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When it comes to SEO, be the tortoise.

You know Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare, right? Well, let’s recap. The story of the tortoise and the hare has a moral that ‘slow and steady wins the race’. The fable tells the tale of the hare who was often found bragging about how fast he could run. The tortoise, who took a more slow and steady approach, was tired of listening to the hare boast and so challenged him to a race. With all the animals gathered to watch, the hare boasted loud for all to hear. He couldn’t understand how the tortoise could even think he might win.

The hare ran in spurts, often stopping to take a break. He’d look behind and see the tortoise in the distance. At one point he stopped to rest and took a nap.

Meanwhile, the tortoise walked slow and steady. He never stopped. He never rested. He never took a break. He never paused to congratulate himself or to boast to all those who could hear. He just continued on his way, slow and steady

Eventually, the tortoise walked right past the hare, who was snoozing on the road. The animals cheered so loudly they eventually woke up Hare, who then realized the tortoise was in the lead. But, it was too late. By the time he began to run again, the tortoise crossed the finish line.

The moral? “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”.

So yes, when it comes to SEO, be the tortoise.

Good, long-lasting, SEO that wins (targeted traffic and leads) needs to be based on a solid foundation with a phased approach and process. While there might be tricks and tools out there on the market, there is no lightning-fast approach that will outpace a solid SEO campaign.

There will always be the other guys promising quick results, but generally speaking, they don’t last, if they happen at all.

SEO is built over time. And, when done as part of a long-term, phased strategy, each piece builds upon the next, while helping out the previous phases, too. This layered effect is what eventually helps a website really stick.

A Tried & True SEO Process

Solid SEO is part of an overarching long term process that incorporates research, keywords, content, link-building, technical elements and analytics. It is a continuous process that looks like a circle, rather than a straight line. In other words, once you get to what should be the finish line, once you analyze the results, it is time to start all over again.

SEO professionals who have been doing this for years, who have managed large-scale, competitive SEO campaigns through some of the search engines biggest (and most destructive for some websites) algorithm updates, have a solid, working SEO process that starts with a good foundation. They know innately what works. They have the right instincts when making decisions but they always start by ensuring they have a solid strategy in place.

Think about an SEO process like building a house. The foundation needs to be solid. The framing needs to be accurate. The interior design? Well, that’s where you can add some flare, personality and try new trends.

That’s the same with SEO. You will always need a good strategy, the right keywords, the right content and to understand your target audience. You need a well-built website that has clean code and is easy for the search engines to spider. Once you have the foundation and the framing in place, then you can begin to experiment with some of the new trends, tools and up-and-coming tactics.

But, you can’t start with the trends. You can’t start with the tools that promise to do it for you. If you don’t have a plan and a process, your SEO just won’t stick.

Market Research – Staying up-to-date on what others in the industry are doing (right, wrong and otherwise) while ensuring you have a complete understanding of your current target audience is an important part of the ongoing SEO process.

Technical Audit – How your website is set-up, if it is hosted properly, and its speed can play a big part in SEO success. It’s important to conduct a website and hosting analysis to address key areas in your website’s programming and set up that could be affecting how a search engine finds, spiders, rates and ranks your website. There are over 200 factors in search engine algorithms and technical set-up plays a big role. It is important to regularly evaluate, discover and resolve any potential issues.

Keyword Research – How will a visitor find your website? When potential website visitors head online looking for a product, service or information they enter a search query into a search engine. SEO professionals have the tools and knowledge to uncover the most popular searched queries that match your products, services and information. We look at keyword relevancy, keyword volume and keyword competition to determine the best keyword phrases to optimize for. Keyword research can also uncover new related business avenues and content ideas, too. How people search changes over time so it is important to conduct keyword research on a regular basis.

Site Planning – The structure and flow of navigation, pages, and content is a large part of SEO. The search engine needs to be able to easily navigate to every page on the website; but even more so, the visitor needs to easily find what he or she is looking for. Creating sections, related page within sections and a content hierarchy can help with a website’s ranking and usability.

Content Development – Ongoing regular content updates and development is good for SEO and your website’s visitors. Your market research and keyword research will help guide your content development. Whether you are making ongoing changes and updates to static pages on your website, or you’re focused on an ongoing blog calendar, ensuring your content matches what your targeted visitors are looking for is good SEO practice.

Website Optimization Your website’s ranking is dependent upon how well your website is optimized, both from a front end (on-page) and back-end (code) perspective. On-page optimization involves what the visitor can see and experience. This includes titles, headings, and content to support the target keywords. This also includes user experience, optimized navigation, cross-linking and clear calls-to-action. The back end optimization involves meta tags, image optimization, load times, code optimization, simplifying source code, page caching and so much more.

