Posts Tagged ‘SEO’

The Number One Strategy for More Qualified Web Traffic

Thursday, October 24, 2013 @ 10:10 AM
Author: Jade Carter

Build a blog for traffic

Nice title hey? Well, you’re looking at it. When implemented correctly, no single addition to your website will develop more qualified traffic than an active blog. I know right? This isn’t some secret formula and it’s the first thing that I tell all of my clients who inquire about strategic approach towards boosting their brand awareness and web profile. But, considering that 99% of blogs are complete garbage, it’s no surprise that my repeated recommendations leave people frustrated knowing full well the level of commitment required for maintaining an active blog. So many people seem resistant to working hard for their customers with regards to content development. Well muffin, the truth can really hurt sometimes. Building a viable blog takes work, and lots of it.

Okay, Get on With it

So, I’m asked repeatedly how to generate more traffic. Because I’m the ‘SEO guy’, 99% of people that ask for advice are still under the impression that a few little on page updates will fix everything. The ‘magic button’ expectation is alive and well all around us. “Here, press this and you’ll be ‘Top of Google’, guaranteed”. To demonstrate how my conversations generally go, I’ve listed a few of the most common questions that I field, and bear in mind, the answers are very brief and each could generate many blog posts on their own.

  • How can I get more traffic? – Write compelling content based on your niche, aka a blog.
  • But what about keywords? – Write compelling content based on your niche, aka a blog.
  • What if I don’t have time to write blog posts? – Come back when you’re interested in generating more traffic.
  • What about Social Media? – Write compelling content based on your niche, aka a blog.
  • What about content marketing? – Write compelling … (get the picture).

Oh Yea? Prove it!

Everything to do with Content Marketing starts and ends at the blog. To accentuate this point, I just read a fantastic article from SalesForce (they’re pretty big and stuff). This article statistically lists some compelling reasons to take a blog seriously. Here are a few of the stats that the author lists in her post:

  • B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who don’t.
  • 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content.
  • Interesting content is a top 3 reason people follow brands on social media.
  • 78% of consumers believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships.
  • Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages.
  • Blog give websites 97% more indexed links.
  • Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people connect with brands on social media.
  • Social media sites and blogs reach 8 out of 10 of all U.S. Internet users.
  • 90% of consumers find custom content useful.
  • 37% of marketers say blogs are the most valuable type of content marketing.
  • Companies with active blogs receive 97% more leads
  • Content creation is ranked as the single most effective SEO technique

Convinced yet? If not please head over to the article that I linked to above and follow all of the ‘cite’ links. It’s scientific and factual.

Don’t cheap out on your blog. Make sure that your site build involved a fully functional and robust blog feature plugged in with social sharing, commenting and media management features. But most of all, make the time!

 

3 Game Changers for your New Website Plan

Friday, October 11, 2013 @ 01:10 PM
Author: Jade Carter

We love backtracking to fix things right? Ya, me to. On a website a backtrack can cost thousands and sometimes a renders a complete rewrite. Really though, it would have to be a monumental fail to require a full rebuild, but I’ve seen it happen with terrible planning and a ‘one man show’ trying to do everything and talk to no one. At any rate, here are a few things that you will absolutely need to do before your next new build.

1. Mobile Strategy

No Mobile Strategy?

Mashable recently touted that 17.4% of global traffic is mobile based. North America showed an increase from 9.4% to 15.2% in 12 months. This isn’t a trend that can be ignored. The hot button phrase these days is Responsive Design or Responsive Web Design (RWD). Responsive, or Adaptive design is a framework that is built into the website structure BEFORE the design layer is applied. Here is a smart description of what’s all up in the RWD shizzle (prepare for some gratuitous scrolling) http://johnpolacek.github.io/scrolldeck.js/decks/responsive/.  It is a planned strategy which is chiseled out very early in the process. If you’re even remotely attached to local search, hospitality, cuisine or any service, you must incorporate a mobile first philosophy into your site architecture. Further depending on your particular market, you would be much better suited to develop a mobile specific website since usage and patterns differ greatly from the desktop to the handheld. Reverse engineering a large CMS based website to handle a responsive framework is VERY expensive. Don’t make this brutal mistake.

SEE ALSO: Responsive Design is not a Trend

2. Website Transition to protect Rankings and Web Traffic

A few years ago, it used to be commonplace to place a blanket redirect on the entire old website pointing to the homepage; maybe some suckers still do this. Anyone who does this now should be tickled to death by  500 baby chickens. Basically the premise is that migrating to a new CMS will rewrite your page names (URL’s). This will render all of your search engine ranked pages broken (except for the domain/homepage naturally). This will effectively turn off your traffic overnight and is generally frowned upon. The solution is developing a redirect map which points all of the meaningful pages to their new versions on the new website. This is done exclusively using 301 ‘Moved Permanently’ redirects. When done correctly, you will preserve your revenue generating traffic by redirecting people correctly. You will also protect your backlinks and bookmarks. Don’t screw this up!

