SEO

Online SMB Reputation Management

Reputation Management is the practice of monitoring and managing the opinions and information that that are posted about your company on the Internet. It is a developing practice but vital for long-term success for online marketing. By utilizing available tools, companies have the ability to interact directly with what customers are saying about them and fix potential problems from the outset. Trendistic and Google Alerts are primary tools that can help cast a wide net for reputation management include.

Trendistic is a fantastic tool for monitoring communication on twitter. Many customer concerns and reviews are communicated on social networking sites like twitter. By utilizing Trendistic, companies can monitor everything posted about them immediately. By monitoring these posts, companies can react and respond immediately to the concerns of a disgruntled customer and generally change a potentially negative situation into a positive. This not only helps customer retention, but also assists in priceless branding that other customers and prospects will see.

Google Alerts is much more sophisticated and broader in scope. Google Alert lets you establish your search terms, frequency to receive reports and then it literally “Monitors the web for interesting new content related to your company name, products or even competitors.” This tool is invaluable for reputation management efforts. You can now monitor what is posted about a particular search term or set of terms on any website indexed by Google. Additionally, a direct link to the sites for responses is provided. By directly addressing the source, you can insure that your image or messaging is positioned properly. Google Alerts is particularly good for monitoring industries as a whole such as SIP Trunking, VoIP or IP Communications. You can track keywords like “Business VoIP”, “Hosted PBX” or “Broadvox” and receive daily updates to what is posted across the web.

By incorporating these tools to monitor what is posted about your company or products, you can then engage in communication to resolve negative hits to your online reputation. For example, if a customer has a bad experience or misunderstanding with a sales rep and posts a tweet or blog post online, you are quickly notified, and, by accessing the post, communicate directly with the disgruntled customer. Through Twitter, you can reply directly to tweets and open a dialogue to get situations resolved. You can respond and point the person who is upset in the right direction for resolution. For blogs, you can leave a comment or send an email to address any negative comments. And for larger corporate sites, you can usually contact the editor or publisher and work to influence a negative article or opinion. For the most part, publishers will not post negative information without contacting the business in question for a response, but it is still important to keep an eye on all websites to for the few surprises.

Remember, the majority of people only vocalize their opinions when they are negative. It is a lot more common for an upset customer to post comments than a satisfied one. By communicating directly with customers about their concerns, you may change a negative comment into a positive review. Broadvox has had success using these tools to correct information, address partner concerns and positively engage our customer base. Please add this effort to your SEO, SEM and GEO targeting efforts. It is through the integration of each of these efforts that you will gain the greatest benefit of Internet marketing.

SMB SEO – Search Engine Optimization

SEO

Over the last decade, broadband speeds have allowed businesses and consumers to connect in new unimaginable ways. With a simple search on Google, customers have gained unparalleled access to any information they are seeking – both good and bad. This week, I will take a step back from discussing IP communications and focus on the ever-expanding industry of online marketing.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of tweaking and adjusting content to make your website more “search engine friendly.” This capability set has been around for quite some time but has recently grown in importance as companies realize the value of high search rankings for related keywords. Showing up on the first page of a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search provides your company prime real estate to connect with potential customers. Additionally, by leveraging SEO GEO targeting tactics, businesses can target customers locally or regionally based upon their business presence.

Years ago, people viewed SEO as a secretive and manipulative process where individuals could game the “system” and implement questionable tactics to maneuver websites to the top of the rankings. This was a false perspective. Google and the other search engines actually encourage companies to use SEO best practices in website design. By implementing certain techniques, businesses help increase usability and standardize web search, which creates a better experience for anyone searching for information. A quick example of this includes using an alt=”” tag when placing an image online. The alt text for images enables a company to describe the image, which is important for text-based browsers or browser readers for the blind. Without the alt description tag, there would be no way for the search engine to know what the image is.

Finally, in the arena of SEO, Google is very important. Globally, Google has an 84.8% market share and 65% in the US. Bing is on the rise, but your best bet at achieving strong SEO results is to focus your efforts on Google.

