Google de-myths SEO

When I write up an SEO analysis of a website for a new client, I include about 20 topics that over time have been proven to help improve the rankings of a website in the search results.

These topics are what I call the science of SEO.

There are a lot of other topics that I included that are related to the business goals of the client, how they envisage their website, and the part it plays in their overall business plan. I include recommendations for organic, paid and social web promotion, design, look and feel, and more, depending on the business, and on what they’ve told me.

These topics are what I call the art of SEO.

A few days ago, Google came out with a really excellent Primer, “Google’s SEO Starter Guide“, which includes a great explanation of the best practices that make up the science of SEO.

They touch on things like: Titles, Description tags, URL structure, navigation, content, anchor texts, images and “no-follow” tags. Pretty much the same types of things I talked about in my “No-No’s of Website Promotion” presentation to Marcshoret last week.

Someone asked me at the presentation why I “reveal” my SEO “secrets”, and people are asking the same thing about Google’s Starter Guide.

The answer is really simple.

  • I want to have SEO-savvy customers
  • I want them to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing to promote their site
  • I want them to be a partner in the ongoing process of SEO
  • I want them to understand that it’s a lot of work
  • And lastly, I want them to understand that the same way I’m promoting their site, hundreds or thousands of their competitors are having their sites promoted – all of which affects my customer’s site too.

With Google it’s pretty similar – it’s all about helping you and I find relevant content on the internet. The more sites that are designed and put together with the Google best practices in mind, the more chance we all have (according to Google) of finding the most suitable content for our needs.

With Google, the idea is that if you have the best content, organized in the most user-friendly manner, and lots of other websites also think you have a great site (i.e. they link to you), then you will rank high up in the search results.

Which is why, at long last, Google have put to together this booklet on the science of SEO.

Note, however, that they haven’t put together anything (yet?) on the art of SEO. That’s because each SEO professional has developed his or her methods, and honed them to a fine art, and no two SEO professionals “do it” the exact same way.

And last but not least.

If you have the understanding, inclination, competitive advantage, and time to SEO your own site, that’s really great – go for it. 

If you are missing any of those, then you know who to come to, and you know that a real SEO professional doesn’t want to “hide” ALL his or her “secrets” (of course, we will keep some things to ourselves 🙂  ).

So, pleasant reading!

What do you think about Google having written this guide book? Good idea or not? Will those of you using an SEO company continue using them? And if so, why? If not, will you try it on your own?

I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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It’s Been One Year …

A year ago this Friday I flew the coop.

I left the warmth of the Corporate Cubicle for the cold, cold world outside.

Or maybe I left the cold of the Corporate Cubicle for the warmth of building my own business??

Whichever you prefer, it was a shock to the system, especially after more than 20 years as an employee. Anyway, it’s been a real roller-coaster, a bit scary in parts, but so much fun that you want to get straight back on again at the end.

So, a few months ago, I wrote about how to find your first clients. Half the tips I gave there were about Making and Keeping Contacts, and Networking, Networking, Networking.

With the economic situation as it is, I’ve recently had a number of calls and emails from friends who are worried that they might be laid off, some who already have been laid off, and others who are just hoping that they can stay shy of the Sword of Damocles.

They are all looking for help, tips, ideas, on how to move on, or what to do until they receive the dreaded word, and of course what to do if they do receive it.  I try to give them concrete advice, and suggest ideas that are relevant to them, but in the end, a lot of the answers come back to the same place – using the network of people that you have built up over the years.

So, in case any of them are reading this, and in case any of you, my loyal readers, aren’t already subscribed to JobMob, and are beginning to fell the pinch, here is Jacob Share’s latest gem on how to grow your job search network.

At this difficult financial time for many people, I do urge you to forward this post to anyone you know or think might be job searching. Hopefully, Jacobs tips will help them move onwards and upwards.

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The No-No’s of Website Promotion @ the Marcshoret Conference

Today was a pretty busy day for me. In fact, the last few days have been rather mad …

It all started on Wednesday evening, when I received an urgent call, asking me to speak at the Marcshoret conference on Sunday, since one of the overseas speakers had pulled out at the last minute.

With just Thursday and Friday to think of something to talk about, and to prepare a professional 1-hour talk, I wasn’t sure. There was this small thing called “client work“, together with preparing for Shabbat (and guests!) that also had to be done in the same timeframe.

