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SEO Advice – From Someone Who Doesn’t Do SEO To Someone Who Knows Even Less

A friend of mine sent me an email last week, asking about optimization for his personal website. My reply was long winded (which is typical coming from me) and I after I sent the email I thought it was decent fodder for a blog post about very basic SEO.

Here’s our exchange, or at least most of it …

What is the name of the files you work on? I started my web-site and wanted to start getting people to check it out. I know that is what you do. I wanted to research how to do it. If you wanted I could pay you to help.

Having no clue what he was asking me I relied with:

So what is it you’re asking when you ask what files we work on?? We do SEO … search engine optimization ….

There are a lot of different things you can do to let people know about your site … blogging is one way…

to which he replied:

So if I go research SEO’s then it will help my site come up higher on Google searches? What do you charge to do that?

Are you as confused as I was? I hope so—at least I hope it isn’t just me. At any rate, based on his last reply, I decided he was asking me about how to do SEO and get his site ranked well on Google. Simply researching SEO isn’t going to do it though. He had asked me earlier in the week a question about Dreamweaver, so he’s built his own site and now wants it to rank in search results.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? How often does a friend ask you about teaching SEO to them? My friend is a great guy, and I hope my answer helps him. Here’s most of what I sent him …

I do not understand what you are asking. Is it that you want your web site optimized so that when someone searches for “photographers in Greeley” that your site comes up in the results? Our website provides a bunch of Tools you can use (free) to learn and do optimization. Stoney has written a ton of articles about SEO.

One thing I notice instantly about your site … it doesn’t fit in my browser window and if I have to scroll (says the typical user) I don’t like it and I’m clicking the back button or closing out the window. Usability is a big part of keeping the visitor ON YOUR SITE once they find you. But first you must get them to your site—and the site needs to look good when they get there … I like the black/white contrast … just hate the scroll.

My resolution is 1024×768 — don’t design a page any wider than the 1024. I don’t even LOOK for a horizontal scroll bar and totally missed the creepy color image on the far right. I only noticed the scroll when I went to the Portfolio page and the text ran off the screen … I’d have to be REALLY interested in the site to stick around … make it easy for your visitors …)

In looking over your site, it is missing THE KEY feature to be found: TEXT. You MUST have text for the spiders to read and recognize relevance. First step: KEYWORD RESEARCH. What words do people use when they’re looking for someone who provides the services you provide? Our tools library has links to Marketing Research Tools – and the Optimized Copy – SEO Copywriting page discusses the importance of copy on a page.

Bottom line, you want your website to use the words, the terms, to be relevant to, what people are going to be using to search. The more relevant your site is to the terms (keywords) people use, the better it will rank. You want the keywords you expect people to use in their search to be used in the body of the text on your page. I’ve done a lot of editing of text so I’ve seen that side of the process.

There is a lot of stuff going on behind the text though, in the HTML code also. I don’t know a whole lot about that side, except that if you’re using images (and you will be!) the images should have ‘alt’ text that is also relevant to the terms people use to search and find your site. The page title (which shows up in the title bar) should be relevant to the search terms and include the keyword phrase and be no longer than 65 characters long [including spaces] – I have more on this a little further down.

Title Tags [actual name and keyword removed]
Your title [YourName] and [WifesName] [Keyword] Photography isn’t bad … if [keyword] photography is your core keyword term, but no one probably knows to search for [YourName] or [WifesName] … and not to sound harsh, but no one probably cares. If they DO know [YourName] and [WifesName] Photography, you’re going to be easier to find. They may even know your web URL. You’re giving up valuable real estate to get your name in there. Branding is important though as you become more known, so you might want to keep your name in there.

Since your site is new, you should consider starting with the core term first, something more like
[Keyword] Photography | [CompanyName]Photography
This uses 42 characters. Only 65 will display in Google search results – and you want the primary key term to be listed first – unless you’re branding for your company name. Another thought … [Keyword] Photographer might be a more accurate key phrase than [Keyword] Photography – simply because you’re a photographer and the purpose of your website is not strictly to display [keyword] photographs.
Artistic [Keyword] Photography & Photographs | [CompanyName]Photography
is even better, maybe because it says more about what you do.

