The Internet Has Changed the Sales Cycle Causing the Purchase Market to Change, Buyers Have EVOLVED and Acquiring Customers has Changed!

With the advent of the internet and social media sites has changed how buyers shop. Prior to the internets explosive growth phenomenon when a buyer needed a product they would turn to a local salesman, request brochures and other information from which to make their decision. Sales teams were the sole focus for information to make a purchase and involved early in the process. Decisions were made from the information of that sales force. Today, buyers no longer need to engage with a sales force to get the necessary information for the early stages of the buying cycle. Buyers now come to the point of purchase fully informed from online research by learning about the sellers’ product and services offering, product reputation, history without ever talking to the sales force. Buyers have compared comparable product offerings and pricing before ever seeking to make a purchase. They determine who has the best value proposition and control the purchasing process now.

This monumental shift of the control of the buying cycle has now moved from the seller and the power moved to the buyer. Buyers no longer need informed sales forces to guide them. As a fact if we engage a sales force with the buyer too early we risk losing the sale entirely.

Success in the buying cycle now is all about marketing intimacy of your prospective demographic. Understanding your target audience, targeting your message and talking to them in the language of the product offering as they know or understand it is more critical than ever. Focusing on the right channels by creating the right memorable communication experiences is the new closing modality that will resonate and convert.

(This new internet buyer is highly knowledgeable of the product offering and by such has created a more challenging environment for marketers who seek to drive high quality leads to their sales team. Quality leads is about being ever present in finding the right people at the right time.)

Jill Whalen’s Top Ten Questions She’d Ask a New Client

Here’s a selection of some of the questions I ask and why they’re important to the overall SEO process:

1. What web analytics program do you use, and can we have access to it?

Web analytics are the key to measuring the current level of SEO success (or lack thereof). They’re also the key to determining whether any future SEO implementation is helping to bring more targeted traffic. Therefore, it’s critical for me to have access to this information regardless of the level of SEO service I’m providing. If you use Google Analytics (GoAn), it’s very simple to add new users to the account and in most cases it’s fine to provide report-only access (rather than admin). Along with GoAn, I also ask for access to the client’s Google Webmaster Tools (GWMT) account. These days, if you have GoAn access, you can usually add the same website to your GWMT account as well, which makes the process easier.

2. What’s the purpose of your site and who is your target audience?

This is a seemingly simple question, yet it often stumps many clients. Some of them will cop out: “Well, the purpose of our site is to sell our product.” And your target audience? “Umm … anyone with a credit card?” Not very helpful. If you don’t have a good handle on who the people are who are buying your products, how will your SEO consultant help you bring those people to your website? An SEO consultant needs to have a clear picture of who you are because everything we do hinges upon this — from the keyword research to deciding what type of content needs to be written, to how you might want to attack social media marketing. If you’re an SEO consultant, I urge you to push for deep answers to this question.

3. Are there any other domains or sites that you own or control, or that you used to use instead of the current domain? (Please list them all.)

This information is important so I can assess any duplicate content issues. I need to know whether that other site I found that is using nearly the same content as yours is owned by you, or if someone scraped yours. I also need to know if you’re using multiple domains as an SEO strategy (so I can smack you!). I added this one to my questionnaire when I kept finding doorway domains or other sites that my clients *forgot* to tell me about. Even those who really do forget or who purposely don’t tell me about their additional domains aren’t getting away with anything. I usually end up finding them during my website audit process. So if you’re a client, do us both a favor and come clean from the start. This will save us all some time down the line! (And I was just kidding about smacking you :)!)

4. What have you done so far (if anything) about optimizing your site?

My favorite answer is to this is “nothing” because that means we’re starting with a clean slate and have nowhere to go but up! But most clients these days have done at least some rudimentary SEO. While I can usually spot any on-page optimization, it’s helpful to hear it from you. Sometimes, the things clients say they’ve done (e.g., created keyword-rich Title tags) don’t actually seem to be done when I look for them. That tells me that your idea of SEO and mine may be quite different, and it’s good to know this up front. It’s also good to know if you have already been through a string of SEOs and what each of them has done to the site during their tenure.

5. Is there anything that you may have done that the search engines may not have liked regarding previous optimization efforts for your site?

