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6 best practices for modern SEO

6 best practices for modern SEO

Google’s search results aren’t what they used to be. Need proof? Just look at its results page. No longer solely comprised of traditional, organic site matches, Google now lists local maps, images, videos and social cues as well — and it’s affecting more than just what you see.

If you rely heavily on search engines for pageviews and sales, as many businesses do, Google search results will drastically affect how your customers find you. If your business needs to be seen and clicked, take into account the following six search engine tips.

1. Local SEO Is Taking Over

6 best practices for modern SEO

There’s a good probability that a large chunk of the Google searches you perform will display Google Places listings – and consumers are taking notice. SEO software firm SEOmoz did some eye-tracking case studies on Google’s SERP (search engine results page). The results show that users heavily gravitate toward any of Places’ listings, whether they’re mixed into organic lists, concentrated in a group of seven or even listed in the middle of the results page. The heat map above shows the activity around a Google search for “pizza.”

If your business relies on local listings, concentrate on scoring a seat at Google Places. You can do this by using:

  • Citations: Ensure that your correct business information is listed in as many (reputable) sources as possible around the Internet. As always, consistency is king. If you write “Blvd.” instead of Boulevard on your Google Places page, make sure your other listings reflect the same.
  • Google Places page optimization: Just like your website, make sure your Places page is properly optimized. Include categories that match exactly, and point your Places page back to a city-specific landing page if applicable.
  • Reviews: Google will only display reviews from Google, but getting reviews from aggregators like Yelp, Superpages or Trip Advisor will help increase your presence.

2. You Can’t Have Search Without Social

The separation of search and social has officially ended. Social cues such as Twitter shares, Facebook likes and social bookmarking heavily influence search rankings. Essentially, search results are personalized for each person. With any SEO campaign you put into motion, include a social aspect to it to facilitate information sharing.

3. Think of People, not Robots, When Optimizing Keywords

People search in Google because they have a question. Anticipate those questions — whether about the best style of yoga pants or where to get the lowest mortgage rate. Your keywords and the content on your pages should reflect the answers to those questions. Keyword research is tedious, but it’s arguably the most important aspect of SEO. Transition away from thinking of keywords like data, and put more of an emphasis on the person who will be typing in that keyword.

4. Content Links Are King — Good Writers Are Sorcerers

Google is not stupid — it can spot paid and spam links. For the most effective long-term SEO strategy, move the focus back to great content, both on your website and across other sites. Guest blogging is great, for instance, but to get a leg up on your competition, target blogs that aren’t direct matches to your industry.

For example, a client of my company sells golf carts, so we wrote a blog post about the most tricked-out golf carts for tailgates, and the link we got back was one their competitors didn’t already have.

5. Check your Backend: Schema.org, Microformats and Rich Snippets

6 best practices for modern SEO

The Big Three (Google, Yahoo and Bing) have worked together to develop Schema.org, a set of website standards that will tell search engines what your site is about, making it easier for those engines to read the site’s data and index accordingly.

By using rich snippets, for example, you’re able to tell Google what information to feature in SERPs: product reviews and prices, upcoming events, recipe cooking times, etc. The added data will increase your click-through rate because users are able to preview more about the link before they commit to the click.

6. It Doesn’t Mean Anything Without Data

Whether you’re a one-man SEO show for your company or working in an agency with several clients, your site needs to see results. While ranking reports of keywords is still a great indicator of progress, personalized searches make it difficult to get the most accurate readings. Plus, when Google defaulted to private searches for users signed into their Google accounts, the company made it harder to track how people arrive at your site.

Start relying more on simple key performance indicators (KPIs) to show results, for instance, the number of landing pages you have, the bounce rate of those pages, and the number of keywords driving traffic to each of those landing pages. Google Analytics displays all of this data.

What are some other things you see that are affecting searches, and what are you doing to improve your rankings in these areas?

How to integrate Search Engine and Email Marketing

In the world of inbound marketing, integrating tactics provides marketers with incredible leverage. However, integration can often be challenging because individual marketing tactics sometime exist in silos with little collaboration. This is especially true with an unlikely power couple, search engine optimization and email marketing.

Search engine optimization is likely a strong source of traffic and leads for you already. And email marketing is most companies’ primary inbound lead generation channel. While both tactics rock on their own, they experience some exciting amplification when combined. Let’s look at a few ways we can combine search and email for even more leads!

