Search Engine Optimziation

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I try to write about three times per week. Most of it is pretty good and will probably help you grow your business. If it doesn't, then I probably can't help you.

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Monday Marketing - SEO versus SEM

posted this on Monday, September 23, 2013 at about 9am.
Monday Marketing - SEO versus SEM

You may have heard the terms SEO and SEM bandied about over the last few years. I am reasonably confident that at least half of the so-called professionals that are in the search industry don't really know what they are talking about. They tend to use these two terms interchangeably.

In fact, you can especially identify someone that doesn't understand the distinction of these two terms when they say things like:

  • Sign up for SEO and get more traffic.
  • Let us do SEO for you and you'll sell more stuff.
  • Guaranteed top of Google in X months.

There is a clear distinction between these two terms and, if you are going to hire someone to help you, you must know that distinction. In fact, if you are going to do it yourself, you should understand the difference. It is safe to say that all SEO is SEM but not all SEM is SEO.

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the process of getting key terms for your web presence to the top of the natural (not paid) results in the search engines. Usually, we use the term in conjunction with Google searches but it applies to any search engine. SEO is a big job; there are more than 75 factors that go into just ranking your local page in Google alone.

There are many key tactics that go into getting higher in the search engines. It can be broken down into three key categories:

  • Code: The way your website is built on the back end. How the title is written or the organization of the page content in the coding section.
  • Content: The more content people can read, the greater your likelihood of getting higher in the search engines.
  • Links: Inbound links act as a vote to the authority of your website. The more links, the better.

Just remember, SEO has to do with the natural listings. When you see the paid placements in search results that is not SEO.

SEM - Search Engine Marketing

The purpose of SEM is to gain overall improved visibility in the search engines whether it be through paid or non-paid locations. That could mean using SEO to get to the top of the natural listings or pay for an ad on the search engine results page (SERP).

All the major search engines provide you with the ability to buy a key word as an advertisement. When you conduct a search, the search engines will return to you a list of all those that are paid first then those that naturally appear at the top of the search engines through SEO.

Any listing on the SERP is through SEM but only the organic or natural listings are from SEO (or they just got lucky).

What This Really Means

So what’s the takeaway? SEO is unpaid and solely uses information in the categories of code, content, and links. SEM, on the other hand, takes both SEO and paid search results into account.

SEO does not directly generate traffic but will when you get enough of the right terms to the top of the search engines. SEM, when done right, can generate lots of traffic starting day one.

When you get traffic from your SEM, don't expect an immediate influx of sales. Just because they come, it doesn't mean they will buy. If your website does what it's supposed to and you've performed your SEM properly, you greatly increase your odds of great performance.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

Monday Marketing - Increase Your Search Ranking

posted this on Monday, August 26, 2013 at about 9am.
Monday Marketing - Increase Your Search Ranking

For years you've known how important it is to be found in the search engines. If you have not found success increasing your rankings then you've probably wondered how to do it.

In my book, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" I talk about the three components of SEO or search engine optimization being content, code and links. Since my book is strategic in nature, I don't spend a lot of time discussing what to do what that information.

There are some simple things you can do right now to help you on your way.

The way that search engines such as Google and Bing discover and rank your website changes regularly, so you want to make sure that you are always on top of the ever changing requirements. In recent years, search engines, Google in particular, have been placing an increased focus on fresh, relevant content on your website.

Here are three things you can do right now to help your search rankings.

  • Blog regularly: (content) Writing regularly is one of the best ways that you can increase your visibility in a search engine. The more content you have, the more search engines will have to index. Blogging is one of the easiest ways to achieve regular content updating. Ensure that you are using relevant keywords that you want to be found for and blogging about topics relevant to your industry or target audience. Although this will not directly drive traffic to your website, it will create a greater likelihood that searchers will find your site for terms you had never considered.
  • Fill out meta data: (code) Meta data, such as meta tags and meta descriptions, is extremely important. While Google has said they do not put as much of a focus on this information when ranking your website, it is still a very important component of SEO. Taking the time to add three to four keywords and a 150 character description to your meta information can help more than you might realize. In fact, if your site visitors share your content, the meta description is what LinkedIn and Facebook pull by default as the description for the page.
  • Build Inbound Links: (links) Consider search engine optimization as a popularity contest. The more popular the page the higher in the rankings you'll find it. Inbound links to your website act as a vote from one website to another. Social bookmarking, online directories, and guest blogs are just a few of the ways that you can boost the credibility of your website in the eyes of Google.

