Posts tagged Search engine optimization
Posts tagged Search engine optimization
I came across that text on a website of a company that designs and builds websites. I found it visiting the website of one of their clients. Unfortunately, what I saw at both of those websites undermines the credibility of that statement.
“Today’s Internet” is an evolving entity. A website built and optimised today may not be competitive tomorrow. Anyone unfamiliar with the rate of change on the Internet in general and Search Engine Optimisation in particular could be misled by this statement.
For those familiar with optimisation, it should be unnecessary to explain that links from relevant, external sites are a key component of optimisation. However, for a typical small business owner, this fact is not obvious. To imply a website is optimised without ensuring sufficient and appropriate links are available is misleading.
How about the phrase “fully optimised”? I think that’s a tough ask. That means that absolutely every optimisation factor available (and there are hundreds) has been tweaked. How is that possible for an included service when building a website? It’s not, unless the website has a very large price tag.
One piece of free advice to both the design company and their client … change the hosting of your websites to an Australian provider. Search results are becoming progressively more localised. The location of the hosting server is a key signal in this process.
We’ve cross the 100 post milestone. This has taken just over 12 months (16 Feb 2011 was the first entry). For a guy not previously known for writing skills this is a serious achievement. But this post is not meant as an easy post or as self-congratulation. I would like to reflect on the things I’ve learned along the way.
This is the bullet list (not in any particular order):
If I can do it, anyone can do it.
I’m serious. You don’t have to be a great writer just be prepared to write.
It’s not always easy but it is rewarding. Write when you can when inspiration strikes. Then use a tool to schedule the posts. This helps keep the balance between feast and famine. The hardest part was taking the step.
Set a reasonable objective.
Originally, I started with the idea of writing one article per week and felt that would be challenging. Around May last year I realised I had enough material for 2 posts per week. So I modified my objective but didn’t make a commitment to keep going at that rate. Other than Christmas into January I maintained that schedule. I’m not always sure how.
Look for inspiration in unexpected places.
Write about things you find interesting. When you get inspired think about the potential for a post - does it have value for your readers. If you don’t look, you won’t find it.
I don’t mean psychological, though sometimes it might be handy. I’m thinking about an editor / proof reader / friend. Someone who is a little objective about your ramblings. My friend and business partner, Andy, does most of the corrections here. His grammar and spelling are better than mine. If he misses anything, don’t hold him too accountable. You have no idea how much he finds. What escapes his gaze is a minor percentage.
Read lots of things from a range of sources. There is a seemingly endless supply of bloggers on just about any subject. Don’t limit yourself to the ones you agree with. Sometimes a conflicting view can clarify your thoughts and trigger the essence of a rebuttal and may be the spark for your next post. In addition to blogs I read books on technical aspects of websites, search engine optimisation, technology, marketing and social media. I also read the local paper, which has been the inspiration of many a post here.
Has all this effort writing 100 posts been worth it? You may have a different opinion but from my perspective it is an emphatic yes. Not that I have a huge readership. It is growing slowly with 20 followers and 20 unique visitors per month. I’ll take that. Not that I can retire on the profits from all the new business this has generated, but I live in hope.
All the material I have published across a range of social platforms is, I hope, creating a level of credibility that may make the difference when tendering for a development project or being considered to present at a conference. It is regularly read by the search engines, and that can’t be bad. If nothing else, it has improved the speed at which I develop content and the quality of that content. This applies equally to blog posts as it does to proposals to potential clients.
Do you have plans to take on this sort of challenge? I would love to hear from you. Add some comments to the post to share your ideas. Or if you want specific help on getting started, I would like to help you with that. Please contact me.
All the good SEO conferences are either in USA or cost lots of money or both. So most of my conference research comes vicariously from reading blogs and pretty much any other source I can find.
Whenever I read opinions of what Google is doing, I like to bring it back to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines (http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769). In their Quality section, the first, and I think probably the most important, is “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
One of the recent posts I read was a set of published notes from a recent PubCon (PubCon Vegas 2011). The post was PubCon: Latest SEO Topics & Trends with Greg Boser.
