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Posts Tagged ‘seo’

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.

March 12th, 2009

New Additions to the Web Design Dashboard

Recently we’ve gotten in a ton of great suggestions for our dashboard from users, here is a sampling…

We all know SEO is an important component of web design, but do you know how well your page is optimized for your targeted keywords? SEO Content Solutions offers a Keyword Density Checker tool and SEO-focused copy-writing services.

Also just added is another solution for running email marketing campaigns.  TailoredMail can help you create, deliver, analyze and keep track of all your campaigns.  In keeping with the Marketing/SEO theme, we also got in a tip for a new FireFox add-on AdWords IDs.  This add-on is designed for savvy AdWords professionals who need more insight and transparency when using the web front-end. It brings account, campaign, ad group, keyword and creative IDs up to the front-end.

We are constantly updating the Web Design Dashboard, make sure you don’t miss anything by checking in often.  While you’re at it, check out our Web Designer Directory as well, it’s free to list your company and we send quality traffic your way…example: over 100 people have clicked through on the first few companies listed in California Web Design this past month.

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!

results1

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 30th, 2009

Is AdSense Worth Running on My Site?

This question gets asked a lot, and the answer is almost always “It depends”.

Let’s be honest, most websites that enjoy any sort of traffic have some form of advertising placed on them.  If you have the resources, time or talent to create your own custom advertising solution that is probably the way to go.  But AdSense can be a good alternative if used effectively and, as with any advertising, the only major drawback is the potential ‘commercialized’ look of a site that runs ads.

Google’s AdSense is one of the easiest ad programs to use, so it’s great for everyone.  They place very relevant text or image ads onto your site immediately…and it’s free to use.  However, just sticking the ads on your site and leaving them won’t bring in much revenue.

To make running AdSense worthwhile you’ll have to do a bit of optimizing.  Placement is important, you’ll want to put the ads somewhere people will see them and click on them, but be careful not to make them too intrusive or your user’s will block them.  AdSense offers a pretty good variety of styles, colors and sizes to use, so be sure to test out a few and see which looks the best and fits in with your site’s overall design well.

AdSense automatically does the targeting of your ads…but you’ll want to make a few changes here as well.  The more relevant the ads are to your site’s content the more likely people are to click on them – making you more money.  They offer section targeting, which is a way to specify certain sections of your site that you would like to emphasize or downplay when it comes to matching content up with ad topics.  You can also filter out ads from certain domains with the Competitive Ad Filter.  For example, if you don’t want ads from a rival showing up on your site, or you notice a site that keeps advertising completely off topic, just enter in their domain to the filter list.

So, yes, AdSense is worth running if you are realistic about the levels of extra cash you can make and if you take the time to create ads that fit in stylistically with your current site design.

For more info, or to get started and try it out head to the Google Adsense page.

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 17th, 2008

Upgrades & Updates

First a little news: the long-awaited “Upgrade Feature” on AgencyTool is now up and running!  Not happy with your listings’ current placement?  We’ve made it really easy to upgrade to a featured option and get top placement and more traffic.  Check it out!

And now to the Dashboard updates…First up is the MagicToolBox, they’ve created several Javascript and Flash tools to make viewing/using images amazing.

There’s also a new Firefox extension called the Site Rank Reporter.  It allows you to view ranking by keyword in graph format, or export ranking data from a range of dates into a single CSV or HTML file.  Pretty cool.  We’re excited about Catapulley.com as well, its a community for mobile designers focused on developing and launching new mobile apps.

That’s just a sampling, we add new resources pretty much every day so keep an eye on us to stay up to date!

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!

September 30th, 2008

Review my site…please? Best Places for a Free Website Review

There are companies out there who will gladly bring a critical eye and professionally review your website…for a fee. A few design agencies price this service upwards of $1500 but some as low as $250, and you generally get what you pay for. Many give you a written report, an SEO suggestion and some sort of follow up meeting with them. Great if you’ve got the means, but not exactly within the budget of an amateur web designer or someone looking to get started. Let’s assume you’re looking for some honest feedback or advice. Where do you go?

Option #1 Forums

The first answer shouted out by the google search “review my website” is a forum. Proceed with caution my friends. Unless you are already an established member of said forum, your innocent request for guidance may be interpreted by other members as “spammy”. Don’t get me wrong, forums can be a great (did I mention 100% free) place to get a wide range of opinions and tips for your site. But only as long as you play by the rules, and even then some forums are more welcoming than others. Follow some general rules and you should be OK:

  1. Take a second and read the forum rules/guidelines. They may have a minimum number of posts needed before you get access to certain areas or would be able to post a link to your site for review purposes.
  2. If there is a minimum post requirement don’t DON’T cruise around the forum for 10 minutes and leave 15 random posts in your wake. If you establish yourself as a legitimate member first people will be more likely to take an honest look at your site when you do post it. This may take a few days or even a few weeks, look for threads where you can contribute something valuable, or bring a different perspective to the discussion.
  3. Post your site for review once and only once, and make sure its in the appropriate category.

