SEO


Everything You Need to Know About SEO

When you've been writing about SEO as long as I have you sometimes feel that you've run out of things to say. We forget that there is always someone new just learning about SEO and hasn't had the chance to read every article ever written on the topic. Not many people have that kind of time on their hands.
In light of that, I wanted to spend some time going back to the basics of SEO.
I recently was invited to speak to a group of beauty bloggers being hosted by L'Oreal in New York City. Most of the attendees write their own blogs or were responsible for the blogs for the company they work for. A good share of them also sold products through their blogs. Many of the illustrations I'll use in this series will be directed toward that audience, however they can be applied across the board to any industry, including those selling products or services.
The trick with going back to the basics is deciding what gets included and what doesn't. I'm sure there will be a lot of "basics" left out while some of the things noted here could be considered more advanced. Either way, the SEO information I'll provide here are those things which I consider essential. And perhaps that's a better way to look at this, not as SEO 101 but rather, SEO Essentials. Hopefully, whether you've been around a while or just learning about this stuff, you'll learn something new, have previous misconceptions expelled, or other thoughts confirmed.
Every site has to start somewhere. When it comes to people we've heard it said that beauty is on the inside. The same is often true of websites. The design of the site may be pretty and eye-appealing on the outside while the SEO elements are something a bit more creepifying. With a little work you can turn any SEO-ugly website into a gorgeous web marketing goddess.
But the point is, you have to start somewhere. Short of moving forward with the implementation of a good SEO strategy your site will be falling short in a number of different ways.
There are four basic benefits of SEO that are the foundation of the online success that it brings. In the end, what we are all looking for is more business. But in order to get that there are a few things that need to be dealt with as part of your optimization strategy.

Four basic benefits of SEO

Before you can get your pages to rank for your targeted keyword phrases, you need to be sure that the search engines can first find them, and second decipher them. This goes back to making sure that you have a strong, search engine friendly website architecture. You do this by ensuring your links are properly navigable. The navigation of your site must have a properly established hierarchy, and your content needs to be readable. I'll touch on these things in more detail later in the series.

Rankings

This is what we all want SEO for, right? Actually, I hope not. We'll discuss the other two benefits which are far more important next, but while rankings are an important part of SEO, they are not the goal in and of themselves. Too many people look at rankings and think "I'm losing x amount of business because I'm not ranked #1. This may or may not be true. Different rankings produce different bounce rates. It's important to understand that rankings don't make sales, they just provide a way in the door, and those that come in at #1 may not be as ready to buy as those that come in at #5.

Visitors

Once you start getting rankings, even for low-volume but important keywords, you'll start to see your visitor count rise. Again, this is good, but not the ultimate goal you're trying to achieve unless you get paid on a cost per impression basis.

Conversions

This is the big goal. The end-all, be-all purpose of search engine optimization. SEO is more than just helping you get rankings and drive traffic to your site. It should also help you increase your conversion counts and percentages. A conversion can be anything you want it to be; a comment on your blog, a download of a white paper, a follow on twitter, or a purchase of a product. Its important to know what your conversions are so you can set your optimization goals to help achieve them.

Search engines are stoopid

Throughout the process of SEO it's important to keep in mind that the search engines, as smart and advanced as they are, are still pretty stupid. They can't tell the intent, so if intent is needed in order to determine relevance of a page or keyword, the search engines are unaware. Part of the SEO process is going out of your way to spell things out to the search engines so no guessing is needed.
Keep in mind visitors can also be pretty dumb themselves. Business owners are always complaining about calls they get asking for information that's clearly noted in the website. Of course, it's not that your visitors are really stupid, it's that they are impatient for things that are not easy. The harder your site is to navigate, find information, make a purchase or get that conversion, the more likely the visitor is to leave. They'll move on to another site where things are easy.
As we go through this SEO process we'll be looking at things that make your site easier to understand, navigate and process for both the search engines and the visitors. And while much of this information is "basic", it's these basics that still matter to the search engines.


About Title Tags

he following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

On-Page Optimization

A website can do just fine online without SEO. PPC, social media and other properly implemented off-line marketing efforts can really help a site succeed online with little or no SEO. But unless and until you begin to SEO your site it will always under perform, never quite reaching its fullest potential. Without SEO, you'll always be missing out on a great deal of targeted traffic that the other avenues cannot make up for.
So where do we start? SEO can be so broad and vast that we often don't know where we should begin, what will give us the greatest impact, and how to move forward. That's what I hope to answer here.

Building Good Title Tags

The title tag is the single most important piece of SEO real estate on your site. A title tag can be as long as you want, but you only have about 63 characters before the search engines cut it off. So use it wisely.
Since the title appears as the clickable link in the SERPs pages it has to be able to meet a couple of different demands.

Keyword rich

Searchers type in specific words into the search engines and they expect the engines to provide results that match their original query. We know that the search engines look at over 200 different signals to determine the relevance of any page against the keyword searched. The title tag one of them, but a very key one at that. You don't necessarily need your keyword in the title tag for it to come up in the search results, but it helps a great deal.
But what about the visitor? What does the searcher see? Let say a searcher types "how to be beautiful" into the search engine and two results are displayed. One reads "How to Look Good and Feel Great" and another reads "How to Look Beautiful Even When you Don't Feel Like It." Which of these two is more likely to be clicked by the visitor?
It's entirely likely both pages address the same concerns, but only one uses the searched keyword. More than likely, the second result will get far more clicks than the first, even if it is in a lower position in the results (which isn't likely, but lets pretend anyway.)

Compelling

The next thing your title tag needs to be is compelling. We looked out how to make it more likely to be clicked simply by putting keywords in it, but that itself is only part of the issue. Going back to our example above if we put the first non-keyword using headline up against a third keyword rich headline of "Sexy and Beautiful, Today's Hottest Stars." which do you think will gain more clicks? My guess is the first one that doesn't use keywords because it is far more compelling and speaks more toward the searcher's intent. So in this situation the third headline is likely to rank higher but will receive fewer clicks.
The trick is to make sure that the title tag is both keyword rich and compelling. This will help move your site to the top of the rankings, but also ensure that visitors are more likely to click on it into your site.

Common mistakes

Implementing your title tags properly is crucial to ensuring they are effective. There are a number of easy mistakes that you can make if you don't take the time to do it right. It's easy to want to blast through your title tags, especially if you have a lot of pages. But because the title tag is so important, you want to take care in developing them properly. Here are a few common issues:
Same on Every Page: Each page in your site is unique, or at least it should be. This means your title tags should be unique on each page as well. On a lot of sites you'll see the same title tag across all the pages "Welcome to My Site, or something like that. That hardly describes the page at all. And show that in the search results, you're not likely to get any clicks. Go through the site and customize each title, ensuring it uniquely and accurately describes the content of the page.
Leading with Business Name: There are good reasons to have your business name present in your title tag, but that should not be by default. If you use your business name be sure to think through the reasoning and make sure it's sound. The limitations of the title tag make using your business name something you do only with great care and consideration. I'll discuss this more in a bit.
List of Keywords: Wanting to get your keywords in the title tag makes it tempting to just try to throw as many in there as you possible can. "Beauty | Makeup | Makeovers | Diet | Healthy Skin." Sure that gets all your keywords in there but does nothing to make someone want to click on the result. This means that (gasp!) you have to use keywords sparingly so you can also make the title something worth clicking on.
Lack of Description: Aside from getting your primary keywords in the title, and making it compelling, you also have to make sure the title tag provides enough of a description of the content to ensure it gets a targeted click. No sense having someone click into the site only to find the information on the page isn't what they expected. Make sure that the title describes the content in a compelling and keyword friendly way.

