Back to Basics

As I sit down to edit another round of pages for a client, I am reminded of how important it is to stick to the core elements of SEO. I’ve been in this industry a long time, and I see lots of new trends come and go, for example, the popularity of doorway pages, white on white text, hidden div layers, duplicate domains, link farms and so much more. What amazes me though is how quickly people flock to those new-fangled ideas, and throw out the tried and true methods of days past. New trends are always something you should keep up with and maybe try out, but don’t forget the basics.

What are the basics? The real basics. The raw html code basics. Title Tags, Description Tags, Keywords Tags, Heading Tags and Content, Content, Content. This is what is going to get you rankings that will last.

Title Tags are so important. You would be surprised at how many people still have “Welcome to my website” as their title. People, edit this tag! Put something meaningful in that tag. Tell what your page is about. Use important keywords but don’t stuff your keywords in. This tag shows up in the SERPs. This tag is seen at the top of the browser window. This tag is important.

Description Tags aren’t as important but they still carry some weight. Use this field as an opportunity to expand what you started in the Title Tag. Use complete sentences here and a few more keywords to really describe the page’s content.

Keywords Tags aren’t going to get you #1 rankings for important words, but it might get you rankings for those common misspellings of words. Bet you didn’t realize that did you? Use this tag to put a laundry list of keywords and phrases that directly describe what the page is about. Include common misspellings and chances are, you might get rankings for those.

Heading Tags are almost as important as the Title Tag in my book. Use at least a H1 tag on every page. Make this a short statement to describe the content featured below it, and if you can incorporate a keyword phrase, even better.

Content. Your web site is nothing without content. As many have said before me, content is king. Write content for your site, lots and lots of content that uses your keyword phrases. Write content on as many pages as you can – about 300 words a page if you can. The content is what will really support all the work you’ve done in the Title, Description, Keywords and Heading Tags. If you want all of your elements to tie together seamlessly, then write your content using your keywords.

I can’t stress enough how important these elements are. These are things that can easily be edited on a page and they will get you results. So go ahead and keep up with the newest, greatest way to deceive the search engines and get you quick rankings, but if you want rankings that will last, take my advice and stick to the basics.

What Makes a Good Client

After a particularly bad week that was sprinkled with family emergencies, very long road trips, Easter plans disrupted and who knows what else I’m forgetting – I was left thinking today about what makes a good client. I have several clients with a variety of personalities and different qualities that make them unique. For the most part I have a fairly good relationship with my clients and communication is first priority. Unfortunately, during my hectic week I had forgotten to notify many of my clients of what was going on and I let a few emails and phone calls go un-returned. This type of behavior will usually bring out the worst in a client and shame on me for behaving so, but there are times in one’s life where other things take precedence over the J.O.B. and this week was definitely one of them for me.

What really touched me during this trying time was how many of my clients were genuinely concerned about me and my family. Even prospect clients found their hearts, put their urgent marketing needs on the back burner and respected my need for time to deal with one crisis after another. They would send their well wishes, drop emails with happy thoughts and were understanding to the fact that work on their projects might be delayed a day or two. To me, that speaks volumes about a person and those are the types of people I love having as clients.

When I work with great clients like these, I am motivated to get them great results because the relationship is rewarding for me. Conversations with this type of client usually results in new ideas, constructive criticism and to-do items that keep the project moving in a forward direction that produces results. I find myself suggesting new things to try with these clients, even if I haven’t tried it before. I learn along with these clients and we work together as a team toward an agreed upon goal. These are clients that I could consider “friends” rather than acquaintances or colleagues.

Now, I’ve had my fair share of the heartless, money driven, micromanaging types who “know” more than I do about SEO and could care less whether or not I have an actual life outside of their project. I probably have one or two now, but thankfully they aren’t too terrible. These clients are generally hard to communicate with, will never see things any other way but their own and I believe that in a way they sabotage their own projects. Although they may think they are doing right by their company, staying on top of some free spirited SEO, demanding details at every turn and expecting over night results they could be sucking precious time and effort out of their projects and into mundane emails filled with explanations and numbers, pretty graphs and large percentages. To me, that is time wasted and is sabotage to the SEO project. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe in the power of reports and communication and think that client education is very much a good thing. What I don’t agree with is justifying everything being done on a project – when, where, why and how.

What I’ve learned in my years doing SEO is that if a client and I can truly work as a team on their project things will go much smoother. If I constantly have to defend my position and be ready to battle at every turn then the project is destined to be an uphill battle – constantly. So what makes a good client? For me, it’s a client that knows what they want from their project, isn’t afraid to try new things, isn’t trying to undermine me at every turn and one that knows the value of communication but doesn’t expect constant hand holding. These are the clients that will have successful projects.


A couple of days ago I was contacted by Virginia Nussey over at Bruce Clay, to be asked if I would like to be interviewed for their WebmasterRadio show, SEMSynergy. Butterflies instantly filled my stomach and I nearly had an anxiety attack. Not exactly the reaction you’d expect, so let me explain why. I’m used to being a pretty low-key person. I go about, minding my own business and I usually do not do things that draw attention to myself. Not for any other reason except that I’m not one to enjoy the spotlight.

