Emmeta http://emmetadigital.com San Diego SEO + Digital Marketing Fri, 06 Jan 2012 16:11:34 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 Cost of SEO – 2012 Survey Results for SEO Services http://emmetadigital.com/cost-of-seo-2012-survey-results-for-seo-services/ http://emmetadigital.com/cost-of-seo-2012-survey-results-for-seo-services/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2012 04:00:09 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=323 SEO Cost Survey Results

SEO Companies want to know how much to charge for their services and businesses want to know how much site optimization is going to cost. Lucky for all of us, SEOmoz just posted the results of their 2011 survey, How Much Does SEO Cost? The survey asked approximately 500 search marketing consultants from all over the world to share information about their services, fees, clientele and company statistics. The result is a pretty reliable sampling of data that both consultants and businesses will find very helpful. The survey results include information from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, India, Australia and New Zealand, but since the greatest population of survey participants came from the U.S., we’ll focus on those results. All the results can be viewed in the graphic below.

The following results are based on 296 U.S. based participants.

 SEO Consultants charge $76 – $150 per hour on average

SEO Payment Models

Project based contracts, utilized by 73% of participants and monthly retainers (65% of participants) are the most popular cost model used. Contract-based projects varied widely from $230 to $30,000 but most often, contract sizes fell between $2,500 – $5,000. The large variation isn’t unexpected as search marketing projects can vary greatly in size and complexity. Monthly retainer fees were split from $100 to $500 on the low end and $750 – $5,000 on the high end. The most typical cost of having an SEO consultant on a monthly retainer was $2,500 to $5,000 per month.

Sixty percent of SEO companies also offer an hourly-fee option and 55% offer services at a fixed price. Less than 2% charge for their services based on outcome success through keyword ranking or website traffic.

 

Hourly Rates for SEO

Historically, hourly rates have varied greatly with previous surveys showing ranges from $25/hour to $1,000/hour. As a new industry, SEO consulting firms had to figure out what their services were worth. This survey, conducted at the end of 2011, has much more focused numbers, ranging from $76 to $150/hour, typically.

 

The Most Common Agency/Consultancy Type:

Most commonly, businesses performing search engine optimization are SEO-specific firms or consultancies whose main focus is on inbound/organic search marketing. These businesses make up nearly half of all surveyed. Web design firms are also offering SEO services in large number. Nearly 20% of firms who responded identified themselves as web designers/developers. In the U.K., nearly 32% of SEO consultants primarily identified themselves as web designers.

 

Number of Employees in Agency/Consultancy:

Single-person consulting agencies are still the most common with over 30% of those surveyed identifying themselves as the only employee. Agencies with 2-5 employees followed closely behind representing 29% of participants. SEO firms with over 25 employees were few and far between, collectively representing just 12% of those surveyed in the U.S.

 

Number of Concurrent Clients

With most SEO agencies having less than 10 employees, it’s no surprise that firms keep the number of active accounts to a manageable size of between 2 and 25. (As an aside, I have to admit there is a big difference between having 2 active accounts and 25. As a single-employee consultancy I am interested to know how other firms divide projects between employees.)

 

Agency/Consultancy Age

The value of search marketing and optimization has only recently been understood and so the need for SEO consultants is fairly new. About half of all agencies have been in business for 1 – 4 years. More than 15% are less than a year old.

 

Common Client Types

Small to Medium-sized businesses (regional manufacturers, funded web-start-ups, etc.) are the most prevalent clientele hiring SEO consultants. Regional retailers and small local businesses (single restaurant, mom & pop retailers) are also utilizing professional SEO services. Large, nationally recognized businesses and Fortune 1000 companies made up the smallest percentage of clients, simply because there are less of them.

 

Types of Services Provided

Search marketing consultants are providing a variety of services. Nearly all offer keyword research (97%), on-page recommendations (95%) and performed hands-on revisions (91%). Less popular services were logo/visual design services (40%) and onsite training (40%).

 

For a visual breakdown of all the SEO survey results, check out the graphic below provided by AYTM.

Cost of SEO Survey Results

Image Provided by AYTM

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Get Started With Social Media http://emmetadigital.com/get-started-with-social-media/ http://emmetadigital.com/get-started-with-social-media/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2011 04:00:01 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=315 Getting Started with Social MediaSmall business owners often lament about how difficult it is to keep up with the always changing social media platforms. Myspace came and went. Then there was Facebook. LinkedIN, (Facebook for professionals) has held true for years now but has only just recently provided truly useful features. Blogs surged in popularity giving rise to the micro-blogging site, Twitter. Now, the latest and greatest global networking platform is Google+. I can appreciate the frustration. It seems like as soon as the world agrees, “this is what we’re all going to use” its popularity peeks and everyone jumps ship.  My advice to business owners is always the same. The sooner you can accept that this how it is, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits.

The biggest mistake a business can make online is to ignore social media.

Ignoring social media because you are overwhelmed by the choices or simply don’t understand the benefits can result in major business opportunities lost. The most recent usage statistics are staggering. As of April 2010, social networking accounted for 22% of all time spent online in the U.S. Nielson Wire reported that more than 75% of global online consumers used social networks. The amount of time users spend on these sites has increased dramatically too increasing from an average 3.5 hours per month in 2009 to nearly 6 hours in 2010.

In September 2011, Nielson Wire conducted a survey identifying what social networks were being used for. Staying connected with family and friends, entertainment, and use for creative outlets were the most popular reasons. Business owners, however, will be pleased to hear that social networks are used extensively for products and services as well.  Users are taking advantage of social media for product research, coupons and promotions and sharing consumer feedback (both reading and offering opinions). Businesses are seeing this type of interaction convert directly to sales.