Here are 7 Ways to Integrate Search Engine and Email Marketing

1. Distribute Link Building Content Through Email – Yes, email is mainly about lead generation. But don’t be short-sighted in your lead generation efforts. Search engine traffic can provide a steady flow of quality leads over time. For many companies, email marketing is their largest channel for marketing reach.

Emailing lead generation-based offers is definitely a great idea, but by also distributing content like infographics or awesome blog posts occasionally via email, you can improve the reach and, subsequently, the inbound links and authority of the pages where that content resides. In the future, you could then replace the content on that page with an awesome lead generation offer to take advantage of all of the search engine traffic the page is getting.

2. Optimize for the Best Lead Generation Topics – Look at your email data. Which offers and topics have the best open and click-through rates? If you have been doing email marketing for a while, then you probably have great historical data related to your lead generation efforts. Use this data to help you prioritize your search engine optimization efforts. Then optimize for the top-performing keywords and offers from your email campaigns.

3. Test Offer Conversion Prior to an Email Send – You don’t have to email an offer to your list the second it’s completed. Instead, you can use traffic from search engines, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and your blog to take a look at the conversion rate of the landing page and the offer. Use this data to make tweaks and improvements to the content or its landing page before sending it out to your entire list.

4. Use PPC to Boost Email Click-Through Rate (CTR) – In the crowded world of inbound marketing, your prospects usually need to be exposed to your ideas several times before they will convert. When planning your next big email send for lead generation, plan a PPC campaign that starts the day before and lasts a few days after the email send to help provide additional support for the email and its offer. The awareness built through these PPC ads can help increase click-through rates for your emails.

5. Search Engine Optimize Landing Pages – Don’t hide your landing pages! Landing pages are key to your inbound marketing success. Make sure that, beyond sending them out in marketing emails, you take the time to optimize the content of your landing pages for search engines. This means killer page titles, a great URL structure, and relevant copy optimized with keywords on the page itself.

6. Focus on Email Sharing for Link Building – Part of building links for search engine optimization is getting your content in front of as many people as possible. Simply sending out content to build links just isn’t enough. Instead, add social sharing links to the content you are promoting in your email. Include a quick message that also encourages folks to forward the email to their peers.

7. Use PPC to Test Email Subject Lines – Subject lines are a huge part of email marketing success. Instead of simply guessing which subject line you think will work best, use PPC to collect data on subject line options. Create five subject lines. Run a different PPC ad for each subject line. After you’ve accumulated enough data, determine which subject line had the highest click-through rate, and use it for your email send.

Copywriting tips for search engine optimisation

This article is about: The biggest copywriting mistakes you can make and how to avoid them. How to write for both search engines and humans. Tips on writing killer SEO-friendly headlines. Where to find inspiration for blog posts.Why list posts will always work. Why keeping a swipe file can be crucial.

1. Avoid Common Copywriting Mistakes

“There are still a lot of mistakes being made out there.” Here are some of the top copywriting mistakes:

  • Not knowing what a landing page is or how to utilize one. You can’t send pay-per-click traffic to your brochure-like website and expect results.
  • Not focusing on creating content. People want content, not a stagnant website.
  • Not paying attention to headlines. Headlines are how people decide whether or not to pay attention to your writing.
  • Not formatting your blog posts correctly. You need to include a call-to-action at the end of a post. You need to make your content engaging.

2. Write for Both Search Engines and Humans

“You have to take Google into account, but what Google wants to see is that people love it.”

With search engine optimization, you need inbound links. The principle way Google and other search engines decide how content/websites rank in search results is through analyzing the inbound links that site/page has received. Content that generates more inbound links is more valuable and more highly rankable than similar content without inbound links.

So if you have a good, easily scannable piece of content with a solid headline, people are going to share that and link to you. The more links you have, the more highly you rank, and so on.

The substance has to be there, but it’s also about how you present the information. If you’re giving an in-person presentation, you have to have great information and amazing slides. It’s the same thing with the written word and video.

You need to have great content, but you also need to present it well with an enticing, clear headline and easy-to-digest information. Your content has to be easy for people to find, share, and link to. And it needs to have the right keywords that your audience is searching for.

3. Create Clear, Interesting Headlines

“A traditional copywriter in direct response will always write the headline first, but they know what they are going to write about in general. They have a product to sell.”