In the end I said to myself “what the heck, you’ll be sorry if you don’t”, so I did 🙂

The conference took place in Binyanei Hauma, and was attended by more than 100 Marketing professionals of all types, from freelancers all the way to Marcom managers of large hi-tech companies.

5 vendors of marketing-related services were also on-site, and were in fact given a short slot at the opening session to talk about their wares. I thought that was a pretty good idea, since one thing I absolutely can’t stand is when Vendors (even if they are sponsors) are given the slot for keynote speeches.

I had the choice of 1st session or the one after lunch. Which do you think I chose?

The cool thing about being first (apart from the fact that you can then relax and enjoy the rest of the conference) is that if you’re interesting, you find that later speakers quote you! It’s never happened to me before, but I rather liked the feeling 🙂

My talk was on “The No-No’s of Web Promotion(DZ – this is a pdf of the presentation which will automatically open in a new window), and was greatly helped by Vincent Flander’s reviews of really badly designed websites,

I enjoyed preparing the talk, and I even enjoyed giving it! From the feedbacks, I think that the audience enjoyed it too, and even some of the more seasoned marketers learnt something new.

Apart from my presentation, I also went to listen to Irit Avidor, talking about “Strategies, Tips and Examples for Finding Business Information on the Internet”, and Joan Weinberg, whose talk was entitled “Public Relations 101: What it Takes to Succeed”, but was actually more of a discussion touching on all sort of topics about PR, like “DIY PR” (for the small business), Changing your PR company (for larger businesses who already have a PR company they work with), what should be in a Press Release, and lots more.

Joan was a lot of fun (and she was great PR for me too – recounting the story I told her about how I started thinking of my Brand, and showing my business card to the audience and the camera !!), but she really had so much to say, and didn’t manage to get through most of it, which was a shame.

There was ample time for networking, more than enough (good) food, and the WritePoint team who organized the whole thing get a big hand-clap – well done. They get a special kuddos for arranging to have all the presentations videotaped, and for getting all the videos synchronized with the presentations, and put up on the internet (hopefully soon) – I’ll let you know when they’re up.

I’d really like to get feedback on my presentation, in the comments, if you can work it out without the video part – let me just give you a hint that it includes lots of screenshots of REALLY BAD websites …. !!

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Every Now and Again …

The holidays (Jewish High Holydays) are over, and it’s back to the grindstone.

My excuses for a lack of blog posts (guests, cooking, more guests, more cooking, still more guests, even more cooking, almost ad nauseum – the cooking that is, not the guests of course) are all used up, and I need to think of some more posts that I will enjoy writing, you will enjoy reading, and won’t take up half a day to write. 

Every now and then, I come across someone who is writing something really original, and I’d like to share my latest find with you all. It has nothing to do with QA, SEO, Business or Work, but everything to do with Life in General.

If you are into photography, as some of you know that I am, I think you’ll doubly appreciate “STILL LIFE IN MOVING VEHICLE, Bangkok from the passenger seat“.

That’s it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed something off-topic for a change 🙂

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Growing Your Business – is it so hard?

(apologies to those of you who already received this, but quite a few people didn’t, so it’s hopefully going out again …)

What’s one of the biggest reasons for small businesses to stay small?

Is it a lack of talent, knowledge, and commitment?

NO, says Internet Marketing Guru Rich Schefren – these can only determine the potential of your success, but not the level.

What keeps businesses small are constraints:

Fast growth involves identifying and eliminating the one core constraint currently holding both you and your biz back…

So, in the spirit of the times, I’m going to tell you what my business-related core constraint is, and what I’m intending to do to eliminate it.

My main constraint is a common one for people who have been employees for many years, and then branch out on their own.

It’s having the self-discipline to plan your short and long-term goals, define the activities that you need to do in order to reach those goals, and then having what my parents used to call “zitsfleisch” – actually sitting down and doing the activities that you have planned. It’s all too easy to waste days and days, as if you were on vacation, especially if you work from home. You see, Pavlov has us where “being at home = vacation”, so breaking out of that mould is pretty hard work.

How am I going to eliminate my core constraint?

I once had a boss, a newly appointed VP of R&D, who needed to find out in double-quick time what the 500 or so people in his section were actually doing.

How did he do that? He requested from each of his direct reports (each of us managing departments ranging from 30 to 100 engineers) to send him a daily report.

Yikes” we all thought – a daily report of what 100 people are doing? How on earth are we going to do that?

