Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Meta Tags and SEO

The role of metatags is misunderstood by some members of the webmaster community. I still have people who are not in the business come up to me and talk about SEO as if it's all about picking keywords metatags. I try not to cringe when I get into these discussions. I once had an idea for an article about this. The article was going to be completely blank. Only those that were enterprising enough to look at the source would have seen the content of the article in the keyword metatags:
<meta name="keywords" content="keywords, metatags, do, 
not, matter" />
I have built tons of high ranking sites and not implemented any keywords metatags at all. Even so, I do suppose that there may be some search engines that examine the keyword metatags, and it may matter some. It's just that there are better places to spend your time than customizing the keywords metatag. The fundamental reason for search engines paying little heed to the keyword metatag is that spammers abused it in the early days of SEO.
Search engines prefer to focus all of their attention on "user visible" text. The user can't see the keywords metatags unless they view the source of your web page. It's this invisible aspect that makes the keywords metatag so attractive for a spammer to abuse it.
So what about metatags in general? This article will provide an overview of their value and the best way to use them.

Title Tag

Put this in the bank. The title tag is the single most important "on page" element in telling a search engine what your page is all about. Yes, the title tag is incredibly important. During the design of your site, you should have decided on the best keywords for each of your pages. For each page, you should use the most important keywords (note: keywords means "search phrases" as used in this article) in your title tag. For example, if the most important keyword for your page is "blue widgets", you may use a title tag such as:
<title>Blue Widgets from Blue Widget Manufacturing</title>
You can emphasize more than one keyword, but should limit it to no more than 3, as follows:
<title>Blue Widgets, Round Blue Widgets, and Square Blue 
Note that we trimmed off the company name in this example. There are some SEOs that recommend that it's best to keep your title tag to 70 characters or less. Our opinion is that longer title tags are probably not harmful, but the extra characters are ignored by some search engines. Given that the extra characters are ignored, we tend to keep ours less than 70 characters.

Description Metatag

This metatag also sees limited use by search engines. Like the keywords metatag, it is not generally speaking user visible. I know of no search engine that considers the content of the description metatag for page ranking purposes. However, under certain circumstances, a search engine may use your description metatag as the description of your page that it displays in search results.
Yahoo, for example, does this if it can't find enough text on your page to develop a good page summary on its own. For that reason, you should make sure that you write a good description metatag for your pages. Since this description may show up in the search results shown by search engines, you want the description to be well written enough that it will help entice the user to click on the link to your site instead of a link to someone else's site.
Keep the description metatag crisp, just a few lines of text. Don't stuff it with keywords. Remember, search engines do not use this tag for ranking purposes. Write something that tells the user why they should come to your page - what benefit will they get by doing so. Straightforward, basic marketing. Here is a simple example:
<meta name="description" content="Blue Widgets: Low Cost, High Quality 
Blue Widgets available for Order Online.  Delivered to your Doorstep in 
48 hours or less." />

Keywords Metatag

So should you implement a keywords metatag? Sure. Just don't agonize over it. Take the top 3 or 4 keywords that you decided to target your page for, put them in the keywords metatag, and move on. There are dozens of other factors in the design and implementation of your page that are more important to spend your time on.

Robots Metatag

The Robots metatag is relatively new. Pioneered by Google, it is now generally available for all search engines. The tag is designed to allow you to tell a search engine when you do not want it to index your page, and/or when you do not want the search engine to look at or evaluate any of the links on your page. Not all search engines obey this metatag at this point. The basic format of the metatag is:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow">
You can specify either attribute, both attributes, or neither attribute by simply not including the robots metatag. Click here for more detailed information on the robots metatag

NoODP Metatag

This is relatively new. This Metatag allows you to tell MSN and Google that you do not want them to consider using the Open Directory Project (ODP) description for your site as the description they show in their search results.
The main reason for this is that many site descriptions in ODP have gotten to be out of date. This is because ODP is an all volunteer organization, and sometimes the editors there become inactive for a period of time. You would used this metatag only if you have an ODP listing and you do not like the description. Here is the format:
<META NAME="googlebot" CONTENT="NOODP"> 

The Importance of Keywords Meta Tag in SEO

The Importance of Keywords Meta Tag in SEO

When in comes to achieving top search engine rankings how large of a role do keyword tags actually play? This is a simple question with no easy answer. Not only does the answer vary depending on which search engine a marketer is targeting, but it also depends upon the changing valuations search engines place on these tags.
At one point in time the keywords tag had an impact on a web site’s position within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). Now the keywords tag has little impact on where a site will appear in the search results. When search engine first started determining the relevancy of a site they placed a larger emphasis on these tags.
Soon every webmaster used these them and oftentimes overused these tags and therefore the search engine placed less importance on them. After all, not every site that adds “SEO Company” into their keywords tag can have a top 10 ranking within the SERPS for the phrase “SEO Company”.
Still there is some value associated with this tag. Type the following into Google, Yahoo, and MSN only without the quotations, “dsrurejjnr“. This is a made up phrase that appears only in the keyword description tags of Real Good Furniture (take a look at the website’s source code). [note, some geocities spammy pages are listing it too]
Now look at the SERPS and notice that only in Yahoo does the site appear number one. It is not even listed on Google or MSN. The takeaway is that while the importance of this tag is minimal, Yahoo still gives it some weight.
Now this test is partially flawed since this information has appeared within the site’s source code for some time now. As one might notice when following the instructions above there are websites that have linked to Real Good Furniture, which have included the made up words on their page.
Therefore links pointing to the site now have some association with the fictitious keyword.
My suggestion is to try this test with your own website. Make up a keywords phrase and add it as the last keyword with the keywords tag of the source code. Wait a couple weeks and then do a search on the major three search engines. Now you will know the true importance the keywords tag plays in SEO.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Marketing Without Search Engines

Build your website for visitors, not for search engines.

