Search Engine Optimization & Internet Marketing

What is black hat SEO?

As the name implies, black hat SEO tactics are those that are meant to trick the search engines or site users in an effort to create a shortcut to higher search rankings.  Those tricks can include: using duplicate or low quality content, paid link schemes, cloaking (delivering different content to the search engines and the user), keyword stuffing, and trying to hide keywords on the page (like using text the same color as the background). All of these tactics violate the guidelines set forth by the major search engines. They are a bad idea and a waste of time. The time spent on trying to game the system is better employed in creating a better site (with quality content and a good user experience). With the release of Google’s Penguin algorithm update in April of 2012, these tactics became even less effective than they had been.  If you are talking with a company about doing SEO work for your website, you need to ensure that they will not be using any of these tactics on your behalf.

SEO is like a different language, what do all these terms mean?

If you are new to SEO, all the terminology can be a little overwhelming.  Here is a link to a great online glossary of search engine marketing terms done by SEMPO (nonprofit trade organization serving the search and digital marketing industry).

What are META tags?

META tags are included in the <head> section of the html code that makes up a web page. They include both a description and a keywords variety. In the past, it was, in part, these tags that told the search engine spiders what a website is about, helping them to categorize properly the website within their databases.  Because of rampant abuse of these tags by spammy sites, the major search engines do not place the importance they once did on these tags in determining the placement of sites.

To view your html code and determine if you have META tags in place, simply right click on your web page and choose “View Source.” This will open a separate window with the source code of that web page. The tags, if they are there, will be up at the top between the <head> and </head> tags.

In terms of SEO, meta tags are much less important than they once were in determining your site’s place in the SERPs. The description tag is still good idea for a number of reasons; mainly that Google uses, at times, the META description tag as its description of the website within the SERPs. If no description tag exists for a site, Google defaults to the first text it finds on the page or to a snippet of text that contains the search query. The first text on your page may or may not be the message you’d like to send to searchers as they evaluate which of the results links to choose.

What is an ALT tag?

“ALT” stands for alternative representation and originated as a way for users to read what an image is supposed to be in the event that the image is not viewable. These are the words that appear as you mouse over an image. Search engines have historically included ALT tags as relevant data when cataloging web sites in their databases although their importance in rankings has diminished in recent years.

What is a KPI?

An acronym for Key Performance Indicators. This term refers to the metrics used to measure progress towards defined organizational goals. After a company has defined its mission and subsequent goals, the KPIs are metrics that measure the business’ progress towards those goals. While this term is a broad business-level term, it is included here because often the goals that are being measured in today’s business climate deal with web site performance. For example, a targeted number of site users over a period of time may be a KPI. Or, a user conversion percentage may be the KPI that ties in with an overall sales objective.

One of the factors that separates the Internet from traditional marketing and sales channels is its ability to be quantified. We can track rankings, site users, sales, and the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns in a way that simply isn’t possible in offline advertising. We encourage you to include KPIs in your business planning for your online property. It requires that you set goals and measure your progress towards those goals.  In that way KPIs can help maintain a marketing campaign’s focus and momentum.

What is PPC?

Pay Per Click (PPC) is a type of Internet advertising that lists your site in a designated “sponsored sites” area within the search results in response to a query using your pre-determined keywords. You then only pay when someone clicks on your link, taking them to your site. The most popular program offering this type of online marketing is Google AdWords. The benefit of this type of program is that you only pay for traffic that ends up at your site. Other SEM programs charge you if your ad is viewed whether or not you receive any traffic. Also, the cost and time to set up a program like this is quite minimal compared with other Internet marketing options.

A PPC campaign can be a great compliment to a natural optimization campaign, bridging the gap between the SEO work and its results. It can also be a great way to boost visibility during seasonal sales periods. The key to any SEM campaign, but particularly a PPC campaign, is establishing goals and parameters before hand. For example, what is a click to your site worth? Establishing a targeted ROI and making PPC decisions based on those guidelines will ensure that you get the most out of this potentially effective advertising outlet.

What does SERPs mean?

An acronym for Search Engine Results Pages. This term is used to describe the list of web sites that are returned by the search engines in response to a query by a user. For example, you type “birmingham web design” into Google and hit Enter. The list of sites that you get back from Google is the set of SERPs. In the SEO process, a site owner seeks to be at the top or as near to the top as possible in the SERPs.

How will people find my site?

A web site that is launched onto the Internet with no attention to the marketing side of things will likely fall short of its owner expectations. Users must be able to easily find your site either by searching for your company name or by searching for keywords related to your business. The search engines “crawl” or “spider” web sites and store information about them in their databases. Therefore, you must ensure that the information they gather from your site is the most relevant to your business. This is done, in part, by developing targeted titles and descriptions within the code of the web site. In addition, your site needs to be loaded with high-quality, original content related to your business. You can further get the word out about your site through various social outlets. We are happy to discuss all aspects of marketing your new site and help you develop a plan that will the word out and the traffic coming in.

