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Archive for the ‘Search Engine Optimization’ Category

March 19th, 2009

Should Your Web Developer Be Your SEO Consultant As Well?

SEO/Design/Development JuggleMost people not in the industry think about SEO as something that is done outside the actual website, if they’ve done their research then it will be all about link building, blog posting, PPC, etc.  The truth is there are an awful lot of things that can be done within the coding of a site that can make or break any SEO effort – we call this ‘On-page SEO’.  For more specifics take a look at our Simple Guide to SEO post, but it suffices to say that ignoring this type of SEO can kill a campaign before any ‘off-page’ effort has even started.

Ideally your web developer will know about these practices, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has the time to stay up-to-date on the constantly changing SEO world AND continue to move forward with the latest design techniques.  ViceVersa, don’t expect your average SEO consultant to be able to design and code your entire website.

There are people out there who are experts in both areas and can effectively build your site and manage your SEO, but they are few and far between.  Nine times out of ten attempting to cut costs by having one person do both will backfire.  Another option is to hire different people/agencies for each component.  It is a valid strategy, but there are inherent potential problems with this type of set up.  Any SEO consultant worth his salt will want to take a look at your website’s code, and will probably want to make at least a few changes.  Suddenly  issues of file access and permissions pop up that can really complicate, not to mention drastically slow down, the process.

The best possible solution is to have your site designed by an agency who employs both designers/developers and online marketing specialists.  You’ll end up with a coherent and more successful website because of the smooth communication between the two camps.

February 19th, 2009

Optimizing Your Blog for Search Engines

Everyone wants to be heard, chances are it was one of the reasons you started blogging in the first place.  A lot of beginner bloggers seem to have the “If you build it, they will come” mentality, and this just isn’t the case.   The sheer amount of blogs that exist today ensure that you will have to go above and beyond to attract readers.  This is where SEO comes into play.

Let’s assume that you are relatively passionate about your blog’s topic – which means that you are producing quality content on a pretty regular basis.  Great, that’s step one – here are a few extra things you should be changing to make the most of the search engine traffic.

Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

The terms may not be familiar, but you already know what these are…you see them every single time you do a search!

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Title Tags should be short and sweet, they should be unique and include the main keywords you want to rank for.  For a blog, the Title Tag is usually the post’s title, but you can tweak it by going into the page’s code and looking for these tags: <title> </title>.  If you use Wordpress these are located in your Header file.  The Meta Description is just a short sentence that describes what the page or post is about.  Again, it wouldn’t hurt to stick in a keyword or two and it should be kept short, under 30 words or so.  You can write unique Meta Descriptions for each post, but to save time using the first sentence or two of the post can be a good starting point.  Wordpress even has a plugin that will do the job for you: Head META Description.

Linkage

It is good to link out to other resources and blogs.  You’ll provide added value to the readers you have, and by linking out you’ll increase the chances that other bloggers and websites will link to you as well.  You should also be creating internal links – this means linking to other posts on your blog or pages on your website within the post you are writing.  Use your main keywords as anchor text in those links and it will help those pages rank for the specific keywords you are targeting.  Having quality links to both your own content and outside pages is important, just be careful not to over do it.  Having too many links on a page will look unnatural and ’spammy’.

Images

People use the search engines to look for images as well as web pages.  If your blog uses pictures often it’s a good idea to optimize them as well.  First of all, give your images names that mean something when you save them – for example, SummerHouseFront.jpg instead of image13.jpg or the date.  You should also use alt tags to give the image a short description (ex. alt=”Summer House”) and long description tags for more detail (ex. longdesc=”Summer House on Lake Michigan viewed from the beach”)  This will help the search engines determine which keywords your images are most related to.

Final Tips

Being aware of the search engine optimization strategies used for blogs can lead to much higher referral traffic from Google, Yahoo and other search engines.  If you use Wordpress download the All In One SEO Pack wordpress plugin, it does a good job of optimizing your content and avoiding duplicate content.  Finally, be patient!  It can be a slow process and take weeks (perhaps months if your blog is new) to see increases in search engine traffic. Trust us – it’ll pay off eventually.

