January 17, 2012

3 Common Novice SEO Mistakes

Filed under: SEO — Tags: — Meredith @ 9:44 am

Think you’re optimizing for search engines? If you don’t fully understand SEO (search engine optimization) you may be making one of these common novice mistakes:

1. Building Content on Many Domains
You’ve got products on Etsy, you’ve got a blog on blogger.com, you’ve got a portfolio site on your own domain.  What a mess! You might think you can update all 3 and search engines will sort it out, but that’s not how it works. The search engines do not know that www.etsy.com/yourshop and yourshop.blogspot.com and yourshop.com are all the same business. Instead it’s going to count those as 3 different sites. So if you’ve been building links to the blog, that won’t help drive traffic to your Etsy shop or your website.

The fix:
Your company presence needs to be on one domain, and it needs to be a domain you own. This way you only have to do the SEO work for your yourwebsite.com, every link to yourwebsite.com boosts the SEO for yourwebsite.com, every piece of content you produce on yourwebsite.com boosts your SEO. There’s no reason to put SEO work into a domain you don’t own. Instead put your online shop on your own domain and host your own blog. That way all your SEO efforts are concentrated and more effective.

2. Amassing Low Quality Links
So your site gets 10 visits per day and your friend’s site gets 10 visits per day, and you exchange links on your links pages thinking you’re “link building”.  That’s not how link building works any more.  If you want search engine love, you need to get links from some good quality, high ranking, high traffic sites.It’s okay to also have links from medium traffic sites, you’ll certainly want a mix. But links from only low quality, low traffic, low rank sites will get you nowhere fast.

The fix:
Publicity is a great way to start getting links from good quality websites. When high profile blogs write about your business and link your site, not only do they send  a rush of traffic and sales, they also send a signal to search engines that your site is worth recommending. If you don’t know how to get started with publicity, I’ve got a detailed ebook that can help you out. It describes all the techniques and tools I used to get my online shop linked on high profile websites like ICanHasCheezburger, Gizmodo and iVillage.

3. Failure to Research Keywords
If you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords your SEO efforts are going to flop. I see two particular blunders with keywords: 1. optimizing for keywords that are so competitive that your have very little chance of ranking for them. 2. optimizing for keywords that are not the words customers would use to find your products. Optimizing for the right keywords is what helps search engines send perfectly matched visitors to your website, so it’s important to get your keywords right.

The fix:
Do your keyword research. There are tons of great tools out there, like Google’s Keyword Tool, that can help you determine which keywords to optimize for. If you aren’t familiar with how to do keyword research, check out my FREE SEO guide. I’ve put together some terrific articles that will help you through the process.


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January 3, 2012

4 Ways to Keep Your Website Fresh & Get Tons of Traffic from Google

Filed under: Ecommerce,SEO — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 6:28 am

Fresh content is a valuable ingredient in search engine optimization (more on how that works here). Google wants your site to continuously evolve and grow and be updated. Search engines want to send their users to the best websites, and if your site appears to be a ghost town, it’s going to be tough to get love from search engines.

Churning out new content regularly can be demanding, especially on an ecommerce site. So here are some suggestions for areas of your site that you can easily add content to:

Customer-Generated Content
Customer-generated content is a great way to add new content to your site without having to do a ton of work. You can share product reviews customers have written or testimonials. You can have a page featuring photos of your customers using your products. The beauty of customer-generated content is that it doesn’t require much writing on your part and it lends social proof to your business.

New Products
Adding new products to your line is a no-brainer way to add new content. It gives you something to tell wholesale clients, press contacts and retail customers about too.

New Site Features
Be sure to add some new widgets to your site now and then. Think about things like seasonal gift guides, free downloads, or other tools and gizmos your customers might enjoy. (For example my conversion calculator or Cry Wolf’s online games.)

Blog Posts
Updating a blog is a great way to keep your site updated. You can blog about your latest media placements (be sure to update your press page with these), upcoming events (update your events page if you have one), promotions (update your coupons page with these if you have one) or just a little fun chit chat (we do this often on the Ex-Boyfriend blog).


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June 7, 2011

SEO: It’s Not That Hard and It is That Worthwhile

Filed under: SEO — Tags: — Meredith @ 5:41 am

If I had a nickel for every inaccurate statement regarding search engine optimization (SEO) that I’ve seen bandied about the creative entrepreneur scene I could be retired on a beach somewhere right now. Here’s a sampling:

SEO is too complicated and hard, it’s for techies only.

SEO is expensive, you have to hire a professional

SEO can be put on autopilot. I found this great program, if you give them just $49.95 they’ll submit your site to search engines.

No, no and HELL NO!

