SEO

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Jon Rognerud again is writting about Search Engine Optimization on entrepreneur.com. Check his latest post below:

Learn what you should and shouldn’t be doing to increase your site’s search visibility.
To me–and many I know in the search engine optimization field–SEO is really just good old hard work. It contains no real secrets, per se.

I see a lot of “search engine optimization secrets revealed” whitepapers in the internet marketing space. To be honest, it’s a killer headline and as a call-to-action, it works. However, Google’s true SEO secrets are contained within the brains of allegedly two engineers and a triple-gated secure safe deep inside a Google mountain. If Google’s PageRank–one of more than 100 factors in Google’s search algorithm–was the only secret to rankings, that would be too easy. Yet many people focus on PageRank, a minimal metric to watch.

In trying to get at this closely guarded secret, the industry has produced mountains of information and resources, including SEO tools, books, courses, downloads and more. It’s up to you to find what works for your company. With search engines changing all the time, this can be difficult, but there are some basics. If applied right, you should start to see movement in your rankings.

Of a recent list of websites I looked at, more than 90 percent of them were guilty of at least one of four main SEO mistakes. I was even guilty of these in the beginning. Now I’ve been listed No. 2 on Google out of 115 million competing websites for the last year. To start moving your way up, make sure you aren’t making any of the following mistakes.

Mistake #1: Poor site design
If you designed your site using FrontPage 97 and haven’t updated it recently, you’re definitely guilty of this first error. I’m not saying that a less-than-optimal design can’t sell a message or product. One of the best providers of information in the website usability field–Jacob Nielsen at useit.com–has a very basic site. But it’s intentional. If your site, however, is poorly designed and not related to your industry, you need to reconsider what you’re doing. Think about user experience, stickiness and conversions.

Mistake #2: Weak or disorganized content
You need to make a unique, competitive statement with web copy that sells your services. This means focusing on benefits, just not features. Use innovative ways to talk about how you’re different from the competition. You can be a little edgy, but be professional and make it personal, if you can.

Organization is also important. Don’t cram too much on one page; most visitors only scan web pages and look for strong headlines–a good attention grabber. If you have product pages, it’s fine to include summary pages, but break them into independent product pages where possible. If you’ve done your keyword research properly, make sure that one to two keywords or phrases match each content page and that the HTML structure on your page–such as title and description–supports it.

Mistake #3: Hidden contact information
Include your contact information and maps in an easy-to-find location. This may seem obvious, but many companies try to hide behind their sites. If you want to be bold, try posting your cell phone number. One guy I know puts his personal phone number directly on the home page. He doesn’t get many calls, but it shows trust in the visitor when you include such information. Be sure to add your e-mail or an e-mail support form and make it easy to access.

Think about adding this contact information on the “run of site.” The footer is a good place, since many visitors tend to scroll up and down the page quickly. Adding a sitemap, contact us section, terms of service and privacy policy are all benefits for users and search engines.

Mistake #4: Missing SEO basics
One of the most important factors when using SEO for websites is good keyword research. A unique title that matches your keyword as well as web copy that supports your topic meet more than 50 percent of the requirements for most search engines. Adding related key terms in H1 tags also can be helpful. Many people seem to focus on keyword density, but “term weighting” is more important. This is when data from your page and other related web pages are included as a measure of relevancy for ranking. Add a call-to-action description tag and make it unique for each page.

Use keywords in your body text “early, often and naturally.” This means: Don’t think about SEO as if you were an engine trying to match density, prominence, proximity or synonyms in a perfect way. If you know density matters, but that term weighting is more important, then create an appropriate strategy. Adding synonyms will help you with more phrases and bring about ideas for content.

The industry knows that at least the first 200 words are vital in telling non-human visitors–the search engine bots–what your page is about. A solid structure and outline using these “on page” factors, with a natural internal link structure can be the first steps to moving you up in the rankings. External factors–trusted inbound links from relevant sites–have been, and always will, be a strong indicator for better search engine ranking. This is where unique content via articles can have a big impact, as discusses in my previous column, “The No.1 SEO Tip.”

