Monthly Archives: January 2018

5 Questions To Ask An SEO (Search Engine Optimizer)

We’ve dealt with many companies and websites in a search engine optimization capacity. The search engine optimization world is one surrounded by mystery. Although there is a thriving online community, search engine optimization is not typically offered as a course at schools or universities around the country. It is very much a skilled learned through experience.

But, often time’s companies or “SEO experts” don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Not only is this unacceptable as you may be paying these companies or individuals good money, but in the long run some techniques employed by less experienced search engine optimizers or those willing to take short cuts can cause your site to become permanently banned by the search engines.

Over the years we’ve learned that education is the key to success. Whether you’ve just begun the process of looking for a company to provide search engine optimization services, are well along the process, or already have a company you’re dealing with and want to make sure they’re doing things correct this is a helpful and simple 5 question guide:

1) Can you get my website to the top of the search engines?

This is an important question, and one you may have already planned to ask. What you want to look for is whether or not the company digs deeper and what their response is. For example you should expect to hear things like:

  • what would you like to rank for?
  • are their competitors in your market that you believe have a great web presence with search rankings you would like to emulate?

Without intimate knowledge of your industry as well extensive research it is hard to know what you really need to rank for and whether the terms you think are important will actually drive results.
Additionally watch out for too quick of an answer. Although a great search engine optimizer may be able to get you to #1 for something you want, it should never be guaranteed and it isn’t an overnight process.

2) Once my site is created, how do you make sure I show up on the search engines?

Many search engine optimizers or firms will talk about website submission. In reality all that is really needed for search engines to know that your website is there is a link (from any site on the Internet) back to your site. Some firms may talk about repeated search engine submission, but this is completely unnecessary and could actually end up hurting your rankings as the repeated blasts may be considered spam. One key thing to look out for when discussing this question is the mention of sitemaps and webmaster tools. Many powerful websites (content management sites, shopping carts, etc.) can automatically create a sitemap (a single file that shows the location of every page on your site). When this file is setup under a search engine’s webmaster tool console it can help significantly to increase your rankings and should be a staple of any search engine optimizers toolset.

3) What is link building, do I need it, and how do I do it?

3 questions in 1, I know, but this one is important.

Although on-page optimization (the way your website is built, text, etc.) is important, link building comes in at a very close second. Yes you do need link building! And the company you commission needs to assist in this process. If they don’t mention this run the other way. Your website needs links-in from other websites across the Internet to help you rank well. Links act like votes of confidence – the more you have, the more powerful your site. There are a number of quick ways to get links, but link building is a long process, but well worth the time or expense.

One thing to watch out for in link building campaigns is the creation of many smaller websites that then link back to your main site. Although in theory it is not a bad idea the truth is because of the nature of the search engines it is a colossal waste of time and money that would be better spent actually building quality links to your main site – from existing established sites throughout the Internet.

4) How do you measure the SEO process?

The advent of new tools and technology has made the measurement of search engine optimization and your website’s overall success easier than ever. Another key component to a successful search engine optimized site or campaign is the installation of proper metrics tools and the review both by the company being commissioned, as well as you the site owner. Like many things search engine optimization varies depending on a number of different factors, so implementing techniques is important, but measuring and refining are key next steps.

5) Do you start with pay per click marketing?

A good search engine optimization campaign should start with pay per click marketing and the company you commission should at least suggest this, even if you are opposed to it.

Why should you start with pay per click marketing?

Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Before going into detail about how you can optimize your website for search engines I would like to quickly explain what search engine optimization is and why it is so important.

Right now the web is dominated by three major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and MSN (live).

What is a Search Engine?

A search engine can be thought of as the largest storefront of all time. But, it dispenses EVERYTHING (all information on the web). You walk up to the counter (visit Google.com) and ask the magical clerk anything (type in your search), you hit “go” and off he runs back into the largest warehouse of all time to find you exactly what you need. In a matter of milliseconds he’s back with a list of the things he thinks you need. Essentially this is how a search engine works.

Roughly speaking a search engine has two facades – a front and a back. The front is what we interact with all of the time. The front of a search engine is the process by which we perform searches – it is the store clerk in the above example. You’re probably familiar with the big search box and search button all of the major services have on their font pages. You visit “google.com” you type in what you are looking to research or purchase, hit “search” and you are taken to a page with a list of results. Of all of the sites on the Internet these are what the search engine (in this case Google) believe most closely match what you are looking for. That is the “front” of a search engine – pretty simple.

The back of the search engine is where all the work is done, it is where everything on the Internet is found and sorted in such a way so that your search can bring up meaningful, relevant results; and a key component to this process are a search engine’s robots. A robot is a program (a part of a search engine) that actually goes out, across different sites on the Internet, and grabs information (text, pictures, audio, video, links, everything). The robot grabs the information and brings it back to the warehouse.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization is the process by which we get the attention of the store clerk – we grab his collar, look him in the eye, and tell him that he should look to us (our website) for everyone searching for what we have to offer. So, for example, if I am running an online bicycle shop I want to be #1 anytime anyone searches for “bike store” in the search engines.

