Header Tags and SEO

Header Tags and SEO

header-tags-seo

If you aren’t sure what header tags are, these are tags in HTML used to create…well…headers. They have a range in size, and can be used for header and sub-headers. Header tags are signified by the <hx> syntax, ‘x’ being a number from 1 – 6. Example as follows:

Header Tags

Please note: I used an image instead of actual header tags because the header tags are changed for my blog with CSS.

As you can see, the largest of the header tags is the H1 tag, and the smallest the H6.

Normally, we would use these at the top of pages to let our visitors know what the page is all about. And so, the thought is, if we have a header, explaining what a page is all about, then a keyword in said header would count for a lot in our on-page SEO efforts. The debate comes from those that believe that abuse of the headers, much like the keywords tag, has forced the search engines to discount the keywords in them. There are even some who say the use of headers is needless in any fashion. I strongly disagree with this thought due to a little experience.

Long before I was an SEO, and before I realized I haven’t the talent needed, I aspired to be a writer. I wasn’t sure of what type, but I loved to write. It was common to use a larger header at the top of a paper to signify what the paper was about, and further use the sub-headers to describe the coming paragraph or section. It only seems logical that we should do so for our websites, to help our visitors navigate.

That being said, SEO isn’t an afterthought for me with regard to headers. But because I believe in quality content, I don’t even have to put much thought into “SEOed” headers. Think about it. If you are writing about a certain subject, and you are creating quality content, and you make use of headers in the way we were taught in school, wouldn’t you end up naturally using keywords in your headers? (the answer to that question is “yes”).

Now, this isn’t to say we won’t tweak header now and then to target the right term with a little more specification, but it is to say we don’t stress over them. As for their SEO benefit?

Sure, they may not be the number 1 factor in on-page optimization efforts (that I can certainly agree with), but in this field, every point counts. If we are going to be creating quality content, and we will likely be making use of headers anyway, might as well give them an SEO eye real quick.

The thing to remember is this. Headers (and any other element on your page) will work because they stand out against the rest of the text on that page. If we over-do it, then the headers will mean less.

1 Comment on “Header Tags and SEO”

  1. [...] am sure there are some great SEOs out there who could write whole articles just on the proper use of the header tag. I am just going to sum it up [...]

Stealing Links From Your Competitor

Stealing Links From Your Competitor

Here’s the problem. You have an idea for a website. You check the competition and you note how stiff it is. You pick one particular competitor in the field and notice that it has a ton of links. Now you are discouraged. You’ll never get that many links and compete. Might as well just give up.

Or, you could steal their links. Mwahahaha!

Ok, before I provide details I want to tell you 2 things. First, this is a horrible idea. I’m not 100% on this, but I’m pretty sure you would be breaking some sort of law. And it’s just really bad form. Second, this isn’t even my idea. It is the result of a satirical discussion at an SMX I attended in 08…maybe 09. I wish I could remember who it was that said this because I like to give credit where credit is due.

Without any more stalling, I give you the first post in a completely inconsistent series called “SEO Terrorism.”

So, you run a link analysis of your choosing on your competitor. Get that giant list of links. To save some time, weed out press releases and the like. You may also want to remove links to sub pages. These are usually links to specific items on a site noted in relation to a specific topic. You’ll be doing a lot of work to make it happen without skimming the list to only homepage links.

Now you should still have a very extensive list of sites that link to your competitor. Sort them by priority. I suggest putting the links to your competitor that have the anchor of terms you want to rank for, and placing anchors of your competitors name at the bottom.

Now, go register a domain. Any domain really, it doesn’t matter. If you really want to increase your odds of stealing links, try to register at the same place your competitor has.

Check your competitors nameservers, you will need this. Point your new domain to their nameservers. You’ll know why in just a moment.

Now comes the work part. Craft an email explaining that your company is re-branding (from your competitor’s name to your new domain name). You have plans to do this in exactly 3 months, and you are trying to get links updated in preparation. Send this email to as many sites on your list of links as you can. Keep doing this until you have exhausted the list, or are tired.

When someone checks out the new domain, it will resolve at your competitor’s site. Hmmm…seems like this is all “OK.”

Wait the three months. Spent this time creating your new site with relevant content. You can check the sites on your list to see if anyone took the bait. Wait a little longer if you must, and contact more sites.

Then BAM! Switch the nameservers to your new site. Now, you have come out of the gate with a number of links that were not only added to your site, they were taken from your competitor.

We used their nameservers because even a remotely savvy web admin will know a 301 redirect. We want to make this look genuine. We don’t do press releases because they are usually a waste of time. You may also want to be careful with contacting anyone that may have a personal relationship with your competitor.

You’ll also want to make sure you keep a list of the site’s you’ve contacted because too many emails will look suspicious. You could just go down the list for a full year or longer just to get as many links as you can.

Now, wait for either your rise to search engine power, or your impending court date. Whichever comes first.

Google To Offer Ranking Reports

Google To Offer Ranking Reports

Josh Garner April 7, 2010 8

OK, that’s not entirely true. But they are giving us some decent information.

I wanted to share a neat little bit of info after I read ‘The value of keyword rankings‘ over at State of Search. There has been (and likely will be for a while) a debate on the need to track keyword rankings. Some believe that it’s a moot point for reasons that regard the advent of various features added by Google (Personalized Search, Universal Search, AJAX SERPS, etc.) or the idea that keyword rankings aren’t as important as conversions and the end goal.