I’ve seen my own sites rank for a brand new domain with related content for the topic in less than a week using the above strategies. Of course, highly competitive key terms take a lot longer to get visible ranking, which means first page on the natural search results page. If you need help determining whether you’re making any of these mistakes, ask the following questions:

* Can visitors immediately tell what the site is about?
* Can users easily navigate the site?
* Does the site provide a unique selling proposition, with testimonials?
* Does it clearly outline how to do business with you?
* Does it provide clear ways to contact you–e-mail, phone or chat?
* Is the site optimized for search engines? Is it optimized for keywords matching your site and pages?
* Did you structure the page well with title, description and SEO “on page” factors? Did you do the same for links?
* Do you keep content fresh?

If you answered no to any of these questions, there’s definitely room for improvement.
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Another good story by Nate! Read the whole of it here:

Recently I took on a new client to assist in some search engine optimization. The site was receiving ZERO search engine traffic. For a specialized business, such as an industrial and insurance job recruiting company, search engine traffic can be very beneficial because it is so highly-targeted.

After taking a look at the web site, although it looked nice and was easy to navigate, I noticed it had some fundamental flaws that were preventing it from ranking well in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Please note, I did not design this web site – I am only recoding parts of it so it will rank better for particular search queries.

In this case study, I will outline the SEO flaws of the web site and present the solutions to these problems. On a side note, it makes no sense to me why a web developer would create a web site only to have it be completely ignored by the search engines.

If you have any basic understanding of the benefits of SEO, it is relatively easy to design a well-optimized site from the start by using proper tags and integrating the keywords into the page copy. However, it seems quite often lately, I come across existing corporate web sites which are so terribly optimized for search engines that they not only contain major design and usability flaws, but are listed in the supplemental index and do not even rank on the first page for a search query of the company name!

Current Status of Search Engine Rankings

As of a few days ago, the company, which specializes in job recruitment for the industrial and insurance industries, was not even present in Google’s main search listings – it was being listed in the supplemental index.

For those of you who don’t know what the supplemental index is, it is basically Google’s trash can index where it deems pages as not search-worthy. An SEO’s worst fear is to have his or her site listed in the supplemental index. Luckily, if you understand the basic principles of SEO, you never have to worry about this.

What are the implications of being listed in the supplemental index? Well, a few days ago, if you typed in the company name into Google, the web site was not even listed on the first two pages. My goal is to get the site in the top 3 for that query and several other queries for various other keyword phrases.

It is no surprise, however, that the site was listed in the supplemental index, because based on its source code, Google probably had no clue what the web site was about. Here are the problems and solutions to better optimizing that web site, or any web site, for that matter, for search engine relevance:

Problems with the Original Page Design

  • No text-based copy on the home page. All of the page copy was image-based. Unless you write ALT tags for the images, search engines have no way of being able to read text embedded within an image. Besides, even ALT tags do not carry as much weight as actual page copy.
  • Image-based navigation needed to be converted to text-based. Again, search engines have no way of figuring out how to read image-based text. Not only that, but from a useability perspective, image-based navigations are not scalable when someone enlarges the font size from within a web browser.
  • Poor use of title and header tags. These are key HTML elements that search engines use to figure out the relevency of a web site. On the web site, there were no header tags used and the titles contained no keywords. The home page even contained the word “welcome” – a redundant word for SERPs. On a side note, I recently wrote an article about why the page title is so important.
  • Non-existent META Keyword and META Description tags. This is another no-no if you want a page to rank well in the SERPs. Although the META keywords tag is not used by Google, it is still used by some search engines. However, Google does take into account the META description tag when it shows SERPs for a query containing a particular keyword. You want to make sure you incorporate your keywords into your META description tag.
  • No backlinks. A web site needs a good number amount of backlinks for Google or any other search engine to trust the site and believe it is a credible source of information. This can be fixed by adding the web site to free and trusted directories such as DMOZ or the Yahoo Directory.
  • Keywords not present in any page copy. Of course, the first thing to do is figure out what keywords you want the site to rank for, but after that, if the keywords are not present in the page copy, you will have a tough if not possible time of ranking for those keywords.
  • No sitemap. A sitemap is what Google and other search engines use to figure out what pages to crawl on a site. Every site needs a sitemap. I wrote a post a while back about why a sitemap is your blog’s best friend.

These were just a few of the issues that were causing to not be ranking well in the SERPs. I have already fixed most of those major problems, with the exception of the header tags.