Some forums are more likely to constructively review your site than others. The ones listed here are good to try, but beware the ’spam’ label…it will get you booted at them all.

Young Entrepreneur Forum Webmasterworld.com Forum
Site Owner’s Forum SEO Refugee Forum
Digital Point Forum

Option #2 Gallery Sites

Another completely free option is submitting to a few of the countless gallery sites out there. There are literally hundreds that take submissions. You may not get a plethora of constructive feedback from this method, but people leave comments here and there and getting selected is a good indicator that your site is on the right track.

DesignShack CSS Vault Style Gala
CSScilp The Daily Slurp Web Design File
CSS Import CSS Reboot

Option #3 Cozy Up to a Blogger

Reach out to a blogger for a review. It can be mutually beneficial, you get a trained eye to critique your site, and the blogger gets a great post out of it. When you are looking for a blogger to send your review request to make sure you actually read through a few of their more recent posts to make sure the relationship will be a good fit. You’ll get a feel for what kind of topics pique their interest and their opinions on issues, you don’t want to send a website about great leather and fur products to an animal rights blogger, for example.

Do your research first, then send out an email to the individual blogger you’d like to review your site – an email sent out to thousands of bloggers is too general to be taken seriously by any of them. Your email should do a few basic things: Introduce yourself and explain your website, show some respect by detailing why exactly a review of your site might turn into a good post for their specific audience, and give them all the information they could possible want or need about your website. If you don’t hear back its fine to send a follow up email – but only one! If you do hear back make sure to keep in contact with the blogger throughout the review and afterwards. A blogger may gear his review to appeal to the audience, so ask him for private feedback as well…you may learn more. Last but not least, don’t get mad if the review isn’t great. When you get a blog review its public and there’s an inherent risk that you could get some bad publicity out of the deal. You’ll make it worse by getting angry or lashing out in retaliation, so take the hit and ask the blogger how you could have done better.

Several bloggers have really embraced this method. Jackie Baker has started Site Clinic, a weekly column-style blog that takes submissions and chooses one each week to write an in-depth review on.

Option #4 Do it Yourself

So what if you’re not an expert, there are plenty of tools out there to test the quality of your website for you. Here are a few good ones:

  • The Trifecta Tool Set – measures the overall strength of your site number of links, number of times your brand is mentioned on the web, and the amount of traffic your site receives
  • W3C Markup Validation – checks the validity of the code on your site
  • Website Grader – measures the marketing effectiveness of your site
  • SEO Scores – analysis of SEO tools/keywords

September 19th, 2008

Some Exciting News

We’ve got a big announcement this week: AgencyTool is going international!  Because of the number of inquiries we have gotten and the amount of traffic we have been seeing, AT has decided to launch an ‘International’ category in our directory!  Check it out…

As for the Dashboard we’ve got some great updates there as well.  We’ve added a link to the great SEO blog Search Engine Land as well as an article: 13 ways to Determine Link Quality.  There are also 2 new options for e-commerce processors listed; CommerceGate and 2checkout.com.

A great resource on creating your own custom 404 pages has been added from skidzopedia and we’ve got a great new tool for organizing and editing screenshots called FireShot.

That’s just a bit of what’s been added -  make sure to check the Dashboard so you don’t miss anything.

August 15th, 2008

Dashboard Updates From This Week

We’re glad to see the emails haven’t slowed down at all.  We really do try to add them all and our Dashboard is bigger than ever.

This week we added some interesting tools to the Site Maintenance tab.  SM2 is an analytic tool that allows you to monitor and measure social media.  You can find out how often people are talking about you and what they are saying.  SensorPro was also suggested to us, its a tool used to create online surveys.

Also, there are several new SEO resources.  The KGen firefox extension allows you to see what keywords are strong on a visited web page. Then you can retrieve them for social sharing (tag filling) or webmastering/SEO.  While the SEO Workers Analysis tool can analyze and measure the ranking potential of your site.

One more exciting addition is the Designer’s How To Guide, a resource for designers on how to market, manage and sell themselves.

Just a sampling of what we added this week…make sure to check the Dashboard for all our new links and please keep sending them!

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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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