January 6th, 2009

If You’re Not Utilizing Social Media You Should Be – Tips, Tricks, and Pointers

If you didn’t hop on board the Social Media train in 2008 or haven’t heard about it (living under a rock perhaps?) 2009 is your year!  It’s a big deal trend, and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Don’t believe me?  Check out Todd Mailcoat’s post on Stuntdubl.com – 9 Reasons You NEED Social Media Marketing in 2009.

Developing a social media marketing strategy can be especially tough.  The list of available Social Media sites seems endless (Twitter, Digg, Delicious, Facebook, LinkedIn, Technorati, StumbleUpon…I could go on forever) and there are tons of pitfalls and mistakes to make that could derail your campaign in seconds.  However, using Social Media to your advantage can be extremely rewarding – leading to much higher traffic and better search rankings and in the end more money/sales/whatever for you.

So to start the new year off right AgencyTool has compiled what we think is the best advice around when it comes to Social Media.

First off – what NOT to do.  Janet Fouts posted the Seven Sins of Social Media and every single one of her points should be taken to heart by anyone getting into SM Marketing.  Along the same line is The 11 Rules of Social Media Etiquette by Eric Brantner.  Both of these articles are great places to start to learn the basic do’s and don’ts of the trade.

No matter which sites you decide to use you’ll invariably have to create some sort of user profile before you can go to town.  Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn profiles are pretty self-explanatory and their importance is obvious.  What some people fail to realize is that your profiles on Digg, Reddit and other aggregation-type sites are important as well.  For help check out this video from Brent Csutoras: Tips on Building Social Media Profiles.

We aren’t going to list every SM site out there – it would be impossible – with a little research you’ll be able to find ones that fit into your strategy and style.  We are going to share a few choice tips/tricks we found for some of our favorite social media sites.

Twitter.  There were debates about it’s purpose and usefulness, some people love it – some hate it, and it can be tough to really get involved with, but there is no denying that Twitter has substantially changed the way some people communicate online.  For a good overview of the service and how it can be useful read Dan York’s Why and How I Use Twitter and it’s follow up post.

LinkedIn is like MySpace for professionals.  It’s a great way to connect with colleagues and network with people both in and outside of your profession – it’s also a great Social Media Marketing tool.  Read LinkedIn Tips and Tricks to Get 500+ Contacts to learn how to make full use of your account.

Social Bookmarking and Aggregate News sites are another great way to use social media to draw attention and traffic to your site.  There are plenty of resources around to help you make the most of this type of site.  Take a look at BlueHat SEO’s Stumble and Digg Begging for a hack to put on your site that reminds visitors to stumble and digg up your page.  Chris Poteet write a great little guide on how to Become a Delicious Power User and this post from Top SEO Tricks tells you all about Getting Traffic from DIGG.com Comments.

Lastly, it’s easy to lose track of what you are doing once you charge into a social media campaign.  Keeping track of multiple profiles and what is being said about your site/brand/company can become overwhelming.  Read Social Media Tips: Tracking Your Buzz Online for pointers on how to stay up to date easily.

Do you have a great piece of advice or resource for utilizing Social Media?  Leave a comment, we’d love to hear about it.

October 8th, 2008

A Simple Guide to SEO

Any time spent searching for information on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will bring back literally thousands of resources and sites dedicated to the subject.  Why then are forums continuously overrun with requests for advice on this stuff?  One reason could be because there is just so much information out there.  You could easily spend hours researching and come away with only 2 or 3 major points.  Not exactly efficient, especially for a subject that changes and evolves almost daily.

So here is my attempt at an easy to understand guide to basic SEO practices – which I realize may be completely obsolete by next Thursday.