Branded titles

So let's address using your business name in your title tags. As I said earlier, sometimes its wise but that shouldn't be the default position.
In general, you can place your business name either at the front or the rear of the title tag. My rule of thumb is that you don't want to put your business name at the front of your title tag unless you have a highly recognizable brand name that the visitor will know and will likely be a click-generator from the search results. If that's not the case then you simply don't want to give up that real estate.
Branding at the rear of the title tag is a far better solution for most businesses. This helps moderately known or even unknown companies build brand name recognition. The downside of branding your title tags this way is you are still using up valuable real estate that might otherwise be used making a keyword rich and compelling headline. Also note, that if the title goes too long, your business name will be cut off in the search results.
Most of the time you don't need your business name in your title tags at all, however there is one time when I would suggest leaving it off almost 90% of the time. This is on product pages. It's so crucial to get important product data into the title tag that there often simply isn't room enough for your business name. Again, I might make an exception for well-known business names, but default to showing product info first and foremost.

About Meta Description and Keyword Tags


The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Meta Description Tag

One of the big misconceptions about SEO is that everything we do is designed to increase search engine rankings. This isn't (or shouldn't be) true, and there is no simpler example of that then the Meta Description tag. Even though this description tag doesn't weigh all that heavily into the search engine ranking algorithms, it is still a very powerful part of an effective optimization campaign.
Like the Title Tag, the Meta Description tag will often show up in the search results. Generally what you see in the SERPs is the clickable title link and then the description tag or page snippet just below it. If the description is pulled in to the results, it becomes a very important part of helping entice visitors to click on the link into your site.

If your description tag fails to properly or adequately tell your visitors whats on the page then it's likely they'll click on another result.
The reason why many people don't put much stock into the description tag is because they are stuck on the belief that people click on rankings, not on search results. This isn't true. Sure, more people click on sites that rank higher, but only if those sites also have compelling titles and descriptions, which is often not the case. Few people blindly click links without first vetting them, and those that do often find themselves disappointed if they do.
Those who take the time to look through the search results, reading titles and descriptions to find the site that is most likely to give them what they are looking for, are more likely to be a targeted visitor one they land on your site.
If you're like me then you read descriptions before the title tags in the search results. I figure it's easy to stuff the main keywords in the title, but the description is more likely to have some of the longer tail phrases that I'm looking for. If the title matches my search broadly, the description should match much more specifically. If it doesn't then I'm probably looking at the wrong result.
The general rule is that you want each of your description tags to be unique. The description should b e a 20-40 word summary of what the visitor will expect to find on that page, and that page only. Descriptions for each page should be unique from the next. Make sure you summarize the page in a unique way, using primary and secondary keywords while making it compelling to searchers.
You don't always want or need a description tag on every page. There are some instances when you would be better served not having a description at all. For me, the general rule is if you're targeting broader keywords, use the description tag. If you're targeting long-tail keywords then don't.
The reasoning here is that if you're going after long-tail phrases on an article page or blog post, then there are simply too many variations to attempt to work them into a 40-word description. On the other hand, if those long-tail words are in the content, without the description tag, the search engine will import snippets from the page based on the search. This increases your likelihood of getting actual keywords into the description content below the clickable link in the search results.

Meta Keywords Tag

The only thing there is to say about the Meta Keyword tag is that there isn't much to say about it. The search engines don't put much, if any, stock in it and your visitors don't see it. By all measures its invisible.
But that doesn't keep people from asking, Do I use commas or spaces? Do I use phrases or words? How long should the keyword tag be?
The answer is: It doesn't matter. If you are going to take the time to add the meta keywords tag to your pages then I suggest this: don't waste your valuable time worrying about the "right" way to write it. Throw a few keywords in there and walk away. Don't worry about formatting, spacing, commas, length or anything like that. Keep is short, sweet and move on.

Headings and Alt Attributes

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Heading Tags

Heading Tags
Heading tags are certainly no magic solution to building keyword relevance. They are merely one more baby step to creating a well-rounded optimization of a page. Adding heading tags using your keywords may or may not make a difference in your keyword rankings, but nonetheless, balanced against the rest of the page, using a heading tag properly, with keywords, is going to benefit your visitors, if not the search engines.
On the search engine front, at the very least, the Heading tags (H1, H2,... H6) can be used to tell the search engines the hierarchical structure of your page's content.
When developing content, it's pretty easy for visitors to see how the page breaks down, but search engines need a bit of help. The heading tags are that help.
Think of headings as you would an outline of an important paper. At the top is the Title, in this case the H1 tag. Next would be the Main points; In an outline they would be I, II, and III. In HTML you would use the H2 for all of them. Next we have our sub-points A, B and C, or the H3, and following that sub-sub-points of 1., 2., 3., or the H4. You get the point from there.
An alternate strategy would be to use your H1 for the title as noted above and the H2 for a sub-title. Then you'd start with the H3 for your main points I, II and III, and go down form there. You can go all the way down to the H6, but its rare that you have a page with so much content that this is warranted.
One of the problems I often see with heading tags is that they are used by developers for the site's navigation. In a way it makes sense, you want to segment different areas of the navigation with headers of their own. The only problem with this is that you end up using valuable hx tags in an invaluable area and you're diluting the effectiveness of the heading tags in your content where they would otherwise be most effective.
If your developers are intent on using hx tags in the navigation elements then make sure they stick to the lower level H5 and H6 so you can use the higher level tags in the content where they'll make the most impact. Make certain that they don't use the H1 tag for the logo, that's a complete throwaway and prevents you from gaining any effectiveness with an H1 tag in your copy.
All of the tags can be used repeatedly on the page, depending on where they fall in the total hierarchy, except for the H1 tag (or H2 if you are using it as a sub-headline.) Be sure to use it only once on the page.

Alt Attributes
Alt Attributes
Alt attributes, commonly referred to as "alt tags" allow you to add descriptive text to your images. The visitors generally won't see the alt text unless, in Firefox they mouse over the image or they have images turned off.
The alt text is meant to be a replacement for the image should the image not show. Make sure your alt text reads properly and adds something for the reader who doesn't see the image. The text itself should describe the content or visuals of the image for the visitor. This text also provides much needed information to the search engine, especially if the image contains text. That text should be included in the image.
Using Alt Attributes in your image tags can help you in a number of ways. 1) it provides a greater context for the text on the page which can be factored into your search engine rankings. 2) It can help your images come up in image searches, which can drive additional traffic and conversions to your site.
Text-only browsers, or browsing with images turned off still happens, probably more frequently than we know. People on slow connections will often turn their images off in order to speed up their browsing experience. Without alt text, an important element of your pages won't be available to them.
There are also a good number of visually impaired web surfers that use screen readers to deliver the content of web pages. The screen reader will read the image alt text, which means if the image is important to the visitor's experience on the site, not having an alt attribute can be detrimental.
Finally, many people browse the web on mobile phones. These phones are almost always slower than the typical internet connection and either the phone's browsers won't display images or users will turn the images off so they can browse faster. This is generally not the case with smart phones, but there are still a lot of non-smart phone users out there.
The most important area to use alt tags is in your navigation. Whether it be your header, footer or side-bar navigation, any place images are used be sure to supplement them with alt text. Failure to do so could make your sit unnavigable to any visitor that isn't seeing images.

Domain Names

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Domain Names

Domain Names
Its easy to think that all the good domain names are taken. Sure, the easy and obvious ones have been snatched up years ago, but that doesn't mean there still aren't any good .com domain names left that are perfect for your business or blog.
The starting point, however, is to realize that you do need own your own domain name. Most businesses have figured this out already but a lot of bloggers haven't. That's because it takes a bit of work and some small fees. First you have to purchase the domain, then host it, pay the monthly hosting fees, install the blog, etc., etc. Not quite as easy as signing up for a blog service and pounding out your first blog post all in ten minutes.
If your blog is nothing more than a personal diary then the free blogging services may be all you need. But if you're looking to build an audience, sell a few products, or make a name for yourself, getting your own domain name is the way to go.
Whether you're a business, a blogger, or something in between, selecting your domain name can be a trying process. Those of you who have searched for the "perfect" domain name know what I mean. You go through dozens, if not hundreds of different options looking for just the right one. When looking for domain names for your business or blog, here are a few guidelines:

Keep it short

Short domains are the hardest to find. Unless you're willing to shell out big bucks, give up on the dream of getting your business' initials (i.e. ppm.com, emp.com, etc.). But that's not to say you can't find just the right short domain name for you. You don't need something as short as three letters, but I wouldn't go much longer than three words. Your own mileage may vary but keep in mind, the longer the domain name is the more difficult it will be to remember when being passed along via word of mouth or in casual conversation.

