SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?

The folks over at Creative Content Experts came up with a neat infographic about the difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). What do you think?

If you would like discuss SEO or SEM in greater detail, give me a call @ 208.995.9437 or send me an email so we can discuss how I can assist you. Free 1-hour consultation is available. Have a great day and thank you for stopping by.

A Lot of People Are Using Facebook

According to emarketer.com: Facebook usage has grown steadily in the past two years and will continue on a solid trajectory. eMarketer estimates that 132.5 million people in the US will be using the service this year; by 2013, that number will increase to 152.1 million. Read the rest of the story here …

Having an active presence on Facebook can have the potential to help you get found in the search engines. Setting up a Fan Page on Facebook therefore, should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. If you need assistance or have questions, please contact me at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Did I mention that content is really important?

One of the most common mistakes people do when they are building content is thinking only of the search engines. They will stuff in keywords even when they make no sense. Even if you do get past the Search Engine filters and spam detectors, what happens when someone actually lands on this page? What is the point of having someone come to your site only to find the content makes no sense? Wouldn’t you leave? You are better off spending more time or paying more for content that a visitor will find valuable. Also, good quality content will stand the test of time.

When you build good content, the links will come. When you have good content, other websites will link to you to make their sites look better. I have found that if you write about a relevant topic and then go out to the expert bloggers and notify them of it, they will usually reference your content and link back to you.

This one tip is for sure, content is forever. Links, metatags and other SEO (search engine optimization) techniques come and go but content has always been relevant at some level. Don’t look at your content task as an ongoing uphill climb. Get in a ritual of writing 1 page of content every other day for your site, or find a partner that will. Within 2 years, you will have roughly 350 pages of unique, indexable content on your site. Search engines will love it, your visitors will love it, you will benefit from it for years to come!

It doesn’t have to be award winning content to make a difference. Many people get stumped on what to write about. Just write! Read an industry publication to get the ideas rolling. You don’t need a 5,000 word essay that will change your industry. Just write about a topic you were challenged with recently. Write about how great your employees are, write about a new portion of your product or service that few know about. Just write!

Of course if you just don’t have the time to create content or just what to pay someone to do the job for you then you can always hire a freelance copywriter like myself.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics

Before you begin more complex search engine optimization (SEO) techniques you must ensure that your website is “search engine friendly.” This means making sure that each individual page is compliant with search engine standards and ready to be indexed correctly. Follow each of the steps below for each page on your site.

Page Title: The title of the HTML page should be relatively short and describe the page content accurately. Wherever possible, try to include keywords (without distorting the true purpose of the title). For example:
<title>McGrath Discount Office Furniture Store</title>

Meta tags: Use the description and keywords metatags in the head of each web page. Make these tags different on each web page.
<meta name=”description” content=”Suppliers of quality office furniture and accessories at discount prices.”>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”furniture, office, store, shop, retail, discount”>

Heading Tags: Use heading tags. Many search engines place more emphasis on text within heading tags, so make sure they use keywords. Use one <h1> tag per page with the most important keywords. Use other head tags (<h2>, <h3>, etc) to provide variations and support the main heading.
<h1>Desks</h1>
<h2>Large Desks</h2>
<p>… information about large desks…</p>
<h2>Small Desks</h2>
<p>… information about small desks, etc etc…</p>

Page Text: Make sure the text of your web pages contain keywords and common phrases which people might search for. Be careful with the frequency of your keywords – you want to have them occur at least a few times if possible, but don’t repeat yourself so much that the copy becomes unnatural. The idea is to discretely spread keywords around without making it obvious.
<p>Buy office furniture at affordable prices from any of our retail stores.</p>

Note: Use all these methods in moderation. If you include a hundred keywords in the meta tag or saturate your page with heading tags they will lose their effectiveness and you may be penalized in other ways. Keep it simple and under control for maximum impact.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Copywriting

Search engine optimization (SEO) copywriting requires a different approach than traditional copywriting. It could be boring, to be honest, but if done properly it will bring you results. Here are some tips that you can apply to help your SEO efforts:

1. Give the primary keyword most importance. Always keep the primary keyword in mind while writing the article. While I don’t believe in taking away a writers freedom, it’d be good if you can write an article around the suggested keyword and maintain a keyword density of 6-8% in the whole article. Also make sure the primary keyword is evenly “sprinkled” around in the whole copy.