While that sentiment isn’t exactly false, I still believe that keyword ranking reports have their place. And that place is in a toolbox for use by your SEO. Actually, with a few exceptions I don’t even show ranking reports to clients so much anymore, but I run them for every single one. I’ll explain why in another post, but for now, let’s look at something neat that Google is doing.

I first heard about it from Matt Cutts on YouTube, and we have been using this information for some preliminary tracking. For some results, Google will provide a parameter declaring a search result ranking for a given keyword/phrase. So, you could use this information with your analytics software to determine not only what search terms brought visitors to your site, but where you rank for those terms.

Keep in mind we aren’t seeing this for all results pages just yet, but you can catch it every once in a while (it seems to depend on the search, and I don’t know if it’s a specific type yet). Also, I’m going to show you how these ranking results are probably not what you’re used to seeing. Let’s look at an example first.

So, do a search for something like ‘women’s shoes‘ in Google. You’ll get all the normal stuff; paid listings, organic results, etc.

Now, would you kindly right click on the first result, and click ‘Properties?’You’ll get a pop-up with the properties of the link, including an ‘Address.’ Highlight that whole address:

You can actually see what we are looking for from here, but for future reference you may want to paste the whole thing into notepad as you won’t see it all from this box most times.

What we are looking for is the parameter cd=1. This tells us that this is the first listing on the page. Pretty neat, yes? This is what you would use with your analytics software, so get your Dev team cracking on this. Actually, don’t do that yet.

Slight Change in Page One Rankings

Let me show you what happens if we change the search a little. This time, look for ‘orlando hotels.’ You should see a local listing results box up top. Now, check that link’s properties. Aha! That’s number 1, again noted with the cd=1. And, if you look at the link for the first “natural” result, you will see cd=8.

Wanna see something even cooler? Now search for ‘pacifica hotels.’ Now we have a result with sitelinks. I want you to look at the properties of that first sitelink. Remember when I said you have to paste this into notepad sometimes? This is one of those times. Because I’m a pretty cool guy, I’ll save you the trouble:

http://www.google.com/url?url=http://www.pacificahotels.com/central-coast.htm&rct=j&ei=65W8S4UTie72BOiOhOgH&sa=X&oi=smap&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&ved=0CBMQqwMoADAA&q=pacifica+hotels&usg=AFQjCNHQHkE98cI1LjNRP6YvERT3DkL89w

There’s a difference here. Now we have an added resnum=1 along with a cd=1. This means that we have a first place block of listings, and we are looking at the first listing within that block. If you look at the last sitelink, you will see the same resnum=1 and a cd=8. The next listing, in the SERP? Well that will get a cd=2 with no resnum.

So you can imagine that with a search that returns many results from various other verticals like images, maps, etc. these listing numbers can grow. It’s not as simple as saying “rank 1-10 means page 1.”

Why Is This Important?

Imagine you filter your analytics to show you not only the list of search terms that brought traffic, but also where they ranked in Google. Now, imagine that you are doing your diligence further by identifying the terms that produced conversion.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of these things? Say you have a traffic driver that is ranked number 2, but produces lower conversions than the term that is ranked number 9. You now have a new focus.

Now, before you run off to get your SEO or development team working on this, I give you these words of caution. First, I haven’t even looked at other results like images, etc. I don’t know what if any parameters are used for stuff like that. Also, this is Google we are talking about. Anything could change or be dropped at any moment.

How Many Pages Do I Need For SEO?

How Many Pages Do I Need For SEO?

Josh Garner April 13, 2010 0

I’ve heard this question 4 times this week, and it’s only Tuesday.

“How many pages do I need to make my website effective to the search engines?”

I’m pushing 7 years in this industry, so I wasn’t there for the beginning. I’m not too sure where this came from, but I can only imagine that it’s some sort of idea we had when we began to find ways to optimize and promote websites. Whatever the origin, this question can sometimes lead to false expectations and wasted work.

Before I give you the secret answer, I want you to know 3 things.

Too Few Pages Will Hurt You

If you don’t have enough pages to define and promote your website’s focus, then you will be held back. You need somewhere to place the content of your site. You need your products page, information, FAQs or whatever else it is you are trying to share. You need pages to do that, and having too few will prevent you from placing that content somewhere.

You have to get your content out there for all to read. It’s doing no good to your site if it isn’t even there.

Too Many Pages Will Hurt You

On the other hand, if you have too many pages that discuss the exact same product or topic, then you are competing against yourself. By spreading your idea too thinly across multiple pages, the search engines will have a difficult time determining which page to rank. Humans will also add to that hurt by linking to different pages, further confusing the search engines.

We Write for the Visitors, Not the Search Engines

At the end of the day, the visitor is priority one. Driving traffic to a site is easy. Keeping traffic on a site is a bit more difficult. Turning the traffic to your site into a conversion is the key. So, we write for the visitor, not the search engines. The sooner a budding SEO realizes that, the sooner they see much higher successes in their online marketing campaigns.

The Secret Answer

So we know that too many or too few pages can hinder your online performance, and we know that we need to write with human visitors in mind. What then is the best number of pages for a website to contain in order to perform the best online?

As many pages as you need.