 

How Social Media Benefits Businesses

 

Benefits of Social Media for Business

  • Brand recognition + increased brand visibility.
  • Establishing trust: Understanding of current trends and technology.
  • Building authority and industry-wide recognition.
  • Improved understanding of consumer needs/wants.
  • Direct interaction with consumers.
  • Warning of potential product/service issues.
  • Reputation Management: Ability to represent your business and brand.
  • Direct traffic to your website.
  • Establishing client/customer contacts.
  • Sharing of important news and industry trends.
  • Monitor and analyze competition.

 

Get Started with Social Media

It is never too late for your business to get started with social media. New and long-standing businesses are joining social networks every day. Breathe easy, you haven’t missed the boat. Though most social media networks are free to join, there may be some cost associated with getting started. Creating accounts, writing profiles, uploading logos and photos all have some time associated with it, and thus, cost. Businesses that want the benefit of creating a true social media marketing strategy may find it advantageous to hire an SMM (social media marketing) expert. SMM consultants can also help you create and manage advertising through these networks if you choose. If you simply want the accounts created and set up, most SMM consultants will do this for you at a reasonable rate. For those that want to do it themselves, I suggest starting with the current most popular networking platforms: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIN. There are many more and some that are especially useful for specific industries. If you are curious about social media networks for a specific industry, email me or ask in our blog comments below.

If you are new to social media, simply start by creating your accounts, uploading your logo, linking to your webpage and of course, read our blog article: 5 Ways Social Media Can Benefit a Business, Without Socializing. Check back soon for helpful tips on how to engage with social media effectively. After all, engagement is what makes it social.

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Website Trust: 10 Mistakes that can Kill Your Search Ranking http://emmetadigital.com/website-trust-10-mistakes-that-can-kill-your-search-ranking/ http://emmetadigital.com/website-trust-10-mistakes-that-can-kill-your-search-ranking/#comments Wed, 21 Dec 2011 04:00:57 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=281 Google released its Panda update in February 2011 and shortly after, a questionnaire of 23 Quality Ranking Factors designed to keep webmasters focused on creating relevant, high-quality websites. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of emphasis put on building trust online. Though most savvy business owners are skilled trust-builders within their business practices, many aren’t sure how trust translates to their company website.

 

Analyzing Website Trust

A webpage’s trustworthiness is directly related to the perceived value it offers to its users.

Trust, being an intangible feeling, cannot be easily measured. (If only we had a trust plugin we could add to our webpages.) In the past, it was more important for a website to be optimized for the search engine spiders (e.g. Google Bots) than to be optimized for visitor satisfaction. The belief was that search engines first had to find your site and rank it well in the SERPs (search engine results pages) before it could ever be appreciated by a living, breathing human. The user experience was secondary. This resulted in an excess of sites with copy that was unnatural to read, lacked in sufficient content, and was overstuffed with keywords. Many were designed simply to make a buck, littered with advertisements or created simply to redirect a visitor to a sales page. As black-hat SEO practices became mainstream, legitimate businesses with useful websites had greater difficulty competing with well optimized sites of lesser value. Small businesses suffered especially.

 

Trust: The Future of Search

Google – the world’s most used search engine, recognized the need for a value-based metric and with the release of the Panda update, began lowering the rank of sites deemed untrustworthy. For years, Google has all but demanded that web developers avoid implementing website features that may negatively impact their rank. In the past, however, these features were tangible (e.g. don’t cloak keywords, keyword stuffing, doorway pages, etc.) Now, businesses, along with their web developers, are expected to foster a sense of trust and avoid tactics that may negatively impact the user experience.

In 2011, an analysis of search engine ranking factors was released based on the opinions of over 100 search marketing experts. When asked about the future of search marketing, these experts overwhelmingly agreed that the perceived value of a webpage would have the greatest increase of ranking importance over 10 other historically significant ranking factors. In other words, SEO experts believe that Google will be putting  a huge emphasis on website trust over the coming months.

Predicted Search Ranking Factors

10 Website Features that Break Trust

1. Lack of information about the publisher or business. Site visitors want to know the people behind the website. Leaving the “About” page off your site can be a critical mistake.

2. Avoid single page websites with all the content on one page. Sites should have an overarching theme and individual pages should be structured by topic. Content shouldn’t be disorganized or jumbled together. Site content should be neatly organized and well thought out. Sites that divide content into too many pages may also be problematic. Strive for a balance that makes sense.

3. When writing articles, avoid splitting single articles into multiple pages. For some reason, many news sites love to do this. Visitors prefer to scroll rather than click a “next page” button. Search engine spiders can better categorize your articles if each one spans only one page.

4. Avoid out-of-date content. Visitors prefer sites that are regularly updated with fresh, relevant content and so do the search engines. Spam sites will often post articles without a publication date. Provide publication dates for any articles you post. Do not display outdated copyright dates.

5. Avoid content that lacks depth.  Informational pages should be written as a resource to site visitors. Pages that are created simply to fill space may be considered too light in content and  may be penalized. Avoid micro-sites (sites with less than 5 pages total). Most informational pages (or articles) should be at least 800 words in length. Pages with little to offer won’t fool readers either. Your site is likely to rank higher if you are offering a real value to your visitors.

6. Do not publish poorly written material. Search engines are now taking into account proper language usage and grammar.

7. Do not overuse advertisements. Even though Google provides much of the source material for advertisements, web searchers have expressed that ads diminish trust. Google has heard this and is taking into account the amount of space devoted to ads on a webpage. Do not fill more than 50% of the page with ads. When possible, avoid ads above the fold. Remember that your email “opt-in form” counts as an ad. To understand how Google views your website, set your monitor to 1024 x 768. What you see before you touch your scroll bar is “above the fold.”

8. Avoid amateur or unprofessional looking sites. While it is unlikely Google Bots can appreciate the aesthetics of a page it is probably safe to say they can read in the code whether or not a site is of professional quality. Avoid outdated design, disorderly navigation menus, and sloppy organization. Limit the use of stock photography and avoid clip art entirely.