The 3 points made to the participants in this presentation were:
There is nothing here that contradicts the Google guidelines. In fact, I think, they are very much in the spirit of the guidelines and are definitely worth paying attention to.
Of course, if you have been working to the guidelines, the only possible surprise might be the inclusion of “Human Engagement Signals”. Or perhaps that’s not the surprise it may appear. How will this engagement be assessed?
One of the probable signals will be links from the Social Media streams (Facebook, Twitter and Google’s own channel Google Plus). The challenge for Google is to follow the links from the streams back to the website and the assessment of the “theme” and intent of the interaction. We’ll leave the hard stuff to Google. Our job is to ensure there are signals and at least a few breadcrumbs on the trail to help Google along the path.
For many this will be all too challenging. Find a trusted advisor (hint: think MidBoh] and talk through the ideas and options available. It’s your business and you have to be comfortable with the strategies you implement or are implemented on your behalf.
This image shows a simple enough looking form. Simple is good, right? Not much can go wrong with something simple, right? You’d be surprised!
Yes it is only a contact form for a quote request. Nothing secret is at risk. No lives on the line, so we don’t need to get too carried away.
Despite that, this form causes me great frustration. I hope I can explain where the problems are. (The title of the post might give a clue to one of the issues, but more on that later.)
On close examination you may notice the Name and Phone labels are bold, but it is not obvious. This may be an indicator that the fields are mandatory. Guess what? So too is the email address. There was no text or other indicator on the page to explain this requirement.
Validation is applied to fields one at a time. If an error is found, an alert box is generated for the offending field. No other validation is performed until the submit button is clicked again. This means on a blank form, when the submit form is clicked, the only message generated is about the name field. Even if the coder is not ready to make the important step to interactive processing (Ajax), why not validate all fields and generate a single alert box showing all the errors. This is a poor second to full interactive processing but it lowers the frustration level by a significant factor.
I have spoken about making input fields suitable sizes previously [Size (of the textarea) matters], so there is little point labouring this point. The builder can’t defend these sizes on a lack of space. In this particular design, there is plenty of space to accommodate more appropriately sized fields. It looks to me like those who built the form did not seriously try to use the form.
The problem is you are assuming the validation has no more importance than to act a memory tool for the visitor, as in “Oops I forgot to put my name in the box!” However, this form is part of this company’s business communications. It may be the one and only chance the organisation has to establish a relationship with this visitor. Everything must be done to ensure this is successful for both parties.
How many days will the potential customer sit around waiting to be contacted before they either try again (how likely is that?) or give the business to another company that did supply a quote?
This may only happen once per year, but if we are operating in a competitive environment (I’m pretty sure carpet cleaning is very competitive) why risk wasting this opportunity. How much repeat business or referrals might come from this one interaction? What did it cost to get that visitor to the website? Was SEO involved? Perhaps the link came from a paid directory listing or via a Google or Facebook Ad. Whatever it cost for that click may have just been wasted.
To quote Billy Joel [“Get It Right The First Time” from “The Stranger” 1977]- “Get it right the first time, that’s the main thing, I can’t afford to let it pass.” A good motto for all aspects of our opportunities to connect with potential customers.
We know that links are one of the primary “currencies” of the web, at least as far as ranking is concerned. Basically, the more inbound links you have the better your website ranks. This comes from the assumption that a web page will naturally acquire links over time if it has something of value on it. This logic has become entrenched in Google’s PR algorithm.
This recognition of the link value has encouraged a series of strategies to acquire links rather than wait for natural consequence of good content. (You do have good content, don’t you?) These arrangements can be as simple as a link exchange (I’ll link to you if you’ll link to me!) to the purchase of links through any number of commercial organisations.
Google has frowned on this behaviour. It is apparent they have devalued links they perceive as unnatural. Links between sites with no thematic relationship are the first on the devalue list. Other unnatural indicators might be too many acquisitions too quickly (or to constantly) or links from outside your natural geographic range. Who knows what the actual indicators are, but be certain Google is paying attention to all the details.
