Get the Details Right for SEO

In our third article covering the top 21 tips for SEO for 2007 as discussed by Gary Beal, also known as GaryTheScubaGuy in our SEO Chat forums, you’ll learn how to build a corporate link building campaign and what details you need to get right to make everything work.

4. Create a Corporate-Level Link Building Campaign

If you haven’t done this yet, you are already behind. Link building is an acceptable practice if it is done the right way. Here I’ll tell you the right way.

You need to set some type of budget. Whether you’re an individual with one or two accounts, or an agency with dozens, you need to have some type of budget set aside for this. It can be money or it can be time.

Here is how I segment my campaigns:

  • 15% – 25% to purchase one-way back links to internal pages. Not text links. I create custom/bespoke articles that will complement the owner’s site, and that have my keyword phrase within it as my anchor text. I also make sure that it is a relevant site to my article/anchor text.
  • 25% – 30% reciprocal link exchange. Not text links. I create custom/bespoke articles that will compliment the owner’s site, and that have my keyword phrase within it as my anchor text. I also make sure that it is a relevant site to my article/anchor text.
  • 25% for blogs and forums. It’s considered Guerilla Marketing. This takes a little longer because you need to establish yourself within communities and become somewhat of an authority that can post links to relevant and useful content on a site. This will attract actual traffic (and improved rankings), and also create natural back links from other end users.
  • 25% to use an automated tool (IBP 9.0 – Axandra) to find potential link partners. You can find a complete guide on how to use this along with Firefox and SEO Quake extension on the SES London Presentations Page. The username is london2007 and the password is febpres07.

Now whether you hire students to do these tasks or you do them yourself, they need to be part of your daily routine. I have tested dozens of techniques, each having its own merits dependent on actual demographics, but every campaign has a planned strategy.

Obviously there are other considerations such as building good content that people want to link to, creating top 10 lists, how-to guides and reviews, but not all markets have the ability to do these in a relevant way. My recommendation in this type of situation, and really any others, is to do a "who-is" lookup, pick up the phone and start calling. These are the best kind of back links.

You can find many more ways to build links in Step #14.

{mospagebreak title=5. Optimize HTML Comment Tags/ Bad URLs/ External File Names/ PDF Documents/ Hyphen vs. Underscore}

It seems like a small thing, and even overkill to some, but I have participated in some testing on these suggestions and in all instances positive results were seen.

Google mentions looking at html comment tags in their Adsense Help Center. Does this mean that their algo also looks at html comments? Maybe, maybe not. But it can’t hurt. (Only add one keyword phrase though, and use it in a sentence and not as the first word).

Bad URLs are the page address that shows up in your browser bar at the top when you land on a page. The search engine robots don’t like certain characters like ampersands or question marks, so it’s better to utilize a "mod rewrite" which converts long strings of characters generated by different programming techniques into plain URL addresses. So this — http://www.mycompany.php/=?*%"$£"/230/aff_id=233544 becomes
There are some debates about the weight that keywords in your URLs do or do not carry in search rankings. I know they do for some (not Google), so I’m continuing to use them. Depending on what type of server you use, this may be very easy or very time consuming, but it is extremely important.

Rewriting external file names is taking your external CSS or JavaScript files and using your keyword/keyword phrases within their actual file name. As I believe meta tags (keywords and descriptions) are still in use to a point, I believe things like the file names and html comment tags are as well.

Last, but not least, create PDF versions of your pages that are already ranking well, or have had content written for optimization purposes. In other words, I have pages that have what I feel is the perfect SEO formula, with on and off-page optimization. I take these pages and get the trial version of Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional. This will allow you to automatically create PDF versions of your pages, and add a few other optimization elements (which you can find a little later in my SEO Checklist). Be sure to name the files with your keywords. Take these PDF files and put them in a subdirectory off of your root, and in the same directory. Add a your-keywords-here.xml sitemap, separate from your site xml map. Submit it separately to Google for a crawl. Be sure to add this file to your robots.txt file.

I also use Multimedia Pdf EBooks to create customer-facing PDF docs that are also SEO friendly. If you have a store front I highly recommend this.

Up until recently Google recommended using dashes instead of underscores in your URLs, not just the main one that you buy, buy also the internal pages that you name. As I mentioned above, a mod rewrite will accomplish this for you. Google’s Matt Cutts verifies this here in a 2005 post from his blog. Vanessa Fox, also of Google, revisits the issue here just last year, of course that is then and this is now. Here Matt states that Google now treats underscores as word separators.

As of this writing, on August 14th, Matt still says dashes are better, but within the next 30 days Google says there is no difference.

A few more tips on URLs:

  1. The number of slashes in your URL (i.e. the number of directories deep your page is) isn’t a factor in your Google rankings. Although it doesn’t matter for Google, it is rumored to matter for Yahoo and MSN (Live Search).
  2. The file extension in your URL won’t affect your rankings. So it’s inconsequential whether you use .php, .html, .htm, .asp, .aspx, .jsp etc. The one extension you should avoid for your Web documents? .exe.
  3. Google treats URLs with a query string the same as static URLs. Caveat: as long as there are no more than two or three parameters in the URL, that is! Put another way, you won’t take a hit in your Google rankings if you have a question mark in your URL; just don’t have more than two or three equals signs in the URL.

{mospagebreak title=6. Test and Retest Your Site Navigation and Usability with Real People}

Navigation and usability are fundamental elements to search engine optimization. They are also among the first things I look at when a potential client comes to Stickyeyes for a consultation.

Unfortunately in most situations there is a director, manager or webmaster that is married to the current design. If we see a need for a complete redesign, hopefully we are lucky enough to be given the "nod," but in most cases that does not happen, so we are forced to change bits and pieces.

