Posted by Peter Otte on May 26, 2015
Once I was out to dinner with some friends and their son, who was about to graduate from college. He was getting a degree in English literature, and was looking for a job in advertising after graduation. The jobs he was applying for asked him to submit a writing sample that marketed a product along with a resume. He’s a smart kid, and he knows how to write, but he wasn’t hearing anything back. His parents thought he’d have to take a job at the mall!
While we were out to dinner, though, he asked for my advice. In response, I asked him a question: “What made you want to read all of those books you must’ve read?” He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face. I let him stew for a minute.
Finally, he said, “Well, because I like the stories…”
“Exactly,” I said.
It took a minute, but I saw the lights come on in his head. He got it. And, the next summer after he graduated, he was off to New York City, ready to take on Madison Ave.
Now, everything you just read is entirely made up. But, you read it, didn’t you?
The content that you write needs to flow like a story; it has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you establish the main characters and the central conflicts. Then in the middle, you put those characters and conflicts into motion, explaining how they interact with one another. Finally, you resolve the conflict in your ending, demonstrating the solution.
If you choose to structure the content you write in this manner, you’ll find that more people will actually read what you have to say. And that’s what your content is all about, right?
Remember, it’s not just a delivery mechanism for keywords!
Posted by Peter Otte on May 18, 2015
Search engine optimization is tricky, tricky work. Even for those who have been in the field for many years, staying on top of all the latest developments and getting every little thing right can be quite difficult.
Thankfully, there’s no reason to go it alone. There are countless tools, which can assist greatly with SEO, available to website owners and developers everywhere. Here are three excellent choices:
- Google Webmaster Tools: If you’re not already making use of this, then now is the time to start. Google remains the largest search engine in the world, and the tools they put at our disposal are some of the most powerful. With their Webmaster Tools, you can do a great many things. For example, you can investigate your website’s mobile friendliness, or check for common issues that affect your page rank.
- Majestic SEO: When it comes to going in depth with your website, this is the tool you want. It assists with checking back links, as well as with examining your site’s flow, use of keywords and even anchor text. Unlike Google Webmaster Tools, Majestic SEO is not free. However, the insight into your website that it can give you is well worth the price.
- Advanced Web Ranking: Of course, part of having an effective SEO strategy is having a bird’s eye view. This software package allows you to do this by allowing you to keep track of your page rank, social media accounts, and even your competitors and their performance. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s worth it.
Do you have a favorite SEO tool that you feel should be on this list? Be sure to let us know, so we can check it out and share it with everyone else. We’re all in this together, after all!
Posted by Peter Otte on May 11, 2015
Everyone keeps saying it, but are you truly listening? Mobile is the future. The rate of growth in mobile users, and, in turn, their use of the Internet, is absolutely staggering. And, it only seems to accelerate month to month. That’s why it’s so important that your mobile website be in tip-top shape. If it’s not, you could lose customers or damage your page rank.
Here are four mistakes that you could be making right now.
- Having Unviewable Content: Everyone with an Apple mobile device knows that Flash is inaccessible. However, that hasn’t stopped people from populating mobile websites that use Flash elements. Make sure your embedded content is universal – HTML5, anyone?
- Blocking the User: If you’re trying to promote a mobile application or even an offer, you might be using an interstitial that blocks your page entirely. Don’t do this! It ruins the user’s experience. Instead, use banner ads or other means to promote your app.
- Faulty Redirects: In your own mobile experience, you’ve probably come across this one. You enter a URL for a specific page only to be redirected to the mobile home page. These can be tricky to fix, but Google’s Webmaster tools are a great starting point.
- Slow Loading: The whole mobile experience is driven by the ethic of getting things immediately. Therefore, a slow loading time for your mobile website can be a real drain on your traffic. Always optimize, otherwise mobile users will leave your website before it finishes loading.
Having a website that works correctly on all mobile devices (and on all the browsers those mobile devices use) is certainly no easy matter. However, the success of your website depends upon your ability to rise to the occasion, so be sure to give your mobile website the attention that it deserves.
Posted by Peter Otte on May 4, 2015
How did you feel about the last three myths that we explored? Were they ones that you’ve fallen victim to, or are they ones you know some of your colleagues believe? We’re in the business of busting myths here, so let’s take a look at the final three.
- No One’s Reading This Anyway: This one follows on the heels of #3. Because people believe that quantity is what’s important, they’ll tend to fill up websites with pages and pages of essentially useless content, just because they include the keywords they’re targeting. This is a tremendous mistake. This kind of content will ultimately hurt your website’s SEO strategy, not help it. The search engines can read well enough to see what you’re doing, and your customers can read well enough as well.