Let's take a quick look at this idea. What if you completely forgot about search engines and simply built your website for your visitors. This would mean that you take a great deal of care in understanding who your visitors really are and design your website's look / feel / navigation carefully and specifically tailored to the needs of your visitors.

Defining your visitor domain:

You have to use several attributes to define / document your visitor domain. Some of these attributes can be as follows:
  • Age Group
  • Academic Qualifications
  • Technical Qualifications
  • English Language skills
  • Work Experience
  • Sex
  • Geographical Area
And so on.
The greater the details and statistics available the more accurate will be your decomposition of your visitor domain.
When you have filled in as much details as possible use these details to determine your website's look / feel and navigation as well as Content.
The content of your web pages is determined by the demographics of your visitors.
If you've got a lot of young, well qualified, technically strong visitors, the content of your website must be attractive to them. Additionally website navigation should be simple to use, i.e. everything should be between a click or two clicks away.
Once your visitors decide that they have a lot to gain by coming back to your website because of its content, your visitors will drive traffic to your website by commenting about it on their social medial networks and encouraging their peers to visit.
This kind of third party marketing, largely value driven, is amazing for driving a stream of repeat and new visitors to your website.
If you ignore search engines and simply craft and deliver what your visitors want, people will do what they’ve always been doing i.e.
  • They rely on each other
  • They rely on their community of peers
  • They rely on the content of publications known within their geographic location or industry
  • They rely on word of mouth
  • They rely on getting information from trusted sources such as their social media networks
Only after all these sources fail do they turn to "Search Engines".
Hence the new mantra for website marketing is go where people that belong to your core focus domain gather, this could be LinkedIn, Orkut, Facebook, YouTube or any other
Internet based social gathering  place. It's there you will have to be heard.

When you ignore search engines and turn your focus to rudimentary marketing techniques such as focusing on Internet determined gathering places, and
marketing your website there, would you realize much actual marketing, ( that can drive traffic to your website ), you are NOT doing. This can be a
pretty amazing relevation.

There are a ton of forums, social networking websites, technical blogs, (especially for vertical technical niches ), often created and run by thought
leaders in their domains, that you could be ignoring when attempting to drive traffic to your website. 
It's pretty likely that by NOT being active on these online communities that you are losing out on perhaps a few thousand visitors every day.

An intelligent comment, clear and lucid. A well thought through "Thank You" note. Any of this can catch the attention of a potential visitor.

Now if your website URL is part of your signature, your website is just a Click away. You would be amazed at how many people will actually click on
your URL and hop across to your website. That's driving traffic.
Believe me, this sure beats:
  • Waiting for your site to be indexed
  • Rank for longtail phrases
  • Hopefully have search engines drive traffic to your websiteDepend on "Keywords" being searched for your position in the SERP
  • THEN
  • Hopefully converting into an ad click or sale to drive revenue. 
The earlier approach is definitely proactive and worth the effort.
 Occasionally, the thought leader on reading your comment, may be curious enough to come across to your website ( incomming traffic ) and perhaps leave
a comment there in return. Wow, you've just been endorsed by a thougth leader.

Visitors who are driven to your website from your social networking page ( or from your Comments ), they know more than your page name, url and meta-description.

They have a rough idea of who you are. They know your history of contributions. Your words are in their face before they even click over to your
website. You are already partially presold by making yourself familiar and ( more importantly ) trustworthy.

The whole experience of marketing without search engines is educational.
It forced me to climb out of my shell and represent me ( my brand ).
  • This is me
  • I own this website
  • Here’s what I do
  • Take a look
  • Here’s why this will be interesting.. 
And so on.
Nothing revolutionary really but when you’re not depending on search engines, its not just how to get clicks but also how to get the most value out of each click?
  • What web page should be linked to
  • Who should be targeted
And so on.
This forced me to work hard at persuading on a social level, to try and understand what the other person wanted, think carefully before I posted
anything. Never to post rubbish. Always focus on adding value. All the while knowing that I was building a strong brand for myself and a reputation.

I would recommend that you believe that search engines don’t exist. Especially if you’ve got a new website. There’s a lot of visitors out there just
waiting for you to show them your site. If you've reached a plateau using search engines to drive traffic to your wesbite why not focus on promoting
your site outside of search engines?

SEM Basic Concepts Part 2 Write Articles For Others To Use In Websites And Newsletters.

You can dramatically increase your visibility when you begin to write articles in your domain specialization distribute them to editors as free content for their e-mail newsletters for their websites.

Just ask that a link to your website and a one-line description of what you offer be included with the article. This is an effective "viral" approach that can produce hundreds of links to your site over time.
You'll find lots of information on how to do this from the most popular article marketing site, EzineArticles.com. When you create a free membership account, they begin sending you instructions and ideas each week.

Become Part Of A Social Media Community.