How many pages do you need to share, show and detail your products? How many pages do you need in order to promote your idea? How many pages do you need to properly convey the meaning of your site? Well then, that’s how many pages you need.

There aren’t any magic numbers in this game. No concrete standards that can guarantee the optimal performance. Sure, there are a ton of details that go into this answer (like deciding when to break ideas into separate sub-pages and when to consolidate ideas into fewer pages) but that’s really the answer. Your site should contain exactly what is needed in order to properly identify and convey its message.

When You Simply Don’t Need SEO – 6 Questions to Help You Decide

When You Simply Don’t Need SEO – 6 Questions to Help You Decide

First off, let us say that when you do need seo, you should contact our new parent company Las Vegas seo.

With so many service providers out there, I’m sure you’ve been told several times that you need an Internet marketing service on some level. Check your email. How many times has some SEO company sent you a “free analysis” in the last month?

And with all these companies out there telling you how much better their site is doing because of some other company they hired, it’s easy to begin to wonder if you need SEO too. But, it’s important to understand what your business needs, when it needs it. Yes, you need SEO (or PPC, or SEM, or whatever term it is that’s creating buzz these days). But do you need it right now?

SEO Needs Are Relative

If you were to run into me on the street and ask “does my business website need SEO?” I would reply with “yes. Yes it does.”

I would give this same reply every time regardless of who asked the question. I don’t need to see your site or know anything about your or your business. I know you need SEO because there isn’t a site on the web that wouldn’t benefit from a proper online marketing strategy. But I warn you, the answer is almost as vague as the question itself.

Let’s say you’re a 10 year-old boy. You come up to me on the street and ask “do I need a prostate exam?” I would reply with “yes. Yes you do.” The answer I can give is only as good as the question asked. A 10-year-old boy, barring some medical oddity probably doesn’t need a prostate exam. But, that boy who will one day become a man surely does.

He doesn’t need it now. He probably won’t need it for quite some time, decades even. First, he has quite a few other items to check of his list of “things to do in my life.”

Take a Look At Your Business

You need to take a good look at your business before you start spending money on Internet marketing. I won’t lie, our services aren’t exactly cheap. Justifiably so, we garner some pretty hefty checks. For a business to pay us such fees without a return on investment would be…well…just silly.

I don’t write these tips for the sake of a blog post (though we could obviously use it). I write this in response to a growing number of requests for services that simply aren’t ready for us yet. We don’t sell to just anyone. Rather, we make it a point to partner with business owners where we know a relationship will be mutually beneficial.

Would you believe that we’ve had 2 people contact us wanting to compare our prices to another firm; only to be told that we wouldn’t offer our services in the first place? After a few years of doing this stuff, you can start to pin-point problems before they happen. One problem is that of offering a service when the business just isn’t ready for it yet.

So I give you 6 questions to ask before you decide you need SEO services.

1. Is my Business Ready?

We can’t even talk about bringing traffic to you before your business is ready. Can you handle a sale? Do you have the write paperwork in order (corporate filings, etc.)? If you plan on selling locally, do you have a store-front? If you’re a service provider who’s work requires insurance or a permit, do you have those things?

2. Do I Have a Website?

This may sound odd, but we’ve turned several potential clients away because they don’t even have a website yet. We can’t promote something that isn’t even there. Instead, we had to build a site and are working with them to create the perfect strategy (2 of which won’t require SEO services for another 6 – 8 months).

It’s something like buying gas for a car you have yet to purchase.

3. Is My Website Representative of My Business?

Sometimes, having a poorly designed site is worse than having no site at all. In the last year we’ve taken SEO off the table 3 times due to a poor website. This can be anything from the quantifiable use of parameters in URL creation (usually associated with a content management system) to the subjective “that’s just ugly.” Either way, if your website doesn’t properly represent your company, what good is it to drive traffic there?

4. Have I Employed Any Other Marketing Efforts?

Though not a show-stopper, the answer to this question has the potential to get my attention. If you don’t have any other marketing efforts going, you’re missing quite a bit of information that could be used with your Internet marketing efforts (like demographic information, past clients you can use to spread the word, etc.).

In any event, we don’t normally shun at providing our services to businesses who haven’t explored other areas of “traditional” marketing. But just so you know, a lot of what you learn from those efforts can translate into Internet marketing in some fashion or another.

5. Do I have Goals?

Again, not something that will stop all further conversations, having a clear goal is extremely important. In fact, I would bet to say that having a goal is even more important than the act of pursuing that goal. Most often when someone doesn’t have an answer to that question, it’s simply because they do have a goal, they just haven’t taken the chance to articulate it.

Without knowing what your goals are, there is no way to achieve them.

6. Is SEO Going to Save my Business?

This one is a show-stopper. It doesn’t happen as much as it did a few short years ago; but we used to get this call all the time. “My business is drowning. I need more traffic to my site or I’ll have to close it down for good.” I’m sorry to say, we can’t help you.

The only difference between Internet marketing today and the T.V. and magazine ads of the 50s and 60s is the medium. The messages, goals, and strategies are more similar than they appear at first. If your business isn’t doing so well (to the point of closing for good) then it’s time to re-evaluate other aspects before you look for a silver bullet.

Take away the fact that most online marketing efforts take a lot of time and money. A failing business with increased exposure will be just that; a failing business with increased exposure.

