At its most basic level, search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of enhancing and promoting a website in an effort to boost the number of visitors coming through from the search engines. The majority of your visitors are expected to arrive via the popular search engines and SEO configuration helps to boost visibility when users search for your particular product or brand.
SEO comes in many forms, and there are relevant factors such as the words used on your page or the way other websites link to you: in some cases SEO simply means the designing and structuring of a website in a way that search engines can understand.
But in addition to discovering specific phrases and terms for the engines and building proper links, SEO isn’t just focused on the engines; it’s also about making sure the sites are better for people.
If you’re trying to figure out the whole SEO thing but find yourself more confused, don’t stress, you’re not alone. Hopefully we can help you to understand SEO better and how it will result in more profits for your business.
Why Does My Site Need SEO?
As we mentioned earlier, the majority of web traffic originates from a search query in the search engines.
What makes search engines so unique is the fact that they can provide targeted traffic, which means that you can directly draw in people who are specifically looking for what you offer. Once you understand that search engines are the roadway that facilitates all this, and learn how to make sure your site is found by popular search engines, you won’t miss out on the many marketing opportunities made possible by search.
A search query is the phrase a user types into a search box in order to find information about something, so your website needs to be configured in a way that its anchor text aligns with relevant search queries. For example if your website sells wedding dresses then it would be very important to make sure your website gets displayed on the search results when someone types in a query relating to wedding dresses.
When site owners invest in SEO, it leads to an impressive return on investment. It really does have the potential to significantly boost your rate of return when compared to other forms of promotion and marketing.
Is it true that search engines can’t “see” my website without SEO?
Modern search engines are pretty sophisticated and use advanced algorithms to search for sites when queried but they still need assistance in order to crawl the web more deeply and provide users with the best results for each query. Remember that while there are proven SEO strategies to make sure your site gets thousands of visitors every month, the wrong SEO can get your site buried deep in the search results where no user will ever come across it.
Aside from making sure content is available to search engines, good SEO also enhances site rankings in order to make sure content is placed only where common searches will locate it. You might have noticed how competitive SEO marketing is, and companies that invest in SEO will have a huge advantage over their peers.
How do I do SEO for myself?
SEO is fairly complex but once you understand the basics, it makes a huge difference. There is a lot of information about SEO available on the Internet and it can be accessed for free.
Depending on the time you have for learning this information and the type and complexity of your website, you may find you need an expert to handle things more smoothly. There are hundreds of experienced firms such as ours out there practicing SEO. We assist many local businesses just like yours and will be delighted to provide an SEO solution for your business.
How much time should I invest in learning SEO?
If you are serious about improving your search rankings and be familiar with SEO then it would be advisable to put in time and effort into it. There are three main factors you need to pay attention to:
• On the page SEO
• Off the page SEO
As you will learn, within each group exist subgroups and each of these subgroups contains individualized SEO factors that you as a site owner should pay attention to.
Effective SEO factors have to work in combination. No single factor will be successful so it wouldn’t make sense to focus on creating a great HTML title if the content on the page is low quality. Likewise having hundreds of links can boost rankings significantly but that only works if they are quality links. Establishing multiple factors can increase the chances of success just as negative factors make it harder to achieve success.
On the page ranking factors
On-page search ranking factors are those types of factors that fall under the publisher’s control. Consider the type of content you publish, perhaps you provide a number of HTML clues that make it easier for people and the search engines to ‘see’ your website, and perhaps you’ve spent time creating effective site architecture to help the search engines. All these factors fall under on-page rankings and are within your control.
Off the page ranking factors
These are the factors that publishers do not directly control. A long time ago search engine developers learned that relying entirely on publisher controlled signals wouldn’t work so in order to yield the best results they had to gain more control. For example, some publishers may try to make themselves appear more relevant that they actually are.
Due to the high number of web pages in existence, search engines cannot rely on ‘on the page’ clues. The engines need to go through more signals in order to yield the perfect result for any specific search.
