Best Practices

Are Big Brands Still Hiring Spammers?

and do they know they’re hiring spammers? We know that JCP hired spammers, even though they claim ignorance (and I kinda believe that). Although this isn’t backlink buying, it’s still spam in my book, especially when it’s left as a comment on an SEO blog (mine!). Do these big brands know how HUGE of a “no-no” this practice is? Things like this are what gives the SEO industry the snake oil rap it has…

Image of Comment (caught by my spam filter):

Are big brands hiring spammers?

All links go to the MAIN site of the very famous hand-bag maker above. Notice the “no-follows”, that’s someone “in the know” I’d guess. Why would someone (some spammer) go out of their way to employ this tactic this without being hired and lastly… does this famous hand-bag maker even NEED backlinks? I’m sure if searched on his product name, one of his sites (with his very expensive products) will rank. It’s not backlink buying … but it’s certainly an effort to get backlinks (even if they are no-follow) to his MAIN SITE in a very spammy way. Puzzling at best.

Keep your Pet Phrase on a Leash!

Pet PhrasesPet Phrases, the thorn in my industry. Clients sometimes have the unrealistic goal of ranking on ONE phrase and ONE phrase only – their “Pet Phrase”. If that phrase isn’t on the first page of Google, then in the client’s mind, their site = epic #fail! Ugh! As you can read here, having your eye on one phrase and judging the worth/efforts of your SEO campaign is not only an unrealistic goal, but isn’t what SEO is all about. A Pet Phrase can be a subset of a realistic more SEO savvy goal, but one phrase when I have thousands to play with??? Come on! That’s just not what we do.

As Jill Whalen put’s it (a industry rock star who’s been in the biz since day one):

No SEO company in the world will be able to help you unless you are ready to forget about what you think you want, and learn more about what you really need.

Remember… you hired US to be YOUR experts… your pros! When we do keyword research to see what humans actually type in a search engine, it’s for a reason and why you pay us very well.

Case and Point

Client had a pet phrase and considered their whole SEO campaign a TOTAL #fail. When you look at the referring keyword phrases for the first month after on-page SEO, there was a whooping 32 unique referring keyword phrases. Jump ahead 6 months and we now have ~5000 unique referring keyword phrases. These are phrases that your site didn’t have traction on before you came to us. Not #fail. The unique visitors increased and the contact form was filled out a good amount of times. Just because you’re not #1 for “my fuzzy purple widget” does not mean the project has failed. You simply need to be educated on what to expect and how to interpret your metrics. Learn what a true goal is and how to lead your potentials TO your goal. Your pet phrase should never be the focus of your organic search engine optimization efforts because in all actuality, people are using many more, many different phrases to find your site. SEO beauty.

The Goal

This end goal of optimization is to create an awareness in the search engines for your site – yes, this is what we do, bring more potential clients/customers to you. In fact, we bring more people to your site on phrases that you’d never even consider. This happens due to what I call the *black box of phrases*. YOU are the expert at what YOU do and most of the time you use an industry specific jargon (whether you realize it or not… it’s not a bad thing as long as you keep in mind that there are other phrases that people think of when looking for your products/services). Regular Joe (or Joette) doesn’t know your industry well nor the jargon you use… but they KNOW WHAT THEY NEED. Be prepared for a wake up call when you look at the phrases that were searched upon that led to your site… it’s a real eye opener (and fascinating to geeks like me)!

When you become a client of ours, you’re sent a focus list and a business analysis form. You fill out what you deem are important phrases to your industry; phrases YOU want to rank on. Don’t get me wrong, those phrases are IMPORTANT but sometimes they don’t have a high search volume. Enters SEO copywriter. Your gold, your secret weapon. After thorough keyword research (based upon the focus list you filled out) we determine the BEST phrases for your site in order to accomplish your goals (more traffic, more clients, more purchases). If we were to optimize a site for Pet Phrases alone, all projects would probably be an epic #fail.

The “Mix” Tactic

One way to make EVERYONE happy is to do a mix of tactics:

1) get client ranking on their pet phrases (even if the search volume is nil)
2) get client ranking on phrases that people actually search on

Keep in mind that if the pet phrase happens to be extremely competitive (highly competitive != highly searched upon!) it will take some time to achieve traction in Google. We can work with the researched phrases and utilize our tried/true methods to get you that traffic while working on the efforts of the pet phrase. People have the NEED to see their pet phrase (no matter how bad of a choice it is) on top of Google. Hopefully, we’ve educated our clients to understand the difference between wanting that pet phrase and obtaining ranking on great phrases that’ll bring them new clients.

