Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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6 Ways to Get More From Your SEO

Small Business Owners Need to Be Involved

While you don’t have to become a full-on SEO expert, you should do your homework and try to understand the basics of what’s happening to your website. Never hire an SEO consultant and let them make changes to your website. You should maintain control of your site, in conjunction with your webmaster because too many SEOs have hurt their clients by using black hat SEO tactics. You need to be part of the process  — the  more involved you are the easier the process will be and the better results you’re likely to get.

Here are six ways small business owners can get more value from their SEO efforts.

  1. You don’t need to become a full-fledged SEO expert, but you should develop an overall understanding of the process. Too many small business owners know just enough to be dangerous, and focus on the meta keywords tag or look for ways to “game” the search engines. Some of those things (the keywords meta tag) are useless and others (like trying to trick the search engines) will bite you in the tail sooner or later. You need to listen to your SEO consultant and, above all, ask questions.
  2. You need to remain in control. Never hire an SEO company that’s going to go and make changes to your website. Not all of us in this business are competent, and not all of us follow the guidelines of the search engines in terms of ethical SEO. You and your webmaster need to retain control of your website. That way, any SEO recommendations have to pass two sets of critical eyes: yours and your webmaster’s. If anything looks suspicious or if there’s anything you don’t really understand, you can ask about it before it’s applied to your website.
  3. You need to be involved. You can’t just hire an SEO consultant and think that paying them is all you have to do. For example, you need to be the one to decide what keywords you need to be optimized for.  Selecting the keywords that will give you the bets ROI requires more than number crunching  — it requires an understanding of your business and your customers. You also need to be involved in any changes to the copy on your website. SEO consultants and webmasters don’t understand your business well enough to rewrite your website copy. You need to be in charge of what it says on your site.  SEO consultants are not, by and large, effective marketing copywriters, and neither are webmasters. You may chose to hire a copywriter to hone the marketing message while ensuring the proper keyword placement on your pages, but you need to work with them so your site says what you need it to say in an engaging way that projects your personality. You can’t just turn copywriting over to anyone and expect not to be involved.
  4. You have to participate in the boring stuff up front. Make sure all the contact information on your site is correct and up to date. Participate in keyword selection. Start or maintain your blog and listings in social media like Facebook and LinkedIn. Work on honing the copy on your site in accordance with SEO recommendations. Your level of participation in all this translates directly into the level of success you achieve with your SEO.
  5. You need to understand SEO success comes from the sum of all the parts and there’s no single magic bullet. Google has more than 200 factors that govern where you rank when someone searches for what you do. Here are just a few:
    1. You need to have a clean website that search engines can understand .
    2. You need to have “authority” gained by having other good websites link to yours.
    3. You need to have appropriate keyword placement on your site, both visibly an din the code.
    4. You need keywords in the links that point to your site.
    5. You need exposure from directories.
    6. You need social media exposure to help establish your brand.
    7. You need effective and engaging copy on your site to convert visitors into paying customers.
    8. You should have an active blog with helpful information for your customer base.
    9. If you’re a face-to-face business, you need local search optimization.
    10. You need positive customer reviews and testimonials.
  6. Don’t try to rush it. Don’t expect results overnight. Depending on where you start, expect it to take three or four months before you start seeing results. Trying to rush doesn’t help. SEO is not a sprint but a marathon. I’ve seen many people start a blog to improve their online visibility (a very good idea!) and write six or seven posts the first month, three the next, and then nothing ever after. A blog needs regular feedings. It would have been better to spread those same posts out, even only once a month, than be a flash in the pan blog. Ongoing link building at a steady rate is far more effective than getting a  blitz of new links all at once and the no new links for a long time.

Rank MagicFollow these simple principles and you’ll get much more out of your SEO.

Want professional help and a friendly hand along the way? We can help.

Another Rant on SEO Spammers

One of our clients who has a medical practice in Windsor, CT has received a solicitation from one of those bogus SEO companies. They sent me information about that company’s “review” of my client’s SEO, and I couldn’t help but comment frankly. Here’s the story:

I did this website SEO overview for $10 with another company just to see things from a different perspective.  I have no intention of using them beyond the report attached.  It seems that my home page is lacking a bit.  I know that you made recommendations regarding my home page.  They ran the report just on my home page so that was what we focused on.  These are my questions that came up as a result:
1.  They said that the title tag was weak and that it should be a description of what I do rather than my business name and town.
[My reply] We’re optimizing that page for just your business name and town on purpose. If someone recommends you to a friend or relative, we want you to show up when they search for your business name. “What you do” covers too many things (and too many keywords) to cover on your home page; that’s why we optimized other pages for those keywords.
2.  They mentioned optimization maintenance of meta tags, which is I think what they were selling.  Not sure what was wrong regarding that.
[My reply] Meta tags are almost worthless for rankings, particularly the keywords meta tag. And the last thing they need is maintenance. You should only change well-written meta tags if the nature of your business changes and your keywords along with it. See this recent article about this sort of thing: … and this.
3.  They suggested that I had bad links or links that were draining energy from my resources page, although she could not give me an example of a broken link.
[My reply] Links do not drain energy from your pages. They share your linking page’s PageRank with the targets of those links, so if you have lots of outbound links each one you link to gets less value from the link than if you had fewer links on the page. But outbound links don’t hurt your “energy” one iota.
4.  Should I be doing some updating of either the content or meta tags as part of a regular maintenance?
[My reply] NO! That’s a scam perpetrated by sleazy SEO practitioners. You should update content on your site when it deserves to be updated — when you incorporate new techniques into your practice; when you react to new medical research, when you expand to treating other conditions … never just for the search engines. Please do this: go to Google and do a search for tutoring in New Jersey — see what comes up at the top of the organic results. Do you find A+ Home Tutoring? That’s my wife’s website, and it’s the first one I ever optimized. Back in 2000. Other than adding a single page for a new learning game she patented, this website hasn’t been touched in 11 years.