SEE ALSO: How Not to Kill all of your Traffic Overnight

3. Content Personalization

Success online right now is all about engagement. It’s about having a meaningful conversation with your target audience. We used to dictate everything to our visitors with terrible websites and endless, confusing internal linking structures. Links on the left, content on the right. Boring… The social media revolution or zombie apocalypse, depending on who you ask, has allowed us to engage directly with a very large audience as well as glean some very personal information from these networks in order to exploit their trust. By tapping into social ‘connect’ features, you can speak directly to visitors and display their friends right in your content! Content personalization is revolutionizing the way in which we deliver relevant and meaningful content. Don’t get left behind. Be sure to investigate whether your CMS system includes any content personalization features and how to get them running right away!

SEE ALSO: Social Commerce and the Mobile Shopping Experience

We’re pretty passionate about these issues and helping our clients get the most from their CMS platforms. All of our implementation projects feature each of these items above. We also take great pride in ensuring that our clients rip their CMS systems to pieces to ensure that they know exactly what the capabilities are. There are often hidden gems or perhaps an eye opening lack of features…

How Not to Demonstrate your Understanding of Modern SEO

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 @ 02:10 PM
Author: Jade Carter

Nights.Who.Say.Ni

SEO IS DEAD!

Yea, that’s it. I’ve seen this so many times over the years and it’s really nothing more than link bait. Maybe it was a slow content day or the CEO demanded some traffic, what have you. Well, today I read another hilarious post with this exact title. I had a little giggle and then read the post. I’ve read a ton of ‘SEO is Dead’ posts but this one I felt was particularly weak. If you’re going to lay down the ‘SEO is Dead’ bomb, you’d better drop a ton of intelligent, supporting content instead of just “it’s dead and CMS killed it”. Convince me why… Instead this author decides that the only way to be successful at SEO is to ‘game the system’ and revert to Black Hat tactics. Sorry man, it ain’t so. Linking to a Matt Cutts video also doesn’t validate these statements. The post really has no substance and attempts to make grandiose, earth shattering commandments:

“Sure, developing a strategy to be ranked or improve your rankings helps. But here’s the big secret to it all, come in a bit closer, I’ll whisper it to you so no one else hears it….it’s about delivering content to the right people at the right time”. Let’s keep that between you and me, ok?.” 

Really?? I think that statement may have been cited from the pages of “The Marketer’s most Obvious Marketing Strategies by Captain Obvious“. If you are an ‘SEO’ and you don’t already know that, stop now and rehearse the phrase “would you like fries with that?”.

Here’s another beauty:

“(when implementing a continuing SEO campaign) …you’ll eventually come to a fork in the road where the only thing left to do is to put on a Black Hat.” (he means cheat)

So, in other words, give up. Regarding this, I have some advice; come in a bit closer, I’ll whisper it to you so no one else hears it; this isn’t really good strategy when attempting to distinguish yourself as a smart online marketer.

Anyhow, my point is that no self respecting and informed SEO would ever write this sort of post because they would have already been developing multi-channel SEO and content marketing strategies for years. Besides, the whole motivation behind a successful ‘long term’ SEO campaign is based on Relevance and Context… This is NOT a new idea and is the basis for every Google update since its inception; How do we present the most contextually relevant content based on a given search phrases. I would wage that even the ‘great’ Matt Cutts would concur with that one.

Further, I’ve seen many CMS systems (granted they are improving) that are garbage for SEO unless the editor is acutely aware of specific nuances and can correct them along the way. Items like:

  • Spaces in page names (meaning the CMS isn’t smart enough to insert dashes when building the URL for the newly created (and named) content items)
  • Allowing illegal characters in page names (URL’s, as above)
  • Globalization features that pump out reams of duplicate content (‘/en/products’ is identical to ‘/products’ and every page beneath)
  • Even more brutal globalization features that serve up translated content under identical URL’s (I see this frequently)
  • No options for canonical declaration (utterly critical for most eCommerce product solutions)
  • 1000’s of lines of code served up before the body content
  • No automated 301 redirecting of updated content names (this should be integral to ALL CMS!)
  • Not re-sizing images intelligently
  • It won’t tell me when my Linking is bunk or the content isn’t silo’d efficiently
  • Antiquated content editors that destroy code and persists with deprecated HTML elements
  • Intense ‘ViewState’ sizes reaching into the 10,000’s of characters and beyond (although Kentico has a smart solution for this)
  • And on and on…

So while I agree that a well featured CMS platform can assist with SEO, most are a fair ways off, and to say that SEO is Dead is just a bit uninformed.

Until the next time someone plies the interwebs for some easy traffic.

-J

Kentico

Kentico and SEO. What’s in the Core.

First off I’m not going to spend this time explaining what SEO is (honestly, I’m tired of explaining, hehe). I’ll just say that if you don’t have a concise ‘professional’ SEO plan in place which includes social media and a content strategy, then you’ll always be down, looking up at your competition.

Second the title says it all, what is ‘Baked in’. So for the purpose of consistency, I’ll be looking specifically at the Set it and Forget it, aspects of the Software Core. Grandiose multi-channel Digital Marketing Suites are all the rage and by all accounts are driving a lot of buying decisions. However one should only consider this next step once the foundation of the website is pristine; where all aspects of On Page SEO are delivered and the staff are trained. That you have a content strategy in place and the content itself is topically AND structurally optimized to meet with current reader behavior and patterns (yet another post, heh).

