Archive for February, 2011

The importance of internal linking

Monday, February 28th, 2011

One of the elements of site development and SEO that often gets overlooked is internal linking. When done right, you can kill two birds with one stone, and improve both search rankings and usability. You may be familiar with the fact that when sites link to other sites, search engines pass value for the terms/phrases used in the link anchor text. (Anchor text is the highlighted text in the link.)

When working on improving rankings for a site, people usually try to target links from other sites (external links) that have the desired anchor text related to terms they want to rank for. However, contextual internal links can also be effective in helping to improve a site’s rankings for targeted keyphrases.

Your website’s text content is filled with opportunities to potentially pass link juice to other pages of your site and to help users find their end destination.

To start improving your internal linking strategy, go through your site section by section, page by page, and see where it would make sense (from a user’s point of view), and insert some contextual links to other pages that you want to rank better.

Be sure to use the keywords/phrases (in the anchor text) that you would like the destination pages to rank for. In your links to these pages throughout the site, vary it up and don’t use the exact same phrases in anchor text, or it will look artificial to both search engines and users.

What should your keyword density be these days?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

After you have chosen the keywords and keyphrases that describe your site and are of interest to your potential customers, the next step is to make your site keyword-rich and to have good keyword density for your target keywords. Keyword density is a common measure of how relevant a page is.

Generally, the idea is to find a keyword density that makes your page relevant to the search string you are trying to rank for, but to avoid simply stuffing your page with your keywords (as Google and other search engines will penalize you for that anyway). The recommended density is approximately 3 for the major 2 or 3 keywords and 1% or less for minor keywords.

Although there are no strict rules, try optimizing for a reasonable number of keyword phrases. Six to ten is about right. If you attempt to optimize for a list of 300 keywords, you will soon see that it is just not possible to have a good keyword density for more than a few keywords without making the text sound artificial and stuffed with keywords.

There are severe penalties (including search engine bans) for keyword stuffing because this is considered an unethical ‘black hat’ practice that tries to manipulate search results. It won’t work well today anyway, not when compared with strong local SEO tactics and an overall SEM strategy.

New focus for Google Social

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Google announced last week that it was no longer relegating its so-called “Social Search” results to the bottom of Google search pages. Such results  have been “lost” there since the feature was introduced in 2009. The results from users’ social graphs (to use a Facebook term) will now be integrated with standard search results (including those displayed with Google Instant) based on their relevance to user queries.

According to a post on Google’s corporate blog:

First, social search results will now be mixed throughout your results based on their relevance (in the past they only appeared at the bottom). This means you’ll start seeing more from people like co-workers and friends, with annotations below the results they’ve shared or created. So if you’re thinking about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and your colleague Matt has written a blog post about his own experience, then we’ll bump up that post with a note and a picture [click the image to see it full-sized]:

This sort of result requires that “friends” either link their social media to their Google profiles or share media directly via the profiles (for example, via Google Buzz). However, social media shared publicly by your friends will also now appear in search results:

For example, if you’re looking for a video of President Obama on “The Daily Show” and your friend Nundu tweeted the video, that result might show up higher in your results and you’ll see a note with a picture of Nundu…

Perhaps the most useful enhancement to the social search results, though, comes through easier, more private linking of social media accounts with either your Google profile or your Google account:

You can still connect accounts publicly on your Google profile, but now we’ve added a new option to connect accounts privately in your Google Account. (After all, you may not want everyone to know you’re @spongebobsuperfan on Twitter.) In addition, if our algorithms find a public account that might be yours (for example, because the usernames are the same), we may invite you to connect your accounts right on the search results page and in your Google Account settings.

This is all well and good, but what’s the takeaway? Google has struggled to come up with any sort of reasonably competitive answer to Facebook. It just hasn’t happened. Google’s strength, however, has always been search and managing the countless bits of data on the Web through complex algorithms. One has to ask, in fact, if Google even needs its own social platform if it can instead just index and make more useful all of the other social platforms that already exist. Time will tell…

The power of geographic keywords

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

When it comes down to choosing the right keywords today, a more accurate description of the process would be ‘choosing the right key phrases.’

If there was a time when you could easily top the results for a one-word keyword search string that is long past. Now the Web is so densely populated with sites that it is next to impossible to achieve constant top ratings based on one-word keywords.

Achieving constant top ratings for two-word or three-word search phrases is a more realistic goal. If you examine closely the dynamics of search results for popular one-word keywords, you would find that while it may be possible one week to be in the first ten organic results, the next week you fall right out of the first 30 results because the competition for popular one-word keywords is so fierce and other sites have replaced you.

This is where local SEO becomes paramount, especially dealing with Goggle Places. You can use your geographic location in your keyword phrases to rank highly in localized search.