Some of the best online communities for business include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
In addition, you may want to participate in a social bookmarking community in which members share with each other information about websites, articles, or news items that they like (or don't like). These include Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Google Bookmarks and so on.
Search engine spiders troll these sites looking for links to something new and relevant. You can usually place a link to your website in your profile, but the biggest gain comes when other people mention you (which generates traffic to your site), link to you (which increases your PageRank and brings traffic), or bookmark you (which increases your PageRank and brings traffic).
NOTE: Do not join a community to spam them or talk incessantly about your business. Like any community you must listen, comment, and make a genuine contribution for the good of others.
If you attempt to spam a community or hog conversation or any other obnoxious behavior then it’s very likely that the community owner will simply boot you out of the community altogether. Self-serving links and comments will always hurt your reputation in any community.
All communities run on trust.  Trust takes time to build and can get destroyed in moments.  Build connections is a community based on trust and work really hard to keep it that way.
By the way, to get started, why don't you visit my social media pages and become a Facebook 

Publish An E-Mail Newsletter.

This does require a commitment of your time, creating a monthly or better yet bi-monthly e-mail publication is a really important promotion techniques.
It could be a newsletter ("ezine"), list of tips, industry updates, or new product information -- whatever you believe your readers will appreciate. This is a great way to keep in touch with your prospects, generate trust, develop brand awareness, and build future business.
It also helps you collect e-mail addresses from those who visit your site, but aren't yet ready to make a purchase.

Ensure A Signature To All Your E-Mails

Email signatures help potential customers get in touch with you.  Most e-mail programs (I use Thunderbird) allow you to designate a signature that appears at the end of each message you send out.
Limit the signature to 3 to 4 lines: URL, E-mail address, Gtalk ID, Skype ID and one-phrase description of what your website offers.  

Aggressively Ask For E-Mail Sign-ups.

If you want subscribers to your e-mail newsletter, you have to work hard at it.
Include an Email subscription form on every page of your website. Promote sign-ups through free whitepapers, e-books, or other products.
If you have a local business, perhaps you can ask your customers to sign up to your e-mail list to get special Internet only offers.
Ask your business associates when they give you a business card if you can send them your e-mail newsletter.
Do personalize the newsletter (and the e-mail subject line if possible) with the recipient's name. It does help when building a relationship.

Send Transactional And Reminder E-Mails.

A transactional e-mail is sent to an existing customer to initiate, remind, confirm, or thank the individual.
Be creative. If you keep careful records, you can send e-mails to customers on their birthday to remind them to return to your site.
Subscription confirmation e-mails can also mention several popular products. You might remind customers that it has been three months since their last order and ask if it's time for a refill.
Thank you for your purchase e-mails can offer a coupon to bring your customer back for a future sale. Use your imagination, but don't pester your customers. You're there to serve them, not the other way around.

Send Offers To Your Visitors And Customers.

Your own list of customers and site visitors who have given you permission to contact them will be your most productive list.
Send special offers, coupon specials, product updates, and so on to them.  This often initiates another visit to your site. If you have a regular newsletter, you can include many of these techniques in your regular e-mailing.

Announce A Contest.

People like getting something free. If you publicize a contest on your website, you'll generate more traffic than normal.
Make sure your prizes are designed to be attractive to individuals who fit a profile which describes your best customers.  You do not really want to be handling out prizes to just anyone at all.  The prizes should in turn result in a modest increase in business or this technique is not working.  

Rent Targeted, Commercial E-mail Lists.

The direct marketing industry has developed targeted e-mail lists you can rent -- lists consisting of people who have agreed to receive commercial e-mail messages.
These lists can cost between $40 to $400 per thousand or 4¢ to 40¢ per name. Do a small test first to determine the quality of the list.
A great approach is to find an e-mail list broker (www.google.com/search?&q=e-mail+list+broker) to help with this project. You'll save money and get experienced help for no additional cost. Realize, however, that due to the high cost of renting lists, many businesses won't generate enough business to justify the cost. Run the numbers before you invest heavily in this technique.

SEM Basic Concepts Part 1 Promote Video, Images, And Audio Content

Google's "Universal Search" displays not only webpage content, but also often displays relevant listings for images, videos, local businesses, and audio clips near the top of the search engine results page.

Therefore, consider creating such type of content, appropriate to your business and then optimize the page such material is on so it is ranked high enough to appear right at the top of search engine result pages.
For example, if you were to get a top-ranking, informative video on YouTube (www.youtube.com) that mentions your site, it could drive a lot of traffic to your site.
To learn how to optimize images or videos, do a search on Google for "optimizing images" or "optimizing videos." There’s a lot of free software that does this for you even if you have the very modest technical skills.

Linking Strategies

Links to your site from other sites drive additional traffic to your website.
Google (and most other major search engines) consider the number of incominglinks to your website ("link popularity") as an important indicator of how relevant your website is on the Internet. Hence, the more links to your website the higher your website will rank in the search engine result pages.
All incoming links to a web site are not treated as equal by Google and other search engines. Google has a measurement called PageRank that actually reflects the quantity and quality of incoming links.
Links from trusted, popular sites help your site rank higher than links from lower traffic sites. To find out how to build useful links to your website, especially those that are relevant to your website content, simply Google for “Link Building” or “Relevant Link Building” or similar key phrases there really is a ton of information available on the Internet.
Once you’ve found a website or Blogger’s content about link building strategies that makes sense to you, subscribe to their RSS feed and/or newsletter so that you will be constantly in touch with changes in their website content.
Do not forget to search You Tube for Link Building videos. There are a whole lot of excellent videos available, created by knowledgeable people who share their knowledge of appropriate link building freely.
Link building starts with understanding how to build links back to your website. Documenting techniques that make sense to you in perhaps an Excel spread sheet and then systematically applying those techniques to your website one by one.
Link your website to Google analytics and watch how the number of hits on your website begins to grow. This will clearly indicate that your link building techniques are paying off.

