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Images for SEO – 2014 Edition

July 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Images for SEODespite Google’s never ending algorithm changes…think Hummingbird and Panda…there are still search engine optimization tactics that continue to work. One of these is image optimization through tagging. Taking the small step of naming your images with your keywords used to have enormous benefit.

It still does. If you click on the image in this post, you’ll notice several things. First of all, I found this in reviewing my web stats. The photo is sending me traffic from Pinterest. Pinterest links to my article that contains the photo and it even shows other photos that are found on this blog.

Secondly, the photo was found on Google image search and then posted to Pinterest. What was the reason it was found on Google? I renamed the image with the keyword I was using for the article! So parts of the article title were repeated in the image and even four years later, the image is still ranked in the top five of Google images.

Now this is the part I find really interesting. The searched image was then pinned to Pinterest so it can be found using social media channels as well. I’m entirely convinced social media will decrease the influence search marketing has. However, examples like this show how complementary social and SEO can be. Social is impacting search in a major way. It’s up to online marketers to survey the landscape and make adjustments as necessary.

It seems to me image tagging is still an effective tactic for search and social.

Black Hat SEO Will Cost You

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s not often that SEO makes the news. However, in the last two weeks, SEO has been a big topic in several mainstream media publications.

Two weeks ago the New York Times wrote how JC Penney used scammy link building to craft a successful online holiday shopping season. When the reporter contacted Google about the tactic, the top rankings disappeared.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal wrote how Overstock.com paid college students for inbound links to their site in another questionable SEO campaign.

Finally, today Google announced it was changing the way its search algorithm works in an attempt to delist “content farms.”

What is important about this recent news about SEO? It’s a clear message to the spammers and scammers of the online world black hat SEO tactics won’t be tolerated. The fact the SEO industry even has a recognized “black hat” category is quite telling. There are rogue operators in any industry, but they keep a low profile and operate in the shadows to avoid detection. Black hat SEOs like to brag.

If you hire a black hat SEO, you may benefit for a while, but eventually you will pay…maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your domain’s life. It worked for JC Penney during a crucial time -

Kate Coultas, a company spokeswoman, wrote to a reporter in January, “Internet sales through jcp.com posted strong growth in December, with significant increases in traffic and orders for the key holiday shopping periods of the week after Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas.”

Today Penney’s has lost significant position on its ill-gotten rankings.

The situation with Overstock.com wasn’t as blatant as JC Penney’s. Rather than buying links from the dregs of the online world, they offered a discount to people who would link to them. These were namely tech savvy college students who blogged from high authority .edu domains. The end result was the same…a significant drop in search rankings for top keywords.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…

These high-profile cases beg the question, “Are paid links legal in the search algorithms?” The answer is no. Google’s search algorithm won’t consider paid links. The only legal paid links are those that have a “nofollow” tag or those that go to an interstitial page that has the robots.txt file blocked.

Penneys and Overstock haven’t been banned, they’ve simply had the “link juice” or Page Rank removed from their links. The results have been devastating.

Content farms are another concept altogether. They involve low quality articles written purely to attract the attention of search engines and gain rankings. Human visitors to these sites are typically bombarded with an array of ads and the site owners hope to gain advertising income. The largest organized creator of such content recently had an IPO worth millions of dollars. Google has decided to change how these sites are ranked.

The aftermath for these companies is up in the air. JC Penney fired its SEO consulting company and blamed the entire fiasco on them. The Overstock situation is still playing out and Demand Media claims their rankings haven’t been affected.

Perhaps the better question relies on strategy. Was JC Penney duped by an SEO company? They’re in a tough position; either admit they went black hat on purpose (it was effective after all) or claim ignorance (something a multi-billion dollar company should never do.

Overstock obviously adopted a grayer hat approach, but still knew their tactic was wrong and could have consequences. Paid links that pass Page Rank are never legal. NEVER.  Demand Media and its ilk also chose the path they went down. The search engines allowed it. Now they don’t. Adapt or become extinct.

My policy has always been white hat. Over the years I’ve been passed by temporarily by black hat tactics or black hat SEOs only to find out later their results didn’t work long-term. I don’t worry about algorithm changes, because I produce good content. I’m not in business to test the gray/black line. I’m here to create good content and get good, lasting rankings for myself and my clients.

How do you choose a good SEO?

