If you go to Amazon.com and look for a product in any category, you’ll discover that their navigation taxonomy is quite robust. You can search the site by keyword to find the product you want. Usually, you’ll get a list of products that match your search criteria, then you’ll be given a list of navigation options (usually in the sidebar) that allow you to narrow your search to name brands, sizes, prices, types of products, etc.
So you want to duplicate this type of sophisticated navigation system on your own website. That’s good. Amazon is definitely the model to follow. But there is one big issue to think about as you build your e-commerce website.
First, nix the dynamic URL parameters. They aren’t going to help you. Each product on your website should have a keyword-based URL, and that goes for the categories and specific page navigation options too.
For instance, if your customer comes to your website searching for socks, your search page should have the word “socks” in its URL. Giving the customer the option to click-through to pages for “tube socks,” “athletic socks,” and “ankle socks” without including those descriptors in your URLs could lead to duplicate content issues, especially if your customers can arrive on any product or category page from multiple locations on your website.
Every page on your website should have a single URL before you start adding dynamic parameters and session IDs. Otherwise, you’ll have navigation issues.
Before and after the Hummingbird update, one of the chief goals for many search engine marketers was, and is, to get web pages to rank highly for key search terms. However, how you go about that is different pre- and post-Hummingbird. One thing is necessary in both cases, however: Quality.
If you truly want to produce high quality content, here are five types of content that have a better than even chance of qualifying:
- Evergreen Content – Let’s start with the easy one. If your content has value today and will have the same value in five, ten, or twenty years, then it’s what we call “evergreen” content. That kind of content will always rank.
- Problem/Solution – This is content that answers a specific question or solves a particular problem. Think of a problem that you know people are having and tell them how to solve it.
- Case Study – A case study focuses on telling a success story. Take a particular client or situation and tell how that client was successful doing something. Make the “something” very specific. It can a product or service, a particular problem they wanted to solve, or a process.
- Hot Tips – If you have the “Top 10 Tips For Doing X” or a similar post, these are usually golden. Top tips content is very valuable if it focuses on real top tips.
- Analysis of a Topic – Write an in-depth analysis of a particular subject. That includes pros and cons as well as statistics regarding the subject matter. Take a position on something and defend it, backing it up with facts and figures.
Of course, there is never a guarantee that your content will rank well for your targeted keywords, but these five types of content give you a big leg up.
The last thing in the world any business owner wants to do is respond to negative mentions. It can be especially tedious if you have a really bad negative report that climbs the search rankings and overtakes your own search engine results.
The first thing you should NOT do is panic. Keep in mind that many content pieces rise high in the search engines within the first few hours of publication then fall again. Give the negative content up to three hours to settle before getting too wrapped up about the negative reports. If the content is still ranked higher than you after six hours, then it’s time to respond.
DO NOT respond directly on the page where your negative report appears. That almost always signals to the search engines that the piece is valuable and offers legitimacy for that page to stay high in the search rankings.
Instead, undergo a positive publicity campaign.
If possible, publish two or three press releases. Make them about different newsworthy items. If you can’t do that, then write three separate press releases on the same newsworthy item, and be sure the content in each press release is very unique. Publish them at three separate press release distribution websites, and be sure to send them to relevant news media personnel by e-mail as well.
Write a blog post and send a couple of guest blogging queries out as well. And share as much as you can through social media. The goal is to combat the high search rankings of negative content with promotion of positive content.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. And be sure to target the exact keywords that your negative content is ranking for. Be diligent in publishing new, fresh, and original content targeting the proper keywords. It may take a few days to push the negative content down. If you see minimal results, keep going.
The worst thing you can do is react to the negative mentions by retaliating. If you do that, you could have a worse reputation management problem.
If your idea of keyword research is that it is a one-time activity, then you should probably take a primer on keyword research. It may not be something you need to spend time on every day, but you should definitely revisit the issues periodically. How often is your call, but don’t wait a whole year.
Brainstorming for keywords is not necessarily as simple as using Google’s Keyword Planner either. A lot of the free tools are dead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative.
Here are 5 ways you can brainstorm for new keywords to use in your online marketing:
- Suggested Search – Both Google and Bing will suggest search terms as you enter a keyword into the search box. Take advantage of this. Use your keywords and look at what the search engines suggest. You might be surprised at the gems you’ll find.