This one is sort of an addendum to the last one for those who may have *forgotten* to tell me any bad or spammy things they (or a previous SEO) may have done. While they may have not mentioned anything spammy in the last question, this gives them the opportunity to add anything that they weren’t quite sure was on the up-and-up. Very often, the client may think something was bad or caused problems, when it’s actually innocuous. Other times, there can be a big mess to sort out — e.g., all kinds of paid-for spammy-anchor-text links. As an SEO it’s helpful to know right away where to focus my efforts.

6. List the websites of your three biggest competitors. Why do you feel they compete with your site?

I like this question more for the second part than the first. It’s always interesting to see why people think another company or site is their competitor. Very often, the only reason people think it is that the other site shows up in the search results for the keyword phrase that the client wants to show up for! While that may make them your competitor, it also may not. It may simply mean that you’re shooting for the wrong keyword phrases. It’s also very helpful to look at competitor sites to see how they’re set up and whether they seem to have done much in the way of SEO or not.

7. What do you feel is your most unique selling proposition (USP)? Why would these clients come to you as opposed to anyone else who offers the same or similar products and services? What’s different or better about your product or service?

Hat tip to Karon Thackston for these questions, because they are ones she always asks before doing any copywriting for a website. Along with who your target audience is, these are some of the most important questions for any client to think about and answer. Sometimes a client will have a great grasp of this and provide lots of valuable information, but more often, the best they can come up with is that they are “more friendly” than their competitors. In today’s competitive marketplace and search results (especially since Google’s Panda Update), it’s critical to be able to differentiate your products and services from the rest. And even those who have an excellent grasp of this don’t always make it clear to the users of their website, which is something that will need to be fixed.

8. After a potential customer visits your site, what specifically do you want them to do?

This is a wonderful way to understand what the various conversion points of your website are. If your only answer is “Make a sale,” then you likely need to add some other smaller conversion points, such as signing up for a newsletter or updates, following you on social media, filling out a contact form, calling you, etc. As an SEO you need to know what all of these points are so that you can make sure that the client’s web analytics are set up to correctly capture all the conversions, and that the website is properly leading people to complete those conversions.

9. Do you have social media accounts (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Google+) and if so, what are your user names?

This is important to see if and how they’re using social media. If they’re not using it at all, as an SEO, you must determine whether they should be. If they are using it, a quick review of their accounts will show you exactly how they’re using it. For instance, you’d want to look at whether they are simply tweeting out links to their own content via an automated feed, or if they are also interacting with their audience. This will help you devise an appropriate social media marketing strategy for them down the line.

10. Is there anything else you may have that you think will provide a more complete picture of your site?

It’s always a good idea to have a final, open-ended question such as this in case the client forgot to tell you anything within their previous answers. You may learn all kinds of things that you would not have otherwise learned without asking this question.

Those are the most important ones that should get you started. While you can ask all these in person or on the phone, I find it extremely helpful to have it all in writing. It also provides the client with the opportunity to think about their answers and get additional input from others within the company, as necessary.

The true value in LINKS is not just the link..

I have been doing this for over 17 years now. Sometimes it is mind boggling to think of the hoops I have had to jump through to satisify some ranking criteria that would hopefully lead to more traffic and traffic that would convert. True webmasters have never lost sight of the monitary value of a revenue producing website. You learn pretty quickly that usability is the better metric to value a site upon than just higher rankings. But tell that to a client! I have gotten phone calls from friends that have overheard CEO’s bragging about their rankings that were my clients. They have no clue as to design metrics, eye mapping trends, click thru numbers or just good ol’ clean coding that allows the search engines to crawl it properly to index it correctly and gets the end user to the infomation quickest so they can act on the marketing call to action and do what you want them to do without them knowing why. Every now and then I come across an article that is worth reprinting. Such is the one below.

“Do you know anyone who got their rankings back after Update Panda trashed their site?

There may be some, and there may be some people who get their rankings back eventually, but the problem is a fundamental one:

If the Google dragon flicks her tail in your direction, and all you rely on is rankings, you’re screwed

That’s life in SEO. Google flicks her tail, and some webmasters may never be heard from again. The solution to this problem isn’t to hope and pray the dragon won’t target you. The solution is to acknowledge that the dragon has the power to make your life miserable, and figure out ways to avoid that pain in future.

