Thursday, December 24, 2009

Website Basic SEO: Using Keywords - Honey Do List Part 6

This is a continuation of posts related to improving your company’s web presence. In a previous blog I discussed how to select SEO keywords. Today we are going to look at what to do with those keywords, where to place them and how to place them on a page.

Unlike previous posts, you will need to understand HTML (or work with a developer who does) to implement these suggestions.

You Are Writing for People not Search Engines

Keep in mind throughout this article that you are writing for people not search engines. The goal is to create content, that first is meaningful and easy to read, and second that targets your keyword list.

Step Three: Review and Select Keywords
If you went through steps one and two, in the "Selecting Keyword" post, you should have created a list of keywords that you want to target.

Updating an existing website:  Look at the pages on the site and compare them to your list of keywords. Select one or two keywords or phrases from your list that go with the content of each page.

Creating new content: Look at your site map, find pages that match one or two of your keywords.

You are looking for words / phrases that make sense if they are used in the page title or in the heading of the page. These phrases should correspond to the page's content.

Do not over saturate your pages with keywords. Each page should target one or two keywords at most. If you are trying to put two keywords on a page, think of them as primary and secondary targets. The goal is to get a good page rank for a search of your primary keyword. If your secondary phrase gets a good ranking, then that is a bonus.


Step Four: Placing Keywords
Where should your keywords go?
  • Page URL
  • Title Tags
  • Headline Tags
  • Internal Page Links
  • Image Alt Text Attribute
  • Page Content
  • Meta Tag Description
Page URL:
Plan on using your keyword phrases in the page's URL, separating words with dashes.
  • page1.htm --- Bad
  • surgicaltubing.htm -- OK
  • surgical-tubing.htm  -- Better
Title and Headline Tags:
Your primary keyword should go at the beginning of the title tag in your page's HTML code, and also in the Headline of your content. If you have two levels of headlines (H1 and H2 in the example below) try and include those words and phrases in your secondary headlines.



In this example "Surgical Tubing" is the primary and "Natural Rubber Tubing" is the secondary keyword phrases.

It is important to make sure your headlines are built with the H1, H2 and H3 tags not made using the Font tag.



Looking at the text above, it appears that the line in blue is a headline, but if you look at the code used to build the page, you will see that it is not true.



The headline is really a paragraph tag, with a Font tag, making it display blue and larger then normal. Google and other search engines will give extra weight to text in headline tags, compared to paragraph tags. Therefore you want all your headlines to use headline tags, not other HTML tags.

Writing Titles and Headlines
  • Place the primary keyword at the beginning of the Title tag.
  • Keep titles and headlines short (64 - 120 characters)
  • Write your titles and headlines in Title Case.
  • Use H1, H2 and H3 tags for your headlines.
Keep in mind that Google, Yahoo and Bing display about 64 - 66 characters of your page's title in the search results. So you want the beginning of your headline to indicate what your page is about.

Why Title Case?
This has nothing to do with SEO. It is just easier for people to read headlines in title case than all caps. And the words stand out more then in normal sentence case. (Here is a good resource for Rules to Write in Title Case)

Titles and Headline Don'ts

  • Don't stuff keywords.
  • Don't make titles extremely long (over 120 characters).
  • Don't make everything a headline.
  • Don't use misleading titles.
Notice in the first example, the title used the phrase "Surgical Tubing" once, it was not repeated over and over again.That would be called "Stuffing" and search engines will penalize pages that stuff keywords.

Internal Page Links
These are one of the most often overlooked items when it comes to using SEO keywords on websites. Links to pages on your site should use their primary search phrase - when possible.

If you have a page that links to the "Surgical Tubing" page, use the word "Surgical Tubing" as the link, or as part of the link.

Image Alt Text Attribute
If your page contains images and a keyword is appropriate for that image, then include the keyword in the image's Alt Text Attribute.

Page Content
When appropriate include your keywords in your page content, just be aware of over stuffing them in your content. You want the content to be easy to read and useful to people viewing your web page.

Meta-Tag Description
If your pages have a description meta-tag, this is what Google, Yahoo and Bing will use to describe your pages when they are shown in a search result. The meta-tag should include your keyword phrases, but they should still be easy to read and convey what the page is about.

