Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It all starts at the source

Use Good Source Code

Behind the nice pictures and words on your website there is something called “source code.” It’s the strange language that programmers use to tell your browser what to show you. It does a lot of other things, too.

You can see what source code looks like. When you’re looking at a website, go to the “View” menu and choose “Page source.” If you’re not into coding or html, close the page source window quickly and get back to looking at your web page. That stuff’s for programmers.

Good source code is clean and concise, without bugs. It loads quickly when you visit a web page. When you hire someone to design a website for you, make sure they can tell you whether they will hand code your site in html or use some page layout software. If somebody is charging you to design your website and they say they are going to use page layout software to do it, make sure they are using a professional designer and not one of those that tout themselves with “design your own website in minutes!”

If you hire someone to do SEO work for your website, keep in mind that they should be checking to see if your source code is any good. If they don’t at least raise the topic, you might want to consider a different SEO firm. At SEO Ann Arbor, when we undertake to help someone with their SEO, we always evaluate their source code to make sure it doesn’t hinder their search engine results.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What is the ONE thing I can do to optimize my site?

Let’s face it, SEO can be confusing. There are a dozen major things, and dozens of minor things that can and probably should be done to optimize your site. Worse yet, many of them are time consuming and involve disparate skills. Still, you have to start somewhere, and we get asked all of the time, “what is the one thing I can do to optimize my site?”

The answer is simple. Write! People use words to search the Internet. When I am looking for someone to install a sprinkler system at my house, I don’t upload a picture of my brown lawn to Google and hope they figure it out. No, I type in “Ann Arbor Sprinkler” or “Sprinkler System Installation.” Google and the other search engines understand text. Sure, there are other things that can help, but one of the biggest factors in convincing Google and the other search engines that your site is pertinent for a given set of keywords, is to make sure that your site contains those keywords.

If you install sprinkler systems in Ann Arbor, then make sure that your website liberally mentions that fact. Again and again. For any given set of keywords, you want them to appear at least once in the page title, once in a header tag, once inside of paragraph text, and also in the name of the page. We call it 4 in 1 optimization. You’ll call it “magic” once you see how well it works.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I should be doing this today!

I was talking to a client the other day who had just seen a presentation about SEO. He had been vaguely aware of SEO before, but the presentation really hit home. He was all excited afterward and had a bunch of questions for me, which I was more than happy to answer.

After answering his questions and explaining a bit more about how it all worked, he told me his big realization was that “I should be doing this today. If I don’t, some of my competitors will, meaning that I lose business.”

Exactly. So, are you on page one of Google? If not, then SEO is something that you should be doing today… Questions? SEO Ann Arbor can help!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What is Search Engine Optimization?

And Why Your Ann Arbor Business Should Care ... A LOT!

Basically, Search Engine Optimization [SEO] is the art of making sure that when people search for products and services related to your business, your site appears on or near the first page of results.

The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

There are a few basics that have a big effect on where your site shows up. For example, every business owner in Ann Arbor should have a good HTML programmer review their website to make sure the source code is efficient and that there are no obstacles to prevent the search engine robots [sometimes called “spiders”] from finding all the key information on the site. You should also do a careful review of what words people are typing into Google and the other search engines to find businesses like yours. There are many free tools that you can use to make sure your website contains the most important keywords, but an SEO expert will have access to some tools you may not, and will also be able to better analyze the data to help you decide which keywords to focus on. You will also want to find ways to get as many related websites as possible to link back to your site.

101 Tips That Will Rocket You to Page One of Google!

There are countless smaller tasks that can add up to big results for your website. SEO Ann Arbor uses a punch list of 101 action items that we apply to our clients’ sites, and if you have enough time, energy, and money, you could probably do the same. Not all of the action items are strictly SEO-related – we also focus on making sure visitors to our clients’ websites find something that makes them want to do business with our clients. A few of the areas used by SEO and web-marketing experts like SEO Ann Arbor are:
  • Include location information on the home page
  • Include descriptions of potential client categories
  • Include a prominent call to action
  • Employ social media to get more links and more traffic to your site
  • Write a blog to get current information in front of your web visitors

