10 Proven Steps To Improve Search Rankings

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seo techniques graphicGoogle is king, there is no doubt about this. Today when people say search over 83% of them mean Google. With that bit of information it is easy to see how captivating attention from that mass is valuable to any business. While the next several words will not guarantee you a number one search result it will help you understand what it takes, and what your opponents are doing, to win in the search wars.

Follow these steps, monitor your progress, and learn even more about search engine optimization and you will stand a fighting chance. If you are too busy or prefer to hire a professional to handle this for you I am happy to speak with you. Simply use the Contact link and let’s talk.

1. Check your site for misspellings especially of keywords. Google is smart enough to know how to spell. While there is a “trick” to misspell certain keywords, which has proven to work (mortgage being spelled morgage is one), but use caution. It also gives the opportunity for a search engine to see you have a misspelling within your site. Find a good tool or hire a pro to crawl your site for errors including spelling.

2. Speed up your page load time. You may use a tool like YSlow to help you discover why your page is loading slow, or even if it is loading slowly. Elements of sites load separately so if you have large graphics or pre-loaded video or that God forsaken Flash embedded in your site you are almost certainly losing visitors – especially on mobile devices. Continue reading

What, Exactly, is SEO and Why is it Important to Small Business?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Small business SEO is the realm of snake oil and magic bullets. It’s the place in cyberspace where digital hustlers spread their lore and captivate audiences with stats and stories from around the globe. You will find both the trustworthy provider as well as the ant-lion hustler spewing great gushers of acronyms in volume enough to spin the heads off ten penny nails.

Let’s see – what all did I confuse the search bots with in that paragraph? I got “small business SEO” there at the lead then I hit it with “snake oil” and “magic bullets” in one sentence. I think by the time I got to “ant-lion”, “hustler” and “ten penny nails” the Googlebot probably thought I was using an article spinner. That’s another topic in and of its own but for now let’s get to the pertinent information for the small business online marketer who, let’s face it, needs to be found in search engine searches.

How we got here today, I mean the history of search engines, is important but that’s a little beyond the scope of time I expect you to invest in learning the what and why about small business SEO. Today nothing matters more than Google. That said there are other important tools and systems relative to online search marketing but none of them tops Google. In fact Google dominates the search engine space with 83% of the search engine activity as of May 2012 (resource).  The closest “competitor” is Yahoo with 6.5% and Bing is all the way down at 4.15% of total global search share.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization, SEO, is the practice of creating or modifying a website, a webpage and/or the content thereof to be more “search engine friendly” and thus result in more searches displaying your page higher (ie closer to the first result) in the search engine results pages (SERP). As an example if Janet makes wood beads for jewelry she would certainly like for her website link to appear at the top of the search engine results when anyone searches for “wood beads for jewelry” or “wood beads”. It could mean the difference between a few sales and thousands of sales – this, of course, depends on the demand for the product.

In our example above the “key words” are “wood beads for jewelry”. While keywords are important they have, over the years, become only one crucial component of search. In the early days when search robots used thinly constructed algorithms (the way the search engine scripts treat the contents of a web page) it was easy just to load a page with keywords. In this example maybe just posting the words “wood beads” about 50 times. It didn’t take too long until we made changes to the way the search “robots” (the script that reads and catalogs the pages) treated textual content and we started counting percentages, where keywords appeared and even how they were presented on the page.

Today we look for human readable content with keywords used in context. As technology has grown so have the calculations for scoring and cataloging web content. Today the most important part is to have human friendly pages with fresh, unique and relevant content. There are still a high number of SEO “experts” out there who use what are called black hat techniques. They may work to boost your results for a while but run a very high risk of your site being de-indexed (removed and blocked) from Google’s search results. For this reason it is very important to look past any flash, glitz, promises, and high prices, and work with a small business SEO provider who knows the rules and understands the inner workings of the search engine program.

Good SEO results in solid website visits from qualified buyers. It is rarely the answer to all of your needs but it certainly can represent a high rate of return for any small business.

