When Learning SEO

Don’t Worry About Validation

Being afraid to ask questions to your online community will only hinder your progress. Get your validation from offline sources of your life, like work, sport or hobbies.

Have a Vested Interest

Like a website with a clear commercial nature. If you don’t know what you’re trying to sell and to whom, you will flounder about in mediocrity.

Plan Your Tests

Before you start them. If you’re starting a PPC campaign for example, take the time to read up on different testing methods and the steps involved.

Keep It Simple

It’s easy to become overwhelmed. Take everything one step at a time and don’t be too fancy – you have enough on your plate.

Small Business SEO – Why You Can’t Live Without It

small-busOne of the reasons small business can’t live without SEO is that fact that it is one of the only marketing channels available where the smaller players can compete with, and even trump big business.

Consider the marketing alternatives and the costs associated with achieving global exposure on TV, Radio or Newspaper?

So how exactly can small business utilise search marketing to compete and even thrive on the web while big business can’t?

1. Focus on the Longtail

The basic premise of the Longtail is that our culture and economy is shifting away from mainstream products and markets to a number of small, specific niches. Many of the typical constraints such as production, distribution and marketing are changing and being alleviated by technology and the internet.

Take a big site like Amazon, they must cover all their bases and sell a large number of unique items in smaller quantity. However, when consumers are faced with unlimited choice, shopping around to get exactly what you’re after becomes much easier. Niches are so successful because they allow people to satisfy and fulfil their specific interests.

With SEO it is easy to measure exactly how profitable your different niches are so that you can focus on the highest performing ones.

2. Unlimited Ad Budget

Traditional marketing tells us that we need to ‘set a budget’ for our marketing costs. When you can measure the exact cost of a conversion, why not simply keep purchasing ads while it’s profitable? As long as every ad click is costing you less than you’re making from that click (accounting for overheads), then there’s no reason to threshold your budget.

In big business, how often have you heard a marketer tell you ‘we don’t have the budget for that at the moment‘?

As a small business, armed with the tangible information of digital ads, you can now say ‘we have an unlimited budget for ads that work‘.

3. Create Valuable Alliances

Unburdened by bureaucracy, small business can easily align with other business’ when it’s mutually beneficial. Big business can often be slow to change because of procedures and legal issues making it take much longer to create strategic partnerships.

Ask your strategic partners to link to you and they will do your marketing for you. Make it easy and beneficial for them to talk about you and they won’t be able to help themselves.

4. The Personal Touch

How often have you phoned a call centre, only to be greeted by a faceless voice that tells you they can’t help because ‘it’s not standard procedure‘?

Small business has the luxury of taking the time to add that personal touch. If it makes sense to both the business and the customer, why not break the rules? When you can give people something they don’t expect you’re giving them a reason to remember and talk about you.

Rather than trying to disguise it, emphasise the fact that you’re small. Shout out the advantages to the customer; lower overheads, faster responses and savings passed onto the customer.

5. Change Often, and Quickly

With so many freely available research tools, it’s easy to stay on top of trends and discover new niches. When there is a shift in direction in a market, how long does it take a big business to react?

Small business has the advantage of flexibility. If it makes sense to change, you can do something totally different tomorrow. If it doesn’t work out, change again.

This post was written by Jack Archbold, a contributing author to Superuser and freelance SEO and Trainer.

Photo by Fisserman.

SEO For Firefox – Essential SEO Plugin

SEO is an extremely broad term, covering topics ranging from; On-page optimisation, link building, viral marketing, conversion rate enhancement, PPC (pay per click) management, competitor analysis and link authority analysis.

Now unless you’re an absolute guru, there is no way you could be an expert on all of these topics. But there’s no reason you can’t easily get a snapshot of vital data to help enhance your site architecture and search rankings.

SEO Firefox Plugin

One of the best tools to help you find an instant snapshot of data is the SEO Firefox Plugin. You can use it to easily determine:

  • Pagerank
  • Site Age
  • Indexed Links
  • Yahoo
  • Edu
  • Gov
  • Page
  • The number of Delicious bookmarks
  • Technorati and Alexa rankings
  • Google cached pages

Why should I use it?

Now if you’re a blogger or run a business Website, you may be thinking ‘I’m not that interested in SEO or learning about it’. Which is fair enough, however if you’re interested in the following then it may still be a very useful tool for you:

  • Growing your blog
  • Increasing the number of visitors that find your page
  • Directing tragetted traffic to your business site

Not all links are considered equal

Now it doesn’t take a guru to know that one of the biggest keys to a successful site is attention, and in web-terms that equates to links.

As a blogger / webmaster it’s likely you’re experienced in trying to get people to link to you, you probably also realise that it’s actually a lot harder then it sounds. If you have the funds you could outsource your SEO to a company, but if you’d prefer to try do it yourself then SEO Firefox will help you identify which links will yield you the most benefit.

