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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Most Common Web Site Mistake

Yesterday's Webinar with PRWeb and Vocus was a ton of fun. Based on the sheer volume of questions, I think it was received well. One question in particular kept coming up over and over again, I think prompted by one of my comments. I said, "The most common mistake I see when evaluating a web site is that the title tags for each page are things like, "Home" "About Us" "Contact Us" and similar.

This is a problem because search engines give the title tag more emphasis than many other on-page elements in determining what the page is about. So, how is the engine supposed to determine what the page is about when it is titled simply, "About Us"? Well, about who? Or What?

A properly constructed title tag should be relevant to the content on the page - specifically relevant (at the risk of sounding redundant). Here's what I mean...

If you are a landscaping service in Fairfax, VA, what would tell a search engine more about your home page - the title "Home" or the title "Landscaping Service in Fairfax, VA - Frank's Landscaping"? Which do you think is more descriptive?

Follow this line of reasoning for each page of your web site. But take it to the next step: don't just use a key phrase in your title you think makes sense - pick a key phrase that yo specifically want to target. To pick a key phrase, pick one that has higher traffic (number of searches per month) and lower competition (the number of pages containing the same phrase). To do this, use any one of many keyword tools out there like the Google keyword tool, or the like.

Keyword research is a large topic to be covered by itself, here I just want to impress upon you that every page of your site should have a unique title that is specifically representative of the content on the this:

Instead of About Us, use: "About Architecture Services in Arlington, VA - Frank's Architecture"
Instead of Contact Us, use: "Contact Frank's Landscaping Service in Fairfax, VA"
Instead of Services, use: "Information on Search Marketing Services - Search First, Gainesville, VA"

Lastly, the title tag should be kept relatively short - aim for around 60 characters with spaces, or fewer.

Really lastly, if your pages are ranking for your target keywords even though you don't have textbook optimized titles, you may not want to change them. My rule of thumb is this: If you are ranked in position 30 or above for your target key phrase, don't change your title! This may be counter productive. If you are worse than 30th position for your target keyphrase, changining your title won't hurt anything, since nobody sees your page anyway. :)

Hope this helps!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

There's No Such Thing as Advanced SEO

I've been doing this SEO thing for a long time. My thoughts and ideas about SEO have changed a lot over time. After attending SES NYC a couple months ago, and in the context of working on lots of different SEO projects, I have come to a conclusion... There's no such thing as advanced SEO.

Last summer, I even authored and delivered an "Advanced SEO" class. Hummpphh. No such thing.

Three years ago, I'd have made a big deal about SEO and how experts were hard to come by. How complex it is and how it would take a deep understanding of how robots work and all kinds of technical issues: canonical perfection, site theme or silos, funneling page rank, server configuration, directory structures, keyword density analysis and on and on and on.

Alright - before you get all nuts, I get it - these things are important. But it's a matter of degree and resource. What I find in 99% of cases, these things don't matter so much and so don't warrant any resources (time or money).

Here's what I mean: Let's say you're a small accounting firm. You have 3 accountants you work with and bill $700,000.00 per year. You have a 12 page Web site that contains all the standard "here's who we are and here's what we do" information on it. They are static html pages. In this case, none of the advanced mumbo-jumbo (that I spent years learning) applies at all. None of it. Sure, they should log into their hosting account and make sure that is 301'd to Even that canonical resolution is usually done automatically by most hosts. What else is there?

Nothing advanced, that's for sure.

I've consulted with literally thousands of businesses all over the country. The vast majority of them fit the description above - not accountants, but have simple, brochure Web sites and need no big changes in order to rank just fine.

So if not advanced, what should people do?

Well, let me put it like this: If you were thinking about dropping a few thousand bucks on
SEMPO training, Bruce Clay training or the like, save your cash. Here's what you should do...

  1. Identify a good set of targeted keywords. Download Market Samurai for free and use it to find high traffic, low competition keywords - say 3 to 10 keyphrases.
  2. For each keyword, craft a new Web page inserting the keyword in each on-page element: title, meta description, meta keyword, header, first sentence of body copy.
  3. Add 200-300 words of body copy making sure to use various permutations of your target phrase.
  4. Submit your site manually to Google, Yahoo! and MSN along with an XML sitemap.
  5. Start backlinking - forums, blogs, social bookmarks, articles, directories, chambers, business partners - wherever you can find them.

Um, that's it. How is that advanced? It's not. You're welcome, I just saved you the $3500 you were going to spend on advanced training.

The real problem is that most businesses just don't have the necessary time to put into SEO, or managing their pay-per-click campaigns, for that matter. It is not that SEO is so hard, it's just that it takes time.

I went to every session I could get into at Search Engine Strategies. Some were billed as more advanced than others. Sure I learned a couple of new resources or little tricks. But nothing new. When I cut through all the fluff, I realized that underneath was something very simple: Get some content on a page and link to it. Done.

It is not advanced to set up user profiles on relevant blogs and forums and use them to get backlinks.

It is not advanced to get social bookmarks.

It is not advanced to write ezine articles and get them posted.

It is not advanced to create and launch SEO press releases.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am...with few exceptions, most SEO is simple, straight-forward and easy to implement, albeit time consuming.

Maybe an argument could be made that knowing where to go to get backlinks is where the expertness comes into play? I suppose so. But a single afternoon on
SEOMoz or will teach you all that.

Yep, I'm an expert SEO. But I'm thinking that doesn't mean as much as it used to, or even should. I'm convinced: There's no such thing as advanced SEO.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Search Marketing Consultancy

Search First Internet Marketing is live! Back in early 2008, I set up a business to provide SEO consulting services. I didn't do much with the business what with traveling to one or two cities a week for Network Solutions and with my workload there. However, some fortunate circumstances have freed up my time to grow Search First.

Too many SEO providers focus on keyword rankings and traffic. Rankings are great and so is traffic - IF it means more customers. The thing marketing is way past optimizing a Web page for a keyword and getting that page to rank. Today, rankings alone won't work - you need exposure. That's what Search First is all about - giving clients exposure to their target market on the Web. The right exposure, be it through organic search, local listings, Google Base, social media outlets, video, or any other online medium, will deliver new customers.

With this philosophy in mind, Search First will focus on exposure and conversions. We tell our customers "Get more customers and grow your business."

Our expert search exposure optimization and pay per click management will help customers grow - even in a down market.
Stay tuned for more frequent posts as Search First takes off. Hold on for the ride!