One of the most common misconceptions about starting an on-line business is, just build a website and you start selling to all those Internet customers. This misconception is also true with regard to the turn-key on-line stores. These turn-key solutions provide the product, pricing, payment options, secure certificates (the browser lock you look for when making a purchase), the look and feel, and so on.
Since they are handing you everything on a silver platter, you will need to provide a domain name (if not included in the package), and heavily invest into advertising your on-line store. The lion share of the cost is in the marketing and advertising. Building a professional website with all the bells and whistles is cheap by comparison when it comes to marketing the products and services.
Look and listen closely to advertising, you will find on-line businesses push their domain name across television, radio, newspaper ads, coupons, flyers, direct mailing etcetera. Businesses without a brick and mortar storefront are some of the better known brands. For example, Overstock.com is a large drop ship business, and Amazon.com is the largest reseller sales portal.
The Amazon.com, you know the people with the “Smile on the Box”, is known to just about everyone, and provides a heavily advertised sales portal. Searching Amazon for a product will produce results from a variety of vendors with different prices for the same item. Amazon makes it’s money by taking a piece of the action with the responsibility of delivery placed on the supplier.
Amazon.com at one time provided the Amazon book store sales portal. For every book sold via your website, you would get a stipend, a small price to pay on the part of Amazon.com as they would get a large number of back links to their site. Most of the time, the site owner with the book store would receive little if anything at all, but Amazon still had the back link.
Why would the back link be important? Because the larger number of back links you acquire to your website, the higher level of authority is perceived by the search engines. Thus better rankings.
Amazon did it right. The back links come from far and wide without using some link farm. Back links originating from known link farms will surely get you listed at the bottom of the search results pages. Link farms are just websites dedicated to generating thousands of links to your site for a variety of keywords, originating from 1 or more servers. Beware of SEO companies touting their ability to get you tons of back links. They could be doing more harm than good.
Another marketing pitfall is relying too heavily on search engines when creating brand awareness. Take a lesson from successful companies by utilizing their techniques where possible.
Pay close attention to the ads the next time you are watching television, listening to radio, reading the newspaper, magazine, receiving coupons, flyers and other forms of direct mailing.
Marketing across many of these mediums will help create brand awareness and plant the seed for a prospective customer to type in your URL into a search engine or browser address bar.
Best of luck in your on-line endeavors.
The sandbox with respect to search engines is a Google phenomenon where domains are spidered and stored in the search engine database but not in the general index. To see if your domain is listed on Google, all one has to do is search Google for your domain name. If you get links to your site, you are in fact in the Google database, otherwise you have a different set of circumstances. Knowing you are listed in the database, you can search for a related keyword. Assuming your domain is missing from the first 10 pages or so, may indicate a poorly optimized site, or in the case of a new domain, you may be in the Google Sandbox.
There are a variety of reasons a domain would live in the sandbox. First, new domains which have never been registered, often are kept in the sandbox for the first 6 months of their existence. Although this time period may not be held fast and hard, it is an approximation or average time the domain is limited to the index. Secondly, your content may not be unique, meaning the information can be found on other seasoned sites and therefore your site lacks authority.
Most people think of Google when it comes to search engines especially when you hear them say, Google it. Google is the dominant player in the SE market at present, you may consider making sure you are listed in the smaller engines as well. There are lots of people who choose to use other platforms such as, Yahoo, bing, AOL, Ask to name a few. There are literally thousands of smaller search engines on the net, including those in different countries.
Why is getting listed in the smaller search engines important? Let us assume we have a new domain name and website. We have done everything right with regard to structure, content, etcetera, and we are stuck in the Google sandbox. So as we wait for time to pass, we should begin focusing on listings in the smaller SE’s. These alternative search engines will often list your domain quickly exposing you to their users. Some engines offer free listings, while others may charge a fee for the listings.
The important aspect to this is being seen in as many venues as possible. Your business can originate from anywhere.