Submit Your Site To Key Directories

A link from a directory will help your page ranking in search engines and get you traffic. A search in Google for directories will throw up a ton. Do not select a directory to submit to at random or go by the marketing content they have on their website.
Check the directories page rank using Google tool bar. Install Google toolbar in Firefox and check. Choose only those directories to submit your website URL to that have a page of at least 5 and above.
A directory is not a search engine. It is a hierarchical listing of sites sorted according to category and subcategory.
Be sure to list your site in the free Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.com), overseen by volunteer editors. It is the largest human controlled directory in the Internet today.
If you don't get listed right away, don't be impatient and resubmit, or you'll go back to the end of the queue. A link in www.dmoz.com back to your website helps buildup your website traffic a lot.
Yahoo! Directory (dir.yahoo.com) is another important directory.
Real human beings read the URL and description submissions made to Yahoo! directory. Please be careful to follow the URL and description submission instructions of Yahoo directory to the letter.
Take a little trouble when entering your site description. Create your website description in a word processor first, M.S. Word is an excellent example. Count the number of words in your description, most word processors will provide word count for a document. This will ensure that you are within the maximum number of words that Yahoo permits in a description.
NOTE: It would be a great idea to complete your website description using fewer words than Yahoo permits in a website description.
Read through the description you’ve written multiple times, delete repeated material.
Check to see if you can write the very same material using fewer words. If you can, do so. Often there’s a lot of unnecessary words used in a sentence, with exactly the same meaning being expressible in fewer words. Work hard to prevent Yahoo editors chopping your material.
Yahoo! Directory Submit (ecom.yahoo.com/dir/submit/intro/) requires a $299 annual recurring fee to have your site considered for inclusion within seven business days.
Other paid business directories that might help are About.com and Business.com.

Submit Your Site to Trade Organization Sites and Specialized Directories.

Some directories are focused on specific domains, such as education or marketing. If you already belong to trade associations that feature member directories, ask them for a link. Even if you have to pay something for a link from the organization, it could help boost your PageRank. Remember it’s the page to which the link is connected that goes up in value in search engine eyes.
Be aware of directories that constantly send you Email asking you to upgrade your listing with them for a fee. Unless a directory is widely used in your specific domain, be it education, marketing, real estate or whatever a premium ad is really a waste of money, but their free link will help boost your PageRank and in turn your search engine ranking.

Request Reciprocal Links.

Using Google search, locate websites that deliver content that is similar to your website or deliver website content that is supportive of your website content and request for a reciprocal link to your site.
Do create a special page on your website where you will display the reciprocal link to such websites. This page need not feature prominently on your website. This is to help ensure that visitors do no land on your website, switch to your links page and almost immediately exit your website.
Your best chance to get a reciprocal link will be from websites that generate a similar amount of traffic as your own site. High-traffic site webmasters are too busy to answer your requests for a link and don't have anything to gain by a link from your website. Hence, search for sites that have similar amounts of traffic as your own which would gain from the reciprocal links created.
Do check out Ken Evoy's free SiteSell Value Exchange (sales.sitesell.com/value-exchange/)
  1. The site registers your site as willing to exchange links with other sites that have a similar theme/topic content
  2. Then searches for sites with similar topical content and provides this information to you
Two automated link building software programs stand out, they are:
Both of these search the web for complementary sites, help you maintain a link directory, and manage reciprocal links. Use these programs to identify complementary sites, but please do not to send impersonal, automated, repetitive, e-mail spam to site owners requesting reciprocal links.
When you locate sites, send a personal e-mail using the contact e-mail on the site or to the administrative contact listed in a Whois 
If e-mail doesn't get a response, try a phone call. If you do not get a positive response or you get a polite or rude brush off, simply move on to the next opportunity that you’ve identified.
NOTE: Only link to those websites whose material is complimentary to your website. One way Google determines the value of your site on the Internet is by checking who you link to and who links to you.
It's not just links, but quality links you seek. Reciprocal linking as hard, tedious work, but it doesn't cost you a dime out of pocket! Keep working at this continuously, a little bit at a time. Patience and persistence will get you some good links, so keep at it.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

SEM Introduction

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) through multiple techniques some free and some that have a cost attached to them.

NOTE: The Internet’s apex body, Search Engine Marketing ProfessionalOrganization (SEMPO) includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in its definition of SEM hence, SEO and SEM are intertwined and both work towards increasing the visibility of specific web pages in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)
If you build a website, visitors will come really does not apply to Web sites. Marketing the Web site is as important as designing it.  For your website to get a steady stream of visitors you’ve got to constantly focus on how to get people to visit your web site and access its information if they don't know about it?
You need a consistent, planned, continuous, integrated approach to marketing your website on the Internet so that visitors can find it when they are looking for products or services that you provide. Also, you do not just want new visitors, you want return visitors.
There are several tried and tested techniques to market a website on the Internet.  In this series of lessons we will take a look at these techniques and determine what you can do to successfully market your website on the Internet, help in getting visitors to come to your website and a bit beyond that.
What’s addressed is:
  1. How can you get more visitors to your website?
  2. What can you do to stimulate traffic?
  3. How to ensure repeat visitors?
And stuff like that.
Many of the techniques in these lessons may be doing already, others you meant to do but forgot about in the excitement of crafting your website and adding content, still others you may never heard of.  There is a great deal written about website marketing techniques. You'll find tons of links pointing to articles about website promotion if you just Google for them. 
I do not believe that any surprising new ground is being broken here, but there definitely is a summarization of the most important techniques for marketing your website on the Internet spread through these lessons.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Free Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tutorial