9. Avoid the sales pitch. Of course, most businesses are pitching their product or service but too much “sales hype” can quickly diminish trust. Beware of copy like this: “Lose 10 pounds in 10 days with the #1 weight loss pill on the market. Take one pill a day and you’ll lose weight.” If you are providing testimonials about a product, be sure you are familiar with FTC disclosures and have the proper disclaimers in place. Google is already checking for this for sites that purchase Adwords and are expected to eventually when ranking in the organic results as well.

10. Avoid linking to untrustworthy sites. Google looks at the sites you are linking to. If those sites have been deemed untrustworthy, their bad reputation can reflect poorly on you. You may be judged by the company you keep.

Check back soon for our list of website features that build trust. 

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5 Ways Social Media Can Benefit a Business, Without Socializing http://emmetadigital.com/5-ways-social-media-can-benefit-a-business-without-socializing/ http://emmetadigital.com/5-ways-social-media-can-benefit-a-business-without-socializing/#comments Wed, 14 Dec 2011 04:00:32 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=249

Antisocial Media

I was recently talking with a small business owner about developing a social media presence for her design firm. She was already investing in search engine optimization services and had defined goals for increasing traffic to her website. When I mentioned creating company profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, she visibly cringed. “I don’t understand how people find the time to Twitter all day,” she said, “We don’t want to get involved in social media. We’re too busy.”

It occurred to me that the term “social media” comes with a certain stigma attached to it. To those that haven’t embraced it yet, it conjures up visions of twenty-two year old interns posting cute cat videos to Facebook through their smart-phones. I had to explain that social media platforms, at their most rudimentary level, act as free advertising for businesses; a virtual storefront. When I received a skeptical eyebrow in return I realized that the most basic features social media outlets provide, the attributes users take for granted, are unknown to many small business owners.  Many businesses are still avoiding social media because they believe it’s either a time sink or just for kids. Here are 5 ways social media marketing can benefit a business, without socializing.

 

1. A profile is worth a thousand words (or at least 160 characters).

Every social media platform comes with a profile area where users can provide information about their business or themselves. This is the place where you can talk up your products or services, provide an image or logo, and most importantly, a place to provide contact information either as a link to your website or an address and phone number. Some social media platforms keep this simple. Twitter, for example, only allows 160 characters and one website link. Others are highly customizable, like Facebook and Google+ (G+), which allow users to provide lengthy text blocks, multiple website links, social media links, photo galleries, employment information, and more. Facebook alone has more than 800 million active users and more than 50% log in on any given day.  There is no question that people interested in your product or service are using these sites. If they don’t stumble across your profile page, they will stumble upon your competitors’ and that’s an opportunity lost.

 

2. Be as active as you want to be.

One of the most misleading aspect of social media is the perceived time commitment. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who spend a whole lot of time socializing online. (I’m still surprised by how much time some celebrates spend Tweeting. Honestly, aren’t there movies to be made?) The truth is, social media can be as big as you want it to be. Businesses that hire a host of expensive writers to blog daily are the exception, not the rule. Here are some time sensitive ways to share online without wasting a lot of time.

Blog Less
Blogs are hugely beneficial from an SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint. Google loves to launch content-rich blogs to the top of the search engine results. If you ask an SEO consultant how often you should blog, you’ll hear everything from weekly to multiple times per day. If you can find the time to post a blog article weekly, great. If you can’t, strive for twice per month or even monthly. Write well thought out articles about a specific subject (relevant to your product, service or industry) and pack them full of great information people are excited to read. At the end of the year, you’ll have somewhere between 12 and 24 great articles that establish you as an authority in your field. The bonus is that others will want to link to your site improving your ranking in the search results.

Utilize Real-life Social Events
So you don’t have time to go to meetings, bill clients, eat lunch, and Tweet? Who does? Instead of wracking your brain for information to share online, wait until something exciting is going on. Attending a conference, industry event or fund raiser? Post an update that you’ll be there, post another when you are there (between trips to the shrimp boat) and post an update of what you thought after you leave. Did you meet someone interesting at the event? Chances are they already have a Facebook, Twitter or G+ account that you can directly link to, increasing your visibility and establishing a new networking opportunity. You can also task trusted employees with posting updates when they attend industry events.

Good Old-fashioned P.R.
When you have very little time to engage online you can reserve online socializing to important announcements. This could be anything from winning a new client, launching a new product, hiring a new employee, giving a lecture, or posting a job opening. These simple announcements remind people that you are out there.

No Muss, No Fuss
If you have absolutely no time or interest in social media marketing you can still benefit by creating an account and filling out a profile page at the most current and popular social media sites. It’s important to remember that if you don’t claim your spot now, you may not have the chance to later. Facebook, for example, allows you to claim a custom URL. If you own Joe’s Crab Shack in California you’ll want to claim the Facebook URL before Joe’s Crab Shack in Florida gets to it. Some social media sites are now identifying businesses from online directories and including them in their listings. By creating a profile yourself, you can control the information provided about your company instead of relying on a generic listing robotically generated. Even if you never engage in social media, your business can benefit from having a profile and link to your website.

 

3. Backlinks – The currency of the internet.

Social media platforms are based on sharing information. They all have a place to provide a link to your website. This small but immensely valuable feature alone is worth establishing a social media presence. I won’t get into the difference between do-follow and no-follow links here, but I will say that backlinks (links from other websites to yours) do two major things. First, when a lot of important sites (like popular social media sites) link back to yours it tells the search engines, i.e. Google, that your site must be important too. This improves how your site ranks in the search engines and increases the number of potential clients/customers who find you. Secondly, it puts potential clients/customers in direct contact with you. If you specialize in baking strawberry-rhubarb pies and someone on Facebook is confessing their love for all things pie, you want them to find your profile and immediately click the link to your site where they can schedule a delivery.