So there you have it. If you can get the answers to these questions in line, then you are probably ready to start learning more about how SEO and other forms of online marketing can help your business. There’s still more to talk about, but this should at least keep you from spending money on something that won’t work.

SEO or PPC? Both? What Do You Need?

SEO or PPC? Both? What Do You Need?

Long gone are the days when the debate was whether one was better than the other. Instead, we now find ourselves asking

“Under what circumstances do I need SEO, and when should I opt for PPC? Do I need both?”

In almost every circumstance I’ve encountered, the use of PPC and SEO in conjunction were strongly advised. However, this doesn’t mean that they get the same focus or budget. Sometimes a campaign calls for attention in one area that is not needed in the other. So how do you tell what you need when you need it?

First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with the results garnered from SEO and PPC respectively.

SEO

It’s What You’re Used To
With regard to “natural” optimization and promotion, you’re looking to increase rankings via the search engines in their organic results. This is to say, the chunk of listings aside from the advertising space at the tops and sides of most search engines. Depending on the search engine these are sometimes numbered, usually 10 per page.

How To Get Them
This requires that a great deal of attention be given to the site itself, focusing on the content, link structure, etc.; as well as building inbound links from other websites through a large array of methods (ie, link-building).

Time Investment
SEO takes a bit of time, usually months before you see any real results. This isn’t always the case, but generally speaking the changes you make today don’t affect your site until tomorrow (that’s not literal). I’ve been involved in campaigns that took more than a year to accomplish what we would consider a success.

Monitoring and Tweaking
With rankings comes traffic. So, another aspect of SEO is the on-going monitoring, tweaking, monitoring, adding, monitoring…well, you get the idea. Once you get traffic to the site for a given set of search terms, you can begin to identify areas of your campaign that need attention and make changes as needed.

Long-Lasting Effects
One of the great things about the results from a solid SEO campaign is the “gift that keeps on giving” nature in which you see returns. Once you’ve reached a certain level of success, you can tone down your campaign, allowing you to place attention elsewhere as needed. Your site will still rank for quite a while, and may even improve due to domain age, inbound link age, etc.

WARNING: Though you may be awarded the luxury of sitting back a little, please don’t fall into not keeping an eye on your site’s reports. Many a website have fallen off the map because nobody was monitoring traffic/rankings/conversions.

Getting Better All The Time
You can always push for more results in an SEO campaign as there is really no end to it. No matter how well you’re site is doing, it can always perform better.

PPC

Where They Are
With regard to PPC, we are aiming for the spots just to the side and above the organic results in a search engine. This is usually reserved to a smaller number of websites, though you can check multiple pages in the same way you would for natural results.


Centralized Management

PPC campaigns are setup with their respective engines or services of your choice. This means you login to a site and set the parameters of your campaign based on your needs. You’ll perform some of your keyword research, write your messaging and set a few other options all from one spot.

Minor Site Touched
Though the setup and maintenance of your PPC campaign is performed in one spot, you still need to make sure your site reflects/represents your ad(s). This means, you’ll need to make sure the ad you have for a certain service or product sends clicks to the most relevant page on your site. And due to quality scores having an impact on the amount you pay per click, you’ll want to optimize that page just a little. This is usually pretty far from the optimization you’ll need to perform for SEO, so you’re saving a bit of time on that front.

Pay To Play
Speaking of paying for clicks, that’s the whole idea behind PPC marketing. Every click you receive will result in a charge. You’re paying for traffic here.

Fast Results
Because you are paying for traffic, the ad can be setup and running in (usually) under an hour. Immediate advertising at its best. This also means that you’ll get a good idea of what’s working and what isn’t rather quickly in comparison to an SEO campaign, allowing you to adjust your parameters as needed.

Pay Or Else
The one downside of PPC is the abrupt end to traffic should you throttle back your budget or stop the campaign all together. If you stop paying, you stop getting traffic. Just like that.

Breaking The Bank
Another downside is the amount of money one could throw away should one not monitor and manage the account appropriately (have you ever mis-placed a decimal?). This is why PPC management has been big business for us lately. Between making sure our partners don’t spend too much and ensuring the highest ROI on what they do spend, the management aspect of a PPC campaign can be quite intense at times.

Let’s Recap

SEO

  • The “normal” listings of a search results page
  • Requires an investment of time and modifications to the site
  • Requires some level of link-building
  • Continued monitoring and tweaking really enhances the campaign
  • Once going, an proper SEO campaign can return results for years to come
  • The more you put into it, the more you get out of it

PPC

  • Usually above and to the side of the “normal” results
  • Immediate Results, and thus immediate potential for returns
  • Can be managed from a central location per engine or service
  • Usually only minor changes to the site are needed
  • Only gets traffic when you pay
  • Monitoring and management is extremely important

SO What Do You Need?

Your needs for specific services are going to change depending on your current situation. Are you a brand new business? How’s the traffic to your site now and where does it come from?

Also, your goals and time lines can play a big part in the decision making process. Because of the many variables, we advise every single project differently, regardless of similarities shared among other projects.

That being said, there are a few situations to note that can help you find the service that will work best for you right now.

Time Lines
If you’re in a crunch and need traffic now, PPC is the obvious choice. If you are working towards a long term marketing campaign, then SEO is your pick. There are a few variables that can come into play where SEO will result in almost immediate traffic, but PPC is a sure way to do it quickly.

