SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

History of SEO

The original purpose of the Internet was to share academic resources between universities. Search engine usage has evolved over the years but the primary principles of conducting a search remain largely unchanged. Most search processes include:

  • Experience the need for an answer, solution or piece of information.
  • Formulate that need in a string of words and phrases, also known as “the query.”
  • Execute the query at a search engine.
  • Browse through the results for a match.
  • Click on a result.
  • Scan for a solution, or a link to that solution.
  • If unsatisfied, return to the search results and browse for another link or…
  • Perform a new search with refinements to the query.

Search is very, very popular. It reaches nearly every online American, and billions of people around the world.  Being listed in the first few results is critical to visibility, greatest amount of traffic, and also instills trust in consumers as to the worthiness and relative importance of the company/website.

An incredible amount of offline economic activity is driven by searches on the web.  Search engines cannot fill out online forms, and thus any content contained behind them will remain hidden.  Poor link structures can lead to search engines failing to reach all of the content contained on a website, or allow them to spider it, but leave it so minimally exposed that it’s deemed “unimportant” by the engines’ index.

Web pages that use Flash, frames, Java applets, plug-in content, audio files & video have content that search engines cannot access.  Text that is not in HTML format in the parse-able code of a web page is inherently invisible to search engines.  This can include text in Flash files, images, photos, and video, audio & plug-in content.

SEO is the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines.  The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines – GoogleBing and Yahoo.  Search queries, the words that users type into the search box, which contain terms and phrases best, suited to your site, carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization’s success. Targeted visitors to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other.

Submitting to search engines (as covered in the Essentials section) is only part of the challenge of getting good search engine positioning. It’s also important to prepare a Web site through “search engine optimization.”  Search engine optimization means ensuring that your Web pages are accessible to search engines and are focused in ways that help improve the chances they will be found. Others have mounted an effective defense of search engine optimization in the past, but people also need to use internal linking.

Scalable Relevance, or to combine rapid crawling and indexing with a relevance algorithm that can be instantly applied to new content, is how Google constructs the foundation for Search Engine Optimization.  Google’s model is built around identifying characteristics in web content that indicate the content is especially relevant or irrelevant, so that content all across the web with those same characteristics can be similarly promoted or demoted.

Google’s Page rank was named after is creator Larry Page.  It was originally called Backrub after it’s emphasis on back-links.  Check out Larry’s original paper on PageRank “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hyper textual Web Search Engine.”

Optimizing Your Website

Websites should not be static. They should evolve. Optimization is the act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible. The different types of website optimization include:

  • Search engine ranking
  • User experience
  • Lead conversions
  • Customer acquisitions
  • Customer delight

You need to optimize websites for searchers and search engines. Google has 200 ranking factors that go into their ranking algorithm. Search Quality guidelines for Google can seem a little complex. So, what exactly does Google consider High Quality Marketing Content? At it’s most basic level, an optimized website is easy to crawl and understand with a simple design, that includes rich content and SEO keywords, and formatted content that is easy to read. Create a cognitive fluency for your customers by having a simple navigation, relevant color scheme, the language your buyer personas use, and streamlined way for next steps.

Your on-page SEO should include a page title, URLS, page headers, content, meta description. Format your content with font hierarchy (subheads with different colors, sizes, or font styles), pictures, short sentences and paragraphs, bullets, bolding, italics, and hyperlinked content. Add a one click learn more button to your home page. You can learn more about SEO from Matt Cutts or learn more from the experts at Hubspot.

Domain and Page Popularity

Page rank is the authority that search engines look to based on a certain website’s page relevance, speed and scalability.  One of the first guidebooks search engine marketing professional should read is “Beginners Guide to SEO.” Relevance and popularity or authority is important.  Two primary types of popularity are domain popularity and page popularity.  Look at the PageRank metric through a browser toolbar. Hyperlinks are the most important factor when it comes to ranking web pages.

Text is the currency of the Internet.  Relevancy is the measurement of the theoretical distance between two corresponding items with regards to relationship.

It takes less computing power and is much simpler programmatically to determine relevancy between a text query and a text document than it is between a text query and an image or video file.  This is the reason why text results are so much more prominent in search results than videos and images.  Text should be SEO’s primary focus this especially true until Google finds better ways to interpret and grade non-textual media.