Managing client expectations is critical during the initial stages of an SEO campaign. We’re not miracle workers, but we’re pretty darn close 🙂

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed off a list of referring phrases to a client only to hear them say “people actually search on that??”. Yes! Yes they do! In fact Google claims that 20-25% of the phrases people search on have NEVER been searched on before. That’s HUGE! Do you want to miss out on all these phrases? Of course you don’t! With good copywriting you’ll find yourself ranking on phrases you’d never imagine and then some. Yes, these might be long tail phrases, but they’re phrases someone searched on and found YOUR site; they were looking for YOU. Collectively, these phrases bring you a lot of very valuable targeted traffic (and typically these phrases have a higher conversion rates because they’re so specific) as people are searching on exactly what YOU offer. That’s what it’s all about!

When you put an ad in the newspaper (are those still around?) there are thousands upon thousands of eyeballs that glaze over your ad EVERY DAY. They aren’t looking for your services and may never need your products. Heck, they might not even understand what you do (like my mother!) However when someone searches on:

Chicago Accident Lawyer

they’re looking SPECIFICALLY for JUST THAT. That type of phrase will drive targeted traffic to your site and there’s no other advertising medium in the world that can do the same thing (much less track it!)

So please, next time you get in a ruffle about that Pet Phrase, step back and look at the big picture. That’s the one that matters. If your sites gets 5000 unique visitors a month yet doesn’t rank #1 for that Pet Phrase, we’d call that (in Charlie Sheen terms) WINNING.

Other articles about *Pet Phrases*

Is Your SEO Campaign Out of Focus?

Search Engine Optimization – Are You Optimizing For the Wrong Keywords

Fun with Google Places & Your Default Photo

Just got back from my favorite spa and wanted to upload a new picture to their Places Page I [**side note about this later].

There seems to be NO WAY to do this easily, if at all. And I certainly don’t want to jeopardize what I have posted there now. Other people are deleting ALL their photos and starting over. The first one you upload seems to be (and I say “seems” because GP is a) in beta b) screwed up or c) screwed up) the one that is used as the default picture, which can be critical for your business. You’d like to have control over that photo right? So would I.

So I searched on Google to look for information on changing the default picture. Guess what? I’m not alone. Here are some threads about the exact same issue, with no solutions:

Thread 1: Change Default Picture on GP

Thread 2: Change Main Picture on Google Places Listing

Thread 3: Change Main Picture on GP Listing.

Really frustrating…

Also, when you upload a new photo [which I just did] it doesn’t show up immediately.

cracked nails**So here’s my side note regarding my spa visit today. A lady there had used her smart phone to find a local spa in her zip code [she’s telling us the story] and found the spa I was at “on Google” [this spa has no Web site… yep I’m working on it]. She said “it had more reviews than the others, listen to this one…” and she starts reading MY review! It was like it was all staged… I couldn’t have paid someone to do a better job. It was PERFECT. The business owner ended up giving me $20 off my services which I turned over to the girls that worked on Miss Sage and myself.

How cool is that?

< --- Miss Sage's "Cracked Nails". I guess it's the new thing out there.

Common Web Design Mistakes

I think at one time or another I’ve probably done every one of the practices listed below (my first Web site was in 1996 and had “blinkies” [coff]) and may still be doing some on older sites – woo hoo!

This list applies to Web sites created for businesses, companies, products, services, etc… not for those of you who have a Web site that pays homage to *Fluffy the Cat*. If that’s your site’s topic, then you can safely skip this list.

Keep in mind that this list applies to Web design, not necessarily SEO. HOWEVER. It is my belief that if you create your site using best practices (and even avoiding some of the things below) you’ll have a pretty good site that will not only get crawled and indexed by the search engines, but you might even find yourself ranking. A big part of an optimized site is just that – creating a good site.

Keli’s List
Common Web Design Mistakes

Bad Grammar – If you’re unsure of yourself get a copywriter, that’s what they’re for and they’re worth their weight in gold.

Broken Links – Xenu is a great [free] program for checking the internal and external links of your Web site. It’s a must! When we launch a new site it’s one of three immediate audits we perform. Nothing worse than showing your client their “new” site and the navigation doesn’t work.

Broken Images – Thoroughly go through your site before a launch, if a picture is worth a thousand words and yours is missing you’ll have a page that says nothing.

Busy, Distracting Backgrounds – Oh gosh… I’m sure we’ve all seen these… backgrounds that literally make your eyes bleed. Keep your site aesthetically pleasing to keep people coming back.

Complex URLs – If you’re using a CMS or a database, it’s kinda hard to get away from complex URL’s. However if you have CONTROL over your URL’s, then there is no reason to make them look like this:

First, it’s a few directories away from root, secondly those directory names mean NOTHING to me, do they to you? Keep it friendly and keep it close to root if you can.