Budget
If budgets are your main concern, you’re gonna have to put your emphasis on SEO. PPC can cost quite a bit, and that’s without management fees. Even if you’re savvy enough to handle it yourself, you still have to throw a little money at it just to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Learning Curve
Our consulting partners have ranged from people who have never turned their own computer on, to people I’ve wanted to hire myself and everything in between. If you have the motivation you can get into either of them. SEO will allow you to get into the site and make changes as needed to rank, while PPC will let you see some pretty neat reports on which to base your decisions. So depending on your level of know-how you could find either of these to work with.

Seasonality
Perhaps you have an event coming up, or a special you need to promote. Because of the time needs of SEO, PPC is probably going to be your pick. But keep in mind that if you have a recurring event, you can plan a proper SEO campaign for it. A yearly festival to which you cater would do well with a dedicated page/section and some SEO love.

You Need Both

Most often though, you’ll probably benefit greatly from placing your attention on both SEO and PPC. Whatever the situation, it’s pretty rare that we don’t see a case for running both. Even further, having one type of campaign will actually compliment the other greatly.

You see, PPC relies heavily on your quality score to determine your costs per click. If the landing page is optimized in an SEO way, that quality score is likely to raise a bit. Similarly, having a natural listing at the top of the results page is only compounded by having a PPC ad right above or next to it. This really helps to brand your business and helps consumer recall.

In the end, we usually vote for both. Again, it’s a case by case type of thing but hopefully this sheds some light on the differences you can expect and help you place your attention where it is needed.

Questions We Ask Potential SEO Clients

Questions We Ask Potential SEO Clients

question

Hugo Guzman wrote an interesting post the other day about questions you should as a potential SEO agency (they could easily be translated to questions for an in-house hire or the like). It’s a good read so I suggest checking it out.

It got me thinking about the questions we ask of the people who contact us for SEO services, and some of the questions we ask in order to properly qualify a project.

After all, how much good can an SEO provide you if they don’t know what they are getting into?

Have you identified specific goals for your website, and if so, what are they? Tell us more about your target audience.

Obviously, we need to know the goals of any marketing campaign before we can achieve them. And the specifics of a goal help to determine what actions we take.

There are no right answers; as a goal can be brand awareness, increased traffic/rankings, to make a sale, etc.

More importantly though, this question also gives us some insight as to the current mindset of the business owner. It would be easy to say that about 40% of the people that contact us don’t actually have a concrete goal just yet.

This is ok, as we can usually help a business owner understand the different types of online marketing methods we can implement and what their returns look like.

What differentiates you from your competitors?

This can sometimes be difficult to answer, especially for “common” businesses. We are looking for anything at all that can spark a future conversation.

This can be as simple as “better customer service” or as complex as “we work closely with XYZ vendor to ensure 100% compliance to the ABC protocol all while managing your PDQ needs.”

Give us just a little bit of clay and we can mold an online marketing masterpiece. The more clay, the nicer the piece.

Have you identified any problems to which you are looking for a solution?

Similar to goals, are you having any specific problems online? Did rankings/traffic drop? Did your site disappear all together. We simply need to know this stuff in case we need to initiate a “fix-it” plan.

Have you been tracking online performance thus far? To what capacity?

In this question we are looking for what metrics you have been monitoring. This helps us to know of your perception of your site’s performance and the current state of said performance.

Sometimes, it even helps us to understand where we need to educate you as there are a million tools out there, some of which give inaccurate data.

Are you looking for a long-term strategy or short term gains?

It’s very important for us to know what sort of campaign you desire. If someone is looking for quick returns, we are likely to move the conversation into PPC management. If you’re looking for a long-term, lasting strategy, then SEO is the obvious pick.

This also ensures that we are on the same page as the business owner with regard to turn-around time.

Are you looking for a national online marketing campaign, or one that targets a specific region?

Local SEO has been a big part of our business over the last few years, and it seems that it will only grow. As such, the answer to this question helps us determine a strategy to meet your needs as marketing for your local crowd and selling products to the nation via your online store are mutually exclusive.

Have you had any previous SEO efforts implemented on the site? Details please.

This one is very important. We learned early on to get an understanding of past SEO efforts and the details on them. Though decreasing in number, we still get a few sites that have been taken on by poor SEO firms. We need to know this so we can know what we will have to clean up.

More recently though, we are seeing legitimately “good” SEO efforts. We still need to know about this because there may be something we can build on or we can put our efforts elsewhere depending on what has been done.

We also want to know why that effort has been stopped. Was there a disagreement in achievement/methods? This certainly wouldn’t stop us from moving forward, but it does help us to understand the desires of the business owner and ensure that we are setting the right expectations.

Do you have someone on your staff to make changes on the site, or will we be doing that?

This is way more important than it sounds. Whether there have been past efforts or not, we haven’t had a site yet that didn’t warrant a few changes here or there. Also, it’s nice to know if someone else is in the kitchen; at which point we will request communications with said person(s).

This is usually a designer, and it’s important that we have an amicable working relationship. We need to know if it’s possible someone could undo or modify our work and do our best to prevent stepping on each others’ toes.

What level of involvement do you wish to have in your online marketing efforts?

