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5 Things to Consider When Developing a Marketing Strategy


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8



SEO 101 Refresher Part 1: Overview

While search engine algorithms are created by those with PhDs, you dont have to have one in order to give your website the best chance for having good search engine visibility. By adhering to established search engine optimization best practices, using fundamental search engine optimization strategies, and being able to monitor measurable results; you can grant your website the visibility it deserves. Search engine optimization or positioning is by far the best, smartest and most affordable investment you can make in Internet marketing. Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, search engine placement and search engine positioning, is the process of improving a website for higher search engine visibility. It should be the first step in achieving higher rankings. This introduction to search engine optimization is the first of an eight part series that discusses the basic aspects of SEO. The series will include:

Developmental and Environmental Pitfalls and Solutions
Sometimes the very technology we use in order to allow our websites to be more easily manageable, creative, or more functional can cripple a websites ability to rank well. Technological issues can:

  • Make your navigation invisible (completely hiding the websites structure and content)
  • Duplicate your website and all of its content so it appears there are "copy cat" websites with your content (search engines want original content)
  • Prevent search engines from crawling Web pages due to a content management system/shopping cart that uses long complex URLs

Link Architecture and Content Layout
Not only is link architecture crucial to good usability and user flow, search engines rely on a websites link architecture and content layout to assist them in finding all of a websites content. It also helps the search engines understand what a page is about due to the way it is linked from other pages. Improper link architecture can hide content and make it difficult to keep updated content in the search engines.

Nuts and Bolts Optimization
When it comes to "on-page optimization" not doing enough or overdoing it-both have their consequences. We will discuss the basics of page level optimization from title tags, alt tags, Meta tags and actual content optimization to understanding the different types of back links and their place in SEO.

Tracking Progress
Often thought of at the end of the initial SEO work (or not at all) is how to track the success of the SEO effort. While necessary and beneficial, tracking rankings only is a minimalist approach which doesnt attach value to SEO. Tying specific organic traffic to a specific keyword and being able to attach a conversion ratio or dollar amount to that keyword is where the true value lies.

At the end of this Search Engine Optimization 101 series you should be able to understand the basics of what SEO is (and isnt) and be able to apply principles that will help you spot problems with your current website and understand what goes into a search engine optimization strategy. From there, you can decide if you want to tackle search engine optimization in-house or hire an experienced professional.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 2: Website Navigation

A websites navigational system is the webbing the holds your website together. Like a web, there may be multiple threads linking to other threads together providing a diverse and sound structure.

In SEO a websites navigation plays a significant role in letting the search engines know what a page is supposed to be about. For example, if you sell clothes, proper linking to your new leather sandals page has several advantages:

  1. A link from the home page assures your new leather sandals page will be crawled more quickly than if it was buried three levels deep.


  2. Using the proper anchor text "mens leather sandals" instead of an image or "click here" allows the home page to describe what the page on the other end of the link is about.


  3. Interconnecting the new leather sandals page from already established shoe and sandal pages helps to lend credibility and helps to describe what the page is about.

When linking, make sure that your links are static and not created virtually. You can tell if your links are static by using the "view source" feature in your browser on your pages and seeing if your links each have an href="pagenamehere.html" or href="pagenamehere.php", etc. If you cant see the link in the source code, neither can the search engines and this needs to be corrected by your web developers. In the mean time, while you wait for a fix for your dynamic navigation, you can place your links inside of noscript tags. Keep in mind when placing your links inside of the noscript tags that they will be visible to visitors who do not have JavaScript enabled.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 3: Canonical Issues

Canonical issues is SEO talk for where more than one URL serves one websites content.

Lets go over a few definitions to set the stage:

root domain name = separates one entity from another on the Web, like how a company name sets apart one company from another. Example: zunch.com

sub domain name = separates different parts of an entity on the Web and precedes the root domain name. Example format = subdomain.zunch.com.

What many dont realize is that since anything before the root domain name (ex: zunch.com) is a sub domain, they dont know that www, is in fact, a sub domain. Because many web servers by default answer to www.site.com and site.com many sites already have a canonical issue. In the past, search engines (Google included) have treated these URLs as two different websites. Uh-oh.

If two different URLs are serving a websites content that means that a websites content and link popularity are being split apart. In Google, some documents from one URL would be filtered out while others would be filtered out from the other. This means your content is split up into two different URLs. We always want to create more content for a website - not separate it!

As if this isnt bad enough, your back links could also be split up. Inevitably some sites would use www.site.com and others would just use site.com. Of course, you dont want your link popularity split among different URLs as your links are a major ranking factor.