The following search engine marketing beginners tutorial is designed to bridge the many aspects of internet marketing into a concise and easy to follow guide. The tutorial, which is divided into eight sections, starts directly below the following table of contents:

I. Search Engine Marketing 101
   Search Engine Marketing Defined
   Search Engine Optimization Defined
   Paid Search Defined
   The Search Engines
   Basic Search Engine Marketing Terminology

II. How to Improve Your Search Engine Ranking
    The Good Old Days
    Keyword Research
    Analyzing the Competition
    On Page Factors

III. Your Site Is Optimized - Now What?
     Landing Page Persuasion
     Grow Your Email List
     Affiliate Programs
     Monetizing Your Site

IV. Becoming an Authority in Your Field
     The Social Web

V. Paid Search (Pay-per-Click)
    Pay-Per-Click Basics
    PPC Ad and Landing Page Strategies
    Spend Less and Earn More with Your PPC Campaign

VI. Search Engine Marketing Myths and Gimmicks
     Myths and Gimmicks

VII. Search Engine Marketing Tips and Strategies
      Tips and Strategies

VIII. Search Engine Marketing Glossary

If you have a website, or intend to have one, and want it to be highly visible on all of the major search engines, you need to incorporate a search engine marketing program into your exiting business structure.

Without one, you website will not be able to compete in the ever growing and ever changing cyber world. There was a time when the phrase, "build it and they will come" was true, but in today's competitive marketplace, it no longer exists.

The following search engine marketing guide will help you achieve your online goals and desires.

Search Engine Marketing Defined
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is comprised of two main categories, search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search.

Search Engine Optimization Defined
Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, improves a websites rankings and visibility on all of the major search engines and can be compared to public relations for a website. Search engine optimization is not push button technology, whereas the results are not immediately evident.

It may take a few months, or longer, for a website to move up in the rankings. But it is well worth the effort and wait, as statistics show that when a website ranks high in the search engines, it will outperform a paid search campaign.

Paid Search Defined
Paid search consists primarily of pay per click (PPC). The top tier PPC engines areGoogle's AdWords and Yahoo's Search Marketing Program. The benefits of a paid search campaign are immediate results, but the downside is paying for every click and dealing with click fraud. A paid search campaign can also be live immediately and when combined with search engine optimization (SEO), it can triple your ROI (return on investment).

The Search Engines
  • The major search engines are Google, Yahoo, MSN and ASK (formerly Ask Jeeves). AOL search results are currently provided by Google.
  • The latest research compiled by Nielson NetRatings shows that Google leads the market when it comes to the volume of searches with 46.3%, Yahoo has 23.4%, MSN has 11.4%, AOL has 6.9% and Ask has 2.3%.
  • Although Google is the market leader when it comes to search frequency, they are not the leader when it comes to conversions (a desired action - example: a sale).
  • According to WebSideStory.com, a web analytics company, AOL leads the market with a 6.17% conversion rate, followed by MSN at 6.03%, Yahoo at 4.07% and Google at 3.83%.
  • These results are probably due to the fact that the majority of Google searches are more informational based, whereas AOL searches are more ecommerce based.
  • All of the search engines use different algorithms (a formula) for website ranking purposes, and each search engine will rank your website differently.
  • If you become an algorithm chaser, one that tries to game the search engines, you may achieve success in the short run, but not in the long run. All of the search engines continuously update their algorithm and when they do, a site that ranks well due to gaming a search engines algorithm, will likely disappear and possibly never recover in the rankings.
  • The idea is not to game the search engine algorithms (which changes regularly), but to create a solid long lasting business model that will ensure your websites continued success.
Basic Search Engine Marketing Terminology
1. Targeted Visitor: Someone that is actually looking for what you sell or offer. 
2. Spider: A search engine component that scours the web. 
3. Conversion: A desired action. An example is a visitor purchasing an item. 
4. Algorithm: A formula that the search engines use for ranking purposes.

Click here for a more in-depth search engine and internet marketing glossary 

The Good Old Days
In the not so distant past, there were only a few key elements that were required for a website to rank high. First, desired keyword terms were chosen. Second, these terms were incorporated into a website. Third, links were obtained from relevant websites. Fourth, the search engines spidered your website. Fifth, your website would rank higher. Sixth, your traffic would increase and hopefully lead to an increase in sales.

Due to the simplicity of this process, the search engines were bombarded with websites that were gaming their algorithm and providing no real value to the end user, aka the web surfer. The search engines are still being gamed, but those days are numbered.

In today's marketplace, a quality website is required. It doesn't need to be a fancy one, just quality driven. It is not uncommon to see page one listings for websites that are "one person operations" in competitive fields.

How do they do it? It all starts with keyword research.

Keyword Research
Your keyword choices are the terms that someone will type into the search engines to find you. The key to higher rankings on all of the search engines begins with keyword research. A keyword research campaign can make or break a business. Choosing keywords just because they are popular, because you like them or because they are searched frequently, does not mean that you should use them.

Step One
The first step is to make a list of phrases that best describe what you do and what your website is about (for example: the products or services that you sell). The idea is to come up with as many relevant keyword phrases as possible for your home page (they will be narrowed down based upon further research later). Why phrases and not a single 'keyword'? Because keyword phrases convert at a better rate than single keywords do and they are less competitive.