Kentico’s SEO Features

Kentico’s CMS Brochure, essentially an executive overview of the platform and mentions SEO in a few spots; most notably in some bullet lists in the sidebar column. This list essentially reiterates what is summarized on the website itself, with the addition of the title point “Support for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”. That is a bit of a loaded comment since there are dozens and dozens of factors required for SEO, many of which are entirely disassociated with what can be accomplished ‘On Page’. At any rate, statements like this can sometimes imply a limited understanding of what SEO has become in recent years, but let’s look a little deeper.

The Awesome

Considering this article is essentially a constructive critique and won’t be all daisies and rainbows, I wanted to start off on a positive note with one of my favorite features that Kentico listed in their SEO features. When I saw this I literally said out loud “No Way! Awesome!”.

Move ViewState Setting in Kentico

“if checked, the ViewState field is moved to the end of the page which results in more content being processed by the search engines”. Okay that’s sort of true, but the crawlers will definitely get to the content ‘sooner’ and so will show that this content is more ‘prominent’ and valuable based on the code/content strategy. Really, the placement on the page (the higher up the better) will dictate a level of priority to search.
I have literally seen ViewState content reach Hundreds of Thousands of characters and bloat page load times by entire seconds! Unfortunately, ViewState is often loaded by default during a site build and developers often have no idea it’s there.

Check out http://www.unicef.org.au. View the source and have a gander at the code starting below. Their ‘VIEWSTATE’ content is 18,000+ characters and is served ‘inside’ the BODY tag. Ouch… Click that button people.

Kentico SEO Viewstate from Unicef

I have spent years battling developers to justify the often grotesque size of the ‘VIEWSTATE’ <input> tag that exists on many .Net based websites. This is one of the more ‘awesomely’ progressive settings that I’ve seen in a CMS yet and will help reduce the bloated code that appears before the body content on the page. Bloody well done. Note to .Net developers; turn this shizzle off if at all possible. It will literally help the performance of the website and we know that .Net sites generally need a hand with speed.

What Kentico Says About Their SEO Features

When I click the link entitled “Learn More about SEO” I’m taken to the following list of features. I would assume that, by their position on the page (also logical based on page structure and content hierarchy), this is an indication of priority for each listed feature. So let’s have a look:

Editable or Automated Metadata. Some of the oldest strategies in SEO are found here, some still have significant relevance and some have none. The following meta data is referenced:

  • The Page Title (keep it unique, on topic with most competitive phrases at the head, leave branding for the tail. 60-70 characters)
  • Meta Descriptio (one or two sentences, use topical and semantically similar phrases early, make it count)
  • Meta Keywords (oops!)

What? Meta Keywords? Are we still talking about these? *sigh

This over exploited piece of meta data hasn’t had an effect on search rankings for over 10 years. It always takes Google a few years to publically declare specifics related to ‘nerfed’ ranking factors and so look here for some closure – Meta Keywords death notice.

Kentico features a fairly outdated video titled, CMS Today: Driving Success with SEO. (look for it here on the right side bar). The video appears to be a webinar from years ago and I found the substance to be quite out-of-date with some lingering mis-information. For instance we found meta keywords still listed as a relevant factor and meta description is ‘not’ always used by Google to build the SERP snippet. Google will voluntarily select alternate on page content if it deems the Description content is not relevant to the phrase used in the search (this is old information as well) Additionally the author seemed a little out of touch with more current updates to the Google algorithm related to inbound link text and the rise of Social Media.

Some positive elements of the video related to content freshness, source code validation and their comments on searcher behavior and how that relates to link/topic depth which I feel is the most important aspect of on page conversion optimization. I admire anyone that places quality of content and freshness above all else. I would however recommend that Kentico take down their SEO video and develop something more current with specific references to the Kentico CMS features found in V7 (ViewState, yea!). There are some other Meta Data content items that would be welcomed in Kentico such as Robots, Canonical and Author (for blog/article/news document types).

Ready to Comment Already?

Natural Language URL’s. This is a no-brainer. Natural Language URL’s are now a basic requirement for all CMS systems and Kentico has a truly awesome automated natural language URL system in place. Further, their aliasing system, illegal character auditing and ‘term separator’ features are top drawer in my opinion. This ‘governance’ for sake of a better word ensures that the public facing URL paths are consistent with a pre-defined automated strategy. This automation also removes editors from the equation who may have great content writing skills but may inadvertently ad varying punctuation to the title’s, thus creating brutal and malformed URL’s. Not with Kentico.

URL Format Field Kentico 7 SEO

  • The following Characters are forbidden by default: \/:*?”<>|&%.’#[]*=
  • The Forbidden character replacement should always be dash/hyphen (-). This is also default

When URL paths are based on ‘Page Title’ fields, we often see any number of special characters making their way into the content. Kentico’s ability to identify these and intelligently rebuild the URL path is a breath of fresh air.

Spaces in File Names. With the great features listed above, it pains me to mention that there is one item that is slipping through the cracks. As an organizational nerd I abhor spaces in folder names and file names. It’s just messy from a linking, file system point of view. However one can guarantee that editors will build file folder levels with spaces in the names and they should be able to act accordingly. Instead we find direct links to media library assets complete with spaces in the URLs. Some browsers will display the spaces, while others will ‘encode’ the spaces into their character equivalent (%20). Any CMS worth their salt should be able to address this appropriately. Which of these are you most likely to link to or even to click:

  • /how%20easy%20is%20this%20url%20to%20understand/
  • /how-easy-is-this-url-to-understand/

Don’t use spaces in your filenames. I’d love to see Kentico apply the same principles that it does with uploads with spaces in the filenames. URL structure and consistency is so important for site integrity and SEO that we really should be seeing more awareness with the CMS providers. We’ll see how this pans out.