You should understand that while search engine optimization is not meant to be a direct traffic generator it does generate traffic. You should consider your efforts in search engine optimization more like brand awareness. The more aware your audience is about you the more likely they are going to click on a link. The way you craft the title and the meta description will entice people to click through when they do find you in the search engines.

Start now by experimenting with new content. Write your content then monitor your rankings. If something doesn't work, try something new.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

Monday Marketing - Local Listings

posted this on Monday, August 19, 2013 at about 7am.
Monday Marketing - Local Listings

Since the beginning of time, businesses have started locally. When phone books started getting popular, it was common for new owners to name their businesses with the goal of appearing at the top of the white pages. As a result, you have companies that still have names that start with A, A1, A+, AAA, etc.

Today, marketing is a bit more complicated. Aside from the obvious that the best use for yellow pages is as fire starter or packing material, there are too many ways your listings are categorized to assume that A1 Boxers will just be at the top of the list because of the name.

Online, local search is still the most effective approach to getting found online you have. People want to do business with people in their neighborhood. That is especially true when it comes to services for their home, car, family, etc. When people are travelling, they'll do local searches (from their current location) for restaurants, stores, gift shops and convenience stores.

If your local web presence is not optimized your website may not be found by potential clients. If they can't find you online, they may never find you in your brick and mortar.

Having a local page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google is important. But also optimizing for sites such as Yelp and Foursquare can be a great way for our stores to be found. However, have you even considered local directories? Local directories pop up quite often and many of them are successful because they are very specific to their locale.

Some of the advantages surrounding submitting to local directories include:

  • Higher Chance of Visibility - If nothing at all, being listed on a local directory will give you a higher chance of being seen by a potential customer. It isn’t exactly a profound statement to say that the more places you are listed on the web, the higher the chance that you will be seen. Take advantage of a free service and get listed.
  • Gain Valuable Link Juice - The real benefit of being listed on a local directory is the gaining the link juice from the site. This has strictly to do with search engine optimization and is referring to how Google’s algorithm seeks to find the most relevant sites to include in their list of search results. The more credible sites that link to you, the better.
  • Achieve a Higher Level of Credibility - Buying things locally went from a fad to a trend to a legitimate movement among consumers. Being listed on a local directory will ensure that people know that you’re a local entity. It will let consumers know that you are a legitimate business conducting a legitimate service.

When marketing your business, you should take the time to submit to as many local directories as you can. It's not overly complicated and likely free. It just takes time and the payoffs are worth it.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

Monday Marketing - Page Titles

posted this on Monday, July 29, 2013 at about 8am.
Monday Marketing - Page Titles

Since nearly the start of the internet, search engines have allowed searchers the ability to find cool (and not-so cool) stuff on the internet. Yahoo! was the first search engine and the search index for Yahoo! was manually created. Google provided the first automatic way to create their search index using every student dreads - math.

Because of the automated approach to creating the search index, the world of search engine optimization was born. The search engines have engineered the search results to yield the most relevant results that best benefit the user.

No one really knows the secret, inner-workings of the search algorithm except some guys in a back room with thick glasses and a pocket-protector for each day of the week (think Coca-Cola’s tremendously successful secret recipe). There are a few fundamental components of the formula that have been speculated to be accurate by plenty of gurus over the years.

The most basic thing you can do for each of the pages on your website is to get the page title right. The page title is what appears at the top of your browser window and it should indicate clearly what the particular page is all about.

You should note that the page title may or may not be the same as the title at the top of your content. This title at the top of your content is call the heading 1 or h1. When you take the time to get the page title right on the top of the page as well as the heading 1 for the content you are writing, you'll begin to optimize that page for the search engines.

Some dos for the page title:

  • If you are focusing this page for a specific geography, use a geographic location along with a service that you would like to be found for (ex. Boise Rock Star).
  • Separate multiple terms with the | (pipe) symbol (ex. Boise Rock Star | Cool Dude Enterprises).
  • It is generally accepted that page titles should be less than 70 characters including spaces. While you can use more if you, there is speculation that more is detrimental to your search engine position.
  • Page titles should be different from page to page to indicate what the page is about.
  • Your page titles should be relevant to the content on your web page.