I expect that within the next couple of weeks as I add the site to more targeted directories and further refine the page copy to contain the desired keywords, the site will receive even more search engine traffic and start to rank very well for the desired keywords.

I will keep you updated over the next few weeks as the rankings for the company continue to improve.

If you are interested in learning more about SEO, the best place to start is by reading Aaron Wall’s SEO Book. Aaron Wall is basically known as the Michael Jordan of SEO and his eBook is truly one of the only ebooks worth reading. SEO really is not that difficult and every web developer should take it into consideration when developing new web sites. Learn more about the SEO Book…

Update 4/13/07 – A week ago the company’s site was listed in the supplemental index. Now, it is ranked #2 for the company’s name in Google’s listings. SEO rocks.

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Recently Jon Rognerud posted great article about search engine optimization. You can read it here:

“Let me start by asking you a question: What’s the number-one business killer on the internet? The answer is obvious, but many people miss it. The answer is: not being found on the first page of Google.

I refer to Google often, since the search engine accounts for approximately 50 percent of search traffic. In February 2007, Google sites garnered 47.5 percent of the U.S. search market, with Yahoo! coming in second place at a distant 28.1 percent, according to comScore. Preparing your SEO strategy around Google makes your plan work for other search engines, as well.

Write Away
So what’s the number-one tip for search engine ranking? Articles. With articles, even a brand new domain–some call this the “Google sandbox hell”–can get updated into the search index quickly. Many sites are spidered or crawled, but not indexed, a major problem for new sites.

Let’s first take a look at recent content strategies you can use to write stronger articles. If you’re not familiar with the next wave in quality content scoring and relevancy for search engines, you need to understand a little bit about search engine technology.

Google contains more than 100 algorithms that make it the world’s most popular search engine. One of those is PageRank, a complex voting system I’ll cover in a future article. Another important secret, which has been around for a while, but not utilized by most webmasters, is latent semantic indexing.

“Context” is the new buzzword for SEO in 2007. While you should still write good, natural, user-friendly and relevant web copy, using some simple LSI techniques can elevate your search engine ranking.

When using LSI, engines try to determine what the content or page is about without specifically matching the search term text. It looks at the document collection as a whole and examines which other documents contain some of those same words. In simple terms, this means that as you write and link to and from other pages and sites, search engines using LSI will look at words and phrases that are contextually related and try to figure out what you’re writing about. So, if you’re writing about bait, poles, lures and tackle, you’re probably addressing fishing.

If you want to be ranked higher in the search engines, you should write content and link profiles that have supportive text and anchor text (links) using this “theme” approach. To find related keywords and phrases, use a keyword research tool, like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. First type in your key terms into the Google search engine and pick the first site that comes up. Then go to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, click the “Site-Related Keywords” tab and paste the URL there. Study the results and use groups of related keywords with links on your page to develop strong on-page factors.

Distributing Your Article
Writing an article that is topically related to your business and then submitting it to article directories like ezinearticles.com, goarticles.com and buzzle.com will pay off big.

Imagine the effect of getting a link from the Los Angeles or New York Times. There isn’t a sure-fire formula for achieving this, but providing quality articles and adding your link in the resources box of the article will allow search engines to find and index you faster. If the content is interesting and newsworthy, the journalists may start calling.

Yes, this could be a lot of work. But one option is to find a service that can distribute your articles for little or no cost. I like isnare.com; for a few dollars you can get your own distribution credits. Once approved, they’ll submit your article to hundreds of directories. Watch your server logs for traffic and spider bots; you’ll see domains and search engine referrers very quickly.

Continue these efforts by writing press releases using similar distribution mechanisms. I use services like prweb.com and marketwire.com. SEO firms have developed a complete marketplace for the SEO compliancy of press releases. They clearly understand the power of submitting and distributing content and press releases. If you don’t know how to write a press release, hire somebody to help you. You can go to sites like elance.com and guru.com to have something written for $50.

If you haven’t pursued these simple tactics for your SEO strategies, you’ve been missing out on important traffic and business. There are a number of resources for traffic acquisition and how-to-books on building an internet presence. Outside of articles, press releases, SEO and pay-per-click, there are social networks, blogs, paid links, affiliate marketing, paid advertising, viral marketing, co-registration and banner ads–certainly enough to keep you busy for a while.”
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