- Make a list – The old brainstorming method of writing it down still works. Write down every variation of your keyword phrases that you can. Use it as a jumping off point, not a definitive list.
- PPC campaigns – You’ll have to break down and use Google AdWords or Bing Ads for this, but look at your keyword groups and suggested opportunities in your PPC admin panel.
- Social media – What are people saying on your social networks? Are they talking about you or your competition? What words are they using?
- Customer reviews – I hope you’re reading them. You can often find out precisely what people think about your brand by reading their reviews. What keywords are they using to talk about your company and its products?
Keyword research is an ongoing activity. You should spend at least a few minutes each month doing keyword research.
One of the most important SEO tasks to get right is matching your landing pages with the right keywords. If your landing pages are optimized for the wrong keywords – even if they are optimized perfectly – you’ll have a hard time attracting the right customers from the search engines.
That’s why it’s important to ensure that your landing pages are optimized for the right keywords.
It starts with keyword research. It will save you time and money to put the investment into good keyword research in the beginning. Before you start building pages and writing content, you should know what your most profitable potential keywords are. Base that judgment on these criteria:
- What keywords searchers will use to find businesses like yours
- Types of products and services you offer your clients
- What your closest competitors are using
Not that you have to use the exact same keywords that your competitors use, but you should be familiar with what keywords they are targeting and determine if those keywords are right for your business.
Once you’ve narrowed down your keyword list and have a general idea what searchers are searching for, then you can marry the keywords with your landing pages.
When deciding which keywords match your landing pages, think only of the intent for that landing page. What are you trying to sell on that landing page? If not selling anything, what is the main goal of the page? If it’s an opt-in to your newsletter, then pick a keyword that will attract more opt-in subscribers.
That’s it in a nutshell. Put your research in up front and come up with the best keywords for your landing pages.
Google has a global market research tool that hardly anyone knows about. I’m afraid they’ll kill it if more people don’t start using it. It’s called Global Market Finder.
As its name implies, it’s useful for finding global markets for any niche based on keywords. In fact, you can use the tool as an alternative free keyword research tool even though that’s not its real purpose.
You start by choosing the location of your business by country, then you choose your language. Next, you add a few keywords into your keyword box – one per line. Click “Find Opportunity.”
This is where it gets interesting. Your results will appear broken down by country. Go through the list of countries and find the one you are interested in, beginning your marketing initiative. It doesn’t have to be the same country you reside in or that your business exists in. This is a great tool if you are thinking about opening up in a new market.
So you click the + button to open up your language options. Choose your language and scroll down the list of keywords. Google also gives you the option to choose additional keyword suggestions, which is great for finding alternative keywords for the markets you want to target.
If you are a large company that operates in several markets around the globe, this is a great search tool.
Search engine optimization is all about positioning your content so that you maximize the traffic you receive from it. In other words, your job as content marketer is to keyword-optimize your content so that you achieve high rankings, right?
It never was about that really – even before Google started reporting keyword data (not provided).
The essence of search engine optimization has always been about producing great content. Period. Sure, your content might contain keywords based your ability to research what is hot right now, but simply adding keywords to your content was no guarantee that you’d rank well for that content or, if you did, receive any traffic from your rankings.
Historically, Google has been littered with top ranking content that didn’t receive much traffic because it was easy to tell that content was low quality content despite its high rankings.
Google started reporting (not provided) to keep webmasters from relying on keyword-specific search queries to target search engine rankings with more keyword-based drivel. We simply don’t need more low quality content. What we need is more high quality content that answers searchers’ queries.
SEO has always been about answering searcher queries. Find a question that a lot of people want an answer to and provide them with the answer. If you do that, Google will like you.
Sometimes it takes a while to see improvements in website traffic. You may go weeks or months before you see any real improvement in your traffic numbers. That’s because it could take that long for other metrics to kick in. Here are 6 important metrics you should measure before you concern yourself with traffic.
- Organic listings by keyword - When you start out you don’t have any search engine rankings. It takes time to get those. You should see immediate improvement, however, in the number of keywords for which you do have rankings. Even if you hire a new SEO company after having been in business for a few years, after two or three months you should see a broader range of keywords for which you are ranking in the search engines.