Some don'ts for the page title:

  • Don't stuff your page title with just a bunch of key words. Make them understandable for the average site visitor.
  • Avoid having your page titles the same on every page throughout your website.
  • Don't load your page titles with so many words that they can't be seen. Think the 70 character limit.

Depending on your skill level, page titles are something that you can change within a few minutes on your website and can have a positive impact on your search rankings.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

Web Is The New Real Estate

posted this on Thursday, June 21, 2012 at about 9am.

During the real estate bubble, people were leaving their jobs in droves and taking on a function in the real estate industry. New lenders were popping up everywhere and making a fortune. Realtors were being turned out by the armful and only had to say “hi” in order to make a sale. It seemed, during this time, that the only qualifications for being a general contractor was having a pickup truck and a dog.

Then, in 2007, everything started to change fast. Most of those who made the jump that were in the business because it was a good financial move failed because they really weren’t that good at it. They didn’t really know what it took to truly succeed in the business when the business was going down hill fast.

About the same time the economy was taking a dive, I made a bold move to start a Web company. I had spent 15 years in graphic design and marketing. I already had my MBA. I understood technology (my undergraduate is in IT management). Creating a Web company was a natural next step for me. I didn’t think anything of it. The opportunity was there and I seized upon it.

As I worked hard, I experienced explosive growth and I hired a staff to help me. Year over year we have grown quite a bit. I would say that 2011 was our roughest year but we still were up 15%.

I have noticed a significant increase in people leaving their familiar surroundings and entering the Web space. I’ve noticed that people from all walks of life start selling search engine optimization, social media marketing and Web design… apparently because they can’t do anything else.

My three favorites that I’ve seen recently are companies that come from real estate lending, software sales and residential painting.

Nothing says you are qualified to build a Web site, perform search engine optimization and consult on social media like “I couldn’t work in my past field so I started my Web company.” It was this attitude that prompted my blog post last year titled, I Tweet Therefore I Consult.

I’m not sure we are in a Web design bubble but the barrier to entry is low and business can be good. In fact, even those who are very bad at this can make a sale. However, the quality of work will be sub-par.

So, buyer beware. Choose someone with demonstrated experience and save yourself a lot of headaches.

Five easy tactics for SEO

posted this on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at about 12pm.
hand print

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not rocket science.

Although, with the way some people talk, you’d think that it was. True, there are some components that make it a little more complicated to understand… after all, that is why SEOs (search engine optimizers) make $15,000 or more per small site just to optimize website content… once. Then, usually they’ll charge a hefty fee monthly to make sure that the site stays optimized.

SEO is something that needs to be continually addressed. Not only does a site need to have new content added all the time, but the existing, static content, needs to be adjusted, changed and modified. If your site isn’t evolving, then why in the world would someone ever come back?

If your customers have already seen your brochure, do they go back to it very often to try and glean new information? Then why do we seem to think that people will do that with our static and never changing sites?

So, if Search Engine Optimization isn’t Rocket Science, then what is it?

The title suggests five easy tactics. Tactically, they are easy, however, SEO is time consuming and requires effort. It requires patience and practice. But, given the right knowledge, you can understand the basics. Here are the five elements of content that you should consider for your site.

  1. Write core site (static) content. Content is critical. Compelling content is even better. Don’t make it too long, but don’t skimp. Create content that people will want to read when they are looking for more information. Format it properly… make it pretty and easy to read.
  2. Change your content and add to it often. I get the question all the time, “How do I get more content?” The two key ways to add content are news articles and blog entries. Write press releases on your services or repost releases from vendors if they are applicable. When you write opinion or blog pieces, make them compelling. Write them so that people will want to read them. Write them so that people will come back for more. If there is no change to your site, people won’t want to come back.
  3. Write page descriptions. Each page as the ability to have a page description. This can be the same as content in your page or it can be different. Be careful that if you make it different that it talks about the same things. Be careful to not be too wordy here. Keep your description to about 150 characters or less. This is the description that will generally appear as a summary for search engines and usually the first 150 characters of your text is not the best way to bring people in.
  4. Build links to and from your content. When you link to others, they gain knowledge that you are there and are more likely to link back to you. Because links are votes for search engines to understand your relevance, this is a great way to increase your search engine presence. You can further seed links inbound to you by commenting on other blogs, posting in social media such as Twitter and Facebook and by guest posting on other blogs. Don’t miss an opportunity to let others link back to your website.
  5. Write for people and not for search engines. So many people try to find ways to trick the engines. They come up with all sorts of tactics designed to fool the Googlebots. The key is, if you fool Google and people come to your website on false pretenses, they won’t stay or care what they see. Your website is built for people, so write for people. Google, Yahoo and other search engines work hard to present results to their clients that matter. So, if you write for people, your results in the search engines will be better.