Make it memorable

You want your domain name to be somethign that can be remembered easily. Word of mouth and your 30-second elevator pitch rely on it. When looking to get a short domain name many people try to cut corners with abbreviations or clever spellings. The problem with that is clever spellings have to be explained when passing the site on verbally.
Imagine if you were reading SrchEngineGide.com right now instead of SearchEngineGuide.com. Or maybe you shop at TheShooShop.com instead of TheShoeShop.com. Or perhaps you are browsing How2LoseW8.com. Now imagine telling someone about it. Each would require a little extra effort that most people won't take.
And even when it is, its easily forgotten or the hearer is confused. Not a great way to grow your business or blog.
There are some instances where clever can be memorable and easy. Flickr.com is a good example. Notice though the simplicity of this, but if they had called it FotoFlickr.com it would have been a different matter entirely.

Use keywords if possible

Without going too long and still keeping your domain name memorable, try to find one that uses your primary keywords. Years ago the site BatteryStuff.com was called 4Unique.com. They still have the old redirect in place. Which would you say is the better URL?
It's not always easy to find domains with your primary keywords still available, but keep looking. Just avoid the temptation to load up your your domain with all kinds of keywords. BatteryStuff.com could have just as easily been MotorcycleBatteriesChargers.com Not quite the same impact. Do you sacrifice keywords for simplicity? In most cases yes.

Alternate Domains

Once you've found the perfect domain you want to make sure you buy up many of the alternative domains that go along with it. These can be the .net, .org, or .biz versions. It can also include misspellings, common typos and even yoursitesucks.com just in case. It's also valuable to purchase domain names named after your products or other brand names.
All of these combination can add up to a dozen or more alternate domains. You have them, now what do you do with them?

301 Redirects

There are two things you don't do with your alternate domain names: 1) let them sit with a "not found" error, and 2) park them on your main domain. You can get some benefit from these domain names, but only if you leverage them properly.
You also might be tempted to build mini-sites on each of these domain names. Don't do that either. The solution is much simpler than that. Simply redirect these domains to your main domain.
Take note that there is only one proper redirect to put in place, that is the 301 Permanent Redirect. Don't settle for anything less, because anything else can potentially reduce the impact your site will have in the search engines.
You'll want to talk to your web host about how to implement the 301 redirect. They may have an easy solution. Short of that, here's quick tutorial:
  1. Purchase a separate (cheap) web hosting account for one of your alternate domains
  2. Set up a 301 redirect from the alternate domain to your main domain
  3. Park the rest of your alternative domains on the hosted/redirected alternate domain

Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links

he following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Search Engine Friendly URLs

Search Engine Friendly URLs
When developing a website, you can save yourself a lot of problems down the road by planning ahead before moving full speed into the site development process. One of the first site architectural issues to consider is how your URLs will read. This is especially important for e-commerce websites that quite often have long complicated URLs. But having good URL structure is still no less important for static websites.
Here are a few things you can do to give yourself search engine friendly URLs:

Keep it short

Jut like your domain name, you want your URLs to be short. We're not talking three letter short, or even three word short, but short enough that it can easily be typed in the the browser's address bar.
A lot of ecommerce systems create long-complicated URLs that couldn't be retyped in the address bar without error if they were being dictated to you one letter, symbol and number at a time. Use words, directories and sub-directories strategically.

Use keywords

Again, just like your domain name, you want to use your keywords in the URL structure. If your site is organized properly, this shouldn't be a problem. Use your categories and sub-categories for your URL directories and sub-directories.
These two tips will go along way to giving your URLs more context and assisting (however small) with the optimization efforts.

Canonical URLs

Canonical URLsThe web is rife with duplicate content. Much of duplication is deliberate, done by screen scrapers and other nefarious means. When another site steals and duplicates your content you can submit a DMCA complaint to Google to try to get them to remove it. There are other legal remedies as well that I won't go into here.
But many sites are their own worst enemy when it comes to duplicate content problems. It is created by developers building systems that reproduce content across multiple URLs on the same site. When building your URL structure it is important to ensure you work in solutions to prevent potential duplicate content issues before they become a problem.
The home page is one that is the most often producing duplicate content to the search engines. Unchecked, your home page content can be indexed in the search engines with four different URLs creating a duplicated home page three times over.
  1. www.site.com
  2. www.site.com/index.html
  3. site.com
  4. site.com/index.html
There are some simple steps you can take to correct these problems so that all of the above URLs will redirect the visitor to www.site.com.
These types of issues are not found only on the home page but can raise their ugly heads all through the site. Consider these duplicate URLs:
  • www.site.com/directory/
  • www.site.com/directory/index.html
  • www.site.com/directory2/
  • www.site.com/directory2/index.html
Of the four URLs above, only two provide unique content. But the search engines see four pages.
Products pages also suffer from extreme duplication when they can be found through multiple navigation paths, each creating a different URL for the same product. While the best solution is to ensure that each product simply have no more than one URL to access it, there is a less absolute solution that can be implemented: The Canonical Tag.

Canonical Tag

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/canonical-page.html"/>
Adding the canonical tag into the tags of any page that creates duplicate content tells the search engine which page is the "proper" one to be indexed. While the search engines use this as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule, it's a decent band-aid measure you can easily implement until you get a more permanent fix in place.
There is great value in the permanent fix. The search engines have to index a page before they can read the canonical tag. All this extra indexing doesn't do you any good, slows down the spidering and dilutes the PageRank of the proper pages. Fixing these issues can greatly improve your overall site performance.

Broken Links

Broken Links
Broken links are more than just a nuisance to your visitors, it's a sure way to lose potential customers. Anytime someone comes across a broken link on or to your site, its an opportunity for them to leave. And they often take it.
The easiest way to find and correct broken links is to run monthly broken link checks with a program like Xenu Link Sleuth. Xenu will spider each and every link on your site to make sure it works. The report tells you of any links that don't work, whether they are internal (within your site) or external (points to other site's).
Running a Xenu report once per month ensures that over the course of any changes made to your site, all the links continue to lead where they should, and that links off-site are also still going to valid pages.
Sites with dead links have a tendency to perform less spectacularly in the search results as its a sign of lack of care and maintenance performed on the site.

404 Redirect

404 RedirectYou not only want to be aware of broken links on your site but you want to know about links on other sites that lead to old or non-existent pages on your site. You can do this by keeping an eye on your logs and looking for those coming in getting page not found errors. With this you can do three things:
1) Find out what pages are attempted to be accessed the most. If people are coming to a recently deleted page you either want to put something back up in its place or implement a 301 redirect from that page to the page that is the closest match.
2) Find out where the traffic is coming from. If other sites have links to you that don't work sometimes you can get that corrected by simply asking them to fix the link. They linked to you for a reason and it likely is in their audience's best interest to make sure the link works.
3) Implement a custom 404-redirect page. You won't be able to fix or redirect every broken link coming to your site but you can make sure that anybody coming to your site from a bad link gets more than the generic white "page not found" screen. By creating a customized page visitors can be redirected to relevant content on your site, you will keep more visitors and have an opportunity to convert them. You can read a longer

Site Architecture and Internal Linking

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.




Common Architectural Problems

Common Architectural Problems
In order to move your site up in the search engine rankings you have to get your optimized content to the search engines in the most streamlined way possible. There are some common problems that often stand in the way of that. These problems may not keep the search engines from finding and indexing and even ranking your content, however they can greatly effect the performance of that content in terms of how well it ranks in the search results.

Too many URL parameters

The web is littered with long complicated URLs such as this:
site.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&productId=100615137&N=10000003+90401+528374
Aside from changing the actual domain name, the URL above is a real one. Look at it closely, everything after "ProductDisplay?" are the various parameters that tell the browser what content to pull up.
Each "=" in the URL represent a different parameter. Each parameter represents a slight variation of the content. Every variation represents a potentially different page that can be indexed by the search engines.
The search engines want to index valuable content, but URLs such as this can often send engines away. They don't want to be caught into endless loops of variation. While the search engines certainly have no problem indexing dynamic content, once you get more than three parameters your risking losing the search engines all together. The engines tend to shy away from sites with duplicate content or endless loops created by many parameter possibilities. Your best bet is to keep the parameters down to a minimum.