You also need to utilize this sandbox time to create as a number of backlinks. Backlinks are when other websites, with a similar theme link back to your site. Backlinks are a factor relative to the authority of your content. When more websites are linking to you, it is assumed you have unique authorative content, where you are the expert.
A note to the wise, be sure your content is “Unique”. This includes copying text published on your supplier sites. Assuming you have permission to do so, you lose your credibility and authority when it comes to search engines. You also need to change the name of the images you use as this may be looked upon as a duplication. Avoiding any duplication even using common names like “spacer” or “main-page-image” may cause a loss in authoritative analysis.
Having done all this will enhance your domain’s chances of listing well in Google when your time in the sandbox is done.
When it comes to search engine optimization, most people focus on the page 1 rankings in Google search results. While Google is the number 1 search engine of choice, optimizers should keep engines like bing.com, yahoo.com, ask.com, etc in mind as well. For personal reasons, folks avoid using Google and choose Yahoo, bing, and Ask so it is important your optimization strategy include these engines. Newer Windows operating systems default to bing as their search engine. From an end user perspective, people who like the results returned by Google, but do not like the predatory nature of product search data gathering, choose StartPage.com. While returning their own search results, they also enhance the results with Google results. StartPage goes one step further as they remove personal identifying information, such as IP addresses, tracking cookies, and so on. They submit your search query to Google for you, thus keeping you anonymous. Consumer identification is big business, anything a company can do to focus advertising to individuals based on their search queries, is a big plus for their business, but most find little comfort knowing they are being tracked. The important point to this is, your optimization efforts need to take into consideration the audience using search engines other than Google. Can you afford to avoid a segment of the population when it comes to your business? What complicates matters are the algorithms each search engine uses to rank your pages. Google is different than Yahoo, bing, and Ask. Additionally, each engine has their own criteria for inclusion into their index. Your ranking ultimately depends on the content of your website landing page. One of the pitfalls you need to avoid is the use of doorway pages designed to satisfy different search engines. These doorway pages recognize which search engine is spidering the site and feeds them the corresponding page. Doorway pages are enough to ban you from the search engine index. Your best bet is to practice the art of theming your website pages to bring specific detail to your business offerings. The subject of an earlier article was theming your website landing page so it is focused on your product and/or service. When you create a landing page that has a specific theme, you tend to satisfy most search engine requirements for proper indexing and top rankings. You can view this article at: http://www.cirelle.com/marketing-optimization/137/optimized-theming-of-your-web-site
Avoid trying to showcase all of your products on a single page as this blurs the intent of the page. You need to focus on a specific reason your prospect would want to dig deeper into your website. This is also the reason they clicked on your link in the search result pages. Proper theming would focus on a specific product and the use of support pages for features and details. In conclusion, remember to target your visitor with themed content instead of targeting a specific search engine to obtain page 1 rankings. This could make all the difference in your online sales.
In the past I’ve written about the importance of organic optimization or theming your web pages for good search engine rankings.
Theming starts with your choice in keywords, then optimizing the text to support those keywords.
Next we apply a proper keyword analysis to our keyword selection.
There is a concept of Informational Keywords (usually single words), which are usually the keywords used when starting the search process.
There are also those phrases referred to as Buy Keywords. These are phrases used when the person searching is ready to act, by inquiring about your product, or making a sale. This action is also called Conversion.
In both situations above, the assumption is the chosen keywords are driving traffic to your website.
The third concept belongs to those keywords that are Duds, Thuds, or black holes. These keywords provide little if any traffic to your website. To have a decent conversion rate on your website (the actionable process), you need traffic.
This is why Keyword Analysis is the Backbone of Optimization. Optimizing your web page to a keyword or keyword phrase which draws little traffic to your website is a waste of your valuable resources.
Keyword Analysis brings several components to the table during the optimization process. They are, Commercial Value, Competition Level, and Traffic Level.
The commercial value of the keyword is an historical marker indicating an expected dollar value per sale.
