Category Archives: Search Engine Optimization

WWW Redirects with .htaccess

Definition of a www redirect

A www redirect is a rule on your web server that forwards all traffic from the non-www version of your domain to the www version, or vice versa.  For example, lets say your website is ‘www.example.com’ and someone types in ‘example.com’ into their browser.  The browser will send them to ‘example.com’.  When that request hits your web server, it will indicate to the browser that the correct web address is actually ‘www.example.com’ and will send the user there instead.  You can also setup redirects that work the other way and send users from ‘www.example.com’ to ‘example.com’.

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Optimizing Images in WordPress for Google Image Search

Ever wondered how to get your images to appear in Google Image Search? The process is similar to getting a web page to rank well in Google Web Search: optimize your image so that Google sees your image as relevant content. Let me walk you through a few things that you can do when adding images from within WordPress that will help your images get noticed by the search engines.

Choose your keywords

As with any SEO endeavor, you have to decide up front what keywords you want your image to rank for.  Doing this right takes a little work, but the payoff is worth it:

  1. Research – Pick a few keywords that you think are descriptive of your image. Do some research and extend your original list of keywords.
  2. Evaluate – Take your keywords and plug them into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.  Take into account the search volume and competitive nature of the keywords.
  3. Decide – Choose a relevant keyword with moderate traffic and, if possible, one that isn’t too competitive.  Most importantly, make sure your target keyword actually describes the content of your image.

Name your image

The actual filename of your image matters.  Unfortunately, once you upload your image into WordPress, you can’t change the filename.  Before you upload your image, make sure you rename the file so that it contains your keywords.
For example, if you have a file named DSC103.jpg, you would rename it to mykeyword.jpg.

Provide alt text

Once you upload your image, be sure that you don’t leave the ‘Alternate Text’ field empty.  Screen readers read this text to users to describe the content of an image. Since a search engine can’t read the contents of an image, they depend on this text to get a better understanding of what the image is about.  Make sure you provide a relevant description, but also be sure to include your keywords. Setting WordPress Alt Text

If you were to set an image as a link, the alt text is considered the anchor text for the link.

Provide context

Google and other search engines don’t just depend on the file name and alt text to determine what an image is about.  If that were the case, we would see a lot of irrelevant images in Google Image Search because not everyone would be entirely truthful about the contents of an image.  Because of this, it is important that your images are also surrounded by content that reinforces the file name and alt text that you have set.

Optimize the page

One of the things you will find is that images always rank better when the page in general ranks better.  So you are off to a great start using WordPress, but there are still a few things you will want to consider:

  1. Make sure you use your keywords in the page title
    By default, WordPress takes the title you set for the page and uses it as the title tag in the HTML and as the heading on the page.  The important thing is that the HTML title tag reflects your keywords.  So if you are using a WordPress SEO plugin (I recommend Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin), be sure that the SEO title reflects your keywords even if the heading on the page is different.
  2. Create a slug that uses your keywords
    WordPress allows you to edit the slug that is used in your URL for the page.  You can change it just below where you put the page title.  The slug is not set until you save the post and will match the page title on initial save.  It is a good idea to remove words like ‘and’, ‘the’ and the like from the slug and to be sure that you have used your keywords.Setting the Slug in WordPress
  3. Link to your page with anchor text that matches your keywords
    This is basically link building, which can be done internally as well as externally.  There is no difference between the two outside of the fact that internal link building is done within the context of your site, whereas external link building is done on other sites.  The idea is that the more links to a page, the more important it is and the more likely Google and the other search engines will take note of it.

    Since you are in complete control of the links on your site, this is the easiest place to start.  Just find another page on your site where you mention your target keyword for the current page.  If it doesn’t exist, see if you can work it into the content of a page somewhere.  Next, just highlight that text in your editor and create a link to the page you are optimizing.

    Categories and tags within WordPress can also be a great way to build internal links, but keep in mind that they are for classifying information… assigning a tag to a single post is useless.  My rule of thumb: Don’t create categories or tags if you don’t plan to have at least 10 posts that are assigned to it.

Landing Page

Landing Page Confusion

Landing PageMost people are clear on the definition of a landing page.   A landing page is just a page on your website where you are driving traffic to, typically from an ad campaign. The whole point of the page is to get new visitors to complete some specific action on the page, such as begin a free trial or even buy a product. The more you test and improve on the page, the more likely visitors to the page are to complete the desired action. So what is the confusion?

Many people don’t realize it, but there are two completely different strategies for using landing pages for a paid online ad campaign versus organic search. Now, please don’t confuse what I am saying here. Some shady SEO guys out there use the term landing page when they dynamically create thousands of pages to target a slew of different search terms. This is not what I am referring to at all. Let me explain…

Landing Pages for PPC (Pay Per Click) Campaigns

Let’s assume you are running a Google AdWords campaign and are sending the traffic you generate to your website. Assuming you are a good advertiser and not sending people to your homepage, you will create at least a few landing pages that are relevant to the ads that you display. Because these pages are relevant to the ads that visitors are clicking on, they are more likely to perform the desired action on the page.

