At Quickbooks Connect I presented on all the available methods to help small business owners grow their business online. I discussed SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, Facebook Ads, and Email Marketing.
Whether you’ve started a new website or have an existing business and are looking to get some eye balls to it, SEO can be a challenging task. And, couple that with the fact there are over a billion sites on the internet, we know it can seem overwhelming. The truth is though, optimizing your site for search engines is really simpler than it seems. We’ve put together a list of simple, helpful, and promising steps for your site to get the most traffic possible from search engines.
Target the RIGHT People
As you probably know by now, targeting the right audience (people) is a key part of this process. It may be easy to decide on a target audience, but make sure your website is tailored to target the right people too. This means including potential search keywords or phrases here and there and making it easy for people to find you.
Take advantage of people who are actively searching for your topics. Make their job easy! If they’re searching for you, they probably won’t be using general keywords but rather they’ll be looking for you by using relatively unique keywords. For example, let’s say you’re a dentist in Scottsdale, Arizona. You may not be able to rank for “Scottsdale dentist” immediately, but you could rank for “Dr. Adam Smith, Scottsdale, AZ” or “Adam Smith Dentistry”. It’s always good to start with the basics. Just knowing people can find your business by your brand or company name is just as important. Over time, by continuing to add content to your site, and you become more of an “authority” in Google’s eyes, you’ll start to find you will be driving traffic for those keywords like “scottsdale denstist”.
Know What Search Engines Like
Search Engines work to give users the most relevant results based on their search. So how do you make sure you’re relevant? There are some 4 factors that can influence how your site shows up in results. Content, Authority, User Experience, and Performance. Content: does the actual text, titles, and descriptions on the page match a searcher’s results? Authority: is your site good enough to be used as a reference by other sites? User Experience: Is your site easy to use and safe? Performance: Does your site have proper speed and functionality?
Make Your Site User-Friendly
Make pages designed for users, not search engines! This is called cloaking and will deceive your users. Although you want your site to appeal to search engines, users should of course be your primary concern. Don’t go making your pages so optimized that users will have a bad experience.
Do Your Keyword Research
Imagine you’re a potential consumer searching for a site like yours. What would they Google to find you? Test it out yourself! If there’s a term or phrase people may search to find you, Google it and see if your site comes up.
If you search something vague like “Scottsdale dentist” you may find sites with headlines using that specific phrase but bare in mind that it took them a while to get to that rank.
So choose a search that is easier to rank on. If you search “Adam Smith Dentistry,” chances are that there will be fewer results because no other listings use the same keywords. This means you have a great chance to rank for them by making just a couple simple changes to your website!
You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what people are searching for and use that to your advantage when you start implementing these tips. And, you can take a look at how we do seo keyword research to help you come up with more keywords to show up for.
Optimize Title Tags
In case you aren’t familiar, Title Tags are the title of a page that show up in the blue at the top of a browser. They are often overlooked, but are really a critical part to SEO. We tend to think it’s the most important part of what is on the page, from an SEO perspective.
A good rule of thumb is to include one keyword and a couple descriptive phrases that explain the page. For example, a bio page on Adam Smith Dentistry could include a title tag like “Dr. Adam Smith: treating patients in Scottsdale, AZ since 1980.”
You may not be getting a ton of traffic from these words specifically but you’ll show up for people searching those terms.
Optimize File Names
Considering there are more than just one ranking factor, search engines don’t just look at title tags and rank your site. URLs and file names are another opportunity to create relevance on your website.
All it takes is some identification of a theme or focus of a particular page. For instance, someone may be searching “patient testimonials” on your site. Name the page “yourwebsite.com/patient-testimonials/” and use a photo named “patient-testimonials.jpg.”
Be sure to keep it short and simple so it will be easy to remember for users and relevant for search engines. For more specific and long tail content, you might have a page about teeth cleaning and whitening. In that example you could use “yourwebsite.com/teeth-cleaning-whitening/” for the URL.
This should give you a good frame of reference for your pages going forward.
Content Optimization and Keyword Targeting
After choosing your title tags and filenames, add those same keywords throughout the content of the pages on your site. The key is, you want it to be subtle. Use natural language and avoid awkward phrases or obvious SEO and keyword stuffing. At the end of the day, we want readers to maintain their interest rather than be annoyed with unnecessary repetition.
Take advantage of the headlines and subheaders to add in important references to keywords that important to that specific page. For example, above we talked about teeth cleaning for our URL example. On that page you could have headers that contain “Teeth Cleaning” and “Teeth Whitening” to target those keyphrases on the site.
