Q and A: What web-based software do you recommend for practising SEO?

QuestionHi Kalena,

I would like to practice integrating SEO techniques. In your SEO101 lessons, you recommend using a web based site editing software. Please recommend one I can use for this purpose?

Thanks
Darlene

Hi Darlene

Probably the best option for you to practice on is to create a site using Google Sites.

Another good option is to create a free hosted web site using WordPress.com. It is traditionally used to create blogs, but because of it’s functionality and search engine compatibility, many companies use it to build their web sites these days (including Search Engine College!).

Just keep in mind that this creates a hosted site on wordpress.com (e.g. http://yoursite.wordpress.com) rather than your own domain. To achieve the best results using SEO, you need to use a hosted domain with your own domain name e.g. http://www.yoursite.com. If you have your own domain and want to use WordPress to build a site on it, go to WordPress.org and follow the instructions for installing WordPress on your domain.

WordPress offers a range of SEO plug-ins that pretty much automate the SEO coding process (e.g. All in One SEO Pack).  But for educational purposes, you should really work on integrating your SEO tags into the raw HTML code rather than taking these short cuts at first.

Kalena

———————————————–

Finding that optimizing your own site is a challenge? Download our Free SEO Lesson. No catch!

Share this post with others

SMX Melbourne : How to Make Conversion Optimization Work for Your Business

webtrafficThis is a summary of the presentation given by Alan Long, from Experian Hitwise at SMX Melbourne last month, about how to make conversion optimization work for your business.


Survey of Australian Marketers

Conversion optimization is basically like product placement in a store, says Alan. In retail stores, you switch your products around, change signage etc. to see where/how they are best placed to produce the most sales. This is what Conversion Optimization is all about, but using your web site content.

Experian researched 300 Australian marketing professionals from multiple industries about conversion optimization via an independently commissioned study. The idea was to explore how Australian organizations are using online marketing channels and assess their understanding of conversion optimization.

The study showed that 2.043 billion was spent in Australia on online marketing to the end of June 2010. That’s a 13 percent increase over last year. Aussie marketers are pumping more budget into online marketing to drive higher volumes of traffic.

Are marketers missing a trick when it comes to boosting web ROI? Yes, Alan says. Lots of money being spent, but very little of that is put into converting visitors into customers or measuring success.

At the moment, site visitors are the main measure of web site success for many marketers. However, conversion is a more a valid measure of success, with conversion rates typically running at 1-5 percent. The trend in Australia is towards boosting traffic rather than reviewing site performance to drive conversion.

But, Alan says, why attract large volumes of traffic to your website if no-one is buying or doing what you wanted them to? This failure likely stems from a lack of awareness around conversion optimization and how to measure success.


Six Signs Your Business Should be Doing Conversion Optimization:

1) You have a high spend on attraction activities or advertising that drives consumers to your website.
2) You have a high spend on website content look and feel.
3) You have a large amount of online traffic.
4) There is pressure to increase profitability but you’re unsure how to measure it.
5) You’re frequently making website changes based on guesswork.
6) You’re operating in a highly competitive industry.


Warning, Scary Statistics Ahead!

Almost half of Australian online marketers surveyed spend over 40 percent of budget driving traffic to their sites. Their biggest increase in spend will be on website updates (55 percent).

Of annual budgets allocated to online marketing:

  • 17% = creative and design
  • 13.5% = content development and updates
  • 13.2% = hosting, software and licenses
  • 11.3% = usability
  • 10.4% = programming and development
  • 8.2% = SEO
  • 7.1% = analysis and measurement
  • 7.1% = conversion optimization

Despite ongoing investment in web site design and traffic generation, 90% of marketers surveyed spent less than 10 percent of their budget on persuading existing visitors to take action! (conversion optimization). You need to compliment traffic generation with a website that provides the right experience, leading visitors to the desired action, says Alan, otherwise your web site is as effective as a billboard in the desert.