Link Acquisition – In the old days, SEO companies developed sound practices that involved submitting websites to related directories. This practice is no longer considered a best practice. Now, a more natural link profile is what the search engines are looking for. The search engines see links to a website as a vote of confidence and so, link acquisition helps to improve your website’s authority. Building natural links is key and this is done by having share-worthy content and building relationships with related businesses.

Website Analytics – Being able to collect and analyze your website data is key to improving upon your successes and making edits on what might need fixing. Analytics data can help you understand your target audience while monitoring your key performance indicators (KPI). Most SEO professionals rely on Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. By delving deep into the data, you can uncover potential issues and address them for the benefit of your website’s performance.

Rinse & Repeat – Once you’ve analyzed your data, you’re ready to start all over again, with your next phase of keywords and content. This is what is known as a phased approach to SEO.

What is a Phased Approach to SEO?

SEO is based on what is known as a maturity model. You cannot do everything at once, but rather you have to focus on your SEO in terms of themes while applying the process above (ensuring you have the strategy, the planning, and the implementation in place)

Crawlability – Your content needs to be able to be found and spidered by search engines, so that the site can be naturally indexed. Whether you’ve launched a new website, new piece of content or had site downtime, this is something that cannot be ignored.

Top Keywords & Content – Ideally, you will set your top keyword goals and then strategize, plan and build your website & content to match. Generally, you might select your top ten most popular keyword phrases. Usually these will be more competitive and general, but will offer big rewards when you succeed.

Imagine you are an oceanfront resort in Victoria called The Shell Oceanfront Resort. Your top keywords would likely be a combination of:

Victoria Resort, Victoria hotel, Victoria accommodations, Place to stay in Victoria, top hotels in Victoria, resorts near Victoria, hotel packages Victoria, The Shell Victoria, The Shell Oceanfront, The Shell Oceanfront Resort Victoria, Vancouver Island Resorts etc.

Secondary Keywords & Content – Your secondary keywords are more targeted and more specific to sections of your website, rather than your website as a whole.

Using our same example of The Shell Oceanfront Resort in Victoria, the secondary keywords might be:

Resort and spa Victoria, Victoria vacation packages, Couples package Victoria resort, Victoria wedding venue, Victoria restaurant, things to do in Victoria, family vacation packages Victoria, top attractions in Victoria etc.

Long Tail Keywords & Content – Long-tail keywords might be the equivalent of low-hanging fruit. Generally, they are not as competitive but they are highly targeted. This means, when combined, they have big potential to really boost your traffic and conversions.

Back to our example – some examples of long-tail keywords for the Shell Oceanfront Resort in Victoria might be – deep sea fishing packages in Victoria, luxury vacation accommodations Victoria, Victoria weather in spring, pet-friendly resorts in Victoria, spring discount for resort in Victoria, where to stay in Victoria BC, discounts on accommodations in Victoria BC, the top things to do in summer in Victoria BC, Victoria BC tourist attractions for families, Victoria BC tourist attractions for couples etc.

Content Promotion – Once you have a content piece in place on your website, it’s time to promote that piece of content. You might do this through social media channels, link-building, your email newsletter etc.

For instance, in our Victoria resort example, you might encourage others in the local tourism industry to link to a blog post on Victoria BC tourist attractions.

Search Engine Optimization is A Continuous Cycle – Not A Get Rich Quick Scheme

Regardless of the number of poorly written spam emails you may receive that tell you they can guarantee instant results, SEO is not a quick marketing tactic. There are no tricks to get ahead. There is no substitution for experience, knowledge and a sound strategy and process.

There is no replacing hard work, experience and industry knowledge. While there are a lot of good tools designed to help SEO professionals do it faster and better, they don’t replace the experienced SEO professional. They do not replace the fact that SEO is continuous. That, once you reach the finish line, you have a whole new race to begin.

SEO is a continuous cycle where once you reach the proverbial finish line, it’s time to start all over again with a different segment of your audience, a different grouping of keywords or back to the basics with your top keywords. The Internet and the Search engines are always changing. There is always new competition. There is no room for a pause or a break.

When you implement a phased approach to your content, your keywords and your overall SEO strategy you will be generating new rankings and results overtime. Each time you begin the process again with a new target, piece of content or keyword in mind, you are building upon what was done before. The great thing is that there are hundreds of factors in the algorithms. So, as you work on your long-tail keywords for instance, that hard work is actually helping your top keywords, too.

There might always be people who believe they can do it better and faster. But, when it comes to SEO, be the tortoise. Slow and steady really does win the race.

Nothing is more frustrating when you’re attempting to research a current topic than getting results that are clearly outdated. I’m constantly adding dates to the beginning or the end of my search terms yet it can still be hard to find good results. I suspect that’s because few companies consider the year or the month in their page content strategies.

Adding the year or date information right into your page (title, headings, text, and even meta data that appears in Search Results) can help you outrank competitors for a far less competitive space and tell searchers your content is up to date.