Develop Real Networks, Not Just Link Networks
Links are the arteries of the web. Traffic flows via links, be they PPC, hyperlinks, or Facebook friend requests.

Of course, SEO’s worked out some time ago that hyperlinks have another value. Google uses links to “keep score”. To paraphrase, if you have a lot of “good quality” links pointing to your page, Google gives you a high score, and rewards you with a high ranking.

This way of thinking can cause problems.

If our link building strategies only relate to ranking, and not link traffic, then we’re vulnerable to changes in the way Google keeps score. If, however, we look at link building in terms of traffic, arriving via those links, then we’re less vulnerable to Google’s whims. If, for whatever reason, we are no longer ranked well, we’d still have traffic flows via the links.

This is not to say link building for the purposes of ranking is redundant. Google’s not that clever. Yet. However, if we’re overly focused on ranking, which is one form of traffic acquisition, and not spreading our traffic acquisition methods, then it leaves us vulnerable to Gogole’s ranking methodology, over which we have no control.

What Is A Link?
A link is a connection between people.

Remember the six degrees of separation? The idea that everyone is approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.

The connection on the web is more like one-to-one, especially when you can “friend” the President Of The United States on Facebook. Well, one of his staffers, but you get my drift :)

We’re not that far away from other people.

The ability to connect with anyone on the web, in one step, is profound and powerful. Once connections are made between people, stuff happens. The stronger the connection, the more great stuff can happen. But this doesn’t happen if we just view a link as a means to get a high ranking. We miss the opportunity to build something with greater staying power:

Real relationships.

And if you believe the pundits, Google will be looking more carefully at real relationships, as opposed to the…cough…”manufactured” kind, in future.

Techniques & Strategy
Here a few ideas on how to add another layer to your link building activities.

1. Identify The Top People In Your Niche
Who writes about what you do? Think reporters, bloggers, forums, industry leaders, pundits and conference organizers.

These people are also highly likely to link to you, if you give them a good enough reason. A good enough reason is unlikely to be “I’ve linked to you, so please link back”. Remember, our aim is not just to get links, it is to get links that produce traffic, too.

A good enough reason is that you interest them. In order to do that, you need to learn a bit about them, such as what they’ve linked to in the past, and why. What are the current hot topics? Industry talking points? Where is the industry heading? Make a list of the top ten ranking sites, trace their back-links back, and see who is talking about those sites, and why.

2. Give Forward
Link out to them.

Linking to someone is a great way to get on their radar. Do you follow your inbound links to see who is linking to your site, and why? Chances are, they do, too.

Don’t use any old link. Link to them from a well-considered, thoughtful, in-depth piece about a current industry talking point. Because when they follow the link back, they’re more likely to engage with you if you’ve given them something to interesting to engage with. They also may feel they owe you something, as you have done something for them.

Consider what might make this person engage. Perhaps you stroke their ego a little. If you make them look good, chances are they’ll want to highlight this fact to others. You could challenge their point of view, so they engage in a debate with you by responding back to you on their own site.

3. Start A Conversation
You could view #2 as one-off tactic, but it’s more lucrative if you see it as part of an on-going process.

The world of SEO could be likened to a conversation that’s been going on since 1995. The conversation now has many participants, many of whom cover exactly the same ground, however it’s the unique, authoritative voices that stand out.

Chances are, their “voice” didn’t just happen overnight. They participate constantly, and have done so for years. They get in-front of the industry, regularly, wherever the industry happens to be looking.

They also tend to lead it. If you want a lot of links that you never have to ask for, then it’s a good idea to first give people something really worth linking to, and talking about, on a regular basis.

4. Get A Story
But what happens to the people who run a sales catalog? A brochure website? No one links to such sites anymore!

The strategy I’m outlining is about networks of people, as opposed to link networks that have little value, besides ranking factors. Consider Zappos. Consider the founder, Nick Swinmurn. People talk about the company – and link to it. People talk about the founder and CEO – and link up.

Few people link to the shoes, and even if they did, that’s not a make or break for Zappos. The story is the interesting thing, and that resonates through different media, and results in links. Real links – the kind of links people travel down and end up customers.