Custom URL Aliases. So long as the automatic natural language URL generation is developed correctly as per above, custom URL Aliases won’t come into play. However this can be exploited for campaign pages where specific, friendly names are necessary for topical association, tracking or other visitor behavior management. Additionally, and something Kentico does mention briefly on the site, use aliasing when rebuilding your URL structure or transitioning from a legacy content management system to a new Kentico CMS with new page names, etc… This will take a request for an old page name and redirect it via 301 Moved Permanently, to the correct URL. If you read this transition article, you’ll have learned that this protects backlinks, referrals and most of the historical SEO value from the old page.

Google Sitemap/XML Sitemap Schema. A Google Sitemap feature (well the XML schema is globally supported) is always well received and all platforms should provide this. Also an important tool, especially if you have a competent content creation strategy such as a blog or article repository.

I felt that there should have been some more direct information related to how and when the sitemap is generated or updated since maintaining an up to date XML sitemap is crucial. I like the customization options for path and name (.gz/.zip/etc…). It may have been nice to see options such as priority and lastmod although relatively minor in the big picture There is however some more concise information here regarding the features in Version7.

Google Sitemaps Field in Kentico 7

I would caution that there is a little bit of mis-information here regarding how Google Sitemaps actually work and what they represent. On this page they state the following:

“This protocol is designed to help search engines appropriately index websites, which may significantly affect their final search rank”

The second part of this sentence is simply not true. The sitemap is there to assist crawlers in finding pages that may be buried deep in the website. However this will not ‘significantly’ affect rankings. If search crawlers are having difficulty accessing your pages via a traditional crawl, you have navigation structure concerns. Additionally, signals from backlinks, referrals, syndication and the website’s own internal linking will dictate the beginnings of a ranking boost to be supported by the content and page structure itself.

Instead, use the sitemaps file in combination with BING and Google Webmaster Tools to help diagnose performance issues with the website such as issues with broken links, outages and other crawl errors. Count how many URL’s you are submitting with your sitemap and compare that with the number of actual ‘Indexed Pages’ which may indicate a functional problem with your internal linking strategy. The screenshot below from Google webmaster tools indicates a possible issue with the website structure.

Google Webmaster Tools Sitemap Example

Another quote;

“…specifies which pages should be indexed and how often they should be re-indexed.”

In truth, the sitemap file doesn’t specify which pages to index, nor does it determine the frequency as to how often to index the pages. So this statement unfortunately, is entirely untrue. It is however, a great feature of the CMS and will help webmasters diagnose many health related issues as mentioned. Moving on…

HTML Code Optimization. I admire CMS providers who take some pride in their source code. After all, this is where the real magic is since it is the playground for search engines. They list the following: (note this is surely a summary list from a much larger bucket of features)

Build CSS-based menu navigation that uses only UL/LI elements without any JavaScript and is easy to follow for robotsThis is really the de facto solution for Navigation. If you don’t do this you’re sitting at the kiddies table.

Easily add TITLE or ALT attributes to all images and links - Only the ALT attribute is required for images (W3C accessibility compliance), having titles for images often opens the door for ‘over optimization’. Best to avoid image Titles (titles are best suited for describing links (href)).

Automatically check that URLs contain only allowed characters and use a consistent case – This is Brilliant! As mentioned earlier, I absolutely love how Kentico automates this feature.

Eliminate duplicate URLs for the same content and ensure redirection – Another fantastic feature. We will see how some CMS systems have real trouble here, considering this is such a massive SEO consideration.

Web Standards Compliance. This really is a no brainer as well. All web based software should be 100% W3C compliant out of the box. However, we have to be realistic sometimes and understand that the content is ultimately up to the website owner to manage, we will often see validation issues once the reams of content begin to populate the website. Still, with the appropriate WYSIWYG logic or cleaner (HTML Tidy?), compliance is still possible and some CMS systems are at least providing validation signals to encourage compliance.

That’s a lot to digest, perhaps share some feedback and then carry on?

What Else did I Find in Kentico Version 7

As mentioned there were are few brilliant, yet simple features integrated in Kentico which should be standard across all CMS Systems. The ViewState relocator for .Net systems is a ‘Tiger Blood Winner’, as are the automated URL compliance features and the ‘turnkey’ duplicate content provisions.

Kentico SEO Features Friendly URL Extension

The Friendly URL extensions field is a great setting and should be left blank. The perfect URL structure is to serve no extension at all. Extensionless URLs deliver an ultra clean architecture and when combined with logical natural language paths, transitioning to other platforms is a breeze since there are no ‘technology’ based extensions to rewrite from (html/aspx/php/etc…). I hope that makes sense.

