4 Main Reasons you should be linking in Blogs

We create blogs with tons of great content and we base our content on Social Media that attracts a link or two. (Boy, isn’t that the understatement of the year!) We rely on this content to create user engagement and get people to keep coming back. But something that is also just as important as creating great content, is knowing when to link to internal and external resources appropriately.

User Experiences and Topic Depth

Linking to external resources in blogs and articles creates that richer and more complete user experience. Doing so provides the user reading an article more depth and coverage on a topic or news item. Further expanding that, linking to external resources that cover multiple view points, opinions, etc. further validates the credibility of your blog. That is what you are going for, especially to first time readers. Establishing a sense of credibility and in-depth resources and/or content will create an authoritative presence for your blogs/articles.

Blogging Etiquette and Links

The blogosphere and social media circles can run pretty tight, but also be wound pretty darn tight as well. So, by never linking out or linking out, but slapping “nofollow” all over the place can create quite a stir. There is a certain level of etiquette that is expected within blogs/articles. Giving the resource you have linked to credit plays an important role in the level of respect given to your content. The last thing you want to be seen as is yet another site “Hoarding Link Juice.”

Pro Blogger has a great resource for this called The Etiquette of Linking.

Linking Internally

Internal linking is probably one of the most overlooked factors in blogging, but, it is also my favorite topic of discussion lately. Linking internally is not only highly useful to the user, but extremely important to search engine relevance. Since it is important to provide additional resources in the blog post/article, as mentioned above, it is an added benefit if you can link to your own resources. This is something that can be achieved by creating pattern matching systems in larger organizations. It can even be as simple as educating bloggers, writers, and editors to take a minute to link to internal resources.

Looking at an example, lets take a sports blog and an article that could be written about the recent injury to Kyle Orton on the Chicago Bears. Within that article you could link to the “Kyle Orton” bio page and the “Chicago Bears” team page. This is all kinds of SEO Hotness (yes, I just said that!) because you are creating relevance for search engines, since linking and the anchor text are important (if not the most important ranking factor). Internal Linking plays a major role in the overall Internal Link Architecture mix. But, to expand on that, this creates a wholistic user experience to resources that the reader could reference.

Getting Exposure

Finally, and most importantly, linking to external resources will get you more exposure because the blogosphere will notice when you link out, especially to their resources. If you are in a particular niche, you will notice that a lot of link love will be passed back and forth, once you start handing it out. The important thing to remember is that you want to be “top of mind” when bloggers/writers are looking for additional resources. Linking to external resources can do just that, because again, we track who links to us, at least I do. Now, I am not saying to have a free for all and just link to people in hopes that you’ll make yourself known. But what this does mean is that it is okay to link externally, because it will be appreciated by those that you link to. You never know who might reciprocate the link love and dish it right back to you by linking back to our content as a result.

Summary: Link…Link…Link

Link to external content to provide relevance and deeper resources. Follow “Blogger Etiquette” by linking externally and not “nofollowing” your entire site. Flow the link equity to deep content and relevant internal pages. And, finally, remember that linking to external resources will get you more exposure and keep you top of mind.

Need more information on linking for your business?! See my SEO Consulting Services page to get in touch with me about these services. Or, follow me on twitter to keep the conversation going!

AJAX and Non-JavaScript Experiences for SEO friendly websites

With the “Web 2.0” world that we live in, companies are inclined to create “snazzy” new AJAX experiences for users. I have been dubbing this the AJAX Dilemma lately because organizations/companies/website owners are creating sites that are not accessible and SEO friendly. They are risking crippling their businesses in the areas of search traffic by not planning SEO into the lifecycle of the product. Ensuring there is a Non-Javascript experience for search engines and accessibility is not a new practice. Creating sites using “Progressive Enhancement” and using “Unobtrusive JavaScript” has been around for quite some time.By creating web standard code and using the methods above, you are not sacrificing SEO for User Experience.