Look, SEO is not rocket science. Yes, it will take a little reading on your part to understand it, but since you’re here, I already know you can read, so I am 100% sure you are up to this. The important thing is reading information on SEO that’s accurate and easy-to-understand, even if you’re not very technical. The good news is I’ve gathered just that sort of reading and put it into a handy FREE guide. All you have to do is download and read. If you give SEO a few hours each week, you’ll be able to do SEO on your own and start seeing results. My handy guide breaks SEO down into 4 manageable pieces and provides expert advice on how to approach each component. I’ve even included links to several other SEO beginner guides, in case you find my guide isn’t working for you.

Here’s what SEO has done for my online retail business:

1. Helped people find my products
My online shop sells t-shirts. This is just the kind of product you see on a stranger on the street and think “I like that, I wonder where they got it.” So you go home and google a description of the shirt, and try to find what you saw. If the t-shirt designer is smart, they wrote copy about their design using language a casual observer might use to describe the design, so that when the potential customer searches for the tee, they find it.

One of the most popular tees is my collection is Fuzz Aldrin, and when you google his name, he comes up as the first match. As a result, I get a fair amount of orders from organic search traffic that searches on that phrase.

I know some designers prefer to give their products more whimsical names. If you feel strongly about doing this, you can use other pages on your site like blog posts or product category pages to help customers find your products based on their descriptions. Just make sure some page (or pages) on your site does the job.

2. Helped people find my brand
Yesterday, I talked a little about attribution management. The crux of what I wrote is that marketing is cumulative and many things lead to sales. It might take your customer seeing your company in a magazine, in a banner ad, etc. before they buy. When they’re ready to buy, their first step might be go just google your company name. If your SEO sucks, you might not come up.

One of the phrases that brings me a lot of sales from search engine traffic is “exboyfriend”. It’s my company name and people often search on it to find me.  Thanks to SEO, they’re able to find me quickly when they search by my name.

3. Helped people find products they wanted
Sometimes we’re shopping for something specific but don’t already have a place in mind to find it. Since our collection of designs at Ex-Boyfriend is pretty extensive, we get a fair amount of conversions on what SEO professionals call the “long tail”. Long tail phrases are those that are low volume (meaning not a ton of people search on them), but fairly specific (meaning when people do search on them, they are likely to buy because they’ve found something very specific that they want).  I get conversions on phrases like “kids luchador shirt”, simply because there aren’t a ton of those. People wouldn’t be able to even find those products on my site, if it wasn’t optimized for search.

The three examples above regularly generate thousands of dollars of revenue for my online business. This is why SEO is so valuable and worth taking the time to learn about. It’s an online marketing tool that can generate tons of sales, without any cash investment, as long as you’re willing to do the work of learning about SEO and implementing the strategies. If you’re ready to get started and need a jumping off point, download my free guide, it’s a great way to get familiar with SEO and start getting your own site optimized.

 


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January 26, 2011

Pagerank: Does Size Really Matter?

Filed under: SEO — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 2:54 pm

Okay, okay, put the tape measures away. Page Rank is not that important. Got it? First of all, let’s talk about what Page Rank is…

According to Google…
“Pagerank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.”

We don’t know exactly what variables Google uses, but we can safely assume it has a lot to do with the quality and number of sites that link to your site. (This means a link from NY Times is more valuable than a link from some link farm).

Why You Shouldn’t Fret Over Pagerank
1. Pagerank isn’t updated every day. We think Google only updates it every few months. So imagine I launch a site tomorrow. If I’m a super awesome marketer, I’ve done all the on site SEO possible and I’ll spend every single day for the next few months building links to my site. A month or two later I might be well on my way to a pretty respectable Pagerank, but because Pagerank isn’t updated all the time, my Pagerank will still show as zero.

2. Pagerank is not the metric you want to chase. It’s not meaningful. It doesn’t dictate whether you’ll get organic traffic from search engines and marketing is way more complicated than search engine rank any way. Instead, here’s what you should focus on:

  • Writing good quality content
  • On-page SEO (keywords in title tags, copy, URLs, etc.)
  • Getting links from good authoritative websites (high traffic blogs = good, link farms = bad)
  • Giving links to good sites
  • Placing highly-targeted ads
  • Scoring editorial placements from print and online outlets
  • Maintaining a social media presence that truly engages your target audience
  • Great customer service
  • Developing a USP

Do all that and the traffic will come from your links, your ads, search engines, word of mouth, etc.  And that’s what really matters.