Big Brands Make the Same Mistakes

It wasn’t just the small companies making the mistakes either. The study showed that large brands throw big bucks at getting traffic with conversion rates of less than 5 percent. They have large volumes of traffic, however, they continue to compete for more online traffic by investing in expensive advertising and marketing, despite low conversion rates of sales or customers – many less than 5 per cent.

By focusing on attracting more customers to your website you are competing against your peers who often use similar tactics (e.g. display, pay-per click and search engine optimization). Instead of competing with others for traffic and squandering the traffic you get, you should be competing against yourself by optimizing your site for more conversions. This is a competition you’re guaranteed to win. How much better could you be doing? Why does one change work but another doesn’t? How much impact could it have on traffic and conversions if you tweak your landing pages or checkout process?


Lack of Understanding About Conversion Optimization

There is a significant lack of understanding of conversion optimization in Australia – 89 percent do not do ANY. Most of these companies don’t have the tools or knowledge to accurately measure it, let alone act on it. Meanwhile, 62 percent of those surveyed have never even heard of conversion optimization or don’t understand what it is.

Research found that 30 percent of Australian marketers either do not evaluate the success of their website or only evaluate it on an annual basis, while 26 percent don’t know what factor/s contribute most to the success of their websites. Almost 45 percent of marketers surveyed that DO evaluate the success of their websites believe total visits/unique visitors or page views per visit are the key indicators of success. Wow.

Of those marketers that know about and conduct conversion optimization, over half have a website conversion rate of over 11 percent – double the figure claimed by respondents who have never heard of it. Marketers who are using conversion optimization are gaining competitive advantage by maximizing the engagement and sales opportunities of their sites. They understand what impacts the performance of their web site and what needs to change in order to increase sales and/or participation.


Getting started with Conversion Optimization

Conversion optimization doesn’t require significant budget or a fresh online marketing strategy to be effective. The critical factors are using web expertise to research and identify what online clients want and taking the necessary steps to build engagement, says Alan. Here are 8 ways to get started:

1. Know what your customers want.
2. Present an appropriate call to action.
3. Design your layouts & forms with users in mind.
4. Test your processes.
5. Use reviews, ratings and endorsements.
6. Use promotions and find synergies.
7. Improve navigation search and filtering functionality.
8. Increase credibility.

Share this post with others

Q and A: What impact does a video clip have on search engine indexing?

QuestionHi Kalena

I have several questions if you have the time to answer them.

1. What impact does a video clip have on search engine indexing (if any)?

2. Some websites I look at don’t seem to be using good navigation structures or use anywhere near the minimum recommended amount of text on their home page at all — yet they came up on page one when a google search is done – why? For example: Visiooptic.com has very little body text yet they come up high on a google search for *eyeglasses in Brookline, MA*.

3. I would think that web designers would automatically incorporate meta tags and key words and know about the importance of on-page criteria – yet it seems they don’t. Isn’t this bad business practice?

For example: one of my websites was done by a very experienced web designer, yet I wasn’t informed about many of these things; and I am seeing that my site isn’t very well optimized. I’m so surprised by this!

Thank you
Toni

Hi Toni

I’ll answer each of your questions in turn:

1) Depending on the way your clip is uploaded, LOTS. As you probably know, Google purchased YouTube a few years ago. So that should give you an idea of how important video is to the web and to search in particular. You can optimize your YouTube videos for search engine rankings now – there are lots of tutorials about this and we are looking to add a whole lesson on this to our SEO201 course in the near future. In the meantime, have a look at this post on how to optimize your video content.

2) Optimized body text is just one factor of the 100+ ranking influence factors in the Google PageRank algorithm. It’s an important one, but not the only one. So the reason you see other pages ranking well despite little or no text is that they score highly in other areas such as inbound links (quality of other sites linking to them), title and meta tags, inbound traffic, internal cross-linking etc. The sample site you mention is ranking ok because (amongst other things) it has a toolbar PageRank score of 4 and quite a few inbound links. If it had more optimized text on the page, it would probably rank even higher.