This is a tactic that Rand Fishkin suggested in his whiteboard Friday post on February 10, 2017. With some research, ingenuity, and a keen competitive eye, you too could use this rarely addressed SEO strategy to gather traffic.

Here are three ways chronology can cut out a lot of the competition and boost your rankings and traffic.

1. Answers a search need that isn’t being met.

It wouldn’t make sense to search “Best Headphones of 2018” when our calendars remind us it’s still 2017. But as the early part of 2017 is already underway it will become more progressively plausible to search BEST Headphones of 2017. Early in the year there will be few others using the 2017 appendage in their content. As the year comes to a close though, the “Top 2017” lists will start spreading like wildfire. If your content includes the month or the year, you’ll be well on your way to providing Search Engines with terms that few competitors are even considering.

2. Uses less competitive, more focused phrases that are easier to rank.

The term “best headphones” will be much more competitive than the more specific term “best headphones of 2017”. Including references to the year or month should provide you with more opportunities with which to rank where few other competitors are trying to rank. Down the road, competitors may also begin using your tactics, but by then you’ll likely have acquired enough authoritative traffic to maintain a coveted position.

Fishkin suggests starting your research out with non-dated keywords (ex. best headphones) and then adding the current date to the beginning or end of the keyword (2017 best headphones, best headphones 2017). You can also funnel down and go back in time and look at search volumes for the search term in the previous year (best headphones 2015, best headphones 2016) to see how popular those terms were.

3. Establishes your authority on the topic early on.

Whatever time period you decide to use, getting in early (whether early in the month or early in the year) will likely provide a better chance of ranking before competitors catch on. Your new page will be indexed and start ranking in a time when there is less competition. This also allows your page to build credibility with the Search Engines.

One additional tip is to remember to go back and revisit old dated pages. Did your “Best Headphones 2015” page get a lot of views? Why not recreate one for the coming year?

If you have any questions about your SEO plans for 2017, give 1st on the List a call at 1-888-262-6687.

Search Engine Land recently posted an informative article in which author Trond Lyngbø shared the ways a leader with a “quick fix” attitude towards SEO can hurt their business. In this blog post we’d like to unpack several of the very important and common misunderstandings towards SEO that he points out.

1. Great SEO can’t fix what’s wrong with your product.

Google wants to provide searchers with the very best results possible. If someone is searching for a new dentist or the best built in vacuum cleaner Google wants to recommend the most trustworthy websites and businesses. Are you truly the best or would your customers beg to differ?

Lyngbø suggests that your visibility will eventually be affected by the way your customers feel about your products and services. We believe that Google is already making the move to incorporate your customer reviews and general reputation into your visibility. Faulty product? Poor customer service? Your SEO success may soon come to an end.

2. SEO is not a “quick fix” or “duct tape” solution for your business.

Lyngbø makes this point in reference to using SEO to cover up your bad product or customer service but the statement is true in a broader sense as well. SEO works best when backed by a stellar brand, great customer service, strong understanding of customer needs, an informative and easy to use website, and so on. SEO is often the final missing piece of the puzzle for brands that are already doing everything else right.

3. You can’t just “install SEO” quickly and easily.

This misunderstanding stems from a number of valid sources. For example there are SEO companies out there who claim to do SEO at a very cheap price and very quickly. This makes many business owners and managers believe it’s a quick install or that there’s just one way to do SEO. There are also SEO software programs and even WordPress plugins that claim do SEO for you. But SEO isn’t quick or easy, and can’t just be installed. It takes an experienced person to analyze your website and all the various factors (between 200 and 300) that come into play when Google decides how to rank the website. They then have to know the best strategies to optimize the most important factors to get your website to start ranking better and for more and more relevant queries as time goes on.

4. An expert can use SEO to make your marketing stronger and prevent expensive mistakes.

The basics of SEO can be fairly easy to understand and start to implement. But would you know how to run a detailed audit of your website to identify areas where you can make it even faster? After all Google favors fast websites. Would you know how to confirm that Google is properly accessing and crediting all of the pages on your website? If you are getting a site redesign do you know how to ensure that all of your credit is properly passed on to your new pages? Will you risk losing rankings and traffic with your new site design?

5. Paid and Natural Search traffic are highly connected.

Lyngbø comments that:

“Some business leaders consider paid traffic to be completely distinct from search engine optimization, not realizing that an SEO specialist can help you amplify the reach and impact of your paid search campaigns … But both address search users, and having SEO and PPC teams work together can be powerful.”

It can be a costly mistake to think that your PPC is driving all your traffic or that Search is driving all your traffic. The two can be highly correlated and can work best together.

