SEO News

Carpenter Series 1Google’s Matt Cutts recently posted a video in which he explains the five most common mistakes SEOs make. Crawlability issues, keywords that don’t reflect what searchers are really looking for, lack of compelling content and marketing, and lack of descriptions and titles are among his top picks, as is to be expected. One that may not be as obvious is the fifth mistake: not using webmaster tools. There is so much high-quality information and help available for webmasters. It is there for the taking, but many do not take.

While you’re working on improving crawlability or creating great content, here is a quick fix for mistake #5. We’ve compiled a list of the best webmaster tools:

  • Google Webmaster Guidelines. You have to start somewhere! Google has a wealth of free information and guidelines for site owners and developers. From staying within technical requirements to enhancing visibility via snippets, you will find a great deal to look through and learn here.
  • Bing Webmaster Tools. A complete selection of help and how-tos. Bing also produces webinars on a variety of topics. You can catch them live or watch them later on Bing’s website.
  • iWeb Tools. This site has a compilation of helpful tools, including those that check backlinks, speed, rankings, and more.
  • WebToolHub. Much the same as iWebTools, this offers some great tools for tightening up your SEO and web presence.
  • YouTube. SEOs love talking about SEO, and they love making videos. YouTube has a lot of great content to help webmasters, from reputable sources like Matt Cutts. In addition to GoogleWebmasterHelp’s channel, you can find equally useful info from BingWebmasterHelp.
  • Webmaster Forums. These are communities of like-minded (or maybe not) individuals who are willing to help out, give advice, share suggestions, and ask for feedback. Take advantage.
  • FreeWebmasterHelp. You can find more technical information here, including tutorials on HTML, cookies, PHP, Javascript, and more.

There are also offline seminars offered. Google (or Bing!) “SEO Seminars” in your area to find if there are any good options for you.

There are so many practical, and free, webmaster tools to help create engaging, effective sites. This is one SEO mistake that is easy to fix.

Brands flood

Conversion rate optimization has become a top priority for websites. You’ve heard it before, but the best visibility and the best SEO is useless if a site cannot get visitors to complete a desired call to action. One of the ways that you can boost conversion rates is to develop a co-branded website. What exactly is this, and how can it help with your CRO efforts?

You may have heard of co-branded credit cards; you may even have a few in your wallet right now. All this means is that a merchant or vendor has partnered with a credit card company to offer this card. The merchant is the dominant brand, but it is supported and given credibility by the distinctive CC company brand. This results in higher spending, increased card use, and encourages customers loyalty. It works in much the same way with websites.

In terms of a website, multiple brands appear together as a joint enterprise or are involved in selling one product or service. Nike and Apple, for instance paired up and created the Sports Kit, a wireless system that connects shoes and iPod. VW co-branded with Trek Bicycles and created the special edition Trek Jettaa, which came with a bike and rack. It works, too, with affiliate type situations. Users associate the affiliate with the major or parent brand and are more comfortable completing the CTA.

Additional benefits of co-branded websites include:

  • Cost savings.
  • Increased user confidence.
  • Improving product exposure.
  • Effective marketing of new products or services.
  • Increased association between both brands, conferring the benefits of one to the other.

There is a flipside to consider as well. Co-branding confers the benefits and drawbacks of one site to another. If one brand suffers a reputation crisis, it can affect the co-brand. As well, co-branding can be a difficult balance in terms of agreeing on a creative concept and putting out timely materials. When you can overcome these, co-branding may be a great way to increase your CRO and leverage another brand’s name and recognition.

 

Rockhopper Penguins

Google rolled out Penguin 2.0 in mid-May to great trepidation. Website owners and SEOs are understandably skittish when it comes to cute black-and-white animals. Have the effects of the algorithm update been major as feared, or have the vast majority of websites escaped unscathed?

The first iteration of the algo change targeted unnatural links, and Matt Cutts indicated earlier this year that the changes brought in with Penguin 2.0 would be significant.   According to Glenn Gabe of G-Squared Interactive, who conducted an analysis of thirteen sites believed to have been affected by Penguin 2.0, Google went “deeper” into that territory, but not “broader.” That is, unnatural links are still a target, but other webspam factors, such as scraped content or keyword stuffing, do not appear to be.

Note: that doesn’t mean you can start content scraping or keyword stuffing! It just means that Penguin 2.0 seems to be targeting unnatural links. Google spiders are still on the lookout for hundreds of other factors.