Still not convinced?
Don’t take my word. Here are a few more online marketers spilling about Pagerank:


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December 13, 2010

Keyword Research: Your First Step for SEO and Adwords

Filed under: Ecommerce,SEO — Tags: , , , , — Meredith @ 7:23 am

If you want to make money from the search engines, either via a CPC campaign or search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll need to do some keyword research before you do anything else. Keyword research helps you determine what phrases you’ll want to target so people looking for what you sell can find your products. For today’s example, we’re going to pretend we sell organic grocery totes.

Step 1: Pick a Tool
There are several great tools out there for doing keyword research. Some of them you have to pay to use but some are free. Some of the top paid tools include Wordtracker and Wordstream (both have free trials available). If you want to go the budget route, Google’s Keyword Tool is free and also delivers lots of good information.

Step 2: Conduct a Search
Let’s say we’re going to work with Google’s Keyword Tool. I already know people come to my site searching for “reusable grocery bags” so I plug that phrase into the Keyword Tool (using the “word or phrase” box) just to start with. I get back a list of keywords, along with information about “competition” and “global monthly searches”. Competition gives me an idea of how many other advertisers are bidding on keywords I am interested in. Global Monthly Searches gives me an idea of how often people search Google for those phrases.

What I’m most interested in is words and phrases that meet the following criteria:
- low to moderate competition
- moderate to high search volume
- highly relevant to my product

I can sort the results by search volume and competition so I can get an idea of what’s low competition and what’s high search volume. I may find some phrases that meet 2 of those 3 criteria. I’ll just start taking notes on which words I find that I’m interested in and what kind of competition and search volume they have. (An excel spreadsheet is perfect for storing this information.)

Let’s say I decide I am interested in
- “Environmental Bags” (medium competition, some search volume, medium relevance)
- “organic tote bag” (medium competition, low to medium search volume, high relevance)
- “market bags” (medium competition, medium search volume, medium relevance)
- “bag reusable” (medium-high competition, high search volume, high relevance)
- “grocery tote bag” (medium-high competition, medium search volume, high relevance)
- “reusable bag” (high competition, very high search volume, high relevance)

(We might pick other words and have a longer list, I am just using these 6 phrases as an example.)

Step 3: Get Out of Your Head
You’ve so far come up with some good phrases, but there may be ways people search for your product that you aren’t thinking of. You’ll want to dig deeper. You can ask friends what words they’d use to search your product (jot those down). You can also see what keywords competitors are using. Here’s how we do that:

1. Make a list of competitor websites.
2. See how much web traffic the competitors get. Try bizshark, it will estimate how much traffic your competitors get. Take note of the competitors with high traffic.
3. Enter the competitors URLs into Google’s Keyword tool (using the “website” box next to the “word or phrase” box). Now I have a list of words my competitors have optimized for. Imagine I scoped out onebagatatime.com and see they have “bags eco” and “environmentally friendly bags.” Both phrases have a lot of search volume, but medium to high competition. I make note of this and add them to my list.

Step 4: Get SEO and PPC Working Together
Now that I have my list of words (I gave examples above, but in practice, I might make a list of over 100 words and phrases by the time I am finished), I want to see if I have some hope of ranking well in organic search for some of them. (Ranking well in organic search means my website comes up first, or on the first page of results, when people search for a phrase or word.) I can get an idea of what the organic rank competition is like by doing the following:

1. Search Google to see how many web pages are using my desired words or phrases in the title tags (For example I would Google the following to see how many use “reusable bag”: allintitle:reusable bag).
2. Make a note of the number of pages using my phrase in the title tag. (for example a search for allintitle:reusable bag returns 34,700 matches)
3. Search Google to see how many web pages are using my desired words or phrases in their URLs (For example I would Google the following to see how many use “reusable bag”: allinurl:reusable bag).
4. Make a note of the number of pages using my phrase in the URL. (for example a search for allinurl:reusable bag returns 13,400 matches)

I want to repeat this process until I’ve done a competitive SEO analysis on all the words and phrases I’m interested in. Once I’m done I should have a list of some words and phrases I think I can optimize for and actually rank for. I might also have some words or phrases that are going to be tough to rank for, but they have so much search volume and relevance that I’ll want to get them into my search marketing campaign any way.

Step 5: Create Optimized Pages
Now that I have my list of words and phrases that I want to target, I need to build some landing pages. I may plan to use these landing pages as part of my Adwords effort, but I also want them to eventually start drawing some organic traffic so I don’t always have to pay to get people who search those words to come to my site.

Starting with “reusable bag”, I create a landing page that is linked off of my main website. Maybe I call this page reusable-bag.html. I give it a title tag that says “Reusable Bag” and then in the page itself I write some copy that shows my product photos and a description of of the benefits of my reusable bags. I now have a nicely optimized page and I can bid on that phrase in Adwords using that page for landing. I should get a good quality score (which lowers my inital cost per click) and I should get some clicks and conversions since I’ve generated such a relevant landing page.