Sure, it is a lot of work, but creating your brand is not easy. Online brand development takes time. If you can’t do it for your company, hire someone to do it for you. If you aren’t going to do it right, you might as well not do it at all so that your customers can find your competition more easily.

SEO: You can't set it and forget it.

posted this on Monday, April 9, 2012 at about 1pm.
Set it and forget it.

I talk with clients all the time about ways to optimize their websites for increasing traffic. Since this is one of the services we offer in our company, it’s pretty important that do our best to stay on top of things.

Often, I get the question, “Well, can I just have you optimize my site now and then, in a year, optimize it again?”

The short answer is, “No. You can’t simply set it and forget it."

SEO, or search engine optimization, isn’t a one time event. It isn’t something that you do one time and then never look back on. It is best as evolving content. Evolving content provides the search engines with new pages and new content to index on your site. It provides your site visitors options to search for.

You can’t expect that when you optimize for something that it will stay optimized because other websites are being optimized as well.

One such example is that of my name. As of about a week ago, if you did a search in Google for Corey Smith, my personal blog turned up as number 5 in the listings. I have neglected to write or perform any SEO tactics for at least a week and my search result came up number 11 as of the writing of this post. Because I haven’t worked on it, my ranking has slipped.

Now, the reality is that some terms that you optimize for will maintain equity for many years to come. You never know why people will come and what the competition will do. One simple example…

On my old business and technology blog, one of the most common search terms that people use to find me is Dear Valued Customer. As of the writing of this post, my blog returns number 3 on the list at Google. It’s been in the top 5 of the Google results for nearly 5 years now. I don’t know why people search on Google for those words. I don’t know if they are looking for a form letter they can send to their clients or if they are looking for something else.

The search term “Dear Valued Customer” may appear at the top of the search engines and people may find me daily because of it. However, none of them have done more than look through a page or two. It’s not a search term that is meaningful.

SEO is a constantly moving target. If you think that it is something you can do today and not touch for a year or two, you will be missing out on a lot of traffic and, more importantly, a lot of opportunity. As you are sitting and waiting for your potential clients to come and find you, your competitors are working to provide search engines with more, varied content to index and feed searchers.

SEO Does Not Equal Traffic

posted this on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at about 3pm.
SEO, Search Engine Optimization

Since consumers have been using search engines to find what they need online, marketers have tried to find ways to improve their clients’ position in those search engines. These search engine optimizers come with a wide variety of tactics.

The first thing to understand about search engine optimization (SEO) is that it’s not a silver bullet. You can never look at SEO with the idea that if you are at the top of the search engines, your phone will start to ring.

I am amazed how often people will think that if you increase rankings in the search engines, you will magically start getting new business. This attitude would be like saying, “I put a sign outside my store, so why am I not selling more stuff?”

In my book, I equate SEO to brand awareness. I look at SEO as a way to let the search engines know who you are and, therefore, put you in a more likely position to generate new traffic.

Some products and services naturally tend to provide a greater opportunity for traffic. For example, if I am looking to buy a new bicycle and I do a Google search for bicycles, then a website optimized for bicycles will be more likely to garner traffic because of it.

Common to All Businesses

In the last few years since I started Tribute Media I have worked with hundreds of clients. The most common problem that these clients have, regardless of the market they serve or the products they sell, is that what their clients think they do is significantly less than what they actually do.

So often, I hear statements like, “If they would only know that we did ‘x’.” I might even hear, “Our clients call it ‘y’ but we do ‘z’.”

This means that the most common thing I find among my clients is that we have to gain awareness for products and services that the client may not even know that he or she needs. We might find that the search term that searchers use is very different than what you, in your company, actually call it.