Having your company name in the title is not required, so you could conceivably use
Artistic [Keyword] Photographer – Pushing the Creative Envelope.
I read your About Us page (which should have a much better title than it does … every page is important) and I think the text from the About Us page could /should be reworked and expanded upon significantly. Most of that text could/should be homepage text. The portfolio page title is Untitled Document … UGH.

More on Usability
Every single one of the images in your portfolio should have a title better than a number … at the very least this is where you could brand your company name with a title like [CompanyName]Photography | Form Image #1 —I might also recommend using ‘bread crumbs’ so the user can click back to the parent page easily. You see ‘bread crumbs’ when you see something like Home > Portfolio > Portraits > Image #1 … then the user can click on Portfolio easily and get back to where they were, without clicking the back button 20 times… or they can click on Home to see what else you have. (I should have linked him to Rob’s Can You Make My Website Suck Please?—but I wouldn’t want him to feel I thought his site sucks … it just needs a lot of work.)

To see more what I’m taking about with keywords, check out the Pay-Per-Click page at PolePositionMarketing.com. The title tells the searcher what the page has to offer and there is supporting text. And breadcrumbs. The text is written for users to learn more about the specific service of Pay-Per-Click that we offer. The text is interwoven with keywords for the search engines to recognize relevance.

If you use (and you should) H1 H2 and/or H3 tags – use them in outline format that you learned in grade school … H1 being the main topic, H2 being a subtopic of H1, H3 being a sub topic of H2 … Your H1 tags should include terms relevant to search, thus the keywords. I noticed your formatting is all font formatting … You’re using Dreamweaver and on the Properties Inspector (Dreamweaver version of the formatting tool bar) … on the far left, top side, there is a ‘paragraphs’ drop down … that is where you find H1, H2 H3 etc.)

In all this, bottom line is that you want the text to be readable to the USER – your home page needs TEXT. You need to describe your services and types of photographs and portraits you take. Research what terms people who would hire you would use to find you. Take that list of keywords, break it down into relevancy to your website, and WRITE TEXT for the page, and use the keywords in the text.

Your site navigation should allow the spiders to find the pages that are linked from the home page. This is the back end stuff that I am not at all experienced with. – Those bread crumbs I was talking about help too – I think. But I don’t know how to make them on the pages … should be easy. Rob knows.

Who do you know that is a writer? Pole Position Marketing offers writing services at an hourly rate. The Optimized Copy – SEO Copywriting page (and check out the page title when you’re there … see how it says what the page is about) sounds like we could do the writing for you (and also explains how/why text is important) … we also do consulting … then you have to do all the work. (Pricing Info page)

This is all more than I can really teach you … there is too much that I don’t know. I can point you in the right direction though. SearchEngineGuide is a site dedicated to small business SEO and the people who post there are in SEO for a living. Stoney posts there several times a week, as well as on our own blog site, E-Marketing Performance. We all post every week, so you’ll see stuff Rob (our SEO) posts, and stuff Michelle (our copy writer) posts, as well as my stuff and Crystal’s. In fact, Michelle just posted “Writing for SEO – A Poem” that is clever and educational. Our blog posts often link out to other resources … there is tons and tons of information out there. The Lonely Marketer Marchex SEOMoz Blog and SearchEngineLand are more resources.

Give me a shout if I didn’t kill you with information overload.

I think I killed him though–because he replied on Monday morning saying:

I really appreciate all the feed back. Although I feel I am going to throw up from the overwhelming amount of things I need to change, I really do appreciate it. I can tell you really worked on this and it means the world to me. I will get on it and see if I can start making this better.

To help him feel better about the effort he’s put in already, I linked him to Stoney’s recent review of “Do It Wrong Quickly,” which is precisely what he’s done. And now he’s working to fix the issues. And he is probably afraid of ever asking my input again ….

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