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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • The Top 7 SEO Web Design Methods to Increase Visibility

    by Jayson DeMers

    Anyone who has Googled him- or herself understands the power and mystique of search engine results. When you run an e-commerce business, where it lands in search rankings plays a critical role in how many people are exposed to your company and its services.

    When businesses land near the top of the search results page for keywords related to their industries, users are much more likely to click on their pages, view their content, and learn about their products or services. The more visitors to the site, the more opportunities the company has to make sales and achieve high marketing ROI. 

    To benefit from optimal search engine rankings (increased visibility, higher traffic, and improved sales), many effective tactics exist. If you incorporate these strategies into your websites as you build and maintain them, your business stands the best chance of SEO dominance over the competition.

    Read on to learn how businesses use SEO to maximize their impact in their industries and boost the bottom line.

    The best SEO optimization tactics for web design

    Although companies can retroactively optimize their websites, DigiTech Web Design states "the most effective way to achieve high ranking is to build a site from scratch with SEO in mind." This enables the designer to incorporate a variety of techniques that will maximize the site's impact." Some of these techniques include:

    1. URL structures. When creating URLs, make sure they adequately describe the subject matter of your content and contain keywords relevant to the topic. This gives search engines and visitors alike a clear idea of what the page will be about.

    Also, keep URLs short and simple, using hyphens (not underscores) between words and keeping out unrelated characters or terms.
     
    2. Responsive design. The most SEO-friendly sites are those that incorporate responsive design techniques to make them accessible for users of all types of devices. Building and maintaining separate mobile and desktop sites may present a complication with duplicate content, which e-commerce companies should avoid.

    3. Descriptive navigation. Visitors should be able to navigate sites quickly and easily to find the information they need. With that in mind, web designers should not get too creative with the navigation bar location; place it across the top or along the left margin of the page.

    Use flyout and dropdown menu bars with caution, because both robots and humans have more trouble navigating them. Text links are best, and sites should strive to use no more than 6 or 7 menu options on a page.

    4. Image optimization. To make images SEO-friendly, edit them to the minimum size (often 20-100 kb) necessary for user visibility. Avoid using source code to shrink them; this has a negative impact on the length of time the page will take to load. Organic search rankings and user experience will suffer as a result.

    When creating alt image text, make sure to use keywords in header images, logo images, graphics, and buttons on each page.

    5. Page load times. Mobile users wait an average of 5 seconds for websites to load; desktop users only three. To keep pace with busy consumers, websites must load efficiently or risk losing businesses. 

    To achieve faster page load times, companies can employ techniques such as enabling compression, browser caching, minimizing JavaScript and CSS, and sizing images correctly. Tools such as Google's PageSpeed Insights and WebPagetest can help you determine your website page load times.

    6. Keyword research. Which keywords, phrases, and topics have potential customers researched with relation to your industry, product, or service? Google Keyword Planner helps businesses learn how their target market locates competitors, as well as identifying sub-categories that may apply to them.

    Armed with valuable keyword data, companies can use this information to name and structure navigation bars - as well as product and category pages - for the most effective websites.

    7. Sitemaps. XML sitemaps (for search engines) and HTML sitemaps (for website visitors) allow these entities to locate exactly what they need. It also allows Google to index your site thoroughly and efficiently.

    How to use SEO techniques to maximize the impact of your content

    Once companies have created the framework of their website, establishing and maintaining search engine-optimized content becomes a crucial activity. Content marketing techniques for SEO include:

    1. Fixed content. Keyword-rich content, such as articles and blogs, should present high-quality writing and contain at least 400-500 words per article. The longer content remains on a site, the better ratings it receives from search engines.

    2. Encourage linking. When businesses write compelling, unique, and useful content, readers are more likely to link to their articles from social media or blogs. Addressing misunderstandings or myths, discussing newsworthy topics, or raising questions for the public encourages engagement and sharing, and that will make your page show up more in search engine results.

    3. Natural keyword use. When you use keywords in articles, blog posts, or page content, place them at the beginning of the content and not in nonsensical or repeating patterns throughout the page. Search engines will detect "keyword stuffing" that doesn't adhere to genuine language patterns.

    4. Use built-in marketing messages. To ensure your company's contact information shows up on search engine indexes, replace links that read "Contact us" with ones that read "Contact [your company name]." This maximizes the number of times individuals will come in contact with your brand.

    When it comes to search engine optimization, the companies that achieve the greatest success are those that combine technological know-how with content wordsmithing. If you pursue the above strategies, in a few steps your brand will be on its way to the top of the search engine rankings, not to mention the hearts and minds of your target audience!

    How have you successfully leveraged SEO to achieve higher visibility and web traffic? 

