So, you used to be a vampire – you would suck people’s blood until they ran dry?
Yes, but I’ve moved on. I’m now a SEO [search engine optimisation] consultant and I suck people’s bank accounts dry instead. I guess I was born to suck. It’s not such a bad life.
Don’t you worry that you’ll get caught someday?
Not really. SEO consultants have been moving amongst the business community with impunity since the late 1990s. People see us, but they don’t really see through us if you know what I mean. We wear special opaqueness cloaks which are made up of fast talk and jargon.
Do you have any weaknesses – can you be killed?
We’re sensitive to website analytics reports, especially the daylight of business conversion data. But no, we can’t be killed.
Are you in cahoots with any other dark forces?
Yes, digital marketing agencies often provide us with safe-harbour.
Who are your most vulnerable prey?
We target the weak and desperate business-mind. We use a ‘get found on page 1 of google’ hazing-charm to confuse their power of reasoning, and then we put them on a monthly SEO maintenance plan. We suck them until they financially run dry, or the hazing-charm wears off – whichever comes first.
That sounds awful! How do you live with yourself? I mean, what do you see each morning when you look in the mirror?
Nothing, I’m a vampire.
Okay, getting creepy now. Thanks for your time. Let me get the window…
Most SEO ‘consultants’ are dodgy as hell – they’ll take your money and do you damage. But if you’ve already gone down that dark hole, consider the following:
1. SEO (search engine optimisation) is driven by solid content, not the sprinkling of keywords. One does not ‘do’ SEO, one creates volumes of great market aligned content. Is your consultant helping you with content creation? Would your SEO guy know the first thing about the informational needs of your target audiences? Probably not.
2. SEO is not about optimising your website for the 50 most popular keywords. Read ‘The Long Tail’ by Chris Anderson if you want insight to the thinking process of the remaining 98% of any given market segment.
3. SEO is not a set-and-forget thing. Quality content creation and online publishing is an ongoing business imperative (no-one said this would be easy, but then again if it were easy everyone would be doing it well).
4. SEO trickery is dangerous. Contrived back-links, repetitive anchor-text, keyword density formulas and other mumbo-jumbo will be sooner or later be caught out in a search engine algorithm update and your website will be slapped back to the last century.
5. SEO ‘maintenance plans’ are a RORT. Maintaining what!?
6. SEO without conversion reporting is meaningless. Who cares how many people arrived to your website via organic search – for most of us that’s only a mean to some business end. See if you can find a SEO consultant who will take payment based on measurable conversion performance (good luck).
7. Many so-called SEO consultants have the worst websites – crap copy, cheesy stock images, unsubstantiated claims – they’re not very good marketers. And you want to let them loose on your business…?
Titles associated with online content generally fall into 1 of 3 camps: enticing, search aligned, and space-fillers. Be clear how you’re positioning your titles in the first two instances and avoid the latter.
1. Titles Designed to Entice
Hardcopy magazine covers are filled with attention-grabbing article titles which span the bizarre, mysterious, unbelievable, shocking, sexy and tragic. These are well thought-out hooks designed to lift casual interest to high interest and onto a purchase. The effective cross-promotion of digital content via social media draws upon the link-worthiness of the display titles. At the extreme, the super-clickable titles we call ‘link-bait’ often lead people to content that doesn’t live up to the promise; but even genuinely great content needs every attention leg-up it can get.
To increase the readership of your business content it should be cross-promoted through your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (and possibly Facebook) channels. But your content won’t be consumed within those channels, only linked to from them. Your title link text – in parallel with your content titles – should therefore be crafted as inbuilt calls-to action or enticements. They must be attention-grabbing enough to entice your followers, connections or fans to click away from the social space they’re in, and across to your website, blog, video or PDF download. Flat titles are seldom asked to dance.
2. Titles Designed to be Found
Titles designed to be found are constructed differently. Search-friendly titles are aligned with the keywords a person would logically use when searching for specific information via a search engine behemoth such as Google or the internal search engine of any social media or publishing platform. The objective is to make your article, blog post, webpage, video, image or PDF findable when people search. A lack of keyword alignment on your content titles assigns your content to the digital backwaters – no matter how valuable it would have been to the people who were searching for it, had they found it.
Keyword alignment is still the cornerstone of search engine optimisation (SEO): titles, sub-titles and other textual content which has a close keyword structure to the search patterns of your target audiences. Titles which incorporate grammatical devices such as irony, humour or double entendres fare poorly in organic search. A grammatically clever title may impress a reader, but if a person can’t find it in the first place it will never be read at all (the same existential angst a falling tree in a lonely forest endures).
3. Titles Not Designed at All
Space-fillers – titles added because titles were required. Neither alluring nor lending search utility they are like forgotten books which gather dust on a secondhand bookstore shelf. Business level videos on YouTube suffer this fate especially.
Three Possible Titles for this Blog Post
1. ‘Have you ever seen a man eat his own head?’ (designed to entice).
2. ‘Using keywords in page titles to maximise the search visibility of online content’ (designed to be found).
3. ‘Blog post #49 – content marketing ideas’ (not designed at all).
Have I ever seen a man eat his own head? No, but that’s not the point.