Before I touch on some really good tips, let me just say this to the site owners, webmasters and upper management people out there: if you are not ranking well, not getting a good click-through rate, experiencing high bounce rates or cart abandonment, or you get a myriad of traffic without a minimum of three percent conversion, then you probably have usability issues. Let the marketing people do the marketing.

You have more than one choice:

  1. You can let us or another reputable SEO company redesign your website and almost guarantee every element I mention above will be resolved.
  2. You can let us or another reputable SEO create microsites in subdomains with full access to tinker around, test and improve. This way your "top-secret" back end won’t be exposed (or cause any infrastructure or complicated matrix/server issues), or even allow access to a staging server.
  3. You can let us or another reputable SEO change elements within your current site and test them with the knowledge that we really know what we are doing.

At the end of the day what I am getting at here is that this is a serious fundamental element in a successful web site. We typically sit down with 10 or 12 of our best people when looking at the web site’s functionality. This is about the best focus group you could ever wish to have looking at the web site because we also know end user behavior. Keep an open mind to these types of suggestions because they are usually one of the major problematic issues that most web sites have.

So on to more tips.

Be sure you have definitive CTAs (Calls to Action) throughout your site, preferably in the navigation bars. These can be Call Us, Contact Us, Get a Quote, Add to Cart, Sign Up, Request Information or whatever. These CTAs should be in an abridged form that has as few fields as possible. (Remember the ‘path of least resistance’ and keep it very short.)

I recently looked at a web site (a major name that you would recognize) that sells insurance online. Being an ex-insurance agent I know the information that they need to give a quote is certainly not 15 pages long. We actually timed it at close to 16 minutes to complete.

Checkout procedures, whether for an ecommerce site selling widgets, or an insurance company trying to give a quote, should only be information that is required to give a price, and kept to a bare minimum. Don’t ask how or where they found you, if they also want information on something else, or are interested in receiving additional offers…they aren’t and it will hurt your conversion if the user thinks that you may resell their information or bombard them with emails each day. Human nature is the "path of least resistance" and you can scare them off with a daunting list of required fields when all they were looking for was a quick price. People don’t want to have to give this personal information away in the first place; doing it online is an even scarier scenario. Think about the user’s reaction, then; it will seem to them like you want it all!

{mospagebreak title=Tip 6 continued: data captures, customer value, and more}

Another thing, don’t worry about data captures. You can’t use them anymore for follow-up email offers unless you make sure they comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.  This means the extra step that will cost you 15 percent of your potential conversions which was designed by some "brilliant" coder to build your email database is worthless without a double-opt-in, so keep it simple. Give them what they want.

If you absolutely need the information, then using JavaScript/AJAX style forms are great. With these you only show a few fields at a time and if the appropriate radio button is selected, it opens additional fields to be filled in. The entire form is preloaded and will also integrate with a mobile version if you do it right. The idea is that if you get them mentally committed by filling out a few fields, they are more likely to fill out the remaining fields. These menus load quickly and are non-daunting.

Also, add an outgoing link to Wikipedia’s listing on CAN-SPAM compliance. This may help gain you more of the trust element with Google since Google looks at your outgoing links and not just their relevance to the page it is linking out of, but also the trust factor of the web site that it is linking to. To them it appears as if you are providing good content using this method. Read more about this in Tip #21.

Placements of "information request" forms are important as well. If you carry hundreds of products, don’t put a "request more information" button or form in your side navigation bar. Put one below each product and add script that will pre-fill the request form so that all the end user needs to do is add minimal personal information. (Tip: If you are in the UK, the post office can provide you with an API that will pull addresses based on post codes. When the end user enters his/her post code, their address can be pre-populated which will increase your conversions while minimizing the number of fields needed to complete the lead/sale. If you are in a sector like auto insurance you can get access to the DVLA database that will pre-populate vehicle information. There are many of these types of databases out there. Some are free, some will cost).

For those that are etailers, or those who have actual physical products that they sell (not necessarily affiliate marketers) and are competitive with their competition and their pricing, include a Low Price Guarantee CTA (call to action) like the one that you see here. You’ll be surprised at the increase in sales opportunities that you will see. I’ve been doing this for seven years and not only does it lend itself to keeping tabs on competitors that are violating fixed-pricing structures, but it gives me an additional opportunity to cut the profit to earn a new customer for my client, and grow the lifetime value of that customer. "A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing."

Here is something to think about: what would you pay me to become a regular visitor or customer of your web site? This offer includes a bookmark, a few recommendations to fellow users and I will eventually spend a few bucks because I’m "getting to know you." 

My answer: an amount equal to, or maybe a little more, than the amount that I estimate each visitor’s LTV (Lifetime Value) is. So it’s whatever I calculate a converting customer’s total average purchases are worth to me. If my average customer makes three purchases for an average net profit of £/$25, their LTV is £/$75.

This is great information to have because if you get into paying for online customers, you will use this LTV to set CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) campaigns that sell you customers such as Google Adwords, affiliate programs, or any of the various avenues for lead/sale aggregation.

As long as I can afford it, I’ll pay you my estimated LTV (Lifetime Value) because I know what someone like you is worth. You are better than ANY advertisement I could buy. How can I find 10 more of you? How about I pay you to tell your friends I like people like you? I’ll pay them just like you!

Figure out the value, or what you spend for each customer acquisition and figure out ways to spend it and get more of them buying from you before your competition does.

You will find that earning the trust of an online customer will be much more substantial than any other customer you ever have, or have ever had, or will ever get in the long term.

Especially in this new and upcoming age of social media and information exchange, these types of tactics are your number one priority, and this tip is, although not the best one here, another task you need to add to your daily arsenal.

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