Archive for the 'SEO Resources' Category


SEO Success Metrics–What’s Yours?

Why are you doing all this SEO stuff? What do hope to gain from the expense of time, money, and irritation that goes into a serious search marketing effort? You really should know the answer to this question before you embark on an SEO campaign. Otherwise, you’ll never know when you get where you’re headed and you’ll know if the trip was worth the effort.

Is it more visits? For some web endeavors, just getting people to the site is victory enough. Perhaps you have funding contingent on putting eyeballs on pages, or if your model involves selling space ads, the more visits, the higher the rate you can charge.

Is it more leads? Those businesses that rely heavily on sales professionals to close the deal, getting the contact info of qualified potential customers can be worth a whole lot of trouble. Of course, your sales staff still needs to be capable of closing.

Is it more sales? Well, there’s the obvious winner, right? Ecommerce sites with online purchase capacity can pretty easily connect the dots between search visits and completed transactions. Cha-ching!

Is it more sign-ups? What if all you’re looking for is a list of people who might someday be interested in your whatever. A list you can email newsletters, special offers, and the like, or a list you can sell to some filthy spammer somewhere. Nah, you wouldn’t do that.

Is it higher ranks for vanity keywords? Here’s every SEO pro’s favorite success metric. The Marketing Manager comes to you with a blank check and says “All my CEO wants is to get number 1 rank in Google for ‘arglebargle.’ Cost is no object.” This used to happen more, but still does. Maybe makes sense for branding campaigns, but who cares? This kind of campaign i’s an SEO’s wet dream.

Is it more magic pixie dust? Hmm? Is it? Well? Do you even know what you want from the SEO? You better find out. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how these different metrics call for differences in SEO campaigns.


Keywording Made Reeeeealy Simple

It Ain’t Rocket Science

  • Step 1: Figure out what your page is actually about.
  • Step 2: Figure out what folks online actually type into search engines looking for what you figured out in Step 1.
  • Step 3: Rank the list of phrases you figured out in Step 2 by descending order: highest traffic potential on top.
  • Step 4: Test the top 5 or 10 phrases in the list you made in Step 3 for competitiveness. Pick out the three highest on the list that you can actually compete for.
  • Step 5: Use the best of the 3 phrases you chose in Step 4 as your lens name and title; use the other two as module titles. Use each of the three <i>once or twice</i> elsewhere in the lens: body copy, image file names, link outs, etc.
  • Step 6: Profit.

You can find the information you need for Steps 2 and 3 using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. For Step 4, enter each keyword into Google and note the number of sites where that keyword phrase appears and the number of AdWords that show up. You can also find a “Competitiveness” score and an “average CPC” in the AdWords Keyword Tool reports Keywords with lots of competitors, lots of AdWord ads, and high average CPCs are going to tough to win position for.


SEO: Wheat, Chaff, Blah Blah

Data and graph courtesy of SEOMoz

If we believe that SEOMoz’s webmaster poll has culled the kernel of truth about Google’s search algorithm—and we do, yes we do—then this is the way it breaks down.

Just three factors account for 2/3 of the total rank weight. Beat your competitors on those three ranking factors, and you will prevail.

Trust Authority: the age of your domain, plus the size of your domain, plus the traffic history of your domain. It’s hard to say just what the right mix of those ingredients is, but equal thirds can’t be far wrong.

Link Popularity: The sheer number of relevant links pointing to any given page, strongly weighted in favor of links from sites scoring high by these same measures.

Anchor Text of External Links: Of the links mentioned above, how many use text relevant to the current search? If you’re trying to rank for “keyword,” how many of the links pointing to you have “keyword” in the link text?

Of these things, it’s obvious that links and link text are the thing you have the best shot in influencing, although you can improve your Trust Authority by adding quality content.

So is it even important at all to do all the other things SEOs want you to do?

Well, yes.  A lot of what your SEO is telling you has to do with getting your pages indexed in the first place: text link navigation, site maps, title and <h> tags, spider-friendly URLs, etc. These things have to happen if you want the rest of it to follow.

Do that stuff first. Do it all. Then create or gather the best content you can absolutely manage to acquire and keep doing that forever. But the best thing for your long-term lasting success is clear.

Links, links, links.

Quality links, quantity links, link-texty links. That’s right. The secret is links.


SEO Tips: Subdomain or Folder?

Sometimes you hear people talking about SEO and they might as well be speaking Klingon.

“So I H1ed the gateways for semantic indexing, then ported all the overoptimized content to a subdomain.”

What? You what? Okay, every industry has its own lingo. Search marketing’s lingo just happens to be kind of geeky.

