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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!

Evangelizing SEO within an organization

Evangelism about SEO in an organization and spreading the word in a “grass-roots” sort of way is something that is very hard to do. I always think about it and get excited over the fact that I can make a difference and become a “thought leader” for an organization. The truth is, the evangelism of SEO within a traditional organization or small business can be painful.

I’ve been faced with this a couple times at organizations and while sometimes it is great and can lead to tremendous success, other times, it ends up just being a painful battle without any change.

So, basically I wanted to run through some of the things that I have done to try to get people excited about SEO and Search Marketing. I would call it by “Top 5 tips for SEO Evangelism,” but I don’t want to seem to cliche. (Oh darn, I already did!)

TALK TO PEOPLE! – This is by far, the most important rule that I have given myself. Get people in the know about SEO. (excuse my cliche sounding rhyme’s!…lol). Bring up topics going on in search, throw out numbers about how search is growing in popularity. SEOMoz does this well by putting quotes from well known articles on their homepage, these are things that you can total mention to people within your organization and hopefully build buzz. The main goal and hopefully you can get this going is to have people talking about SEO/SEM to each other.

Baby Steps – On the marketing and creative side we tend to see a lot of “ownership” around pages. They don’t want major changes to be made. So start with small things like meta tag, title tag and page naming changes in that could help certain keywords without changing your messaging or content.

Web Standards – Work closely with your web development teams to get better at coding. WATCH OUT THOUGH, YOU BETTER KNOW YOUR STUFF! Do not attempt to make it an attack. Evangelize it, that is what this is all about, spreading thoughts, knowledge and wisdom to other teams for the overall good (sounds like i am trying to save the world a bit??). Anyway, to get to the point, you basically want to get people thinking they should be standards compliant, ensuring the design elements are CSS based and that your HTML is read like a document. This allows for better site crawlability and your HTML will be read better by spiders.

Make Suggestions – Take a risk and go out on a limb by putting in thoughtful input whenever possible. Some things I have done with this is made statements in meetings about the amount of searches there are for a certain keyword or phrase that we could be capitalizing on.

Use Analytics to your advantage – This will help put everything together. Give you an unbelievable amount of data to take back to your colleagues and counterparts. Oh and guess what else this gives you?! We all know that the “Big Wigs” like seeing the numbers quickly and to the point, so this is a great way to evangelize your successes, no matter how BIG your “big wig” is.

Now that you have my secret and effective list of evangelism for SEO, you better put it to good use!! Spreading the word and starting a movement of sorts around will definitely help spread the word about SEO, building better sites, with a better user experience and great content.

Quick and Dirty SEO Copywriting Tips

SEO has lately been a plethora of information about Linkbait, tricking engines, social marketing and such and I wanted to post something in my mind that really takes me back to what got me into SEO, using my creative side and copywriting for the search engines. After all, I still believe content truly is king.

These may or may not impact your overall SEO performance intentionally, but it will increase conversion and possibly indirectly affect your rankings in the SERP’s. Here are a few factors that I have found to be HIGHLY important when writing good content or copy:

1. Talking to your customer: This really has the least desired significance from an SEO perspective, but is still highly critical. Your copy should really put your customer or reader in a situation where they feel like you are talking directly to them in a “1 on 1” style conversation.

2. Be Consistent: Maintaining a level of consistency with your page copy is going to lead you in the right direction. Maintain a consistent theme, ensure your crucial keywords and key phrases are being called out and stand out. You can throw a bold/italics/underline tag in there to make it stand out to the user and even the search engines.

3. Markup, Markup, Markup: As mentioned above, throw some tags in there to mix it up and have content that sticks out. Use custom CSS to create sexy header text and give the search engine’s more visibility into key phrases. Be creative in the way that you do things, but, DO NOT SPAM! If you spam, you won’t gain conversion, which goes back to being consistent and talking to your customer.

4. I said I wasn’t going to talk about links, I can’t help it!: Another way that you can be creative with your markup is not just by marking up your phrases, but also, linking to internal pages within your site. This will really give you an opportunity to really get some attention with SE’s.

5. Having a Call to Action & Being Persuasive: So, you’ve talked to your customer, you’ve maintained consistency, you’ve got the SEO stuff out of the way, now how do I sell?! Well, maintaining all of the above will get you part way there, but having a really persuasive call to action will really help you convert customers and readers. Overall, that is your main goal, conversion, so ensure that you are really taking control here and throwing all your creative juices in this basket.

Some of this must be quite obvious to the seasoned folks, and even to myself, but it is very nice sometimes to remind yourself and bring yourself back to the basics. Especially since in my mind, when it comes to good marketing at all, Content is always king.

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