This is important to creating search friendly websites because ensurng search engines are able to crawl and index your content is necessary to acquiring search traffic and market share. By not embracing these approaches, you are leaving yourself in a handicap for SEO efforts and leaves you at a competitive disadvantage. In fact, it should not even just be designed on a project per project basis, but should be built into code that takes advantage of web standards and progressive enhancement.

The AJAX Dilemma for SEO

Show and Hide type interactions that are used in content areas throughout a site, like tabs or accordions, can create a crippling effect on the amount of content crawled by search engines, if they are not built correct. This content is typically built with poorly written JavaScript that does not take advantage of Web Standard code. The hidden content areas, when clicked on, will provide a string that follows the URL like, #somehiddencontent. Traditionally search engines ignore everything after the “#” (hash) tag.

Here are some examples of these interactions that are poorly written and don’t provide a graceful fail when JavaScript is turned off.

Notice something different? Of course you do, it is VERY blatantly obvious that the entire content within the tabs is completely missing. This is a large opportunity that is missed by ifoodstv.com at getting content not only indexed, but great internal links to deep content.

Now, taking a look at the way that iMedix does tabs is a little different, here it is with JavaScript on:

Here it is with JavaScript Off, on a different tab:

Do you notice a difference here at all? No?! Well, thats right, because there isn’t one.

Also, to add to that, iMedix is rewriting URLs so that there are no hash tags in the URLs:

This is a fantastic job of ensuring that there is not only crawlable content, but crawlable URLs. This is very important, search engines tend to ignore things after hash tags (#) in URLs. This is especially impotant with AJAX since that is typically how urls are created. Jeremy Keith (JavaScript expert extraordinaire) has described some ways to get around the AJAX issues, including has tags, and has described it as Hijax.

The Solution

The solution to creating AJAX that is SEO friendly is to ensure that you are building your site using Progressive Enhancement and Unobtrusive JavaScript. Along with that, url issues that could lead to canonicalization and duplicate content issues can be avoided using methods like Hijax. With the extremely competitive markets out there on the web, this is VERY important. It is possible to create rich user experiences with Ajax that are great for SEO.

As an example of how to do this, you can build standard interactions on your site that are accessible and search friendly. (This is how we built any standard interaction at PayPal). Any standard show/hide type interaction can be built using standardized JavaScript APIs. Doing this will create Non-JavaScript versions of interactions that are accessible and search friendly, but along with that will drastically reduce the amount of code that you have to write and increase developer efficiency.

Resources to help with AJAX and SEO

Google Webmaster Central: A spiders view of Web 2.0
Dom Scripting: Hijax
Progressive Enhancement with AJAX

Follow us on Twitter for more information at @visiblefactors

Positioning yourself using SEO and PPC for Customer Acquisition

When I started learning about SEO and the role it can play for any business, whether small or large, there was one quote that put it all into perspective. It was a business meeting that I was having with the owner of our company at the time and he said to me: “We have to find a way to position ourselves so people find us and not us going out finding people.”

Well, those words really inspired me to search for the answers to this, which ended up being search marketing. (no pun intended on the search comment, I swear!). Businesses have spent years spending countless dollars on acquisition going outbound. This is a VERY time consuming and resource intensive venture. Can you imagine the dollars you would have to spend hiring Telemarketers, Mass Mailers, Account Executives, etc. Yes, these are still very effective channels and you can still target and acquire customers this way, but, why not do it, with less resources, less dollars, etc.

Alright, I getit, I am preaching to the choir as fellow search marketers, you know this and understand it, intimately. But, as it turns out many small businesses are still relying on these traditional and old school outbound marketing tactics to acquire new customers. Any traditional channel that you can think of, SMBs are squeezing out every last drop. There is not only a lack of knowledge, but also of time and execution for an inbound style of customer acquisition.

If we put a little perspective on this, we can gain a little more understanding about how the Customer Acquisition model is changing and how positioning yourself to be found is more effective.