If your website is already serving content on each URL you simply need to use a 301 permanent redirect from one URL to the other. The defacto www.site.com is probably a good choice. So in this case you would setup a 301 permanent redirect from site.com to www.site.com. This is rather simple for most web servers, however I have heard that web servers such as Lotus-Domino can be difficult to deal with and a call to support may be needed.

The search engines are making strides to address canonical issues. In the mean time, a use of a simple 301 permanent redirect can keep the canonical issues from being an issue at all.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 4: Dynamic URLs

A dynamic URL is a URL that has values appended to it with a question (?) mark.

Static URL:
www.zunch.com/services.aspx

Dynamic URL:
www.zunch.com/services.aspx?id=123andcat=car

In the above example id and cat are variables with 123 and car being their values, respectively.

Most content management systems and shopping carts use dynamic URLs to efficiently display content from a back-end that allows users to usually enter content in and make new pages easily without having web development skills.

The downside is that generally when search engine see a URL with a ? they run. Google has made progress in indexing simpler dynamic URLs; however it best to avoid them all together if possible. Content management systems and shopping carts can be expensive to implement, so how do we do this with an established website? A URL rewrite.

A URL rewrite can take a dynamic URL and rewrite it so that it appears static to the search engines and users.

Before rewrite:
www.zunch.com/sitemap.aspx?id=123andcat=car

After rewrite:
www.zunch.com/sitemap~123~car.htm

The URL is cleaner and the dynamic pieces are reduced to only what we need - the values. In addition we now have a static looking web page that looks like it sits on the web root.

Depending on what web server you use there are different solutions available commercially or you can develop one internally.

A good resource for Apache and Microsoft IIS URL rewriting can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_rewrite.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 5: Link Architecture

Link architecture is the skeletal structure of the content of your website.

Search engines crawl the Web a page at a time (although they have many many crawlers). When they visit a page they record the Meta data and visible content of the page as well as the links from that page. Its the links from that page that guide the search engines through the rest of your website. Obviously its important that the search engines find each page as easily as possible.

Sites that have content buried deep within the website thats more than a few clicks away risk having that content slow crawled or not crawled at all. Its important to note that by depth of content we are not referring to directory structure but to linking structure. If you have a web page at this URL that is linked to from the home page then this page is only one level deep in the website. Its important to note the distinction. Just because a page is on the root of a website (http://www.site.com/page.html) doesnt mean it is easily crawlable if it is linked to on the third level of your website.

For any website it is important to have a sitemap as they aid search engines with crawling the second and third levels of your website by making them accessible through one page closer to the home page. Sitemaps should at least be linked to from the home page, if not every page. Very large sites may need several sitemaps broken up logically.

Another important aspect of link architecture is cross-linking similar topics or cross topics. Done properly, your internal website pages can aid the search engines in understanding what a page should rank for. For example if you have a shoe website your walking shoes page should link to your running shoes and dress shoes category pages as well as accessory pages for socks, laces and insoles using descriptive anchor texts. It not only helps your optimization but also users in finding new merchandise on your website and provides a better chance at on up-sale or add-on sale.

Proper link architecture will ensure your website is crawled easily and indexed regularly.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 6: Link Building

Link building is one of the most confusing aspects of SEO for most people. Many dont realize that its the links that provide the most weight in rankings for Google with Yahoo having less emphasis and MSN have even less than that. This is one of the reasons why you will more likely first see ranking in MSN, then Yahoo and finally Google.

Link building is the longest and most difficult process of SEO. Creating content is the second hardest. Why? Because, for the most part, who links to you is the part of SEO that you control the least. Thats why Google relies on it as much as they do - its the least likely spot to be gamed. It can be done but it usually requires a great amount of resources and/or money.

Links fall into four categories:

  1. Reciprocal linking. You exchange a link to a website for a link from their website to yours. More than likely, even if the website is similarly related, there will be very little gained from this kind of link. There are exceptions to this rule covered below.


  2. Directory links. There are two kinds of directories:
    a. Free For All directories where there is not much of an editorial process and where many of the existing listings are scraped from other sites. This like has about as much quality as the standard reciprocal link.

    b. Established editorial directories link The Open Directory Project (ODP or DMOZ) or Microsofts bCentral that go through an established quality check. These are the best types of directory links. Note: The ODP is a unique directory in that Google pulls information directly from it. This may have an added bonus. A link from the ODP is highly desirable, but is by no means a silver bullet.
  3. One way links. Links from relevant websites to your own that you do not need to return are the standard link that most people seek out. Links from .edu domains and some established .org domains are more sought after than others.