All the other tripe in the quote aside, the word “subdomain” is one you should know, and maybe even use.

A subdomain is a way to organize and separate content on a website. You’ve seen them. In this web address, guess what word is the subdomain:

Correct! Translate is a subdomain of How is that different from:

In the second instance, translate is in a folder. They don’t necessarily have to be different at all.  Both URLs go to the same place. In the instance above, Google redirects the folder version to the subdomain, but they wouldn’t have to do that. Each URL could, in fact, lead to completely different pages.

So what’s going on? On a map of a website, the difference is, perhaps, more clear.

Website map: Subdomain

A subdomain is on roughly equal footing with main, or root domain. (In fact, www is a subdomain.  Which is why and are equal. Also in fact, they don’t have to be the same website.) A subdomain can contain a completely separate website from the root domain, and it will be treated as a separate domain by search engines and browsers.

Website map: folder

A folder, on the other hand, is a categorization label, just like a folder on your desktop. You can have folders within folders within folders. The end result is much the same: just another way to organize data, sort pages, make your content easier to find and navigate.


(And did you notice that’s a pretty big “but”?)

There is a distinction between the two. Search engines, Google in particular, treats a subdomain as an almost completely separate and unique website. They treat a folder like a category within the root, or just an organizational level under the same site as the root domain.

Which has some implications.

One: if you have a link on a subdomain site that points to your root domain, it should count as a better link in Google’s algorithm.

Two: If you have content on your main site that is sketchy in some way—irrelevant, poorer quality, etc—and you put it on a subdomain, its negative effect on your rankings should be reduced.

Now, in either case, subdomain or folder, there is an opportunity to display one of your awesome-est keywords. It is known that your rank for a keyword that is somewhere insider your URL is generally higher, and that the position of the keyword in the URL—how physically close to the main domain name it is—carries some weight also.

Which is better? Or

This is debatable, and is often debated among SEO pros. The truth is, it probably doesn’t matter enough to worry about. Just try to use the two the way they are meant to be used and you’ll be golden.

Here are the main things to remember:

  • A subdomain is used for content that is fundamentally different from the content on the root domain.
  • A folder is used to organize and group content within a domain.
  • When naming either a subdomain or a folder always use a great keyword.

Now go forth and organize.



Hit Me Again! Visit Metrics Explained

Here’s how long we’ve been doing this SEO stuff: when we started, the only statistic anybody seemed to care a whit about was “hits.” As in “Cool, we got 4,323 hits last month,” or “Can you get my hit count up by 20%?” Since it seemed like a direct, easy to count measure of a web page’s performance, counting hits became a universal sport. Sites were graded and judged purely on the basis of how many hits they got.

It took a while before folks began to understand what a “hit” actually was. And then it became clear that a hit was a pretty ambiguous way to measure site activity. So we moved to “eyeballs.” And then to “uniques.” And so on.

The truth of it is, of course, more complicated than any of that. There are a number of different ways to look at visits, and the best picture you can get will be a synthesis of several of these analytic methods. Luckily, Google Analytics comes with a good variety of visit metrics—enough to give most webmasters all the data they need to make important decisions like which page to put that cat-with-an-ice-cream-headache video the CEO loves so much.

Here, in a nutshell, is a partial list of important visit metrics defined and explained.

abandonment rate: A measure of the percentage of visitors that begin some defined process (such as placing an order or filling out a questionnaire) but stop before completing it. This is a very good metric to keep an eye on if you are doing ecommerce of any sort—it can help you figure out where there might be barriers that prevent interested customers from completing a purchase.

bounce rate: A measure of the percentage of visits that discover the site, then leave after seeing only one page. This metric can help show whether your content is relevant to the searches leading to it, interesting enough to capture visitor attention, and designed in such as way as to appeal to casual guests.

conversion rate: A measure of the percentage of visitors who complete some defined process such as placing an order, or filling out a contact form. Any visitor action can be declared a “conversion.”

depth of visit: A measure of the number of pages viewed by any given visitor during a specific visit. This metric can help indicate how appealing a site is—kind of the opposite of “bounce rate.” It can also be a bit deceptive, though, as high depth-of-visit numbers can sometimes be a warning that the targeted site content is difficult to locate or buried beneath too many links.

hit: The number of requests to the web server placed by the visitor’s browser. The reason this measure is not very useful is that a single page can require many requests in order to load. Each image, script, widget, sprite, or include required by the page will count as a hit, making complex pages seem more popular than simple ones with the same number of actual visitors.

loyalty: A measure of the number of visitors who are returning to the site after an initial visit, and the number of times they’ve returned. This is a good way to understand how well social marketing, brand recognition, and loyalty incentive programs are working.