Imagine your a small business, put yourself in the shoes of an accounting firm. You have little to no understanding of marketing, sales and you are trying to target small business for accounting and bookkeeping services. What do you do? Well, there are a few options you can choose from:

  • Hire telemarketers to generate leads
  • Hire a Sales Executive to not only generate leads, but also close deals, etc.
  • Go to Hoovers or Dunn and Bradstreet and buy a list. After which you need to put together a mass direct mailer. Keep in mind you would still need to import this data into some sort of CRM package AND on top of that, follow up. (yawn. been there. done that.)
  • Buy tons of print media spots in magazines, newspapers, etc.

Think about all of the above strategies for a second and how much time, money or resources could be wasted with any and/or all of them. I have even seen and heard small business owners tell me that they are doing things like buying electronic signs in the thousands, to attract attention. While this is a fairly “inbound” technique, it is still very costly, for little to absolutely no gain. While, implementing PPC, this business could receive about as many visitors in one day for about ~$50. Even implementing some very simple Local SEO would help that business gain just as much traffic.

All of these very costly activities coupled with the fact that Search Marketing is not only more targeted but also more measurable is leading to that shift. Not only is it hitting the small business market, but also larger organizational strategies are changing. Focusing acquisition on inbound techniques, hiring more and expanding inhouse search marketing teams, etc.

Customer acquisition should really focus on the positioning of your organization to be found. Using SEO and PPC, this is VERY possible. Business on the web and in general is going to focus on this more and more in years to come. People SEARCH for products, services, etc. and any organization that does not adjust its customer acquisition strategy for this, is going to lose. Position yourself to be a winner.

Top 7 Must have Firefox Extensions, Plugins, and Tools

Since I just bought my new Macbook Pro, I had to reinstall all of my Firefox extensions, plugins and tools. So, I figured, hey, why not write a detailed post with examples about my “Top 7 Firefox extensions, plugins, and tools” that are near and dear to my heart!

Top 7 Firefox Extensions, Plugins, and Tools:

1. Firebug: If you haven’t used this yet and you are working on something internet related then you are surely missing out. I love the fact that I can pull it up to either fix issues, work on making adjustments on the fly, doing competitive analysis or a site audit.

2. Y! Slow: Since site speed is such an important part of conversion, you can use this to do some testing on your websites to test how they are running in certain environments. It provides data like overall page size and # of seconds the page took to load. Now, note that this all depends on your connection speed, always remember that there are people downloading pages at slower speeds, then you might be.

3. SearchStatus: I love the SearchStatus tool because it has the ability to show me PageRank, Alexa Rank and Compete Rank. I know, I know, I think we are all passed using PageRank as a measuring stick (My PageRank is bigger than yours!…Ha! I’ve been dying to say that!), but still beneficial none-the-less. Also, search status is very easy to do things like turning on no-follow highlighting, link reports, meta tags, etc.

 

4. SEOBook SEO for Firefox Extension: If you are an SEO, this is definitely a tool that you need to for competitive analysis, link building and even helps me when doing keyword research.

 

 

5. SEOBook Rank Checker: Another great tool from SEOBook and something that I end up using daily. (Yes, I’m addicted to rankings! Don’t lie, you are too!)

 

6. Web Developer Toolbar: This is great when I want to test pages with images off, javascript off, and many other important functions.

 

7. LiveHTTPHeaders: Simply put this is great for checking HTTP header status codes, is great for verifying 301/302 redirects, 200’s, etc.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter: Tony Adam

An understanding of SEO Keyword Research

Keyword research is the base for any good SEO campaign and a large amount of your success will be truly dependent on how well you did your keyword research. Of course, this will be built into your overall SEO Strategy, but it should be the very *FIRST* item on your SEO to-do list.

When you start you really want to think about your industry and use a top down approach to the seo keyword research and development. What I mean by that is, start by understanding the audience that you are marketing to. This is a very basic marketing principal and quite frankly the most important thing to understand within Internet Marketing. Once you understand the audience that you a speaking to, you will have established what types of keywords and key-phrases they are searching for on a daily basis.

Now that you have established the audience that you will be marketing to, it is time to starting laying this out and putting it into your overall SEO Strategy. Since this is the base for your entire SEO Strategy and/or campaign, having these keywords and phrases handy will help you later with items like Link Architecture. Something I like to do is get the keywords layed out on either a whiteboard or something of that nature.