6. Just getting more visitors isn’t enough.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If 500 visitors to your website a month doesn’t result in any new leads then is it reasonable to expect that 5,000 visitors would? At some point you have to stop chasing more visitors and start going after better visitors. The other option is tweaking your website so that you start getting more out of the same number of visitors, which is called Conversion Optimization.

On a bigger picture level, Lyngbø challenges any business owner:

“If only a tiny fraction of what you do is effective in bringing you desirable results, why repeat everything that doesn’t work again next year?”

7. Insights gathered from Google can help future-proof your business.

Over the years we have had to have some hard conversations with clients who were in what seemed to be dying industries. After seeing the total number of people searching for their types of products and services decline they questioned if they were still relevant or if people still wanted what they had to offer.

On the other hand, we’ve also been able to point out exciting opportunities we can find through search behaviour. The conversation often goes like this:

Us: “We’ve noticed an increase in the number of searches for X product or Y service. Is that something you would be able to offer?”

Client: “We have actually been considering adding that to our business.”

Us: “Well now may be the time because a lot of people are looking and very few other businesses are offering it. You can be a first mover.”

After all as Lyngbø it’s free to access Google’s search data and glean it for new insights. For example, do you know the most frequently asked questions on Google about your type of products?

8. SEO is built into your website design.

There are several factors that you may not think of as “SEO” but in fact have a pivotal effect on the success of SEO: website structure, navigation, internal link architecture, information architecture.

In addition to the above items that Lyngbø mentions a more recent belief is that Engagement Metrics such as time on site and bounce rate will (if not already) affect rankings. So if your website is poorly designed and your visitors are constantly leaving after spending only a second or two, your SEO could suffer.

9. Your rankings on search engines are not limited to your own site, either.

One important thing to understand with SEO is that many components are outside of your control. As much as there is to do when optimizing a website there are a number of things you don’t control, such as:

  • The area your searcher is located
  • The age of your domain
  • The direct competition going after visibility for the same types of Search Phrases
  • Plus indirect competition that Google also favors for your targeted Search Phrases

Changing Your Thinking Towards SEO as a Leader

In conclusion Lyngbø gives words of encouragement:

“Integrating SEO into all that you do, both offline and on, can enhance your results and speed up your growth.”

So how are you doing with integrating SEO into every fiber of your business? In our experience our clients who achieve the best success with us are all in and willing to do everything it takes – both online and offline.

If you need to start SEO for the first time or have realized it’s time to start taking SEO more seriously by hiring a qualified and experienced SEO expert give us a call at 1-888-262-6887 and we’d be happy to speak with you!

Once your site achieves a first page search engine ranking, your listings’ click through rate plays an important factor in whether it will remain there.  Once you learn how to increase your click through rate it will not only help you keep that top ranking, but also improve your rankings over time.

Obtaining a high ranking for a competitive phrase can be difficult, but maintaining it can be just as hard.  Google’s algorithm allows them to track the click through rates on your listings and determine if your site is worthy of keeping that top ranking.  While density, keyword location, placement and PageRank™ may have had a lot to do with you initially obtaining the ranking, your visitors and how they select the listings they wish to visit will determine your ability to remain at the top.

That’s the secret! Having a good strong click through rate can help you keep your rankings!

Understanding the Thought Process

Put yourself in Google’s shoes for a moment.  If your primary goal is to show the most relevant results to your visitors, then you may be able to build your initial results through density, but with millions of searches being completed each day, visitors can help further assist with the selection process by adding that human element a search engine wants to emulate.

For example, if your website was listed in position 4 for “Red Scarves” but visitors clicked on the listing in position 5 over 70% of the time, then it would make sense that your site be moved to position 5 and their site take your ranking.  Their websites rankings would improve because they received more clicks than yours. This would move the more popular sites higher up into the rankings allowing their visitors to locate the more relevant sites faster.

If this process was carried out on the search engine rankings over a period of time, then Google is essentially allowing their visitors to aid in the selection process of what they wish to be served.  As SEO’s, you may think that this takes away from your abilities to keep a site ranked in the top of Google, however this is untrue.

Maintaining & Increasing Your Rankings

In order to maintain and increase your site’s rankings in Google, you will need to have access to the Google Webmaster Console for that website and have it verified.

Once this is completed you will want to allow data to be collected for at least 1-2 weeks.  When you have enough data to see a large enough sample you can view the top search queries for your site.  This information will tell you about the top keyword phrases your site was ranked for and the positions they were in for that selected time period.  Review the click through rate of the top 10 keyword phrases and record the position you are listed in for that period.

For example it may say that you were ranked #4 for the keyword phrase “red scarves” and that when you were #4 people clicked on your listing 12% of the time.  If you look at the previous weeks data and you see that you were listed #2 and your listing was clicked on only 4% of the time, then it would be easy to see why your listing may have moved down, allowing a site with a higher click-through rate to be shown higher in the results.