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Yeah, But... I Already Rank For My Company Name

    by Stoney deGeyter

    Every now and then we get a call from a prospect who seems to want to try to talk themselves out of buying SEO. We call them "Yeah, Butters." And if you've been following this series, you understand why.

    One of the common objections we hear is, "But we already rank for our company name, so why do I need SEO?"

    There are a couple dynamics at play here. One, you're probably seeing personalized results, not necessarily what the rest of the world sees. And two, because... and this is important here... UNLESS YOU'RE A WELL-KNOWN BRAND, NOBODY IS SEARCHING FOR YOUR COMPANY NAME!!! 

    Breathe...

    Breathe...

    Breathe...

    OK, I hope you've recovered from the shock. Now let's tackle each of these one at a time.

    Your Results Are Personalized Just for You

    Most people don't realize this, but the search results you see are not the same results someone else sees when performing the same search. This is because if you're logged into any of your Google accounts (Gmail, Google Docs, Google+, AdWords, Webmaster Tools, etc.), and if you don't deliberately turn personalization off, your results are being personalized.

    This personalization is based on a few things. Google looks at your search history and the type of sites you've clicked on, who's in your Google+ network and items you may have shared in the past. If you regularly search and read tech blogs, when you search for "apple," you're most likely to get results for the company. However, if you regularly search and read gardening and cooking sites, a search for "apple" might produce an entirely different set of results.

    Usually the contrast won't be that stark. In most cases you'll see just a few different results from the next person. But the more data Google has on your history, the more likely your results will differ.

    Another differentiation factor can be locality. Some searches automatically produce a local set of results. If your company is called "The Carpet Outlet" and a search for that puts you at number one, it's likely as a result of geo-targeting the search results. Perform the same search in another part of the country, and there's a strong chance you're not going to appear at the top. And maybe not even on the first page!

    The only way to get completely unbiased results is to log out of all Google profiles before performing your search. Even still, you're likely to have some personalization going on. You can also click the icon at the top of your Google search results page to "hide private results." However, it's possible you're still going to get geo-targeted results either way.

    People Search for Solutions, Not Brands

    customers-dont-search-company-name.jpg

    Most companies are not recognizable brand names such as Nissan, Pepsi, Nabisco or even Marathon Gas. But even if you are such a name, ranking for your brand name isn't enough. Each month there are approximately 300,000 searches for "pepsi" and 100,000 for "coke." However searches for "soda" and "pop" collectively reach 1.3 million monthly searches.

    Here's another example using a less well-known brand, School Outfitters. Monthly searches for "school outfitters" is 6,600. Monthly searches for "school furniture" is 8100. Not too great of a difference, but here's the kicker: School furniture is just one keyword that would drive business to School Outfitters.

    Let's look at just five relevant keywords, "school furniture" (8,100), "conference table" (5,400), "computer desk" (49,500), "fitness equipment" (27,100), and "office furniture" (135,000). Those five keywords alone are searched approximately 225,000 times each month. I'll take a top ranking for any of those over the brand name any day.

    My point here is that while brand searches can be valuable, they are just the tip of the iceberg. If you rank only for brand searches, you will get traffic that is already familiar with you. Your competitors are getting everyone else. However, when you choose to optimize for all the other relevant keywords for your industry, you begin to bring in new traffic that doesn't know who you are. You have a chance to convert a new customer and, hopefully, earn a customer for life. If you don't, they just might turn to your competitor instead.

    In all honesty, ranking for your brand name is pretty easy. It's ranking for other keywords--those that attract far more visitors--that starts taking time, effort and money. But if brand searches are enough for you, by all means, don't invest in SEO. However, if you want to grow your business and capture traffic that otherwise would go to someone else, you need to invest in quality SEO.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Does the Internet allow more differentiation?

    by Mike Moran

    If you are a marketer, you can't ignore differentiation. Differentiation is not just about differences from the competition--it's differences that your customers care about. Without some kind of differentiation, marketers don't have much to talk about. And talk they do. Every kind of advertising is based on some kind of marketing message--most about differentiation. But how does the Internet change the way marketers discuss differentiation? Does the Internet allow more differentiation? Read on. 

    The biggest difference between digital marketing and other kinds of marketing is that with digital, you have unlimited space. You can always write one more paragraph on a page. You can add one more click to the story. You never run out of time or space, as long as you can hold someone's attention.

    The Internet gives you a way to tell your story in more depth.

    For many products, this is a gift from God. Complex products that could never be explained in marketing materials can now be fully described. That means that no matter what aspect of a product that a customer might be interested in, the story can be there. Just about any differentiator can be explained.

    And it's not just complex products. Even simple products might possess differentiators that only a few care about: Scotts Tissue disintegrates in septic tanks. It will never make the commercial, but it is an important feature to some people. Online, you have the room to tell them.