But it turned out to be not so hard. What did he want in that report? He wanted us to write everything that we personally had done that day to further our department.

I’ll let you into a secret (it’s not a secret to my ex-boss – I told him after a few weeks) – I have never been so productive in my life. It’s pretty obvious why … who wouldn’t want to impress his or her new boss every day for weeks on end with what they were doing to further the products and people they were responsible for !!??

Now this was quite a few years ago. Why did I just remember it today?

I read a blog post from a young man who calls himself “the Millionaire in Pyjamas” (המיליונר בפיג’מה). He’s a very interesting person, having decided to spend his year after the army on teaching himself Affiliate Marketing, and trying to earn 1,000,000 shekels. Everything he has done since he started on the 1st of January, he has written about in his blog. In today’s post he told us why he originally promised himself and his readers that he would blog every day – it was to eliminate his one core constraint: laziness (he said it!). If he blogged every single day about what he was doing, he had better make sure that he was actually doing something worth blogging about every day !!

Sounds familiar?

OK, so that’s what I’m going to do. No, I’m not going to bore you all with it in my blog, but I am going to look for a victim (oops) volunteer to whom I will send my daily reports. That victim volunteer will hopefully help me make sure I’m actually doing useful things day after day … 

So, which of you wants to volunteer?

And have any of you had a core constraint that was holding you back, and cares to share how you overcame it?

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Because my SEO site is still in the works …

Lots of people have been asking me what this SEO stuff is all about, and I’ve been too busy to finish my website (I know – excuses, excuses …), so I decided to add a post on “SEO in a nutshell” in the meantime.

SEO is an acronymn for “Search Engine Optimization“, which in laymans terms means: “Getting so internet users will find my website“.

Or in slightly more technical terms, SEO means promoting websites in Google, Yahoo etc. so that they are at the top of the “natural” or organic search results for some chosen keywords or expressions. It entails making changes in and around a website, so that when people search for the main topic(s) that the website is about, that website will be displayed at or near the top of the search engine results.

Google’s search algorithm includes more than 200 elements that affect the position of your website in the search engine results, and of course they don’t actually tell anyone what all of these elements are (although they have been opening up a bit more, recently) …

However, some of the most commonly agreed techniques are:

On-site Optimization:

  • Optimization of your site structure, so that the search engines “understand” more about what the site is about.
  • Keyword research, in order to decide with keyword(s) are going to best drive focused traffic (internet users) to your site. This basically means working out “what expressions do I think users will type into Google to find my site?”. Sounds easy, but this is actually the most difficult part, since you can spend ages optimizing your site for the wrong keywords, after which changing direction is a huge pain …
  • Optimizing your site content, to incorporate the keyword(s) into your pages. This includes:
    • Title and Meta tags (elements used to provide structured metadata about a web page), in particular the “Description” tag.
    • Keyword-optimized content
  • Continually adding high quality content that people will be interested to read, even if they never use your services. Your content has to be first and foremost human-user-friendly, and only after that search-engine friendly. It is more likely that other sites will link to you if you have high quality, relevant content

Off-site Optimization:

  • Add high quality links from other sites in your niche/topic to your site. The more quality links the better. This is also very much intertwined with adding high quality content, since quality sites will generally only link to you if you have interesting information for their visitors.

The “Social Web”:

  • SMO (Social Media Optimization) and SMM (Social Media Marketing). This involves techniques like blogging (which is REALLY good for both adding content and getting more links), joining social media networks, writing and commenting on forums, and generally building your sphere of influence.

Advertising: Google Adwords and other similar SEM (search engine marketing) systems

  • PPC is an acronym for “Pay Per Click” which is a model of advertising on the internet, where advertisers only pay when a user actually clicks on an advertisement to visit the advertisers’ website. Such advertisements are called sponsored links or sponsored ads, and appear adjacent to or above the organic results on search engine results pages.
  • This is basically taking the tools of direct marketing and bringing them to an online audience, but unlike the traditional print audience, you’ll see results of your ads within days and in some cases, a few hours. SEM involves developing marketing campaigns for relevant keywords, developing “landing pages” for each Adwords campaign, and writing relevant ads.
  • It’s important to note that using Google Adwords does NOT affect the position of your site in the organic search results

That’s it for “SEO in a nutshell“, but do check out this nice video from Matt Cutts ( head of Google’s Webspam team) with his few simple tips on promoting your website, targetted at beginner SEO and small business SEO.

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