Before you spend money on SEO

I get a lot of questions from people, both clients and at various networking events, about what they should be doing to help boost their Google rankings. When I review their website, a lot of times the site is fine and using up to date coding techniques. I often times don’t recommend for them to spend money on SEO, instead, I tell them to spend some time going over their website content.

Google, like many of the leading search engines, have stated many times that what they look for is quality, relevant content that is updated regularly. To provide that quality and relevant content, take a look through your Google Analytics and see what types of keywords users are actually using to find your site and compare that with industry recommended keywords (available by doing a Google search) and find what content or wording works best for your site.

Another extremely important feature to make sure is on your site is an active blog. By having an active blog, you’ll be able to provide your clients, prospective clients, and the search engines with regularly updated quality, relevant content. The blog articles should include some of those keywords or phrases that you discovered while reviewing your analytics and industry recommendations.

When you’re writing your blogs and content for the pages on your site, be sure to use some of those keywords, but don’t overpower the content with them. The content should be conversational, as if it was you talking directly to a client or potential client. The leading search engines are such advanced algorithms that they can tell the difference between conversational content and content that is bloated or stuffed with keywords.

If you’re not confident in your writing skills, there’s no shame in bringing in a copywriter or content strategist. Writing quality content can take time, but it can have one of the greatest impacts on your search engine ranking. If after six months of focusing on quality and relevant content that is regularly generated, then you can look for some additional monthly search engine optimization plans.

Google and Responsive Websites

As you’ve probably heard, Google announced earlier this year that they are going to start including a measure of how responsive or mobile friendly a website is in their rankings. In recent years, smartphone and tablet sales have been outpacing desktop sales.

To see if your website is a responsive and mobile friendly site, one of the quickest ways to test is to go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and test your site there. If your site doesn’t pass the test, it will give you a couple points that could be causing the issue.

As of right now, they are saying that this will only affect Google rankings on a mobile search (if a user is searching on a smartphone or tablet) but I wouldn’t be surprised if this eventually included desktop rankings as well. If you’d like any help getting your site responsive, please get in touch with us today and we’d be more than happy to go over your available options.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

When you are writing content for your website or blog, you need to know and use some good keywords. Keyword usage is an example of where less is more. Use the keywords (or phrases) too much and you’ll be keyword stuffing – a good way to get kicked out of Google rankings.There is no set rule carved in stone for how much usage of a keyword constitutes keyword stuffing. However, many experts agree that keywords should be used 2-3 times max per page. If you need to use the keyword a 4th time, look for a variation of the word to use instead.
Read more Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Unique Page Titles

When you search for something in Google, the blue link you see is the title of the page it is listing. For many visitors, that link is a major deciding factor in whether or not they click on the link. Because of that, it is very important to put a good unique title on each page of your site.

Because of the importance of the page title in Google, you should take some time to make sure it is right. Consider the keywords of the site, and more importantly the keywords of that page, and see how you can add some of those keywords into the title. Many experts recommend keeping your character count for the title under 75 characters and that includes letters, spaces, numbers, and special characters (quotation, exclamation, question marks, etc.). You can go over that number, but many leading search engines cut off the title at around 75 characters so be sure to get the keywords in before the 76th character.

The title needs to change from page to page. For many visitors, their first page they get to is the home page, but most every page of your site is indexed by Google (and all search engines) and therefore need to have a good title to help encourage visitors to click on the link

Choosing the Right Keywords

About five years ago when Giantseed Creative was started, I described the company more as a web developer than a web designer. There were some of the pages on the site that were written with the keyword or phrase “web developer.” One problem – when people were searching for a company like Giantseed Creative in Google, that wasn’t what they were searching for, they were searching for ‘web designer.’

Thankfully for me, I was still getting good traffic to the site even though many users were searching for ‘designer’ instead of ‘developer.’ In some instances, however, that simple little difference could have a signification difference. This is a mistake that happens for some business when they are setting up their keywords – they use the keywords that they would use to search for them, not the keywords that their users or clients/customers would use.

That’s one of the reasons you need to spend some time doing keyword research before you launch your site. Make sure the words or phrases you are using are the same as those that a user without your knowledge of your industry would use. If possible, I would even survey some of your current clients and ask them what words they would use to search for your site.

Once your site is launched, be sure that it includes some sort of analytics program. I recommend Google Analytics. It’s free and it does as much (and sometimes more) than any of the paid for tools I’ve seen. Once the site has been live for a while, you can look over the reports and see what keywords users were typing in when they were searching for you. You can then go back over the content and reword or rearrange some parts to focus on the keywords that people have been using to find you.

If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site, be sure to work with your web designer (or developer) to get it installed and then start looking over the results and make any needed changes to your content.

Don’t Blog for the Search Engines Sake

You’ve heard me mention before about the great benefits that blogging can have on your search engine ranking. When you are writing your blogs, don’t write them for the search engines, write them for your readers.

Remember the famous line from Field of Dreams, “if you build it, he will come.” That line is often miss quoted as “If you build it, they will come,” and in the case of blogging and search engines, the miss quote is very accurate. If you write great articles for your readers (clients and prospective clients) and you simply use good keywords a few times, the search engines will pick up on it and it will help to boost your sites ranking.