Inaccessible content

Great content is often inaccessible to the search engines either because it's hidden behind search options or buried deep within the site. Setting up a proper navigation and clickable link search structure is essential for any site, but even more important for large sites with hundreds of pages or products.
Some pages have to be buried, there just isn't any other way to go about it. But they don't have to be so deep that they can't be found without a GPS tracking device. It's all a matter of laying out your site's architecture so all pages have a proper place and that the most beneficial content is the easiest to find.

Session IDs

Session IDs create duplicate content by the hundreds, if not thousands. Every visitor to a site is given a session IDs which is appended to the end of each URL visited. Multiply your visitors by thousands and you now have thousands of new URLs all pointing to the same content.
There are some workarounds when using session IDs for tracking, however there are better solutions altogether that you should look into.

Code Bloat

Avoid building navigation links using Flash or JavaScript. Depending on how these are implemented they can often be problematic to the search engines. Pages which are only linked to via these methods can often be outside of the search engines spidering reach and therefore not included in the index.

Directory Structure

Directory Structure
There are three basic directory structures you can have, flat, deep or somewhere in between.
A flat directory structure puts all of your site pages on the same directory level. Each page is essentially one click away from the home page and no page is given any type of prominence.
A deep directory structure is the near opposite. Only a few pages are accessible from the home page, then a few more are accessible from those, a few more from those and so on. This puts some pages many clicks away from the home page unnecessarily.
You want to be somewhere in between. You want a directory structure that makes sense. Pages should be grouped together in broad level categories and only sub-categorized as makes sense from the navigation standpoint. You can go a bit deeper with your URLs but again you don't want half a dozen directories when a few will do just fine.

Internal Linking

Internal Linking
You want to do a good share of internal linking within your site. Not just the navigation, mind you but link from within your content areas and product pages. Good internal linking helps your visitors navigate from page to page and find other areas and products that interest them. This improves visitor satisfaction, leads to more sales and helps improve search engine rankings.
Use whatever opportunities you have to give your visitors opportunities to find these other sections of the site. If you talk about a product or service, link to it. If you have a related bit of information or another similar or companion product, link to it. Using keywords in these links gives the search engines more keyword juice for determining how pages should be ranked.

Site Maps

Site Maps
Site maps provide a great way to allow both your visitors and the search engines to find their way to your content with as few clicks as possible. Your site map should always be no more than one click away, no matter what page the visitor is on. This way, if they get lost in the site or have trouble finding what they want, a quick click to the site map gets them a list of every page or piece of content you offer.
Generally you want your site map to be fewer than 100 links. Larger sites may need a site map that links to other site maps in order to keep all your products and pages accessible as easily as possible. The site map should be the only page on your site that links to every page, unless your site is under 20 or so pages.

Keywords


The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industriesKeyword Research
Keywords are the blue-prints from which all your marketing efforts are built upon. Keyword research tools provide valuable insight into what words people are searching on the major search engines. But research tools are just the first step in a thorough and well-planned keyword research process. Great tools like Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker or even Google's tools don't tell you the intent of each search, however that information can be deduced with a bit of analysis and keyword organization.
But before we get into that, let's look at how people search so we can better understand how to segment and organize your keywords into an effective optimization campaign.

How People Search

How People SearchOver the years searching trends have changed. Once upon a time the majority of searchers used one word queries. Eventually they started realizing they they get better, more accurate, results when you give the search engine a bit more information about what you are looking for.
The more accurate the search phrase you use in your search is, the more accurate the results will be that are returned. Studies have shown that four and five-word phrases often have a higher ROI than one and two word phrases because the searcher is more likely to get results that meet their needs.
The downside of longer phrases is this increases the keyword combination potentials so the number of searches for any one phrase reduces dramatically. This makes optimization more difficult. Instead of optimizing for one general phrase you have to optimize for five very specific phrases. This is the long-tail of keywords, also known as the low hanging fruit. These longer phrases have far less competition and are much easier to get ranked, but also produce lower traffic volumes.
Long-tail phrases should not constitute the primary focus of your optimization efforts. Nor should you focus primarily on short-tail phrases either. A good keyword optimization strategy goes after both simultaneously.

keyword Buying Cycle

Keyword Buying CycleEvery user has different needs and ultimately different goals they wish to achieve when they begin a search process. Many searches are quick with a sole purpose of learning something such as "how many days does it take the Starship Enterprise to travel from Earth to Vulcan at Warp 7?" A few searches may give you a satisfactory answer and then the sci-fi geek Trekker can go back to watching her ST:TNG marathon.
Other searches have another simple goal: to buy a product that best suites your wants and needs. While that goal maybe simple the process to reach it isn't. Most searchers--no matter what the goal--will ultimately use at least parts of the following research cycle.
Every search starts with an interest. The interest generally uses broad keywords with one or maybe two words. As the user moves through the other stages--gather, research, exclude and purchase, they make their queries more and more specific. Every change in query, brings the searcher closer and closer to their goal, each giving them more information along the way.
Most searchers go through this process unintentionally, but as they start in the lower stages they learn more about what they want and how to search more accurately. How does a searcher know they want a 1080p blu-ray player (for his Star Trek Blu-rays) until they learn that 1080i isn't quite as good?
Most businesses want to be ranked for the interest level searches because that's where the most traffic is. This can often be a mistake because searchers will often use those sites as a springboard to get to the other sites that meet their more specific queries. There is still valid reasons to be ranked on these broader searches as that can help brand your site and bring people back as they know more of what they want, but the conversions come from the more specific terms.

What You Learn

Keyword Research Helps You UnderstandOnce you understand how the searcher progresses through the buying cycle you can then learn something from the keywords that were used to search. The information you glean can be crucial in determining how to develop the content and direction of your website.

Target Audience: The more you know about who your target audience is the better position you will be in to meet their needs. The keywords used by business professionals will often be different from keywords used by students and hobbyists. Both will be using keywords that appear to be relevant but depending on what you offer, not all of them truly have the same intent or delivered to the same page.

Areas of Interest: Keywords can tell you what is important to your target audience. Are they looking to satisfy a quick query about warp speed travel or are they looking for the quantum mechanical details of how warp propulsion works? Both of these queries take you to Star Trek sites but the latter would certainly turn the non hard-core Trekker away muttering, "stupid sci-fi geeks" under their breath.

Needs to be met: Finally, your keywords can tell you what needs the searcher is looking to have met. Some hobbyists are looking for a strategy for tackling their next project and a business leader may be looking for a community of like-minded individual.
Unlike the chart above, keyword research isn't always a linear process. There is a lot of overlap and much that you do in the process requires going back and repeating once you have new data on hand. Keeping your keyword research fluid helps you maintain accuracy and adapt as changes are made in visitor search patterns.

Keyword Core Terms

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Research Takes Time

Research Takes Time
The process of researching your keywords isn't something that should be rushed. Each phase of the research process needs to be performed deliberately, ensuring that you take the time to find all relevant terms and discard the irrelevant. Any attempts to rush through the keyword research process will likely lead you down the wrong paths at best and at worst cause you to have to rethink your entire keyword targeting strategy.
Unfortunately the research process isn't always linear. You can often be working on several phases of the research process at a time depending on what your focus is on at a given moment. There is a lot of overlap and moving backward and forward through the processes but care needs to be taken that you don't skip over or leave any of the phases out.

Brainstorming Keywords

Brainstorming Keywords
You can start the keyword research process anywhere, but I like to start with a clean slate. What keywords do you start the research process with? Do some brainstorming.
Brainstorming allows you to get a list of keywords from an unbiased perspective. The brainstorming process doesn't mean just sitting around and thinking up phrases, though can be a part of it. Good brainstorming starts with asking questions that can then lead to answers. More times than not, those answers will also be your keywords.
First, think of what questions are relevant for you. Don't try to answer them, you have time for that later, but compile your list of quetions that will help you find the keywords you are looking for.
Once you have a good list of questions do whatever research is needed to find the answers. Those answers give you a base of keywords you can then take to the online research tools to look for related phrases. These related phrases produce a wide-range of variations in how your topic is searched. Some relevant, others not so much.