Then, you can start inserting those types of keywords throughout the copy of the page and the website as a whole. Remember though, the key is keeping the user interest as well.
Add Meta Tags
Meta Tags like the “meta description” are important as well. Sure, they no longer carry as much weight as they did in the past, but they still have some importance. They’re good to have and just a checkbox to make sure you’re doing everything you can to help your website get found.
The Meta Description typically won’t help with rankings, but they can affect your traffic. What we mean here is that this is the first thing people see (along with the title tag) in Google when they see your brand. The key is writing it to entice people to click on your website over the 10 other blue links in Google’s search results. Be unique, intriguing, and focus on the reader. Use benefit-rich texts that will trigger someone to say “Yes I found the perfect site!”
You’ll only have about 150 characters to use but there’s still a chance to make a big impact with small and simple words.
Now you may be thinking that there is so much more to SEO. And you’re right! But this is a great way to get started optimizing your site by only spending a little bit of time overall and about ten minutes per page. These small changes can get you in the right direction and help people find you. And, who knows, you might even be able to get a customer or two in the near term!
So, you’ve got a new email subscriber! Whether it’s a product, service, or blog, the one thing you need to remember is that you’re now building a relationship. Think of it like a friendship. General rules of thumb for maintaining this friendship are regular communication, showing interest in their opinion, and making them feel important. The first email they get from your site will be the make-or-break of whether they want to stay your friend. To keep them interested, you’ll need to fulfill a need of theirs from the get-go reminding them that you are worth their time and space in their inbox. So now you’re probably thinking “how do I accomplish all this?!” It’s really much simpler than it sounds.
Testing, testing, 123
Before getting into the specifics, just remember that there is no set formula for having an effective welcome e-mail. Our best advice is to test all these methods, try different combinations, and see what works for your users! As you read this list, think about what will actually get your target to click through your emails and try them out. With some combination of these methods, you’ll be on your way to subscribers who get excited to see your name in their inbox.
Make a Real Connection
Like we mentioned before, you want this subscriber to be your friend. For some companies, this can get literal. If possible, make a human connection with your new subscriber. Have a real-life employee(yes, a human!) contact them after subscribing, welcoming them to the community or even asking for feedback. The new subscriber will feel important and refreshed to see something other than an automated email. Now we know this isn’t possible for every website (too big, not enough time, etc), but it’s worth a shot for smaller companies looking to establish themselves and their relationships with subscribers. And don’t try to go fooling your user with an automated email pretending to be human! They will know and will get a bad impression right off the bat.
Tell Them What to Expect
Let the new user know how often and what kind of content you will be emailing them. This will differentiate you from other campaigns and keep you out of their spam folder .
Minimize Amount of Text
Trust us on this one: most copy in subscription emails goes unread. No one wants to spend their free time reading through long blocks of text. Even if you’re a news site, email success will come from keeping it short, simple, but effective. In the welcome email, give them a simple call to action. The most common form of this is a button. Invite them to visit your site, redeem a code, or continue shopping. If the reader sees a button, they will probably go straight to clicking it before even reading the copy, so make sure you use this method with that in mind.
Get personal with your new subscriber, but don’t creep them out. Use their name in the email and personalize it based on how you got their email. For example, if you got it at an event, make mention of the event and meeting them. Tell them facts about their account type or how to use your site from the platform they signed up on. But don’t show them that you know information that will sound invasive like their location. You wouldn’t tell a new friend that you’ve already fully Facebook-stalked them and know their entire life, would you? (No!)
Say thank you and let the subscriber know that you appreciate their engagement. They have plenty of emails in their inbox and have opted in for adding more with your emails. Show them that you appreciate them and will make it worth their while!
Use an Intriguing Subject Line
Most sites stick to a simple “Welcome to ___” and tend not to branch far off from this. But make it interesting! Be consistent with your branding and make the new subscriber excited to open the email. Compel them to find out more and continue engaging with your emails.
Be Compatible with Mobile Setting
41% of emails are opened on the mobile device now, so if your email isn’t mobile-friendly too, you could be using a large base. Make an effort for those mobile users so they don’t begin to automatically delete your emails in the future.
Promote Your Site
Because this will be the first email they receive from your site, the subscriber is more likely to actually open it. This makes it a perfect time to promote your goods or services. But make sure this isn’t done in an in-your-face way. Show them that you’re worth their time by giving a discount code or free shipping just for them. They will want to stay your friend!
Remind Them Why You’re Friends
Show the subscriber that you’re not like the rest! They subscribed to you for a reason and this needs to be maintained so that their interest is kept. Remind the user why you became friends in the first place by showing them what your site can do for them (products, posts, opportunities, etc).