Content

The search engines must use their analysis of content as their primary indication of relevancy for determining rankings for a given a search query. Similar dilution has happened to the keywords Meta tag, some kinds of internal links, and H1 tags.  Instead of simply counting the number of times a word or phrase is on a webpage, they use natural language processing algorithms and other signals on a page to determine relevancy.  In addition to words on a page, search engines use signals like image meta information (alt attribute), link profile and site architecture, and information hierarchy to determine how relevant a give page that mentions.

Link Relevancy does not take into account the power of the link.  People have a tendency to link to content using the anchor text of either the domain name or the title of the page.  Use this to your advantage by including keywords you want to rank for in these two elements.

Beyond Specific anchor text, proximal text- the certain number of characters preceding and following the link itself-have some value.  Popularity and relevancy are the two concepts that make up the bulk of search engine optimization theory.

Search Engine Functions

Search engines have four functions – crawling, building an index, calculating relevancy & rankings and serving results.

Through links, search engines’ automated robots, called “crawlers,” or “spiders” can reach the many billions of interconnected documents.  When a person searches for something online, it requires the search engines to scour documents and do two things – first, return only those results that are relevant or useful to the searcher’s query, and second, rank those results in order of perceived value (or importance).

Currently, the major engines typically interpret importance as popularity – the more popular a site, page or document, the more valuable the information contained therein must be.  Algorithms than use search ranking factors to determine importance and relevance.

Many factors influence whether a particular web site appears in Web Search results and where it falls in the ranking. These include:

  • The number of other sites linking to it
  • The content of the pages and updates made to indices’
  • The testing of new product versions
  • The discovery of additional sites
  • Changes to the search algorithm – and other factors

Bing search engine rankings:

  • In the visible page text, include words users might choose as search query terms to find the information on your site.
  • Limit all pages to a reasonable size with one topic per page. An HTML page with no pictures should be under 150 KB.
  • Make sure that each page is accessible by at least one static text link.
  • Don’t put the text that you want indexed inside images.

Google search engine rankings:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, aka cloaking.
  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).

Resources for learning Search Engine Marketing

Conferences on search marketing, such as the Search Marketing Expo, WebMasterWorld, Search Engine Strategies, & SEOmoz’s SEO Training Seminars.  Competitive intelligence about signals the engines might use and how they might order results. The most famous is the system that spawned Google’s genesis – PageRank – documented as Patent #6285999 – Method for node ranking in a linked database. The original paper on the subject – Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – has also been the subject of considerable study and edification under the Pew Internet & American Life Project (PDF Study in Conjunction with ComScore)

Paid search advertising

Google Adwords

Google sells sponsored listings that appear above and to the right-hand side of its regular search results called Google AdWords.  Paid search programs allow site owners to “bid” on the terms they wish to appear for. You agree to pay a certain amount each time someone clicks on your listing. This is why sponsored listings are referred to as “pay-per-click” (PPC) or “cost-per-click” (CPC) advertising.  Google AdWords ranks sponsored listings based on a number of variables including the CPC (bid price), click-through-rate (CTR) and landing page quality. This page explains how ads are ranked in more detail.

If your goal is to build visibility on search engines quickly, then Google AdWords is essential to put you in the top results of many major search engines in a short period of time.  Google distributes its paid ads to other partners, with some major sites listed on the Search Engine Results Chart. This provides you with exposure to more potential traffic.

When setting up an AdWords campaign, you may choose to have your ads appear in the Search Network and/or Google’s Content Network (AdSense), or you may opt-out of either.  It is worthwhile for anyone to open a Google AdWords account and experiment with how paid listings may help drive traffic to a site, or use the service as a keyword research tool.

Google’s AdWords charges a per-click fee, a $5 activation fee, but there is no minimums monthly spend.  You may find that the editorial or “free” listings generated by your submissions to directories and crawlers have kicked in. While some marketers elect to eliminate their paid search ad spend when this happens, you may find that you want to continue spending/increase budget to target terms for which you don’t receive good editorial placement.  Search Engine Watch members have access to a How Google Works page that guides you even more through the process of how AdWords operates.

Yahoo Search Marketing

Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM), formerly Overture and GoTo, also allows sites to “bid” on the terms they wish to appear for.   Up until the recent “Panama” improvement, YSM ranked sponsored listings based on cost-per-click.

Yahoo Panama brings YSM’s ranking algorithm for paid ads more in line with Google by considering additional variables such as click-through-rate and landing page quality.  If your goal is to build instant visibility on search engines, Yahoo Search Marketing is an excellent option to explore, putting you in the top results of many major search engines within a short period of time.  Open an YSM account with a $5 minimum deposit and experiment by setting your own daily budget.