Find Core Terms First

Find Core Terms First
Undoubtedly in the brainstorming and research process you'll amass a list of hundreds of phrases. You want to keep the process as simplified as possible so we'll start by eliminating everything that is not a core term.
A core term is a keyword phrase boiled down to the essentials. It's specific enough to produce a relevant result but broad enough to cover a wide range of much more targeted phrases. Generally a good core term is two, maybe three words. On rare occasions a core term can be a single word, but only when there is no room for alternate interpretations.
Only use qualifiers on a core term when it is necessary to ensure that the searcher will be led to a relevant page. For example the word "bag" could mean anything from a garbage bag to a sleeping bag to a travel bag. This is a core term that needs a qualifier in order to be relevant to the searcher. If it's not relevant it's not a core term.
Each page of your website should have a single core term associated with it. You may find several pages on your site that are a good fit for a single term. That's fine during this research process but later you'll want to make sure you select only the most appropriate page for any single core term. The others will have to find their own core terms.
Don't stop your core term research until you are certain there are no more possible variations that produce measurable traffic. Using the keyword suggestion tools available in most keyword research programs, find all relevant variations on each of your core terms. For example a "travel bag" can also be a "back pack", "luggage" (a rare case of a one-word core term) and a "duffel bag." Each of these can be searched to find even more possible core term variants.
In almost every industry I have worked with I have been able to find different ways searchers think of the same product that the site owner hadn't. Sometimes these variations don't get searched much while other times they are more popular than the terms that the site owner said were the most important. Knowing these options in advance can make a dramatic difference in the direction you go with your optimization campaign.

Core Term Site Mapping

Core Term Site Mapping
After you have put together an exhaustive list of core terms and before you start performing deeper research into finding specific phrases, you want to map out where your core terms will be integrated into your site. For some industries it's as easy as looking at the content and assigning core terms to pages. For others, where there are a lot of core term variations that mean the exact same thing, it can be more difficult.
Assigning core terms to pages must be done very carefully. You need to ensure that the content of each page is either a 100% natural fit or the content can easily be adapted to fit that core term. A good example is "cost segregation" versus "cost segmentation". Both essentially mean the same thing but both are frequently searched (though one more than the other.) The content of a page about "cost segregation" can easily be adapted for "cost segmentation" without altering the meaning or focus of the page.
If you can't make a keyword fit without significantly altering the message of a page, then you find another core term, or another page for the core term.
I recommend prioritizing your core terms before assigning pages to them. Figure out which terms get more search volume, are most relevant, bring in targeted audience and which produce the best sales. These are all important factors of determining which core terms are more important than others.
By prioritizing your core terms you can research and optimize those that are most important first before moving on to lower priority terms. The optimization of your high priority terms can take some time so leaving the secondary terms for later is good optimization strategy.
Before you move into the next phase of the keyword research process you have enough information to start optimizing your website. With the core terms and the map of where each core term will be implemented, you can begin to perform a very broad and quick optimization of the website. Going a page at a time, optimize title tags, meta description tags, headings and even a bit of content.
I wouldn't spend a lot of time on each page as you can go do a more indepth optimization later, once you have more keywords to work with.

Keyword Qualifiers

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Core Term Qualifiers

Core Term Qualifiers
Optimizing your website for core terms is only part of the optimization process. The vast majority of searches are performed using longer, more specific phrases. When it comes to keyword research, these phrases are really nothing more than your core terms with key qualifiers added to them.
Using your keyword research tools you can find dozens or even hundreds of qualifiers for just about every core term. Each of these new phrases must be carefully analyzed for appropriateness for your site, whether it targets what you offer and fits with the page's content for which that core term has been applied. Those that don't can either be discarded or set aside for optimization to other pages.
Some qualifiers are merely the same core term in different form such as plurals, past tense, active tense, etc. (run, ran, running, etc.) Other qualifiers qualifiers provide additional context for the core term but don't do anything to affect the meaning of the phrase. Other qualifiers will change the meaning of the phrase and may not be appropriate for optimization with the primary core term or page.
If adding the word "discount" doesn't apply to you then that's a qualifier you don't want. If most of what you offer is not discount but you do have a section where you list certain discounted items, then that is a phrase that is better optimized on a different page from the actual core term. Every qualifier added to the core term must be carefully considered to ensure it belongs with that core term or not.
Some qualifiers will also come in direct contradiction with each other. When speaking of Jewelry you don't want to use "cheap" and "vintage" on the same page. There are many considerations like this that must be accounted for before just throwing a bunch of related core term qualifiers on the page.

Segmenting Keywords

Segmenting Keywords
There are four distinct keyword segments each representing a different phase of the searcher's buying cycle. After going through the process above you should be left with one or more groups of keyword that can be optimized into a page or several pages. The next step is to take each group and segment them even further based on those keyword segments.

Research: Researchers are at the very beginning of the buying cycle and generally don't know what it is they want. They go to the search engines to find very general information to help them narrow down their options. These are generally the core terms with no or very basic qualifiers. These terms will be optimized into higher level category pages.

Shop: Shoppers have moved to the next phase of the buying cycle having narrowed down their query to the product category level. Searchers are looking at different features and variances between products and deciding on which features they want. These keywords can easily be optimized on product category and comparison pages.

Buy: Searchers who are ready to buy have at this point figured out exactly what they want and now they are just looking for the right place to buy it from. They are looking for the store that meets all the right criteria for a purchase such as brand trust, price, warranties, shipping policies, refund policies, customer service, etc. These keywords can be optimized into product pages.

Info: Info queries are generally the "how to" search terms. These are people not looking to buy but looking for information and education for themselves. These queries are best optimized on blog and article pages. They don't bring in direct customers but they do help you build a strong resource website that draws links and a loyal audience.
Segmenting KeywordsKeyword segmenting for information only sites and blogs is a bit different than sites selling products or services. In informational sites all keywords can be used to develop content so it's a matter of determining what kind of keyword content you can produce and what keywords can be targeted together.
Using the same process of elimination from above you can segment all the keywords into three distinct groups.

Broad Topics: People looking for general information have a general topic that they want to learn more about. You must start them with the most general information as these searchers typically are not looking for a lot of detailed specifics.

Specific Desires: These searchers are looking for a answers to questions that they might have. They may be looking for a solution to a problem or the best way to get a desired result.

Immediate Concerns: These searchers are looking for solutions that meet a very specific set of criteria. It's not enough to provide broad, all-encompassing answers, they are looking for something that much more specifically can be applied to their situation.

Keyword ROI

Keyword ROI
When deciding which keywords ultimately get optimized into your site, you want to keep ROI foremost in your mind. The chart above shows a very general rule when it comes to determining which keywords produce the best ROI.
Phrases with one or two words can often produce a lot of traffic but the conversions from those keywords is often pretty low. That can be made up for with the mass quantities of traffic the keyword brings, but more traffic also means more resources consumed, including answering calls and emails.
On the lower end of the spectrum are five and six word phrases. The convertability of these phrases is very good, but there isn't a lot of traffic so total conversions is very low. These are keywords you want to optimize for but not spend a lot of time on, otherwise you lose any value from the sales they bring.
The happy ROI zone is with the three and four word phrases. These bring in good traffic and have good conversion rates. Focusing the bulk of your efforts here is where you're going to get the most value.
Keep in mind, though, keyword length isn't the only factor that matters in keyword selection. You want to make sure you select terms that are targeted for your audience produce the most profitable sales.