Moving forward, you want to do some competitve analysis with the competitors and other industry leaders for the industry, community, etc. This will help you when you start getting into the real detailed data mining and using Excel or an application to maintain this data. On a side note, you not only want to make sure you note down the keywords, but, keep score of what company it is for later use, it can help you in your Link Building efforts. Finally, doing this analysis can also lead you to new and creative discoveries for keyword research.

Figure 1.1 – Keyword Research Lifecycle:

Keyword Research Lifecycle

If you are keeping score at home, we have now plowed through the start of gathering the main 10-15 keywords to target for your site. We’ve done this by understanding our audience, the main industry terms and a doing a bit of competitive analysis. The next step is finding a keyword research tool that you like and enjoy working with.

Keyword research tools all have different features and benefits. Some are free, some are expensive and some are bundled. I personally love doing some data mining and using different sources. Everyone has their own needs and wants though, so I would suggest finding methods that make your life easier or that you enjoy. That being said, here is what I have been using lately:

Free Wordtracker Tool: I sometimes visit this page just to do some quick sanity tests on keywords that I am interested in. When reviewing pages, i sometimes pull this up to look at the product/services that are on the page.

<a href="http://tools.seobook view website.com/keyword-tools/seobook/” onclick=”__gaTracker(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘outbound-article’, ‘http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/’, ‘SEO Book Keyword Tool’);” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>SEO Book Keyword Tool: So far, this has been the best tool that I have used lately. Aaron Wall has done an excellent job with this. Gathers a daily estimate for keywords and/or phrases based on a search term. I love that it has an aggregated listing of all the data I need. Finally, I love that I can export to CSV and import into excel! (P.S. Great job Aaron! As always!)

Y! Search Marketing and Google Adwords: I always feel that PPC tied into your SEO campaigns. It gives you the opportunity to test/measure/adjust and so on. With that, I can get a little bit of data to use in the keyword research process.

To be honest, lately, I have been solely reliant on SEO Book’s tool. Just perfect for all of my needs at the moment.

Next thing you need to do is do is run a query on your top 5-10 keywords that you have identified. Prior to doing all these searches though, you need somewhere to store all this information, as mentioned earlier, using Excel is a great way to do this. Truthfully, you need to find what works for you (and possibly, your organization).

Based on your main keyword search you should be able to gather a pretty healthy (read as: LONG) list of your main and long tail keywords, seperated out somehow. If you are using a keyword research tool that exports this data for you, it should be a piece of cake! At this point, you will just need to “massage the data” to your liking.

Now that you have this nice healthy long list of keywords, you have an insight into some importance of each keyword or phrase. You can organize this to your liking and will definitely assist you moving forward while doing things like Copywriting and Link Building.

You can use this data as a basis for your overall SEO Strategy and campaign and build in overall statistics as well. (which could make for a very LARGE Excel sheet!) You can then use these stats to build charts, graphs, etc. of which can be used in presentations for upper management, executives, and/or consulting clients.

SEO Keyword Research is a necessity! Contact us about SEO Consulting Services and get started with your SEO Strategy today!

The Art of SEO Evangelism

Being an SEO Evangelist within an organization requires lot of energy, a lot of knowledge, thick skin, and a lot of relationships. Success is hard to come by and will require a lot of hard work, but it is definitely attainable. I would almost say that this does not apply to just SEO, but to all programs launched within an organization. Along with all that being an evangelist for the entire industry requires the same amount of tenacity.

I have spent a lot of time doing this through consulting efforts by convincing SMB’s to embrace the web and most importantly (at least to me of course!) adopting SEO. Each and every time was a struggle and required hard work, but was *always* worth the time spent.

As I mentioned, getting organizations to adopt SEO when they (a) have never heard of it, (b) don’t believe it is “really that important right now” (typically I’ve heard this from startups), or (c) still believe SEO is spamming. That all being said, here is my “guide” to the art of SEO Evangelism.