Follow up to Choosing Your Webhost post; my friend that works at a los angeles marketing company sent me a review for bluehost site hosting which is one of the hosts I use.

Photo by Flod

Choosing Your Webhost

buy-blog-web-hosting
Selecting a Webhost can be a daunting task, particularly if you’ve had no prior experience in the process. With so much competition, fake reviews and scams it’s hard to figure out just who to go with.

Before choosing your host, ask yourself these questions:

1.    What would happen if my site went down?
2.    Would I lose customers as a result?
3.    What would the net cost of losing those customers be in real terms?
4.    Would I be harmed in any other way? i.e. Not being indexed by search engines or losing potential incoming links

It’s worth paying for a quality host

If you’re creating a website with business in mind, then by answering the above questions it’s likely you can see the value in paying for a decent host. However, even if you’re just wanting to host a blog, or a hobby-related site it still may be worth paying for quality to save you time and energy.

Always research your host

Before making a purchase based on gut feeling or whether their site looks nice, it’s always a good idea to do research around the host you’re considering going with. Simply do some searches of “host + complaints”, if it’s a dodgy host this should quickly reveal warning signs to you.

Fake review sites

It’s a better idea to search for “host + complaints” as opposed to “host + review” because many scammy hosts will go so far as to setup a bunch of fake review sites and aggressively SEO them so they rank for the top review search results.

What should I look for in a host?

If you have specific software you wish to use then you should definitely check the requirements and ensure the host can provide those. However if you’re interested in a faily simple page or a blog then generally look for:
•    the ability to create sub domains
•    PHP
•    MYSQL
•    The ability to modify your .HTACCESS
•    Cron Jobs
•    Ruby On Rails

Another factor to consider is hosting with a provider in your own country. This will give you a relevancy boost for local searches.

Hosting multiple sites on different domains

If you’re just want to host a blog you may be better of going for standard web hosting, however if you plan to setup multiple sites it is worth considering going with a host that will let you host sites of different IP addresses. Although considerably more expensive you will have the benefit of being able to link between your sites and have the link equity count towards ranking, an example of such a hosting provider is Pair Hosting.

Understand Title Page Format to Captivate Your Target Audience

photo by insightimaging

Page Titles vs Headlines

Human perspective

For potential readers, your headline is the first and perhaps only impression you will make. Without a compelling headline it is likely that most people will not even read the rest of your article.

Search engine’s perspective

Most search engines place more weight on the page title then any other on-page element. By not understanding how to best utilise the page title may be missing out on a great deal of search traffic and hindering your rankings for desired keywords.

Achieving balance

Many purists believe you should always write your headlines with the reader in mind, and not worry at all about search engines. While I agree with that idealistically, for the smaller players it is simply not realistic or feasible to be able to discount or not optimize for search traffic.

This post is not about how to write a good headline, but how to write a well optimised page title to make the most of search results. It is important to understand both the human and search aspect of headlines to maximise your conversion rate, for further reading on how to write compelling headlines checkout this post.

Why is the Page Title so Important?

When writing your page title consider the following points to get the most out of your headlines:

  • The page title is the first thing visitors will see and the link they will click in SERPS to arrive at your site
  • When people link to you, they will often use the title as the anchor text. This is why you want to ensure it is keyword rich, so that you will rank higher in search results for those keywords
  • For non-competitive terms, a page title alone can land score you top results. Chris and I conducted an experiment for a phrase ‘free blank resume’ with almost 1000 daily searches. With no content and just a link, Superuser achieved the 1st rank in google au search results.
  • Think ‘what sets me apart?‘ Ranking on the first page is an achievement, but remember you are still competing against 9 other results. Your goal is to give search engines and readers an idea of what your page is about. To set yourself apart consider using the following techniques:
    • Use clear language
    • Have a call to action
    • Ask a question
  • Endeavour to have keywords in the title but still be relevant, captivating and differentiate yourself from the competition
  • Ensure your brand is in the title

What Makes a Bad Title?

The worst thing you can do is have no page title at all, however you should also avoid the following:

  • Using salutations or home page
    • Welcome is currently indexed 30 million times, Home over 15 million
  • Having the same title as your homepage
  • Using untitled
  • writing exclusively for search engines

Researching Page Titles

Another great strategy is to do some keyword research on the topic you are writing about before you post. There are many great free tools such as the Google keyword tool.

For example I changed the original headline I wrote for this post after doing a quick keyword search on the term ‘page title’. As you can see in the below picture while September was a bad month, there is an average search volume of 2900 for an exact match on ‘title page format’. Not bad considering I was originally going to have ‘Page Titles’ and no mention of the word ‘format’.

