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Local SEO TipA small business generally won't have the resources to compete on a national level for generic search terms ( AKA keywords). This means your site should be optimized with geo-targeted terms, like your city, or county.

Start your keyword research by identifying the geographic terms that will bring in the most, high quality leads for your business. You should plan to dominate the city in which you are located. You can also target 1 or 2 additional geo-terms on your main pages, or create multiple pages specifically targeted to their own geo-term. Just make sure you offer value in those local pages, and don't duplicate content.

This is Tip #1 in a series of 10 SEO Tips for Small Business. 


Google PenaltiesIf you've recently lost rank in a Google search that is important to your business, you may suspect that you've been hit by a penalty. Google does in fact impose penalties in order to eliminate spam from its search results. To Google, spam is content it determines to be of low quality, and spammers are those who attempt to promote it by manipulating the results through a variety of activities. Like it or not, Google may see your content as spam, and you as a spammer!

Google imposes penalties in two ways:

  1. Manually, and
  2. Through its algorithm

Manual Penalties

Manual penalties are imposed by Google based on spammy content or spammy links. If you've been penalized manually, you will see a notice in your Webmaster Tools control panel. The "Unnatural Link Penalty" is a commonly seen penalty that gained prominence around the same time as a major algorithmic change (Google Penguin, see below) so some people initially confused the two.  Just remember if you have been manually penalized, you'll see the message in Webmaster Tools.

Websites that are manually penalized are often flagged as spam by Google users, or are competing in a vertical that is very competitive and tends to see a lot of spam. Think "viagra," "payday loans" or "work from home."

If you get the unnatural link penalty warning, you or your SEO company were probably doing some link building that, until about a year ago, was pretty common.  The types of links that are a problem are:

  • Links in social bookmarking sites
  • Links in article marketing websites
  • Links in blog comments
  • A high number of links with exactly the same keyword anchor text.

What you can do

  1. Clean up the spam. If you allow user input, such as blog comments, and don't moderate them, you probably have a lot of spam in your blog. Delete those comments and start moderating them.
  2. Improve your page quality. If you have a lot of pages that have low word count (under 300), are heavily weighted to a particular keyword, and offer little value to visitors in and of themselves, a Google employee manually reviewing your site may consider these pages as spam, and issue a penalty.
  3. Use the link disavow tool to tell Google to ignore these links.
  4. File for reconsideration. When you think you've cleaned up your act, let Google know, and they will re-review your site and hopefully remove the manual penalty.

Algorithmic Penalties
In the last couple of years, Google has made some major algorithmic changes to get low quality sites out of its results, and to penalize those sites that are the focus of manipulative activities aimed at increasing rank.

Google Panda
Panda was rolled out about two years ago (Feb 2011),  and was aimed at crushing sites such as low quality blogs and "scraper sites" (sites that copy content from other websites). It is an ongoing class of algorithmic changes that penalizes "content spam."

What you can do

  1. Avoid duplicate content.
  2. Keep page word count up to around 300

Google Penguin
Penguin was rolled out about a year ago (April 2012) and was aimed at penalizing sites for unnatural linking (thus the confusion with the manual unnatural linking penalty). The target of this penalty is non-varied keyword anchor text pointing to a website.  Links from low quality websites are reported to be more of a contributing factor. Site wide links, whether internal to the website or external websites from an external website are a problem when they use the same keywords that the page is optimized for (based on the page title, meta description and page content).

What you can do

  1. Restructure your internal linking
  2. Remove site wide links or take keywords out of anchor text
  3. Ask external websites to change anchor text or remove your link entirely
  4. Use the disavow link tool
What has been your experience with Google penalties? Let us know!

TP Designs promotes websites in the San Francisco Bay Area through PPC and SEO services.


Small Business BloggersBlogs are a key component of any modern web promotion strategy. Blogs are a seamless way to help your website give search engines what they are looking for to rank your site well:

  1. Fresh content
  2. A rich supply of relevant keywords
  3. Link bait
  4. Added value to the search results (as opposed to keyword spam)
  5. The opportunity to promote yourself through social media

As small business person, you know your industry. You have to in order to survive the increasingly tough economic climate. You are the expert in your field, and sharing that expertise on the substantial forum of the Internet lets everyone else know that, including existing and potential clients.