Knowledge of SEO

I start with knowledge, because it is extremely important to bring that into your conversations. Your knowledge and experience is crucial to your successes. Companies want proven success and someone that has the ability to deliver. This is especially true in the consulting world, as organizations want that track record of successful projects. In-house organizations are looking for a track record of successful performance.

Be sure that you have done your research on an industry, a skill and/or an organization. Have an understanding for what the company is doing for SEO. Put together questions that you feel people should be asking. Make sure that you have the skill set to do the research, put together the strategy, and execute the plan.

You also bring that knowledge to the table through the experiences that you have been through. Bringing only theories and ideas to the table will leave you in a weak position. So, that means that you want to speak in a strong tone and voice about your experiences. Using terms like “I think” or “i guess” or definite no-no’s. In previous consulting roles I have started conversations by saying, “My experience…” or “Previously…”, so that you are talking in terms of experiences. Now remember, you still need to be able to deliver, but I am assuming you already have that ability.

Knowledge is an important piece of the salesmanship of your SEO Evangelism. Use your knowledge and experiences to your advantage and make sure that people know of your skills.

Energy & Thick Skin

Energy and thick skin go hand-in-hand because I compare traits of the evangelist role similar to a telemarketer. Have an understanding that people are going to do and say a number of things that will upset you. They will mock you, assume they have more knowledge, challenge you, etc. Don’t let this get you down at all, keep your energy level high and keep going at it. NEVER get into a pissing match with someone about how important SEO is.

That all being said, keep that intense energy level and constantly talk about SEO in meetings, in passing, at lunches, and anywhere else you can think of. SEO should be mentioned in almost every conversation you have. Start asking product teams if they are building SEO into their product lifecycle? How is marketing integrating SEO into campaigns? Show everyone that you are talking to that you care about their job more than your own and that you are truly vested in their success.

Now, remember those people that did not want anything to do with SEO? Drop hints here and there, provide statistics and results, show case studies, etc. The more data that you bring to the table and the more fact finding you do will start to sell them, just based on performance and metrics. Keep going at it and let the data win them over!

Relationships within the organization

The most important piece of the puzzle, in my opinion, is the relationships you build. I feel this way about any new program that you launch. As always I feel it is especially important with SEO, because it is so hard to sell within an organization, to startups and getting buy in from individuals.

Start developing casual relationships with everyone you meet. Keep in touch with the people you meet and continue to have conversations. Sometimes conversations will drift towards the interest (or sometimes lack there of) of SEO. Ensure that you are developing contacts that are spread out throughout the entire organization, in product, marketing and technology. You are looking to create evangelists within each organizational unit in the company that will then begin take SEO under their wings as well

Creating relationships and empowering peers within these cross-functional areas will spread the word of SEO to their teams. This is very important because the knowledge you gain is not something that you can get by digging through analytics data. They can provide insight into their organizations key strategies, thoughts and challenges. The relationships that you build are crucial for that alone!

Putting it all together!

All of this is to your advantage because you can now start to build your SEO Strategy for the business needs and get buy in from executives about incorporating SEO into the product and marketing lifecycle and strategy. You can also find yourself with UX teams that are excited to fit keywords and phrases into content and create link architecture while building out a sites information architecture. Finally, technology will have no problem helping to ensure the meta data and tags on the page fit into the SEO strategy.

The cycle continues…

You will be consistently selling, re-selling, evangelizing, re-evangelizing, and so on and so forth. It will be a constant that you will always see within organizations as they change, adapt and bring in new people. The key is to maintain that same level of energy and continue to build those relationships.

Internal Link Architecture for your website

Part of any link building campaign should always include the internal Link Architecture that you have within your domain and off the domain for link building activities. I tend to use the term Link Architecture because it is similar to the Information Architecture (I.A.) that is used within your site. The Link Architecture will give you a naming convention for text links and image alt text used for links on your domain or for any other link building.

To preface, I would say that it is important to have some sort of I.A. for your site prior to building out your pages. This can be done quickly by writing the information down on notecard(s). That being said, I would always recommend to create a formal I.A. and Link Architecture documentation. The benefit of creating formalized documentation is that you can pass it around within your organization to creative and development teams or an agency that could quite possibly be working with your organization.