- Higher search engine rankings – For those keywords that you do rank for, you should see some improvement in rankings. It may not be much, but it should be something. If you start on page 10 of the SERPs for one of your keywords, you should move up to page nine or eight after awhile. Even a little improvement is better than none.
- Number and quality of links – You can always count how many inbound links you’ve earned. Just as important, however, is the quality of those links. Don’t just build a bunch of low-quality links and think you are doing SEO. Focus some of your efforts on obtaining high-quality links, as well.
- Social shares – You can always look at how many tweets, retweets, Facebook shares, +1s, and Google+ shares you get. These often translate into more traffic.
- Onsite metrics – Putting traffic numbers aside, how many pages on average does the visitor you do get visit once they’ve landed on your site? Furthermore, how much time do they spend on your site? And what is your bounce rate? If these numbers aren’t desirable, you can always put together a strategy to improve them.
- Conversion rate – It doesn’t matter if you have 100 unique visitors per month or 10,000 UVs. If the traffic you get isn’t converting, then you have a problem. As you work on generating more traffic, measure your conversion rate along the way.
If you measure the right website metrics from the beginning, then when you do start getting traffic you’ll be in a better position to analyze the effectiveness of that traffic.
Earlier this week, Google reported that they are making a change to how they report AdWords quality scores. It’s important to note that this will not change how your quality scores are calculated and therefore won’t affect how your ads are displayed.
This is the kind of change you’d expect Google to make from time to time. It means they are committed to providing a quality advertising product.
Your Google AdWords quality score is represented as a 1-10 number tied to three key aspects of your AdWords campaign – expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Let’s analyze these three factors briefly.
Expected Click-Through Rate
Note that your quality score is not tied to your actual click-through rate (CTR) but your expected CTR. This is determined by past click throughs on your specific exact match keyword relative to your ad’s position. You are graded according to “average,” “above average,” and “below average.”
You can affect this measurement through keyword selection. Make sure you use the best keywords for your ad campaign.
This measure is about how your specific keyword relates to the content in your ad. Again, it is measured by “average,” “above average,” and “below average.” If your keyword isn’t specific enough to your ad, then you could be hurting your quality score. Make sure you create tight ad groups.
Landing Page Experience
Your landing page must be relevant to the keyword people use to search for your product or service. It must also match the content in your ad. And it should provide a positive user experience once searchers find your landing page. Is it easy to navigate? Is it organized well and well designed?
All of these factors are important in determining your ad’s quality score. If your Google AdWords quality score dips too low, you could lose your ad placement and end up out-of-sight out-of-mind.
Analyzing keyword profitability isn’t as cut-and-dry as we marketers would like to think it is. That said, there are ways to judge a keyword’s potential profitability, but it involves classifying your keywords into categories.
- Category 1 – Your first keyword category is the low-level keywords that don’t get a lot of click-throughs. Whether we’re talking about PPC advertising or organic search marketing, the keywords in this category historically don’t get click-throughs, however, their conversion rate might be high. In other words, the keywords don’t get a lot of clicks, but when they do they convert them into sales.
- Category 2 – The second category of keywords is the category that gets lots of clicks and only a few conversions. This is a very unprofitable category because you are spending money on those clicks and not getting much of a return on them.
- Category 3 - This is your blockbuster category. These keywords get tons of click-throughs and have a high conversion rate.
So what do you do with these categories of keywords? The first thing you should do is stop using the Category 2 keywords. They are costing you money. The other two categories of keywords may or may not be making you money. That depends on the cost of acquisition per customer.
Categorizing your keywords this way will allow you to eliminate unprofitable keywords early and fast while tweaking your paid and organic search marketing campaigns to improve the profitability on the remaining keywords.
While reading SEO Theory, I came across this startling paragraph:
As the provider of content you create the keywords people search for. I have said this in oh-so-many ways over the years. This is a particularly important lesson in search marketing for journalists who fear the keyword-laden spreadsheet. No self-respecting SEO should be demanding that journalists write about keywords. Journalists should be taught to understand what the difference is between a keyword and everything else, but the journalists make the keywords — not the readers.