2. Use tags to highlight phrases containing the primary keyword. Make sure you use strong tags to highlight phrases that contain the primary content and the variations of it. Also make sure that you don’t go around highlighting every occurrence of the keyword but around 3-4% in the whole text and near the start/end of the entire copy is ideal.

3. Use variations of the primary keyword in the articles. Use variations of the primary keyword in a healthy ratio of 4% of the entire copy. For example if the keyword is “Flower” the variations would be “red flower” “blue flower” etc and not “flowers” or “flowering”.

4. Maintain a keyword density of 6-8% of the primary keyword and at least 3-4% of the variations

5. While linking to other sites, use a nofollow attribute. Use a nofollow attribute to external link sources wherever necessary, especially if there are lot of outgoing links in a particular article. I’d say if you run beyond 3 links in an article, it’s better to nofollow them while you can ignore nofollows for links less than three in number.

6. Use titles for links. Use the “title” attribute for all links external or internal. In the title attribute, give a short description of less than 6 words containing the primary keyword or its variations. Ex:- “More articles on Wedding” where “Wedding” is the primary keyword.

7. Try to interlink to your own pages/articles with the appropriate keyword that suits the content of the destination article. Do not use nofollow attributes while doing this.

8. Try to maintain a length of at least 250 words in the whole article. This is to make sure that Google gets the chance to scan your copy and collect the keywords from it. If it’s a short article, the engines might not consider it a valid doc.

9. When writing headings, try to make sure that the primary keyword is placed in the first three words. Ex:- “Wedding Troubles – Article 1,2 and 3” where Wedding Troubles is the keyword.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Spiders

Spiders–creepy and crawly, but in this form, very good. A search engine “spider” also known as a “crawler” is a software program that search engines such as Google use to find out whats out there on the web. The web is a huge place, so something needs to travel around and see whats offered on it every second of every day, and the spider is it.

The spider looking at your information follows all of your hyperlinks on each page after the page is loaded. Much like a spider crawls through a web and finds all insects that get stuck in it, the “spider” on the web crawls around web sites and will eventually find your information.

When a spider visits your web page, the content on your page gets loaded into a database (picture a gigantic excel file the size of your city) After your web page has been retrieved, the search engines loads your content into their index, like drawers and drawers of index cards, your words get organized.

In SEO the spider goes out and finds your pages, then they break down all of your words on your page and then all of your URLs are fed back into the SEO program.

The first thing a spider does when it visits your page is look for a file called “robots.txt.” It is a special file that tells the spider what to index and what not to index and if the spider doesn’t find the page, the page will be thrown out, hence why you may not get recognized in a search engine.
The only way for a spider to see your information is for it to have a robots.txt file. A spider will find your page by following hyperlinks or “found pages.”

Search engine may have a URL submission form in which you will want to request that they add your site to their index, this is a good idea to do in most cases. One last thing I have learned is that if you are submitting your site to a search engine, it is very important to not submit it to the sites you find or software you can purchase that will submit your site to hundreds of engines, this does not work. More and more links you have on your site will also improve rankings.

If you have additional questions, please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Copywriting Tips

Writing high-quality, search engine friendly content/articles for your website is crucial to achieve quality rankings in the search engines. Here are some tips to help you understand what you can do to improve your sites content and achieve your goals.

1. Write well
Content is king: this is the mantra of every SEO-conscious web developer out there. Google and other search engines love useful, well-written content. If users find your content useful, they will link to it and they will tell their friends about it. When Google finds these inbound links, that page’s ranking will rise even higher, which in turn will bring in more visitors.

One of the implications of writing well is that you should use as many different words that are as relevant to the title as possible. If your copy uses the same keywords again and again, search engines can tell that the article is shallow and not very useful. Conversely, is you use a wide vocabulary that is pertinent to the topic, search engines will infer that the article is authoritative, deep and useful. Google’s ability to determine the true value of a piece of writing by examining words other than the keywords is known as latent semantic indexing. For this reason, it is important to use synonyms of your keywords in addition to the keywords you are targeting.

2. Use the h1 tag for your title
Using the h1 tag for your title will make Google take the title extremely seriously, providing the title’s words are also present somewhere in the text. The h1 tag allows you to achieve a high degree of focus on your chosen keywords. The h1 tag is one of those golden SEO tips that will improve your search engine results very quickly.

You should also use the h2 tag on sub-headings, and the h3 tag on sub-sub-headings. If you make your article hierarchical, Google will give you a lot of respect.