You Need to Get to Page One

SEO is critical for every serious business in Ann Arbor, and everywhere people search the Internet. Did you know that according to some experts, 95% of real traffic to websites comes from the results on page one of search engine results? That means if your business appears on page two, you are competing for the leftover 5% of potential customers. If this seems extreme, think about the last few times you searched for a product or service on the Internet. Like most of us, you probably went to Google and typed in a word or words that you thought would get you to the businesses you wanted. When you found one or two likely listings, did you keep scanning through the results? We don’t either, and most people who use search engines (which is almost everybody these days) click through to the first likely listing they see.
Here’s one last example to show you how powerful being atop the search listings can be. After we did a complete search engine optimization on one of our Ann Arbor client’s websites, a new customer called to arrange a visit to their business. At their first meeting, the customer said, “We were looking for your service, and when we searched Google, your website came up number one. I guess God meant for us to do business together.”
You can’t buy that kind of marketing power ... actually, you can. Our client had us use every resource at our disposal to make sure their website was number one on Google, and it created the most powerful impression possible on that particular customer. Three years later, 90% of that client’s business comes from search engine results. They tell us it was the best marketing money they have ever spent.

16 Common SEO Words You Need to Know!

Algorithm – the complex and secret formula by which Google and the other search engines evaluate your website to decide how high (or low) to rank it.
Backlink – a link from a site other than your own back to your site. Generally, more of these are better, and the more prominent the site that provides the link, the more it boosts your Page rank.
Content – the actual words on your site related to your product, service, or subject.
Flash – a type of web programming that can create “flashy” graphics. Generally, the search engines have trouble evaluating sites with too much Flash.
html – stands for “hypertext markup language.” This is the workhouse code for websites, and should usually be the majority of code used.
Java – another programming language, commonly used to support utilities, games, and business applications.
Keyword – a word related to your product, service, or subject, especially one that has a high likelihood of being typed into a search engine.
Key phrase – a phrase related to your product, service, or subject, especially one that has a high likelihood of being typed into a search engine.
Link – a word, phrase, image, or button that take the web user to another web page, email, or download. Same as “hyperlink” in this context.
Meta Tag – text found in the source code for a web page that provides additional information for the search engines.
Page Title – found in the gray or blue space at the top of your browser window, this is the title of the particular page your are looking at.
Reciprocal Link – a link to your web page from another web page, given in return for a link that you provide to the other user.
SEO – “Search Engine Optimization.” It’s what SEO Ann Arbor does so well!
Search results – the list of website you get back when you do a search in Google, Yahoo! or one of the other search engines.
Submit – you should always submit a new website to Google and the other search engines. Their “web crawlers” will then review the site and begin including it in search results.
Three Way Linking – a method to “trick” the search engines by placing a link from site A to site B, a link from site B to site C, and a link from site C to site A. This is supposed to avoid having the benefits of backlink “canceled out” by simply linking back.
URL – “Uniform resource locator.” This is the actual address of your website on the web. An example might be http://seoannarbor.com/

Ignore Your Website and it will Go Away!

My Website Looks Really Good!

Okay, so you were trying to save money when you started your business. Your friend's wife does websites in her spare time using Weebly or Moonfruit, so you asked her to design yours, and it looks pretty good. It has a home page with some nice motion graphics, an "About Us" page, a page showing the services you provide, and a "Contact Us" page. You've even gotten a few compliments on it from friends.

So How Come I'm Not Getting Any Calls?

Now that you've been in business for a while, you notice that you get calls from referrals and a few from that expensive Yellow Pages ad, but hardly any from people who found you through your website. Where's the so-called magic of the world wide web? You know your site can be found because when you type the name of your business in the search bar of Google, it shows up right there on page one. Heck, you submitted the URL to Google yourself!

Google Beauty is More than Skin Deep

Assuming your site is at least somewhat appealing to your potential audience, chances are you’re not appearing on or near the first page of Google results. That’s because beauty (or popularity, actually) is more than skin deep for Google purposes. There’s a whole range of things going on that aren’t readily apparent to the casual viewer of your website. Some of these things are page titles, meta tags, headers, keyword rich text, clear syntactically correct html, robust content, and the number of other sites that link back to yours.

Robots are Searching for You as We Speak

The search engines like Google and Yahoo! have automatic software systems sometimes called “search engine robots” or “spiders” that constantly patrol the web, looking for information that tells them how popular a website is. All those things we mentioned above are important. So if your competitor’s website is equal to yours in almost every way, but their page titles are more effective, their site will appear above yours in the Google search results. If enough other sites have better SEO features than yours, your site might not appear until several pages down.

Page Two is Like Outer Space

Putting aside the pride you justifiably feel if your site appears on Google search results at all, think about the last time you used Google to find something. Did you even bother to look past the first page of results? What if you found something even somewhat relevant to your search on page one? You probably clicked on that link and never bothered to return to your search results. That’s what’s happening to your site. Very few people who are looking for your product or service are going to get past page one, and not every one who sees the listing for your site is going to click on it.