Kentico SEO Features Robots.txt

While the robots.txt can be a very powerful tool, I’m not sure I see great value with this field since Google will always look at the site root for this file. The exception would be if this is designed to circumvent webhosts who have not supplied FTP access. Additionally there is mention for the need for a custom response webpart which seems a bit overcomplicated for a basic text file that lives in the webroot. Instead it would be nice to see a more comprehensive Robots.txt configurator with options to deny access to certain obvious paths such as admin login paths or other private urls. Further a selection to add the ‘xml sitemap location’ would be another bonus. In its current format, this feature is assuming that the uploader is already familiar with robots.txt directives. Remember you can block your entire website from Google via this little file. =^..^=

Kentico SEO Allow 301 Redirects

Well done. Overrides Microsoft’s obsession with the 302 Temporary redirect. Can you say “Custom 404 Page Fail”?

Move ViewState to Bottom of Code

Have I mentioned how I LOVE this! This feature clearly ‘Slow Clap Worthy’. ‘great vid.

Kentico SEO NoFollow Attribute

Normally I would say this really should be a default setting. However as a rule, never sensor, moderate or generally roadblock ANY User Generated Content (UGC), unless there is an obvious need to. It’s pretty obvious when your forum or blog comments are being exploited, but wait until you see examples of this before ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’. Quality contributors are GOLD for your organization. Nurture them.

Kentico SEO Default Document Replacement

This is a smart setting. Nothing says “visitor death” like a default, dead end 404 page. When setting the alternate page, make it intelligent. Use some dynamic content widgets to display relevant content, or recent articles or somehow scrape the user session and deliver links to content relevant to their last position in the website. If you still use a default 404 page, it’s time to change or give up.

Kentico SEO Friendly URL Settings

You can never spend too much time developing governance towards your URL/Page structure. This needs to be drafted in stone and beat into the whole of your content team. Once these settings are established, should not under any circumstances, be altered. I particularly like the ‘Redirect invalid case URLs to their correct versions’. Nice work, we often see multiple versions of pages simply due to the lack of QC and Compliance with the content team. Usually this is a malformed text link which is hand entered or a referral link from a 3rd party. Set a compliance standard and enforce it. I generally don’t like caps in urls since it’s too confusion for editors and can lead to compliance chaos if there is a capitalization scheme being implemented. I generally stick with lowercase separated by hyphens for simplicity. Generally speaking each of these setting are engineered to help the site owner protect against duplicate content, much of which will be incidental based on malformed links both internal and externally sourced. Nice work.

Kentico SEO Protecting Language Content from Duplication

Protecting language cultures from serving duplicate content. We like how Kentico handles its regionalization but this is also a very common area where CMS platforms fall short on their ability to protect against duplicate content and the common ways in which the Search Crawlers will locate duplicate pages. However, with these settings Kentico has protected against all possible contributors. It’s crucially important that your default ‘language’ (usually /en/) does not serve the same pages at the site root. So for instance /en/contact-us/ should not be available at /contact-us/. And so on across the site. It’s very common to see a website duplicate its entire website but turning on that one switch.

Online Marketing Suite

Having already consumed a large portion of page real-estate I’m not going to go into any great detail regarding Kentico’s rocking new Online Marketing suite. That’s not to say that they aren’t important, far from. They are crucial to further ‘nurturing’ the relevant traffic which has just arrived at the website via search. Something which in-house marketers will need to pay closer attention to.

SEO used to be about directing eyeballs to the pages. Person clicked; Job done. Not anymore. The job of the SEO is multi-dimensional covering on page SEO, link development, content strategy and development, content and site structure and strategy, user interface design (UI/UX, etc…) and social media (that’s a big can of worms). That’s what SEO’s have their hands in these days and to think or assume otherwise is negligent.

Remember that Google/BING have sent a searcher to your page based on several on and off page factors that have already determined the initial value of the page. The page should already be clearly relevant to the searcher’s interest/phrase/behavior. The job is only half done and with the help of the additional marketing tools, you will be able to nurture this interest into a higher level of persuasion and ultimately into conversion. Whatever that may be. Well, in an ideal world.

Keeping it Turnkey

Remember that I’m looking for ‘Baked in’ core features and so the mega-licious DMS suites are ‘add ons’ and I don’t consider them part of the ‘turnkey solution’ for these articles. The DMS features are often super expensive and can cost almost as much as the CMS core itself. Furthermore, these add-ons, while massive value adds, are entirely up to the knowledge and training of the individual initiating them. This is then subjective to the quality of the implementation and something I’m not in the position to critique just yet. I will however give a little summary of what is available.

Kentico SEO Online Marketing Suite

These little checkboxes open a small labyrinth of additional features that can be accessed across various elements of the CMS. I like how in one check you can initiate ‘On-Line Marketing’. Make it so.

At any rate I like how Kentico is providing these crucial features while not dressing it up to be some ground breaking new phenomenon. While keeping it simple they may get a greater buy in without the heavy intimidation factor that many ‘enterprise’ (or those calling themselves such) DMS providers seem vulnerable to. Kentico’s DMS provides the following additional SEO/OM features;

A/B Testing and Multivariate Testing – Randomly serve page elements or pages themselves and measure which variants perform better (time on page, CTR, Conversions, Downloads, etc…) Then cut out the loser and start again! Cool.

Content Personalization – This can open up another massive can of worms depending on the implementation. Again, the whole idea here is to present relevant, high value content based on various signals from the browsing session. A lot of WCM systems are providing this type of solution which, again, is reliant on the operators experience to succeed.