Your most important keyword phrases should always be used on your home page. Also note, every single page on your website needs to be optimized for their own keyword phrases, based upon what those pages are about.

If for example, your website sells "Microsoft's Xbox" (a popular video game system). You would want to use your most important keyword phrases for your home page, which in this case is "Microsoft Xbox". In this example, do you think someone searching for "Microsoft" would be your best customer? Possibly, but not likely. This term is too broad for this sites product line, but perfect if you were the Microsoft Corporation.

How about the term, "Microsoft Xbox Cheat Codes" (which happens to garner over 2,000 searches a day on Yahoo alone)? It is much better and more inline with what this website is about, but it still is not on target. If the searcher is looking for "cheat codes" and receives information on how to buy an "Xbox", the searcher will continue searching elsewhere until he/she finds what they are looking for.

Now if a searcher types into a search engine the phrase, "Microsoft Xbox" and your site is displayed, it is an exact match and exactly what the searcher is looking for.

This example is of course overly simplified, but it is designed to show the importance of your keyword selection process.

Step Two
As a rule of thumb, it is also a good idea to add qualifiers (if they apply to your business) to your keyword phrases, such as the words free, tips, help, info, city, county, state, region, etc. and be sure to also optimize for both the singular and plural. Please also note that the qualifiers do not need to be added to your home page, they can be added to any page.

It is also a common misconception that the search engines can tell the difference between a singular and a plural search term. Sometimes they can, but as rule of thumb they can't, so optimize for both.

Step Three
Once you have decided on your keyword phrases, it is time to start the research process. A handy tool to use is Overture's Keyword Selector Tool, which is also free:

Just type in your desired keyword phrase and you will receive a search total from the previous month. This is the number of times that this phrase was searched for. Once you come up with terms that have a decent amount of searches, you are ready to proceed to the next step

Step Four
The next step is to go to Google and type in the phrases that you desire and write down the top 3-5 web pages (ex: http://www.domain.com) for this term. Please note that you can write down the entire top ten if desired. Repeat this process for all of your keyword phrases on Google and as an indicator, you can also repeat this process on all of the other major search engines; Yahoo, MSN and Ask.

Step Five
You will now check how many backlinks (aka inbound links or links that point from one webpage to another webpage) each of the above results have. Google is notoriously inaccurate with their backlink reporting, so for this part of your research you will type the web page address (from step four) into Yahoo's search box with the following command and then hit enter:


Just make sure to replace the word domain with the real web page. The returned results will give you an estimate as to how many links that web page has pointing to it.

Step Six
Now go back to Google and type (or paste) the web page address (from step four) into Google's search box and hit enter, then click on the link that says, "Find web pages from the site". This will give you an estimate as to how many pages Google has indexed from this site in their database.

Step Seven: Analyzing the Competition
Please Note: The previous steps that proceed this one are also important to review.

Before analyzing all of the data, there is one more basic function to perform. This function will show how many other web pages are using the exact same keyword phrase(s) in their title tag (see page six for more information on the title tag). To perform this, type the following into Google's search box:

allintitle:"your keyword phrase"

Please replace "your keyword phrase", with your actual keyword phrase. The number of web pages that are competing for this phrase (on Google only) will be displayed.

Now that you have all of this data, what does it mean and what do you do? First and foremost, a realistic approach must be made. If your competition has 10,000 pages indexed in Google's database and has 10,000 inbound links, which also include .edu's and other trust worthy sources, you need to be realistic in your approach based upon budget, time and research.

At the same time, just because a website does have thousands of inbound links and indexed pages, doesn't mean that you can't compete for this term. You just need to be realistic in your strategy, budget and time frame.

Step Eight
For testing purposes, a paid search campaign (PPC or pay-per-click) should be incorporated. A PPC campaign can give immediate feedback for the effectiveness of your chosen keywords and desired call to action.

Step Nine
Test, test, test and test some more. This can't be stressed enough. Finding the right keywords is a process of proper research and can ultimately make or break your online business down the road.

On Page Factors
On page factors include such aspects as your websites coding (the behind the scenes factors that produce your website) and copy (ex: your sites content, articles, etc.).

Title Tag
One of the most important parts of you websites 'on page factors' is your title tag. Your title tag is the phrase, or phrases, that you see all the way on the upper left corner of your web browser in the blue bar above the words, "File", "Edit", "View", etc. The title tag, along with other factors, tells the search engines what you are saying your web page is about.

This is where your most important keyword phrases should go (no more than 1-2 phrases) and it should be formed as a sentence and not as a bunch of words. Your title tag is also the clickable line that is displayed on the results page when you do a search on any of the search engines. It should encourage the surfer to want to click through to your site.

It is best to format your title tag so that it answers, and sometimes asks a question and draws that person into your website. It is also best to keep your title tag length between 50-80 characters, including spaces because each search engine varies. Yahoo will cut off your title after about 80 characters and Google after about 60.

Meta Description
The description directly below the title on the search engine results pages is either your Meta description (from your websites Meta description tag, which should also be no more than 25 words and no more than 160 characters including spaces) or a description that was grabbed from your site.

Another pointer is to include some of your most important keywords towards the top of your page, as that is where the search engines normally grab some text to add as your description, when they don't use the Meta description tag.

Keyword Density
There was a time when keyword density, or the amount of times your keyword phrases were incorporated onto your web page, was important. You should still incorporate your keyword phrases in your copy, but it is not as important as it once was. Tip: Always place your most important keywords towards the top of your page, right after your H1 tag.