Page One is Where You Need to Be

One study found that 90% of searchers click on one of the listings on the first page, and 14% of searchers click on the #1 result! That means you should try everything in your power to get on page one, and if possible, at or near #1 on the first page. The bad news is that (1) everybody wants their website to be at number one, and (2) it takes a series of things done right to get there.
There is some good news, however, and the good news is that there are people (like SEO Ann Arbor) who know how to get your site moving toward page one, and perhaps on page one. Those people are trustworthy, they’re hard-working, and they’re real people who live and work in the Ann Arbor area. They’ve got a track record of success, and they are constantly studying the science of SEO to make sure their methods are at the cutting edge. Best of all, you can call them and get a free initial evaluation of your website! Don’t wait! If your website isn’t on page one of Google, contact SEO Ann Arbor today!

The One Minute Google Expert

By Nick Suino - SEO Ann arbor

As featured in the Oxford Property Management Newsletter

Business owners need to know the key concepts of marketing online. They are critical to making good decisions about how to spend your marketing dollars.
Google — if you understand nothing else about the internet, understand Google! Google is the largest search engine, and 80% of the world uses it to search for information, shopping, or leisure activities. When you search using Google, using a single word or a complete sentence, the results are often divided into three parts: organic search, Google Local, and sponsored search.
Organic search results appear on the left side of your browser window, occupying about four-fifths of the visual real estate. These are websites and documents that closely match your search. If you typed "commercial real estate ann arbor" you’d see a list of real estate and management companies. Websites closer to the top have more content related to your search.
Google Local results appear in the same results list. They usually contain the address of the business and a small balloon that corresponds to a location on a map. If you include geographic information in your search, Google provides results for that area.
Sponsored search results appear on the right side of and sometimes above the organic search results. These are ads businesses pay for in Google’s Adwords program. Th ey show up based on the match between your search terms and the advertiser’s keywords. When you click on an ad, the business is charged a fee from one cent to a few dollars. Next month, we’ll explain a bit about how you can improve your website’s position in the organic search results!

Why You Need SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

So you spent a bunch of money to have a website designed and built and you think it looks pretty good. You took a lot of pretty pictures and wrote some great text describing your business, and now you’re waiting for the clients to start rolling in.
Awesome!
Except, for most of us, the “rolling in” part never seems to happen. Sure, we get a call or two, maybe even find that a few people contact us to ask where we are or what our prices are. But for the vast majority of businesses, the end of the rainbow simply doesn’t point at the proverbial pot of gold. Want to know why?

Web Marketing Can Separate You from the Huge Crowd

There are many reasons, but the quickest answer is that, depending on who you ask, there are between 344 million and 644 million websites on the internet. That means almost no matter what product or service you offer, there are a LOT of other people in the world offering it, too. Unless you do something really unique or really spectacular, you’re going to have to find clients the old fashioned way – through personal contacts, networking, and word of mouth. That can make it tough to earn enough to pay your overhead.
Another reason – closely related to the sheer number of websites out there – is that consumers are overwhelmed by all the advertising they encounter every day, not just on the internet, but on TV and radio, in their reading material, on billboards, and surrounding them while shopping or sightseeing. If you want outstanding sales, you’ve got to find a way to stand out.

Page One of Google is the Best Place to be on the Search Engines

One way to stand out is to be sure that your website appears on or near page one when people search Google or one of the other search engines. As we stated above, there are millions of websites, but only around ten of them appear on page one when you do a search. As we pointed out in this article - What is Search Engine Optimization?
According to some experts, 95% of real traffic to websites comes from the results on page one of search engine results. That means if your business appears on page two, you are competing for the leftover 5% of potential customers. If this seems extreme, think about the last few times you searched for a product or service on the Internet. Like most of us, you probably went to Google and typed in a word or words that you thought would get you to the businesses you wanted. When you found one or two likely listings, did you keep scanning through the results? No? We don’t either, and most people who use search engines (which is almost everybody these days) click through to the first likely listing they see.

It May Not be Enough to Have a Website

Search engine optimization is the science and art of adding the right things to your site and in other places on the internet to help the search engines find out how important and relevant your website is. Even if your business is the only one in Ann Arbor offering purple and green widgets, there may be other businesses in other parts of Michigan or the US offering purple and green widgets, and if they’ve had competent SEO work done, they may well appear above your business in search engine results.