Social Media and Community – Admittedly, I have far too little hands on experience with Kentico’s latest batch of features and will remain impartial here considering it wasn’t my goal to critique every aspect of the DMS. What I will say is that the inclusion of Facebook Connect, URL Shortening tools, Google+ Integration, Twitter Connect and Linkedin Authentication are top drawer additions to an already feature rich and super stable Community centric platform. The additional marketing elements may be a bit pricey (considering Kentico’s very reasonable ‘core’ price point) but they are straight goods with no fluff. I really should be devoting an entire post to the Social Networking Edition to give it proper attention.

Parting Words on Kentico’s Turnkey ‘SEO in a box’ Features

Kentico has some great stuff here baked into the core product. The URL integrity features are wonderful and is a huge priority for the work I do (fix the folder structure spaces), and the attention to code bloat was a very cool surprise (read; ViewState). The succinct awareness of duplicate content risks with active language cultures turned on is very smart and some other products would do well to emulate these features!

On the flip side there are still some ‘left over’ elements from days gone by and they really need to update their ‘SEO video’ since it really doesn’t reflect their updated direction. The addition of some ‘structured data’ or ‘rich snippet’ support at least for Author anyhow would definitely show a broader understanding of modern search. And for the love of all that is sacred please retire the Meta Keywords. J Remove them entirely from your products. I know of one CMS (know who it is?) that has done this and they get ‘super kudos’.

Great product! As always with any editorial story I may touch on subjects that will hopefully generate conversation. Please don’t hesitate to ‘call me out’ on anything mentioned above or to help me learn a little more about the product’s core offerings. This industry moves quickly and I am sometimes still on a hike in the woods when it does.
Cheers.

Written by Jade Carter

How much SEO is baked in to the core of the software? Let’s let their integrated features do the talking.

In the eight years since I’ve been working with SEO I’ve witnessed the industry evolve with reckless abandon. Both in the tactics and the strategies required to develop the relevant traffic, as well as the software and technologies that the website’s themselves are hosted on. Historically (not so recently), Content Management Systems (CMS) have been slow to adapt to the ever increasing needs of their marketing savvy clients in order to provide access to the necessary elements of the website content structure and source code:

  • Title Tags
  • Natural Language URL’s
  • Cascading Headings & Styles
  •  Alt Attributes for Images
  • Meta Description Content
  • Menu and Navigation Technologies (Oh, remember the wars with the Flash evangelists?)
  • Internal Links & Title Attributes
  • Functional and Value Driven Sitemaps
  • WC3 Validation
  • Relocating Blocks of JS and CSS out of the Source Code

These most basic requirements were rarely ever seen in the early days of CMS. In what has generally been a reactionary movement in the CMS industry, we started to see some very limited access to page content with a focus on SEO. I’m going to take some stick for this but WordPress was one of the SEO leaders for years when it came to basic structural support for search and crawlability as it grew out of its ‘blog only’ infancy. Major CMS vendors were either too stubborn or not able to adapt towards the inevitable.

Early in my career I found myself constantly at war with CMS vendors or development companies in an effort to help extend their software beyond the confines of the early CMS offerings. Remember those brutal dynamic URL’s with an assortment of illegal characters and infinite variables? Like, wow.

I pretty much believed it to be my duty at the time to educate both software vendor and client alike about the competitive advantages for staying ahead of the curve when it came to providing editable and dynamic access to these content items. To build these features into the core of their products and to break free from the ‘shove the content on the page’ static mentality and develop action and persuasion into their products and designs.

CMS + SEO = Awesome

This is a series will dive into the guts of our supported CMS platforms and provide somewhat of a critique of the available SEO features which are specifically designed for Search Engine Optimization. Of course, modern SEO is so much more about user experience and persuasion optimization but, in all fairness I’ll be watching for as many ‘On Page’ strategies that have been considered by the CMS. I will definitely give credit to those who have gone the extra mile with any inbound traffic metrics or conversion optimization awareness.

The first platform that I’ll be looking into will be Kentico who have just recently pressed on with some nifty looking On-line Marketing features.

If you would like me to dig into a particular platform please feel free to make a suggestion in the comments below and I’ll do my best!

SEO – Can You Say That With a Straight Face?

Friday, December 24, 2010 @ 09:12 AM
Author: Jade Carter

Or perhaps a more appropriate statement could be; Has the phrase ‘SEO’ become a ‘4 letter word’?

In the 7+ years that I have spent optimizing websites and businesses, I have seen the acronym ‘SEO’ become somewhat alienated in the online community specifically in the perceived value from owners. The marketing professionals understand the need for SEO, it is the individuals that need it the most which still greatly misunderstand what it is that we’re trying to accomplish. I think I can speak for many of the professional SEO’s out there that there is still rampant confusion about what we do and so we are often pushed to the periphery of critical marketing decisions.

Did you just say $EO?

Think of the feeling you get when a wobble from your steering wheel convinces you to utter the word ‘mechanic’. Do you start to bristle with anger as feelings of heavy monetary losses and visions of hundred dollar bills flutter helplessly out your car window while you wobble down the street? What does the common web user or site owner imagine when the phrase SEO is batted around? Scepticism and disbelief are most likely common perceptions for business people with a familiarity of the ‘word’ but might be fairly naive to the accurate and up to date definition.