Ok, so Zappos were very successful. Silicon Valley loves talking about successful tech companies. But this can happen in small, local niches, too. So long as you have a memorable, compelling story, that you hussle, links – real links – will follow. Do you give to local charities? Have you created interesting processes that small business sites may like to profile? It might not relate directly to what you’re trying to sell, but it does result in building up real networks of people.

5. Carry On The Conversation
Link building is a tactic. We can buy links. We can automate links. We can spam it up!

But when Google changes the game, as they often do, you’re not left with much if your entire strategy is based on technical hacks. Perhaps the richer, more secure long-term approach is to seek another level of value from your links. Go back to the original idea of a link, which was a connection between two people. Someone saying “hey this is interesting!”. Once someone does that, we can engage in a conversation, and it can build from there.”

Google can’t kill that.

If you’re interesting, and other people find you interesting, then ranking is no longer a make or break position.

Having location issues with Google Places?

 
local seo with google places

Local Seo

 
 One case study on a Place Page that had duplication and location problems showed how it took seven edits to the Place Page over three months before Google fixed the issues and started ranking the listing on page 1 for target queries. Local SEO does indeed take patience and endurance.

Showing off a variety of citation sources including Article Engines (be sure to include all of your location information on any articles you syndicate out about your business), Facebook and “Other” (a.k.a. SPAM).

In my experience, these relatively low value links do indeed seem to do the trick, but in the long run, you’ll want to supplement these kind of tactics with more solid citation sources, which of course are much harder to get.

David Mihm’s presentation had all sorts of good information with a focus on how to maintain a “geographic scent” for your website with the #1 recommendation being having a consistent name, address and phone number appear for your business across the Web and where possible have you address and phone number in the url certainly speeds things up.

1.Submit a KML sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools. This helps send Google the “I am really located here” signal. Here’s an easy tool to help you do it GeoSitemapGenerator.

2.For multiple locations, claim all of your Google Place listings in a corporate Google account. If you are submitting a bulk feed, get it verified. Your Google Account must match the URLs of the Places you are submitting. Each location must have its own unique phone number or it won’t get approved.

3.If you want to generate reviews, find customers with Google and Yahoo email addresses. Since you know they have accounts with these sites, you can send them links asking them to write a review for you on them and they’ll likely already be signed in.

 

Installed Google’s +1…but

Installed Google’s +1…I emailed 5 friends and asked them to go like a few of my sites I installed +1 on just to see how it works. Well, I got 5 emails telling me they were not going to set up a Google Profile just for that and 2 said they would never give Google their personal info. That is a pretty damning indictment. Plus I had to spend 2 hours on the phone trying to convince them to do it anyway but no luck. No one is interested in their name being in the search results as a recommend nor do they want their name to appear period. All 5 said they do not track bookmarks except in thier internet browser favorites.

Hey but they all clicked my facebook like button without being asked to!

What is everyone else finding???

Google Now Supports “Author” Tag

Google announced support of the authorship markup, enabling content sites to help identify their authors on the site and across the web.

The markup links up authors to content, for example, this content would be linked up to my name and can be used to find all the stories I’ve written here and on my other sites.

It uses the rel attribute, so all you need to do is add the rel=”author” to your author’s hyperlink on the article page. For example:

Written by <a rel=”author” href=”../authors/mattcutts”>Matt Cutts</a>.

As Google explained, this tells search engines: “The linked person is an author of this linking page.” The rel=”author” link must point to an author page on the same site as the content page. For example, the page http://example.com/content/webmaster_tips could have a link to the author page at http://example.com/authors/mattcutts. Google uses a variety of algorithms to determine whether two URLs are part of the same site. For example, http://example.com/content, http://www.example.com/content, and http://news.example.com can all be considered as part of the same site, even though the hostnames are not identical.

Plus you can use the rel=”me” to communicate to the search engine that the links on an author page all represent the profile of the same person. Google gave an example:

Say that Matt is a frequent contributor to http://example.com. Here’s a link from his http://example.com author page to the page he maintains on http://mattcutts.com:

<a rel=”me” href=”http://mattcutts.com”>Read more about Matt</a>

In turn, Matt’s profile on http://mattcutts.com points back to his author page on http://example.com, like this:

Matt has also written <a rel=”me” href=”http://example.com/contributors/mattcutts”>lots of articles for the Foo Times</a>.