This is in stark contrast to how many SEOs think of keywords and keyword-based content.
That first sentence is a humdinger.
As the provider of content you create the keywords people search for.
You create the keywords? You mean, the keywords aren’t already there? It’s not the SEO who is just tapping into them?
Many SEOs approach content marketing that way, but it’s not necessarily the right way. If you let your readers dictate what your keywords are, then you’ll always be pandering to your readers. If you create your own keywords based on your business philosophy and what’s important to your business, then you can teach searchers to look for your content by teaching them which keywords are important.
This is how leaders in search marketing are made. Think more deeply about what a keyword is and how you employ them. SEO is broader than you think.
Every two years, Moz (formerly SEOmoz) conducts a survey wherein they ask high profile SEO experts to weigh in on what they believe to be the most important ranking factors in the search engines. Recently, Moz conducted its 2013 ranking factors survey and some interesting results have come to light.
For starters, the biggest ranking factor, according to the SEOs surveyed, appears to be page authority. That’s no real big surprise, but Google+ and Facebook social signals having a high correlation might be.
Another interesting survey result is that anchor text is still considered a very important ranking factor despite Google’s efforts through the Penguin update to kill low quality anchor text links.
Moz was careful to point out that correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, so that should stop us in our tracks in believing that social signals can be determined to be a bona fide ranking factor based on this survey.
Finally, the Moz survey led to the following conclusions by survey analysts:
- Links are still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm (approximately 40%).
- Keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and other than links is thought to be the most important type of factor.
- SEOs do not think social factors are important in the 2013 algorithm (only 7%), in contrast to the high correlations.
In other words, not much has really changed. It all still boils down to inbound anchor text links and on-page keyword-based content.
Going forward, however, the consensus seems to be that these ranking factors will not be as important. What will become more important to future SEO efforts, according to SEOs involved in the survey, are authorship, structured data, and social signals. So what is the practical application?
I’d say it this way: Continue building solid on-page content and building links while incorporating Google+ and other social media into your content promotion strategy along with structured data and schema.org standards.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen “(not provided)” somewhere in your analytics. If you have, then you know it’s associated with your targeted keyword. Google, somewhere along the line, decided to fight keyword spam in its indexes by not providing the metrics that search marketers use to create it. That’s a win for Google.
But a win for Google doesn’t necessarily mean a loss for you. It just means you need to get a little more creative in your analysis.
While Google has closed off a lot of information that you can ascertain from your keyword metrics, one thing they did not close off was metrics associated with your landing pages. Most search marketers associated their landing pages with one or two keywords. If you can measure how much traffic you’ve gained for your landing pages, then you can unwittingly measure how much you’ve gained for the associated keywords.
Granted, it’s a little crafty, but it’s a necessary level of analytical craftiness in this post-Panda world.
Let’s break it down:
- You have landing pages A, B, and C
- Landing page A is optimized for keyword 1
- Landing page B is optimized for keywords 2 and 3
- Landing page C is optimized for keywords 1 and 4
If your analytics tells you that you got 10,000 unique visits for landing page A, 15,000 unique visitors for landing page B, and 25,000 unique visits for landing page C, then your math problem is: How do these numbers translate into metrics for the associated keywords?
Well, you know you got at least 10,000 UVs for keyword 1. But there’s an X factor. Landing page C also uses keyword 1 and got 25,000 UVs. You can figure this out in one of two ways:
- You can split the UV down the middle for your keywords, giving 12,500 of them to keyword 1
- Or you can look at your last known traffic numbers for the associated keywords and split the metric according to that percentage. For example, if your last known traffic measurement for keyword 1 was 15,000 and your last known traffic measurement for keyword 4 was 3,000, then the numbers represent a 5:1 ratio toward keyword 1. What that means is you’ll take your 25,000 UV and divide it by 5. Give 5,000 UV to keyword 4 and the rest to keyword 1.
Doing it this way will yield a 22,500 UV metric for keyword 1 under the first scenario and a 30,000 UV metric for keyword 1 under the second scenario. Is it perfect? No. But it can give you a sense of your relative traffic for each keyword, and it can give you a much better picture than simply blind guessing.
More and more, the search engines are using a process called Latent Semantic Indexing for categorizing search results. So what does that mean?