Meta-Tag Keyword
Why is the keyword meta-tag not mentioned in this blog?
That is because Google does not use the keyword meta-tag for page ranking, and Bing doesn't index that tag either. While it appears that Yahoo does index keywords IMHO it is not worth worrying about.

If you feel the need to include the keyword meta-tag in your site, place your primary and secondary phrases at the beginning of the tag, keep the total character count under 150 characters and don't stuff keywords into it.

Merry Christmas

I hope that you have enjoyed this series of articles about Basic SEO, and want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas in 2009.

Friday, December 18, 2009

LinkedIn Profile Pictures - Brand Yourself

Head Shots Not Only For Actors
 I want to encourage everyone to upload a professional photograph for their LinkedIn profile picture. These images can server four purposes.
  1. It sends a subtle reminder to people that you are a real person and not an impersonal corporation. People like to deal with other people.
  2. It can make meeting someone in real life easier. If you agree to meet with a potential client over coffee you don't need to wear a red carnation to identify yourself.
  3. It will help remind past contacts who you are. If someone has not dealt with you for a couple of years and they see your profile picture it will trigger associated memories (hopefully good memories).
  4. If you post LinkedIn answers, or use the same picture in other social media it will "Brand" you. Your clients and other people will begin to recognize you when they see your image on your blog, facebook, twitter or digg accounts.

Professional Head Shot

First impressions are important:  Professional head shots should be just that, professional. I would recommend that you got a professional portrait photographer. They will take a picture with good lighting and the image will look better than one from your friend's camera phone. (If you live in North East Ohio I'd suggest you contact Tom Szabo, I have used him to take portraits.)


Keep these things in mind when taking your picture. 
  • You should be dressed in whatever clothes you would wear to visit a client. 
  • The picture should be a close up. Whomever views your profile should be able to recognize your face. Remember LinkedIn profile images are 80px  by 80px ( and smaller on some pages).
  • Relax, smile and have fun.
 My profile image is a close up. As you can see I've cropped it so that you can see my eyes and the top half of my face.

Image on Business Cards

You can get a bit more use out of your head shot if you place it on your business card. I'm not sold on the idea, but have been told that for many small businesses the owner is the brand. For that reason you want your image almost everywhere your company logo goes.

My business card does not have my image on it, and I'm wondering if it should. I've seen cards with and without the person's pictures. It seems like every realtor has their picture on their card, but very few people in my business have pictures on their cards. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Website Basic SEO: How to Select Keywords - Honey Do List Part 5

This week we continue the series of posts related to improving your company’s web presence.

Past blogs have discussed simple usability testing, web design, and a basic SEO Review. Today I'm going to look at another SEO issue: Selecting Keywords. Choosing keywords is one of the easiest things to do and yet picking the correct keywords is one of the hardest.

This article assumes that you are new to SEO or just starting out, and have not given much thought to how potential clients find your site using Google searches.

What are Keywords?

There are several definitions of keywords depending on their use, for example: pay-per-click advertising, SEO optimization, information architecture. This blog entry will pertain to SEO optimization.

I’m defining keywords as words or phrases placed into the content of a web page, in the hope that it will match the words or phrases used by prospects when searching the internet for something.

Goal of Keywords

The goal of keywords is to attract qualified traffic to your site. This is accomplished by having your website’s page(s) show up in search results of prospects or potential clients. You want your keywords to match the words used when people search the web for your product or service. Keywords should generate traffic, which lead to sales.
picking keywords for SEO

How to Use of Keywords

They should be a natural part of the content on your website’s pages. You do not want to stuff them everywhere. You can also include these words or phrases in your pages “Title” tag and HTML headlines. If you have an image related to a keyword, it can be placed in the “alt text” attribute for that image. Next weeks blog will talk more about how to use your keywords.

The Best Keywords

Finding the best keywords to use on your site is a never ending quest. It could consume all of the hours in your day, or money in your marketing budget if you let it. I want to suggest that you don’t need to find the best keywords or phrases when you build or update your website.

OK Keywords

When you first get started, don’t spend all your time and resources trying to identify the best keywords. Identify a set of good keywords and start from there. The law of diminishing returns will set in if you are on holy quest looking for the best keywords. I’m not suggesting that you pick any set of words. You want to identify good (or great) keywords, but you don’t need the best.