Of course, you can include one-word keywords in your overall keywords list, but you cannot depend upon them for high rating or targeted results. For instance, if you have a business selling fishing boats in Miami, Florida then of course “boat” is a mandatory keyword. However, your optimal keyword phrases will be much more specific, and would likely include “fishing boats,” “Miami boats,” “Miami fishing boat dealers” and even some other popular local terms like “Miami fishing” or “Miami boating.”

The return of Google local listing ads

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Remember Local Listing Ads?  You know, the ones Google released way back in October 2009 when lots of you were at SMX East?

Well, they’re back.  Only this time, they’re available through the ADWORDS interface rather than the Places interface.

Google just announced that something called “Location Extensions” are now going to have the same effect — a blue pushpin clearly labeled as a sponsored result, but one that shows up on the map of local businesses within Place Search also.

Clearly these are going to have the greatest effect for the businesses than can afford to get that #1 slot (or at least a slot above the 3/7/O-Pack), but it’ll be interesting to see whether clickthrough levels will also go up on the blue pushpins for advertisers who maintain their bids at positions further down the page.

Two of the things I said about LLA’s are still relevant 16 months on:

1. Internet Yellow Pages (and any businesses without a physical location) who tried to cope with the loss of traffic by buying more Adwords are now going to find it even more difficult to compete for Local searches.

2. The blue pushpin icons are sure to have a significant positive impact on clickthrough for the businesses advertising with LLA’s, taking traffic away from traditional Adwords (i.e. for non-brick-and-mortar businesses).

But, there’s one big difference:

LLA’s had easy-to-understand benefits and pricing.

These location extensions require an SMB to be a pretty savvy Adwords advertiser in order to get them to show up.  I’ll be interested to see whether Google re-releases these location extensions as a simple “one-click install” within the Places Dashboard soon.

Essential local SEO tips

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Local search engine optimization can be just as time consuming and competitive as “regular” SEO. The same rules apply — you need to have good content and quality links. However, the tactics are slightly different in specific areas. As always there are some tactics that you can use easily and some that require a dedicated local seo expert who can provide a daily punch to your local ranking efforts.

Local search is essential to small businesses. In 2010, Google revealed that the proportion of Google result pages that show a map is one in 13. A few months later, Google changed from its Local Business Center (LBC) to Google Places, which enables businesses to communicate with customers as well as supplement their Google profile information to include hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons and product offerings. We assume Google is serving maps more than 1 billion times a month.

With all of this in mind, here’s the beginnings of what you need to know to successfully tap into local markets.

Where to Begin

List your business in Google Places — it’s free. Watch a number of training videos and explore the features, including tools like tracking of actions (meaning how many times users showed interest in your business listing), clicks for more information on maps, driving directions or direct clicks, as well as impressions (how many times users saw your business listing as a local search result). As you’ll see, it will be important to get ratings and references, too.

While much focus is placed on Google Places, don’t forget to also register at:

  • Yahoo! Local
  • Bing Local

Verify Your Business

One easy way to find out if your business is listed anyplace online is to search for your brand name. Include the city or locale you are supposed to be listed in.

If you are not listed, take action. For instance, if I’m a tax attorney in Beverly Hills, California, I would search for “tax attorney Beverly Hills.” I’d see the top local results (just below Google’s paid search results) as well as a local map on the right, hovering over more paid listings.

When I click on one particular local result, I notice that it has not been verified, meaning it does not include a “verified business owner” link. An arrow points to “Business owner,” indicating it needs verification.

Google pulls the data on this result (address, phone number) from some of the larger business aggregators like infoUSA, and attempts to match it up correctly. However, that data could be wrong. If that’s the case, it would be important for this particular owner to take corrective measures. This is why it’s important to verify your business information in local search results.

Select Your Categories

When registering, make sure to assign your business to the listed categories that best describe it. You can add up to five categories. Once you start typing, Google Places will display related categories.

Continue to add as much information as possible, including hours, payment types, e-mail address, phone number, URL/web address, photos, videos and coupons. Fill out each field, if appropriate.

When you’re done, make videos, upload them to YouTube and link them back into your local profile on Google Places. If you install and use tools like, it’ll be free and easy to make an informational, useful video. Screen cam your PowerPoint presentations. You can include up to 10 pictures and five videos.

Get Listed in Local Directories

Obtaining citations from local business directories like Yelp and Merchant Circle can be a powerful tool to get exposure and drive traffic. (See the list of directories in the Local SEO resources sections below.) Make sure that all your information is correct, and keep the same formatting across all locations.

Ask for Reviews

Don’t be afraid to ask customers for reviews. Offer special incentives and discounts for return visits to your office. You can also add a postcard or business card into your office invoice mailings asking your customers to review the visit and talk about the experience.

However, don’t unwittingly spam this system by asking all your friends to review you in a week. You should also get references from the Better Business Bureau, your local chamber of commerce and the top local directories.

These tips should start you out. A local seo expert can help you enlarge your campaign and show you many more local seo techniques to bring you Page Rank and customers.