And Tell Them To Whitelist Your Address
You don’t want to end up in their junk folder, so make sure you have them add your address to their contacts. Another way to avoid the junk and spam folder is by making sure your email passes fraud tests. Make it easy for the reader by telling them exactly how to whitelist you and they may actually listen!
Keep It Simple
Keep it simple! Nobody wants an overwhelming, text-heavy, extremely long welcome email. Short text, a couple pictures and promotions, and perhaps a call to action. Simplicity is key! If you do have a call to action, make sure it’s logical and parallel with other calls to action and account confirmations.
Give a Gift
Everybody loves a gift! Make an offer that will motivate them to use your service or site. 10% off, free shipping, buy one get one free, free first time, refer a friend special, anything! They will feel obligated to use it so that it’s not wasted.
Last, But Not Least!
Yes, we’re repeating it again now that you’ve now read through everything. Test, test, test! Combine different techniques until you find the best method for your site. Give each method enough time to get accurate results but don’t be afraid to keep changing it until it’s right for your site. After all, everyone only receives one welcome email!
Here are some good welcome emails from other companies:
Gap does a great job of offering and highlighting their 25% discount offer, thanks the customer, and doesn’t overwhelm in CTAs.
Evernote uses the personalization of the subscriber by addressing their name and shows them how to use their account, but still keeps things short and simple.
Dorothy Perkins’ welcome email has two CTAs but also keeps it short and simple for the reader. This is a great example of reminding the user to add your email to their contacts and informing them what will be in their inbox from you.
At most large organizations, doing just the basics can help you out tremendously, the value of your domain itself is huge. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can implement the basics and just walk away, SEO is still a holistic process that is important to continuously follow up on. At the same time, it still means that you need to nail the basics, and if you do, it will pay off in spades!Read More›
If a post goes up on Twitter or Facebook, and no one is around to engage with it, does it still make a sound? Not if you’re trying to build up a brand it doesn’t.
Whether your social media efforts are for personal or professional gain, they still require a certain amount of — well, effort. And, unless you’ve got a lab in your basement that manufactures that elusive commodity known as free time, you probably don’t have either the appetite or the ability to expend effort without receiving some sort of return. And, the best way to guarantee that your time investment nets a nice big return is to first identify the topics that are most likely to get your target audience talking about and — more importantly — sharing what you write.
To figure out which topics your target audience likes to talk about, you first need to identify who that target audience is. Ad.ly has a great analytics platform that breaks down the geographic and demographic makeup of your Twitter audience, but since the platform is still in Beta, you need to give them your email and cross your fingers for an invite. While you’re waiting, Klout will help you identify who your social media efforts influence the most, and tell you which topics you talk the most influentially about. You can also use Export.ly to break down data like location, time zone and bio for your Twitter followers, and activity, engagement and comments for your Facebook fans. Plus, there’s always Facebook Insights to help you get demographic data like age, gender, language and the like for folks who like your posts and pages.
Tweetstats also has a similar feature, allowing you to hone in on your Tweet density, as well as a nifty ‘Tweet cloud’ that shows you which topics you already talk about all the time. If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, ViralHeat will makes a great companion to that sort of info, as it generates all sorts of charts illustrating what goes viral from your accounts and when. The plus side to ViralHeat is you can chart Facebook, Twitter, your blog and any other social media efforts you’re making all in one place, although it does take a monthly fee and a little bit of elbow grease to get it all set up. If you want to stick with the free tools, TweetEffect tells you which of your Tweets resulted in a gain or loss of followers, complete with a color coded timeline of your Twitter history. And, Facebook Insights will give you a similar sense of which days you generated a lot of likes and comments, and which days you didn’t, which you can then use to infer which posts got people talking and which were met with radio silence. For more guidance on that, check out this recent Mashable article detailing all the ways to make the most of the Insights platform — especially section 2, which goes into a lot of useful detail about content optimization.
If you are doing SEO of any form, you’ll know one of the biggest and most important challenges is finding links. A quick and easy way that I recommend to companies that I work for or with is to guest blog on various sites. It’s even better when you know about a site like Ranker, where it’s extremely easy to create content and links that not only have an SEO benefit, but also, a traffic benefit to your site.
I’ve watched Ranker create a fun and easy platform for the creation of lists of all times, from The 10 wackiest lawsuits ever filed to Top Celebrity Homes on the Market in LA. It’s been great watching it grow as a product and having used it, I know how quick and painless it is to create lists of all types that will not only create links to external sites but also generate referral traffic. Also, each post has a link to your twitter account, so, it’s also a great way to get an increased following on social.