Sorry, I am sure that you roll your eyes about these companies just like Aarrgghh!I do when people go and get mall health screenings.  Thanks for your input.

[My reply] PS — I can’t believe they thought people would look for you by searching for the keyword “Windsor”. What are they? Stoopid? (Windsor is the town this client has an office in.)

And they make a big deal of your Keyword Efficiency Index? We abandoned using the KEI years ago.

Sorry to be so nasty about these guys, but these are the folks that give SEO a bad name and cause people to think it’s an unethical racket. They really push my buttons.

You Can’t Completely Delegate Your SEO

If you think your SEO consultant can work independently and work magic on your rankings without your help, you’re mistaken.

I know. You’re too busy running your business to spend time and effort on SEO. That’s why you hired an SEO consultant in the first place.

Search Engine Optimization termsAnd we’d love to create an SEO strategy for you, choose keywords, make structural changes to make your website search engine friendly, write compelling marketing copy for your website and your blog, post updates to your Facebook Fan Page, tweet about your business, and earn you massive link popularity without you having to lift a finger.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

  • You don’t want to delegate keyword selection. Sure, we can help, but selecting the best keywords requires an intimate knowledge of your business — something no SEO consultant has.
  • Your webmaster needs to be the one to make your site search engine friendly. We can advise and suggest, but you don’t want any SEO consultant getting in between you and your webmaster. First, coordination and synchronization issues are inevitable. Second, it was an SEO company  making changes to the client’s website that got Ricoh and BMW websites completely banned from Google for more than six months a few years ago. You need your webmaster’s eyes on any changes proposed by an SEO consultant to prevent just that sort of thing.
  • SEO consultants are almost never professional copywriters. We work with those folks all the time, and their skills are invaluable. Even if you don’t engage a copywriter, you can’t delegate the writing of marketing copy about your business to someone who isn’t intimately familiar with it. (That’s right — even with a professional copywriter, you’re going to have to be closely involved.)
  • Blog posts don’t have to be the size of a short story, but they do need to be posted at least a couple of times a month. SEO consultants don’t know what to write about your business; that’s your area of expertise.
  • Twitter activity is the same. Tweets need to come from you or someone knowledgeable on your staff.
  • We can do link building for you, but when a potential reciprocal link partner requests a link, you need to be the one to decide if that link is acceptable. And links from clients and vendors might make great links for you, but your SEO  consultant can’t know who those people are.

Expect to be involved with your SEO campaign. You need to stay in touch with your SEO consultant frequently.

If you can’t make the time to be closely involved with your SEO campaign, you’re probably dooming it to failure. Much as it pains me to say this, you might as well not hire that SEO consultant in the first place.

Why Good Web Designers Make Bad SEOs

It seems to be almost universally true that someone who is good at web design is lousy at Search Engine Optimization. And anyone (like us) who is good at SEO is a lousy web designer.

Why should that be?

Right brain web designers versus left brain SEO consultantsEnter a little psychology to explain the difference between right-brain dominance and left-brain dominance. This is related (but not identical) to whether a person is right-handed or left-handed, but is far more pervasive than just handedness. We all have, of course, two sides to our brain, but just as righties have much better fine control over their right hands than their left, we are each much stronger in either the right or the left hemisphere of our brains.

Left brain dominant people tend to:

  • be text-oriented rather than visually-oriented
  • be content focused rather than presentation focused
  • work from the details to the whole instead of the other way around
  • be sequential thinkers as opposed to conceptual thinkers.

Right brain dominated people are just the opposite in all those things.

Web designers versus SEOsVery few of us are equally dominant in both sides of the brain. It takes a strongly right-brained person to make an excellent web designer. That doesn’t mean they have to be left-handed, although you’ll probably find a larger proportion of lefties among web designers than you will among SEO consultants. And it takes a strongly left-brained dominant person to be a good SEO consultant. Just review the characteristics listed above, and you’ll see how strongly split they are between characteristics needed for visual design versus those needed for a disciplined, step by step approach to SEO.

Increasingly, web designers are beginning to appreciate the need for SEO to allow their websites to be most productive for their clients. That’s a good thing, but some of them decide to try and do the SEO on the websites they design. That’s almost always a mistake. We see the results every day. Clients tell us their web designer has already “done their SEO” and wonder why they still have no visibility in the search engines.

You need to have different people do your web design and SEO.

You don’t necessarily need different companies to get the results you need. A web design company may employ both right-brained web designers and left-brained SEO consultants, and if they work well together that can be a terrific solution. But if your web designer is in a small design-only company, you’ll find much greater success working with an independent SEO. Check us out and see if we’re a better fit for what you need.

Or just drop us a question and we’ll be happy to talk with you.


Give Your SEO Campaign Time

SEO takes time.A few words of wisdom from the ePower Marketing blog.

Believe me; we understand you need proof that the budget you got approved for a Search Engine Optimization program is or will deliver results, especially in these economic times. However, that is not done with a snap of the fingers. Search Engine Optimization is an ever changing, interactive field, and when an SEO campaign begins, it takes time to really take effect for a Web site.

We find that, starting from scratch with keyword research, it usually takes at least three months to see measurable results in all of the search engines.