Different Expectations Require Different Tactics

When we find that what we do is different than what our customers are looking for, it means that we need to take a different approach to the way we optimize for the search engines. This can be a very difficult thing for most business leaders to understand. They have been in their industry for so long, they forget, quickly, that people who don’t know what they do don’t understand their lingo.

Let me give you an example.

A number of years ago, I was providing graphic design and printing services to a video distributor. One service I provided was to create large quantities of PVT labels. We had a wide variety of these PVT labels. In fact, we made more money on PVTs than most other products that we offered.

I was driving down the street one day and found that a video store had a sign in front of their location that said, “PVTs - $6.99.”

I laughed out loud (without the text acronym).

I laughed because, like you right now, I realized that most people have no idea what a PVT is. Of course, I knew, PVTs are previously viewed tapes. But, the clients of these video stores had no idea.

The marketers of that video store were marketing with their own jargon and not what people were actually looking for.

SEO and Traffic

I mentioned at the beginning that many people think that if you are high in the search engines that you’ll naturally make more sales. The reality is that just because you are high in the search engines, you may not garner more traffic.

SEO’s purpose is to get rankings and not traffic. However, that doesn’t mean that if you optimize for the right terms you won’t also gain more traffic.

The reason this is so is that people search on different things. They search for the things they understand. Now, if you sell Honda’s and someone wants to buy a Honda, then you’ll probably want to optimize for Honda. Most business don’t have that luxury. Most businesses need to optimize for terms that solve the clients’ problems and then guide them to the specific product or service they offer.

What’s this Mean?

Too often, we treat our marketing online like this. We think that, because we know the term, people searching for us will naturally know what we call it.

Here’s a hint… usually they don’t. Usually they search for terms that solve their needs until they learn the industry terms. In fact, usually, they’ll search for a wide variety of terms near to what you do and then try to figure out how it applies to them.

So, when you think about the work that you put into search engine optimization, you’ll want to optimize for terms that are exactly what you do. What’s more important is that you try to identify what terms your clients are more likely to search for and optimize for those terms as well.

While you won’t increase your traffic with search engine optimization directly, it is the first step to be able to grow your business. The more credibility you gain with the obvious terms the more likely it will be that you’ll be able to increase rankings in the terms that people are actually searching on.

Search Engines & People Want Content

posted this on Monday, February 20, 2012 at about 7am.

When businesses are looking to increase their location in the search engines they will create their list of keywords they think they should be found for and go to work. They may do this themselves or they many hire another company to do it for them.

When hiring another company to do this for them, businesses will often hire search engine optimizers with a wide variety of tactics at their disposal.

Most optimizers will create many inbound links for your website. They’ll do this by either creating a series of spam sites and having them all link to you or they will find a number of forums, blogs, directories and other sites that will post links for free.

Link building is a very viable tactic but you have to be careful with how you do it because if they are not legitimate links, one day Google, Bing and Yahoo will figure it out and stop caring about those sites. In fact, you could build a lot of link equity across many websites and a new update from Google and all that link building will have been wasted.

I have always been a fan of creating compelling content as a primary tactic for increasing rankings in the search engines. Compelling content is what will drive people to stay on your site and learn more. It will drive people to want to read more on your website than just the page they are looking for. It will help your audience convert more to your goal when they get there.

Let’s look at it this way. Let’s say you are medical doctor specializing in elbows (yeah, I know this is not common, but it’s just a “for instance”). You could hire a search engine optimizer to create a series of links that come for a variety of key terms. Some are terms that you think are important and some are terms that a little bit of research shows what your searchers might look for.

When these people come to your site, in the absence of compelling content that drives them there, they may quickly leave.

But, I think the concept goes even deeper. In reality, we don’t know what keywords people really care about. I am constantly amazed at why people find my website.

Just today alone, I was found by the following searches:

  • mobile website vs responsive
  • pay your dues work
  • social media infographics 2012
  • should responsive design be used for mobile viewing?
  • why empty inbox

There are a few key things to notice about these. First, they are not single word key terms. Second, they are not key terms I would have ever considered optimizing for.

We never know what people will care about. Every day, people are searching for combinations of key words that no one has ever searched before. The only way to capture those visitors is by always writing new content. The keywords will be found and people will come.

Your next step is to figure what to do for those visitors when they come to your website.

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