Now there are two things that you can do; say to yourself that this is just the natural order of things, the site is getting a higher click-through rate at position number 4 and that is fine; or you can determine what causes visitors to select other sites and make the needed changes to your listing to increase your click-through rate.

Increasing Your Sites’ Click-Through Rate

To increase your website’s click-through rate there are a few things you need to do.

The first thing would be to identify the other sites that are listed within the top 10 for the keyword you are targeting.

Once you have done this, begin to study their rankings.  Just as your site bounces around a few positions at various times of the day / week, their sites do also.  Begin to study if they are always in the same position, or if there were number 5 today, 8 another day etc.

If you see that their site is bouncing around, it is likely because the search engines are determining whether they get a higher click-through rate at various positions, and if other sites get a higher click-through rate in their position.

Now you will want to begin studying their actual listing, and compare it against your own.  Ask yourself a series of questions to gather the information you need:

  • Is their title catchy?
  • Is their listed page the home page or an interior page?
  • Is their page on topic?
  • Does their page directly provide the solution to the visitors search query?
  • Is their description a snippet, or is it the actual Meta description?
  • Do they offer a discount, or sale within their listing?

Once you have gathered this data, answer the same questions for your own site.  Your goal is to determine what your site is lacking so that you can make the necessary adjustments to increase your click-through rates.

After making the needed adjustments, simply implement them within the site, update your Google Sitemap and continue monitoring your rankings and click-through rate through the Google Webmaster Console.

Learn more about Click Through Rates in Google and Bing or how our SEO Services can address poor click through rates for your website.

This is probably our most commonly asked question by prospects and clients a like.

It is such a loaded question for so many reasons, including:

  • Each website is unique.
  • The credibility and history of each business is unique.
  • Search Engines use 300+ factors when evaluating your website.
  • Each industry and local area have varying levels of competitiveness.

A recent study by BrightLocal took an objective approach to trying to answer this question by asking 18 experts and pooling their responses a variety of different cases. What category does your website fall into and what is a realistic timeframe for results?

How long does it take for a new site to rank in Google?

Answer: 78% say 3-9 months. In non-competitive markets this could be cut down to 1-6 months.

How long does it take for a website with some previous optimization to rank in Google?

Answer: 89% answer between 3-9 months. In non-competitive markets this could be cut down to 1-6 months.

How long does it take for a local website with previous low quality optimization to rank in Google?

Answer: 55% answer 6-12 months and 28% say 3-6 months. In non-competitive markets this would be around 3-6 months.

Key Takeaways from this Age Old Question

  • “It takes 6-10 weeks generally for Google to index and insert a brand new listing, let alone have it rank for anything.” – Joy Hawkins
  •  “Ask yourself: why should your business rank higher than the approx. 7-10 others that currently occupy the top positions?” – Chris Silver Smith
  • “I’m convinced there’s a sort of “waiting period” imposed by Google after they notice a lot of changes being made to a site, almost as if they don’t want the site owner (or site editor) to believe that their changes can affect rankings.” – Scott Hendison
  • It is interesting to note experts’ opinions towards the difficulty of getting websites to rank. Only 6% feel it would take more than 9 months to rank a previously optimized website and 11% said it would take 9 months to rank a brand new website. But 28% say it will take more than 9 months to rank a website with poor optimization, NAP inconsistencies, poor backlinks and other issues. This proves that poor SEO causes lasting harm, where in some cases it could be easier just to start all over from scratch!

One Final Question –
How long will SEO last after you stop spending money on SEO?

A common fallacy of marketers is to see all the hard work pay off with SEO and feel there is no longer a need to continue investing in SEO. When optimization stops there isn’t an immediate noticeable effect like you have when you cancel advertising in the newspaper or stop running an AdWords campaign. Most experts agreed it is usually between 6 months and 2+ years before you may see a ranking or performance drop.

While at first you may think this gives the go ahead to stop SEO with the assumption you’ll be safe for a couple years. The other side of the coin is that your competitors will continue on with SEO and keep gradually growing. When you come back around to SEO the second time, you’ll be at a disadvantage and have over 2 years of updates to do.

Is it time to stop wasting time and get on with SEO? Give us a call a 1-888-262-6687 so we can evaluate your website and develop a localized SEO Strategy to help get you local rankings sooner than later!

Methods for top listings in the search enginesThe search engines are a great resource for information and they offer us the ability to have our web pages listed for free, but keep in mind that the search engines are in a multi-billion dollar industry. Because of this, the search engines are compelled to list only the most relevant web pages in their top 10 listing results.

The Quality of Your Web Pages Is a Reflection on the Search Engines

The listing results that the search engines deliver to their users are a reflection of that engine and web searcher’s have come to expect nothing but the best. When they conduct a search, searchers expect the most relevant listing results possible. This is what the search engines attempt to deliver.

