Velocitize your web marketing

Tag Archives: search engine optimization

What the SEF is Your SEO Doing?

I’ve worked with a number of website designers and developers over the years, many of them good people with a plethora of skills I couldn’t even dream of having. But one thing gets under my skin: when developers claim to know SEO when they clearly don’t.

Many developers do have a solid grasp and understanding of SEO concepts and some even dig in to become tried and true SEOs as well. Those that fit this latter group are few and far between, and those from the former group know as much about managing an SEO campaign as a community organizer knows about managing a country.

Many (but not all) developers know what it means to create a search engine friendly (SEF) website. But that is not the same thing as optimizing a website for top search engine ranking performance. Think of building a website as building a car. You may have created a high-performance machine, but it’s not ready to compete in the Indy 500 when it rolls off factory assembly line!

Continue Reading

SEO First, Web Development Second

The thought that you should SEO your site before you even develop it seems counter-intuitive, and in many ways, it is. But, not entirely. I’ve been an SEO for over 12 years, and I still can’t get past the fact that optimization continues to be the “after thought,” only coming into play long after the site has been up and running for months or even years.

This mindset needs to change.

Continue Reading

Can't Afford SEO? Can't Afford NOT to SEO!

One of the questions that I keep hearing from small business owners every year is this: How can a small business like me afford SEO/SEM? It’s a fair question coming from budget-conscious business owners. Not everybody can afford SEO. But, nobody can afford NOT to SEO.

Continue Reading

How to Turn a Negative SEO Experience Into Success

Over the last dozen plus years, unscrupulous SEO’s have given the entire search engine optimization industry a bad rep. It seems like every few months some high profile person in the Internet world says something about how SEO is snake oil, sending ripples throughout the SEO community.

To be fair, some of the complaints about SEOs are deserved. Not for the entire SEO community, but for a small segment of “SEO providers.” Unfortunately, like sleezy lawyers, it only takes one to ruin the whole batch, perceptively.

I’m sure many readers have either heard about, or know someone who has had (or have themselves had) an extremely negative SEO experience. I talk to many business owners who are skeptical about SEO because their last SEO didn’t perform as expected, either over-promised and under-delivered, dropped out of contact, or just wasn’t doing the job as promised.

Sometimes this is an accurate reflection of the SEO and their work, sometimes it’s just about misplaced expectations. Either way, something, somewhere went wrong, and the client walked away unhappy, which is never good for the rest of us SEOs looking to make an honest living.

Don’t Let One Bad SEO Ruin the Whole Batch

Every industry, I believe, has it’s Enrons and BPs. Sometimes they are good companies that make very bad mistakes. Other times they are bad companies out to make a quick buck at the expense of others. But anybody who has been burned by an SEO and has decided not to go that route again must consider what else they would be giving up if they followed the same precedent.

Several years ago I had a problem with my truck. Wasn’t sure what it was, but I knew it wasn’t running right. I took it to my local mechanic and paid $80 for a diagnostic. The mechanic wasn’t able to identify the problem and suggested I take the truck to the dealer. $80 lost.

Now I could swear off auto mechanics forever because of that one bad experience (and, lets be real… many others), or I could find a new mechanic that is more reputable and trustworthy. I’ll go with Plan B.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten burned by Best Buy. Several years ago, I bought a vacuum cleaner that crapped out on me in a few short months. I brought it back to the store, knowing the warranty had me covered.

Best Buy informed me that this model vacuum was no longer sold, so my only options were to accept a lower quality, less expensive vacuum for free, or pay an extra couple of hundred dollars for their next higher quality vacuum available. Neither of those options were suitable for me.

The warranty should have guaranteed us a vacuum of equal or greater value, not one of lesser value and quality. A full refund or in-store credit would have been sufficient, but Best Buy refused both options. I spent over an hour haggling with the sales clerk, then the assistant manager, until finally I got the store manager on the phone. Once I managered-up, I finally received an acceptable resolution (cheaper vacuum plus in-store credit for the difference).

