Aug 082012
 

By now the dust as settled from Google’s Panda update.  If you followed the tips I gave in my SEO article, your website rankings should not have decreased – and hopefully you moved up.  But if your website rankings suffered, here are some things you can look for to fix the issue, as well as some tips to make improvements.

 search engine optimization

Links

Link popularity has always been a major factor in ranking well in Google.  The problem is that many websites were able to “game the system,” by creating spammy links (eg. posting junk in blog comments just to get a link), buying links, and creating link farms (ie. buying domains and linking websites to each other).  If you had a good number of backlinks, but your rankings suffered, then Google probably considered many of them as spammy or unnatural links.

So what should you do?  You need to produce content that others find valuable and informational so they will “naturally link” to your website.  For example if your are trying to sell products on your website, do not just provide product descriptions, but show your customers several different product images.  Add a video demonstrating your product.  In addition you need to make it easier for users to share your content by providing them with social share buttons.  Below this blog post, you will see a social share bar.  For my articles, such as the SEO article I linked in the first paragraph, I provide an AddThis social share bar at the bottom of each article.

Content

  • Spammy content such as web pages mainly stuffed with keywords. 
  • Poor content web pages that barely say anthing or make sense.
  • Over/under optimized web pages such as providing keyword stuffed title tags or nothing at all in your title tags.

These are all issues that were flagged by Google.  So what can you do?  Clean up your content.  If a web page does not read well to the average user, then it is going to suffer.  In fact when it comes to content, forget about search engines alltogether, and write for the people who will be reading your website.  Check your meta tags, title and description, and make sure they describe exactly the content on each webpage and/or make sure they are not overly stuffed with keywords. 

And finally quit relying on Google

If the majority of the traffic coming to your website is generated by Google, then you have major problems.  Any type of change could wipe out the traffic flowing to your website.  Personally I do not even use Google anymore to conduct searches.  There are simply better search engine alternatives on the market.  In addition Google, along with the other major search engines, have just become to intrusive in tracking their customers – and this is coming from someone with a marketing background.

So what should you do?  For starters build your social network so others can easily recommend you via their social networks.  As I mentioned above, search engines view these recommendations as quality links, but in addition you generate more traffic via social networks.  Become a recognized expert and use other websites like BizSugar to publish your articles.  And finally stick to good old fashioned marketing.  There is still no better lead generation than a referral.

In conclusion I hope your website did not suffer through the latest Google update, but if it did, follow these tips, and you should recover over time.

Apr 182012
 

I have always recommended blogging as a key part of a small business online marketing strategy.  Blogging allows you to interact with potential clients on your website, is a good way to allow visitors to promote your content, helps with your SEO strategy, and is a good way to provide timely and helpful information to your clients.  So with that introduction in mind, here are some blogging tips to help you take your small business blog to the next level.

