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In case you're wondering, yes, I do love coffee. If you ask anyone who knows me, they would tell you that they rarely ever see me without a cup nearby, as a matter of fact, I'm drinking one right now. I even once went into a store that I have frequented regularly for years and forgot to take my "To-Go" cup in with me and three people asked me how I was doing and where was my coffee cup at. So, when I ran across the image on the left, I couldn't resist. I guess it's a good thing I didn't decide to put up a "healthy living" blog. Anyway, on to the meat of the matter.

Publishing a blog on your website is one of the easiest and most effective forms of Internet marketing and it's also a major factor in site optimization - SEO. What could be better? They are fun to maintain, only take a few minutes a post, help drive traffic to your site, and help move your site up in search engine rankings. Once its set up, all you have to do is just post and respond.

Search engines give preference to sites that regularly publish "fresh" content. Publishing a blog on your site is a good way to add fresh content on a regular basis. If you are really good at writing relevant articles, another site may grab your blogs RSS feed and publish it on their site which will provide links back to your site. This will increase SEO visibility even further. We have three examples of using other sites feeds to show you how this works. One eMarketing feed, one Web Design feed, and one SEO feed.

The reason I decided to put up this blog, in addition to SEO of course, is to help educate clients who don't know a lot about web design, SEO and Internet marketing, but would like to, just to be able to have a better understanding of what's going on so they can plan their direction more effectively and make better informed decisions. I don't think that's too much to ask. They just don't want to have to deal with someone "talking down" to them. This is singularly the most common complaint I hear from clients. "Oh, I would tell you, but it's too technical." "Oh, you want trained on this, well, that will be extra." or my favorite one after the website is up and running, "Oh, you want SEO, that will be extra." If you hear any of these things from your developer, my advice would be to cut your losses and run! They are either incompetent and trying to hide it from you, or, trying to jack up the price on the back end. Either way, it's unethical at best and they definitely don't have your best interest at heart. I hope this blog helps.

Basic SEO Part 2 - Optimizing Website Content

Point 1: "Keywords and Key Phrases"

If you want your website to rank high in the search engines and, more importantly, you want it to be relevant to the products and services you offer, then keep reading.

Keywords and key phrases are the words on your website that should match the search terms a potential customer would use if they were searching for your product or service. This results in more targeted traffic to your website and targeted traffic translates into more sales.

Using a landscaping business as an example, some "keyword / key phrases" might be: "landscaping service", "landscaping company", "landscaping ideas", "landscaping materials", "landscaping supplies", "landscaping help" etc., depending upon the particular slant of your business.

An excellent tool for helping you determine what your key phrases need to be is Google's "Keyword Tool" it can be found here. Just enter a generic search term such as "landscaping service" and it will show you all of the search results related to, or similar to this term, the number of searches using the term - both local and global. This can give you ideas for additional key phrases that could be used to help you better optimize your search engine results. For example, if your business does both landscaping design as well as implementing your client's design, you might want to use "landscaping design services" as one of your key phrases.

Point 2: "Header Tag Content"

Headers are simply used to summarize the content that follows so that anyone browsing the page can easily scan it and find the areas of interest to them. Headers are also assigned various weights (values) by search engines based on their size. <H!> tags receive the greatest value and <H5> tags receive the least.

Header tags include: <H1>, <H2>, <H3>, <H4> and <H5>. In terms of size, <H1> is the largest typeface and <H5> is the smallest. Using this blog entry as an example, an <H1> header would be "Basic SEO Part 2 - Optimizing Website Content" which is displayed at the top of this entry in red. An <H2> header would be "Point 2: "Header Tag Content"" which is displayed above in white.

Since header tags are assigned value by search engines, they will also affect the overall SEO of your site. With this in mind, Isn't it a good idea to make sure that they also contain the "keywords" and "key phrases" specific to your site or business?

Point 3: "Paragraph Content"

One thing to keep in mind when writing for the web is the rules are different than writing for a newspaper, magazine, or a book. Traditionally, we are taught not to repeat words or phrases, but to use similar words or terms to describe the thought or idea we are trying to get across. Unfortunately, this can hurt us when trying to optimize content for a website because one of the things that search engines use to determine page rank is "repeat ratio".

Don't get me wrong, you don't have to write it so it sounds like a broken record, but you do have to make sure the key phrases appear regularly throughout the document. One other important point to consider is where and how they appear, let me explain using another example.

Let's say that you are writing content for your landscaping site and you are working on your first header and paragraph. You will want to use "Landscaping services" in both since that is a major key phrase for your business. The content you decide on for your header is "We Specialize in Landscaping Services". Now that you have your header you start working on your paragraph content. You decide your introductory sentence will be: "If you are in need of professional landscaping services, you've come to the right place". Not too bad, you have your key phrase appearing in both your header and your first paragraph, but it could better.

Let's now look at an alternative way of writing this. What if we made the header read: "Landscaping Services Specialists" and our introductory sentence read: "If you are in need of professional landscaping services, you've come to the right place". Would this be any better in terms of optimization? After all, they both say basically the same thing don't they? And the introductory sentence is exactly the same!

Well, the answer would be a definite yes to both questions. Both examples do say virtually the same thing, but the second one will optimize better. Can you guess why? The second header example lists the key phrase at the very beginning: "Landscaping Services Specialists". The first example lists it at the end: "We Specialize in Landscaping Services".