Confusing Navigation – Otherwise known as “mystery meat navigation” [coined by the wonderful folks over at] because you’re not sure what it is or where it’s from. The main problem with MMN is one of usability. Do you want your Web site to be useful to your target audience? Then make sure your navigation is intuitive, clear, straightforward and not hidden. Don’t EVER make your users think! Have a person test your site, a few friends perhaps that you trust to tell you like it is, and take notes on their findings. What may be intuitive to YOU will NOT be intuitive to others – I PROMISE. – Really? You’re going to try and stuff as many keywords into your domain as possible?

Flash – Unless you’re Madonna or Coke, you can probably probably skip that all-Flash Web site. One study showed that 25% of their visitors left IMMEDIATELY after landing on their cool Flash intro page. That’s a huge number to me. Search engines ONLY see text. By not having any text on your homepage, you’re missing out on potential customers/visitors.

Frames – Good ol’ frames. Not only do they consist of a few HTML files, but each of those files are individually indexed by the search engines. If your nav is contained in one HTML files and a user comes across a different HTML file in the search engines [because search engines will index each HTML file separately], they’ll be nary a clue as to how to get around your site. That is the ONLY problem with them. It’s been said that search engines “don’t like frames” – not true [programs are incapable of liking something btw] it’s just that they index each individual bit and don’t serve you the “whole page” – just the bits. Now who wants a bit when they can have the whole?

Gratuitous Use of Cutting Edge Technology (EX: Flash) – There’s a time and place for everything. Wisely select *ohh ahh* types of technology to “bling” up your site. Is your audience looking for a whirling, twirling, freak show? Or did they come to your site looking for specific information? Art sites, artists, rockstars… sure, they might all employ a bit of site bling but they can and you’d probably expect it given their industry.

Hidden Contact Information – Make sure your contact information [or a link to your contact info] is VERY visible on every page, in your FACE! Don’t make someone hunt for your information. If they want to contact you about your offerings and can’t find out how to contact you? Game over and you’ve lost [without a tilt].

Hiding Your People – Who works for you? Who’s part of this incredible team that you have? Do they matter? If they matter, why don’t you show them off either through your Web site or blog? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING! A cool thing about owning a small business is the quirky and eccentric personalities that lends to YOUR marketing (if you let it) thus making YOU stand out. Companies tend to hire people they like so why not show off your humans? Don’t constantly mention your “team” in your copy if you don’t want to introduce them.

Image Maps – Pretty old school and I must raise my hand on this one… you’ll find some image maps lurking on some of my old and forgotten Web sites. It’s best to use CSS. CSS can do anything.

JavaScript [Excessive Use Of] – It’s been shown that roughly 10% of Internet users don’t even have JavaScript installed… that means if there is heavy use of JS [call it externally if this is the case…] on your page your end user won’t be able to see it. Besides the usability issues that JS can cause, why bother if people could have problems viewing your site? JavaScript is also the number one avenue Web sites use to track and exploit the browser into running malicious code which is why people have it disabled when browsing.

If a user has JavaScript disabled your Web site should still be usable, work perfectly, look the same way as when JS is enabled and it should function properly. Don’t use JS when you can accomplish the same with with server-side-coding and for for things critical to your site (like navigation).

According to one Internet user [and there’s a very interesting thread there]:

JS is typically associated with annoying client-side behavior. From popup windows, to window move/resize, to status bar overwrite, to blinking images, to browser-specific interfaces: virtually everything annoying in the early days of the Web was enabled by Javascript. Now, of course, there are many other ways to annoy, and a similar number of blocking addons, but Javascript is the grand-daddy of web pain and frustration.

Long Download Time – You only have a few seconds to capture someones attention. At the very least your home page should load fast and contain the basics of your site. Art, Music and Photography sites are three industries that will probably have a bit of download time associated with them, but you’d expect that right?

Long Scrolling Pages – Scrolling forever isn’t cool. If you REALLY have that much content then you should probably break it up into more than one page. Help your users out!

ME ME ME – Is your entire home page filled with information about how wonderful your company is? Can users tell at a glance what you do? Your users are interested in the answer to one core question: what’s in it for me? Your home page copy should address how you’re going to solve someones problem whether it be with a service you do or a product you offer. No one cares that you went to Yale and were in a cool fraternity, really. Nobody wants to read your sh** is a pretty blunt article that covers this.

Multiple Colors in Text – I remember a site from years ago, almost every line of text was a different color and it wasn’t even Easter. Unless you can find a REALLY good reason for this, I highly suggest you tuck that practice away for a rainy day.

Multiple Fonts (Font Overload) – Just like with colors, some people get carried away with fonts. Far far away. Typography is an art in itself IMO. When you use 100 fonts on a page (ok I’m exaggerating a bit) it’s a nite mare except you’re wide awake. There’s nothing more visually pleasing than a site that utilizes fonts well, there’s a lot more involved than just picking out a cool font.