Why is Search Engine Optimization Important?

Search engine optimization is so important because IT IS THE WAY PEOPLE FIND THINGS. Be clear what is being said here, search engines are not the way people find things on (only) the web!

SEARCH ENGINES ARE THE WAY PEOPLE FIND THINGS!

People use search engines to find what they want, to do research, and even for entertainment. People are becoming dependent on search engines to quickly serve up what they need. Looking for the definition of a word? Use a search engine. Want to find a great chicken recipe? Use a search engine. Can’t remember the name of that great website you visited? Use a search engine.

And the number of searches is astounding. According to recent estimates on any given day roughly 600,000,000 searches are preformed!

So why is it important? In a nutshell it is important because your clients and customers are using it to find your services. If your website is optimized they will find you – if it isn’t they will find your competitors.

Beyond this key point there are two more reasons why search engine optimization is so important:

1) Search Engine Optimization Turns Conventional Marketing on Its Head

2) It Has PERFECT Timing

In conventional marketing you force your company in front of your potential customer. You send them a direct mail postcard, you create a billboard, or TV advertisement and try as much as possible to get their attention – to attract their eyeballs and hairy lobes. Maybe you’ve done your homework, targeting a very specific list, but you’re still asking for their attention – and who knows when and if you’ll get it.

Search engine optimization is the complete opposite, your potential customer always finds you. By strategically optimizing your website you ensure your audience sees you when they are looking for what you have to offer. As long as you’ve taken the proper steps (which we’ll talk about in just a minute) your services come pre-sold, by one of the greatest word-of-mouth tools ever created – the search engine!

Finally, the timing of this whole process is impeccable. Your services aren’t presented at dinner (as a targeted, but inappropriately timed cold call might), they aren’t presented while someone is driving (in the case of an ad or billboard), they are presented at precisely the moment someone is looking for what you have to offer.
To conclude why your website must be search engine optimized:

1) Your audience uses search engines to find and research EVERYTHING – including your services. If you aren’t found, your competitors will be and you will lose business.

2) Search Engine Optimization Turns Conventional Marketing on Its Head

3) It Has PERFECT Timing

How Do I Perform Search Engine Optimization?

Now that we know how a search engine works the key really lies in what we present to those robots and that store clerk to make sure our site is selected. How can we present our information in such a way so that they can easily get our website in front of our prospective clients? How can we get to #1?!

It’s simple; you need a “search engine friendly” website.

A search engine friendly website is one that the robots can read. It is well coded (well created) with a solid foundation. At a very basic level a search engine friendly website will have a lot of REAL text (not flash or text within images). Beyond that there are some fundamental guidelines your web development company should follow – what is called “semantic coding.” It is a three part process by which the marketing needs of your site are matched to the coding requirements search engines require, along with the actual visual design. From the ground up you should have conversations with your web development and Internet marketing team, making sure they know what your site needs to accomplish.

Without getting into too much technical detail regarding the structure of your site there are a number of steps you as site owner can take to ensure you are maximizing your web potential:

Create Great TITLE Tags – Each page has a title (this is the message that is displayed in your web browser at the very top of your site). Inside the code of your website you’ll see it displayed as:

What goes between those bracketed title tags is the title. This is the most important single line of code on each page. Make sure it is relevant to the content on the page, and, if possible try to make it marketable; as it will usually be used as the title of your site should it come up in a search result. This rule can be applied to every page of your site.

Check Your Sites’ META Tags – Although not as important as it once was check the META tags of your website’s pages. Each page should have individual META information (if appropriate) that pertains to that specific page. This META information helps supplement the robots and store clerk in their quest for information. The META information adds additional insight into what exactly your site is about.

Links – Beyond the coding of your website, links are an absolute necessity to search engine optimization. A link from another site to yours is like a vote of confidence. The more sites that link to yours (particularly those sites in similar industries) the more likely the search engines are going to recognize you as a leader in your field, and the higher you will get for searches. Only links from other, outside sites will help your site (for example a “helpful links” page on your own site doesn’t count).

Using a Search Engine Optimization Company

It’s a common question that companies who are considering hiring a search engine optimization company often face – is this something that we can do in-house? More importantly, can we do this in-house and get the same results that an expert search engine optimization company would provide?

As this article will demonstrate, clearly the answer is “yes” to both questions. However, as this article will also demonstrate, getting the types of results that an expert at search engine optimization can provide will cost you – often more than outsourcing.

For the purpose of this article, I’m ignoring the multitudes of companies that decide to dump the job on somebody already in their organization (usually an IT person who already has too much to do) rather than hiring a search engine optimization company. It has been my experience that while some of these people eventually provide decent results, they are the exception. More often than not, the project never leaves the ground, or the effort is halfhearted at best. In a worst case scenario, your internal person may embrace tactics that no expert search engine optimization company would ever use because they can put your site at risk of penalization or outright removal from the engine indexes.