By carefully selecting targeted terms, you can stretch that money out for one or two months and get quality traffic.  As with Google, you may wish to eliminate your ad spend or continue for terms not receiving good editorial placement once your initial deposit has expired.

Microsoft adCenter

Microsoft adCenter launched in May 2006. Like Google and Yahoo, it allows advertisers to “bid” on the keywords they wish to have their ads show up for. The system uses what is called the “black box” bid and ranking method; similar to the way Google and now Yahoo determine Cost Per Click (CPC).  The CPC is a combination of how much you are willing to bid (max bid) and your Click Thru Rate (CTR) in comparison to the others bidding for that particular keyword.  Upon launch, adCenter distinguished itself from competitors by being the first to offer geographic, demographic and day part targeting. It requires a $5 service fee for account setup. After that, you pay the cost of the clicks.   Bidding starts at $0.10 minimum. Sometimes $0.05 bids go through.

You can increase your bid to reach a targeted audience through Targeted Bidding. This allows you to target based on (1) users in a specific geographic location, (2) users searching on specific days of the week or during specific hours of the day or night, and (3) users of a specific gender or age.

Experienced Search Marketers also like the targeting tools. These tools allow them to narrow the ad buy, resulting in audiences that convert better, allowing marketers to put more of their budgets into other ad buys or into additional keywords with Microsoft. The help section is very detailed.

SEO reports

Creating Google Analytic Reports

Connecting your Google Webmaster Tools account to your Google Analytics account, you can track your rankings, the number of impressions your listings are getting and even your click-through rates.  Log into your Google Analytics account and click on your website URL to view your report.  Once you are in the dashboard, click on the navigation option “Acquisition”, then click on “Search engine optimization” and then click on “Queries”.

Click on “Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing” and follow the steps Google walks you through. The set up shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.  Once you complete it, you will now be able to see three reports when you head back to the “search engine optimization” navigational link.

The three reports are: queries, landing pages and geographical summary.

  1. QUERIES: Shows you all of the keywords you rank for, the number of impressions you are receiving, the number of clicks you are getting, your average ranking position and your click-through rate. Improve your traffic by increasing your click-through rate. The click-through rate is dependent on two variables: the first is your ranking position, and the second is the text you are using in your listing.  If your ranking is low on the page and your text isn’t appealing, your click-through rate may be as low as 1%.  If your ranking on the page is good and you’re listing copy is appealing, then your click-through rate could be as high as 40% or even 50% on certain keywords.  You should be shooting for a click-through rate of at least 20% on keywords that are getting thousands of monthly impressions. As for the keywords to focus on, pick the keywords that are relevant to your business and have the highest number of impressions with a click-through rate<7%. These would be your low hanging fruit. With small tweaks, you should be able to see big lifts in your search traffic.
  2. LANDING PAGE REPORT: Shows you which of your pages are ranking well, the number of impressions they are receiving, the number of clicks they are getting, their average ranking position and their average click-through rate.  Focus on the pages that have both the highest number of impressions and the lowest click-through rate are the pages you typically should be focusing on. Like the queries report, the landing page report will show you your most popular pages first. The pages that have both the highest number of impressions and the lowest click-through rate are the pages you typically should be focusing on.  Keep in mind that your overall click-through rate in this report will be much lower, typically by 2x or 3x, than the click-through rate in the queries report as this report takes into account all of your keywords instead of individual keywords.  When you look at this report, you will have to cross-reference it with the queries report. It shouldn’t be very hard as your most popular keywords are the ones typically driving traffic to your top 10 landing pages. What you need to do is plug in the following information into a spreadsheet: a list of the landing pages that have a high probability of driving you leads and sales and all keywords related to each landing page that you are already getting impressions for that have a click-through rate of lower than 7%.
  3. GEOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY: This report shows which countries your search engine traffic is coming from. Build out a SEO spreadsheet and work on link-building for the areas marked in red.
    1. Make sure you use the keyword or phrase within the landing page text.
    2. Make sure you add the keyword or phrase to your title and meta description tag.
    3. Add social sharing icons to the landing page to encourage social shares.
    4. Use Open Site Explorer to see who links to competing landing pages and then beg those sites for links using this template.

As for low click-through rates, the ones in red mean that your title tag and meta description tag aren’t very appealing. You will have to rewrite them to increase your click-through rates.

