Punk Rock SEO: A DIY Approach to Internet Marketing

The DIY ethic, a necessity for the first few thousands of years of human existence and reclaimed by punk rock in the late 70s, is making a comeback as the world wide web grows bigger and gets faster.  Wondering if the non-working turn signals and non-working backup lights in your 2002 Chevy Cavalier are related?  Well, I was yesterday, Googled it, and fixed the fuse myself.  Search engine-enhanced DIY is all around us.

DIY SEO can help your website get a jump start on getting found, but there are many nuances to SEO.  It’s a good idea to work with a professional SEO to take you to the next level after you get a good grounding yourself of how it works.  First, I’d take a good look at respected online sources.  Here are some good ones:  seobook.com, searchengineland.com, and of course (straight from the horse’s mouth), Google’s SEO Starter Guide.

Then, Try Your Hand at These DIY SEO Basics:

Keyword Research – Figure out how your target audience searches for your site.

  • Brainstorm a list of 10-20 search terms that you think people would use to find you.  Enter each one in Google and/or bing to see if your website would be a reasonable fit with the other sites showing up for these terms.
  • Look at competitors’ sites that are showing up for your target terms. Are they using any other keywords that you haven’t thought of?  Add these to your list.
  • Use a free keyword tool like The Google Keyword Tool to get even more ideas and to see the level of interest and competition for each term you’re considering.
  • Narrow your list to those keywords you think will produce the most relevant search traffic.

Incorporate Keywords – Strategically use keywords in your site meta data and content.

  • Match each keyword on your list to pages on your site with corresponding content.  (spreadsheets are good for this). Don’t force the issue, though.  If you have “orphan” keywords in your list that don’t match up with any pages, keep them in a holding area to use for future relevant content.
  • Use the target keyword for each page in the page’s title (keep it under 60 characters), in the meta description (should describe the page in under 145 characters), in the url if possible, and within the page content (several times, naturally, and in Headings, if possible).

Optimize Site Structure – Make sure your site is easy to navigate for humans and bots.

  • Google hearts html.  Don’t mess around with too much flash and don’t have your text tied up in images.  This happens all the time!  Engine bots can’t read it.
  • If your navigation structure is logical to humans and is text based, you’re head and shoulders against many other (even very expensive) sites out there.
  • Make sure your robots.txt files are in order.  This is not as intimidating as it sounds. They basically tell engines which pages to crawl, index, not crawl, etc.  Here’s a brief primer: http://www.robotstxt.org/

Get Links – Getting links back to your site is an ongoing process, but well worth your time.  Note: Don’t overdo it because your site could be penalized and disappear from search results if it appears like you’re trying to dupe the engines.

  • Make sure you are getting links from sites that should be linking to you (associations you belong to, Chambers of Commerce, BBB, etc.)
  • Anytime you give a presentation, a quote in an article, a testimonial or any activity that may be mentioned online, ask if the author could send a link back to your site.
  • Write informational articles about your industry and submit them to articles directories like ezinearticles.com
  • If possible, try to include your target keywords in the links back to your site.  This instructs search engines to associate your site with those words.

Finally, to measure your results, use a free Analytics program like Google Analytics.  It’s very easy to set up and there are tons of user resources on the site.  See what’s working and what’s not and adjust your strategy.  Most DIY’ers need help sometimes.  When my Chevy’s muffler falls off (which I’m anticipating will happen soon), I probably won’t try to figure out how to fix it myself – I’ll go to the garage.  If you hit a snag, get in touch with a professional SEO who can help you trouble-shoot, strategize, and basically rock with your search marketing.

How to Build a Smart Powerful Keyword List

Keyword research can be a daunting task, but it forms the basis for paid and non-paid campaigns. Many people make the mistake of:

  • Only targeting their product names as keywords;
  • Using only a handful of keywords in optimization and PPC; or,
  • Targeting the wrong keywords altogether!

It is necessary to target the right keywords from the very beginning of your search marketing strategy, in order to get more clicks for your paid ads and to rank higher in SERPs.

The process of research begins with brainstorming. Try to think what customers or potential clients would actually type in to find your products/services. Sit down with your friends, colleagues or customers to come up with some terms. Try to avoid very generic terms, like ‘jeans’ for example, if you are not a very well established website with very high domain authority.  These extremely competitive phrases are very difficult to rank well organically if you are just in the beginning phases of website development/website optimization, and are often very expensive in pay-per-click.  During this stage, you might want to check your competitors’ websites and ads just to get an idea of what they are banking on. After this initial stage, you should have a list of at least 15-20 relevant keywords.

There are many keyword tools available in the market, but would suggest using“The Google Keyword Tool”.  As of this week, this tool (which replaces the former Google keyword tools) is out of beta testing.  Enter your shortlisted keywords in the keyword tool to find out different variations of the keywords you came up with during your brainstorming and research. Along with finding keyword variations, you will get an idea of how often the keyword is searched for, as well as how many other online advertisers are trying to get traffic on the phrase.  After this stage, you will have a better idea of which keywords you should and shouldn’t be targeting.