In his analysis, Gabe found obvious attempts to game the system. Particularly blatant were links with exact match anchor text. Some sites had thousands of such links, which featured “money keywords.” Unlike Penguin 1.0, which only examined the homepage link profile, 2.0 examines the linking profiles of pages deeper into sites.

The good news is that the damage appears to be limited to sites obviously engaged in spammy practices. Unlike some previous updates, there seems to be little in the way of collateral damage. A drop in traffic doesn’t necessarily indicate that Penguin 2.0 is the cause, but it is worth examining your link profiles and removing as many suspicious links as possible.

The Link Disavow Tool can be used, if necessary. Unlike a manual penalty, algorithmic penalties can be “lifted” when your link profile is cleaned, Google runs the algorithm again, and it re-indexes your site.

King

Content is king, and it can be a pretty demanding one at that. According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report, the biggest challenges faced by content producers are producing enough in terms of quantity and variety and making sure it is engaging and relevant to searchers. To combat these issues, you need to have a toolbox full not only of ideas, but of ways to generate them, ways to expand on them, ways to capture the attention of your audience. Here are a few of the best content marketing tools to help you break through obstacles and create winning content.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

The more, the merrier. If you have a repository of relevant topics, no slow news day will ever stop you from producing relevant content. The first places to start gathering ideas are, of course, Google Alerts, LinkedIn (from Answers and your group discussions), and Quora. Beyond that, try:

  • TrendSpottr. Simply type in a search (or browse their trending topics) and find all the latest information on that topic. This is a goldmine for ideas – and it can help you keep on top of your industry’s news.
  • Pinterest. Watch out; this can be a time-sucker! But it can also lead you to top information and opinions on relevant topics. Further, it helps you see what is trending and popular as far as content types.
  • Topsy. This is a great tool that lets you search social media, find relevant topics, identify key influencers, and receive alerts of changes, negative mentions, etc.
  • Bubbl.us. Create a mindmap and flesh out your best ideas.
  • Trello. This helps you organise your content ideas, share with others, create a repository, create a community bulletin board, assign projects, etc.
  • Evernote. This is a wonderful tool that keeps track of all your notes, your interests, and your ideas in a streamlined way. If you see something online that catches your eye, you can save it here. If you see something in real life, snap a picture and save it. Very useful.
  • Visual.ly. Now you have the (free!) tools to create compelling, shareable content. Visual.ly specialises in creating infographics and data visualisations and has a network of 3500 designers to help.

These are just a few of the great content creation tools out there. Play around with them, and see which you find most useful.

Photo Frame

A picture is worth a thousand words. That is no less true online. The right images can capture your visitors’ attention and imagination. But are those images also capturing the “attention” of Google’s bots? About 60 – 65 percent of people are visual learners. Google, though, is not! It depends on code to decipher your website and serve it up to searchers. When your images are not optimised, they are invisible to bots. How can you ensure your images really are worth 1000 words?

Optimising images is not difficult or time-consuming:

  • Remove the bloat. There is a lot of information attached to an image that is useless as far as your web visibility efforts go. You might have information about the camera model, the date, the colors, etc. To remove this, use an image compression tool. Try Smush It, PunyPNG, JPEGmini, Caesium, or Kraken, all available online.
  • Use image alt text. The image below means nothing to Google. Adding alt text gives the search engine the information it needs. You would just add a line to your image tag:

<img src=”dogs-playing.jpg” alt=”Dogs Playing” />

A Springer and a Golden 1

  • Choose a file name that includes a keyword or keyword phrase that describes the image accurately, and for which you would like to rank.
  • Use descriptive captions. Google doesn’t as yet take this into consideration, but they do look at bounce rates. If your captions do not accurately describe your image or give searchers what they expect, they will click out. Your bounce rate does influence your rankings.
  • Size appropriately. Select a size that is as small as possible but does not impact quality. This will keep load times reasonable and provide visitors with clear, sharp images. You can once again turn to tools, such as Dynamic Drive’s Image Optimiser, to help you size or even convert the file format.

Images can be incredibly powerful. Make sure they appeal to users and are accurately described, and then make sure they appeal to Google’s algorithm-following bots.

Stopwatch 1

Quality content is the single most important factor in your search rankings, but a host of other aspects of web design, development, and performance play into how you appear in the SERPS. Speed is one of them, and it is critical because it so heavily impacts the user experience. One technique you can use is minifying HTML. This allows you to speed up your load times, reduce page size, and reduce network delays.