Looking for a master authority on the topic of small business SEO isn’t as challenging as one may think. There are a few tips of the hat which can help thin the herd and they can serve you well. These are not all you need and some authentic professionals can also seem like snake charmers but keep these in mind:

  • Paying for search engine placement is not SEO – it’s marketing and it works but when you stop paying you lose the results you were getting. True SEO results in an organic growth of traffic to your site. Paid placement buys you results only as long as you continue to pay.
  • Ask them how important the “keywords meta tag” is to Google – if they say it’s crucial just thank them for their time and move along. (resource)
  • Ask them if they can get back-links to your site – this one is tricky because white hat (acceptable) back-links from relevant, well ranked sites is important. If they say they can get back-links ask them how they do so. If they say “comment marketing” or “we have several sites we can link to you from” just be careful. While this can be an acceptable, viable technique it’s closer to a gray area.
  • If they ask you to move the hosting of your site – be very cautious. About the only viable reason I can think of moving your site would be if during the analysis it was discovered you are on a shared server with websites which have been blacklisted. I cannot think of another acceptable reason to move.
  • Ask them if it helps to use a gateway page with a re-direct to your site – if they say anything short of no then thank them for their time. This is not to be confused with a landing page or an index page. A gateway page refers to a page the user never sees because it redirects to the page you want them to see. The gateway page is written exclusively to attract the attention of the search engine … it may also attract the attention of one of the thousands of site surveyors who have the ability to de-index your site with a single click and no explanation.

Why do small businesses need SEO?

The name should say it all in most cases. Small. Small usually means small staff – like a staff of 1 for example. Search engine optimization, when properly performed, can act like another member of the marketing team. Combined with the right website, one that performs like a member of the sales team, a small business person (like you?) may free up time to actually do the service they opened their business to do. Good SEO results in solid website visits from qualified buyers. It is rarely the answer to all of your needs but it certainly can represent a high rate of return for any small business.

Consult with an accomplished, knowledgeable, small business SEO expert today. In fact since you are reading my blog I’ll be happy to spend several minutes answering your questions and helping you get going in the right direction. Just call me at 678-439-8683 or use the contact form on this site.

Brand Tightening – Online strategy for local business

Let’s face it. A real estate agent in Omaha does not, generally, benefit their business by getting hits from around the world – or nation for that matter. Likewise Montgomery County Plumbing and Electrical probably doesn’t care too much about hits from Fairbanks or Denmark. The question arises, however, “what does it hurt to have hits from around the world to my local site?”

Take off your hat that says it’s cool to have a lot of visitors and think like a robot. Well, actually, think like an indexing engine like the one at Google. Remember, no matter what you learn about SEO or who is talking to you about SEO all of the indexing is performed by a program. That program evaluates every link based on a few key components which include content, relevance to the search term, number of inbound links, number of outbound links, what sites the inbound links come from, and how relevant the inbound link is (which reminds me to write a post about themed links and bounce rates).

SEO exampleOne factor even some SEM and SEO “professionals” fail to consider is geographic relevance of the address on the website to the searchers geolocation and the geographic relevance of the sites linking to the target site … your site. In other words is your site close to the searcher, at least as close as the search engine can determine, and are the sites you link to and which link to you also in the general vicinity of the searcher?

Google isn’t too groovy on handing out a guidebook detailing the inner workings of their indexing engine but through a process of elimination the SEO world (the real one, not the one portrayed on the internet by out of work landscapers and small time public speakers) we have a pretty good estimation of what works and what does not. We know, for example, having links to your page in FFA pages is bad for page rank and a bad page rank does affect SERP. We also know, because we play with proxy servers at different locations throughout the world, Google prefers local on words like plumbing, home for sale and barbecue. We know this because Google gives us local results and a map.

You already know about “long tail search terms” and you know about Google maps. You now know about linking local and using local keywords so here’s your experiment: Use long tail search terms, put your business on Google maps, claim your Google Places, use local keywords, link to relevant local sites in user friendly methods and watch your SERP increase.

1. http://helpmyseo.com/seo-blog/217-the-challenge-of-geo-location-and-where-seo-can-help-you.html
2. http://www.seomoz.org/blog/revisiting-themed-links