We’ve heard every answer from “tell me every time you change a single character” to “just do what you do and tell me when it’s done.” Though we can accommodate both of these and most situations in between, it’s important to understand what it is you want to know.

This also helps us to determine if a Do-it-for-me SEO service is a possible solution, or should we consider providing an SEO consultation plan.

Even if someone wants to be as ‘hands-off’ as possible, we try to come up with at least a minimum schedule to report and evaluate progress.

The answers to these questions usually lead to further conversations, but these give us quite a bit to work with. Sometimes the questions you are asked will differ, but that’s ok. Every SEO firm is different.

2 Comments on “Questions We Ask Potential SEO Clients”

  1. AUG 12TH, 2010

    Good list of questions here (and thanks for the mention)!

  2. DEC 5TH, 2011

    Great list. I would add simple question “Please provide us with a detailed description about the products or services that you offer.”
    Also, we ask for primary and secondary level keyword phrases as well as permission to review the keywords to make changes as per business objective.

Determining a Good Directory

Determining a Good Directory

Josh Garner July 16, 2010 1

Determining a Good Directory

I first wrote this post in March of 2008. I was browsing some old files and happened upon this one, and realized that it is still very valid today. Keep in mind that this is a re-post, and feel free to comment should you agree or disagree on any of the finer points.

This is a tricky subject. I really don’t like to cover it because I feel that sometimes the point is lost in translation, but I would rather explain it here the best I can as opposed to my clients/potential clients catching something online I don’t agree with. So today, I’m going to discuss identifying a quality directory.

Before we get into the meat of it, let’s talk about the idea of directories, and the role they play in link building/SEO all together. It’s a small role. Even today I make use of directories to build a little awareness of a site. In some cases, I can even find quality directories that will indeed pass link juice and, more importantly, traffic. However, as a whole, directories should not be the main resource for link building. Why not?

The grand majority of the directories I look at are of very low, if any quality, they don’t pass link credit and they don’t drive traffic. Some are even so poor as to make me wonder if an inclusion would count against a site. If the only link you have going to your site is that of a poor directory, your site is likely to feel a negative impact.

But if we make use of quality directories to suplement to your link-building efforts, success will indeed be attained. Well, how do we find these good directories? I’ll tell you. We will start with some general information, and work our way to detailed points of interest.

Some Background

The very first thing I look at is the site itself. Do a quick spot check on the domain name’s history. You can use domain tools to do so. We are looking for the creation date, and the expiration date. An aged directory is a good sign, and an expiration date in the distant future shows us that the owner is serious about keeping the directory and making it work. It is thought that Google considers these facts as well.

Index

Check to see if the directory is indexed in the search engine(s). Also, try to get a look at how many pages are indexed. You can do this by using the ‘site:’ operator like so:

site:www.directoryinquestion.com

If we only see 1 or just a few pages, ask yourself why. If we see a ton of them, it’s a good sign.

Rankings

Does it rank for it’s own name? How about a few terms the site seems to target? How about the title tag? If the directory is failing at any of these, I’m already knocking a lot of points off. Try a variety of searches in the three big guys (Google, Yahoo! and Bing).

For bonus, if the directory pops up with a couple of searches, and carries with it a few sitelinks, then you know you’re on to something good. For an example, Google search: best of the web directory and you’ll see one of the better directories listed, along with their sitelinks.

URL Structure

Check the sub pages of the directory, and see if the URLs are SEO-friendly. If they aren’t, why not? Yes, Google is getting pretty good at crawling these (actually, very good), but with so many directory builders out there, friendly URLs are so easy to implement. If the directory owner can’t take the few moments it takes to implement this, then they probably aren’t too serious.

PR

I don’t care to discuss this topic either, as the PageRank bar is so misunderstood. In reality, the PR number itself is rather useless, but the tool serves a purpose. If you get to the homepage, and the PR is low, or grayed out, then it’s a sign of negativity. I don’t like to make final calls on this one, but take it into account.

A grayed out bar (not a score of 0, but completely grayed out) means the directory is either way too new, or has been penalized/banned for some reason. Again, take this with a grain of salt. When BOTW opened their blog directory, I’m sure it didn’t have the PR it does now. But you can bet that it’s a quality directory.

Internal PR Flow

In line with the last point, how does the PR flow? If the homepage has a high PR, but every other page is at 0, what gives? It probably means that they spent their time submitting their directory to a bunch of directories to get a little PR, and it’s not being linked to naturually. This is why we don’t give much weight to that little green bar of uselessness. I like to see a good PR on the homepage, and decent PR on a lot of sub/sub sub pages.

External PR Flow

I don’t like to target directories for rankings solely, but why not consider it while we are there? Check some of the sites in the directory. Check the source code. Are the links accompanied with a rel=”nofollow”? If so, we better find that this director is very relevant to our industry, and is going to pass traffic.

Inbound Links

This one is 2-fold. First, we want to know more about the link count/quality the directory in question has. You can do this in Google with a “link:” operator, but you won’t get a lot of information that way. Instead, just use Yahoo!’s version, and get a quick idea.

link:www.directoryinquestion.com

Try to resist discting this too much. Remember, directories are a passing thought, not an acceptable time consumer.

Hey, if we are here, we might as well do some link tests for some of the sites in the directory in question. Pick a few sites listed in the directory, and use Yahoo! again to get a link idea. Try to find the directory. If it’s there, it’s a good sign.