The competition level indicates the number of websites having been optimized for the phrase. The competition level can range from a few websites to millions.
The traffic level references how many people are using this phrase in a search campaign. This can range from a high positive number to zero. A level of zero means the keyword phrase could very well be a Dud, Thud, or black hole phrase.
Properly choosing a target keyword phrase becomes an art rather than a science. You know your product or service and the value placed on that product or service.
Be realistic when choosing a metric for the commercial value. Too high may hinder your efforts. Can you expect to make $10,000 per click?
Choosing a very low competition value may have the same effect as choosing a very high competition value keyword.
The same applies to the phrase traffic level. Too high may put you in competition with well optimized sites and provide poor rankings, while too low a value may give you a better ranking, and little traffic to your website.
It’s best to start with middle of the road values.
Once you have decided on your keyword phrases, set a range reflecting an acceptable commercial value of your product or service, determine the competition level you will be comfortable with, and set a target traffic level.
Finally, check your keyword phrases validating your phrases have values falling within your defined component ranges.
You may need to repeat this analysis several times until you have several related keyword phrases meeting the criteria.
Now choose the primary and secondary phrases and begin writing your supporting content. You are now on your way to optimizing your web page for good search result rankings.
More of us are becoming aware of the benefits of going Organic. Organic gardening, organic food, meats raised on organic feed and so on.
When we consume organic foods, we get more value from the food in the way of nutrients.
When it comes to your website, you should be thinking organic as well.
An organic website should be rich in information (nutrients) which is “food for thought”. As with organic food, nutrient rich or information rich websites provide more value to your visitor, which in turn may produce a higher conversion rate (sales) for your business.
When we introduce additives to our food, we actually reduce the nutrient value. It may look like we’re getting more, but in reality they’re only fillers that tend to leave us less satisfied. It won’t be long before we look for something else to give us what we’re looking for.
The same holds for websites. When sites are missing the good quality information we crave, we quickly go some place else to find what we need.
Another phrase associated with organic websites is Organic Marketing.
Orgainic websites, having an information rich presentation, providing good quality, authoritive food for thought, designed to attract your prospective customer, keeping them coming back for more, and also helps your ranking in the search engines without the need for key word programs.
Many of us have been approached by the major search engines to buy into the paid advertising key word programs. You’ve seen them, those first 3 or 4 paid advertiser links on the first page of the search engine results. They appear above the organic (free listing) search results.
These key word programs can be thought of additives when used with websites lacking in good quality information. Unlike adding seasoning to your food preparation, they typically result in acting like fillers specifically designed to drive traffic to your website. Conversion of that traffic into sales may be another thing all together.
Key word programs can end up costing you $100, $300, $700 or more per month, and fail to produce the desired conversion results you are hoping for.
How could this be? My website gets lots of traffic, but we’re not getting sales!
While it’s true the key word programs can drive traffic to your website, if you’re serving junk food, folks are going elsewhere.
Questions you should ask yourself about the content you are serving include; Am I being clear about my product or service offerings?, Do I sound like the expert in my field?, Do I appear as mediocre or ordinary?, Does my competition do a better job at appearing credible?, and most importantly, Can my content be found on other websites (referred to as Duplicate Content)?
Nutrient rich content leads to a clear understanding about your product and service. When you are the authority, people will realize your credibility and be inclined to do business with you.
Avoid just copying and pasting content from other sites, even your suppliers, into your website. If you need help writing the content for your site, you should utilize the services of a professional copywriter. This small investment will boost your credibility and help toward increasing the conversion rate of your organic website.
Over the years of building and analyzing websites, I’ve noticed, in a fair share of sites, more attention has been afforded to the About Us page than to most other pages on the website.
It seems there must be a passage in one or more holy books that says, Thou Shalt Have an About Us Page.
While there may be legitimate uses for an about us page, more efficient ways to emphasize the “about us” information, lending credibility to your business can be utilized, while placing emphasis on important aspects about you and your company throughout your website.