Violations and penalties
Understand that search engines want publishers to perform SEO on their pages because it can improve their search results. Major search engines such as Google provide assistance in the form of simple guidelines, videos and how-to posts as a way to encourage good SEO practice and make it easier for their users to find your site.
But despite all of this training, some publishers still engage in “black hat” techniques as a way to get to the front of the line and for this they get punished. Engaging in spam or black hat SEO tricks can get your pages penalized and the ranking dropped; in some cases the website can get banned from the search engine entirely.
These violations are basically little tricks that web developers use to exploit search engines into giving a higher ranking, usually by manipulating the search engine’s understanding of true authority and relevancy.
It sounds very confusing. I need time to think about it.
Although it sounds daunting at first it can be learnt, but most businesses simply don’t have the time to do this as they are too busy running their businesses. However, we need to stress that businesses can’t afford to snooze when it comes to perfecting their SEO strategy. This is not meant to scare your into action, it is just a simple fact. It needs to be done if you want your business to stay ahead of the competition.
However, because if it so important we can understand if a business is sometimes reluctant to hire an outside company to handle their SEO strategy. You might not want to give up direct control of this critical component of digital marketing, or you may be looking to reduce your costs.
However, there are even more compelling reasons you should outsource your SEO rather than keep it in-house (or even worse, decide not to do it altogether). Outsourcing has five main advantages that make it an appealing option for businesses:
1. No More Waiting
When it comes to running a business, there are a lot of items that take priority over SEO on your to-do list. Due to its complexity and ever-changing nature, many businesses put SEO off until the company has the time and resources to handle it properly. But the longer you wait to handle it, the further you’ll fall behind your competitors. They will be getting the sales that might otherwise have gone to you. Outsourcing SEO can help push up the timetable without sacrificing other projects.
2. Keeping up With SEO’s Constant Evolution
Unfortunately, SEO isn’t something you can just set and forget. Google makes hundreds of changes to its algorithm each year and if your company lacks the resources to stay on top of it, then it will prove ineffective or even damaging in the long run.
For example, when Google changed its algorithm to crack down on SEO tricks focused on short-term results, one company lost 20 percent of its search visibility overnight. If it had hired experts to follow these announced changes and implement above-the-board SEO strategies, the company could have maintained its search market share and even used the algorithm change to its advantage.
3. Making More Money
Perhaps like many businesses, you worry that paying someone else to do something for you is going to end up costing more money than just handling it internally. In reality, it’s different for each company.
To put things in perspective, what are the costs of doing it on your own, and what are the results you expect? Where are you positioned in search engines today, and what is that ranking costing you in new sales?
While it may cost more in the short term to hire externally, the ROI from increased traffic will often put you ahead.
4. Gaining Built-in Expertise
While your company may have employees who know their way around SEO, it’s unlikely that they’re as experienced and knowledgeable as people whose companies like ours do it for a living. SEO agencies have clients in diverse markets, with deeper and wider exposure to the impacts of algorithm changes and other search-centric issues. They’re also paid to stay on top of every change and trend in the search business. Spending your resources training employees to be experts internally, rather than outsourcing, can waste both time and money.
5. Focusing on the Big Picture
How can good SEO benefit your business? By letting someone else handle the details of SEO, it frees you up to concentrate on the results and how they can contribute to the growth of your business. SEO agencies live and die by the results they return, so their goal is to deliver the results you want so they can stay in business.
While you still might decide to handle SEO internally, it’s important to consider both options and choose the approach that works best for your business. Assess where you are in the SEO game, and determine whether you need help.
Do you have technical SEO issues? Are you suffering from content issues? Do you have a bad backlink profile? Is the way your website is set up actually harming your SEO?
You may not have the answers to these kinds of questions yet, but you can start to wrap your head around the problems you might have by hiring a partner to audit your strategy. This is also a good way to vet an SEO agency without committing to anything for an extended period. You need to know that the company understands your business and knows what kind of results you want.
