they tend to get more clicks. And, use the product name in the URL.

9. Make it unique – Put a tag cloud on each page of your site and make each one unique.

10. Utilize the space – Put as many products on a page within a 150k limit.

11. Tag it – Tagging is very powerful. Check your internal search log for hints about phrases you might be missing in external searches.

12. Check your affiliates – Got an affiliate program? Check to see what your most successful affiliates are doing. You know, the sincerest form of flattery and all that?

The nice thing about the longtail is that once you rank for phrases, you can generally leave them alone because there’s not nearly as much competition for them as for a single keyword or two word phrase.


SEO 101 Updated

Free SEO 101 eBook download.
Download the free search engine optimization basics ebook. Perfect for beginners and intermediate optimizers.

I’ve updated my training book, a single downloadable PDF document, S E O 101: The eBook to include advanced blog optimization and user generated content. It’s free, so help yourself.

There are eleven chapters that correspond to various search engine optimization posts I’ve done over the past year or so:

  • On-Page Factors
  • Off-Page Factors
  • Keyword Research (Includes link to companion podcast)
  • Image Optimization
  • Link Building
  • Duplicate Content
  • Blog & Feed Optimization
  • Social Media Optimization
  • Universal Search
  • Personalized Search
  • User Generated Content

Included in the chapters are links to recommended sites, plugins, etc. and more.

Download the eBook today to your PC or viewer and study at your convenience. As I have time, I’ll update the file as conditions change in the SEO world.


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.