I also take advantage of two other cool Google tools in keyword research. The first is the Google Suggest, which ‘suggests’ different phrases as we type in the search box. This feature suggests queries that have previously been entered by users, so you might want to add the relevant ones to your list. Again for jeans, I get these suggestions:

The second are the ‘related’ queries that are displayed by Google at the bottom of the page. For example, if I search for jeans, I get these related terms that I might want to consider:

When all is said and done, it is important to have a list of keywords that exactly define what your product or service is, does, and the benefits of using it.   Don’t be afraid to be too exact or precise in the keywords you target.  Your optimization efforts will pay off by driving very qualified traffic to your site if you build a smart keyword list.  To use the jeans example one last time, if you only sell men’s designer jeans, why would you even want to put a lot of effort toward ranking well/advertising on the term ‘jeans’?  The people coming to your site on the term ‘jeans’ could be looking for women’s jeans, children’s jeans, work jeans, you get the idea.  Hope this post helps you build a powerful keyword list. Do let us know of any other techniques you use to research keywords.

Twitter + BenJerrysTruck = I’m Hooked

My family won’t let me talk about the Ben & Jerry’s truck visit to my office anymore, so I’m taking to the internet to tell my story.  (In their defense, it IS all I talked about the day before, the day of, and the day after).  I realized last week that it was the last week of August and I hadn’t seen the Ben & Jerry’s truck driving around Boston giving out free ice cream throughout the month yet.  I told a few of my coworkers (all Ben & Jerry’s fans) and we semi-panicked that time was running out and began tweeting and DM’ing the truck like crazy to please, please, please visit our office.

Anyway, long story short, they came!  They came!  They came!  They came!  Bearing Boston Cream Pie and Milk n Cookies flavors and coupons, they came!  Okay.  I’m okay now.

Thanks to this episode, I will say that now I “get” Twitter.  I had been on Friendster, MySpace, and most recently, Facebook since the early aughts, but only started a Twitter account last year, updating it infrequently.  While I was following the @BenJerrysTruck and tracking the truck’s movement (slightly obsessively), I began to read other people’s tweets and started following people I liked.  I felt like I was the first to know about special things (though I know I wasn’t the “only” one ;)). Today I started following TJ Maxx because I saw that a friend was and, damn it, I want a chance to win that handbag by retweeting too!

Now I’m hooked.

Before this I had preconceived notions that Twitter was too promotional.  Who cared what I was saying?  Why should I care about what someone else wanted to tell the entire world in less than 140 characters?  Turns out there are people who care about what I say and turns out I want to know what other people/places have to say, whether it’s promotional or not.  Twitter users can see what ideas their friends, idols, and favorite places have to say or offer in brief, digestible snippets.

I’m not the only one to hop on the bandwagon:  A very recent compete.com survey found that 31 percent (of 3,119 surveyed) report checking out Facebook fan pages or Twitter feeds of retailers, up from 17 percent in the third-quarter 2009 survey.  If my math is right, that’s almost double in less than a year.

As you can see, the reasons to engage with twitter are many!  You can probably tell that from my own examples.  And, it goes both ways.  If people are looking to learn about what’s hot in SEO, about life @451Heat, or random awesome recipes, they can follow me at @mlspriest. It’s really about finding that one “hook” (in my case, Ben & Jerry’s) to see how Twitter might work for you.

The Power of Local Search: Create Awareness & Increase Customer Base

Often small, local businesses face the question of how to grow visits to their websites, and ultimately, to their businesses. SEO and PPC are the traditional, proven ways that can boost site traffic and leads to all sites; but, for small and local businesses it makes great sense to start with local search optimization. Local search has been around for some time, but very few people know how to take advantage of this free Google feature.

The process begins by creating a Google Places account (this used to be called Google local listings). It is one of the best and easiest ways to increase your customer base economically, as it is absolutely free! Recently, Google launched Google Tags, a new advertising feature, which helps you stand out from the competition. It adds a small tag beside your listing in the Google Places “7-pack” and charges a small $25/month fee to use this feature.

Once you set up an account, be sure to fill out as much information as possible because it definitely affects the rank of your listing and adds more credibility to your business. You will have to “verify” this listing, which can be accomplished by entering a verification pin you can choose to receive by phone or mail.

Here are some important factors you should consider when optimizing your Google local listing:
•    Put in your exact address and choose the most relevant business categories
•    If the opportunity presents itself, use a keyword in your business name (for example:  Brother & Sister Moving Company)
•    Add photos and videos of your office and products/service.  Many businesses aren’t currently taking advantage of this feature, so you can one up your competition quite easily in this respect.
•     Offer a special coupon in your profile, which will encourage users to both visit your business and (hopefully) write a positive review on your Places page.
•    Submit your business information on local search engines, local databases and local business listings
•     Make sure your information on superpages.com and other local-based information sites and user review sites is accurate, as these citations will show up on your Google Places profile and are thought to improve the optimization of the profile.

Hope this information helps your local search optimization efforts. Let us know if this post helped you set up your Google Places account. Share your thoughts and experiences.

Study Finds Three-Word Queries Drive Majority of SEO Traffic

Chitika, an ad network, recently published interesting results from a study of 41,103,403 impressions of search traffic coming into its network between June 13 and June 19.

Chitika found that 26 percent of organic search traffic was the result of three-word searches. Two-word searches followed with 19 percent of organic search traffic. Four word searches followed that with 17 percent, and finally, one-word searches accounted for 14 percent of organic searches.

Interestingly, Chitika found that queries beyond five words see dramatically decreased organic traffic, but this is different with paid clicks. The ad network found the highest ad click rates were for queries five, six and four words. After six words, clicks dropped significantly.

Are you surprised by these results? Will you change your SEO strategy based on this study’s findings?

For more information on this study, visit here.