To recap, social media profiles provide links to your site which, 1. Creates search engine link-juice and 2. Put customers in direct contact with you.

 

4. Satisfying expectations.

A few years ago, I would groan when I’d go online and find that my favorite (Chinese food restaurant, dry cleaner, chiropractor, etc.) didn’t have a website. I mean honestly, who did they think they were? Well now I groan when I visit their website an I can’t publicly declare my adoration for them via the Facebook “like” button. Ah, how times have changed. The fact is, a lot of people feel this way. Those who are engaged with social media expect others to be too. Seeing the social media icons on your website not only allows them to engage with you through those platforms, it reassures them that your business is fresh, your site is up to date, and you are up to speed with current technology and trends. It fosters trust and peace-of-mind.

 

5. Come on, everybody’s doing it.

Some people avoid social media simply because everyone else is doing it. I get it, you’re a rebel, a loner, you go against the grain, march to the beat of your own drum… need I go on?  I understand wanting to fly under the radar when it comes to personal social profiles but ignoring 800 million Facebook users, 300 million Twitter users, and 135 million LinkedIn users (Nov 2011 stats) is just reckless.  There are so many people using these sites, I can tell you without even knowing you, your customers are out there.

 

After clarifying the benefits of social media and dispelling some of the rumors, the business owner I spoke with decided to implement a social media marketing strategy after all. Within days she had follows on Twitter, friends on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn without doing anything but creating a few accounts and filling in the profile information. She may decide never to engage any of these platforms in a socially meaningful way but she is still benefiting. Social media does not have to be a time sink. Participating, even at the most basic level, can only help your business.

Can you think of some other ways social media sites are benefiting businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Content Marketing for Business Owners http://emmetadigital.com/content-marketing-guide-for-business-owners/ http://emmetadigital.com/content-marketing-guide-for-business-owners/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2011 04:00:13 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=197 What is Content Marketing?

Gone are the days when small businesses simply required a modest website landing page with only their name, logo and contact information. As Google continues to develop its search algorithm they are placing greater emphasis on user experience and site value. In other words, websites that are viewed as a trusted resource of information will ultimately rank better in the search engines for relevant queries. For business owners, this necessitates establishing a strategy for providing unique content about their product, service, or industry on their business website. The latest buzzword in Search Marketing is “content marketing.” Essentially, this is a fancy term for, providing content that doesn’t suck. This is the backbone for developing a successful website that ranks well in the search results.

 

Understanding What Google Wants

Before you can develop your website for Google you need to understand their goals. Simply put, they view anyone performing a search as their customer. To provide the best search results, Google needs to understand the kind of pages their customers consider to be high quality.  Google assembled a panel of researchers to review websites and asked them a series of questions. Based on their answers, they developed a proprietary scoring system allowing them to distinguish high-quality websites from lesser quality sites. This scoring system was introduced into their search algorithm early this year causing lesser quality websites to fall in the search rankings and moving those with a better user experience higher. This is the future of Google. Great quality sites will show up first in the listings and lower quality sites will die and be buried. (not necessarily in that order).

Though their scoring factors remain a mystery, Google did provide the list of survey questions to the public so we can develop better quality websites. Of course only SEO consultants knew where to find this information. It wasn’t much help to the average small business owner, who in many cases, is also the content writer for their website. So here’s the list, with a few clarifications provided by me.

 

How Google Ranks the Quality of a Website

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
    •  Simply put, does the author sound like they know what they are talking about? Could they be judged as an authority on the subject?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
    • Some sites duplicate content from other sources instead of providing new, helpful information. These sites are looking to profit without bothering to do the work. Google will rank sites with unique content better higher than sites that copy from others.
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
    • This is a loaded question as people rank trust differently. At the most basic level, your site should look polished and professional. It can help to add code validation badges, include any professional affiliations you may have, and remove advertisements, which can make visitors question your legitimacy.
    • Remember, this question is about trust, not whether you actually take credit card information. If you DO process credit cards on your site it is critical that you create the perception of trust in addition to providing a secure shopping experience.
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
    • Your website content should be grammatically correct and in clear English. If English is not your first language or simply not your strong suite, employ the help of a content writer or at least a proof-reader. Your site doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but it does have to be well written.
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
    • Quoting from other sites is not a problem. Neither is writing your own spin on someone else’s content.  I have heard from other SEO experts that a page should have at least 30% original content. I honestly don’t know exactly how much is too much copied text (according to Google). My advice is to use quotes to support your writing. Don’t write to support the quote.
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
    • A no-brainer. Better content ranks higher.
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
    • I’m not sure how Google Bots would determine this. My guess is they are weeding out pages that sound like an infomercial. Lots of pitchy text turns off readers who are looking for information.
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
    •   Popularity counts for something.
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
    • Word-count does matter. To avoid content that may be considered too light, provide content of at least 800 words.
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
    •  This is an easy metric for any business owner to test. Add a share button (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.) to your pages and come back later to see if people are sharing it.
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
    • Google is weighing the ad to content ratio. There should be more content than ad blocks. Remember, your opt-in email form may count as an ad block.
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
    • What is the real purpose of the page? Does the page provide anything useful or is just a place to stuff advertisements or collect personal information?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
    • Think about all the things you hate when searching for sites. Avoid pop-ups, too many advertisements, slopping writing, blurry photos, navigation that isn’t intuitive, slow page loading, and outdated information.

 

The Basics of Content Marketing

Google wants you to provide high-quality, unique, well-written information. Beyond that, they want you to update that information with some regularity. Blogs are probably the best way to provide this information because they consolidate articles in a centralized location and can be regularly updated and indexed.  With Google’s new quality ranking factors, you can’t count on gaming the system. Black-hat SEO techniques may offer short term results but they won’t help your site or your business in the long run. Before you agonize over keywords or backlinks, think about user experience. Develop a content strategy that includes a plan for your static pages and  for growing your site in the future.