Ranker is a site about lists – all kinds of lists – that launched in August 2009 and now has well over 2 million monthly uniques. The best part is there is no one to reach out to at another website to sell them on being a guest author, it’s completely UGC. Basically, just create an account, start posting, and start promoting the content. And, we all know how easy it is to create a top 10 list that’s somewhat relevant to your site, anyone can do that, even my 1 year old nephew. ?
Obviously like anywhere and anything else having to do with content on the web, if you create a list that sucks, it’s not going to get much play. But, create an awesome list like Top 10 Celebrities Who Have Had Weight Loss Surgery and next thing you know, you’ve got powerful pages linking back to your domain from an external site. Again, it’s not just that, but, if it’s an amazing list and the team notices it, you’re likely going to get a good amount of referral traffic as well.
It’s super easy to make a list. You name your list, have the option to choose a category (or you can do an open-ended list), and build your list using a Netflix-esque drag-and-drop-with-autosuggest interface. If your list is in a category (like People, or TV, or Companies), the items you add to your list will likely already be in Ranker’s database with preloaded images.
Even if you have content that doesn’t fit nicely into their existing categories that gets lost in the algorithmic shuffle, interesting lists and effing amazing lists usually do fine regardless. So, if you have something like <a href=”http://www my sources.ranker.com/list/plastic-surgeons-report-9-most-requested-celebrity-noses/sandramiller” onclick=”__gaTracker(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘outbound-article’, ‘http://www.ranker.com/list/plastic-surgeons-report-9-most-requested-celebrity-noses/sandramiller’, ‘9 Most Requested Celebrity Noses’);” target=”_blank”>9 Most Requested Celebrity Noses, even if there isn’t a “plastic surgery” category, you can do what this guy did and use the “people” category instead to give it that extra boost. ?
The way you get back links
There is a “site:” field in Ranker’s list editing screen where you can add a backlink with anchor text without even having to know any HTML. The link is high up enough on the page – right below the title of the post and to the right of your Ranker username. The links are dofollowed and are prominent enough that they can drive some traffic to your site, of course, you still need to have great content to get clicks. The other positive is if other viewers of the list have a site, tumblr, etc. it’s possible to get second order effects of linking from them as well. aka more seo goodness.
Note that the “site:” link is somewhat hidden in Ranker’s list edit platform – you can find it on the right side of the page to the right of the area where you describe your list. As an added bonus, you also get to put links on your Ranker profile page which is automatically generated – a good opportunity for either a slightly different anchor text term, or an entirely separate link (and if you have a Twitter or a Facebook fan page they have a link slot for that as well).
Spam gets filtered out
If you’re worried about this becoming another shitty seo wasteland like squidoo used solely for backlinks, try throwing up a page with just a single link up and see if you can find it without going directly to the URL. Ranker has built some pretty intelligent algorithms that hide obviously-spam or clearly rushed content pretty quickly – while your post won’t be removed, it also won’t be linked to on many pages. Again, if you have shitty or no content, it’s worthless, just like anything else on the web.
So if you take a few minutes, put together a decently interesting list, give it an intro with a few sentences (this is another area you can use for promotional copy), add tags so it appears in more places on Ranker, etc, your post could get thousands of views and be a strong addition to your social media arsenal. You can also add videos or images without having to wrestle with embed codes. Ranker has a direct search portal into YouTube and an image API. I also highly recommend posting your list in “Blog View” (this is not the default view) unless you make a really long list. And title your list something clickable.
If you create a decent piece of content, odds are it will get views and rise in Ranker’s algorithmic content blocks, and perhaps Ranker’s editors will tweet it or add it to their Facebook stream. The better it does, the more search juice the post will have, and thus pass back to your site
(Disclaimer: I am an advisor for Ranker, and, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because the site was a lot clunkier about a year ago, and, the traffic has gone up more than 10x. Also, while it seems like agenda pushing of my own, how many other guest blogging opportunities come with 2+ million uniques on quantcast. I’ve used it myself and I know others that have done so successfully as well (see above links), if nothing else, for the traffic benefit alone.)
At SMX West, Adam Audette mentioned that he had some success with the canonical tag and that in some cases he noticed that the canonical tag had been much more effective. It stuck in my head for a few months and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to test this out. Also, at SMX West, I talked about some of the gains that we saw because of finally implementing the canonical tag the right way. Trust me, it took a few tries to get it right!
