Category Archives: seo

SEO Checklist for Your New Website

By | seo, SEO Tidbit, Tips and Tricks, Web Design Tidbit | 6 Comments

A checklist to use during the development process
Are you ready to build a website for your small business or for yourself? There are simple search engine optimization steps you should consider during the development process.

The following 12 step optimization checklist will bring you one step closer to maximizing your revenues with smart web design.

1.) Choose a domain name, that is a URL, that is descriptive of what your website will represent:

  • Your business name (ex. WestwardStrategy.com)
  • Your first and last name (ex. KristyCrabtree.com) or
  • Keyword specific phrase (ex. WestwardDesignGroup.com)

2.) Decide what keywords and/or phrase targets the visitors you are looking for, and that best describes what your business offers.

3.) Sub directory names using keywords or phrases should use hyphens in the url: http://url.com/descriptive-keyword/

4.) Title tags are the words that appear on site visitor’s browser tabs as they navigate through your site. Clearly define your title tags for each individual web page making sure that it is accurate and descriptive of the page’s content. Keep it 70 characters or less.

  • (Example 1) Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
  • (Example 2) Brand Name | Primary Keyword and Secondary Keyword

5.) The meta description is the primary source of information search engines review, and this is also the information that appears along with your site name in the search engine results. Clearly define your meta descriptions for each individual web page making sure that it too is accurate and descriptive of the page’s content. Keep it 155 characters or less

EXAMPLE: Keyword/Phrase Search Results

Key Word/Phrase Result Image

6.) Develop keyword rich content on all pages including the keyword and/or phrase within the content

7.) Use descriptive words for your navigation when it makes sense

8.) Name all images on website with descriptive image names:

  • (Example) chocolate-lab-running.jpg vs. img0893.jpg

9.) The title tags are the words that visitor’s click to reach the hyperlinks behind them. Add descriptive title tags to anchor links

  • (Example) title=â€? Descriptive Title Tagâ€? vs. title=â€?Click Hereâ€?

10.) Setup Google Analytics and see who’s visiting your website and who’s giving you referral’s: http://www.google.com/analytics

11.) Create a sitemap and submit to Google Webmaster Tools and other search engines. The free tools give you a look under the hood at your website performance: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools

12.) Add new website to local free business listings and other free directory sites

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Contributed by Kristy Crabtree
Westward Strategy & Design Group

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!

Web Mastered

By | Business Intelligence, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Uncategorized, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | 4 Comments

Chris Gandolfo SEO Specialtist

Daily Sparks Tribune
Business – May 21, 2009

By Jessica Garcia
Most Web users tend to ignore flashing display ads or the text ads on Google surrounding their desired search results.

But to Chris Gandolfo of Sparks-based Westward Strategy and Design Group, those blurbs hold a key to determining how well a company’s Web marketing strategy works.

He makes his living evaluating the effectiveness of text-based or visual ads for his clients through a process called “analytics,â€Â? in which he counts the number of clicks or tests keywords.

While most Web marketing businesses do at least that much to find out how strong a business’ presence is on the Internet, Gandolfo has taken his four years of experience and put it to the test â€â€? literally. Gandolfo recently passed an exam and became, to Westward owner and marketing specialist Kristy Crabtree’s knowledge, the only local person to be certified as a Qualified Google Advertising Professional.

“The reason I did it is, one, I wanted the experience of working with my clientele; and, two, I wanted to continue to invest in my craft and develop my skill set,â€Â? said Gandolfo, 28.

According to Google, the certification requires four basic criteria.

  • The user must sign up for the program and remain in good standing.
  • They must manage at least one account in AdWords, a program through which webmasters can create their own display ads and select keywords for search engines.
  • They have to build and maintain an account where they manage the campaigns of their clients, who must spend at least $1,000.
  • Finally, they must pass the exam.

The exam is about 110 questions long and is taken online.

“It took every bit of my four years of experience to pass,â€Â? Gandolfo said. “It was not easy. … It covers aspect of platform analytics, campaign management, budget, how to write ads.â€Â?

For the company, it’s as if Gandolfo attained a Bachelor of Science degree but with experience instead of academics.

For the client who wants to market on the Web, the value of the certification can be equated to being a money manager, Crabtree said.

“It’s like you’re the professional who tells me where I should put the money and how to track it to get the best retail dollar,â€Â? she said. “It shows you invested time to make your business better.â€Â?

Being a qualified Google ad professional will equip Gandolfo to show his clients how they can improve their search engine optimization by targeting their traffic and rankings.

For example, with one client called PDUs Direct, which sells power distribution units, the Web site offers image-based advertisements, which works well because it’s a new business, Gandolfo said.

“With a brand new business, you want many eyes on it, as many as you can,â€Â? he said. “Right now, they’re averaging 12,000 to 15,000 impressions a day.â€Â?

An impression, he said, is one appearance of a rotating ad on a Web site. Many impressions is highly desirable when browsing a search engine like Google or Yahoo, which Crabtree said are the only two companies so far pushing for professional certification in Web marketing to help businesses attain the top-paid placements for ads. On Google, for example, those placements are the top few lines in a shaded box or are listed on the right-hand side of the page.

In an age in which many people go online to make purchases from home and in which 84 percent visit search engines for comparison shopping before making a purchase, companies would miss on advertising opportunities by not having their postings placed as close to the top as possible, Gandolfo said.

“(The postings) are based on the quality of the ad and quality of the landing page (the site to which the ad takes a user) and what you bid,â€Â? Gandolfo said.

Business has been slow for Westward as its clients reign in expenses, but Crabtree and her staff don’t have much time to notice.

“You have to do whatever you can to remain on the forefront,â€Â? Crabtree said. “You want to be the lead horse.â€Â?

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For more information about Westward Strategy & Design Group’s Search Engine Optimization services, sign up for a complimentary SEO Consultation. Westward Strategy & Design Group is a Reno Web Design and Marketing Agency specializing in Web Design , Web Development, Search Engine Optimization and Email Marketing.

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Photo by Debra Reid – Chris Gandolfo, marketing & design specialist for Westward Strategy & Design Group, helps companies increase their website traffic.

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?

How Westward Strategy Builds Client Trust

By | Client Successes, Portfolio, Search Engine Marketing, seo, Strategic Planning, Web Design, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | No Comments

You can advertise in many ways, from web based to print to word of mouth, but how do you actually get customers and build a clientele? How are your marketing strategies working for you? Do you constantly have to followup to get clients?

Here are just some ways that Westward Strategy Builds Client Trust

1: Testimonials
Westward Strategy encourages all prospective clients to call our current and past clients for a testimonial of our work. You can ask questions that we may be impartial to answer. We also feature testimonials on our website and our brochures.

2: Knowledge
We continue to stay educated in all of our online marketing services. We also continue to only work with professional contractors who are proven in their field of expertise.

3: Examples of Our Web Design and Internet Marketing Work
We show all prospects our portfolio and are happy to show examples of our work or situations that we have been in to be sure to put the prospects mind at ease of what we have experienced.

4: Passion
We believe that passion plays a key part in client trust. We love what we do and believe that a client will feel more comfortable working with a business who has fun.

5: Telling the Truth
We always tell a prospective client the truth – maybe to often. If we can’t do the job, we don’t take it. We believe that it’s better to be able to deliver the BEST JOB rather than a subpar job.

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Contact Westward Strategy & Design Group, LLC.
If you are interested in the services we offer, please contact us at (775) 626-8330.

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.