Category Archives: Natural Search Engine Optimization

SEO Tidbit – June 22, 2009

By | Natural Search Engine Optimization, seo, SEO Tidbit, Tips and Tricks | No Comments

Many designers, developers, content managers and webmasters forget to utilize text or body copy for navigation and internal linking structure. Part of a strong optimization process involves capitalizing on your content for in-content or contextual links which link to pages deep within you site.

Use good anchor text that relates to the page you are linking to and if possible use text that is found within your title tag, description or page headlines. Of course this may mean rewriting some of these elements to be more optimized to your targeted key phrase.

See you next week for another Tidbit!

SEO Tidbit – June 8th 2009

By | Natural Search Engine Optimization, seo, SEO Tidbit, Tips and Tricks | One Comment

Do not allow your administration page to get indexed by the search engines

With this one simple line added to your robots.txt file you can avoid having your content management system (CMS) administration or login page indexed by the search engines.
Disallow: /admin/
Note: change “admin” to whatever directory or page has your CMS login on it. For example in WordPress this would be:
Disallow: /wp-login.php
For good measure you could also add this meta tag to the head of your login page or the index page in your login directory.
meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow"

See you next week for another tidbit!

Why Do You Blog?

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, seo, Strategic Planning | One Comment

Over the last couple of days I have spent quite a bit of time reviewing business blogs and compiling business blogging recommendations for several of our clients. Because many of our clients are local, a large portion of my time was spent reviewing the local business blog scene (including many of our competitors) and I quickly found that there are really only two types of blogs – cornerstone blogs and self-serving blogs. Cornerstone blogs are educational, useful blogs of quality with real and implied value in their posts. Self-serving blogs are marketing/seo driven blogs with little valuable content for users. Let’s take a look at both types below.

Cornerstone Blogs

For many businesses blogging has become the cornerstone of their web marketing efforts, a way to disseminate information and reach their target demographic/potential client base in a new way. It allows for dialogue with their clients, albeit still in a top down fashion. The business pushes content down and the masses respond. They could respond in many ways including comments, linkbacks or tweets and retweets. Many businesses use it as a test bed for customer service and/or marketing messages, but there is one overriding characteristic of these blogs. They all add value to the company’s brand image by being useful and providing quality information to their users.

At Westward Strategy we strive to add value every single time we post something. Sure, sometimes we post our own business successes, but more often than not we post the successes of our clients over our own successes. We do research and find supporting and/or opposing arguments to the topic we are writing on. We even publish articles that could be useful to anyone looking for search optimization or web design resources. And we do all of it with the readers/users of our site at the forefront of our minds. If you’re shopping around for a web design firm we hope you can use and/or educate yourself a little bit more with our “10 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Web Design Company“. It does not matter if you choose to contact us about your project or not.

Now I know what you are saying…

“Chris, if a company uses a blog to publish quality content and that in turn garners more market share and value for the company, isn’t that self-serving?”

The answer – sure, in a way. The difference is cornerstone blogs focus on the customer first and the business second.

Self-serving Blogs

The other type of blog is the self-serving blog. The blog that gets added to an existing website and updated maybe once a month with posts that read something like this:

Reno Car Wash has the best reno car washes in Reno. We use only the best car wash soap and reno car wash equipment at Reno Car Wash. You should stop by Reno Car Wash and see our brand new car wash equipment and get a car wash from Reno Car Wash while you’re there!

Or even worse, they look like this with a bazillion links in them:

Reno Car Wash has the best reno car washes in Reno. We use only the best car wash soap and reno car wash equipment at Reno Car Wash. You should stop by Reno Car Wash and see our brand new car wash equipment and get a car wash from Reno Car Wash while you’re there!

Ok, that may be a little exaggerated, but trust me it’s not by much. It should be painfully obvious, like a frying pan to the skull cap, what the difference is between a cornerstone blog and self-serving blog. Sure the self-serving blog will manage to get information to the user that may be of some use, but really is that the way you talk to your customers? Is that the way you should talk to your customers? The answer to both is NO.

Self-serving blogs are like cheap furniture. They may have a nice wood veneer, but one scratch will reveal the shoddy construction and cheap materials underneath that thin cover. At that point it doesn’t matter what you put into the blog, you or your company will be seen in a not-so-friendly light.

So, the question is, why do you blog? Are you adding value for your clients, customers and website users? Are you helping educate them? Are you freely giving information and knowledge? Or are you posting for your own perceived benefit? Are you blogging to dominate the search results? (See SEO Myth: Blogging Means Top Rankings) Are you adding value or just creating white noise?

Why do you blog?