I’ll want to repeat this process for all the words and phrases I’ve chosen to target.

Tips:

  • I recommend limiting each landing page to targeting just 1 or 2 keywords or phrases (3 or 4 tops if they are closely related). You want to keep each Ad Group extremely targeted, focused and specific. Having a lot of Ad Groups is okay. You’ll want to see how each one performs over time so you can spend extra money on top performers and nix the Ad Groups that aren’t working. You’ll want to experiment with different bid prices and monitor your click-through and conversion rates
  • Create more than one version of your ads. You’ll want to test to see which ad copy is getting you clicks and conversions. Make sure your ad copy is compelling and gives searchers a very good idea of what to expect when they click. Highlight your value proposition. Some examples of good ad copy might be:

    Organic Reusable Grocery Totes
    A huge selection of eco-friendly bags
    FREE shipping on orders over $25.00

    This ad is good because it describes what I sell. It mentions our large selection as part of our value proposition. We further entice the click with a free shipping offer.

  • As you’re working to optimize your Adwords ads and improve your SEO, please keep in mind that SEO has many components to it. There may be thousands of sites ranking for “reusable bags” but they may not all have a ton of inbound links. If you have a ton of inbound links, you may be able to jump ahead of them in the search results, even if their on-page optimization is just as good as yours.

    If you want to get an idea of whether you could outrank a competitor who is ranking well for a phrase you want to rank for, check them out with Yahoo’s Site Explorer. Enter your URL first (next to the Explore URL button) and make note of how many “inlinks” your site has. Then enter your competitor’s URL and make note of how many “inlinks” they have. If you have a lot more “inlinks” it’s likely that you can jump ahead of them on search results pages for a desired phrase, if you get your on-page optimization right. (That means using your phrase in your title tag, URL and page copy.)

    If your competitor has a lot more inlinks than you, you’re going to need to do some more link building if you want to try to outrank them.

  • Although this article is about Adwords, there are other CPC options out there. Experiment with other searcn engines like Bing or comparison shopping engines like Amazon to see which delivers the best results.


Related Read: Five Steps to Effective Keyword Research


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November 9, 2010

Lose the Link Farm: 5 Better Ways to Trade Links and Cross Promote

Filed under: SEO — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 5:47 am

If you’re an old timer, you may remember back in the day when indie artisans used to trade links. You’d create a page of links to indie shops and trade links with all your friends who sold online. A zillion years ago, this was an okay thing to do. By today’s standards, this practice is over. Search engines have become wise to these spammy pages and humans don’t have much interest in them. This doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t trade links with other designers. It just means you should change how you do it. Link building is still a very important part of SEO and getting links is a great way to get seen. It’s just important that you make your link building process organic and useful to the humans who visit your website. Below are a few ways to trade links and cross-promote in a modern and more effective way. These techniques carry SEO benefits and have a more natural presence on your website or blog:

1. Guest Posts
If you have a blog for your online business, one thing you can do is allow friends to guest post. You can also write guest posts for them. In the guest post it makes sense to link back to the author’s website. This is better than a plain old link exchange because it’s a more natural way to link off-site and it generates content.

2. Designer Spotlight
Design blogs like Modish and Creature Comforts do almost nothing but spotlight the work of various designers. While your own blog should mainly be about your work or things that interest your readers, there’s no reason you can’t do spotlight features on designers you know or are inspired by. Like guest posting, these posts create content and are a more natural way to spread the word about other designers.

3. Style Guide
When you flip through your favorite magazines, you’ll notice they do inspiration boards that highlight trends. They might do an inspiration board based on gifts under $10 or summer footwear. (See an example here). You can do something similar with your blog. Talk to some other artisans about creating style guides or inspiration boards with themes and then use each other’s products for content. Maybe you’d want to do a gift guide for moms or a spotlight on top winter wear. You can work with designers who sell products that are complimentary but don’t compete with your products.

4. Contests
Co-sponsoring a contest with a fellow designer is a great way for companies to promote each other. Co-sponsored contests can have tons of benefits beyond link love too! You can use them to build your mailing list, attract Facebook fans and Twitter followers. The opportunities are endless. You can double your promotional power by working with a partner and get some link juice flowing in the process.

5. Collaborations
Design collaborations are a great excuse to trade links. If you make bags, you could have an illustrator design screenprint for your bags. If you make scarves, you could have another designer design complimentary gloves. With these types of ventures, it makes sense to trade links on your blogs and product pages. In the end, you score new and improved product offerings, plus new links that people will actually check out.

Further Reading: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cross-Promotion

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