I never should have had to haggle for an hour–or get the store manager on the phone–to get this resolution. However, this bad experience doesn’t scare me away from all electronic stores. I simply find a store that provides the customer service I expect, and, well, that tends to be Best Buy still.

We are all going to have bad experiences in life. And if you engage in SEO, there is a chance that you may have a bad experience with that as well. But, don’t let it burn you on SEO completely.

I know that the Best Buy sales clerk and assistant manager were bound by company policy. It wasn’t until I forced a call to the store manager that I got what I wanted, and only because the manager didn’t want to have to deal with such a petty situation. A bad experience with an SEO may have less to do with the skills and qualification of that SEO than it does with misplaced expectations or miscommunication in the sales and optimization processes.

Walk It Off

I can’t remember what movie it was, but I remember a teenage baseball player kept getting hit with the ball by the pitcher. The coach’s mantra was “walk it off”. The more times the kid got hit, the funnier the line “walk it off” became.

But, sometimes that’s what we have to do. You can’t quit baseball because you got hit by a rogue pitcher. Nor can you quite SEO because you had a bad experience. Sometimes you just gotta walk it off.

A while back, I signed a new client that had just ended a 12-month contract with another SEO firm. In our preliminary checks we found that a good majority of this client’s primary keywords were ranking poorly on virtually all the search engines.

I could easily paint this SEO firm as being inept; however, without knowing exact details of the contract, I’d just be talking out the side of my asshat. But, what matters is that the client wasn’t getting what they believed they were paying for. Regardless of contract, budget, and promises made, the client had very different expectations than what was provided.

Within just a couple of weeks, after rolling out our optimized version of their site, our client is seeing significant improvement in the rankings in Google and Bing.

Why was the other SEO firm not able to achieve, after 12 months, what we achieved in a shorter time? Truthfully, I don’t know. Fortunately for both us and the client, they didn’t take that bad experience and let it turn them off to SEO altogether. Now they are getting the results they were expecting a year ago.

Turn Your Bad Experience Into a Successful Experience

One of my favorite movie lines comes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The bad guy grabs what he thinks is the Holy Grail, but he won’t know for sure until he drinks from it. After he does, you see him take a sudden turn for the worse (he died). The knight guarding the grail says to Indy, “He chose poorly.”

This is followed by Indy selecting and drinking from another grail, to which the knight tells him, “You chose… wisely.”

So, you chose poorly on your first SEO and got burned. Fortunately, that doesn’t lead to near-instant old age, your face melting off, or girls laughing at you because you showed up at school naked (am I the only one that has that dream?). You get a second chance to choose a new SEO. Choose wisely.

Research

Do your research before choosing your next SEO. Figure out what you want and what services will be required to get you there. Be willing to explore alternatives and varying options, but also have a basic handle on what it’s going to take to get you the success you want.

SEO plans and pricing differ widely, and it is often difficult to compare apples to apples. Do your best to understand what you’re getting for your money. If one SEO is expensive, find out why. If another is cheap, again, find out why. You often get what you pay for, and somebody charging more is often doing far more extensive work to ensure you’ll be successful.

Get Recommendations

Recommendations are great. Ask around to find out who others use and what their experience has been. If you find a company you are interested in, ask others if they have heard of them. Read lots of blogs. Choose someone that you know has the experience to get the job done.

Check References

Every SEO should be able to give you a list of references. Don’t settle for less than three, but five is a better number. Of course, every SEO will send you their very best references, those that will give the most glowing report, but you can’t discount this.

Talk to each reference to get more than just a thumbs up or down review. Find out if they are happy with the results they are getting. Ask what keywords are being optimized and verify rankings.

You should also ask about their specific SEO plan and if the reference feels as if they are getting their money’s worth. Find out how competitive their keywords and industry are. Get details about how the SEO works, how they communicate, and their overall work ethic. All of these things can weigh heavily in your decision.

Verify

Ask either the SEO or their references for stats and try to verify them as much as possible. If they spout numbers for success, ask who they can talk to get confirmation of these numbers.