Online Marketing and Economic Downturn Discussions are Hot Again

By | Business Intelligence, Email Marketing, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Strategic Planning | 5 Comments

We talked about it back in July (with a bit more of a green tint), but the discussion of how beneficial all forms of online marketing can be in an economic downturn has definitely raised its head again. Rand at SEOMoz.org touches on search engine optimization in a downturn in his post today and the latest issue of Search Marketing Standard has an article by Laura Callow asking, Is Search Marketing Recession-Proof?

Rand’s article raises some valid points about the SEO industry. Now that other forms of advertising and sales channels have slipped up a bit due to their high costs or lower ROI, online marketing – including SEO, is taking more of the marketing budget pie in a lot of corporate environments. Internal marketing departments and external marketing agencies are having to prove their worth more, now that budgets are getting stretched and squeezed to their fullest. If a channel isn’t accountable for spending vs. sales then the likelihood that it will survive this downturn is unlikely.

Also, SEO is coming out of the shadows. As myths get debunked and education is expanded to business owners and marketers, true SEO is gaining ground as a viable marketing initiative. Of course there are still gamers, hacks and snake oil salesmen out there and until our industry grows up a lot more and sets some standards the fight will rage on between white hat and black hat SEO.

On the other side of the fence Ms. Callow discusses the benefits of search marketing or PPC advertising. Which is one arena where we have seen tremendous growth in the last several months. Of course a majority of this growth can be attributed to the holiday season, as we handle pay per click advertising for several online retailers. However it is not just retailers looking to leverage this channel over traditional advertising – many of our b2b customers have been asking about it as well. I believe Ms. Callow nails the reasoning for this perfectly in her article.

Often marketers are attracted to PPC advertising due to its inherent benefits such as advanced targeting, accountability and cost effectiveness. With PPC advertising you can start or stop ads at any time, run them only when you know people will be looking for your product or service, target by geographic region (down to the city level) and attract customers using their nomenclature at the exact instance of their interest and query. With advanced web analytics you can track click to conversion metrics to further account for each dollar spent vs. each dollar generated.

There is also a “safe” factor to PPC advertising. Marketers know that they can invest a minimal amount upfront and give it a test run. If they feel it is not working for them they can stop all ads and outgoing costs instantly or they can retool ads and spend more time doing keyword research to find better converting terms. Right now these are especially attractive features.

Don’t Stop at SEO and PPC Advertising

The only thing both of these articles are missing is any mention of other online marketing initiatives, like permission based email marketing. Email marketing is still a tremendous way to market on a very cost effective platform. It literally costs pennies, and in most cases fractions of pennies, to leverage an internal customer or lead list that may be gathering dust and turn it into a powerful customer relationship management channel and sales tool.

So if you are not already involved in online marketing, you better get your move on! You are already losing ground, market share and revenue to your competitors if you are not actively working the online channel. In all market conditions it is a powerful marketing tool, but especially during an economic downturn.

Top 5 On-Page Lessons From Google’s SEO Starter Guide

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, seo | One Comment

Google, amid much fanfare and crazed celebration, recently introduced a starter guide on search engine optimization (SEO) to the webmaster community.  The PDF document is aimed at users less familiar with standard SEO techniques and those that “wish to improve their sites’ interaction with both users and search engines.”

Titles

Hello my name is Fred and there’s nothing unique about me.  Would you be interested in hiring me?  Seems like the job interview from hell.  The funny thing is many websites have this same mentality in regards to title tags.  Titles are the first glimpse of a page users have with your site.  When a user bookmarks a page, the title is what is saved in the bookmarks folder.  Could you be missing conversions simply because your titles are not unique with your site’s main keywords?

Google recommends using accurate, unique and brief titles for each and every page on your site.  This is simple SEO at its finest, but quite often gets overlooked or forgotten about.  The title is valuable real estate for your site and as such should be effectively communicating the topic of the page.   All search engine queries that have keywords in your title will be bolded, instantly encouraging eyes of searchers towards your listing.

Descriptions

The meta description tag gives search engines a glimpse or summary of what the page is about.  Google recommends accurate and unique phrases that inform and interest users.  In essence, your site’s description is a brief piece of marketing copy that can make or break someone clicking on to your site.  There are many worst practice scenarios that seem to come up over and over again and should be avoided:

  • duplicate descriptions across a website
  • copying the title tag into the description tag
  • stuffing the description tag with a list of keywords
  • using a description that is not compelling marketing copy and lacks uniqueness

URL Structure

Hello, my name is Fredrif-06390p=12.  What’s your name?

Who’s going to remember Fredrif-06390p=12 and what makes him unique?  No one.  In the same sense your  website’s URL structure plays an important role in best practices SEO.  Google recommends using a URL structure that uses keywords from that specific page.  In addition, from a usability standpoint, a nice looking URL structure will make it easier for others to remember pages from your site.  Google also recommends having one URL for one unique page.  Many sites have duplicate pages with different URLs causing a duplicate content issue.  Set up a 301 redirect to solve this problem and clear any duplicate content issues.