Final Thoughts

There is no such thing as a perfect title but by following the above guidelines you can ensure you don’t negate plenty of organic search traffic while still hooking in your readers with a compelling headline. Above all think ‘attention conservation‘, sure do as much as you can to accommodate the search engines but ensure you balance this with a headline that will intrigue and not confuse your potential visitor.

Happy hunting!

photo by insightimaging

5 Principles for Buying Effective Links

Are you looking to grow your blog or website? If so, you probably realize the key to rankings and traffic are links – but which links, and how do you get them?

There are many techniques people use to get links these days, such as being popular, building relationships and link-baiting. Unfortunately most of these are either difficult, time consuming or both.

Ahh link building, perhaps the hardest, most frustrating and unavoidable part of SEO. Why? Because ultimately, it’s still the trump card for higher rankings.

For the smaller players and those starting out, that doesn’t leave many options. Most people are worried about purchasing links, and rightly so. Buying links without the REL=NOFOLLOW attribute is against Google’s terms of service and can technically be considered Blackhat SEO. But does this stop people doing it? No of course not, it just forces people to be more creative and use techniques that are considered legitimate.

Why are links so important?

Targeted Traffic

Links from your industry or websites with similar subject matter as yours drive relevant traffic likely to be interested in your website and products you offer. Targeted traffic is going to have a higher chance at conversion and thus, is more valuable to your website.

Higher Rankings

The major search engines are continually changing and updating their algorithms but one thing that hasn’t changed for a long time – and doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon – is the fact that link popularity is the top factor in search engine rankings.

In crude terms, when returning search results Google considers three major factors:

  1. The number of links to your website
  2. The authority and relevance of the linking websites
  3. The anchor text used to link to you

Ok, so you don’t have to be an SEO Guru to know that links are required to rank, but how then, do you acquire quality one-way links to your website?

Natural Links Versus Paid

Buying links is tricky business, under Google’s terms of service paid links should have a nofollow attribute and thus, not increase your rankings. Google wants search results to be a natural indication of popularity on the internet. The argument being, if you have quality content then people will naturally link to it.

But what if you want a bit of a head start? As a webmaster many factors – such as domain age – are out of your control, that is where SEO and link building comes in.

Disclaimer

It is important to understand that buying links without the nofollow attribute can end with you losing trust with search engines or you being removed from Google’s index. If you do wish to purchase links it’s advisable to err on the side of caution or do so with the help of an experienced SEO consultant.

The 5 Principles

Principle #1 – Relevancy Over PageRank

Buying links exclusively from high PR sites is note recommended. Yes they will have a greater affect on your PR but you should consider these factors:

  • Having a disproportionate amount of high PR links without as many links from lower ranking sites looks unnatural and may raise flags with Google
  • Relevant links are more likely to reach your target market, bringing you targeted traffic
  • Relevant links are becoming more valuable as new search algorithms are giving them more importance

Avoid sites that sell off-topic links as they are most likely to have their site removed from the Google index, rendering your link useless.

Principle #2 – Link Consistently To Your Main Homepage

A good ranking strategy is to ensure all your links point to the same location, usually your homepage.

When linking back to your site use a consistent URL. Check if your site features WWW in the URL i.e. http://www.mysite.com or http://mysite.com . If your site does not have WWW in the URL it doesn’t matter in terms of SEO but make sure that you consistently link back to your URL.

By mixing your URLs you run the risks of the links not counting towards your ranking.

Principle #3 – Vary Your Anchor Text

Anchor text is the words used to link to your site. By linking with your targeted keywords you will be increasing your rank for those particular keywords, which is why you should never use text such as “click here” but rather “cheap online furniture” or words relating to your site.

A common mistake SEOs make is after doing their keyword research, finding a very effective longtail keyword such as “connoisseur oak furniture” and using this for all incoming links. This is ineffective because search engines will see this as unnatural and reduce ranking accordingly.

A much better strategy is to mix incoming links with your core and longtail keywords. Having natural appearing links will yield the best long-term results.

Principle #4 – Buy from different networks

Back when people first figured out that links were the key to ranking some SEOs started hosting many websites on the one server or using one domain to make many sub domains and build link-farms.

Search engines soon figured this out and discounted the value of these links. As a general rule of thumb aim for one quality link from a site and look for further links from sites hosted on different IP ranges.

Principle #5 – Avoid Paid Link Sites

Not only do most search engines not count links from link-farms but some will even reduce trust for having too many incoming links from “bad neighborhood” sites.

By having too many links from unrelated websites you run the risk of being flagged for buying links or worse, being reported by one of your competitors for spamming. A better strategy would be sounding out small to medium blogs and approaching them on an individual basis.

These are just 5 of the many principles for effective link building strategies. Don’t forget that links are probably the single most important factor in determining your natural ranking success. A well implemented will help position you at the top of search engine results and link reputation is likely to continue being the primary factor for top rankings in the foreseeable future.

Photo by DarwinBell