- You Shouldn’t Guest Blog: Because of the way the game has changed, guest blogging has become a passé activity. This shouldn’t be the case. Certainly, you can’t employ the same methods as before – namely using a guest blog as an opportunity to link to your own website with your keywords. However, guest blogging still has an important role to play. Engaging in this activity raises your profile in the community, and the ‘authority’ you receive can have beneficial effects.
- SEO Is a One-Time Thing: Search engine optimization is never over. It’s really as simple as that. There are so many businesses that optimize their site once and then rest on their laurels. Just as the market is always evolving, so too is the SEO landscape – in no small part because the people that do the searching have shifting interests. With SEO, you’ve got to put the pedal to the floor and keep it there. There’s no other way.
So, those are the six biggest SEO myths as I see them! What’re yours?
Posted by Peter Otte on April 27, 2015
Search engine optimization happens to be a topic where there are a lot of opinions drowning out the facts. Because of this, there are a number of myths that have cropped up in the SEO community. Some of them are old; some of them are new. But, they’re all myths, and now seems like a good time to dispel a few of them for you.
- SEO Is Baloney: Make no mistake, the SEO game has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. The search algorithms and methods have changed significantly, and this has led some people to write off SEO entirely. That’s a mistake. While the rules of the game have certainly shifted, the game is still being played whether you’re on the field or not.
- Social Media Doesn’t Matter: You’ve probably read that Google doesn’t take into account social indicators like “likes” and “retweets” when it’s calculating a website’s relevance. That’s true. Those things in and of themselves are not going to drive your SEO strategy. However, that social engagement is extremely important, as it leads to a number of other things that do help your SEO strategy. Don’t neglect social media!
- Quantity Is Better Than Quality: Whether we’re talking about links, content or something else, there’s a tendency in the community to believe that more is better. That’s not the case. Quality is what’s most important. The external links that point to your site should only come from reputable sources. If you’re talking content, you need something that engages readers and inspires shares. Quantity can’t accomplish these things; only quality content can.
These are the first three SEO myths that I want you to think about. Next week, I’ll take up the final three.
Posted by Peter Otte on April 20, 2015
First thing’s first. If you’re currently duplicating content across your domain in order to improve your search engine ranking, then this is a practice that you will want to discontinue immediately. Google and other search engines consider this to be malicious, and your page ranking could be adversely affected, or your website could become delisted altogether.
Of course, there are a number of different reasons that you may have duplicate content. For example, you may offer printer-friendly versions of specific pages, or you may have information about a product on multiple pages. In theses cases, there are things you can do to avoid duplication penalties.
- Use canonical URLs: If content is available through multiple URLs, then you will want to mark your preferred URL – the one you want search engines to access – with a canonical tag. This can be done by inserting rel=”canonical” into the <link>
- Use “noindex” meta tag: This tag can be used to signal the search engines that you do not want a given page to be seen by their webcrawlers. This is for printer-friendly versions of pages and things of that nature.
- Expand content: For multiple pages where the same content must be present, expand what’s on those pages with content that’s specific to the page’s purpose.
- Collapse content: In places where expanding content isn’t possible, combine the numerous pages that contain the same content into one page.
By employing these different methods, you should be able to successfully avoid penalties for duplicate content. Further, you will improve your users’ experience, both on your website itself and as they access it through a search engine.
Posted by Peter Otte on April 13, 2015
Have you been dragging your feet about getting your website ready for the mobile world that we’re entering? Well, you’re running out of time! Mobile isn’t just becoming important for businesses; it’s becoming important for search engines, too. As a matter of fact, if your website isn’t judged to be mobile friendly, your page rank, especially with mobile users, could be severely affected.
So, how can you find out if your website is mobile friendly? It’s actually incredibly simple. The fine folks at Google offer a free tool that will examine your website and determine if everything is on the up and up:
Here, all you have to do is put in your domain, and then wait for the results to be tabulated. If everything is great, then you’ll receive a green banner that says, “Awesome! This page is mobile friendly.” There will even be a picture that shows what Google sees when it looks at your webpage.
If things aren’t as they should be, then you’ll receive a red banner that says, “Not mobile-friendly”. In addition, Google will inform you of what errors it found on your page. For example, it may tell you that links are placed too closely to one another, or that the text is too small when displayed on a mobile screen.
So what happened when I took the test? I didn’t pass! I was flabbergasted since my site is responsive. So it just goes to show that you may have a mobile site and still receive red warnings from Google. Search engines aren’t perfect but we know how important they are. We’ve been working on the change for several weeks now and we should meet the April 21st deadline.
For those of you who find yourself in the red, it’s time to take action. It’s entirely possible that you may only need to make a few tweaks to your site’s overall design. In most cases, though, you may need a complete redesign. If you find yourself in this last category, then don’t be afraid to get in touch. We’re always here to help you make your website all that it can be.