As it turns out, I’ve been moving my personal blog to the Visible Factors blog and added a thoughts section on tonyadam.com, just to separate things a bit. (I know, that itself was a lot to digest!). But, before I 301 redirected the entire /blog/ section, I realized, “Oh! Perfect opportunity to test out the canonical tag.” So, I took two articles and implemented a cross domain canonical tag on one and a standard 301 redirect on the other. And, I was honestly shocked at the results. The test included two posts that I get a decent amount of traffic for. tweeting the post, and updating the posts in wordpress, basically, with the intention of forcing a crawl.
Cross Domain Canonical Tag vs. 301 Redirect Test:
For the cross domain canonical tag test, I took my post on Keyword Research and wanted to add the canonical tag for the post on visiblefactors.com. The 301 redirect test was based on my post on determining business development opportunities and I added a 301 redirect to the .htaccess file on tonyadam.com to permanently redirect that post. At that time, I went through the test, step by step.
Implementation of Canonical Tag and 301 redirect:
Cross Domain Canonical Tag:
I also implemented a 301 redirect on tonyadam.com:
redirect 301 /blog/508-find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/ http://visiblefactors.com/blog/2010/03/17/find-and-close-business-development-opportunities/
As of Saturday here was the rankings in SERPs:
Then I updated the posts in WordPress and posted a tweet on Saturday:
Tweet for canonical tag test:
Tweet for 301 redirect test:
Finally, as of Wednesday morning, here were the results in SERPs:
SEO Keyword Research:
Business Development (as of today):
Which should I implement?:
As you can see, the test proved Adam’s comments at SMX West about the canonical tag seeming like it was more effective instantly. The post on keyword research was updated in SERPs and seems to be more effective at updated the SERPs instantly. If that’s your goal, I would use the cross domain canonical tag implementation to get that done. It seems like it is the clear cut winner as the other post still hasn’t updated in the SERPs.
At the same time, I’ll be implementing a 301 redirect because I want my entire blog directory to be moved for all traffic to get redirected, etc. The test has shown me though that the cross-domain canonical tag is extremely effective. Especially in situation where you have identical content on two domains and you’d like to condense equity, but, both sites still need to stay up.
I’ll be running larger tests if possible over the next couple months and if possible share these results, but, if you’ve seen examples, I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to guest speak with Richard Knafelc to the UCLA x425 extension course on SEO and Social Media for communications professionals thanks to Erik Deutsch. I love teaching and it was a great opportunity to do so, on my favorite topic of course.
We covered a lot of the basic principles of SEO from keyword research, to on-page SEO tactics and link building. The class also had some really good questions for Richard and I around things like Reputation Management, how Social Media helps SEO, etc. For
Tony Adam is Founder and CEO of Visible Factors (a Prime Rank Media, Inc. company), has been in technology since 2000 and online marketing since 2003. Tony is an entrepreneur, startup advisor, and regular speaker at many technology and marketing conferences, including SMX, PubCon and SXSWI.
On Thursday of last week, I had the opportunity to present at SMASH (Social Media Advanced Skills Huddle) at USC. What I was really excited most about was the fact that we had many of the Master in Human Behavior students in attendance at the conference and was great hearing their thoughts and insights around Social Media. I presented on Social Media ROI and while my presentation is below I thought I’d share a few highlights:
1. Create Goals and a Plan: I really do believe that before starting any campaigns and worrying about the tools to track ROI, you need to define what those goals are, what you’ll be measuring against, and have a plan to achieve those goals.
2. Value: When you set those goals, it’s also critical to understand what types of value Social Media Marketing is going to add to the overall campaign or your organization daily, monthly, or weekly. Some of those values can be increased engagement (e.g. mentions, blog comments, etc.), increased traffic, or increased brand recognition.
3. Platforms: While there are many Social Networks, Bookmarking, and news sites, it’s important to understand where your site should be represented on the Social Web. While the general Social Media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are really important to have a presence in, if you participate in photography Flickr has a large community.
4. Use existing tools on Social Media Platforms: Facebook has their insights product for Facebook Page owners, StumbleUpon has domain stats (e.g. http://su.pr/domain/myspace.com), and Myspace has Artist Dashboards. These tools can take you a long way without having to pay for anything right off the bat, so, make sure to take full advantage of all the free tools you can.
5. Free and Paid Tools: Along that same note of taking advantage of all the free tools out there, bit.ly has good click tracking for URLs you tweet and I highly recommend to at least start there with tools. After that, it would be a good idea to start looking at tools like Alterian SM2, Radian6, Social Flow, CoTweet Enterprise, etc. that make the most sense for your organization.
Would love to get your thoughts around Social Media ROI and hear any tips you have for others out there that are learning and/or working on programs to track these metrics. Leave a comment and lets get the conversation rolling!