Keyword Qualifiers

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Core Term Qualifiers
Core Term Qualifiers
Optimizing your website for core terms is only part of the optimization process. The vast majority of searches are performed using longer, more specific phrases. When it comes to keyword research, these phrases are really nothing more than your core terms with key qualifiers added to them.
Using your keyword research tools you can find dozens or even hundreds of qualifiers for just about every core term. Each of these new phrases must be carefully analyzed for appropriateness for your site, whether it targets what you offer and fits with the page's content for which that core term has been applied. Those that don't can either be discarded or set aside for optimization to other pages.
Some qualifiers are merely the same core term in different form such as plurals, past tense, active tense, etc. (run, ran, running, etc.) Other qualifiers qualifiers provide additional context for the core term but don't do anything to affect the meaning of the phrase. Other qualifiers will change the meaning of the phrase and may not be appropriate for optimization with the primary core term or page.
If adding the word "discount" doesn't apply to you then that's a qualifier you don't want. If most of what you offer is not discount but you do have a section where you list certain discounted items, then that is a phrase that is better optimized on a different page from the actual core term. Every qualifier added to the core term must be carefully considered to ensure it belongs with that core term or not.
Some qualifiers will also come in direct contradiction with each other. When speaking of Jewelry you don't want to use "cheap" and "vintage" on the same page. There are many considerations like this that must be accounted for before just throwing a bunch of related core term qualifiers on the page.

Segmenting Keywords
Segmenting Keywords
There are four distinct keyword segments each representing a different phase of the searcher's buying cycle. After going through the process above you should be left with one or more groups of keyword that can be optimized into a page or several pages. The next step is to take each group and segment them even further based on those keyword segments.

Research: Researchers are at the very beginning of the buying cycle and generally don't know what it is they want. They go to the search engines to find very general information to help them narrow down their options. These are generally the core terms with no or very basic qualifiers. These terms will be optimized into higher level category pages.

Shop: Shoppers have moved to the next phase of the buying cycle having narrowed down their query to the product category level. Searchers are looking at different features and variances between products and deciding on which features they want. These keywords can easily be optimized on product category and comparison pages.

Buy: Searchers who are ready to buy have at this point figured out exactly what they want and now they are just looking for the right place to buy it from. They are looking for the store that meets all the right criteria for a purchase such as brand trust, price, warranties, shipping policies, refund policies, customer service, etc. These keywords can be optimized into product pages.

Info: Info queries are generally the "how to" search terms. These are people not looking to buy but looking for information and education for themselves. These queries are best optimized on blog and article pages. They don't bring in direct customers but they do help you build a strong resource website that draws links and a loyal audience.
Segmenting KeywordsKeyword segmenting for information only sites and blogs is a bit different than sites selling products or services. In informational sites all keywords can be used to develop content so it's a matter of determining what kind of keyword content you can produce and what keywords can be targeted together.
Using the same process of elimination from above you can segment all the keywords into three distinct groups.

Broad Topics: People looking for general information have a general topic that they want to learn more about. You must start them with the most general information as these searchers typically are not looking for a lot of detailed specifics.

Specific Desires: These searchers are looking for a answers to questions that they might have. They may be looking for a solution to a problem or the best way to get a desired result.

Immediate Concerns: These searchers are looking for solutions that meet a very specific set of criteria. It's not enough to provide broad, all-encompassing answers, they are looking for something that much more specifically can be applied to their situation.

Keyword ROI
Keyword ROI
When deciding which keywords ultimately get optimized into your site, you want to keep ROI foremost in your mind. The chart above shows a very general rule when it comes to determining which keywords produce the best ROI.
Phrases with one or two words can often produce a lot of traffic but the conversions from those keywords is often pretty low. That can be made up for with the mass quantities of traffic the keyword brings, but more traffic also means more resources consumed, including answering calls and emails.
On the lower end of the spectrum are five and six word phrases. The convertability of these phrases is very good, but there isn't a lot of traffic so total conversions is very low. These are keywords you want to optimize for but not spend a lot of time on, otherwise you lose any value from the sales they bring.
The happy ROI zone is with the three and four word phrases. These bring in good traffic and have good conversion rates. Focusing the bulk of your efforts here is where you're going to get the most value.
Keep in mind, though, keyword length isn't the only factor that matters in keyword selection. You want to make sure you select terms that are targeted for your audience produce the most profitable sales.

SEO Copywriting

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Copywriting

Copywriting
No SEO is complete without good content. You can stuff keywords into the text all you want, and that might be okay to get you some decent keyword rankings for a time, but it won't do anything to improve the long-term success of your business.
A website without good copywriting is a sports car with an engine that doesn't run. It doesn't matter how pretty it is, the content is what is needed to provide your visitors the information they need in order for you to make the sale (or conversion, or whatever else you want your visitors to do.)

Understanding Copy


To the search engines the content on the page is just a bunch of words. Without making this too complex, the engines analyze the words in an attempt to determine what each page is about. If the web page covers too many different topics then it makes it difficult for the engines to determine which topic is prominent and deserves ranking. It creates a dilution of focus.
The search engines have analyzed millions of web pages and from that have been able to gather significant knowledge of the human languages. They have an idea of how words and topics work together. It's not really about the number of times a keyword is used but the focus of the content. If you use a word or phrase too much then it'll be seen as manipulation. Too little and it's not enough to be relevant. Write as much or as little text as is needed in order to make the point you need for your visitors.

Draw Them In

Draw Them In
SEO copywriting isn't all that different from normal copywriting except that you have to pay particular attention to keywords. Actually, non-seo copywriting would be better if keywords were paid attention to anyway. Not for search engines per se, but in order to use the key phrases that attracts and appeals to the readers. In that light, SEO copywriting and "normal" copywriting would be no different.
There are four basic things that the content of each of your web pages must do, regardless if its the home page, a category page, a product page, an article or a blog post.

Grab Attention

If the reader hits the page and the content is unable to get and keep their attention, then all is lost. They move on to another page or another site and you lost the possibility of a conversion.
 
Appeal to their Needs

Once you have their attention then you have to make your case. The simplest way to do that is to appeal to them on their terms. You already have what they want, but you have to write your content that shows them you understand their needs.
What motivated them to search for what you offer? By clearly re-iterating the need, you are then in a position to show that you have the solution. Go into great detail on why your solution is the right one and then move on to explain all the benefits of selecting you as that solution.

Ask questions

Questions make people think. Often times asking a question first and then providing an answer is far more effective than just providing an answer. Question make your readers consider what they are reading and then seek an answer to a question that they didn't even know they had.
What kind of questions should you ask? Just go back to the basics. Who? What? When? Why? Where? How? Each of these can provide an avenue for a good amount of additional information that may be important to the reader.

Inform

Finally, your content must inform. The visitor has to walk away having learned something valuable. And not just about you or your product or service, but about them as well. The visitor needs to know that you have exactly what they need and you must provide enough information to justify making a purchase from you both intellectually and emotionally.
Ways to inform are to show how your product or service can make their lives better, give them more time, money or freedom. You can also give them ideas on how to use your product or service which gives them additional incentives to make the purchase.

Five Rules of Copywriting

Five Rules of Copywriting
There are five basic rules to writing good website content that is appealing to both visitors and the search engines.

1. Avoid graphics in text.

Search engines are not so good about reading text in a graphic format. They are getting better at it but I think that it will always be problematic, especially when it comes to busy graphics or non-standard fonts. So for now, and the foreseeable future, it's a good idea to keep your text outside of graphics.
You also have to consider the user. Some users search with images off or the small screens of their mobile phones. Text in those graphics may be difficult or impossible to read. If the content is worth reading then it's worth ensuring that it is in the most readable format.

2. Think users before engines.

Your visitors come first. The search engines don't buy from you, they don't write comments, and they don't retweet your message. People do. The search engines only want what people want so give the people what they want and the search engines will, in most cases, reward you for that.

3. Write enough content.

How much content is enough? Only you know that. You need to write enough content to make the points you need and no more. Each visitor needs a different amount of content to read in order to be convinced. don't leave anybody out.

4. Target phrases not words.

People rarely search for words, they search for phrases. Knowing what those phrases are is essential to writing content that speaks to your visitor's desires. The phrases also put the words into context and give meaning to what the visitor is really searching for.