Ask them. Ask their clients. Ask their former clients. Find out what their link building strategy is. While certain tactics may be proprietary, it’s easy enough to find out where inbound links are coming from by searching for an inbound link checker.

Online marketing is now about transparency. Anything underhanded, shady or gray will be found out. There is no shortcut to creating good content. Outsourcing your content generation to countries where English isn’t their first language is not an effective strategy. The same applies if you’re creating content for a non-English website.

Bottom line: Black hat SEO isn’t good strategy. Your site’s search results will pay and pay dearly.

Custom Search is Changing SEO

March 12, 2010 1 comment

I’m not sure it was a premonition, or a lucky guess, but I’ve shifted my business model to move from search engine optimization.  That seems like a strange statement from an avowed SEO guy, but the truth is, the rules of search are changing faster than anyone can keep track.

One day I’m doing a search for a keyword relevant to my business and my competition that I follow on Twitter shows up on the results.

Recently, tweets related to my keyword showed up in search results on Google.

If I perform the same search on Explorer, Firefox and my mobile phone’s browser, I get three different sets of search results.

Search has become personal and that creates a headache for SEO guys that think SEO is all about meta tags and inbound links.

Internet marketing is about findability and more than ever it means more than search.  It means local search through Google Maps and Yelp and Foursquare and social search through Twitter and Facebook and relationship search through LinkedIn and Facebook and every other tool we use to find what we want and need online.

At the beginning of this month Google introduced “stars,” a function that places your favorite search results at the top of what shows up for relevant search terms.  This should scare the crap out of any old school SEO.  SEO experts don’t control search results any more, people do.

For businesses and SEOs willing to adapt, the strategy needs to change from SERPs to influence or “findability.”  I can’t promise, suggest or command a front page listing from Google for my desired result, because somebody may use a filter to exclude it.

What I need to do as a web marketer is use every tool in my arsenal including Twitter, Facebook and other industry relevant social media platforms to create a profile that can be found.  More importantly, I need to be searching for the connectors in my target industry that will talk about me or my client’s business.

With social media, search has literally been turned on its head.

I really don’t mean to criticize my competition, but I’ve recently seen first hand how Yellow page turned web marketing businesses are using the old models of Internet search to pursue business.  I don’t blame them.  They really don’t know any better.  I really think tools like SEO and PPC are losing influence in the wake of social media.

Pay per click or PPC is a tool I’ve seen get drained in effectiveness.  Ten years ago, I could make a business using PPC.  Today, I can see businesses be broken by the same tool in the wrong hands.

As much as we’d all like to be able to apply the same solution to every marketing problem, to be successful, we have to be creative and be unique.  For example, I was recently presented with a client opportunity that I realized couldn’t be solved with social media.

The potential client’s target audience simply doesn’t use it.  Regardless, I can still use social media effectively by identifying who talks about the potential client’s services and connecting with them.  The effective “social” method may indeed be face to face.

In the last three months, I have literally seen a transformation in the online marketing space.  SEO and PPC have become questionable methods of increasing quality traffic and conversions.  A revolution in search marketing is underway.  Findability is more important than search engine results.

The Evolution of SEO

January 9, 2010 3 comments

A few weeks ago, technology blogger Robert Scoble asked if 2010 would usher in the death of SEO.  He has some good points on why it might, but ultimately I think he’s not asking the right question.  The better question is whether 2010 will bring about the death of gimmick driven SEO, the type of “black hat” chicanery that gives SEO a bad name.  The short answer is “no” because scammers and cheaters will always exist.

The better question Scoble raises is why more SEO companies don’t expand their service offerings to encompass more than just SEO.

No longer is it about optimizing search engine results and the new breed is going beyond just search engines to provide holistic systems that find and track customers not only on search engines like Google and Bing, but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

It is this holistic approach I’ve offered to clients since I started this business.  When I talk to a potential client, I ask questions about tracking, design, navigation, contact forms and marketing expectations long before the phrase “search engine optimization” passes through my lips.  Once I do mention SEO, I talk about Facebook, Twitter and blogging as other ways to engage visitors and further the marketing cycle.

As I finalized forming this business into a legal entity at the end of last year, the thought weighed heavily on my mind that SEO by Swaby wasn’t really an accurate description of what I do.  Neither is Web Design by Swaby or Social Media by Swaby, though I can perform all those services.  Hence a LLC was formed called Swaby Online Media.  I’m still keeping the SEO by Swaby as a DBA, but you’ll begin to hear Swaby Online Media more often.