Some search engines perform better than others. There have been situations where a search engine’s top listings consisted of sites that had no real information, or the pages didn’t load properly; or most of the links were not working.

The last thing a search engine wants is to have their searchers make an assumption that this search engine shows poor results. The search engines don’t want to risk losing searchers to another search engine, since that equates to lost revenue.

Understanding Search Engine Algorithms

The search engines are not biased as to who gets top rankings. Each search engine has their own set of algorithms (criteria) to help them determine which web pages best fit their pre-set criteria and which web pages don’t.

Those web pages that do a better job of delivering what the search engine algorithms are looking for tend to perform better in the search engine listing results.

The higher your pages are listed (especially in the top 10 listings) on a search engine:

  • The greater your website visibility
  • Which will attract a greater volume of highly targeted, highly qualified traffic
  • Which in turn, can mean greater sales

The goal for any website wanting to have their web pages rank well in the major search engines is to try to fit the mold (as set by the search engine algorithms).

In order to fit the mold you need to understand what factors the search engines use to make this determination.

When trying to figure this out, keep in mind the following;

  1. The end result is that the search engines want to show the most relevant results to a searcher’s query
  2. So your web pages must provide actual information (unique content) based on what the searcher is looking for (the search term used by the searcher)
  3. As a top listing, your web page must also provide a good user experience once the searcher has left the engine and entered into your site

Optimize Your Site & Server for the Search Engines

The major areas that search engines look at when determining how they will rank and list your web pages include your server and your site.

SERVER

It is imperative that your server is search engine and visitor friendly. This means that your server should:

  • Have a fast response time
  • Provide your site with a unique IP address
  • Have an impeccable up time percentage
  • Have a reverse DNS that is working correctly
  • Not have open DNS
  • Ensure your nameservers resolve correctly
  • Be ready for high traffic volume if the search engines send you a large volume of traffic each day

Important Note: If your server is slow, or not responding for any reason, this can also create a poor user experience, which makes it less likely that the search engines will even consider allowing your site to rank in the top ten for important search terms (or keyword phrases) found on your web pages. These type of server issues can have a significant negative impact on your web page rankings. View more information about server related issues and SEO.

SITE

When they come to visit your website the search engine robots will look at your site’s structure; all of your web pages individually and then your website as a whole.

In order to ensure good user experience, there are various areas of your website that the search engine robots will look at. Does your site include (or have):

  • A custom 404 error page
  • A robots.txt file
  • Broken links
  • Slow loading pages
  • Duplicate content
  • Or pages with very little or no content

Remember that the search engines feel that your website and your web page content is a reflection on the way searchers/users perceive the search engine’s results, which is a reflection on the search engines.
If the search engines allow sites with broken links, slow loading pages, page errors and pages that don’t provide what the user is looking for there is a higher risk that the searcher/user will go to another search engine to find what they need.

The search engines use artificial intelligence as a part of their algorithm to try and determine not only what your web pages are about, but to also ensure that you are not using any “black hat” underhanded tactics to try and have your web pages look more relevant than they actually are.

The more web pages that you have that support what the overall theme is about the more relevant your web pages will seem to the search engines.

A website that has 500 pages dedicated to a particular subject will likely be seen as more relevant than a website with only 5 pages dedicated to that subject. This is why it is important to continually add new content to your site on a regular basis that is unique, as well as informative.

SEO Content Optimization TipsThere are a number of strategies you can use to improve your search engine optimization efforts, some of which include on-page optimization and how to avoid duplicate content issues.

On-Page Optimization

On-page search engine optimization relates to on-page modifications that assist your web pages in becoming more relevant to specific keyword phrases contained within your website (the same phrases used in a search query).

By helping to build relevance for your web pages through various areas on your page that the search engines look at, the search engines are better able to determine how relevant your web pages are for specific keyword phrases used in a searcher’s query.

Optimizing On-Page Content

One important factor in successful on-page optimization is content. Should you attempt to apply optimization to web pages with little or no content you are more likely to exceed what would be optimal density for that given keyword phrase.

When you are creating your website text content or working on existing page content, look at the page as a whole and how your visitors would perceive it. Select a specific topic that encompasses your keyword phrase and create text copy centered around that keyword specific topic.

Important Note: If your website is an e-commerce site it is important to know that your descriptions provide the information a visitor will use to make a purchasing decision. If you have only a sentence or two to describe your product; it is simply not enough. This level of content is not enough for your visitors to make a purchasing decision, and it’s not enough for the search engines to make an informed decision about what the page is about or if your web page is worthy of ranking well.

Avoiding Duplicate Content Issues

If you are a distributor for a larger company, it is important that you understand it is highly likely that the same product names and descriptions the wholesaler or manufacturer provided you with will be the same they provided to all their distributors; your competitors.

If your content is identical to the content found on other websites it will cause a search engine’s “duplicated content filter” to be set off when the search engine robots visit your web pages.