The reciprocal rel=”me” links tell Google that the profiles at http://mattcutts.com and http://example.com/contributors/mattcutts represent the same person.

I do not know if Google will just pick up the markup and trust it or if Google has to whitelist your site to be approved for this markup. You can test it using Google’s Rich Snippet testing tool.

Related Stories:

Thanks to Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz

Dos And Don’ts When Making Your Venture Capital Pitch

Getting a meeting with a potential investor is the first step; now you’ve got to get that presentation perfect and make your pitch. The good news is that venture capital companies are run by real people looking for specific information and expertise from you. Show that your proposal has the potential to become a money-making business by talking about the things that your potential investor deems most important.

Do emphasize the strength of your team

An under-equipped, passionless team can stop a startup cold, even if the product is brilliant and the market is ready. A VC is looking for a team that is passionate (enthralled by the idea and ready to share the passion), complete (able to cover all the necessary areas of the business), committed (you don’t want a key team member walking away at a crucial moment), and motivated (the business should offer them payback, too).

Do demonstrate your understanding of the market

Know your target market inside and out. Do your research, do it again, double-check it, and then do some more. If you’re not able to accurately identify and describe the market you’re attempting to get a share in, a VC will immediately hear warning bells. It’s not enough to have a great product; you’ve got to have a market ready to pay for it. And it’s not even enough to have a great product and a great market; you’ve got to demonstrate your understanding and ability to reach that market, get its attention, and then get its business.

Do demonstrate the profitability of the market

Some markets are saturated; some markets are new or underdeveloped. Show what your target market has to offer in terms of money-making potential for your investors. Get data on annual spending, demographics, growth and any other factor that influences the buying power of your market. Then show how your business will get a share of that buying power.

Don’t ignore or underplay your competition

A VC knows that competition is part of business. Pretending you don’t have any, or that they don’t matter, is the mark of an inexperienced (and overconfident) startup. Be prepared with detailed information about your competition: who are they, what is their size, their growth, their market share, their weakness, their strength? How are they like you and how are they different?

Do show how you will gain competitive advantage

Competition definitely doesn’t mean that the business is a bad idea; you just need to show your understanding of the competition, and then your strategy for growing and gaining despite the competitors you will have in the market. Identify your competitive advantage and show how you will articulate it and convince customers to come to you instead of to your competitors.

Don’t be afraid to ask for adequate funding

You’re at the VC firm to get money, so don’t be shy about asking for it. Talk in realistic figures about what you’ll need to fund all aspects of your startup. Don’t throw out low numbers that show an inadequate knowledge of what it will cost to make your business succeed. Big numbers may scare you, but they won’t scare away an investor who is convinced of your business’s ability to succeed. Low-balling, however, will make you look like an amateur.

Do assume that you will succeed on revenue projections

Be as cautiously optimistic in revenue projections as you can be, because investors will cut your numbers by some percentage to get their own version of realistic revenue projections. Don’t make numbers up. Be positive and don’t be afraid to assume success. If you’ve done your research as thoroughly as you should have, you can afford to be positive.

Don’t underestimate the timing on your break-even target

Some businesses will take longer to reach break-even point than others. As with the funding request you make, it’s better to be realistic and show you understand all the factors involved than to be naive about how long it will take your business to break even. Create a realistic time line that fits with the actual progress your business must make to reach the break-even target.

Don’t ignore key risks

Investing is a risk, no matter how sure a thing a particular investment may seem. VCs understand this, and they aren’t afraid of risks, in general, just of unidentified and overlooked risks. Be ready and able to identify the key risks your business will face.

Do show that you have a plan for each major risk

It’s the role of business leadership to know the risks ahead and to have a plan in place to overcome them. What will you do if you face the potential setback? What is your contingency plan for each key risk?

Don’t get too detailed on the technical side

Be ready to answer detailed questions about the technical aspects of your business, but don’t make them the bulk of your presentation. At most initial meetings, VCs are looking at the technical concept in general and the business model in particular. If the business model is strong, the next step may be to dive into technical questions. Don’t put the tech side ahead of the business side, however.

Do take time to research your audience

Gather as much information as you can about the people who will be watching your presentation. You may discover pertinent information, trends or questions that are normally asked by particular people. The more prepared you are, the better your presentation will be.