My company often works with firms after they have used non-expert internal talent to optimize their website, and most of the time we are actually doing more work because much of what has been done is ineffective or dangerous. We have to take everything apart and put it all back together, often while making requests to the search engines to have penalties lifted.

The real goal of this article, however, is to assume that a business has decided to embark on a search engine optimization campaign, and that it is also committed to using a proven expert in search engine optimization. The choice then is simple – does the business hire an experienced resource to work in-house or should it instead go with an outsourced search engine optimization company?

A recent study by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, published in the January 2008 edition of DM News (“Healthy SEM Salaries Rule: SEMPO Survey”), points out that experience in search engine marketing carries a high price tag. For instance, if you were looking to hire someone with more than five years of experience in search engine marketing, you could expect to pay between $100,000 and $200,000 per year. For somebody with experience but not five or more years, you can expect to pay anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 per year.

If nothing else, these real world figures should convince discerning companies that expert search engine optimization and marketing is not something that you should dump off on an existing employee without any experience in the field. The free market has determined that expert search engine optimization and marketing is worth at least $60,000 per year for a full time position, and up to $200,000 per year.

On the other hand, most reputable search agencies have many more than five years of collective experience in the search engine marketing industry. In addition, a high percentage of these agencies offer SEO services that cost considerably less than $60,000 per year, to say nothing of $200,000 per year. It should also be noted that this figure neglects to include any of the additional costs associated with hiring – benefits, training, and so on. In addition, an expert search engine optimization company will have a broad range of sites from which to draw knowledge, while your in-house expert will likely only have one, or a handful at best.

To be fair, there are certain advantages to hiring an in-house expert. First of all, experts will have their feet to the fire, so to speak. A search engine optimization company isn’t likely to go out of business if it underperforms on your site, but an in-house expert in search engine optimization is likely to lose his or her job. It’s also much easier to get the whole team together to discuss your SEO initiatives at any time you choose when you are working with someone in-house. And hey, when you’re paying someone $200,000 per year, you can be pretty certain that you’re going to get top-notch work. But can an expert search engine optimization company give you that same level of work for a lot less money? Probably.

Conclusion

There are many compelling reasons why your business should hire an expert search engine optimization company rather than bring in an SEO expert internally or simply give the SEO project to an existing team member. Financially, it makes sense. But more so, you’re more likely to get the results over the short and long term with an outsourced company for all of the reasons noted above. I’m not saying you have to hire an SEO company – at first. I’m saying eventually you’ll probably want to.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, which is frequently referred to as SEO, is the process of increasing the amount and quality of traffic generated to a website or other Internet based property from search engines’ natural/organic ranking results for specific words called keywords. For this article, I will use the term website to refer to all Internet based properties.

The popularity and importance of search engine optimization is based primarily on the fact that statistical data has proven time and time again that the higher a website is ranked in search engine ranking results, the more likely the chance that individuals will click the website link and visit the website.

Moreover, marketing research has shown over the past decade that the quality of visitors that search engines deliver to websites traditionally ranks as the best or one of the best sources of traffic for websites in relation to website conversions for sales, signups or other marketing goals set for websites.

The term SEO in relation to search engine optimization is also used at times to refer to search engine optimizers, who are consultants that mange and facilitate the development and completion of search engine optimization projects for their clients. Also, these individuals can be employees who conduct SEO projects in-house for their employers.

Search engine optimizers may provide their services strictly for search engine optimization or as part of a package, which includes other marketing services.

In general, SEO was created as a method of improving websites’ search engine ranking results. Moreover, at the core of conducting search engine optimization, there are two general methods used to optimize websites, which are on-site and off-site optimization.

As the terms imply, on-site optimization involves using techniques that are focused directly on the website and off-site optimization involves aspects that effect a website that are not directly on the website.

The reason why search engine optimization has a noticeable effect of improving a website’s rankings is because all search engines have at the core of their existence a computer program, which is called an “algorithm”. This program manages to a large degree almost all the various operations of search engines.

Thus, SEO is used by individuals and businesses to optimize websites for search engine ranking results based on either perceived or actual knowledge pertaining to the functions, directions, retrieved website data and instructions utilized by search engine algorithms to determine a website’s search engine ranking for keywords or keyword phrases.

What makes search engine optimization very challenging is the fact that every search engine has an algorithm that was created specifically for its own search engine; so each algorithm is unique and ranks websites using different criteria and factors and/or places various levels of importance on the criteria and factors.

Moreover, search engines are very protective of their algorithms; so all aspects of the algorithms’ operations are tightly guarded. Therefore, the algorithms are always being changed from time to time to prevent anyone from trying to determine the exact or close to the exact factors and criteria used to rank websites in their ranking results.

The better an individual can evaluate how search engine algorithms determine their search engine ranking results and can utilize search engine optimization to optimize websites based on his or her evaluation findings, the better the likelihood of the individual being able to improve a website’s rankings through the use of search engine optimization.