Take for example the following common information given on a typical about us page:
“Our company is located in some town and state and has been providing widget sales and services since 2000. We have a combined experience of 90 years in the sales and service of widgets.”
This abreviated example will be sufficient to present the concept of eliminating the about us page and creating content and layout designed for your website visitor.
Let’s start with “Our company is located in some town and state”. This information is best presented in the header and/or footer of each page, as part of your call to action such as your logo or contact phone number and/or email address, thus removed from the about us page.
Next we look at “… we have been providing widget sales and services since 2000″. This important information belongs on Each Page either in the header, footer, side bar or a sub header line. Repitition is key.
Now we come to the credibility of your company and services by defining the following: “We have a combined experience of 90 years in the sales and service of widgets”.
Credibility is important and this blanket statement can be expanded in such a way to bolster your company credibility while possibly adding a face to your business.
Assume your company has a sales and service division, each with one or more employees. An effective use of space can be achieved by placing a quote and photo of the individuals on the associated pages.
For example, let’s say you have a page defining your services. Placing a brief information panel introducing the manager of your service division, Bob Smith, with a statement such as, “Bob Smith, Manager of our Services department has 20 years maintaining and repairing major brand widgets. He oversees his team of experts to insure you are satisfied with your widget maintenance and repair”. Below this statement, you could also place a photo of Bob, putting a face on your service division.
Now, when your site visitors view your services, they are also able to see the credibility statement about Bob and your company (which may go unnoticed on an about us page). When the customer calls, you have placed a face and name to the voice on the phone, and you have effectively removed the need for this information on your about us page.
Applying this technique to any information you would place on your about us page, enhances your website with “Quality Informational Content”.
A little thought and preparation goes a long way toward providing an effective layout packed with information and credibility, without an About Us page.
What does Optimized Theming mean?
To optimize means, “to make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible”, while theming is used to “create a unifying or dominant idea”. So Optimized Theming is to create an effective dominant idea.
Now what does this have to do with websites?
In the world of Optimized Website Design, content is your weapon, it is what you use to identify and present a need and apply a solution to fill that need. This is a natural extension of your keyword research process as your optimized theme will surround and reinforce your best or primary targeted keyword phrase.
As an expert in your field, you would pick a specific topic to focus your content. For example, a doctor may pick a specific ailment for his dissertation, while an auto mechanic might pick a specific repair to write about. To define this methodology a doctor writing about psoriasis would hesitate to include a lot of information about the heart and cardiovascular system, or the mechanic writing about tire repair, would be less likely to be talking about the proper operation of the cooling system.
Skin disease and heart disease would be two different dominant ideas, as would be tire repair and anti-freeze. Your primary keyword phrase is your dominant idea or theme.
Focusing on a dominant idea or theme, is the first step. Next comes the optimization process and is where you build supporting content to make your case. A good word count target would be in the area of 500 to 1000 words. As an expert in your field, it would be relatively easy to come up with 500 to 1000 words of content, and in reality, you may have much more.
For a web site, or web page, much more than 1000 words may be daunting, and cut down on the number of people that will actually get to the end. This means editing out the superfluous content or embellishment and stick to the facts as much as possible.
Your content should be focused on the dominant idea or theme of your targeted phrase. You can always create more pages later on, to either go into detail or write about related themes as they pertain to your dominant idea. Cirelle can help provide unique supporting content, optimized to your theme.
Why is this important?
This brings me to the search engines. Search engine algorithms (of which there are many) take into consideration foremost, quality focused content. This allows the algorithms to identify the focus of your web page, and consequently will provide your content to their users when a search is done for your keyword phrase.
Their (the search engines) business is to provide links to quality content based on the user’s search criteria. If they produce junk results or unrelated results, users will go somewhere else to get their information. Hence search engines will reward a web site with a top link for well optimized, themed content.
Remember, you are the expert, your content should reflect this. Being the expert you will find less (if any) need to copy and paste from the work of others and your content will be unique, in presenting an optimized themed web page.