Web Marketing Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

We don’t want to assume that you’re like everybody else, but in our experience the vast majority of business owners overestimate the “natural” importance of their businesses on the internet. We probably notice this because we made the same mistake when we started out. You’re rightfully proud of your business and hopefully you’re optimistic about the chance to make millions this year, but the noise of advertising is getting louder and louder with each passing year. Great results on the internet are made, not born, and the process of making them is called SEO.

You Can Do All Your SEO Yourself … Maybe

You can do a lot of the things that an SEO expert will do for you, if you have the time. You can do research to determine which words and phrases people are most searching for when they look for products or services like yours. You can cull out the words and phrases that don’t relate exactly to what you’re offering. You can write keyword-rich text to include on your home page and on other critical pages on your website. You can include appropriate keywords in your URLs, page titles, meta-descriptions, and text. You can seek out partner websites to link back to your site. You can write cogent, keyword-related articles to post on your site.
You can create and manage social media campaigns on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtbue, Linkedin and Pinterest. You can check your HTML to make sure that it is error-free. You can ensure that you use CSS appropriately, and that your site is submitted to all the relevant search engines and listing places. You can manage your Google Places and other geographical listings. You can develop and manage mobile versions of your site or apps that help generate traffic for your business. And you can do any dozen or two of the many other things that ensure you a steady flow of potential customers for years to come.
Or not.

Do It Yourself SEO is a Great Idea for Some Businesses, and Terrible for Others

If you’re actually a lot better at doing the thing that your business does, and you make decent money while doing it, then you should probably consider hiring experts to do your web work, SEO, and social media management for you. We’re fond of saying, “If you have more time than money, do your own SEO. If you have more money than time, hire someone to do your SEO for you.” It turns out that most good business people can make a lot more money doing their thing than trying to do DIY SEO.
We do SEO everyday, and we’re pretty good at it. Our clients’ websites get to page one of Google, either quickly or over a reasonable period of time. Because we work with SEO every day, we know what to look for, and we have efficient ways of doing it. We’re also local, so if you have questions or concerns you can sit across the desk from us or call us on the phone (in the same time zone!) and we’ll make sure your questions are answered. But whatever you do yourself, or whoever you decide to hire, make sure you understand and use SEO. It can make all the difference to your success! If you’d like more information or have a few questions, feel free to call us today!

What is Web Marketing?

By Nick Suino - SEO Ann arbor

Marketing on the internet is often called web marketing, online marketing, webvertising, or e-marketing. Promoting your product, service, or company on the internet is web marketing, and this usually includes not only websites and social mediea, but also email campaigns and other wireless media. Some web marketing companies can also assist you with obtaining and managing digital customer data.
A good web marketing or internet marketing company can bring together the creative and technical sides of presenting your image in the Internet, providing solutions for designing and building websites, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), market analysis, and client targeting. Some of the forms of customer engagement involve the placement of your message in many different virtual locations, including banner ads, email, mobile advertising, and physical ads with ties to mobile or internet such as QR codes. Types of Internet marketing
Web marketing can be loosely divided into these categories:
  • Display advertising: banner ads on third-party websites or blogs to lead viewers to your website.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM): promoting your website by increasing its visibility in search engine results either by paying for placement or by optimizing your site for the search engines.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): improving the visibility of your website or web page by boosting its “organic” search results.
  • Social media marketing: getting you traffic or visibility by using social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Email marketing: marketing to a group of people using email.
  • Referral marketing: promoting your product or service through word or mouth
  • Affiliate marketing: your business rewards its affiliates for each visitor or customer sent to you through their website.
  • Inbound marketing: creating and sharing content to bring viewers to your website or business

Advantages and limitations of Internet or Web Marketing

The ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) can be substantially lower than older, traditional forms of advertising. You can reach a much wider audience for a tiny fraction of “old media” such as magazine ads, billboards, or television commercials. Buying on the internet can be much more convenient for the customer than traveling to your location. Because you can often get quick results for a new product or service, and get detailed measurements of who is visiting your site (and where they came from), marketing on the web allows you to adjust your advertising on the fly to account for consumer preferences.

Limitations

There are many products and services offered on the internet (sometimes called “the interweb” by techies) that turn out to be scams. Because it is easy to create a website, there may be a lower barrier to entry, so some unscrupulous business people target unwary consumers. This seems particularly true for websites offering “get rich quick” schemes or systems purported to help you make money on the internet itself. Be sure you look for reviews or check with your friends before you buy from an unknown business.