Verb Satisfice - decide on and pursue a course of action satisfying the minimum requirements to achieve a goal. - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/satisfice

To determine if your keywords are working, you need to know what they are and be able to measure how much traffic they are generating. Google Analytics is a free tool that will tell you what search terms people used who found your site. Over time tracking how much traffic comes from various keywords is a good way to determine if your keywords are affective.

Once you know what words / phrases are working you can look at adding more content, or improving your existing content to get better keywords.

You Already Have Keywords

If you have an existing web site, then you already have words that help people find your site when they search on Google, Yahoo or other search engines. Those words are all the text on your website’s pages. If you are in charge of your web site, then you want to know what words and phrases can generate more traffic and sales.

Getting Started

Step Zero:
Before you start picking your words / phrases make sure you have a tool that measures which search terms are feeding traffic into your site. Google Analytics  is a great tool and it is free.

Step One: Build Keyword List
Are you ready to build your list of words or phrases? Here are my top four ideas to keep in mind when building that list.
  1. Your Audience - What words or phrases does your target audience use?
  2. Your Business – What words or phrases do you use in your business? What about your competitors?
  3. Relative Strength – What is the relative strength of the keywords you are using? If you are a manufacturer, are more searches performed with the phrase “natural rubber tubing” or “latex rubber tubing”?
  4. Popularity - How many search results are returned when someone searches for a word phrase. Searching for “screws” returns over 4 million results on Google, “drywall screws” returns 400,000 results.
1) Your audience.
Hopefully you know your clients, and how they think. Check with your sales team or customer support, they interact with clients all the time. Find out what words they think people would use to search for your products / services.

If you have Google Analytics or some other method of tracking traffic to you site, see what words people use when they search for your site.

2) Your Business
Look at your business, what words or phrases would you use to find your business? Look at your competitors. What words can you search for to find them? (Hint: Look at their website's page titles and headlines.)

Place the list of words / phrases on an Excel spread sheet.

Need help finding keywords?
Google's Keyword Tool and a Keyword mapping tool (http://www.kwmap.net/) are useful if you are looking for help finding keywords related to your business.

3) Relative Strength
Now comes the hard part, figuring out if your search terms or phrases are worth pursuing. You will need a tool that lets you see how many times this term is searched. I like Google's Keyword Tool.

Add a column to your spread sheet indicating which terms have the most searches and are worth keeping in our list. I'd suggest keeping those terms in the top 1/3 of searches performed. Don't delete those other keywords, you still might want to use them at a later date.

Keep in mind that Google's tool shows searches for everyone in the USA (or world) and does not show searches by your audience. So if you think a term is valid for your audience, but is shows up poorly using the Keyword Tool, then keep it on your list.

The Keyword Tool also displays search phrases that it thinks are related to your initial list. Add any terms you think are worth while to your spread sheet.
 
4) Popularity
As I mentioned before some words are more popular than others. If you are in the electronic business, you will see that "digital camera" has over 100 million results on Google. Your odds of getting on the first few pages of a search like that is slim to none. (You might get lucky, but don't can on it.)

I tell my clients that SEO is kind of like applying to college. There are different levels of search terms: Safety, Match, Reach, and Hope & Pray.
  • Safety:  If you have a quality web site, you should be able to get on the first page results. You can even get in the top three for many of theses pages. These are searches with under 500,000 search results.
  • Match: Quality web pages have a good chance to be on the first page of these search results, but you might be in the top three results on only a few pages. These are searches with between 500,000 - 2,000,000 search results.
  • Reach: Web pages with good content probably won't get on the first page of results for these phrases. They can get on the second or third pages. Searches with between 2 - 5 million search results are Reaches.
  • Hope & Pray: Searches with over 5 million results are still worth trying for, but don't count on getting a good placement. Odds are these are general phrases, and the words are included in the previous categories. (Ex: "bulk sheeting" has 11 million results, "bulk latex sheeting" has 78,000 results. "Bulk Sheeting"  would qualify as Hope & Prayer, but those two words are included in the Safety term "bulk latex sheeting".)
Mark on you  spread sheet, which words / phrases are in which category.
    Targeting SEO keywords

    Step Two: Choosing Your Keywords
    Choosing what keywords to go after is the next step.