Since you will be creating a lot of landing pages to match up with all the different ads you are running, it is important to block the search engines. The landing pages you create will be very similar to each other and have a lot of the same content. If you don’t block the search engines from these pages, you will have duplicate content issues and will dilute your SEO efforts. Many people don’t realize the importance of this… or just don’t use landing pages!

Landing Pages for Organic Search

When you optimize the content on your site for organic search, it is important that you don’t target more than a couple of keywords for any given page. If you want to create a landing page in this setting, you should really only create one landing page for a given call to action.  You should create different versions of the landing page and test to see what works best, but you don’t want to have more than one URL targeting similar pages. The reasoning here is that, because you are trying to rank this landing page for a particular keyword, any other page you create with similar content or targeting similar keywords will weaken your chances of ranking well.

Also, it is important to keep the user in mind and not go overboard with keywords on landing pages when you are after organic search.  If your page does not have a natural flow to it, users will leave and the point of the landing page will be defeated.

The key difference between a landing page for PPC versus organic search is that the organic landing page is not isolated from the rest of the site.  Typically, an organic landing page is well linked to across the site and can be readily found by any visitors.

So what about campaigns that are not PPC or Organic in nature?

Landing Pages for Offline Ad Campaigns, Social Media & E-mail

Now that you have a better understanding of the two ways that landing pages can be implemented, lets take a look at some other use cases.  Typically, with an offline ad campaign, it would be best to use a landing page that is optimized for organic search.  This way, users who don’t remember the exact URL presented in your ad, will be able to easily find the offer by using a search engine or just visiting the site’s root domain.  Most likely, you would want to run a social media campaign the same way.

E-mail campaigns, on the other hand, you may want to implement landing pages like you would with PPC.  Since a lot of marketers use automated e-mail campaigns, it would be beneficial to have several different landing pages for the same offer.  For example, if you send out an offer to new subscribers, they would be sent to a simple landing page.  If users haven’t bought and are presented with the same offer, you may want to send them to a landing page that offers more incentive that the original.  Since these pages are bound to be similar, you don’t want to have the search engines finding them.

Online Sales Leads

Online Sales Leads

Is your business struggling to generate online sales leads? It is common knowledge that generating sales leads online can be more effective than traditional methods, not to mention more cost-effective. Given the current economy, businesses are looking to the internet in order to cut marketing costs.  We are going to take a look at different methods of lead generation and how your company might use them.

Online Sales Leads

Lead Generating Traffic Sources

In order to maximize sales leads, you have to maximize the traffic coming in to your website and landing pages.  There are three ways to generate traffic online:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Optimizing your web pages so that your potential clients will find you when they search for your products or services.
  • Paid Advertising – Paying to have your ad appear in the sponsored listings in the search engines, or in a particular location on a selected website.
  • Social Media – Utilizing large web communities to generate interest and traffic for your products or services.
  • Affiliate Marketing – Partnering with like minded sites to offer each others products or services.

Depending on your business and what stage of development it is in, you will utilize these methods differently.  The key takeaway here is to utilize all three methods to some degree.  Don’t limit your ability to reach new clients by focusing all your efforts on one method.

Lead Capture Methods

Once you are generating some quality traffic, you will want to be sure that you don’t miss out on capturing as many leads as possible.  It is important to understand your target audience and their purchasing behavior.  Here are some ways you can keep in touch with potential clients at different levels:

  • Facebook Like Button – Including the ‘Like’ button on most pages of your site will allow visitors to ‘Like’ the content that they find helpful or amusing on your site.  When a visitor clicks on the ‘Like’ button, they automatically become a fan of your business and will receive updates that you send out through your Facebook page.  This is a great way to connect with people who are only on your site for a short time, or only visit a single page.
  • Opt-in List – Not everyone is going to buy on their first visit, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.  Give visitors the opportunity to receive quality content on a regular basis through e-mail.  You will offer some sort of upfront incentive for opting in and will occasionally offer your products or services in your e-mails.
  • Landing Page – Similar to the opt-in list, a landing page is specifically designed to promote a particular product or service.  When a visitor fills out their information, they have the opportunity to opt-in to your list, but may also be requesting a quote or some other type of follow up.
  • Registration – Having a site where users register to have access to a free service or a niche community is a great way to get visitors involved and to be able to make some quality connections.
  • Contact Information – Some businesses forget about this one altogether and don’t include their contact information in an easy-to-find location on the website.  If someone wants to use a more traditional means of contacting you, don’t limit them!

It is important to avoid surprises when a visitor comes to your site through any given medium.  If a visitor doesn’t think your content is relevant to what they are looking for, they will leave quickly and your conversion rate will suffer.