Posted by Peter Otte on April 6, 2015
This week’s post is aimed more at WordPress users, but the principles apply to every platform. If the terms are unfamiliar, just send me an email and I’ll see if I can help sort it out.
WordPress is popular for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, when used properly, it is incredibly search-engine friendly. That being said, many WordPress users make the mistake of overlooking a few important things, which serves to undercut many of the SEO strategies they may be employing. If you think you might fall into this category, take a look at these WordPress SEO mistakes and their solutions.
- Not Having a Sitemap: Sitemaps provide an easy way for webcrawlers to get around your site, which makes it dramatically easier for them to index its content. There are a variety of WordPress plugins that can create a sitemap for you, but one of the best, which you should use if you already haven’t, is Google XML Sitemaps.*
- Not Categorizing Content: Your keyword game can be on point within your content, but if webcrawlers can’t easily get to that content, then it’s not going to do you any good. WordPress makes it easy to break up your content into categories and subcategories – make sure that you’re doing this. Not only does it help with indexing, it makes your website more usable for visitors too. Also, be sure that you’re appropriately tagging your posts.
- Forgetting About Meta Titles and Descriptions: Once indexed, search engines will use your meta titles and your meta descriptions on their results pages. So, make sure that you’re updating this information for your blog posts. WordPress doesn’t do this out of the box, but there are many plugins, including this one, that can add meta titles and descriptions to your blog posts.
In addition to correcting these common WordPress SEO mistakes, make sure that you’re following commonly accepted best practices for keywords, linking and the like.
*If you are not using WordPress, I can also recommend xml-sitemaps.com; there are simple instructions for entering the url of your site and then the app will generate an XML sitemap. You will need to upload the file to your FTP site manually, however.
Posted by Peter Otte on March 30, 2015
If you are using WordPress, Weebly, Wild Apricot, or another platform with a built in blog function, you’ve likely already taken more than a few steps to ensure that your on-site optimization is up to snuff. However, on-site optimization is an ongoing battle, and you’ll need to pay close attention to it as you add more and more content to your blog. In order to make sure that your on-site optimization remains as effective as it can be, follow these tips for crafting blog posts that are SEO friendly.
- Title: In addition to explaining what your post is about, be sure that you’ve included the relevant keywords in your blog post titles.
- URL: The URL for any blog post should be identical to the page’s title, which, as mentioned, should include the relevant keyword or keywords.
- Body Content: When writing the content of your blog posts, make sure that you including your relevant keywords naturally and not over often. Generally speaking, your blog posts should be 300 words or longer. Finally, make sure your blog posts are formatted with an eye toward readability, and that you break up longer posts with subheadings.
- Tags: Using tags for your blog posts is always a good idea, just be sure that you’re not overdoing it, and that you’re not using tags that are irrelevant to the post’s topic.
- Images: Search engines can’t look at the content of your images, but they can read their alt tags, so make sure that you’re including them.
- Internal Links: Including internal links within your posts that lead to other posts on your blog is a good idea. However, be sure that the two posts are thematically linked to one another.
Most importantly, make sure that you’re keeping your blog current, as regular posting is one of the most important things driving any blog’s SEO efficacy. Also, remember that it takes around 30 posts before search engines notice your blog.
Posted by Peter Otte on March 23, 2015
Advertising through Facebook is becoming an increasingly important part of every business’s online strategy. Not only can advertising through Facebook help to sell more of your products and services, it can also help to raise your business’s profile, boosting its relevance on popular search engines. If you’ve been considering adding Facebook advertising to your overall marketing plan, then check out this simple guide to creating an effective Facebook advertisement:
- Choose the Right Image: Facebook is overwhelmingly a visual platform, so make sure you choose the right image. Most marketing experts agree that pictures of people perform best, as do pictures of children and animals. Whatever image you choose, though, make sure that it stands out well against Facebook’s blue and white color scheme.
- Make a Compelling Title: If you use Facebook, then you know how fast you scroll through your newsfeed. If you want your ads to get clicks, then you’re going to need titles that have a clear call to action. Ideally, your ad should make sense to a reader even if they don’t look at the body text.
- To Brand or Not: You don’t have a lot of space with a Facebook ad title, so carefully consider whether or not you want it to include your brand name. If you think people will recognize it, then it might make sense. Otherwise, your limited space is probably better spent with a well-wrought CTA.
- Choose Your Audience Wisely: Since Facebook allows you to narrowly target your ads at specific demographics, be sure that you’ve taken the time to carefully consider your ideal customer. Facebook ad campaigns often hinge on this crucial step.
By following these tips, you should have the basics down for running an effective Facebook advertisement. As always, make sure you keep a careful eye on the metrics, as these will tell you how you should adjust your Facebook advertising strategies for the future.