PPC Marketing vs Search Engine Optimization

I recently wrote a series of blogs for the company I work for.  I have changed it up a little but, but the general post follows –

Pay Per Click Marketing, unlike Search Engine Optimization, is a paid approach to search engine advertising.Companies pay the major search engines for placement in the sponsored links sections typically on the top and right hand side of the search engine results pages (SERPs.)The placement of a company’s sponsored ad depends on a Quality Score derived by the search engines based on the quality of content on the company website, the context of the ad, and the amount a company is willing to pay per position. For the most part, the business model works well for the search engines, advertisers, and potential customers.Unfortunately, there are a couple of glaring issues with search engine marketing.

The first issue with PPC is that there is a 95 character limit on ads for paid search.It is nearly impossible to offer product differentiation from company to company when confined to 95 characters.This makes ad copywriting a very creative and difficult task, as you need to find a way to provide relevant information as well as your value prop in a very confined space.To add a little perspective, twitter, which some view as restrictive, allows a tweet to be up to 140 characters.

The second issue with PPC is the persistent rise in cost per lead acquisition. Many companies are competing for the same piece of the proverbial pie and offer very similar products.This competition especially in paid search is continually driving the cost per click higher on the top industry keywords.Over the past year, we have seen as much as a 50% increase in cost per click for higher converting keywords.This directly increases the cost per acquisition across the industry and as each company tries to spend more to outbid the opposition for better positioning, costs continue to increase.Unfortunately, there is no short term solution for this cyclical increase in online advertising.Unless each of the company’s marketing managers and directors get together and put a cap on online spending (hint, hint), advertising spend will continue to increase until the cost per lead and cost per click reach equilibrium and the model implodes.

Obviously, Google loves this type of competition.If the statistics are correct and Google receives 90% of their revenue from Paid Search advertising, then it is absolutely no surprise why they have a market cap of nearly 150 billion and growing.I see no end in sight as long as this type of advertising continues to be beneficial to both Google and the advertisers who are using their AdWords platform.

Even though Google is the alpha dog and has a commanding lead in search traffic across the board, we have seen success in utilizing Bing and yahoo for paid search advertising.Both secondary search engines have a substantially lower cost per click and still drive a considerable amount of traffic to our website.

Although there are major issues with PPC, this advertising platform isn’t all bad.The company I manage PPC for sees quality leads come through our paid search campaigns on a daily basis.You, too, should work to gain market share with online advertising, and try out various PPC techniques to increase your quality score and gain competitive advantage.

Tutorial: How to easily create a Google Maps for SEO Part 2

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about when I was going to release part 2 of my Google Maps for SEO API tutorial.  Well, here it is!  and I have made it more simple than ever.  In this tutorial, I have included a simple KML file for your viewing to see how to set yours up.  I have also included the snippet needed in order to call the KML in the API on your website.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<kml xmlns="http://www.opengis.net/kml/2.2">
  <Placemark>
    <name>Simple placemark</name>
    <description>Attached to the ground. Intelligently places itself
       at the height of the underlying terrain.</description>
    <Point>
      <coordinates>-122.0822035425683,37.42228990140251,0</coordinates>
    </Point>
  </Placemark>
</kml>

Now you can see how the KML file is suppose to look, you can add as many different locations as you want within the kml file.  just add an additional <placemark> and you’re good to go.  I recommend creating additional fields within the KML placemark including <address> <street><state><zip> etc. By doing this you will let google know more accurate information about what you’re trying to show on the map and will also increase SEO information and bait for the search engines.  If you know basic html, you can also add image or hyperlinks to the code. ( NOTE: in order to add this type of information or any other html markup, you must use CDATA in your XML KML.) The coordinates are great and required, but additional information is key to success for any SEO.  I have found great success doing this for a string of tire dealerships on the east coast.  I did not design the website, but i did implement the Google Maps SEO.