H Tags
Your H tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) are basically the outline headers for your web page and should be incorporated onto all of your web pages. Tip: Your title tag and H1 tag should match.

Organizing Your Website
  • Always ensure that your websites navigation is optimized for your visitors ease.
  • Never make any of your desired call to action links hard to find.
  • Always try to ensure a smooth, comfortable visit.
  • Always have a contact link, or your contact information, displayed on every page.
  • Always create a navigation hierarchy for sites that are growing and/or for sites that are large to begin with.
Create a Site Map
For better navigation and for better indexing, always create a site map which contains all of websites pages. If you are not sure how many pages you have on your website, you can use this free tool to create the sitemap for you:

Once you create a sitemap, it should also be converted into an XML format and submitted to Google to ensure that they crawl and index your entire website.

Content is king! In this case more quality content is always better and is a major factor for higher rankings. Websites with more quality content and quality links win in the rankings when all else is equal.

The more web pages that your site has with original non-duplicate content (content that is not being used by anyone else) the more entry points your website will have. This is due to having more optimized pages, which also increases the chances of receiving one-way links. Tip: if you aren't a good writer or if you don't have the time, outsource your article creation to ghost writers for a small fee.

Linking is still an integral part of ranking and will continue to be. Quality links are more important now than ever before. Outside of content and some of the important on page factors (as noted above), quality anchor text links are second to none.

An example of an anchor text link is as follows. Let's say for example that your website is http://www.yourcompany.com and the top keyword phrase that you are optimizing your home page for, from the above example, is "Microsoft Xbox". It would be more advantageous for your rankings to have a link pointing to your site that says Microsoft Xbox, instead of http://www.yourcompany.com.

With that said, it is also important to note that if you have too many anchor text links pointing to your site, with the same anchor text, you can be penalized by the search engines due to the unnatural pattern. In real world linking, anchor text is always varied up (usually at the webmasters discretion and is also based upon your home page title tag).

A good linking strategy can increase your website traffic exponentially and should contain links from varied sources and preferably from related trusted sites in your field, but should also include quality directory listings and article syndication.

Landing Page Persuasion
What happens after someone enters your website is just as important as how they got there in the first place. Landing page persuasion is the next most important attribute for achieving online success. To demonstrate the importance, let's return to our original "Microsoft Xbox" example.

The basis is to ensure that your visitor gets exactly what they are looking for based on a link, search engine result, an ad, etc. If a visitor clicks through from an ad and does not see what they were led to believe they would find, the chances of them staying longer than a few seconds is remote and unlikely.

On the other hand, if a visitor clicked on your link from a search engine that said "Microsoft Xbox" and immediately upon clicking through saw a picture of an Xbox with additional information, this visitor will likely dig deeper.

Remember to always keep your linking structure simple and user friendly. Do not create extra work for your visitor, whether by having to search for information or by clicking levels deep on your website to find what they are looking for.

Grow Your Email List
Every single visitor to your website is either a current customer or potential customer, and must be viewed that way if you are to have long term success. If you do not have an opt-in email program incorporated into every page of your website, you are throwing your money away.

There are some really great automated email management programs that will capture your visitors name and email address and will automatically keep you in touch with them as frequently as you would like - daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

Not knowing what to send someone is not an excuse for not growing your database. You are spending money on web hosting, on advertising and on growing your business. Ensure that you incorporate a true opt-in email capture system for long term success. Contacts are everything, especially when they want to hear what you have to say.

Affiliate Programs
Another great way to grow your online business is via an affiliate program. An affiliate will sell your product and/or service for you, in exchange for a commission. With the latest software integration and affiliate service professionals, your involvement can be minimal to virtually non-existent.

Affiliates can also provide your site with backlinks and can really bolster any type of online business. The most time consuming aspect is bringing your site up to speed and having a quality product and/or service that will attract the most talented affiliate marketers.

Monetizing Your Website
Once your website is optimized and growing, you may decide to monetize the content through various forms, such as with Google's AdSense.

Google AdSense is a program for publishers (web publishers) where you insert some code on your website, Google spiders your page to make a determination as to what it is about and then places ads (based on your style selection), which pay you every time some clicks on them. There are no guarantees with your earnings, as there are website owners making a few cents a day to thousands of dollars a day.

The Social Web
The Internet is a dynamic instrument that is forever changing and quickly growing. There are websites that have twice the traffic of Google and these types of sites are growing everyday. The one thing in common with these types of sites is the social aspect that they share, such as bookmarking, blogging, podcasting and Vlogging to name a few.

Some of the greatest success stories are due to the social nature of the internet. Other than quality content sites that are trusted due their size, age and quality of inbound links, the other way to become an authority or trusted source is to create it through the following social methods; blogging, podcasting and vlogging. If these words look foreign to you, you need to learn them and jump on board now. If you know what these words mean and are not taking advantage of this technology, you will be left behind.

A blog will incorporate an XML (Extensible Markup Language)/RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed into your site. Why is this important? A XML/RSS feed can automatically notify your previous and potential customers that your site has an update and at the same time provide a link(s) to the updates on your site.

Becoming active in the blogging community will also increase your inbound links, thus improving your search engine rankings and at the same time, increasing the traffic to your website.

Podcasting is similar to having your own private radio program, with the perks of storing your shows in downloadable packets that anyone with an mp3 player (an iPod for example) can listen to on the go or without one online.

