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SEO Made Simple

SEO Made Simple: 7 Tips for Small Businesses

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!

Implementing SEO basics that can increase traffic dramatically

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!

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Save Time Guest Blogging, List Away

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.)

Should I use the Canonical Tag or 301 Redirect to change domains?

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:

SEO Keyword Research:

Business Development Opportunities:

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!

SEO Basics for UCLA x425

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

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Internal Linking: The Benefits Of Great Information Architecture For SEO

Every time I write a requirements document for SEO, I make sure to address Usability and Information Architecture. I like to think that Google will reward sites that do have good Information Architecture because it is mostly always search engine friendly designs that support crawlability and indexing. This is usually the reason I spend a lot of time with the User Experience team or UX designers, because working closely with them will only help influence a search engine friendly design built into the product requirements. I’m not going to sit here and say that I win every time, but, I’ll take a win where I can get it. Aside from all the awesome acronyms, I thought I would share some of the things that I have seen influence IA, UX, and SEO.

Sub-Pages and Navigation

Deep Content websites have a ton of content that requires you to split pages up and helps from both a standpoint of clean Information Architecture of main page to sub-page. Similar to category and sub-category indexes, entertainment content like Movies, TV, Celebrities and Music all have deep content types and indexes, putting it all on one page would be one incredibly long, unusable page with a horrible user experience. Oh, and that page would probably take 20 seconds to load even on today’s speedy internet connections. I think it’s fairly obvious that pages and sub-page types exist, so, taking a few minutes to think it through is probably a good idea.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are navigational elements that are designed to help the user experience of a website by leaving a trail of where are user is browsing on the site. From an SEO standpoint, breadcrumbs are extremely useful because of all the internal links that are created as you get deeper into the content. For sites with a lot of deep content or a large index of pages, this can be especially helpful because the number of internal links grows exponentially.

Example of a Breadcrumb:
So, let’s say I was designing a breadcrumb for Myspace and I was on the Kim Kardashian topic page. It would look something like this:
Home > Celebrities > Kim Kardashian

And, by the way, the term “Breadcrumb” is probably one of the coolest web terms used…how could you not use them on your site?!

In-Page Navigation

In-Page Navigational links can be referenced in a few different ways, from jump-links to on-page anchors, etc. It’s actually one of the oldest forms of navigation from the web 1.0 days when websites didn’t have fancy menu’s, navigation elements, etc. Today, you’ll still see many sites use in-page navigation to guide users through FAQs or even through large pages. Wikipedia and IMDB are great examples of this as they have fairly long pages and help users move through page content fairly easily.

Now, from an SEO standpoint, this is awesome for internal linking because, URL fragments (#) (and, everything the follows) that are used in on-page anchors are ignored by search engines and therefore creates links internal to that page. While It is debatable from an SEO standpoint, you can leverage URL fragments for SEO benefits in AJAX as well.

Related Links

Related links are a gold-mine and one of my favorite types of ways to leverage User Experience for SEO purposes. From a page to page browsing standpoint, they are great at increase page views while users stay engaged, clicking through your website content. There are all types of implementations from modules in sidebar’s, sub-page sections, and link lists to navigate users through a website. Many of these examples range from “Songs similar to…”, “You might also like…”, or “Top Lists.” Here are some examples from Kanye West’s HAM song page on Myspace:

User Experience and SEO

I tried to show some of the key examples of how user experience and SEO teams can work together. But, there are so many more examples out there and every website and product have different use cases. The key is to work together to create richer and smarter user experiences on the web. And, you can pretty much guarantee that by creating that solid UI, with a well thought out content architecture, you’re site will be search engine friendly. This helps overall SEO strategies through strong internal linking that increases crawl paths and rich anchor text links on your website. An overall win-win for UX and SEO in my opinion.

I make it a point to talk to user experience professionals daily to understand how they think and talk through various scenarios. There are countless times where they have helped me think outside the box on projects and through a simple brainstorm, come up with better SEO solutions for a page, product, or website.

AJAX & SEO: A strategic approach to rankings

Dealing with the limitations of AJAX and Flash can be an SEOs worst nightmare. There are so many issues that come into play & usually you can deal with many AJAX SEO issues by developing Progressively Enhanced code. While, I’ve written about how to address crawling and indexing with AJAX and SEO. I wanted to take a little bit of a deep dive into this again, along with the bigger issue, ranking.

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Site Speed: Reducing Page Load Times and Increasing Pages Crawled

I’ve always been a big fan of quick page load times on sites from overall User Experience standpoint. But, ever since Google announced that they were using site speed in web search ranking I have become a big time stickler about this. After watching this for the last couple months, I’ve realized that my peskiness about the whole thing warranted just cause.

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Are Google's real time and latest results REALLY based on relevance?

I’ve had a few colleagues and friends lately ask me about Google’s real time search results since they launched real time search about two months ago. To some of you, this might be an obvious post, as Rae from Outspoken Media pointed out with her post about Google enabling real time spam.

I was then alerted by a friend that apparently Google is filtering people based on relevance and followers and all that jazz. He pointed to an article talking about how Google ranks tweets. Which the author talks about hashtags, followers, relevance and all that jazz to get you to think that the real time results are actually influenced by these attributes in search.

Being the investigative person that I am, I decided that I needed to see this for myself and figured that American Idol would be something that is somewhat trending, it would be the right opportunity to test out the real time spam that Google enabled.

First, I did a search for American Idol and noticed some real time results. So, it was time for me to tweet away and see if I could get some results in there. Now, remember, I NEVER talk about Idol, I could care less about American Idol, and honestly, I know I’m entirely irrelevant to idol, but then I saw this rank:

So that was just a test…now some of you might say, well, that was because it was just talking about American Idol and only relevant to American Idol. Fine, I thought through that and figured it might be interesting to see what would happen if I posted a link to the Kindle in Amazon to see if you could spam affiliate offers via the real time results:

Done deal! Granted, I didn’t get any clicks from Google to that link, but it just goes to show that you can pretty much game the real time results fairly easily at this point. The more people look at those results and the more intertwined they become to the search experience, the more you could figure out ways to game it.

I could essentially create bots via twitter or hire overseas labor extremely cheap to go out there and just tweet all day with a bunch of affiliate links to trending topics and such with real time and maybe get some VERY minimal to no results. Then again, it makes me wonder if/when people will start clicking on those results that are relevant to the original searcher intent of their query? At that point, you’ve opened a flood gate of people that could do what I just mentioned above.

Just something to think about. Again, like I said, for some of us, this is pretty obvious stuff, but, thought it would just be interesting to run the analysis and post about it.

What are your thoughts about real time search results? Do you think they will be gamed and spammed more and more?

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