Friday, December 24, 2010

Top Ways to Get SEO Results

If you’re looking for the best in SEO tips to get you started down the path towards quick results and efficient website strategy then here is your way to get best SEO results. I have put together the best information, gathered from years of hands-on experience, testing different tactics and trying various strategies. These are the best practices that will enable you and your website to reach a new level, or to get off the ground running right away.
  1. Keyword Basics: The most important thing with keywords for your website is that you have to begin the process with proper research. Take advantage of free tools and services at your disposal such as the Google Adwords tool, and consider paying for more advanced and detailed programs.
    Remember that keyword density is a thing of the past, there is no density you should be opting for. Instead, focus on natural inclusion of your targeted keywords, working them in where possible without doing it excessively.
    Google Keyword Tool - https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
  2. Create Great URLS: There are many steps that go into creating great URLs. Starting from the beginning, you should pick a domain name that is short, memorable and includes your most important keyword phrase. While hyphens are acceptable, more than two begins to get excessive and spam-like.
  3. For your individual page names, also include a relevant keyword, so that each URL looks something like www.your-main-keyword.com/targeted-page-keyword.html. When possible, avoid using session IDs and other dynamic page variables that add a lot of unnecessary junk to your page URLs.
  4. Find Long Tail Keywords: Long tail keywords often are the secret to great search engine rankings. Long tail keywords include at least three words, and when you find ones related to your niche you will be facing much less competition. Additionally, the traffic you see as a result will be much more effectively targeted, ensuring you see better results.
  5. Use Latent Semantic Indexing: Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, is the process of including related keywords and phrases to your main phrases in order to boost your site’s value in the search engines. So if your site was about coffeemakers, you can include other related words, ranging from coffee makers to iced coffee and organic coffee and on down the list to help boost your rankings. This will also keep your site from appearing as spam, as you won’t just be reusing the same keywords over and over again.
  6. Get Smart with Internal Links: Many websites don’t properly use their internal links to their own advantage. However, it’s an easy way to help each of your pages gain a higher and more targeted ranking in the search engines. Be sure to include each page’s main targeted keyword or phrase in internal links pointing to it, and always be sure to reference your other pages with links within your site’s content when appropriate.
    Example: You sell a type of "best fashion designer". Make sure that any place that keyword is found on your site that it is linked to the specific product profile page. This helps the individual profile page rank higher in the search engines.
  7. Dive into PPC: Whereas other SEO strategies take time to work, pay-per-click advertising is a great way to see instantaneous results. Start running a campaign for your website, backed up with all of the keyword research you have already done. Begin small, as costs can quickly get out of hand if you don’t know what you’re doing. Experiment with different ads, different bidding strategies and different targeted keywords until you start to see consistent results, then pick up the pace and run larger campaigns.
  8. Optimize your Images: Always include an ALT tag for your images that describes what the image is – with targeted keywords and phrases. This ensures that people who can’t see images see something in their spots, but this also helps you get found in image based searches. Additionally, try naming your images with a keyword in the filename, as in, targeted-keyphrase-1.jpg.
  9. Optimize your Title Tag: Many people think that anything they put in their title tag will be sufficient but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Your page title provides an excellent opportunity to boost your rankings, as well as draw people into your site to see more visitors.
  10. To begin with, your title should be kept short, no more than 60 or 70 characters in length. Also, ensure that every page has its own unique title, instead of merely listing your site’s name on all of them. Work your targeted keywords into the title and be sure to be more descriptive and exciting than just labeling a page as “Home” or “Store”.
  11. META Tag Notes: The META Keywords tag is no longer used by Google for ranking, although other search engines may still make use of it. More important are the META Title and META description tags. Keep your title to 70 characters or less, and keep your META description to 160 characters or less, anything more will just get cut off by the search engines. Of course, remember to include your targeted keywords in these META tags.
  12. Link Building, What Not to Do: Many people go in the entirely wrong direction when it comes to link building. For example, buying links or participating in a link farm is a strategy that’s doomed from the get-go. You should also avoid low quality, spammy directories and you must understand that tactics like link exchanges, blog commenting and forum posting have all been devalued as compared to how they used to be viewed. Also remember that when you build thousands of links in a few days, you will stand out as unnatural.
  13. Link Building, What you Should Do: Submitting to high quality, respected directories such as DMOZ, Best of the Web and others can pay huge dividends. You should link out to your niche authorities to help boost your own reputation, and you should focus on providing catchy, unique and engaging content that serves as “link bait” for your site. Social networks can be beneficial when used in the right fashion.
  14. Don’t Forget Canonicalization: If you want to maximize your search engine results while also improving your ability to track your site’s traffic, then you need to ensure that your pages aren't being counted more than once. Your home page may be coming up in different ways as http://your-domain-name.com, http://www.your-domain-name.com and http://www.your-domain-name.com/index.html. This can confuse the search engines and impact your tracking stats. Use 301 redirects to move your pages to one home page, and fix any issues with other pages on your site as well.
  15. Stick with HTML: The benefits of JavaScript and other program languages are lost when they aren't searchable in the search engines. Everything you do you want to be helping your cause of ranking highly, which means sticking to easily accessed HTML for your website. Avoid over complicating your site with excess forms, frames of any kind, or any code that isn't searchable.
If you are doing each of these then you’re doing most of what’s required to get good SEO scores.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Important SEO Terms & Meanings