In a nutshell, Latent Semantic Indexing (or LSI) involves analyzing a web page to look for related words and phrases that can be substitutes for each other or help the search engine identify what that page is about. For instance, “car” and “automobile” are two words often used for the same object. If you write a web page about your blue 4-wheel drive automobile, based on the principles of LSI, that page could also rank for search terms that include the word “car” even if “car” doesn’t appear anywhere on the page.
This is an important concept to understand for content writers because it means you can play up these related keywords in your content without harping on them.
In the old days, you counted your keywords and tried to write your web pages with a certain keyword density in mind. In other words, the number of keywords per words on the page. You wanted “automobile” to appear 1% to 5% relative to the actual number of words on the page (i.e. 1-5 times for every 100 words on the page). That’s no longer the case.
Instead of counting keyword densities, with LSI you can spread your keyword usage around to all related keywords. You might use “automobile,” “car,” and “vehicle” interchangeably throughout your content, which is more like natural writing anyway.
Latent Semantic Indexing is the future of SEO. It means that writers can get back to being writers again instead of keyword managers.
You’ve decided it’s time to update your website design. Good for you. There’s just one problem. You’ve achieved some pretty high search engine rankings over the years and you don’t want to lose them. What should you do?
Think about these three considerations before you do anything:
- Keyword Research – At the heart of your SEO are keywords. You’ll need to analyze each page on your website for keyword usage. Are you ranking for keywords that aren’t searched for any more? If so, your SEO could be outdated. Or perhaps you have pages that still get great traffic for keywords that are still being searched for. Make a list of all the keywords you are ranking for and how much traffic those pages are getting. Also make a note of any relevant keywords you are not ranking for.
- Conversions – Traffic is great, but conversions are better. If you have web pages that get a load of traffic, especially from search, but no conversions, then maybe you just need to rewrite the content. Compare your conversions to your search engine rankings and traffic.
- Content Anomalies – This is a broad category of content problems that could include duplicate content or low-value content. Perhaps you have a large number of pages with little content on them that could be beefed up a bit. They’re targeting good keywords but just don’t have enough content. Make a list of your web pages that might have some version of a content anomaly and determine what you can do to improve them.
It’s important that you improve web pages that have content problems in your redesign, but it’s also important not to significantly change the content of web pages that are ranking well and converting well. So make your lists and analyze your content before you commit to the redesign.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, often takes questions from people and answers them via video. WebProNews featured one of these questions from Cutts recently regarding synonyms in your content.
Regarding the use of synonyms in your on-page content, Matt Cutts makes the following comments:
- Use both words, “without sounding artificial or stilted or spammy”
- “Make sure that you mention, in a natural way, that you are good at both of those”
- “Maybe once it’s a USB drive, and the next time it’s a USB stick, and at the bottom of the page it’s a flash drive”
- Read the text aloud and ask, “Does it sound stilted? Does it sound artificial?”
- “Try to use the words in a natural way as long as it doesn’t go too far, and people start to notice that it sounds weird”
Notice how many times he used the words “natural,” “artificial,” and “stilted.” He even used “spammy” once, and “weird.” The idea is to use natural language writing techniques to cover the topics you write about online. That is, write as if you were writing about your topic and search engines didn’t exist.
If you use the same keyword phrase over and over again in your content, then it will likely sound artificial or spammy. You don’t want that. So you do want to substitute your keyword phrase a few times with something that is synonymous. You want to do that so that your writing does come across as natural and not stilted. But here’s the catch – if you replace your primary keyword phrase too often and use too many synonyms just for the sake of using synonyms, then it will sound unnatural.
So the key is to find that balance, that in-between place, where you focus on your primary keyword but substitute it for a synonym in certain places so that your content flows smoothly from beginning to end.
More and more, I’m seeing top-notch SEO experts – people who have been the top leaders in SEO and Internet marketing for more than ten years – saying that chasing keywords is no longer an SEO best practice. That just doesn’t seem right, but I’ll have to agree with them. If you want to rank well in the search engines going into 2013, I recommend focusing on high quality content without the keyword spam.
What do I mean by that?
Jill Whalen has an article at SiteProNews listing 18 former SEO best practices that could now work against you. I think this is a very important list.