Vlogging incorporates the social nature of blogging with podcasting and transforms it onto a video platform that Google can even host and market for you. The costs are very minimal to start and the rewards through networking, joint ventures, increased inbound linking and trust that is passed to you, are worth their weight in gold. There truly are no other means, without a large budget, for a small website owner to compete with large corporate entities on this type of level since the .com boom.

Pay-Per-Click Basics
Pay per click is dominated by Google's AdWords and Yahoo's Search Marketing Program (formerly called Overture) and truly deserves its own tutorial due to the complexities of paid search. But for simplicity purposes, there are a few solid tips to ensure a more profitable PPC campaign.

PPC Ad and Landing Page Strategies
If possible, each keyword phrase that is being targeted should have its own landing page that is optimized and enhanced for Landing Page Persuasion. The title of the ad should contain your keyword phrase and it should also be incorporated into the ad description.

Some of the best performing PPC ads use a question and answer format. The title asks a question and the description answers or solves the problem, thus initiating a click through.

Spend Less and Earn More with Your PPC Campaign
The higher your click through rate on Google, the lower your ad price will become in relation to your ad position. It is not uncommon for the top PPC ads to cost 50-75% less because of the ads click through rate.

Yahoo's Search Marketing program doesn't offer this option, but their program does offer an involved advertiser the ability to bid one penny below the highest bidder and then pay only one penny above the third place bidder to remain in second place. Ex: if the top bid is $5.00 and the third place bid is $2.00, you need to bid $4.99 in order to stay in second with a cost of $2.01.

Another important tip is to use the phrase or exact match feature, which will show your ads that have the phrase or exactly match the keywords that you're bidding on, instead of a broad match which will display your ad more frequently - even for unrelated searches. It is also important to use negative keywords, or words that probably will not equate to your desired call to action, such as the words free, etc.

Myths and Gimmicks
The desire to achieve top search results and increased website traffic, can drive many webmasters/website owners down the wrong road. The following is a brief list of some of the techniques to avoid.

1. Search Engine Submission
You do not need to submit, nor ever pay to have your website submitted to any search engine. The search engine spiders will find your site from your inbound links.

2. PageRank Guarantees High Rankings
PageRank does not guarantee higher rankings and should only be used as a guide in relation to a sites link popularity.

3. You Are Guaranteed To Be Number One In Google If...
Unless the person making this claim is an actual Google engineer in the search department and he/she owes you their life...don't believe it. There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to rankings and search marketing.

4. Deceiving SEO Companies
One of the biggest misfortunes are search engine optimization companies that rank a site, in the top ten, for such an obscure term and then tout that ranking as a success, when in reality it is a term that no one would ever search for in the first place.

Another true disservice is when an SEO company tells you that they have optimized your website, when all they did was forward traffic to your site. As soon as you stop paying them, or when they increase your monthly rate too high and stop paying them, your traffic also stops.

5. Submit Your Site to As Many Free Directories As possible
You should only submit your website to quality directories, free or for a fee. If the directory does not have an actual editor reviewing your site, then the chances are that they are not considered a quality directory by the search engines.

6. Reciprocal Linking is the Best Way to Achieve Top Results
This was the case before Google's major update. As stated earlier, if you are an algorithm chaser, you will be at the mercy of every search engine update. It is better to garner quality links from all sources, including reciprocal if they are deemed worthy.

7. Buy Your Way to the Top with Good Links
Purchasing links, high quality or not, will not guarantee your sites rankings. In fact, if Google or any of the other search engines (less likely with the others) detect that your links were purchased - they may penalize your website by dropping you in the rankings.

Tips and Strategies
  • Who you link to tells Google what kind of websites you want to be associated with.
  • Never point/forward a domain to another domain, the search engines may view both as duplicate content and penalize your website. The only safe way to point a domain is with a 301 redirect.
  • .edu and .gov links are golden links. If you can get them, do it!
  • Backlinks are updated monthly, but Google is notorious for never showing a sites correct number of backlinks, so check them with Yahoo.
  • SERPS (search engine results pages) fluctuate daily.
  • Pay close attention to Ask.com (formerly Ask Jeeves), they have a solid grasp on their search technology and are positioned to become a major player.
  • Reputation management is an integral part of the web, know who is talking about you, your product, services, website, etc. with a service such as,Google Alerts.
  • Search Marketing is all about offense when starting, but will need to incorporate a good defense to maintain your rankings once you start achieving your desired results.

The following is a brief overview of some of the popular Search Engine and Internet Marketing terms:

Algorithm: A formula that the search engines use for ranking purposes. 
Call to action: A desired action that you want your visitor to take (ex: to buy something). 
Click Fraud: a term that describes clicks to your PPC campaign with malicious intent. 
Conversion rate aka conversions:The relationship between visitors to a web site and actions considered to be a "conversion," such as a sale or request to receive more information. 
CTR: Click through rate. 
Hits: A term used to describe the volume of traffic that a website receives, specifically a single request from a web browser for a single item from a web page. A web surfer visiting a single web page with four graphics would cause five hits to be recorded, one for the page and four for the graphics. 
Inbound Link aka Backlink: A link pointing to your website. 
Natural Results aka Organic Results: Search engine results for free listings. 
PageRank (PR): A Formula developed by Google to determine a web pages link popularity. 
PPC: Pay per click. 
ROI: Return on investment. 
SEO: Search Engine Optimization and associated with increasing a websites natural rankings. 
SEM: Search engine marketing - a combination of SEO and paid search (such as PPC). 
SERP: Search engine results page. 
Spider: A search engine component that scours the web. 
Targeted Traffic: A visitor that is looking for what you sell or offer.

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