The reasons that are usually given for why a company does not want to produce a blog are:

  1. They are too busy.
  2. People in their industry are not on the internet, or at least don't use the internet for business. They aren't on Facebook and Twitter.
  3. They see blogs and the associated promotion through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as a waste of time.

The response to the first reason is that if you are too busy to contribute time towards gaining new business, why are you looking into web promotion services? (Of course I don't say it like that!). Most small businesses just want to pay someone to promote their website, and have writing the check be their sole contribution. Well, you can do it that way, and many businesses do. The sad truth is that strategy is just a small step above throwing your check directly into the garbage.

As for the second two reasons, I guarantee there are a significant number of people in your vertical who are heavily involved in blogging and social media marketing, and they have the advantage over you. If not, then it shouldn't take too much effort for your business to become the industry leader.

There is a lot of BS around blogging and social media out there, and if anyone presents themselves as a "Guru" I recommend running the other way quickly. Do, please, however consider contributing some of your time and expertise in promoting your site through blogging. If you can't write yourself, hire a copywriter. You'll usually get a good bang for the buck, and they will take your ideas and knowledge and put them in the most effective form to market your business.

TP Designs promotes websites in the San Francisco Bay Area through PPC and SEO services.


TwitterThe terms “Social media,” “Web 2.0,” “Twitter” and “Facebook” are saturating the media, and clogging our spam filters. How many emails or ads have you seen that said something like “Millions of people use Facebook every day. Don’t miss out on the advertising opportunity and get left behind?” In fact I regularly get inquiry from clients asking whether or not they should be on Facebook or Twitter. 


Convert or Fail!

Using Google Adwords to drive traffic to your website is expensive. I suspect that Google gets most of it's money from Adwords advertisers who have no idea what they are doing. These advertisers quickly set up a campaign and pump a bunch of money into it, but see few to no leads. They then pour increasing money in until it starts to hurt, thinking that is the answer. They finally give up, wondering why other people are successful with Adwords, and they are not.

The problem is that setting up an Adwords campaign is very easy. Getting your ads to show on the first page of Google is very easy. Converting those clicks into dollars is NOT easy. That's where people get confused, frustrated, and too often defeated.

How do you convert a click into a sale? The schematic below shows a basic Adwords setup:

Image

The secret to converting Adwords clicks to sales? Design your site for Adwords conversion! 

Pay Per Click (PPC) Adwords Campaign Management


Link BuildingBecause many non-web professionals do not understand how the complex network of computers called the Internet works, they fail to see the importance of link building to the success of their website. The truth is that link building is not optional to the success of a website.

The black art of obtaining traffic from search engines in often called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. SEO activities are aimed at two sets of factors:

  1. On-page factors
  2. Off-page factors

On-page factors are those that can be easily adjusted by the webmaster or content editor of the website. When the web first started, these were the factors that were primarily used by the search engines to rank webpages. They include the visible text of the page, the page title that shows in the browser, and those enigmatic "meta tags."

On-page factors are still very important, but not as singularly important as they once were. Google revolutionalized the use of off-page factors to determine the importance of webpages with its PageRank formula. In a nutshell, Google assigns a PageRank to each webpage in it's index, based on how many other pages are linked to that webpage. Each incoming link is seen as a "vote" for the webpage that the link is pointing at. It also takes into account the PageRank of the linking pages, and the number of outgoing links on the linking pages. This means that the most valuable links you can get are links from high PageRank pages, where your link is one of only a few on that page. Links from low PageRank pages are of lesser value, as are links from higher PageRank pages with many outgoing links.

The activity of obtaining these valuable incoming links is called Link Building. Link building can be time-consuming, difficult, and is a long term investment whose effects may not be immediately apparent. Once the site is mature, assuming that it is a quality site, it will gain incoming links naturally, as other sites link to its useful and interesting information. At the beginning however, it is critical that a link building program be budgeted and properly executed, otherwise, no one will ever find out about the website, and it will fail to meet its business goals.