What does it mean to “minify” HTML? It basically removes whitespace, comments, and other non-essential elements. At the same time, it does not interfere with the content structure. The result is cleaner, speedier sites. The BBC, for instance, has a hefty site of 77,054 bytes. When it is minified, though, it drops 55,324 bytes, a 28.2 percent reduction. For a site that is so heavy on content and media, this is a tremendous difference.

There are several great online tools that you can use to minify your HTML. (Note: It is important to also minify CSS and JavaScript as well. Why not drop as much weight as possible?)

These minifiers offer a quick and easy solution to minifying your HTML code. When you can compress and cut out the excess weight, you can offer a lean, mean site for Google to index and for visitors to enjoy.

Shopping trolley  2Cart abandonment is a staggering problem for every e-retailer. Research shows that 57 percent of online shoppers never intended to make a purchase as they were window shopping, and nearly three-quarters (74 percent) abandoned items because of shipping costs. Just one more statistic: 56 percent of consumers have left items in their carts because they intended to come back later and purchase. That is a substantial figure, and it is one that e-businesses can use to their advantage. Persistent shopping carts enable consumers to come back, find their nice full cart, and complete the transaction.

Ecommerce platforms like Maginus or Magento support persistent shopping carts. While the steps will be different depending on your platform, let’s go through Magento’s process to give you an idea of what it will look like:

  1. Log into your Admin panel. System>Configuration.
  2. On the left, find Customers and select Persistent Shopping Cart.
  3. From there, click on General Options.
  4. Select use when prompted to Enable Persistence.
  5. Next, you will set your preferences for Persistence Lifetime. The maximum is one year (31,536,000 seconds), and that is the default setting. You can shorten this to weeks or months, if you prefer.
  6. Under Enable “Remember Me” you can choose Yes, which will create a Login page checkbox that customers can click on if they want their cart information saved. If you choose No, customers won’t have that option, and their items will be saved by default.
  7. You also have a choice to make for Clear Persistence on Log Out. Yes means the cart information is cleared when registered customers log out. No means it is saved after logout.
  8. One more yes/no. Persist Shopping Cart. Yes means that a guest can log in or create a new account, and their information is there. The session cookie expires, but the persistent cookie does not. No means it is not retained after the session cookie expires.
  9. Save Config, and there you have it.

Persistent shopping carts can help reduce cart abandonment and enhance user experience. If a customer fills his/her cart, goes to another site to check prices, and pops back to your site, it is essential that the items be waiting. If not, they are unlikely to take the time to put them back in – especially if the competing sites retain the items!

 

Twisted directions“Content marketing is the only marketing left.” Seth Godin, author

The sales funnel concept holds that people go through different stages in the buying cycle. At the top, the widest part of the funnel, are those people who might be interested in your product or service. From there, it narrows into “hot” leads and, finally, customers. While the journey from unqualified lead to paying customer is not linear, this is a useful model because prospects have differing needs based on where they are in the sales cycle. Today we’ll talk about mid-funnel content to help you nurture leads.

Quickly, top-funnel content is educational; you are not going for a hard sell. Blog posts, tutorials, infographics, how-to-videos, and other content fits perfectly here because it delivers value to your customer without pitching. Bottom-funnel content is the time to break out the demo, discuss pricing, and, again, offer educational content to keep them interested and engaged.

In between, you have established trust with leads; they see you as a resource. They have completed a call to action, such as filling out a form or signing up for a newsletter. To capitalise on their interest, mid-funnel content focus on even greater value. Perhaps, in your top-funnel content, you discussed the importance of crafting a strong vision statement. In mid-funnel content, you can dive deeper into the subject. Perhaps you offer a case study; maybe you offer a step-by-step process they can follow. If you are in an industry that depends on research, you could offer a report or whitepaper on a specific topic.

Here are some strategies that you can use to optimise and leverage your mid-funnel content:

  • Try a drip email campaign. This delivers pre-developed messages appropriate for the recipients’ stage in the funnel. This, again, keeps you top of mind. Practice the soft sell, offering value to your prospects.
  • Offer a whitepaper to your top prospects. This must have information, data, and insights that they cannot find elsewhere, or which would take significant time for them to compile on their own. Other ideas include offering an exclusive video or access to a webinar or webcast.
  • Categorise your prospects into user personas; these are essentially fictional characters that represent the needs, desires, age, race, ethnic background, professional or career level, and other features of your real prospects. Once you have fleshed out these personas, generate topics specifically for them. Develop content based on persona and stage of the sales funnel.
  • Track your content. Are people reading your emails? Are they clicking on links you provide or downloading content you are sending? Which content seems to be sticking with them most effectively?
  • Make sure that your mid-funnel content does not have risk for the prospect. That is, they are not going to lose money, time, etc. if they take you up on an offer. Here is where  free works; whitepapers, videos, infographics, articles, and other valuable content drives your objectives, pushes them down the funnel, and keeps you top of mind.