But I decided the interview would be good for me. After all, it doesn’t hurt to step into the spotlight once in awhile right?

Virginia is such a great person and she really made the interview painless. We discussed the lasted Google algorithm change, known as Vince, and how small businesses were affected. Most of my clients are smaller businesses who target a specific segment of visitors and a big algorithm change that disrupts rankings could be devastating to their business. Fortunately that wasn’t experienced in my case and I chalk it up to a few different things:

1) Broad Terms – Not all of my clients target broad terms. Some do, but for the most part I try to stress to my clients the importance of getting rankings for targeted keyword terms that will bring qualified traffic, versus masses of traffic.

2) Optimized Content – it’s not enough to just have content on a website; that content should be optimized for a small group of keywords. The more supporting content a site can contain, the better the chances are for rankings.

3) Creating a Diverse Online Presence – I’ve spent a lot of time with my clients deciding where they want to put energy into creating their online presence. They can’t just have a website – they have to let others know they are there; and every client is different. Client A may need to just concentrate on press releases and a blog whereas it makes sense for Client B to have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and content sharing sites.

These three things, combined with others of course, help the sites offer specific, targeted content for the users, help them become known to other web properties and gain inbound links and therefore help them rank successfully for their desired keywords. Are all of my clients ranked #1 for their terms? No but they don’t have to be. As long as they are coming up in the top 5 and receiving great qualified traffic that converts for them, they are usually pleased and don’t worry too much about the difference between position #1 and #2.

To SEO or Not To SEO – That is the question

Have you been contemplating whether or not to run a SEO campaign for your site? Do you need help in making a decision? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Believe it or not, many site owners struggle with this decision. Ok, maybe not that decision exactly, it’s more like they struggle with the idea of spending a large chunk of their marketing budget on a program that virtually has no guarantees that it’ll work. Not many people want to invest thousands of dollars on something that might not benefit them at all. For some strange reason, most normal humans hate to throw away money – strange, I know.

So, let’s try this again – If you have a web site, and do any type of business on that web site, then you need to do a SEO campaign. If you already know you need to run a SEO campaign for your site, but you are struggling with the fact that every company you get a quote from basically wants your first born, don’t get discouraged. There are a lot of companies out there that offer great services, and more than likely, you will get results. What you need to be concerned with is selecting a company that has a good reputation, that does good work, and that doesn’t practice ‘black hat’ methods. The last thing you want to do is invest money thinking that you are doing the right thing for your site, and in the end all you have is an empty wallet and a web site that has been banned from the search engines. That definitely won’t get you anywhere.

So what are you to do? Here’s a simple list:

  • You Need SEO – Resign to the fact that SEO will benefit your web site. In a majority of SEO campaigns web sites are improved (cleaner code, better linking, clearer theme), and traffic will increase.
  • Research – Research your options when it comes to firms that do SEO. Look at industry sites like SEMPO, google the companies to see what is being said about them, and make sure to read both the good and bad press about a company. You don’t want to make a decision based on only ½ the story.
  • Listen to your gut – As you talk to different firms, if you get an uneasy feeling, like you are talking to that slime-ball of a used car salesman that works at the corner car lot with card board signs…chances are it’s not the right company for you.
  • Be Actively Involved – Insist on participating in the SEO campaign. Ask lots of questions and be open to learning a little bit about SEO and remember that it’s your business and no one knows your business like you do – certainly not a SEO analyst for an Internet Marketing firm.
  • Conversions and Traffic Counts – Keep an eye on your conversions and traffic counts. Make sure you are running some type of analytics on your site so you can track this type of data. If you aren’t seeing any positive progress being made, voice your concerns.
  • And lastly, Don’t expect Immediate Results – SEO is a long process. A lot of it is playing the waiting game with the search engines – waiting for them to spider the site, waiting for them to index, waiting for them to update their index, waiting to see where the site will rank once it has been indexed. For semi-competitive markets, don’t expect significant results for at least 6-9 months. For competitive markets, expect to wait a year or more before you start to see rankings on your major, high traffic keywords.

Google Webmaster Tools Update

In their ongoing quest to rule the world, Google has made it even easier for you to love them – at least if you’re a webmaster or SEO. Not too long ago they added some new ‘toys’ in the Google Webmaster Tools area, under Tools. This menu used to only have a few options like ‘Analyze Robots.txt’ and ‘Set Crawl Rate’ but now they’ve beefed this area up to now include the following:

  • Generate Robots.txt – where you can generate a robots.txt file for your site by going through 3 easy steps.
  • Enhance 404 Error Pages – which customizes the 404 error page for your site. By customizing the pages, you’ll be able to cater to your visitors who have become lost on your site. As of right now this tool will add a search box as well as alternative links within your site to help the visitor find their way again.
  • Gadgets – allows you to add data from the Webmaster Tools area onto your iGoogle home page for quick viewing. You are given the option of having crawl errors, content analysis, top search queries, subscriber stats, what Google sees, external links, internal links and Sitelinks all from your browser homepage.

What does this all mean? My job just got a lot easier when it comes to the monitoring aspect!