Do the Search Engines Cost Money?

Yes and no. If you are fortunate enough to have great organic placement of your site within the search engines, there is no cost for that listing (aside from the time and money you committed to marketing to help make that organic placement happen). If you need to supplement the traffic you receive from organic placement, you can pay for inclusion on the search results pages with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In Google, this is called AdWords, and these are the listings you see at the top and down the right hand side of the results pages. The cost of these ads is determined by the competitiveness of your industry’s keywords and your desired placement on the page.

Can you guarantee my placement?

No. And, anyone that tells you they can is misleading you. There are ways to ensure that you will appear on pages for certain keywords, but these are paid advertising options. There is no way to guarantee a particular placement within the organic search results of any search engine. What you can do is create a site that is as appealing as possible to the search engines (read: easily spiderable), load it with unique content on a regular basis, build a social following, constantly analyze and refine your site – and cross your fingers.

How will I know if my site is placing well?

The best way to gauge your search progress is through your site’s analytics data. Are you receiving non-branded search traffic? You can do some sample searches for your lead phrases within Google and Yahoo as well to see how you are ranking. However, you must keep in mind that not everyone sees the same results (particularly if you are logged into the search engine) so doing this type of checking is of limited value.

What affects my rankings?

Not an easy question to answer as each search engine has its own ranking criteria. However, there are some general strategies and best practices that will optimize your site for most search engines. While the below tactics are not all inclusive in terms of developing the most effective SEO program, they are a very good starting point in terms of evaluating your site:

  • Avoid Flash.
  • Know what your competitors are doing.
  • Use your page titles to your advantage.
  • Use page names with keywords in them, e.g. /internet-marketing.html – separate the keywords with hyphens so the search engines can read them.
  • Write good meta descriptions (these are often used in the results pages).
  • Use ALT tags.
  • Obtain as many quality links to your site from other sites as possible – ones of questionable quality (such as from Free For All sites) are worse than nothing.
  • Make sure that your pages are FULL of good, quality content related to your product, business, service etc. The search engines love copy and it will naturally contain relevant keywords.
  • Add to your site’s content on a regular basis. Do not take a set it and forget it approach.
  • Have your name, address, and telephone number on the bottom of  every page of your site.
  • If you are a local business, include a clickable phone number in your header.
  • Include text links (not just links within images) on every page – without these the search engines won’t grab your sub-pages as they won’t follow links within images.
  • Use social media to widen your reach.
  • Keep it white hat.

You can obtain more information on our SEO services by clicking here.

How often should the site be submitted to the search engines?

Because the search engines regularly spider the sites in their databases and the Internet generally, there is no real reason to submit and re-submit your site at a determined regular interval. If your site is built to be easily accessed by the search engines, this is not something you need to worry about.

What’s the difference between a directory and a search engine?

What is the difference? While they are all commonly referred to as search engines, they are not all the same. Knowing the difference is important because it dictates the way in which you approach each in getting your site properly listed.

Directories like the Open Directory Project are human-edited lists of links broken down into a . . . well . . . directory. They present main categories on their home pages and then organize all the data under those headings, allowing the user to drill down further and further to the specific category that is relevant to their search. When you submit to directories, you begin by finding the appropriate category for your site and then suggest the site from that page. It is then reviewed by a real person (as opposed to being crawled by an electronic spider) and added or not.

What are natural or organic listings?

Also called “natural” search results, this is the term given to the search results that are returned from a search engine’s database and are uninfluenced by whether or not the company paid to be there (as with “sponsored” results.) Having good organic search results for your company’s name and its targeted keywords is important because searchers perceive the organic listings as more legitimate.

What are Google Sitelinks?

Some times when you do a search on Google for a phrase, you will occasionally see among the results a collection of links which will appear below the result of a website. These are Google Site Links.

For example: if you search for the phrase “birmingham web design” on Google, you will see in the SERPs:

Birmingham web design and search engine optimization (SEO) by …

Birmingham-based web site design, search engine optimization, and creative e-solutions for small to mid-sized businesses. www.dandelionmarketing.com/ – 22k

NOTE: this is snippet is taken from the meta description tag if one exists. If there is no meta description tag in the site’s code, this snippet comes from Google-selected text on the page.

Following the snippet and link to the web site comes Site Links. Using the sample search above as an example, you will see the following Google site links below the snippet description.

client login                             Site Development
Site Design                            about
Portfolio                                 Search Engine Optimization & Internet Marketing
Contact Us                             Newsletters

More results from dandelionmarketing.com »

To which sites does Google assign Site Links and where do the links come from? Happily, site owners now have more control than ever over this aspect of their listing. If your site has been awarded SiteLinks by Google, you can manage those within Webmaster Tools.