Further, my mission and value proposition has evolved.  I make websites successful and I do it through design, navigation and marketing.  Do I still do SEO?  Absolutely, but it’s not the only thing I do.

Let me give you an example of just one way I’m different from any other Utah SEO company.  I provide tangible results within 30 days of being hired because I use press releases.  I use them for my company and my clients.  Worst case scenario I get the press release ranked on the search engines and it serves as effective social proof for my client.  In a best case scenario the release gets picked up by the news media, an interview is scheduled and a story gets published.  That’s what happened this week for my client Personal Family Physicians.

No other Utah SEO company can do this.  There’s only two that even try.

Returning to Scoble’s thesis whether SEO is no longer needed, I must disagree.  The components he says are replacing search, namely Twitter and Facebook, still help with search.  I do believe we need to move beyond the concept of search and develop the concept of being found.  As SEO becomes more competitive, it’s natural businesses will need to be found on other sites besides Google.  Thus the concept I’ll be using is findability. 

The concept of findability was introduced in 2005 by Peter Morville and references the ability for a user to find the information they are seeking within a particular website.  I’ve discovered a movement exists in the Internet marketing community that is advancing the concept of findabilty as the next evolution of SEO.  As social media becomes more prominent, I think we’ll see it included as part of this movement.

Is SEO dead as Robert Scoble suggests?  No.  Is it evolving?  Definitely yes.  If your online marketing strategy consists only of SEO or paid search, you’re definitely missing something.  Take a step back and figure out all the steps that transform a curious searcher into a valued customer.  Once you have that plan in place you’ll see better results, more sales and higher customer loyalty.

WordPress SEO – Don’t Make This Fatal Mistake

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment

The other day I wrote about a challenge I was facing with a client of mine who was using a WordPress site

Their web designer had possibly nefariously tagged the entire site to be invisible to the search engines…like a vampire unable to see its own reflection.

While I worked for a while on unravelling this mystery by looking into the deepest, darkest corners of the code and then the web that encased it, I found no solutions.  I tried a work around that failed, even though sucking the blood out of other methods succeeded.  Ultimately, getting my hands dirty in the cobwebs of WordPress found success.

As I suspected, the culprit was a simple checkbox with a universal application.  Unfortunately I didn’t know where to look.  The WordPress gurus I consulted had no idea.  To be fair, I fired off questions.  Channa is awesome.  I was looking for answers, not explorations.   

While setting up a new WordPress site last night, I discovered the answer to my question.  I’ll save the screenshot for another time.

Settings-Privacy-I would like my blog to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Sphere, Technorati) and archivers.

If you have this checked, your website is golden.  If not, your website is dying an anonymous death.  Like a rare disease, nobody but the experts knows why your site is dying from a dearth of traffic.  I do.  Let’s fix it.

The Easy Way to Make Links

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment

Facebook is becoming the popular commenting system on many websites and blogs.

Here’s the easy way to make sure your link counts.  You are leaving your link when you make a comment, aren’t you?

WWW isn’t necessary, http:// is.  Leave a link?  Make sure it has http:// before it.  The www is optional.  If you want a link, the http:// isn’t.

www.seobyswaby.com and

http://seobyswaby.com have different linking results in different media.  Don’t waste your time.  Use http://yoursitename.com instead of www…

Robots.txt and Other Ways to Fight Bad SEO

December 6, 2009 1 comment

I’ve written before about how web designers don’t know how to do search engine optimization and why bringing an SEO company into your project as early as possible is a good idea.

This last week I saw one of the worst uses of meta tags on a new client’s site.  The company that set up the WordPress blog for my client coded in a meta tag that tells the search engine spiders to ignore every page and link on the site.

The worst thing is every method I tried to change that code failed.  However, I know a work around for everything.  Since I couldn’t change the meta tag, I added a robots.txt file.  Spiders look at two things when they visit a site, the meta tags and the robots.txt file.  On my client’s site the meta tags said “go away” but the robots file says index my entire site.

It’s entirely likely that a robot might find the same links on some other page without a NOFOLLOW (perhaps on some other site), and so still arrives at your undesired page.

The other thing I did to fix the situation was submit the URL to Google for indexing and created a directory listing for the site at Merchant Circle.  Tomorrow a press release hits that also contains links, so I know we’ll be getting a lot of quality inbound links for my client in a very short time.