5. Don't force it.

Writing your content using the rules above should work naturally. Don't force anything if it just doesn't work. If you're trying to work in phrases that are not a fit for the page, then move those phrases to another page. If you're trying to produce content that will speak to different kinds of visitors, don't be afraid to break content off into other sections of the site such as articles or tutorials. This goes back to writing for the visitor. Meet their needs first and foremost and don't try to force anything that doesn't work.
As I said above, SEO copywriting isn't all that much different than standard copywriting. It's all about creating good content that appeals to the visitors and meets certain criteria in terms of keyword usage. In Part 12 I'll go over some key examples of how to write good content that is good for engines and users alike.

Page Content

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Headings

Have a good pickup line
The first place to begin in writing your content is to create a great heading for each page. In the last post I discussed grabbing the visitor's attention. This is one of the primary jobs of page headings.
The heading is different from the page title tag. Where the title tag is displayed in the search results the heading is viewed on the page itself. Sometimes you want the heading and the title to be the same, other times you don't. The title MUST use keywords in it. The heading SHOULD use keywords in it. It all depends on the hook you want to use to grab attention and entice your visitor to keep reading.
Be careful that your title and heading aren't too far removed from each other. The last thing you want is to get the visitor to click into the page and read a heading that doesn't match up with their expectations.
A good heading tells people what they can expect from the content that follows. What information will they learn? What benefits will be presented? What solutions will you provide? The heading needs to project and give enough information that the visitor wants to keep reading without providing so much that they don't feel they need to.
A good example of this is "Good headings help you increase search engine rankings." This seemingly tells me just about all I need to know. On the other hand, "How to write headings that increases search engine rankings," gives me a reason to keep reading. I know I'm going to learn something that wasn't given away in the headline.

Make Your Content Compelling

Make your content compelling
The headline draws people into the content, gets them interested and makes them want to dive into what you have to say. Therefore your content needs to not disappoint.
Don't skimp. Allow your content to go wherever it needs to give the reader everything that they want. The only time you can have too much content is when it get's in the way of the sales process rather than promote it. Keep in mind, when readers have enough to make a decision, they'll stop reading and do what they came to do. If you don't have enough content to convince them then they won't take the action you hope them to.
Site visitors come in a variety of personality types and personas. In order to speak your audience's language you must hit a lot of different key points. Some people want to know about you, some about your products or services and others care about your qualifications. Others don't care about that at all and want to know how the product or service benefits them specifically. Still, others may want to know your history and are looking for signals of trust.
If you leave any of these out then you'll lose some potential conversions. And these and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Be careful, however, that you don't spread yourself too thin. You can't please everyone, but you can do a reasonably good job of figuring out who is your primary audience and make sure you are hitting the key points for them.
Write what you need to convince the majority of your audience and no more.
 
Seek Opportunity

Seek Opportunity
When it comes to working keywords to your content there are plenty of opportunities to add your targeted phrases without mucking up the content. Look for these opportunities, but don't jump on every chance to throw in a keyword just because you can. Good writing means using keywords conservatively.
Every paragraph is full of keyword opportunities but if you added every keyword possible then you're in real danger of keyword stuffing. The last thing you want is for your keyword rich content to have too many keywords in it. Your visitors that came looking for a site based on the keyword they searched for will have a difficult time getting past the over-stuffed keyword content. Your keyword filled message will be lost due to the over use of keywords in the keyword content. (Get my point?)

Internal Hyperlinks

Internal Hyperlinks
As mentioned above, good content isn't just about keywords. It's about giving the visitor what they need. Sometimes you can't give them all they want or need on a single page. Sometimes you talk about something else that you can't address fully without going wildly off point. This is where the magic of hyperlinks come in.
Too often people are afraid to "clutter up" their content with hyper links. They have a point, but only to a point. You can go overboard on the hyperlinks, but too few hyperlinks is worse than too many. Give your visitors the avenue to explore the site outside of the navigation. If you mention something that is explained elsewhere link to it. If you mention something that you should provide more information in a full context, write a new page of content and link to it.
Links let people explore and find other things they are interested in. Things that help them earn confidence in you, things that give them more information, things that teach them new things. Without the links these important areas of your site remain largely hidden, even if they are found in the site's navigation.

Make it Pretty

Make your content easy on the eyes
Long paragraphs of content may get all the right points across but they are booooring to look at. And visually boring easily translates into just plain dreary to read. Make sure your text looks good. It's not the job of the copywriter to add images, but that doesn't mean the copywriter can't make it easier to read.
Good use of headlines, sub-headlines, paragraph headings and section headings can go a long way to making your content easier on the eyes. You can also use bullet points, content boldings, italics, hyperlinks and numbered lists also make the content look better, easier to read and more digestible.
The content of a website is one of the most important factors in achieving top search engine rankings. But it is an even greater factor in ensuring the website performs with visitors. Without good content a site will fail both with engines and visitors.

Links

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.

Links

Links
Most SEOs have a love/hate relationship with links. We love a good link but we hate what it takes to get them. At best, link building is time consuming and tedious. At worst it's the thing drives good SEOs to the dark side of black hat magic. It's the one thing that most SEOs don't to do and very few actually can do well. Show me a link builder that advertises they can get 100 PR4+ one-way links and I'll show you 100 barely readable blog posts on 100 barely read blogs.
I'm not bitter (maybe just a little) but I just haven't found a quality link builder that isn't out of my most of my clients' price range. I think this is the case with many SEOs, which is why most of the affordable link builders deliver what they can for the price, which is whey the link quality tends to be sub-par. As for the link builder's who's rates are unaffordable... well, you can't afford NOT to use them. See? Love/hate.

How Links Work

Links
Links are the highway of the web. Without links nobody would be able to navigate, move from page to page or from one site to the next. The only way to find anything on the web would be to manually type in the URL of each web page. But luckily, hyperlinks let is click our way around websites gong from one page to the next and off to other websites.
In the simplest term a link is a vote for the web page it leads to. It's a lot more complicated than that, but for now that definition will suffice. If you like something you link to it. If someone likes you, hopefully they'll link to you.
Links can come in many forms. You submit your site to a directory and you get a link. Someone finds you in that directory, follows the link to your site. You link out to more information the reader is interested in (whether it's your own site or another) and the visitor follows that link until their navigation path has been satisfied.
If the reader likes what they see along the way they might throw a link back. People reading the newly linked site then follows the link to you, they navigate (via links) to other pages that interest them and the process continues. Of course, not every person who finds your site will link to you, but it sure would be nice if they would. Of course they want the same from you too!
Links spread like word of mouth. If you have something worth telling others about (or linking to) then more people will spread the word via their site's, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and whatever else strikes their fancy. The easiest way to get links is to have something worth linking to. Yes you, in the flow meter industry... you can create link-worthy content.

Giving Context to the Web

Links
Aside from providing a means to navigate through the web, links provide a way for the visitor (and search engines) to know what any page is about before they even click into it. Or at least they should.
Far too often we use links that say "click here". That tells the visitors what to do but doesn't do much by way of providing a clue as to why they click here. The reader will likely be forced to read around the link just to understand it. That's not a problem for all those who read every word of a page, but unfortunately those types are few and far between.
Most people skim pages, looking for what interests them or where to go to find it. While we may want the reader to hang on every word we say, most don't. Adding context to your links--making your link text briefly describe the page being linked to--adds value to both your visitors and the search engines.
The search engines use this as a signal toward analyzing the topic of a page. If people link to a single page using words such as "pre-owned vehicles," "used Lexus," "buy Mazda Miata," and "low mileage cars", the search engine gets a good idea about what this page is about: used cars, possibly with a focus on Lexus and Mazda. The more content links pointing to a page the more the search engine can glean about what the page is about.
The search engine can match the links up with the content for additional relevancy and ranking analysis factors. Not to mention the visitor looking to buy a Mazda Miata knows that clicking that link likely gets them to the information they need.