How Not to Harm Your Rankings and Lose Sales
Remember, SEO is not a short-term game. You have to be in it for the long haul. That is why we are so keen to work with you. Our focus is on strategy, not on quick results and easy guarantees that is offered by other companies, which actually harm your ranking in the long term. We can help put you ahead of your competitors, both online and off. Don’t put it off. Act today. We look forward to working with you.
With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s a great time to take advantage of some targeting with your email marketing campaigns. Even if you’re so lazy that you simply write “Happy Holidays!” in the signature, it would behoove you to make some effort to bring your customers into the “spending” mind frame that the holiday season always denotes.
Five Ho-Ho-Holiday Email Tips that Will Sleigh Them!
With that said, here are some simple and not-so simple adjustments, additions and marketing strategies you can add to your email marketing campaigns this holiday season to capture a little bit of that holiday magic…right in your wallet.
1. Use Holiday Language. Did you see how clever our h2 subtitle was? Okay, maybe it is too cutesy for what you are doing, but don’t be afraid to throw in some “tasty savings” or “stuffed with deals” type language for Thanksgiving sales. Go as far or as subtle as you want, but remember: most people enjoy the holidays and are put in a better mood by people who are enjoying them too!
2. Offer Big Discounts. You already know how much people love to spend during the holidays, but they love to save even more. Use a big deal to get them onto the site and then offer package deals or side items to even out your profits. Remember, the point here is to get the emails open, the click-thrus up and not only give them a deal, but raise your brand or website’s awareness. Even if you break even on a deal, the fact that the customer will remember you in the future and possibly open more emails or buy more products makes the initial investment worth it. Chalk it up to cost of acquisition.
3. Early Bird Specials. Every year we see Target, Walmart and Toys R Us competing with each other on opening hours. Now, we’re to the point where Black Friday sales start on Thanksgiving or even before. The bottom line is that there are no more limitations. Your “Pre-Pre Black Friday Blowout” could be a great way to get traffic to your site. Having an opt-in will allow only those who want to received early bird specials, to receive them, leaving the core of your list unbothered and thus, unsubscribes down.
4. Get Creative. Holidays are all about reindeer games and having fun, so play along with your list. Have a holiday trivia contest where the first ten people to answer correctly on your site get 10% off or a free gift. Keep the games light, airy, holiday-themed and reward incentive. You want people to play along and have fun, but you also don’t want to pester them and have them hit the unsubscribe.
5. Real Time Emails. A great email marketing campaign that is underused is the hourly deals. While this won’t really work year-round, it’s perfect for Black Friday and Cyber Monday because people are constantly checking in for updates on emails. You can either have an opt-in (which would compartmentalize and further qualify your list) or have real-time content that you can update in the body of the email as soon as the customer opens it.
As you can see, holiday email marketing is a fine line to walk between taking advantage of the willingness of your list to get more emails and not bombarding them with so many that you tick them off.
So let’s open up with the assumption that you have some people on your email list and these people are in your target demographic. Let’s add to it a simple premise: the people that they know are either also in your target audience, or very similar to them. Why? Because they are friends, peers and family members of your existing clients. Now, with those few little bits of information, you can build an enormous mailing list simply by giving something really cool away. Want to know how?
Incentive Plus Internet Equals Growth
So here’s how you do it. First, you need something cool to give away. Let’s say that the product that you’re selling is super cool. Or maybe it’s something else. Either way, it needs to be something that is at least “fairly related” to what you are doing (i.e. don’t give away an X-box if you are selling stocks the blind) and something that people are going to want.
A great example of a perfect giveaway is premium-marketing software. Let’s say that I am selling MLM marketing software in my downstream and I have a small but targeted customer base. I see that I have fifteen people that are using the basic version of the software and I know that they’ve at least considered upgrading to the premium software due to the fact they’ve put it in their shopping cart and left it there, have emailed me about it, whatever.
The point is, I know these people want the premium software and for whatever reason (money, time, forgetfulness) they don’t have it. So, I send them an email and I say that I’m giving the premium software away. All they have to do is enter the contest. How? Simple, click this button.