Right off the bat you need to know there are 2 main categories for SEO: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.  Here’s what these mean in a nutshell:
On Page SEO: everything you do specifically on your website, i.e. site structure
Off Page SEO: everything you do outside of your immediate website, i.e. your relationship to other websites

ON PAGE – The Good

✔ Have a site map.  If you don’t have a site map stop reading right now and go make one.  Its one of the easiest ways to make sure the search engines find your site (and any new pages you add) easy to crawl.
✔ Keywords.  Put the keywords you want to rank for in your URL and domain name if at all possible. Put them in your your title tag, and just for fun stick them in the meta tag as well.  Now, Google says in no longer uses the Keyword meta tag, but others do so it can’t hurt to put them in there.  Be careful though – every single keyword in the keyword meta tag MUST appear somewhere in your body text, otherwise google will mark it as irrelevant and penalize you.
✔ Links.  Your internal links should have keywords, and lower level pages should be linked together appropriately.  A general rule of thumb is that a user should be able to navigate to any page on your site within 3 or 4 clicks from the homepage.  As for external links, make sure you only link to reputable sites (no links farms or ‘bad neighborhoods’) and check to make sure your links are all valid.
✔ Be old and new at the same time. Google likes old sites because of the perceived ‘trust’ they have, it also likes ‘fresh’ pages. The best site in Google’s opinion has been around for a long time and puts new content up on a regular basis. Good to know, even if you can only control the second part.

ON PAGE – The Bad

Keywords.  It’s a two way street, keywords are an essential part of good on page SEO but it can easily go wrong.  Rules of thumb: Don’t have too many (keyword stuffing) and make sure every single one is 100% relevant to your site’s topic.
Bad language/ethnic slurs/’stop’ words. Basically don’t use any word Google has associated with shady dealings in the past.
All Flash with no HTML option. Most search engine spiders can’t read flash, give them an HTML option to read or they won’t index your page and your ranking may suffer.

OFF PAGE – The Good

✔ Links, Links, Links. Incoming links from quality sites are extremely important. You want stable (the older the better) links that contain your keywords in them pointing to you from a site that is a trusted source – you get bonus points if its from an “expert” site.
✔ Traffic. The more people on your site the better. If your site is new and you don’t have much traffic, you get a little boost if there is an increasing pattern, you also get a boost if people stay on your site for a long time (low bounce rate). If visitors bookmark your page…even better! I know this seems a bit out of your control – but by creating content on your site people actually want to read and find interesting you can encourage better traffic.
✔ Article Submission/Blogs. By creating articles and submitting them to other sites you not only create links pointing to your site, you create interest among visitors. The same is true for having a blog. You’ll be creating new content on a regular basis (which Google loves) plus you’ll be building a loyal base of readers who may help your site to be seen as a ‘trusted’ source and give you a consistent stream of traffic.
✔ Page Rank. It’s based on the number of quality links pointing back to you, but other factors are included as well. There are differing opinions among SEO professionals as to just how important Page Rank is. Many say that it isn’t important at all anymore, some still rely on it. Our take? Don’t obsess over your site’s Page Rank, but don’t completely discount it either.

OFF PAGE – The Bad

Bad Links. Google is cracking down on link-buying by penalizing sites. Link exchanging is also an issue, while there is no penalty for exchanging links with other sites Google deems these type of links much less valuable than quality incoming (one way) links. You also want to look out for bad ‘link neighborhoods’ – sites linked together through spammy sites or link farms. If you link to these sites by accident chances are you’ll be OK, but if Google finds too many of these type of links on your pages you could be in trouble. Here is a tool to help check your links – Text Link Checker Tool.
Being “spammy”. Link building activities can get a bad rep because there are so many ‘techniques’ that are just plain spammy. Mass-posting links into forums, posting links into comment sections of completely unrelated blogs, or mass-emailing hundreds of bloggers/webmasters asking for links are just plain annoying and not all that successful anyway.

Keep in mind these are just the basics, there’s a plethora of resources out there if you’d like in depth info on one specific aspect of SEO.  Check out Vaughn’s Google’s Ranking Factors for more Google specific details, its a great resource if you’ve got the time to go through it.

If you have any SEO resources you use or just a great informational site let me know!

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ABOUT AGENCYTOOL At its core, AgencyTool exists to serve as a resource for creative agencies, whether they be into web design, print, advertising or anything else. Here on the AgencyTool Blog you'll find a mish-mosh of resources and thoughts that we think are worth sharing.

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