All of this was under way before Google started paying attention to social media. Now the terminology may be a little different. In these discussion you can substitute “Friends”, “Followers” and “Likes” for “Links”. They all indicate a relationship. Whenever you follow or like a page you are announcing to the world, and to Google, you are endorsing that page.
In the context of social media, particularly Twitter, it is very common to set up your account to auto-follow, i.e. if someone follows you, your account is configured to automatically follow that account back. That may seem like an attractive proposition as it is a good way to build up your following. But raw numbers aren’t everything.
There are 2 problems I can see with this approach:
If auto-follow is your preferred strategy at least do a periodic review to remove the deadwood from following list.
My recommendation in this area is to actively manage the links you give away. They tell a lot about the organisation or person you are.
“Is The Google Panda Update Fair?” - I saw this headline on a blog post the other day. It struck me as strange.
As someone striving to achieve the highest possible rank for my own sites and for my client’s sites, I try to stay aware of any changes to Google’s ranking algorithms. However, I do not obsess over each and every change. I am also aware they serve their customers’ and owners’ needs well ahead of mine. Yes my sites may drop or gain ranking positions because of their changes, but Google are free to make them regardless of the impact on me. I am not their customer, except when I am searching for my own needs. I appreciate the quality of the results they generate.
I work on the presumption that if I strive to meet the needs of the visitors to my sites, Google are likely to recognise my efforts and my ranking position will take care of itself. Perhaps this is a naive view, but it is one I will persist with until Google changes the recommendations in their Webmaster Guidelines.
I came across a site during a random browsing session that had the section that appears in this post. In that block it had a link labelled “More”. I’ll leave the discussion of the lack of imagination for the link text (one of the most important keyword opportunities for a page) for another day. I followed the link and on that page was exactly the same block with the same “More” link. Would you like to guess what the rest of the text was on the page (outside the block)? It was exactly the same text as inside the block - nothing more, nothing less. And the destination for the “More” link was the page I was now on.
I had visions of Colossal Cave Adventure and getting lost in the twisting maze of caves searching for a lamp and a magic amulet. Talk about a flash back.
I can’t speak for the developers or the website owners, but someone missed this flaw in the design and construction phases of the site. It could have been easily detected with some testing. It’s still easily fixed.
This is not a good situation for human or robot visitors.
… you don’t have to be the fastest swimmer, just faster than the slowest swimmer. Or so the theory goes.
I just read this post by Christopher S Penn - ” Social media now directly influences search rankings” [http://www.christopherspenn.com/2011/06/social-media-now-directly-influences-search-rankings/]. The implications of this idea are significant.
The personalisation is not a total surprise. This has been on the agenda for some time. It has taken the form of the relative locations of the searcher and the probable targets and the prior searches of the searcher. However, the impact of the social connections is the latest wrinkle that has the potential to significantly change the landscape. Google are offering their own option with the “+1” button on their search results. [I might discuss “+1” another day.]
What’s not said in Christopher’s piece is that while social connections may be now added to the algorithm, it is still only one factor among many. Will it be more significant than any or all of the others? Who knows. I suspect it will be one of the more important factors, but it will still be only one factor.
It is not clear how this will play in the real world. Will a site that has achieved good rankings for several important keywords but has few social connections fall below a site with great social connections but very little content related to the search terms? That’s hard to imagine. All sites in the search results must be eligible for inclusion in the result set based on the keywords. That seems a cornerstone of the search logic.
Also don’t forget that these changes are in the personalisation area. The results are being modified on a person by person basis. So if a connection exists between the searcher and the social web presence of a business then this business will appear higher in the results FOR THIS PARTICULAR SEARCHER. It makes sense that a pre-existing relationship will influence the results.
So what are the implications for most of us trying to get our pages to the top of Google’s rankings? For most of us, I don’t think it’s huge. The foundation website still needs to have some keyword relevance for the search terms. This means the triumvirate of primary factors (content, links and structure) are still important. However, if we have a social presence we should utilise it. We can do that by