Getting the List to Build Itself
So, they click the button and I have an autoresponder that says something along the lines of, “Congratulations! You have entered the contest 1 time. You can enter a total of 3 more times in the next 8:00:00 hours (of course this is counting down at this point) simply by getting a friend to enter. Click here (here you have social widgets, email forwarders, etc.) to share with your friends and when they enter, you get a second entry!”
Of course, they want another entry because that increases their odds at winning the premium software, something that they want. So, they share it on Facebook, they email it to someone they were talking to about the software, whatever. The point is that they share the giveaway and when they do, the next person only has to (no, not click the button) enter their email address to be entered in the contest!
Then, that person gets the email saying how they’ve entered once and if they want to enter again, etc. etc. You get the picture here, the list is building itself. It’s an automated viral listbuilder and all it’s costing you is a few free giveaways. The timer is creating a sense of urgency so the sharing will happen quickly.
In a short time, you’ll not only be able to gauge the interest in your premium software, but you’ll also build up a list of people who are interested in your products. I don’t have to tell you what that’s worth, but certainly more than some free software giveaways. Using this system, you can build a targeted email list for virtually nothing and not really have to do much work.
So you’ve got your business up and running, whether that means freelance consulting, promoting affiliate products, or running a monetized online community, things are on the up and up. However, you know there’s lots of other, more established competitors in your spaceâ€¦ so how do you stand out and convince customers that switching to you is a no-brainer? Well, here are a few proven ways to overdeliver in the digital age.
1. Collect feedback.
With the amount of survey tools out there, or the ability to, you know, send an email message, it’s incredibly important that you start listening to what your customers are saying. Early on, this can be as simple as asking them in a post-sale or ideally post-service email what they thought of your service, and if they have anything they would improve.
This serves two purposes: First, it’s going to help you identify people who are really keen on your brand or product, and who might be good candidates to become your affiliates, etc. Starting out, you might just let them know that if they enjoyed working with you, you’d love to send some kind of reward their way if they find a few people to refer to you. These gifts don’t have to be anything expensive, but the gesture is often appreciated and the potential to help you grow is huge.
2. Have a personality.
Seriously, for the same reason people vote for political candidates based on how they look, or how they generally “feel” about them, interactions and perception go a long way in purchase decisions. Plus, this is actually something you have a huge advantage at over your larger rivals: When a company has 37 different support agents to help with their massive customerbase, they can’t offer the same kind of repeat interactions or treatment that you can as an individual. Smart companies on the rise use the technique of overdelivering in the personalization and customer support department to win clients from their competitors. It’s not a bad strategy for entrepreneurs and online marketers, etiher.
3. Connect with them via social media as a person, not a brand.
This is an interesting one. Now more than ever, people like to know who they’re doing business with, because they can. Social media has greatly raised expectations of interaction and transparency, to the point that even massive brands make sure they have a presence actively chat with those who mention them.
As an individual entrepreneur, you have the unique opportunity to let people know the person who wants to do business with them. This goes hand in hand with point number two about having a personality. Let people Snapchat with you in your off-hours, post Instagram pictures of your work days as they progress. The Facebook page for your freelancing or brand can be a place that people not only get to know you better through written posts, but when you can foster community through asking discussion questions and special offers.
Remember that your biggest weakness, being small and up against long-standing competition, is also your biggest asset, because it makes you more agile than anyone else (and your clients will remember that).
Social media apps and sites popup with alarming frequency. Also alarming, is the rate at which these platforms seem to overtake each other in traffic and popularity. While you can’t go wrong growing your influence at the top of the food chain where a couple of massive entities still dominate, you can sure as heck get innovative and ride the wave on newer trends to quickly become a standout resource for potential followers. With that in mind, here are a couple of platforms most marketers aren’t taking adequate advantage of.