  4. Trusted website links. A trusted website is one that Google recognizes as a special website which is usually well established and has a strict editorial process. For example, news publication sites often fit into this category. Why? For an article to be written a journalist has to research the story, talk to experts and witnesses and have their facts checked then have an editor approve the piece. Because of all of the quality check that happens that means that a link from a website of this nature is more likely to be the most legitimate.

Each of these types of links can and does play a role in most link programs. Trusted links however, are not normally achieved through a link building program but through an interactive public relations campaign. Often it takes public relations folks (or ex-journalists) to know how to pitch a website or a person for an article.

Out of the rest of link types, links from .edu and established .org domains are next on the list. They are usually difficult to get, which makes them carry more weight than standard links.

In addition to the type of links, the link text used will have a significant impact on rankings. Ideally you will want to change out your link text to focus on a diverse keyword list. If you sell shoes you may want to have different link text variations such as:

  • Store X - Tennis Shoes, Walking Shoes, Cowboy Boots and Dress Shoes
  • Reebok Shoes, Nike Running Shoes, New Balance Tennis Shoes from Store X
  • Discount Brand Name Golf Shoes, Running Shoes and Bowling Shoes

To help the process along, link tools can be purchased to help find links, track submittals and track who links to you and who links to your competitors and not to you. Many can be found by doing simple searches in your favorite search engine. In the end it will take time and persistence to obtain a solid link base.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 7: Page Optimization Best Practices

In my experiences, many people with a general level of exposure to search engine optimization believe on the page optimization is where the magic happens. Im here to tell you there isnt any magic, nor a silver bullet that will gain your website the best search engine visibility. Its adhering to best practices and having a strategy formulated to cover your keywords that will make the difference in the long run, combined with the first five segments of this series.

Best Practices:

  • Try to use no more than 3-5 keywords on a given page.


  • Prioritize the keywords you have selected for the page.


  • Use the keywords in your title tag in a coherent fashion (your title tags play a large part in bringing in visitors from the search engines).


  • Use the keywords in your Meta description tag in a coherent fashion (sometimes a search engine may choose to use the Meta description you have provided in conjunction with your title tag).


  • Use the keywords in your Meta keywords (do not spam your keywords tag with keywords that are not amongst those chosen for this page).


  • Use an h1 header tag to begin the content of your page which contains as many of your keywords as it makes sense to use (remember your prioritization).


  • The content on the page needs to use the keywords you have chosen. There is no density percentages to target, however it should be clear that this content is about the keywords you have chosen for this page. If you find that youre becoming too repetitive with certain keywords, use synonyms.


  • Break up the logical flow of your content into segments and give each segment a sub-header (i.e. h2, h3, etc.) where appropriate. If possible, you could have different paragraphs of text aimed at the keywords selected for the page and use sub-headings with those keywords. This format is very similar to college English term paper writing.


  • Whenever possible and prudent, link to other pages from within your content and use keywords for those pages when possible (avoid click here links).

These are the fundamentals of SEO page optimization, that when carried out will help to provide a good understanding to the search engines, and especially your users, as to what the page is about.

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SEO 101 Refresher Part 8: Tracking the SEO Campaign

Once the initial search engine optimization process is complete they keywords should be monitored around twice a month. As any one ranking report is only a window in time, ranking reports should be looked collectively over an established period of time.

If your website has never gone under optimization before then, depending on your back links and the competitiveness of your keywords, you may see drastic improvements. After this initial phase it is perfectly normal and expected to see fluctuations in keyword rankings as search engine rankings are never static.

Search engines are continuously adding new content, discovering new links and tweaking their scoring algorithms. Because rankings can fluctuation in any given day its important to look at the ranking reports over a period of time to observe true trends. Just because you have noticed a keyword has declined in Google the last two ranking reports may not mean that you need to take drastic actions and re-optimize or overhaul a page. If you are able to look at the ranking reports since the baseline (initial pre-SEO) report and see an overall upward trend, then you may want to wait until a third ranking report. As a rule of thumb I like to see three declines for a keyword before considering taking action, unless the previous two declines have been drastic.

As the program progresses you will inevitably have rankings that form a declining trend. When this happens you may want to consider if your linking program has been targeting the keyword(s) in question in addition to examining back links and on-page optimization of sites that now rank higher than yours.

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About the author:

John G. Sanchez is the Founder/Chairman and CEO of Zunch Worldwide, Inc. and is responsible for the overall direction and management of Zunch, John directs the officers in charge of day-to-day creative, strategic and technical management of the company, providing executive input into those departments. John also collaborates with the entire team to ensure that strategic, creative, and technical goals are met.

John Sanchez is a much sought after speaker and authority on Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing. John has provided the strategic direction for search engine marketing programs for some of the worlds largest brands including General Electric, FASTSIGNS, Experian and Zales, just to name a few.




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