Short answer, no. You’re better off paying for good initial advice regarding the basic principals of search, creating your own content (lots of it and ongoing), and then letting the optimisation process unfold naturally…
Positioning your website content to take full advantage of organic search and the ‘long-tail’ is a smart business investment – the continual addition of quality content over time is the recommended approach. Here are the 3 steps:
Enhance existing web pages with fuller product or service level detail, e.g. specs, geographies. Align page headings, meta titles & descriptions. Insert aligned ‘alt text’ to all images
Identify exiting web pages containing more than one key market concept and break each into a separate page. Begin the process of publishing new pages that are targeted at specific micro-segments (use ‘buyer personas’)
3.Content Marketing Inform and empower your marketplace by publishing layer upon layer of quality information via the website and/or a blog
It’s a fact that too web developers and agencies aren’t doing their clients many favours when it comes to search engine optimisation. From my observation this can be the result of laziness or ignorance, but often it’s a cynical play to extract additional payment for work that should be included as part and parcel of the job. We’re talking very simple but important stuff – the sort of work that takes literally just a few minutes to execute and requires only junior level technical expertise – usually nothing so complicated or time consuming that could justify inclusion as a separate line cost.
This is the first of a small series that will include 301 redirects, meta, analytics, conversion pages, and in-site search. Basic stuff that any web developer or agency should know about, and should be an assumed part of their service provision.
# 1 – 301 Permanent Redirects
When a website is relaunched the search engines need to know where the previously indexed pages have moved to. A permanent 301 redirect is the instruction that what used to be here, is now sitting over there. Neglecting this process causes inconvenience for web users who click through on search results, web links or bookmarks that go nowhere. For a website owner however it can be disastrous – drying up their organic traffic, and squandering the valuable Page Rank any of the older pages may have built up (a 301 passes along a page’s Page Rank).
Web developers before relaunching any website should be placing 301’s from every old web page, to the appropriate page on the new website. If a client has a larger amount of old pages – maybe more than 20 – they should be offered a time-based quote to have each of them redirected.
Most clients will also need the importance of doing this explained to them. Few website owners would have any issue paying a couple of hundred dollars at most to have all the redirects put in place if they knew the implications of not having it done.
This article was written from the perspective of being a Business Coach, but the foundation ideas equally apply to any business.
Why It’s Important to have a Website
Your website is a global electronic window onto your business. It’s your online calling card, your gun sales rep that never sleeps or takes holidays, and your warm ever-smiling receptionist, all rolled up into one. For many prospective clients your website will form their powerful first impression of you and your level of professionalism: they’re asking themselves – can these people improve my career prospects, my business, my livelihood? Can I trust them? Do they seem likable?
It’s all about credibility; day in, day out people are using your website as part of their decision-making process: before committing themselves in any shape or form – sending an email enquiry, making a call, setting up a first meeting – people will check you out online. What will they find? Hopefully it’s something you’re proud of, a window that frames you in a strong and positive light.
DIY or Professionally Designed?
Don’t falsely economise when it comes to your online presence. You wouldn’t turn up to a first meeting wearing old shoes and a cheap suit, so don’t do the online equivalent. Get a professional to do a professional job. Or I guess you can always get an amateur to do an amateurish job.
How much to invest a website? Like cars, the sky’s the limit; but I would be budgeting $5,000 – $10,000. Amortised over the next 3 years, that’s not a big ask for a round-the-clock global presence. And I haven’t even started in on the lead generation potential yet.
The ‘Must Have’ Features of any Website
The first must-have of any website is an ability to send out strong clear marketplace signals via the online search process: the services you offer, the needs you meet, and the areas you operate (geography). This is known as search engine optimisation (SEO). And it’s easier than it sounds. If you want to appear in Google’s search results for ‘executive business coach Freemantle’ then at a minimum you need a page on your website with those very keywords in place. No keyword match, no search result listing, no business lead.
Secondly, your website content needs to be fully within your control to add to and adjust. Most modern websites are developed with web-based, integrated content management systems (CMS) to manage this process. Think of your website as a means to publish your marketing communications and thought leadership ideas directly to the web. And the more content your able to publish online, the easier it becomes for the search engines to connect people online to your ideas, your services, your website and your business.
Thirdly, think about your homepage. It should contain the key information signposts for each of the most important groups of anticipated visitors to your site; in the words of web design guru, Steve Krug: “Don’t make me think”. The homepage should also reflect some of your personality – lighten things up a bit, be human, drop the corporate speak and the clichés. People want to deal with other people, not a faceless entity. If you’re not proud enough of your personality to feel comfortable expressing it, then maybe you’re in the wrong business – try boat building instead. Oh, and don’t forget to include your telephone number, the most overlooked and obvious call to action on any website.
Lastly, analytics. Sounds boring I know, but think about it: who in their right mind would invest money into a business level initiative and not want some success metric reporting around it? Modern website analytics applications are very powerful and easy to use. One of the best out there is Google Analytics – and they give it away for free. So, you have no excuse not to (unless you like flying by the seat of your pants).
The Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Website
Keep the quality content flowing – old content develops a weird online fishy sort of smell. Make use of (free) streaming video, use quality photostock. Consider integrating a blog.
Don’t neglect your website, and look to give it a good revamp every three years or so. Don’t underestimate a website’s power to attract online leads, and to aid in the conversion of off-line leads. It’s your online street-cred bro.