Pinterest – Pinterest is the iceberg of social media platforms: Unless you’ve spent some time exploring, it might seem like not that much is going on over there, but you’d be dead wrong. When measured in monthly unique visitors, Pinterest is actually the 4th most visited social network on the English-speaking planet; it trails only Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Yep, it even beats out heavyweights like Tumblr and Instagram.
The nature of Pinterest, which is all about quickly sharing images, whether original or curated, makes it such a great opportunity for brands. On Pinterest, “boards” can be created within a theme, so a board may consist of “nature scenes,” for example. Your business can take advantage of this unique tagging system, no matter what niche you’re in, and grant itself massive exposure. Let’s say you were working with an offline client who was a construction contractor, for example. You could create an account for them and start adding images of their stellar work to boards on houses, architecture, even remodeling. And, yes, those all exist.
With unique monthly hits in the hundreds of millions per month, don’t pass up on this opportunity to turn your brand, site, or niche expertise into a visual, sharable commodity.
Periscope – “Peri-what?!” you might say (especially if you’re not on the cutting edge of social media already). Periscope is a new app that allows individuals to livestream what their phone camera is seeing to the internet. In turn, users can follow their stream and comment and chat in real time. The concept of livestreaming is years old, but Periscope seem to have finally been able to popularize it on mobile. Since that’s where most people are spending their time these days anyways, it’s started to really take off.
The whole point of Periscope is to teleport users to another location, lifestyle, or adventure. Savvy social media marketers have taken to announcing that the most interesting parts of their day will be streamed – and you’d be surprised at what really seems to hit home for people! Make a live Q&A session happen during your lunch break, show off your daily work ritual that really gets you in the zone. Even if the majority of your day involves sitting at a computer, you can find a way to deliver some livestreamed value to people out there who are in the same boat or who are trying to follow in your footsteps.
Of course, these are far from the only social hangouts you should be working on, but they’re good places to start. Depending on the needs and demographics of your niche, you may also find certain platforms make a lot more sense for content presentation, so don’t be afraid to deviate when it makes sense.
Left and right, entrepreneurs and businesses are using blogs to help build their businesses. From transparency blogs, which follow a journey, to straight up authority resources, people still like to read, and content marketers who can give them something nice to look at and valuable to read will have no problem expanding their reach with a blog.
While there are a number of ways to start gaining initial traction and readership, few are more effective – provided you’re willing to put in the time – than a genuine guest post. Guest posting doesn’t have the SEO and backlink umph that it used to, but it certainly is still highly effective as a means of leveraging an already established audience or readership to help grow your own.
Unfortunately, the way that many people go about guest posting is, well, just plain awful. They reach out with cold emails, beg, plead, or send half-baked ideas to editors and bloggers that have way too much on their minds to entertain the thought of babysitting someone who isn’t willing to put in the effort. Let’s learn how to overcome that.
Guest posting is about leverage
Leverage is a two-way street, and when you’re guest posting, you have to understand that you need to be able to offer another blog owner enough value that they are willing to give you their readership. Essentially, they’re risking their audience and credibility by letting someone else pen something for them, so they need to be convinced it’s worth their while.
This generally comes down to two factors:
Can you write as well and generate as good of a post as their readership is used to, and
Is your own audience, who you will be promoting your guest post to, large enough to help garner the blog owner some new owners.
The first is qualitative, and something that some people will just be naturally better at, and to develop with practice will take lots of time and study. The second is much more easily measurable and readily apparent: if you pitch a blog post to someone who gets 10,000 daily readers, and your social media followings are hovering in the 100-200 range, they probably aren’t going to see how putting the time in to partner with you is worthwhile for them, as there isn’t a large potential to gain new readers.
Instead, work on a stepping ladder type approach, in which you work with those who are just a small notch or two above you. If you get an average of 20 shares or so on each of your posts when you write it, look for blogs in the 50-100 per post range, this is a level of engagement that is above your own and is growing, but it’s not excessive and doesn’t indicate someone who is going to ignore you completely.
As you progress with this technique, you will be able to reach out to larger and larger bloggers each time, and before long you yourself just might be one of the big guys.