    Look at your spread sheet of words and phrases. Find terms that are frequently searched for (step 3) and are also Match or Safety searches (step 4). Those are the search keywords you should be going after first.

    Next look at those terms that are frequently searched (step 3) but in your Reach column (step 4).

    If your website is going to have (or has) lots of content pages, then you might want to look at some of the other search terms on your list.

    Step Three: Implementation, Using Your Keywords
    Next week I'll talk about how to place these keywords in your website's pages.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Website Basic SEO: Images and Links - Honey Do List Part 4

    This week we continue the series of posts related to improving your company's web presence.

    Past blogs have discussed simple usability testing, web design, and a basic SEO Review. Today I'm going to look at additional issues related to SEO. Some of this week's issues require a bit of HTML to identify or fix.

    Using Images not Text for Content:

    Does your website use images instead of text for large portions of its content? I don't mean are your navigation links images, or do you have product images nor am I talking about CSS image replacement. I'm talking about paragraphs of text (or headings) made of images. If you are not sure if your site was built using text or images here is one of many simple tests.
    1. Open your web site your favorite browser.
    2. navigate to the page you want to test.
    3. Take your cursor and try to select a few words from the content of the page.
    If you could select and highlight individual letters and words then that content is HTML text. Try doing that on the next paragraph. You will not be able to select the text because it is an image.

    Why Care
    Search engines, like Google, can not read text in images. By using an image instead of text your page is missing opportunities to be listed on search results.

    Why Talk About This Issue
    I was not planning on mentioning this issue, as I did not think it was common practice anymore. But last week I was talking to a friend, Will, who is doing freelance for a large retailer. He told me that they use a CMS which requires the page editors to understand HTML to add or edit content. In some cases, to get a graphic look, the editor will place an image into the CMS for a large block of content, instead of figuring out the HTML/CSS needed to build the page.

    Building Internal Links Poorly:

    Poorly built internal links come in two forms.
    1. Text Links
    2. Image Links
    Google and other search engines look at links and "think" that they indicate what the target page is about. This gives that page a small search result boost for searches using the text in the link.

    Text Links
    Many web sites have links that say "Click Here" or "Read More". You should change the text of your link so it describes the target landing page. If your site has been indexed by Google you can use it to check for this issue. Otherwise you will need to manually view all the content on your website.
    1. Open Google in your browser.
    2. Enter "click here" site:www.yourdomain.com as the search term. (include the quotes "" around click here.)
    3. See how many pages are returned by Google.
    4. Click on a page and see if it has a link "click here".
    5. Repeat steps 2 - 4 using the search term "read more" site:www.yourdomain.com .
      If you have a link such as:
      Click here to read about feeding goldfish.
      Try changing your text to:
      Read more about feeding goldfish.
      Or better yet:
      Learn about feeding lionhead goldfish

      Image Links
      (Some HTML Knowledge needed here) Web sites that use images as links often do not have "Alt Text" or "Title" attributes. Search engines will look at those attributes and include that information when they read your website.Check it out using the following procedure
      1. Open your website in a browser.
      2. View the Page's source
        There is no consistent keyboard short-cut for all browsers. In some browsers (FireFox and Chrome try Ctrl-U) otherwise look in the View menu for Page Source or Source. Most browsers let you right click on a page and then give the option to view "Page Soucre" in the list of available options.
      3. Try to find the images you want to look at in your page's HTML code.
      4. Look at the code for your image, does it have "Alt Text" or "Title" attributes.
      5. Is the "Alt Text" descriptive of the image?
      6. Is the image's "Title" attribute descriptive of the link's target page.
      Here is what your HTML code might look like if you used those attributes.

      Images that are not links only need the "Alt" attribute, they don't need the "Title" attribute, although it can not hurt.


      Don't Stuff Keywords
      Many first time webmasters try to stuff lots of keywords into these attributes. Resist the temptation. Search engines will penalize you for stuffing keywords in your image attributes and else where on your page.

      Usability Tip
      Also keep in mind that screen readers use the images "Alt Text" attribute.

      Next week we will continue to look at other SEO issues such as picking out keywords.