In the mean time, I’ll still be figuring out how to move that irresponsible meta tag.  The reason the tag exists is to avoid the so called “duplicate content penalty.”  However the penalty no longer exists.

There is one reason and one reason alone to ever use the noindex, nofollow meta tag.  It’s when you’re running a paid search campaign to a specific landing page and you don’t want organic traffic to skew your numbers.  That’s it!

Where do you place the robots.txt file?

It goes in the root directory like this – http://www.seobyswaby.com/robots.txt.  It’s just like a page except it’s in basic text instead of .html.

What’s in a robots.txt file?

Very simple commands for the spider.  Here’s what my client’s file looks like.

If you’re doing a site redesign or having a site made for the first time, be sure to get someone who understands SEO involved early because you will save money and possibly avoid having your site tagged to be ignored by Google.

Is Ongoing Search Engine Optimization Necessary?

December 3, 2009 4 comments

Last week I had a meeting with John over at inQuo, a computer support company.  He suggested I write an article about why SEO must be ongoing and not a one shot deal.

That is a very good idea because many people think we SEO guys just sprinkle a little magic dust and presto websites are appearing on the front page of Google.

While I could go into detail about specific steps that need to be taken each month, the bigger reason ongoing SEO needs to occur is more conceptual.

Three major reasons you need ongoing SEO services:

1.  Google loves fresh content and rewards it with high results.  If you don’t have someone to update your content or site on a regular basis, any upfront, on page SEO will eventually lose its value.  It may not happen right away, but it will happen.

2.  Tracking.  Businesses and people for that matter tend to perform better when there’s a number to beat.  If you don’t measure performance, you’ll never know how to improve it.  Any SEO service should involve monthly reporting.  For certain types of PPC, these reports should be weekly.

3.  Expertise.  While having tracking in place is part of the battle, knowing how to read those numbers is the other part.  For this site, I’ve found Friday’s are my slowest day of the week.  I’ve tried additional marketing on Twitter and making sure to post new content to help drive traffic on that day, but it still tends to be my slowest day.  Other sites I’ve managed have other “slow” days.  It’s my experience that tells me whether to be concerned or to recognize that it’s a normal traffic trend.

The same applies to spikes in traffic.  If you get one you want to know why, whether that traffic is effective and whether to try and duplicate it.  Again, it’s experience that matters.

Some people think SEO is a waste of time and money.  Some SEO companies will waste your time and money.  I don’t think a properly executed campaign is.  I’ve seen amazing results in the past and now from being on top of the search engines both in traffic and income.  I know proper SEO works and I know it needs to be ongoing.  There is no magic dust.  There are no instant results.

Keyword Research is the Foundation of Internet Marketing

December 1, 2009 6 comments

One trend I keep seeing as I talk with people about Internet marketing is they fail to invest the time required to research their keywords.  It’s something I’m guilty of sometimes as well.

I felt that because I had done a lot of research on my real estate blog, I didn’t need to do it on this one.  I knew I wanted a key phrase like “salt lake city seo” to test my skills and my success with that term certainly makes a great point in my sales presentation.

When I targeted that term I knew “utah seo” would be the one that would drive more traffic, but I knew it would be harder to get.  What I didn’t know was “salt lake city seo” is searched less than 30 times a month on all the major search engines combined.

Had I invested a little time at the beginning, that mistake wouldn’t have happened.  Fortunately my success with that key phrase displays my SEO skills and I’ve been able to use those results constructively.

When I started doing some keyword research last week for some new clients who are geographically targeting traffic, I discovered only a few industries in Salt Lake are searched for with a location included.  The are dentists, lawyers, HVAC contractors, plumbers, general contractors and real estate agents.

Every other industry in Salt Lake is searched for less than 30 times a month according to the numbers.  I believe the reason is pay-per-click advertising is so well filtered for delivering geographic results, web searchers tend not to include a geographic location.  Someone is more inclined to search for “SEO consultant” than “Utah SEO consultant” because the PPC result will include the information they want.

This is further evidence multi-pronged Internet marketing is necessary.  The medium I’m most interested in is Twitter since it’s so easy to tag and search keywords there.  There is also evidence PPC can be effective for driving traffic as well.