Do target your presentation to the firm/audience

Take another step beyond knowing the individuals in your audience and find out about trends in the VC firm which will be hearing your presentation. They may have a track record of supporting business startups such as yours, or your idea may be something out of the norm for them. Knowing about the firm will allow you to tailor your presentation to what they value most in potential investments.

Do leave time for questions

Plan for your presentation to take about 2/3 of the time you’re given, and leave the rest of the time for questions. This time is when you may find yourself explaining in more detail about technical aspects of your business, or when you’ll have more opportunity to show your team’s expertise, your knowledge of the market, the profit potential and the preparation you’re making for all the competition and risks you will face.

Really good article. A couple additions:

1. For VC funding, it’s not enough to “know your market”. You need to demonstrate that it’s a very large market. VCs don’t fund great companies that serve small markets, they need BIG outcomes so they only fund ideas / companies that attack what at least appear to be very large markets.

2. What can really differentiate you from the thousands of other pitches a VC sees is some sort of proof that you have an unfair advantage developing the business: a critical patent, a set of relationships that are hincredibly vital to getting launched properly (LinkedIn and the way Reid founded it are a perfect example of this), or a team that is exceptionally well-suited to execute the strategy.

3. Barriers to entry. VCs fund businesses that don’t have barriers to entry all the time, but they always want you to have barriers to entry explained in your pitch. Have answers to this.

Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia’s Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.

SEO Audit Checklist

This checklist is extremely comprehensive and can aid new and existing SEOs on preparing a technical audit for their clients.

The checklist goes through the following areas:

  • Content
  • Duplicate Content
  • Accessibility
  • Site Architecture
  • Technical Issues
  • Canonicalization
  • URLs
  • Internal Linking
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Tags

 This might be a great start for those looking to really tear apart their site from a technical and web developer point of view, when considering SEO challenges.

We all want to deliver actionable site audits, but doing the research can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a process in place to systematically go through a site. I have created a site audit checklist that will walk you through how to do a site audit. This will work for most sites – in many cases you will need to customize the checklist a bit as some aspects won’t be relevant or are unable to be changed.

Make sure to look at really important pages (high priority landing pages, pages with a lot of links, pages flagged by crawl tools, or pages that the client has specifically asked for help with) in addition to the template pages.

At the end of your audit, don’t write a document that says what’s wrong with the website. Instead, create a document that says what needs to be done. Then explain why these actions need to be taken and why they are important. What seems to be really helpful is to provide a prioritized list along with your document of all the actions that you would like them to implement. This list can be handed off to a dev or content team to be implemented easily. These teams can refer to your more thorough document as needed.

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Quick Overview

Check indexed pages
•Do a site: search
          •How many pages are returned (this can be way off so don’t put too much stock in this)?
          •Is the homepage showing up as the first result?
          •If the homepage isn’t showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty or poor site architecture/internal linking, affecting the site.

Search for the brand and branded terms
•Is the homepage showing up at the top, or are correct pages showing up.
          •If the proper pages aren’t showing up as the first result, there could be issues, like a penalty, in play.

Check Google’s cache for key pages
 •Is the content showing up?
          •Are navigation links present?
          •Are there links that aren’t visible on the site?

PRO Tip:  Don’t forget to check the text only version of the cached page.

Content

Homepage content
•Does the homepage have at least one paragraph?

Landing pages
•Do these pages have at least a few paragraphs?
          •Is it template text or is it completely unique?

Site contains real and substantial content
•Is there real content on the site or is the “content” simply a list of links.

Proper keyword targeting
•Is the intent right?
          •Are there pages targeting head terms, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords?

Keyword cannibalization
•Do a site: search Google for important keyword phrases.
          •Check for duplicate content/page titles in the SEOmoz Pro Campaign App.

Formatting
•Is the content formatted well and easy to read quickly?
          •Are H tags used?
          •Are images used?
          •Is the text broken down into easy to read paragraphs?

Good Headlines on Blog Posts
•Good headlines go a long way. Make sure the headlines are well written and draw users in.

Amount of content v ads
•Since the implementation of Panda, the amount of ad-space on a page has become important to evaluate.
          •Make sure there is significant unique content above the fold.
          •If you have more ads than unique content, you are probably going to have a problem.