Documenting your Link Architecture and link text and/or image ALT text will provide a frame of reference.

When a search engine crawls a web page it associates the link text to the page it is linking to, which then associates link value to your page. An example of this is using the link text “web design” that points to “web-design-services.php.” Doing so will tell a search engine that the page you are going to is specifically about “Web Design.” These are the types of associations that should be created, documented and implemented for any and all link building in order to get the most link value possible for the associated keywords or key terms.

The naming convention used also applies to the image ALT text that are linked as well. All images that are linked should contain the contextual text within the ALT tag. For example, if you have an image that has a link pointing to a developer referral program page, the image ALT text should be example that, “Developer Referral Program.”

Something to look out for is using the terms “click here” and “this” for link text, which is a bad naming convention. Using this type of link text will not provide any context to the user and also to search engines, and along with that, it does not offer any link value to your domain.

The crucial thing to remember is that associating keywords to the link text when performing any link building or submitting to directories will pass the link popularity and PageRank value to the keyword you have associated to a web page. This in turn, makes your pages more relevant to search engines and will most definitely increase your rankings.

Related Article(s):
Sculpting PageRank using rel=”nofollow” for your internal Link Architecture

Sculpting PageRank using rel=nofollow for Link Architecture

Over the years I’ve been practicing a lot of different techniques with my internal link architecture. One of the things that I have been doing more and more of is evaluating when to use the rel=”nofollow” tag on the internal links.

Why is this important?
Well, in order to make the content within your site more relevant, you need to tell the search engine what is and is not relevant. Using rel=”nofollow” within your internal link architecture is a great way identify links that you do not want ranked well within the SERPs.

For example, contact us pages, FAQ pages, help pages, etc. are really not pages that most people want to be ranking well. By using rel=”nofollow” on those links, you are telling the search algorithm not to pass any link juice or PageRank (google specific) to the linked page.

How do you do this?
Start by establishing a listing of the types of pages that I talk about above. Next, you are going to want to do a site wide update of your links. For example, its as simple as updating your markup to the following:

Now that you have all the major ones out of the way, I recommend taking a few minutes to analyze your links on a page by page basis to see where you want to distribute the link value within your web site.

That’s all!

It is a fairly simple process, but one that I find especially crucial when I start looking at the Information Architecture and Link Architecture of any website.

Related Articles:
Website Link Architecture for link text and Image ALT text

Social Media – Part 2: Dominating the Search Engine Results Pages

Last week I talked about how to stay active, answer questions, etc. to keep brand awareness high and reputation management under control. This week, I’m going to give you an overview of how to dominate the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Pages) by using Social Media to your advantage.

We all know since the “Web 2.0 Evolution” there has been a massive influx of Social Media properties on the web. That being said, you can use this to your advantage from another Branding and Reputation Management aspect by using them to control the top 10 results listed in the SERPs for your branded search. (e.g. digg)

Here is what you do:

1. Find Social Media sites that are relevant: Do some quick research and find the sites that are relevant to you. If you do real estate, using YouTube is a great site…at the same time…if you are a large tech company, TechCrunch’s “CrunchBoard” is a great place to get a public profile about your company. Quick note though, keep this up to date…some brands do a bad job of this.

2. Build your branded social media page: Getting a public page on hot spots like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is very easy to do and build. There is already a template behind them, all you need to do is adjust it so that you are branding your page appropriately. Some sites, (e.g. MySpace) require some markup/css, but still very simple. Most organizations have already done this, if you have, GREAT!, you’re already one step closer to success.

3. Subdomians: Google has cracked down on the subdomain issue as of late, but, that being said for branding purposes, it is still helping out in dominating the SERPs. For example, having a careers or jobs mini-site/subdomain on your brand (e.g. careers.myawesomebrand.com) will give you yet another listing.