Validate Communication

Don’t jump into a decision, but instead keep communicating with your SEO prospect. Call to ask questions about their experience, details about their proposal, expectations for results, expectations from you, how they work, etc. Look for anything that you think might cause a communication problem. If you see warning signs, make note of them. Ideally, you’ll be doing this with several companies at a time so you’ll get a good sense of who will be better to work with.

Being diligent isn’t foolproof, but it is a fool suppressant. By taking the time to look into each of these areas you’ll be far less likely to pick another lemon SEO. But, more than likely, you’ll actually pick a winner.

With your negative SEO experience behind you, you can now move forward in a better position to ensure a positive SEO experience and a chance to achieve the success you deserve.

You WANT Rankings, But What Do You Really NEED?

SEO used to be all about getting top search engine rankings. While that is still a primary function of an SEO provider, that’s not all there is to it anymore. Or, at least… it shouldn’t be.

If you’re in the market for a (quality) SEO, you’re going to find providers that go well beyond services aimed at achieving top search engine rankings. In fact, if your SEO only knows how to throw keywords you want to rank for onto your site pages, I can tell you that you’re NOT getting your money’s worth (even if you are only paying a few hundred dollars a month).

SEO, in today’s world, is much more about online marketing than it is about manipulating a site to achieve top rankings for a few keywords. Here are some key components to a well-rounded optimization campaign:Continue Reading

Image (Not Rankings) Matter in SEO

In business, sometimes image is all we have. Many companies survive on their image alone. Sure, they had to work hard to build that image, but it’s the image they have built that lets them thrive.

Two quick examples: Nike would never be able to sell sneakers for $120 a pop if they slapped on a Wal-Mart logo. Same shoe, same manufacturer, same quality, but the Nike swoosh makes all the difference. I’ve heard stories of popular authors releasing books under a different name only to find that it was their name that sells their books, not their writing. As long as the quality that got them popular is (mostly) maintained, their image does the rest (*coughJohnGrishamcough*).Continue Reading

What's that SEO Worth to You?

Pricing out SEO services can be a challenge for any business looking to invest in their online marketing efforts. It’s difficult because there is no one-size-fits-all pricing metric. It seems that, no matter where you turn, you’re comparing apples to oranges when it comes to pricing and services offered between SEO companies.

Ultimately everything comes down to hours. How many hours are involved in doing the tasks at hand?

To figure that, you have to know what’s required in order make your site successful. And, that’s the rub. When comparing quotes between SEO companies, the price is only a reflection of two things: 1) What services are going to be provided, and 2) How much does the SEO get per hour. Each service will have an estimated number of hours attached to it. Some will be one-time hours, others will be ongoing hours, some tasks will require a lot of hours, and some only a few.

Successful SEO requires quite a bit of time. The question becomes, what is “success”? Is it improved rankings? First page rankings? #1 rankings? More traffic? More conversions? More profit?

Most people looking for SEO seem to be looking for “top search engine rankings”. Which is odd, when you think about it, because you would think they would want “more profits”. Sure, they’ll tell you that’s what they want… but their actions, or rather reactions, tell a different story.

I’ve seen this a dozen times. Client’s profits are up. They are getting better rankings, more traffic, more conversions. But, the client still looks at a couple keywords and says “why aren’t we doing better here?” It’s like the kid who comes home with all A’s and one B and, the parent says “what’s the problem here, son?”

Sometimes the keyword in question is just a pet keyword. The business owner thinks its relevant, but the keyword research tells a different story. You’re not even optimizing for it because, well, it’s useless! Other times it’s a legitimate keyword, but a competitive one. But, the point here is… it’s just a keyword. Business is great, but the client wants to know why the SEO efforts are unsuccessful!

So, back to what does make SEO successful. SEO will have a different price tag based on what is considered success. The cost will be very different, depending on whether you are simply looking only for SEO or whether you need SEO and Link Building. Or, if you need SEO, link building (or social media), usability, and site architecture, then you’re looking at a whole other ball game of costs.

The lower end may bring you some success. The higher end will likely bring you much more success. Which will bring you more profits? Well, that’s what you have to figure out.

How Much is that SEO in the Window?

SEO providers come in all shapes and sizes. We often have potential clients contact us, shopping around for the “right” SEO company to work with. Nine times out of 10 they are really just price shopping. They are not comparing services, they are comparing our prices.