3. Keyword density
The keywords that you are targeting should appear at the beginning, in most paragraphs and somewhere near the end. Once you have that down, just focus on producing exceptionally useful and comprehensive content. Do not stuff your articles with keywords, as this is spammy and search engines can tell. You are also a lot less likely to receive inbound links if your copywriting is poor.

4. Bold, italics, underlined
When you emphasize a word with italics, underlining or bolding, search engines assume that it is a keyword. Use this to your advantage to tell Google what your keywords are. The flip side of the coin is that you should only use these tags on keywords, or you will confuse the search engines and weaken the effect.

5. META tags
Use your title’s keywords in the and DESCRIPTION tags. Google will love it if the TITLE and DESCRIPTION tags are similar or identical. Do not repeat keywords in these (or any other) tags, as this is considered spam.

6. Numbered lists
For some reason people love to link to lists, so try and present some of your articles as numbered lists, along the lines of “10 ways to improve your website’s Google ranking.” Lists are easy to digest and are popular with bloggers.

7. File names
Use up to 5 keywords in the name of your files. Using keywords in the file name has some SEO benefit. You should also use keywords to name the directory in which the file is. In this way, all your URLs will consist of your domain name followed by keywords that are relevant to the page’s content.

8. Interlink your articles
Cross-linking your pages will ensure that PageRank is shared among the articles on your website; you don’t want a page that massively outperforms the others. Interlink your pages with contextual links whose anchor text is relevant to the target page. In addition to spreading PageRank over your websites, this technique will also help you tell Google what your pages are about.

9. Have useful external links
Linking to useful websites is vital. It has been shown experimentally that, other things being equal, pages with outbound links have a higher Google ranking than pages with no outbound links (Does the number of links on a page affect its ranking?). You should only link to pages that are relevant to your page’s content. You should also make sure that they have not been penalized By Google, or your page will be penalized too.

10. Do not use Flash
Flash is a real pain. It is also the biggest enemy of SEO, along with frames. Flash takes ages to load and cannot be read by the search engines: any information embedded in a Flash file will not be indexed, and the whole point of SEO is to make your content visible and understandable to the search engines. Flash also irritates users and drives them away, myself included. Enough said.

12. Do not use frames
There is no question about it – frames suck. Frames blithely do away with the fundamantal unit of web navigation: single, unequivocally identifiable web pages. They therefore completely destroy a website’s chances with the search engines. If a website uses frames, the ONLY page that search engines will index is the home page – if that. You’ve been warned!

13. Synonyms and plurals
To make your articles relevant to as many search queries as possible, you should use synonyms in your copy. Google will love this (see latent semantic indexing) and you will qualify for more search terms. A similar argument applies to plurals – it will make sure you get Google referrals for both the plural and singular versions of a given keyword.

If you have additional questions, please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. I can be reached at 208.598.0084 or matt.shifley@yahoo.com.

Content, content, and more content

If you are creating a website or working on a site you’ve already created, the content of the site is one of the most important factors for successful search engine marketing. The pages you create should provide valuable information that references very specific terms and concepts that are unique to your website.

Text is one part of the content that is important for being found in search engines. Search engines usually read and index the first 500 words from each page they successfully crawl. The text within that span of words is one factor that helps to determine your relevance for a particular search term.

If you are successful at weaving your keywords into compelling copy you are more likely to be relevant for keyword searches. Once your site has been up and running for three months, run a report on your log files to determine what keywords people are using to find your site.

You might be surprised if the most popular keywords that do find your site don’t match up to keywords you already had in mind and were using. The web is a great educator about how to succeed. Your site might be very popular for search terms that you hadn’t thought of when you built it.

When people use search engines, they aren’t typing in generic terms that are hard to define and measure like “business” or “software”. People use search engines for very specific names and phrases, terms like “Inkjet printer cartridge refills”.

You wouldn’t have thought to include that specific phrase in your content because it doesn’t read very well. But if all those words are located in a web page carefully constructed to highlight keywords that are known to produce traffic, the likelihood that you will appear in a search result for a very specific search improves.

You must be diligent in understanding how people are getting to your site and focus on providing quality content that is geared towards the audience that is trying to find you. Be as specific as you can. You’ll improve the quality and quantity of visitors you get from search engines.

It’s also important to understand that you cannot trick the search engines. Flooding the engines with multiple versions of the same page, repeating the same term over and over – these tactics will only lead to negative traffic from search engines and the likelihood that your site could be banned from being listed in a search engine.

We mentioned earlier that the text on your website was one part of the content that’s important for being found at search engines. Another important part of the equation is your link popularity. By focusing on quality content, your website becomes more likely to have someone naturally link to it without having to request it. You can read more about link popularity here.