3) Surprising isn’t it? Despite SEO playing such a vital role in how a web site performs online, it’s scary how many web design companies either don’t know anything about SEO or don’t think it’s their job to optimize a web site. It’s not that they are unprofessional, it’s just that SEO is quite a specific science and many designers don’t have the knowledge to optimize a site well, or believe it is someone else’s job because it can be time-consuming. Some web designers offer SEO as an add-on service to web design, which I guess is fair enough as it could be outside the scope of the agreed design project. But I can’t tell you the number of web sites I’ve had to optimize for clients who have paid tens of thousands of dollars for a web site that is basically a glossy online brochure that would never be found in Google in a million years.

Kalena

Share this post with others

Zen and the Art of Web Site Analytics

smiling-buddhaSite analytics have always freaked me out a little.

I mean, the sheer amount of data you are presented with about your web site can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for. Or even if you DO know what to look for.

That’s why I’m a big fan of Avinash Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist for Google and author of the Occam’s Razor blog.

I have been avidly reading Avinash’s book Web Analytics: 2.0 for a couple of weeks now and I’m so impressed by Avinash’s writing style and the knack he has of simplifying concepts.

Take for example his definition of a Single Page Visit:

“I came. I puked. I left”

Exactly. If a visitor to your site doesn’t like or find what they’re looking for the first page they look at, it’s  highly likely they’ll simply take off. So you’d better look carefully at those pages with high bounce rates and work out what the heck is turning people away.

Avinash knows that webmasters and marketers often need to present a SWOT analysis or at least a summary of key site analytics to a range of stakeholders. He explains explicitly how to pull the crucial data out of your site analytics and present it in such a way that even the most non-tech of people can make sense of it.

I was reading his feature article in the latest Search Marketing Standard magazine yesterday and something in particular he said really stood out for me:

“Less is more. Focus on the critical few metrics rather than the insignificant many”

Often, we are so obsessed with understanding ALL the data presented by our analytics program that we forget to take a step back and think about WHY we are studying analytics in the first place. Avinash reminds us that we need to use our time wisely and look at just the few critical metrics that impact our business.

These will be different for everyone, depending on the goals of their web sites. For example, for my business, the key metrics are probably bounce rate, keywords, referrers and exit pages. As long as I review these four metrics regularly, I can be confident that I’m measuring the most important data that is influencing my online business. For a lead-generation based site, the critical metrics might be conversions, entry pages, page views and referrers.

So don’t be afraid of your analytics. Think about the main goals you’ve set for your web site, dive in to your analytics and pull out a few metrics that will help you understand why visitors are meeting/missing those goals. Then you can tweak the site based on what you’ve learned.

Share this post with others

WANTED: Your Top WordPress SEO Tips

Greetings all

After spending the last few weeks providing SEO coaching to small businesses here in New Zealand, I realized that many of them are relying more and more on WordPress-based web sites for their business.

Now I don’t have a problem with this at all – I’m a huge fan of WordPress and so are search engines. It’s really easy to use the blogging platform to build a decent looking, search engine friendly web site. But where people are coming unstuck is in how to optimize their WordPress site when they were previously used to dealing with raw HTML code.

I have started a little checklist for WordPress users, just to remind them of the key SEO tweaks they can make to their blog pages and posts to ensure they are as visible in search engines as possible. I hope to publish the checklist here and also make it available to Search Engine College students as a downloadable PDF.

Here’s where you guys come in. I know many of you use WP on a daily basis and are also busy optimizing your sites for Google and other search engines. I would LOVE for you to share your best tip on how to optimize WP sites so I can add it to the checklist.

Unless you wish to remain anonymous, all tips used will be acknowledged via name and link in the finished document.

Got your tip ready? Please add it in the comments on this post. Thanks so much!

Share this post with others