There should be one URL for each piece of content
•Do URLs include parameters or tracking code – This will result in multiple URLs for a piece of content.
          •Does the same content reside on completely different URLs?

Do a search to check for duplicate content
•Take a content snippet, put it in quotes and search for it.
          •Does the content show up elsewhere on the domain?
          •Has it been scraped? – If the content has been scraped, you should file a content removal request with Google.

Sub-domain duplicate content
          •Does the same content exist on different sub-domains?

Check for a secure version of the site
          •Does the content exist on a secure version of the site?

Check other sites owned by the company
          •Is the content replicated on other domains owned by the company?

Accessibility

Check the robots.txt
           •Has the entire site, or important content been blocked? Is link equity being orphaned due to pages being blocked via the robots.txt?

Turn off JavaScript, cookies, and CSS
          •Use the Web Developer Toolbar
          •Is the content there?
          •Do the navigation links work?

Now change your user agent to Googlebot.
•Use the User Agent Add-on
          •Are they cloaking?
          •Does it look the same as before?
          •Check for 4xx errors and 5xx errors.

Site Architecture

Hierarchy
          •Are category pages set up in the appropriate way to flow link equity to key pages?

Landing pages
          •Do they have landing pages high enough in the architecture to receive enough link equity to compete for competitive terms?

Number of category pages
•How many category pages are there?
          •Have they been scaled out too much?
          •Category pages should be built out only when there is enough demand for new or sub category pages.

Pagination/Faceted Navigation
•Is pagination or faceted navigation more appropriate? Or, should they be used in tandem?
          •Does pagination exist to help long tail content get indexed?
          •Is the pagination prohibitive to crawling (uses JavaScript).

Number of clicks to content
          •Pages targeting really competitive head terms should be one or two clicks from the homepage.
          •Pages targeting moderately competitive keywords should be 2 or three clicks from the homepage.
          •Pages targeting the long tail should be 5 clicks away (obviously exceptions must be made here for sites with a ton of content).

Prioritized content
          •Most important content should be higher up in the pagination

Proper use of 301’s
          •Are 301’s being used for all redirects?
          •If the root is being directed to a landing page, are they using a 301 instead of a 302?
          •Use Live HTTP Headers FireFox plugin to check 301s.

Use of JavaScript
•Is content being served in JavaScript?
          •Are links being served in JavaScript? Is this to do PR sculpting or is it accidental?

Use of iframes
•Is content being pulled in via iframes?

Use of Flash
•Is the entire site done in flash, or is flash used sparingly in a way that doesn’t hinder crawling?

PRO Tip:  Flash is like garlic. A little bit of garlic in your food can make it taste better. Eating a plate full of garlic would be quite terrible. Likewise, Flash can be added to a site in a way that improves the user’s experience, but creating the entire site in flash is not a good idea.

Site Speed
•How long does the page take to load – Is it significant for users or search engines?
          •What improvements can be made?

Alt text
•Is alt text present?
          •Does the alt text use keyword phrases?
          •Does the alt text reinforce the topical themes presented in the content?

Check for Errors in Google Webmaster Tools
•Google WMT will give you a good list of technical problems showing up on your site that they are encountering (such as: 4xx and 5xx errors, inaccessible pages in the XML sitemap, and soft 404’s)

Canonicalization

Canonical version of the site established through 301’s

Canonical version of site is specified in Google Webmaster Tools

Rel canonical link tag is properly implemented across the site
•Make sure it points to the correct page, and every page doesn’t point to the homepage.

Uses absolute URLs instead of relative URLs
•This can cause a lot of problems if you have a root domain with secure sections.

URLs

Clean URLs
•No excessive parameters or session ID’s
          •URLs exposed to search engines should be static.

Short URLs
•115 characters or shorter – this character limit isn’t set in stone, but shorter URLs are better for usability.

Descriptive URLs
•Get your primary keyword phrase in there.

Internal Linking

Number of links on a page
•100 is a good target, but not a rule.

Vertical Links
•Homepage links to category pages.
           •Category pages link to sub-category and product pages as appropriate.
           •Product pages link to relevant category pages.

Horizontal Links
•Category pages link to other relevant category pages.
          •Product pages link to other relevant product pages.

Links are in content
•Does not utilize massive blocks of links stuck in the content to do internal linking.