The bottom line is, you can’t ignore the keyword research no matter how well you think you know an industry.  For my clients the first task is keyword research.  I don’t write titles, metatags, copy or press releases until I know which words to use.  Unfortunately in the SEO industry, this important step is often ignored or glossed over.

Keyword research is glossed over because it’s boring and tedious.  Nobody likes to do it.  Why research keywords when you can be doing exciting things like recording podcasts or videos and tweeting?  Because those podcasts and videos have descriptions that require keywords to be found!  Tweets are searchable.  Why not use the keywords that are being searched?  You can’t if you don’t know.

If you’re thinking of hiring an SEO company, ask them what the first step is.  If it isn’t keyword research, you’re going to be wasting a lot of money.

I Can SEO a Paper Bag to the Front Page of Google

November 11, 2009 1 comment

paper bagI promise I’m not writing this article to brag, but rather to demonstrate my versatility on projects that are sometimes out of my control.

My boast is I can SEO a paper bag to the front page of Google.  More specifically, the front page of Google images.

I’ve had quite a bit of success with spiders and webs and even though Halloween is over, arachnid traffic is still generating a significant portion of my daily visitors.  Thanks to some other key images, I’m now getting traffic from weak links and fish bowls.

Paper bag will be just another of my SEO optimized images where I dominate the search engine results.

What it means for potential clients is much more significant.  After reviewing dozens of sites over the last few weeks, I’ve only found one that doesn’t need some serious on page SEO work.  However, because of my SEO strategies, that doesn’t really matter.  I can literally SEO a paper bag to the top of the SERPs.  In three weeks, I’ll prove it!

Here are five difficult SEO situations I’ve run across, where I can still do SEO and get results:

1.  There is no site to SEO! – I can have a website built or utilize a Facebook business page to provide a solution.

2.  There is no access to the existing site for on page SEO – I can utilize off-page tactics like local directories, press releases and article marketing to attain results.  I currently have a client like this.

3.  Big corporate doesn’t utilize local web marketing -  If you’re an agent or representative of a big company that won’t target market, I can still help you brand yourself or your local market with my SEO tactics.

4.  The existing site is poorly optimized, but there’s no budget for web design changes – Some of the best ranked sites I’ve seen have this problem.  Off site optimization or popularity trumps this weakness.  If you have a clear call to action on your site, you’ve got the heart of a web marketing campaign.  Why not take advantage?

5.  It’s a template, CMS, blog or other site that doesn’t allow significant on page optimization – It doesn’t matter!  There’s a reason I’ve chosen a WordPress hosted blog for my business site…to prove I can optimize it.

Some people argue I need a self-hosted site, or a better e-mail address or business cards.  I say, “NO!”  If I can get ranked on the front page of Google for the term “Utah SEM,” I can achieve similar success with your website.  I have no shortage of meetings with potential clients even though I’m using Yahoo! email.  I refuse to use an analog business card when my digital card is yielding the results it is.  I actually had a business coach apologize to me today for suggesting otherwise.

When I show the results I’m getting to technically inclined people, they’re absolutely amazed.  I purposefully picked difficult site options so I could show my abilities.  My old goal of “Salt Lake City SEO” has been crushed.  The last time I checked, four of the top ten spots had my press releases or directory listing.  That means I sent four of my competitors to SERP oblivion.  Good riddance!

My strategy towards my competitors is scorched earth.  I am going to leave them in my dust.  I’ve never been on my own in this business and I am taking no prisoners.  I already have a toehold on “Utah SEM” and “Utah SEO” is my next target.  The fact the number one SERP holder recently started following me on Twitter gives me confidence.  I am not going to stop working on these keywords until I occupy every position on Google’s front page.  It is not enough just to get there,  I intend to dominate.

I’ll admit some of it’s a little bit personal.  The only company I believe offers any significant competition to me, told me I was “overqualified” to work for them.  I’ll show them “overqualified” by locking them out of any local keyword SERP they ever wanted.  Trouble is, they’re not my competition.  They’re far too expensive for anybody in my target market to afford.  I’m going to show them exactly how “overqualified” I am anyway…without really expending much effort.

I do have a “beef” with two other companies.  Only one of them directly competes with me here in Utah, so that’s the only one I’m even thinking about.  It doesn’t matter.  There’s plenty of SEO business to go around for everybody.

I just need these SERPs to show what I can do against my competition, which means I can do the same against your competition…

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