Link Anatomy


The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.
Link Analysis Progression
Link Anatomy
I said in my last post that each link is essentially a vote for the page that's being linked to. That, essentially, was the original link analysis factors. Things have come a long way since then. Today's link analysis factors are far more complex.
Over the years what gets analyzed as part of the link has changed in order to provide better search results to web users.
The search engines started out looking at sheer link volume. He who gets the most links wins. This created link farms, link trades, link pages and so on. Before Google changed the game in link analysis people did everythign they could to create mad quantities of links to their site. Relevance of the linking page to the linked content didn't matter. While sheer link quantity continues to play a role, it is no longer the only factor in link analysis.
Then Google came a long and started analyzing link text. The words in the link started to matter. The words spoke about the page it was linking to and therefore when the words match up with the text on the page the more relevant your page became for those keywords.
Next, search engines started looking at the quality of each link. Does it come from a low authority website or a high authority website? The higher the site's authority linking out the more link value was passed.
Link age became a factor as it was assumed that the longer a link stayed in place the more "serious" the linker was about the site. If the links came and went then that might say somethign about the quality of the site being linked to, or if the link was an ad purchased under the radar.
As link buying became more and more prominent, the search engines started fighting back. It's impossible for the search engines to determine with 100% accuracy whether a link was purchased or not but there are some signals that they have learned to detect.

The Anatomy of a Link
Link Anatomy
There is more to a link that meets the eye. As the progression of link analysis has changed, that means we need to pay attention to our links in order to make sure that we are getting the most value out of each. Lets break down the link into its core components as relevant to the search engines.

Anchor Text: As noted earlier link text factors pretty heavily in the search engine rankings. Any clues the search engines can get about the content of the page from external sources weighs heavily. It not only tells them what the page is about, but that someone else found it as a valuable resource for what it is. That last part is important. Linking to a site is one thing. Linking to a site giving your readers context to what they'll find on that site is another thing altogether.
Links you give (and receive) should be keyword rich. Instead of linking out using the name of the website you are linking to, use keywords relevant to that site. Don't say "you can find a good used Honda Accord at Joe's Dealership." Instead, say "you can find a good used Honda Accord at Joe's Dealership."

Where it Appears: Where the link appears on the page tells the search engines a great deal about the link itself. Search engines try to determine the value of the link by its placement on the page. Links in navigation are weighted one way, editorial links are considered more relevant and links in ad spaces are generally ignored.
Editorial links (those linked in the the midst of the page's primary content) are deemed most valuable. These are generally links that are there not because they were purchased (though clearly that can be manipulated) but because the writer of the content finds it relevant to the readers.

Type of Link: There are a lot of different types of links and each carry their own weight. Many people will tell you that reciprocal links are worthless, but that's not entirely true. Context matters a great deal. The same is true for whether the link is a one-way (non-reciprocated) link pointed to the site but not returned. Known purchased links have the least value (none), but can still be useful for driving traffic and getting an audience which can also produce natural links.

Link Style: Text vs. Images. Linking actual text (words) gives the search engines more information as to what the destination site is about. It adds to the page's keyword focus from an external site. Image links don't do that as well. Images can use the ALT text which can be factored in but likely aren't weighted with the same value as a pure text link.

Link Age: How old a link is and how long it's been in place can effect the overall value of that link. In general terms the longer the link remains in place the more power it sends to the linked page. This isn't true in all cases, for example I believe blog links give out some immediate value that then fades back into the normal aging process after a few months. News links likely fade over time rather than build strength. But with these (and possibly a few other) exceptions, the link gains value over time.

Linking Site: The site that links out plays a strong role in the value of the link itself. The higher authority the linking site is, the more link value is passed. The page the link is on is also considered. A low authority page on a high-authority site may not have as much value as a lower authority site linking out from its home page, or the reverse may be true.. The topic of the page, how relevant it is to the topic site, can also be factored into how much relevance and weight the link sends out.
There are other factors as well, and I'm sure Google is always looking at ways to improve their link analysis algorithms. Links from Twitter and Facebook profiles can factor in as can links from other social media sites.
Whether you're buying a link, asking for one, or looking for exposure in social circles, the key is to get as many quality links from quality sites as possible.

Linking

The following series is pulled from a presentation I gave to a group of beauty bloggers hosted by L'Oreal in New York. Most of the presentation is geared toward how to make a blog more search engine and user-friendly, however I will expand many of the concepts here to include tips and strategies for sites selling products or services across all industries.
Links come in all different shapes and sizes. Some good, some bad, some are just there. In part 14 of this series we looked at the anatomy of a link, analyzing the different elements that make a link what it is. There are a lot of things to consider when looking at the value of the link, many of which lie in the the value of the page or website doing the liking. But here we'll look at a slightly different value of link, in how it's linked between the two sites.
There are three basic ways of linking between sites, One-way, reciprocal and multi-way. We'll take a look at these, their values and whether its a type of linking you should be engaged in.

Reciprocal Links

Reciprocal Links
A reciprocal link, in simplest terms, is a link from Site A to site B and a link back from Site B to Site A. Many have written reciprocal links off as being completely irrelevant but that's far too simplistic. There is nothing wrong with reciprocal links in an of themselves. Its all in the execution.

Low-Quality Reciprocal Links

Low Quality Reciprocal Links
The lowest quality reciprocal links are those found on pages specifically designed to house reciprocal links. What you get from these "resource" pages is a bunch of barely related links from Site A to one or more dozens of other websites. All of these build their own "resource" pages that do you the favor of linking back to you and one or more dozens of other sites.
These pages are usually easy to spot because they generally provide little value to the visitors of the site, other than for a good laugh. If you find yourself linking to a site that links back this way it would probably be of benefit to you to stop linking to them. The link pointed to you likely has no value, however by associating yourself with them (via your link) you can be sending the search engines a signal that you don't care much about the quality of sites you link out to.

High-Quality Reciprocal Links

High Quality Reciprocal Links
Despite the belief of some, there are reciprocal links that can pass a lot of value to you. Low-quality reciprocal links are there simply for the quid pro quo of the link. High quality reciprocal linking has nothing to do with doing someone a favor in order to get something in return. These are two links that are made independently of each other simply because you, and the "reciprocating" site find each other's content valuable.
It's entirely possible that one of the linking parties has no idea the other site is linking to them because each link was given entirely on the basis of the value of the content being linked to. It wasn't pre-arranged or purposeful in any way.
That doesn't mean you can't pre-arrange a reciprocal link and still make it valuable. You can, you just need to make sure it looks as natural and non-pre-arranged as possible. Linking and receiving a link in the midst of quality content in primary site pages can do the trick. Just be careful about how many of these reciprocal links show up at the same time.

Multi-Way Links

Multi-Way Links
This is where some of the link schemes get clever. Reciprocal links, we are told have no value so you have to have three or more site's linking together so there is no direct reciprocating link at all.
Three-way link schemes aren't all that difficult for search engines to sniff out so these multi-link programs have gotten more complex. The latest version is link wheels. This is where networks of sites link to a second level of sites which then link to you. You get dozens or hundreds of "one-way" links to your site through these link wheel networks.
Like most linking schemes these link wheels will probably have limited value over the short-term without any real long-term benefits.

One-Way Links

One-Way Links
On a pure value standpoint, one way links (sans any linking schemes) are the most valuable links you can get. This is, in most circumstances, a link to your site from someone that finds your content valuable, doesn't ask for a link back, you don't link back to them on your own.
If you have good content, this type of link isn't all that rare. The best link marketing is creating a valuable website that is informative, helpful and educational. Of course this isn't proactive marketing, which is why you see a lot of options to purchase one-way links.
Without a doubt, search engines frown on purchased links that are not clearly defined as such both visually and/or using the nofollow attribute. Purchase links at your own risk. If you are using a broker that claims to keep their purchased links hidden from the search engines, keep in mind that the search engines can easily spend money building sites and purchasing links from these same networks. The hidden network is no longer hidden from the search engines and they might not even be aware of it.
Not all purchases links have no value, but only so long as the link flies under the search engine radar. This can rarely be done by purchasing links from a broker, but can be done on a one-on-one situation.
Links are an important part of your optimization campaign, but not every link will provide you the same value. Aside from worrying about reciprocal links, link wheels or even purchasing one-way links, go outside of the box of "get me a link" and think about providing value to your visitors that is worth linking to. Once you have that, then consider ways to get the word of your content out to those that are most likely to link, become customers, and spread the word.