Recommendations writing the headline before you write the post. You’ve had to think about your post and what you’re going to write and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Some people write the headline last, and it’s really just a different approach to writing.

The main point is that the headline is the promise of what the content delivers. So whether you write it first, or go back and create a headline after you’ve written the post, it needs to foreshadow your content.

4. Find Inspiration for Blog Posts

“I always love to tell the story about how the printing press was invented by Gutenberg seeing a wine press and a coin stamp. Those two things have nothing to do with printing, but he figured it out from there. Or like Henry Ford went to a meat packing plant in Chicago and saw how they had conveyor belt assembly lines, and he applied that to the automobile industry, which was completely unheard of before then. So you have got to look for the intersections, but they are usually off in another area, and just be very observant about it. There are ideas everywhere.”

You can find inspiration everywhere. Watch movies, read books and news articles, and you’ll start to see analogies you can make in your writing. It’s about making observations and judging whether the idea will work.

5. Don’t Undermine the Power of the List Post

“Think of yourself online. You don’t generally read every word unless it’s really something that is a homerun that you need to pay attention to. That is why list posts work. I know they are called trite and cliche, but they have been working for over 100 years, and they are not going to stop because people haven’t changed.”

It starts with the headline. The more specific you can be, the higher your click-through rates will be, because readers will have more information to determine whether reading the post is worth their time.

Specifying a number is just very brain-friendly, as is scannable content. You can go through a list post quickly and determine whether or not you want to go back and read every item.

6. Keep a Swipe File

“I don’t do it as much as I used to. People of all experience levels keep swipe files, but mainly, the great thing is seeing what has worked in the past and making sure you understand why they worked.”

A swipe file is a great way to keep track of what’s worked in the past and why. Swipe files are also great for inspiration. The important thing is to adapt great things you see (headlines, etc.) to your audience.

SEO and Copywriting Resources

“I don’t read a ton of blogs. A lot of what I go back to time and again are classic copywriting books, philosophy, even Aristotle’s Rhetoric. It sounds bizarre, but all those foundational aspects of persuasion date back thousands of years. Now, of course, times change, technology changes and context changes, but people are fundamentally the same. So you just have to adapt into this new environment.”

Ways to optimize your website for local search

Leveraging local SEO can be a great way to get your business found by local searchers. And if you’re a brick and mortar business, having a great local SEO presence can also afford you some additional foot traffic from people who are searching for you on the go. In order to take advantage of local search at the most basic level, your business website needs to be optimized for your geo-targeted keywords. Standard SEO practices apply here. First, try to include your city or regional keywords in:

  • Your URL
  • Page Titles
  • Meta Description
  • H1 and H2 tags
  • Throughout your site content

Next, go the extra mile and use the following 4 simple ways to optimize your website for local search.

Best Practice #1: Refrain From Keyword Stuffing

Google and other search engines hate it, and so do your site visitors. It’s easy enough to convey to both your readership and search engines what your various web pages are about without entering “black hat” SEO territory. Avoid keyword stuffing as best you can.

Best Practice #2: Leverage Business Blogging

Blogging is a great way to increase your local search rankings. It’s easy for local businesses to include geo-specific keywords in posts about current events, local government policies, or business interests. You can even add these keywords to your tags and create categories. Again, just make sure you are writing FOR YOUR READERS and not causing harm by adding blog posts or categories that are geo-targeted but confusing.

Best Practice #3: Focus on Local Link Building

Local link building opportunities abound — as long as you know how to find local sites. Here are some of the most obvious ways to build links locally:

1. Use Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn communities will help you network and find like minded people who would be willing to link to your site.

2. Join Associations and Organizations: Are you a member of the Chamber of Commerce? Better Business Bureau? Local organizations like these will link back to your site and help search engines trust you as a local authority site. Don’t stop there. Can you think of other local groups you are affiliated with? Credentialed by?