Blogging Tips

  1. Pick a good blogging platform.  I prefer and use WordPress, but there are several good platforms out there.  See this blog post where I reviewed several blog platforms.
  2. Do what I just did in number one.  Link to your other relevant blog posts, and consider writing a blog post series to keep readers coming back.
  3. Be consistent.  Pick a schedule and stick to it.  I used to write daily blog posts, then as I got busier, I slowly dwindled down to a few blog posts each month.  If you have a dedicated marketing person for your small business, then a couple of posts each week will be about ideal. 
  4. Write good content.  Easier said than done, right!  So what is “good” content???  Well it needs to be easy to read, and you need to provide something useful for your potential customers.  If you are using your blog for sales and marketing purposes only, you will probably find you have few readers.  Consider using your blog to provide tips, how-to posts, and other types of useful information.  My blog posts are probably about 95% useful information, and the other 5% is links back to the services I offer on my website.  At most I would consider 80/20 with 80% being useful information and 20% promoting your products and services. 
  5. Do not just write for readers, but consider search engines as well.  So how do you do this?  I use a WordPress plugin call All in One SEO, but essentially you need to provide meta tags for titles and descriptions of your blog posts.  Keep your content fresh, and link within your blog posts, websites, and to other websites.
  6. Use a call to action and encourage readers to comment about your blog post.
  7. Provide social share buttons to allow readers of your blog to easily share the content with their social networks.  See below each of my posts for an example.
  8. Use eye catching images to show details on what your are writing about or just to break up the content.
  9. Consider video blogging.  Video blogging is especially helpful when you are trying to show customers a how-to.
  10. Allow guest blog posts to provide a different and useful perspective to your readers.
  11. Provide a search box.
  12. Provide an RSS feed.
  13. Provide a way for readers to subscribe to your blog via email.
  14. Provide Categories based on the different topics you write about, and write posts to fit into your Categories.  See my sidebar for example Categories.
  15. Use analytics to measure how readers are using your blog, what they are most interested in, inbound links, and how readers are socially sharing your content. 
  16. Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  17. And finally promote your blog.  Link your blog to your other social marketing networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  Link your blog in free directories.  Use tools like Onlywire to publish your blog post to multiple platforms at once.

Follow these tips to create a successful small business blog.  And if you have any additional tips, please feel free to list in the comments below.

Mar 092012
 

Promoting your social media networking via your website is an important step in marketing your small business.  There are several benefits to doing this.

  • Allows your customers to more easily interact with you
  • Makes it easier for your customers to promote you through their social networks
  • Helps from a search engine optimization (SEO) standpoint – fresh content, link promotion via social networks, etc.

Here are some tips on how to do it.

1.  Use social media buttons to link to your main social network websites.  Place the images in the top or bottom navigation bar.  See number 1 in the image below.

2.  Do you have a blog?  If so when you create new blog posts, link them from your home page (see number 2 in the image below).  It is a good way to show the search engines, in addition to your customers, that you are constantly creating new and valuable content.

Website Social Network Promotion

3.  If you have a blog, also make sure you provide social share buttons to allow your readers to share your content with their social networks.

Blog Social Recommend Buttons

4.  Do you post articles on your website?  Do you have an e-commerce store?  Do you have a newsletter?  Use social share buttons to allow your website users to recommend or share your content.  AddThis offers and easy to customize social share toolbar. 

Social Share Buttons

Follow these easy steps, and you will effectively promote your social networks via your small business website.  Just keep it simple and don’t overdo it.

Jan 122012
 

In my article, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – How to Improve Your Rankings, I covered several different areas you should focus on to improve your search engine ranking results, but one of the areas I do not touch on is the planning stages. In this blog post I am going to cover several questions you should ask yourself before you either start or change your search engine optimization (SEO) program for your small business.

Search engine optimization (SEO) planning strategy

1.  What is your goal and strategy?  Obviously you would like to increase your rankings, but in what areas specifically?  Who is your target market?  Do you want to target highly competitive keyword phrases?  If so what other search phrases could you possibly target?  How are people finding your website and your competitor’s websites currently? What are people searching for, and how are they navigating once they are on your website?  How do you match-up with your competitor’s websites, and what are they currently doing from an SEO perspective?  Do you want to increase sales, sign-up people to your newsletter and/or blog, provide product and service information to potential clients, etc? 

All of these questions are very important to consider in developing your goals and strategy.  But let’s just take a look at the questions I listed targeting keyword phrases.  You are going to want to target keywords you already know apply to your business,  but the keywords you are targeting might not be the same ones your potential customer base is using.  So your first step will be to determine your targeted keyword phrases and then perform a keyword analysis to determine what other keywords your potential customers are searching for as well.