In this case, the search engines will choose the page with the longest history, which is usually the original page on the manufacturer’s or wholesaler’s website.

Duplicate content is a serious hindrance making it nearly impossible for your web pages to rank.

When a wholesaler or manufacturer provides you with product names and descriptions it is imperative that you re-work the information and re-write the content so that it is unique.

The way you do this is to provide helpful information, incorporate testimonials and product reviews. There are specific thresholds where content can be considered duplicated, related or unique.

The more unique content you add the greater your chances that the search engine robots will see your pages as unique and worthy of competing for the same keyword phrases as your competitors.

With all this being said, it is most important to ensure your server and your site set up are “search engine friendly” before actually attempting on page optimization factors.

If your server is slow and your site has errors in the code; it doesn’t matter where you put your keywords phrases or what else you do for on-page optimization. By fixing errors “from the ground up” you are making your site relevant and ready for on page optimization. Read more about SEO and server related issues here.

Continue looking for and contacting other “authority sites” within your industry and think outside the box, when determining who those “authority sites” are and how they relate to your site.

Remember to continue to add quality unique content to your site on a regular basis; if you are not savvy with HTML, ask your website designer to add a blog to your site, which will allow you to add content to your site with ease.

Lastly, remember that if you continually add unique content to your website, write topic specific pages that revolve around the theme of your targeted keyword phrase and consistently build your web page content, you are playing an active role in your on-page optimization and will gain more control of how your site is perceived, rated and ranked.

Although we all find search engines a great resource for information and they offer us the ability to be listed for free, they are in a multibillion dollar industry. The results that the search engines deliver to their users are a reflection of that engine. If a search engine shows a site that has no real information, or the pages don’t load right, or the most of the links are not working; that searcher can make an assumption that this search engine shows poor results. If this determination is made there is a possibility that the user may use another engine; which equates to lost revenue.

The search engines are not biased as to who gets top rankings, but their algorithm helps them to determine which sites fit the mold and which ones don’t. The goal for any site wanting to rank well in the major search engines is to try to fit the mold. In order to fit the mold you need to understand what factors are used to make this determination. When trying to figure this out, keep one thing in mind; the end result is for the search engines to show the most relevant results to a searchers query, provide actual information based on what the searcher is looking for and for the results shown to provide a good user experience once the searcher has left the engine and into your site.

Below are the four major areas the search engines look at when determining where your site will rank.

Optimize Your Site & Server for the Search Engines

1. Server – It is imperative that your server is search engine & visitor friendly. This means that it has a fast response time, your site has a unique ip address, has an impeccable uptime percentage, reverse DNS works correctly, you do not have open DNS, your nameservers resolve correctly and it is overall ready if the search engines sent you a large volume of traffic each day.

Important Note: If your server is slow, or not responding for any reason, this can create a poor user experience. It is less likely they will even consider allowing your site to rank in the top ten for phrases that are important to you. These type of server issues can impact your rankings.

2. Site – The search engines look at your sites structure, all of your pages individually and then as a whole. There are various areas they look at to help ensure a good user experience which includes a custom 404 error page, your robots.txt file, broken links, slow loading pages, duplicate content, and pages with very little content. Remember your site and it’s content can reflect the way users perceive the search engines results. If they allow sites with broken links, slow pages, errors and pages that don’t provide what the user is looking for; there is a chance they may consider going to another search engine to see if they can find what they are looking for.

Important Note: The search engines artificial intelligence as a part of their algorithm to try to determine what the page is about as well as ensure you are using any sneaky attempts to make your site look more relevant than it actually is. The more pages that you have that support what the overall theme is about the more relevant your site will be seen in the search engines.

Someone who has 500 pages dedicated to a subject will likely be seen more relevant than someone with 5 pages dedicated to a subject. This is why it is important to continually add new content that is unique, as well as informative; to your site on a regular basis.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is coming of age… in a big way. From Fortune 500 corporations to sole proprietorship’s, more and more companies are starting to realize the power of the Internet for brand awareness, client retention, lead prospecting, and revenue generation.

This has lead to huge interest in, and demand for, the two most-effective SEM strategies: Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

PPC is the process of bringing visitors to a website by paying a ‘click-through’ fee for each click. This is accomplished by ‘bidding’ on keywords that are relevant to the business. Results are usually displayed in the ‘sponsored’ or ‘featured’ areas with the highest bidder getting the number one ranking.

SEO is the process of making a website more search engine ‘friendly’ to help it rank higher. Improvements are made to the site content, internal and external linking structure, server configuration, and Meta Tags. Search engine ‘spiders’ visit the site and attempt to classify what it is about. When a search is conducted, the website is compared to other websites for relevancy to the topic being searched for. Results are displayed in the ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ areas in order of most-to-least relevant.

