Saturday, June 9, 2012

Above the Fold Part 5 - Creating a Blog Web

Tips for Successful Blogging

Driving Traffic with Blogs 

 So one of the keys to my success with driving our site to the top for our designated keywords was building a series of expert Blogs based on industry specific topics and our keywords. We created these Blogs to be a resource on our primary desired topics, but we built them to provide content, but also to shape market ideas, and of course to drive traffic and leads to our site. They have become a primary referrer of targeted leads looking for our solutions, and also have a great following. Here are some tips in creating your own BLOG web:

  1.  Create valuable content. This is so important. You have probably seen attempts at BLOG webs that just fall short, appear cheesy, and way to sales focused. You want people to come back, follow and participate. Focus on key industry solutions, overviews, topical articles that can easily lead back to your site. 
  2.  Make sure you add links to similar content. Obviously you want links in articles to help users find your site, but also provide links to other sites/blogs with similar content. This will drive your BLOG up in rankings, and also make sure you focus on creating a valuable resource or portal for information.
  3. Post often. I try to create non-product posts in a 4 to 1 ratio to make sure the BLOG does not focus on any one topic. This allows me to inter-weave my company focused content with objective content. 4. Vary your posts. Blogs that are just static content are boring. You need to add pictures, polls, video, etc to engage your audience and have them "participate" in the discussion.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Above the Fold Part 4 - Aggressive Linking

Links to sites and blogs for SEO

Linking for SEO Results

Ok, so now that you have completed part 1-3, established keywords, focused on content and structure and checked your work, now the long arduous road begins:  linking.  Where and how?  Below is a quick guide to linking and what works:

  1. Blogs - If you have not put blogging into your daily routine, get it there.  When I say blogging, I not only mean writing your own posts, but also participating in discussions that surround your product and industry, and placing content specific links back to your site.  In part 5 I will discuss an overview of creating a blog network to help in this area.  If you already have a blog, create a links module with some of your core keywords back to specific site content.
  2. Press Releases - Most of the major press release houses now allow the creation of dedicated links, release embedded links as well as highlighted links within their interfaces.  This is a great way to get your information on the street, and also provide keyword-based links back to the site.
  3. Partners - in the business to business world, your partners can be a phenomenal linking resource.  Don't be shy about asking for specific keyword links back to your site to be placed on their web site.
The steps above cannot just be done once, you need to constantly link, and get others in your organization to participate.  The more the better.  Encourage employees to create their own blogs, and contextually link back to home base.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Above the Fold Part 3 - Checkpoint

Testing your content

SEO Testing Tools

A key in my journey in towards SEO nirvana was to make sure I used checkpoints along the way.  In the two previous articles, I shared how I focused on keyword optimization and web architecture and structure for SEO.  Once you have taken the time to implement your keywords and phrases throughout your content, and also placed them into your folders, page names, titles, etc., now you need to take a snapshot in time to figure out how the web sees you.  Below are some tools to see how you are doing, and make sure your plan is coming together:

Google Webmaster Tools

I cannot emphasize enough how helpful the Google tools can be in your SEO tasks.  If you read an article on how Google analyzes the web, you will see just about all that information in Webmaster Tools.  Internal links, external links, keywords, content, errors, reused title tags, and more will all be laid out for you in the tool set, and it is an absolute snapshot of your content and how the bots view your site.  At this point, the key focus will be the Content Keywords.  This tool will show you a count of words, and how often they occur on your site.  Obviously, you want your desired keywords to be in this list in the order of required priority.

Test your sites and blogs for keywords and content

SEO Workers

My other tool that is an absolute must is the SEO Workers Tool.  This is a fantastic free tool that does just about everything you need from a content analysis perspective.  I used this to do a page by page analysis of my site, and fixed all the outlined issues.  The tool grades your pages in a number of areas: meta tags, title tags, content, etc.
SEO Tester

So, this checkpoint step should be used on a consistent basis, and I advise you incorporate it into your procedures, and run it once a quarter, or anytime web changes are made.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Above the Fold - Part 2 - Content and Structure

Search engines and structure

Now that we have gone through Part 1, our Keyword Analysis, I will now share the next step in  my methodology:  A Focus on Content and Structure.