  1. Keyword Basics: The fastest results are seen in targeting a larger number of lower level competitive terms.
  2. Create Great URLS: If you already have a site that you cannot adjust the page structure to accommodate keywords in your URLs, then consider buying additional domains (building mini sites) to support various segments within your niche. These additional mini sites will drive traffic to your main domain.
  3. Find Long Tail Keywords: Add longer tail keywords into your URL will help as well. Do a quick search and you will see most “experts” agree that the buyers are found with the Long Tail Terms. Boost your earnings through driving more of the right type of traffic….buyers
  4. Use Latent Semantic Indexing: The more content you have on your site about the general topic, the better your site will do for the specifics within that niche. That’s how a site becomes an authority on a topic.
  5. Dive into PPC: One sure way to confirm that the keywords you’re targeting with your SEO efforts will drive the right type of traffic is to pay to get them their 1st. If they don’t buy then target a different keyword phrase.
  6. Optimize your Images: Don’t overdo it. Some people will read that and then force a bunch of keywords in every image on their site. The idea is to do what you would typically do but this time do it “right”. If the image is relevant – name it something relevant. Oh, and also, if it is a button or something else that isn’t relevant to your niche, name it something with numbers, as in, 1010104561.jpg.
  7. Optimize your Title Tag: When giving each page its own title, try and include product model or product names to help drive targeted traffic.
  8. META Tag Notes: The META description is what the searcher will read in the organic listing so try and make it sound compelling and give the searcher a reason to click on your site.
  9. Link Building, What Not to Do: It’s best to build links over time from high value sites. Think of sites that are in your niche that you consider the highest value and work directly with them to get a link to your site.
  10. Link Building, What you Should Do: Link Bait is content that is so good that people want to talk about it. One way to do this is provide content that is controversial.
  11. Don’t Forget Canonicalization: Talk to your techie about implementing this strategy. WordPress has a great plug-in for this that makes it really easy….yet another reason why I LOVE WordPress.
  12. Stick with HTML: As I stated in #12, I love WordPress. Why, well one of the main engineers at Google said it best, “WordPress does 80-90% Google loves without changing a setting”. If you haven’t already I would look for ways to use WordPress in your business.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Show SEO Value

This next post is for fellow SEO consultants, freelancers and SEO service providers. Search engine optimization value comes in many different shapes and sizes it depends on the client and how they will respond to that value. I think hiccups occur and relationships are torn when people depend on the entire success of their company from a search engine optimization campaign that is about to start. SEO is a seed that when planted needs constant watering in order to grow over the long term. Try exploring the value of SEO in a different fashion.

Analytics
By definition the process of search engine optimization is not to increase sales although that is the ultimate goal. SEO is supposed to bring more traffic to your site. Whether the horse wants to drink the water is whole other story. Look at your analytics information and take a look to see if you are receiving any more visitors. Look at all aspects not just the unique visitors. Look at entrance keywords and how people are finding you. Examine the new keywords that are dropping visitors to certain internal web pages.