2.  What has your SEO strategy been up until this point?  Maybe you have done nothing.  But in many cases small businesses have tried some type of SEO plan such as purchasing keyword phrases (pay per clicks), swapping links with other websites, “optimizing” your website, etc.  If you have tried some type of SEO, then what have been the results?  Have you followed your search engine rankings?  Have you used any analytics tools like WebTrends, Quantcast, or Google Analytics to monitor your website and rankings?  Have you done anything to drastically lower your website rankings or get your website banned from a search engine?  Do you own other websites where you might be swapping links, redirecting urls, or have duplicate content?

It is important to understand what you have already done and what worked and did not work.  Of course SEO is always changing because search engines are always changing their algorithms, but there are sound strategies you can always pursue like offering strong content. 

3.  Do you have a social marketing presence and/or strategy?  What social networking websites are you currently using?  Are they linked from/to your website? Do you have a blog?  Do you offer content on your website along with a method to allow your website users to share with their social networks (see the social share buttons below this post)?

If you do not already have a social marketing presence for your small business, it is important you begin to dip your toes in the water.  Besides the fact that many potential customers are already online discussing and researching products and/or services you offer, social marketing is playing a larger and larger role in search engine optimization and rankings.  A simple strategy to consider is to think of your website as your marketing brochure, and your social marketing network as your way to interact directly with potential and existing customers.

Review these questions before starting or changing your SEO campaign, and you will be well on your way to developing a successful SEO campaign.  And as always if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below.

 

Nov 172011
 

Google recently released a blog post and video detailing ten recent search algorithms.  Now just to be clear, Google is not doing this to be nice and help you understand their system better.  They are facing an antitrust investigation among other things.  Of course this disclosure is just a small sampling (10 of 500+ changes) so it is not going to allow you to jump to the top of the search engine results, but it will give a better idea of what Google is looking for when crawling and reviewing websites. 

Here is a quick review of some of the more relevant items.

  • Google is more likely to choose text from the page content, and less likely to use text that is part of a header or menu.  Honestly this is nothing new. 
  • They are putting more relevance on titles specific to the page content instead of boilerplate links with duplicate anchor text.  Anchor text in links has slowly been losing relevancy over the years as people abused anchor text links.  Ideally you should still concentrate on both as they make for a better user experience.
  • Providing fresher more recent results.  A lot of this has to do with the loss of the agreement with Twitter in addition to trying to compete with the fresh news and content provided by social networks like Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Either way this is a win-win for businesses who provide fresh content and news on a regular basis.

And to learn more follow the link in my opening paragraph. 

 

Aug 092011
 

I have written several blog posts and articles on the importance of backlinks as part of your overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.  Your backlinks strategy should include the following:

  1. You want to know the backlinks you have currently and develop a plan to increase your backlinks which could include releasing PR articles, asking other websites for links to your website, etc. 
  2. You want to monitor and measure your backlinks to determine where traffic is coming from and how those visitors act once they are on your website.
  3. You want to monitor your competitor’s backlinks.

In addition here is another aspect to consider.  Many SEO practioners will argue that backlinks have been reduced in prominence because of increased prominence placed on social recommendations, and I happen to agree, but you should also consider social recommendations as a type of backlink and measure them as well.

So let’s take a look at some tools you can use to monitor your website.

OpenSiteExplorer.org – This is a free tool provided by SEOmoz, and they also offer a paid version with more bells and whistles. 

BacklinkWatch.com – This is another free tool that is fairly accurate based on tests I have run.   

Google Webmaster Tools – is a free tool, and you just have to add a piece of code to your website to validate you are the website owner.   Webmaster Tools provides you with links to your website in addition to Google +1 links

Blekko – Blekko is a search engine, but it has some interesting SEO tools.  Just search for your company website, and click on SEO links under your listing.

MajesticSEO – Another free tool, but like Google Webmaster Tools, you are limited to the websites you own.

Social Marketing Links – There are several tools available to measure your social marketing backlinks.  Many of the free analytics tools like Google Analytics will provide you with social marketing backlinks.  In addition social link tools like AddThis will provide you with link statistics.