By analyzing Google Webmaster Tools accounts, you can find what the most clicked-through words are:

  1. How to
  2. [List-related numbers]
  3. Free
  4. You
  5. Tips
  6. Blog post
  7. Why
  8. Best
  9. Tricks
  10. Great

Use this list of words and phrases within your meta description and title tag, you should see an increase in click-through rates.

SEO TRICKS

Trick #1: 404 error pages can lead to more indexed pages

A 404 error page tells you and search engines that a “page is not found.” This happens because you may have changed your URLs over time or removed a few pages when you overhauled your design. Instead of using a generic 404-error page, try to design something that is also entertaining

TRICK #2: Product Showdown pages

TRICK#3: Infographics: Does your infographic move? Is it 3d?

Trick #4: Build Skyscrapers

The skyscraper technique leverages content marketing for link builders.

  • Step 1: Find content that other people have already created that got tons of links. You can accomplish this by doing a few Google searches and by using Open Site Explorer. Find link-worthy content: First, find a site that tends to generate tons of links from their content. Put their site into OSE, Click on the “Top Pages” tab.  And look for content with at least 100 linking root domains.  Topsy is an awesome site that can help you find heavily shared content in your niche.   Choose “All Time.”  So make sure to sort by links.  Use Google search to look for articles that already rank for competitive keywords.  Enter a keyword related to your niche.  If they’re ranking for tough terms then they probably have a lot of links pointing at them.  Just pop each of these into your link analysis tool of choice and see which ones have links from at least 100 referring domains.
  • Step 2: Copy the concept you found, but you make sure what you create is a lot better. For example, if someone created a content piece called “11 SEO changes that will give you big results” that gained hundreds of natural backlinks, you may then create a content piece titled “101 SEO changes that will give you big results.” Make something even better: Make It Longer, More Up-To-Date, Better Designed. Check out Help Scout’s Customer Acquisition Strategies for Entrepreneurs will do the trick.  Beat the existing content on every level: length, design, current information etc.
  • Step #3: Reach out to the right people. By manually sharing your content with the websites you mentioned within your blog post and by asking people to tweet about it, you’re more likely to get more traffic and backlinks. Instead of emailing random people, you’re reaching out to site owners that have already linked out to similar content.  When you qualify prospects like this, you know that: They run a site in your niche, They’re interested in your topic, and they’ve already linked to an article on that topic.  Now it’s just a matter of giving them a friendly heads up about your clearly superior content.  Use ahrefs.com (or your link analysis tool of choice) to export all of the links pointing to your competitor’s content into a spreadsheet.

Best Link Building Tools
BuzzStream, Ahrefs, Majestic SEO & Open Site Explorer, Google Search & Google Webmaster Tools, Followerwonk & Link Prospector.One of the fastest ways to find content with a track record of attracting quality links is to use Open Site Explorer.

Trick #5: Use personas to drive relevant SEO traffic

Trick #6: Optimize for click-throughs

Through Webmaster tools, you can see your rankings and click through-rates for specific keywords. By analyzing keywords you are ranking for, your average position, and your click-through rates, you can figure out where you have room for improvement. Typically, if you are getting 30% click-through rates for a particular keyword, you are doing well. If you are getting above 40%, you are doing exceptionally well.

Another way to maximize your click-through rate is through authorship. As of August 2013, Google retired their keyword tool and replaced it with the Keyword Planner, which isn’t as useful. Use the Bing Keyword Tool. Google focuses on raw data, but it doesn’t tell you how you’re doing versus your competition, how you rank for each keyword, nor does it give you a plan for moving forward.

  1. From the Dashboard, select Add New from the Plugins menu.
  2. Search for the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin. WordPress will display a list of plugins that fit those criteria. Make sure you select the one by Joost de Valk.
  3. Install the plugin by selecting Install Now. WordPress will install the plugin, displaying its progress on your screen.
  4. Start the plugin by selecting Activate Plugin. WordPress will display the Plugins screen, showing the installed plugins on your blog. Scroll down to see your plugin and any instructions you need to follow.

Alternatives to Google Analytics

  • Clicky
  • Performancing Metrics

Backlinks to your site, both from your own site (called internal links) and from other sites on the web (called external links), give your site credibility in the eyes of search engines. If you can get a backlink from a high-ranking site it improves your search engine rank even more.