    And if this technique seems a bit lengthy and wordy to you, it doesn't have to be. Whether it is behavioral targeting, website personalization, or other methods, all that differentiator verbosity can be distilled into the one that matters. Technology doesn't quite fulfill that promise today, but wait. It will be here soon.

    So, don't be afraid to tell your story. To segment to the smallest segments that are profitable. Because each segment has a differentiator they are waiting to see. All you have to do is show it to them.Originally posted on Biznology Blog.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Not Every Piece of Web Content Is a Masterpiece--Nor Should It Be

    by Stoney deGeyter


    There are two types of writers:

    1. Those who write and produce masterpieces
    2. Those who write to produce masterpieces

    The difference between the two is that the first one is a better writer than the second.

    Writing to Produce a Masterpiece

    The writer who writes to produce masterpieces probably writes a lot less, and a lot less likely to be happy with the content they produce. There is always a flaw, always something to be edited, tweaked or fixed. Writing to produce masterpieces is paralyzing!

    George Lucas is a great example. Most would agree that Star Wars was a masterpiece. But 20 years after the original move was released, George Lucas decided to do some more tweaking and changing to his original classic, producing the crapfest Special Editions, complete with more critters, creatures and unneeded comic relief.

    book-flying-pages-300x296.jpg

    But even that wasn't enough. In virtually every subsuquent release (theatrical, DVD, Blu-ray) Lucas continues to tinker with his "masterpiece." And I'm sure more are to come as they re-release the original trilogy in 3D!

    Note to Lucas: Han shot first!

    While some of the enhancements in the special edition release(s) are great visual enhancements, most fans of the movies would argue that Lucas' continued tinkering made things worse rather than better. This is what happens when you only want to produce masterpieces. You keep tweaking until it's "perfect." Unfortunately, perfect is always just one more tweak away. Kind of like Michael Jackson's face.

    If you're trying to produce masterpieces, take a step back, stop tweaking and improving. Just hit publish.

    Why? Because when you do, you can enjoy the writing process more, and perhaps have more unintended masterpieces than you thought possible.

    Writing and Producing a Masterpiece

    The writer who writes and produces masterpieces writes more and has more fans and is generally probably more content with what they produce.

    Take John Grisham. Clearly this guy can write. Heck, I bet he could make a phone book interesting. But few would argue that most of the books he's written in the past ten years come even close to the brilliant A Time to Kill. Yet, Grisham is one of the top 50 best selling fiction authors of all time, and if you look strictly on earnings per book, Grisham is in the top 20 or so.

    Grisham is an occasional masterpiece writer, and he's probably better for it. On the other hand, Tom Wolfe, who many believe writes nothing but masterpieces, is nowhere to be found on that list.

    That's because those who write, not trying to score a masterpiece every time, find writing far more enjoyable and they produce content they--and others--like. That's the point. Not everyone has to love everything you write, they just need to like it enough to find it valuable. And even of those, you might be surprised at how many people love something you only thought was just OK.

    All Content Is Your Masterpiece on the Web

    What's all this have to do with writing web content? A lot.

    Writing for websites is very different from any other medium. The web is more than a publishing platform. It's an interactive medium. People do more than read your content, they read, interact, follow and share.

    It's true, the greater the "masterpiece," the greater the chance that the content will be shared and the more followers you'll get as a result. But waiting for the masterpiece to come before hitting the publish button creates a lot of dead space in between content. It's in that dead space that you lose followers, the interaction dies and nobody is sharing anything of yours.

    However, when you write and publish good content, not everything has to be a masterpiece in order to get more followers, more shares, more interaction. In fact, the less-than-phenomenal stuff can still be interesting and valuable to your audience, can still help you build engagement, still drive traffic and, ultimately, give you a bigger audience for the next masterpiece that you actually produce.

    Don't Wait for Inspiration, Just Write

    Content creation and interaction is important to a solid web marketing and SEO campaign and an increasingly important factor in SEO. It doesn't have to be great, but it does need to be good. But writing good content ensures that you'll still get out a few masterpieces here and there that garner you even more attention.

    Those that produce more good to great content are doing themselves a favor over those that wait for inspiration to strike. One of my college professors told us, don't wait for inspiration to strike. Just write and let inspiration come. On the web, a similar principle applies. Don't wait for your masterpiece to come to you, just write good content.

    So when your web marketing firm tells you to put yourself on a rigid blogging schedule, you can understand why. Better to get out there and write something good, rather than writing, tweaking, adjusting and never publishing something fantastic. In all of his post-original-trilogy faults, at least Lucas released his "unfinished" version of Star Wars for us to enjoy over the past 30 years.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Is Your Hosting Coasting? Here's How Site Speed Affects SEO

    by Jayson DeMers

    Search engines consider hundreds of factors to determine search engine rankings. Many of these factors are related to a website's content, such as its text and titles, or to the authenticity of the site itself. Several years ago, Google announced yet another consideration regarding ranking; the speed with which site visitors can view the pages.