If you write your blog only to please the search engines and to boost your ranking, the search engines will catch on quickly and very possibly drop your ranking and your readers will feel abandoned and confused. The algorithms that the leading search engines use are very advanced and can in many ways think and act like a human reader.

Remember, if you build it, meaning you write for your audience and readers, the search engines will come.

White Hat SEO Techniques

A few weeks ago I wrote about a few common Black Hat SEO techniques. I want to now follow up with a couple of White Hat SEO techniques that you can start using today.

The first thing you want to do is make sure that you have in place both your content and its structure. What I mean by that is to go through your site’s content and ensure you are using effective keywords throughout your site and that it’s written in a way that your audience will find engaging and enjoyable. You also want to make sure that your content is as close to the top level of your site as possible, meaning you don’t want your high-quality content buried inside folders and folders. Additionally, you don’t want your visitors to have to click through several links to get to the copy they are looking for. Your content should only be a click or two away.

Another great way to boost your ranking and sales is to set up a Google AdWords campaign. One of the best parts of AdWords is that you control both the message and the price you’ll pay. An AdWords campaign will help to show Google that your site is relevant for various search phrases and will help build more incoming links and sales at the same time.

Finally, since it’s the second most-trafficked search engine (and owned by Google), it is highly beneficial to have videos on YouTube. Whether you have several videos or just one, demonstrational videos or testimonial videos, and whether they are good or not so good, simply having a video on YouTube will help boost your ranking.

If you would like to learn more about White Hat SEO techniques or would like help implementing some on your site, we’d be more than happy to assist. Contact us today so we can sit down and discuss what is working well on your site and what could use some improvement.

Google Places

For many users it is their first exposure to your online presence. It is packed with useful information such as you phone number, address, map, web address, and reviews.  No, it isn’t your website or even your Facebook page. It’s your Google Places page.

Claim Your Page

When you go to your Google Places page, you’ll find a link to claim the page or that business as your own. Google will then send out a post card to the address containing your PIN to log in to your new account – an account which, as all good things in life, is free to set up. Once you’re in control of the page, you can add an even greater amount of information, such as store hours, parking options, and which credit cards you accept. You’ll also be able to update or correct any information that may be present but outdated.

Once you have your page verified, double check to make sure that the phone number and address that Google is listing is correct. You should also take this opportunity to ensure that the map points users to the right location. Not long ago we had a client that noticed that the map for their office was incorrect – there is a river running along the west side of their office building, but the Google map showed it to be on the east side. Since the river is a major landmark that they used to get clients to their office, we needed to get it fixed. There is a process you can go through to let Google know that there is an issue and they will look into every issue reported. It may, however, take a while. In our instance, for example, the river was updated to show on the correct side of the building three weeks after our report.

Reviews

Users can post reviews and ratings of your company before or after you claim the page. If you don’t have any reviews and ratings showing up, ask your clients if they’d be willing to log in and let the Google universe know what they think of your offerings. There’s nothing wrong with asking for testimonials, so long as you don’t tell them what to say. Be sure to try and respond to your reviews as well. Let the community know that you’re listening and paying attention to what they are saying.

Doesn’t eliminate the need for your site

While the Google Places page does offer a lot of pertinent information about your company, it doesn’t offer everything. Because of that, you still want to be sure that your website is as top notch as your business is. Your Google Places page is just part of your online presence. Claim it, maintain it, and monitor it.

If you’d like help claiming your Google Places page or getting started, we’d be more than happy to help.

Black Hat Website Marketing

Every few months I’ll have a client ask me about a ‘sure fire’ SEO activity that they heard about. There are two in particular that I’ve heard of several times—keyword stuffing and resubmitting your site to search engines repeatedly.

A few clients have asked me whether or not it’s a good idea to place a paragraph or two at the end of their pages that is full of good keywords for their site. My reply is simple.

“It’s not a bad idea…it’s a TERRIBLE idea.”

Search engines are very complex computer-based algorithms that can spot trickery from a cyber mile away. Use keywords gingerly throughout the page. Keep the copy reading like a normal conversation you’re having with a friend or co-worker. Talking to a friend in keyword-stuffing-like language will likely leave them confused and frazzled. Therefore having copy on your site in a keyword-stuffing-like language will lead many of the major search engines to knock you down in their rankings. What’s more, they may just kick you out all together.

The second SEO activity that I’ve heard some clients asking about is resubmitting their site to the search engines throughout the year. While there may have been a time in SEO evolution when this technique worked, today there is no known evidence that it really does anything. Submitting your site when you first design it and then again when you make major changes is all you really need to do. If you need the peace of mind, submit the site once a year. The reason many companies will tell you to continually resubmit your site is twofold—so search engines don’t forget about your site in particular, and that you get listed in all of the different databases they have.

Think about it. Take Google for example. Their computer system is the second largest, most complex system in the world, second only to the United States Department of Defense. They aren’t going to forget about your site, especially if you’re working to keep your site current and relevant by using things such as the Website Marketing Hat Trick and other SEO activities such as an AdWords account.

There are countless things to do that are legitimate SEO activities that will not get you in any trouble with search engines. If you’d like to learn about more of these activities, get in touch with us. We’ll sit down and discuss different SEO activities that will help improve your ranking.

Next week we’ll follow up with some ideas that can be utilized that follow the White Hat techniques that search engines do like to see.