4. Blogging: O.K., I realize this is not so much related to a social media site…but it is related to the SERPs and control them. Blogging around your topic and creating linkbaitable items will not only get you a ton of traffic, but the true success comes from the amount of links for your site. So, be sure to set your blog up on your domain as a subfolder (http:://thegreatestbrandever.com/blog) or as a subdomain (blog.myreallycoolbrand.com). Along with all of that, you can use your blog as a great tool to pass some great PR value and Link Popularity to your Social Media sites.

5. Link Building: Doing link building on your “.com” is not the only place to focus. Granted, that being said, most social media sites do contain some heavy PR value and a good starting point. So, with very little effort, but an effort none-the-less, you will be able to rank those pages. So, send a link from your “.com”, your blog, etc. and a small link building effort should help.

Now, remember, these are the 5 steps to achieving Search Engine Results Page domination. Doing only 1 or 2 of these things will help your organization, but, you will receive the most effectiveness by following the steps and ensuring the dependencies.
Overall, your goal for the overall effort is reputation management and ensuring that your brand is controlling the SERP for a branded search (e.g. “Digg”). Doing so can have a tremendous amount of value and reduce a ton of negative publicity for your brand.

Web Standards based design and SEO

So, I figured to ring in the New Year of 2008, I would post about how the whole SEO industry should really start to take an understanding of Web Standards in the design of Websites. Semantic Web Design and using CSS for layouts is not really cutting edge people!! We have been doing this since 2001!

I have been so thoroughly frustrated with the quality (rather, lack of quality!) that I am seeing in some of the top agencies and experts in SEO. Even being at Webmaster World PubCon this year and sitting in on some of the interactive site reviews I was horrified by the lack of real web knowledge.

Now, as much as I love the SEO industry, I feel the need to call everyone out that is doing this. We are at a point where the web is becomming more and more semantic and browsers are standards compliant (See: Private Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 build passes Acid2 test).

What I am not going to do is start giving you a tutorial for how to build CSS layouts or semantic websites. Although this is an area of expertise of mine, there are TONS and TONS of resources for this out there already. (Resources Below).

Building Web Standards compliant websites that are semantic will add tons of value, not only to your services, but to your overall value as an organization. We are no longer in the 90’s and do not have to use tables for design purposes and layout, CSS is extremely powerful now. Using a CSS layout will dramatically reduce the amount of markup on your page. Also, use semantic markup up in your html document, such as using semantic CSS styles, insert the appropriate HTML (e.g. paragraphs, strong instead of b), etc. There should never be a class named “style6” or a div id with the name “leftside.” Classes should be named “footer” and similarly your div id’s should signify the content on the page, (e.g. div id=”logo”).
Here are the two **VERY IMPORTANT** reasons that you should build Standards Compliant websites with semantic markup.

Crawlability and Indexability is of course one of the most crucial things when working with SEO, because, the truth is, if a search engine doesn’t crawl your site, you won’t have any business. Standards compliant and semantic markup allows the search engine to read through your html documents with many pre-determined factors. To break this down in its simplist form search engines read through an html document the same way that we read through a written or “Word” document. From a User Experience stand point, page load times will drop and allowing the page to even render correctly will increase conversion.

Websites Maintenance can be a big part of the work that is taken on for consultants, agencies, and SEO Experts. Especially in larger organizations that have hundreds or even thousands of pages. Using the methods that I have been talking about will allow you to dramatically reduce the time it takes to even put up pages or re-design pages on a site, thus reducing your cost to build new or update old pages. This leads to you offering discounted rates, increasing customer loyalty, and/or increased margins for your organizations. From an SEO perspective, the benefit of building a site this way is that you do not have to attempt to stuff keywords into your content, less markup will in-turn help with keyword ratios on the page.

In summary, please build standards compliant websites that contain semantic markup. You will see a great benefit from it and help in cleaning up the web!

Resources:
A List Apart Articles – Great Web Design Resource
Web Standards Project – Do I really need to explain this?
Designing with Web Standards – A GREAT book by Jeffrey Zeldman that explains why Web Standards is important (yes, even for SEO) and goes into code level detail.

If you are using Standards based design with your websites and/or are practicing SEO…please comment!…I’d love to hear and share your thoughts!

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