In a battle against prices, we lose. There is always an “SEO” company that will work for less. Either they are offering less in services or they are charging less per hour. Neither of these is necessarily better or worse… just different. You need you know the difference before you can make an informed decision.

Of course, the old adage, “you get what you pay for” is often true. Typically, the lower the price is, the lower the quality will be also. And, if you want an expert in any field, you’re going to have to pay them what they’re worth. And… it’s usually worth it.

It is rare to find “cheap” SEOs that can achieve top rankings for competitive, high ROI terms, maintain those top rankings through constant algorithm changes, and continue to beat out your competition that is optimizing for the same keyword phrases.

If you’re paying someone only a few hundred or even just a few thousand dollars each year to optimize your site, how many man-hours do you really think is being invested each month on your account? Is that enough? If your SEO charges $25 per hour, do you think they are offering the same quality as one that charges $200. Doubtful. But, you need to know for sure.

What’s it Gonna Take to Close This Deal?

SEO isn’t a one-time service. I mean, it can be. You can optimize a site in a few simple steps: 1) keyword research, 2) keyword selection, 3) page optimization. Depending on the size of your site, this can be done in a few weeks, a few months, or it may take a few years. Back to that “hours invested” thing again!

Then, you add in keyword research or social media, usability testing, analytics, SEO tweaks and improvements, site architecture improvements, and then some. Forget “set-it-and-forget-it”. That’s your competitor’s dream!

SEO work is something akin to hiring a private investigator on retainer. The SEO’s job is to continue to seek out potential problems that may now, or in the future, be keeping a client’s site from performing as strongly as possible. If the client isn’t ranking well, or traffic isn’t increasing, or business isnt’ growing, the SEO needs to investigate to figure out why.

We check out competitors, back links, on-page optimization, site architecture, and a whole host of other areas for potential snags that could be keeping the client from performing.

Sometimes all this is as simple as finding a duplicate URL somewhere that we didn’t know about, and other times, after months of research, we find that a client links out to sites that link out to other spammy sites. Rarely is it one thing, but a combination of things. But, SEO is all about baby steps. A small step here, a small step there, and pretty soon you’re several steps closer to your goal.

These types of things have to be under constant analysis, even if a site performs well. Heading off problems before they occur is a big part of the SEO game, and plays heavily into pricing.

SEO pricing can be a big deal for the average business owner, and it should be. However, pricing alone should not be the deciding factor in which SEO provider you choose. Find out what services you’ll be getting. If you get the impression that the SEO is done after a few hours of up front work, you may not be getting enough investigation for potential or existent, yet unknown, problems. This can cost you later on.

On the other hand, just because someone charges huge fees does not mean they’ll do you well either. This is an issue with many of the very large SEO companies. Do your homework, and find the company that will treat you as their only client, even though you’re not. If you get that kind of service, you will undoubtedly reap a very significant return on your investment.

5 Clichés That Make You a Better SEO

SEO can be a boring, monotonous job. But, it can also be an exciting detective trail of discovery. The hardest SEO jobs are those that are for websites that are already performing strongly and you’re trying to eek out slightly better results. The fun one’s are those that have lots of problems, which even the smallest SEO and analytic edits produce huge changes in the results.

Unfortunately, not all sites are easy to get results for regardless of how much improvement is necessary. Continuing on my theme of using traditional clichés to make SEO points, I hereby provide you with some clichés that will help you be a better SEO.

Continue Reading

The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist for Website Architectural Issues

This is a continuation of a series of website marketing checklists. Check out all Web Marketing Checklists in this series.

What this is about: This list covers several elements regarding the architectural aspects of a website that focus on building a more search engine friendly site overall.

Why this is important: Website architecture can make or break the performance of a website in the search engines. Poor architectural implementation can create numerous stumbling blocks, if not outright roadblocks, to the search engines as they attempt to crawl your website. On the other hand, a well-implemented foundation can assist both visitors and search engines as they navigate through your website, therefore increasing your site’s overall performance.

Continue Reading