Right in the middle of her article, however, is this paragraph:
Today, and for the foreseeable future, SEO is much less about optimizing for specific keywords, and much more about technical issues, social signals, and the overall trustworthiness of a company and its website.
Pay attention here because this is real important. The emphasized phrases are mine.
Trust: The New SEO
If you aren’t optimizing for specific keywords, then what are you optimizing for? Answer: Trust. That’s it. Your new buzzword going forward is trust. That’s the new SEO.
Does that mean you can’t use keywords? No, not at all. It does mean that your keywords should not be the focal point of your content. The needs of your readers should be the focal point of your content with the end goal of earning and building trust at the forefront of your thinking process.
In reality, this is the way it should have always been. Keywords can get your site ranked, though going forward this is questionable, but they won’t build trust in your brand. Only high quality content that meets the needs of your readers can do that.
Forget about stuffing keywords into your content, building back links with anchor text, and other manipulative SEO tactics. Just write great content. That’s your new SEO strategy.
More and more, I see websites ranking for key terms that don’t appear in their title tags and that don’t have any measurable inbound anchor text using that specific key term for which they are ranking. And in many cases the key term isn’t anywhere on the page. I’m not the only person who has noticed this.
So what’s happening?
Rand Fishkin does a good job of explaining about co-citation, which makes a lot of sense actually. We’ve looked at another type of citation that Google has become adept at using for SEO purposes in the local space as it relates to Google Places. Maybe Google is taking what it has learned from Google Places citations and applied it across the Net as a whole. That wouldn’t surprise me.
SEO is changing, folks. What used to work isn’t working any more for a lot of people. That doesn’t mean that anchor text, title tags, and other classic SEO tactics are dead, or dying. What it does mean is that they may have a diminished effect in the future as Google learns to look for other clues that will help it rank web pages for specific search queries that webmasters may not necessarily be targeting.
Is this good news? I think it is. I think it could mean less spam in the search results, but I also think it will make SEO better for online marketers who want to do it right.
Friday we talked about AuthorRank, which is the new model of ranking for search phrases in Google. There is actually a lot more to say and today I’m going to say it.
I think it’s inevitable that Google will consider author reputations when ranking web pages for specific key phrases. Gone are the days when search marketers wrote spammy keyword-based content and focused instead on reputation enhancing content that addressed the needs of a specific audience.
That’s not to say that keywords aren’t going to be important. What it does mean is that keywords for the sake of keywords are definitely NOT important.
How To Rank Web Pages Going Forward
Instead of writing keyword-based schlock and spending all your time and money building links to it, here are 5 things you should start doing right now, and keep doing, if you want to rank for content related to your business:
- Write great content that solves a real need among your community.
- Develop a social media presence on networks where your target audience hangs out, but don’t just publish keyword-based schlock. Instead, interact with your client base and build relationships.
- Connect your social profiles with your blog and website.
- Reach out to industry leaders within your niche, comment on their blogs leaving helpful, valuable blog posts that aren’t necessarily keyword-driven. Link back to your website without spamming.
- Work judiciously to establish one online identity using Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
The key to this online marketing approach is to produce valuable content that people want to read. Become a content king, then share your content widely on your social networks.
If you hear an SEO firm promise you permanent search engine rankings, you’d better run. Fast. And not look back. It’s impossible to achieve permanent search engine rankings.
Why is that?
First, because search engines don’t promise anyone a ranking. They certainly don’t promise good rankings. You must earn them.
Secondly, no one else can guarantee you a top spot in the search engines. SEOs can give their best effort to get your site ranked, but they can’t guarantee you a position because they don’t control the search engines.
Thirdly, ALL search engine rankings are temporary. The truth is, search engine rankings change constantly. You could be No. 1 this morning and drop to No. 9 this afternoon for the same search query. You might be No. 1 for a particular search query right now in Minnesota and be on page 2 for the same search query right now in California.
Not only can you rank differently in different places at the same time, or in the same place at different times, but you could also rank differently for different searchers at the same time – even if those searchers are in the same city.
Search engine optimization is no longer about achieving the highest rankings possible for the keywords you are targeting. It’s about maximizing your traffic from the search engines, and that requires more than throwing keywords at algorithms.