Read any tome on SEO and Rankings, and you will no doubt read about the importance of content, and see the phrase, "Content is King".  Let's take the concept a step further.  We have gone through an analysis in Part I, built our keywords and phrases, and defined how we want to be found on the web.  A key theme here will be Content = Keywords in Context.  Have you ever gone to a site and scratched your head and said "What?". I see it quite often, especially in the tech industry: Content in the wrong context.  Keywords gone bad.  This usually occurs when organizations either have non-industry third parties write their content, just for content's sake, or have a junior individual new to the organization take on the content chore.  Obviously, it is paramount to include keywords and phrases within site content to drive rankings and traffic, but sites that lack a context for the key terms will usually have high bounce rates and low conversions.  

Structure and Dimensions

In Part 1, a key component to the step was to examine the top-ranked sites for desired keywords and phrases. If you go back to the exercise, and dig a little deeper, you will find that keywords are not only embedded within the content, but also core to the site structure: url paths, folders, file names and destination pages. Creating a site structure either through folders or categories ( in your CMS) can pay great dividends in driving traffic.  This creates another dimension within the site in which words and phrases can be expressed.  Along with structure, it is imperative to includes keywords and phrases within every "dimension" of the site:
  • File names, folders, categories, etc.
  • Meta tags: keywords, description, etc.
  • HTML titles
  • Alt tags
  • Image names
  • PDF brochure names
  • And anything else I missed
Creating keyword focused structural dimensions adds to your search engine pow.

Taking one or the other above is easy, a decent amount of work, but not rocket science.  The real challenge is to tie the two together, and create a flow and a meaningful user experience.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Above the Fold Part 1 - Keywords

keywords and phrases

Ok, so we have heard it all before, and when I first began my Above the Fold journey focused on SEO, keyword research and analysis was first on my list.  But where would I start, how would I begin?  In my structured approach, I asked what I thought was a simple question:

How do I want to be found on the web?

At first it seemed such a simple question, but our sales model is multi-tiered, as is our marketing.  We sell through resellers, distributors and OEM partners.  So not only would I need to define keywords for attracting our business-to-business customers on the web, but also, I would need to target end users of our application to generate leads for the channel.

Step 1:  Create the Keyword Lists

For our purposes, we built two lists: one focused on end-user SEO keywords, the other focused on attracting business-to-business customers with industry focused keywords.  In other words, keywords that focused on layman's terms, and keywords focused on industry terminology, acronyms, and phrases.  In the end, we analyzed the list and combined them to simplify our content focus.  Now that we had the lists, the focus would be on optimizing them for maximum web traffic.

Step 2: Analyze the Competition

Now that we had our totally awesome lists, my goal was to see the current status of the web-o-sphere, and what we were up against.  First, I wanted to see if we ranked for any of them, and "Surprise, Surprise", we got nothing.  But I knew that going into this journey.  Secondly, as I entered the keywords and phrases, I started to see some trends, of those who had attempted the journey before me - My Competition.  They were several early players in the market that ranked here and there, and when I was done, I had a firm grasp of the who's-who for my keyword base.  I used a great set of tools for this phase that makes life quite simple:  SEO Power Tools.  The Keyword tool lets you load lists, check rankings and even enter competition URLs for keyword analysis.