Okay, put the key phrase first whenever possible. I guess that makes some sense, but what about that introductory sentence? They use the exact words in the same order. How can that possibly optimize better? Good question. If we look carefully at the second example, we see that the key phrase "landscaping services" is a bold typeface: "If you are in need of professional landscaping services, you've come to the right place". By emphasizing the key phrase, the search engine will give it a higher value.

I hope all of this makes sense and will help you in writing the content for your site. If you just send your web designer a MS Word document showing emphasis and bold typeface where needed, you will be on your way to higher rankings.
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How to Avoid Common SEO Abuses

Common SEO Abuses

The Google Webmaster help page cautions against the following practices: One common scam is the creation of shadow domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These Shadow Domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on your behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitors domain. If that happens, you have just paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place doorway pages loaded with "Keywords" on the client's site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these Doorway Pages often contain hidden links to the SEO's other clients as well. Such Doorway Pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and it's other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content. This is something that you definitely do not want associated with your site!

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. This is far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means feel free to walk away if the SEO:

  • Owns shadow domains
  • Offers to sell keywords in the address bar
  • Guarantees rankings, but only on obscure keywords or phrases
  • Operates with falsified Whois info
  • Links to other domains on doorway pages
  • Gets traffic from "fake" search engines, spyware or scumware

If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They handle complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint visit: http://www.ftc.gov and click on File a Complaint Online, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20580

Basic SEO Part 1 - Meta Tags

Point 1: "Title"

This appears at the very top of your web browser. If you look up now, you should see "Web Design SEO and Internet Marketing Tips Blog | Full Impact Web Design, Ft Collins, CO." because that's the "Title" on this blog page.

Point 2: "Meta Tags"

Meta Tags appear in the Head of your document. Basic Meta Tags include: Title, Content-Type, Copyright, Author, Robots, Description and Keywords. You can "right-click" on this page and select "View Source" (Internet Explorer & Safari), or "View Page Source" (Firefox), or just look at the image below to see how they appear.

Point 3: "Indexing Algorithms"

Although this sounds like rocket science, and kind of is, here is an easy way to understand it. Search Engines use Meta Tags in their indexing algorithms, especially "Title" and "Description". Think of it like this, search engines spider all of the content on your page, looking at where certain terms appear and how they are used. They then apply a "weighting" method. In this scenario, the "Title" would be assigned a weight of around 12. The "Description" would be assigned a weight of around 5. Random occurrences throughout the content would be assigned a weight of 1 each. There are also other instances that will be assigned weights between 1 and 10, but for brevity, we'll stop here. From this example, you should be able to understand the importance of correctly optimizing these tags. Having keywords appear in the "Title" and "Description" have the combined weight of 16-17 random occurrences in your remaining site content.

Image Showing Meta Tags, Title & Description

But I Thought Mata Tags Aren't That Important Anymore

One of the things that really irks me is when I see someone's website and the Title is simply "Home", or just the company's name. Let me explain. Let's say that you are a sculptor and you are selling bronze sculptures and would like people who are simply searching for "Bronze Sculptures" to find you. Let's further say that the name of your business is "Jesse Ventura's Creations". We can see in this scenario that your business name does not contain any of the desired search terms that reflect what you do and the word "Home", contains even less. Reminds me of the Richard Jenny routine about the Lint Sucking Stumps: "We had less than nothing, and we were grateful." (I guess you had to be there.) Anyway, back to the subject.

Good SEO starts in the source code (HTML) of your document, so it's best to build it in from the very beginning and "Meta Tags" are arguably one of the most important things to consider in SEO, especially "Title" and "Description". I know, I know, you have probably heard that Meta Tags are not that important any more, and many so called SEO consultants will tell you the same. Well, I can tell you from experience that this is a crock.

Case in point, my wife has a computer service business and she hired me, of course, to do her website. Since she does most of her work "On-site", she wanted this term to score high in search results. I came up with a way of optimizing her site to score high using either term, "Computer Service" or "Onsite Computer Service". Later, she noticed that the term "Onsite" did not appear in the "Title", so she added it, and immediately, the site dropped 7 places on a search for just "Computer Service". So don't tell me that "Meta Tags don't matter anymore" Just adding one word cost 7 places in search results. This dropped the site from a first page ranking to page 2.

While you want to get your name out there, unless a consumer is searching specifically for your company name, the site will most likely not come up in search results unless the keywords and phrases that "describe" your business appear in the "Title" & "Description". Since we are all looking for "new" customers or clients, doesn't it make sense to make it easier for them to find us? After all, if they already know your company name, they are not new, are they?


Beware of Overusing Flash

It is important to know several things relative to website design that effect the overall performance of your site.

1.) Flash does not optimize very well.

2.) Images do not optimize at all (Except for alt tags, and file names)

3.) Javascript effects, along with HTML and CSS, mimic flash content and optimize very well.

Having said this, I will also add there are times when flash is appropriate. If you are incorporating a Flash presentation, or perhaps an advertising banner into your content, Flash can be very effective. What I am mainly warning of is OVERUSE of it. Some people have entire websites designed with Flash and they will suffer in SEO as a result. There are other alternatives that create some of the same effects that do optimize well such as jQuery and MooTools, They use a script which calls in content that is completely visible in the source code. That same content is also readable by search engines. The header on this site is a good example. All of the text that fades in is completely visible to search engines, thus it optimizes well.

My purpose in writing about this is not to "bash flash", but merely to point out that using too much of it can hurt your rankings. I use it myself on a selective basis and believe it is an effective tool in the designers toolkit.

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