Posts Tagged ‘SEO’
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 These stereotypes can be accurate based on some negative experiences or from inaccurate or outdated SEO advice from ‘backyard SEO experts’ or even SEO firms who deploy tactics that are designed to ‘trick’ the search engines, known as Black Hat SEO.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;
- Is the update visible to your web site visitors (include hover effect and accessibility concerns as is the case with Alt Attributes)?
- Does the update make it easier for visitors to understand the information and intent of the web page?
- Does the update clear a path to the next ‘phase’ in the navigation hierarchy (from Category to Product to Checkout (conversion))?
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.