Google Webmaster Tools
Install Google Webmaster tools so you can see the physical links being created pointing directly at your website. Link building is a very important part of creating a solid search marketing campaign and in order to have visitors finding your web site you are going to have to create some links. Google Webmaster Tools will give you a nice solid breakdown of all the links that are pointing to your site which is a very important area to look at when trying to determine the value of your search marketing spend.

Search Results
Look at the search results from time to time in order to see what is making its way there for your company name can give you some insight as well. If you are taking an aggressive search marketing approach you will most likely start to see the search results for your company name start to fill up nicely. Looking at this takes time depending on how much information you are putting out there but it will take time to see this area fill up.

Search engine optimization is not all about sales. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink so if your service or product stinks people are not going to want to buy anything.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 Tips To Write A Project Proposal

Having 100% of project proposals accepted usually means that a freelance developer has had very few clients. Low percentage rates usually mean that proposals are being sent to people who didn’t ask or the proposal writer simply needs a few good “getting warmer’s” in the right direction. The following tried and tested tips are to encourage the 100%ers to write more proposals and the low raters to take heart and give it another try. Let’s get started…
  1. Ask Questions: Before starting your proposal, take some time to make sure you know exactly what you’re proposing. If you’re unclear about any part of the project, ask your potential client a few meaningful questions. If anything seems vague in their description of “what they want”, ask for clarification and then give them a list of possible options as to what you think they might have meant. For your sake, when preparing to give a price, it’s important that you and the client both have the same amount of work in mind. – Note: If you decide to include a list of questions along with your proposal, include an educated guess as to what their answers would be. Make it clear that your price is based on you having made the correct guesses to the proposed questions and that if anything needs clarifying or if anything is missed, you can adjust your quote accordingly.
  2. Summarize the Project: Take all the information on the project that you’re received from the client thus far and summarize it briefly, using your own words, in an opening paragraph. This not only helps you get a clearer concept of the project in your own mind, but also gives the client confidence that you’ve given it thought and understand what they want. It also provides a solid opportunity for them to clarify encase you didn’t understand. – Example: “Below is a summary of my understanding of the project based on our conversations thus far.”
  3. Break Down the Project Into a Nice “To Do” List: After your summary, follow-up with a solid “To Do” list, which is very useful for both you and the client? List everything that they’ve requested so far as well as your standard work on the project. For designers, this would include listing the initial drafts, etc. For programmers, this would include planning the database, building it, etc. Be thorough in your list. It will help give the client a strong sense that you know what you’re doing and that you’ll do the job well. It will also help you make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Use the list in your project updates and cross things off as you move along.
  4. Split the Project Into Phases: After your “to do” list, split the project up into a number of clearly defined phases. I recommend starting out with a minimum of three. Your first phase might be the “Initial First Draft”. During this phase, you begin work on the project and end the phase by sending the client a first draft for testing and revision. Your next phase, in a simple 3 phase project, could be “Bug Squashing and Customizing” – During this phase (I recommend project appropriate naming conventions the project is tested and revisions are made until the client is happy with the work and it’s ready for action. Your last phase is “Finalization”. Once the work is finished, you send them an invoice, ask for referrals, collect payment, and end with a virtual handshake, all parties satisfied with a job well done. – Bonus: A useful strategy to keep in mind when it comes to pricing is splitting up a long to-do list into meaningful project phases and then pricing each of the “phases” individually. This can be especially useful for isolating features that require additional time and energy and being sure the client recognizes the work involved when it comes time to give them the price.
  5. Give Your Clients a Timeline: Once you’ve gone over the project phases, let your clients know approximately how long you expect the project to take. Be generous (overestimate if need be, but gently) and then strive to finish up ahead of time. While a project may only take you a few hours to finish up, keep in mind that there will be waiting time between the initial drafts and the finished project as the client reviews the work and provides feedback. If the client is in a rush, let them know exactly when it can be finished and be sure to go over in detail exactly what, if anything, needs to be done on their part to make that deadline possible.