    Unfortunately, a significant amount of speculation remains regarding what constitutes sufficient speed, and just how much site speed affects rankings. Concern is heightened now that slow mobile sites can also be penalized. It is ultimately important to remember that a website performing poorly will lead to poor user experiences. Negative user experiences, therefore, warrant less recognition in search results than their more efficient counterparts.

    How Speed Affects Rankings

    Back-end performance and infrastructure are the most critical determining factors regarding site speed. Research has found a connection between ranking and speed; possibly because Google and other search engines can quickly and easily detect these metrics. Improving visibility via speed, then, largely depends on the quality and capabilities of particular servers. That's why it's crucial to select a hosting provider that can provide excellent website loading speed. 

    The details of one study, conducted by Matt Peters, a data scientist at Moz, are outlined below. With the assistance of Zoompf, a website auditing firm, this is what he found:

    ·         Methodology. The team compiled a list of 2,000 random search terms and identified the top 50 search results for each one. This resulted in a list of 100,000 pages for evaluation. The next step was to launch 30 EC2 instances, which ran in the Northern Virginia cloud. Each of them included an identical open source tool (WebPageTest). This tool utilizes the same web browsers as most consumers to collect more than 40 performance measurements. Chrome was utilized to test each page in this investigation.

    ·         Page load time. This term often refers to two different measurements - either the "fully rendered" time or the "document complete" time. The "document complete" time is the time it takes a site to load for the user to begin typing or clicking - even if the content is not completely visible. The "fully rendered" time is the amount taken for a full download, including images, analytic trackers, and advertisements. Representatives at Google have not clearly indicated specific expectations regarding load time, so the effects of each concept of time were examined. Results suggested no clear relationship between either of the times and rankings.

    ·         Time to first byte. Because no clear correlations were detected at this point in the study, the investigation was extended to test the Time to First Byte (TTFB). This term refers to the length of time it takes a browser to receive the first byte of response from a server when a particular site is requested. Essentially, it is the time the server spends processing and generating information.

    ·         Page size. Page size refers to the full amount of all bytes downloaded to completely render a page. Such information includes ads, images, fonts, and third party widgets. After graphing the data, the team found a relationship between decreasing page sizes and decreasing page rank. They developed a theory based on these results, speculating that the lower ranking sites likely belonged to small companies with little resources, and therefore had minimal content and complexity on their pages. As rankings increased, complexity generally did as well.

    ·         Conclusions. The lack of relationships between page load times and rankings applies to both generic and long tail searches. There was no consistent evidence of pages with fast load times ranking higher than those with slower load times. It can be assumed that if page load time does influence ranking, it is lost in the mix of other influential factors.

    There does, however, seem to be a correlation between TTFB and higher rankings. Sites with servers and quality back-end infrastructure capable of efficiently delivering content were ranked higher. Ultimately, it is back-end operations that directly affects ranking. This is because Google's crawlers can easily capture these measurements. Because "page rendering" time directly relates to user experience, however, it will probably also factor in to rankings in the future.

    TTFB is a useful metric with which to gauge performance because it is affected by how heavily loaded the server may be, how quickly the site's back-end can produce content, and the network latency between server and visitor.

    Back-ends include network connections, the use of content distribution networks, web servers, and database and application servers. Website owners can improve rankings by optimizing application code and database queries, employing content distribution networks, and ensuring responsive and effective servers. VPS and dedicated hosting servers are becoming more popular as webmasters are beginning to realize the importance of site speed on their brand's overall visibility and user experience.

    Fast websites tend to have visitors who are more likely to click on ads and purchase products. These visitors have the best user experiences, and are apt to link and share site information. All these factors contribute to rankings. Front end interactions such as these are easily as important to high ranking as back end structure and speed.

    There are hundreds of other factors that influence SERP visibility, some of which are listed here:

    ·         Keyword is the first word in the domain. Domains that begin with a targeted keyword are slightly more beneficial than those with keywords in the middle or at the end.

    ·         Domain registration length. Legitimate domains are usually registered and paid for several years at a time, while doorway domains aren't typically in use for more than one year.

    ·         Exact matches. For quality sites, domains with exact matches to keyword phrases are beneficial.

    ·         Previous penalizations. If Google or other search engines have already identified a website as illegitimate or in some way low quality, it may continue to be scrutinized.

    ·         Country codes. Domains that include country codes receive favorable SERPs for their particular countries.

    ·         Duplicate content. Content that appears identically within the same site can negatively influence SERP and result in penalties.

    ·         Recent updates. Google and other search engines prefer sites that have been reviewed and updated recently or routinely. The magnitude of the updates is considered as well.

    ·         Quality of outbound links. Content that links to reputable sites are considered more trustworthy.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



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