OTHER WAYS TO INCREASE YOUR SEO

  1. Guest post on a popular blog with an infographic and ask that they link back to your site. USE http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/ to see who is linking back to you. If you plan on writing a guest blog post, first do your research in Google’s keyword tool to see what people are searching for surrounding your topic. Select a subject that has keywords with good traffic but low competition.  Pitch your idea to multiple blogs, being brief and offering to give them more information if they’re interested.  Once a blogger accepts your pitch, write a brief bio for the end of the blog post, linking back to your site. Be sure to use your keywords in your link text. Send the completed post to blogger.
  2. Develop a blog tour to get backlinks
  3. Create an Infographic: Get a graphic designer to create your infographic from oDesk or Fiverr. Pitch your infographic to multiple bloggers, requiring that they link back to you once they publish it. Install an SEO plugin like All-in-One-SEO or SEO by Yoast to help you target your keywords and make sure your blog posts get better search engine rankings.
  4. Create a short, authentic video introduction to your business with a FlipCam or Canon pocket camera. Use a tripod so you can put the camera on a steady base. Record your video and Upload it to YouTube; creating a channel that uses your keywords. Add a title, tags, and description, making sure to include your keywords in each. Copy your website URL and paste it at the front of your video description.

SITE SPEED

First, benchmark your site speed by visiting Google Analytics or your website analytics tool and research how quickly your site is loading. The higher the content quality and site loading speed, the higher their ranking in search results. In GA, select ContentSite Speed, and finally Page Timings:

Easiest: if you have a WordPress blog, install the WP Super Cache plugin. It makes your site much faster without much hassle.
More Difficult: Move to a faster server with your current hosting company, or move to a new hosting company offering faster server speed.
Expensive: Ask your developer to install a Content Delivery Network (CDN) on your site.  A CDN is a faster routing system for the content on your site, using point-to-point servers instead of a single server routing all of your content.

  1. gShift Labs: Gives a 360-degree view of my SEO, my tactics, and how well my efforts are paying off. It’s strength is that it’s not a bunch of raw data like Google Analytics, but actually gives you a more comprehensive view of your entire SEO
  2. effort without overwhelming you. They also have outstanding customer support where you actually talk to a person.
  3. WordTracker. An excellent tool for keyword research. Their webinars and whitepapers are solid resources for learning about keywords, SEO, and backlinks.
  4. SEOBook is an extremely popular tool, but I find it overpriced. It offers excellent resources, but it’s really for SEO geeks who have their own firms and do SEO for clients.
  5. MarketSamari is another SEO tool that is popular.

Linkbuilding tactics

Provide valuable resources to the people we find through our linkbuilding efforts.  It is up to them whether they provide the link or not.

ANATOMY OF LANDING PAGES

A Landing page is a website page designed to convert visitors to leads. This could include things like a free social media analysis. “I’ll tell you all the things to turn your website and brand into a social media marketing machine and make you a small business rock star and blow all of your marketing goals out of the water. The conversion process is call to action->landing page->thank you page.

Elements of landing pages:

  • Offer
  • Buyer’s Journey
  • Buyer personas
  • Landing pages best practices

A landing page offer-something offered by an organization that has perceived value to website visitor others than the core products or services the organization sells. How to Optimize Landing Pages for Conversions?

Anatomy of landing page:

  • Write, clear, concise, compelling headlines
  • Explain the value and importance of the offer to your persona
  • Use bullet points to make information easily digestible
  • Select the appropriate number of form fields
  • Remove navigation and all links
  • Include image, video, or gif
  • Add Social Media Share Icons
  • Add testimonials when relevant for social proof
  • Use industry awards and recognition

What You Can (and Should) Ask for on Your Landing Page Forms? Analyze the type of information that you are asking for. Before and After: 3 Real-Life Landing Page Makeovers are crucial to refining to make landing pages the best you can.

PERFECTING THE CONVERSION PROCESS

You can use Hubspot’s 16 Ways to Simplify Your Prospects’ Decision Making Process and 5 Steps to Creating the All-Important Thank You Page.

CTA BEST PRACTICES

  1. Encourage click with clear, direct words, and brevity
  2. Try contrasting colors for an attention-grabbing design
  3. Make CTAS EASY TO NOTICE, Up top above the fold
  4. Test, Test, Test

THANK YOU PAGE OFFER BEST PRACTICES

  • Deliver the offer
  • Guide them further through the buyer’s journey with another CTA
  • Include Social networking options

OPTIMIZE CTAS BY RUNNING A/B TESTS

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