Navigation

Your site’s navigation should be both intuitive and user-friendly.  Visitors on your site should find it easy to navigate to the page they are looking for.  Google recommends:

  • text-based navigation
  • properly formatted site-maps
  • useful 404 pages

Content

The brunt of your site lies within its content.  It’s the reason that someone visits your site.  Google’s guide has quite a bit of good information on this subject.  Here are some of the key take-aways:

  • make effective use of heading tags
  • make text easy to read, staying organized on the topic
  • use relevant language with keywords that users are searching for
  • keep anchor text intuitive and relevant
  • name images in a more intuitive way

The Top 2 Online Activities – Email and Search

By | Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, seo | No Comments

If you were looking for more reasons to hire a search engine optimization firm maybe this article and the data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project will give you all the reasons you need.

Pew found that the use of search engines, both the large generic kind and the small site specific kind, has risen dramatically since 2002. Where the use of email on a daily basis rose just 15 percent, the use of search rose 69 percent.

The best part is Pew gives us the demographic information to go with their study.

Those who are using search engines on an average day are more likely to be socially upscale, with at least some college education and incomes over $50,000 per year. They are more likely to be Internet users with at least six years of online experience and to have their homes wired for fast Internet connections.

Younger Internet users are more likely than older users to search on a typical day, and men are more likely than women to search on an average day, Pew reported. And those who use broadband connections at home are significantly more likely than those who use dial-up to have ever tried using search engines at all, by 94 percent to 80 percent.

With the explosion of content on the web, more and more users are integrating search into their daily activities with the expectation that utilizing this tool will garner the information they are looking for from an otherwise impenetrable mountain of information. Thus far major search engines have been able to answer this call (from the user’s standpoint) and each successful return of relevant information from a search query builds trust with the search engine and warrants it’s use the next time the user is seeking assistance.

As we tell all of our clients, just having a website does not mean it will generate traffic or dollars to the bottom line. Your website must be functional and findable.

Sports Attack’s Snap Attack in the News

By | Client Successes, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, seo | No Comments

The Ball Game
Rob Sabo, 7/14/2008 – NNBW.biz

A new football-tossing machine by Verdi-based Sports Attack LLC might just give the tiny 13-year-old company a leg-up in the sports throwing-machine industry.

Sports Attack last week introduced its “Snap Attack,â€Â? a throwing machine that simulates the quarterback snap, as well as the passing and kicking aspects of football. The company introduced the machine at football clinics in Georgia and Florida, but Sports Attack co-founder Doug Boehner says it’s too early to gauge feedback for future sales. Read Full Artcle>>

Sports Attack Snap Attack Football Throwing Machine

All of us at Westward have had the privilege of working with Sports Attack, LLC for a few months now and have helped them exceed their sales goals by adding search engine marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to their arsenal of marketing tactics. Their passion for their business is evident in every pitching machine, serving machine, and now football throwing machine that leave their facility.

It has been a rewarding experience to work with such passionate people!

Update: Top 10 Rankings in under 2 weeks with 1 link

By | Client Successes, Natural Search Engine Optimization, seo | 3 Comments

It’s been one month since I originally wrote about our client, Creating Effective Organization, and how their new website received top ten rankings in under 2 weeks. I thought I would revisit the subject and check their rankings a month later.

Not much has changed in the past month. The title tags and the descriptions are still the global setup we implemented when the site went live and little to no content has changed since launch date as well. So, it’s no surprise that that a couple of our rankings have slipped a few spots. The content is slowly starting to get stale and I suspect the duplicate titles and descriptions will have a greater impact in the coming month.

However we can no longer say the site has only one link from our blog. We did release one article through a few article marketing websites and that has generated about a dozen links back to the site.

June 7, 2008

  • ceo skills development program – #1
  • skill development – #5
  • leadership skills development – #9
  • ceo lack of leadership – #11

July 8, 2008

  • ceo skills development program – #2
  • skill development – #7
  • leadership skills development – #7
  • leadership skill development – #1
  • ceo lack of leadership – #23
  • NEW! – small business coaching gym – #7

Are these the most competitive phrases? Not necessarily, but the traffic they are driving is more direct and average time on site is much higher than other sources of traffic. Conversion rate is ok, but definitely not where we want it to be – yet. Stay tuned for more updates in the future.

SEO Myth: Having a Blog Means Top Rankings

By | Business Intelligence, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning, Tips and Tricks | 18 Comments

Webmasters and site owners everywhere are looking for the holy grail of search engine optimization. They’re looking for that one thing they can do to get top rankings in the search engines. They want SEO to be easy. They don’t want to invest in time-consuming link building, article marketing, social media marketing, or website usability improvements. Worst of all they are still under the assumption that one thing will get them to the top of the search engines – blogging.