Content Marketing Strategy

Prioritize for Content Marketing

 

 

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Google’s New Navigation: Good, Bad & Not Too Ugly http://emmetadigital.com/googles-new-navigation-menu/ http://emmetadigital.com/googles-new-navigation-menu/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2011 17:52:32 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=185 As Google continues to update its search algorithm, they are putting more weight on website design and user experience. From an SEO standpoint, sites that have a professional look, intuitive navigation, and are integrated with social media fair better in the search results. It is no surprise then, that Google has decided to practice what they preach by updating their own site with a cleaner look and a new, simpler drop-down navigation menu.

The black bar menu was just introduced this past June offering the most popular Google features like web search, images, videos, maps, news and Gmail. It included a More drop-down menu that housed less popular features. For those that wanted to access Google’s most obscure offerings, it was necessary to link to a separate page entirely. The new Google navigation menu is located in a grey band along the top of the page and is accessed by hovering over the Google logo with your mouse. The identifying upside-down triangle indicating a menu is present has a clean look but is so understated that it could leave the less savvy searchers among us lost without quick access to Google Maps to find their way back to their favorite Google tools.

New Google Navigation Menu

New Google Navigation Menu

Google’s new navigation menu has reprioritized too. The Videos link is no longer deemed worthy of the top level menu and has been buried under the More tab. It’s no surprise to anyone that they have opted to give YouTube priority placement in the main menu. A surprise (to me a least) is that Google Documents has also made the cut for primary menu placement, out ranking the Shopping and Finance links.

The new drop-down menu is a little buggy, not always activating immediately the first time you hover over it. After that, it pops up quickly and is fairly intuitive and has large, easily identifiable icons. The clickable area within each tab is spacious and forgiving for those with poor sight or fine motor skills. For those obscure features, Google still requires you to click the Even More tab, which again, takes you to their page of stuff nobody uses.

Google’s Sign-in and Google+ bar remain in the upper right side of the page where it has been and has essentially gone unchanged.

Ironically, I wasn’t able to get the new Google menu to show up using Chrome, even after clearing my cache, tossing my cookies and relaunching Chrome. It did, however, appear just fine when I launched Safari. (Go figure).  All-in-all, the new menu looks good. For a quick tutorial, check out video.

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How Your Customers Use Google http://emmetadigital.com/how-your-customers-use-google/ http://emmetadigital.com/how-your-customers-use-google/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2011 23:57:15 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://emmetadigital.com/?p=156 As a small business owner, have you ever wondered how your customers will find your website online? Have you tried typing in the keywords for your services to see where your sites lands in the Google search results? Maybe you can’t find your site at all.

Google’s search page is something many small business owners use daily, but may not fully understand. Check out our short presentation on How Your Customers Use Google

 

How Google Ranks Pages

Google is constantly improving their search services to better match people to the information they are seeking. The job of an SEO consultant is to work with you so that when the Google Bots review your site they recognize that yours is the best resource in your industry. A good SEO consultant will take into account many factors that include:

  • Your products and services
  • Your site’s content (text and images)
  • Your site’s navigation, structure and code
  • Your keyword usage and overarching theme
  •  How well your competitors’ website are optimized

First Google needs to find your website among the billions of web pages on the internet. Your SEO consultant will make sure your site has been submitted to Google and the other major search engines. Once Google identifies your site it reviews and indexes it, identifying what your site is about. Google uses over 200 metrics in its complex algorithm to identify and rank your site for any given keyword or keyphrase. This is where the value of an SEO consultant comes into play. A good SEO consultant is up to date on the most current best practices for optimizing your site for search. Sites that are well optimized rank higher in the search listings. Since most people never search beyond the first page (or two) of Google’s organic search results, most businesses strive to get listed in the top 20 results for a targeted keyword or phrase.

Over 90% of clicks occur within Google’s organic search results. These website listings are constantly changing. Google is continuously reviewing websites and indexing new pages, recalculating the order in which they are listed. Because this system is based on merit at the discretion of Google’s algorithm (good content is rewarded, spammy sites are penalized) no SEO consultant can guarantee your site’s placement in the search results. The good news is, since the results are organic and always changing, web pages that are buried deep down can improve over time with good optimization. Websites can often make their way to the top for specific keywords and with regular monitoring and modification can often stay at the top for long periods of time.

 

Google’s Adwords & Paid Search Advertising

In addition to the organic search results, Google offers paid advertising through its Adwords program. Paid search results are listed on the right-hand side of the page and often on the top or bottom and are identified as “Ads.” Unlike organic results, these sites are ranked by the highest bidder rather than by merit. Though only 10% of clicks occur in the advertisement portion of Google’s page, this method can be quick and profitable for many businesses. Web pages that are poorly ranked in the organic results may especially benefit from paid listings. Your paid advertising consultant can help you:

  • Identify the most cost effective (yet relevant) keyword terms for bid
  • Manage your Adwords account for you
  • Identify which keywords are resulting in profit and modify your campaigns for the best results

Google is adding new features all the time to improve search results. Some popular features are their local places listings, product and retailer reviews, store and brand listings, and “freshness updates,” which bump time sensitive pages to the top of the search results (e.g. sports scores, political highlights, celebrity gossip, etc.) A good digital marketing consultant can keep on top of these features and can explain to you if and how these new changes may affect your website’s ranking.

Google's Freshness Update

Google's Freshness Update bumps up time sensitive pages in the search results and identifies them with a time stamp.