3. Query Local Blogs and Websites: You might live in an area populated by great local sites and blogs that you can tap into. Links from these sites establishes that local trust that search engines look for, so comment with links, offer to guest post for them, or request a link for a valuable “local resource.” To find sites like this, simply search for:

Your City + “Blog” or “News”
Your Zip Code + “Blog” or “News”

4. Submit to Directories: Finding local directories should also be easy. Use search queries such as:

Your City + “Directory”
Your Zip Code + “Directory”
Your Neighborhood + “Directory”

You can even do a statewide query for directories like this. You get the picture.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive link building list but rather a local compliment to the conventional SEO you are engaging in. Remember: content is KING! Writing valuable content will build credibility locally and not only attract Google, Yahoo, and Bing but will also establish your status as an expert with potential customers.

Best Practice #4: Be Congruent

It’s vital that you maintain consistency in how you describe your company, list your address, and provide other company-specific information. Your website should include your company contact information in your footer so the local listings you have worked hard to build can recognize your business. The biggest reward here will be when your site and Google Places listing populates in Google’s new “O-pack” local listings, or local listings paired with their corresponding organic search results.

Tips for successful paid search campaigns on a budget

All too often, businesses start advertising using paid search with the intention of growing sales, only to be distracted by flashy things like impressions and clicks. Although their campaigns may be sucking wind from a conversion standpoint, they find it difficult to pull back from the program because they don’t want to see the flashy metrics disappear. In many ways, paid search can be like playing with fire. It might seem like fun, but if it’s not done in a controlled environment, you can do a lot more harm than good.

Here are some paid search fire safety tips you can use to keep your paid search campaigns performing and under control without burning a hole in your pocket.

Tip #1: Determine how much you’re willing to pay for a lead or conversion.

Determine how much a customer is worth to you based on average order value, lifetime value of a customer, or some other metric that factors into operating expenses, etc. Either way, once you have this number, it’s pretty easy to back out to an acceptable cost-per-action/acquisition (CPA).

For instance, if you close 10% of all leads that you drive to your sales team, and every sale is worth $1,000, then you simply take how much a customer is worth to you and multiply it by your conversion rate. For example: 1,000 X .10 = $100, so you can reasonably pay $100 for every lead you drive. Obviously, this is a loose example. Always be conservative with this number because conversion rates can differ drastically between marketing channels.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: Manage your paid search campaigns to a set CPA. After you generate 15 conversions through your Google AdWords account, it allows you to set bidding that automatically targets your average CPA. This will ensure you don’t waste money on clicks that go nowhere.

Tip #2: Identify which organic keywords drive traffic and convert on your website.

We’re huge proponents of mastering inbound marketing before sparking up the paid search fire. It’s much easier to ramp up an efficient paid search campaign if you already know which content, keywords, and user behaviors are most likely to be successful. From a keywords standpoint, what’s happening via organic traffic to your website can guide you in structuring your paid search account and selecting which keywords to bid on.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: Pull a list of the keywords driving traffic to your website from organic search. Separate your brand keywords from non-brand keywords. Use all brand keywords and misspellings of your brand as the keywords in your brand campaign. Then, take the non-brand keywords, and determine which ones are driving the most traffic and, if possible, leads or sales. Use this keyword list to guide how you structure your paid search campaigns and ad groups (highly relevant groups of keywords, ad copy, and destination landing pages).

Tip #3: Constantly monitor keywords and set match types.

Believe it or not, it is very easy to garner a ton of clicks from keywords that have nothing to do with your products/services. This is probably one of the easiest ways to burn through cash in paid search. You have the ability to set multiple keyword match types in paid search to let the search engine know when to trigger your ad. Not only can you tell the search engine what you want your ad to show for, but you can also set negative keywords to tell the search engine when not to show your ad.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: All search engines provide reporting that will allow you to see which keywords search engine users actually typed in the search engine to trigger and click on your ad. This is called a Search Terms Report in Google AdWords. Pull this report on a regular basis (daily if you are just starting your account), and ad keywords that have no business in your account as negatives. Also, you can increase efficiency by adding keywords that are performing well as exact match keywords to increase efficiency.

Tip #4: Don’t Go It Alone

If you put enough thought and due diligence into the creation of your paid search program, it is not that difficult to get a moderate blaze rolling. However, that blaze can quickly turn into an inferno that is just incinerating your cash if you do not keep a close eye on your account and dedicate adequate time to it.

Paid Search Fire Safety Tip: If you do not have the time to optimize your campaigns and maximize your ROI, outsource it. There are plenty of agencies and services available that can help you get up and running fast. Also, paid search services like Trada will only charge you based on program performance, so you can’t make any horrible mistakes.