Similar to how there exists a stereo type that ‘auto mechanics’ are somewhat less than honest, the SEO community has seen this stereo type affect their industry as well to some degree. These stereotypes can be accurate based on some negative experiences or from inaccurate or outdated SEO advice from ‘backyard SEO experts’ or even SEO firms who deploy tactics that are designed to ‘trick’ the search engines, known as Black Hat SEO. Self professed ‘SEO Experts’ are found in every website design firm across the country. I’ve even had Flash developers who build 100% Flash websites declare to me that their sites would be ‘more optimized’ than my HTML converted option. This sort of ‘couldn’t be farther from the truth’ advice is unknowingly flung at honest business people daily and will quickly sour their relationship with SEO due to the lack of results and sales. Bad SEO advice is so rampant and can cost companies 10’s of thousands of dollars.

Search Engine Optimization? Actually No.

SEO technically stands for Search Engine Optimization however when I attempt to explain what SEO is I find that I tend to contradict that statement while describing what modern SEO practices entail. In essence, forget about ‘search engines’ and ‘optimize’ the user experience. Only when you place the value of the visitors experience ahead of ‘search engines’ will you be rewarded with sustained, long term search engine traffic.

Ironically, the key to SEO success is to forget about search engines per se, and focus on the visitors experience on the website. Only when your visitors experience simple and logical navigation, appropriately displayed content using lead-in headings which funnel logically into text links to other pages, clearly identified ‘touch points’ or actions that you wish visitors to take and language that speaks ‘to’ the visitor, will the search engines start to reward your efforts (ignoring the back linking for the moment).

Is This Good for SEO?

It is for those precise reasons that I often frustrate people looking for a yes or no answer to questions that end with “Is that good for SEO?” My response is usually some rehashed version of “Does this item increase any aspect of the visitor’s ability to understand and interact with the website”.

When gauging whether an On Page strategy is good for SEO consider the following questions;

  1. Is the update visible to your web site visitors (include hover effect and accessibility concerns as is the case with Alt Attributes)?
  2. Does the update make it easier for visitors to understand the information and intent of the web page?
  3. Does the update clear a path to the next ‘phase’ in the navigation hierarchy (from Category to Product to Checkout (conversion))?
  4. Does the update use language which engage the Visitors

For instance Meta Keywords have long been ignored by search engines, however some SEO’s and Website Developers continue to waste valuable time populating them. Meta Keywords tags are not seen by visitors on the webpage, whether used in an HTML attribute or otherwise. They are also not used as signals on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s). You can also find Google explicitly supporting this in their help documents.

Page Titles, also known as Title Meta Tags (although they aren’t Meta Tags at all) are a different story. Title Tag content is used by search engines to populate the main heading link that is clicked on in the search engine results in order to visit each web page. On the webpage itself, the Title Tag is often populated dynamically using content from the page itself or hand written by the site owner. The Page Title is also used by the browser to label the browser window or tab and to build the Bookmark Title. These prominent signals are easily detected by visitors and so are used to identify the contextual topic of the web page. This strategy is definitely good for SEO.

If you have questions about how SEO can increase the performance of your website, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or call us directly.

Falcon-Software places heavy influence on the user experience with our campaigns, building a strong relationship with the client first in order to fully understand who the ideal visitor is before developing a long term plan for success.

Okay, after my last post (http://is.gd/eFCuu) I realized that I was touching on a subject that cannot be satisfied by a condensed collection of strategies and information related to transitioning from an old website to a new website. Considering how important a new website is to most companies, I’ve decided to post a few follow-up notes on the requirements for a seamless transition from an old and possibly well performing website, to a new, more user-friendly design built for ease of use and improved conversions. All the while preserving the accumulated reputation which can be affected by pagerank, pigeonrank, backlinks, fingerpointing, searchtraffic, slander and pirates.

You’ve probably heard about a site launch traffic tragedy from a colleague or business acquaintance. You may have even experienced it firsthand! You spend several months and 10’s of thousands of dollars on an amazing new website chock full of the latest social media widgets, mobile technology features and a huge release party. With a feeling of victory you ‘Flip the Switch’ only to see the website traffic virtually all but disappear. Online sales leads quickly dry up and soon your boss is breathing down your neck asking about the ROI promises you made in the last budget meeting.

Now in all honesty, the TLD (top-level domain-www.domain.com) will likely retain its traffic unless the content and code layout has changed substantially. So websites which have no value past their homepage will have no worries for the short-term.

Build an Inventory of Value Pages

For this first step I will attempt to describe how to use various analytics programs and free tools to build an inventory of the website. This is to develop a list of pages which Google has deemed to be of good value and which also have attracted back links from various other websites from around the internet.

Which Pages are Receiving General Internet Traffic - First, develop a complete list of all pages which are currently receiving web traffic (both search engine and direct). For this the bare minimum is going to be Google Analytics. Your standard log-based web stats will also work here but as we move into more detailed search engine traffic based priority lists, they become fairly useless. And make sure that you have at least 2 complete calendar weeks of data in order to gauge a more accurate meaningful average. Go back as far as you can to be honest (no more than 12 months), this is to factor in seasonal shifts in site traffic depending on the market. Export your list in to an excel sheet and get ready for the next list.