Step 3: Keyword Deep Dive

Ok, now that I had my lists, were they any good?  Were they optimized for traffic generation?  Where to go next...hmmm...Google.  So, if you don't already have a Google account, get one.  Sign up for an AdWords account, as there are several tools that are invaluable in your quest for SEO gold.  In the Tools and Analysis menu, you will find the Keyword Tool.  With the Keyword Tool, you can get a quick feel for several metrics on your list:  
  • The Competition Level:  High, Medium or Low: This gives you a feel for how high the overall web competition is for the keyword or phrase.
  • Global monthly and local searches:  This is what it is all about, right? You may love a keyword, but if it means nothing to the web community, and has no love from a search perspective, you may want to remove it from your list.
  • Other Phrases:  This tool is a critical eye opener.  It will provide you insight, as well as possibly give you ideas for higher traffic combinations or related keywords you may have missed.
These first 3 steps are critical to your web reformation and the journey to SEO greatness.  Be sure to do all three, completely and with great zeal as this will lay the foundation for your web presence, and future SEO initiatives.

Great, now I have a list...what's next?  First of all, don't keep it a secret!!!  Get it to the marketing team, your bloggers, tweeters, everyone.   Make this a pervasive mainstay to your overall marketing strategy.  The next step in the Above the Fold process will be Content and Structure, coming soon...

Monday, May 7, 2012

How I Got Above the Fold: Steps to the Promised Land

When I arrived at my current company, web traffic was less than stellar, with a handful of web hits per day, mostly sourced on our product or company name, which is fairly unique.  The question was:  Where do I start with a blank slate, and how do I get on the radar for desired keywords?  It took a solid year of diligent, structured work to rise to the top, as there were several well established "Kings of the Keywords".  Over the next few weeks i will break down my method into several posts on how anyone can achieve top search placement.  Below are the key focus areas:

  1. Keyword research and analysis
  2. Web site structure, content and dimensions
  3. Checkpoint-How do they view me?
  4. Aggressive linking
  5. Creating a blog web
  6. Follow on techniques
I should have the first one out in the next day or two, and share my path to success and SEO suggestions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

iPad 2 Apps for Sales and Marketing

I have had my new iPad 2 for almost a week now.  I wanted to purchase it prior to my trip to Australia, and needed to get it loaded with apps.  I am amazed at how it has simplified my morning rituals, especially with news and all my feeds.  Below are some apps I would absolutely recommend for any sales or marketing individual:

  1. Flipboard - oh my goodness.  Every morning I had gone through a ritual, reading all my feeds from Google Reader, hitting tech news sites, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  Flipboard was recommended from numerous sites, and it is absolutely fantastic.  The app provides a tiled, "flipable" interface for all your information sources, and presents them in a newspaper like fashion, making it a breeze to get your morning briefing quickly.
  2. HootSuite - for those who want a quick and easy way to distribute posts, tweets, etc, this is a must have.  With one app you can write a single post, and send to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  I find it a necessity, as I have multiple accounts on some social networks, and it makes it oh so easy to manage.
  3. Dropbox - It really amazes me how pervasive this app's functionality is throughout other apps.  If you want centralized cloud storage that is included as a save destination in just about every app, this is the way to go.
  4. Keynote - I bought the whole apple office suite, including Keynote, Numbers and Pages, and it saved my rear today.  I had left my power converter in my room, and arrived at my business partner's office with no way to run my laptop.  I opened up the iPad, browsed to my Dropbox, and opened my training presentation.  Fortunately for me, I had an iPad to VGA cable to run my presentation all on the iPad using Keynote.
  5. ThinkBook - what a great organizational tool.  ThinkBook provides a fantastic and intuitive interface to organize notes, todos, projects, questions, etc.  It also allows dashboard creation, with a master list of todos or questions as a reference based on tags.  And it integrates with...Dropbox :)
  6. Notability - one of the things that most excited me about the iPad is that i could get rid of my Journals.  For years i have carried around a "book of life" with all my meeting and call notes, todos, etc.  Notability, along with my stylus now gives me a digital notepad, and it integrates with...Dropbox.
  7. WorldClock - having distributors in 6 separate areas of the world is always a challenge, and add to that traveling and changing time zones.  This app lets me know when I can make that call with Skype.
This is my short list, and I have already been using these apps religiously from day one.  If anyone has any others, please comment and let me know.