 

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The 5 Commandments of Web Design (anyone with a website should know) http://emmetadigital.com/the-5-commandments-of-web-design-anyone-with-a-website-should-know/ http://emmetadigital.com/the-5-commandments-of-web-design-anyone-with-a-website-should-know/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2011 19:00:49 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://seosister.wordpress.com/?p=99

What is Great Web Design? | Photo by Debs (Creative Commons)

Most of us have created our own website for our small business or hobby without any formal design school training. Web design is one of the only classifications of design where we routinely cut out the professional and opt to do it ourselves. We wouldn’t be our own architect, interior designer or product designer if we didn’t have the skills to do the job, right? Unlike in architecture, if we screw up a website we don’t have to worry about the whole ceiling falling down on our heads. That’s not to say that damage can’t be done. A poorly designed website can cause your visitors to question your professionalism and experience. It can make navigation difficult. It can leave a bad first impression and it can cause you to actually lose business and credibility.

I can’t teach you how to make a beautiful website in one blog post, but I can teach you some tricks I learned in design school that have carried me though my career as a professional designer these last 15 years. If you are a professional design, you’ll recognize these. They are the 5 Commandments of Web Design and they can be used  by even novice web designers to make smart decisions about the look and feel of any website.

Rule No. 1 – There are No Arbitrary Design Decisions.

I still use this statement in my design work on almost a weekly basis. Professional designers do not make arbitrary decisions… ever. Every decision is based on research or to support a concept or theme. When you begin to conceive of your website ask yourself, “who am I creating the site for?” Then ask, “what would these people want to see in a site like mine?” If you are creating a site for your photography business, for example, you know that your site visitors are, above all things, going to want to see your photos. Right off the bat you know that your photos should be front and center. You’ll have to decide what the background color of your site will be. You may select black because it makes your photos pop. You may want to go neutral so as not take away from any of your images. You may choose white if your research tells you that clients trust sites with a white background above other colors. Any of these decisions are valid options because they are based on a motive. Choosing a green background  because it’s your favorite color is not a reason. In design school, professors constantly question the motivation of their students decisions. Like a three year old child they will ask, “why…why…why…why.” so many times that eventually some student will crack and admit they didn’t have a reason for something. I’m pretty sure professors love this moment of weakness because they can use the folly to teach the entire class (through public humiliation) about Rule No. 1 – There are no arbitrary design decisions… (and maybe because they are a little sadistic.)

Keep an eye out for these common web design decisions that might be arbitrary:

  1. Background color
  2. Font selections
  3. Button graphics
  4. Highlighted text. Use of bold or colored text.
  5. Wording of page titles (should be researched based)
  6. Inclusion of widgets, polls, date stamps or stat counters
  7. Priority of navigation bar elements
  8. Use of indentations, bullets, columns, and other page attributes

Rule No. 2 – Because “I Like it” is Not a Reason.

Your Font Says A Lot About You | Image by FontShop (Creative Commons)

This is a subset to  Rule No. 1. The majority, but not all, of arbitrary design decisions are based on personal preference. I’ve even been guilty of it from time to time. I’ve never really liked the color teal. I love blue and I love green, but when you put them together it just seems, “meh” to me. Sometimes my fellow designers will assemble color pallet for a design project we’re working on that features teal. My first instinct is that I don’t like it. I have to stop and ask myself, “is this color not appropriate for the project or is this just my personal preference coming into play?” My coworkers are amazingly talented and have a great eye for color. Typically, the issue here is personal and the color is actually completely appropriate for the project. Most of the time, the decision is to add something or “enhance” something with your own personal style. I see this rookie mistake all the time. Here’s an example, let’s say you are creating a website for your neighborhood’s Co-ed Kickball Club. Pink is your favorite color so you decide to go with that as the accent color on your website. What you didn’t think about is that the pink site is making the guys feel the club isn’t really for them and they move on to join another club competing for your members.

Rule No. 3 – Less is More.

When You Can't Decide. Go Helvetica. | Photo by J. Kleyn (Creative Commons)

We have Mies van der Rohe to thank for this little jewel of modernist philosophy. What designer hasn’t used this adage at some point in their career? You’ve spent hours trying to pick out the perfect fancy script font. Some are too loopy, some impossible to read, some don’t quite connect the “s” to the “t” just right. So what do you do? You know what… You abandon it all and go back to Helvetica. Why? Because sometimes less really is more. Nothing quite ruins a website like unnecessary clutter, inconsistent page styling, or competing graphics. If you’re not sure, simplify it. The more complicated it is, the easier it is to screw it up.

Rule No. 4 – Show Only Your Best Work.

This is the cardinal rule of design portfolios. Our heart tells us to show everything we have worked so hard to produce. Whether it’s our art, writing, music, or photography, we want to show it all. Design professionals will tell you this is a mistake. You can’t take back a first impression, so make sure you are only putting your best work out there. If you are a writer, you don’t need to publish your personal journal. If you’re a photographer, leave Grandma’s 85th birthday photos on your private Flickr page (unless they are absolutely stunning.) Not all websites are creative in nature. Even if yours is about how to bake a cake, fix a carburetor, do your own taxes, or floss properly always put your best foot forward. This means you are checking your writing for spelling and grammar mistakes, providing working hyperlinks, and never-ever posting out of focus or pixilated images.

Rule No. 5 – Work Smarter, Not Harder.

This rule isn’t one that they teach you in design school. It’s usually not even one they teach you on the job. Working smarter, not harder comes only when you’ve hit a wall. When you realize that putting in long hours for little gain may not be worth your time. How does this apply to web design? Let me tell you. There is little reason for someone who needs a website for their small business or niche website to learn how to build one from scratch. If you are interested in it, by all means, give it a shot. It certainly doesn’t hurt. BUT… if all you need is a website to represent yourself or your business, then I encourage you to take advantage of the cheap (sometimes even free) website templates available. For somewhere between $20 and $80 you can buy and install a gorgeous website template all by yourself. A web template that is set up to optimize your site for SEO from the get-go and that is more technologically sophisticated than anyone new to HTML will ever be able to develop for themselves. My favorite places to buy website templates are  ThemeForest and Template Monster. Nearly all of them are customizable to some degree so you can add your own logo and choose page layouts that suit your purpose. Many even allow you to change the colors, look, and feel of the site without any knowledge of HTML or CSS. What makes them cheap is that the web designer is selling multiple copies as a template instead of a fully custom website made just for one client. Yes this means that someone else may have the same site template as you, but once you add your own logo, name, and color scheme, it’ll have a personality all of its own.