Which one is best? That depends entirely on your business requirements and budget constraints. Don’t let anyone tell you that one is better than the other… they both have their advantages and disadvantages and each is geared towards meeting certain needs and wants.

PAY PER CLICK PROS & CONS

PPC Pros:

  • Fast… top rankings can be achieved in a matter of hours or days –not months.
  • Very little website changes required.
  • You can target as many keywords as you want.
  • Control… you can control/ change almost all aspects of the campaign.
  • Costs are only incurred when someone clicks on your ad.
  • Results can be tracked and measured precisely… improving ROI.
  • Permits geographic targeting… pick your country, region, state, city, or town.
  • Permits running of ads at different times… 24×7, morning, afternoon, evening, night.
  • Will direct users to the exact page on your site you want them to visit.
  • Allows for testing of landing pages and conversion rates.
  • Immediacy… get instantaneous, real-time feedback on changes/ adjustments.
  • Ideal way to ‘test’ whether online marketing is right for your business.
  • Must rank for a particular keyword? If you have the budget, you can rank for it.

PPC Cons:

  • Rankings disappear as soon as you stop paying.
  • Can be expensive in the long term.
  • Be wary of ‘bidding wars’… costs can quickly spiral out of control.
  • Susceptible to ‘click fraud’… people/ competitors clicking on your ads to drive up costs.
  • Keywords are initially reviewed and approved/ disapproved by the search engines.
  • The cost for keywords is going up.
  • Search engines don’t care how much you value a keyword… if it doesn’t generate enough traffic, they will disable it.
  • Your rankings can be affected by the number of ‘click-throughs’ your ad generates… so even though you ‘bid’ for the number two position, someone else may get that spot.
  • Rankings are viewed by people as being a form of ‘advertising’… some users consider this a plus, others a negative.
  • Most people prefer to click on ‘natural/ organic’ (i.e. SEO) results rather than PPC ads.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION PROS & CONS

SEO Pros:

  • Rankings can remain for a long time after the optimization process is done.
    You don’t have to pay every time someone clicks on your listing.
  • Long-term costs can be lower than PPC.
  • Good ROI and is relatively inexpensive when compared to other forms of advertising… both online and offline.
  • People trust SEO rankings more than PPC rankings… more than twice as many people will click on an organic listing than a PPC listing.

SEO Cons:

  • Results are not guaranteed… be very wary of any company that guarantees top rankings.
  • Higher start-up costs and longer timeframe… approx. 2-6 months to start seeing results.
  • Rankings are unpredictable… top rankings can come and go based on any number of factors that are beyond your control.
  • Requires on-going maintenance to ensure website remains relevant to search engine algorithm changes.
  • Many changes may have to be made to the site itself to make it search engine friendly.
  • Changes may have to be made to the Web Host server(s).
  • Good SEO costs money… you get what you pay for.
  • Geographic targeting is more difficult than with PPC.
  • To the search engines, ‘content is king’… websites need to have good, unique content.
  • Content written to target keywords isn’t usually the most compelling or the easiest to read from a human perspective.
  • You may not know whether your SEO company is using ethical or unethical techniques… unless they are certified.
  • Competition is fierce and some companies use unethical practices to attain top rankings.
  • Un-doing what is already done can be difficult… especially if your site has already been penalized in the past.
  • Some keywords are just too competitive to be even worth going after… unless you have a large budget.

PPC & SEO SIMILARITIES:

Both…

  • Provide highly targeted, motivated customers… people who are actively searching for your products/ services.
  • Enhance corporate sales and marketing efforts… leading to improved profits.
    Help to maximize a website’s exposure on the Internet.
  • Are great for brand awareness, lead prospecting, and revenue generation.
  • Can turn a website from being a business expense to a business asset.

The Internet is vast, immensely vast… people turn to the search engines for help in finding what they are looking for… PPC and SEO make it possible for people to find your site. Ultimately, an online marketing strategy that combines both PPC and SEO strategy is the best strategy to pursue but there a very few companies that can afford the luxury of investing in both.

Making the right decision is not easy and this is where considerable research should be done on selecting the right company to work with. They should be willing to openly discuss both PPC and SEO with you, and provide solid input as to which of these two Search Engine Marketing strategies would be best suited for your business. They should be active participants in helping you to develop and implement an SEM strategy that successfully meets your online business goals and requirements… so choose carefully.

In their simplest and purest forms; SEO is about optimizing and lucking into rankings… PPC is about controlling and paying for rankings.
About the author:
Chris Genge is the President of 1st on the List Promotion Inc, a website promotion firm that specializes in search engine optimization and pay per click management. Chris writes on current and emerging search engine marketing theories and has been involved in the SEO industry since 1997. He and his team focus on researching and implementing the most effective and ethical search engine optimization techniques. To learn more visit /