  6. Estimate Your Time Involved: While not useful for all project types, giving an estimate of time involved is useful for most and not only gives the client a sense of what to expect and that you know what you’re doing, but also helps you know exactly what to plan ahead for. A large design/programming project, for example, with a high dollar amount, can be an excellent opportunity to detail the hours involved in each step of the to-do list. Be generous, but honest. The last thing you want is word getting around that it takes you several hours to do what takes the average freelancer 15 minutes .
  7. Use the Multiple Choice Price Strategy: Now that all the details have been clearly laid out and your client is confident in your understanding of the project and your ability to see it through, it’s time to give them the price. Calculate your predicted time involved and be sure that nothing is overlooked. Then, give them the total number of hours along with your standard hourly rate followed by a discounted “flat rate”. As an example, take a typical CSS design/coding project. Let’s say you estimate about 5-8 hours involved in the project and your hourly rate is $40 an hour. Your proposal would then read something like this: “At around 5-8 hours of work, you’re welcome to my basic hourly rate of $40 an hour or a discounted flat rate of $250.” 9 times out of 10 the client will choose the flat rate over the hourly and will be happy with having had the freedom to choose. – Note: As an honest freelance artist who’s abilities are constantly improving, you’ll often reach a point where what once took you 5 hours now takes you an hour. Once that happens, the multiple price strategy is no longer needed. Give them your flat rate and do an excellent job . – Be sure that, along with your price, you give them your options for accepting payment.
  8. Offer a Satisfaction Guarantee: Once you’ve given them the price, be sure to include your satisfaction guarantee. Let them know that you’re committed to working on the project until they’re fully satisfied and then, once they’ve accepted your proposal, stick to it. There’s always the possibility that it can backfire with a client who just doesn’t ever seem to be satisfied (we can talk about dealing with them another day), but the vast majority of the time a solid guarantee will give your clients an extra vote of confidence and help to close the deal. There’s always the possibility of a project costing you more time than it’s worth, but no matter. Give the project your absolute best and learn everything that you can. Satisfied customers often end up being repeat customers and they are more than worth the time spent on those who may not appreciate your work.
  9. End with a Call to Action: Finally, after all the details have been made clear, and the price and guarantee given, end with “what happens next.” Let them know exactly what they need to do to get started. If you require payment upfront, let them know where to send the money. If everything prior has gone well, you now have a client who’s excited and eager to see their project come to life and you want to make sure that they know what needs to happen next.
  10. Write and Format Professionally: Nothing says “unprofessional” like a bunch of “misspellings”, grammatical errors, and “IM Style” typing. Take the extra time to proof read your proposal and fixes any little errors that may have slipped in. Use spacing between your paragraphs and divide your various sections (Project Summary, Timeline, Price Quote, etc.) with subheadings. For extra points, put your proposal up on a password protected page (make sure the password works!) within your website. – Note: If you’re struggling with style or would just like some extra ideas/opinions, put together an example proposal and share it with family and friends along with a request for feedback.
    And there you have it! Once the proposal has been accepted and the project complete, be sure to always ask the client if they have any suggestions for how you can improve and do even better work in the future. Ask them if your proposal was clear and ask, if you’re able, what the deciding factor was in choosing you to do the work. Take note of all you learn and apply it to the next proposal you write.
Although not directly related to “proposal writing”, here are two other tips that are worth mentioning:
  1. Pre-Screen Your Clients: To save both you and your clients time and energy, it’s important to be sure that they are as informed and as prepared as possible before they contact you. This is where your website can step in and do its job. After they’ve browsed through your portfolio and decided to go for a price on your services, it’s important that you provide a clear path to follow. Create a page specifically for those interested in working with you. Outline the types of projects that you do and the processes that you use. Don’t hide your prices. As well as offering an hourly rate and flat rate estimates for various project types, I recommend mentioning that you’re always open to creative negotiations. You can often end up with “free projects” that more than pay what you would have charged them.
  2. Respond Quickly: While not always possible, when you’re able to, respond to your prospective and active clients immediately. If you have an expected delay, let them know that you plan to be unavailable. Be punctual with all your appointments and make sure that you meet your deadlines. If you miss a deadline and you’re at fault, take a hit on your earnings. This will let the client know that you mean what you say and it will also help you to make sure it doesn’t happen again .