In your efforts to improve your search engine ranking, a little bit of bad advice is all it takes to turn you into a Search Engine Spammer.
Everyone wants to be on the search results first page, and some go to great lengths to get there including the use of deception.
Purposely designing a web page to deliver different messages, one for the visitor and one for the search engines constitutes search engine spamming. This includes embedding text in the HTML code in an effort to hide text, creating invisible text such as very tiny text and or coloring the text to match the page background, keyword stuffing, HTML Comments, doorway pages and so on.
Search engines need text (usually 500 to 1000 words targeted to and supporting your keywords works best) for inclusion into their index.
Let’s say you have a home page which is composed of one or more images or a flash presentation, or your logo as part of a collage of images showing your product or service, but little actual text. Search engines may not properly index this type of page.
You might think having a bunch of text will spoil the look of your landing page, so you look for alternative ways to get your keywords on the page like, “I can use the image Alt tag for my text” or “I could make the text real small and the same color as the page background”.
First of all, the image Alt tag is designed to be used by accessibility software, for the visually impaired to explain what the image is about. This would be a quick sentence such as “Image of a red apple” or “Attractive bowl of fruit” for an image of an apple or bowl of fruit respectively.
Tasteful use of keywords in an Alt tag is acceptable in a properly themed web page. Stuffing this tag with 500 or so words or repetition of your keyword phrase, will likely be seen as a Spam attempt and result in a penalty.
Second, making the text real small or the same color as the background (to make it invisible), is one of the older tricks in the book. Google and others routinely penalize sites using this technique resulting in very poor rankings.
Being penalized for spamming is not the worst that can happen. Search engines have been known to outright ban domain names for routinely spamming.
One way to determine if you have been banned is to search for your domain name. If your domain name is not returned, you probably have been banned or never indexed.
If you’ve been banned from a search engine, you have little recourse except to get a new domain name as your domain may never be indexed again. In some rare cases, Google has lifted a ban if the site owner proves (with proper documentation) the ban is unwarranted.
When designing your web pages, allow for the inclusion of properly themed text supporting your chosen keywords, be the authority on the subject, and make sure your content is unique.
Remember the mission of the search engines is to give “Their Users” the best experience possible with quality unique content. Ranking well is the reward you receive for providing quality, unique, properly optimized content.
What are “Primary Search Results”?
Primary Search Results (PSR) are the subset of all results returned by a search for a given keyword phrase.
When I do a search on Google (for anything) and Google reports, say, 100 million results, what gets returned is more in the range of 500 to 600 results (give or take), as the actual results you see. You may see repeats beyond that.
I had a recent experience where I was trying to resolve a chirping sound coming from the serpentine (accessory) belt in my car. The chirp only happened when the car was cold and disappeared when it warmed up. Very annoying, so I was determined to find out if there was a solution on the web. My wife calls it the “Answer Box”.
In the process of searching for a remedy, I was willing to view hundreds of pages of search engine results. The chirp was annoying!
After clicking the next page a couple of dozen of times (getting into page 60 and 70), (more…)
John Lennon wrote the song Imagine, where he suggested we imagine such things as, no heaven, no countries, no possessions.That was years ago. This is today:
Imagine there’s no money
It isn’t hard to do
Lot’s of traffic daily
But no conversions boo hoo…
Unless your website is a hobby, chances are you would like to use it as a venue to sell your product or service. The only way to do that is to have a decent conversion rate.
Conversion Rate: The ratio of visits to action where someone buys something from you, joins your program, etc…
It has been said a conversion rate could be in the order of 3% to 20% on average. What is usually omitted is the process to reach your targeted audience with the right message. (more…)
Friends of Kevin Radio Interview
Cirelle has been providing Internet based products and services since 1997, developing content managed systems before CMS was an acronym. In this interview, Search Engine Optimization is discussed with Cirelle CEO Greg Cirino
on the Friends of Kevin Radio Program
Website Design and Development @ www.friendsofkevin.com
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