The long tail, in the search engine optimization (SEO) world, refers to an internet marketing strategy that looks to rank for many niche keywords, rather than for a few common, competetive keywords (referred to as the big head). The marketer hopes that the sum of the traffic generated by hundreds, if not thousands of niche searches will add up to something significant. If properly implemented, this strategy can work well because of two factors:

  1. Natural Search: Google’s algorithm is different for competetive searches than it is for other searches. And by different, I mean easier to optimize small, low authority sites for.
  2. Pay Per Click: When using Adwords, the more competition there is for a keyword, the more expensive the cost per click (CPC) is.

The problem is that Adwords is Google’s golden goose. Google would much rather searchers hit “popular” search engine results pages (SERPs), because those are the ones that contain the expensive ads. Some of the changes that may have been implemented by Google to drive traffic towards the popular SERPS are:

  1. Automatically mixing results for “related keywords” (which happen to always be popular keywords) into the SERPS without asking. This sometimes leads toirrelevant search results.
  2. Adding the “Searches Related To:” links at the bottom of the page.
  3. On occasion omitting a term typed into the search box (usually a third or fourth term), displaying results for remaining terms, and adding a link at the bottom of the page explaining that the results displayed do not include one of the terms you typed in, but you can add it back in by clicking a link.
    Image 
  4. In Adwords: Not displaying ads for keywords that don’t have sufficient traffic.

I received the following message recently when diagosing a number of keywords in an Adwords adgroup:

Image 

All but one of the factors mentioned above is a setback for the long tail search engine marketer. These changes were presumably implemented to push searches to expensive Adwords clicks, but they also have the effect of making searching for niche keywords more difficult for the Google users. People don’t want to have their keywords messed around with. And when the driver is Google’s bottom line rather than the searcher’s experience, it can only lead to more and more dissatisfied searchers.


Matt Cutts, Google's Ambassador at large recently gave a talk about SEO (search engine optimization) for bloggers: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-for-bloggers/

Blogging can be a great way to keep your website content fresh, build credibility and authority for your business, and get targeted traffic coming in. These are great tips, straight from the horse's mouth, about getting your blog at the top of Google.

Use Wordpress. WordPress takes care of 80-90% of(the mechanics of)Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


My plugins (used by Matt Cutts)

  • Akismet
  • Cookies for Comments
  • Enforce www. preference
  • Feedburner Feedsmith
  • WP Super Cache


How does Google crawl?

We crawl roughly in decreasing order of PageRank


What's PageRank?

The number and importance of links pointing to you.


How does Google rank pages?
You want to be relevant and reputable


SEO tips: keywords

  • Think about the keywords that users will type. Include them naturally in your posts
  • ALT attribute are handy (3-4 relevant words)
  • Don't forget image search, videos, etc.
  • What will your visitors type?
  • Keyword tool - brainstorm!
  • Url structure
  • Tweaking titles, urls, content
  • Use categories that are also good keywords


Keywords in url paths: example.com/my-keywords

  • Dashes are best
  • Next best is underscores
  • No spaces is worst


General Blogging Tips

  • Update often
  • Provide a useful service
  • Do original research or reporting
  • Give great information
  • Find a creative niche
  • Make lists ("11 reasons why WordCamp ruled")
  • Create controversy
  • Meet folks on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed
  • Make a video
  • Google tools can help. Webmaster console at google.com/webmasters/
  • Avoid paid posts
  • Keep your WordPress and web server updated!!


Security

  • Automatic updates
  • Protect the /wp-content/ directory


And finally:

rel=canonical . Built into wordpress.com. Download 2.8!


Many documents are created throughout a good web design process. There is certainly a lot for the competent web designer to document throughout the discovery, planning, design, integration and delivery stages of a complex web project. Not all of these documents are of interest to the client, but there are certain documents that are crucial for communication, feedback and setting realistic expectations each step of the way. It is important to present the minimum number of documents needed to ensure a successful project. Otherwise the client can easily be overwhelmed or confused.


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