Example 2:

<Placemark>
<name>Edinburgh</name>
<description><![CDATA[
<div><a href="http://localtiredealers.net/kramer/locations-hours/edinburgh.html">
221 Carmichael Way <br> Chesapeake, VA 23322 </b>
</a> </div>
<div><img src="http://www.yourthinkbox.com/ifc/coupons/chesapeake.jpg" width="200px" border="0">
</a></div>]]></description>
<styleUrl>#C</styleUrl>
<Point><coordinates>-76.234312,36.65978,0</coordinates></Point>
</Placemark>

From there, You’ll use your typical map settings (refer to part 1 of my tutorial) and add the overlay of the KML file you created.

var gx = new GGeoXml(“http://www.website.kml”);

map.addOverlay(gx);

This javascript is very easy to use and can be implemented to almost any website.

check back soon because I will be posting a tutorial on how to easily place google maps into wordpress for SEO best practices.

Question of the week – Meta Tags

Recently, a friend of mine sent me an email asking for a favor regarding some SEO she was helping out with:

Please look at this for me, I know you know a lot about websites, I think this guy has too many meta tags.  I sent him a separate email with screenshots of other people’s metatags and he is pretty much adding everyone’s college names into his…thoughts?

I would recommend him get rid of anything that isn’t directly relevant to the content within his website in the meta tags.  With what he has now, it would actually be better to have no meta tags at all. He’s definitely going to be penalized organically. 

From Wikipedia:

Meta elements are HTML or XHTML elements used to provide structured metadata about a Web page. Such elements must be placed as tags in the head section of an HTML or XHTMLdocument. Meta elements can be used to specify page description, keywords and any other metadata not provided through the other head elements and attributes.

The meta element has four valid attributes: content, http-equiv, name and scheme. Of these, only content is a required attribute. 

Essentially, by including all of those irrelevant keywords in the meta tags, he is telling the spiders to look for content that isn’t being included in his page.  I’d suggest only using the keywords for the names of his school, DMA locations around the area, and broad keywords associated with his vertical.  Length doesn’t really matter, as long as the content is relevant.    Explain to him that the meta tag section is similar to the index or Table of Contents of a book.  If he were to open a book and try to find information from the index or TOC that wasn’t actually in the book, he would probably be upset.  The same goes for the search engines.

I hope this helps.  If you need me to explain it further just let me know.

SEO index cheat sheet

Here are a few quick pointers to remember when developing your individual html pages

1.  Meta Tags – Keep your Meta Description at or below 150 characters. 

Often times, SEO’s will frequently overload the meta descriptions with tons of keywords, phrases, etc.  This is detrimental for SEO success.  Keep Meta Descriptions as accurate as possible with the content on the website.  In essence, think of your Meta tags as the Table Of Contents for the rest of the page.

2.  Title Tags – Keep your Title Tag at or below 70 characters.

As with meta information, developers often times try and put too much information into the title.  Keep the title accurate and short.  SEO moz suggests using this title syntax – Keyword < Category | Web Title.  I have used this for multiple wordpress and other websites and agree that this is a fantastic way to properly title your websites.

3. Links – Minimize unique links per page

This is more controversial.  Some SEO’s are huge advocates of outbound linking as much as possible.  I am a fan of outbound linking, but try to limit it and spread out outbound linking between individual pages.  Also keep outbound links accurate and relevant and include a title in the anchor code.

That’s it for now! I plan on posting more of these in the near future.

Google Maps API and SEO

In recent months, I have been working a lot with the Google Maps API.  I have been utilizing the API to optimize landing pages for “multiple location” websites.  In customizing these sites for the API, I have discovered that Google’s organic listings absolutely love when a website utilizes their Maps API.

In less than two weeks, I have seen my organic listings skyrocket up the pages with very little additional SEO practices in place.

Obviously Google loves relevant content, but as Google expands it’s capabilities and customization techniques, geotargeting has become much more relevant.  In this particular case, creating a website encoded with the Maps API for all locations has exponentially boosted optimization at a much quicker pace that normal.

In a nutshell, if you have a geo-specific website you are developing, I highly recommend implementing a geographic KML file and implementing it into your websites using the Maps API. 

KML is an extension of XML that pertains to geographic locations in Google Maps and Google Earth.  It’s a very thorough and organized markup language that is useful in presenting data to the search engines.

Example of KML code:

KML example for Google Maps API and SEO

KML example for Google Maps API and SEO

 Utilizing this particular KML file, I was able to geocode over 20 locations on one page in the API and include, address, phone number, location image, and a link to each individual page.  This created an insane amount of relavence and quality information for Google to boost this website up the organic listings.  