Neighborhood

Some directories will link to anyone. This includes pornographic sites, enlargement pills (you know the kind), and any number of family-unfriendly sites. We really don’t want to put our site in that same neighborhood. Besides, it’s a good sign that a listing in this directory will do little for your site anyway (unless your site is family-unfriendly, of course).

When I wrote this post originally 2 years ago, I had to edit it due to a comment by Greg Hartnett of BOTW:

Simply having a link to a “family un-friendly” site doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact on a directory. You want to make sure that the categories are split up appropriately.

The question is: How are those sites being categorized? Are they broken down in a logical and intuitive fashion, or are all types of sites lumped together? If ti’s the former, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if it’s the latter, then you’d be better off passing. You wouldn’t want your travel site in a category listed next to an enlargement site, but having your travel site in a category with other travel sites in a directory that also contains categories for Adult listings shouldn’t pose any concern. -Greg

Niche

The better of the points to consider. General directories have something going against them. There are a ton of them. If the directory will take any type of site, it’s less likely to pass traffic to you. Always opt for niche directories whenever possible. This will increase the chance that it will actually rank, and the chance that someone will navigate to your site specifically.

Editorial Reviews

And the most important of the bunch. Does the directory review the sites it lists? If not; if any site can submit and get a listing, then it’s quality is way down. Directories have been getting a beating from Google lately, and the ones that will take any link are the usual victims. Sites like BOTW cost a pretty penny just to get your site reviewed, not to mention listed. This payment is to cover the cost it takes a human to take a look at the site and determine whether or not it gets listed in the database. Having a fee and human editors ensures that only sites of higher quality will make it in.

Gut Feeling

This isn’t something you can measure, but use your instincts. Does it seem like the directory owner strives to provide a real service, or are they just throwing AdSense everywhere? Does it seem like a lot of time is put into the directory, or is it just a get-rich-quick idea someone had?

Future Reference

The best metric for directory quality is it’s own history. If you manage a lot of sites, knowing what a directory did for you for one site will help you determine whether or not you give the time for another submission. check your stats. Have you gotten any hits from the site (did these hits convert)? Have you noticed the directory in your Google Webmaster tools? Did you notice increased rankings once a site was included in the directory (this is pretty difficult to measure, but keep your eye out)?

And That’s It

Nope. That’s not it. All of these points rolled into one will not determine once and for all the quality of a directory. Unfortunately, very little will. Only Google really knows if the directory is helping your site or not. But with these things in mind, we can increase our chances of submitting to good directories, and save the time spent on poor ones.

A Little Bonus

So now that you’ve read this aged post I wanted to add a little bonus to make things easier. I didn’t edit the original text because I think it’s important to see how things can be done manually, but there have been a lot of great tools developed over the last couple of years that can help you determine the quality/authority of a site.

One such tool (or many of the tools) is that of SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer. They also have a suite of other tools that help us a great deal (we literally use them every day). This should make checking on back links and quality a little easier. Still not just one step, but a great way to save a little time.

404 Reports for Link-Building

404 Reports for Link-Building

Either the stars have aligned, or someone has too many email addresses and too much time on their hands. Either way, I’ve gotten 3 emails in 2 weeks with a very similar question.

What is the single most-used method for gaining more inbound links?

I know what sort of answer these queries are looking for, and I’ve replied to each of them with a few ideas/methods we (the SEO community in general) use. But I was talking about these to the other SEO on the team and he said:

Dude, we totally use the 404 thing the most.

Aside from his mastery of the English language, he has a point. We do use the 404 thing the most, dude.

I’m not too sure where I heard this the first time; it’s been so long now, but this method we use to build links is quite simply a gold mine for the majority of our projects.

The 404 Link-Building Method

Data Gathering

First, run any number of reports you have employed on your server/site that will tell you the number of times a 404 error was returned, and the details of the error. Usually you should see what URL was requested and the referring source. That’s all you need for now.

Turn the Data Into Links

Now, you know what page was requested and from where that request came. More often than not, these are links pointing to your site. They are sometimes pointing to dead/forgotten pages, or mis-spellings of another URL. Either way, we have a fix for that.

If these are links to dead pages, then you can consider re-creating relevant content and place it on that old URL. You may also consider 301 redirecting from that old URL to a new one with prepared content, or ask that the referring site update their link for you (the better of the options, but sometimes most difficult).

If they are mis-spellings, you are usually stuck with the last 2 options as before, usually resulting in a 301 redirect. We don’t suggest accommodating mis-spelled page names for this sake, rather redirecting or attempting an update.

Bulk Returns

Though I’ve given this tip in those email responses, I know this isn’t exactly what people are looking for when they ask. They are usually controlling rather small websites, and this method (though still valid) won’t produce the sort of returns we get to see.

It’s important to note that we usually deal with established, large websites with many pages. The larger, older and more robust the site, the more likely there is to be a decently sized 404 error log.

But that’s it. A great way to increase inbound links with minimal effort and potentially great returns.

Links. Internal, External and Outbound

Links. Internal, External and Outbound

Josh Garner July 21, 2010 2

Links. Internal, External and Outbound

The Internet is built on links. The search engines find websites via links from other site and visitors find appropriate pages via navigation links.

All in all, this is what drives the ever-growing landscape. Because links are so important, we are going to talk today about various link types and how they are handled.