Footer links
•Does not use a block of footer links instead of proper navigation.
          •Does not link to landing pages with optimized anchors.

Good internal anchor text

Check for broken links
•Link Checker and Xenu are good tools for this.

Title Tags

Unique title tags
•Every page should have a unique title tag.

Keyword rich
•Pages should contain the primary keyword phrase.
          •Is possible to use the secondary keyword phrase in a non spammy way?

Primary keyword phrase at the beginning of the title tag

Page titles include branding
•In most cases the brand should be included at the end of the page title to help build a brand or entice users if you are a well known brand

65 – 70 characters in length
•If the title is longer than this, the entirety will not be displayed in the SERPs.
Have they been keyword stuffed by someone else?

Meta Tags

Meta keywords tag used
•This data should be removed as competitors can scrape this data.

Meta description is appropriate
•Each page has a unique meta description.
          •Meta descriptions are representative of the content and entice users.

Rewrite meta descriptions for key pages
•For key landing pages, write meta descriptions by hand instead of systemically implementing.

Meta robots tag
•Noindex pages only appropriate pages.
          •Not blocking important pages.

Compliments of Geoff Kenyon

What is SEO Success?

seo success

Understanding SEO is knowing the algorithm

What is SEO Success?

A well-executed SEO strategy requires crafting and generating valuable content, promoting that content, and finding ways for trusted resources to link to that content. Organic results are not instant. It takes time to to watch them mature and get the rankings they deserve. This process is an ongoing experience that needs nurturing. Proper SEO is about influencing buyer behavior not just optimizing the html. Here is a list of some that I consider the most important:

Site Structure. There is nothing more confusing to the web visitor than a confusing site structure. So many sites today have to much activity, to many call to actions, graphics and colors just to impress. This confuses the web visitor and they click out. Navigation must be clean and exacting. Too many sites leave the web user wondering “if I click here what will I find” or worse they can’t find what they think is the next click to get what they need. Site structure must be intuitive for the end user not the web owner. I see this mistake all the time.

Purchase Influencing. Quality content that is generated is positively influencing buyer behavior. Whether or not the content is found via a search engine (at the beginning), the content is still pushing website visitors closer to being buyers. By “content”, I don’t just mean written text (which is of course valuable) – great content will take many forms, including video, images, graphical depictions (including info-graphics), webinars, contests & promotions, local search assets (e.g. Google Places, Yahoo Business, Bing Local), and many other forms of great, creative, and convincing content.

Usability. Great SEO is what it takes to be #1 on the search engines. But great SEO without great usability means you can be number one and have traffic that fails to convert. Usability is about the user experience once he lands on your site. You got the traffic here and now how do you keep it here? What does you site say to the end user in that split second they make the decision to stay or leave. If the immediately leave this is called Bounce. What content creates instant trust making them want to stay and see more? What are your marketing promises that are instantly recognizable in that first split second? Is their next click instantly recognizable? Is your content accessible and easy to understand from the end users perspective?

Creating A Voice. In order to promote the content, you need a voice. That voice is a combination of social media engagement, press releases, mailing lists, industry groups, direct mail, and traditional link building. These traffic channels, and communication processes, will be there even when Google changes the search game on us all again. People will be finding you not just via search, but through good-old-fashioned communication. This is a part of the groundwork to improve SEO results.

Awareness. Visits from long-tail keywords, even if not the best-converting keywords, are building brand awareness, and planting the seed that your site is there for them to come back to. You may see this traffic come back to you in future visits in your analytics as “Direct/Bookmark” or search queries for your brand name. But, it was the initial visit, for a very specific phrase that even gave you the opportunity for that second visit.

Competitive Keywords Will Come To You. Your quest for ranking for the best-converting, and more competitive, keywords will provide results. Without making the investment in organic search, your competitors will keep taking your customers away from you.

Pay Per Click Campaign for Brand and Product Awareness. In educating the web presence in a new niche market offering it is important to utilize the instant recognition in a very specific Brand and Product keyword campaign that will drive highly qualified end users to your site.

As your organic search traffic, pay per click traffic and traffic from related sources flows in you begin to build brand and product identity/integrity. Now all your marketing efforts are pushing the traffic to your site and revenue to the bottom line. This is successful SEO and measureable within the ROI construct.