Music – It’s 1am, I’ve been researching SEO around the Internet, I’m half asleep and I click on a Web site to find that I’m blasted with *Viva Las Vegas*. Sorry Elvis, no offense, but when I listen to music I like it to be my choice and not by surprise. It’s a wonder I haven’t had a heart attack while listening to my OWN music full blast and finding someones site that forces me to listen to theirs full blast too. Don’t get me wrong, if I go to a Led Zeppelin site or [insert your fav music artist here] I might expect to hear Pagey in the background strumming an acoustic. Consider your target audience when you add music to your site or at LEAST don’t set it to auto play!

No Content – Why put up a billboard with no message? Enough said.

No Description Meta Tags – Yes they wont help with rankings – old news. But they show up in the search engine result pages [SERP] which means people see them. If you write an INCITING description why… someone just might click on your page! Craft catchy description tags utilizing a few of your researched keyword phrases for that page’s topic.

Orphan Pages – These are pages that aren’t accessible by ANY means on your Web site. If you can’t get to them, there’s probably no reason to have them UNLESS they’re pages made specifically for tracking marketing campaigns such that the ONLY way to get to the page in question is through an ad or other marketing practices. EXAMPLE: I have a QR code that is ONLY on my Twitter page and it resolves to a page on my site that can’t be accessed/found by any other way other than that QR tag [I even have that page blocked by the SE’s]. It’s interesting to see how many people get to that page… they’re actually scanning my Twitter page QR tag!

Outdated Information – When you move, update your Web site. Some people treat their Web site as a secondary form of marketing when it should be lumped in with and have the same importance as ALL of your marketing. If you change your address and/or phone number and you have a phone book add. Guess what? You’re SOL. Updating your Web site with your new phone number? Probably takes 5 minutes.

Poor Browser Compatibility – One of the of many joys of developing Web sites that work is insuring that it renders properly in popular browsers. Imagine turning on the TV to watch your favorite show and seeing a message “you must upgrade your TV to view the following program because your TV is outdated and no longer supported”. Another favorite: “This page can only be viewed in Internet explorer” – groan. It’s all about that target audience folks and another good reason you should keep your eye on your server logs… what browsers are people using to view your site? Which one is used most? Make your site as widely useable as possible.

Poor Organization (Usability) – Make it easy to get around on your site. Just because you can find things instantly don’t assume your users can. Keep your navigation consistent on each page of your site.

Pop-up Messages and Windows – Most people use pop up blockers. Why? Popups are just annoying. Period. Some even contain a payload of a virus… or if you’re lucky, a keylogger!

Scrolling Text, Marquees, and Constantly Running Animations

Spelling Mistakes – this can really really turn off a potential client. They take your lack of spelling as a reflection on how you might handle their project – ouch. I’m no one to point a finger as I can barely spell my name, but they do have spell checkers these days.

Splash Pages – These are a waste of time and for the most part self-indulgent. Most people don’t even look at them… instead they search frantically for that “skip intro” link which hopefully resides on the page allowing for a quick exit. What’s even worse is if the “home” link inside the site returns the user to the splash page once clicked. Just want you wanted… another view of a cool logo fading in and out that has “flames” coming out of it with text flashing across the screen all to the tune of “don’t worry be happy.” Trust me, you have a lot to worry about if this is you.

Under Construction Pages – Please oh please oh please don’t put up a page with an “under construction” message – PLEASE! If it’s not ready, simply don’t post it up. If you MUST have one page of your site that’s in development or something else… make a short profile of the pages subject matter at the very least or make an extremely cool under construction page [I might let you slide if your CS page looked like one of those]. The lil construction guy digging in the ground has just got to go.

Using HTML to Resize Images – A HUGE pet peeve of mine. This is probably one thing I’ve never done that’s on this list. Take a minute to resize and optimize your images peeps!

Using the Same Title and Metas for Every Page in Your Site – How would you feel if you looked in the table of contents of a book and found that EVERY chapter had the same title. Pretty useless eh? That’s how humans AND search engines will view your site if you use the same title and meta description. Make your Titles and Metas AT LEAST reflect what’s on the page!

Visible Page Counters – so 1996!!! Stat programs are all behind the scenes now. I remember people reloading their sites just to see the counter tick another number while saying *oooooo* in amazement [I don’t associate with those types anymore, I promise]. I had a visible counter in 1996, but I didn’t reload my page to make the numbers go up at least!

Welcome – Welcome to our Web site. You’re not throwing a party, you aren’t the doorman. When I search on the exact text, in quotes:
“welcome to our website”
there are over 8 million results!!! A lot of the time it’s in the TITLE for pete’s sake. Ugh!

Zero Inbound Links – Part of online marketing involves spreading the word. If you want to drive traffic (we’re not talking about links for SEO reasons, just plain ol’ “getting your site out there” links) to your site you need a strategy for building links in popular online areas (these change overnight) to create awareness that draws attention to your site.

Anyone have anything they’d like to add? Send me a comment!

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