Before we get into the different links, let’s define something real quick: anchor text.

Anchor text is the part of a link that a person would see simply by viewing the site. You should know what a link looks like in HTML, but just in case, here it is:

<a href=”http://seo-factor.com”>SEO Factor is the coolest.</a>

The part that says “SEO Factor is the coolest.” is not only true, it’s also the anchor text. So, the link would simply show that piece, but direct a clicker to the page declared in the ‘href’ portion. Simple, yeah?

This is important because the anchor text is considered when a search engine views a link. Let’s say there is a link to your website that says “Orlando Hotel” on another site. Google would see this, go to your page and associate the anchor text. This is one of the many ways we associate our websites with a search term.

OK, let’s talk link types.

Internal Links

Internal links are those that are on your website, that point to other pages on the same site. The navigation of your site would be a good example of this, but the SEO implications call for more attention. We need to not only consider the anchor text that we use to point to the pages of our site, but also where they are in relation to our content.

Internal links that point to a page of your site nested within relevant content will help to establish a page’s relevance to a certain search term. So, not only do we need the right anchor text, we need to discuss the link within our content.

The homepage of a site often touches on many aspects of the products, services or information that are also detailed in their own pages; like a ‘products’ page. Since we are talking about our products on the homepage, why not link to the right page with the right anchor text?

Consider:

  • Internal links should have relevant search terms in the anchor text, pointing to relevant pages
  • They should be placed (not forced) in the content of our site’s pages, not just the navigation

Bonus: Internal linking is of the utmost importance when conducting on-page optimization. Not only does proper internal linking increase usability, it also has a big impact on rankings. But it’s important to do it right. For a slightly more advanced look at the subject, Ken Lyons over at WordStream wrote a great post with some internal linking tips that are simply fantastic.

External Links

Also known as inbound links. These are links that point to your website from another website. This is the meat of SEO today (and for the last few years). Getting links pointing to your site from other websites with a lot of links pointing to them, with a keyword for the anchor text is what we SEOs spend countless hours chasing.

I wrapped up a lot in that last statement, so let’s take a general look at the parts of external links that matter in relation to optimization.

You want links pointing to your site from relevant websites. A website about cars will do little for your hotel website (unless it’s something so grand as Edmunds.com or some such; different topic all together though).

You want links pointing to your site from sites that have a lot of links themselves. This means, a brand new website won’t help too much (note that we shouldn’t turn these down though). The more links pointing to your website, the higher it’s importance as according to a search engine. So it goes that a link from such an important site would really help our site.

When a website links to your site, we want to convince them to use a desired keyword or search term as the anchor text. Remember that this will help a search engine associate your site with that term. This is sometimes the tricky part, but that’s what we want.

Consider:

  • Links from important sites are good.
  • Links from relevant sites are good.
  • Links with desired anchor text from other sites are good.

Outbound Links

Outbound links are links on your website that point to other websites. You might be thinking “why would I want to give out my links to other sites, giving them credit?” At start I would say “you’re right. By linking to others, you are giving some of your link juice to them.” But there’s a bit more to it. There are also ways we can manage the juice we give to other sites.

Linking to other websites may be a great way to provide your potential patrons with area information to help them decide on your hotel, or perhaps linking to information on the SBA.org site would help to justify the need for your B2B services you provide (we do that one a lot). So, we don’t want to throw out the idea of linking to others all together.

There is a thought that linking to very relevant website, especially noted authoritative sites as deemed so by Google will in fact help the legitimacy of your website, and thus your rankings. I’m not so certain on that, but the logic of being associated with the right circles is there.

We do, however want to ensure we aren’t linking to completely irrelevant websites. Not only does this give them some of your link juice, but it reflects poorly on the professionalism of your site, in both the eyes of a search engine and a visitor.

We also don’t want to link out to other sites excessively. Having links to the nearest 100 local businesses will look very suspicious, and the amount of juice given away is far too great.

We want to be careful with the anchor text we use in order to link to other websites. We don’t want to use one of our desired search terms to link to someone else, associating their site with said search term.

I feel, that if you are linking to a website that would benefit your visitors, then they should get a little benefit from it in regard to search engines.

However, if you want to keep all your link juice to yourself, you can use the nofollow attribute. This is a part of the link that will tell Google not to follow the link (it is not clear that they won’t follow it anyway) and that you don’t want to give them any of your link juice (this part is true). This would keep all the juice to yourself. You can see a nofollow link written like this:

<a href=”http://seo-factor.com” rel=”nofollow>SEO Factor is the best.</a>

Please note that the nofollow attribute is widely known about. Excessive use of the nofollow could ostracize you, and prevent others from linking to you. Be careful.

Consider:

  • Linking to other sites will give some of your link credit or “juice.”
  • Linking to other sites should only be done so in a way that would benefit your visitors.
  • Excessive outbound links will have a negative impact on your site in several ways.
  • Don’t use one of your search terms as the anchor to an outbound link.
  • We can use the nofollow attribute to keep the juice on our site, but that isn’t playing nice.

On a slightly related note, people still fall into reciprocal linking schemes by which they link to other sites if they agree to link to you. I strongly advise against it. In moderation, a few reciprocal links aren’t bad, and may help. But that should be a distant last on your list of “things to do to increase links to your site.”