What is a bad neighborhood in the SEO world?

A bad neighborhood are those web sites that use unethical methods to get high search placement in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) and these sites are usually banned by the search engines. You should not link to a web site if that particular web site uses unethical method to get high search placement on SERP. If you link to a site that is banned by the search engines for spamming, then you’re inviting the risk of getting banned for linking to a bad neighborhood. As soon as the search engine founds out that a particular web site uses unethical methods they will banned it and the sites that links to that particular web site may also be penalized by lowering their rankings or even banned. You can use this free online tool in locating potential problems with your linking strategies text link checker tool.

Unethical SEO (search engine optimization) are those things that are not accepted by the search engine and those that they accepts are called Ethical SEO. Those are the standards set by the search engines. Following those standards will help search engines index and rank your site. Not following these standards will lead to a site being removed entirely from search engine index or much worst penalized. Since Google is one of the most dominated searchengines you can learn more of their webmaster guidelines here.

How Google measures whether a site should be banned or not is a matter of controversy that Google itself only knows. It changes from time to time. Today the method that Google uses may be o.k., but in the next update it may be considered unethical.

If you do have a questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Copywriting: Essential Elements

Let’s discuss the five areas to focus on with your web page, blog post, online press release, whatever . . . they’re all the same in the eyes of Google. The 5 SEO copywriting elements that matter:

1. Title – Whether you optimize up-front or later, you at minimum need to know what keywords you’re targeting and include them in the title of your content. It’s generally accepted that the closer to the front of the title your keywords are, the better. But the key is that they appear in the title somewhere.

The emphasis on keywords in the title makes practical sense from a search engine standpoint. When people search for something, they’re going to want to see the language they used reflected back at them in the results. Nothing mysterious about that.

Having keywords in your title is also important when people link to you. When your keywords are there, people are more likely to link to you with the keywords in the anchor text. This is an important factor for Google to determine that a particular page is in fact about a particular subject.

You should try to keep the length of your title under 72 characters for search purposes. This will ensure the full title is visible in a search result, increasing the likelihood of a click-through.

2. Meta Description – SEO copywriting is not just about ranking. It’s also about the presentation of your content in a search engine. The meta description of your content will generally be the “snippet” copy for the search result below the title, which influences whether or not you get the click.

It’s debatable whether keywords in your meta description influence rank, but it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t. You want to lead off your meta description with the keyword phrase and succinctly summarize the page as a reassurance to the searcher that your content will satisfy what they’re looking for. Try to keep the meta description under 165 characters so the full description is visible in the search result.

3. Content – Unique and frequently updated content makes search engines happy. But you know that part. For search optimization purposes (and just general reader-friendliness) your content should be tightly on-topic and centered on the subject matter of the desired keyword phrases.

It’s generally accepted that very brief content may have a harder time ranking over a page with more substantial content. So you’ll want to have a content body length of at least 300 words.

It might also help to bold the first occurrence of a keyword phrase, or include it in a bulleted list, but I usually don’t get hung up on that. It’s also debatable whether including keywords in subheads helps with ranking, but again, it doesn’t matter – subheads are simply a smart and natural place to include your keyword phrase, since that’s what the page is about.

4. Keyword Frequency – Keyword frequency is the number of times your targeted keywords appear on the page. Keyword density is the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the words on the page.

It’s generally accepted that keyword frequency impacts ranking (and that makes logical sense). Keyword density, as some sort of “golden” ratio, likely does not. But the only way to make sense of an appropriate frequency is via the ratio of those keywords to the rest of the content, so density is still a metric you need.

In other words, the only way to tell if your repetition of keywords is super or spammy is to measure that frequency against the overall length of the content. A keyword density greater than 5.5% could find you guilty of keyword stuffing, and your page could be penalized by Google. You don’t need to mindlessly repeat keywords to optimize. In fact, if you do, you’re likely to achieve the opposite result.

5. Page Links – Linking is the fundamental basis of the web. Search engines want to know you’re sufficiently “connected” with other pages and content, so linking out to other pages matters when it comes to search engine optimization.

Here are some “rules of thumb” for linking based on generally accepted best practices:

* Link to relevant content fairly early in the body copy
* Link to relevant pages approximately every 120 words of content
* Link to relevant interior pages of your site or other sites
* Link with naturally relevant anchor text

Again, these are guidelines related to current best practices. Don’t get hung up on rules; focus on the intent behind what search engines are looking for – quality search results for people.