All of these tools are going to provide you with different numbers.  The key is to pick 2 or 3, and monitor them on a regular basis so you can follow the backlink strategy I mentioned above.

 Posted by at 8:51 am
Jul 202011
 

You can now track the social statistics of your website via Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools for Google +1, Facebook Likes, and Twitter Tweets.

Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools only tracks the Google +1 button.  If you are already using Webmaster Tools, the only change you need to make is to add the +1 code to your website. You should consider adding the +1 on your website where you would like your content shared such as your website blog, articles, news items, etc.

Once you are logged into Webmaster Tools, click on the Search Impact tab, and it will show the the +1 clickthrough rate (CTR) for your website. In addition it tracks the amount of +1s for each website page, the CTR with +1 annotations and the CTR without +1 annotations. You can also view the number of annotated impressions and annotated clicks for your website by selecting the drop down on the page.

If you click on the Activity tab, it will show you how many +1s your website has received. The Audience tab shows the geographic and demographic data about users that have used the +1 on your website.

Google Analytics

If you are using Google Analytics, you will need to add the social plug-in code to your website for each social website (Facebook and Twitter) you want to track. You can find the social plug-in overview here and the code instructions here. Once you have added the code to your website, you can begin tracking the social analytics.

Google Analytics offers three reports.

  1. Social Engagement – You can compare the number of pages viewed per visit, average time on site, bounce rate, and other metrics for visits from the social plug-in tools you add to your website.
  2. Social Action – You can track the number of social actions (+1 clicks, Likes, etc) by users on your website. 
  3. Social Pages – This report allows you to compare the number of actions on each page of your site for the social actions each webpage is receiving.

Google and other search engines are beginning to add more search engine optimization (SEO) emphasis on social links so if you are not already tracking your social statistics, here is a good way to start.

Jul 152011
 

If you are having issues achieving higher search engine rankings with your small business website, a blog might be the answer for helping you improve your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.  Blogs are also excellent social marketing tools, and I have covered blog social marketing strategies in several posts so today’s post will focus on the SEO benefits of small business blogging.

Here are three reasons why blogs are good for your SEO strategy.

  1. They are an excellent format for providing updated content to your website domain, and search engines love new and unique content.
  2. Blog platforms such as WordPress were built with SEO in mind providing automated services like pinging (alerting) search engines to new content, ability to customize link urls, and the ability to add-on SEO plugins which allow you to create items like unique page titles and descriptions.
  3. Blogs provide a great format to allow others to easily link back to your site and share your content within their social network.  Write great and useful content, and people will share it.

So now that we have established the SEO benefits of blogging, lets discuss some tips you can follow to make sure you can achieve those benefits.

  1. Pick a strong blogging platform.  I covered several blog platform options in a previous post
  2. Link to content on your website as well as other blog posts, and use keyword phrases as your links. 
  3. Make it easy for readers of your blog to share your content.  See the social share buttons below this post for an example.
  4. Add SEO plugins to your blog platform.  For example if you have a WordPress blog, All in One SEO Pack is an excellent SEO plugin. 
  5. Good code is also important.  Check your blog for broken links.  Check your blog page download speed to make sure it is not slow.  Make sure you add titles and descriptions to each blog post page.

Add a blog to your website, and follow these tips, and you will improve your search engine rankings.  If you have some examples of how your small business blogging has helped you increase your search engine rankings, please feel free to share in the comments below.

Jul 062011
 

Google+ is Google’s latest introduction into the social media world replacing their failed attempt with Google Buzz.  Google+ is similar to Facebook.   It allows you to share links and photos, you can post updates, there is a Google +1 button so you can make recommendations, and you can connect with other users.  I will also add that this product continues to signify the importance of social media in search engine results as link popularity continues to decline.  Now do not get me wrong, link popularity is still important, but if you are not doing so already, you should be focusing on social media as a key part of your small business search engine optimization strategy (SEO) in addition to your social media marketing strategy.