 

KML based Map for Google API including relevant information

KML based Map for Google API including relevant information

As you can see above.  There is a ton of relevant information included in a very small and precise space.  This information utilized by the API is a great way to gain instant optimization.

In the next couple days, i will create a step by step tutorial on how to fully integrate this technology into any website.

Landing Page SEO + SEM part 1

Landing Pages for increased Search Engine Optimization.

Landing pages and their correlation between a website and Search Engine Optimization is a difficult process that can end up very beneficial or detrimental.  The union between these two entities to increase profitability and exposure is very volatile. 

A Landing Page is the first page that shows up after a customer clicks on a search engine result link, an advertisement, or a sponsored link.  From here, a landing page is split into two different types, a reference landing page and a transactional landing page.  Reference landing pages, which are typically SEO specific, are normally informational websites with relevant content for the searcher.  Transactional landing pages are pages that engage the searcher to provide some form of information (whether it is filling out a form or buying a product) from the clicked link.

The Goal of a Landing Page, whether it is a reference or transactional page, is to get the user to do one of four things:

1.       To teach the visitor about the term they searched (Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, Etc.).

2.       Encourage the visitor to click through to another section of your website or another website (Branding).

3.       Encourage the visitor to register or have a follow up in some form or fashion.(E-mail registration, Phone Number, Address, Etc.).

4.       Encourage the visitor to make a purchase from that page (Commerce).

Landing Pages in an SEO sense are pretty straight forward.  If you have a business website that does Auto Repair, you are going to want the most pertinent information showing up to the end user.  For example, if a customer is doing a search for ‘brake repair’, you are not going to want your landing page to show up as air conditioning service or scheduled maintenance.  For the most part, Google and the other search engines handle these themselves in organic search.   If you type this term into Google, the first results will undoubtedly be the referential websites including Wikipedia and Dictionary.com, followed by the second tier reference websites and then the rest of the pack.  

For SEM and PPC advertising, correct Landing Pages are vital for success and provide multiple uses.  These optimized landing pages can help:

·         Provide direct access to the product or information being searched

·         Convey a direct message related to the user search

·         Provide tracking information for the Advertisement or campaign

·         Create additional keyword content and relevance for SEO

Small Business SEO and SEM in a Recession

During the last year, a lot of businesses have been making cuts in all aspects of their respective operations.  For an online enterprise, Search Engine Optimization is one area that should not catch the ax of cost cutting and I will explain why.

During this period of Economic uncertainty, Big Businesses are taking sweeping cost cutting measures.  Companies like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Frito Lay, can afford to make these online marketing cut backs because of one thing – Brand Recognition. These Fortune 500 companies have created recognizable world wide brands.  Even if the company isn’t advertising, the products are advertising themselves.

Although there is uncertainty, this is the perfect time for smaller businesses to seize control of their online destiny.

With larger companies making cut backs – specifically in online marketing.  Small companies in every industry can take advantage of the downsizing and use combinations of optimization and search engine marketing to reach out to customers that were previously unattainable.  

In the words of Mark Cuban, “I want the risk and I want the gain.”  In all business, there will be risks.  Right now, while many people are hunkering down in this storm of uncertainty, those who are willing to take a chance to expand their business are likely to see success.  Yes, the opportunity for failure is present, but the fruit of victory tastes much more sweet.  

If you are in a business that can see increased revenue in these uncertain times by investing online marketing, you may want to take that risk… you could see a great reward.

How popular is your website?

Have you ever wanted to know how popular your website is?  

Many people want to know the reach of their website.  A company called Alexa monitors almost all websites and ranks each website according to popularity.  For instance, in the United States, Google, Yahoo, and MySpace are the three most popular websites respectively.  

Alexa uses a proprietary method for achieving these rankings by allowing users to insall the Alexa Toolbar in their Internet Explorer.  Once this toolbar is installed, Alexa monitors the sites people visit to establish the rankings.  

This method has established a somewhat reliable method for determining page rank for websites. 

Now, take a second, open up up the Alexa link here, and check out your page rank.