Mid-funnel content sets the hook; you want to capitalise on the interest and trust you’ve built by continuing to offer more relevant, interesting content. You need to go deeper, and offer a bit more – not the whole farm; you still want something to sell at the end! At this stage of the game, though, it’s about positioning yourself as the expert, as the answer to questions and concerns, and as the logical next step.

Stopwatch 1Speed is an essential component of a positive user experience, and a positive user experience is a crucial factor in your ranking. Google has an unfathomable amount of data to comb through and offer to searchers; they want to supply only the highest quality results. Your content, and how fast it loads, makes you more attractive in the eyes of search engines and users. One way that you can make your site speedier is to leverage browser caching. Here’s the why and how.

When a browser loads a webpage, it has to load all of the elements that go into that page – the images, the HTML and CSS files, JavaScript, etc. – so it can display it to the visitor properly. The more files, and the larger those files are, the longer it takes to load. Browser caching works by “remembering” these files, or storing them in the user’s browser.

A first visit will result in the page being loaded at the normal time; but after that, the browser stores the files, so when the user comes back, refreshes, or navigates to a different page within the site, load times are much quicker. The browser has to download less, and there are fewer requests made to the server.

This works wonderfully with static content, like your logo, which is not going to change, or at least not frequently. It can also work with more dynamic content as long as you set the proper expiry dates. So let’s look at that now:

To tell the browser to store elements locally, you set expiry dates on the desired files.

  • Go to your htaccess file. You can edit this file with Notepad or a text editor.
  • Determine which files you would like to cache and for how long. It could be days, it could be a year. It is recommended that you opt for at least a month, and up to one year with static content.
  • Add the following code to the top of your htaccess file:

## EXPIRES CACHING ##
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/png “access 1 year”
ExpiresByType text/css “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/html “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/pdf “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash “access 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/x-icon “access 1 year”
ExpiresDefault “access 1 month”
</IfModule>
## EXPIRES CACHING ##

The expiry dates are examples; you should set them to your preferred time periods. For  instance, if you want an image to be cached for one month instead of one year, simply change:

ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 year”

to:

ExpiresByType image/jpg “access 1 month”

Now, just save and refresh, and you’re done.  You can find some more details on Google’s webmaster resource page.

eccommerce concept 3A businessperson’s work is never done. There is always optimising to be done, whether you’re working on your site’s navigation, your keyword strategy, your content offerings, or your ecommerce site. Optimising your product pages is key because it allows potential customers to access the information they want – and be enticed by your products.

To ensure that your product pages are working their hardest for you:

  1. Use clear, focused images of your products. Make sure they are original or that you have secured permission from their owners. It is best to get high-quality shots of real people using the product and to ensure you have multiple angles. The good news is that if you cannot afford a professional photographer, you can take these pictures with a decent camera.
  2. While you’ve got the camera going, add video. If having video for each product is unfeasible then produce them for your top selling products – or those that are up-and-coming. People want the next big thing, so show it to them. Video content could be a box opening, a quick how-to, a testimonial, or other attention-grabbing format. It doesn’t have to be blockbuster  quality; but clear and professional is a must.
  3. Create clear product descriptions. Include most important features, bullet points, a quick summary, a more detailed description, and links to important information, such as shipping, returns, and FAQs. Don’t try to “sell” the product; just tell about it.
  4. Make sure the price is clearly listed. Price should be readily apparent. But don’t forget the shipping. Often, shipping prices come as a surprise when we’ve gone to our carts to check out. Make sure your customers know this information ahead of time to cut down on abandoned carts. Shipping calculators are always a great idea.
  5. Notify of restocking. If a product is out of stock but you are planning on restocking, let visitors opt in to receive an email when it is back. Then, when you have their email address for this purpose, do not abuse it. If they have signed up to receive updates or newsletters, fine. If they have not, don’t consider this license to send them any other emails.
  6. Encourage reviews. Make it easy to leave a rating or review. This is great user-generated content for search engines, and other customers trust these highly.

Your product pages are just one element of your overall site, but they are crucial to your success. Spend some time making your online store as inviting and helpful as you would a physical location.

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