Know When to Walk Away... No When to Run | Photo by Andy Mangold (Creative Commons)

The same goes for graphics and branding. You’ve heard the saying, “do your best, farm out the rest”? If graphic design and branding is not your forte, hire someone who can help you. Yes, graphic designers do cost money, but doing a mediocre job designing your logo or web graphics can actually hurt your business. If you’re not quite ready to invest in a designer, you can also buy inexpensive vector art through sites like Fotolia, where you can purchase the graphics and the right to reproduce them for less than $10 (in most cases). For even less money, you can purchase the high resolution jpeg files to use on your site without requiring the photo rights and attribution requirements of some of the free sites like Flickr. Of course, if free images are the only images you can afford, Flickr is your friend. Just be sure to carefully understand the Creative Commons requirements that go along with each photo and keep a copy of all email correspondence you have with the photographers.

Websites, by their very nature, are an artistic media. They are a blank canvas where we compile code to create a collage of text, graphics, photos and animation. Even if you’re not a trained designer, you can think like one by using these design school guidelines.

Got your own rules for good website design? Share them in the comments.

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How to Create a Facebook Page http://emmetadigital.com/how-to-create-a-facebook-page/ http://emmetadigital.com/how-to-create-a-facebook-page/#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2011 18:10:05 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://seosister.wordpress.com/?p=83

Want more helpful tutorials? Check our SEO Sister Channel on YouTube

How is a Facebook Landing Page Different from a Facebook Account?

Evelyn Mackenzie, your SEO Sister here to talk to you today about how to create a Facebook Page for your small business or website.

Here we are on Facebook. I’m looking at the Rubios Facebook Page. You know it’s a Page because right here, at the top, it has a “like” button. You can’t “like” an account. You can like a Page; however, there is a difference.

A Facebook Page is different from a Facebook account. A Page represents a business, an organization or website specifically. You will need a standard Facebook account or a business account already to start your Facebook Page or you can begin creating your Facebook Page and go back later to create an account. Either way, you will need an account in order to set up a Facebook Page. At its simplest, it is a place where a business can put its logo and some information about it. If I click on “Info” you can see a section called “About”, it can show a mission statement, talk about its services, its hours of operation, and of course, its email and website information. Most importantly it is a place where fans of that business, organization, or website can come and publicly “like” it and can endorse it. They can do that either through your website, where you can place the “like” button or they can do it on your Facebook Page, where they can go in and say that they like your business.

Here is Rubios Page, one of my favorite Mexican food restaurants. I’m going to “like” them by hitting the button so you can see how that works. This is a pretty detailed example of a Page. They have their “Wall” where they can leave announcements and updates and where people can comment. They have their locations, general info, and a bunch of other things. Now you don’t have to have all this stuff on yours. If you don’t have a lot of time to put into your Facebook Page, that’s perfectly alright. You can make it as complicated or as simple as you want.

Create a Facebook Page for a Website or Blog

We’re going to go ahead an create a Facebook Page for SEOsister.wordpress.com, my blog. In order to do that, I am already logged in and I need to go to Facebook’s Page set-up area. In order to do that you can go to http://facebook.com/pages/create.php. It’s going to bring to the “Create a Page” screen.

If you are a brick and mortar building or a small business with a  physical location, you can use this “Local Business or Place” form right here in the upper left. It will ask you to choose a category for what your business is about, then you can add in your address, your city and state and your phone number. SEO Sister isn’t a brick and mortar building, nor is it a company or organization. If you are a company or organization you can use the middle button, which is very similar, but doesn’t give you a place to put your physical address.

Since I’m doing this for my blog, I’m going to choose the button for “Brand or Product.” I’m going to select the category, “Website” and then I’m going to name my Page. In this case my “brand” or website is called, “SEO Sister.” I’m going to “Agree” to Facebook’s terms and then select, “Get Started.”

It’s going to bring me to this “Upload an Image” page where I can put a logo. I’m going to do that in a minute. I’m going to skip this for now. You can always go back and do this stuff later, so don’t be afraid to skip ahead. It’s going to ask me if I want to invite any friends or share my Page with. Again, I can do that later. I don’t have to worry about that now or at all if I choose not to. So I select “skip” and it takes me to step three, “Basic Info”, where it it is going to ask me for my website, which is very important since my Page is about my site. I’m going to enter in my website address. Then it gives me a little place here, for 255 characters, where I can put in an “About”. This is a place where I can put in a little blurb about my company or maybe a slogan. Again, I can add that later.

Then you get to the main page. It shows me in the corner. I am the “Admin.” This Page is tied to either my personal account or my business account. In this case, I have a personal account. Every Page has to have an Admin, which is usually going to be the business owner or whomever is handling the business’s website.

Here is a little information as to how the page is laid out. You’re going to get your notifications here, so if someone “likes” you a notification will pop up. Whenever someone leaves you a message, you can get notifications for that too. You can get some statistics or go into “Advertising” if you want to.

Over on the left, the “Get Started” button allows you to get going with some of the set-up options like adding an image. Let’s go ahead and add an image. I’m going to select the “Browse” button and select an image from my computer. Select the button… and there’s my logo. You can see that it changed it over here on the left.

You can see over here in the upper right is the “Edit Page” button. This is going to give you all the options you have. It’ll take you a little time to go through it but you can see all that there is.

There is “Permissions.” You can see that anyone, 13+ can view my website. In the “Wall” tab you can show “All Posts” or “Only Posts by the Page.” There are a lot of options in here.