Enough websites, business periodicals, and newspapers have written about the benefits of business blogging that business owners and marketing managers with little to no experience with internet marketing have latched onto it as the holy grail of search engine optimization. Those in the business of web development and SEO have not helped matters at all. They continue to push the easy sale of business blogging on every client that walks through their door even though some businesses just have no reason to blog. Other businesses simply have no time to blog. Believe me blogging is time consuming as is often the first thing in our office to get neglected when we get outrageously busy. If you don’t have the time to manage your regular website do you think you will have time to blog as well?

Beyond the question of whether or not your business should have a blog lies the fact that blogging is not the holy grail of search engine optimization. There is no holy grail of SEO. There is no one thing you can invest minimal time in to achieve top rankings. It takes a considerable investment of time, either your own or that of an internet marketing consultant, in all of the items mentioned at the beginning of this article – link building, article marketing, social media marketing, website usability improvements, on-page content optimization and more in order to get top rankings for your chosen keywords.

Many web designers tout blogs as automagically having search engine optimized structure and code. This is a flat out fallacy. On-page optimization is dependent upon the SEO knowledge of the developer and/or designer. I have seen plenty of blogs with horrible on-page optimization. Even prepackaged free templates can suffer from under-optimized structure and leaving the blog engine’s default settings in place is virtually always an SEO killjoy. (Even our blog is not as optimized as it could be. Feel free to comment on it.)

Are we completely against business blogging? Of course not!! If we were, would we have a blog? We know that blogging can be a very powerful tool in any business’s online marketing arsenal. It is a great way to communicate directly and openly with your customers and potential customers. Blogs can give clarity as to what you or your product does and they can help greatly with online reputation management and customer service. They can even help garner good rankings for long tail terms and phrases related to your main keyword list, but it is not the only thing you, as a site owner, should be doing to create a powerful online identity. Most importantly, business blogging is not the holy grail of search engine optimization.

Green Marketing in an Economic Downturn

By | Business Intelligence, Email Marketing, Natural Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning | One Comment

Altered BambiEveryone wants to go green. It’s become hip to be environmentally conscience. At the same time we’ve hit very uncertain economic times. Every day we read headlines on record setting gas prices and more housing foreclosures. With things looking so uncertain many businesses are searching for ways to utilize their greenbacks more effectively, but also want to jump on the carbon-free, tree-hugging enviro-bus. So if this describes you, what can you do to accomplish both?

You can shift your marketing dollars away from traditional print and direct marketing to internet marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and PPC advertising. As we say on our solutions page, your website is the core to all your marketing initiatives. It is the only marketing tool that gives you direct, almost real-time, feedback of marketing campaigns. No more guesstimates as to how that direct mail campaign went or how many people even saw your ad in the yellow pages, let alone called you because of it.

With the tracking and analytics capabilities of the internet you know almost instantaneously how well your marketing collateral, ad buys, or email campaign was received. You get real numbers allowing you to understand where you should invest more or curtail other initiatives. If you are not receiving statistical data from your web development company, internet marketing firm, or email marketing agency you should probably seek additional vendor help in those areas.

Now more than ever it is critical to be strategic with your marketing dollars. It’s time you know exactly where your marketing dollars are going and exactly what you are getting for them. Return on your investment (ROI) can be determined almost immediately and there is no guessing. Can you say the same about your last print ad campaign?

Not only can you be more strategic with internet marketing, but you can also claim you’re going green! By not running print ads your business is not using the paper to print the direct mail pieces or using the toxic and environmentally unfriendly inks used in printing those items like postcard mailers or newspaper ads. Some people in the print industry or more traditional graphic design agencies may want to argue the validity of that statement, but stop and think about every aspect of creating and delivering a single direct mail piece. If you compare the total process from creating the ink, making the paper, printing the item and then delivering the item,with the alternative of using electrical energy to keep the ad servers up and running you can see the environmental impact for online marketing is dramatically lower than many other advertising options.

With online marketing, not only can you feel warm and fuzzy inside about doing your part to save the planet, but your wallet will also feel good. Because online marketing does not use those physical, natural resources it does not carry the same high cost as print advertising. When you hire an internet marketing firm you are paying for their time, energy, and effort to create your digital ad. You do not have to pay for the ink company to create the ink or the paper company to create the paper or the printer to print the creative piece – all those items that get built into the cost of doing direct mail. Instead your budget can be put towards what is most important – creating powerful ads that drive real customers to your door! Isn’t that the point of marketing in the first place?!?

When things look to be getting tougher many businesses immediately start to slash and burn their marketing budgets – one of the worst things to do in these times. You don’t want to bury your head in the sand and wait out the storm while your competitors expand their branding and advertising online. Instead you should contact an internet marketing consultant to help you put your marketing dollars to better use.