Google+ has not been released for mass consumption yet, and obviously there will be lots of changes, but here is an introductory background on the product along with some tips to help get you started from a small business marketing perspective.

  1. Circles is the connection and contacts tool.  The cool thing about Circles from a business perspective is that it allows you to separate your personal connections from your business connections, and you can further define groups such as a sales group or product development group.
  2. Google +1 is your way to share your content with others, and from a business perspective your goal is to provide unique and helpful content so others will +1 to their network. 
  3. Hangout is the video conferencing tool, and from what I have seen so far, it is easier to use than Skype.  It allows you to interface with up to 10 people so as a business owner if you have remote employees you can video conference with them for free. 
  4. Sparks allows you to follow topics of interest on other websites so you can follow news and information on related business segments.  In addition you can share this information within your Circles.
  5. Here is a good short article explaining how to setup a Google+ vanity url so you can continue to push your online business branding. 

From a small business social marketing perspective there are several useful tools within Google+.  Google has promised to deliver a Google+ Business version, but for now it seems they are allowing people to sign up with their business name.  My advice regarding social marketing continues to be the same for small business owners.  Keep it simple and master one or two social tools first.  LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are already well established social marketing business tools so if you are still learning the ropes with these products, there is no need to jump right in with Google+ especially when there will be a Google+ Business version.  But if you feel like you have a good handle on your current social marketing strategy, you should check out Google+, and at the very least I think you will find some useful tools such as the video conferencing.

Jun 292011
 

In a previous blog post, I showed you how to develop a keyword strategy for your search engine optimization (SEO) and website design campaigns.  In today’s post I am going to dive a little deeper into keyword analysis and show you how to develop the right keyword phrases for your small business website.  In a nutshell you want to pick the keywords people are searching for online when they are researching the products and services you offer.

Let’s take a look at an example as it applies to my business.  I offer online marketing services to small business in Georgia.  By performing a quick keyword analysis comparison between “online marketing Georgia” and internet marketing Georgia,” I will see that “internet marketing Georgia,” is searched much more often than “online marketing Georgia.”  And when I review the additional keyword ideas, I see that “Atlanta internet marketing” receives 4 times the amount of searches as “internet marketing Georgia” so it makes sense to focus my website keyword phrases on Atlanta instead of Georgia.  In addition I would target other cities in my content such as Warner Robins and Macon.

Here are the steps for performing a keyword analysis for your small business website content.

  1. First you want to write down keyword phrases that apply to your small business product and/or service offerings.  Review your marketing materials, competitor websites, and get input from co-workers or colleagues who are familiar with your business offerings. 
  2. Once you have your keyword list in hand, you want to review them in a keyword analysis tool such as Google’s keyword tool.
  3. Using the Google keyword tool as an example, you would enter in individual keywords or keyword comparison’s such as the example I used for my business. 
  4. Depending on whether the keyword phrase was broad or narrow, you would select Broad, Exact, or Phrase in the Match Type in the left hand navigation area of the Google Keyword Tool.  For example if one of your keywords is very narrow in focus with a minimal amount of searches, you would choose Broad Match.  Most of the time, however, you should select Exact to get the most relevant results.
  5. After you submit your keyword, review the Keyword Ideas results below your search to see what other related keywords people are searching for in addition to the number of times the keyword is searched.
  6. When reviewing the Keyword idea results, you want to choose keywords that apply to your business, but do not rely to much on heavily trafficked keywords, as these phrases will oftentimes be very competitive and difficult to rank highly.  Essentially what you are looking for here are keywords that apply to your small business offerings, receive a fair amount of traffic, but are not too competitive.  The goal is to discover similar keywords that you may not have thought of such as my “online” vs “internet” example above.

When you have completed your keyword analysis and developed a complete list of targeted keywords for your small business offerings, you are ready to begin working on the content for your website.  Check out my link at the beginning of this post for help on setting up your website content using your new keyword list.