Which Pages are Receiving Search Engine Traffic - If your internal linking is clean and crawlable, this list will be as close as you’ll get to the most valuable pages in your website, unless you don’t drive leads or interest from the Search Engines… give your head a shake if this is you :). During my career the one tool which has given me the most concise list of Search Engine traffic data is Eightfold Logic, formerly known as Enquisite. Eightfold Logic will export a complete list of entirely search based trafficked pages. Google Analytics will also give you this simple data so export ‘Search Engine Referrals (landing pages) Only” and move on. Add this to the excel page and prep for the next layer.

Which Pages are Being Linked to Externally (Back Links) – Perhaps the most important metric at the moment is Back Links (so long as you have ‘linkable content’). These are reputable websites, preferably within your industry which have linked to you from their website or blog. These are infinitely valuable for SEO and authority development. Okay, how do you gather a list of backlinks? Easy. Set up a Google Webmaster Tools account and authenticate your site. Once you’re in Google the diagnostic gates will open up for you to export. Navigate to Your Site on the Web => Links to your Site and extract the entire list of pages that it shows you here. Don’t worry about the numbers of links, you will want to preserve this entire list.

For another tool for collecting backlinks check out Link Diagnosis. This is a great site and I use it often in conjunction with Eightfold Logic and Google Webmaster Tools for compiling my list. Google Analytics is a fallback that I will use when I can’t update the site with a couple of weeks of  Eightfold Logic data.

Part III… Coming Soon!

In Part III, I’ll go into detail on what to do with all this data. This is the real key to understanding what your website is providing to you. Getting suffocated with statistical information is all good if you know how to read the data and how to use the data to develop a plan from which to apply to the website for increased traffic, leads and conversions.

Rebuilding Your Website? Know the Risks and Be Prepared

Thursday, August 26, 2010 @ 09:08 PM
Author: Jade Carter

This is a scenario that I’ve seen materialize far too often in my time as a search engine marketer. A client commits significant time and resources towards a large scale website redesign and development, only to see the inbound traffic to the new site virtually disappear on launch day.

Phones stop ringing, lead funnel shrinks to nearly nothing and everyone is left scratching their head after such a positive design and development phase.

The effect is instant and with the right planning and transition strategy, this ‘traffic tragedy’ can be averted.

 

 

 

Why Does Your Search Engine Traffic Disappear?

When a website undergoes a redevelopment, nine times out of ten the page names will change (fix this forever by using extentionless URL’s). A search engines’ inventory is made up of web pages, or more specifically, precise URL’s. Once you change those URL’s the page which Google has indexed will break resulting in a 404 Not Found error when clicked. All of the historical value and reputation built up over time is gone in an instant. The only constant is the domain name itself which does not change and so (as long as the content is preserved) will retain its pre launch traffic volume.

Identify Where the Website Value Is

The first step in protecting your historical traffic equity is to know how to identify it. This is accomplished by a combination of website traffic statistics (search engine traffic) and tools which identify inbound links from other websites also known as Back Links. If you don’t know how you are tracking your website, or know that you don’t have Google Analytics running, do it now! Really, stop reading and set that up!

Welcome back! The search engines themselves provide many free and useful tools which will provide most of this information. These tools are used to recover, among other things, the following key information:

  • Which pages are receiving search engine traffic
  • Which pages are linked to from other websites (back links)
  • Do you have an RSS feed which is subscribed to?
  • Also watch for traffic to Videos, PDF documents and other multi-media

Tell the Search Engines Where the New Pages Are

By using a series of precise redirects using a particular search engine friendly method (the 301 Redirect Savior) you will preserve the traffic and the majority of the value from the previous URL. This also transfers a marginal amount of reputation or PR built up from back links as well.

Transitioning a website is quite a time consuming process which includes building a list of high value pages which receive search engine and direct traffic as well as which pages are linked to from other websites, arguably the #1 search engine ranking factor. Further if you ignore the other Ranking signals such as content, titles, linking structure and page hierarchy you risk a longer term reduction in search engine traffic as Google realized the change in content and drops your rankings for certain pages. That last bit is a discussion for 10 more blog posts.

Rebuilding a Website? Ask the Right Questions

So if you find yourself in the middle of a website redevelopment, be sure to ask your developers if they have a Website Transition Plan in place and have them elaborate. Below are some key factors to consider:

  1. A redirect strategy which places a global redirect back to the Homepage is not an appropriate strategy. You will lose your rankings and value for your secondary web pages.
  2. Redirect pages on a 1 to 1 basis to maintain relevance, back links and bookmarks. Content between these pages should also be of the same topic.
  3. Do not rely on default website ‘stats’. Low level metrics such as Hits and Referrers from ‘log based’ analytics can often be skewed and inaccurate. Google analytics is a minimum starting point for researching your traffic accurately.
  4. Use the Search Engines’ webmaster tools interfaces to assist in further data collection.

 

More Information: http://www.falcon-software.com 

 

About the Author

Jade Carter is Falcon-Software’s SEO Analyst. Over the last 7-years he has helped small to enterprise level clientele such as Encyclopedia Britannica, Birks Jewelers, and Safe Auto Insurance experience the full potential of their online presence by identifying exactly what it is that the client expects from their website and developing realistic and relevant traffic.

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