Lead Generation Examples

Here are a couple of scenarios that will help you better understand how to utilize these advertising mediums to generate leads online:

Brand New Local Restaurant – Knowing that it can take a minimum of six months to generate adequate organic search traffic and that SEO is more cost effective than paid advertising in the long haul, you hire an SEO expert right away.   You claim your local business listings with the major search engines so that local searchers can find you easier.  In the meantime, you utilize Google AdWords to not only generate immediate traffic, but also to test out your organic SEO keywords in the process.  As your business generates more and more organic search traffic, you rely on paid advertising less and less.  However, you don’t eliminate it altogether because you have realized that running PPC campaigns alongside your SEO campaigns creates some great synergy.  Your primary landing page encourages visitors to sign up for your e-mail list so they can receive special promotions and a free birthday meal.  Thanks to technology, you have automated your entire annual e-mail campaign and are able to discover what social networks your members are in and can connect with them on their favorite networks.  In order to promote your business to people who happen to be nearby, you utilize FourSquare.  You also become active on Yelp, encouraging those that have been to your restaurant to rate their experience.

Independent Consultant – As a consultant, you show off your knowledge through a blog, which is part of the main website.  This blog is great for generating organic search traffic, because you carefully optimize each post and post often.  Because your are a smart consultant, you are already using PPC, but are not over-reliant on this method.  You have also paid to have some banner and video ads on some of the top sites related to your industry.  LinkedIn is a great social media tool for you because it is a professional network that facilitates some great business to business connections.  As an added bonus, you frequently answers questions related to the industry on LinkedIn and other related forums, and you run a couple of Meetup groups for people interested in your specialty.  Affiliate marketing can come into play here as you team up with other consultants that have complimentary skill sets to your own.  You don’t actually sell any products online, so your landing pages focus around proprietary research and tools that you have created.  Once visitors opt-in for your email list, they are automatically sent a weekly e-mail containing your latest blog posts.  You also highlight a particular service each month and offer your e-mail list members a special discount.  All of your lead capture forms automatically feed the captured information into Sugar, your customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

Online Digital Camera Store – Let’s assume this business targets professional photographers who are looking for high-end digital equipment.  Your efforts are focused around SEO and PPC keywords related to your most profitable brands and products, because you understand that people searching for specific products are usually considering buying it.  The website itself is more than just an e-commerce store, but a social network within itself.  Because your business values repeat customers, you have forums where users can discuss the latest trends in photography.  Every month, you hold a contest where the best submitted photo wins the latest high-tech gear.  Most of your customers are quite satisfied not only to have found quality equipment, but also a great community.  Your community extends beyond just your site, in the form of a Facebook Page, a YouTube channel sporting some very helpful videos and a Flickr account that grabs the attention of anyone who sees it.  Your site also promotes the re-chargeable batteries of another site, which in turn promotes your high-end cameras.  Since your best sales come from active members of your community, your landing pages focus on having new visitors join the community.

New SEO Tool Just Released

As of today, we have just released our first of many SEO tools to come. The Meta Tag Checker Tool helps you analyze how well you are using SEO related tags on a given web page.

If you have ever wondered how you should be using the following elements on your webpages, you should check out our new tool:

  • HTTP Status
  • Page Title
  • Canonical Link
  • Meta description tag
  • Meta keywords tag
  • Meta robots tag

Over time, we will be improving the information that this tool returns, but I think we are off to a great start!  If you have any issues with it or have any feature requests, let us know by commenting on this post.

301 Redirect

Redirect Old Domain to New Domain via .htaccess

When you migrate a site from one domain to another, it is very important that you don’t break all the links that you built to your old domain. Proper redirection of all the pages on the old domain to the same location on the new domain will ensure that visitors to the old domain will end up in the right place.  A failure to redirect will result in a loss of visitors as well as search engine rankings.

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How Google Sees Your Site

Ever wondered exactly what Google can and can’t see on your website?  Well, we are actually referring to what ‘Googlebot’ can see.  Googlebot is Google’s web crawler.

What Google Can’t See

  • Videos – While great for human users, search engines really can’t see the content of your videos.
  • Images – They really spruce up a site, but Google can’t see what is in your images either.
  • Flash – Google can see some Flash, but it is best used very sparingly

What Google Can See

  • Text – Any text that you can highlight with your cursor is visible to Google.
  • Links – Any text or image links can be seen.  Text links are best for SEO, but if you must use images, take a look at the last item on this list.
  • HTML – Any text markup on your site is also visible to the search engines.  This can include page title tags, description tags, author and copyright tags, keywords and more.
  • Content around videos and images – While Google can’t really make out image or video content, but Googlebot can see what is in close proximity.  Google uses the context of the content to determine what it is about.
  • Image ALT attributes – The ALT tag is an optional attribute for the text markup of an image.  In other words, ALT stands for ‘Alternate Description’ and is intended to be show if an image could not be loaded.  You want to be sure any images containing text have a matching ALT attribute, or any images without text are well described.

Still not sure what Google can see on your site? See your site through Googlebot’s eyes

Local Business Search Marketing

All too often, I talk to small businesses that are trying to target their local market and want to do search engine optimization.  They try to target high volume search terms such as ‘lawn care’ or ‘electricians’.  If you are trying to reach your local area through online marketing, there are some simple things that you can do to greatly improve your results… Continue reading Local Business Search Marketing