If you go to “Basic Information” this is really helpful. This is one of the first things you’ll want to check out. I’m a “Website and Blog” so I’m going to want to change that in the “Category” tab. Now let’s see what my options are. “Computers and Internet,” that’s me. I can also select a “Community Page,” which is a Page that already exits and list that here, but I’m not going to that now. I can put in my “Release Date” which is the date I went live. For me that was 2011. Here’s that place where you can go back later and add information about your business, organization or website. You can do more detailed information in the “Description.” You can tout your awards and brag a little here. There is a place for your email address if you want people to be able to contact you. At the bottom is where your website address goes.

Once again, if you ever want to change you profile picture you can select, “Profile Picture,” here. There are a few more options for you to look through. You can set up your mobile device and you can look at statistics but that’s the basics of it.

Once you are done getting all your information in you can select, “View Page”. You can always go back and update it or change it at any time. Here’s the “Info” tab. It is the main page. It will be the place where all that “About” information will go once I fill it in. Right now it is very simple. It just has my website address. Your “Wall” is here. It is where my fans, once they start “liking” me, can leave me messages. I can make announcements here, I can link to blog posts and let all my fans know there is new information on my website. If I were a business, I could put some promotions here and share it with the fans of my business.

How to Access you Facebook Landing Page from your Account

You might wonder how to get back to your Page later. I’m going to click back to my standard Facebook account. When you want to find your Page again later you just log into your standard Facebook account. There is a little arrow in the upper right. Click it and it says, “use Facebook as a Page.” When you want to get back to your Page, just select “use Facebook as a Page” and it will show you all your Pages. You can see that I have two pages. You can see our new SEO Sister Page right here. You just select, “Switch” and it brings you right back. Keep in mind, this “Get Started” page is something only you can see. When your fans click the Page, they wont’ see this, “Get Started.” They will go directly to your “Wall” or your “Info” page, depending on how you set it up.

That’s about it. That is all there is to setting up a Facebook Page for your small business or your website.

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What is Anchor Text? http://emmetadigital.com/what-is-anchor-text/ http://emmetadigital.com/what-is-anchor-text/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2011 18:03:35 +0000 Evelyn Mackenzie http://seosister.wordpress.com/?p=71 How to use anchor text

Anchor text is a type of link commonly used in the content portion of websites (as opposed to the navigation bar or footer). When you are writing a paragraph you may find it useful to link a keyword or phrase to another page, either to your own website or an external site. Anchor text are those specific words you have chosen to attach a hyperlink to.

Search engines put a lot of value on anchor text. Since the links are located right inside the “meat and potatoes” of your website, the content portion, the search engines assume it must be important. It looks at the keyword or phrase you have chosen to be identified and associates that keyword/phrase with the link. Choosing valuable keywords is important.

Example of bad anchor text

“Click here to check out our totally awesome new page on the Basics of SEO.”

In this example, the word “here” is the anchor text and has nothing to do with the Basics of SEO. This is useless anchor text.

Example of good anchor text

“Check out our totally awesome new page on the Basics of SEO.

In this example the phrase “basics of SEO” have been selected as the anchor text. This is a much better way to link text. Now the search engines are associating the phrase with the link.

Alt Tags for Anchor Text

Sometimes you just can’t make the sentence flow correctly with your targeted keywords. Here’s an example.

“SEO is totally awesome. Check out our page to learn the basics.”

In this case it might be difficult to decide exactly which word you want to attach your link to. Perhaps the keywords you are targeting don’t fit eloquently in the sentence. Of course, you want to write content that is easy to read for your human visitors. Google bots are secondary. In this case you can use “Alt Tags” in your anchor text. These work exactly like alt tags for photos. The alt tags attribute a different keyword or phrase to your anchor text than what your visitor sees.

Here is a partial screen shot from Wikipedia’s page about Ice Cream. You can see they use a lot of anchor text on this page (everything in blue). Every one of their anchor links has alt tags that reference the title of one of their Wiki pages. You can see in the example, the article references the word “sweeteners” but when you hover over the word you can see that the alt tag says, “sugar substitutes”. If you click the link, it takes you to Wiki’s page about “Sugar Substitutes.” In this case sweeteners sounded better in the sentence (to humans) but the Google Bots saw, “sugar substitutes.”

Partial Match Anchor Text

Partial match anchor text is when just one word or a portion of your anchor text phrase contains your keyword (rather than the entire thing) or the targeted keywords are all there, but not in order.

Let’s take sugar substitutes as our example again.

Direct Match:sugar substitutes” the keywords match exactly.

Phrase Match:icecream sugar substitutes” the exact keywords are used in a phrase with the word icecream.

Partial Match:find a substitutes for your sugar” both words are there but they are out of order.

Partial Match:ingredients include sugar” one of the keywords is in the anchor text phrase.

SEOmoz did a ranking factor study that showed partial matches were significantly more power and had more correlation between the number of partial match anchor text than exact match anchor text. With statements like that, partial match anchor text may be well worth considering.

Here is SEOmoz’s video explaining more about Partial Match Anchor Text vs. Exact Match Anchor Text

Dos and Don’ts of Anchor Text

  • Do use anchor text to point to other pages on your site or relevant external sites.
  • Don’t use anchor text just because you can. It’s a helpful way to point your visitors to relevant information without losing the flow of your sentence.
  • Do select keywords relevant to your site’s content.
  • Do not link to words like “click here.”
  • Do lower your bounce rate by using anchor text to help your visitor find other relevant information on your own website.
  • Don’t encourage your visitors to leave by linking to a lot of external pages. Keep external page links limited and try to focus them lower on the page. Use TARGET=’_blank’ to open a link in a new browser window when appropriate.
  • Don’t try and fool your visitors by linking to something they weren’t expecting.
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