new visit: The number of visits to a site that are first time visitors. While this is a good number to be aware of, it should also be noted that visitors who do not accept cookies (such as those who leave their browsers’ security settings on maximum) will always show as new.

visit: A measure of the number of times the website has been loading into a browser. Also known as eyeballs. This is a better measure of traffic than “hits” as it gives a more accurate picture of how many people are interacting with a site.

pageview: The number of pages within a site that are viewed during visits. A high number of pageviews is generally considered positive, although may indicate certain issues. (see depth of visit.)

recency: A measure of how close together returning visits are spaced. This can help you understand the effect of special promotions or timed events and can also be a good way to watch for sudden declines in interest caused by changes to the site or other factors.

time on page:  A measure of the amount of time visitors spend on the site. Also known as length of visit.  This is a useful way of tracking the appeal of content—people tend to stay longer if they are interested in what they see—but can also indicate pages that have too much content, layout that’s too complicated, or pages that take too long to fully load.

unique visit: A measure of the number of different individuals who have viewed the page during a given timeframe. This number discounts return visits to show only the unique potential customers that have visited.

All of the above metrics are available through Google Analytics. We definitely recommend that anyone doing business online get started on GA as soon as possible. More importantly, we suggest that everyone using GA learn how to use it, how to interpret the data, and then how to use the knowledge to improve site performance.


5 Things Your SEO Provider DOES NOT Know

Today's Lesson: Just what the hell do we DO around here?

CEO Schooling the SEO

You hire an SEO provider to improve your search position. You do the diligence thing: check references, make sure they use compliant techniques, get a written contract, and verify that you understand the way the fees and billing work. The minute it’s signed, you think, “Yay! Now I don’t have to think about this crap anymore! My SEO will handle everything!”

Well, yes and no. Because there are at least 5 things that your SEO provider almost certainly doesn’t know that you absolutely must school them on.

  1. What your business does. Sure, this seems like it should be obvious. But it isn’t. You’ve been doing it for a while and you understand what you do. Don’t assume that the SEO has any clue. School them.
  2. How your business does it. The business model you use to govern your operation is one of many possible models. The SEO needs to know—at least in general terms—the way you do what you do. School ’em.
  3. Who your business does it to. Who is your primary demographic? Not just who buys your stuff, but who might buy your stuff, what kind of people they are, where they live, what they’re likely to do and want. Surely you have this info close to hand. Don’t you? SCHOOL the SEO.
  4. When your business does it. If there are times of the day, week, month, or year that your business booms—or bombs—let the SEO in on it. School’s in session!
  5. Where your business rules. Geography is everything. If you know you have limitations on where you do business, let the SEO know. If  you know areas where you’re already kicking ass, let ’em know. To school!

Oh, yeah. And there’s one more thing you better be perfectly clear, up-front, and honest about. Just exactly what are your expectations? If the SEO didn’t ask you this well before you signed a contract, they didn’t do their job. It is absolutely essential to the success of any search marketing project that everybody starts out on the same page.

And preferably stays there.


Google’s Advanced Search Operators for SEO

Now what was I looking for?

We’ve been doing this stuff for so long now that sometimes we forget that not everybody knows all the tricks we normally take for granted. Google Advanced Search Operators, for instance.

In fact, we’re sometimes surprised to learn that there are even some SEO professionals who don’t use these little search operator tricks—even though we find ourselves using many of them pretty much daily.

So we put together a list of our favorites, in no particular order.

Also note that the usual useful search operators and filters work in cooperation with some of these: “quotes” around a string mean exact match, + (plus sign) means must include, – (minus sign) means exclude.

Useful Google Search Operators

site: All indexed pages under the search string domain


link: List of significant indexed links pointing to the search string domain


allintitle: All words in title
Search for documents with all the words in the search string  in their title. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allintitle: quest solution

intitle: Word in title
Search for documents with the first word after the intitle operator somewhere in their title.

allintext: All words in text
Search for documents with all search string words the in their text. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allintext:firefly tv character jayne

intext: Word in Text
Search for documents with the first word after the intext operator in their text.

allinurl: All words in URL
Search for documents with all the words in their url. Returns results with all words in any part of URL, in any order. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allinurl:eugene west storage

inurl: Word in URL
Search for documents with the first word after the inurl operator in their url.

allinanchor: All words in anchor
Search for documents with all the words in an anchor. Returns pages with all of the words in the search string used in at least one hyperlink. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allinanchor:most experienced seo

inanchor: Word in anchor
Search for documents with the first word after the operator in an anchor.