What Should you Look for When You Consider Marketing on the Web?

First, do your research and find a company you can trust. We’ve heard many stories from small businesses who have either hired a web marketing company overseas or else hired their sister-in-law or a college student to build their website and “market” them on the internet. Make sure your company is a professional one and that they have the knowledge needed to properly build you a website and promote it.
Many of our clients like the fact that we’re located in Ann Arbor. We serve all of Southeastern Michigan, and our clients say they like being able to pick up the phone and call us, or ask for a meeting and sit across the desk from us to talk about their marketing goals. As long as our business relationship with you continues, we NEVER give up on trying to get your website featured prominently in the search engines and making sure you get conversions (people contacting you to purchase your products or services).
We’d love to discuss your web marketing goals. Feel free to give us a call to talk about what you’d like to achieve for your business. We’ll even take a quick look at your website and share our impressions without charging you anything. Even if you don't end up hiring us to do your web marketing for you, we like to think we can help educate and inform you. If your website is not on Page One of Google, contact us today!

Five SEO Tips You Can’t Live Without!

First, find the best keywords!

There are two things that the average business website does that are NOT very helpful to SEO. First, they choose words that only a person who already knows about their business would type into Google. For example, a local heating a cooling business we know optimized their site for the word “mechanical.” Now, an educated person might know that “XYZ Mechanical” would repair and install home furnaces, but someone whose furnace just quit will probably type in “furnace repair.” You have to make that kind of calculation for all your keywords.
Second, they choose keywords that very few people are searching for. If you have limited space on your site (and you SHOULD limit the number of words on your homepage, at least), then you want to focus on the keywords that most people are searching for. There are a number of good tools to find out, including the keyword tool on Google Adwords, and many free services offered by the search engines. Make sure the keywords you select are actually ones being commonly searched in your area of specialty.

Second, check your successful competitors!

Find out how many incoming links your competitors have, and their top five keywords. This will give you very specific guidance as to (1) how many links you’ll need to compete, and (2) what keywords they deemed important.
You’ll have to dig a little deeper to make this information meaning, however. The quality of incoming links is at least as important as the number, so you can use of the many free back link checkers to find out the Page Rank of your competitor’s incoming links.
You’ll also want to go further with your analysis of your competitor’s keywords. Review them just as you do your own – make sure they’re keywords that are widely searched, and figure out how to incorporate them into key phrases that generate sustained search interest.

Third, add great content!

This is the thing Google is trying to get you to do, anyway. You want to include actual content that inspires people to visit your site and share it with others. If you aren’t a great writer, find someone who is. In the large context of your advertising budget, freelance web writers are often very affordable. Here are some of the qualities of good online content: originality, usefulness, worth sharing, accuracy, detail, excitement. One way to learn more about shareable content is to visit one of the free sites that allows you to search for most shared articles. Study those articles and you’ll figure out some of the things they do that make them so shareable.

Fourth, make sure you optimize your page titles and meta description.

Page titles are those words that appear at the top of your browser window, usually in the gray or blue space above the URL (uniform resource locator). Make sure your page titles contain as many of your top keywords as possible while still reasonably indicating the purpose of the page. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Google only considers the first 66 characters of a page title, but many SEO experts still advise including as many words as you think are necessary to adequately describe the page.
The meta description is a phrase or list of keywords that aren’t seen by the human viewers of your site, but are read by the search engines. It’s sort of a “second chance” to point out what your page or site is all about. As part of what we call “four-in-one” keyword optimization, we like to be sure our most important keywords are included in the page title, meta description, headers, and text of our home page.

Fifth, be sure to use title and ALT attribute

The title attribute is included in the html of a link. Though the viewer won’t see it (unless she’s looking .. or actually, if he or she is blind. Browsers for the visually impaired often read the title and ALT attributes) it tells the search engines more about where they will end up if they click the link. Since this isn’t meant to be a technical article, we’ll just say here that the link will not only contain the URL of the destination page, but also a short description of it. Once again, this is a good place to employ keywords.
The ALT attribute is also for the search engines and those who use browsers or readers for the visually impaired. It gives more information about an image, which otherwise wouldn’t have any value to the search engine.
This is far from an exhaustive list of SEO methods. But it will help get you started. If you’re not inclined to do this kind of work for yourself, or if you’re too busy, give us a call at (734) 619-0736 .
We’ll do a quick FREE evaluation of your website, and let you know if we can help get you to page one of Google!